Home, Monthly Books Read Lists

Books Read March 2022

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

2nd

  1. Mama Akuma, Vol. 2
    Vol. 2 is where this series really establishes its core stakes: 1.) Seere is a demon and there are other demons who want to know what the friggin’ deal is and why he hasn’t executed the contract he was summoned for, and 2.) Seere begins to worry that no matter how much demon magic he slarbs all over this joint, he still won’t be a mama to Sakura, and whether he’s worried about that for demon-contract reasons or feelings-reasons is not clear, least of all to him.
  2. The House Of Lost Horizons: A Sarah Jewell Mystery
    THOLH is the latest Hellboy spinoff, alongside Young Hellboy, Sir Edward Grey: Witchfinder, Lobster Johnson and frankly too many others for me to list in what is supposed to be a brief summary. Spinoffs are, by nature, chancy; this is clearly a very good thing, and in another context I think I would’ve liked it a lot, but it just wasn’t what I was looking for in a Hellboy-adjacent work. I reckon when I do another Mignolaverse run-up in a couple of years I’ll enjoy it a lot more, and give it a lot more of the credit it clearly deserves.
  3. Blade Runner 2029, Vol. 2: Echoes
    OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT THE REPLICANT CULT LEADER’S PLANS ARE IN MOTION THIS IS GONNA BE BAD YOU GUYS, HOW THE HELL HAS HE LIVED THIS LONG, IS HE A VAMPIRE, HOW IS ASH SUPPOSED TO FIGHT A VAMPIRE, SHE’S NOT TRAINED FOR THAT. These continue to be absolutely fucking excellent, go read them, you fool, why are you wasting time reading me instead?

3rd

  1. Let This Grieving Soul Retire, Vol. 1
    It’s exactly what it sounds like, lazy bastard was a successful adventurer, doesn’t wanna do it anymore, keeps getting roped in anyway. With the obvious caveat that it’s better than any comic I’ve ever made, I found it bland and unremarkable, with a featureless protagonist and a World Of Adventure indistinguishable from that of any other isekai or isekai-flavored series, and very little to recommend it over any other of the kind. If those are straight-up your jam and you’re not looking for any twists on the formula or whatever, go to town!

4th

  1. The Devil Is A Part-Timer, Vol. 13
    The gang is still on Chiho’s family’s farm! They caught the thief already! What are they gonna do now? You guess it: they’re gonna take care of a stray kitten together. That’s all that happens! It’s a nice chill vacation for the characters and for us.

5th

  1. Blade Runner Origins, Vol. 1: Products
    God I did not think this series-system could rule any harder, AND YET, HERE WE ARE. ‘Origins’ is a notorious aposematic signal, a bright, colorful warning to all that consuming this thing will be bad for you; generalizations are dangerous, but there’s a reason very few things that bear names on this list received critical acclaim: usually if there’s an interesting story to tell surrounding the genesis of a world or situation, you tell that one first. Like they didn’t use the plot of Robocop 3 for the first movie, then go make and make Robocop: Launch Of Justice afterward. REGARDLESS: this is the story of the first Blade Runner, and takes a few opportunities–and I will remind you that these are canon to the franchise–by establishing that he’s a man of color and, depending on how you read a couple of things, very possibly gay or somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum that our society doesn’t have a framework for. On one level, you pay for a Blade Runner and you get a Blade Runner; there’s a badass in a coat fighting and chasing powerful post-humans, there’s a conspiracy at the highest levels of the technocracy that rules Los Angeles, all while the world continues to become less and less survivable for the oppressed masses. On another, this is an entirely fresh version of a world we’re extremely familiar with by now; it’s vibrant and filled with life (albeit life that is struggling against their actively collapsing environment) and culture, and as a result our protagonist, Cal Moreau, has more fight and fury in him than any Runner we’ve ever seen. Anyway, this is the beginning of the Tyrell Corporation’s descent into cyberpunk depravity; it manages to be a story firmly grounded in a setting we know and love, that informs a great deal of what comes later, while standing entirely on its own, and I absolutely cannot recommend it enthusiastically enough.

6th

  1. Afterlift
    Afterlift is a Comixology Original by Chip Zdarsky, which was the only reason I tried it; I’m not saying Comixology Originals are necessarily bad, I’m just saying they’re the comics equivalent of watching the hotel TV’s channel that tells you the pool hours and how much to tip a room-steward to move a body for you (25% of its weight plus the date is customary). Afterlift is perfectly competent, being about a rideshare driver who ends up trying to jailbreak a soul out of Hell. If that sounds like a cool idea, you’d probably like it, like I did, and also be glad that you borrowed it on Unlimited rather than pay for it, just like I was.
  2. Batman: Urban Legends, Vol. 1
A comic page:
-Top panel, entire breadth of the page, three crime-types cowering, saying "get it together, man! If it's HIM, we'll just" "No..."
-Below, three tall panels fill the rest of the page; in the first, Batman stands at the end of a street under a streetlight, saying "Sydney." Next, a 'chk' sound effect and the light is out, Bats cannot be seen. Finally, the light closest the criminals goes out, leaving a wall of darkness in front of them; from the darkness "Let's talk".

That’s all I have to say, I couldn’t possibly make a stronger pitch for this book myself.

  1. Ascendance Of A Bookworm, Vol. 7
    The manga-drag is real, and as a series goes on it can begin to outweigh the momentum of the story, but this was a milestone for the title; questions are cleared up re: what Myne needs to do to survive her affliction, and decisions are made. This concludes the first volume of the story, the first arc, and it’s an extremely satisfactory place for the motion to gather its strength before taking the leap into the next leg. It can be tough to convince yourself to carry on through long-running series (and this is still WELL in the first act of the story), but AOAB seems to take this into account and this point is worth making the effort to reach, especially since it allows you to save your progress, in a manner of speaking, since the next volume is the first of the second arc.

8th

  1. Crowded, Vol. 3: Cutting-Edge Desolation
    This is it! Will Vita and Charlie get back together? Or will they maybe both get together with Circe if she doesn’t literally murder them first with her many killamajigs? And wait, did we ever find out who started the Reapr campaign on Charlie? AND WHOM WILL DOUG THE DOG LIVE WITH IF CHARLIE AND VITA STAY BROKEN UP??? All of these and more, leading to an honestly genuinely satisfying conclusion, which is more than you can hope for from a lot of series that aren’t half as chaotic as this one.

10th

  1. The Laundry Files, #2: The Jennifer Morgue – Charles Stross (R)
    Okay the first Laundry novel, The Atrocity Archives, is dope and sets the hook in the reader’s eye-jaw, but this is a different order of storytelling, though I’m conflicted about it: on the one hand, I don’t generally care for espionage stories and am specifically sick to death of James Bond’s grip on the genre (although Spy X Family is fucking fantastic and I recommend it without reservation), and this leans into that by name for some actually very interesting story-related reasons; on the other, this second novel deals with my favorite Lovecraftian beasties, the Deep Ones, and the nature of their modern relationship with humanity and the Laundry (and the…other major party known to occupy the planet), and that shit is just cotton candy to me, I will gobble down as much as I am given and I will never be full. As a result, I chomped through this one in five days.

15th

  1. John Dies At The End – David Wong (R) (B)
    I was a way-back Cracked boi and was well familiar with Wong and JDATE even before it was properly published, but to my surprise and delight my wife loved it as well; she loves horror as much as I do, I was just worried she would find it too dumb to handle, but to our mutual joy she found it exquisitely dumb, and we do a series re-read every few years, usually in preparation for a new entry (in this case, the upcoming October’s If This Book Exists, You’re In The Wrong Universe), and they’ve aged remarkably well both as stories and amidst changing social tides regarding horror (with the notable and disappointing exception of the repeated use of “ret*rded” as an insult, although this has changed starting with the third book.)
    Basically, two dumbasses who work at Not Blockbuster get roped into being freelance exorcists and monster-fighters when a fake Jamaican doses them with a drug that is alive and hates you. It’s that kind of book; consistently hilarious, way smarter than it needs to be and filled with extremely visceral but still approachable horror.
  2. The Laundry Files, #3: The Fuller Memorandum – Charles Stross (R)
    SADLY, this volume features no freaky fabulous fishfolk, but does delve into the history of the Laundry and the Powers at its heart. Normally in a series like this you’d hear ‘powers’ in a metaphorical sense. Normally. What does it all have to do with Bob? How is it all connected to the thing we had all better pray stays asleep in that black pyramid on the dead plateau? Will this FINALLY get our hero that promotion…and will he still want it, when the strings are finally visible?

17th

  1. Venom By Donny Cates, Vol. 1
    Look Donny’s the fuckin man, he just doesn’t miss, and his run on Venom has actually managed to make me give a damn about the goopy galoot. I’ve been recommending this left and right in the way that one recommends The Godfather by explaining that it’s not a gangster movie, it’s a signed confession from the patriarchy in a gangster movie’s pants, and VBDC is much the same: it’s a story about trauma and fathers and sons and yes, oh my yes, ALSO monsters with more teeth than the Osmond Family and a conspiracy that reaches farther than Eddie Brock can imagine. It rules without qualification and the omnibuses are amazing value for money, go read it.
  2. Drugstore In Another World: The Slow Life Of A Cheat Pharmacist, Vol. 4
    This isn’t a complicated series; people need things from the fantasy pharmacist, the fantasy pharmacist finds a way to give it to them through some manner of innovation that SOMEHOW hasn’t occurred to these people in the thousands of years their medieval society has been around. It’s nice!
  3. The Death Of Doctor Strange
    Yeah hi thanks for asking The Death Of Doctor Strange is fuckin crazybones great. This is no surprise to the careful observer, who will note that the author is Jed MacKay, who has supplied us with Black Cat, a pretty long-running Magic: The Gathering comic I hear good things about, and the newest friggin’ Moon Knight, which I would love with my whole religious-studies-nerd heart even if it hadn’t been the last thing I got to read before New Comixology emerged from its awful ichorous cocoon and changed our world for the much, much worse.
    But enough about what I yell when the bottle drinks from me; TDODS gets to the point immediately re: the Sorcerer Supreme shucking from this mortal coil, and the rest of it (mild spoiler) is about a backup copy of himself, created for just such an occasion, trying to solve his murder with the help of everyone who loved him and who is pissed off that he’s underground, or at least pissed off that they weren’t the ones to put him there. In this way it tastes a lot like that mini-arc in Matt Smith’s run on Doctor Who when he’s in bad trouble and everyone who loves him and who he’s ever saved comes to defend him against any and all assailants up to and including God. It fuckin rules you guys, it’s so good, go read it, it absolutely kicks ass.

24th

  1. The Death Of Doctor Strange Companion
    Listen: Do I remember exactly what’s in this? No. But I do remember thinking it was all great, and honestly the fact that I can’t distinguish these wee side-stories from the main narrative speaks very well of the cohesion between them. The last big Doctor Strange crossover imbroglio I read, Damnation, frankly sucked and, whether it was the intended effect or not, the Damnation Companion ended up doing all of the heavy lifting and was pretty good, actually; this is the reverse-half opposite, because The Death Of Doctor Strange Companion is, I would say, actually a very good thing that is complementary to another very good thing.

29th

  1. Witch Watch, Vol. 1
    Girl is witch! 🧙 Boy is ogre! 👹 Boy ogre protect witch girl. 💪 Serious business! 🧐 But girl…luffs boy??? 😻 And boy: so stoic, boy! 😾 Maybe as boy protect girl boy…luff girl? 🫣 nO, say boy. 😤 But girl hope, clénch fist, SO MUCH. 😭
    A+, adorable and ridiculous.

31st

  1. Two Moons, Vol. 1: The Iron Noose
    Would you fucking LOOK at this guy:
Quick question, citizen: do you need more than THIS FUCKIN GUY to be convinced to read a comic? Does "Crites from the Critters film series walkin' around on two legs in during the Civil War' fail to put some pepper in your steppers? 'Cause if so, you and I are speaking two different languages. You got your monstros, you got your indiginous protagonist caught up in the Civil War and also, apparently in another, much darker war that is bearing the Civil War's pants in order to pass undetected.
I was an enormous fan of John Arcudi's Rumble and continue, perhaps foolishly, to hope that it will one day return; I don't know if its hiatus has anything to do with his desire to work on this title, but if I don't get any more Rathraq this is certainly a worthy substitute.
  1. Uncle From Another World, Vol. 4
    More of the isekai adventures with indistinguishable action princesses! But mostly: an extremely thorough examination of various Sega consoles and properties. I will admit it’s a specific mixture of already niche interests, but whoa nelly, if you fall in that Venn diagram overlap you are in for a time and a half.
  2. I Breathed A Body
    Friends, well-wishers, enemies whose grudging respect I have earned: I regret to inform you that I did not like this book. Which does not necessarily equate to it being bad, and it is certainly WILDLY strange and ambitious and confusing and gross, and if you’re into a wild fungalpunk commentary(?) on social media, integrating technology into our lives, what it costs us to market ourselves as Personalities™️ for public consumption, and our relationship with the natural world around us, you’ll still find a lot to chew on here. Hm. Maybe I didn’t not like it; it was certainly unpleasant to read (and took me a long time, as a result) for reasons aesthetic, narrative and confusionary, but that’s a separate issue.

well it’s been building up inside of me for oh,
I don’t know how long

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