spindizzy: (I am so done with your shit)
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I accidentally got out a boat-load of comic trades from my library to fill in a reading gap – I wanted something sort and simple that I'd be able to read quickly! And I was planning to talk about how writing this column really encouraged me to, y'know, actually make that time, to find things that I could read as discuss no matter how busy I was doing other things!

... That may or may not have been a couple of days before Captain America #1 dropped, and before the spoilers about Civil War II surfaced, and... And I looked at the stack of comics I'd just read and went "Do I really want to give Marvel my words this week? Really?"

I didn't, quite frankly. I was tired and angry and tired of being angry -- but the comics I read this week were creators who had nothing to do with the shitshow, or the characters Marvel hasn't done badly by! Not talking about them wouldn't affect the problem at all! So if I sound tired and impatient with some of these? I REALLY WAS.

(For bonus points this week: I have been literally up to my elbows in comics because I'm in charge of culling our selection! I have seen lots that I want to read! Sure would be nice if mainstream comics loved me as much as I love them!)


Books, graphic novels and manga read:
  1. Kingyo Used Books Volume Three by Seimu Yoshizaki

  2. The Ancient Magus' BrideVolume One by Kore Yamazaki

  3. 2k to 5k by Rachael Aaron

  4. Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dexter Soy, Emma Ríos, Richard Elson, Karl Kesel and Al Barrionuevo

  5. The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot

  6. Sigil: Out of Time by Mike Carey, Leonard Kirk, Pat Olliffe and Jelena Djurdjevic

  7. Pretty Deadly Volume One by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos

  8. Generation Hope: Schism by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Espin

Books, graphic novels, manga

Cover of Kingyo Used Books Volume 3 Cover of The Ancient Magus' Bride Volume 1

1. Kingyo Used Books Volume Three by Seimu Yoshizaki
Kingyo Used Books makes me really happy, because it's a series about how awesome manga and stories are, and how sometimes what you need in life is to find the right story to inspire you? Volume three revisits the characters and storylines from the first volume as an update on how they're doing, and there are some really cool things here! It does feel a bit strange to revisit the characters so quickly, considering there's only been a volume gap, but I liked how it handled it.

This manga is really good at getting me invested in characters in a really short space of time, and at making me care about the stories they love. And not all of that caring is based on recognising the series being featured -- I could not tell you hap'orth about Cooking Papa, but Kingyo is so clear on how much it means to the characters that it means something to me? And when I DO recognise the story, I just -- like, there is an artist character whose arc in the first volume was about how she needed to create, even if she wasn't at the level of her friends, or the level she wanted to be at (Hahahaha, it me), and here she is drawing inspiration from Sailor Moon! Yes, be inspired to dream big by magical girls! That resonated with me, to the point where I had to put the book down and feel for a minute. And the story about a character travelling the world, swapping manga with other travellers and chasing up missing library books -- I want that life.

Basically, I like my reviews of books to come with a story attached -- how the reviewer found it, what, if anything, it means to them -- and this series is the embodiment of that. ♥

ALSO if you like your manga to have very thorough footnotes and endnotes, Kingyo Used Books is for you! Every time a new series is brought up, there's a handy quick explanation about it, and there an entire section at the back just for describing the main manga each chapter revolves around! It even specifically talks about how hard a time you might have trying to find it and who printed/reprinted it, which is magic.

2. The Ancient Magus' Bride Volume One by Kore Yamazaki
I mentioned the anime adaptation in a We Want It! post a while ago, where I said that it sounded like cross between Diana Wynne Jones and Robin McKinley, which is 100% my thing.

(Shout out to [twitter.com profile] quartzen who was brave enough to pick up the manga after that; I figured I had to pick it up after I'd accidentally lured other people into it!)

Having read the first volume, it does feel a little like a Diana Wynne Jones book by way of Folklore and/or Tactics, and I am super invested in knowing what happens next! Chise stumbling her way through this magical world being a decent person and also maybe starting to recover from depression and neglect? That is a story that I'm desperate to read. ;_; I like her intro into the world, because that is very much what this feels like -- she's been thrown in with very little understanding, and is slowly getting bits puzzled out, but without all the connecting information yet. Plus: fae-folk! Dragons! Magical cats! And it's doing fun and interesting things with the mythology of each of those, especially cats, so I'm really interested to see what the creator does with the rest of her setting.

Speaking of the setting, the part that is really reminding me of Tactics and Diana Wynne Jones' work is that there's a weird sort of timelessness to the setting? To the point where it's a little surprising when the characters mention computers -- although I have to say, I do like the idea of magic and alchemy being like computer programming, which is a comparison that is made frequently.

The art style is also really cute and I really like the depiction of the magical creatures! It feels sort of familiar, but I can't think what it's reminding me of and I'm sure I've not read anything else by this creator.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the "Bride" thing. Like, I'm rolling with it because it was there in the title, I can't say I wasn't warned? But I kinda expected it to be ignored until later down the line, and right now we're at the stage of characters making jokes that may or may not be serious and I'm there like "...?!"

Cover of Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight

3. 2k to 5k by Rachel Aarons
I have read this one before this year, my thoughts are over here! I needed to refresh my memory as I started working on a bunch of truly regrettable projects, and it is still helpful.

4. Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dexter Soy, Emma Ríos, Richard Elson, Karl Kesel and Al Barrionuevo
Shout out to [twitter.com profile] hardlyaverage for lending this one to me! Captain Marvel is one of those characters I'm aware of (... Through her occasional forays into X-Men in the nineties...) but I've never read any of her stand-alone series! I know guys, I know.

It turns out, y'all were right: CAROL IS GREAT. She is snarky and determined and PUNCHES SPACESHIPS, she is my hero. *_* Like, anyone who is happy to point out "TECHNICALLY I outrank [Captain America]" is cool in my book.

That said, as much as I loved the character development and Carol, I straight up gave up on tracking the plot two thirds of the way through (Conveniently: at around the point the art style changes! Issue five?), because after a certain point I cannot understand time-travel plot lines. This is no slight upon the comic, especially as I enjoyed it for the most part! But I couldn't keep track of who was when and why. People who like timetravel stories will probably follow it better than I did!

Speaking of the change in art styles, I LOVE the art of the first half of this book, less so the second half. I think the art is supposed to reflect the style of the sort of comic that part of the story is like – the first part looks like a more colourful version of war comics with the thick ink lines and dramatic shading, and the second part looks like old-school women’s comics? But I am legitimately not sure if that’s the intention, so I'm not sure if that means that was their intention and it didn't take? Or if that wasn't the intention and I'm over thinking it. (Did anyone else have a hard time distinguishing characters in the first part though? Because I had to page back through sections going "Wait, who's Rivka? This is a four-man team isn't it? Oh, no, five!")

My favourite thing about this run is that, although everyone seems to have been inspired by their father in their backstory, their current heroes? The people inspiring them to do better and be heroes and save the world? All women. Carol is inspired by her pilot-mentor, Helen, ("The Lord put us here to punch holes in the sky." ;_________;) and inspires and teaches teams of female pilots in her turn. Plus: LOOK AT THIS. LOOK AT ALL OF THESE TEAMS OF BADASS WOMEN KICKING ASS AND FLYING PLANES. LOOK AT THEM. ... Seriously I cannot get over how much of this is women inspiring other women and looking out for each other and fighting to give each other the chances they deserve. ;______; And while I am really over the idea of a character's hero turning on them, I thought it was actually handled quite well here, because of the way the character in question was set up.

5. The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia by Mary M Talbot and Bryan Talbot
Comic book biographies, yeeeeeeeeees, my favourite form of non-fiction! (Do we have a word for these yet? I've been refferring to them as "graphic biographies" a la graphic novels, but I don't know if that's the phrase we're using.) I knew absolutely nothing about the Paris Commune before I picked this up (my knowledge of history is pretty much restricted to Greece/Rome/Egypt in 800BC-250AD), so I warn you going into this that I straight up cannot attest to the accuracy of this. The creators do include detailed notes on what they did and did not include (and why), and there are a pretty good amount of references and endnotes at the back if you want to look into it?

But yes, this is a biography of a woman named Louise Michel, as told through a conversation between Charlotte Perkins Gilman (yes, THAT Charlotte Perkins Gilman, of The Yellow Wallpaper fame) and Monique and Eliane, two women who knew Louise Michel to varying degrees. (I do not understand the further external framing device of the man with a parachute -- is it a metaphor or something? It seems so... Unrelated? Like, it's quite well done, but I feel ridiculous for not getting it.)

Louise Michel sounds really interesting! And the details of her life and the things she did to help people (... And hinder them...) are amazing, especially in comparison with some of the terrible people she's contrasted with. As an example: even the people she was exiled with (who were there for being part of the commune!) were racist and colonialist, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman was fucking virulently so. And with that in mind, the way the book contrasts their beliefs in communes and socialism and equality (to a point, for some; see also VIRULENTLY RACIST) with their love of utopian fiction and the futures they talk about and write about – that's really cool.

My favourite part is the page where she's playing a fucking organ in the middle of artillery shelling, because she founds inspiration in falling bombs!

I did have fun comparing this to other graphic biographies I've read; the ones I've seen are primarily autobiographies, or an autobiography interwoven with a biography of a historical figure (as an example: Dotter of Her Father's Eyes by the same creators!), which require a great deal of intimacy and introspection of behalf of the creator, which is... Not really the case with this one! And I can't work out if it's because I know little about Louise Michel and the time period, or if it's because of the framing where two people who never really knew her are talking about her actions, or if the creators are genuinely to do something different! But regardless, the quotes from her poetry were quite cool, and I'm quite interested in tracking some of it down now? I'm just surprised that I've never heard of her considering that apparently there are entire swathes of Paris named after her.

I'm going to close saying one thing about the art: Bryan Talbot's art is generally quite good and this is no exception, but the colour palette! It's all black and grey and white and red and it looks really striking, especially because often the only thing with red on a given page is Louise Michel herself. I like it as a piece of visual consistency and emphasis, and I think the effect is really cool.

6. Sigil: Out of Time by Mike Carey, Leonard Kirk, Pat Olliffe and Jelena Djurdjevic
To start with, shout out to Jelena Djurdjevic for the amazing cover art -- it's what lured me in, even if the rest of the art is just solidly average! The covers are bright and colourful and manage to carry a lot of the story and setting, in a way that the rest of the art doesn't always manage.

That sounds unnecessarily harsh, but my feelings on this are that yes, it is average. The dialogue is somewhat off (especially for the teenage girls who aren't Sam, the lead character), and the characters are universally tropes and clichés. Plus, should we talk about the girl bullying Sam? The one who is bullying her because - drumroll please! - she thinks that Sam is after her boyfriend, who is also not her boyfriend. Like, swapping the genders on that trope does not make it a better or less creepy trope!

Which is kind of a subset of a larger problem, which is that the female representation sure is a thing! We have a female lead who is smart and one of the most interesting thing about Sigil, we have a female pirate captain who is cool and badass and an inspiration to Sam - and also the only woman in those scenes of the comic. And the main character's mother is fridged before the comic even starts! (I know people on my twitter feed have been Super Done with Dead Mothers this month: Sigil is not the comic for you!) I am here for the adventures of timetravelling badasses magically punching people in the face, I am here for Sam growing into the girl we see on the covers and in the future! I would just have been better for me if her reportedly badass mother hadn't died to enable it.

I was genuinely surprised that this was a Mike Carey book, because if it hadn't had his name on the cover, I would probably have just gone "eh" and classed it as an average read that I wouldn't go back to! But because it's Mike Carey, I'm actually disappointed? He can -- and has done better! There was no reason for any of this to not work!

Cover of Pretty Deadly Generation Hope: Schism

7. Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos
Okay, hear me out: it's a magical western about the daughter of Death written by Kelly Sue DeConnick. That is so much my jam that I am genuinely having a hard time with where to begin.

  • Okay, the art! I like it, it is really pretty, sometimes to the point where it's hard to tell what's going on. I like the flat colours and the fact that it is stylised and stylish at the same time. (The fight scenes with Deathface Ginny though: YES. THOSE ARE EXCELLENT.)

  • I adore that there is a recurring theme of stories as well; who knows them, who's in them, what happens after they've ended, and the way that changing the POV character changes so much else about the story even when you're looking at the same events. Plus, the entire book is explicitly a story that one character is telling another, with all of the implied unreliability that comes with it. It's a narrative trick that really works for me in comics and video games, because it means the narration can be as omnicient or detailed as it needs to be for any particular scene.

  • Look, look! This actually bothers to include PoC, which a lot of westerns don't seem to. They don't have the opportunity do as much compared to the rest of the cast, which doesn't seem right, but I'm taking what I can get? And look! Female characters! Female characters everywhere!

  • (I don't know what it says about me or this book that the scene that weirded me out the most is not the rabbit, it's not Beauty's fucking life, it's not the guardians – it's the scene where my entire reaction was "Oh my god that man has been shot! STOP HAVING SEX WITH HIM!")

  • The story is fairly straightforward, for all that it takes a slightly roundabout route, but I quite enjoyed it! It's really different from the other stuff I've read by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel and Bitch Planet most notably), but I think it's pretty good and I enjoyed reading this one.

8. Generation Hope: Schism by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Espin
When I was picking out my pile of comics to read quickly for my numbers, I was like "I am in an X-Men sort of mood, because I have been well into the new movies! Maybe I should grab X-Men comics!" and "Aw man, Hope! Last time I saw you, you were a baby and Cable was carrying you off into a post-apocalyptic wasteland in... Pretty much The Vagrant six years before The Vagrant was a thing! You're a good place to try to work my way into the new canon from, right?"

Bearing in mind that the last time I was reading X-Men continuity even semi-regularly was the very very end of House of M, and most of my House of M experience I got from Cable & Deadpool? No, there is no good place for me to work out what the fuck is going on from here. Apparently Scott Summers has an island now! Kitty Pryde can't touch people any more and is maybe dating Quicksilver? There are only like 200 mutants in the world now? Who's dead?! This is like trying to pick up on a soap after skipping a year.

So, can't talk about this series in the context of the wider Marvel universe, fair warning. I can talk briefly about it as a thing on its own merits... Such as they are...

  • What was that entire sequence with the hospital. What the actual fuck was that, that was dreadful. It was predictable, it was gross (Yes Hope, you deliver that baby because none of this nonsense will end until you touch it. I'm sure that's a great fucking plan.), it was... disappointing, really? But sure, hospital zombies, let's start this volume off with a bang.

  • It's interesting to see someone suing for custody in an X-Men comic where all but two people involved think that the person in question is better off somewhere else. Especially because they do go into how treating Primal like a pet is kinda terrible, and how the way Hope and Primal's relationship is going is not necessarily healthy for anyone. (See also: THAT LAST PANEL OF THE BOOK, THAT'S REALLY CREEPY.)

  • That poor kid in Sheffield had me going "Humanity is awful and I can absolutely believe that would happen, but also humans are awful" and I don't know what other message I was expecting from an X-Men book. God forbid it be hope.

  • And at around the point where I was going "Is this REALLY written by Keiron Gillen? By that Keiron Gillen, who I know doesn't usually suck this badly?" the comic actually threw me a curveball, because the scene with Idie at the museum is really affecting. She is fourteen, convinced she's going to hell, and that. Fucking. Scene. With the countdown, and what she says after the countdown has stopped — Until that point I thought she'd been written far too stereotypically for words, but the end of the museum sequence actually made up for the rest of the volume. ;_____;


  • This had bits that were individually quite good, but I only really liked two of the characters (Hope and Pixie, actually) and the rest felt like stereotypes without enough tweaks to make up for it.

... Basically this is the week of white dudes writing for Marvel really disappointing me, and I'm not sure whether it's me or them who is being unreasonable.

Books in Progress

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab. (I mentioned on twitter that this hasn't been particularly thrilling me, but I think it's a victim of my being in a generally rough mood. I am getting on fine with Kell's sections? The worldbuilding is... Fine? I like his openly bisexual adopted brother -- are they adopted brothers? I could've sworn that twitter was like "HI THIS IS OUR SHIP NOW" but that proves not a single thing. But then I got to Lila's bit, and in her second ever scene she was like "Man, Other Girls SUCK and I am so glad that I'm Not Like Them with their faking weakness and their deserving to get robbed to teach them important life lessons" (I am not even fucking joking) and then she was nearly extorted for sex and raped! And then I nearly put this fucking book down on the bus and left it there because I am super done forever with both of those tropes! I have been talking this one over with [personal profile] renay and [twitter.com profile] branewurms, and we all have different takes on that scene but they have convinced me to keep going with it. WE SHALL SEE.)

Reading Goals

Books read so far: 61/150 (8 new this post)
New-to-me female creators: 29/100 (3 new this post)
#unofficialqueerasfuckbookclub count: (0 new this post. D: D: D: D: D: D: )
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