Johns & Frank Aim for 'Surprising and New' in Latest "Batman: Earth One" Volume
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, our weekly look into the reading habits of your friendly neighborhood bloggers. As I mentioned on Wednesday, Chris Mautner has stepped back to concentrate on stuff like Comics College and won’t be doing What Are You Reading? anymore, so I’ll be playing the role of host every week.
Our guest this week is Raina Telgemeier, creator of the graphic novel Smile. She’s also worked on the Baby-sitters Club graphic novels, Flight, Bizarro World, X-Men: Misfits and Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery.
To see what Raina and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click on the link below …
In observance of Dick Giordano’s death, I pulled out the three volume Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams (a 2003 project collecting Adams’ Batman work). While Adams frequently inked himself in the stories republished in these volumes, there’s also a great deal of inking by Giordano in the volumes. Giordano also wrote the introduction to the second volume (where he fully acknowledges that he botched the inking of World’s Finest 175-176 [his first collaboration with Adams] and that Adams “touched-up those pages for inclusion in the first volume”.)
In the introduction, Giordano acknowledges that his and Adams’ art styles were vastly different: “While Neal chose a career in the realistic art fast lane, I was aligning myself with artists who were much more stylistic. Johnny Craig, Alex Toth, Mort Meskin and, yes, Carmine Infantino (inking himself) were my major influences. … In order then, for us to work effectively together, I had to make adjustments in the way I approached my inking to get closer to Neal’s way and still find a way to enjoy the work as much as I had with Mike Sekowsky and Irv Novick. Surprisingly, it was easier to do than I would have thought, and although there’s not enough space here to lead you through all the adjustments I made, I did enjoy the work and felt that at least some of it lived up to my expectations.” Reading Giordano’s intro allowed me to appreciate his collaborative efforts with Adams in a completely different way.
I’m curious to hear what other folks most enjoyed about Giordano’s work. Feel free to share your favorite Giordano project, be it as artist, inker or editor–in the comments section.
Robot 13 #3 continues the tradition established in the first couple of issues. I recognized quite a few references or homages to other works, but the series continues to be more than just that. Yes, yes, the art is very reminiscent of Mike Mignola. That’s been established. And the plot in this issue pulls a lot from Mary Shelley and even more from Homer. But it’s the unique combination of these various influences that makes the book interesting. It deserves credit for that and for just being a lot of fun.
Another small press book I just read was Solomon Azua #1 by Jake Ekiss. As someone who’s always preferred the “scum and villainy” corner of the Star Wars universe, it’s totally my thing. Azua is sort of a freelance space-pirate who’s on the trail for a legendary treasure and on the run from those who want to find it first. Most of the issue takes place in a quiet, little spaceport – or at least it’s quiet before Azua gets there – where he’s trying to get a ship. There’s plenty of action and a nice mystery hook at the end.
The look of Azua’s universe is imaginative and unique. It’s probably inspired by Star Wars, but it doesn’t totally mimic it. There’s one point at the end where Ekiss rushes the pacing to fit everything in, but with the exception of that hiccup, it’s a great issue and I’m looking forward to the five more Ekiss has planned.
Finally, I’ve now re-read Artesia Afield and all these memories of the first time I read it are coming back. In last week’s What Are You Reading? I described the character of Atesia as seductive. Now I’m completely in love with her. Again.
Sean T. Collins
My life has been taken over by George R.R. Martin‘s A Song of Ice and Fire series. No joke. I cannot put these books down. I plowed through A Game of Thrones, finishing it on the train ride home from work, and drove straight from the station to the library to get book two, A Clash of Kings–then I finished that one and drove straight to the library to get volume three, A Storm of Swords. They’re a revisionist take on fantasy that emphasizes the squalor and brutality of that sort of medieval world, but also fleshes out both good and evil characters so that the good ones can be petty or shortsighted while the evil ones are shown to feel love and fear–everyone has the full range of human motivations and emotions. I think what makes them so compulsively readable is the format: Each chapter focuses on one character, advancing their part of the story a little further before switching to another POV. So you finish a chapter and think “Okay, just one more Tyrion chapter,” then you finish that one and say “Alright, just one more Catelyn chapter,” and so on and so forth. It’s like the fiction equivalent of Pringles.
So I haven’t done a lot of comics reading this week, though I did post a couple of “greatest hits” reviews of a pair of my favorite comics that originally ran on The Savage Critics: Charles Burns’s sinister, sexy stoner-teen horror story Black Hole and Jordan Crane’s sweetly bitter love story The Last Lonely Saturday.
And I whiffed on WAYR last week, so peering a little further back into time, I read Ryan Cecil Smith’s impressive one-man-anthology minicomic Weird Schmeird #2 and a whole bunch of worthy superhero comics from a couple weeks back.
Like everyone else in the world, I am dutifully reading my copy of Twilight: The Graphic Novel. I have never read the prose novels or seen the movies, but my older daughter was an early adopter of the Twilight books, although she always read them critically: She complained about the characters and the writing, but she couldn’t stop reading the books. I don’t have that problem. Young Kim’s art is better than the cover would have led me to believe, but there’s something cold about it—I feel like I’m reading the story from a distance. Everything is so polished that even a dramatic event like a car crash seems like it is sealed off. I’m told that one of the strengths of the graphic novel is that it tells the story more economically than writer Stephenie Meyer, who is given to lengthy descriptions, so I’ll see it through, if only to say I did it.
Here’s a book that got me a lot more excited: Trickster, an anthology of Native American trickster tales. I’m not generally a big fan of folk tales, but the writing and the art really shine in this lively compilation. The stories are all written by Native American storytellers, so the tales are authentic, and the art is varied but always of high quality. I gave this book the ultimate test recently—I read one of the stories aloud to a class of fifth-graders—and they loved it. (The fact that the story was about a rabbit whose butt got stuck to a frozen lake probably helped.) The book is beautifully produced and a great read.
I have just started reading the first volume of Library Wars, which will be coming out from Viz in June. The premise is great: In the repressive future, a law has been passed restricting what books can be sold. The librarians have formed an elite defense force to protect freedom of speech, and, this being manga, they mostly operate by kicking ass. (There is a legal underpinning, but it’s hazy.) Anyway, this is the story of a girl who wants to join the Library Defense Force, and of course the instructor is giving her a hard time. I found the opening of this story to be a bit chaotic and hard to follow, but now that the outlines of the story are clear, it’s shaping up to be a pretty good read.
Thor Essentials v.4: Felt terrible on Friday, and the only thing for that is a stack of comics and sitting in bed. In this case, it was the fourth volume of the Thor Essentials, which tails off of Kirby’s ultra-cosmic take on things at the end of v.3. And hey, Bill Everett inking Jack Kirby looks even better at times than Joe Sinott inking him. Loki deceives! Volstagg blusters! Balder carries on bravely! The Thermal Man and the Wrecker step up to mess things up! Mayhem like you like it!
Murder City by Charles Bowden: And on the other side of things, you have Murder City, which is journalist Charles Bowden’s thoughts and experiences from his many visits to Juarez, Mexico. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Hundreds of murders a year. Most never solved or so terrifyingly random that solution is impossible. It’s an amazing book, unsettling and beautiful by turns. But don’t expect it to show up in Oprah’s book club anytime soon. This is a book without answers and an open, bloody palm full of questions.
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin: This book made me wish I could spend my days doing humanitarian work, but my constitution dictates I draw comics instead. I’ll try and make ‘em count.
Oishinbo: Ramen and Gyoza by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki: My first Oishinbo volume; enjoyed immensely. I’ve got a pretty weak stomach, so it’s better for me to read about food than to actually be a foodie. I love the attention to detail in this series, and the painstakingly-drawn food, and I love reading about the philosophies behind different kinds of cuisine. Though, after reading this volume, I know what went into that bowl of ramen I ate a couple of weeks ago, and it most certainly wasn’t vegetarian…
Barefoot Gen Volume 7 by Keiji Nakazawa: I can’t believe I’m still not done with this series. Barefoot Gen was my first-ever graphic novel (I started reading the series the summer between fourth and fifth grades), my first manga, and my first taste of sadness-via-comics-memoir. The story isn’t as gripping as it was in earlier volumes, but I’ll still be sad to see the series end.
Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood: I love Margaret Atwood, but haven’t read any of her books in quite some time. I seem to read a lot of dystopian future stories these days, even though by definition, I don’t like them. But my favorite authors keep writing them!
Barefoot Gen Volume 8 by Keiji Nakazawa: So far, I already like this volume better than #7.