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!

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Weekend Shorts: Unwritten Marvels

The Unwritten, Vol. 9: “The Unwritten Fables”, by Mike Carey, Bill Willingham, Peter Gross, and Mark Buckingham
The Unwritten, Vol. 9Oh, hey, The Unwritten! After finishing up all those single issues, I came back to the trades just in time for the crossover with Fables, which I tried once and almost never read comics again. That’s an exaggeration. But I was still hesitant.

Luckily, things in this volume are so incredibly crazy-pants that any problems I might have had were swallowed up in me staring, baffled, at the book in front of me. I don’t really remember what happened in that first volume of Fables, but at this point in the story things have gone all to shit, apparently, and some old lady (I think she’s the witch from “Hansel and Gretel”?) decides to summon some help in the war between the Fables (the people, that is) and this new bad guy overlord. Instead, she gets Tom Taylor, who was on his way somewhere else, but when you’re summoned to a weird storyland, you go, I guess.

And when he gets there, he’s all, “Y’all are just stories!” and “I’m not Tommy Taylor!” and I am like TOM TAYLOR YOU ARE AN IDIOT. I mean, maybe it’s just for the purposes of the crossover, but come on, dude, you know better.

Well, whatever, he gets thrown into the action soon enough, and there is plenty of action to go around, with plans and counter-plans and counter-counter-plans and plans going well just to be foiled, but are they really foiled?, and so on. It was definitely a page-turning volume and full of WTF-ery, but man, I hope the next volume dials back on the complexity. My brain just can’t even.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3: “Crushed”, by G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Elmo Bondoc
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3So, yeah. After the wonderfulness of the last volume, I ordered this one up from my local comic shop immediately. I walked over to pick it up last week and only my audiobook and the weirdly low-hanging branches along my route kept me from starting it on my walk home. Instead, I started it as soon as I got there!

Sooooooo basically I’m super in love with Kamala Khan, much as her friend Bruno is, and I would totally take her to the Valentine’s Day dance that is the subject of the special one-off issue at the beginning of this volume. But I’m glad I didn’t have the chance, because Loki shows up for reasons I don’t really understand (I’m guessing they are part of the larger Marvel Universe) and Ms. Marvel lays a serious smackdown on him. Yay Kamala!

Then, in the next three issues, Kamala gets a bit of a crush herself, on the son of some old family friends who is just as into World of Battlecraft and Bollywood movies as Kamala is. Further, it turns out that he’s Inhuman as well, which we all find out after Ms. Marvel takes down another Inhuman who thinks the status quo sucks and wants to go all Epic on Jersey City. Seems the Inhumans are having a bit of a family tiff, and Ms. Marvel is stuck in the middle of it.

THEN, omg, it’s JEMMA SIMMONS. I’m kind of pissed at her in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. right now, but I’m just pretending she’s season one Simmons here and rolling with it. In a much better crossover than that one up above, Simmons and Coulson show up at Kamala’s school to rescue some alien technology or whatever, and Ms. Marvel is like YES PLEASE ME TOO I’M ON IT. The agents are like, dude, no, stay out of it, but of course that’s just catnip to a teenage superhero and Ms. Marvel saves the day in hilarious fashion.

I know it’s what they want, but I may seriously have to check out the S.H.I.E.L.D. comic. Are they all as awesome as this one?

Weekend Shorts: The Unwritten

Holy crap I’ve made it through all of the single issues of The Unwritten that were clogging up my bookshelf! A victory dance is in order! Now onto the trades!

The Unwritten, #47-49: “Orpheus in the Underworld”, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross
The Unwritten #47It’s Mr. Bun! Mr. Bun is back! Mr. Bun is back and badder than ever, as it seems he has usurped the Lord of the Underworld (aka Hades). This… this may be a problem.

The Unwritten #48This three-issue arc brings us back to our old pal Tommy, who is wandering the Underworld without his memories but with a vague sense of having something he needs to do. He’s still travelling with our favorite small dead children, who smartly don’t trust Mr. Bun, and as he wanders Mr. Bun’s castle he starts to remember who he’s looking for and who he’s been trying to avoid. They’re all, of course, hanging out in the Underworld, so we also get to see Lizzie again as well as (spoilers?) Wilson Taylor (!!) and Pullman (!!!), and we also get to find out just how Mr. Bun ended up the sad sack that he is.

The Unwritten #49In the final issue of this arc, Pullman tries to sway Tom to his side, but instead Tom decides to take matters into his own hands, invoke the title story, and try to find out just what’s running the machinery of everyone’s lives, but it seems that before he can he gets nabbed by some characters from Fables just in time for the crossover event. I didn’t particularly like

Weekend Shorts: Wicked, Divine, and Unwritten

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 1: “The Faust Act”, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
The Wicked and the Divine, Vol. 1I had heard vague good things about this book around the internets, but not enough to really get me interested. But then I was at the comic shop getting other things and I asked the guy at the counter what he thought about it and he was like, “It’s fantastic, you should buy it immediately.” He was not wrong.

The conceit of this story is that various gods incarnate themselves into the bodies of more or less ordinary twenty-somethings for two years every 90 years, because sure, why not? In their 2014 bodies, the gods are literal rock stars, performing and giving interviews and being totally open and honest about their godly status, but of course no one really believes them. Except maybe for Laura, a groupie who ends up in the right place at the right time to see Luci (slash Lucifer) snap her fingers and explode a couple of dudes’ heads. When Luci is arrested and the other gods more or less abandon her, Laura does everything she can to help out.

This is a fantastic book, starting with the super pretty artwork that I just need to have all over my walls, like, immediately. Look at these covers, people! So gorgeous. And then also it’s neat to see gods from all the different religions (some of whom could be from several religions all by themselves) hanging out doing their god thing, and then even better there’s an intrepid girl reporter on the case who is probably going to be majorly pissed when she finds out these gods are for reals. I’m super in love.

The Unwritten, Issues 45 and 46: “The Corpse Harvest Reiteration”
The Unwritten #45It has been an absurdly long time since I delved into the world of The Unwritten, and I was more than a little worried that I might have forgotten everything. Luckily I found myself at the start of a little two-issue run wherein 1) the action focused mostly not on the overarching plot and 2) our favorite vampire spent a page explaining the important stuff. Thanks, Richie!

The Unwritten #46So in this set of issues, Richie is feeling bad for himself and Didge is doing her police thing, and then the two of them join forces when a little kid loses first his babysitters and then his dad in freak deaths that have brain damage as the common link between them. Turns out the kid is writing stories that come true, and although he’s not explicitly writing anyone into these stories the people he’s basing them on end up in big trouble. It seems that the story world, once thought a bit dead, may be only mostly dead.

I am super excited to get back into this series, which is good because I have a pile of issues and trades lying around for it!

What fantastic short stuff are you reading this weekend?

Weekend Shorts: The Unwritten #43-44

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, largely because I’ve been spending all of my free time reading some pretty awesome full-size books. But then I looked at my towering pile of unread comics and thought it might perhaps be a good idea to read some of those before I became buried under them! But then after reading two of them I had more long books to read, so… that’s what you get this week! Perhaps more later?

Unwritten #43: “Wheels Within Wheels, Fires Within Fires”
Issue 43So at the end of the last issue, this giant bear showed up with some raccoon/mole/rodent-type friends, and I was like, um. But right at the beginning of this issue said giant bear calls Tom Taylor “a big, featherless chicken,” and as such this bear is my new best friend. This bear gets into a couple of cleaver fights with his friends and with Tom before being dispatched by our old friend Baron von Munchausen, who helps Tom figure out what’s going on and then attaches himself to Tom’s quest to save Lizzie. It definitely feels like a bit of a filler issue, mostly exposition, but the supporting characters offer enough humor (and anti-humor) to keep things interesting.

Unwritten #44: “Halfway Through the Journey”
Issue 44Which is good, because the humor falls right out of the story in this issue. Tom has made his way to the land of the dead in search of Lizzie, but first he loses his memory and meets up with some kids we’ve known for quite a while now and who I am glad are more or less okay. We get a nice little tour of the underworld of Greek myth, meet a few people from Tom’s past, and then get a surprise appearance from one of my favorite characters in this series (yay!). I am excited to get back to these comics, whenever that happens…

Weekend Shorts: Unwritten #42 and A Window or a Small Box

Happy weekend, everyone! Here are a couple of stories I’ve read recently; what have you been reading?

The Unwritten #42: “Live Like Lazarus”
Live Like LazarusThis issue picks up where the last volume left off, more or less, with first a look into what my new favorite character, Badass Detective Didge, experienced in the world of stories. Turns out she met Lizzie (though I have no recollection of Lizzie being over there, darn memory), and so of course Tom wants to find a way in to Lizzie that won’t get him caught by the bad guys.

And so they drive into the middle of the bush and BD Didge tells them all the story of a whale (of course) who came from the desert, and I LOVE when this series introduces me to a story I’ve never heard of and also I love mythology and so therefore this is basically the greatest issue yet. Wait, there was that choose-your-own-adventure one. And all the ones with Mr. Bun. Well, anyway, she tells the story and Tom heads off to fiction-land, but things don’t go quite as he’d probably planned.

Also in this issue: A preview of Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland, which proved to me that I’m still not a fan of Fables, and which makes me nervous for the Fables/Unwritten crossover coming in eight more issues. Also also the horrible fake geek girl ad that I hope I don’t have to see again, because dude.

“A Window or a Small Box,” by Jedediah Berry
A Window or a Small BoxI’ve had this one in my internet bookmarks since Carl mentioned it many moons ago, and I finally had a chance to read it when I had a lull in lunch-time reading materials. It’s pretty short, go read it and then come back!

Spoiler: I liked it a lot.

It’s a fantastic little story that drops the reader in in the middle of the action with no idea what’s happened before, and then soon you find out that even the main characters don’t really know what’s happened before. They’re stuck in this Sliders-style alternate universe where things are more or less the same except everyone carries around babies for no discernible reason, and they’re being sort of chased by these creepy dudes whose motives are similarly indiscernible. They’d really like to just go home and get married, though the latter seems to be just out of a sense of obligation rather than love.

If you’ve heard me rave about Berry’s The Manual of Detection, you may be able to guess that this story is strange and baffling and has fantastic writing. An example: “‘Trouble at six o’clock!’ the bartender cried, which was strange, Jim thought, because no one here told time that way, but apparently six o’clock still meant right behind you, because there was one of the goons, smiling and ready to pounce.”

I’m not too sure about the ending to this story — I like that it didn’t answer all the questions raised by the story, but it would have been nice for it to answer some of them, you know? But I am very content with the fabulous writing and the ability to lose myself in it for even such a short period of time. When is Berry coming out with a new novel??

The Unwritten Vol. 7, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The Unwritten Vol. 7I was really excited to see this volume come into my library so close on the heels of finally reading the previous collection, so much so that I coerced (read: said please to) the cataloger in charge of it to put a hold on it for me as soon as she could, you know, just in case there was a run on it. Relatedly, why isn’t there a run on this series? It is so many kinds of awesome!

If you will recall, last time around I was a little boggled by the sheer number of stories in the collection, so I was very glad to see that there were just a few straightforward issues in this one. And it starts with my favorite horrible person, Mr. Bun, whose presence was sorely lacking last time, so all is forgiven! Oh, Mr. Bun, you are such an awful human bunny.

So, yes. In the first story, we see Mr. Bun hanging out with The Tinker, whose story I don’t quite remember but whose costume is amusing. They get caught up in a bit of a mass exodus from… fiction, I guess, and it seems like things in the land of stories are about to be going very terribly.

Then we head back to the land of the mostly non-fictional and meet up with a badass Australian aboriginal detective who is basically my new favorite character. She’s investigating a weird cult devoted to Tommy Taylor as lord and savior, and she meets up with our good friend what’s-his-face from the Grid, who has come from England to join up with the cult for some reason or other. Things get very culty, and then they get awesome with a unicorn and the return of Pullman’s hand and a very odd one-man show.

The last story is… I’m not sure where it fits, chronologically, so it’s a bit confusing. I may need to go back to the last couple of volumes and see if I can figure that one out. Or maybe Scott will remember when he finishes it — a benefit of reading things with other people!

I definitely liked what this set of stories did, especially with the whole badass detective thing, because I’m a sucker for detectives who don’t quite follow the rules. I also think the [spoiler] that happens to said detective could be very interesting for future stories. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, so much so that I may have already stocked up on those single issues I keep threatening to buy. Oh, money, I will miss you so. But on the plus side, I don’t have to wait eight million years to read the next issues!

Recommendation: As always, I say go find this series and start reading it!

Rating: 9/10