-(R) = Re-read
-(B) = Read To My Wife At Bedtime
– No Author = Comic
- The Kaiju Preservation Society – John Scalzi
I enjoyed this so much I wrote a whole review of it!
Long review (with picture of Godzilla and Mothra kissing) short: book good! Protagonist leave gig economy to take care of and defend Legally-Not-Godzillas. Read book.
- I Am A Cat Barista, Vol. 1
*slowly pushes cup of cappuccino off of counter*
I had to roll a pretty hefty willpower-check not to leave it at that, but the mangaka deserves better; damn my integrity and respect for artistry.
Say what you will about the ridiculousness and wordiness of manga titles, generally speaking when you snag a volume of Reincarnated In A World With Inexplicably Well-Understood RPG Mechanics And Also I Am Very Powerful And Attractive There, it does what it says on the tin, and such is the case here. There’s a cafe run by a cat, people come in and tell him their problems, he makes them a custom beverage and gives them advice, seeing how it worked out when they come back. There are some overarching narrative threads but it’s mostly Problem Of The Week, which is the right call because it doesn’t ask you to care about any given patron for more than a handful of pages. It’s just a nice, cozy series and you get what you pay for.
- Venom By Donny Cates, Vol. 2
Donny continues to make me give a shit about the tooth-goop! And they said it couldn’t be done!
- Yoshi No Zuikara: The Frog In The Well Does Not Know The Ocean, Vol. 1
This was another Mangasplaining missile aimed straight at my fucking wallet, and I’m furiously pleased to report it was a direct hit. It’s not secret that I love manga about people who make manga, because they’re all dorks and losers and it’s impossible not to love them and root to see them succeed in telling their stories about pig-wizards or handsome robots or whatever the hell, and this is a great example of that: the protagonist is a socially inept but successful mangaka who returns to his hometown to harvest inspiration for a new series. That’s it. He tries to navigate being a prominent artist with reconnecting to the people he grew up around, and it’s nice, and relatable in its awkwardness. I recommend it for any afflicted with the lie-virus that is impostor syndrome.
- Killadelphia, Vol. 1: Sins Of The Father
Holy shit this book rules. Philadelphia is under siege by an army of vampires being led by, as if you hadn’t guessed yet, President John Adams, and it’s up to one police detective and his grouchy-ass dad to stop them. It’s equal parts cool vampires (think more American Vampire, less Anne Rice), Philadelphia interacting with its own nature, and trying to reckon with America’s history and identity as a country built on a bedrock of murdered, enslaved innocents. It starts extremely strong and subsequent volumes only get better and weirder, read it now, it owns bones.
- Radiant Black, Vol. 1: (Not So) Secret Origin
Okay let’s just get it out of the way: shut the hell up with that subtitle, right? That’s not just me, is it? That’s neither here nor there, but still.
Radiant Black is, roughly, equal parts Power Rangers and Spider-Man, with just a soupçon of Green Lantern: a down-on-his luck fine young schmuck has to move back home because he can’t hack it as a writer, comes across an artifact/device/this-space-intentionally-left-blank that bestows a hip black suit and Certain Powers upon him, heroics ensue, and soon he learns that there are other colors of him-types out there who do not approve of how he’s been comporting himself, what with the hashtags and the endorsements and all, it’s just gauche, is what it is.
I’ll be honest, for most of this volume I was Onboard But Not Engrossed, like it’s good, right, I’m enjoying it fine but it’s not gonna be a must-grab title for me, and then two important things happened: 1.) The fundamental nature of the narrative changes halfway through in a heartbreaking way, and 2.) The last issue in the volume turns one of the other heroes he meets into an endlessly empathizable-with character that you will need to know more about. I don’t know if that’s a one-two punch they set up on purpose or if it just took a bit of road for their wheels to really catch, but either way I’m hooked and recommend you open wide and take the bait.
- Banished From The Hero’s Party, I Decided To Live A Quiet Life In The Countryside, Vol. 1
Exactly what it sounds like, but with some pretty interesting angles on the idea: the protagonist is charged with protecting and guiding the development of The Legendary Hero, who I think is his sister maybe?, and to do so was granted like 20 extra levels at character creation (not an exaggeration, it’s One Of Those Manga). He does his job but the rest of the party quickly catches up to and eclipses him, and soon he’s basically useless, and a conniving member of the group convinces him he’s a burden and should get the hell out, also I have no ulterior motives regarding the hero, where would you get such an idea. So he leaves and starts a nice little shop but there are threads of the larger Heroic Story still weaving into the world and his life, and he’s not able to escape his destiny forever. It’s not absolute must-read sensational, but it offers a nice balance of coziness and cool RPG-ass action, and I enjoyed it very much, recommend.
- Jonna And The Unpossible Monsters, Vol. 1
Thiiiiiiiiiiiis is a good fuckin book, and is a great example of why adults should continue to engage with media aimed at children; it often has to work much harder to tell its stories in a meaningful way that will still be relevant and attractive to its audience, and boy howdy does JATUM pull that trick off.
Rainbow and Jonna are sisters in a world fulla wholesome arcanopunk coolness, but they get separated when GIANT MONSTERS HAPPEN. Some years later, Rainbow finds her again, but she’s gone borderline feral, and they have to learn have to be sisters again and how to navigate a world fulla godzillas. It’s a story filled with badass dames, people of color and disability representation, and also punching, and there’s nothing not to love about it, but it’s also an absolute masterclass in visual storytelling, making full use of the differences between Jonna and Rainbow to show how their reunion is a clash of two ways of being in the world. I’ll leave you with the example below, which should at least give you an idea of whether or not this is the kind of thing that’s for you:
- Joker: Killer Smile
Good god, Jeff Lemire, are you okay? I really hope not, because if you are okay and this is the work you’re doing, I think we, as a society, need a restraining order against you.
As with most Lemire Joints this is actually a pretty simple story: a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum is spending too much time with the Joker. No, not that one. A dude-type guy! And instead of falling in love with him and developing a serious melanin deficiency, he begins to quickly lose his grasp on the world around him, and to wonder how much is his perception going weird and how much is very, very real. Terrifying, a refreshingly different take on our favorite Clown Prince, and a harrowing look at what it’s like to be unable to trust your own mind, hard recommend.
- River Of Teeth – Sarah Gailey
YO THIS BOOK FUCKIN RULES, okay, so look, in the 1800’s there was an idea to import the hippo–as in the opotamus–into the United States as both a meat-bearing livestock and way to control invasive water hyacinth; this is true, I am not making this up, go read this excellent article about it. Now obviously that never happened, but what this novella presupposes is, wouldn’t it be cooler if it did? And if it gave rise to a social class of bayou-roaming hippo-cowpokes who are frequently hella gay and gender nonconforming? And also if there was a heist? The answer to all of these, I should hope I don’t have to tell you, is yes. It’s reasonably short and it’s great, go read this shit.
- A Master Of Djinn – P. Djèlí Clark
Clark is the absolute man, possibly the best and most original voice I’ve encountered in the surprisingly broad field of Afropunk alternate fantastic history; I’ve written before bout how much I enjoyed Ring Shout, in which the Klan are literally interdimensional monsters that black women have to take up blades and murder, like they have to do everything for us, and it was great but for my money Clark’s Dead Djinn Universe is really where he does his best work.
Presently composed of two short stories and this novel and taking place in a magitek Egypt on the cups of industrial, spiritual and sexual revolution, these stories revolve around the agents of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities; it does what it says on the tin, and they’ve got plenty on their plate thanks to a mad(???) alchemist who found a way to pierce the walls between worlds, allowing all manner of supernatural whatsit into Cairo. And to complicate matters, there’s an imposter claiming to be him, returned to usher in a new age and gaining a…zealous following, with whom our heroine Fatma must now contend, and if her extremely smart suits and bowler get mussed in the process of dealing with it all, her girlfriend is never gonna hear the end of it.
If I’m being honest, I preferred the experience of the short stories to this full-length adventure, but that could be any fool thing up to and including my brain not being prepared to lift this kind of weight in association with this world; it was still an excellent ride and I’m looking forward to more, but definitely check out A Dead Djinn In Cairo and The Haunting Of Tram Car 015 first, just to make sure you like the taste of what’s on offer here. (Hint: boy howdy are you gonna.)
- Teen Titans: Raven
Raven’s got the dang amneesy after a car accident and has to figure out who she is! And how to be in like with this friggin’ hunkabunch of a boy! And also, if there’s time, the mystery of her mother’s death and what it has to do with her developing telepathic and telekinetic abilities and the great evil she senses approaching. Ugh, I do not miss being a teen, readers.
This was good! I particularly enjoyed the way it played with color, clearly keyed to Raven and her developing sense of self. I snagged the other two (Teen Titans: Beast Boy, and Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven) and am very much looking forward to them.
- Spy X Family, Vol. 1
I am on record as not being overly fond of spy fiction, but yeah hey hi holy shit, Spy X Family kicks every kind of ass and manages to be entirely wholesome and hilarious in so doing. Okay you’re a spy–no fuck that, you’re a GREAT spy for the good guys(?) in the noble, democratic half(??) of a country split down the middle by freedom and tyranny, and you’ve got a very important mission to–SHIT, you’re gonna need a family to do the mission. Goddammit. Where do you get one of those? You’ll just recruit one, how hard could it be? And so, a spy comes to be fake-husband to a good-natured assassin and fake-father to a psychic toddler, all of whom are hiding all of those things from each other. It’s great.
If you don’t believe me, listen to the Mangasplaining crew fall absolutely head over heels for this delightful, masterfully executed bullshit.
- Call To Adventure! Defeating Dungeons With A Skill Board, Vol. 4
Look this one’s dumb but I like it, it’s just a fairly standard RPG-mechanics world zero-to-hero deal; the twists are that it’s our world except dungeons popped up all over (creating a couple of really interesting economies, actually) and Main Guy can see his and other people’s RPG stats and arrange and distribute the points as he sees fit. This is the fourth volume, so it’s more of that. They can’t all be gems, but the Main Guy also has a little-trafficked blog that explodes in popularity, so like, look, shut up.
- The Joker, Vol. 1
It’s our pal James Tynion IV! You may know him from uh, too many great things to list here, including Batman until fairly recently! The man does good work, and here he’s undertaking a project we’ve all longed for, whether we realized it or not: he’s writing a story where Commissioner James Gordon (Retired) gets hired to find and kill the motherfucking Joker. I sincerely don’t know what more I could possibly say; either that premise has you on board or it doesn’t. If it sweetens the pot any, we do get to see Mr. J speak some Spanish, so, disfrutalo.
- Batman: The Impostor
Okay, so fairly young Bruce Wayne–think more Robert Battinson, less Terry McGinnis–is doing his thing; y’know, mainly punching, trying his best to serve the city he loves while blatantly violating its laws and mores. And then, as much to his surprise as to ours, video surfaces of him straight-up murdering like, a whole bunch of dudes, not in self-defense, not their own fault for fumbling a grenade or whatever, plain as day. The only conclusion to reach is that someone is out there imposterating him and killin’ Gothamites to ruin his good name. THIS WILL NOT STAND.
This was pretty good! I liked it and recommend it, not much else to say about it.
- Killadelphia, Vol. 2: Burn, Baby, Burn
So you tell me you read Killadelphia, Vol. 1, and you’re on board, but you’re getting a little tired of the same old ‘Vampire President John Adams laments his failures to America’; what else ya got? Well quick question, citizen, how do you feel about magics? Or Abigail Adams throwing off the chains of marriage to a short dead jerk and going on a terrifying bad-girl rampage? How about Anansi getting involved? How about MUCH LESS REMORSEFUL VAMPIRE THOMAS JEFFERSON? God, what an asshole, in undeath as he was in life, and he has done ZERO work on himself in the intervening centuries. Ugh. Things in Philly are getting capital-w Weird, and Jimmy and his ever-expanding crew are trying to hold back the tide for the sake of the average citizen who still has to go to goddamn work in the morning, okay?, and doesn’t need this vampire nonsense complicating their commute!
- Rogue Planet
Oh shit, it’s a spaceship graveyard! Oh shit, it’s filled with some kinda living system that can use the dead like puppets via its awful tentacles and similar! You get the idea.
I have bound myself to honesty here, or at least deploying only the most hilarious, obviously ridiculous lies, and in that spirit I must say: I did not care for this book. That doesn’t mean it’s not good! It’s just not for me, and didn’t offer the story I would’ve liked to get from this set of circumstance and events.
- Spy X Family, Vol. 2
Okay Lloyd has a family, cool, now he can get on with the mission–DAMMIT, the target’s almost impossible to get to, better try tooooooooo weasel into his inner circle, I guess? Who’s in that cir–oh he’s got a son, rad, we’ll just enroll our (unbeknownst to us) psychic daughter in the same school, have her befriend him, and–FUCK ME, the kid goes to an extremely exclusive private school. Because of course he does! WHY WOULDN’T HE. So now we–what, we’ve gotta get her into that school, right? What’s–okay, there’s an interview process with the Dean, that’ll be fine, surely we can coach her for it. (Dramatic Irony: secretly-psychic daughter is actually only four years old and lied about her age to get adopted, and is in NO WAY prepared to comport herself in a school interview. HA, narrative omniscience rules!)
- The Department Of Truth, Vol. 1: The End Of The World (R)
If I could recommend only *rolls d6* three books from this month’s list, this would be one of them. (The other two would be probablyyyyyyy Jonna And The Unpossible Monsters, Vol. 1 and Spy X Family, Vol. 1).
Cole Turner studies conspiracy theories for a living. He was also embroiled in a Satanic Panic imbroglio as a child; perhaps these are related, perhaps they’re not. What is definitely related is him getting picked up by spooks from a government agency he’s never heard of after he bears witness to something absolutely, completely impossible, and it being explained to him that the world is a much stranger place than he could ever have imagined. The Flat Earth? Reptilian aliens infiltrating politics? JFK conspiracy theories? They’re true. All of them. Even the ones that contradict the other ones. But they weren’t always true, and now it’s Cole’s job to keep more of them from becoming the new truth…including the one that’s defined his life since childhood.
God this book fuckin rules, snag it at once, you won’t be disappointed, I guarantee you’ve never read anything like it, and even if you don’t like it you’ll be glad you read it.
- Sakamoto Days, Vol. 1
Oh man I like Sakamoto Days a lot, almost as much as I hate the ‘[Noun] Days’ title convention. I hesitated about it, honestly, because I thought it sounded like another in the flood of The Way Of The House Husband-likes, but in reality it’s much more like the John Wick to TWOTHH‘s Nobody: they’re the same thing, but from opposite perspectives, SD being a story about goofballs being caught up in actual assassination-shenanigans, as opposed to TWOTHH being about incredibly serious (if ridiculous) people going about normal tasks hyper-criminialistically.
It’s a hell of a lot of fun, and if you’re on the fence like I was, consider snagging this year’s VIZ manga sampler, which is still available for free and offers tastes of this and some other fantastic titles like Rooster Fighter, To Strip The Flesh, and others that I either don’t remember or didn’t care for, but that’s not a bad average for a free publication.
- This Book Is Full Of Spiders (Seriously Dude, Don’t Touch It) – David Wong (R) (B)
Much as the first John Dies At The End was a Cracked-flavored take on cosmic horror, this is a take on the zombie apocalypse with a healthy slarbing of dimensional-mutant body-horror and dick jokes on top. Of the three in the series so far I’d probably rank it in last place, but that’s not damnation by faint praise; really its only drawback is that it suffers from Stranger Things Season 2 Syndrome, where you have to ask “is it ACTUALLY not as good, or is it just that it’s not a completely new and surprising thing like the first one was”.
- Astra Lost In Space, Vol. 1: Planet Camp
Oh this one’s fun! As will surprise no one, I heard about it on Mangasplaining, mentioned offhandedly in a conversation about shorter series with fewer volumes. As I’m certain will be instantly and universally recognizable and effective as a reference-point, you could easily think of this as a manga version of Space Cases: in the semi-distant future, a bunch of kids, each with extremely specialized skillsets, are going to Planet Camp for I dunno like a week or so, roughin’ it all on their own, with no adults! Aww yis, it’s gonna be dope. Or it would be, if they weren’t suddenly voiped into ACTUAL GODDAMN SPACE by a mysterious force, where they almost DIE TO DEATH, only to be rescued at the last second by an ALSO MYSTERIOUS spaceship that, much like the USS Voyager, will serve as their home until they can find their way back. It’s dope, check it out!
- The Department Of Truth, Vol. 2: The City Upon A Hill
Bigfoot! Black helicopters! The Deep State! Further insight into the nature of the Department, their relationship with the Black Hats on the other side of the war, and what role both Cole and Harv play in all of it.
It continues to be a very strong series, but I don’t mind admitting that of the three released volumes so far (with Vol. 4 set for December) this is easily the weakest, suffering the same drawbacks as This Book Is Full Of Spiders above as a followup to an extremely powerful first offering. Not helping matters is the fact that the Bigfoot chunk, probably half of the total length of the volume, is largely presented as a handwritten letter, which is difficult for many people (including myself) to read in-context. It’s still very worth following up with, and said Bigfoot story is actually a deeply touching reflection on a life spent in pursuit of hidden truth, and the cost it extracted from a man and his family in his desperation to prove that he wasn’t wasting their lives on a lie. It’s not as revelatory and refreshing as Vol. 1, and isn’t the terrifying escalation of Vol. 3, which scared me so badly I had to stop reading it in the middle of the night, but it’s a solid bridge between the two that builds a lot of connective tissue and solidifies the world…in so much as the world in question can be solidified.
Thanks for reading, give a shout below if you’ve got thoughts of your own on these or wanna fight me about Rogue Planet! And if you don’t wanna have to worry about missing one of these lists or my weekly New Comic Book Day hauls, feel free to sign up for my newsletter here and get a once (and once ONLY, promise) monthly email with a brief list of all of the articles, reviews and similar I wrote during the last page of the calendar. Until next time all my buddies, be good to yourselves, be good to each other, wear your goddamn masks, and if you see four lights, say four lights.