29 Books That Kept Me Going


Books I Read in 2018 on 29 Years of Living

More than any year past, I passed my time reading. When I felt helpless about the state of my life and the world, I read. When I needed to be reminded about why I write, I read. I read poetry just as soon as I wake up, I read non-fiction academic texts during the day, and I read prose in the evening. On Tuesdays I read for two hours at a local bar, reveling in the ambient sounds of people chatting. Sometimes I felt guilty for having dedicated so much of my time to reading and not to making more of my own work. Sometimes reading allowed me to avoid addressing problems directly, a distraction tactic with the distinction of being considered productive and intellectual although at this point I don’t believe that myself.

In commemoration of my 29th year alive (grateful to be alive!!!), I am sharing 29 books I read this year that resonated with me, books that gave me opportunities where I loved humanity, borscht, and hot hot heat simultaneously or honed in on how deeply flawed and compassionate humans can be in the same body. Reading these books reoriented me again and again away from despair, sometimes metabolizing the despair just enough to eke out another week and at other times transfiguring a feeling that unstops a lifelong blockage.

I am grateful to those who share their work through comics, poetry and prose, and equally grateful for the people that provide writers, poets, and comics makers the space and time to create these works.The affordance of being able to create art is something that many are deprived the opportunity of, and I hope that in the next year the people I get to read will be among those historically deprived of the time and space to imagine in text the future worlds necessary to save ourselves from impending doom.

Guidelines

I created a few rules for selecting pieces to make the list cover a wide spread of the types of pieces I’ve been reading as well as to prevent this list from privileging books I most recently read. In addition to these rules, I wanted to feature work from comics, poetry and what I’m throwing into the untidy category of prose.

At least 7 are not by authors based in the US

At least 7 came out in the past year

At least 15 have to be by contemporary authors

At least 7 have to be released prior to the 21st century

(In order of earliest to most recently read)

Moon Bath by Yanick Lahens, translated by Emily Gogolakcover to Moonbath by Yanick Lahens, two sea blue hands below a white circle with the title and author name. Red spikes from the bottom corners to center make up the bottom half. , January 7-January 10

“She could have listened for hours to this speech pulled from the thickness of the days. Because the time spent talking like this isn’t time, it’s light. The time spent talking like this, it’s water washing the soul, the ‘bon ange’.” (40, Lahens trans Gogolak).

My nephew and I waited for his mom in a low lit room. He looked for a good time then gave up and joined me. We read a few pages.

I’m Not Here by GG, March 11

cover of I'm not Here. portrait of someone with long black hair bisected with the left side hair up and the right side turned upside down hair down. light pink background and the title in darker pink over the hair.

in a Polish Hill bar right after acquiring at Copacetic comics. Had first pierogies of life, ate fancier perogies later. Life felt good reading next to someone I love.

comic page from I'm Not Here. Three panels cut horizontally. First panel a pair of hands cuts into an avocado. Second panel the pair of hands separates the avocado. Third panel zooms out to reveal a person in a white shirt, and black pants standing at a kitchen counter.

The Power by Naomi Alderman, March 11-March 15cover of the Power by Naomi Alderman. A black palm on an orange background. White veins courses through the palms.

Read throughout Pittsburgh. Once, for hours in a room half-occupied by a future bathroom. Last time I read that long hiding in a tent from a tornado in Virginia.

 

 

 

 

 

Beast Meridian by Vanessa Angelica Villareal

cover to Beast Meridiam. A portrait of someone in grey and black is on the right. the left third is made up of a night sky and trees.

From review “This is a fucking stunning collection that really broke open language to me in a new way. Seriously. Get your eyes and heart on thus asap”

 

 

 

 

 

from ‘Guadalupe, Star-Horned Taurus’

What you will say in my memory: that my serenity. That my

softness. That my skirt is the sky pattern. That the cedars kneel for

my passage. That my laugh was kind. That your feet carry my body.

That I am the helix the roses climb. That the illness spreads north

as we cross. That these are the end days. That heaven groans blood.

That I have scienced the stones into a circle. That they speak of

failure. My daughters.

 

Agony in the garden.

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, April 17- June 11

None of my notebooks mention this book at all even though I loved almost every story, but my notes do show that I made a flan and ate curds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Makes a Baby by Cory Silverberg (Goodreads Author), Fiona Smyth (Illustrator), June 19a yellow cartoon sperm and a blue ovary streatch out their arms in each other's direction. 'What Makes A Baby' in several colors over a purple striped background.

Was deeply moved seeing someone approach discussing sex to children in a way that does not privilege any particular form of how a baby gets made. Cute drawings throughout

 

 

 

The Lie and How We Told It by Tommi Parrish, June 21 Tommi-Parrish-The-Lie-And-How-We-Told-It_n6ly-3n-650x899

From review “the bodies in this comic feel dense with history and their movements carry weight in every flourish..Parrish celebrates the body often found revolting to other contemporary comics creators.”

 

 

 

TheLie-interior

Not Here by Hieu Minh Nguyen, June 18-June 21Screen_Shot_2017-12-19_at_4.26.04_PM

Why Art? By Eleanor Davis, June 30

Why-Art-Cover-720x873

From “A Conversation with Eleanor Davis BY JILLIAN TAMAKI”

“Q. What does that “care” look like?
A. (Eleanor Davis) Caring for other artists is, for me, recommending new people to ADs, demanding less fucked-up lineups in panels and anthologies, asking for better pay & contracts, and signal-boosting work I like. And I try to write the folks I see at shows and events and things, check out their work & then say howdy. But political work is also lifting and care. People need health insurance. Every human being deserves a living wage, to be taken care of when we get old, to be supported when we have kids, to have equal access to education, to have clean water to drink and air to breath, to have safe homes to live in. We deserve to have autonomy over our lives and bodies and to not be terrorized by war or police or ICE. And on and on and on. None of those things will happen by donating to one another’s GoFundMes, or by being “nice.” If we want everyone to be cared for, if we want a just society, it’s too big of a job for us as individuals – we need political power. We need to build systems that take care of everybody. That larger goal would benefit everyone, including the comics and illustration community.

It makes me kind of bonkers when people say “Oh, it’s so tragic that this great artist died unsupported and in poverty” like that’s worse than when all the other unsupported impoverished people die. I don’t feel any more obligation to my community of artists than I do to anyone else. I just have more ability to directly advocate here.”

Ordinary Beast by Nicole Sealey, June 27- June 30

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POEM: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME A NEW POEM BY NICOLE SEALEY

“…………………………
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…………………………
……………………….”
From my review “Sealey deftly exposes unending selves without every feeling as if we’re staring at wounds in a voyeuristic way. read it if you think you might love things i love.”

Body Music by Julie Maroh, translated David Homel, July 2 978-1-55152-692-8_BodyMusic

People loving across vignettes. Read this on a university couch after a swim. Felt good for one of the characters who’d just asked to be a partner to a couple.

 

 

 

 

BodyMusic2

Green Lantern: Earth One, Volume 1 by Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Sara Bechko, July 4-5

From Goodreads review “… this is more sci-fi than superhero…Does an amazing job exploring the role of Green Lanterns, and the fascism underlying a group of technocrats ‘bringing order’ to the universe.”

 

 

 

Anybody by Ari Banias, July 1-July 13

 

from ‘Being With You Makes Me Think About’

 

“We is something like a cloud. How big, how thick,

its shape – ambiguous. We is moving across

a magnificent sky. We see the sky all around us but

also we can look down at our own hands.

A cloud is a changing thing. Sometimes we are an animal

smiling, clawing at something

not there. Other times we spread out so thin we almost

don’t exist. We are thickening just now. A sea of slow

knitting. And soon it will rain, and we

will be down in the grass again. A blade of grass gets thirsty;

it’s nice to think we could quench that…”

An early writing teacher Laura Eve Engel shared this one. Loved it, Laura Eve! Engel’s first book Things That Go just came in the mail and am reading now.

R E D by Chase Berggrun, July 23-July 25

a section From ‘Chapter VIII’

“I don’t want to talk of infinitesimal distinctions

between man and man see no difference between men and maidens

I am the modern Morpheus
I made the minutes disappear
I am thin
an errant swarm of bees
a naked lunatic
faithful
selfish
old
a tiger
immensely strong
a wild beast
a paroxysm of rage
mercy
murder
coming
coming
coming

The Trees The Trees by Heather Christle, July 26-27

 

My roommates let me read ‘Soup is One Form of Salt Water’ before we had a summer meal. These poems make me feel my most maniacal, grounded and lovely.

 

 

 

 

By This You Shall Know Him by Jesse Jacobs, August 7

From my review: My new favorite creation story. A comic that imagines the celestial beings that created all life in the known universe are petty af despite their longevity and cosmic abilities.

 

 

The Verging Cities by Natalie Scenters-Zapico, August 16-17

Halfway through the Sealey Challenge (an invitation by Nicole Sealey to read 31 poetry books in August) when I read this. I fluttered through these pages at a clip demanding revisitation.

 

IT’S THE HEAT THAT WAKES US

 

Five hundred feet away in Juarez. the maquilas

run all night. In EI Paso, we share the same 110

degrees. Angel takes his clothes off and says:

 

The swamp cooler must be broken. Heat submerges

each building under an ocean thousands of years old.

Heat so thick I wonder what It is to be clean. I swat

but Angel’s lips arc two ghosts rising co the surface

of his skin. He says: I’m dying. He says: Mi amor,

you might be dead. We don’t touch; the heat

 

from each other’s body is unbearable. I say:

I can’t stop sweating. He says: Become

the body of water to swallow us both.

Bug Boys vol. 1 by Laura Knetzger, July 26- August 28

Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 11.39.09 AM

If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar, August 31

If They Should Come for Us” plays at the end of the interview below (transcript here). Also found out one of my dear friends is gonna have a baby!

 

Empty Set by Verónica Gerber Bicecci, Translated by Christina MacSweeney, August 30-September 3

“The fact is that the things we can’t see don’t hide themselves in the shades of gray or in the white or black, but at the fine line separating those two totalities. A place we can’t even imagine, a horizon of no return.” (18, Empty Set)

 

I read this one while in Boston based on two poets digging it (thanks Dennis and Hannah). Love reading a short novel in its entirety when visiting another place.

 

Zanardi by Andrea Pazienza, translated by Alberto Becattini, September 29-30

From my review “Pazienza’s use of multiple art styles, especially absurdist imagery impressed me with their affective quality. You get the impression that these folks are on a different speed of life.”

John, Dear by Laura Lannes, October 3rd

I finished it and couldn’t believe it had fucked me up as much as it did given its brevity.

From my review “Laura Lannes creates narratives that get at the core of violence and desire without the compulsion to explain any of what’s occurring beyond conveying the overload of the experience.”

 

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Pink by Kyōko Okazaki, translator(s) unknown, October 11-17

From my review “Though the ending felt predictable, I really enjoyed Okazaki’s sense of humor, and unwillingness to ascribe to a shame narrative regarding the two main character’s occupation as sex workers.”

 

 

 

 

Kingdom Animalia by Aracelis Girmay, September 19-October 21

Someone came in the urgent care waiting room and sat nearby, asked about the book. Wanted to get back into reading once they got their library card; left first.

From ‘I Am Not Ready to Die Yet’

I want to live longer.
I want to love you longer, say it again,
I want to love you longer
& sing that song
again. & get pummeled by the sea
& come up breathing & hot sun
& those walks & those kids
& hard laugh, clap your hands.
I am not ready to die yet.

The Ground I Stand on Is Not My Ground by Collier Nogues, November 2

Read this, along with two other erasure books, on a Friday, this one last. The companion website makes this one of my favorite multimedia projects I saw this year.

 

From ‘Editor’s Introduction’

 

“No evidence is now available as to

Authorship

 

but I came to believe

 

that the logic of ideas strung together by

the syntactic structure of the sentence

 

depends on the reader’s context.”

Bodymap by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, October 16- November 7

Was recommended this one by three comrades on a night we aired grievances. Read several of this aloud while crossing a football field on my way home from work.

 

Death in Spring by Mercè Rodoreda, translated by Martha Tennent, November 8-16

 

“Let suffering be removed but not desire because desire keeps you alive.” (82)

In New York City for the first time, I read chapters of this in Washington Square Park. The fountain was full of folks relaxing. I felt sleepy and cozy.

 

 

Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color by Christopher Soto, November 14- December 3qpoc_3-1

An incredible experience every time I went in. Would read four to five poems at a time, and everyone is loaded with history and alternately harsh and delicate.

From Torrin A. Greathouse’s piece “A kind of communal history: Nepantla edited by Christorpher Soto

“In the introduction, Soto describes nepantla as “a transient feeling” at the meeting place of Queer and PoC identity. Spanning one hundred years, from the Harlem Renaissance to now, Nepantla is an archive of QTPoC memory that resists both the whiteness of mainstream LGBTQ+ movements and the notion of cistheteronormativity in PoC communities. Fundamentally, it is an act of history-making in verse.”

 

They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib, August 3, December 10

I never knew how I’d come out of any essay from this collection, wrecked most often. Lucky to read a lot of these on Sunday afternoons with a friend.

 

“[Marvin Gaye] knew then what so many of us know now: we have to dance, and fight, and make love and fight aid live, and fight all with the same ferocity…There are no half measures to be had.” (101”)


Books I’m still reading that would likely make it on here had I finished them.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Global Warming and the Sweetness of Life: A Tar Sands Tale by Matt Hern, and Am Johal featuring comics by Joe Sacco

Prince of Cats by Ronald Wimberly

 

 

 

 

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Books I Loved in 2016

I wanted to write something to cap off the year and share with friends, so thought a list of favorite books would work. Not all these books were released in 2016— new comics releases were where my focus was at—but they’re all works that I not only enjoyed but influenced some new way of thinking or being in the world. . I think articulating that for myself was important, and I hope that if you check one out of these, they can move you to being more of yourself too.

The books are listed in no particular order, and the ones at the end that I didn’t write about are equally loved, but not elaborated on because I wanted to do something else with my day than indulge more feelings on books. (Bonus: a short playlist of sounds I find myself in)

Sphinx by Anné Garréta

I found this book on one of those Instagram accounts that posts awesome photos of books. The cover of the Deep Vellum edition drew me immediately and I marked it on my to-read list. A short novel, Sphinx had a profound impact on me for its unique exploration of intimacy as well as the self-imposed craft restraints under which the book was composed, which you should avoid learning about before reading for full effect. This book was also a favorite for its depiction of Parisian danceclub life from the perspective of someone who doesn’t dig the scene, but is in it day after day. I copied out several passages of this that articulated my own feelings on religion, community, love and kindness. In Garréta, I found a kindred spirit, which makes me excited to read Deep Vellum‘s release of her novel Not One Day also translated by Emma Ramadan whose ‘Translator’s Notes’ at the end of Sphinx provide some thoughtful insight to the work required to translate Garréta’s novel. Along with the Star By My Head, this work helped me better recognize the important work done by these translators and the difficult artistic and ethical choices they make to make these texts accessible to an English-reading audience.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty 

This year was really difficult to navigate for a lot of people, including me. However, like others who got to read Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, I got to laugh for good chunks of it. A story of a black man in an Los Angeles county city that no longer exists, Beatty’s novel is one of the most biting satires I’ve read in my short life. However, at no point does this book seem interested in demonizing any particular group and instead takes to tasks all of us for our varying complicities with racism in the United States. Every time I saw someone reading this book around Syracuse, I’d start smiling over a passage I loved like the bus party for a modern-day slave that ends at the beach. Gave a copy of this one to my Dad for Christmas. Here’s hoping he sees what’s so funny about it.

Big Kids by Michael De Forge big-kids

A friend told me earlier this year that she had been finding fewer favorite books recently. That’s when I told her about Big Kids, a book I had recently read and adored and another of Michael De Forge’s comic releases made in an ongoing effort to show the rest of the world how limitless his creativity is (at least in my opinion). I bought my copy in a comics store during my first visit to Boston, MA while checking out potential PhD programs, and had my cousin and his then girlfriend/now wife indulge me in the delightful photo here. Initially set in a reality seemingly like our own, the book soon morphs once its main character becomes a tree and realizes that everyone is actually either a tree or twig with only trees knowing about this dichotomy. I first encountered De Forge in The Believer Magazine’s comic section a few years ago, then read his bizzare work Ant Colony. Big Kids expands my love for De Forge with colors that simultaneously sicken and enrapture, and dialogue that captures much of the callousness of adolescence. A tiny book that taught me a lot about managing the scope of a story, blending form with content, and how trees have sex in a pool.

Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude by Ross Gay unabashed

My amazing poet friend and former housemate Alana Folsom was one of my most valued poetry pushers this past year. Sharing bookshelves with her, I read works from Frank Bidart, Franny Choi, Ada Limon, Ocean Vuong, and Richard Silken, but none made me want to write more than Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. Although like many writers, I entered the medium through poems intended to woo or save me money at Mother’s Day, I left poetry aside for a couple years once I realized I had no idea what I was doing. I still don’t really know what I’m doing now, but reading Gay made me feel better able to be myself on the page. I love life. It’s been very good to me, and Gay showed me how this gratitude for everyday objects and occurrences can be just as vital and authentic a source of inspiration as the tragedy and misery that propels the writing of many others. I read this book on a hike through the Bald Hill area of Corvallis, Oregon on a clear spring afternoon. Alone, I read these poems aloud on trails and got dizzy from the lovesickness I felt for them.

Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt

Mind MGMT has gotten a lot of coverage within comics circles ever since its first issue was released 2012, and I wanted to check it out since then. However, with ongoing comics sometimes I feel incapable of taking the chance to jump on even if the story has only just left the dock. Now collected in 6 beautiful hardcover volumes, I checked them out from the Onondogaga county and Syracuse University library systems throughout the first term of my PhD.

Mind bender gets thrown around a lot to describe works of art that are difficult or complicated to parse through, but Mind MGMT is the first of those sorts for me that becomes increasingly complicated while maintaining total clarity. A tale with telepathy, government conspiracy, and global trotting, Mind MGMT is at its core a story of how individuals can change the world in collaboration with others. It sounds corny, I know, but at the end of this book I wept. Not for sadness, but for having felt empowered by a comic to be a better agent of localized change. A story that transfixed me composed in an art form I love inspired me to try harder to be human. Is there anything more you can want from art?

Unpleasant Design edited by Gordan Savičić and Selena Savić 

Unpleasant Design is a book I first heard about on the wonderful 99% Invisible podcast. A book of writings on urban design by a variety of writers of differing expertise (designers, activists, artists, scholars), Unpleasant Design showed me the ways that people shape their material reality (park benches, bus stops, intersections) to make them unpleasant for groups that the public wants to keep at the margins—the homeless, drug users, teenagers, and non-human animals. As a rhetorician interested in aesthetics and environmental sustainability, this book awakened me to the fact that urban design is never neutral, and made me better able to see human intent in the design of cities. I got a new lens to see how persuasion occurs in the world, and to better love a comfortable park bench whose design/designer invites me to sit or lie for hours overlooking a trail and a stream.

Let me Clear My Throat by Elena Passarello 

I tell a story sometimes at parties about singing along to the Arctic Monkeys 505 once when driving home from a night out. Curious, I decided to record myself starting on the chorus and played it back once the song was through. What I heard was a nasal whine so unlike what I thought it would be that I decided there to stop singing out loud around others. Years after, I started singing to myself sans recorder—on walks, washing dishes, in the shower, knowing that I would never impress anyone with my voice. That unexplored curiosity about voice made me excited to read Elena Passarello’s Let Me Clear My Throat after meeting her during my time at Oregon State University. Having listened to a recording of her essay ‘Teach Me Tonight’ on Frank Sinatra’s instructional singing book, I knew that Passarello would be able to articulate for me the pure joy of voice through her obsessions with vocal idols throughout the ages. A hilarious book, Passarello’s essays made me want to scream, warble, groan, and enjoy the sounds of others made in love, pain, and mania.

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler
The Star By My Head: Poets from Sweden edited by Malena Mörling
Someone Please Have Sex With Me by Gina Wynbrandt
A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
The Vision  by  Tom King (Writer), Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Illustrator), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), Mike del Mundo (Cover Artist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels: A History of Graphic Narratives by Robert Petersen

Long Live Print, Brick, and Mortar (Part 2: Buy The Guilt Away)

[This is the second installment on my blog posts about why I buy print comics weekly. You can read the first one here. I wrote this post a week ago, but never managed to save it. It was pretty eloquent and heartfelt too, so sorry if the version you’re reading doesn’t seem to have the urgency generated by quick consumption of chai lattes.]

Being raised Catholic, you learn quite a few things very early on, things like touching yourself is BAD, touching other people before marriage is BAD, and feeling guilty for failure to prevent any calamity, regardless of scale or your agency in the situation, is quite natural and a well-deserved feeling. Even after mostly putting the Catholic thing behind me, I’m still prone to intense bouts of guilt, and if I’m honest it’s commonly a major motivating force behind the majority of actions I do on any given day. Like nonsensical spider powers, or the ability to become a dotted line version of yourself though, I decided to put this energy towards good use when possible, such as caring for others even when they’re being immense assholes or telling the truth in situations where the other person isn’t likely to find out by other means.

It’s this same guilt that also results in my inability to occupy coffee shops without purchasing at least one item every other hour. And it’s for that reason I haven’t been to Interzone, my favorite Corvallis coffee shop in over a week as I wait in the limbo between paychecks. In the past whenever I’ve tried to simply hang around while waiting to meet a friend or burning time between classes, my brain would start screaming,

“THIS PLACE WILL SHUT DOWN BECAUSE PEOPLE LIKE YOU COME HERE, USE THEIR WIFI TO READ MOVIE REVIEWS OF MOVIES YOU’LL LIKELY NOT SEE, AND STICK AROUND FOR SEVERAL COFFEELESS HOURS.”

(André’s Brain, every damn day) Continue reading “Long Live Print, Brick, and Mortar (Part 2: Buy The Guilt Away)”

Long Live Print, Brick, and Mortar (Part 1)

Like a lot of post-grad English majors, I make very little money. Laughable amounts. Laughable as in if you laughed in the direction of the small stack of bills I make monthly, you could blow it all away with the sonic energy emitted from your vocal chords. Added to this problem is the fact that, like a lot of people, I like nice things. Food for instance. My wonderful housemate and I work up some pretty stellar meals, each of us spending about twenty-five bucks on average every week on groceries (half of what I used to spend when I lived in previous living situations), which keeps me out of junk food and crappy restaurants. In addition to said food, rent, beer, and five dollar thrift store trips, my major regular, and definitely luxury expense, are print comics: light of my life, and occasional fire of my loins.

I’ve been buying print comics weekly since moving to the small town of Corvallis, Oregon for grad school a little over two years ago. Before then, I had only occasionally made my way to a comic shop when I lived in Houston for four years, and before that my mom sometimes generously bought me a comic on trips to the grocery store, never experiencing the glories of having my very own subscription list. When I made it to Corvallis, and found Matt’s Cavalcade of Comics, the only local shop dedicated to selling comic books as well as other indoor kid keep stuff (cards, models, board games and the like), I felt like there was little excuse not to become a regular customer other than the fact that, again, I had very little money. Deciding early on to limit myself to two to three comics a week, the weekly bike excursions to the comics shop located in a shopping center next to an always busy nail salon became one of the foundations to diminishing grad school stress whenever term papers, conference deadlines, and boring committee meetings swirled around me.

Even though I have a great love of comics, and have only grown to love the medium more since becoming a regular visitor to Matt’s, the weekly purchase has continued remained a source of minor guilt for myself that required frequent self-justification as to why the expense was worth it. After all, at 6-8 bucks weekly for two comics, I’m spending a solid $416 a year on weekly comics, not counting trade paperbacks and the occasional hardcover collection or graphic novel. Therefore I’ve put my mind on overdrive to come up with a list of justifications for why these purchases are worth eating out infrequently, going on fewer day trips, and only ever buying three buck chuck wine. Every other day until I run out of reasons, I’ll be writing a bit on a reason for my continued comic purchasing habit in an effort to maybe open a bit of a dialogue on the pros of print comics, and hopefully source new healthy reasons to continue my addiction given that some of the ones I currently have are motivated by self-flagellating feelings, my specialty on the emotional spectrum. Continue reading “Long Live Print, Brick, and Mortar (Part 1)”

Comic Reviews for Week 1 in November

The Humans #1Humans-#1-11.6.14

It’s amazing how a second reading can change your opinion on a text. I recall reading Tom Sawyer in high school, and intensely despising it before coming back years later and realizing how genius and hilarious it was. Similarly, and Twain might spin in his white suit for this, the first time around The Humans read like nothing more than an escapist fantasy of misplaced nostalgia for a time and place that were not all that great, and to boot it just felt like sexist drivel thanks to one page early on.

Therefore when I got around to reading it a second time in preparation for this review, I was surprised by how much my opinion had changed. I still thought of it as lewd and intensely vulgar however I recognized that this issue isn’t even the beginning of the story of the Humans (confirmed in the issue’s stellar backmatter by creators, Keenan Marshall Keller and Tom Neely), serving only as the prologue before shit goes haywire for them, and the fantasy of their unrestricted life starts to fall apart (Read the complete review here).

Penny-Dora-#1-11.6.14Penny Dora and The Wishing Box #1

Funny how a comparison between two texts can be enough to compel you to read something. Such was the case with Penny Dora, which I had read somewhere that it’d appeal to fans of Coraline. While this first issue lacks the same level darkness that tinges all of Gaiman’s stories, it does merit the comparison thanks to its focus on telling a story about a kid that appeals to both kids and adults.

Winner in the category of most self-explanatory comic title this week, Penny Dora and the Wishing Box is about the titular Penny, and the Wishing Box that comes into her life on Christmas Day. Living in a cookie-cutter suburban neighborhood who’s only individualistic quality are the mailboxes that dot the streets, Penny lives with her mother in what appears to be a content household other than the absence of Penny’s dad due to her parent’s divorce. Continue reading “Comic Reviews for Week 1 in November”

Comic Reviews for October Week 5

Last Born #2Last-Born-#2-10.29.14

Once I made it to the end of this issue, I realized that Last Born may actually get to something really great over its next few issues. Just like the premiere issue though, this one contends itself with solely further establishing its premise.

We find Julia in the midst of a training session with the white bearded Ford and Eden, his near-feral travelling companion. The session is soon interrupted by the arrival of Private Lee who falls from the sky. After some polite intros, things flash-back (forward?) to Lee’s life prior to his arrival in Julia’s future, his past, via the same cave. Through some handy exposition, we learn that in Lee’s future the world has been overrun by an ambiguous invading force that has caused the few survivors to all make their home on a marine outpost. Lee, one of these few survivors, is selected for the mission to return to the past, and present an opportunity for the future to Julia and co.

Tonally, things shift dramatically in the couple pages we get of Lee’s future. Despite its apocalyptic setting, we’re treated to a dance scene and a sex scene back-to-back, showing us the luxuries that Lee gives up in order to fulfill his mission. I also really appreciated getting to see his trip to the past from his point-of-view, climaxing in a humorous moment where Lee is clearly surprised by what ends up happening to him (Read the complete review here).

Sundowners #3Sundowners #3 10.29.14

I think I’ve reached my end with Sundowners, and it’s possible I might regret that choice should this issue’s upswing continue. As things stand right now though, Sundowners seems pretty satisfied as a ho-hum comic with characters that don’t particularly resonate with me in any manner despite the intrigue built up by their mental disorders, and the impact that has on their vigilantism. With a last page that feels tasteless in its treatment of depression, I’m confident that whatever’s in store for the Sundowners isn’t something I’ll care to read about.

Crowlita starts this issue tracking down Meghan, a woman she believes was part of a cult ritual. This trek ends when Crowlita ends up in front of a church, only to be transported to a hellish landscape where she’s attacked by what’s either demonic tadpoles or, more disturbingly, sentient giant sperm. It’s an intense two pages that Jim Terry pulls off really nicely, Sean Dove’s colors lending the hell dimension a great tone.

It sucks then that we don’t return to Crowlita until much later this issue. Instead, what we get is a check-in with each of the Sundowners as they return home, and in the case of Karl, wake up in what others hope will be their home. Of all these individual threads, I was most captivated by Joe’s who breaks into the home of his ex-wife under the delusion that he can provide her protection. It was hard not to feel sympathy for him when he takes down his monotone persona, and begs to stay for the night, things only getting worse for him when his ex’s new partner shows up, an actual cop who reminds Joe just how foolish his vigilante antics are (Read the complete review here). Continue reading “Comic Reviews for October Week 5”

Comic Reviews for Week 4 in October

Bee and Puppycat #5BeePuppycat05_coverA

Without meaning to, my readings for the week ended up in some really dark realms thanks to Stray Bullets and an old Swamp Thing trade a friend recently lent me. Thankfully, Bee and PuppyCat was there with sight gags and cute storylines to lighten things up when the darkness of humanity threatened to overwhelm me.

I find Bee and PuppyCat’s structure very interesting, but I’m curious whether something great can come from an extended comic narrative. Most stories seem to follow no set chronology, and unlike the show, Bee and PuppyCat remain the only characters for much of the comic. Instead, each vignette revolves around one comic situation and ends as soon as the creators arrive at the punchline like a burp melody in one case. It’s admirable in it’s single-mindedness, and I love the range of visual styles from T. Zysk’s soft pink palette in ‘A Coffee Problem’ to Flynn Nicholls expressive doodles in ‘The Claw Game.’

Like any collection of shorts, there were some definite standouts this issue. The aforementioned ‘The Coffee Problem’ does a great job of capturing the cycle of caffeine dependence in a comical way. Like many of the stories, what makes it work are PuppyCat’s reactions to Bee’s well-intentioned decisions, PuppyCat’s cosmic wisdom ensuring it knows what’s up. The page of PuppyCat finding Bee within a disposable cup labyrinth was unsettling, but once Bee shares what she’s done in her sleep-deprived state things resume cute homeostasis (Read the complete review here).

Stray Bullets: Killers #8Stray-Bullets---Killers-#8-10.22.14

This is the second week in a row where I unknowingly picked up the last in a series arc. I’ve been wanting to catch up on Stray Bullets for a while now for no other reason than because of all the critical acclaim it’s been receiving, and my love of bandwagoning. Usually, I’m not very interested in crime stories in any medium due to their over reliance on genre tropes and plot twists. However, Lapham avoids those easy trappings by keeping the story tightly focused on the characters and tracking their emotional arcs.

Lapham somehow manages to convey all the information necessary to understand the story even for those like myself who haven’t read a single previous issue. Eli and Virginia are a teenage couple who recently got into an argument following their run-in in Baltimore that results in several deaths. Shaken by Virginia’s criminal affiliation, Eli lashed out at Virginia and this issue starts off with their relationship in limbo.

Add to that, Eli’s slimy cousin Adam comes knocking at Eli’s door to ask a favor he can’t refuse as well as the threat of retaliation from the gang Virginia’s friends assaulted, and this issue may seem to have taken on too much. However, it all flows organically from the characters so that no decision appears motivated by the need to get to the great action sequence at the climax (Read the complete review here). Continue reading “Comic Reviews for Week 4 in October”

Comic Bastards Reviews for Week 2 and 3 in October

It’s been a rough two weeks with the start of the second year of grad school. Still finding the time to work on the Comic Bastards Review, but having trouble figuring out when I can work on other book impressions. Oh well, thanks as always for checking the blog out.

Edge_of_Spider-Verse #5Edge of Spider-Verse #5 by Gerard Way and Jake Wyatt

Not having read any of the other Edge of Spider-Verse issues, I cannot say with any certainty that this was the best of the bunch (although it easily wins for most captivating cover). I can say however that if Marvel is looking to look another Spider-man comic to their line (Spider-Gwen and Silk having been recently announced), then they should definitely try to lock in Gerard Way to work on a SP//dr ongoing once he’s through touring his new solo album. From start to finish, the former My Chemical Romance frontman and creator of the stellar Umbrella Academy, along with artist Jake Wyatt, takes us through a reimagining of the Spider-man mythos that continuously surprises while remaining true to the heart of the character.

Things open up this issue with the death of SP//dr’s first human co-pilot, a person that may or may not be an alternate universe Peter Parker. With no other option due to genetic compatibility, SP//dr’s researchers, Aunt May and Uncle Ben in drastically different roles than we’ve seen them before, enlist the pilot’s young daughter Peni Parker as his replacement. In order to do so however, Peni must be bitten by the genetically engineered radioactive spider and form a psychic link with it so that they can co-pilot the SP//dr armor. Following the bite, things skip forward five years as a now fourteen-year old Peni patrols New York as SP//dr with her spider-ally before fighting with an altered version of a classic Spidey foe, and later on, alongside an amazingly redesigned Daredevil.

Like his work on Umbrella Academy, Way’s script pulsates with energy thanks to dialogue that conveys tons of personality. I loved the relationship he sets up between Aunt May and Peni, one that resembles Bruce Wayne and Terry Mcginnis’s from Batman Beyond in that the former in both cases mentors the other while also fulfilling a parental role. Bits of dialogue like Aunt May promising to have dinner prepared once Peni has completed her night’s mission only to have her suggestion of chicken tikka rebuffed due to Peni’s newfound vegetarianism really give readers a sense of history despite both characters only having existed in our memories for a sparse three four pages (Read the complete review here).

Copperhead-#2-10.8.14Copperhead #2 by Jay Faerber and Scott Godlweski

Only two issues in, and it’s already becoming clear that Jay Faerber and Scott Godlweski have got major plans for the town of Copperhead. Similar to Cowboy Bebop, Copperhead somehow spins a western crime drama out of a sci-fi setting, and makes it seem as though it were the easiest thing in the world.

Clara Bronson and her deputy Boo have built a quick rapport already, the latter begrudgingly following the orders of his new sheriff. I loved the moment when Boo, in the midst of taking notes about the Sewell family massacre, complains about his boss on record only to quickly then delete said recording once he realizes that Clara would hear it. In that single panel, we understand that while Boo dislikes taking orders from an outsider who took away his opportunity at being sheriff, he remains someone who respects the hierarchy in place. I’m hopeful that Faerber gets around to exploring Boo’s origins sooner rather than later as his references to recent wars point to some point of trauma that would probably account for his detached attitude (Read the complete review here).

BlackMarket04_coverBlack Market #4 by Frank J. Barberie and Victor Santos

My name is André Habet, and I had no idea that this was the last issue of Black Market. Regardles of my ignorance though, I’m glad that Frank J Barberie and Victor Santos decided to end things here. What started off as an interesting premise quickly lost steam due a mixture of unsympathetic characters all-around, excluding the too cool for this comic Tiger Man from last issue, and confusing plotting.

This issue picks up with Ray and his brother Denny, along with their muscle ex-hero Bruiser, as they prepare for a bank robbery to attract the attention of Ultra, an alpha-level super who the main characters blame for their recent problems. In an early page that’s laughable thanks to its self-seriousness, the brothers, dressed in black and sporting automatic weapons, flank Bruiser who’s back in his old duds for one last hurrah (Read the complete review here).

Continue reading “Comic Bastards Reviews for Week 2 and 3 in October”

Comic Reviews for October 1, 2014

Death of Wolverine #3

After Kitty Pryde does a wickedly gory move with her phasing powers nothing in this issue could match up. Not only do we get very little action from Wolverine in this issue, other than a scene of him in full samurai garb leading to a short and lackluster fight, but the comic is starting to show signs of intense editorial oversight, demanding that the story skip between all of Logan’s former haunts whether or not it makes much sense.

For instance, this issue Wolverine along with Shadowcat head for Japan, the two starting off their search for Ogun by just hanging out near a stream. The scene puts Steve McNiven’s talents to good use in a rare moment of peace for Wolvie, cherry blossoms falling around the two as Logan ruminates on the benefits of losing his healing power potentially foreshadowing at this miniseries’ endgame. However, when a character reveal occurs a few pages later, I had to question the necessity for the move to Japan since the locale doesn’t end playing at all into the story, providing only setup for the last issue concerning a villain that I’m not familiar with at all, and refuse to Wiki on account of not giving a crap. (Read the complete review here)

Cloaks #2

It’s a lot to ask any comic to be groundbreaking in its storytelling, but what bugs me about Cloaksright now is that it seemed to have figured out a way of using the comic medium to tell a story about a close-up magician and his illusions in a visually engaging manner. Perhaps there’s more of that to come in the future, but when four pages are devoted to an entirely unnecessary montage that’s neither funny nor provides much insight into Adam or his new supporting cast, I don’t feel I can hold out much hope that this comic will astonish in its final two issues. A montage works when it shows us a character’s devotion to improving in a certain craft or skill in a quick way. Continue reading “Comic Reviews for October 1, 2014”

Comic Reviews for September 25, 2014

Bee and Puppycat #4BeePuppycat04_coverB

I first found out about Bee and Puppycat when a woman I was dating sent me a link to the initial animated short Natasha Allegri had created for a Kickstarter campaign. The show I saw completely charmed me with its two leading characters, and the absurd turns their story took, culminating in Puppycat taking Bee on an extra dimensional trip to score them a few bucks.

Bee and Puppycat, in its comic form, divides itself between several short stories about the truly mundane problems of Bee’s life to hysterical effect. My favorite of the bunch is the final tale “Hungry,” a story about the otherworldly lengths Puppycat, an animal lying somewhere on the spectrum between cat and dog and possessing the cuteness of both, will go to indulge Bee’s laziness. It’s remarkable that Bee remains such a lovable character despite her lethargy, but I think that it’s because she’s so great at reflecting those moments of our own lives where even the smallest tasks seem to take superhuman strength.

Other favorites of mine from this issue include “The Perfect Sandwich” by Aimee Fleck. Recently I read Bryan O Malley’s Seconds, and like that graphic novel, this short reminded me of the medium’s ability to not only illustrate the awesomeness of food, but how we interact with it, the pair’s astonishment at the finished sandwich encapsulating so many of my own favorite food moments before the sandwich is engulfed by the typically cool Puppycat. And unlike most of the shorts, this one has Bee trumping Puppycat in terms of knowledge, crafting a superb sandwich for which I soon after wrote down the ingredients. (Read the complete review here)

Wayward #2 Wayward02_CoverA

That was a drastic change. After initially being pitched as a comic in the realm of the best of Buffy, Wayward is already looking to tackle themes that Buffy didn’t get around to until the latter half of its TV run (the comics never happened in my reality). How this issue changesWayward’s appeal and audience will only become apparent once readers have gotten their hands on it, but I at least need to give kudos to Jim Zub and Steve Cummings for taking on difficult material.

Wayward’s second issue begins once Rori makes it home after her fight last issue alongside the warrior cat-girl Ayane against the demonic kappa. Rather than scold her though, Rori’s mom makes light of her late night out, poising them for some greater dramatic tension later in the series. The bulk of the story focuses on Rori’s first day of school in Japan, and it’s here that the comic chooses to start dumping a ton of exposition in the vein of ‘In X they do it like this, but in Y they do it like this.’ Although it gets tiring after the first few comparisons, Rori’s internal narration continues to evoke sympathy without indulging in too much self-pity. However, once I read the issue’s supplementary material, I found it pretty interesting (and by interesting, I mean the opposite) how this portion of the comic essentially functioned as an illustrated version of the essay. Continue reading “Comic Reviews for September 25, 2014”