Book Reviews: Mindfulness on the Streets of San Francisco

“Guess what I made you!”

Where Is Jake Ellis?
A graphic novel with two stories that eventually converge. In one, a tough guy in Bangkok is hiding out, while in the other an amnesiac in a German lab is wanted by every US agency, including DARPA; they don’t often get mentioned, so good for them.
Did not know going in that there was a previous volume, which would have been a big help. As far as I can make out, the amnesiac is not only in telepathic contact with the other guy, but he can tell him how to escape traps and which way to go without being there, so possibly precognition. There’s another guy—with his eyes sewn shut? Ew!—doing the same for the bad guys, so each side has a psychic or such.
As if that wasn’t enough farfetchness of plot, the guy in Thailand goes to the American embassy to tell his story, hoping that’ll keep those hunting him off his back. That seems incredibly naïve for such a skilled operator, and indeed all he did was get a death sentence on the head of the young diplomat he gets shunted to. So now he’s got to protect her as well as himself, but of course she has to stubbornly insist that he leave her alone, so she can become the damsel in distress later.
By this time the amnesiac has broken out of the hospital, only to find his previous life no longer valid, with his wife remarried. He promptly gets kidnapped and taken to Bangkok so both plots can come together. That’s probably my major complaint about this narrative: every plot device is so convenient, exactly what the story needs to move along, almost by the numbers.
Then the operative gets captured and quickly breaks out—and we find out about the experiments the military had performed on them—BUT the escape is not shown; that’s not a good way of doing things. Can’t help but laugh that the downed helicopter crashes into the plane just as it was taking off with the main bad guy; again, convenient. But the worst part was how he got shot in Thailand and a few minutes later it didn’t matter; he was back to fully operational. He gets shot in the facility—doesn’t matter. He separates his shoulder—doesn’t matter. Perhaps each issue had a different author and they didn’t collaborate, but this is a stunning lack of continuity that has to cost when coming up with the rating. This really had a chance to be so much better. . .
Extras: sketchbook, digital layouts. Big credits.

Hinges Book Two
Having not read the first book, I was very confused—I keep saying a one page recap of what went before is necessary if you want new people to buy this—but I’m not sure that would have been any different if I was familiar with the previous story.
Basically some very strangely drawn characters inhabit an equally strange city with even stranger small animals as companions. At one point the young woman who seems to be the crux of the story chases after her animal buddy, who leads her to a wall around the city she didn’t know was there. This female main character is not exactly the smartest around, but the two of them manage to escape the city and go “outside,” where they promptly run into someone from another city.
At this point I wondered Does the city of Cobble stand for Kabul? Luckily I didn’t bother to think about that further.
The three of them wander around; he won’t stop talking, she won’t start, so this gets boring in a hurry. Bauble the animal doesn’t do anything. At least now I know, from the artwork when they’re in another city, why this story is named Hinges.
Ends in a literal cliffhanger.
Said drawing is one of my problems with this book, being different in a way I can’t really describe, and the coloring feels off. This feels like a story where the author had it so perfectly in their head that they expected everyone else to get it too; I certainly didn’t.

Master of Mindfulness
Basically simple examples of how to use mindfulness, in both written and picture form. One is in Spanish. I was wondering how they were going to define mindfulness, which ended up being as simplistic as possible, though I suppose that was necessary, as I remembered kids are the target audience.
Usually I’m good with children’s books; I can put myself in the right frame of mind. {Shut up.} This one was not as easy, as—at least in the digital version—the fonts and graphics are difficult to read, part of that because they’re so small.
Difficult to give this a proper grade; it means well, but the execution could have been better. As far as the content, I’m not sure how well kids would take to it, but it certainly couldn’t hurt having them read it.

Rouse the Demon
Supposedly this book, or this series, was the inspiration for the show Streets of San Francisco; just to demonstrate how old it is, that TV show was before my time. And why switch it from S&M to Es Eff?
Anyhoo, in this story the two main cops are looking for the killer of a noted therapist, whom I imagine was before his time, not at all as common as today. On the other hand, I don’t know how many therapists today use hypnotism, but I’m sure when this story first came out such touches made it memorable.
Didn’t take long at all to hate Krug, the veteran detective who’s seen it all; we’re supposed to hate him, the way he’s written, and we do. He’s there as a counterpoint to show off the narrator, who despite still living with his mom is supposedly a stylish ladies’ man. Perhaps this was one of the first that has such counterpointing characters that seem so familiar today.
As always it’s fun to read about places I know, even from 40 years ago, mostly Santa Monica, specifically Ocean Avenue. It didn’t hit me just how long ago it was until I read “flashbulb,” which even in the later years of film photography had been overtaken by electronic flashes. Later on there’s a payphone, and a drive-in, where the ending takes place. But other than those few things, it doesn’t feel anachronistic at all, and the plot is as timely today.


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