Thursday, July 31, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #212: Rocky & Bullwinkle, Vol. 1 by Evanier and Langridge

This review sees me flying more blind than usual: I got this book from the folks at NetGalley, and what they sent me was just a PDF of the story pages. No covers, no description, no front matter, no copyright page, no title page, not even any creator credits. From elsewhere on these fine Interwebs, I believe that this book was written entirely by Mark Evanier and drawn entirely by Roger Langridge -- both people whose work I respect, and both of whose hands I think I can detect in this book -- but there's a slim chance that the Interwebs are incorrect in this case.

(NetGalley's own site lists only Langridge, with no whisper of Evanier. That could be correct, too, but I don't think so.)

But do we need to know who created something to enjoy it, and write about it afterward? No, not at all. If symphony orchestras can audition new players blind, I can certainly read some Rocky & Bullwinkle comics stories semi-blind. (And love it all the way.)

So: Rocky & Bullwinkle, Vol. 1 -- if that is the real full title, since NetGalley is vague there as well -- collects the first four issues of the comics series, each of which has a R&B story in two parts, separated by a shorter Dudley Do-Right story. And, if you recognize those characters at all, you have an idea about what those stories should be like.

But your question is: am I right? Are these reasonable comics-format facsimiles of the old Jay Ward cartoons, full of quirky puns and obscure references and silliness that isn't quite as childish as it seems? You will be happy to know that you are right. Langridge may not have written these stories -- as far as I can tell -- but they follow in the tradition of his Muppet Show comics that way: they translate the essence of a classic cartoon TV show into comics panels, keeping the tone and style and verve of the originals but telling new stories.

Langridge seems to be working closer to model than he did on the Muppet comics, which makes the book look less Langridge-y and more Jay Ward. (I personally think Langridge's art loses some energy along that way to slavish reproduction, but the audience for on-model Bullwinkle is presumably larger than for off-model.) It is a crisp, precise Jay Ward look, without as many Landgridgian embellishments in the background as some of his other work, which focuses the humor into the wordplay -- again, very much in the spirit of the original Jay Ward cartoons.

These are funny, witty comics, very much in the spirit of the originals and with a visual look very close to the originals. (Though, given the budget Ward had to work with in those days, these stories actually look better than the originals: more colorful and with more details in the world.) If you wanted more stories about "moose & squirrel," you are very much in luck.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Amazon and the Myth of Perfect Pricing

For the "world's most consumer-centric company," Amazon has real trouble actually talking to people. Their corporate communiques tend to be written in clotted, hermetic language; are few and far between; and appear only when posted on obscure corners of their own site. Amazon's managers and leaders are never quoted in the media, except for an occasional Bezos sighting. And both customers and suppliers struggle to connect with a human being at Amazon at all times.

And yet Amazon has a universal reputation for making customers happy, driven primarily by low prices and lenient return policies -- in this, as in so many other things, they've been using their investors' money to buy customers for almost two decades now. It has definitely been a successful strategy: they outcompeted, outlasted, and outgrew their Web 1.0 rivals to become the dominant online retailer and one of the world's top retailers, period.

Now, though, there's a sense that Amazon has to actually become strongly profitable soon -- like Bullwinkle and the hat, this time for sure! There's finally some mild pressure from the investing community to show profits commensurate with their valuation and sales, and the stock took a minor hit from the lousy recent quarterly results. For most companies, this would be an everyday occurrence, but Amazon has had a charmed life with investors for a long time -- they've gotten more time and benefit of the doubt than any other company in American history.

This is what's behind Amazon's current simmering conflict with Hachette: Amazon wants to be able to continue as it's gone (discounting to equal or better the competition's prices; expensive loyalty programs to lock in customers; aggressive expansion into new devices, new business models, and new territories; benign neglect from The Street and an ever-soaring stock price) and also generate more cash. The easiest way to generate more cash, as Walmart discovered before them, is to squeeze your suppliers: once you're that big, they're more dependent on you than you are on them, so you're likely to win that squeeze.

Amazon, though, wants to be loved. It's not enough that they force their suppliers to pay to have buy buttons that work, or pay to have their products actually show up in searches, or pay for an Amazon employee that the supplier can actually talk to and get results from. (Though Amazon has been forcing their suppliers to do all of these things for a long time. And Barnes & Noble forces their suppliers to do similar things, as do Walmart and your local grocery-store chain.) Amazon is an Internet-era company, so they need the world to admit that they are right and that their way of doing business is better and more special than anything the world ever saw before the Glory of Bezos was unfurled.

And putting their urge to be loved along with their borderline-incompetent public relations causes some interesting results: lots of wonky talk about "demand-weighted units" (what you or I would call books) and naked attempts to subvert the authors of the world away from their current publishers to the Glorious Land of Amazon, where payments are currently 70% (but can be changed, without notice, to any figure, at any time, on Amazon's sole discretion -- including giving it away for free to anyone who might want your book). This has not been notably successful: authors are fractious and squabbling -- and have never been terribly happy with publishers in the best of times -- but can all read, and most of them recognize bad contracts when they see one.

So Amazon's boosters remain who they have always been: the few self-publishers who won that particular lottery and have made a lot of money because of Amazon's terms and market. (Every publishing ecosystem is a lottery, and only a very few writers are ever big winners in any of them -- the trickier question is which ecosystems are better for the vast majority of authors who will never hit big.)

But they keep trying. Even after a couple of failed "offers" to Hachette, for both sides to give away their profits to compensate authors, they keep trying. (Those offers were very carefully chosen -- Amazon is full of smart, sneaky people, and their tactics are routinely brilliant when they don't have to account for the preferences of small groups of individual, grumpy authors -- to do the maximum damage to Hachette, cause the minimum damage to Amazon, and seem the most generous possible offer to authors. Unfortunately for Amazon, the authors realized this.)

Now, they're going back to one of their favorite tactics: the naked unsupported statistic, carefully deployed. Their latest salvo against Hachette -- again, remember that their real audience is Hachette authors; they're trying to demoralize the rank and file of the opposing army and force a capitulation -- relies on declared Amazon experience on the sales of ebooks to "prove" that $9.99 is the best price for an ebook.

(And many Amazon boosters have missed that message, actually -- they're crowing that Amazon has declared that lower prices are always better. Read more closely: Amazon is declaring that $9.99 is better than $14.99 for maximizing revenue. They say nothing about lower prices, which may be because they don't want to spook traditionally-published authors, or may be because prices lower than that decrease revenue. Or there may be some other reason: we don't know. What we do know is what Amazon is implying -- that $9.99 is the price point that maximizes revenue from an ebook.)

But note what Amazon is ignoring: primarily, the existence of other formats of that same content, with varying prices and varying responses to ebook discounting. (And secondly, the existence of a market outside of their own site -- though any damage to sales elsewhere due to their pricing changes would clearly be a feature rather than a bug.) That $14.99 ebook is likely also a $19.95 trade paperback or $24.95 hardcover. Presumably, Amazon can track the effect of sales on Amazon of print editions correlated to changes in ebook pricing, but they say nothing about such sales.

Does dropping the ebook to $9.99 lower hardcover sales by 25%? Or 75% Or none? Could it perhaps slightly increase sales of the hardcover, due to greater buzz and publicity? Amazon doesn't say; it takes no stance on the changing sales of print editions. (And note that, according to the latest BookStats report, ebooks are approximately $3 billion of the total $27 billion book market, having dropped very slightly from 2012 to 2013. There's a massive not-ebook market to be concerned about.)

Given that silence, one could assume that print editions take a hit when ebook prices lower. That fits expectations, and is a reasonable assumption. (Which means that it's certainly wrong, in at least some cases.) And it would only take a slight drop in print sales to wipe out the revenue gains Amazon trumpets as the whole point of moving all ebook prices to $9.99.

Authors: you each need to weigh your own situations, your own contracts, and your own sales, and do what's best for your own careers. That may even mean maximizing units sold rather than revenue -- particularly if you write the kind of nonfiction that leads to more lucrative consulting work, for example -- depending on your particular goals. And you need to be clear what data Amazon is extrapolating from, and what pieces of that dataset they know but aren't talking about.

But please don't forget that Amazon is explicitly trying to drive a wedge between you and your publishers. They would prefer that authors deal with them one-by-one, because in that situation they have all of the power and can use those we-change-them-when-we-feel-like contracts. Always know what your contracts allow -- the worst-case details were written in there for a reason, by someone specific, and they weren't put in frivolously. (This applies to contracts with anyone, mind you.)

There's less to say to consumers: you generally prefer lower prices, obviously. Everyone prefers that prices are low when they buy and high when they sell. And arguments that a certain level of revenue are necessary to keep an industry running at such-and-such a level are not likely to convince anyone: I'm not about to agree with some blogger who says I need to make sure I pay at least $2.50/pound for my apples to maintain that industry, so I won't try to make an argument like that about books. But I do buy apples from my local greengrocer, because they're fresh, because I can inspect and pick them myself, and because that business pays people who live in my community. And a similar argument can be made for books.

(Of course, if you disagree, you can use this link.)

Book-A-Day 2014 #211: The Auteur, Book One: President's Day by Spears, and Callahan

You know, just once I'd like to see a story about a Hollywood producer who's hardworking, serious about his profession, basically respectful to other people, and a teetotaller. Just once: that's all I ask.

I'm not going to get that in The Auteur; that's for sure: this is a gonzo, drug-fueled charge through all of the expected standard Hollywood tropes: top producer Nathan T. Rex is shallow, vain, obsessed with movies, self-important, utterly lacking in self-knowledge, massively indulged, and almost completely deranged. (Those also are his good qualities.) The world he inhabits is equally cartoonish and garish, full of shallow starlets, prima donna directors, Dr. Feelgood gurus, and the inevitable serial-murdering psychopath. And he's working on the movie that could break his career, of course -- a low-budget horror movie called President's Day -- at the same time he's concerned about making great art and obsessed with the behind of a woman he saw randomly. (That's what passes for True Love in Hollywood: the sight of a perfect ass, and the subsequent obsession therewith.)

And yet The Auteur, Book One: President's Day still manages to surprise -- it finds a way to go beyond even our expectations for a sleazy, aren't-these-Hollywood-types-crazy story, to soar so far above the top that the top isn't even visible in these pages. Equal credit needs to be given to the two main creative minds at work here: writer Rick Spears created this fever dream of a plot, and crafted the dialogue that brings these characters up to nearly two dimensions. And then James Callahan drew like a madman: blood spurting, eyeballs popping, butts jiggling, hallucinogenic colors vibrating, madness spilling off the page at every turn.

There is nothing at all subtle in this book; I don't expect there will be anything subtle about The Auteur as long as it runs. (I'm not sure why this is an ongoing series, aside from comics' mania for never telling a complete story -- the set-up would be perfect to tell the one story about this guy, end it definitively, and be done. But comics demands product every month, so we'll see more exploits of "T-Rex" for as long as possible.) But there's something lovable about The Auteur's brassy craziness, about this world where men wear suits with short pants so they can have "testicle slips" and convicted murderers are freed by minor bribery -- it's bright and bigger than life and utterly, utterly nutty. I'm afraid it will eventually turn into the story of Nathan's redemption, because that's what all Hollywood stories do, in the end -- but it'll be a great ride for as long as he can stay a magnificent bastard.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #210: Rocket Girl Vol. 1: Times Squared by Montclare & Reeder

DaYoung Johansson is a good cop, the latest in a long line of fictional cops driven to seek out the truth, no matter what. But she's coming from somewhere more interesting than most of those predecessors, and going somewhere more mundane, inverting the usual pattern.

DaYoung is a detective in the New York Teen Police Department -- she's fifteen, in mid-career -- in a utopian 2013 that bears very little resemblance to our world. She's got what looks like a spacesuit, complete with full-face helmet and rocket pack, but it seems like her department is pretty small, and their work more public-relations than tough policing. But DaYoung has a cop's tenacity, and what she thinks is the biggest case possible: that Quintum Mechanics, the megacorporation that invented time travel and turned NYC into a utopia, is dirty at its core.

So she jumps into that time machine, to send herself back to 1986 and Quintum's first successful experiment with their Q-Engine, to stop that experiment. To keep her supposedly utopian world from ever existing.

That could be a relatively straightforward story -- despite the time travel, and the oddity of teen cops (which, coupled with the utopian alternative world, make me think of Scott McCloud's Zot!, though that's probably not intended) -- but not in this telling. Writer Brandon Montclare does the usual adventure-comics thing of throwing us into the middle and only explaining afterwards, and the other usual thing of having shadowy figures sitting in a room discussing how they're secretly manipulating the plot of the book and possibly the entire world. (It all works -- it's zippy and smart about time travel and avoids being too obvious about itself -- but it's nothing you haven't seen before.) Artist Amy Reeder, though, takes that story and draws it into unusually-shaped panels, crammed full of detail and incident, fused with a strong sense of page design. She sells this story, with body language and faces and the background signs and grime to show this really is 1986. Without her, this would be a decent adventure story. With her, it's something much more kinetic and exciting.

It's Rocket Girl Vol. 1: Times Squared. The series is ongoing in floppy-comics form; this first book is mostly introductory, to show us DaYoung and her two worlds -- the one she came from, and the one she's stuck in. This time out, we meet DaYoung and her supporting cast, start to get a sense of just how sneaky and creepy Quintum is, and understand the world. There will be much more -- and, as long as Reeder stays this inspired and thrilling, it will be utterly worth reading.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

Monday, July 28, 2014

Book-A-Day 2-14 #209: Chew, Vol. 1: Taster's Choice by Layman and Guillory

There's no particular reason why comics would have more outlandish premises than any other artform -- sure, it is cheap to do fantasy and science fiction in comics form, since you just need someone to draw it, but the written word is as cheap or cheaper. I suspect it has to do with the influence of superheroes: they're so outlandish and silly that they open up the entire medium to things that are outlandish in completely different ways.

Take Chew, for example. There's nothing in the first volume -- Chew Volume 1: Tasters Choice, one of the finest debuts of 2009 -- that couldn't be done easily on a TV show. But the premise wouldn't fly there: it's too weird for most media. But not for comics.

Writer John Layman works hard to sell his premise -- I'll get to it in a minute, scout's honor -- with a friendly, discursive style in his captions (they calm down after the first couple of issues, once the big work of world-building is done) and plenty of fizzy, occasionally self-referential dialogue. And artist Rob Guillory keeps this world looking a few shades more caricatured and grotesque than the real world, the kind of place where bizarre things would happen. Even the coloring -- by Guillory again; this is the kind of book by a tight small team doing all of it, and it's no surprise that books like that are most likely to be really good -- is a few clicks away from naturalistic, with great scene-setting washes and specific palettes for pages and places.

So Layman and Guillory sell it: they sell it well. If you can buy the idea, you can settle in, because they're ready to spin it out into a thousand utterly plausible consequences, and make it convincing -- as long as you accept that premise.

I've been saying "premise," but it's really two things. One: there are some people who are cibopathic; they get psychic resonances from the things they eat. Tony Chu, a detective with the Philadelphia PD, is one of them -- he thinks the only one. And Two, chicken has been outlawed as a food after a horrific worldwide outbreak of bird flu -- but it's clear, very early on, that effect and cause are not as closely linked, nor necessarily causally connected at all, as the world has been told.

So: Tony Chu solves crimes -- often in unpleasant ways. He can bite part of a murder victim and know who the murderer was. And he's kept this secret for years. But Chew is the story of what happens when he finds out he's not the only cibopath, when he's recruited into the FDA -- in this world, a massively powerful engine devoted to tracking down and eliminating chicken trafficking -- and when he meets the woman whose written descriptions of food are so mesmerizing that her readers have the exact sensation of eating those foods.

It is a romp with a serious core, a book with violence and humor and adventure and intrigue and secret government conspiracies and bad bosses and mysterious co-workers and hidden agendas and (maybe) true love and One Good Cop at its heart. It could have made a great TV show, in some other world. It did make a great comic, in ours. And I'll be looking for the later volumes pretty damn quick.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 7/26

Every week, I get mail from publishers, because I do things like this: I write up an annotated list of those books, trying to indicate what's interesting or special (or strange, sometimes) about each of them. Here's this week's list; I haven't read any of them yet, so there's always the chance that I'm horribly wrong about any of these details:

Chi's Sweet Home, Vol. 11 is the latest in the manga series about a cat and his family by Konami Kanata. I don't seem to have reviewed any of these, though I know my two sons like them quite a bit -- it's a semi-realistic (the cat addresses the reader, but otherwise acts just like a regular kitten) slice-of-life story, for those who can't get enough cat-romping. It's available now from Vertical.

Also from Vertical and available now: Knights of Sidonia, Vol. 10 by Tsutomu Nihei, continuing the space-opera series about the last starship of humans, the creepy space-tentacle monsters they fight, and the giant robots they fight with. I reviewed the first book in a round-up post a little ways back, but haven't kept up with the series since.

Speaking of series that I haven't kept up with, I also have the latest Malazan novel her: Assail by Ian C. Esslemont. (I read the first six of Steven Erikson's side of the series, and I think the first Esslemont, but have missed the last eight or so now.) If I remember correctly, Esslemont's novels are set slightly earlier in time than Erikson's -- or at least his first cluster was, because this is Esslemont's sixth. Anyway, this is big, bloody secondary-world fantasy -- a particularly complex, deep, and convoluted secondary world, as befits one created by two archaeologists -- deep in a series, and it's a Tor trade paperback arriving August 5th.

I saw Patrick Swenson's debut novel The Ultra Thin Man in bound-galley form a number of weeks back, and now I see it again in final hardcover form: Tor will release it on August 12. It's still a medium-future espionage thriller, set in the kind of interstellar human polity that's out of fashion these days.

And last for this week is another book I saw in galley form: Full Fathom Five, Max Gladstone's third novel in the Craft Sequence. (I reviewed the first one, Three Parts Dead, here, and still fully intend to read Five and the intervening book, Two Serpents Rise.)  This one focuses on a priestess who builds bespoke gods and stumbles into a surprising conspiracy. It's a Tor hardcover, available now.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #208: Batman Hong Kong by Moench and Wong

Every so often, I like to read a random superhero story, just because. Even then, though, it's usually something odd or out of continuity -- mostly because there's no reason to care about continuity unless you dig into it all the time (and then you have continuity stuck under your fingernails forever -- that stuff is hell to get out).

Which is a long way round to Batman: Hong Kong. This was one of the periodical attempts of the Big Two to colonize other parts of the world for their particular manifestations of adventure stories -- like the manga versions of whoever that have been turning up every year or three for the last decade -- matching an American writer (Doug Moench, who has done a lot of years in the Batman mines) with an artist from the part of the world under siege (Tony Wong, and no points for guessing where he's from). This was an original graphic novel in the summer of 2003, and seems to have stayed a complete one-off. Even the new hero introduced here -- Night-Dragon, clearly intended to be the "Batman of Hong Kong"-- hasn't turned up anywhere since, which may mean he's too obscure a Batman even for Grant Morrison. (And here we thought that wasn't possible.)

It's a Batman story, which means there's a villain doing something horrible -- killing people with snakes on a webcam, in this case -- and that leads the guy with far too much neck on the cover to Hong Kong, where he panderingly thinks about how different it is and how he really could use a local guide. (Batman never thinks such things in his usual books, because those are written for Americans, and Americans are sure they know everything about the world already, and their Batman definitely does.) Night-Dragon then appears, with the usual complicated origin tied into this particular case, and the two fight crime and defeat the villain together.

Luckily, Wong's art is very different from what you'd see in any other Batman book. It's stylized adventure-comics art, all speed lines and extreme faces and hand-to-hand combat -- that much is familiar -- but the idiom is entirely different, from the use of color (some panels appear painted and others have something that looks more like traditional comics coloring, with lighter, brighter shades) to the choices of poses to the styles of faces. I assume Wong was chosen because he's the exemplar of the then-current commercial style in Hong Kong -- that's the point of a book like this -- and he's clearly quite good at telling a story about men fighting and yelling at each other.

Nothing really came of this, so I imagine it's been mostly forgotten: the only superhero stories that count are the ones that tell the current continuity. But it's a decent Batman story, told in a unique way, so I can't help but think this is a vastly more interesting Batman story than all of those others. (But, then, I would think that, wouldn't I?)

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #207: You Can Date Boys When You're Forty by Dave Barry

Dave Barry has been making a living out of being funny in public for more than thirty years -- I think his newspaper column might even date back to the late '70s -- and he's been a bestseller enough times that it's clear the American public thinks he's good at it. (And he is, a lot of the time: in a very broad, middle-American way, but even middle Americans need to laugh now and then.)

He ended that newspaper column -- which gave him most of his best material, and gave him a rhythm and a structure that worked very well for him for two decades -- about ten years ago. (Maybe it was because the newspaper business was imploding, maybe it was because he wanted to spend more time writing novels with Ridley Pearson, maybe he was just tired of writing a regular humor column after twenty-plus years. Maybe all of those things and more.) But he's kept writing humor, if more slowly than before.

I covered his last original humor collection, I'll Mature When I'm Dead, back in 2011. And I warn you that pretty much everything I could say about this book book, You Can Date Boys When You're Forty, is precisely what I said about Mature.

Date Boys is a collection of shorter pieces of various lengths; it's a short book with generous leading that means it's actually shorter than it looks. I thought it was pretty funny, but it's exactly the same kind of humor Barry has been doing since 1980ish: dumb-guy jokes, language jokes, women-are-smarter-than-me jokes, I-have-so-much-trouble-dealing-with-ordinary-things-in-the-world jokes. He's good at making jokes; he has a lot of practice at it and knows how to do it really well.

The topics here: taking his tween daughter to a Justin Bieber concert, Men, Women, Death, getting old, a new "Ask Mr. Language Person" column without using that name, air travel,being a famous author. The longest piece is about a two-week trip to Israel with his family (Jewish wife and thus Jewish daughter), which is slightly less intensive with the ha-ha but still pitched as light entertainment.

This is not a book for the ages, or one for deep contemplation. But it's a pleasant, amusing time-waster, and Barry's language writings are particularly good: he can mangle grammatical advice like no one else.If you've got a plane flight coming up, this would be a fine choice.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

Incoming Books: Week of July 26

I ordered a biggish box of comics-style book-shaped objects from the mighty Midtown Comics recently, and that box arrived about a week ago. The resulting stack has been sitting on my desk, waiting for me to turn it into cheap content for this blog, but I finally have a little time this morning. So here's what I just got:

Hectic Planet, Vol. 1: Dim Future -- the first of three volumes reprinting Evan Dorkin's early semi-serious ska space opera Pirate Corp$!, renamed thus when Dorkin got older and (presumably) embarrassed by the original name. Rebuilding after the flood.

Jack the Ripper -- one of the early books in Rick Geary's "Treasury of Victorian Murder" and another case of rebuilding after the flood.

Sweet Tooth Vol. 1: Out of the Deep Woods -- I've liked Jeff Lemire's small-company comics (The Nobody, The Underwater Welder, etc.), but I avoided this Vertigo series of his while it was running for no good reason. (I have a vague sense that Vertigo turned from the "creepy side of the DC Universe," as it was when I was reading most of it in the '90s, to "cable-TV style dark drama with lots of nasty people" more recently, and I'm not a fan of the new style.)

Itty Bitty Hellboy by Art Bathazar and Franco -- I like Hellboy, and I like Bathazar and Franco's various work chibi-izing major comics characters. (The biggest hit, and probably the best, was Tiny Titans, which ran for quite a while.) So I got this as soon as I realized it actually existed in bnook form.

Paul Joins the Scouts -- the latest semi-autobiographical story from Michel Rabagliati, following Paul Has a Summer Job, The Song of Roland, Paul Moves Out, and others. Rabagliati has been consistently wonderful so far, with a lovely UPA-ish flowing line and insightful stories, so I'm glad to see a new book from him.

Spiral-Bound -- the first graphic novel from the creator of The Unsinkable Walker Bean, Aaron Renier. I've been vaguely looking for it for a while -- probably since I read Walker Bean -- and finally broke down and bought it.

Mad Night -- still rebuilding by Richard Sala collection, post flood. This is a big book reprinting his long serial from Evil Eye, back in those heady late-'90s days when every indy cartoonist had to have a continuing series, because otherwise they forget you in the comics shops. (Luckily, the book market was lurking, out there in the fog, to provide a more stable home for long-form stories.)

Grendel Omnibus Vol. 3 -- I now have three of the four bricks reprinting the entire saga by Matt Wagner and various co-conspirators (mostly John K. Snyder, Jay Geldhof, and Tim Sale, this time out), which means I'll probably end up re-reading the whole thing soon. This counts as rebuilding after the flood as well.

And last is Fran, the new book by the incomparable and inexplicable Jim Woodring. I expect this will be as Woodringesque and indescribable as his previous books -- a few years ago, I tried to write words about a previous book, Weathercraft, but I can't say how successful I was.