Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly round-up of the comics and other stuff that have escaped the unread stacks of books next to our beds. Our special guest this week is Nathan Edmondson, writer of the Image comics Who is Jake Ellis?, The Light and Olympus. To see what Nathan and the Robot 6 crew have bene reading, click below.
Nathan Edmondson was generous enough to let me see an advance preview of issue #2 for Who is Jake Ellis? (which goes on sale Febr. 23). I was surprised to see some of the question to the story get answered in this issue, but of course, as many answers you get, more mysteries are teased. As tightly and engagingly as this tale is written, the art of Tonci Zonjic is what has hooked me. There is an unquestionable beauty to the violence conveyed in this story. One scene is set in the rain and the way that Zonjic conveyed the downpour with an effective use of color caused me to just stare at that page for several minutes. The iconic color palettes in this series is just one of the assets to reveal themselves so far.
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s Heroes for Hire may be one of the most entertaining Marvel ongoing series that few people are reading. Much like their cosmic work, DnA is succeeding in making a group of B-level characters interesting as hell. But still a book built on B-level characters is hard to market. I hope word of mouth on this book grows. Any book that has Paladin getting his head handed to him by Iron Fist (not particularly a spoiler with Iron Fist on the cover) while the mercenary for hire is also advising a H4H peer how to handle an irritated velociraptor, is working pretty hard to entertain me (and succeeding).
Amazing Spider-Man #654 has the finest J. Jonah Jameson moment I think I have read in a long time, kudos to Dan Slott for erecting the dominoes so that they could fall in such a successful way.
With issue #5 of the six-issue Knight and Squire miniseries, we’re fast approaching the final lap. And I was unpleasantly surprised by the shift in tone the series took with the final pages of this issue. But as much as I enjoy Cornell’s work these days, I am giving him the benefit of the doubt, with the hopes his plot developments in issue #6 put all the pieces together.
I imagine Batman purists will be chagrined by Peter Tomasi’s use of Commissioner Gordon when he chastised Robin/Damian for disrespecting “an innocent victim” in front of him, in Batman & Robin #20. But for me, that was my favorite part of a very enjoyable read. Tomasi’s use of the old Zorro film as the story opened was a solid “new Bruce Wayne status quo” moment as well.
The Captain America Super Bowl commercial inspired me to revisit The Adventures Of Captain America, Sentinel Of Liberty, a 4-issue Prestige Format miniseries from 1991 or thereabouts, written by Fabian Nicieza, pencilled by Kevin Maguire (with help on the last issue) and inked by Terry Austin. It’s an expanded look at Cap’s origin and first adventure, culminating in a gladiatorial-arena showdown with the Red Skull ‘way behind enemy lines, with Hitler and an audience of ready-to-be-demoralized prisoners watching intently. I liked it pretty well when it first came out, and it’s still a decent read, but I don’t know that it adds much beyond “Steve overcomes inferiority complex.” Maguire’s Cap is very beefy and thick-necked, somewhat at odds with other portrayals, and it makes him seem a little less clever than usual. However, Nicieza crafts convincing relationships with Bucky and with Cap’s commanding officer, and the Red Skull is appropriately vicious. I can’t remember if Marvel collected this back in the day, but I’d be surprised if we didn’t see a new edition this summer.
I’ve also started the recolored Sandman paperbacks, finishing Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House this week. Basically I agree with everyone who lauds the new coloring, because it does make a big difference. It still can’t hide Sam Kieth’s poor fit for the series, or blunt the impact of all those puns — especially in the “Cereal Convention,” gaah! — but for me Sandman didn’t really hit its stride until Season of Mists.
Finally, I was very glad to pick up the long-awaited Suicide Squad paperback, collecting the first nine Squad stories from the late ’80s. I’m not through with it yet, but so far the high point has been “William Hell’s Overture,” a nice meditation on how to co-opt superhero imagery for one’s own political gain. It ends with a page’s worth of discussion about the “soul of democracy” which is as eloquent as anything superhero comics have had to say on the subject, and which remains particularly relevant today.
I’ve got two from Oni Press this week. Sarah Oleksyk’s Ivy is a near-perfect depiction of late adolescence, that uncomfortable time of life when all you want to do is break away, but you have no idea how to do it. Ivy is a high school senior, and she is anxious to get out of her small Maine town and away from her stressed-out single mother. A trip to Boston leads to a chance meeting with a handsome stranger, and the two develop a long-distance relationship, but when they run off together, reality sets in in a series of unpleasant revelations. Everything about this book rang true to me: Ivy’s grating personality, and the way she pushes her friends away even as she resents their increasing distance from her; the way she lets herself get pushed out of her comfort zone by people she barely knows, so as not to lose face; her bitter disappointment when she learns the person she is with is not the idealized version she created in her head; even the realization that a girl she despised at a distance was really okay underneath it all.
Jam! is about an unusual road to female empowerment: Roller derby. It’s an anthology of stories told, or written, by the women of roller derby, ranging from how they first got into the sport to their after-hours adventures, with a few fantasy tales thrown in for good measure. Like most anthologies it’s all over the map in terms of quality and style, but the stories all share a certain over-the-top vigor, and it certainly is an entertaining read.
I’ve just finished Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Land of Mist. One of his lesser known works, for good reason, and one of his few pieces of fiction I haven’t read. It’s basically propaganda for the Spiritualist movement, which Doyle became a part of later in his life.
Also re-reading Augustine’s Confessions, as I work back through some classic literature pieces.
I’m also reading some John Le Carre. On deck: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. (What a great title, right?).
A very gracious Rob Guillory handed me a fabulous, gaw-jus Chew hardcover as a parting gift after I left NOLA. I’d been holding off on most of the Chew material just for this kind of reading experience and so I’m working my way through that in small bites. Pun intended.
I’m also reading my wife The Hobbit, as she doesn’t know it and I want to re-read it to go along with my teacher friend and his lit class.
Finally, another comic I’m keeping up with is Halcyon. Primarily for Mr. Bodenheim’s fantastic art, but a comic worth reading for a number of reasons. I’ll also mention that I’m quite intrigued by the upcoming Green Wake.