Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Read in June

I'm writing and posting this late, but you'll only realize that if you're me or if you're paying way too much attention to my blog. (Seriously: get a life, buddy!)

As usual, this is a list of books I read this past month. And my methodology is pretty much what's it's been for a while: I list everything here, link to any posts I've already written, and then start writing about the books that haven't gotten posts yet. If that writing gets to the vague "substantial enough" standard, I pull it out and set it to post separately. If I get too tired or distracted, I might post this before I've managed to write something about every book. But, eventually, there will be at least a sentence or three about every one of these books, so, if you're reading this sufficiently far in the future, you will have an opinion you can argue with. (Because what else are opinions for?)

This was the first full month of the new job, so there's a lot of train reading -- though my new line into NYC is more crowded and hectic than the Hoboken train was, because everything must become worse over time. I've been trying to read batches of things and then write about them that way, but I've also been tired and unmotivated (a 2-hour commute each way can do that to you), so there's another large stack of books staring at me at the end of this month.

Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Tyler Crook, B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth, Vol. 8: Lake of Fire (6/1)

Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and James Harren, B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth, Vol. 9: The Reign of the Black Flame (6/2)

Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Laurence Campbell, Joe Querio, and Tyler Crook, B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth, Vol. 10: The Devil's Wings (6/3)

Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Sebastian Fiumara, Tonci Zonjic, Kevin Nowlan, Joe Querio, and Wilfredo Torres, Lobster Johnson, Vol. 3: Satan Smells a Rat (6/4)

Richard Ford, A Piece of My Heart (6/4)

Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, and Tonci Zonjic, Lobster Johnson, Vol. 4: Get the Lobster! (6/5)

Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, Bandette, Vol. 2: Stealers, Keepers! (6/8)

The BD-influenced Parisian thief is back with another lovely souffle of an adventure, following Bandette Presto! This one threatens to become more serious, with a deadly hitman called the Strangler stalking our sunny heroine, but the tone stays light-hearted and there's no sign that anything in the world could ever harm or even more than mildly deter either Bandette or her great friend/rival in thievery, Monsieur. This is a deeply artificial world, in which victims meekly wait for the Strangler to kill them one at a time even though they are supposedly tough gangsters with guns and in which a rough-hewn police detective endlessly and fruitlessly pursues Bandette, but all of its artificialities work well together: it's a particular kind of fictional world that doesn't pretend to be real, and is all the more lovely and enchanting for that.

Andi Watson, Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula (6/9)

This one is a graphic novel for younger readers -- the world Watson has been working in for close to a decade, probably because that audience is interested in stories about wider topics than which long-underweared steroid case is punching which psychotic murderer this week -- but it's longer and somewhat deeper than his last few books for the pre-adult set. As the cover suggests, there is a hint of romance between the harried Princess Decomposia and her new chef, Count Spatula, though it's all entirely above-board and very chaste. Decomposia is the heir to a great kingdom in the underworld, supposedly run by her hypochondriac father, King Wulfrun, who clearly has not done any real work in years and whose capricious dietary requirements have just driven off yet another chef on the day of a major banquet. She hires Spatula, who also teaches her how to relax and enjoy life, as the loved one in a romantic comedy always does. Wulfrun objects to what he thinks is a romance -- though it isn't actually anywhere within country miles of a romance at that point -- overreacts, causes huge problems, and ends up sparking that aforementioned very genteel romance at the very end. Watson has done deeper and more thoughtful books than this, but his panels are full of expressive close-ups and great quirky character designs and his dialogue is joyful and real as ever. Huge Watson fans might be slightly disappointed, but I hope this will help solidify him in the minds of a million younger comics-readers -- and I still think he could have a Raina Telegemeier-level great book for that audience in him.

John Darnielle, Wolf in White Van (6/9)

G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, and Adrian Alphona, Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why (6/10)

The second major plot arc continues the tone and style of the first, in good and bad ways. (See my review of the first book for some unpacking of that.) The attempts at relevance can be a bit cringe-inducing -- the evil mastermind of the moment, The Inventor, is brainwashing local teens to power his machines Matrix-style with their brains by telling them he's going to fix global warming and the evil grownups aren't -- and the required Marvel Universe Synergy Moments slow down the story and steal focus from Kamala. (Especially when we learn that she's an Inhuman, because that's the hobbyhorse Marvel is riding this decade.) But Kamala is a great character, even if she is basically a distaff Peter Parker with a few details changed up. (Or maybe more a female Richard Rider, since Kamala is reasonably smart but not the Braniac nerd Peter is.) And the art team continues to present her stories in a style that can function in the Marvel Universe but looks distinctive, as if it doesn't quite belong with all of those shiny men in skintight spandex.

John Allison, Great Aches (6/15)

John Allison, Ahoy Hoy! (6/16)

The Art of Doug Sneyd (6/17)

Sneyd is a gag cartoonist, whose work is usually in gorgeous watercolors. He's probably worked for other outlets -- who hasn't? -- but this book focuses entirely on his work for Playboy, where's he's had a full-page color piece nearly every issue since 1965. He's the one of the sleek women with big toothy grins, and the rat-faced men always on the prowl. Given Sneyd's style and the source -- all Playboy, all the time -- one would expect there to be a certain similarity of gags here, and one would be entirely correct. (One gets a cookie. Good one!) But Sneyd and his gag writers ring a lot of interesting changes on the standard setup, and Sneyd, in line with the Playboy philosophy, generally has his women as interested in and happy about sex as the men, which makes them sunny gags rather than mean ones. It's also amusing as a series of time capsules about the manias and fads of the last forty years, since Sneyd wasn't shy about using the newest hot idea as the hooks for his gags. (And there's an index detailing where each cartoon originally appeared for those who want to pinpoint each fad, or work through Sneyd's career in chronological order.) Interestingly, this book also has an introduction from Lynn (For Better or For Worse) Johnston, who is about the last cartoonist I'd expect to have been influenced by Sneyd -- but I think she knows him from their mutual Canadian-ness, and wrote the intro out of fellow-feeling for a brother toiler in the realms of frozen tundra and Bristol board.

John Allison, Peloton (6/18)

John Allison, Recklessly Yours (6/19)

Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, John Arcudi, Sebastian Fiumara, and Max Fiumara, Abe Sapien, Vol. 3: Dark and Terrible & The New Race of Man (6/22)

Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, Sebastian Fiumara, and Max Fiumara, Abe Sapien, Vol. 4: The Shape of Things to Come (6/23)

Mike Mignola, Scott Allie, Sebastian Fiumara, and Max Fiumara, Abe Sapien, Vol. 5: Sacred Places (6/24)

Daniel Handler, We Are Pirates (6/24)

Mike Mignola & Richard Corben, Hellboy: House of The Living Dead (6/25)

Hellboy goes to Mexico in the '50s, in a short but stuffed story that seems to exist mostly so Corben can drawn masked wrestlers, vampires, werewolves, and Frankenstein monsters in their requisite busy laboratories filled with mysterious machinery. (Or, more specifically, because Mignola wants to see Corben draw all of those things -- Mignola's stories have always been driven by the things he wants to draw as much as anything else.) I've warmed up to Corben's art over the years -- seeing it with Dave Stewart's coloring helps a lot, unlike the jaundiced look his work had in Heavy Metal thirty-some years ago -- and he is definitely a good artist for a Hellboy story. I could wish this one was more substantial, or connected to other pieces of the larger saga, but this is fine for what it is, and I'd honestly be happy with a series of mostly one-shot stories about a young Hellboy wandering around and punching monsters, drawn by Mignola or Corben or whoever.

Mike Mignola, Gabriel Ba, and Fabio Moon, B.P.R.D.: Vampire (6/26)

Ted McKeever, Eddy Current, Vol. 1 (6/29)
Ted McKeever, Eddy Current, Vol. 2 (6/30)

And after that comes July, in which there will be more books. It's a good world that has so many books in it.

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