Weekend Shorts: Hoopla Trades

I talked about the awesomeness that is hoopla about a month ago, but really mostly about the wonder that is Lumberjanes single issues. I had indicated that I was going to read ALL THE COMICS on hoopla and report back, but of course best laid plans and all that.

However, I did use some of my monthly allotment to grab up various trade editions, so now I can tell you what it’s like to read in volumes rather than issues, and the answer is, well, basically the same as with their print counterparts. The biggest difference I found between the digital and print volumes is that in digital, my brain and thumb are poised to skip over all the non-essential pages, so sometimes I found myself in a new issue unexpectedly, or hit a switch in storyline and wondered if I’d missed the issue break somehow. Note to self: SLOW DOWN.

But otherwise I continue to highly recommend hoopla for your free-comics needs! I’m even strongly considering a tablet purchase in the near future so that I can read these comics in closer to full-size glory. But don’t worry, local comic shop, I’m also considering buying a lot of really pretty comics in the future now that I’ve seen them all tiny and loved them. It’s a win-win!

Here’s some of what I’ve been devouring:

iZombie, Vols. 2 & 3, by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred
iZombie, Vol. 2iZombie, Vol. 3I picked up the first volume in this series last summer when my beloved show was on summer break, and I liked it actually way more than I was expecting. I meant to read more, but I never got around to buying them. How convenient to get them for free!

Having them for free was probably a great thing, though, as I wasn’t as excited about them as I’d hoped. The first volume is so interesting and ends on such a weird note, and then the second volume starts off with a standalone backstory issue and when it gets into the main story again does a lot of rehashing of the premise that I found very boring. Then we get into Gwen’s backstory via Gwen having to interact with people who think she’s dead, which should be fascinating but is somehow just… not. I was disappointed in the second volume.

If I wanted crazy, though, Volume 3 delivers, giving us more strange things to worry about in the form of monster hunters and Dead Presidents (probably not exactly what you’re thinking…) and zombie hordes and a Big Bad who wants to do, I don’t know, bad things, and it doesn’t lack for twists and turns. It’s a little much, but I have to say that I am clearly loving the action in this series more than anything else, so it worked for me.

I’m intrigued to see how this is all finished up in the TEN ISSUE Volume 4 (that is an insane number of issues, fyi), but something that enormous is probably going to have to wait a while.

Giant Days, Vol. 1, by John Allison and Lissa Treiman
Giant Days, Vol. 1I never read the whole thing, but for a year or two in high school I was obsessed with the webcomic Scary Go Round, written and drawn by John Allison. When I heard about Giant Days, I was intrigued; when I realized it was written by Allison, I was hooked; when I saw it on hoopla I devoured Volume 1 immediately.

And it is the best. Most of the comics I read are like iZombie — fantasy or sci-fi or just generally weird. Weird is so much fun in comic form. But this is that other kind of weird that I like, the kind that is quirky and sarcastic and just so wonderful.

The comic follows a group of friends at university (not college, ’cause Britain is weird) who are, as mentioned, quirky and sarcastic. They probably go to class, but we see them in the in-between periods, hanging out and being friends and making new friends and living in that strange bubble that is college, where everything is just so important. If you want to feel some serious college nostalgia, I very much recommend this book.

I love the three lady protagonists (especially Susan!) and I love how their escapades are things like attempting to stay drama-free or survive a terrible flu but also things like writing a feminist screed that gets a little out of hand. I am so excited to see what these ladies get up to next, and so glad that single issues are current on hoopla. Once more unto the breach!

Those Across the River, by Christopher Buehlman

Those Across the RiverMan.  I really dislike it when I think a book is going to be awesome, or, as is the case here, pretty decent, and then I read it and it’s just… not.

This book was pretty bad from the start, but it was the only thing I had to listen to at work when I ran out of podcasts every day, and so I forced myself (seriously, I was like, self, do I have to?) to continue in the hopes that maybe it would get better. It refused.

Those Across the River opens with the narrator all caged up with potential cannibal people and he’s all, man, I made some serious mistakes in getting here and let me tell you about them. So then we learn, very slowly, that our friend Frank has moved to Georgia with his lady-friend (whom he stole from a former colleague who subsequently prevented Frank from getting hired anywhere) to write a book sometime after World War I, of which Frank is a veteran, I think. So that’s already lovely. Then it turns out that Frank was never supposed to move there at all because his aunt what bequeathed him the house was also all, I am totally batshit crazy but you should definitely trust me and not live in the damn thing so just sell it, okay? Which, I mean, come on. Crazy lady tells me not to do something? I’m going to at least check it out.

And so of course the house is fantastic but the neighborhood is also totally batshit crazy and there are creepy people Across the River who totally want to scare the poo out of Frank and also everyone else because they aren’t getting pigs to eat anymore (just go with it) and are maybe looking to eat some people.

This could be sufficiently creepy to make me a happy listener, but there were so many things that prevented my happiness. First, the whole “no really don’t come live here thing” was, as I mentioned, totally never going to work and “but she’s a CRAZY person” is not enough to keep my disbelief suspended indefinitely. Then there’s this whole vibe of the Across the River people being out to get Frank that was very Castle-esque and with him being a vet I was like, oh lord, he totally came here with a PURPOSE and there’s going to be TORTURE, and I was not exactly wrong, actually, though it was not as terribly written as that awful awful book. And then, spoiler alert, it turns out that Those Across the River are totally werewolves, but Buehlman refuses to call them werewolves even though they change into wolves at the full moon and can be killed by silver bullets and I am pretty sure that… okay, I just looked it up, and werewolves weren’t actually much in pop culture at the time so maybe I can give Buehlman a pass on historical accuracy. But it bothered me while I listened to it, so it still counts.

Soooooo yeah. It’s certainly not the worst book I’ve ever read, but it’s so solidly meh that I can’t help but dislike it.

Recommendation: If you’re more into horror than I, you might stand a better chance.

Rating: 3/10

Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer (13 October — 18 October)

Twilight. Oh, Twilight. I wasn’t going to read this book, but I was recently visiting with my spoon (read: best friend) and she was shocked that I hadn’t read it. When I left her place, I had all four books of the series in my hands and instructions to read them so that I could go see the movie with her.

And, of course, the book fit with the RIP Challenge, which I have now completed. Hurrah! My first challenge, complete.

So I read this one. And it was okay, I guess.

The premise is somewhat clichéd… girl (Bella) meets boy (Edward), boy hates girl, girl falls in love with boy, turns out boy is actually in love with girl but doesn’t want to get too close because he’s a vampire. Oy. There’s also the usual “creating a new vampire mythology and then making fun of the girl for not knowing it” bit and the “but don’t worry, we don’t usually bite humans” bit.

The part I did like about the book was later on, when a second pack of non-“vegetarian” vampires comes along and one of them decides he’s going to hunt Bella. Complex escape plans are made, futures are seen, minds are read, a vampire comes to kill Bella… and then nothing. All the action takes place off-screen, as it were, and the reader finds out about it through lame exposition.

If I want a vampire love story in the future, I’ll just go watch Buffy. At least there are some good fight scenes there.

Rating: 5/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2005, RIP Challenge)

Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher (30 July − 3 August)

This is the second book of the Dresden Files series. The supernatural culprit this time is werewolves, as you might have guessed by the title. A few people show up dead, ravaged by not-quite-wolves, and Harry is called in to figure things out. He is first lead to a gang called the Streetwolves, nerdy college types who have decided to become werewolves and who are led by a not-at-all-human werewolf called Tera with a proclivity for walking around naked. He also finds a businessman who is cursed to become a wolf at the full moon and who has irked the mob boss from the previous novel. Also, a misunderstanding leads his cop friend to arrest him as an accomplice, making finding out which wolf did it a little more complicated.

Rating: 8/10