(Obligatory reminder to subscribe to my once-monthly newsletter here, which rounds up everything I wrote in the preceding month, grants access to a curated members-only Spotify playlist, and includes a piece of exclusive bonus collectible content I will NEVER repost anywhere else, ever!).
Okay gang I uh…went a little overboard on this one. I don’t remember exactly what was happening in October, but clearly things got out of hand, and I can’t in good faith as you to just read through this goddamn monster of a list top to bottom. You’re just a person! If you want to, bless you and please take some water along, but otherwise I’ve included a table of contents here so you can I dunno, break it into chunks or remember where you left off or just see what I have to say about specific titles. I’ll try not to do this much again for both our sakes; I’m sure you can imagine this took a hell of a long time to put together, and upon reflection maybe I should’ve split it up into parts, but, vague gesture.
- Blood Stained Teeth, Vol. 1: Bite Me
- Kaiju No. 8, Vol. 3
- Living & Dying In America: A Daily Chronicle 2020-2022
- Kowloon Generic Romance, Vol. 1
- The Stormlight Archive, Book Two: Words Of Radiance
- Desert Eagle, Vol. 2
- Desert Eagle, Vol. 3
- Thor By Jason Aaron: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1
- Sakamoto Days, Vol. 3: Heisuke Mashimo
- One Piece, Vol. 7: The Crap-Geezer
- Crossover, Vol. 1: Kids Love Chains (R)
- Crossover, Vol. 2: The Ten-Cent Plague
- Devil’s Reign: Villains For Hire
- Devil’s Reign: X-Men
- Devil’s Reign: Superior Four
- Desert Eagle, Vol. 4
- Moon Knight, Vol. 2: Too Tough To Die
- Earthdivers: Kill Columbus, #1
- Ducks: Two Years In The Oil Sands
- The Closet
- Spy X Family, Vol. 8
- Hulk Vs. Thor: Banner Of War
- Something Is Killing The Children, Vol. 5
- Fire Force, Vol. 1
- Iyanu: Child Of Wonder, Vol. 1
- Fire Force, Vol. 2
- Adventureman, Vol. 1: The End And Everything After
- One Piece, Vol. 8: I Won’t Die
- Open Bar
- Fire Force, Vol. 3
- The Silver Coin, Vol. 1
- My Hero Academia, Vol. 1: Izuku Midoriya: Origin
- The Silver Coin, Vol. 2
- Ice Cream Man, Vol. 7: Certain Descents
- Fire Force, Vol. 4
- Refrigerator Full Of Heads
Blood Stained Teeth, Vol. 1: Bite Me
By Christian Ward (Author),
Patric Reynolds (Artist), And Heather Moore (Artist)
If there’s anything I love more than a wampire who actually manages to adapt to modern times (like yeah yeah ennui, etc; you get to keep reading and playing video games and learning languages all night instead of going to bed like chumps, what are you bitching about) it’s a wampire who has done so by putting mad levels into the Dirtbag job-class, which usually has a relatively short lifespan when undertaken by a human, what with the high incidence of ATV, ATF, and Cocaine Bear related incidents that don’t present as much of a problem for the hemophagically inclined.
UNFORTUNATELY FOR US ALL, this one has funded his eternal Mötley Crüe music video lifestyle (undeathstyle, whatever, shut up, I’m the pedantic nerd here) by creating his own niche industry offering bespoke vampirization services to anyone who can afford them. That’s right: he’s a Sire For Hire, a Freelance Fangulator, it–he–something something Bitecoin.
This is obviously a very bad idea for many, many reasons, the convergence of which serves as the inciting incident for our story: the other elder vampires have caught wise that he’s opened up a franchise and have just about had it with his bullshit, so they beat him within an inch of his unlife and give him the Ol’ 13 Ghosts Of Scooby-Doo: he’s got I dunno I think a year to find and terminate every single one of his ill-gotten offspring, or it’s the tanning booth for him with extreme prejudice.
BST is gorgeous in a splashy, pop-art kind of way, we can rest assured that (almost) everybody who gets what’s coming to them had it coming, and an asshole bloodsucker gets the living shit kicked out of him like a lot, it’s great.
Kaiju No. 8, Vol. 3
By Naoya Matsumoto (Author)
WELL KAFKA DONE DID IT NOW: he just had to go save two of his friggin’ coworkers from certain destruction while in his monstro-form, and now the rest of their Monstro Squad is after his entire ass and he has to defend himself without either hurting them or tipping his big ol’ clawed hand regarding his identity. He’s having a really challenging day, you guys!
Living & Dying In America:
A Daily Chronicle 2020-2022
By Steve Brodner (Author), Edward Sorel (Introduction)
This was a rough one, and not something one would read for ‘fun’ exactly, but is well worth the effort if, like myself, you have spent the past few years absolutely sick over the complete dismissal of the million-plus Americans who died terrified, needless deaths to serve a psychopath’s agenda, and desperate for a way to honor and engage with them on a level that saying “a million people” prevents; that’s where Steve Brodner comes in.
L&DIA starts off mostly as daily obituaries of the famous and the relatively anonymous with the occasional flaming polemic against Trump and his shit-hearted followers, but (I conjecture) this quickly became bad for the author’s soul, and so more and more accounts of those whom Fred Rogers would call The Helpers began to take prominence.
I try not to bring it up too often, both because I despise people who wield it like a bludgeon of self-righteousness and to avoid stoking fear for the kind of people they hire if I managed to get the job, but I’m a healthcare worker and have been since well before the Pandemic began. One of the hardest, most baffling, and enraging parts of the experience was the cognitive dissonance that followed the broad dismissal of death-counts, downplaying of need for safety measures, and flat-out conspiratorial denial of the virus while personally dealing every day with people who had lost parents, friends, children, who begged to know what to do for their spouses who couldn’t breathe. I wondered, then and now, how many people I’d spoken to who died of the virus, or complications, or because they were sick or terribly injured and just couldn’t get the help they needed because our healthcare system was a frozen mass of bleeding, clenched muscle, weeping lactic acid.
I’m waxing melancholic here because that was the time and that was my place in it and I feel I’ve earned it, as we all have; I’ve been very blessed and grateful to have the safety of working at home for all but the very earliest days of the Pandemic, and many people were denied even that, but I saw what I saw, and it changed me forever.
MY ULTIMATE POINT is that this isn’t a book filled with celebrities-singing-Imagine inspiration-porn, but it’s not just a total everything-is-garbage bum-out either; it’s a record of events as they happened, and how the author felt about it, and it’s refreshing to read that kind of straightforward account of a deeply strange and horrible and haunted time that went on so long it permanently stained the times that came next, the ghost of spaghetti-sauce cruelty and inhumanity in our collective tupperware.
Go read it; you’ll think about it, a lot, while you read it and for a long time after, and if nothing else that’s good value for money.
Kowloon Generic Romance, Vol. 1
By Jun Mayuzuki
This one is kind of an oddity specifically for me, because I’m pretty well-known for not discussing smoochin’-matters in mixed company and straight-up would not have preordered this if the cover art and its Tipper-tag had been available at the time; I don’t consider myself a prude, but much like actual feminism requires that women feel free to be stay-at-home moms if they want, I think that a healthy and open sexual discourse requires that we be free to set our own boundaries and have them respected. I’m pro-sex, pro sex-discussion, and pro sex-worker, and I can do that and think that my personal human sex life is nobody’s business. ON THIS EXTREMELY REASONABLE HILL I WILL DIE, MOTHERFUCKERS. YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY AND YOU GOTTA FIND OUT WHAT WORKS FOR YOU; I BELIEVE IN YOU, MOTHERFUCKERS.
All of THAT to say that for a book that the Vice-President’s moral-police busybody wife felt needed a warning label, and for an audience (me) not really inclined toward what that would usually entail, I found this book to be like, PG-13 at worst, to an extent that makes me wonder if the label was a marketing ploy? There’s definitely some pepper in the pages for sure, and some HELLA intentionally-unsubtle symbolism, but overall I’d say it’s much more sensual than sexual, and even then by ‘sensual’ I mostly mean ‘sensory’; there’s a lot about the taste of cold watermelon and cigarettes, about sweat and the smell of fresh paint and the way the weight of a coat settles in your arms. It goes a long way toward making the setting feel real and tangible, which the very real and fascinating Kowloon Walled City deserves, although it quickly becomes apparent to the careful observer that this isn’t quite the KWC we knew, and not everything else is as it seems, either.
As the title indicates KGR is primarily a romance with a heavy dollop of slow-burning, unpretentious mystery, filled with small, quiet moments and beautifully paced, and it gets my unqualified recommendation; I also recommend you listen to the episode of Mangasplaining about it, which is apparently also where I heard about New Teeth, one of the best books I read last year!
The Stormlight Archive, Book Two:
Words Of Radiance
By Brandon Sanderson (R)
A bite-sized review of a thousand-page sequel to another thousand-page book is simply a fool’s errand, but fortunately for you all, I majored in Advanced Foola-Hooping, I think Fool Of Rock is an underrated Jack Black classic, I eat my weight in goddamn Fool Ranch Doritos for breakfast.
The plot is spread across more than an entire continent and the chronology is all of those plot-meters taking turns filling up until they hit the next big point where they all move forward, so a linear breakdown wouldn’t be especially helpful even if I could do one. Thus: context-free bullshit, including:
- Kaladin loses his shoes.
- Adolin Kholin, while on a date, admits to intentionally shitting himself twice.
- Shallan gets new shoes.
- Lopen gets his glow back.
- Jashan goes sailing!
- Dalinar gets married and accepts the fact that he’s getting older and isn’t a one-man army anymore! I’m certain nothing in the next book will challenge that character growth! I’m definitely not deluding myself that the old man gets left to live in peace because he’s the character I most identify with!
- Rock wins Cutest Couple.
- Miscellaneous other Cool Shit That Happens includes:
-The smartest man in the world can’t read his own handwriting
-A queen sexually harasses her brother-in-law
-An island of people that live on the back of a giant chull in the middle of the ocean
-A dude escapes Hell and is SURPRISINGLY well-adjusted, all things considered
-A girl and her shadow invent rollerblading
-A man in white does more than just wear it after Labor Day
-Or Get Your Degree
Not being a comic, WoR is naturally lighter on illustration than the other entires here, BUT FRET NOT, for BrandoSando–and I say this with all love–is as much a sucker for worldbuilding, maps, making fanart of his own OCs and cryptic, precious, self-pleased bullshit as much as any DM:
Desert Eagle, Vol. 2
By Ken Wakui
This is a direct continuation of the previous volume, to wit: Apple and Ichi–lovable juvenile delinquents, innocent of shame and unburdened by moral complication–are in the midst of trying to spring a teen pop singer named Peachy from an exploitative contract whose holders killed her mother with heroin to hold on to her. They attempt to solve her problem by punching a large, terrifying crime organization. Things go well…at first. Then poorly. Then much, much worsely. Then they buy a bakery!
(One caveat: Desert Eagle appears to be a digital-only release, and I could not get this comic to work in my Comixology app or Kindle app on my phone, iPad, or computer for the fucking life of me; I contacted Comixology and in fairness they tried everything they could think of, which was a long list, and nothing worked, up to and including force-deleting it from my library and re-purchasing it. I ended up reading it in the online Comixology reader on my iPad, which was not the ideal reading experience. I have no way of knowing if it was a problem specific to me or with the comic or what fool thing, but I haven’t seen anyone else mention a problem with it, and being digital-only I should think I would have. Reader beware, but if it works for you it’s rad.)
Desert Eagle, Vol. 3
By Ken Wakui
AND NOW THEY’RE ON THE DANG LAM from a “private” “”security company””, hiding out in Apple’s crime-workshop, lending a brief but actually very sweet twang of domestic comedy and reminding us all that, in the final analysis, these are just a bunch of idiot teenagers.
Then things get worse than you could possibly imagine.
Thor By Jason Aaron:
The Complete Collection, Vol. 1
By Jason Aaron (Author, Contributor), Esad Ribic (Illustrator, Cover Art, Artist), Butch Guice (Illustrator, Artist), Nic Klein (Illustrator, Artist), Ron Garney (Illustrator, Artist), Emanuela Lupacchino (Artist), Das Pastoras (Artist)
Y’know I watched that Love And Thunder picture, and it was fine? It didn’t completely rock my human face like Ragnarok did, but I really didn’t get the hate for it. Then again, it was a sleepy, overwarm Sunday and we also watched The Brady Bunch Movie (which rules) so maybe I just wasn’t in the mindset to critically analyze the new offering from the Jojo Rabbit and silly vampires man.
Regardless, was pretty intrigued by the character of Gorr and Jason Aaron usually hits when he swings, so I took a chance on this here omnibus and was rewarded with dead dinosaurs and noseless deicidal maniacs!
It’s a really fun book, where instead of tag-teaming Gorr with the Lady Thor (that’s her title, not me doing some more-than-vaguely misogynist nitpicking) as in the movie, we get three Thors from various points in his own life being pulled through time to team up and eliminate the threat of the God-Butcher together.
Like a lot of Thor writers, Aaron is mainly interested in exploring the characterization of Thor, what it means to be a king to a people, and how one deals with the burdens of legacy, leadership, and expectation; in this case by comparing and contrasting his younger, prime-of-life, and elder selves and also having them punch both each other and various jerks who have it coming a lot.
Man! Can you imagine how clear that shark’s sinuses must be.
Sakamoto Days, Vol. 3: Heisuke Mashimo
By Yuto Suzuki
Sakamoto Days continues to be the most fun this side of the first few Way of the House Husbands! This time there’s a massive airsoft/paintball/??? tournament and wouldn’t you know it, Mr. Sakamoto & Co. have to team up with yet another assassin, who apparently constitute something like 70% of the local economy. Like every other hired killer out there, he’s pure of heart and dumb of ass; unfortunately he is also empty of wallet, which is both why he’s in the murder-for-hire game and why he’s about to absolutely annihilate a local mall with the gang.
Interestingly, the subtext of a lot of crime-drama–that most crime and violence are driven by poverty and economic insecurity–is just plain text here, and I don’t mind spoiling for you that Heisuke winds up embracing the wholesome Sakamoto way of life when it turns out he doesn’t have to murder people to avoid starving to death.
One Piece, Vol. 7: The Crap-Geezer
By Eiichiro Oda
By this point in One Piece‘s story, its rhythm has become evident: a ten-minute event takes two or three volumes to allow for flashbacks and chapterly updates on Buggy the Clown and his crew. And that’s fine! Scott McCloud, in his incredibly excellent, required-reading Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, points out that manga were (and in most mainstream cases still are) originally printed in weekly goddamn phone-book anthologies that collected many running series, it paid to embrace a storytelling shape not unlike that of the soap opera: heavy characterization, glacial plot and action, reiteration of concepts and goals, and other techniques to allow readers to jump in and out without missing much or new readers to try a series without feeling too lost.
That’s why this fight at the restaurant in the middle of the ocean takes I think three volumes, but each one also features something important and worth tuning in for, like Sanji’s origin story in this one. I’ve watched a lot of Hell’s Kitchen, and can confirm that his chef’s training–which consists of beatings and threats of drowning in seawater–sounds about standard.
Crossover, Vol. 1: Kids Love Chains (R)
By Donny Cates (Author), Geoff Shaw (Cover Art, Artist),
Dee Cunniffe (Cover Art, Artist), John J. Hill (Cover Art, Artist)
Oh Donny Cates, you rascal.
Uhhhh okay. So, comic books, right? *vague gesture* Right. But what Crossover presupposes is, what if the Comic Book World suddenly, violently manifested and imposed itself on, oh, say, Denver, and this event was treated just as it would be without the tights: as a hostile incursion from parts unknown, agents of which are fighting each other and causing catastrophic damage and loss of life to our population before completely sealing themselves off from the rest of our world.
This is a weird book, because it does have a message and a point it’s trying to make; first-issue spoiler, a wee comic book girl has somehow escaped the Dome and needs help and protection from humans who see her as either literal demon, national security threat, or unknown but otherwise distrusted, and she has to cover her visible skin with makeup to pass for human because she’s covered in Ben-Day/Lichtenstein Dots (I am not picking a side in this nomenclature-bloodbath, don’t fucking start with me). The parallels are obvious: this is a refugee crisis and she’s a member of an inherently distrusted…I guess ethno-national group??? It’s not subtle, and it’s not trying to be.
But what it’s also not trying to be is anything other than VISIBLY BRIMMING WITH LUMINOUS JOY that it gets to play with upwards of a hundred real-life comic-book characters from dozens of creators and companies; Donny’s love of them, especially Madman (the acknowledged, direct inspiration for Freakazoid), is pretty undeniably infectious and infuses the entire thing with a wild energy.
It’s much, much more a love letter to comics than an attempt to tell a real story, but it does still say what it has to say with the tools at its disposal, and does so admirably.
Crossover, Vol. 2: The Ten-Cent Plague
By Donny Cates (Author), Geoff Shaw (Cover Art, Artist),
Dee Cunniffe (Cover Art, Artist), John J. Hill (Cover Art, Artist)
Hohoooooooookay, uh, so. So! Vol. 1 was wildly ambitious and meta and maybe a little precious about it, but still managed to tell a story while fending off the creator’s instinct for self-indulgence. This is…not that. This is, just by way of example, real-life human comics creator (and a personal favorite podcast host of mine) Chip Zdarsky on the run from his own comics persona, which appeared in his series Sex Criminals. It is drunk on pure possibility and it does not get calmer or more stable from there.
I can’t go much further without spoiling beyond repair, but suffice it to say that this book had the entire medium’s worth of Big Bads to choose from–wizards, the Actual Devil, fucking Galactus, all of it–and they chose one ostensibly ordinary person, and it was, for my money, the most absolutely terrifying decision they could possibly have made.
This isn’t like Vol. 1; it’s not like anything you’ve ever read, and if you found Vol. 1‘s self-pleasedness unpalatable this is not going to be for you, because this is a HUNDRED times worse, and if it’s not for you that’s fine! It was just barely for me! But if you want to see just how weird this shit can get, snag a copy and prepare to go “HAHAHA FUCK OFF” every fourth page with the biggest, goofiest grin on your face.
By Daniel Freedman (Author), CROM (Illustrator)
I WILL REMIND THE GENTLE READER, who will note that my eyes are NOT AT ALL wide and shining NOR MY FINGERNAILS leaking steaming blood, that CROM is an incredible artist whose milieu seems to consist primarily of A.) Swords, B.) Suits of armor/gothic spacesuits, C.) Skulls, and D.) All of the above.
As far as I’m aware, this is his first mainstream foray into comics, and it fucking rules; aside from being one of the most well-conceived, lived-in comics worlds/ready-made D&D adventures I’ve seen in years, it’s an exploration of the hollowness of glory and riches, and how grounding yourself in contentment and the appreciation a simple life is the only thing that will keep the bad kind of ambition from destroying you, spiritually and bodily. In other words: yes, a faerie tale, Hellraiser, or Coen Brothers movie. Fairly short, self-complete, beautiful and tragic, and perfect ramp-up to and dry run for their now-ongoing series Bird King, about which you’ll hear from me soon.
Devil’s Reign: Villains For Hire
By Clay McLeod Chapman (Author),
Jed MacKay (Author), Skan (Cover Art),
Manuel Garcia (Artist), Federico Sabbatini (Artist)
The electrifying, whip-cracking, Taskmastering, I’m-out-of-punsing tale of how Wilson Fisk recruited a bunch of deranged, superpowered murderers to be his personal enforcers! Hint: it involved money and carte-blanche to inflict horrific injury on anyone they want in the name of The Pubic Good. It was fine! For me, the best part was Moon Knight beating the living shit out of an entire super-prison’s worth of assholes who did not understand who they had “captured”. God I love Moon Knight; may the One Above All bless him and keep him, far away from me.
Devil’s Reign: X-Men
By Gerry Duggan (Author), Collin Kelly (Author),
Jackson Lanzing (Author), Phil Noto (Cover Art, Artist), Nico Leon (Artist)
I’ll be honest, I have no idea if this one was good or not, because I am so locked out of the X-Men mythology and how it fits into the larger Marvel world. What’s a Hellfire Club? Who, exactly, is Emma Frost again, and now is she related to Nana Mae? Unclear, and thus difficult for me to care about. If you’re about that X-Lyfe I imagine this is probably Fine to Good. Your mileage may vary!
Devil’s Reign: Superior Four
By Zac Thompson (Author), Anthony Piper (Author),
Ivan Shavrin (Cover Art), Davide Tinto (Artist), Ze Carlos (Artist)
Thirty-two limbs, the four most arrogant brains in the infinite sea of times and places, and the one asshole that’s a constant in all of them. Otto Octavius, “working for” the Kingpin, breaches the walls between worlds and recruits his greenest, Wolverinest, and deadest selves in his quest to prove he’s High King Shit of all creation to…his very dead father? Himself? That Parker whelp? Unclear.
Like its Villains For Hire and X-Men siblings, this is Fine and does feed some threads into the larger Devil’s Reign storyline; I was really hoping for more flavor regarding the Alternoctopuses, their worlds and origins, but that’s on me, that’s like being disappointed that you aren’t catching huge fish in a 6-inch-deep puddle.
Desert Eagle, Vol. 4
By Ken Wakui (Author, Artist)
Ichi–our good good boi who has never done anything wrong, except his many crimes and perversions–finds himself gainfully employed as an APPRENTICE PRIVATE SECURITY GUY, and his first task: Helping a young lady weasel out of an exorbitant host-club bill.
This is the kind of storytelling that Desert Eagle excels at: this girl has, of her own free will but under the kind of social pressure that keeps Japanese society running, racked up quite a debt to some dangerous people who (not really a spoiler) intend to make her work it off in their service as a sex worker. Ichi, for his part, has nothing but basic human respect for sex workers, but is of the opinion that sex indentured servitude is a beast of a different stank and sets his shoulder to the wheel of saving her from, on one hand, the consequences of her own actions, but on the other what was very clearly the host club’s long-game plan all along.
The structure of these books is interesting because there’s a time-jump at the three-quarters mark of this one and that kind of thing would ordinarily mark the end or beginning of major story-arc (or, in the case of Desperate Housewives, seeing that Lost did it and feeling left out), but here it’s just another plot-beat and a way to level Ichi up some between larger story-chunks. It’s just a refreshing take on how these things usually go, and it wouldn’t work in a series whose flavor didn’t support it.
Moon Knight, Vol. 2: Too Tough To Die
By Jed MacKay (Author), Cory Smith (Cover Art),
Federico Sabbatini (Artist), Alessandro Cappuccio (Artist)
EYYYY it’s this guy, the punchingest prophet since Joan of Arc, the holy man who kept faith with his people even when their god failed them and briefly tried to take over the world. AS YOU CAN PROBABLY TELL, I’m a fan, specifically of Jed MacKay’s run; Jeff Lemire’s was a little too untethered for me, and they’re the only ones I’ve read, but as far as I’m concerned that’s a good average.
This volume rules, featuring Marc trying to track down the surprise big bad of Vol. 1, which was such a great suckerpunch I won’t spoil it here, and doing battle with a second fist of Khonshu who goes by the handle Hunter’s Moon and with whom Marc has theological disagreements with extreme prejudice. Fuckin’ Council of Nicea up in here. (Not a joke! Historical pontific pugilism!)
The strongest selling-point for this volume is simply the lack of something very common that really sucks: at the end of the book is the one-shot Devil’s Reign: Moon Knight that’s also collected in Villains For Hire above, BUT, crucially, we get a full volume’s worth of comics, 150 pages or so, and then they staple on the crossover-crisis nonsense at the end instead of depriving us of a regular issue that we goddamn paid for and which, given how many creators are writing for the trade format, probably serves as the climax and finale of the current storyline. It’s just considerate, is what it is, and shows that the creators care both about their comics and about the people who read them.
Earthdivers: Kill Columbus, #1
By Stephen Graham Jones (Author),
Davide Gianfelice (Artist), Joana Lafuente (Colorist)
It’s my boy Stephen’s first foray into comics! He’s been doing amazing work and horrifying all of us for years (see my reviews for Night Of The Mannequins and The Only Good Indians, and go read My Heart Is A Chainsaw and its just-dropped sequel Don’t Fear The Reaper!), and now he’s taking us all on a road-trip through time to commit…Genoacide???
The gist, she is simple: the earth is fucked thanks to predatory capitalism (i.e., let us be honest, Whitey), and the Riches have fucked off to hopefully die miserable, alone, and terrified in space, leaving the Poors behind to quite literally choke on their dust. Unfortunately, historically the Venn-overlap between “Impoverished By Rich Assholes” and “Native American/American Indian Communities” has always basically been a circle, and now they’re left to struggle for survival after the party where we set their couch on fire, framed their dog for money laundering, put a car on the roof and pooped in it, and then left to hit up an unsuspecting IHOP.
There’s only one practical solution for this, and frankly I’m embarrassed we haven’t considered it in our world: Go back in time and kill the living shit out of Christopher Columbus before he can kill the world. (Like, murder is murder and that is a thing that is bad, but if you’re gonna murder someone, you could do worse than a man whose treatment of indigenous peoples was so monstrously horrific that he was stripped of his titles and returned to Spain in irons; it is perhaps worth noting that Spain was conducting the Inquisition at the time, and so one presumes they were not easily shaken by cruelty and needless bloodshed.)
This is just the first issue and lays down the groundwork, but sets its tone nicely and has plenty of room for things to already go catastrophically wrong. It also makes something perfectly clear: the slasher is Stephen’s favorite genre and frequent working milieu, and this is that kind of story from the perspective of the slasher himself; there’s more to it than that–romance, religion, linguistics, a surprising and impressive amount of research into life in the 1400s–but open the pages and you’re gonna see people get filleted like racist, slaving fish by the good guy. This is not done carelessly–no one is less careless about violence than Stephen–but asks us to engage with the idea and ask ourselves hard questions about it, and whether it can ever be a tool for the good.
Ducks: Two Years In The Oil Sands
By Kate Beaton
(⭐️⭐️⭐️TOP MONTHLY RECOMMENDATION – NONFICTION⭐️⭐️⭐️)
Kate has been a mainstay of the Canadian webcomics scene and has been doing irreparable damage to the vocabularies of the terminally online for longer than it’s healthy to think about, if you’re my age or older. I’m tempted to describe this, as I’m sure many have, as her first Serious Work™️, but that would be grossly disrespectful to how seriously she takes the work of being hilarious and brilliant; instead, I’ll say that this is her most emotionally honest and ambitious-in-scope work by a preposterous margin, covering several years of her youth working in Alberta’s Oil sands following graduation, starting her website, and struggling to hold on to her sense of self in the danger and isolation of being one of a single-digit population of women. (Content warning, this includes her experiences being sexually assaulted, which are handled in a matter-of-fact, straightforward fashion that’s its own kind of deeply upsetting.)
Ducks is an unflinching, hilarious, heartwrenching, occasionally surprisingly beautiful, and deeply personal work about a powerfully weird and specific time to come of age and enter the adult world (he said from Class of ’07 experience), but also a time and place that generations of young Canadians all share, and what it cost them to spend part of their lives in a place that damaged both the world and their souls because their economic circumstances offered no alternative.
I love Ducks so much and think it’s so important, that I ordered a second, physical copy (I managed to get a signed one from Drawn & Quarterly, which is certainly a nice bonus) both to support Kate and D&Q and just because I wanted it, frankly, to have, and to think about, and to force my wife to read; I can’t think of many memoirs I can say I’ll re-read with any confidence, but this is at the top of the list, and I’m confident it’ll top out yours too.
By James Tynion IV (Author),
Gavin Fullerton (Artist), Chris O’Halloran (Artist)
A family of three is moving cross-country, in hopes of a brand-new start…and of escaping the fourth member that appears in their son’s closet at night.
Like last month’s entry on The Last Book You’ll Ever Read, The Closet is an extremely personal work by a creator whom I adore but that juuuuuust didn’t click with me, largely because I wanted and was expecting Actual Monstros, not Trauma and Infidelity and Heavily Implied Alcoholism. Like TLBYER, I’m not saying it’s a bad book even a little bit, it’s just not the book I was hoping for, but is still hella spoky, sad, and well worth reading.
Spy X Family, Vol. 8
By Tatsuya Endo
The Simpso–I mean the Forgers are going on a cruise! The reasons? Bodyguarding and, simultaneously, bootyguarding. The logistics? Convoluted. The buffet? Completely unprepared for Anya.
SXF continues to be one of the best mainstream manga titles currently running, and takes this opportunity to remind us of that and of the following facts:
- Loid can pull off any outfit
- Spycraft, like most service-industries, relies upon a silent backbone of people who can clean up a LOT of blood VERY quickly
- Franky deserves a raise
- Yor is, at best, what Simon R. Green called ‘an extremely upsetting force for good’.
Hulk Vs. Thor: Banner Of War
Donny Cates (Author) Nadia Shammas (Author) Martin Coccolo (Artist) Nic Klein (Artist)
After Al Ewing did the impossible and made me give a shit about the Hulk, Donny Cates picked up the torch, continuing with Hulk while also doing the same for Thor and and Venom because he’s the Original Mad Lad. His run on Venom is done, but the other two continue to break hearts and blow minds with their depictions of grief, self-hatred, and using the body of the Hulk as a living spaceship, and a convergence was promised at the end of Hulk, Vol. 1, which I am legally obligated to remind you is called Smashtronaut!! That’s not an extra exclamation point, the first one is in the title. You don’t get to pin that one on me.
Crossovers are hard, due in no small part to having to figure out the logistics of telling an interesting, self-contained story that will have all the hallmarks of a World-Altering Event but usually won’t have any actual impact outside the scope of its story; the smartest crossovers (in my opinion) are intentionally divorced from the larger continuity by dint of being their own miniseries or whatever, but you kind of need the weight and emotional grounding of everything Donny’s been building with these guys to understand (or care) why it’s theoretically any different than any of the other times these two large mans do the punching-polka.
Okay, so, was this a continuation of both of the extremely thoughtful, introspective titles whose main characters appear herein? Hell no. Does it absolutely kick an entire metric ass? Yes it does, citizen.
Something Is Killing The Children, Vol. 5
By James Tynion IV, Werther Delledera, And Miquel Muerto
NEW TOWN, NEW MONSTRO, SAME OL’ ERICA HAVING TO PROTECT THE YOUTH BECAUSE THE AUTHORITIES CAN’T SEE MONSTROS ANY MORE THAN THEY CAN SEE WOMEN OF COLOR IN NEED OF HELP, APPARENTLY.
Vol. 4 was dope and provided some interesting backstory for what seemed like backstory’s own sake at the time, but is now revealed to have some uh, pretty immediate bearing on what’s happening here in a way I can’t elaborate on without spoilers, but even without that added narrative beef into which we can sink our chompers the change of setting, cast and monstro are completely refreshing, and cleanly form the beginning of a new arc while carrying plenty over from the story so far.
Fire Force, Vol. 1
By Atsushi Ohkubo (Author)
Ever since my student loans told me I’d either need to quit buying so many comics or learn to eat them, I’ve been trying to make better use of my Comixology Unlimited subscription, which (among other things) allows me access to a rotating lending-library of comics I might wanna read but definitely don’t wanna pay for, and Fire Force is one of the strongest use-cases for this system I can imagine.
Fire Force takes place in a world where spontaneous human combustion is the number-one threat to human life, because not only could every Clarf, Glebra and Krindy explosively immolate out of nowhere, but when they do they become insane fire-spewing murderous rage monsters. Fortunately, this phenomenon was accompanied by the arrival of children born with pyrokinetic ability, and so firefighting becomes an honestly pretty unwholesome combination of church, state, and military.
This is a shonen manga, aimed roughly at 9-12 year old boys, and as a result the bones of its storytelling are instantly recognizable to anyone who saw ten seconds of Toonami in 2002: a young hero boy (Shinra), who is pure of heart and dumb of ass, must overcome a tragic burden (his mother combusting) and defeat a villain whom he has a personal connection with through rigorous application of the power of punching and/or magic-punching. This formulaic nature is a strength, allowing it to feel as comforting and familiar as Naruto or Dragon Ball Z or fuckin’ I dunno, Shaman King while doing its own thing in terms of worldbuilding and characterization; it is ten thousand percent stupid anime/manga bullshit, it rules and exactly one thing happens every volume, so the first dozen being free to read was an enormous advantage and also absolutely the only reason I ever read it.
I have already returned this to the Comixology Unlimited library so I have no pictures, but just picture a spiky-haired boy with a big cocky smile and flames billowing from his bare feet, talking about his rival or some shit and you’ll be in the ballpark.
Iyanu: Child Of Wonder, Vol. 1
By Roye Okupe (Author) Godwin Akpan (Illustrator) Spoof Animation (Contribution by)
Iyanu RULES, offering a story about a young girl with powers she doesn’t understand struggling against corruption and evil that threaten to consume her home, in a setting that blends historical African elements with magic and FUCKIN’ DEMON JAGUARS, MAN. It also predicts, reasonably, that the average reader might not be familiar with African history and thoughtfully provides interstitial pages between chapters explaining some of the major players and concepts appropriate to the era.
Fire Force, Vol. 2
By Atsushi Ohkubo (Author)
Look there are more than 30 volumes of this, you know as well as I do that most manga blend together between their volumes; I’m confident this one features more Manga Nonsense and probablyyyyyyyyyyy, lemme check my list of Bullshit Shonen Tropes, yeah probably a new character, a coupla crumbs about Shinra’s Tragic Past, and some kinda contest.
Adventureman, Vol. 1:
The End And Everything After
By Matt Fraction (Author) Terry Dodson (Artist)
Adventureman is…good godddamn, Adventureman, though. Shit. The only thing I can even think to call it is a love letter, in visual form, to the Pulp Era, in the noble, ridiculous tradition of Atomic Robo, Five Ghosts, Planetary, and Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow.
(Caveat: Planetary, like Transmetropolitan and a good chunk of Hellblazer, is by Warren Ellis, who is now understood to be a Sex Pest and Creep Par Excellence, and while your relationship with Troublesome Creators is of course your own row to hoe but I can’t in good conscience recommend you give him any of your money; used bookshops are our friends, for both savings and elegantly circumventing moral dilemmæ!)
Okay so Adventureman is about a large, extremely diverse family, the youngest member of which is obsessed with the titular Adventureman series of pulp novels (see third image below), and it becomes apparent that the obsession is somehow mutual as the story begins to imprint itself onto the real world, leading to the question: is it coming true, or has it always been true? And if it’s ‘true’ in any way, where is the Adventureman, and how can Baron Bizarre and his dire jerks be defeated without him?
If, like myself, you find the Two-fisted Tales of Yesteryear intriguing but difficult to find and riddled with, ah, shall we say outdated social perspectives, Adventureman is what you’ve been looking for. In fact if it had broader appeal instead of just being a very good example of a very specific thing, I’d make it my monthly recommendation; as it stands the exaggerated, larger-than-life nature of a story involving names like ‘Inferno Pistol’ and ‘Apocalypse Bible’ and ‘Abbathexiddion, Beast-God of the Ultravoid’ is going to be pure gobble-it-down cheese-popcorn for some and WAY too much sugar in their coffee for others.
One Piece, Vol. 8: I Won’t Die
By Eiichiro Oda (Author)
Look it’s One Piece, the same pirate-restaurant fight has been happening for three volumes, but it finally concludes in this one and Luffy’s crew gains a ship’s cook!
By Eduardo Medeiros (Author)
Two pals reopen one of their dad’s old bar together! Hijinx, good times, bad times, booze times, and the very last Donnie Darko reference you expect ensue!
It’s always hard to figure out how to say “this is a book about people living their lives and stuff happens” and make it sound worth reading, but that’s a function of my inadequacy as a reviewer, not of this book being anything less than extraordinary in its humanity, warmth, and depiction of friendship. Lenny and Beardo are the best of bros and also fuckin’ hate each other sometimes; they’re each all the other has in the wold, and that’s the way they likes it.
Can they run a pub together? Can their friendship survive nerdy-cousin-based hallucinogenic brewing experiments, a local hero whose celebrity has gone to his head AND HIS FISTS, and the return of [REDACTED]’s ex-girlfriend who left him at the altar? There’s only one way to find out, and to the extent that I am able I promise it’ll offer a worthy return on the effort invested.
Fire Force, Vol. 3
By Atsushi Ohkubo (Author)
More manga bullshit! A nun gets kidnapped and the Captain is BEING SHIFTY, so it’s definitely time to do punches about it. And if those punches are on fire? ALL THE BETTER, CATS AND KITTENS.
The Silver Coin, Vol. 1
By Ed Brisson (Author) Chip Zdarsky (Author)
Jeff Lemire (Author) Kelly Thompson (Author) Michael Walsh (Artist)
Hoooooo shit it’s a good time to be into horror anthology-comics; between this, Ice Cream Man, and stuff I don’t even know about we’re spoiled for choice. (I’ve been tempted by Razorblades, but even with that high a cost-to-pagecount ratio that’s still a pretty hefty pricetag for something with such wildly mixed reviews.)
Image Comics, to all of our lasting detriment, has got my fucking number, gang. They know if they so much as consider putting ‘Zdarsky’ and ‘Lemire’ on a comic, I’ll have somehow already bought it, and they could easily use that power for evil and bamboozle me with inferior funnybooks but seem not to have realized this, bless their little cotton socks. Toss a sentient evil artifact in there? Check please, homies.
Being an anthology, The Silver Coin is a string of seemingly unrelated stories, but all tied together by the presence of a living, deeply evil coin that, like the One Ring, seeks to corrupt all who touch it and, like Lemarchand’s Box, brings hell and death to those who succumb to its lure. This arrangement of narrative noodles–so many penne, unconnected but strung together on a fettuccine thread–allows the title to benefit both from the perpetual freshness of having a new story every issue and the subtle progress of the ongoing mytharc regarding the coin, its origins, and its fate. AS YOU CAN PROBABLY TELL, I’m a fan; my lone complaint is really a matter of narrative preference, being that I like it when horror stories have Rules and there are only Asshole Victims who refuse to abide by them (or an innocent whose wrongful death is meaningful, at least). But the evil at work here isn’t one that’s been bound to play fair, and that’s its own kind of terror.
My Hero Academia, Vol. 1:
Izuku Midoriya: Origin
By Kohei Horikoshi (Author)
Hey hi are you as sick of Western superhero comics as I am? What’s that? Neither of us actually is but we’re both willing to pretend we are? Deal.
Anyway ouch oof my bones, they crack under this mountain of trite, uninspired superhero comics, boy I just hate being buried in N.K. Jemisin’s Green Lantern: Far Sector and Chip Zdarsky’s Daredevil and Batman and Ryan North’s Squirrel Girl and Fantastic Four and Kelly Thompson’s Hawkeye and Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer and G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel, what a second Dark Age, if only there was an alternative!
Friends, well-wishers, and enemies whose grudging respect I have earned: Allow me to submit for your approval My Hero Academia, a manga series by a mangaka who has, apparently, read every issue of every western superhero comic ever made, taken everything that was good and nothing that sucked about them, turned it on its head and applied it to a Japanese storytelling framework, and the result is extraordinary.
Superheroes are supposed to be rare and world-breaking? Fuck you, 80% of the entire population is born with an ability or trait, collectively referred to as ‘Quirks’, and they’re used in everyday life as part of the function of society.
A main character is supposed to be unique and unusual? Go to your ass and think about what you’ve done, Izuku Midoriya is one of the 1/5th of society born Quirkless and desperately wants to be a hero; not rare enough to be truly weird, not common enough to be special, he’s nothing to nobody but his mama. Until, like so many Charlies Bucket trapped in factories owned by insane, enslaving, child-murdering chocolatiers, he catches the eye of All Might, the world’s greatest hero and Symbol of Peace, and finds himself transplanted into a world of DANGER and COSTUMES and PUNCHING.
THAT’S RIGHT: COSTUMES, because once admitted to U.A. High School, he not only has to learn to use his new abilities, but to design his costume, work in teams with others, and learn alongside others with wildly differing gifts who find themselves enrolled in Gadgeteer or Hero Management And Administration courses; it’s a refreshingly realistic look at how a world filled with weirdos,
no two of whom are the same, would need to actually work.
MHA is also–in fact I would say primarily–infused with the spirit of community and societal responsibility and desire to help and protect one another and the public at large that, being a gentle honky, I hesitate to describe as like “inherently” Japanese or any such fool thing, but that definitely seems to be core to the shonen hero spirit. Japan has its own long-standing tradition of superhero comics, of course; I’m not here to pretend that Kamen Rider and Sailor Moon didn’t happen (and aren’t frequently in conversation with Western comics), just that this is one of the first successful, mainstream efforts to tell a Western superhero story through a Japanese lens while retaining what makes both special whose results are incredibly pure, explosively positive and hopeful, and succeed on every front.
It’s gorgeous, it’s hilarious (All Might is literally drawn like a Western superhero, it’s so fuckin’ dumb, it’s great), it’s action and emotion-packed, and it’ll make you believe in yourself, and in all of us. Read it. You’ll feel ready to go plus ultra.
The Silver Coin, Vol. 2
By Vita Ayala (Author) Josh Williamson (Author)
Ram V (Author) Matthew Rosenberg (Author) Michael Walsh (Artist)
If Vol. 1 was the pilot for this title—get some big names to direct/write, really pull out the stops to show why this is a thing worth the audience investing their time and money in—this is the subsequent few episodes where they get to stretch their legs and walk around a bit, try some things out and see what feels right to go on with. This is naturally–arguably intentionally—going to result in some clunkers, but it’s how a series learns the shapes of its own story and how to better move within it. Remember how in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery they experimented with really off-tone Grey’s Anatomy-style slow-mo intro monologues instead of proper Captain’s Logs and similar? It didn’t work at all, so they stopped doing it, but they had tried something new and came away knowing what didn’t work and why, which might be more important than knowing what does.
As a result of all of this, Vol. 2 has a much greater variety of stories, and to their credit many more of the experiments work than don’t, at least for me. A high-roller learns what happens when you try to beat the gods at their own game, a humble custodian is overcome by greed, a troop of scouts get more than they bargained for out of a hike through the woods, the new game at the arcade is to die for, and we learn a little bit more about whence exactly this numismatic nightmare cometh, and in what infernal vending machine it can be spent.
The issue-covers, it must also be noted, are fucking gorgeous; this has no bearing on the quality of anything else of course but it’s always especially heartening to see a work that swings for the absolute fences with every single aspect of its design and production.
Ice Cream Man, Vol. 7: Certain Descents
By W. Maxwell Prince (Author) Martin Morazzo (Artist) Chris O’Halloran (Artist)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Ice Cream Man is a nightmare, a NIGHTMARE, and worst of all things in Hell or France, it’s a nightmare that knows you’re having it. I have never encountered a storytelling organism that understands what it takes to truly horrify its audience like this one does, and I have to bring myself to read every new volume. I wanna know what the hell is happening on this plane! I wanna know what’s gonna happen to Riccardus, and whether justice can ever really lay a finger on a thing like him! I wanna know if we’ll ever get another volume without a reading-gimmick issue to test our patience!
Also, most of all: This volume is special because it features the single greatest comic book character ever created: Grg the Bug. This is now officially a Grg Fan-Blog, #WeStanGrg, all will love Grg and despair.
Fire Force, Vol. 4
Atsushi Ohkubo (Author)
Speaking of bugz, this volume is about a bug that turns people into Infernals! Wait, what? Yeah, Shinra agrees, and has to investigate who’s behind it while working with the noticeable benefit of being an entire dumbass!
Refrigerator Full Of Heads
By Rio Youers (Author) Tom Fowler (Illustrator)
The direct sequel to Basketful of Heads we’ve been eager for and sweet cinnamon-dusted Moses was it worth the wait, holy smokes though.
RFOH starts by confirming what we suspected and hoped: That the Axe from the first volume (which lops off a noggin and allows said noggin to remain… mostly okay??? And fully capable of having rad adventures with their new friend Rowansong the Buck, Prince of the Forest? Honestly some of these severed heads are living the dream) is merely one of a set of weapons with strange and terrifying properties, and a grumble of thiefy-types have set their sights on collecting the whole set for reasons unknown OR, possibly, reasons unremembered by me.
This book rules, and works perfectly fine if you haven’t read the first one, and while it is genuinely grotesque and fucked up and great and builds on the mytharc of these dark implements, the best thing about RFOH is that despite being about murder and death and other such grody bummers, it also actively makes the fun, bonkers choice ever single time, and that is why you should go read it according to me, Uncle Bageler.
Like a bank robber with a note
Give it to the teller, so she know we ain’t fucking around
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