Comics for January

I mentioned before that the slight food intake changes I’ve made have already netted some positive effects, one of which is that I can actually read at night again. For a long time there I would take my turns on my multiplayer iPad games and then try to read, but would often crash after only a few pages. These days I can get through a lot of reading before hitting the hay, so I’ve vastly increased my comics consumption. Here are the books I read in January.

Mind MGMT vol 1 (Matt Kindt, Dark Horse): I enjoyed Kindt’s graphic novel, Red Handed, and decided to check out the book that’s really propelled him. I liked it okay, but I felt that the payoff in this first arc didn’t really satisfy the setup. Two intriguing mysteries are presented at the outset, but the solutions to them seemed to be an afterthought. Mind MGMT ended up being something I liked more in theory than in execution, and I don’t think I’ll pursue it further unless I hear that it really gets better.

Came the Dawn, and Other Stories Illustrated by Wallace Wood (Al Feldstein, Wally Wood, etc., Fantagraphics): Part of my continued efforts to catch up with EC Comics. I talked more about it here. To that I’ll add that I’ve noticed in these stories black people don’t exist unless it’s a message story about racism, and in those the black characters are often nonvocal subjects of the material rather than protagonists. There are two stories about racism in this volume and in both not a single black character says a word.

BPRD: 1948 (Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Max Fiumara, Dave Stewart, Dark Horse): I think I’m done with BPRD. The main storyline has ballooned out of my interest and these flashbacks, which are more in line with what I like, are starting to get involved in continuity I can no longer remember (a big point in this story is what’s going on with a character from a previous story who I don’t recall at all.)

Welcome to Alflolol and Birds of the Master (Jean-Claude Mézières, Pierre Christin, Cinebooks): Volumes 4 and 5 of the Valerian and Laureline adventures. I like these one-shot oddball science fiction stories from the early 70s. They’re fun, interesting, and less caught up in modern-day sci-fi trappings.

Battling Boy (Paul Pope, First Second): I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of Paul Pope’s artwork. That’s why I didn’t pick this up before. But I heard so many good things about this that I had to give it a try, and I’m glad I did. It’s a lot of fun, feels fresh, and works for a variety of audiences. The idea of a young god who gets powers from t-shirts is charming. Still not crazy about his artwork, but the book is a delight.

Mister X: Eviction and Other Stories (Dean Motter, Dark Horse): I love Motter’s Mister X books. The mixture of noir, German Expressionism, architecture, art deco, and science fiction presses just about every single button I have. In fact, after reading this I hit up some pals for ideas on which movies to check out as source material for these books, which is where a lot of things on this list came from. (The actual source material, not the dumb pat answer of “Blade Runner” that Newsarama puts in its blurb on the back cover.) Every time I read a new Mister X story I just want to re-read all the previous stuff.

Little Tommy Lost, Book One (Cole Closser, Koyama): I heard of this in some “Best of 2013” round-up and it sounded interesting. It’s done in the style of an early newspaper comic, including Sunday strips. Tommy gets separated from his parents in the big city and hauled away to an orphanage. Things take a dark and mysterious turn there. It’s well-done and captivating. highly recommended to folks who enjoy the style and language of old comic strips.

Hellboy: The Midnight Circus (Mike Mignola, Duncan Fegredo, Dave Stewart, Dark Horse): If I’m not complaining about the food I’m complaining about the servings. A nice and spooky young Hellboy story, but kind of slight for the price tag, hard cover or no.

The Property (Rutu Modan, Drawn + Quarterly): I’m a huge fan of Modan’s Exit Wounds and this book travels some slightly similar ground. A young woman and her grandmother go to Warsaw to reclaim a piece of property taken from them in World War II. It turns out the property has a surprising history behind it involving the grandmother’s past. This is a sweet and soulful book, with Modan’s great characterization and style. If you haven’t read either this or Exit Wounds, I recommend both.

The Yellow “M” (Edgar P. Jacobs, Cinebook): Cinebook numbers this Blake and Mortimer book as number 1, signaling to me that it’s the first volume in this series set in the 30s (I think) about the adventures of Captain Francis Blake and his friend Professor Philip Mortimer. They are investigating a series of outrageous crimes in which the only clue is a letter “M” left at the crime scenes. It was surprising, then, to discover that the story hinges on events from a previous adventure. Turns out this is actually the sixth volume in the original French series and the first volume is actually “The Secret of the Swordfish, Part One”, which is the fifteenth volume in the Cinebook series. That’s kind of odd to me but hey, now I know. That issue aside, this is a fun adventure book in the Tintin style. There’s one weird portion in the story, where Mortimer suddenly starts talking about a book that has never been mentioned before. Still, I’m down for that swordfish secret.

Boxers and Saints (Gene Luen Yang, First Second): I cannot fully articulate how much I enjoyed these books. Two parallel stories set during the Boxer Rebellion, one on each side of the conflict. It’s just…man, I’m serious, I just don’t know what to say other than IT’S SO DAMN GOOD. The art, the characters, the ways the stories intersect, it’s all done in such a masterful way the only thing I can tell you is to experience it for yourself. Gene Luen Yang has a phenomenal career ahead of him and I’m definitely going to be there for it.

By This Shall You Know Him (Jesse Jacobs, Koyama): This was excerpted in the Best American Comic Stories 2013 anthology. I was intrigued by the sample and bought the book. It’s a twisted creation myth, in which Earth and humanity are the work of a powerful superbeing competing with its colleagues to impress a master. Everything goes well until one of the colleagues gets jealous and begins to tamper with the creation. It’s funny, disturbing, winsome, and grotesque in turns, but ultimately a solid book. I don’t know much about Jesse Jacobs (there’s no artist’s info in the book) but I’m curious to check out his other work.

Life Begins at Incorporation (Matt Bors, Top Shelf): Matt Bors is up there with Ruben Bolling and Tom Tomorrow when it comes to political and social cartooning. He’s got good insight an wit and does a great job of savagely cutting into his subjects (in on strip he chides lazy cartoonists for doing the “dead guy at the pearly gates” thin with Steve Jobs, points out that Jobs was a Buddhist, not a Christian, and instead has him reincarnated as a Chinese kid assembling iPhones for pennies.) This collection of comics and essays is a “laugh-to-keep-from-crying” overview of the past several years of sociopolitical nonsense.

Look at that list. That’s all from JANUARY. Will I run out of comics to read at this rate???

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