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: Weird-Pants Comics

Let’s embrace the weird this weekend, from teenage superheroes to zombie gravediggers. What are you reading?

Hawkeye, Vol. 3: “L.A. Woman”, by Matt Fraction and Annie Wu
Hawkeye Vol. 3After the super weirdness that was Volume 2, I was a little bit worried about this one. Luckily, this is a far more straightforward set of stories! We pick up with the human version of the Pizza Dog story, wherein Kate Bishop yells at Clint Barton and then packs up her stuff (some of which has been adopted by Clint) and Pizza Dog and heads out to Los Angeles to get a fresh start. However, it’s not quite the fresh start she might have liked, as she quickly gets herself cut off from Daddy’s money and, possibly worse, runs into Madame Masque, who is really not thrilled about being bested by a teenager. Kate manages to escape the bad guys but not her lack of money, so she sets herself up as a private investigator to earn a few bucks to feed a picky cat (is there any other kind?). Except she’s actually pretty terrible at investigating, and of course her investigations just lead her back into the world of Madame Masque and her evil evil plans.

I like this volume quite a bit because Fraction does great things with Kate Bishop and her moody teenager-ness. I love the way she tries to set herself up as an Avenger, but quickly backs down to Young Avenger and then to Person Who Is Pretty Decent at Archery. I also like one bit in which Kate make a really terrible decision and you can see her inner, smarter voice arguing and then being slowly worn down to acquiescence. She knows she’s being an idiot, but she literally cannot help herself. I didn’t really get the bad-guy storyline, which is rather convoluted and only just barely maybe makes sense in the end, but that was okay because I was happy to sit back and enjoy the fun art and the fun characters. I am curious to see if, when I get my hands on the next volume, some of this will make more sense, as I know that these issues are not collected in chronological order. I guess I’ll find out in August?

iZombie, Vol. 1: “Dead to the World”, by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred
iZombie Vol. 1So, true story, I am madly in love with the iZombie television show. It was one of the few shows I watched this season that I loved beginning to end, and I cannot wait to see where it will go next season. So, of course, I had to check out the source material during the summer break.

I was very happy that I knew going in that the show is completely different from the comic, but somehow I didn’t expect “completely different” to be… so different. Literally the only thing that is the same between the two is that there is a girl who is a zombie and when she eats brains she temporarily gets the memories of the person whose brains she ate. That’s it. The setting is different, the background story is different, the friends are different, the bad guy is different, the style is different, the everything else is different.

And it’s great! Our hero is Gwen Dylan, a zombie gravedigger who uses her job to get sustainably sourced brains rather than, like, eating random people. She is friends with a ghost and a werewolf — sorry, were-terrier — and they just kind of… hang out. In the first issue, we are introduced to a strange fellow who is doing creepy things to some poor guy, who ends up being the brains that Gwen eats later, and as she tries to figure out what was up with dead guy’s life she ends up drawn toward his killer. Meanwhile, there is a gang of vampires doing the usual vampire bad stuff to lonely singles in the area, and a team of monster-hunters comes to town to put a stop to them and any other shouldn’t-be-undead person around. This is bad news for Gwen & Co., especially after Gwen gets all flirty with one of the hunters. Then Gwen finally meets that weird guy from the beginning, and things get even stranger.

There is a lot of worldbuilding in this first volume and not a lot of actual plot, but I kind of liked that because it helped me to absolutely differentiate this from the story I thought I might be getting. I like Gwen just as much as I like Liv, so that’s helpful, and I am super intrigued to see what’s going to happen with her with regards to hot monster hunter and also creepy monster dude, who insinuates that Gwen is way more than she thinks she is. I will definitely be hunting down the next volume of this series soon!

Weekend Shorts: Ms. Marvel

The shorts this week are more like one long, in that I read the first volume of a comic series and I always have way more to say about the first volume than the ones that come after. So, here are some thoughts about six issues of a so-far-pretty-awesome comic!

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1I almost couldn’t not read this first volume of the new Ms. Marvel, because it has been everywhere on my internets for ages. Excitement when it first came out, more excitement with the release of the first collected volume, and not terribly much less excitement in between. I had bought the first issue when I saw it in my comic shop and never bothered to read it, but with so many people telling me how awesome it was, and with an urge to throw my dollars at a project that sounded so fantastic, I went ahead and ordered the trade and threw myself into it.

First, for those not inhabiting my particular corner of the internets, a quick summary: Kamala Khan is a Muslim, Pakistani teen living in Jersey City who becomes the superhero Ms. Marvel but still has to, like, be a Muslim, Pakistani teen living in Jersey City. Lady superhero? Sold. Non-white superhero? Tell me more. Jersey City? Eh, that’s okay.

But really, I was lured in by promises of fanfic writing and Wolverine crushing (as in having a crush on, not, like, smushing), but I guess none of that happens in the first six issues. Super disappointing. I suppose that means I have things to look forward to, though…

What actually happens in these first issues is a lot of backstory. We meet Kamala and her friends and establish that Kamala’s family is pretty conservative and incredibly protective of her as the only daughter. Kamala’s friends are a little protective, too, especially around some falsely nice classmates who clearly do not understand how to interact with a person unlike themselves. And, to be fair, Kamala doesn’t really know how to interact with anyone — she is torn between frustration with her family’s rules and her need to defend them to her classmates, she makes trouble at Saturday School over sexist rules and teachings, and she has a boy totally crushing on her and she doesn’t even know.

The big theme of this volume, titled No Normal, is that Kamala really really really wants to be just like everyone else because it would be so much easier. When she first gets her Ms. Marvel powers via creepy mist, she finds herself involuntarily turning into the tall, leggy, blonde, skimpily clad Carol Danvers (the erstwhile Ms. Marvel turned Captain Marvel) in addition to growing and shrinking and stretching slightly less involuntarily. But as the story progresses, Kamala realizes that a) that outfit is hella uncomfortable and b) being herself requires way less effort all around. I think my favorite part of all this is that Ms. Marvel’s new outfit is a burkini, which, holy cow, why isn’t every superhero wearing one?

As almost an afterthought to all this coming of age and discussion of religion and ethnicity, there is also — you’ll never guess — villainy! Kamala finds herself rescuing (well, trying and then later succeeding) that aforementioned boy’s brother from a shadowy group serving a shadowy leader called The Inventor and possibly also the Birdman, which probably means something to someone but definitely not to me, so I am intrigued to see where that plotline goes. I hope that with the big exposition out of the way, we can move on to adorable fangirling and also asskicking posthaste!

Recommendation: Read it. Do it now.

Rating: 9/10

Weekend Shorts: Hawkeye, Vol. 1

Hawkeye: My Life As a WeaponIt has been a strange couple of reading weeks ’round these here parts, due to my book club deciding to read The Stand and therefore all of my dedicated reading time being already spoken for by that giant doorstop. Luckily, my un-dedicated reading time — couch time with my video-game-playing husband, can’t-fall-asleep time, that sort of stuff — has been filled with some superfun superhero antics (is Hawkeye a superhero? I mean, if Batman’s a superhero, I guess he must be?). Waaaaaay better than plague fiction, especially these days…

Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life As a Weapon
I had heard lots of good things about this comic series, though I couldn’t tell you any specific thing, just that people I know and mostly trust read and enjoyed either the single-issue comics or this first collected volume. All I really knew about it was that it’s about Hawkeye (genius, I am) and that it’s about Hawkeye when he’s not an Avenger, which I thought could be pretty interesting. And… it is? I think?

I’m not sure because none of the issues in this collection are easy to read, which I appreciate in theory but which breaks my brain in practice. The story-telling is in no way linear — the first issue has three distinct timelines (dog, eviction, Hawkeye badassery) that are each told in vignettes that are chronological for their story but which trade off with the other timelines in a non-chronological fashion, if that makes any sense, which it probably doesn’t. Another issue has Hawkeye listing his nine most terrible ideas of the day in order from least to most horrible, which are of course also not in chronological order. I like it. It’s cool. I’m still not entirely sure what happened.

But what little I understand of the various stories is pretty cool, so there’s that. That first story shows Hawkeye as Clint Barton, awesome sharpshooter with a little notoriety but no pressing superhero engagements when the Avengers are out of session, which leaves him free to fight the evictions of his friends in his apartment building. The second brings in Kate Bishop, alternate Hawkeye, to raid a circus run by bad guys, as you do. The third is… I don’t know, there’s a car and a chick and some trick arrows? And then the fourth and fifth are a two-parter in which Hawkeye has to go win an extremely incriminating for himself and SHIELD tape (no, really, a videotape, omg) at what is apparently an auction for villain types, including a really go-getter Hydra member who makes me giggle. There’s also a bonus issue, Young Avengers #6, which explains a little bit of the Clint/Kate relationship. No big overarching story that I can see, just some fun times with Hawkeye and sometimes alternate Hawkeye. I’ll definitely be checking out the next volume, but with probably more brain power on reserve next time!

Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart“I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.”

I gave this book to my husband to read first, since he’s a bigger Sanderson fangirl than I am and I can trust him to tell me if a book is worth reading. He flat-out loved this book, and when he was pestering me to put it on the top of my TBR he kept waxing poetic about that first line, “I’ve seen Steelheart bleed.”

So I started reading it, and I read that first line, and I was like, all right, that’s cool, I guess. But by the end of the prologue, when our narrator repeats that line? Sold. Sold, sold, sold.

The premise of this book is that one day, people start waking up with superpowers, which is awesome, and then proceed to become supervillains called Epics, which is… less awesome. No person who gets these powers becomes a hero; all of them seem to be out to become the most badass subjugator of regular human beings. The titular subjugator, Steelheart, is the more or less benevolent dictator of Newcago, a Chicago which has turned to steel because Steelheart, you know, and is also constantly under darkness to protect another Epic called Nightwielder.

But our narrator, David, is not content to live with the status quo, not leastly because Steelheart killed his father in the prologue and should therefore prepare to die. He finagles his way into an underground (literally; much of Chicago’s population lives underground these days) resistance force called the Reckoners, who kill off minor Epics here and there and who are a little put off by David’s half-baked plan to take down Steelheart. But of course they are swayed to it, and so we get to watch the plan finish baking and culminate in an epic battle (get it?).

It’s a pretty good story, with the villains and the heros and the intrigue and the fighting, but where it is great is in the humor. The most obvious source of humor is David’s inability to craft a good metaphor, or a bad one, or really any kind of metaphor, although once he explains them to himself or others they make a weird kind of sense. But there is also the fact that these Epics end up with some really terrible names like Fortuity and Refractionary, and that one of the Reckoners has decided to embrace his Scottish ancestry even though he’s super Southern, and it’s this sort of constant background humor that really made me fall in love with this book.

I do have one complaint about the book, and this is pretty spoilery so skip ahead to the next paragraph if you haven’t read it yet. There is a hint of a completely unnecessary romance subplot throughout the book, and so when the one main female character was taken out of the equation I was disappointed that the one main female character was gone but happy that at least there wouldn’t be that lame romance subplot. But then later a thing happened and I ended up feeling exactly the opposite way, so… yeah. I am keeping my fingers crossed for no lameness in the second book, but it’s a YA novel and I hear that romance stuff sells books.

Other than that frustration, which is not an unusual one for me when it comes to YA books, I really super enjoyed reading this book. It’s fast and fun and has a great premise and I highly recommend it to anyone who needs some brain candy this winter.

Rating: 9/10

The Unwritten Vol. 5, by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

The Unwritten Vol. 5Every time I get a new trade of The Unwritten, I try to leave it sitting on my table for a couple days so that I can at least seem like a patient person. But a certain husband of mine saw it waiting for me, snatched it up, and read it first like a MEANIE. So I had to read it right afterward so he couldn’t spoil it. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

It’s wonderful, as though you’d expect me to say anything else at this point. It starts with a heist, which is one of my many story-related weaknesses, and then it reminds us about Tom’s effed-up childhood, and then it lays out some very intriguing backstory for Tom’s dad, and the cabal people are killin’ lots of other people and there is a child made out of comic-book superhero (yes, you read that right) and it is cah-razy up in here.

I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t a bumper issue or whatever you might call it at the end of this volume, something like the Mr. Bun tales or the creepy Choose Your Own Adventure that would give me a diversion from the fact that I have to wait months for the next set to arrive in my library! But, on the other hand, extra story and extra questions just waiting to be answered those many months from now. 🙂

Recommendation: Seriously, why haven’t you already started reading this series?

Rating: 9/10