After a long day at work, the Bureau Chiefs like to relax in bed with books and comic books. Since there are 16 of us, our bed is 64 feet wide and our nightstand is the size of a small elephant. Here’s what is stacked up next to it.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I took advantage of the crazy Amazon graphic novel sale. Out of my initial order, I wound up with New X-Men 1 and 2. It was a treat to revisit Grant Morrison’s X-Men. I collected the original series when it came out, but it has been years since I’ve been able to sit down and read the whole thing. I’ve been slacking off on following Morrison’s recent work for DC, and now I’m determined to check out his take on Batman.
On the manga front, I said goodbye to one of the most engaging and memorable couples in high school romance manga, Haruna and Yoh in High School Debut Volume 13. Haruna’s enthusiasm and goofy physicality matched up with the laconic Yoh to create a romance that I couldn’t help rooting for. The final volume follows the couple as Yoh prepares to go away to college, and I found myself grinning as I put the volume down. I read Happy Cafe Volume 2, which has a predictable plot about a girl and two guys running a pastry shop. I also read Venus in Love Volume 8, which is one of my favorite romance series when I’m looking for something light to read because it is refreshingly angst-free.
On the prose front, I just started the fantasy novel the The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett, which is set in a world that strongly resembles eighteenth century England. The Austen/fantasy pastiche was amusing for the first third of the book, but the second third grew so overly referential I thought if I were to flip open a copy of Jane Eyre or Turn of the Screw at random I’d easily be able to identify a scene Beckett used for inspiration. This is a shame, because there are elements of world building in the book that I found very entertaining, like the way the characters have to constantly adjust to days with varied amounts of sunlight and darkness. This book still might be a good pick for anyone who enjoys romance novels and fantasy and doesn’t mind reading 100+ pages of a reconfigured Jane Eyre interlude.
I tried to take advantage of the Amazon “sale” with the Weird Science archives vol 2 and 3, but my order got canceled. This week I’ve been rearranging my comic shelves and therefore discovering things I own but don’t remember reading. I went through Dan Clowes’ “20th Century Eightball” with no recollection of any of it. I also found “Love and Rockets: New Stories” vol 2, and recalled that I never read it because I didn’t finish volume one, so I read both of those. And finally, after reading through and really enjoying all the BPRD trades, I decided to go through Hellboy again. I re-read “Seed of Destruction” and “Wake the Devil” and found the latter interesting because it made very little sense to me in the past, but has since then been linked to a bunch of other stories, filling in some gaps. It’s a great world Mignola (and Arcudi) created there.
I’ve been sorting through my long boxes, trying to find something of value to hawk on eBay–no luck there, but you could have predicted that–and it’s given me occasion to revisit some comics I forgot I owned. Specifically I re-read the JLA/Hitman two-part miniseries by Garth Ennis and John McCrea, the dudes who created the Hitman character. Anyone who’s ever encountered Ennis’s work knows he does not care for most superheroes, which is why this work is so surprising; the Hitman character, Tommy Monaghan, is indeed a paid assassin with a conscience who happens to be a big fan of Superman, and it seems like Ennis is too. (See also: Hitman #34, which this mini is directly tied to.) Kyle Rayner Green Lantern and, to a degree, Wonder Woman come off as sympathetic. (No such luck for Batman or the Flash, who are both depicted as raging pricks.) It’s Superman’s “there’s always a way” mentality–perhaps his defining characteristic–that takes center stage here, and it’s neat to see Ennis contrast Superman’s idea of what that means with Monaghan’s. (“There’s always a way” means one thing to an invulnerable super strong guy who can fly, and quite another to a regular Joe who can shoot pretty good.) It’s a surprisingly effective work.
On the prose side, I’ve just started Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. I have to confess I’m having a bit of an issue with the prose styling; this is my first McCarthy book, and I just don’t know anyone who thinks or talks in these kinds of clipped sentences. I’m intrigued so far, but as a guy who spent a full six months having his imagination eaten by Fallout 3, McCarthy’s going to have to do an awful lot to give me a taste of something new.
I read four volumes of DC Comics’s 2003 OUTSIDERS relaunch. Some, including my fellow Bureau Chiefs, may ask why. Well, I’ve always had a soft spot for third- (and fourth-, and tenth-)rank superheroes. I like Batman as much as the next guy (well, maybe not this guy), but there’s only so much you can do with him before you have to reset the status quo. With Z-listers, you can tell stories with consequences. And for awhile, these Outsiders stories seem to be doing that very thing–one major character gets shot, for example, and several issues deal with the repercussions in occasionally interesting ways. These aren’t Great Art by any means, and the whole enterprise starts to rattle apart around the middle of volume three, but the first 12 or so issues constitute some fun, baseline superhero comics.
I’ve finished up the third volume of The Indiana Jones Omnibus: The Further Adventures, mostly out of sheer fanboyism, because boy howdy there’s some pretty dire stuff in there, including some Ditko art that justifies his reclusive nature. By the time you get to the stories where Indy is basically fighting a Dr. Strange cosplayer, it’s obvious just how little Marvel cared about the license. I also read High Soft Lisp, the collection of Fritz stories by Gilbert Hernandez from the second volume of Love and Rockets and Luba’s Comics. It’s good, but not very satisfying. Possibly because Fritz isn’t a character I find particularly compelling, but also because the Palomar characters have such complicated back-stories at this point that unless you’ve devoted a good chunk of time to keeping it all fresh in your mind, it’s easy to become lost.
I also picked up the sixth volume of “In Their Own Words,” the Doctor Who Magazine sub-series that takes quotes from interviews that have appeared in the magazine and fashions them into a chronological history of the show. This volume covers 1997 to 2009 and it’s good as a “greatest hits” collection of quotes from the people involved in the show, but of limited appeal to anyone but nerds. “Book”-book wise, I read the N.J. Dawood translation of The Voyages of Sindbad, a 100 page micro-book that Penguin put out several years back that I hadn’t gotten around to previously. It’s written in that dry, academic style you too often find in translations of folk and fairy tales, but the central message, that Sindbad is spoiled rich boy who acts like a dick and gets rewarded for it, comes through clearly. I also started another rereading of Terry Pratchett’s Men At Arms, as I’m a habitual bed-reader and didn’t feel like starting anything new just now.
Purely on the strength of its heavily Comicraft Font subsidized Mass Market Paperback cover, I picked up A. Lee Martinez’ Monster as a blind buy, and I’m quite glad I did. As a fan and occasional purveyor of fiction that ends up being classified as something vague like “Urban Fantasy” but really is just a collection of any cool thing or character or circumstance that may have popped into the author’s head, I’m finding the book to be quite entertaining in the opening chapters. Martinez has the kind of crazy ideas I love to read and has no interest in holding them back for the sake of any kind of boring consistency or attempt to cohere to any kind of “realism”. Luckily, it all fits together quite well, and still actually retains a strong sense of believability.
Comics-wise, it’s probably bad that nothing really jumps out at me. PunisherMax (seriously, change that title) was typically great, as was Batman & Robin, but nothing really caved my head in.
I’m so terribly behind on all my reading. Mostly I’ve been reading stuff I’ve been writing for various projects, and the occasional blog post by some of my online buddies. I used to read a lot more when I didn’t have internet access.
BOOKS: Stephen King’s Under the Dome stays in the Gentleman’s Lounge, where I get through a few pages per sitting. …I said “sitting,” you dirty birds. And a recent reorganization of the Unread Pile of Terror revealed that I have several books awaiting my perusal, including the third Wild Cards book Suicide Kings (edited by George R.R. Martin) and the latest Star Wars hardcover by Aaron Allston, Fate of the Jedi: Backlash, for which I can offer no excuse. I also turned up Hitler: A Biography by Ian Kershaw, a titanic tome I was annexing a chapter at a time until I began a second front in my attack on my reading pile. …What?
FUNNYBOOKS: Finally started on Volume 22 of Dark Horse Comics’ ongoing Little Lulu reprint volumes (featuring classic work by John Stanley and Irving Tripp). Wonderful and unaffected by the decades that have passed since the stories’ original publication. And like my pal Dorian elsewhere in this article, I started on High Soft Lisp, collecting together several of Gilbert Hernandez’s comics. I’d read these all in their original form, but it’s nice having these stories under one cover. As far as regular ol’ staplebound comics go, Marvel’s Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers Unleashed #1 is bit of a hidden gem, starring the pets of Marvel superheroes. Yeah, I know how it sounds, but it’s not afraid to be funny and silly and manages to be so without also being cloying.