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!

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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 beโ€ฆ 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 ofโ€ฆ 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!

World War Z, by Max Brooks

World War ZI had been meaning to listen to this book ever since I found out that it was a full cast recording, and especially since I found out that the full cast included such people as Jeri Ryan and Nathan Fillion. Yes, please! Unfortunately, all of the library places I tried to find the audiobook in had only the original, abridged version (without Nathan Fillion, the horror!) and I was having none of that. So I watched the movie instead, which was pretty okay but obviously not anything like the book.

Finally I found the unabridged version and took it on a road trip in November, but then it turned out that the book was about two hours longer than the road trip — and of course I couldn’t finish it without Scott present since he had listened to it with me — and so I didn’t finish listening to it until another road trip over a month later. So if I have failed to remember things correctly or at all, that is the reason why!

The premise of the book is that it has been written after the Zombie War, aka World War Z, a decade or so when humans became zombie-like creatures and ate brains and temporarily took over the world until such time as the non-zombies figured out how to fight back. Different areas tried different tactics for keeping the zombies at bay, with varying success, and so Max Brooks the character went around the world to talk to all sorts of people and collect their stories for posterity.

The stories are ordered roughly chronologically from the beginning of the zombie plague to the end of the war, and they are all pretty interesting. There are stories from military people and civilians; those who lost everything and those who managed not to; those who came out of the war decently sane and those who went crazy or feral. Some stories I especially liked: the one with the guy who made boat-loads of money selling useless zombie cures, the one with the woman whose plane is shot down and who makes it to safety with the help of a pal on the CB or ham radio or whatever, the one with the girl whose family protects her at all costs, the one with the guy talking about the officer who went nuts, and the one where Nathan Fillion talks to me about who cares what. Swoooon.

If you can time your road trip right, I have to say that this is a fantastic book to listen to, because the short stories give you lots of good stopping points when it is time for gas or lunch or whatnot. And, as mentioned above, it is a full cast recording and so instead of one dude talking at you for twelve hours there are, like, forty people talking at you for a few minutes each.

On the minus side, there are a lot of foreign dudes (and I do mean dudes, lots of dudes) in the book and the producers of the audio did not always procure appropriately foreign dudes to voice those characters, so sometimes there are cringe-worthy fake accents and sometimes there are descriptions of a particular kind of dude who is then played by an obviously not-that-kind-of-dude.

But it’s still a good listen, and I would definitely recommend it for your next twelve-hours-or-more road trip. I may need to bust out my print copy at some point in the future and see how it reads, though, as I mostly remember the individual stories that I liked best and not really the whole arc of the novel.

Rating: 8/10

Zone One, by Colson Whitehead

Zone OneSo I’m in a book club with a bunch of college friends, and one of them was like, “Hey, you guys ever read Zone One?” And I was like, “No, but you should make it your pick so that I have a reason to read it! ZOMBIES FTW!” And then another clubber, a friend whose opinions I tend to agree with, read the book and gave it two stars on GoodReads. And then hours later she changed it to one star. One star! I was concerned.

When I finally started reading the book, less than 24 hours before club time, I was already mentally preparing to come here and be all, I wanted to like this book but I really just couldn’t. The whole first chapter, which is like 100 pages long, is a Franzen-esque stream of big words that I had to look up and heady philosophical musings that seemed more than a bit out of place in a book I knew to be about ZOMBIES. I thought maybe this was going to be one of those books that’s just smarter than I am.

And it is, a little, because first chapter wow, but once Whitehead gets out of Friday and into Saturday (another 100-ish pages) and Sunday (the last 50), things pick up. The words get smaller or at least more commonly large, we start learning more about Our Protagonist Mark Spitz’s background, and the focus shifts from “This is the world now and this is what Mark Spitz is doing in it” to “Mark Spitz is wondering if maybe the world isn’t exactly what it seems oh here come the ZOMBIES.”

The aforementioned one-star-giver and other clubbers took issue primarily with the fact that Whitehead introduces a lot of stuff and brings up a lot of questions and basically the only one he answers is why Mark Spitz is called Mark Spitz and yes, it’s always Mark Spitz and never Mark or Spitz or whatever. On the one hand, I agree and am like “But wherefore zombies and also why do these ‘stragglers’ exist and what is the code on the highway and what the heck is Mark Spitz’s real name and and and….” On the other hand, with the different fingers, I am like, “So why are there zombies? I am intrigued by these stragglers and would like to know more. This book has left me with many things to think about.”

It’s a subtle distinction, sure, but I feel like I’ve learned enough about the situation as it stands over the three days of the novel that I don’t need to know why everything else exists or happened or whatever, because that’s not the point. The point is that Mark Spitz is living a really weird life and it concerns him a little bit but what is there to do about it, and at the very least the book makes me very glad I live in a world without zombies. For now.

Recommendation: For people who studied lots of SAT vocab, who are intrigued by the undead, and who don’t mind a book that doesn’t resolve itself in any useful way.

Rating: 8/10

The Dark and Hollow Places, by Carrie Ryan

I just… I… hmmph. Pout. Frustrated dance. Etcetera.

I shouldn’t have picked up this book. I really shouldn’t have. I quite liked The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but I did not like The Dead-Tossed Waves, and I knew that I was not going to like this book but I had to give it a chance, right? And when I saw the audiobook sitting on the shelf, just waiting there for me, knowing that I lots of time for listening to audiobooks at work… well, I couldn’t resist.

True story: I listened to probably the first three or four hours of this book before realizing that it wasn’t still about Gabry of the previous installment. I was very very confused and wondering how I had managed to forget all this stuff that must have happened, and then finally I figured out that it’s actually from the point of view of Gabry’s sister, Annah. So I gave up and started over, and things made so much more sense then. Well, comparatively.

Right, so, Annah. She’s living in the Dark City (no, really), and she’s been waiting for her boy-thing to return from the army-type-thing for several years now, but with all the zombies and the really crappy living conditions she’s like, okay, fine, I’m out of here. Except then she sees herself, and by herself I mean her twin sister, and she’s like, oh, how interesting, considering the last time I saw her I was leaving her to her doom in the woods. And so she heads back into the city to find her sister and, you know, catch up.

But, if you’ve read the other novels, you know that Gabry doesn’t remember a thing about Annah, and also she’s trying to run from some zombies and army-type people herself, oh, and also, she’s madly in love with Annah’s boy-thing. And he’s pretty in love with her, too.

And so there is love triangle-age, no, love square-age because another fella is there who was once in love with Gabry and who is now thinking about being in love with Annah, like, seriously? And there is also danger because said fella has this immunity thing to the zombie-ism and the army wants him. And then they get him, and also the other boy fella and also the twins and they aren’t very nice and they show Annah that the world has really gone all to crap and so isn’t it okay if they leer at her and abuse her? Of course it is.

It’s… uncomfortable.

So, yeah. The book doesn’t have much of a discernible plot, that I could tell, unless you count making me hate Annah so hard as a plot โ€” if I have to hear one more time about how no one loves her or how her scars make her unlovable or how she uses her hair as a shield or how she once associated a certain affectation with her old boy-thing but now it’s totally her new boy-thing’s affectation, I may scream a little. I did actually say “I KNOW.” out loud a couple of times, at my desk, while listening to this. Frustrating.

I’m not sure how this series went so off the rails (in my opinion, as I’ve seen many people loving on this book) after this first book โ€” I think part of it is that the protagonists have gotten progressively weaker, and also the fact that the love parallelapiped has gotten progressively more important to the story. Whatever it is, I’m giving this book a solid MEH.

Recommendation: I guess if you’re looking for a love story with zombies, you could read the last two books of this series.

Rating: 3/10
(A to Z Challenge)

Zombie, Ohio, by Scott Kenemore

I’m not gonna lie โ€” if this book had been Zombie, Iowa or Zombie, Florida, or Zombie, Texas or whatever, I would have been about 1 percent as likely to pick it up. I mean, I like zombies and all, but they’re getting a little overdone these days. But combine them with Ohio, my home state for almost 25 years? And make the story told from the point of view of a zombie? I am so in.

So, yes. This book opens with a guy wandering around amnesia-full after a car accident. He finds his wallet and driver’s license, finds his way home, and discovers that there are zombies โ€” I’m sorry, “moving cadavers” in government-speak โ€” wandering around. He is understandably confused and worried, and gets a friend to drive him over to his girlfriend’s house to hole up and wait out the storm or whatever, but during all this excitement he takes a bathroom break only to find that the back of his head is kind of missing. Better keep that hat on!

At first, the dude, Peter, is like, “Well, I’d better hide this zombie thing,” but then he realizes he totally can’t and so runs off to be a zombie in the woods of Ohio. He has “fun” zombie adventures โ€” eats some brains, kills some people, kills some zombies, becomes a legendary zombie by shooting at military helicopters and flipping soldiers the bird… you know. Normal stuff.

It’s actually a lot more intriguing than I was anticipating it to be. Peter is pretty self-aware, and being an amnesiac gets a lot of digs in at general human behavior. And also he’s pretty much the smartest zombie around, with the others being more like “regular” zombies, so there’s a lot of protecting of the zombie herd going on that is kind of sweet. On the downside, there’s a bit of a plot line revolving around the fact that Peter’s car accident was not so accidental, and although the resolution is interesting, the whole thing could have been edited out and I wouldn’t notice a lack in the rest of the story.

On the whole, then, I’d say this book does what it says it’s gonna do, and does it pretty okay.

Recommendation: For those who want a different perspective on the zombie novel craze, and people who have always wondered what Knox County, Ohio would look like zombified.

Rating: 7/10
(A to Z Challenge)

The Dead-Tossed Waves, by Carrie Ryan

So I kinda sorta rather enjoyed The Forest of Hands and Teeth, to which this book is a companion (not so much sequel). Forest was full of interesting zombies and deep dark secrets and a trial of faith and although I didn’t think it a particularly good book, I thought it was very entertaining.

This book… less so. At first I was all excited because the main character here is Gabrielle, not Mary of the first book, and in the first book Gabrielle is the zombie chick that caused a lot of problems. I thought perhaps this was going to be a sort of companion book that talked about Gabrielle’s life and how she ended up in Mary’s town. Then, crushing disappointment when I found out that the Gabrielle in this book is actually Mary’s daughter.

So we have fast-forwarded many years to the future. And nothing much has changed. Mary has settled in by that ocean she had longed for, where Gabrielle โ€” Gabry โ€” has learned all about the Mudo (previously the Unconsecrated) and how lame they are and how they want to nom people. Nonetheless, she sneaks out with a bunch of people to go play in Mudo territory and of course the Mudo attack and Gabry’s boy-thing is bited and she runs away and her friends get caught and sentenced to a Really Bad Rest of Their Lives and then Gabry’s bff blackmails her into going out to rescue said bff’s brother slash Gabry’s boy-thing. But of course, this is not very easy, especially when Gabry starts falling in love with another boy.

And that is where I got distinctly displeased with this book. It was like the Hunger Games books all over again, with the indecision and the boys mooning and FOR SERIOUSLY it needs to stop. Bring me more zombies!

But the zombies are mostly lacking in this book, at least until the end when there are a disgustingly large amount of them, and the love story was certainly not as compelling as the deep dark secrets of the first book. Like the Hunger Games before it, I am sure I will read the third novel in this series in the hopes that it will be as awesome as the first book. I hope I’m not disappointed again!

Recommendation: Not for the zombie lover, or those with an allergy to dramaful love stories. At this point, I would definitely stop after The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

Rating: 6/10
(RIP Challenge, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

See also:
Chrisbookarama
Shhh I’m Reading…
Book Addiction
Persnickety Snark
Devourer of Books

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.