Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Welcome to another weekly round of What Are You Reading, where we talk about what comics and books we’re currently in the midst of perusing and hopefully get you to share your reading habits as well.
This week our special guest is none other than Richard Thompson, cartoonist extraordinaire and creator of the thoroughly delightful comic strip Cul de Sac, one of the best things to appear in a daily newspaper in years.
Click on the link to find out what we’re reading …
Michael May: I’m finishing up Agnes Quill. I’ve read through the stories and just have the back matter to go through. It’s a cool idea for an anthology: one person writing short stories about the same character with different artists on each. I also like that the artists all have very different styles and interpretations of Agnes. It keeps things a lot more interesting than had it just been the same creative team or the same look throughout the entire book. Naturally I liked some stories (usually the longer ones) better than others, but I enjoyed the whole thing enough that I’d love to see a second volume at least.
Tim O’Shea: What with all the doom and gloom news from Diamond this week mixed with my realization that $3.99 is too much for the average comic book, I was inspired to seek out more webcomics. And upon reflection, I’m wondering why I don’t visit Top Shelf 2.0 more often. Not only does the traditional publisher offer brand new free content from the likes of Noel Tuazon and Caryn A. Tate (Red Plains: Range War); Lode Devroe (Hangar 84: Max); Willow Dawson (100 Mile House); Joseph Lambert (Fall)–and many more folks. But they dove into their archives this past week, and offered Matt Kindt’s The Spy Gadget Catalog.
Another continuing effort in the O’Shea Personal Budget Bailout effort, I found a copy of Cyril Pedrosa’s Three Shadows at the local library. Pedrosa, a former Disney animator, offers a heartbreaking, while also incredibly strangely adorable narrative mix of adventure and loss.
That’s not to say I’ve turned my back on the monthly comic. Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler gave me every bit of my 299 cents worth of entertainment with their first issue of Mysterius the Unfathomable (Wildstorm offers a preview here). After reading the preview I thought I knew what to expect with the plot. I was wrong. I’m pleased to say that as engaging as the preview is, the plot took a twist for me that I did not expect. And a comic that can still surprise me and get me turning the pages even faster does not happen as often as it once did.
Tom Bondurant: This week I read the original Transmetropolitan collection, a very thin (obviously) paperback collecting issues 1-3 (by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, of course). I had bought this book several years ago and it hadn’t made much of an impression back then, so I thought I’d give it another chance. This time, I liked the (many) homages to Hunter Thompson, but I thought it took a while to get going. I didn’t dislike it, but it doesn’t make me eager for the new-edition paperbacks.
Now I’m in the middle of the Agents Of Atlas paperback, having read the miniseries and the original Namora story. What struck me about the miniseries this time around was the extent to which it doesn’t compare its heroes with the company’s A-listers. There is no “woe is us, we’re not the Avengers or the Fantastic Four” sentiment. Furthermore, even though each of the Agents can tap a pretty deep reservoir of personal angst, they don’t dwell on their troubles. Those elements inform the characters without overwhelming them, and that approach frees writer Jeff Parker to concentrate on the quirky-fun aspects. Parker is able to flip clunky (and sometimes offensive) bits of continuity to his advantage, weaving them into a nimble plot whose twists don’t insult the reader’s intelligence. The book looks great too, thanks to the pencils of Leonard Kirk and the inks of Kris Justice and Terry Pallot. The miniseries was begging to be continued, and I’m eager to read the ongoing.
Matt Maxwell: Mysterius the Unfathomable #1 – Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler launch their romp through the supernatural and all-too-human this week. It’s the kind of thing you look at and say “Wildstorm? Really?” Not a complaint, but a pleasant surprise.
Alex Toth: Edge of Genius v.1 - Classic Toth in black and white? Yeah, I won’t pass on that.
A Jew in Communist Prague v.2&3 - Wherein I finally get around to finishing up (the easily attainable chapters, anyways) of Vittorio Giardino’s historical drama, introduced to me by my friend Steve. Strong stuff, probably not for readers with a short attention span (which is me, much of the time), but I’m feeling in the mood for finishing this up.
The Winter Men: Winter Special - I sure hope this at least kinda wraps up the larger story. Been a long time in coming.
Superman: Beyond 3D #2 - Passed on catching up to Final Crisis this week (#7 isn’t out yet; not sure why I thought it was), but I’m kind of curious as to what Morrison is going to bring around this time out. To be fair, I’ve been pretty disappointed by the proceedings so far, so I’m not exactly burning to read this, but the passing of All-Star Superman makes me wonder if any of those threads will be tied up into this (wouldn’t be the first time: c.f., DC One Million.)
Also finishing up The Mammoth book of Crime Stories, which certainly lives up to the name. Some real gems (Torpedo, Johnny Craig EC crime stuff, Eisner), but much material that’s only really interesting in a historical perspective, which is nothing more than this book pretends to be. Still, recommended, particularly on the price point.
Kevin Melrose: My monthly comics shipment at long last arrived, so I’m making my way through the dozen or so titles. I’ve polished off The Winter Men Winter Special, by Brett Lewis and John Paul Leon, Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #1, by Mike Mignola and Ducan Fegredo, The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #2, by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba, and Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere, by Ted Naifeh.
Now I’m making my way through the hefty Queen & Country: The Definitive Edition, Vol. 1, by Greg Rucka and a slew of artists, which collects the first three volumes of the award-winning espionage series. I’d previously only read a couple of stray issues, but now I’m delighting in the exploits of Tara Chase and MI6 in a satisfying 362-page chunk. I’m not even halfway through, and already I’m looking forward to getting the other three volumes.
Chris Mautner: My family is currently in thrall to Peanuts. I just picked up the last two volumes of the Fantagraphics collection and, along the way, have been passing my old Peanuts Parade books to my young son and daughter, who have taken to them like peanut butter to jelly.
Richard Thompson: These are the books on my bedside table, though some are by my drawing board, because I sometimes read when I’m in the middle of a deadline. It’s my way of showing it who’s boss.
The Art Forger’s Handbook by Eric Hebborn. Hebborn was a Cockney art forger and master of various art techniques who died under mysterious circumstances in 1996, and an entertaining writer. I figure this is a good skill to fall back on in case this whole cartoon thing heads south.
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I’ve never read much Dickens and I started this a year ago and I’m enjoying it very slowly.
Ojingogo by Matt Forsythe. I just keep picking this up and looking through it over and over. It’s like a great silent animated fantasy you can hold in your hand.
The Comic Worlds of Peter Arno, William Steig, Charles Addams and Saul Steinberg, by Iain Topliss. Topliss is an Australian academic and he prose can get a little dense, but he’s got a sharp eye and a sense of humor.
Harvey Pekar: Conversations, edited by Mike Rhode. I’ve never read enough Pekar either, but I get a great introduction to the man in the 25 years of interviews Mike’s gathered here.
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. I reread this every few years, like I’m doing now, because it’s the greatest comic novel every written, along with A Confederacy of Dunces.
Diaries: The Python Years by Michael Palin. Oh, this is fun to read! John Cleese says that Palin never shuts up, just yaps all the time. You can pick this up, read a few day’s worth of entries, and put it down a much happier man.
Ordinary Victories, Parts 1 & 2 by Manu Larcenet. I wish I could draw comic realism as well as Larcenet, and tell a story so interestingly.
The Complete Peanuts Volume 10 by Charles Shulz. Lucy gets mad at Schroeder and throws his piano to the kite-eating tree!!
You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When it Monsoons: The World on One Cartoon a Day by Mo Willems. I wish I could do this too, but I’m glad Mo Willems did.