Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week our special guest is Ross Campbell, creator of Shadoweyes and its recent sequel, Shadoweyes in Love, as well as Wet Moon, Water Baby, The Abandoned and “Refuse,” a short story in the recent Strange Adventures anthology from Vertigo.
To see what Ross and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below.
Avengers Academy #15: As much as I love the teen stars of this series, Christos Gage is writing the best dang Hank Pym since the days of Kurt Busiek’s Avengers. At the heart of most comic book series I enjoy, there’s a soap opera element. And artist Tom Raney pulls off the soap opera angle in this issue, showing the anguish in Pym’s face, when faced with certain hard choices.
Last week I avoided contributing to WAYR, because all I could think to write about DC comics was “What the hell is the point of recommending these any DC main titles, given that the series–no matter how great they may be–will end in a few months?” Well, Bryan Q. Miller’s Batgirl coming to an end is a prime example of a comic and creator who I will hate to see go. I expect Gail Simone’s Batgirl will be a big hit with folks, but I was dismayed to see Miller has not been tapped (to date) to work on any new DC projects. Here’s hoping that’s not the last I will see of Miller’s writing in comics.
Hulk #35: I love Jeff Parker for writing a scene where Thunderbolt “Red Hulk” Ross opines on his admiration for George Washington, Ulysses S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Few other mainstream comics are as equal parts quirky and entertaining as Parker’s Hulk.
My enjoyment of Alpha Flight #1 was unfortunately tainted by paying an extra buck for two story pages and a bunch of behind-the-scenes stuff I’d already seen online, but the story itself was a welcome return to what I originally liked about the team when Byrne created the series. I’m even digging Marrina’s new personality now. Van Lente and Pak sold me on it in three panels that simultaneously made me laugh and suddenly, totally get why Marrina would be exactly the way she is now. I’m still a bit sad about innocence lost, but they’ve found the silver lining in the storm clouds of Marrina’s history. Also, hell of a cliffhanger.
I don’t know what it was, but I just couldn’t stop adding periodical issues to my stack this week. I’m a stubborn trade-waiter by nature, so that surprised me. Cullen Bunn’s (The Sixth Gun) writing a Defenders vs Atlantis story in Fear Itself: The Deep was too tempting to pass up and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s gotta be hard to make a team starring Doctor Strange, Namor, and a Hulk feel like underdogs, but Bunn pulls it off and makes it look easy.
I also read Kelly Sue DeConnick and ChrisCross’ Supergirl #65 and it reminded me that there are still great comics being published by DC that don’t tie into a larger story. This is the first of three issues that have Supergirl going undercover for Lois Lane at a college to investigate some student disappearances involving robots and possibly faeries. Maybe even robot faeries. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s only going to cost $12 to read.
I did pick up another event-related comic though: last week’s Flashpoint: Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown #1. (I think it was last week. Two weeks ago?) It’s sort of the perfect Flashpoint tie-in because it starts during WWII and drops its heroes into the present, Captain America-style, so that readers can learn about the Flashpoint world along with them. Unlike Grodd of War, which I also read, I didn’t feel like I needed to have purchased Flashpoint and World of Flashpoint and three other mini-series to understand everything that was happening. It’s just Frankenstein and a bunch of monsters whooping up on some bad guys and trying to figure out what’s going on. Cool characters, great action, and a nice mystery.
I gotta go with Tim on this one: I love Batgirl so much. Batgirl #22 was just as good as the issues that came before it and was totally bittersweet because I just don’t know if we’ll ever see its like again. The art was clever and fast paced, the writing was swift and adventurous, never leaving you too long to explain anything but connecting all the dots along the way. Stephanie Brown is fun, funny and confident in her role, a fantastic female character without having to be The Best Female Character, if that makes any sense. However, this is the killer part: you get a full story in that one issue. It’s one of the reasons I’ve kept up with Batgirl as much as I have: each issue tends to give you the most bang for you buck and requires very little from me but to kick back and enjoy. I kind of want to go back and read the Knight and Squire mini-series thanks to the fun I had with this book.
To show my true colors, I also read X-Men: Prelude to Schism #3 and have deemed it the best of the prelude books out thus far. I still don’t know what’s going on plot-wise besides the obvious (there is a threat! there is a decision!), but this week we took a peek inside the head of Scott Summers as he makes the decision to fight … something. Jenkins hasn’t been this on for personal storytelling in awhile, at least for me; I enjoy a good quiet moment where we really look at the motivations of why a particular hero is the way they are and he nails it for one of the quietest load-bearing characters of the X-Universe. Scott, even in his new souped up position as the leader of Utopia, remains reserved and thoughtful and it’s easy to see why in this issue. He is, in effect, a blind man leading people who are in a whole new phase of existence, which is a neat little way to look at this event, whatever this event may be.
I also read Avengers #14 because I have a streak of masochism. It’s embarrassing how much I don’t enjoy a book I actively seek out every month, like I should have learned by now not to do this because I’m just not the person Brian Michael Bendis is writing these books for. There are plenty of people who enjoy this flagship book of the Marvel Universe, its sales are consistent and the story is popular, so they don’t need me as a reader. But yet, here I am. Whereas X-Men: Prelude to Schism #3 is giving me one quiet character moment, this tries to give me several with a variety of talking heads, some living, some dead, being interviewed. At the same time, the main point of the story is that the Thing fights the Hulk. Not only that, but the Godly-Hammer-Chosen Thing fights the nigh-unstoppable Red Hulk! And it’s drawn by John Romita Jr. who, from his work on World War Hulk, kind of sort of declared himself Artist King of Hulk Fights(tm) in my humble opinion. Why didn’t I like this? Why won’t you let me love you, Avengers!? Because it’s slow. There’s a whole lot of tell-not-showing in the issue, some beautiful shots that have these little head shot boxes dotting their margins telling you how awesome this picture is. Because they destroy Stark Tower and I can’t say I’m worried for where the Avengers will live now, nor is Stark Tower so endeared to our hearts as the Avengers Mansion was when it also was destroyed by Bendis. Because at the end of the book, Jarvis tells us that this moment was more terrifying to him than having his life threatened in front of Captain America in the classic “Under Siege” story line. This is just, what, two issues in? He tells me this point blank, instead of showing me a moment that tops the classic panels from the Avengers’ past and, as a reader, I don’t feel like that’s really happening between the panels.
Remake Special by Lamar Abrams: The first Remake is hilarious but this second book is without a doubt the funniest comic I’ve ever read. Being a connoisseur of poop humor, I was delighted to see that Remake Special features hero Max Guy and his pals Magma Boy and Sick Rick going up against people made of poop.
Happyface by Steve Emond: Emond is most known for his comic Emo Boy from SLG Publishing, but he really shines in his first novel. It does include artwork, though, which is interesting, I’ve never read a book quite like it. Anyway it’s really good, I saw a lot of my younger self in the main character, a self-absorbed, angsty, whiny, sometimes delusional hopeless romantic high school boy, which isn’t something I look for in fiction but which turned out to be entertainingly embarrassing. It starts off kind of superficial seeming but it unfolds really interestingly and unexpectedly, and ends up being honest and unflinching.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor: I only just started reading this the other day but I had to include it! I’ve been reading Nnedi’s books for a while and they’re all great, and her last book Who Fears Death, about a powerful mystic girl in post-apocalyptic North Africa, was amazing but it looks like she may top it with Akata Witch, which is about an albino black American girl, Sunny, living in Nigeria, who discovers she has magical powers.
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson: Man, this book sucked me the hell in, I was so absorbed in this. It’s about a girl dealing with anorexia and it’s brutal and sad and compelling.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: City At War by Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird and Jim Lawson: I grew up on the old Mirage TMNT comics and felt like reading City At War again, and I’d forgotten how awesome it is. Issue #50, all wordless, is super awesome. I love when Leonardo says of Splinter “I would gladly die for him… but I don’t know if I can give him my life.” DANG.