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Key: (R) = Re-Read, (B) = Read To Wife At Bedtime, No Author = Comic
- What The Hell Did I Just Read: A Novel Of Cosmic Horror – Jason Pargin (B) (R)
The third installment in the horror/comedy series by
David Wong“””Jason Pargin””” (eye-roll), beginning with John Dies At The End and This Book Is Full Of Spiders (Seriously Dude Don’t Touch It)! Once more, three dumbasses and their dog are all that stands between us and complete annihilation, but first they have to solve a spate of missing-child cases that make less and less sense the more they investigate, armed with nothing but a ghost-hunting priest’s advice, a mountain of silicone asses, and sightings of the dog-snatching cryptid known only as BATMANTIS??? around town. It’s just…so good, you guys. Don’t believe me, just ask the rotting concrete snowman that’s been in your bedroom as long as you’ve lived there! Or the concrete snowman with protruding rusted rebar-bones that always hangs out in front of your job! Or the pulsing, sweating concrete snowman in the corner behind the desk of the government agent who’s interrogating you! See you all on the budget call, Thursday at two!
- Reign Of The Seven Spellblades, Vol. 1 (R)
Kids who go to magic school, for to learn to ZAP and ZOOP and FIGHT WITH SWORDS! It fuckin rules, and their uniforms are super cool in a Kingdom Hearts-ass way. See my full review here!
(Nota bene: I’m talking about the ROTSS manga, not the light novels which I believe came first; I don’t know anything about those, mix the two up at your own risk)
- Reign Of The Seven Spellblades, Vol. 2. (R)
A labyrinth full of upperclassmen who don’t seem particularly worried about straight-up murdering their younger peers!
- Reign Of The Seven Spellblades, Vol. 3
Shit’s gettin’ weird at magic school as it becomes apparent that somebody has an agenda against demi-humans and those who support their rights and citizenship! Not gonna lie, I wasn’t expecting overt racial politics to put human supremacy on blast this early in the series and I am here for it!
- Locke & Key, Vol. 2: Head Games (R)
So there’s this key, right? You skchunk it into the keyhole that apparently everyone has in the back of their neck, and it opens up your noggin, and you can put anything in there, like books you need to study for school, or take things out, like your fears! Or if someone who finds you inconvenient to their plans gets ahold of it, they can crack open your walnut and scoop out everything in there, leaving you with no memories or identity or anything but an endless white void! It’s pretty fucked up!
Also pretty fucked up: the only character without one of these holes is also the only character with a developmental disability, and the series’ treatment of this verges on Disability Superpower in-context. It feels like it was trying to do a literal ‘differently-abled’ angle, and maybe for 2010 that was considered progressive, but it clanged when I read this for the first time in 2014 and it clanged in 2022. Maybe I’m reading too much into this (unless a disability consultant was hired of which I’m unaware), but that’s the side I’ll err on, since until relatively recently far too much time has been collectively spent erring on the side of “eh, it’s probably fine, what are they gonna do about it”.
In 1957, a dog and two monkeys were sent into space. They did some science, and that was the story, and the end, of them.
I’ll be honest, I have only ever been the biggest Jeff Lemire Fanboy but this one just missed with me; it was thin and ephemeral where I wanted it to be…I dunno exactly, but it wasn’t what thought I was getting. Doesn’t mean it was bad! And maybe the stars will come right for it and I to meet under better auspices one day, but for now I can’t recommend actively snagging it unless it’s on sale.
- Yakuza Reincarnation, Vol. 1 (⭐️ Top Monthly Recommendation⭐️)
YO OKAY of everything on this month’s list, Yakuza Reincarnation is my strongest, most unqualified recommendation for your comics-reading dolla, dolla, and bill. The premise is simple! A grizzled old yakuza capo, one who still believes in honor and community and other things that are difficult to reconcile with a life of murderous crime but still, he’s a good guy, a mellowed Don Corleone type, gets FUCKING MURDERATED by a young upstart crimetype who don’t believe in nothin’. Tale as old as the hills! He had a good run, and now he’s done.
Or so he thinks, until he wakes up and realizes he now somehow inhabits the body of a young princess in a land of fantasy and monstros, and instead of trying to solve that mystery or at least keep it a secret, he proceeds to immediately re-establish his noble criminal empire and run that shit with an old boss’s wisdom and experience, a princess’s resources and social agency, and a young tough’s sword-arm. Item One on the agenda: what the fuck is the drug being pumped into this community and killing its people left and right? IT BETTER NOT BE MADE FROM A HORRIBLE LAKE-GOD’S AWFUL SECRETIONS, I’LL SAY THAT MUCH. Man what a fun book.
- Astra Lost In Space, Vol. 5. Friendship
So there’s a Thing at the heart of this story, the central conflict and revelation around which it orbits, and naturally it’s difficult to discuss it without spoiling that. I’ll just say this much: If you’re a fan of found families and piece-of-shit parents getting what’s coming to them, whoa doctor, run don’t walk to Astra Lost In Space.
- Superman: Son Of Kal-El, Vol. 1: The Truth
I won’t pretend for a moment that Jon Kent being confirmed as bisexual means as much to me as to some; I have been privileged to see myself roughly as-is in most media throughout my life. But I can say this much:
Critics of Superman always say the same thing: because he’s perfect, he’s boring, unknowable, and unrelatable. And that opinion is as valid as any regarding whether a costumed character stirs a particular soul or not, but I think it misses the point: Superman (be he Kal-El or Jon Kent) isn’t supposed to be relatable, he’s supposed to be aspirational; he is supposed to show us and remind us of what we can be, of the potential inside us: we can be strong, yes, but we can also be kind, and decent, and humble, we can know instinctively that our hearts—imperfect as they may be–can be trusted to guide us right. (Also yes, it must be said; we can also smooch dudes AND ladies if we so desire.)
Tom Taylor understands Superman. Let him remind you that he is the Man of Steel, and that steel, above all else, is for building things.
- Batman: The Detective
SOMEONE is killing people, all over the world; random people, who never seem to have done anything in particular to deserve it, but who all have one thing in common: their lives had previously been saved, however long ago, by the Batman. Someone considers this an error, has decided to correct it, and will not stop until they’ve achieved Equilibrium.
I’m bummed to say that, despite being a steadfast Tom Taylor fan, this was Just Okay for me. Nothing about it is particularly Bad; the aesthetic is fine, the backstory with Bruce’s mentor is cool enough, I like an older grizzled Batman who isn’t quite ready to meet Terry McGinnis yet, it’s full of pieces that are fun enough to play around with but that just didn’t click for me.
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (R)
Then I decided to read a GOOD Batman Is Old Story (by, admittedly, an abhorrent chud), and I’m gonna take a real brave step here and say WOW this book is fuckin great, and it’s like Beatles Week on American Idol; I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said before and better.
- Chainsaw Man, Vol. 11: Go Get ‘Em, Chainsaw Man
A LARGE MAN WITH NO SKIN AND NEEDLE-TEETH AND CHAINSAWS STICKING OUT OF HIS LIMBS JUST WANTS TO EAT A HAMBURGER AND SO HELP ME GOD THIS RESTAURANT TAKES PRIDE IN ITS WORK AND WE WILL TREAT HIM LIKE ANY OTHER CUSTOMER, ORDER UP.
Oh also like everybody dies. Kinda. Some of them get better? I DON’T KNOW, GO READ IT
- Bunny Mask, Vol. 1: The Chipping Of The Teeth
Oh man this is a weird one, if a slightly more lucid kind of weird one than the above. First of all Andrea Mutti is one of the hottest names in horror comics art right now for goddamn good reason, and if there’s anything I can say to win you over for Cullen Bunn, it’s that he and his wife have a podcast called ‘The Bunngalow’, where they drink and talk about whatever they want. It’s a winning combination.
But okay: having apparently learned nothing in the Dwarrowdelf, we dug too deep, and too greedily, and we woke Something up, and it got out. Is it actually a horrifying woman in a bunny mask with teeth chipped to obsidian edges who just wants to know “Is there sickness?” before she rips it out of you, and who creeps into the mind of a young artist and makes her sculpt awful things in its likeness? Or has it just latched on to that image and taken it for its own, like it must have done with a thousand others? Either way: If you see green skin, black ears, and blank eyes, RUN. It’s certainly too late by then, but…she likes it when you run.
- Spy X Family, Vol. 4
EVERYBODY SHUT UP, THIS IS THE ONE WHERE THEY GET THE DOG IN THE BOW-TIE:
Citizens: HIS NAME IS BOND, AND HE CAN SEE THE FUTURE, AND HE LOVES SNACKS AND HIS BEST FRIEND ANYA THE FOUR-YEAR-OLD TELEPATH.
Honestly Spy X Family is one of the top-10 mainstream manga currently running, and this FANCY PROPHET-DOG should give you a pretty good idea of whether you want to read it or not. (You do, trust me.)
- Modern Fantasy
Modern Fantasy is JUST ABOUT as fun as it gets; part workplace drama, part memoir of being young and living with your friends and they kinda suck, part apocalyptic conspiracy, and all in the pants of, as one would imagine, a modern, urban fantasy society. The art is excellent, the writing and characterization are top-notch and, taking place as it does largely in a fantasy-mall and fantasy-office and being written by a bunch of giggling, self-pleased maniacs, it is simply chocka with what I’m hoping we’ll all one day call Bageler-bait:
If you laughed reading those as much as I did spending half an hour uploading, cropping, and al-texting them, go check this out immediately!
- Geiger, Vol. 1
Hey you like Fallout: New Vegas, right? Of course you did! With the dinosaur, and the hat, and the dog, and the roller-coaster, and other references that I hope don’t reveal I never made it very far into the game! Well Geiger tastes a lot like that, except the main character is a glowing, immortal radiation-ghoul who just wants to guard the shelter he hopes kept his family safe from the bombs and has, through no fault of his own, attracted the wrath of the inbred, pusillanimous boy-king of New Vegas, which the latter will come to regret.
Geiger is sad, and cool, and super-gross, and one of the most human takes on the idea of atomic horror I’ve ever seen, up there with Shin Godzilla. If I understand correctly it’s also the beginning of a new shared world of stories, which I’m VERY much looking forward to, because when Vol. 1 ends things are not able to go back to how they were before, and I’m extremely curious to see what else awaits our good good nightlight boi out there in the humming wastes.
- Dark Blood
So listen: sometimes, you’re a black gentleman in World War II, and they do a terrible experiment on you that leaves you with tremendous powers, and then you have to come back into the world and beg God to show you a reason not to fucking murder these white pieces of shit threatening your family.
I didn’t get quite what I was hoping for from Dark Blood; I was picturing like, dude blowing Nazi tanks up with lightning and similar, and the story is on a decidedly smaller scale, albeit with room to grow, and that’s fine too!
- Sakamoto Days, Vol. 2: Hard Boiled
Can a MAN, who used to KILL PEOPLE FOR MONEY UNTIL HE WAS LURED INTO A QUIET LIFE OF CONTENTMENT, just take his GODDAMN FAMILY and ALSO A COUPLE OF EMPLOYEES WHO MIGHT LIVE WITH HIM, IT’S NOT CLEAR, and GO TO THE FUCKING AMUSEMENT PARK without needing to HAVE A REALLY COOL 3-DIMENSIONAL GUNFIGHT ON A ROLLER-COASTER. They just wanted a nice family day! They even packed lunches so they wouldn’t have to pay for park-food! And NOW look at them: trying to figure out which costumed mascot CONCEALS A MURDEROUS MALEFACTOR while their little girl INSIST ON HUGGING EVERY DAMN ONE.
- When A Cat Faces West, Vol. 1
Don’t you hate it when you’re late for work because some teen feels too much pressure from their parents to plan the rest of their life out before graduation and that anxiety manifests as the alleyway they take to school multiplying into a maze of a dozen identical alleyways? Every time! The worst! And it’s all thanks to a natural (?) phenomenon called Flow, which lets human emotions, memories, and desires impose themselves onto the physical world around us. FORTUNATELY, there are professionals trained to ha–well, there’s a profe–one, there’s one professional, and also, he’s…not very professional. But he gets results! W–when his assistant, a grown woman who’s been forcibly de-aged to 12 years old by a Flow accident, basically does his job for him. It would be a real problem if Flow incidents were actually dangerous instead of just surreal and wistful and sometimes sad, like when someone was so nostalgic for a time in their past that it summoned a cherry tree in full bloom despite it being the dead of winter.
When A Cat Faces West is just a nice series about a dumbass and his competent assistant and also their Flow-detecting cat helping people sort out their emotional problems and try to restore the world around them to its default settings; it’s not the same kind of thing where I’m ravenously waiting for the next volume, but it’s a solid regular-preorder and great to relax with.
I love a world of Mundane Fantastic, especially one as gentle and thoughtful as this; naturally, those traits are why Amazon’s blurbs consistently describe the series as “action-packed”.
- Locke & Key, Vol. 3: Crown Of Shadows (R)
Imagine you had an enemy, one that wanted something from you.
Not even a thing, just a piece of information:
They want to know where you’re keeping the Key to the Black Door, and they will go to any length, and commit any atrocity, in order to get it.
They have found the Crown of Shadows, and that means that the very darkness is their servant.
Every unlit corner, every closet, everywhere the light doesn’t fall, they could be there.
Reaching for you when your back is turned, but always pulling back at the last second…
…until the time they don’t.
- Yakuza Reincarnation, Vol. 2
Hey remember up there how I said that drug better not be coming from an awful disgusting lake-god? WELL THAT LAKE-GOD BETTER NOT JUST BE THE SEVERED FINGER OF A MUCH LARGER, MUCH GROSSER DARK DEITY.
- The Transcendent One-Sided Love Of Yoshida The Catch, Vol. 2
This is not a series whose second volume you pick up hoping for shocking developments; you come here because YOSHIDA LUFF HIMS DOPEY MANGAKA BOSS and the only way he can express it is through terrifying competence at running her production-shop, and all the other assistants are rooting for them just as much as you are. It’s adorable and sweet and hilarious and I sure wish they’d hurry up and localize more of it, ’cause it’s fuckin’ December and there isn’t even a listing for Vol. 3 anywhere that I can find.
(Note: If something tragic has happened and the author has left us for the Undiscovered Country or is fleeing the law after being accused of a crime they didn’t commit or whatever, obviously disregard my whining, but if Kodansha has just been twiddling their translator and localizers’ thumbs for seven months, REGARD ME ALL THE MORE.)
- The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald (B)
I’ll say this much: Funnier than I thought it would be. It’s always weird to me when people were funny in the past; almost makes one realize that one day, oneself will be a Person From The Past.
But no, obviously it’s a masterpiece, and I’d say ONLY JUST takes second place behind The Bible in the list of things that Americans are forced to read and completely miss the point of.
Personal note, after finishing this we watched the Redford/Farrow version of the movie, and it was pretty good, but we started it the day we knew we had to take Celebrated Local Cat Holland J. Cat in to say goodbye and didn’t realize it was almost three hours long, so at the halfway point we had to pause, and she never got to see the end with us.
Maybe someday we’ll get to finish it together, sweet peep.
- Phantom Of The Idol, Vol. 1
A TERRIFYING HORROR-STORY in which a GUMPTIONLESS SLACKER gets his ass haunted by the VERY SPIRIT OF EFFORT AND VIGOR! Man what a weird book, okay, so this dude is an Idol, right, which is a kind of literally manufactured singer/general entertainer in Japan (not that America doesn’t do the same thing, but we obscure it through bootstrap-narrative bullshit, child abuse and financial crime instead of just making it a proper industry like Japan does). And he’s SO FUCKIN LAZY GUYS, the ONLY thing he has to do is sing and dance and be adored and he just cannot even be bothered, until he meets a poor wee dead girl who never even got the CHANCE to do what he does, and yo, they strike up a bargain: She possesses him and gets to be adored and successful, and he doesn’t have to do any of the work. It’s a lot of fun! You get a lot of insight into the nature of that industry (spoiler: it’s upsetting and exploitative, like any non-creator-owned entertainment business!), the mystery surrounding her death, and the suspense when some people start to put some pieces together, but honestly if you ask me, anybody who manages to figure out that a dude let in a dang revenant to get out of doing his dance homework has won fair and square.
- Locke & Key, Vol. 4: Keys To The Kingdom (R)
Dodge still wants that friggin’ Black Key and is definitely still murdering people to get it, but this volume decides to take a pretty brisk, montage approach that works FANTASTICALLY, covering I think something like six months (complete with a calendar framing device) full of the kids finding new keys, fighting off new minions and attacks from Dodge, getting into all kindsa shenanigans when a key lets them inhabit a sparrow’s body or control plants all Pamela Isley-style. It’s a little fast, honestly, and introduces a whole host of new keys maybe a little too quickly, but in doing so it tells us something important that hadn’t been clear until that point: It would be easy to assume that there were Only So Many Keys, like seven, or thirteen, or forty-two, or whatever significant number, but no, Keyhouse and surrounding environs are just silly with ’em, and I think that’s cool as hell because it lets the world of the story be bigger and weirder and have more pieces all moving at the same time. Overall the effect is really refreshing (especially since it’s only the one volume), you get to see a whole bunch of cool new keys that would DEFINITELY break the story if they got full attention, and at one point there’s a Calvin And Hobbes homage, what more could you want.
- Star Trek Picard: Countdown
Okay listen, we ALL know that the Romulan Star Empire has a history of…shall we say, informational frugality, and also betrayal, and also soup, and also looking suspiciously like Tasha Yar. But they need help! What are we gonna do, not help them, it w–aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand they betrayed us.
I’ll be honest, property-comics aren’t generally my scene and I only read this so I could listen to the episode of Greatest Trek where they covered it, but I’m still glad I did! We get some insight into what JL has been up to all these years, who his new posse is, what new and interesting ways Starfleet has found to completely fuck him over, what his dog’s favorite wine is, all kinds of stuff. I’d say it’s more for completionists than general comic book fans or general Star Trek fans, but still well worth reading.
So that’s me for the month! What about you all? Which heroic historical animal science-martyrdoms did you retcon to make your story work? Did YOU meet a big fluffy fancy psychic dog? WHY AREN’T YOUR PARENTS IN SPACE JAIL YET? Lemme know in the comments!
Until next time, be good to yourselves, be good to each other, wear your goddamn masks, and I’ll let you know if I find any more bottles of the Château Picard 2380 you liked so much.