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: Rat Queens and The Woods

Comics comics comics. I have lots of comics. Let’s read some!

Rat Queens, Vol. 1: “Sass and Sorcery”, by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
Rat Queens, Vol. 1I had heard decent things about this comic from people I trust, but the concept — dwarves and elves and stuff going on quests — is one that I tend to like in theory more than in practice, so it wasn’t on the top of my reading list. Then I got stuck in a long line at my comic shop and this book was hanging out on the counter, and one flip through the artwork had me sold. It is super pretty, guys.

And then I read it, and the story is equally as awesome, as it is closer in tone to that Terry Pratchett style of fantasy that I find enjoyable despite myself. Rat Queens isn’t quite a parody, like Pratchett’s work, but it does play around with the source material in fun ways. To start with, our main heroes are all ladies with distinct personalities and looks (coughxmencough), and then also they’re all pretty aware of the fantasy tropes they are following, and then also they are violently and excitedly gouging out goblin eyeballs, which is super gross but fascinatingly realistic. Well, “realistic”.

In this volume our Rat Queens are one of several raiding parties who are sent out on generic goblin-killing, loot-gathering quests that quickly turn out to be ambushes. The Rat Queens survive their ambush (with goblin eyeballs to show for it!), but not everyone else can say the same, and so the Rat Queens set out to figure out who set them up and why. There’s intrigue and subterfuge (my favorite things!) and also shapeshifting and sibling rivalry and an adorably tiny kick-ass Sherlock Holmes and love and sex and mystical religions and um, when does the next volume come out?

The Woods, Vol. 1: “The Arrow”, by James Tynion IV and Michael Dialynas
The Woods, Vol. 1Now this one I had just seen mentioned on a blog somewhere, and I wrote down that I wanted to read it, and then by the time I got to the comic shop I had no idea why I had wanted to read it but I bought it anyway, trusting my past self even though her short-term memory is terrible. Plus, again, the artwork is awesome, so I figured it couldn’t be all bad. And… it wasn’t! Two for two!

This book is much much darker than Rat Queens, though. Here we have a bunch of teenagers and teachers in a school that somehow gets transported somewhere that is proooobably not Earth. The air is breathable but the animal population is less than friendly, and so most of the humans are content to stay inside the school. A small faction, led by a kid who has apparently spoken to a mysterious statue, go off into the woods to see what they can find there, but of course it’s super dangerous. Sadly, it is not much more dangerous than staying at the school, as an ex-military current-egomaniac sportsball coach has made himself de facto leader of the school and is installing martial law and convincing impressionable teen sportsball players to help him keep the rest of the students in line.

It is a terrifyingly appropriate metaphor for high school — damned if you follow the status quo, damned if you don’t — and you know I like those. And I am super curious about how and why the school is in its current location, and what any of these guys are going to do in a week when all the frozen pizza and chocolate milk cartons are gone. And now I am thinking about exactly what is going to happen when the chocolate milk is gone and I am very very worried for those kids. Uh-oh.

What comics are y’all reading that I should be adding to my list?