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Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Nate Cosby, co-writer of the upcoming Image series Pigs and editor of the upcoming Jim Henson’s The Storyteller anthology, which will feature stories by an impressive group of talented creators.
To see what Nate and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
It’s a fun coincidence that our guest this week is Nate Cosby because one of the books I read, Black Widow and the Marvel Girls was edited by him. I’m on a Marvel catch-up kick lately, finally reading a bunch of trades that I’d been waiting for. BWatMG is a fun one, written by Paul Tobin, exploring four different time periods in Black Widow’s career. The first story is from her time as a Russian spy, the second features her as a brand-new Avenger; then there’s one with her as a SHIELD agent and one from current continuity in which she’s a freelancer. As the title suggests, she works with a different Marvel heroine in each: Enchantress, the Wasp, Ms. Marvel and Storm, respectively.
Except for the Enchantress story (in which the guest-star is more or less superfluous), Tobin finds some really interesting things to do with the Marvel Girls. The Wasp story is really an Avengers story in which the Wasp and Black Widow are separated from the rest of the team during a mission in Latveria. The Wasp personifies the entire group as they’re still trying to figure out if they can trust their new member. Widow’s coolness (in both meanings of the word) isn’t helping. It was this story that made me realize that the superpowerless, but extremely well-trained and always-prepared Widow, is sort of the Batman of the Marvel Universe, if Batman wasn’t so one-dimensionally misanthropic. That goes a long way in explaining why I like Black Widow so much.
The SHIELD story turns the situation around since Black Widow’s assignment is to check out another new superhero on the block, Ms. Marvel. The Storm story is interesting because she and Black Widow team up with Mole Man to fight some renegade Moloids. And you know how Storm does underground. There’s also a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #86, in which Black Widow tries to find some direction for herself by becoming a costumed adventurer. It’s also the first appearance of her catsuit costume.
Other Marvel trades I caught up on are Heralds and Shadowland. Heralds is a fun, girl-power comic written by Kathryn Immonen, but it’s mostly focused on Emma Frost, Hellcat and a young woman with mysterious ties to Frankie Raye/Nova. I enjoyed the Nova character back in the day when she was dating Johnny Storm in Fantastic Four, so I liked checking in on her, but She-Hulk and Valkyrie (the reasons I was interested in the book in the first place) aren’t given a lot to do. Still, Immonen’s got a fun sense of humor and a knack for banter, so I enjoyed the book, even though it wasn’t exactly what I wanted.
I liked Shadowland even more than I thought I would. I bought it to check in on Shang Chi (and because I like Andy Diggle), but I’m not terribly into Daredevil. I like him in small doses, but have never been able to stay with his ongoing series for long. Casting him as the villain for some interesting street-level heroes to fight though was a brilliant move, and I especially enjoyed Diggle’s going back to the roots of the Hand organization in order to explain Daredevil’s actions. He also figured out exactly the right amount of Ghost Rider and Punisher the story needed, which has always seemed extremely difficult for a lot of writers.
My busy schedule has kept me from contributing to WAYR in awhile, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading anything. Here are some books that crossed my paths in the past few weeks:
Dungeon Quest Book Two by Joe Daly (Fantagraphics) — More stoner/fantasy silliness from Daly. There seems to be more of a focus on plot and creating lengthy action sequences than in previous. The jokes don’t seem as frequent, or at least are more subtle this time around. Perhaps its simply that I’ve become familiar with the “D&D by way of Seth Rogan” style that’s going on here. That’s not necessarily a complaint. Dungeon Quest Book Two is still a fun romp, especially if you’re at all familiar with the fantasy genre or role-playing games in particular. It’s just that this felt like a bit of a placeholder at times for the next chapter, where, hopefully, a nice left curve will be thrown.
5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth (and Other Useful Guides) by “The Oatmeal” (Andrews McMeel) — This is a collection of what is allegedly a rather popular webcomic, The Oatmeal, written and drawn by Matthew Inman. Inman riffs on various things that annoy him, like other people, and things that he loves, like coffee. It’s basically a foul-mouthed version of a bad stand-up routine, right down to the jokes about the obnoxious people that sit next to you on a plane and dealing with bad tech support. It doesn’t help that Inman can’t draw for beans, and that his over-reliance on Adobe Illustrator (or whatever computer program he uses) gives the whole thing a “PowerPoint presentation gone horribly wrong” feel. But hey, maybe that’s what he’s shooting for. If so, mission accomplished.
Empire State by Jason Shiga (Abrams) — Basically I agree with Tucker Stone here: Shiga is a man of considerable talents but this book seems like the same warmed over sad-sack, semi-autobiography, unrequited love story I’ve read a dozen times over. Part of me wonders if this isn’t a really subtle parody of Adrian Tomine’s Shortcomings, but I think that’s just wishful thinking on my part.
Where to begin? I came back from MoCCA with a stack of interesting comics, and then had a crazy busy week and wasn’t able to get too far into it. I did start reading Farm 54, which is a trio of semi-autobiographical short stories about growing up in rural Israel (which, oddly, doesn’t look that different from rural Indiana). Gilad Seliktar’s art is spare but depicts its subject well—I could almost feel the dry grass crackle—and the story is told in a flat, almost distant voice. The first story seemed to sort of float along, and then it hit me with a twist so powerful I had to put the book down. I’ll pick it up again, but this is not an easy book to read. It’s sort of like one of those New Yorker short stories, where it seems like nothing happens but really everything happens.
I also got the first two issues of The Matter, an indie anthology that is probably the perfect MoCCA comic. It’s a mix of comics and illustrated prose fiction, and it’s all very literary, with lots of epiphanies and no car chases or kicks to the head. It is beautifully produced and printed, and the stories are short and tight (although each issue has one story in Somali, a language I can’t read). Overall, both issues have a hand-crafted feel but a high degree of polish, and I really felt they were as much objets d’art as comics.
Leeeeeet’s see…Best thing I read this week was Wolves, a new mini-comic by the spectacular Becky Cloonan. I don’t think the book’s for sale yet, but Miss C hooked me up with an early copy. She took some old art she was using for something else, then switched it around, added pages, panels, and captions …but you’d never realize Wolves‘ patchwork history from reading it. Graphic, gritty, passionate and really interestingly paced, I thought I had a handle on what was going on, until I got to the last two pages, and the rug got pulled from under me. Becky’s an amazing artist, but she needs to write more if she’s capable of telling such a full, rich tale in 20 pages.
Also, making my way through Our Hero: Superman on Earth by Tom De Haven. Tom’s the author of the INCREDIBLE novel It’s Superman!, and this collection of essays covers all the nooks and crannies of how Superman was created, how he evolved, his effect on pop culture, etc. Strictly for Superman obsessives like myself…basically Krypto-Porn for me.
Lastly, there’s The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck. I didn’t read it all the way through this week (I’ve read it hundreds of times by now), but I keep a copy by my bed when I want something to read before sleep. L&T is my Comic Bible…I can flip to any page and find a chapter that sucks me in and reminds how masterfully Don Rosa told the tale of a full life, totally respectful to the work of Carl Barks, but completely accessible to even the most stoic anti-Disney reader.