Welcome to What Are You Reading?, where the Robot 6 crew talks about the books that made it off our "to read" piles and have moved on to greener pastures. This week our special guest is J. Caleb Mozzocco, who blogs regularly at Blog@Newsarama and on his personal blog Every Day Is Like Wednesday.
To see what Caleb and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below ...
I recently finished reading Vol. 20 of Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library, which I had picked up at SPX and liked it enough to write a rather lengthy review.
I also recently read My Life with Charlie Brown, a collection of prose essays and articles Charles Schulz wrote over his lifetime, including an essay he wrote for a college class on author Katherine Ann Porter. Editor M. Thomas Inge divides the sections between autobiographical material, thoughts on the medium, and thoughts on Peanuts in particular. Inge makes some pretty good selections -- the bulk of the material is taken from Peanuts Jubilee, a 25th anniversary book I've got squirreled away somewhere, but it's long out of print and the lengthy essay is a good one. Many of the other pieces are entertaining as well; Schulz has a breezy, bright prose that frequently offers some sharp observations and insight. He has a bad habit of rambling, but it's still an essential read for serious Peanuts fans.
Finally, I read Who Will Comfort Toffle, a Moomin picture book by Tove Jansson and part of Drawn and Quarterly's Enfant line. It's a about a shy, retiring type who feels lost and alone in the world until he discovers a potential mate and learns to screw his courage to the sticking place (or something like that). It's cute and lively, and translator Sophie Hannah does a lovely job keeping the rhyme and meter while mimicking Jansson's wistful style. I liked the previous Enfant book, Moomin, Mymble & Little My a bit more, mainly because of it's die-cut ingeniousness, but this is quality material all the same.
Coming out of the latest (and final of three) in Tom Beland/artist Juan Doe's Fantastic Four collaborations, ".. Ataque Del M.O.D.O.K.", I have two hopes. First, that Marvel collects all three tales in one book (given the years between the issues, the first of which ran in late 2007) Secondly, I want Beland and to do a El Vejigante (the hero) miniseries. Beland's approach to Sue and Reed is great. The highlight of the art was the red tones that wash over the iconic approach that Doe utilizes for El Vejigante's origin. Beland also throws a few mods to his longtime True Story: Swear to God fans in this issue.
Jim McCann has darkened Hawkeye a smidge (but not too much) by allowing him to seemingly embrace Mockingbird's spy business in Hawkeye & Mockingbird #5. McCann keeps throwing plot twists that surprise me. But meanwhile Marvel management has befuddled me by making this ongoing series go on hiatus after issue 6 and turning the Widow Maker arc that was originally part of H&M 7 & 8 into part of an apparent miniseries. McCann is clearly involved with some project connected to H&M after this miniseries, but he has to remain mum what those plans are for fear of spoiling the miniseries.
Jason Aaron's ongoing reinvigoration of the Wolverine series and cast is as fun and obscure as his run on Ghost Rider. It's worth every bit of $3.99 I paid for it.
I would praise the first issue of Chaos War, but Carla did a better job of it in Friday's column. Nothing more I can add other than it was one of my favorite reads of the week.
In other Fred Van Lente news, with the second issue of the Taskmaster limited series I find myself wishing it was an ongoing. In making the character more than one-note/one-dimensional, the piecemeal/teaser approach to revealing his past has me hooked. The manner in which artist Jefte Palo reveals how Taskmaster views a battle (analyzing and memorizing in snippets) is another plus. The one-eyed guest star reveal at the end of this issue seals the deal for me.
Christos Gage has set himself up with a nice character playground on the Avengers Academy series. With each issue, he can pick and choose which teachers to throw in the mix. He opens issue 5 with a great juxtaposition of a jaded an overconfident Hazmat begrudgingly learning from Steve Rogers. Art-wise, I had one weird moment in Striker's subplot where the artist literally recreated the Gary Hart/Donna Rice photo--it was too distracting as it took me out of the story for a moment. But in general, with five issues out so far, it's likely my favorite Avengers family title (with Brubaker's Secret Avengers running a close second).
Sean T. Collins
LOVE AND ROCKTOBER! I'm reading my way through Love and Rockets for the month of October. So far I've tackled the first two volumes in Jaime Hernandez's Locas saga, Maggie the Mechanic and The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.. Simply put, it's been a revelatory experience so far. Click the links for full reviews!
It's appropriate that Showcase Presents Booster Gold benefits from, well, being from another era. This collection of Booster's original 1985-87 series doesn't have a lot in common with today's time-traveling faux-buffoon. Instead, its high concept of a for-profit superhero allows creator Dan Jurgens to put Booster through all kinds of character-building exercises. Since most of the series takes place before Booster joins the Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire Justice League, the emphasis isn't on comedy, but on Booster persevering through power failures, hostile futures, personal betrayals, and (most notably) his sister's death. Through it all, Booster comes across as driven by guilt (over the gambling scandal which wrecked his old life) and desperate to atone through superheroics. Thus, Jurgens starts Booster at the height of financial success and has him brought down (but not out, of course) by the end. Whether by accident or design, Booster exits his original series pretty much with only Skeets and his super-gear, ready to commit fully to the bwah-ha-ha ... which would, ironically, put him in need of another rehabilitation a little less than twenty years later. For that reason, I wouldn't say these issues are required reading for Booster fans (except perhaps for the circumstances of his sister's death), but they give the character a certain tragic depth not really apparent from his JLI days.
Red went a lot quicker -- and was a lot less Helen-Mirren-y -- than I expected. From the perspective of someone who liked those movie trailers, I suppose it too was another example of hidden depths in a comedic character, but boy the book doesn't read that way otherwise. Not that I didn't like it -- Warren Ellis' script felt more organic than I'm used to, and Cully Hamner's art was good as usual -- but I was surprised it was over so soon.
I'll echo Tim's recommendation of the Taskmaster miniseries by Fred Van Lente and Jefte Palo. This would have been an easy comic to overlook, but it's worth checking out for a variety of reasons. There's a price on Taskmaster's head, and many organizations that employ his former students -- Hydra, AIM, Ultimatum -- show up to collect. Lente seemed to have a lot of fun coming up with other organizations to throw at the Taskmaster; I think my favorite was the alien biker gang.
This week I polished off the final Cable collection, in preparation for reading the mammoth X-Men: Second Coming collection. I like what Duane Swierczynski did with Cable and Hope over the course of that series, and the final collection wraps up the Cable/Hope/Bishop story (for now, at least) and sends the duo back to the present. As for Second Coming, it was about what you'd expect from a big X-crossover; some issues were better than others, and overall there was a lot of plot getting in the way of the story. It probably hit its high point when it slowed down enough for the funeral of a longtime X-Man who died in battle, and it's too bad it didn't have more of these types of moments. But I will say I liked the very end, if for no other reason than maybe it means a shift in tone from the hopelessness that has dominated the X-Men titles since the mutant population was decimated.
I don't know what took me so long, but I finally got around to reading Charles Burns’ Black Hole. The art is as amazing as everyone says. It’s so detailed and so unaware of itself. It’s really the perfect complement to the story, which is also - in spite of its fantastic elements - devastatingly honest. What it’s not is the horror story I expected. It’s grotesque, but the supernatural deformities are there only to highlight the very real, emotional misshapenness that all teens go through. It is a horror story, but no more (or less) so than the experience of your average kid in middle and high school.
On a much lighter note, I’ve started digging into Richard Moore’s Boneyard again. I read the first two volumes a long time ago, but I’m going for the whole thing this time. I’ve just re-read Volume 1 and it’s as funny and sweet as I remember. Moore’s created a great cast of spooky characters and an interesting, likable everyman to interact with them. I’m looking forward to seeing finally what direction the series takes as it goes.
J. Caleb Mozzocco
What am I reading? As much as I can while still having time to eat, sleep, shower and occasionally get a little work done—as per usual.
My own personal Possible Review pile had a lot of great stuff in it this week. I just finished—like, a few hours ago—Vanessa Davis’ Make Me a Woman, a gorgeous, nine-by-twelve-inch hardcover collection of select autobio strips and short, sketchy diary comics from over the course of six years or so.
It was a really revelatory read for me, in large part because while I knew her name and had read some work over the years, I’ve never read this much Davis at once, and the volume of this, um, volume really transformed the way I saw her work. I think it will be a great library comic and a great coffee table book, as while there are a ton of pleasure for those of us already in love with the medium, a lot of Davis’ strips seem like the sort “civilians” would be interested in as well. That is, I think Make Me a Woman will have rather broad appeal.
The same pile also provided The Broadcast by writer Eric Hobbs and artist Noel Tuazon, about a group of people who hear just enough of Orson Welles’ infamous 1938 War of the Worlds performance over the radio to be convinced that the world really is ending in Martian fire, and Dawn Land, artist Will Davis’ graphic novel adaptation of Jospeh Bruchac’s 1993 prose novel of the same name. Both books are black and white, and both are just beautifully drawn.
The Broadcast is somewhat surprisingly dramatic, given the high concept-sounding pitch, with the Martian invasion hoax simply a match to all the fuel Hobbs spreads around. Davis’ Dawn Land was one of my favorite reads so far this year, I think; I kind of want to read the prose version now just to see how Bruchac handled certain things using only words, given that there are elements of the book that Davis communicates so perfectly through the comics form that it’s kinda hard to imagine them occurring in prose.
I mentioned libraries earlier, and I’m a big user of them, particularly when it comes to comic books. What’s not to like about an institution that lets you read comics for free? Every trip I generally grab a good armful of manga to sample, and while my last trip included a lot of chaff (Rhysmyth, Dogby Walks Alone, Gunslinger Girl), I just read volumes five and six of Ha SiHyun’s Comic, which I adore. I was originally attracted to the title—it’s a comic, called Comic! It’s not entitled so much as labeled!—and the concept of a teenage prodigy comics artist in a will-they-won’t-they relationship with his teenage prodigy comics artist’s assistant. As the volumes have progressed, there’s been more teen melodrama than comics-related content, but it’s too late, I’m hooked.
On the superhero front, in the past week or so I picked up Wonder Woman: Ends of the Earth, which I thought was surprisingly terrible, and Wolverine & The Black Cat: Claws, which I thought was surprisingly awesome (Good God, can Joesph Linsner draw!)
I don’t read nearly as much prose as I should, and all I’ve been reading this week have reflected my sudden interest in 1950s and 1960s ufology. I’m rereading John A. Keel’s The Mothman Prophecies for the second time this year, and James R. Lewis’ UFOs and Pop Culture: An Encyclopedia of Contemporary Myth.
Most of the prose I do end up reading tends to be in the form of children’s picture books, as their illustration-to-word ratio is closer to comics than most grown-up prose. My seven-year-old niece recently, suddenly developed an interest in gargoyles (she’s going to be a gargoyle for Halloween this year), so her and I have been reading and poring over Night of The Gargoyles by Eve Bunting and David Wiesner and Dav Pilkey’s actually rather touching God Bless The Gargoyles.
And that is what I’ve been reading. How about you?