Home, Monthly Books Read Lists

Books Read January 2022

Key:
-(R) = Re-read
-(B) = Read To My Wife At Bedtime
– No Author = Comic

1st

  1. She’s My Knight, Vol. 1
    -SMK is an extremely goddamned cute manga that inverts what I understand are common romance tropes to adorable effect, featuring a cool, confident, stylish high school boy who SOMEHOW keeps ending up in the metaphorical Princess role in situations opposite his love interest, a tall, semi-oblivious, kinda doofy tomgirl who frequently plays the Prince role, and he simultaneously resents and is super into it. Is switching classic male/female romance dynamics a new idea? Hell no. Is it great every time if done with an ounce of care? Absolutely.
  2. Tartarus, Vol. 1: As Above/So Below
    -Okayyyy this one is about intergenerational rebellion against a corrupt military/religious empire in a sort of science-fantasy kinda setting drawing heavily on the Tarot and other esoterica? So not unlike Dune, I guess…and Star Wars. And –yeah okay and a lot of things, alright? Shut up, all those things rule. Anyway the setting is super cool, the art is always interesting if not always what I’d call aesthetically appealing, and while I’d be lying if I said I understood everything going on, I’m definitely interested and definitely enjoying it.

3rd

  1. The Devil Is A Part-Timer!, Vol. 11
    -I’ll be honest, when a manga goes on as long as this one does the volumes do kind of run together, which isn’t really a problem until you’re called upon to say what happened in a specific one. WHO PUT ME IN THIS POSITION? I WANT NAMES, CLARF! But going by the book description, Chiho falls ill and Maou and Alciel gotta team up to figure out WHAT FRIGGIN’ ANGEL is to blame this time. At this point the series’ ratio of Slice-Of-Life/Reverse-Isekai Shenanigans to Angel-Conspiracy Mytharc has really begun to tip to the latter, which isn’t an inherently bad thing; Japan’s take on Abrahamic mythology has always been delightufully bonkers (and, in fairness, about as well-researched as most Western takes on theirs) and they’ve done enough character work in the lighter, earlier stories to bear the weight of a more significant plot. There’s a reason I’m still reading these and will continue to do so, and that kind of reason is a lot easier to find when a story can change its clothes without changing its bones.
  2. Fear Case
    -Against the gripping tide of an ever-changing world I have only ever maintained one stance: that Matt Kindt is the fucking man, and Fear Case has given me no reason to reevaluate that position.
    So there’s this box, right? What’s in it? Nobody knows. What we do know is that it appears throughout the secret historical record more often than a careless time-traveler, and where it does so, people kill each other; not in the ways that people kill people, but in the ways that people would kill their worst nightmares if they showed up on their doorstep. And now it’s up to a couple of partner agents to follow its trail and find it before they’re taken off the search for their own sanity, assuming it’s not already far, far too late for that. This book rules, full stop, my only problem with it is that it’s a stand-alone graphic novel and not an going series.

6th

  1. Fantastic Four By Dan Slott, Vol. 1 (contains Vols 1-3)
    I have never counted myself among the fans of the Four, just because they kinda seem the…sort of comic-bookiest of them all, don’t they? Like man them’s some comic-ass comics, and I respected that but didn’t think it was for me. Then Marvel spent years drip-feeding me information through Squirrel Girl and the Hulk and I liked what I saw (especially a surprisingly thoughtful Ben Grimm discussing Hell with the Hulk), and while I don’t think I’ll be picking up any FF Epic Collections anytime soon, seeing that Dan Slott is doing a still-ongoing run on the title left me without many reasons to decline, considering how much I enjoyed his Superior Spider-Man. Reader: I AM SO GLAD I DID, because this book is, if you’ll pardon the lack of synonymy, fantastic in both senses of the word. DO I have any context for why the Richards-Storm-Grimm clan appears out of nowhere with some kids I don’t recognize, one of whom has a name that’s clearly a nod to another beloved comic series about space-travel, and do I know why they’re not on Earth or how they can find their way back there? Hell no I do not, and that’s rad, because it means I’m an explorer in the unknown just like they are.
    I was correct in my belief that this is a comic-ass comic, but in this particular circumstance that means it is a sprawling, magnificent display of hope, adventure and joy in the exploration of a strange, beautiful world.

8th

  1. Doctor Strange By Donny Cates, Vol. 1: God Of Magic
    -Why the hell is Loki the Sorcerer Supreme? I don’t remember ’cause I read this six months ago, but I remember being delighted with the answer. I suspect–if the suggestion will not strain the good reader’s credulity beyond its limit–that it may have involved bamboozlement.

11th

  1. Doctor Strange By Donny Cates, Vol. 2: City Of Sin
    -Complicated! See below.
  2. Doctor Strange: Damnation, The Complete Collection
    -Okay this fuckin’ crossover clusterfuck is the precisely perfect example of one of the few things I absolutely, truly hate about comics. So Damnation was a big, multi-title crossover event centering on the good Doctor losing a bet with the Devil and, as a result, the city of Las Vegas quite literally becoming Hell on earth. Obviously that’s great, right? Who wouldn’t wanna read that! The PROBLEM, citizen, is that in order to get this story in its absolute entirety–and is that not the point in being a completionist collector–you need to read all of those issues across all of those series in the correct order, which can be so complicated as to require a guide to doing so. And okay, that’s doable, and also that’s the point in getting a Complete Collection volume, right? YOU WOULD THINK THE HELL SO IN A WORLD WATCHED OVER BY A LOVING GOD, BUT NO; in order to get the complete Damnation experience you need every issue that’s in the City of Sin trade, including several that are not included in the Complete Collection, but in a different order than the Complete Collection has them, meaning that to do it correctly, you have to quite literally hopscotch back and forth between the CC and SoS issue-by-issue and it is a HASSLE.
    The book itself is very good though, and while at the time I would’ve stabbed you in the teeth for suggesting it was worth the ridiculous rigmarole, the cold light of June has cooled my head, albeit at the cost of my electric bill, and in retrospect I now say: definitely read it, but maybe don’t go to the lengths I did, you can just read the CC, you’re fine; my way is a sickness, and the cure is worse than the disease. Something something physician heal thyself.

13th

  1. Daredevil, Vol. 7: Lockdown
    SEE THIS IS THE SAME KINDA BULLSHIT THOUGH, because Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil is FUCKING ART, YOU GUYS, it is a study in trauma and true penitence and punching, it’s one of those works that is so elementally powerful in its storytelling that it makes you understand what people love about a genre or a character or a story that holds no interest for you, and the VERY LAST ISSUE IN THIS COLLECTION, which I was COUNTING on to RESOLVE A CLIFFHANGER, turns out to be a COMPLETELY UNRELATED SIDE-ISSUE DEALING WITH MARVEL’S THEN-CURRENT KING IN BLACK CROSSOVER EVENT. Congratulations! Instead of a satisfying conclusion you get VENOM SYMBIOTES running all over a story that has NO framework to support them or accommodate their power level! Enjoy! Or don’t! We don’t care either way because we already tricked you into buying it!
    That grumbulation aside, CZ’s Daredevil is the only version of the character I’ve ever cared about, and his experience in prison, atoning for his crimes, is maybe the most thoughtful examination of the ethical and moral complications of vigilantism I’ve ever seen in comics. Hard recommend.

14th

  1. Fantastic Four, Vol. 4: Thing Vs. Immortal Hulk
    A guy made of rocks can’t even go on his FRIGGIN’ HONEYMOON anymore without having to punch the Devil on the beach, HONESTLY.
    This volume actually goes into something I’ve always wondered about: how the Thing lives as a person and receives medical treatment and similar, and I’m always here for that kind of character-centered worldbuilding. Also, he gets to punch the Hulk in one of the coolest, most significant, most power-balanced fashions I’ve ever seen in such a mismatched power-dynamic.

15th

  1. Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed? – Liz Prince
    I love diary comics and always have! Johnny Wander, Real Life Comics, Ellerbisms, Dar!, Awkward Zombie, Extra Ordinary Comics and other examples that reveal with embarrassing poignance when the last time was that I was up on the webcomics scene. But more and more of them are getting republished in collections, and more of those are making their way to the Comixology shop, so I took a chance during a Top Shelf sale and was MIGHTILY PLEASED. WYSLMIIWTB is clearly an early outing but is funny, sweet, sad, and essentially human in the way you really want your autobio media to be. Liz Prince’s later work progresses in leaps and bounds, but this is a strong start well worth reading.
  2. Calypso – David Sedaris (R) (B)
    Look you don’t need me to tell you how great David Sedaris is. But this was the first volume I asked to read to my wife, based on its nice balance of acerbity to goofs and relative thinness compared to Theft By Finding and similar, and she was instantly hooked. The Sedaris experience can be summed up in the quote from the volume’s eponymous story, that really tells you everything you need to know whether his books are for you: “I told myself when I was young that one day I would buy a beach house and that it would be everyone’s, as long as they followed my draconian rules and never stopped thanking me for it.
  3. Delayed Replays – Liz Prince
    More Liz! Read her shit, it’s commonplace and everyday in a special way and sweet and relatable!
  4. Alone Forever – Liz Prince
    Et cetera!

19th

  1. Reincarnated As A Sword, Vol. 8
    Oh you’d best believe RAAS is hitting its Manga Bullshit Stride in the best way. I think this is the one where they finally beat the bad guy in the floating castle ruins? But it knows what you want from it by now: the titular magic living sword (Teacher) figures out how to combine his abilities in a new way to overcome a challenge, there are many explosions and wind-effects, and Fran the badass catgirl is adorable and hungry. Say what you will: with RAAS, you get what you pay for, and you go home happy.
  2. Reincarnated As A Sword: Another Wish, Vol. 1
    Okay so I’d be lying if I said I understood precisely the relationship this has to the main series, which I believe is still ongoing; my best guess is that it’s a kind of what-if side-story where Fran and Teacher explore a dungeon earlier in the main story’s timeline and then get voiped off into unfamiliar territory and start a new adventure. This side series has a decidedly different flavor than its parent; it’s lighter, zippier and sillier, and that’s not an inherently bad thing at all, especially considering that the tone of the main series has been trending toward the serious as its plot develops and stakes grow.
  3. Look Back And Laugh – Liz Prince
    More Liz! This one takes place later than the first few collections but has the same human charm; I wouldn’t recommend skipping the earlier volumes but if you’re one of those lemme-know-when-it-gets-good types, this is a great place to start. Instead of an update schedule of “when she can manage it”, this is a true daily strip, 365 comics for the year of 2016, and it’s probably not a coincidence that in addition to hitting a new level as an artist this volume also features Liz achieving quite a few adulthood milestones, like getting dang married.

20th

  1. She’s My Knight, Vol. 2
    More gender-reversed romance shenanigans! A title that relies on a single, pretty contained premise like this doesn’t have a lot of room to grow beyond its thematic boundaries, but they can’t have no progress, so this volume does see Ichinose making more of an effort to break through to Mogami who, in fairness, is developing gradually out of the Oblivious Doofus Hero mold. It’s a good series! It’s sweet and funny! Read it, fools!

22nd

  1. American Elf 1999
    Okay so this is where my diary-comic deep-dive binge begins to descend into true madness. American Elf is a project where celebrated artist and rockstar James Kochalka does a diary strip every single day, from 1999 to 2012, it’s fucking bonkers. He’s a very busy man with a lot of irons in the fire and doesn’t always find something super significant to draw about on a given day, and that’s part of the charm and appeal, it feels like hearing a friend talk about his day and maybe being a little bored about it but still enjoying it. Mostly you just hope he mentions his cat, Spandy.
  2. American Elf 2000
    Look I read–lemme do the math–4380 comics by this dude over the course of like a month, I am not gonna be able to break it down by year or volume, cut me some fuckin’ slack here, but suffice it to say: James and Amy fight then make up, James has trouble knowing how to be a human, Spandy is a frickin’ awesome cat.

23rd

  1. American Elf 2001
    Okay lemme immediately contradict myself: dealing with peoples’ recollections of 9/11 and the following time is super weird but oddly therapeutic, so this one stands out to me in that regard. There’s also some pretty good expression–if not necessarily examination–of how you have to get up and live your life every day in the midst of or after a tragedy, and how it feels like a betrayal to those that died if you fall into the comfort of those routines or lose yourself momentarily in the sense of normality they provide.
  2. Moon Knight By Lemire & Smallwood
    I love me some Jeff Lemire, and I figured if anywhere was gonna be a good place to jump into this Moon Knight I’d heard so much about, it was gonna be at his house. Incorrect! I have almost no idea what happened in this, how much of it was literal versus metaphorical, what any of it means in the context of Moon Knight as a character, or how any of it is connected to anything else. But is that not…kind of perfect, all things considered? It’s gorgeous, and a bunch of really cool shit happens, and we get to see a man kill his god, what’s not to like.
  3. Delicious In Dungeon, Vol. 8
    As I noted above, it can be pretty difficult to differentiate volumes in long-running series, especially in manga, but this one stands out because it features bodyswap shenanigans between the party members exploring the dungeon, all of whom are of different humanoid species. This would be interesting in its own right but, this being the series it is, is mainly used to explore how their new and various bodies interact with the food and flavors that the make with the monsters they defeat and butcher. It is one of the best series currently running.

24th

  1. American Elf 2002
    Spandy goes to see Treasure Planet!

25th

  1. Friday The Rabbi Slept Late – Harry Kemelmann (B)
    This is such a great book! It’s the first in a series from the 70’s about a Rabbi that solves murder mysteries, and it is the best. Much like Gregory McDonald’s excellent Fletch novels, these take place in an America that no longer exists, where there are no cell phones, no computers, people walking places, taking notes, and all of the fundamentally different action-structures that accompany a world where a telephone is the closes thing to instantaneous communication. Also much like Fletch, the bones of these stories are more than strong enough to stand on their own whatever the era, and the trappings of their time and place make for a refreshing change of pace compared to modern mysteries that, naturally and reasonably, conform to the shapes and mechanics of their time and place.
    Also I’m a sucker for well-researched, quality portrayals of religion in fiction and Judaism in particular is a soft spot for me, so what, I’m NOT gonna watch Rabbi Small be a Talmudic Columbo in 1970’s Massachusetts?
    I actually started reading this to my wife as our secondary book; usually she’ll fall asleep during the main one, I’ll stop reading it, she’ll wake up and go “Oh! I fell asleep!” so cutely it’s a wonder it hasn’t killed me, then she’ll actively go to sleep and I’ll read her another book she doesn’t care about just to make sure she drops off and safely crosses that dark river to the far Shore of the Dreaming. But this one, which I started reading for ME, grabbed her attention so much that she made me stop reading it as she fell asleep so it could be our next actual book. THAT’S RIGHT: THE SLEEPIEST WEE BEAR IN THE WORLD LOVED THIS MURDER-SOLVIN’ RABBI MORE THAN SHE LOVED GETTING TO BED ON TIME.
  2. The Devil Is A Part-Timer!, Vol. 12
    The Devil and his posse go work at a farm for the summer! It’s nice! This one is part of a little mini-arc inside the main story where the restaurant the main crew works at is closed for renovation so they, being poor schmucks, need to find other work, like running a seaside snack-bar or, as the case may be, Stardew Valley larping.
  3. American Elf 2003
    Spandy plays a key role in the Antwerp Diamond Heist!
  4. Fantastic Four, Vol. 5: Point Of Origin
    Dan Slott’s FF run rules, as per above, but this one was lost on me; that doesn’t mean it’s not good, but you have to really know and really care about the Four’s origin story for it to mean anything to you.

27th

  1. American Elf 2004
    Spandy christens the Queen Mary II, the largest ocean liner ever built!

30th

  1. American Elf 2005
    Spandy releases the Xbox 360 and has absolutely no involvement in the death of Pop John Paul II! How could she? She was playing 360 like the rest of us! Lost Odyssey, and Dead Space and Mass Effect and similar!
  2. The Way Of The Househusband, Vol. 7
    I love WOTH as much as anybody–in fact I love it measurably more than people who haven’t even made the simple effort to review it on their blog–but loving something doesn’t preclude being honest about when it starts to get a little stale, and Tatsu and his domestic-yakuza shenanigans were starting to wear a bit thin at this point. And in fairness the series seems to know that, because Vol. 7 is about broadening Miku and Tatsu’s context and scope; seeing them go camping, watching Tatsu contend with the old ladies of the Neighborhood Association like they were mob-bosses, and getting into a haiku-battle all make for a refreshing change of pace firmly grounded in our thorough familiarity with the characters.
  3. Daily Report About My Witch Senpai, Vol. 1
    This is a super cute series about a guy who works in an office with a witch; she’s clumsy despite being magical, he helps her out, it’s adorable, there’s blushing, you get it. But it goes to a lot of extra effort with characterization; the main girl isn’t A Witch in the archetypal-manga-character sense, and is often treated as something of a metaphor for…I don’t know that I wanna say race or disability exactly, but for anybody who’s got something that makes them Different and whose life is made more difficult by that because of others. It also deals sensitively and realistically with her having a starter-boyfriend who seesaws between Jerkass and Borderline Abusive and actually doing something about it in a way that’s maybe not as punch-him-out satisfying as it might have been, but is definitely a much more nuanced depiction than I’m used to seeing in these kind of stories.

31st

  1. Six Sidekicks Of Trigger Keaton, Vol. 1
    Kyle Starks is a genius, and everything he’s ever written is worth your time; his entire existence–as far as I’m concerned, the existence of the printed word–is justified by the line “It’s like he’s got punching diarrhea and their faces are the toilets!” in Rock Candy Mountain. But SSOTK is, if certainly on-pair with his typical level of ridiculousness, also a much more somber and generally thoughtful work, centering on the titular six sidekicks of a Chuck-Norris style television karate-cowboy who, by all accounts, was just the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch and left them all with various levels of trauma and dysfunction, attempting to deal with his apparent suicide. So we’re agreed, fuck that guy, right? Except: we don’t believe for a second that that narcissistic bastard would ever do that. And so begins their investigation into Trigger’s long, long list of enemies besides themselves, SOME OF WHOM ARE NINJAS, and their journey into the mind of a real piece of shit.

and that the time would prove you wrong

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5 months ago

[…] because instead of cramming mini-reviews of related comics into these, I’ve started doing mini-reviews of my monthly books-read lists! This is a terrible idea that will be way more work than I realize and is unlikely to be worth it, […]

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4 months ago

[…] As I’ve mentioned, this series is adorable, and I was very relieved when the first volume ended on a definite Note Of Romance, eschewing the will-they-won’t-they romantic-storytelling fallback that so many series rely on instead of actually developing their characters. (And I mean look, people gotta eat, I’m not here to judge, I’m just saying there’s telling a story with a beginning and end, and there’s publishing every week for as long as possible by changing as little as possible.)Given that, I’m excited at the promise of that romance progressing that the blurb provides, and while I’m definitely not here for the idea that a romantic partner should–or can–‘fix’ you, it’s clear that Shizuka struggles on a daily basis with who and what she is, and it’s my hope that Misono do what a partner is supposed to do and show her all the great things she can’t see about herself. In fact the more I think about it the more I hope this is a limited-ish series that sees definite growth and ends with the two of them leaving the office that yes, brought them together, but that also prevents Shizuka from developing any sense of self-esteem, and starting a new life together in a place where both of their skills are valued. I’m getting ahead of myself of course, but Vol. 1 gave me hefty expectations for the quality of subsequent volumes, and one cannot help but speculate. […]