What Are You Reading?
Is the El Nino winter getting you down? Cheer up my friend, I’ve got just the thing. Namely, another round of What Are You Reading. I bet you’re feeling better already.
Our special guest this week is the lovely and talented Nina Stone, wife of Tucker Stone, who can frequently be found dipping her toe into the comical book waters over at The Factual Opinion, via her regular weekly column Romancing the Stone (formerly known as the Virgin Read).
To find out what Nina and the rest of the R6 crew is reading, click on the link below. But first, put on a sweater. You look cold.
Sean T. Collins: This week I read and reviewed three comics that just wanna entertain you:
Doomwar #1, by Jonathan Maberry & Scot Eaton: The start of a mini-event starring my favorite Marvel villain. Will it live up to the bad Doctor’s inherent awesomeness?
Batman & Robin #9, by Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart: The final Stewart issue of Morrison’s Dynamic Duo ongoing is pretty much a master class in fight choreography, and in making the ever-growing army of Bat-people interesting in and of themselves.
Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Vols. 1-3, by Naoki Urasawa (duh): A thriller with the addictive power of crack, with heaping helpings of schmaltz on the one hand and very specific and interesting political subtext on the other. Fifteen more volumes to go!
Matt Maxwell: BREAKING THE MAYA CODE
Documentary on the history of breaking and subsequent resurrecting of Mayan as a living language. Pretty fascinating stuff. I mean, how do you take indecipherable ruins of a civilization that was dead nearly a thousand years before it was found and breathe life into them? How does a language going from being just a fossilized skeleton to being taught in schools fifteen hundred years after its death? There’s even some moments of true horror (the burning of hundreds of ancient Maya texts by a zealous Franciscan friar–utterly lost forever, but for *five* books that had been found in other locations) for those of you into that sort of thing.
MARVEL MOVIE SPECIAL: BLADE RUNNER
Archie Goodwin, Al Williamson and others, Steranko Covers.
Al Williamson draws BLADE RUNNER. Geez, what more do you need? Found it for a couple bucks awhile back, and you should do the same. Nothing will replicate the atmosphere and texture of the film (no matter how many have tried to do so) ‘cept maybe William Gibson’s prose, so don’t expect an exact recreation. However, what you can expect is one of the great comic artists drawing little instants from the film, which is just fine by me. Check your local bargain bins (and dig the special ‘behind the scenes’ feature in the back, complete with photo reproduction technology that makes me ten years old again.)
Chris Mautner: Hellboy: Conqueror Worm by Mike Mignola — Still on my Hellboy quest. Still mightily impressed with how Mignola is able to keep several secondary story threads going while maintaining a moody, slam-bang thriller. Great stuff.
Phoenix Vol. 12 by Osamu Tezuka — This is the final volume in the Phoenix series, but isn’t part of the main series. No, this is a collection of interlocking tales Tezuka did back in the ’50s for a much younger audience, concerning a pair of star-crossed lovers who, with the help of the Phoneix and some cute and cuddly animal friends, find themselves battling it out for true love’s sake in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Despite the battle scenes and occasional death, it’s a much lighter and fluffier tale than most of Tezuka’s work that’s been translated in the U.S. so far, and betrays a lot more of Disney’s influence than, say, Ode to Kirihito. Still, it’s a fun, engaging affair, full of slapstick and daring adventures.
Also still plodding along through Vol. 5 of the Comics Journal Library. Last night I finished the Russ Manning interview. Manning strikes me as a rather insightful, smart artist, one with a keen understanding of what makes comics, or at least the type of adventure comics he was doing at the time work. You can sense in his interview with Arn Saba a desire to see the medium live up to what her perceived as its true potential. It’s a shame he didn’t live to see that happen. I suspect he would have been surprised, but delighted.
Tim O’Shea: Batman and Robin 9: What Sean T. Collins wrote, but imagine it with more mono-syllabic words in my version. Seriously, I was ragging on the first two legs of this three parter, but Morrison kind of deflates most criticism I had in this resolution leg. Cameron Stewart draws stories that brings a smile to my face.
Justice Society of America 36: In continuing to buy this series, I keep telling myself it will get better. I am wrong. The series does not seem to enter the radar of new DC exec Geoff Johns. Why do I say that? Well even though in The Flash Rebirth miniseries, Jesse Chambers has re-assumed the Jesse Quick mantle, she still maintains the Liberty Belle identity in JSA. Could the right hand please talk to the left hand on these matters, please? Also, in the year 2010, is it still necessary to utilize villains that sport the swastika? Maybe Marvel’s Red Skull still wears swastika shorts, but his evil seems a bit more present day than JSA’s current lead bad guy, Captain (sigh…really?) Nazi.
The Flash Rebirth 6: I really hope Johns further explores one panel in the final installment of this much delayed pivotal miniseries (I really hope it was not a tossaway cutesy bit on the writer’s part). No surprise: Zoom loses. In the aftermath, Barry Allen returns to his job in the crime lab–and is shown a room full of cold cases “we couldn’t solve while you were away”. Allen replies: “Consider them mine.”
Fantastic Four 576: I really appreciate Jonathan Hickman’s approach to Sue Richards. She comes across as a nonprofit CEO running a think tank with her genius husband left to tinker in his lab. Eaglesham continues to show his penchant for working Johnny and Ben comedy into any scene he can. (Geek aside–on midpanel page 4, does the artist reveal that Ben even has a rock tongue? That’s an unexpected/unexplored detail, I don’t think ever addressed by past artists). Kudos to both storytellers for tackling a tale that is bereft of any dialogue for almost 12 pages.
Irredeemable 11: Tony goes to visit a foster family that dumped him back in the system, but not until he’d left a lifelong impression on them. As Mark Waid reveals the trail the Plutonian left behind him almost since birth, it seems to be he didn’t just become evil in a flash, but merely learned to hide his true nature from most people. I hope Peter Krause will be back on drawing full issues with issue 12 (he only drew half of issue 11).
Brigid Alverson: Well, everyone else is doing it, so I picked up Raina Telgemeier’s Smile this week. I really liked it for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that she so convincingly recreates the world of a middle-schooler. Every detail rings true. I love her easygoing style, and the comic really comes to life now that it’s in color. This book has a
really timeless feel, and it’s destined to be a classic.
Equally convincing, but much more disturbing, is Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell’s tale of teenage schizophrenia. I had a hard time reading this book, partly because I really identified with the mother in the story — I have teenagers myself, and while thankfully, they are pretty normal, a lot of the situations, including caring for a sick parent, hit home. This is far from light reading, and sometimes it felt like chunks of the story were missing, but Powell’s art is amazing, not only his depictions of hallucinations but the way every panel carries the mood and emotions of the characters.
City of Spies is brand-new, but it feels like a real classic comic. Set in the 1940s, it features a poor little rich girl, Evelyn, who goes to live in the big city with her bohemian-artist aunt. She pals up with the son of her building’s super, and the two of them go hunting for German spies—and actually find one. Interspersed in the narrative are pages of Evelyn’s own comic, a superhero tale featuring the people around her. It’s clever and very nicely drawn, with both a palette and a drawing style that fit right in with the period.
Nina Stone: What AM I reading? I ask myself this question often, usually as I run hastily out the door in the morning to the subway. Running around to try and find something to read on the train can be tricky because one wants a book that’s relatively lightweight and/or small — you don’t want your whole “bag situation” thrown off by your reading choice. But then, of course, you want something good, too. Something that will grab me, that I will get immersed enough so as not to care about the smelly homeless woman who traipses back and forth between my subway car and the next. It’s gotta fit, and it’s gotta be functional.
I’m reading the perfect book for that situation right now. Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach. I am a huge McEwan fan. And I’m surprised that I am. I always thought myself to be more of a “relationship book” kind of person. And I’m embarrassed to admit that because of that, at one brief, crazy point I was only reading Oprah picks. Funny story, actually. On our second date, my now husband had me meet him on the top floor of the Barnes & Nobel in Union Square and told me that we each had 20 minutes to pick a book for the other person. We couldn’t talk about it or discuss it. We had to pick the book, go and pay for it, and then exchange books later. It was totally romantic, as he picked God Shaped Hole for me. (A book in which the couple do this exact same game except that it’s in a record store. It was a scam, but it was an obvious one, which I found endearing.) However, I was in a cold sweat. It was only our second date, and I was so embarrassed by what my book choice might say about me. And all I could think of to keep picking was, like, Wally Lamb’s I Know This Much is True, and I could tell he’d hate that. Or at least make fun of me for it. Honestly, I thought that the book I picked, if it reflected too poorly on me, could have been a deal breaker. I picked some book about scholars and drinking or something. And when he realized that I hadn’t read it he was like, “Wait – the point was to pick something that you’d read and liked!” What’s my point? My embarrassment about my usual picks for myself. Not so much anymore, but for a while, yep.
When I first read McEwan’s Enduring Love, I was so riveted by it that I went out and bought everything I could by him. He’s so good at that succinct kind of prose that cuts right to the chase, and he tells simple stories — usually with some ingenuous, crazy twist, that – and oh yeah, his books are relatively small, and lightweight. (Making them perfect train reads. The only downfall of the train read is that, well, you must stop reading when you get off the train, and I’m only about half way through. But loving it!)
On the comics front, I’m about to plunge into the third volume of The Sword. If you have read anything I’ve written recently at TFO, you’ll know that The Sword and I have been seeing quite a bit of each other lately. I thought things were going to cool off … but I’m pretty excited about it. I’ve also got Cinderella Number 4 here. I read the first 3 issues, and thought I’d lost interest. But just the other day found myself wondering what was happening in that story. Turns out the fourth issue had come out a few weeks ago, so how about that?
And then of course, I spend a good portion of my day reading children’s books, to children. So here’s a big shout out to Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny. An absolutely adorable tale that both children and parents completely relate to when reading and are entertained by again and again. And of course, I love screaming “Aggle Flaggle Klabble! Wumpy Flabby! Snurp?!” But who wouldn’t?