spindizzy: A My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic style portrait of me. (Lady Business)
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This week's post was going to be a good and sensible post! It was going to contain completely reasonable amounts of books! And then I ended up travelling over 500 miles with my spousal unit as we hokey-kokeyed up and down the Welsh border for three days, so I had plenty of time to clear out my Comixology backlog. Especially as Storm Imogen made all of this, y'know, fun!

(Hay-on-Wye is AWESOME, guys, it has like thirty-eight bookshops in one village. We didn't get to linger because we were worried about the road back flooding, but it is SO GREAT.)

... What I'm saying is that I'm seriously considering giving up as a prose reader, it's clearly not working out. I'm sorry prose! It's not you, it's me!

Books, graphic novels and manga read:
  1. The Losers Omnibus Volume Two by Andy Diggle, Jock, and Shawn Martinborough

  2. Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus Volume One by CLAMP

  3. Fairy Tail Volume One by Hiro Mashima

  4. My Little Monster Volume One by Robico

  5. Lady Killer by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich

  6. Ajin: Demi-Human Volume One by Tuina Miura and Gamon Sakurai

  7. Your Lie in April Volume One by Naoshi Arakawa

  8. Manga Dogs Volume 2 by Ema Tooyama

  9. The Man of Tango by Tetuzoh Okadaya

  10. Lazarus Volume 3 by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Tyler Boss, and Santi Arcas

Short stories and single issues read:

  1. The Maiden Thief by Melissa Marr

  2. Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 14, Written Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind by Erica L. Satifka

  3. When We Die On Mars by Cassandra Khaw

  4. The Fifth Gable by Kay Chronister

  5. Soup by Chikodili Emelumadu

  6. RE: Little Miss Apocalypse Playset by Effie Seiberg

  7. When First He Laid Eyes by Rachel K. Jones

  8. The Scrape of Tooth and Bone by Ada Hoffman

  9. Fairy Tales Are For White People by Melissa Yuan-Innes

  10. Mystery Girl #3 by Paul Tobin and Albert Albuquerque

  11. Dragon Age: Mage Killer #1 by Greg Rucka, Carmen Carnero, Terry Pallot, and Michael Atiyeh

  12. Enormous #1 by Tim Daniel, Mehdi Cheggour and Matthew Meylikhov

  13. Southern Cross #1 by Becky Cloonan, Andy Belanger, Lee Loughridge, Serge LaPointe

  14. Morning Glories #1 by Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma, and Rodin Esquejo

  15. Wooden Feathers by Ursula Vernon

I'm gonna try to keep it short, considering how much we've got to get through. BRACE YOURSELVES, CHAPS.

Books, graphic novels, manga

The Losers Omnibus Volume 2 cover Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus Volume 1 cover

1. The Losers Omnibus Volume Two by Andy Diggle, Jock, and Shaun Martinborough — Caution warning for torture — My conflicted feelings on The Losers, oh boy. SO, on the one hand? This volume goes hard into the idea that the biggest problem America has is America (specifically the people in charge), which is fine! It does things like remind me that I love that Sealand is a real place! It has excellent fight scenes (particularly involving Aisha, who continues to be terrifying and badass; the last panel we see of her is pretty fucking great.)! It has some of the best emotional moments of the series, especially between Pooch, Cougar, and Jensen, and reduced me to a ball of anguish and despair by the end.

But on the other hand... Well, some of the art choices are... Bad at best, and kinda racist at worst? (Pooch comes off worst from this, I'm sure you're all shocked.) I feel like there is something really weird about a setting where all but one of the named villains is a POC, and the only female party member is both unstable and using sex to manipulate a guy? ... I might just be being too sensitive here, though. Did that ping to anyone else? I'd quite like to bounce thoughts on this around, because I am here for the emotions and people being competent! And I'd like to have a clearer idea of why I have such a problem with this book?

2. Cardcaptor Sakura Omnibus Volume One by CLAMP — OKAY, before we get into this: Cardcaptors (yeah, the dub) was one of my formative influences. I love it unreasonably. So, this shiny, beautiful edition of the manga is pretty much the embodiment of ten-year-old Susan's dreams. (Also, I've had to go through and strip out the dub names, so forgive me if I've missed any?) Like, Cardcaptors was to me what Sailor Moon was to people of [personal profile] renay's fannish generation, if that makes sense.

First off: the art is so pretty and so great, and I love how many different costumes there are and how everyone has different everyday wear for each appearance – I know that's a silly thing to be happy about, but it's a really neat way of seeing people's personalities, and a lot of manga doesn't go into it? And all of the kids look young, like the adorable squooshy kids that they are! ... Even if it's really hard to see how they go from the tiny acceptably-in-proportion kids to the HUGE-SHOULDERED MEN WHO ARE AS LARGE AS BUILDINGS. And the action is generally easy to follow, and it all flows together so nicely!

Secondly: I really love the story in this volume? Sakura accidentally unleashes the Clow Cards and gets recruited to capture them all again, and the way she handles this problem involves friendship! And family! And trust! And Sakura being really good at thinking on her feet! ... It's interesting to come back and go "Oh! Oh that's where my fondness for that trope came from!" The stories are mostly episodic, and sometimes that means that there's next-to-no action and the catching of cards is resolved really quickly to get to the emotional drama, and sometimes it is all about magic stirring up trouble. Either way, this is my kryptonite.

BUT. HERE IS MY RESERVATION WITH CARD CAPTOR SAKURE: Holy shit some of the relationships in this manga. There are two teacher-student relationships (Sakura's mum was sixteen years old and a student of Sakura's father when they got married! Which is still less creepy than one of the ten-year-olds getting an engagement ring off her teacher! WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE!) that I'm side-eyeing the fuck out of, and three homoromantic crushes! Two of them (Tomoyo's on Sakura, and Li's on Yukito) are fine and very cute, even if they're unrequited? And one of them is Tomoyo's mum's crush on Sakura's mum, which I'd be more fine with if they weren't cousins. I... I have no idea why so many teacher-student relationships! I am not okay with those! But I am super okay with the queer crushes going on, because oh wow, I did not know that my childhood fandom actually involved queer representation of any type? Oh man, how much easier would growing up have been if I had known that?!

... I really love this manga, you guys. I can't tell if it's because it's good or because I have history with the series, but I love it. It's on my list of "Give to people who are new to manga (with qualifiers...)"

3. Fairy Tail Volume One by Hiro Mashima — Well, that sure was a thing? I think it leans more towards One Piece's art style (impossible anatomy, especially for the female characters, and yay for not-generic faces!), but I find it a little less charming? I really like the different magic systems though, especially Lucy and her summoning, and I will put up with a lot of nonsense for an interesting magic system. (See also: Loveless.)

4. My Little Monster by Robico — I generally have a problem with stories that go "Nope! A female character cannot be happy and focused solely on her work!" or "Female character! Please manage the behaviour of male character!" but I found that this one didn't bother me so much? Probably because everyone else who shows up is just as bad at being a socially capable human being as she is. The relationship between the main characters feels a little off – like he's not seeing her, just what she represents (Friendship! Relationships! Opportunity to continue thinking life is a video game!), and I think punching the person you're rescuing in the face negates any obligation they might have to thank or care about you? Hmmm.

I don't think I'd buy this series, but I might check the later volumes out of the library. The characters are all slightly off in ways that interest me, even I'm kinda side-eyeing the plot, so...

5. Lady Killer by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich — Uggggh. What I hoped I was getting was a cool fifties housewife who moonlighted as an assassin? What I got was kinda that, but with bonus period-appropriate(?) sexism, male-gaze everywhere, someone who apparently collects murderous women and throws them aside later because they're murderous, and an introduction that feels like it was written in a different era, where we don't have female characters who will fuck people up as soon as look at them. What really bugs me about this book though is that it feels like I only got half the story? Not in a "the creators want you to build out from your imagination" kinda way, but more in a "half of the story is in a different volume that isn't out yet" way. It was a little disappointing, not gonna lie.

6. Ajin: Demi-Human Volume One by Tuina Miura and Gamon Sakurai — I... Genuinely found this mostly forgettable? Like, solidly average, decent use of body horror and gruesome deaths, but there wasn't anything there for me to give a fuck about, really.

7. Your Lie in April Volume One by Naoshi Arakawa — I'm still trying to work out my feelings for Your Lie in April. The protagonist doesn't feel like he can play piano anymore after his abusive mother's death, but he's introduced to a quirky violinist who plays with... She plays from the heart? She plays classic pieces like they're jazz and she's going to make them dance for her? And then she harangues him into being her accompanist.

Basically, while I'm fond of all of the characters, this could very easily descend into manic-pixie-fix-my-trauma, and I'm not familiar enough with the creator to say whether I trust them or not. I might be willing to risk it though, if only because I want to see how this next performance goes.

(Also, respect to Kodansha for going "Hey, if you want to know what these pieces sound like, we've sorted out clips for you – I like knowing that there'll definitely be a decent quality recording when I go looking.)

8. Manga Dogs Volume Two by Ema Tooyama — This continues to be absolutely adorable, even as I bury my head in my hands over this goddamn cast. Tezuka's freak out over the guys finding out about slash? I know that feel. Tezuka's anguish over wanting to tell her story, even if it's not good? I know that feel! Tezuka being completely appalled by her teacher dressing students as characters from her own comic? Definitely know that feel. It continues to be very silly and very motivating for me, I approve.

9. The Man of Tango by Tetuzoh Okadaya — Hoo boy, do I have some feelings about this! When I first picked up The Man of Tango, I was a bit confused because it's marketed as BL, and the blurb appeared to have plenty of BL tropes in? But everything about the art style screams gay manga, rather than BL?

(For those wondering what the difference is, BL is marketed at women, mostly, and gay manga is marketed at gay men? The SUPER QUICK AND DIRTY summary of how this affects the art style, in my experience, is that gay manga tends more towards muscular/hairy men with actual genitalia rather than censorship or blurring, while BL is usually drawn in a recognisably shoujo style; also gay manga has slightly more porn and it's usually a lot more explicit? But that is a super simplified and reductive explanation, WE CAN GET INTO IT ANOTHER TIME WHEN I HAVE MY REFERENCE BOOKS ON ME.)

It turns out that the artist drew a gay manga, is a fan of Gengoroh Tagame (who is pretty much the biggest name in gay manga as far as I know?), and didn't know what BL was before she worked on this. Everything made sense once I found that out.

So, a lot about this book appealed to me! The art is pretty great, even if I keep squinting at the female characters and trying to work out why the proportions are tripping me up – it has muscular female characters! That's really cool! One of the main characters is a hot beardy middle-aged dude, which is apparently my type now? And the story makes a deliberate point of going "This woman is not in a romantic relationship with him, but is super important to him!" and "This guy here? Also important to him platonically!" which is nice? Sometimes romance manga can feel like the only people you see are the ones who are invested in the relationship, or like the world doesn't exist apart from these two people. And as the entire premise revolves around the tango – dancing it, teaching it, thinking about it – there's a lot of people being good at their jobs, which always makes me happy! And a lot of "oh god this is the most awkward thing in the world for me, but I'm going to keep going!" The emotions are great, even when it's as awkward as "Now I'm going to get drunk and cry about my tragic backstory all over you."

And the elephant in the room: is the sex consensual! (For those who are new around here: I can name maybe three BL series where the sex is fully 100% consensual. This is an IMPORTANT QUESTION.)

And the answer: darlings, not even once.

The characters have sex while one is much drunker than the other, and then when they have the obligatory "prove we're in a relationship" sex, one character changes his mind and the other one keeps going. I legit nearly threw the book across the room. (And when I found out how and why the artist resolved the storyline of Bene – the female character – I was sorely tempted again!) WE COULD HAVE HAD IT ALL, BOOK. YOU COULD HAVE GIVEN ME THE EMOTIONAL INTIMACY AND THE FOUND FAMILY AND THE DANCING AND THE DISTINGUISHED OLD QUEERS WITHOUT THE DUBCON, BUT LOOK WHAT YOU DID. I really want to love this book, I really do, but I'm still bad at loving books that make me this angry.

... Apparently I had like 600 angry words in me about could-have-been-great gay porn. WHO KNEW.



This volume had some excellent politics and manipulation going on, and I forgot how young Eve seems when she's not in Lazarus mode. It's really nice to see that the Lazari have their own rules for interacting with each other and do their best to be friendly and respectful of each other despite their factions. (This is going to hurt me later, isn't it?) I'm not sure how I feel about the resolution of the Jonah plot thread, but I'm reserving judgement until the next volume when we get to see if that has resolved. I want the next volume already!

Short stories and single issues

1. The Maiden Thief by Melissa Marr — Every year I give Melissa Marr another go, and every year I come back with "Yes, but not for me." This appears to be a retelling of the Bluebeard story with bonus abusive families, victim blaming (even worse when the villain is like "Yep, it's actually literally your fault!"), and possibly the prisoner becoming the warden? I liked the protagonist, I thought she was smart and good at solving the problems she was faced with! It would have been nice though if the villain hadn’t been wearing a bright fucking neon sign saying I KIDNAP YOUNG GIRLS for a hat.

2. Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 14, Written Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind by Erica L. Satifka — This was recommended as a short story that does interesting things with its structure, and holy crap it lived up to its rec. It's a short piece, constructed as a list (obviously), and it's amazing how much world-building and heartbreak got fit into a list. Plus, the items Maddie completed and the ones she didn't break my heart, especially that last one. *wails*

3. When We Die On Mars by Cassandra Khaw — Found families going to Mars, failing out of going to Mars, and trying to make each other happy before they leave. ;___; I liked the way they all seemed to grow together into a crew, and the way they helped each other achieve their dreams.

4. The Fifth Gable by Kay Chronister — (Caution warnings for dead babies) — This story is genuinely creepy and surreal! It’s very good and atmospheric, especially the ways each different woman builds or grows or creates her children, but holy shit is it creepy. Thank you Jodie for the heads up about it!

5. Soup by Chikodili Emelumadu — I like this one! It's a somewhat murderous version of the magical fish fairy tale (and I don't think that the protagonist never found out whether the fish was telling the truth, did she? But it did give her an incentive to realise how unhappy she was, so!), and it's really well done.

6. RE: Little Miss Apocalypse Playset by Effie Seiberg — The thing that made me laugh so much about this story was just that I could see it happening in real life. Thank you, Bad Idea Corp, love your work, feel sorry for your legal team.

7. When First He Laid Eyes by Rachael K. Jones — Caution warning for stalking —This is creepy as all hell; putting everyday interactions through an entirely plausible funhouse mirror. It only gets worse when you read the linked the piece about the origins of this story.

8. The Scrape of Tooth and Bone by Ada Hoffman — So, I heard you want a story about an autistic lesbian mechanic helping to excavate dinosaur fossils in a steampunk setting! ... Maybe you didn't, but someone laid that description out for me and I pounced. I thought the world-building was pretty well done – I don't see a lot of steampunk involving séances (although I'm sure it's out there), so I enjoyed seeing that folded in? And you know what, [spoiler] are not even the weirdest thing I've read in steampunk so I'll go with it. I'm not sure I bought the romance completely (the about-face in attitude seemed very sudden), but I'll take it!

9. Fairy Tales are for White People by Melissa Yuan-Innes — This is another really cool take on a fairy tale (I am having a good run with these!), this time a wicked fairy-godfather showing up to harass a Chinese family in 1970s Toronto. I quite liked narrator's voice in this, the way the whole family was involved in solving this problem, and how it seemed to blend cultures and mythology (in that fae and devils appear to be dealt with in the same way, here!).

10. Mystery Girl #3 by Paul Tobin and Albert Albuquerque — (Caution warning for dead dogs, I know someone here wants those warnings) — Trine continues to be absolutely fantastic and excellent at both solving mysteries and apparently organising operations from the other side of a continent! This issue actually explains a lot of what is going on with the plot, so I'm excited to see where it's going. Plus: next issue there are probably going to be MAMMOTHS! :D

(BTW – did anyone else's issue appear to have a couple of pages out of order? Because I swear mine does and I can't tell if that's deliberate or not.)

11. Dragon Age: Mage Killer #1 by Greg Rucka, Carmen Carnero, Terry Pallot, and Michael Atiyeh — "I have no interest in Bioware tie-in comics," I told Comixology. "The Mass Effect comics burned me too badly. It's not meant to be!" And Comixology was like "I hear what you're saying, but I DO have a Dragon Age comic by Greg Rucka, right here."

Comixology is a bastard, is what I'm saying here.

ANYWAY, Mage Killer! It has a super cute pair of bounty-hunters/mage killers; the obligatory Driven And Haunted character, and the adorable snarky rogue who does the talking. I enjoyed this issue mostly for the relationship between the two characters, (I hope they kiss and nothing tragic happens!) and I am here for seeing how non-player characters get on in Tevinter? Or relate to blood magic? The cover somehow gave me the impression that this was going to involve Meredith (it doesn't), but that is about the level of violence you can expect in this, fair warning. I'll report back after issue two!

12. Enormous #1 by Tim Daniel, Mehdi Cheggour, and Matthew Meylikhov — I was not keen on this one. The art style is a painterly one, which I usually like? But there's no sense of motion or flow through the pages? It doesn't feel like there was any thought put into how the images would work together as page, and as the story didn't hook me enough to get past that, I'm not going to keep going with the series.

13. Southern Cross #1 by Becky Cloonan, Andy Belanger, Lee Loughridge, and Serge LaPointe — I am seriously intrigued by what's going on here; it appears to be a murder mystery ghost story in space, and it looks really well put together? There are pages that feel really... Dense, is the best way I can think to phrase it? Maybe cramped? But that could be thematic considering everyone is currently locked in a spaceship. Is anyone else reading this one? I was planning to pick up a few more issues of it, and was wondering if the any of you had any opinions on it?

14. Morning Glories #1 by Nick Spencer, Joe Eisma, and Rodin Esquejo — Hoo boy, this was not the comic I thought I was getting! The intro was very cool, and all of the characters had introductions that set them up well! The I just... Noped out at the last panel, quite thoroughly. (On the plus side, that's a fairly solid reason for not going to any adult or involving the outside world!) I'm probably not going to pick up the rest unless there are some solid recommendations from y'all?

15. Wooden Feather by Ursula Vernon — This is a very neat little story about creations and creating, and it nails the emotions. Sarah is a woodcarver who isn't as good as she wants to be (and she knows it), and the scenes where she appeals to Jep (a master craftsman) for... Validation? Acknowledgement? Those got me where I live. Especially considering the ending and the hope there! My craft is words, and my master craftfolk are women who make the English Language sit up and beg, but that really resonated. ;_;

Books in Progress

Drops of God by Tadashi Agi and Shu Okimoto (I can deal with pretentious nonsense, but this is going a bit far.). Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris (I needed some comfort reading to hook me back in on prose, and this is as mindless comfort as I can get.) I Remember by Julie Cannon (If I don't finish this by Monday I am OFFICIALLY giving up on it. The timeline changes are bugging me too much.)

Reading Goals

Books read so far: 28/150
New-to-me female creators: 13/100 (Novels; 2 new this post), 10/100 (short stories1, 9 new this post, *sob*)
#unofficialqueerasfuckbookclub count: 8 (4 new this post: The Man of Tango; Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 14, Written Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind; The Scrape of Tooth and Bone; Enormous)

1: Jodie's Daring To Dream 100 Ways project inspired me to at least track these numbers. I recommend checking out her post, because it involves Jodie continuing to be excellent at short fiction!!

So. Yeah. That was my fortnight in reading stuff. Next time I decide to read this much stuff? Somebody stop me. *sobs*

Date: 2016-02-13 05:15 am (UTC)
muccamukk: Jan flying. Text: "Watch out where you swing that hammer, Golden Boy! There's a lady present!" (Marvel: Feminism)
From: [personal profile] muccamukk
Aisha being pretty unstable and sexually manipulative pinged me pretty hard, especially since she's the only significant woman in the comics. Though, man, that last panel! I didn't get as strong a vibe off the villain thing.

Date: 2016-02-13 05:37 am (UTC)
retsuko: (cool yuuko)
From: [personal profile] retsuko
I feel the same way about Card Captor Sakura: on one hand, it's simply adorable, so cheerful and full of over-the-top cute, but on the other... What the what, CLAMP?! I remember reading a while back a translated interview with one of them, where she said something like, "we wanted to explore every sort of loving relationship we could in CCS" and I'm like, UHM. I've read relationships like Sakura's Mom and Dad before (the trope of high school student marrying her teacher appears in Maison Ikkoku, which I think I love in the same way you love CCS) in manga, but CSS takes it to a strange and extreme place.

Eta: I love Drops of God, but I had to enlist my Mom's wine knowledge to understand the significance of most of the names being dropped. ;D
Edited Date: 2016-02-13 05:39 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-02-14 01:28 pm (UTC)
bookgazing: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bookgazing
Re: Soup - Yes! I'd forgotten how unreliable the fish probably is (he really just wants to escape). I'm so excited that you read a bunch of stories I've read. Can we get the other 3 LB editors to read Wooden Feathers? This seems like a job for Renay! I'm gonna check out Bucket List for sure and maybe Little Miss Apocalypse too.

Date: 2016-02-28 07:08 pm (UTC)
litomnivore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] litomnivore
Card Captor Sakura hit my preteen circle of friends in the early aughts: a friend of mine actually bought me a replica of the Clow Cards in their book box. So it definitely turned up for me at a later point than Sailor Moon.

But yeah, all those student/teacher relationships make it really weird for me.


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