What Are You Reading? with Chris Williams

Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Chris Williams, editor of the web series The Variants.

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

Chris Mautner

Will my 2012 "best of" list be nothing but all-ages comics? No sooner had I finished R. Kikuo Johnson's masterful The Shark King than I came across Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joe Lambert, the latest in the Center for Cartoon Studies' series of short biographies, published by Disney of all things. Lambert is a cartoonist I've been aware of for a while -- he's been slowly making a name for himself via short pieces in anthologies like Mome, many of which were collected in the impressive I Will Bite You. Annie Sullivan marks Lambert's longest and most structured, realistic narrative to date, and I think it might mark some sort of significant breakthrough for him. This book is nothing short of tremendous. Right from the beginning, Lambert adopts a scratchboard-like approach to suggest the world via Keller's viewpoint -- a dark, barely defined void that slowly starts to take shape as Sullivan teaches her about what she can only perceive through her hands and skin. Lambert never once insults the reader's intelligence --this is no simple, abridged biography. Lambert has clearly done his homework and while he only captures the early part of Sullivan and Keller's life, he provides a wealth of detail and information in the most natural and skilled manner possible. In many ways I felt like I was learning about these people for the first time, which, given Keller's fame, is no mean feat. In some ways I hope Lambert expands upon this book and continues to tell the rest of Keller's life; he certainly seems capable of doing so. Either way, this is a significant work from a young cartoonist who is only just starting to show how very good he is.

Tim O'Shea

The Shade #7: Honestly to a certain extent, this Inquisitor leg of the miniseries has dragged a bit for me. And yet, writer James Robinson continues to reveal layers of depth and nuances to the Shade, I am still loving the project. Plus, Christ on a crutch, Javier Pulido’s layouts are sheer brilliance. An extra round of kudos should go to Hilary Sycamore. Plus I am ashamed to admit, I keep forgetting the legendary letterer Todd Klein is gracing the pages with his work.

Fantastic Four #605: The heart of the Fantastic Four dynamics has always been the friendship of Reed Richards and Ben Grimm. This issue explores that friendship in a roundabout way. My hat is off to writer Jonathan Hickman, who uses limited dialogue and allows artist Ron Garney to take the lead on portraying the payoff scene of this done-in-one story. It may prove to be one of my favorite comics of 2012.

Batman & Robin #8: I have been far more entertained by Peter Tomasi’s writing on Batman & Robin (compared to Detective or the main Bat book). So I enjoyed this issue a little more, realizing that next month the series gets dragged into Night of the (Furry) Owls Bat-book crossover. What makes the series work so effectively for me is the evolving relationship of father (Batman) and son (Robin). The repercussions of the last issue are explored—and again, Alfred’s role as surrogate father, comes into play. I also appreciate that amidst the tension of this issue’s fallout, Tomasi allows a bit of sarcastic humor to exchange between Bruce and Alfred.

Saucer Country #2: I think if this series is going to hold my attention long term, it will be based not on the alien main plot, but the political gamesmanship of the main character. If she keeps operating as savvy as she does in this issue, I expect my interest will be retained. And not that I am entertained per se (far from it, of course), but I admire the manner that writer Paul Cornell approaches the alleged rape of one of the characters. He takes pains to also portray characters who broach the topic in a sensitive manner.

Secret Avengers #25: Writer Rick Remender has chosen to play up the secret aspect of this series. In fact many folks begin to trade in secrets in this issue. He’s setting some conflicts in motion that have me hooked further, though I would have been board anyway for Gabriel Hardman’s art as colored by the great Bettie Breitweiser.

Chris Williams

It was a good week for creator-owned comics. Image Comics and Marvel had four blockbusters this week.

Secret Service #1 by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons brings Millar's take on the spy world. The barrier between the comic world and ours get shattered within the first few pages. Millar sets the tone that this is what a secret agent should be like rather than what we have come to expect. It's already making movie-adaptation news, but when isn't a Mark Millar comic getting adapted for film? At some point, he will have to stop calling them comics and just refer to them as story boards.

Secret #1 by Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim was a great start as well. The machinations of corporate titans playing spy-vs-spy starts this dark tale. These CEO's, executives, and lawyers don't like their jobs very much. They involve themselves in corporate espionage, shady deals, and backroom politics. Ryan Bodenheim nails the artwork, but it's Michael Garland’s stark coloring that really sets the tone of the book.

America's Got Powers #1 by Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch is one I've really been looking forward to. It's a cynical, yet somehow optimistic, take on how the world would react to a crop of kids born with super powers -- a WWE-esque sporting league. This isn't the first time we've seen super powers mix with reality shows, or games that turn lethal for entertainment. But Ross and Hitch make a great team. Great set-up, lots of action, a villain with Sarah Palin glasses, it was a lot of fun, and for 38 pages for 3 bucks, you can't lose.

Saga #2 by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples was a big hit with me too. While the galaxy tries to hunt down our hero couple, Alana and Marko, and their newborn, we still don't know why. But as more complexities get introduced, the story gets broader and a whole lot darker. It's Yorick and Agent 355 in space. That's how I read it, and you can't stop me.

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