Monday, February 01, 2016
Edit, in early March: OK, I'm raising the white flag, and admitting that these books won't get full posts. But I'm backfilling something about them here, so I can get them off the corner of my desk and onto shelves, where they should be. (I find my own expectations and routines are my worst enemies.)
Jillian Tamaki, SuperMutant Magic Academy (1/4)
The acclaimed webcomic collected in one book -- Tamaki was telling one story, and ended it, so this is all they'll ever be. (Until twenty years from now, when she is enticed to do SuperMutant: The Next Generation for a huge pile of money, we should all be so lucky.) If you're not sure who Tamaki is, she was half of the team on Skim and This One Summer -- and you've read (or at least heard of) those, haven't you? Also: it's a webcomic; just read some of it, and then buy the book. Simple!
It's episodic, as a webcomic will inevitably be, but that works well to show the pace of life in this vaguely Potter-influenced boarding school of oddballs and wizards and mutants and others. Tamaki has some great characters here: specific and quirky and contradictory and very much teenagers. I hope she does some other solo long-form work very soon, or at least starts up another webcomic.
(And I do have to comment that the title keeps amusing me: since I've been playing a lot of Fallout games over the past year, "Super Mutant" has a very different image in my head!)
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Saga, Vol. 5 (1/5)
I always have trouble reviewing a chunk of middle, and serial comics are nothing but middle. Saga isn't that bad -- I get the sense that there's an overall story arc already planned out, even if it will take three or five more years to get to the end of it -- but this particular volume is very middle-y, full of the people we already know running around in different directions at high speed to add plot complications. (This is also the book where Vaughan officially splits the party, always a bad sign in gaming or sagas.)
I'm still enjoying Saga, but this particular chunk feels closer to rote to me, as if Vaughan has some cool stuff he wants to get to, but wants to spin his wheels for a while first to make the story longer. (Which was pretty much exactly my problem with his earlier Ex Machina.) In any case, if you've been reading this, you know if you'll continue. If you haven't been, the words you want to read are my review of the first volume, which is much more apropos.
Bad Machinery: The Case of the Lonely One (1/6)
Allison is a mad genius of comics, and everyone should read his books. Now!
OK, so you might want more than that. I guess. This is the fourth case investigated by a gaggle of British schoolkids (secondary school; they're roughly high school freshmen at this point) in Allison's odd and interesting village of Tackleford. All of the cases are vaguely supernatural, and Allison's plotting is amusingly non-linear; things wander around in what can seem an aimless manner until they all come together at the end. And his characters are wonderfully witty, with great individual voices.
For a general Allison overview, see my review of four volumes of his Scary Go Round series. For the prior Bad Machinery books -- oh, and, by the way, Allison is still getting better, so Bad Machinery is smarter and funnier and more solidly plotted than even the wonderful Scary Go Round was -- see volumes one and two and three. And then go buy everything he's ever done.
M.K. Brown, Stranger Than Life (1/8)
The good news is that this book contains most of M.K. Brown's idiosyncratic output from 1970 through 2013, which is wonderful for those of us who remember her lovely colors, quirky sense of humor, and amusingly disjointed line from the National Lampoon and other places. (And offers a great opportunity for those who don't remember her work to discover it as well.) The bad news is that there's just this one book, and that the world has not provided more opportunity for Brown to make her great comics, as it was supposed to.
But we do have this, with single-panel cartoons and longer strips, surreal moments and comments on passing fads, strange people doing strange things strangely, all drawn in Brown's inimitable style. She's even got comments and notes throughout, explaining some of the things that can be explained.
Alex Robinson, Our Expanding Universe (1/11)
Robinson makes smart, deep graphic novels about real people that don't easily boil down to a quick Hollywood-style description -- particularly when you're trying to remember them two months later. This one is a about a group of male friends, hitting that age when the group of friends is no longer the most important thing in life, with babies on the way or already here, secrets kept, and career hiccups.
So it's like a real novel, the kind with just words, only it has pictures, too! Seriously, Robinson could have been the Nick Hornby of a world that likes a different kind of comics. He's smart and fun and accessible all at once, and makes great stories. They're just difficult to write about, particularly with my current handicaps (no time, read a while ago, etc.)
Ben Towle, Oyster War (1/12)
John Layman and Rob Guillory, Chew, Vol. 3 (1/13)
John Layman and Rob Guillory, Chew, Vol. 4 (1/14)
Walt Kelly, Pogo, Vol. 3: Evidence to the Contrary (1/14)
John Layman and Rob Guillory, Chew, Vol. 5 (1/15)
Sean McMullen, The Time Engine (1/15)
Kate Beaton, Step Aside, Pops (1/29)
Vanyda, The Building Opposite (1/20)
Lemony Snicket, "Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights?" (2/22)
Mike Grell, The Complete Jon Sable Freelance, Vol. 1 (1/25)
Mike Grell, The Complete Jon Sable Freelance, Vol. 2 (1/26)
Mike Grell, The Complete Jon Sable Freelance, Vol. 3 (1/27)
Mike Grell, Jon Sable Freelance: Bloodtrail (1/29)
Charles Portis, Norwood (1/29)
There are no links yet; these books are sitting in a stack on the edge of my desk. I do hope to turn them into links sometime in the near future. But, even without links, it's a list of interesting books, which ain't nothing.