Weekend Shorts: Comics That Disappointed Me

I didn’t intend this post to be a total downer, but as I wrote it that’s what came out, so that’s what you get. Feel free to skip this post in favor of reading a really good book. But if you like it when I get grr-y and arrgh-y, read on.

Federal Bureau of Physics, Vol. 4: “The End Times”, by Simon Oliver and Alberto Ponticelli
FBP, Vol. 4I just can’t even with this series. It started off pretty well, with the pseudoscience and the cheeky tone and the interesting world building. But then the book got caught on this idea of a Big Bad Guy and some Ulterior Motives and the tone got more serious and the science, pseudo- or not, became a sidenote and the world of the story got too small to matter.

In this last volume… I don’t even know what’s happening here. Most of our heroes are still in the Giant Underground Bunker of Conspiracy-Land, and then Adam is off in space or wherever and something something dark matter and something something everyone’s dead? I think?

Meanwhile, my precocious child friend and her mom are wandering about, looking for safety on an Earth that is literally falling apart because reasons. There are reasons, but those reasons don’t make any sense, and neither does pretty much all of this book. I didn’t mind things not making sense when there were magic physics canyons; when it seems like I’m supposed to be understanding some Deeper Meaning it is the worst. On the one hand, at least the series is over? On the other, I wish it had been so much better.

The Fiction, #1-4, by Curt Pires and David Rubin
The FictionI saw this comic on sale at my local comic shop and the cover was pretty and the inside art was pretty and it was called The Fiction and please, how was I not going to pick that up? And then I never actually opened the issue that I bought because I found the whole four-issue series on hoopla and read them all in an afternoon.

Unfortunately, I mostly read them all because “all” was four and I had nothing better to do and I hoped, unrequitedly, that it would get better.

It starts off strong, with a guy finding an old book and then mysteriously disappearing. Then we get a flashback to that guy as a kid (I had pegged them as maybe 10 but I guess they’re actually 15-16?) hanging out with some friends as their parents get up to slightly abnormal parent things. The friends find one of these books, start reading it, and find themselves in a fictional world. And then they return — but one is left behind.

Intriguing, right? So the guy in the present day is lost in the fictional world again and his old friends go after him only to find that the world they remember has gotten rather more bleak in the meantime. And this is where things go off the rails, as the author pulls in a bunch of stuff about, like, a malevolent entity and bad things that may or may not have happened to those parents, and there’s unnecessary romance and the art becomes basically stock B horror movie footage of an evil world and it’s still pretty but it’s so done and ugh. And then the ending. Let’s not even talk about that.

So, yeah. Skip this one, unless you’ve got hoopla, a beer, and literally nothing better to read.

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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!

Weekend Shorts: FBP and Flavia!

It’s a science round of shorts! First there’s physics, then there’s chemistry, how can anyone go wrong? Well, I mean, there’s also death and a bit of destruction, so… I guess that’s how. What are you reading this week?

FBP, Vol. 2: “Wish You Were Here”, by Simon Oliver and Robbi Rodriguez
Wish You Were HereHey, remember how I read Hawkeye and that one issue nearly broke my brain due to strange chronology? That’s how this entire volume was for me. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised when we’re talking crazy pseudo-science, but I am still very confused as to what exactly just happened.

What I can understand is that our freelance physics friends go to a remote outpost where they meet an old friend of Cicero’s who has a shiny thing she wants to show them. Hardy and Reyes go off to explore the nearby town, there’s fancy physics fighting, Hardy learns about Reyes’s crazy physics past, Hardy learns some things about his own present, and a magic physics canyon becomes a magic physics cannon (well, sort of, let me have my wordplay) and it’s amazing. The brain-breaking part is that some or all of these events are taking place in a reality created by Hardy and Reyes, or possibly by Cicero and Sen, or possibly some hyper-intelligent mice, I don’t know. I mean, I guess I’ll know in the next volume, but for now I’m going with the mice.

The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse, by Alan Bradley
The Curious Case of the Copper CorpseI’ve stated several times here that I love Flavia de Luce, but the books about her have been hit or miss with me almost solely on the basis of how much time is spent solving mysteries versus extolling the virtues of Bishop’s Lacey and environs. Mysteries, yay! Ruminating about the history and future of Buckshaw with regard to laws governing estates, yaaaawwn.

But it turns out that long-windedness is a foundational Flavia attribute that really cannot be replicated in a 27-page story. Here’s Flavia, sitting around, oh, a note!, bicycling bicycling bicycling, a jaunt up the stairs, copper-covered fellow in a bathtub, meeting the boys of Greyminster, evading capture, mystery solved! No long rants about horrible sisters or even daydreams of criminal mischief via chemistry, and I rather missed them! It’s fascinating to find out how much you don’t even know about yourself…

The mystery itself was perfectly satisfactory, and it stands completely alone from the rest of the series so if you’re not caught up you won’t feel like you’re missing anything. But it’s no substitute for full-flavor Flavia, so luckily it’s just a few weeks until the next book comes out!

Weekend Shorts: Rocket Girl and FBP

Woo comics! I had some spare time last week where I needed something to read but didn’t particularly want to start a new book, so I picked up a couple of trades that I had lying around and had a nice time catching up. I’ve actually already read the first three issues of Rocket Girl, so I’m very glad it’s easy to distinguish issues in the trades! Let me know what y’all are reading this weekend in the comments!

Rocket Girl #4, “Nowhere Fast” and #5, “Time Will Tell”
Rocket Girl #4Issue 4 is basically a giant action sequence, as Dayoung tries to outmaneuver the Future Cops who are following her for les-than-well explained reasons. She zooms left and right and up and finally down into the subway, where she and the FCs evade riders and trains until they… can’t, I guess?… and then there’s a big explosion. Meanwhile, the present Quintum Mechanics gang tries to rebuild the machine that Dayoung broke way back at the beginning of all this, though one of the scientists is not thrilled with the idea.

Rocket Girl 5Issue 5 is better, because paradoxes! Certain doubles meet again, for the first time, for the last time, and the future version is like, huh, that’s weird that I don’t remember this. DUN DUN! Meanwhile in the future, the Teen Police Department is disbanded due to time travel antics, and Protocol Joshua (or “J0$#UA_” but seriously, I know what’s up here) is initiated and things are getting curiouser and curiouser. Meanwhile in the present, Dayoung and her new scientist friend are BAMFs and you can’t stop them.

This is one of those series that just asks question after question and never answers a darn one, but I’m just so in love with it (for now, I guess) that it doesn’t matter. I am sooooo intrigued by this story and its paradoxes and and its awesome protagonist. Why did Dayoung have to go back? What would it take to change the future? What would it take to keep it the same? When will we know which one happens? How many more of these 80s outfits am I going to see on people coming into my library in 2014?

Federal Bureau of Physics, Vol. 1
Federal Bureau of PhysicsI had stopped into my comic shop a while back to pick up other comics, but there was a long line so I spent a few minutes wandering the store. This bright pink cover caught my eye, and then the title — yay physics! Sold.

Except that in this book, the conceit is that the physics of the world is broken, to the point of setting up a Federal Bureau of Physics that is similar enough to a fire department as to be available by calling 911. When school kids start playing in an zero-gravity area and your TV show is over before it even started, the FBP is on the case!

I would totally read just that book, but if you’re not quite so nerdy, there’s some intrigue and subterfuge that you might be interested in. Early on in this volume an FBP operation goes wrong due to some unprovable subterfuge, and they end up with huge funding cuts and new competition in the form of private physics insurers, so there’s that to contend with, and also our protagonist has a dead (although my money’s on disappeared) dad whose work has gone missing and also also there’s another agent whose sense of time is… questionable. Intriguing! I will definitely be checking out the second volume in the future.