Weekend Shorts: More Volume Ones

I feel like I read a LOT of Volume Ones these days, and then I just, like, forget to read the rest of the series. And it’s not like I’m reading a lot of terrible series; it’s just that there are so many new ones to try that the good ones still get lost in the shuffle.

But, whatever, here are three more Volume Ones to add to the collection!

Descender, Vol. 1: “Tin Stars”, by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
Descender, Vol. 1I read the first couple of issues of this series in my catchup binge a couple of months back, and I was like THIS SERIES HAS A ROBOT BOY YOUR ARGUMENT IS INVALID. Which still stands, really, but I’m a bit less excited about it now.

These six issues lay out some very interesting backstory with the promise of intrigue and subterfuge, which are things I am a big fan of, in the present. But the intrigue is less about strategy and more about brute force, which gets boring pretty quickly. I’m really not clear what is up with all the people trying to find my Robot Boy, and I’m not sure the book is either, what with all the trips into Backstory Land that are much more interesting than the main story.

I do have the second volume on hand, purchased at half price before I had finished the first one, and so probably maybe someday I will continue on with the series. But there will be dozens of other Volume Ones ahead of it, probably.

Paper Girls, Vol. 1, by Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chiang
Paper Girls, Vol. 1This one, on the other hand, I’m regretting reading only because the next issue JUST came out and therefore a Volume Two is still in the distant future. Which is appropriate to the content of the book, I suppose.

The first issue promised me aliens in Cleveland, so of course I was all over it, but what we get is even stranger — time travelling teenagers in some kind of war with a different set of time travelling people, with dinosaurs, and Apple products, and I don’t even know what’s going on but man Cliff Chiang’s art is the prettiest.

This volume could almost have fallen into the same “too much brute force” category as Descender, but there’s enough subtle intrigue with the time travelers (and such a smart cliffhanger ending) that I am happily looking forward to more.

Preacher, Book 1, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
Preacher, Book 1I guess this isn’t technically a “Volume One”, as it collects a few more issues than the official Preacher, Vol. 1, but it’s got a 1 on the cover so it counts!

I read this because the people at my favorite comics podcast did a show on it and while I usually skip the shows about things I haven’t read, the discussion was interesting enough to keep listening. That sounds like a vote for a series in my book! And then it was free on hoopla, so it was clearly fate.

But, well, I definitely won’t be reading more of this. Not because it’s not interesting, which it is, with its concepts of gods and religions and hate and fear-mongering and all sorts of other fun human stuff. And not because the art’s not gorgeous, which it is, with incredibly detailed drawings and lovely colors.

What it is is that the story and the art are both just too gruesome for me. There’s this crazy scene that I had to show my husband, because I couldn’t be the only one to see it, with a guy whose face has been flayed and, like, tacked back on, and it is objectively a fascinating panel and an intriguing bit of story, but the fact that it’s only marginally weirder and grosser than other bits of the story means this book is just not for me. I’m really wondering how this has been turned into a TV show, but I really don’t think I want to watch it to find out!

Weekend Shorts: Saga, Alex + Ada, and MIND MGMT

I’ve been doing a lot of snappy, quippy titles on my Weekend Shorts posts lately, but I had to go back to a boring title for this one because I just couldn’t find the through-line for these three series. If you can figure out where I could have gone with this, I will give you ten points and a cookie!

Saga, Vol. 5Saga, Vol. 5, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
I actually read this about a million years (read: three months) ago, but it slipped off my posting radar. Luckily I own this one, so I can grab it off my shelf and remind myself what’s up.

:skims volume:

Ah, yes. We drop into this volume with all the bad things in full swing: Hazel is kidnapped, Alana and Klara are trapped, Sophie and Sophie and Gwendolyn are fighting dragons, Marko is stuck with Prince Robot IV on a crappy mission.

But of course, things only get worse from there, as drugs lead to drug-induced flashbacks to horrible life experiences and well-intentioned plans get completely derailed by reality and greed.

And then Brian K. Vaughan channels his inner George R.R. Martin and just kills the shit out of everyone, including a favorite of mine, and I’m not sure I can forgive him for that but luckily his characters aren’t too thrilled about it either, so I think things will be getting interesting in the aftermath. This book continues to be one of my favorite things ever.

Alex + Ada, Vol. 1Alex + Ada, Vol. 1, by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughan
I stumbled across this title on hoopla and remembered hearing good things about it, so I grabbed the first volume and read it before even getting out of bed one morning. I wasn’t sure at first that I would like it, but it definitely grew on me.

The plot is sort of reminiscent of the movie Her — in a near-future world people can buy, for many many dollars, an incredibly realistic robot companion that is indistinguishable from an actual human except for a tattoo and the fact that the robot is, well, a robot, and not really capable of passing the Turing test. If you’re the kind of person who just wants a companion who will agree with you and do all the things you like (and I mean ALL the things, eyebrow waggle, etc.), then it’s perfect.

Our protagonist, Alex, is gifted one such robot from his grandmother, who loves her robot sooooo much and thinks Alex will love his, too. He is, let’s say, not thrilled, and tries to return the robot, but it’s hard to return something that just wants you to like it and he ends up keeping it. Her. Ada.

But Alex isn’t content with his new friend that likes everything that he likes, so he seeks out a way to make her more human. Turns out there’s a secret society of people and robots that have done just that, and Alex can make his robot as sentient as possible… for a price.

I liked this book all right, though it took far too many issues to get to the good stuff. It says some really interesting things about friendships and relationships and sentience and humanity, and I’m hoping that the next volume will get some plot going. But if it doesn’t, eh, it’s hoopla, so I’m only out my time.

MIND MGMT, Vol. 1MIND MGMT, Vol. 1, by Matt Kindt
Another serendipitous find on hoopla. I love free comics, guys. Well, comics paid for by my tax dollars, which sounds even better, actually!

In this world, which I think is roughly present-day, there’s a journalist, Meru, who is banking on a crazy story to get her career back on track — a plane full of people that managed to land safely even though everyone on board developed a terrible amnesia that persists, two years later. Meru is sure that if she can just track down the one person that mysteriously vanished from the scene, she’ll have a story and a new book and maybe some cash to buy groceries.

But there’s definitely more to this story than Meru knows. She’s being tailed by mysterious agents, she’s finding people and places that are not as they should be, and the story’s narrator indicates that this is not the first time Meru has followed the same clues to the same ending. Suspicious!

In the midst of this main story, we learn more about the titular MIND MGMT, a secret organization that trains up promising young people with special mental abilities to do relatively mundane things like impart subliminal messages in advertising or relatively insane things like survive certain death. It’s a crazy organization, and it obviously has something to do with Meru’s quest, but it’s not quite clear yet exactly how they fit together.

I am so intrigued by this story, and so in love with the artwork, which is sketchy and watercolor-y and generally very pretty, that not only am I excited to read the next volume in this series but I have bought the first issue of Kindt’s new series, Dept. H, which has the same lovely art style and an equally weird story summary. I hope I’ll be able to report back with love for both!

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: Saga and Hawkeye

Saga, Vol. 4, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Saga, Vol. 4This comic, guys. It’s sooooo good. If you’re not reading it, you’re missing out. In this volume, it seems we’ve skipped a bit forward in time — Hazel is a toddler, ex-slave Sophie is a hipster tween, and Prince Robot’s baby is born in a graphic and very human way on the very first page. Good morning! We get to see our favorite fugitive family having a bit of downtime on a planet called Gardenia, where Marko plays stay-at-home dad while Alana plays a… um… I don’t even know. While Alana makes money acting on a very telenovela-ish broadcast thing while wearing awkwardly sexy outfits. As you do? Anyway, this leads to some marital tensions that almost turn really really terrible, but instead only turn pretty darn terrible at the end.

Meanwhile, there is a single commoner staging an uprising on the Robot Kingdom, stealing a royal baby and running off to Gardenia for broadcasting purposes; Prince Robot coming out of his stupor to hunt down his kidnapped baby; Gwendolyn, Sophie, and Lying Cat on a heist; and a brief but delightful cameo from my favorite tabloid reporter couple. Such excitement!

Hawkeye, Vol. 2: “Little Hits”, by Matt Fraction and David Aja
Hawkeye, Vol. 2Hey, remember when I read the last volume and I was totally baffled the entire time? Yeah, that doesn’t change. I was prepared this time, but this is definitely still a thinky book (which is probably why they’re ending it soon) that requires a lot of concentration.

The first issue (#7) is pretty straightforward — Hawkeye (Clint) helps one of his tenants/neighbors take care of his dad out in Far Rockaway during the storm of the century while Hawkeye (Kate) goes to an expectedly disastrous engagement party in Atlantic City during same said storm. But then things go back to confusing normal in the second issue (#6, just for funsies), in which we see six days in the life of Hawkeye, shuffled up and requiring the use of clocks to help you figure out the timeline. Oh, good. The next issue (#8, and back to a normal order) details how gingers are terrible for Clint’s well-being, from Clint’s point of view, and the one after that details how gingers are terrible for Clint’s well-being from the points of view of the dangerous women in his life. Then there’s a Kate issue introducing a bad guy who is also apparently a clown, and then to cap it off there is the absolute best issue ever, starring Pizza Dog!

Like, no, seriously, this thing is amazing. Pizza Dog is the dog Hawkeye rescued from some bad guys, and this whole issue is from his point of view, so there’s not much dialogue except for what the dog presumably understands. Mostly it’s just page after page of Pizza Dog wandering around, recognizing people by how they smell and noting what things are related to them, and then also stumbling upon a murder scene, flirting with a neighbor dog, attacking bad guys, escaping bad guys, and leaving one Hawkeye to adventure with another. This is probably my second-favorite single issue after the choose-your-own adventure in The Unwritten. I am intrigued to see what Fraction and Aja can do to top this.

Weekend Shorts: Grace’s Guide and Saga

Grace’s Guide, by Grace Helbig
Grace's GuideA little while back I read My Drunk Kitchen, by internet-famous Hannah Hart. This book is by the probably equally internet-famous Grace Helbig, whom I saw once on an episode of TableTop and so am not quite as familiar with. But Helbig’s book is in the same “millennial’s guide to life” vein as Hart’s, and that’s apparently a thing I’m into these days. I even ended up liking Grace’s Guide a bit more, largely because it’s not tied to a cookbook conceit but also because it offers some legitimately useful advice. She starts with a list of “Fifty Adult Survival Tips” which include things like “wear socks if your shoes require socks” and “you probably don’t want that tattoo” and “don’t hold a grudge”. Helbig then offers advice in the form of life stories about college, work, dating, cooking (real food), and generally surviving the transition from kid to grown-up. Mostly the book served to reinforce my personal beliefs, but it also reminded me of things I should probably be doing. Maybe I’ll be a better person someday!

Saga, Vol. 2, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Saga, Vol. 2It’s been just a little while since I read the first volume of this series, relative to how long it’s taken me to catch up on other comics, but I was still a little worried going in that I would be totally lost. Luckily, it’s not that complex a story so far. In this second volume, we meet Marko’s parents, find out how he landed Alana (well, really the other way around), and learn a bit more about this whole Wreath vs. Landfall ages-long war and how completely awful it is. We spend a brief time with The Will as he and some woman (spoilers: Marko’s vengeful ex!) pull some awesome badassery to rescue a girl out of slavery. Look, dude, stop doing things that make me want to root for you!

Saga, Vol. 3, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Saga, Vol. 3Things pick up the pace even more in this volume, in which we meet some tabloid reporters who are out to do a story on the still-just-a-rumor Wreath and Landfall couple with a baby. More people hunting our friends down? Sure, why not? Meanwhile, a dead person comes back to life (-ish) and starts causing problems for The Will, Marko and Alana hunt down the hack author that brought them together, and things start going very wrong for pretty much everyone. There’s some more backstory and world-building as well, and it’s just an all-around great time. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the next volume!

Saga, Vol. 1, by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga, Vol. 1Even though I seem to be incapable of catching up with all of the single issue comics I’ve been buying over the last year, I got it into my head that I should and could totally start another series, for free from the library! Of course, see the first part of that sentence, so this particular book spent many months being renewed to the limit and checked in and back out until I finally decided that if I wasn’t going to read it now, it was never going to happen.

Part of my severe procrastination in reading this volume is that I really didn’t want to not like it. I had seen and heard this series talked about all over my favorite media, and everyone has pretty much agreed that it’s quite good. But on the other hand, it’s by Brian K. Vaughan, who wrote the Y: The Last Man series that I loved until I didn’t, and also the few panels that I had seen of the comic looked, well, a little too weird for me.

But, seriously, everyone was talking about it, and I am not one to get left out if I can help it, so now I can also say that I have read it. And that it’s quite good. I hope it stays that way!

First things first, yes, it’s super weird. The protagonists are a dude with horns and a chick with wings, and the antagonists include a robot prince with a monitor for a head and a chick with no arms but lots and lots of legs. We meet the robot prince mid-coitus, and later another antagonist goes to what is apparently a sex planet and we get many helpful illustrations of what goes on there.

But the story itself (so far) is pretty normal. Our protagonists are from two sides of a long war, and at the beginning of the book we are treated to the birth of their be-horned and be-winged daughter. No side of the war (and there are apparently many sides) is okay with this union, and so many people are sent out to kill our heroes, although at least some of the hunters are told not to kill the kid. So that’s interesting.

Also interesting is that the series is called Saga, and at certain points characters mention that the parents are ruining the “Narrative”, so I am intrigued to see what comes of that. And I am, as I was with Y: The Last Man, totally rooting for our protagonists and even a little bit for some of the antagonists, so it will be fun to see what horrors await them (I have been promised horrors!). Perhaps I’ll even find out in a timely fashion this time? A girl can dream…

Recommendation: For fans of Vaughan and strange worlds in general, and those with strong stomachs for sex and violence.

Rating: 9/10

Y the Last Man, Books 5 and 6, by Brian K. Vaughan

Ring of TruthI read the first four books of this series, um, a while ago, and I was so disenchanted by the fourth that I didn’t make a concerted effort to find the next one. I would wander by the graphic novel section every so often, see books 6-10 but not 5, and go on my merry way. But then the universe was like it is time for you to read these and so a shorter while ago I found these two books practically jumping off the shelf and into my bag. You don’t argue with the universe and its italics, people.

Girl on GirlI still didn’t bother to read them until right before I had to give them back, though, because I am stubborn. And… well, now I’ve read them. I certainly wasn’t as creeped out by them as by Book 4 up there, but neither did I find them particularly exciting.

In Book 5, Yorick meets a bunch of ladies, confronts some emotional demons, confronts a probably-no-longer-demonic sister, and does some really really stupid stuff that somehow manages not to go badly for him. Meanwhile, Dr. Mann may or may not have figured out the whole man-alive thing, 355 kicks some serious ass, the aforementioned sister plays at kicking some ass, and Yorick’s girlfriend shows up just long enough to get kidnapped or something.

In Book 6, basically the same stuff happens except that there are also pirates and ill-advised sexytimes and a literal boatload of heroin.

So here’s the thing about this series: I definitely want to know what happens. I want to know how Yorick survived, I want to know what’s up with all this secret-political-cult shit, I want to know who gets to live happily ever after. But I really don’t want to expend any more effort finding out.

Part of this is the fact that in every book there are like eight million things going on — I didn’t even mention the ninja or the Amazons or the Israelis above — and most of the plotlines don’t do anything more than remind you that they exist and probably set up something that’ll happen in a future issue but at the moment I would like to focus on what’s going on in this issue, thanks. I don’t know if this would be better or worse if I were reading this in issue form, rather than the trade collections.

The bigger thing, though, is that I am just so over Yorick. If I have to watch him run into ostensible danger to save some lady or other at which point the lady is saved and the danger is disappeared, or especially if I have to watch him walk around in a gas mask to hide his Last Man status only to have the mask ripped off for one reason or another and then the only repercussion is that he has to tell some surprised woman his whole life story… it’s not appealing to me, is what I’m saying.

Luckily, the husband is totally willing to expend the effort to finish the series, so one of these days I’ll know how it goes. Even more so if the rumors I hear about a movie or a TV show come true; those are the kinds of things that appear on my Netflix queue when I’m not paying attention. 🙂

Recommendation: I’m giving this series a pass, but if you’re more forgiving of this odd-to-me, possibly normal-for-comics pacing and plotting, I say go for it.

Rating: 5/10 for the both of them.

Y: The Last Man Book 4, by Brian K. Vaughan

I ended up reading this one pretty quickly after the last because I seem to have gotten Scott interested in the series and thus I didn’t want him stealing this before I got a chance at it. Because I’m territorial like that. But now I think Scott’s going to end up reading them first…

Okay, so, book the first was all exposition-heavy and kind of annoying, but then book the second was a lot better with the action and the plot moving forward, and then book the third was pretty equally okay. But then I got completely squicked out and a little derailed by this book, and I can only hope the squicky stuff NEVER COMES BACK AGAIN.

I’m sure it was at least a little on purpose, but these weird scenes in which repressed sexuality is made unrepressed and some odd form of torture happens really made me cringe. It was just so… weird and awkward and so seemingly completely irrelevant to the story (which is actually how I feel about the Israelis in this series, too, now that I think about it) that I just wanted that half of the book (yes, half) to be over now!

Luckily, once it’s done you can see that there was, in fact, a point to all the awkward and it actually makes me feel a little less annoyed with Yorick because he becomes a slightly less annoying person. So that’s a plus. And the second half of the book is fairly interesting, with yet another set of crazy people and an equally crazy throwdown between them and our heroes (who are still Yorick, Mann, and 355).

So… I think I’m going to put this series away for a little bit and come back to it once I can repress those unrepressing scenes. Makes perfect sense, yes?

Recommendation: Ehhhhhh… let me get back to you on this. If it makes sense in the overall story, I’ll give it a thumbs up.

Rating: 7/10
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See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

Y: The Last Man Book 3, by Brian K. Vaughan

More Yorick! Good times! Well, good for me. Not Yorick. Or anyone else, for that matter.

Let’s see, who’s a player in this book? We’re still following Yorick, his monkey Ampersand, 355, and Dr. Mann on their journey to California. But there’s a quick detour in Kansas when a terribly accented Russian shows up ready to rescue some male astronauts (well, one is obviously a cosmonaut) on their Houston-unsupported return to Earth. Which would be going fine, except…

The strange Israeli army people are back, apparently following the orders of Yorick’s mother who thinks that 355 is going to do something terrible to Yorick… or something. It’s not terribly clear. What is clear is that the Israelis’ leader is bent on kidnapping Yorick for herself… not like that. Maybe like that? Okay, not as clear as I thought.

Who else, who else… there are some geneticists, which is cool. Oh! Right! And a troupe of actors who stage a play about the last man on Earth, make meta-commentary on this series (“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s crappy works of fiction that try to sound important by stealing names from the Bard”), introduce me to a work by Mary Shelley called The Last Man (which is on my TBR pile effective immediately), and piss off a bunch of Kansas ladies who really just wanted someone to continue their stories (you know, soap operas) for them.

OH. And then there is someone called Toyota who for some reason wants Ampersand. I imagine that will come back again quickly.

So all in all the series remains on a high level of ridiculousness tempered by an intriguing question and some fine illustration.

Recommendation: Yeah, you should probably pick up this series. It’s pretty cool.

Rating: 8/10
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See also:
Rhinoa’s Ramblings

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

Y: The Last Man Book 2, by Brian K. Vaughan

This is definitely better than the first collection of the series, mostly because there is nearly 100 percent less exposition. So relaxing to just read a story!

The plot is still generally the same, of course — Yorick is probably the last man on Earth, making him a very hot commodity for many groups who want him in varying levels of alive. A government operative called 355 and a Dr. Mann would like to figure out why he’s still alive and possibly clone him, because that would be useful, but the group farthest to the “dead” end of the aforementioned spectrum is hunting this little group down as they travel from Boston to California. They make it as far as Ohio in this book and stir up quite a bit of trouble in the process.

This series continues to provide an interesting answer to the “what if we got rid of all those pesky men” question, though the focus on the Daughters of the Amazon in this set got pretty tedious pretty fast — I get it, they’re a cult, they’re quite crazy, can we move on now? But of course we can’t, because Yorick’s sister has gotten herself caught up in the crazy.

With any luck, things will get crazy in a different direction in the next book.

Recommendation: Read the first set; if you like it, read this!

Rating: 8/10
(Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
[your link here]

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.