Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading. Our guest this week is blogger and critic David Uzumeri, who can be frequently found at Funnybook Babylon, Savage Critics or Comics Alliance. Guy gets around.
And now we have him here as our special WAYR guest! To find out what David and everyone else at the mighty Robot 6 is reading this week, simply click on the link below.
Brigid Alverson: For some reason, Twin Spica looks much older than it is—the cover has a yellowish cast, and the images of shooting stars have a Sputink-era feel to me. It actually came out in 2000 in Japan, and it has a really timeless, very classic manga feel to it. It’s the story of a young girl, Asumi, who is training to be an astronaut. This first volume is partly a story of the kids making it through the first round of rigorous tests and partly the backstory of Asumi, her family, and the mysterious lion-headed man that only she can see, all of whom have associations with space. It’s a very good read, with plenty of challenges for a nice assortment of likeable characters, so I’m looking forward to following the whole thing.
Nathan Edmondson gave me an advance peek at the first two issues of The Light, which he is writing and Brett Weldele is illustrating. The story is classic horror—incandescent lights have suddenly developed the power to kill anyone who looks into them. I love the art in this story—in keeping with the theme, the art is very luminous, and Weldele does a nice job of capturing different types of light, such as streetlights against a sky at daybreak, incandescent light on a gray afternoon, or a plane silhouetted against its own lights. The story looks like typical horror: A Terrible Peril has occurred and the hero must flee. Like many horror stories, this seems to assume that the danger is geographically limited—if incandescent lights are emitting a strange virus in one town, wouldn’t that be true everywhere? However, Edmondson quickly sketches out a few strong characters, including an interestingly flawed hero and his obnoxious teenage daughter, which grabbed me right from the start.
The webcomic Cleopatra in Spaaace! flagrantly fails the Zuda Test: Cleopatra and her cat have spent the first 15 pages battling robots, but I have no idea who they are or why they are doing this. Doesn’t matter. Mike Maihack’s lively cartoony art makes this comic a delight to read, and the fact that Cleopatra is now escaping in a space bicycle shaped like The Sphinx gives me hope that there will be much zaniness to come. I liked it so much that I went and checked out Maihack’s earlier comic, Cow and Buffalo, in which the eponymous animals are barnyard superheroes. It’s goofy and funny, and reading the archives should keep me going until the next Cleopatra update.
Michael May: I’m going through Mark Smylie’s Artesia series again and just finished the first book. I remember being struck with the beauty of his art the first time around as well as the depth of the world he created. It’s almost too deep a world with all the names of gods, kingdoms, and a huge cast of characters being overwhelming at times. But it’s impossible to let that put you off reading it. The art and characterization pull you through. Artesia herself is a fascinating, seductive character and you can’t not want to spend time with her. And of course, the proper names and plot not only get easier to manage in subsequent readings, but becoming familiar with them also lets you discover nuances that you missed the first time around. If anything, I love it more now than I did when I originally discovered it.
I also read the first issue of Saint James Comics’ Indigo Blue. It’s a dystopian-future story about people who are genetically spliced with animals and end up being hunted. The main character is a half-man/half-dog named Blue who’s an agent in an underground organization trying to fight back against their oppressors. It’s a clever way of doing an anthropomorphic animal comic. When I say that, it reminds me a bit of Elephantmen, but there’s such a different tone to Indigo Blue that comparison is unfair. Unlike the dark, luxuriously paced Elephantmen, Blue is a fast-moving adventure comic. What the two do have in common though is that I like them both quite a bit.
Tim O’Shea: It’s Schrödinger’s cat week for comics apparently. Why? Well, when I opened the latest issue of Roger Langridge’s Muppet Show comic (issue 3 of the ongoing series), I was bewildered and surprised to see the Muppets Lab sketch use the Schrödinger’s cat reference involving Beaker and a number of ties. I saw one of Langridge’s bits involving Fozzie coming from a mile away (as he probably intended). But the writer/artist gave a depth to Fozzie that: A) I never thought was a phrase I would say in reference to a Muppet B) Allowed the issue to end on an incredibly sweet note, which is not one might expect from a bear that personifies vaudeville
Jeff Parker’s approach toward the Avengers (in Avengers vs. Atlas 3) demonstrates yet again his strong grasp of Marvel’s history and character dynamics. I was rolling along enjoying the time travel-based tale, more so because the writer used the characters’ confusion about being displaced in time to clarify the story for readers (for me, time travel stories too often fail because the narrative gets too jumbled to simply follow and enjoy). Then I was slightly bemused when Bob (The Uranian) started explaining Schrödinger’s paradox to Ken (Gorilla Man), but only thought of the Schrödinger coincidence for a second–given that I was enjoying the story. Two other nuances to Parker’s writing to enjoy. At one point in the battle Namora returns Cap’s shield to him (by throwing it in a rampaging Hulk’s face). This prompts Cap to say: “Thanks for getting her back.” I didn’t ever recall it being referred to as having female characteristics before so I asked Parker on Twitter if this something he’d come up with doing. Parker’s response was “Yeah, I’d like that one to catch on!” Secondly I enjoy the manner in which Parker shows what a tight-knit team they are, given that the Atlas team members do not call each other code names in the heat of battle, but rather call each other by their first names.
Imagine my surprise in the midst of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s Nova 35 (with Mahmud A. Asrar and Scott Hanna on art), when Reed Richards started lecturing his fellow heroes about the principle of (wait for it, wait for it…) Schrödinger’s cat. That is right, I pulled the Schrödinger hat trick of comics reading. Or maybe I should call it the Schrödinger turkey. I might have suffered the Schrödinger coincidence in this instance a smidge better, if the quality of art and pacing in this installment had not seemed rushed and somewhat forced. I’m all for a monthly comic meeting its deadline, but I would be willing to wait a few weeks if it meant the art team could bring a stronger story.
Hercules: Fall of an Avenger 1 (of 2) reminds me of the kind of Marvel comics I read in the 1970s and 1980s (in a good way). I cannot recall the last time I read a Marvel comic that actually referenced previous adventures, complete with footnote references of what issue was being referenced. It was a nuance that warmed the heart of this silly fanboy.
I’m no fan of the X-Men Forever series, given that writer Chris Claremont has an affinity for convoluted continuity. But I was overjoyed when I found out that Louise Simonson was coming back to do an X-Factor Forever five-part miniseries, taking off from when she left the original X-Factor series back in the early 1990s. I like how Simonson views the core X-Factor characters, as evidenced in this late 2009 December CBR interview: “Writing them again is a lot of fun – like visiting with old friends. These characters are ‘retro,’ in that they’re heroic. Sure they’re tortured and flawed, but they try to use the powers they’ve been given to protect the weak and make the world a better place. Even though, sometimes, it’s hard to know what’s right and what’s wrong in an imperfect world.” It’s a series where Hank McCoy has never considered using a litter box, he’s actually happy–he smiles. Sure it’s retro, but it’s the closest that Hank has been to his old Stars-and-Garters self than he has in years. (Speaking of Stars and Garters–you must visit Bully’s Beast/Stars and Garters celebration that he hosted this week — bonus points to Bully for his hilarious Amazon bargain banner)
Matt Maxwell: BEFRIEND AND BETRAY – Alex Caine
How does someone go from blue-collar Montreal to Special Forces to working undercover against drug triads, the KKK and not one but two infamous motorcycle clubs (Los Bandidos and the Hell’s Angels)? If you ever wanted to know, then this is the book to read. As much as I’d like to say this was pleasure reading this was…you guessed it…research. But at least research allows you to read interesting things sometimes.
Spent four solid days on Google for the following keywords:
Maya civilization, Maya priesthood, Tezcatlipoca (who is Aztec, not Maya), Tohil (who is Maya, not Aztec), Maya sacrifice, Maya ritual practice, maya ritual object, modern mayans, life in a Yucatec village, maya cosmology. More often than not, I was doing image searches and then finding related text sites. Google is a truly awesome for breadth of research. I mean, awesome. Depth? Well, not so much, really. Not unless you have membership on various academic sites.
Various translations of the Popul Vuh. Some more interesting than others (yawwwwwn).
Someone needs to do some awesome Mayan comics. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be me.
Oh, started reading SWALLOW ME WHOLE, but I’m going to have to reserve comment until I get through the whole thing. Which should be around Christmas at this rate.
David Uzumeri: Aside from the standard bevy of weekly comics I buy – which is a lot, usually between 15 and 25 – I’ve been doing a lot of external reading and related watching.
My main reading project, which I’m taking a short break from, is Dave Sim’s infamous Cerebus – an insanely fascinating thing to be coming at from a first-time reader’s angle. I’ve got a longer post coming up this week on Comics Alliance about my experience reading the first two phonebooks, but in short, I’m continually bowled over by the book’s intelligence and creativity. By the time you hit High Society, it’s abundantly clear why the book has the creative legacy it does. It’s a shame about where it’s all going to go, but balancing act between genius and madness and all that.
Johnny Ryan’s Prison Pit is something I keep coming back to – and not just because it’s the only comic book I’ve ever seen that can actively liven up a party. It’s a hilarious, visceral and quick read – if you’ve been reading for fifteen minutes, you’re studying it too hard – and while it’s not something I’d recommend to everybody, it’s still over a hundred glorious pages of Jack Kirby via… shit, I can’t even think of anything as extreme as this. The Postal videogame, maybe. But for really dumb fun, this is pretty much unbeatable. I’ve considered that maybe the fun isn’t as dumb – that maybe Cannibal Fuckface’s journey through the wastes of the prison pit are a Bunyan-style metaphor for, I don’t know, man coming to terms with the restrictions of modern life, but then I remember it’s a comic that features the term “burnt jizz,” and I stop thinking and laugh.
I’m still habitually rereading Grant Morrison’s clockwork-precise Batman run, as well, largely because every new issue seems to reveal new layers in all that’s come before. This book is still a puzzlesolver’s dream, riddled with clues and hints and revealing metaphors. Meanwhile, at Marvel, Jonathan Hickman’s work – especially the excellent Secret Warriors – is doing the same, providing real reread value through careful teasing of the central mystery. Not that this is all of the appeal of these titles – they both feature good character work, excellent pacing, etc. etc. – but the way these titles are almost reader-participatory in the way they disseminate clues is insanely fun.
Finally, I’ve been watching (not comics, but related) the entire Doctor Who/Torchwood sequence, in order because I’m the sort of continuity nut who wants to properly follow plot threads between the two parallel narratives. Until about a month ago I’d never seen an episode in my life, but starting with Eccleston’s first episode I was almost immediately able to interpret aspects of Who continuity as they were introduced by finding incredibly similar comics-related concepts. The “time war” that separates the old production of the show and the new, for instance, is a pretty direct analogue to Crisis on Infinite Earths, filling an almost identical narrative function – to reboot the universe, keeping what the writers liked and dumping what they didn’t. On top of that, though, it’s just clever, rollicking sci-fi action, at its worst entertaining and at its best, like when Steven Moffat or Paul Cornell are writing, thought-provoking and affecting.