Weekend Shorts: The Inevitable Hoopla Binge

When I first started with hoopla, I thought I could be responsible. I could check out a trade here and a couple issues there, and I’d be fine. FINE. I could stop at any time.

But no, no I couldn’t. With one of my libraries offering me an absurd number of checkouts every month, I should have known it would only be a matter of time before I read 25 single issues over the course of three days. I’m fine.

Of course, this makes for terrible blogging as I can’t possibly remember all those stories enough to write about them, but here’s my best college try:

Giant Days, #5-12, by John Allison and Lissa Treiman
Giant Days #12It’s just, it’s so good, guys. It’s also appropriate that this series would lead to my downfall, as my beloved characters are also having some seriously bad times in this set of issues. My BFF Susan is off having an unexpected relationship that starts off okay but runs into some serious turbulence when Susan stops putting enough effort into it. Esther continues her term as Drama Queen with both an end-of-term panic over not studying for exams and an ill-advised relationship with a TA. Ed finally finds a girl who likes him back but that relationship fizzles before it even begins. Daisy stays relatively drama-free but does become temporarily obsessed with Friday Night Lights. The stories continue to be adorable and hilarious. I am mad at myself for reading all of these and not saving any for later.

Welcome Back, #1-5, by Christopher Sebela and Jonathan Brandon Sawyer
Welcome Back #1I actually own the first two or three of these in print, but am lazy and had hoopla handy so I read everything available there in one go. I’m kind of mad at myself for reading all of these, but for a different reason.

See, I own the issues because this was supposed to be a quick four-issue series, and I’m a weird backward person who buys those in issues but ongoing series in trades. But if you are proficient in numbers, you’ll see that I read five issues because someone decided to make this an ongoing series.

I can see why — the series has an interesting premise in that there are people in the world (lots of people? Just a relative few? It’s not super clear) who are involved in some crazypants eons-long war for the purpose of which one hunts the other down, kills them, and then kills themself so that the two can reincarnate together and do it all again. Why this seemed like a great idea to whoever set it up, I do not know, but it leads to some very exciting intrigue and subterfuge so I am willing to suspend some disbelief for a while.

But what I can’t let go of is the fact that there is a pretty obvious ending that’s being built up to in issue four, but at the last minute the story swerves to accommodate the new ongoing nature of the series and ruins it. I don’t know if it would have been a great ending (I’ve been burned by miniseries before), but I can tell that it didn’t get a chance to be. Issue five was okay, but I’m not sure I’m excited enough about it to keep going.

Lumberjanes, #14-24, by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke Allen, Carolyn Nowak, and Carey Pietsch (and other people too)
Lumberjanes #14Holy Mae Jemison. This is what happens when you have a nice relaxing day off of work and you get all your productive stuff done early. You get to read ALL THE LUMBERJANES. What happened here, let’s see…

Well, badges, obviously, but also a crazy snowstorm that leads to some interesting and terrible camp backstory, mermaids with friendship problems, and some serious shape-shifter adventures. Throughout, our favorite Lumberjanes work through the lovely insanity of friendship to the max, including reining in loose cannon friends and dealing with new friends who seem like they’re taking over and wondering whether friendship is more important than personal development. These are some deep thoughts to be reading about at the same time as mermaids, I’ll tell you.

Reading all these issues at once was a little crazy in another way, as there was some serious turnover going on at Lumberjanes headquarters, with the departure of Noelle Stevenson as writer and the introduction of other writers and artists. I have to say, if I can’t have Brooke Allen I hope I can keep having Carey Pietsch going forward; I think the two of them have the best interpretations of the characters. Writing-wise the series seems pretty much the same, probably because it’s hard to go wrong throwing teenagers into crazy supernatural circumstances.

Lumberjanes: Beyond Bay Leaf Special #1, by Faith Erin Hicks and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
Lumberjanes: Beyond Bay Leaf #1Bonus Lumberjanes fun! Comixology says this is a one-shot special, so I’m not sure what’s up with the #1, but whatever, it’s cute. This issue is a weird sort of The Last Unicorn-esque story about a magic ghost pony and a strange camper who has designs on the pony and on the Lumberjanes while she’s at it. It’s completely outside the realm of regular Lumberjanes, so you don’t really need to read it, but if you love this series I know you’ll read it anyway.

Weekend Shorts: What the Hoopla?

My library has had a service called hoopla for a while now, with movies and music and stuff, but I wasn’t actually interested in it until I found out that I could get COMICS. But then I found out that I could only get comics if my library bought them, so I begged and pleaded our stuff-buying people until one day, POOF! COMICS.

The first thing I did, of course, was read five issues of Lumberjanes. And then like two days later I picked up my trade volume of those same issues at the comic shop, because my timing is impeccable. But whatever, I’ve got lots more issues to read with no trade version in sight, and also there are a bunch of other comics to read and love.

I thought it would be kind of terrible, reading on my phone, but my screen is just large enough that I can read the words without too much trouble, and of course it’s easy enough to see the big pictures. Small pictures and weird layouts require some zooming, but that’s easily enough overcome that I’m not running out to buy a tablet today. If you have a smaller phone, like an older iPhone, you might want to read on something else.

Also a downside is that my library has a monthly limit on checkouts, because unlike most borrowing services these titles are always available and thus pay-by-download for the library. For Lumberjanes this is especially terrible because each issue counts as one download, but if you’re catching up on some older series it’s not so bad because the trades also count as one download. And if you’re in my old stomping grounds of Cleveland, note that the Cuyahoga County hoopla site gives you WAY more downloads than the CLEVNET site. You’re welcome!

On to the comics!

Lumberjanes, Issues 9-13, by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Carolyn Nowak
Lumberjanes, Vol. 3The first four of these issues make up Volume 3 of the series, which starts with a standalone Spooky Horror Story issue which serves to show off some cool artists and their takes on the Lumberjanes and also to provide stories with varying levels of Spooky Horror. It’s super duper fun.

Speaking of artists, the main story arc picks up with a new artist, which is always a little jarring but seriously one of the characters looks so different that I legit had no idea who she was until I got to issue 13 from the original artist, and then I was like, oh, durrrrr. Everyone else is recognizable, though, and in fact I like this art style quite a bit, so I guess I’m just gonna have to get used to it.

Anyway, this arc is suuuuuper cute because Mal and Molly go on a daaaaaaate and it is totes adorbs until the Lumberjane thirst for adventure kicks in and then it’s totes dangerous but also way more exciting, so. There are dinosaurs and the bear lady and plans and awesomeness!

Meanwhile, the other Lumberjanes have no idea this is all going on and are in fact foregoing adventure ’til their friends get back. The irony! Of course, even their attempts to earn the most boringest badges are not without their own sense of adventure….

Not part of Volume 3, because now I’m reading ahead (she says about an issue that’s almost a year old), is issue 13, in which we flash back to the first day of camp and get the fun family backstories of our favorite campers (and raccoon!) and get a little more foreboding from the camp itself. What is up with this camp, seriously?

I can’t not love Lumberjanes. It is wonderful and adorable and fun and exciting and I am SO HAPPY that I can read all the issues on hoopla without waiting a billion years for the trades to come out.

I was going to talk about some more hoopla titles, but I think I’ve written more than enough today so you’ll have to wait until next time! If you’ve found any great titles on hoopla, tell me all about them!

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: Circuses and Villains

If we were playing Smash Up, my husband’s favorite genre-mashing card game, today’s post would be holding its own with the Steampunk and Shapeshifter factions. It would probably lose to me playing the Tabletop faction with anything else (man, is that deck overpowered), but it would do all right. And you will do all right to read either of these lovely stories, whether you understood any part of those first two sentences or not!

Dream Eater’s Carnival, by Leslie Anderson and David T. Allen
Dream Eater's CarnivalI was thrilled by this pick for my online book club because a) it was tiny and b) it was on the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library so I could get it for free! I’m always a fan of free. I was hesitant about it because it’s a quasi-steampunk-fantasy-ish story and that’s just generally not my jam.

But you know what is my jam? Circuses, apparently. After a brief fantasy-grade backstory with, like, a church and an involuntary student and some amber that does stuff or whatever, said student, Leisl, runs off to join a travelling circus and it is the awesomest. This circus is, like, literally a travelling circus, in that all of the buildings are built on wheels and as it travels the members go to visit each other by hopping from one precarious perch to another. So cool! But behind that delightful circusy surface, of course, lies danger and intrigue, as the circus may not be exactly what it seems…

This story serves as a sort of prequel to a full-length novel coming out… soon?… from the same authors, so it ends up a bit packed full of tidbits that don’t make a lot of sense because I presume they’ll be explained later, but the atmosphere of the book is so fantastic that I will probably check out that novel whenever it arrives.

Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
NimonaIf you run in the same internet circles I do, you have been bombarded by the exclamation “NIMONAAAA!” for the last approximately ever. I finally got the book into my library recently, checked it out, and read it on a quiet vacation Saturday. And it was wonderful.

Nimona is, unsurprisingly, about a girl called Nimona, who shows up at the lair of an evil villain and basically bullies her way into being his sidekick. He’s hesitant at first about her literal take-no-prisoners attitude and propensity for rushing headlong into danger without even a plan, but she wins him over with her awesome shapeshifter abilities and general adorableness. As the story progresses, you get to find out more about both Nimona’s and the villain’s backstories and the weird world that they live in that allows for things like evil villains in the first place. It’s alternately hilarious, depressing, and intriguing. Also, the art is amazing, with this neat sort of active line style that makes it seem like Nimona’s just constantly bathed in caffeine while everyone else is practically statuesque.

It was a super fun time and while I’m not quite shouting “NIMONAAAA!” from the rooftops, you should definitely check it out if you like neat, moderately subversive fantasy stories.

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1, by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1I had heard absolutely nothing but love and fangirl-ing over this comic series, so well before it was available to order I bugged my local comic shop to put the first volume on my pull list. Eventually, it was orderable, and eventually, it came in, and then I set everything aside and dove in! Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to devour it in one sitting, and after reading the first two issues I was like, what the junk, I do not understand the love for this series outside of its delightful catchphrases.

So, there’s this camp, right, for Lumberjanes, who are kind of like Girl Scouts but different, I guess, and the series follows the campers of one particular cabin who are wont to leave their counselor behind and wander off on adventuresome adventures and exclaim exclamations like, “What in the Joan Jett are you doing?” But it’s definitely not your normal camp, as we find out on the third page of the first issue when we are suddenly introduced to creepy three-eyed wolves and enigmatic phrases. The second issue is much the same, with a canoe trip cut short by a three-eyed river monster and the discovery of a creepy cave. Goody? Things may also not have been helped by the fact that the issues are bracketed by pages from the Lumberjanes manual, which is made of text and so therefore I read it and hoo boy is there some terrible writing in those pages. I kind of couldn’t even.

After a night away from the book and the campers, I came back with trepidation to at least finish out this book I paid good money for. Strangely, this time around I thought the book was pretty awesome! Possibly this is because of changed expectations and less thorough reading of manual pages, possibly it actually gets significantly better. I think it gets better, because actual explainable (well…) stuff starts happening, like the fact that the cave is booby-trapped and the girls have to work together to get out of it, and then we meet Boy Scouts Scouting Lads who are not quite what they seem and these are storylines I know what to do with. We also get to know the individual girls better over the course of four issues and so I was better able to care about them and their exploits. I’m usually a fan of in medias res, but I could really have used at least one smidgen of knowledge to start this book off right.

On the plus side, now that I’m through with this volume I can see that things are exciting and crazy and I very much want to know what happens next. I’m not sure I could take this in single issues, though, so I’ll just be waiting patiently here for the next collection and working on my Pungeon Master badge.

Recommendation: For ladies who have ever gone to camp and fans of rad girls doing rad things.

Rating: 8/10