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Reading Roundup 10.22.23, Or, Pillow Fight Club

First, A BRIEF FERAL CAT UPDATE (FCU): they’re fine! Bleu and Pannacotta and Brûlée and the Sheriff and Starzin & Yipes (the Stripes Twins) are all great, but it got much colder very quickly here and is projected to continue doing so, and I was worried about them because mostly they are but SWEET SUMMER CHILDREN, quite literally, and have never felt anything below like 80°F/29.5°C. I know they’ve got fur! I know they’ll probably be okay! But they’re my Outie pals1, so I made them this:

I’m gonna put a little comfy pad in there and season it with nip, but the actual doing of the thing was super simple and took less than an hour including the trip to the shop; find the instructions I used here if you’re curious about how to provide an insulated, windproof shelter for your own beloved local freeloaders!


Blue Lock, Vol. 1

YES IT IS TRUE, ever since my experience with Cross Game–seriously for the love of every click this dumb site will ever receive, please go read Cross Game, you owe it to yourself, it will Change You–I have had no choice but to grudgingly acknowledge this tiny, insignificant genre that absolutely no one reads; I carved out a little niche for it among my towering stacks of lizard-man linguistic anthropology manga and late-diagnosis-dyslexia manga and food manga cleverly disguised as a fantasy dungeon-crawl.

There are plenty of sports manga that are just extremely straightforward Sports Stuff Happening–indeed Cross Game is among them, but its storytelling and characterization are extraordinary enough to set it apart–and frankly, I have little patience for that; the only interest I have for sports-qua-sports regards our family’s annual Super Bowl party and the many homemade calzones it promises. But when you start throwing me a LITTLE something extra, like a boy who becomes an expert at playing Go thanks to the tutelage of an ancient spirit, or a werewolf who plays basketball, NOW we’re talking. In fairness most vanilla sports manga are probably better than I give them credit for, but that’s true of all things, and you gotta offer a hook if you wanna catch the big ol’ Bagelbass.

Anyway, Blue Lock is a series about soccer2, with the drama and intensity cranked up to 14,000% and at least hints of some supernatural nonsense, although I’m sure it’ll be something like “the ancient power of the football masters” or similar. Its premise is true enough: Japan has never won the World Cup, and while the fat cats are fine keeping that status quo and collecting their cuts of the sponsorships and advertising deals, the peple who actually care about soccer and Japan’s role on the world kickyball-stage are fucking sick of it.

[Reminder: Manga reads right-to-left, both panels and pages]

And so, like a criminal syndicate backed into a corner by the Batman or the United States’ Republican Party in the 2016 election, Japan’s football faithful turned in their desperation to a sociopath who promised to get the job done with extreme prejudice and maximum collateral damage.

Meanwhile, we meet Our Hero, a forward named Isagi who doesn’t fit in on his team and doesn’t feel like he’s on the right frequency for Japan’s cultural gameplay-philosophy, which emphasizes the group and discourages attempts at individual exceptionalism. He’s tired of his team friggin’ losing all the time, and feels like if he got a chance to actually do his thing, if they would just stop holding him back already, they could finally rack up some wins.

I adore the bit about his parents not giving a shit about soccer, because I can’t decide if it’s refreshingly honest (and still pretty supportive actually) parent-child communication or just comedic sociopathy3; I am reminded of my own time in Little League Teeball (#GoDiamondbacks), where it took a hilariously long time for my parents and I to realize that none of us wanted to be there or wanted me to be there4.

It just gets more hyperdramatic and stylized and Hunger Games-y from there, including the wildest game of tag you’ve ever seen, and even as the kids5 begin to embrace the Victory Monsters inside, they have to cope with the realization that their continued existence in the program doesn’t just mean but requires that others have their chance ripped away from them; the Carnivore’s Burden, the understanding that other living things must die for us to continue to survive, except it’s like, other dudes, and they just go home and aren’t allowed to play soccer for Japan in any official capacity anymore.

Didn’t realize I had this much to say! Blue Lock: ask for it by name.

Dawn Of X, Vol. 4

I try to keep these lists to Volumes 1 when possible, partly because as a series goes on, it gets harder to write about it in a way that’s accessible to someone who hasn’t read the others without being spoily6, and partly because ComiXology frequently has Vol. 1 sales and ya boi? He takes 👏ad👏van👏tage.

Dawn Of X is an interesting exception because, although there are many, many volumes in the series, it progresses VERY slowly because it’s a huge, living system of half a dozen titles that tag in and out; between them, I’m pretty sure they get one issue per volume (roughly), meaning that most of the issues of Fallen Angels7 and Excalibur8 and Marauders9 in this volume are #4s, which would ordinarily be well within a Vol. 1’s purview. It’s just an interesting side-effect of the way this larger narrative is playing out, and I actually really enjoy the more leisurely pace and chance to breathe and spend a little more time with the huge cast of characters, one of whom is currently torturing the IPA into a rough approximation of a New Orleans accent:

Remy listen this is very sad and we all sympathize with you, but you really need to move Rogue’s purple sarcophagus, it’s blocking the street

GAMBIT’S WIFE HAS BEEN ENTOMBED IN A GRAPE JOLLY RANCHER, you hate to see it, we all know this classic way; fortunately–and thank Store Brand God–Storm is here to annihilate a fascist about it. Or maybe about something else. I’d be lying if I said I was clear on the entire situation but I’m clear on the thing that matters: don’t piss off the lady who could charge up Doc Brown’s DeLorean while literally chilling at the beach.

There’s an episode of Star Trek: Voyager–stick with me, this’ll be worth it10–where the bad guys were suffering from a degenerative disease, and went around collecting, ah, involuntary organ donations. They did this with guns they invented that could literally just zoop a given organ out of you with transporter technology, and in fact the Voyager‘s ship’s cook spent the entire episode with a pair of holographic lungs the Doctor whipped up for him and–I’m getting off track. My point is that what I never understood, the HUGE point about its own world that the show didn’t seem to realize it was making, is that as far as I can see, weaponized transporter technology is the final and most terrifying word in future-weapons. Why bother with phasers or Klingon Krav Maga when you can just go voop and uh-oh, Space Dave doesn’t have a cerebral cortex anymore, or why bother with photon torpedoes and shields when you can just zoip a golf ball of antimatter or whatever directly into the enemy warp-core and watch the fireworks; I don’t see any world in which this very recreatable application of an extremely common technology isn’t just the end of the ballgame in terms of space warfare, and if I’m being generous, maybe the writers did realize that and understood that they couldn’t even glance at the idea in their peripheral vision because it would knock everything they were doing sideways.
Anway, all of this to say that one of the best parts of Dawn Of X is watching the writers realize that Kate (née Kitty) Pryde, who can phase herself and objects through or into things, should really be one of the most dangerous mutants in existence:

Y’know, as a young man one hears about girls having pillowfights, but nobody ever mentions it’s a DEATHSPORT11

This is from another volume, but I have to include it because it’s one of the most upsetting things I’ve seen in a long time, and I was reading this at the same time as that Ed Gein biography:

Ha, gross/awsome

Dawn Of X is an extremely ambitious project, and like all of those there are going to be places where its reach exceeds its grasp, but that’s as it should be; after all, if not, then what is Krakoa for?
For my part, as long as Kate Pryde (now the [RED-ACTED] of the [REDACTED]) keeps fucking shit up, rescuing stranded or bound mutants, and being an awesome pirate queen, I’ll keep reading.

FBP: Federal Bureau Of Physics,
Vol. 1: The Paradigm Shift

Hey you remember Fringe, right? X-Files style monster-of-the-week storytelling but exclusively with mirror-realities and Mad Science and similar? Cast full of competent professional actors that John Noble acted circles around, sometimes twice at once? Mysterious Observers who hide in the backgrounds of every single episode and scrawl cryptic diagrams in notebooks you bet your ASS I paused to copy down? Okay I’m getting off-track, but clearly I need to rewatch Fringe.
My point is that much as Fringe was a kind of X-Files, FBP is a kind of Fringe; not a ripoff, but a new thing inspired by what came before and using some of the same pieces as other things in new ways.

BUT IT’S NOT ALL FUN AND SCHOLASTIC DELINQUENCY; at any time you could be minding your own goddamn business and find yourself at the heart of a quantum tsunami or a time-phoon or a friction fracture, and then you’re gonna thank your enormous aunt Glebra that the professionals are there to save your ass from the bad math.

In a post Doctor Who world, it would be really easy for them to handwave it all as so much Mandelbrot’s mumbo-jumbo, but there’s a clear through-line based on existing, real-world science, and while what happens isn’t realistic, the ways and reasons it does at least hang together well in the suit of the series:

Huh, wonder what that beep could be about, it’s probably not important, artists probably throw stuff in all the time that doesn’t mean anything, they’ve got all the time and money in the world to fuck around with

Also? Shit’s funny and pretty.

There’s definitely a plot afoot involving The Powers That Be and the spread of physics response (and insurance premiums) into the private sector, perhaps through the use of dark science. To what end? And what does it have to do with how Mr. McBuildingSlide12 up there’s dad disappeared in a mysterious science catastrophe? Who’s the private-sector mole in the FBP? And WHEN WILL DIRECTOR CICERO HAVE TIME TO SEE HIS HAIRSTYLIST IF HE HAS TO LASSO ALL THESE AIRBORNE YOUTHS???

A Memory Called Empire – Arkady Martine

I finished it last night and it was AMAZING. Obviously I can’t Go Into It for fear of spoiling things for others, and so I will be content with this meme, which I assume would be impenetrable to anyone without context:


Petty Theft

Listen: I am a small-scale, medium-effort, zero-paid-advertising blogger, and I am a performer at heart, which means that I require attention the way my blood requires Diet Coke. So yes: I post my links in my Facebook groups and impose upon the goodwill of people who otherwise count on me to ruin the out-of-context comedic value of the isolated comic-panel they just posted. It got to the point where it was easier just to make this to reply with:

(Steal at your leisure, my gift to you)

Anyway, one groupmate kind enough to read one of my other roundups, in which I categorized books alongside food, hygienics and baby supplies in that if you see someone shoplifting them, No You Didn’t; they recommended this title as not a contradiction, but a kind of response to that idea: a Québécois cartoonist spots a woman stealing a book he wrote from a bookstore, and undertakes a program of investigation/stalking/romance upon her. What a thing to exist. God, I love comics.

If it occurs to you that this is more than a little gross: yes, and the only thing that keeps him from being a full-on creep is that he doesn’t do it from a place of romantic intention (they do smooch later, but it’s mutual and he’s come clean) or try to use it to manipulate her and, not to be unkind, he’s kind of a yutz; it’s an autobio comic, so I can only assume that he knows himself and is doing that intentionally.

I could only get this physically, which made taking decent photos difficult, but this pretty much sums him up.

I’ve spoken before about how much I love graphic memoirs, but even within that there are subcategories, like I Spoke With Dozens Of Detained Refugees Trapped In Australia’s Immigration And Detention Center, or Liz Prince and James Kochalka‘s books which tend toward not fictionalization but narrativization, and then there’s stuff like this book, which is pretty literally “this is what happened for this chunk of my life”; they’ve all got their charms and drawbacks, but this kind is probably the easiest to read, although it does carry the risk of a lack of arc and structure and similar, because real life doesn’t always have those.

Petty Theft isn’t exactly fun; the main character is extremely anxious and it’s kind of hard not to catch a little of that since he’s our POV, but it’s a very human and entertaining look at being in a new place and trying to figure out who to be and also how the hell do you dispose of a giant papier-mâché replica of your ex’s head without ending up on a watchlist? There are times, when all the world’s asleep, the questions run so deep for such a simple man13. I recommend it!


Good night, and good luck.

–The Bageler

And you know
We’re on a road to paradise

  1. Sometimes the Sheriff actually LETS ME PET HIM and at those moments I feel I have never been so #blessed
  2. Or, as most of the world calls it, ‘poutine’
  3. I asked She Who Is My Wife: “¿Por que no los dos?
  4. When I chose not to re-up the following season, my parents were disappointed, but was also relieved because snack-duties rotated among the parents and they’re not friggin’ made of Capri Suns and orange slices over here
  5. I think they’re all boys but can’t be sure, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a couple of bamboozlements in store on that wavelength
  6. You think I don’t have opinions about Delicious & Dungeon, Vol. 11, motherfucker? WELL I DO AND THEY ARE THIS: I am confused about what’s happening most of the time and appreciate the occasional exposition-dumps, but I’m still enjoying it a lot
  7. 👎
  8. 😐
  9. 👍👍👍👍👍👍👍
  10. Narrator: It was not worth it
  11. Consult your local library for information on how to start your own pillow fight club!
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