What Are You Reading? with Mark Andrew Smith

Happy Memorial Day, Americans, and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our special guest today is Mark Andrew Smith, writer of Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors, Amazing Joy Buzzards, The New Brighton Archeological Society and Sullivan's Sluggers, which is currently available to order via Kickstarter.

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

Tom Bondurant

Although the finished product may not reflect it, I do try to put some thought into these entries. Today, though, I'm just going to gush over Volume 2, No. 1 of Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham's Batman Incorporated. Burnham draws this book like he couldn't wait to get it in front of your eyeballs, giving us indelible images like Bat-Cow (with accompanying Bat-Blood-Puddle) and "I shot him in the face." Morrison's script is taut, funny, and thrilling, starting with a nightmare scenario and ending on something just as bad. Clearly both are reversible (if they are, in fact, accurate in context), but the joy of reading an issue like this is in the journey. Really great work all around, and I don't think they've hit their stride.

I also liked the new team of Jeff Lemire and Mikel Janin on Justice League Dark #9, even if it was a more conventional take on the concept. For one thing, I was pleasantly surprised to see the new Leaguers introduced in the middle of some action, rather than being worked in gradually. It was nice to see Felix Faust too. I'm not sure about folding JLD into the larger League bureaucracy, but with that name (or nickname, as in #9) apparently you either ignore it or embrace it.

Sad to say it, but I may be close to done with Captain America. I've been getting Cap since Ed Brubaker started, and I daresay it's raised my expectations for the book, perhaps unsustainably. Issue #12 (drawn by Patch Zircher) continues an arc introducing the new Scourge and guest-starring everyone's favorite evil Smithers, Henry Gyrich. While it's of a piece with the bulk of Brubaker's run -- a heady blend of super-spies and superheroes -- it seems rather superficial next to the seismic Bucky-related storylines, or even the early Red Skull arcs. There's nothing particularly wrong with this issue, and if I were coming back to Captain America after an extended absence, I'd probably like it more. Now, however, it's something I can see getting in collections.

Finally, I caught up with last week's DC Universe Presents #9, which kicks off a 3-parter written by James Robinson and drawn by Bernard Chang and starring Vandal Savage's (other) daughter Kassidy. As a first issue it's pretty good, mostly introducing the players without advancing the plot terribly far. Since it's a serial-killer story spread over only three issues, I'm guessing part 2 will feature a sudden yet inevitable betrayal, while part 3 will resolve everything in showers of blood and ammo. Kassidy isn't that new or different either, but Robinson and Chang make her nominally appealing, even giving her an efficient action sequence. One good thing about the setup -- which, if you haven't heard, is that she's an FBI profiler and the killer du jour worships the same lost-to-history gods as Dad does -- involves the FBI knowing all about her parentage and using it to their advantage. Thus, speaking of efficiency, her family issues are also her workplace issues. Robinson's script forgoes the usual first-person internal narration, which is nice; and Chang's work is clean and reliable as usual. Should be a good three issues.

Brigid Alverson

I'm hip-deep in galleys and advance copies of summer and fall releases for my BEA panel, but I shelled out $4 for the first two issues of Saucer Country because I am so intrigued by the premise that I didn't want to miss it. My money was well spent. There seems to be a thread that runs through Vertigo books: Take some subject of common lore--fairy tales, Harry Potter, now alien abductions--and put a surreal twist on it. Also, like every Vertigo book I have read, there is a smart, sexy woman in glasses and overly tight clothing directing at least part of the action. Is that some sort of editorial requirement over there? Anyway, it's the story of the governor of Arizona, a divorced Hispanic woman with a lot of internal conflicts, whose life just got more complicated when she realizes she was abducted by aliens. There's a lot of smart political commentary in this comic, and the writing is first rate.

Self Made Hero is a British indy publisher that has been releasing some stunning books here through Abrams. I read Kiki de Montparnasse yesterday; it's a book that is interesting just because of the setting--Paris in the 1920s--let alone the main character, Alice Prin, a poor girl from the sticks who moves to the big city and becomes an artist's model, posing for (and sleeping with) some of the great names of modern art. Kiki comes across as a determined but flawed character, sincere in her affection for her caddish lovers but also self-indulgent and unable to resist the lures of cocaine and red wine. She dabbles in things but there is no one great achievement that defines her, so as a result, the book is somewhat episodic. Still, this is a must-read for fans of that era, and extensive historical and biographical notes in the back help fill in some background for those who are not well versed in the period.

I just started another Self Made Hero book, Gonzo: A Graphic Biography of Hunter S. Thompson, and I am happy to say that the publisher here avoided the pitfall of 99 percent of graphic biographies--choosing this medium and then hiring a second-rate artist. The art in this book is stunning. I'm not too far into it yet, but the introduction promises that Thompson will be presented as a more complex character than our drug-addled Uncle Duke image of him, so I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Tim O'Shea

I got Joey Weiser's Mermin Theatre many weeks ago, and finally got around to reading it. It's not a continuation of the Mermin "talking fish with feet and hands out of water" story that he's already released, hence the different name. Instead this 24-page mini-comic features two unreleased stories, "one from before I came to dry land, and one after" Mermin tells readers in a great Masterpiece Theater homage framing device that Weiser executes. Sometimes I wanted to describe Memin as "the talking Owly"--but it is so much more than that. The first story "Collection" (which was supposed to have been part of the "Flight" series, but was not completed in time) has somegreat slapstick comedy elements to it.In "Lost & Found", Mermin meets a dog, which allows for some other comedy moments, as well as some adventure. As much as I love the drama (which admittedly is mild kids comics drama) of the initial Mermin arc, I am far more entertained at the light fare (minimal drama) featured in these stories. Given that Weiser teases a tetherball story in the future, I think he enjoys writing those tales as well. Still Mermin's character has to have some growth/have a journey to draw in some readers, I think. It will be interesting to see how the whole Mermin story holds together when Weiser collects all the mini-comics (not this one, though, I assume)into a Mermin, Volume 1 collection. I love the Mermin character (and the human kid cast) and hope to see it around (and successful) for a long, long time. Now I am off to hand my copy to my son, who will be overjoyed to read this.

Mark Andrew Smith

Reading Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples, and you can't go wrong with anything by BKV. A cool world, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

Prophet by Brandon Graham and Simon Roy is a lot of fun. Love the narration, and that the character never stops eating.

I'm reading Shark Knife 2 Double Z by Corey Lewis, and I picked it up on Comixology. Anything by Corey is a lot of fun.

Read Drifting Classroom from Viz; it's way old, but awesome, and I'm a huge fan of Umezu who is the master of horror comics and who did one of my favorite books called Cat Eyed Boy. It's like Lost 40 years before Lost.

Reading Scalped by Jason Aaron. I like to read long runs of books and have trouble waiting month to month to follow a series, so now that it's wrapping up, I'm jumping in and really enjoying it. Also I'm doing the same with BPRD and reading it again from the start and enjoying the heck out of it because I love Mignola's, Arcudi's and Davis' work.

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