Saturday, December 13, 2014

Incoming Books: early December 2014

This post -- which I'm afraid is going to be really long, since I have two tall stacks of books to work through -- is the result of four separate book-shopping experiences over the last few weeks. Two of them were by mail, from various comics shops (in Texas and Manhattan). One of them was at the physical location of the Manhattan comics shop, while killing time with my sons before a show at the New Victory theater a week ago Saturday. And the last was this past Monday, when I made a trip into the city -- ostensibly to do Christmas shopping, actually to hit the Strand and its neighbor Forbidden Planet, and meanwhile to have lunch and catch up with my old boss.

So there's a lot of books here, and I enjoy lists of books much more than a normal man should. I'll run through them in clumps to keep this from getting too gigantic, but be warned: there's a lot of books here, all of which I grabbed and was thrilled to pay money for. This may be dangerous to your wallet.

Filling Series and Reading Projects:

I realized while shelving Steven Brust's new novel Hawk a few months back that I was missing one of the books in that series. That just will not do, so now I have Iorich and my shelf is complete -- until Brust writes a new one.

Similarly, when Forge sent me Loren Estleman's newest "Amos Walker" PI novel, You Know Who Killed Me, recently, it reminded me I was missing the prior book, Don't Look for Me. But now I am not, and I've got the five most recent Walker books lined up for a mini-marathon sometime.

Flashman and the Redskins is one of the middle books in the great series by George MacDonald Fraser about one of history's great scoundrels. I'm re-collecting those, probably before a re-read sometime in the next decade, and now I'm one book closer.

Three Lew Archer novels by Ross Macdonald, also for a big re-read eventually: The Drowning Pool, Find a Victim, and The Galton Case. They probably all are about murders twenty years ago in Canada, but see if I care.

And I also found four books for my long-term Vintage Contemporaries reading project. In case you both don't already know and actually care, I'm reading one book from that series -- which launched about thirty years ago, in September of 1984, and seems to have published around a dozen books a year in the early days -- at the end of each month, more or less in publication order. I plan to do that until sometime in 2018, at least, when I hit the end of the books with the tight original series design. Or maybe longer -- who knows? The books I found were:
  • A Fan's Notes by Frederick Exley -- unfortunately, it's the 1988 edition, and some checking shows me there was an 1985 edition with the original series look. Since I'm a stickler, now I need to find the older version.
  • Visit from the Footbinder by Emily Prager -- short story collection from a writer I've never read
  • Anywhere But Here by Mona Simpson -- very well-regarded first novel from a writer I've never read
  • The Car Thief by Theodore Weesner -- novel and author that I've never heard of outside of this reading project

Actual Prose Books Unconnected to Anything Else

This is the shortest section, mostly because these particular shopping trips were so comics-intensive. But these four books are also all short, so they have a decent chance of coming up quickly in the reading rotation.

Saints and Strangers by Angela Carter -- I read one Carter book, long ago (maybe while I was still in high school). But she's always seemed like the kind of writer I would like, and I have big gaps in my reading where more literary fiction and books by women should be, so this is a nice corrective to that. This book was the third of her four short-story collections, all of which take mythic/folkloric material and give it nasty, modern twists.

Readings by Michael Dirda -- a book of essays about books, from the former Washington Post book-review editor. Dirda always struck me as one of the more sensible mainstream book critics, by which I mean that he liked SFF material some of the time and his other opinions often matched mine.

Popular Hits of the Showa Era by Ryu Murakami -- This was a pure serendipitous find, driven by the title and the cover, but it looks to be a very black comedy about a fairly literal war of the sexes among two groups in modern Japan.

The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise by George Perec -- Perec was the French master of stunt books, most famous for a novel that didn't use the letter E. This is a metafictional thing in the form of the manual implied by the title -- and I suspect all eighty pages may be one sentence, as well. I am a sucker for books like that.

Comics That Go Straight Onto the Shelves

This is stuff I've already read at least once, and don't plan to re-read immediately -- it's all pretty much replacements for the Great Flood of 2011.

Three big collections of John Allison's Bad Machinery comic -- I found all of them (so far) in two separate stores on two different days, all at a solid discount. This is clearly A Sign, particularly since I've already read and liked all three. (See my reviews: one, two, three.) Also to note: these are physically bigger than expected, giving Allison's art lots of space to shine. These three books are only the first ones on this list I hope to trick my sons into reading.

The Cowboy Wally Show by Kyle Baker -- It's rude and cruel to tell a creator that you like his early work best, but I really love the art style Baker had in the late '80s and early '90s. And I love his two books in that style -- this one and Why I Hate Saturn -- best as well. Sorry, man.

Two of Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot collections, since that's another series I don't want to live without: #2, The Wild Shall Wild Remain!, in the fancy 2012 hardcover; and #4, Fortune Favors the Bold! (yes, Burden is fond of the exclamation point), in the old Dark Horse trade paperback. How can we be in a new Golden Age of comics reprints if the Carrot is out of print, I ask you?

Alias the Cat! by Kim Deitch -- I've only got a couple of his books left to re-buy. It might be fun to re-read all of them once I do; there are obvious connections (like the character of Waldo), but I bet there's a lot of more subtle stuff as well.

The Fatal Bullet one of the many volumes in Rick Geary's "Treasury of Victorian Murder." I'm re-assembling all of them, though I doubt I'll do a read-through of the whole batch at any point -- that would be a bit too ghoulish.

Hellboy Library Edition, Vol. 6, to complete that collection of Mike Mignola's horned and red-right-handed monster-puncher. The stories are great, and the presentation is really top-notch, too.

Legend Of GrimJack, Vol. 2 by John Ostrander and Tim Truman -- the only one I was still missing.

Paul Has a Summer Job by Michel Rabagliati -- I was stunned to get this in an ex-library copy; I thought comics shops abhorred those as abominations. It's in nice condition otherwise, so I don't mind, but I've been spoiled by fanatic comic-shop condition-grading.

And Adrian Tomine's Summer Blonde, since he's someone else whose work I should really have in the library.

Comics That I Will Actually Read

And for the very last section, books that are both new and comics, many of which I plan to read before the end of the year (so I can include them, or not, in my "Favorites of the Year" post).

Chester Brown's Louis Riel -- I've been hot and cold on Brown's other books, but this is the least personal of his books, and it generally seems to be considered his best. (Brown strikes me as a slightly less extreme Dave Sim: Canadian, self-educated to very close to crankdom, obsessive, completely convinced his every last opinion is demonstrably true.)

Sugar Skull, the conclusion to Charles Burns's current, Tintin-inspired trilogy of graphic albums. The previous two books are X'ed Out and The Hive.

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins -- I had to take a look at it as soon as I heard the title. I've only poked through it a bit, but it does seem to live up to that title. Could be one of the books of the year if it does.

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft, adapted and drawn by I.N.J. Culbard -- Culbard has adapted a couple of other Lovecraft stories into comics form, and I've previous seen and liked his At the Mountains of Madness.

The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis -- a weird, surreal story by Davis, who was one of the co-editors of the magnificent themed anthology Nelson a few years back and who has also adapted Cervantes's Don Quixote to comics quite successfully.

Get a Life by Dupuy and Berberian -- I read this years ago, and never moved forward with the rest of the slice-of-life Mr. Jean stories from this team. But there's time to start again.

Satellite Sam, Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin -- Fraction has been writing a lot of good comics lately, and Chaykin's art has been wonderful for thirty years (even if his own writing is sometimes hit-or-miss, or two obsessed with the same few elements). So I'll take a look at this '50s SF/detective drama.

The Trouble With Girls, Vol. 1 by Will Jacobs, Gerard Jones, and Tim Hamilton -- I already have the second volume, and I think I'll find some time to re-read the two together. I used to really enjoy this series, and -- as I never tire of mentioning -- my wife did, too, back in the days when she'd read a few comics that I passed her.

Loverboys by Gilbert Hernandez -- yes, a second major standalone graphic novel from Beto this year, after Bumperhead. I'm not sure if the man sleeps, but don't think I'm complaining.

The Last Musketeer by Jason -- it was one of the first books of his I read, and I never owned a copy. So now I do, and I can take a fresh look at it.

Weapons of Mass Diplomacy by Abel Lanzac and Christophe Blain -- a major French graphic novel about war and diplomacy, written (under a pseudonym) by an actual aide to the then-French Foreign Minster.

Chew, Vol. 3 by John Layman and Rob Guillory -- I read the first two volumes earlier this year, and then sort-of forgot about this series. But I am enjoying it, so I plan to continue, as long as I can remember it exists.

Hellboy: House of The Living Dead by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben -- I never liked Corben's art before he started doing Hellboy stories, but I guess it's grown on me recently. And I never miss Mignola.

Johnny Nemo by Peter Milligan and Brett Ewins -- the title and cover of this book is confused, since most places have a "Complete" in that title, and a cover that doesn't match the real book in my hand. But this looks like a nicely-packaged collection of what I remember as a good series of '80s stories by an interesting and idiosyncratic team.

Mid-Life by Joe Ollmann -- this got good reviews when it came out a few years back, but I never found a copy then to look at. But I did this time, and it was even cheap, so I snapped it up.

The One Trick Rip Off + Deep Cuts by Paul Pope -- I've felt like I should read more Pope, and pay more attention to him, since the THB era. Maybe I actually will this time around.

Bumf, Vol. 1 by Joe Sacco -- online records for this book all have a subtitle, "I Buggered the Kaiser," which I can't find anywhere on the actual book. And this looks weird in other ways as well, as if Sacco was suddenly channeling his inner R. Crumb -- the political Crumb, mostly, rather than the lusting-after-women-with-big-butts Crumb.

The Shadow Master Series, Vol. 2 by Andy Helfer and Kyle Baker -- Hey, remember up a ways, where I talked about how much I liked Baker's art from the late '80s? I also loved this Shadow series from that era, which started with an entertainingly manic Howard Chaykin miniseries, and then moved into the Helfer-written regular series, first with Bill Sienkiewicz and then Baker. I think this story is still when Helfer was playing it mostly straight -- the series got really wacky and nutzo as it went along, and was brilliantly insane -- but I hope Dynamite can see the course and reprint all of it.

Andi Watson's Skeleton Key, Vol. 1 -- this is another series I intend to re-read in whole at some point, once I collect it all again.

Ricky Rouse Has a Gun by Jorg Tittel and John Aggs -- an original graphic novel set in a Chinese theme park that thinly rips off major American icons, featuring an action-movie plot. It looks really odd and interesting.

This might also be the point to mention that I bought three books at Forbidden Planet, including this one, and they were all from the UK's small press Self-Made Hero. Check them out: they're really doing a lot of great stuff.

And last is Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, which has gotten a lot of positive attention. I do read superheroes once in a while -- it's hard to avoid them in comics, actually.

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