What Are You Reading?

Welcome to What Are You Reading? Our guest today is Leslie Stein, creator of Eye of the Majestic Creature, a collection of semi-autobiographical and fantasy-based comics published by Fantagraphics.

To see what Leslie and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.


Tim O'Shea

Amazing Spider-Man Spidey Sunday Spectacular: Stan Lee could have repurposed Nuff Said columns from the 1970s for the script and I still would raved about the amazing Marcos Martin art on this collection of two-pagers that ran in the back of the main Spidey title a few months back. Martin's eye for layout is far and above superior to most of his contemporaries. The Green Goblin cameo in this story alone makes the whole collection worth buying.

Captain America: The First Avenger #1: This film adaptation by writer Fred Van Lente with a team of artists including Luke Ross, Richard Isanove and Neil Edwards (among others) is a weird read for me, considering the number of times I have read Cap's origin over the years. This version (what with it being the Hollywood version adapted for comics) is odd in so many ways (mostly good). I don't know if it was Van Lente's intention but an exchange between child Steve Rogers and his ill mother got me thinking--has Marvel ever done any stories about Steve's dad?

Sweet Tooth #21: This may be my pick of the week, due to Lemire's exploration of communication/perception between animal and man, as shown and documented visually in this issue. Also his effort to juggle two stories in absolute parallel is stunning and results in a dual hell of an emotional payoff at the end.

Gladstone's School for World Conquerors #1, Mark Andrew Smith’s new project with artist Armand Villavert, launched this week. And if I was a retailer with kids coming into my store for Free Comic Book Day, I would try to sell them on this story. It's a quirky book that can also appeal to adults (one scene has a teacher quoting William Blake, albeit mostly to serve a visual punchline). But what really sold me on this being a great kids book (and a nice Image pairing with the FCBD edition of Robert Kirkman's new Super Dinosaur) is a scene where one of the kid villains in training (with the power of fire) laughs and sputters out flames. It was a small moment, but it cracked me up. I look forward to seeing the next issue.

Herc #2: I really want to see Herc be a comic around for a long time because of what co-writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente have done to give the character depth in the past several years. But best I can tell, there is no permanent artist assigned, as it is not Neil Edwards next month. Plus, how exactly does a creative team establish a status quo (and a readership) if the next issue ties into the JFK-inspired (I kid) Fear Itself event. That being said, I like what I've seen so far, I just have concern about how the book can build an audience with special events muddying the water of a new series. I hope my fears are unfounded.

Heroes for Hire #6: The dynamics are shifting with Misty Knight no longer under Puppet Master's control. I appreciate Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning's effort to show Misty finding her "voice" as control. The writing team also utilize guest-star Spider-Man (will be curious to see if his presence in the story and on the cover will bolster sales, as clearly an intent on Marvel's part) to play off the approach of Paladin. Abnett and Lanning explore some comedic elements (natural with Spidey of course), but also with Paladin as well.

Avengers Academy #13: It's prom night, but damn you writer Christos Gage, I am far more interested in the Tigra/Giant Man/Jocasta triangle subplot. Not only is this book the best Avengers title currently in Marvel's stable, but it's just a delightful soap opera.

Brigid Alverson

I couldn't make it to TCAF this weekend to see Natsume Ono, so I had a little Ono-fest of my own at home and reread two of her books, not simple and Ristorante Paradiso. I liked them both, but with reservations. not simple is, just as the title says, a complicated story, so complicated it's almost impossible to summarize, but it's a pretty twisted family drama. The main character, a boy (later a young man) named Ian, does seem to be fairly simple, because he only wants a few simple things, and he never seems to think too deeply about what is happening to him. The story moves quickly, but the characters are rather flat. Unfortunately, not simple relies in part on a very standard manga trope, the loathsome, irresponsible parents who abandon or exploit their children, and the quietly responsible children who take charge of their own lives and attempt to right all wrongs. Bad parents make for good stories, I guess, and Ono's characters at least try to rationalize their wrongdoings a bit, but their badness seems to be their only characteristic.

That is less true of the mother in Ristorante Paradiso, who abandoned her daughter and covered up her previous marriage because she fell in love with a man who would never marry a divorcee. Complications arrive when the daughter shows up at the mother's restaurant, but we do get to see some growth and change as the two work on their shattered relationship. Still, it's hard to imagine that a denial so profound could be mended so easily. I wish I could remember who it was who said that in Ristorante Paradiso, Ono could have written about a complex web of family relationships or a trendy restaurant where all the waiters happen to be older gentlemen who wear glasses, and she chose the latter. There does seem to be a lot going on with the guys, and because they all look vaguely similar‹and Ono's character designs tend to be inconsistent anyway‹it's a bit hard to follow. Still, it's a stylish book with some engaging characters and a happy ending, and Ono's more mature, more restrained style is easier to take than her earlier, crazily linear work in not simple.

Chris Mautner

Action Comics #900 by various -- I found just about every story in this issue pretty awful. I know a lot of folks whose opinions I respect have been saying good things about writer Paul Cornell's work, but I'm just not feelin' it here, though maybe that has something to do with me coming in at the tail end of the story.

More to the point, I tire of what seems to be this current trend in superhero comics where the writer feels the need to pontificate in as explicit and overt a fashion as possible about how awesome Character X is and how they're part of modern mythology and a symbol for blah, blah, zzzzzzzzz. That's especially true in the "Superman goes to Iran and doesn't bring back a lousy t-shirt" story, but it's also readily apparent in just about every tale in this rather tiresome, dull comic. I just want to see Superman leaping buildings, hitting villains and changing into stuff cause of red kryptonite. I don't want a pop culture thesis.

Melvin Monster Vol. 3 by John Stanley -- There's something bittersweet about this final volume, a tinge of sadness mixed in with the levity that I can't quite pin down. Was Stanley well aware by this point that this personal project wasn't doing so well and that the plug would soon be pulled? Perhaps, it's hard to say. There's always been a tinge of darkness in MM, given how he's an outcast not only in the community but in his own family as well. None of which is to say that this book isn't funny or delightful, cause it totally is.

Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey by GB Tran -- Alison Bechdel's Fun Home was clearly a pretty strong influence on this book, right down to the fact that they same the same spiral-like narrative structure, retelling the same story and revealing more information and detail each time. I'm not sure that was the best choice for this particular book. Tran's story, about his parents' escape from Vietnam at the close of the war, their parents struggles in the country, and his own struggles with identity, is certainly a compelling one, but the hiding, then revealing, then doubling back again structure frustrates more than it enlightens, and there's such a large cast here it can be hard to remember who is who and what their relationship is to everyone else.

Leslie Stein

Joe DiMaggio with a Big Dick Visits from the Spirit World by Liam Baranauskas

This is a limited edition hand-made book by my friend Liam, who I know from being one of the best bartenders on the planet as well as an amazing bass player/ guitarist/ sax man and singer who is currently in an amazing trio called Mcdonalds. Included in this volume are short stories, poems, collages and photography, all of which coalesce into auniquely visual and thought-provoking uniformed madness. I had been dying to read some of his work for quite some time, and when he was kind enough to bestow upon me one of these 50 perfect bound treasures I opened it up and smelled it. It smelled of the ink he used for the block prints in the book. Can't get much better than that.

Butcher's Crossing by John Williams

I read Williams's Stoner a few years ago and it completely blew me away. His writing is sparse, direct, beautiful and emotionally jarring. I love westerns, so was happy to hear he had written one. The story follows a privileged young man who has moved from the east coast to Kansas in search of new experiences. He ends up naively joining abuffalo hunt that almost kills all the men involved. Butcher's Crossing employs the classic themes of many westerns, man versus nature, man versus man, and man versus his own nature. Lovely, intriguing and intense. New York Review Books published it, so it looks good in your hands and on your shelf, which is always a bonus.

Yeah! by Peter Bagge and Gilbert Hernandez

Peter Bagge was kind enough to share the venue of Desert Island with me for our respective signings the night before MoCCA this year. We had a great time, and I got to pick up a copy of this book. The book follows the story of a girl rock group called Yeah! who are popular in outer space, and ignored on planet earth. It was originally an all ages pamphlet published by DC that was decapitated after only a few issues. Gilbert's illustrations are excellent and Bagge's writing is funny, as per usual.

The Sociopath Next Door by Martha Stout

I listen to audiobooks while I'm doing my detail work. It helps me stay put. This was on sale through audible.com so I picked it up. I work as a server in a busy restaurant. Stout maintains that four percent of the population are conscienceless sociopaths. From my experience this is a understatement.

Mid-Life by Joe Ollmann

I was on a panel with Joe at this years MoCCA, so I picked up his book to get acquainted with it before we did the panel. At first I have to admit I was a little turned off my his scrappy drawing style, but after a few pages I was totally hooked by the narrative and realized that his drawing style is perfectly fit for the stories he tells. I can't wait to see what he puts out next. His work is a great mix of autobiography and fiction that blends seamlessly. He draws himself really ugly, but actually he kind of resembles Viggo Mortensen!

DC Reveals First Look at Joker: Killer Smile #2

More in Comics