Monday, February 08, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 2/6

Hola, muchachos!

You're back just in time for the longest-running feature on this (now very irregularly-updated) blog, the wondrous and thrilling Antick Musings: Reviewing the Mail! In this feature, I, your intrepid blogger, look deeply into a series of packages that arrive in my mail, find wonders within, and share them with you!

(Well, not literally share them -- I tell you what they are. You'll still have to go buy your own copies if you're interested.)

As always, I haven't read any of these books yet, so any errors of fact or interpretation are entirely my fault -- if a book seems like it's almost exactly the thing you want to read next, just assume I got that bit wrong and try it out.

Bigfootloose and Finn Fancy Free is the second book in Randy Henderson's urban fantasy series about a young man who spent twenty-five years in the realm of the Fey due to a (utterly untrue) accusation of necromancy. After the events of Finn Fancy Necromancy, he's now settling back into the real world, no longer with a threat of death over his head from those old charges, but his world is still weird and complicated, so there's plenty of supernatural stuff to cause trouble. (I'm also told that this series is substantially funnier than the usual run of urban fantasy, if you're looking for that.) Bigfootloose is a Tor hardcover, available February 16.

Also from Tor, also a February hardcover (one week later, on the 23rd), and also the second book in a fantasy series -- who says SFF isn't comfort food? -- is V.E. Schwab's A Gathering of Shadows. This is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, about several alternate-world Londons and the people that travel between them -- and I'm sure magical shenanigans continue in this book.

I also got a box of trade paperback collections from DC Comics, and I'm hoping they meant to send them to this Andrew Wheeler this time. The cover letter talks about the odder bits of what DC seems not to be calling "the New 52" anymore, so it may be true -- if they're actually trying to get outside the usual superhero-fanboy audience, more power to them.

All of these are coming out later this month.

Catwoman, Vol. 7: Inheritance is the one I'm least likely to dive right into, because, hello, volume seven. It's written by Genevieve Valentine and drawn by David Messina, and collects issues 41 to 46 of the current series -- and it looks to bring crime fiction much higher in the mix than usual for DC, and tone down superheroing somewhat.

Secret Six, Vol. 1: Friends in Low Places collects the latest relaunching of a cult series that I've managed to read hardly ever, in any of its incarnations. (Wait: there was a serial in that odd period when Action was a weekly, and I know I read that.) This time out, it's written by Gail Simone and has art by a whole bunch of people, which usually isn't a good sign when there's only six issues reprinted. And the setup is a bit different from the previous Secret Six series, drawing from Suicide Squad and Thunderbolts and maybe even Judge: this time, six very minor characters (some maybe new) were shanghaied to a mysterious coffin-shaped box-room somewhere, and told to solve strange puzzles by an enigmatic voice, on pain of death. I'm sure, though, eventually they get out into the world and start punching bad-guys, because it's a DC comic.

Batgirl, Vol. 2: Family Business continues the hipster-Batgirl storyline, this time bringing our girl Babs into conflict with the new robot-suit-with-bunny-ears Batman (not the stupidest idea in mainstream comics this past year, but not through lack of trying), who is also Her Father. DRAMA!!!! This is written by Cameron Stewart and Brendan Fletcher, with art by Babs Tarr, including lots of combat-boots-on-bunny-ears action.

Doomed seems to collect a miniseries -- it has no volume number, at least -- that came out of a Superman storyline that brought Doomsday into this latest version of the DC universe. This particular story steals Spider-Man's origin -- young nerd is at high-tech facility, things go wrong, and he has amazing new powers -- with a side order of the Hulk. I assume our kid hero eventually decides he has to fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, again, because DC. It's written by Scott Lobdell with art by Javier Fernandez.

And last is Midnighter, Vol. 1: Out, the comic that exists because I guess DC is shy about having Batman on every cover, and needs a pseudo-Batman to pick up the slack. (OK, Midnighter is gay, which I guess makes him slightly different -- he is still gay, right? DC didn't quietly retcon that? -- and I think he also has a Wolverine-level violent-asshole level, so he's more Jean-Claude Valley than Bruce Wayne. But still: Batman clone in Batman's world. I kid, I kid -- I think there's decent buzz about this in the usual I-love-very-slightly-quirky-superheroes sectors of the internet, so maybe it's not just a "what if Batman beat people to death with metal pipes?" kind of book. It's written by Steve Orlando, with art by a number of people led off by an entity known as Aco.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Incoming Books: February 5

So I ordered a big box of books a week or so ago, and promptly forgot about it. (My usual comic shop had a big, nearly-all-GNs-40%-off, sale, and I usually wait for those to get the stuff I wanted to buy anyway.) That box arrived yesterday, to my surprise and delight.

And here's what was in that box, a diverse collection of comics that I've either already read once or desperately wanted to own and read. (Well, more or less.)

Bat Boy: The Complete Weekly World News Comic Strips by Peter Bagge -- Bagge is, of course, most famous as the creator of Hate and was the premiere comics chronicler of the slacker lifestyle of the '90s. And Bat Boy was the creation/mascot/demented id of the least factual newspaper of all time, the Weekly World News (which might even still be running, bless its heart). The two collided about a decade ago, when Bagge drew strips about BB for the WWN for about two years. I'm a big fan of demented comics, from Bob Burden to Ted McKeever, and this could just possibly make it up to that level.

Why I Hate Saturn by Kyle Baker -- this was probably my favorite graphic novel of all time for a good ten-year span, and I'm not sure that it doesn't still hold that title, even now. And now that I have a new copy, so I can read it again and find out.

Nexus Archives Vol. 1 by Mike Baron and Steve Rude -- I liked this SFnal series about mass murderers, revenge, and justice when I first read it back in the '80s, and keep thinking I should get all of these archive volumes and read it straight through. I now have volumes 1, 3, 4, and 5, so I'm getting there.

American Flagg! Vol. 1 -- One of the great signposts of how both good and how bad serialized monthly comics could be [1], Chaykin's great SFnal series of the mid-80s came out of nowhere and mostly went back there after it ended; I get the sense that other than a few stalwarts (including Michael Chabon!), this series is left unremembered. That's unfortunate, but the world is bigand full of wonders, and we can't gawk at all of them all of the time. I gawked at this particular one when it was first reprinted in this fancy hardcover form, and now I can do it again.

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III -- if I have to explain this, you're really reading the wrong blog. Gaiman's been a rock star in both comics and SFF since (and because of) the original Sandman series in the early '90s, and this was his reunion tour.

A Gregory Treasury, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 by Marc Hempel -- I haven't seen anything from Hempel in a while, so I hope he wandered away from comics to do something as creatively fulfilling that pays better (animation sucks up a lot of comics-makers who like to eat regularly). These two small books collect a series of oddball stories about a small person in an insane asylum -- and they're funny, light-hearted, lovely little stories, too. (And clearly not that popular; the copies I got both have just ISBN-10s on the back, which is a big flag for anyone in the publishing biz that they haven't been reprinted in a long time.)

Two Brothers by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba -- the new graphic novel by the really talented South American twins. I think this adapts some novel I haven't otherwise heard of, but I don't really care -- I'm here because of Ba and Moon.

The Puma Blues by Stephen Murphy and Michael Zulli -- this is a classy, acclaimed, black-and-white comic from the '80s that I never really read at the time. (My brother loved it, and maybe I subconsciously left it as "his.") And now it's a single gigantic book, about thirty years later.

The Complete Peanuts 1950-1952 by Charles M. Schulz -- I lost the first twenty-five years or so of the collected Peanuts in the 2011 flood, and haven't really started to regather them. But this first volume could either stand by itself or be a good place to re-start.

Bookhunter by Jason Shiga -- this might not be my absolute favorite Shiga book, since Meanwhile is so complexly awesome and unique. But it's the '70s-action-movie style story of a library cop, in the inimitable Shiga style, so it's better than most things by most people.

And last from that big box was I Don't Get It, a book of single-panel cartoons by Shannon Wheeler. I like single-panel cartoons, and people named Wheeler -- even those completely unrelated to me -- are obvious super-smart and totally awesome at everything they do.

Oh, wait! I also got a copy of Love And Rockets: New Stories No. 8 by the Bros. Hernandez this week, the last piece of the big Cyber Monday Fantagraphics order that I placed on a day I hope you can figure out from context. That was separate from the big box, obviously, but it fits the theme, and it's another thing to read.

[1] Alan Moore did a one-issue story about sex-cops that is not only the worst thing he ever wrote, it comes close to being the worst comic of the 1980s, against really strong competition.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 1/30

Sometimes people send me free books -- I know; I can hardly believe it myself -- and I list them here every Monday. (I review books here as well, though nothing like as consistently as that.)

This week, I have one book, a manga volume from the fine folks at Vertical. It was officially published about two weeks ago, so you should be able to find it at the book purveyor of your choice.

That book is A Girl on the Shore, the new story -- complete in one volume, like a novel or a "graphic novel," and unlike what we usually think of as manga on this side of the Pacific -- from Inio Asano, creator of Nijigahara Holograph and Solanin. (Both of those links are to my reviews, here on Antick Musings.) Asano is a real talent, coming off two excellent books, so I'm looking forward to this one -- even if it looks to be more of a genre exercise, the story of a young summer love in the year before high school. (That's a very traditional time for such stories in Japan, since the three high school years are proverbially crammed with activities and any kid with home of becoming someone has no time for anything but work once high school starts.) I don't know if Shore will go creepy like Holograph or slice-of-life like Solanin -- or even head off in a new direction -- but I'm ready to see what Asano has for us this time.

Read in January

Hello, and welcome to February, the typically dreariest month of the year (if you live in my hemisphere). I don't know if this will help, but have a list of books that one random middle-aged man read last month.

Jillian Tamaki, SuperMutant Magic Academy (1/4)

Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Saga, Vol. 5 (1/5)

John Allison, Bad Machinery: The Case of the Lonely One (1/6)

M.K. Brown, Stranger Than Life (1/8)

Alex Robinson, Our Expanding Universe (1/11)

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.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Happy to See the End of January

January seems to be scheming to steal my weekends. A week ago, there was the giant killer storm -- one of the Jonas brothers, I think -- which left the whole family stuck indoors and reminded me how much I dislike shoveling snow. (My sons would probably not mind the stuck-indoors bit as much, but were even less happy to shovel.)

And then this weekend the Creeping Crud is running through the family -- my wife got it on Friday and spent a day with the usual intestinal issues that make winter sicknesses such a joy. Somehow she passed it to me yesterday, and I had my fun time then. It seems to be one of those 24-hour things, since we're both better (not good, but better), and starting to tentatively think about maybe eating something, sometime, possibly. So far the boys are unaffected, either because of the robustness of youth or because they spend all of their times in their rooms in front of screens and thus don't interact enough with us to be infected.

Anyway, I was hoping to do some blogging this weekend, and set up a few reviews to post over the next week. (Particularly the next book in my Vintage Contemporaries series -- I know no one else in the world cares about that, but it's a way to stretch my writing-about-books muscles, so I like that better than any of the other kinds of blogging I do.) That didn't happen yet, and I don't think it will: this will be a quiet day of recuperation.

But I was at least intending to write blog posts, which is a thin ray of sunlight if you want to think of it that way.

Hope the rest of you are having a more pleasant January.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 1/23

Greetings, cake-sniffers!

Did you all survive the Snowpocalypse? (Or, if you live anywhere but the US East Coast, are you smugly happy that it happened somewhere else?)

Either way, welcome to Monday once again. I list some books here every week, historically because they came to me in the mail from publicity folks. This week, I do have a couple of those, and one book I paid money for, to mix things up.

In the Surprises in the Mail category, I have volumes 2 and 3 of Hajime Segawa's manga series Tokyo ESP, which is (as far as I know) about teenagers at school, their various superpowers, young love, the fate of the world, and all that usual stuff. Both of these volumes were published by Vertical -- it would be odd if they had different publishers, since they came in the same package -- but I'm not entirely sure when they were/are published, since the books just say "2015" and "2016." (And, as you know Bob, a year is a long time. And eight is a lot of legs, David, but leave that aside for now.)

The book I paid money for is Gahan Wilson's Out There, a collection of his cartoons from The Magazine of Fantasy and SF. I got it from Fantagraphics, its publisher, in their big Black Friday sale, which surprisingly included things that hadn't been published yet (like this). Getting this book, I realize it's more to my tastes than expected -- I got it because it was a new collection of Wilson cartoons, but I didn't realize the F&SF connection, or that it also included the short stories and book-review columns he also did for the magazine over the same period (1964 to 1981 -- are those the Ferman years, more or less?) So this is a better book than I thought it was, which is always gratifying.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reviewing the Mail: Week of January 16

Hey, I'm back again. And this week, I want to try to correct what might be an incorrect assumption some people might have. (Is that enough waffling for one sentence?)

I do get some books for free, and I'm very grateful for that. As part of that gratefulness, and to do a tiny bit to keep the free stuff coming, I do this post every Monday morning. (It looks somewhat different when I have books to write about, but bear with me.)

But, here's the thing: that's not enough. It's not what publicists are actually looking for. They want someone with an actual platform (meaning a stable, and preferably growing, audience who care about a particular genre) who will review those books in a timely manner, and, preferably, do galley giveaways and author interviews and blog tours and all that other stuff that raises awareness and sells books.

I pretty much don't do any of that. I got onto publicity lists because I had a lot of publishing contacts, because I had a book-focused blog during the great Blog Surge of 2007, because I did a lot of reviews for a number of years, and because those publicists were throwing what they had against every wall they could find to see where it stuck. But, these days, I am a very bad wall for their purposes. They know that, and I know that. And I don't make much effort to be a better wall.

There was a time when I was reading and writing about books when they were still somewhat new, and at that point I was a half-decent target for a publicist. I'm not doing that now, and -- I think I've said this before -- I would not send me free books. Seriously: I'm not doing what they're looking for. I've never even made much effort to ask publicists for books, which is Step One for a book blogger.

So the long thread of free books may finally be petering out for me, and that is totally fine. To keep it going, I'd have to spend a lot more time reading and reviewing books in specific genres -- since that is why publicists send books out, to get coverage focused on particular genre readers -- and that's not how I want to spend my time these days. (And I have a lot less time these days to begin with.)

I'm not killing this blog; I'm not even killing "Reviewing the Mail" yet. But the latter will probably happen, and the blog itself is more and more often in deep storage. Luckily for you stalwarts, I'm the kind of person who never gives up on anything and treasures routine above all else -- I'm still playing, pretty regularly, a Mac game I got at college in 1988 -- so there will be stuff on Antick Musings as long as I'm around. Maybe only haphazard stuff every once in a long while, but stuff.

That's what I can promise.

In the meantime, I bought a couple of books yesterday and wrote about them here. Hey, a post!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Incoming Books: January 15

I needed to buy a few things -- primarily, a possible new commuting bag -- with the ability to return them easily, so I placed an order from that hegemonic South American river at the beginning of this week. And of course I had to throw in a couple of books, which I hadn't found in the last couple of stores I was in. [1]

First up is the finale of Lemony Snicket's current four-book series for middle-grade readers, "Why Is This Night Different from All Other Nights?" Snicket is a very sneaky writer with unexpected depths, perhaps even more so under that name than when he's writing as Daniel Handler (his actual, person-living-in-the-real-world name). I expect to read this immediately -- it's short and Snicket is that good. If you're interested in what I wrote about the earlier books, here's one, two, and three.

And the other one was the newish collection of Kate Beaton's random comics, Step Aside, Pops. And I really hope you know who Kate Beaton is by now.

[1] Whether if was reasonable to expect these two books to be available in those stores, or the exact nature of those stores, I'll remain silent about.