End-of-the-Year Comics Roundup: Weird Things Edition

Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! Let’s finish off the year that I bought all the comics with some thoughts about my favorite weird-pants series.

The Unwritten, Vol. 10: “War Stories”, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
The Unwritten, Volume 10I have had all these Unwritten issues and trades sitting around my house forever, and it’s taking me so long to read them because the series has changed drastically since the beginning. I liked it a ton when it was a weird little series that referenced Harry Potter and other wonderful stories and made you think a little bit about “what if stories were real?” I still like it now, but the current focus, “stories are real and also dangerous and also kind of boring,” is not so great.

But the comics themselves are so lovely that I can live with it. The first issue in this collection is just Tom trying to get home from… Fableland or wherever he was (I am paying close attention, you can tell)… but he drops into several different story worlds, including Narnia and Wonderland, and the art changes to match the style of those stories and it’s super neat. The next couple issues have their writing in the style of old stories, which is something that was done more at the beginning of the series and I like seeing it again. And then the last issue of the volume brings back Mr. Bun, which, YAY, and also his story is very sad and is clearly not going to end well, which, stop making me feel bad for Mr. Bun, guys, he’s an asshole.

There’s just two volumes left in this series and part of me wants to read them to find out what happens and part of me wants to read them to get them over with and part of me wants to save them forever and ever so that there can’t be an end to this story. Which part will win? I suppose we’ll find out eventually…

FBP, Vol. 3: “Audeamus”, by Simon Oliver and Alberto Ponticelli
FBP, Volume 3This series has also changed quite a bit in just three volumes — it started with the weird pseudo-science physics-gone-bad stories and, especially in this volume, has moved into deep-dark-conspiracy territory. I’m a little worried it’s going to keep moving that way and become The Unwritten all over again, but for now I’ll hold out hope.

This volume starts off like it’s going to be light, leading with a story of Cicero’s time at the FBP that is generally full of college pranks and jocks vs. nerds until it’s suddenly about something very different. Then we come back to the present world to learn a bit more about Hardy’s dead dad and then the dangerous physics comes back with a quantum tornado that sort of maybe kills a whole bunch of people. But the pseudo-science is lovely and there’s a precocious little girl, so, that’s cool. Then it’s off to the Giant Underground Bunker of Conspiracy-Land, where we find out that the rules of morality are pretty much in the same place as the rules of physics in this alternate world, and I’m pretty sure I’m not okay with that.

The Woods, Vol. 2: “The Swarm”, by James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas
The Woods, Volume 2If you missed my post about the first volume of this series, what we have here is a story about a high school transported to an alien planet, with danger lurking both outside and inside the school walls. Dun dun DUN. I am all in.

In this volume, we spend about half of each issue getting the Earth-bound backstory of a different character, roughly in the time leading up to the school’s big move. The other half shows the character on the alien planet, sometimes acting pretty much the same and sometimes showing a completely different version of themselves. Layers! We also get to see how these different and sometimes competing sides of the characters affect their interactions with each other, which is a thing I love.

Very cool things about these issues include the fact that the big love triangle is between three guys, and the fact that a different love triangle includes a side made out of friendship, because dude, losing your friend to a relationship is hard stuff and I like how this series acknowledges that. The best issue in this volume, which I will try not to spoil but probably will anyway, looks like the others but has a very interesting twist that changes how you look at the other issues and at the other characters and I am VERY INTRIGUED to see what happens next. Luckily, I’ve already got the next volume on hand!

Well, I guess that’s it for 2015! See you all next year!

End-of-the-Year Comics Roundup: Superpower Edition

I just can’t even with this December, guys. I have started three novels and finished only one, and it’s not that I don’t want to finish the other two, it’s just that that feels like it requires, like, effort. And I just don’t wanna.

Thank goodness for my backlog of comics and the fact that I am apparently all for reading words that are accompanied by pretty pictures. I’ve read lots of comics this month and they’ve all been pretty awesome.

Today, let’s talk about the ones that will scratch your superhero itch.

S.H.I.E.L.D., Vol. 1: “Perfect Bullets”, by Mark Waid and various artists
S.H.I.E.L.D., Vol. 1When I read Ms. Marvel, Volume 3, there was a super awesome bonus issue from a crossover with S.H.I.E.L.D., and I was like, yeah, I’m probably going to go read that now.

So I did! And I liked it a lot! This is a series made for the single issue, as the story in each issue is almost entirely separate from the stories in the other issues, with a different fight and a different main character each time. There’s a Coulson backstory issue, the wonderful Ms. Marvel issue, an issue with Spiderman (who I always forget is an Avenger), a kind of terrible and manipulative Sue Storm issue, and a two-parter with the whole Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. team, which is weird but I like having the whole gang together so that’s fine.

It’s a little weird reading this and watching the TV show, as I can’t quite place the comic in the timeline of the show and it quite possibly doesn’t have a place in it. Things are just off enough to be confusing, but also enough that I’m curious anew about how things might go. Win! This isn’t going on my “A plus plus will read while walking home” list, but I will probably be picking up the next trade volume when it comes out in a couple months.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: “Last Days”, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4Speaking of Ms. Marvel… things are not going well for her in this volume. Her former crush object is a real a-hole, for one, and as she won’t stop telling people, but then also there’s this, like, giant planet coming in for a landing on top of Manhattan. I’m sure that has something to do with important Marvel Universe things, but I can’t be arsed to look it up. The upshot is, Kamala finds herself running all over Jersey City trying to protect her family and community from the bad things that are going to happen and the bad things that ARE happening thanks to a certain former crush object. This is exhausting me just to think about it. I will never be a superhero.

Awesome things in this volume include a visit from Carol Danvers, which would be whatever except that Kamala’s insane squeeing is absolutely adorable (it’s the meeting with Wolverine times a thousand), an unexpected “be true to yourself” speech, and some serious truth bombs about love and responsibility. There’s also another crossover event included here, two issues of Amazing Spider-Man, but I’m just not that into Spidey so I don’t think this one’s going to get me to buy more comics.

We Can Never Go Home, by Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon, and Josh Hood
My copy of the trade paperback says “Volume One” on it, but I’m pretty sure this is a one-off miniseries. I’m not sure what they would do if they made more of these. But I’d probably be interested in finding out.

This is not a superhero story, but it does have a girl with a superpower in it: the power of glowy eyes and super-strength with the Hulk-like limitation of having to be anxious for it to show up. Our girl, Madison, is a football-player-dating popular-kid at her high school until one day, she’s not, having shown her superpower to her jerk boyfriend when he deserved it. However, she also showed her superpower to a loner classmate at the same time, and this completely changes Madison’s life, and not really for the better.

It’s a short series, so I don’t want to give away too much, but I will say the writer did some super interesting things with the “girl discovers her place in the world with the help of a cute boy” story as well as with the concepts of heroes and villains and self-determination and all that good stuff. Some of it is a little anvil-y because, well, five issues of a comic does not give you much time or space to work with, but some of the characterizations are surprisingly subtle. I’m not sure I loved this as a complete work, but there are definitely parts of it that are really awesome.

That’s all I’ve got for now — what other awesome superhero/superpower stories should I pick up next?

Weekend Shorts: All the Single Issues

Well, okay, obviously not all of them, because I have just too many for the fact that I “only buy in trades.” Except for cool mini-series, and intriguing #1s, and shiny things… whatever. If you’re a single issue reader, here are some you should check out!

Back to the Future, Issues 1 and 2, by Bob Gale and various artists
Back to the Future 1Cool mini-series, check. I want to say issue 1 came out in time for Back to the Future day back in October, and as soon as I heard about it I was like, yes, please, stick that on my pull list. It looks like there will be five total of these, and I’m guessing I’ll be left wanting more!

Back to the Future 2The best part about this series is that the issues contain two standalone stories (just like the best Saturday morning cartoon shows), so if you just find one lying around you won’t have missed anything. In issue 1 we have “The Doc Who Never Was”, which details the time the US government came to recruit Doc Brown and his prototype time machine (no Delorean yet!) and “Science Project”, a cute little thing in which Marty’s got a science project due and Doc Brown offers up all the doodads in his shop. Issue 2 brings “When Marty Met Emmet”, which, well, I think you know what that’s about, and “Looking for a Few Good Scientists”, in which Doc Brown as college professor tries to get in on the Manhattan Project.

Also cool is that each issue is illustrated by a different artist. Seeing so many different takes on Doc and Marty is super neat and it gives the stories a completely different feel even though they share the same author. If you’re a fan of Back to the Future, this is definitely a series to look for.

Paper Girls, Issue 1, by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Paper Girls 1I didn’t really know much about this book going in besides “Brian K. Vaughan” and “paper delivery girls”, but if you know me you know that’s enough to shell out three bucks for. If nothing else, the packaging is great — high-quality paper for the bright yellow cover, fantastic art and colors on the inside, yes please!

But it’s Brian K. Vaughan, so the story’s high-quality, too. We meet our paper girls the morning after Hallowe’en as they navigate the very very dark streets of “Stony Stream”, Ohio (I get that reference!) and fend off jerky teenagers and equally jerky cops. I would have been perfectly happy if that were the whole story, honestly, but it gets even better with the addition of ALIENS. I am very intrigued and will definitely be picking up the trade to read the rest.

Rocket Girl, Issue 6, by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder
Rocket Girl 6And… shinies. I bought a couple of issues of this when it first came out, before I gave up and went to trades, but the first trade volume is one of my favorite things. I hadn’t seen any issues of this in ages, so when I spotted #6 hanging out on the shelves of my comic shop I bought it immediately to make sure they’d make more for a volume 2. Fingers crossed!

This issue doesn’t have terribly much to do with what I think is the cool part of the story, with the time travel and the Quintum Mechanics intrigue and the weird world of the future that is our past that is… oh, time travel. Mostly this issue is about Rocket Girl’s personal issues, including apparently some mommy issues that I am very intrigued to see play out.

That’s all for this round of comics… what great things are you reading this week?

Weekend Shorts: Gods and Monsters

It turns out that settling into a new job requires a lot of effort, and also that having a job that lets you go home for lunch leaves you with very little time to read. Luckily, I have a backlog of comics that fit very nicely into the tiny reading times I currently have. Let’s talk about some!

The Bunker, Vol. 2, by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari
The Bunker, Vol. 2Huh.

That was my reaction upon finishing this book. Not “Huh?” or “Huh!” or “Huh…”, just “Huh.” I was super psyched after reading the first volume of this comic back in May, with the time travel and the plotting and the subterfuge and the time travel, and I grabbed this second volume immediately upon its arrival at my library. Unfortunately, there’s almost none of the good stuff from the first volume here, and all of the bad.

Time travel? I mean, it’s there, obviously, with the story jumping back and forth, sometimes incredibly subtly, between the now and the future and the times in between, and that’s cool. And I guess the plotting and the subterfuge is there, as most of the book is spent on said plotting and there is a ton of people being told or convinced to do something and then someone else being all, “-tents fingers- All according to plan….” But none of it serves to drive along any semblance of plot, which was definitely the most important part of me loving the first volume, so.

Also not great is the fact that, as was true in the first volume, all of these dang characters look alike. I know there are characters named Grady and Billy and Daniel but hell if I know which one is which, even when they’re standing next to each other, and the girls I just couldn’t even tell you their names right now they’re so neglected. This was okay the first time, when the important stuff was reading letters from the future and wondering if these kids could change the world, but this volume focuses heavily on the stuff that specific characters do to cause the future’s problems and I just don’t even know who did what. Nor do I care. Sorry, The Bunker, I’ve got better comics to spend my time with.

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 2: “Fandemonium”, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 2Like this one! One of the perks of my new job is a coworker who reads several of the same comics I do, though he reads them in issues more often and is way ahead of me on the storylines. When he heard I was reading this series, he nearly spoiled this volume for me, so I knew it was time for me to actually read the dang thing instead of leaving it to look pretty on my shelf.

And, holy smokes, guys. We pick up a little while after the big death of the first volume, with our hero Laura now famous amongst her peers for being there when it happened. She is not dealing well with any of it at all, but decides that finding out what really happened will make everything better. Luckily, several of the gods are on her side and invite her to do crazy godly things while she’s investigating.

These godly things (uh, parties, mostly) are the best bits of this volume, because they lead to the coolest artwork. Issue 8’s “Underground Dionysus Kiss Story Part XI” does amazing things with neon rave colors against the generally dreary colors of Laura’s world, and issue 10 tries a bunch of different things, including a one-page poem art thing (I am good with words), that are all just brilliant.

In plot points, we learn that there are people who think you can kill a god to steal his powers, or that gods can kill other gods to live a little longer (the gods on earth get about 2 years before they all go away again), and we also get a look into Creepy Old Lady Ananke’s backstory and the history of the gods’ 90-year cycle. But of course the most important thing happens at the end of this volume and I refuse to tell you about it because, again, holy smokes, guys. I may have to see if I can borrow the next few issues from my coworker because the next volume doesn’t come out until February and I kinda need to know what happens next.

Weekend Shorts: The Obligatory Running Post

What I Talk About When I Talk About RunningIf you’re a friend of mine, on Facebook or IRL, you’ve probably heard that I’ve taken up that dread sport called running. Well, jogging, really, or as my husband’s uncle recently said, “fast walking,” which I don’t think is entirely fair but uncles weren’t made to boost your ego.

Anyway, regardless of how fast I’m moving, running is my new thing. I sort of half-heartedly started up in the spring with some very short jogs that could probably fairly be called fast walking, then I made a point of doing said jogs on a regular schedule, and then in September I found the Hogwarts Running Club and things got super serious.

In May, if you had told me I would run a 5k by the end of the year, I would have been like, “Sweet! Good job, me!” It’s absolutely baffling to me that I’ve run 10 5k or greater distances in the last two months, I ran 5 miles last Sunday, and I’m planning to run 6.2442 miles on Thanksgiving for a Hogwarts Running Club virtual race. And that 6+ miles isn’t even daunting. I’m looking forward to it!

To bring this back to books, I’ve been meaning to pick up another Murakami book since I liked that novel of his I read for book club, and it turns out that he wrote a whole memoir about running! And I needed a new nonfiction/memoir audiobook to listen to! It was kismet, obviously.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami
Of course, it turns out that this book has almost nothing in common with his novels, which, why would it, as far as I can tell he writes nothing but bonkers fiction and this is a relatively straightforward memoir/travelogue. Blast.

Also, I’ve been spoiled by great audiobook narrators lately and this guy’s flat affect and snooze-inducing tone just did not make me super interested in what Murakami had to say. So it’s possible this book is absolutely fascinating, but I just missed out on it?

Unfortunately, my own takeaways from this memoir are basically, like, do your best and then do better but if you fail at least you tried and you can try harder next time or you can try something new and get better at that, whatever, you do you. Which does not a 5-hour audiobook make. The rest of the space is filled with Murakami’s training for various marathons (spoiler: he runs a lot and then runs some more), his insecurity over losing his speed as he ages, and his newfound interest in triathlons to make up for said loss.

It’s… I mean, it’s not terrible, but it’s not unlike anyone you know talking to you for five hours about anything. He repeats himself a bit, he says things that don’t seem terribly important, and he lacks a focus that could have kept me more interested.

If you’re into running, I feel like this is one of those things you have to read just to check it off your list. But I’ll be sticking to my funny people memoirs in the future, I think.

Weekend Shorts: Awesome Ladies in Comics

Yep, it’s time to talk about ladies again! These ladies, the fictional ones and the real ones who invented them, are all super awesometastic, but these books are very very different. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them both to you at the same time, but hey, I liked them a lot, so you might, too!

Let’s start with the happy book:

Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: “Friendship to the Max”, by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and Brooke Allen
Lumberjanes, Vol. 2On the one hand, I am really glad that my many years of Girl Scout camp never involved mystical, fantastical, and/or evil creatures. On the other hand, how do I become a Lumberjane because they’re so cooooooool.

In this volume, we get to meet a few more of the Lumberjane campers as they make friendship bracelets and play a very serious game of capture the flag. Some dinosaurs and a nosy bear show up at camp, but they are easily dispatched, though certain secrets form a rift between our favorite cabin-mates. Luckily, they reunite just in time to work together against some meddling Greek gods by solving puzzles and making serious sacrifices. Also, Jen is the best.

Now the less-happy book:

Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: “Extraordinary Machine”, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
Bitch Planet, Vol. 1I read the first issue of this series a while back and liked it quite a bit. It’s got amazing art, a fascinating premise, and some serious deep-thinking plot lines.

After that first issue, which sets up the idea of Bitch Planet, a space jail for “non-compliant” ladies, we get into a story line involving some kind of dangerous sportsball game that our prisoner friends are being pressured into playing. It’s a terrible idea, really, but on the jailers’ side it’s easy money and on the prisoners’ side there’s a chance of doing some damage to the system that is holding them. As the team trains up we learn more about the ladies in the jail (including a great issue all about Penny Rolle, the largest and awesomest of the prisoners), about the jailers, and about the business interests that affect both of these groups. It’s a pretty bleak world all around, and it’s interesting to see how various people work to make the best of it. I’m totally in for wherever this series goes next.

And, after that downer, a bonus happy:

Agent Carter #1, by Kathryn Immonen and Rich Ellis
Agent Carter #1I picked this up on a whim at my local comic shop as part of a huge series of one-shot #1s Marvel did for its 50th anniversary. I was like, “Are there any good ones?” and the comic guy was like, “There’s an Agent Carter…” and I was like, “YES. SOLD. PUT IT IN MY HANDS.” And then I read it while walking home.

This is a cute little comic, if fairly predictable. In it, not-yet-agent Peggy Carter is hanging around SHIELD, firing guns and shooting the breeze (and some birds) with Dum Dum Dugan, who tells her that they’re trying out a new SHIELD operative and could Carter offer some assistance? Carter is less than thrilled that the newbie in question is Lady Sif, of Asgard fame, but she gamely hangs out with her anyway and partakes in some delightfully literal banter until all hell breaks loose.

Super fun all around, but really what this comic did best was make me miss the Agent Carter television show. How long ’til that comes back?

Weekend Shorts: Awesome Ladies on Audio

Why Not Me?, by Mindy Kaling
Why Not Me?Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? on a solo drive a while back and enjoyed the heck out of it, so I was happy to find her new book available when I needed a new audiobook. This edition of Kaling’s memoirs focuses on being a lady, being a lady in Hollywood, and dating cute boys. It’s not super memorable several weeks later, but I definitely enjoyed the listen on my drives and runs.

Awesome essays from the book:

“How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions”, full of advice of varying practicality for regular people. Have lots of hair! Get spray tanned! Tailor everything! Don’t pose the same way in every darn picture!

“Player”, about falling in love with a new friend to the exclusion of everyone else, and how that’s really never a great idea.

“One of the President’s Men”, in which Mindy meets a hot dude and has approximately the most frustrating relationship with him.

“A Perfect Courtship in my Alternate Life”, which is a made-up story told through emails about Mindy Kaling the Latin teacher and, well, a suuuuuper cute courtship.

This was a super fun audiobook and if you’re a Kaling fan or a fan of chicks with opinions in general, you’ll probably like it.

Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson
Furiously HappyAnother excellent second book to follow up an amazing first book. I love Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, whose blog is the most ridiculous and wonderful thing I read on a regular basis. She’s never met a tangent she didn’t want to go off on and she has a way of purposely misinterpreting the world that makes her life, and our lives, better for it.

Lawson writes amazing essays about things that happen to her that start off mundane (going to sit in a cemetery) and end up insane (finding herself accidentally attending a funeral in said cemetery), and also things that start out insane and keep going (corralling her husband into couples therapy because she wants him to get regular therapy and then fearing all the things he might possibly tell the therapist while he’s there without her). This book also includes several essays on the topic of depression, anxiety, and various other mental illnesses that I found really touching and important to listen to as a mentally okay person and that are probably way more empowering for the people who share Lawson’s mental states. This is definitely a book everyone needs to listen to, not leastly because Lawson’s narration is almost funnier than her stories.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day
You're Never Weird on the InternetThis is Day’s first book and it is uh-mazing. I loved this book the most out of all the books in this post, and that is saying something. The best part is Day’s narration, which, like Lawson’s, feels more like swapping stories with a friend than listening to a performance. It’s full of awesome voice acting and nervous laughter and when Day tells embarrassing stories you can hear that embarrassment in her voice and it is awful and wonderful at the same time.

Also awesome is just hearing the story of Day’s life, from her childhood as a weird hippie homeschool kid right after homeschooling was legalized (Day notes that she doesn’t have a GED but does have a 4.0 double-major college degree) to being the wildly internet-popular chick from The Guild and Geek and Sundry that she is today. I have never been homeschooled or had internet-only friends or been addicted to WoW or started a web video company, but now I basically don’t have to because I’ve felt all the associated feels.

I was surprised to find that Day’s memoir contained pieces on anxiety and mental illness, which she talks about very frankly and smartly and between this and Lawson’s book I’m thinking a lot of internet-savvy ladies will be getting their brain chemistry checked out soon. Yay for healthy brains! I was not surprised to find a chapter on the whole GamerGate/misogynist internet dudes debacle of the last year, although Day admits she almost didn’t write it because who wants to go through that all again, and I was thrilled that she lays out the beginnings of the movement clearly for people like me who only caught the tail end of the blow-up. As she says, she’s not going to change anyone’s minds by talking about it, but maybe people will be a little more moderate in their reactions? On the internet? We can hope?

Overall, an amazing book and one I couldn’t wait to get back in the car to finish listening to but at the same time that I didn’t want to listen to obsessively because then it would be over and what could I possibly listen to next?