Book Reviews, books

Summer Is for Comics

Earlier this month, NPR released the results of their summer comics and graphic novel poll.

I could honestly die a happy woman because My Favorite Thing Is Monsters made the list, along with Through the Woods and Bitch Planet.  But it’s me, so obviously I have thoughts about the list and some favorites that didn’t make the cut.

In somewhat particular order, here is my addendum of 12 favorite graphic novels I love just as much, whether they receive NPR recognition or not:

  1. Asterios Polyp (David Mazzucchelli)
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    The tragic story of a pretentious professor of architecture whose designs have never been built.  Somehow he still manages to be sympathetic and human if not especially likeable. With the added bonus of beautiful illustrations, ghosts of dead twins, and more parallels to Greek mythology than you can shake a stick at.
  2. Berlin (Jason Lutes)
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    Not least because I’ve been waiting for vol 3 for 9 years.  NINE.  (In his latest interview, Lutes claimed the last volume should be out next year, but I’ll believe it when I see it.)  Striking black-and-white illustrations with keen attention to period detail combine with memorable characters to create a compelling story.  Silvia the communist street brawler is my favorite (of course).
  3. Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes (Mary and Bryan Talbot)
    Dotter of Her Father's Eyes
    Scholar Mary Talbot and her cartoonist husband tell a story that works as both a biographical portrait of Joyce and personal memoir.  Talbot draws parallels to Joyce’s troubled relationship with his daughter and her own difficult relationship with her father, a renowned Joycean scholar.
  4. Ethel & Ernest (Raymond Briggs)
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    Though The Snowman is his most famous work, this biography of Briggs’s parents is my favorite of his works.  Ethel and Ernest seem to be the only unchanging fixtures as time passes in 20th century London.  This quiet portrait of everyday life for a middle class London family is fascinating and exactly the kind of history I love to read about.
  5. Giant Days (John Allison)
    Giant Days #19
    Funny and touching story about a group of friends navigating their way through university.  Be warned this gets way too real at times as the characters face disappointment, failure, and some steep learning curves on the way to adulthood…but at the end of the day, the characters’ relationships are there to help them bounce back.
  6. The Fade Out (Ed Brubaker)
    23093372This 1940s noir-style story of murder and the seedy underbelly of Hollywood glam makes this so far up my street it’s not even funny.  The story begins with the murder of an actress, but of course we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on the shady goings-on underneath the glitz of show business.
  7. Super Spy, Mind MGMT, and pretty much anything else by Matt Kindt
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    His illustrations and inking are gorgeous, and things are never as they seem in his work. Frequently his stories revolve around tough ladies in espionage dealing with a gritty, unglamorous reality—my favorite kind.
  8. Widdershins (Kate Ashwin)
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    Magic in a Regency England setting with a series of sarcastic badass ladies and appropriately incompetent men!  This webcomic is such a delight to read and is all free online.
  9. The Green River Killer (Jonathan Case)
    Green River Killer
    I was reluctant to pick this up because I find a lot of true crime stories sleazy and just badly written. Case avoids sensationalizing the story here (as much as possible), taking time to examine the investigation and its toll on the police force.  I would add The New Deal and anything else by Case as well—I have yet to read a book of his I haven’t enjoyed.
  10. Shutter (Joe Keatinge)
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    This is mostly here because I adore the talking cat alarm clock that keeps our protagonist company and I really need one of my own.  Also noteworthy are the LGBTQ characters and their story lines in this fast-paced comic whose many twists and turns will keep you guessing.
  11. Princeless:  Raven the Pirate Princess (Jeremy Whitley)
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    Though I haven’t kept up with this series, volume 1 is hilarious and makes a deliberate effort to represent women of color, multiple sexual orientations, and various body types.  The commentary here is smart and so relevant…plus who would turn down a story about an all-female pirate crew?
  12. Alabaster: Wolves (Caitlin Kiernan)
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    An albino teen is guided by angels to destroy vampires, demons, and all sorts of sinister creatures in the swamps of an eerily empty South Carolina.  Things get interesting right away as our protagonist begins to doubt her guardian angel and is drawn to a girl who may be something other than she appears.  Vol 1 is a compelling mixture of action and eerie silences in a decidedly Southern Gothic tradition.

Needless to say, my TBR list has now grown to an unmanageable length thanks to all of the titles include on NPR’s list (including Blacksad, a noir about a black cat PI?!?!?).  What are you reading this summer?

Cover photo by Laetitia Buscaylet on Unsplash
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Blogging 101

Nobody Expects the…

I was reading One Little Library’s post The Best of 2014 (So Far!) on her favorite books of 2014, which gave me inspiration for this post. Some of her favorites are ones she didn’t think she would like (Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest, for example, which sounds like a fun read).

So I thought for today’s Blogging 101 task, I’d make a list of some things I have expected to hate, but have actually enjoyed quite a lot this year:

  1. Battlestar Galactica: science fiction tv show about humanity’s struggle to survive after sentient robots attack.

I didn’t necessarily expect to hate this show, but didn’t expect to get so sucked in by the plot and characters. There’s a lot of sci-fi that is just a vehicle for phallic spaceships exploding, but this isn’t one of them. BSG is a really intelligently written show that uses its sci-fi premise to offer social criticism and make you very uncomfortable. You will probably be extremely upset that Starbuck is a fictional character if you watch.

  1. Hanging out by myself in public places.

I have a lot of down time between many of my shifts, but it’s not worth my time/gas money to drive home. As a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time in sandwich shops reading, eating, and/or watching bad movies. It’s been quite pleasant to sit in a corner while people make me food and expect minimal human interaction. Even though I would still rather sprawl at home on the couch with no bra.

  1. Wolf Children: anime about a woman struggling to raise her half-wolf children after their father dies.

Guys, I am really not someone who enjoys anime. It usually just confuses me endlessly, but Wolf Children was a lovely movie about loss, family relationships, and establishing an identity independently (spoiler alert: there are also wolves. And children). I find Hosoda’s films highly imaginative but grounded in the deep emotional connections between characters. Plus there’s some beautiful animation going on in his movies.

  1. Kindred by Octavia Butler: science fiction novel about an African-American woman in the 1970s who is thrown back to the early 19th century to guide her plantation-owner ancestor.

I find sci-fi is very hit or miss for me, so even though I’d heard great things about Octavia Butler, I was skeptical about picking up this novel. I’m so glad I gave it a chance—one of my favorite books of any genre now. Kindred is so action-packed and absorbing with some very unsettling observations about race and gender in both the past and the present. No matter how disturbing this book became, I couldn’t put it down until I knew how it ended.

  1. Enlightened: tv show about a woman trying to change her life and the corporation she works for after having a huge meltdown on the job.

Cheating because I didn’t expect to hate this show, but I did read a lot of negative reactions towards Laura Dern’s character, which put me off watching. I ended up loving her character, who is extremely flawed but stubbornly optimistic. I didn’t expect a show about a woman having a mid-life crisis to seem all too relevant to my own life, and for the writers to basically send a giant “fuck you” to corporate America. Added bonus is the appearance of Luke Wilson in this series, who is aging extremely well.

  1. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart: pretty much the contemporary YA version of King Lear.

I don’t read a ton of YA fiction (too much angst—been there, done that), but I wanted a nice light summer read. While I suppose it didn’t end up being nice or light, it was a lot of fun to read and kept me in suspense until the end. Much more carefully and intelligently written than many other YA novels out there.

  1. Iron Sky: bad movie about Nazis who colonize the moon post-WWII.

I didn’t expect to hate this movie, but I didn’t have high hopes for it. The premise sounded like it could either be brilliant or horrendous. With its hyper-awareness of its own absurdity and surprising amount of snide political commentary, it’s definitely one of my favorite bad movies now.

  1. The Walking Dead: I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you’re familiar with this show. If not, it’s a tv show about zombies.

I just started watching this show, and I’m enjoying it so much more than I thought I would. It’s really disgusting, which is somewhat problematic because I’m usually eating when I watch tv. That being said, it’s not (quite) as much about blood and guts as I thought it would be, though I’m not sure how much longer I can keep watching without becoming totally repulsed by the human race as a whole.

  1. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: comedy tv show.

Kind of cheating again because I couldn’t think of any reason I wouldn’t love John Oliver’s show. However, I do love it more than I thought humanly possible, especially this clip from his latest episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDPCmmZifE8.

What about you?

Have you been pleasantly surprised by anything that you initially thought would be terrible? Or maybe you’ve gone back to something you hated the first time and loved it the second time around.

Ha, I’ll hate you a lot if you say this blog. 🙂