Weekend Shorts: Volume 1 Edition

Comics are weird. You can read them in single issues, or you can wait until a bunch of them are collected in volumes, and it can be hard to tell by any one issue, or even any one volume, what that series is really going to be like. (See: The wild difference between early and late volumes of The Unwritten.)

This is definitely the case for both of the volume ones below. I’m not sure about either of them as a long-term comic relationship, but I’m definitely going to have to check out their second volumes and see if things go any differently than I expect.

Shutter, Vol. 1: “Wanderlost”, by Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca
Shutter, Vol. 1I pretty much picked this one up because of the cover, which has a girl with a camera (like!) and a Felix-looking cat thing (weird?). I’m not sure if I’d’ve picked up this book if I had looked at the back cover, though, which is more indicative of the insides with its giant-gun-wielding suited lion and giant-sword-wielding armored… fox? Yeah.

The opening pages had me hooked, though, with a dad and his daughter hanging out on the moon (the MOON!) and hints of other wild adventures to come. Fast-forward to the future and we meet our protagonist, Kate Kristopher, a 27-year-old whose best years seem to be behind her. She’s a popular novelist but hasn’t written anything in ages, and she’s spending her birthday at her dad’s gravesite, as you do.

Don’t worry, though, things get interesting very quickly when some ghost ninjas show up to kidnap Kate, and then some mobster lions get in on that action, and they all seem to want to lead Kate to siblings she didn’t even know she had. There is lots of running and jumping and climbing trees and whatnot, and narrow escapes, and non-escapes that later become escapes, and it’s basically nonstop crazypants.

Which is awesome, and I loved reading this volume, but it’s also tiring. There are like a million things that happen here, but I can’t remember any of them with clarity because they are all rolled up into a ball of crazy in my brain. I am super intrigued by the “girl is thrown headfirst into a pool of family secrets” plotline, but I am moderately annoyed by the “how many crazy anthropomorphic animals and robots and ghosts and shit can we draw into this panel?” business that surrounds it. I’m hoping that’s all just sort of exposition and that the second volume will get to the good stuff, but I’m already resigning myself to the fact that it won’t.

Black Science, Vol. 1: “How to Fall Forever”, by Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera
Black Science, Vol. 1I had almost the exact opposite experience with this book. I had heard great things about it and actually bought it from my local comic shop and dove in ready for some crazy time-and-space-travelling goodness.

The conceit here is kind of like that show Sliders that I watched a lot of as a kid — a group of scientists have a machine that takes them to parallel/alternate universes and it’s super awesome until it breaks and starts sending them to random universes for random amounts of time. Some of the random universes are very dangerous and some are relatively safe, but none are terribly helpful for fixing the machine and bringing everyone back to their original universe.

That kind of plot is basically catnip to me, but unfortunately this volume starts off not doing a lot with it. I mean, yeah, they’re jumping around universes and stuff, but there’s far more focus on the fact that the protagonist dude has been cheating on his wife with a coworker (with whom he and his kids are trapped in these other universes, DRAMA) in the first few issues and I was like, come on, get to the pseudoscience!

I also felt a little let down by the art, which is very pretty on the page level, but a) has a lot of two-page spreads that are hard to see in the trade paperback binding and that led to me being very baffled until I figured it out on each spread, and b) is kind of FBP-esque with the people drawing and it can be hard to tell all those big noses apart.

However, the art was still pretty and the last couple of issues make up for the early lack of action plot with some veeery interesting pseudosciencey turns of events and a pretty decent cliffhanger that left me wishing I had the second volume at the ready. I will definitely be back for more.

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!

The Fold, by Peter Clines

The FoldHoly crap, guys. If you look in the dictionary next to “compulsively readable” you will see the cover of this book. Probably. If you have this special dictionary I had printed just now. Point is, my work breaks were stretched to their limits for two days and then I just couldn’t take it anymore and spent a few hours (including some meant for sleeping!) finishing the book up at home because WHAT THE HECK.

The first chapter is amazing. Let me spoil it for you: There’s a woman getting ready for her husband to come home, and then she thinks she hears him come home but she knows something’s wrong. The front door is open, but she doesn’t see her husband, but then she hears someone wandering around upstairs, stepping on squeaky floorboards her husband would know were there and loading the emergency intruder gun. She’s like, oh shit, but then her husband comes down the stairs and she is like, oh thank the sweet baby Jesus what the heck was all of that? And then her husband is like, who are you and what have you done with my wife?

Crazy, right? What happened to his wife? Or what happened to him? What happened, is the important part, but the book pulls way back and we go meet some high school teacher with an eidetic memory who is being recruited by a government friend to look into a weird situation. The situation, it turns out, is a group working on… not teleportation, exactly, but a way to move people from one place to another very very quickly. This crazy husband problem is sort of part of it, but the big problem is that the government guy thinks something very weird is happening and he can’t put his finger on it. So he’s bringing in the guy who literally can’t not notice everything. And said guy notices, quickly, that something very weird is happening.

I don’t want to brag, but I had the main problem figured out waaaaay before eidetic memory guy did, because I know how science fiction works. But there’s more to the story than just that problem, and things start going kind of insane toward the end with weird science and a surprise enemy. This book is pretty much all plot, and I am totally fine with that because the characters were kind of boring anyway, although there’s kind of a reason for that, and that is kind of interesting in and of itself. But seriously, there’s inter-dimensional travel and a Sherlock-Holmes-y protagonist, if you don’t want to read this book based on the beginning of this sentence I cannot help you. And if you do read it, help me figure out what’s up with that jelly doughnut.

Recommendation: A perfect read for the beach or vacation or whenever you just want to spend a few straight hours reading. For fans of pseudo-science; being a science fan not necessarily required.

Rating: 8/10