What Are You Reading?

With Christopher Mautner taking a little time off, I'm stepping in to round up "What Are You Reading?" -- the weekly feature in which we discuss, well, what we're reading. We encourage you to chime in, too.

This week's special guest is David Welsh, who writes about manga for his blog Precocious Curmudgeon, and for The Comics Reporter.

To find out David and the rest of us are reading, just click "More."

Michael May: Getting ready for Valentine's Week, I'm reading Paris by Andi Watson and Simon Gane. I've never been to Paris, but Watson and Gane celebrate everything about it that I'm able to love from this side of the planet.

Their characters are like the city itself: warm and romantic, but also honest and flawed. Three-quarters through the book and I'm in love with one of them, in lust with another, pissed off at a couple of more, and just want to spend the day hanging out with the last; drinking coffee near the Siene.

Tim O'Shea: This week by savvy planning or mere coincidence, it seemed like it was Jeff Parker week at Marvel. For one thing, I got to enjoy the first issue of an ongoing monthly Agents of Atlas. For my money, I'd be fine if the whole book were just moments with Ken Hale/Gorilla-Man -- in a way the character reminds me of when Hank McCoy was fun.

But of course, this week, I get good old fun Hank McCoy in the opening installment of the X-Men: First Class Finals miniseries. I hope once this miniseries wraps up that artist Roger Cruz and Parker can find another project to collaborate upon. And of course, as with most X-Men: First Class efforts, there's a little Colleen Coover fun added to the mix -- never a bad thing. Finally to round out my Parker week, we have The Age of Sentry #5, an issue in which strangely enough Parker gives me of the funniest Fantastic Four/Sue Richards moments I have ever read. But Parker's not the only one having fun in this issue -- as Paul Tobin's opening tale teaming up Sentry with the Guardians of the Galaxy ("Saved by the Wail!") proves that Tobin is just as funny and inventive with his ability to romp through the Marvel Universe as Parker. My last Parker bit is actually Peter -- given that I'm the guy who had to wait until the fourth printing Amazing Spider-Man #583 to see Mark Waid and Barry Kitson do a really fine standalone story with the underutilized post-"One More Day" Betty Brant (and her unique take on Peter).

Question to DC, in the hype around Final Crisis, do you worry that absolutely no one will notice the first issue release of co-writers Peter Tomasi and Keith Champage's The Mighty this past week? Set in the DC Universe, with art by Peter Snejbjerg, this book has great potential. But the first I knew about it was when it landed on the shelves. I'm somewhat bewildered as to how this story rooted in mystery and relationships -- under the DC banner -- purports to be a world where there is only one superhero (the aptly named Alpha One). You can read a preview here. They can work out the bugs (a boxing scene with a coloring mistake makes one panel quite confusing) all they want with this ongoing, they had me when I saw Snejbjerg on art.

I respect the passion behind fanzines, and Jim Kingman's Comic Effect #47 best exemplifies that spirit. In an issue dedicated to DC editor Julius Schwartz's "Greatest Hits" -- Kingman collects recollections/thoughts from many of his fans and/or colleagues - -including Paul Levitz, Tom Brevoort, Jack C. Harris, Tony Isabella, Dan Mishkin, Roy Thomas and Mike W. Barr.

When you write about comics, every once and awhile someone will send you a link on a comics-related matter -- typically it's something I either already know about or wish to know nothing about. This past week, a co-worker sent me a link to her brother's autobiographical webcomic/graphic novel effort. I followed the link expecting to be unimpressed -- and much to my surprise I was entertained instead. Based out of Tasmania, Christopher Downes' A Diary of a Work in Progress may have just been a project he started in late July 2008- - but it's delightful to see how much his storytelling skills have improved over the months. Sure, like anyone learning the craft, he has some dud entries. On a basic level, I like the way Downes letters. As for his art, I appreciate the warmth that some of his scenes possess. This past week, he did an interesting bit about a dream that effectively conveys the quirkiness of the strip that appeals to me.

J.K. Parkin: I was in the middle of The Graveyard Book when a big o' box of comics arrived, so it's still on the nightstand. I'm really enjoying the book so far, with the highlight being the "ghoul gate" chapter.

As for comics, I've been reading a lot this week. The three most recent ones I read on Saturday in between blogging about New York (hurray) and doing my taxes (boo).  First was Northlanders #14, the fourth part of "The Cross + The Hammer" story arc. I loved the first seven pages, and the contrast of the chaos of the battlefield followed by the three main characters of the arc on white backgrounds. I'm really digging Ryan Kelly's art.

Next was Proof #16, a quieter transition issue that explored who the characters were after a few issues of crazy cryptology hunting. It was a set up issue more than anything else, so I don't really have much more to say about it.

And lastly, The Umbrella Academy: Dallas #3, where we find out a lot of Number Five's back story, and possibly the quote of the week: "It's always a longer walk to the men's room, buckaroo." This series has been brilliant so far.

Up next: The Annotated Mantooth, by Matt Fraction and Andy Kuhn!  Thanks for sending it over, Larry!

Kevin Melrose: I've done a lot of jumping around with my reading the past week or so, trying to squeeze in time for a little prose (John Ajvide Lindqvist's Let the Right One In, still), a little epic poetry (Toby Barlow's Sharp Teeth), and a decent-sized sampling of comics.

There was the double dose of Eduardo Risso, with the 12th volume of the byzantine crime series 100 Bullets (with Brian Azzarello, of course), and the E.C.-style anthology Eduardo Risso's Tales of Terror (with Carlos Trillo). After that, the was the hardcover collection of Bryan Glass and Michael Avon Oeming's anthropomorphic fantasy Mice Templar: The Prophecy, and the eighth volume of Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki's quirky horror manga The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.

David Welsh: Every year at around this time, I play a round of what I call “Drawn  & Quarterly Catch-up.” Throughout the year, I look at D&Q’s handsome,  hardcover books and make a mental shopping list for when I have gift  cards or coupons. Then, after the holidays are over, I binge. The  timing is perfect for the arrival of a box of fun, charming comics,  because we all just found out that manga sales dropped 16 percent in 2008,  and it has left me baffled and bummed.

Helping me rally are Aya of Yop City, written by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie, and the third volume of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip. The thing that unites these books and makes them perfect diversions for uncertain times is that both casts have the leisure to be foolish. Not stupid or cruel, mind you, but they’re able to give way to their passions and ambitions and distractions.

The Aya books combine two of my favorite things: character-driven  comedy and soap opera. Abouet and Oubrerie follow a group of friends  and neighbors through a relative golden age for the people of the Ivory Coast. It’s the 1970s, the country is free of colonial rule,  and a prosperous middle class has emerged. The book’s ambitious  heroine has no time for foolishness, but the people around her are dedicated to personal misadventures -- disastrous romances, family squabbles, and business schemes gone awry.

The cast of the Moomin strips is much less grounded but no less endearing. A family of hippo-like creatures romps through life armed  with verve and unencumbered by logic or attention spans. The structure of the strip’s narrative arcs is simple; Janssen places her characters in a mildly surreal situation and lets the story spin out from there, driven by the cast’s foibles. The results are invariably quirky, charming and full of feeling.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Tom Hiddleston Reveals Story Behind His Loki Casting

More in Comics