Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading, where we can't stop talking about the comics (and other things) we love. I'm pleased as punch to write that our guest this week is R. Sikoryak, whose wonderful book, Masterpiece Comics, is out right now from Drawn and Quarterly.
Click on the link below to find out what Mr. Sikoryak and the rest of the Robot 6 crew are reading this week. And don't forget to let us know what comics or books you're currently enjoying in the comments section.
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Sean T. Collins: I just polished off a re-read of Fascism: A Very Short Introduction, by Kevin Passmore -- part of Oxford University Press's "Very Short Introduction" series of primers on various philosophical and political topics. The last time I read it, it came in handy in deflecting accusations that superhero comics are fascist. (Believe it or not, Spider-Man isn't a violently antisocialist, ultranationalist racist! Who knew?) This time around...well, I suppose you can imagine what it's useful in deflecting.
Now I'm a few chapters into The Family, Jeff Sharlet's gorgeously written expose of a network of fundamentalist Christians that includes several sitting Senators, Representatives, and governors, working behind the scenes to advance their theocratic utopian ideals around the world. It's like the Illuminati, only I'm guessing they really COULD have stopped Secret Wars 2 had they put their minds to it.
Comics-wise, I'm poised between a read of Abstract Comics, the big fat hardcover collection of nonnarrative sequential art edited by Andrei Molotiu, and Driven by Lemons, Josh Cotter's new sketchbook-derived book that's kind of an "applied abstract comics" demonstration.
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Tim O'Shea: I decided to re-read Essential Iron Man Volume 3, with the news of George Tuska's passing making the rounds (go read Bob Greenberger's take on Tuska and make sure to read Bob Rozakis' response in the comments section). The book features a nearly 12-issue run (Iron Man 12-23, Tuska inked Johnny Craig on issue 24) with Archie Goodwin as writer. What really amazes me about the art in some of these issues (in addition to Tuska's great villain faces) is the layouts he did with them. Rather than static square panels, they panels are randomly odd sizes and angles that lend further intensity to the action on the pages. Goodwin and Tuska made a great combo for storytelling. I really should track down a copy of 2005's The Art of George Tuska by Dewey Cassell, come to think of it.
Brief cameo from my son, weighing in with his opinion on G-Man: Cape Crisis 3 -- he really enjoyed the flight band radar detector that Glendolf developed. He was bummed out by the ending of this issue, but is curious to see how things turn out next issue. For me, my favorite part was the Fred Hembeck cameo.
Last week I was smacking the X-Men around due to their sheer numbers. But I decided to give Matt Fraction's Uncanny X-Men 516 a try. There's a zillion issues that feature a meeting between Magneto, Cyclops and Professor X, but this one was different in a way that pleasantly surprised me. Sure the issue is still burdened by a slew of characters I have no knowledge of, but I enjoyed it enough to consider buying the next issue.
Congrats to Dan Jurgens for reaching Booster Gold 25 again -- and this time it not being the series last issue. I don't know what the Bat books have planned in terms of writers, but if any of thm every need a breather -- I really appreciated Jurgens' take on Dick Grayson.
R.E.B.E.L.S. 9 adds Adam Strange to the cast--and Tony Bedard gets the chance to write him in a slightly witty way, a take on the character that is refreshing.
Red Herring 3 features a great congressional hearing scene that includes the line (and title of this issue) "I'm too old for an anal probe."
I'm three issues into The Marvels Project and the pacing of the story is just moving too slow for my taste. And seeing Nick Fury express his dedication to serving the country as an opportunity for "stikin' a thumb in Uncle Adolf's eye" is lame foreshadowing of Nick's own eye's fate. But damn if Steve Epting and Dave Stewart's art is not pretty to look at, no matter how sluggish the pacing.
Adventure Comics 506 is a sweet payoff for all the crappy things that have been done to Tim Drake and Conner Kent. In a just a few panels, Conner and Drake reconnect in a manner that reminds readers what makes this friendship (and the legacy they both carry, good and bad) an interesting tale. There's a great deal of Geoff Johns' writing in recent years that I can do without, but this comic reminds me why I first enjoyed him 10 years ago on Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E.
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Chris Mautner: A Distant Neighborhood Vol. 1 and 2 by Jiro Taniguchi. A few years ago, Matthias Wivel decried what he regarded as a certain tendency in French comics to stick to a middlebrow, bourgeois banality that "affirms the status quo." He might as well have been talking about this manga. Taniguchi is an amazing artist, one of the most detailed and expressive craftsman working in manga today (at least that I know of) and yet this story of a middle-aged man who (gasp!) finds himself transported back to his teen-age years is strictly by the numbers. It's better than Alex Robinson's similar effort, Too Cool to Be Forgotten, but only because it doesn't have that annoying non-surprise ending. It's not bad by any means -- like I said, Taniguchi is a fabulous artist and he manages to generate some tension by having the man/son try to come up with a way to prevent his father from abandoning his family as he's supposed to do -- but it feels awfully bland.
The Complete Peanuts 1971-72 and 1973-74 by Charles M. Schulz. Reading these volumes in one fell swoop, I've kind of come to the conclusion that this period is really the apex of Schulz's career. The "classic" 60s material is great, of course, and Schulz would go on to do high-quality material in the 80s and 90s, regardless of what some haters think, but he was never as consistently hilarious or as poignant as he was in the early to mid-70s. If you're only buying two volumes of this series, it should be these two.
Grandville by Bryan Talbot. OK, so this is a funny animal comic, set in a steampunk-styled Europe. Oh, and it's one of those alternate-history type doo-dads too, where France won the Napoleonic Wars. Oh, and it's also a detective/conspiracy tale. With gobs of blood and violence. And did I mention the whole thing is a very up-front metaphor for 9/11 and the excesses of the Bush Administration? And that it ends with our badger/detective hero facing off against a Donald Rumsfeld-styled rhinoceros in a blimp? Did I also mention that I thought this book was about twelve different kinds of awesome? Cause it totally is.
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Matt Maxwell: AGENTS OF ATLAS/X-MEN #1 Two great tastes that taste great together! Well, I'm not so sure about the X-MEN, who I stopped following just after Grant Morrison stopped writing it. But more ATLAS is a good thing in my book (and how could you not love the Atlantean cavalry riding in to the rescue on gigantic crabs while the two dragons watched their proxies bash each others' heads in?) The zaniness seemed a bit subdued this time around, maybe to break in X-MEN readers gently, but it was nice to see an early ATLAS story paid off with Wolverine continuing his vendetta against M-11. The backup feature with the 60s ATLAS squaring off against the Original X-Men (which Jeff Parker knows very well from his stint on FIRST CLASS) was a good read, though I'd have preferred that each story be told completely in a month (on the other hand, I understand why it was presented in this way, because one X-Men team certainly has more selling power than the other.) Hopefully this will get some people to try ATLAS, assuming it's going to be brought back in a new series.
KING CITY #1Bought this from Brandon Graham himself at APE today, and have been looking forward to it for a long time, since I was never able to find the Tokyopop edition of the first volume of this book. It's back, being printed by Image in their new, slightly oversized format. KING CITY itself is a wonderfully charming science fiction/crime story featuring intelligent cats that are weapons, spy hotels run by sasquatches, and medicine by vending machine. The best part of all this is that it feels like a consistent fictional world, not just cobbled together from favorite movies and generically bland. Instead, KING CITY is vibrant and wonderful, informed by Mr. Graham's own organic design sense and love of strange, quirky details. Can't wait to read the rest of this.
Grabbed a big stack of books from a trip to the Isotope, including the new volume of AIR, GRANDVILLE by Bryan Talbot and THE COMPLEAT CANNON by Wally Wood. I better hide that last one from the kids...
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R. Sikoryak: I just got back from SPX, so I have a big stack of comics that I haven't gotten through yet. I did just finish the new R.O. Blechman book, Talking Lines, if it's not too creass to plug another book from my publisher. I thought that was great. It's great to see him making these strips over so many years and finally geet them into a book. I know how that feels. I love how organic and humane his work is. It looks so unassuming but he gets to deal with a lot of different issues and a lot of different themes in what seems like a very casual style. it really adds up to something greater if you read more and more of him.
I also just finished the Tales Designed to Thrizzle collection, which I've been meaning to read for awhile. I'm a friend of Michael Kupperman's and a big fan of his. I thought it was great to see it all in color.
I'm also reading the Kate Beaton book, Never Learn Anything From History, which I just bought. I wasn't aware of her work before. We did a panel at SPX and as you can imagine I'm excited by the combination of comics and historical stories. I understand now she's a big star.