What constitutes a good "top ten"?

A couple weeks back (holy crap when did it become late September) I got an email from the excellent Steve Morris (of The MNT, CBR, and Shelfdust) asking me if I’d be interested in contributing to an experiment he’s doing. He hasn’t posted the results yet so I don’t want to go into too much detail, but ultimately what he asked of me was for my top ten comics. Specifically top ten issues of comics, not graphic novels or arcs or trade paperbacks even.

Cue semantics crisis. I know what my favorite comics are, but I can only identify them by arcs. Maybe there’s a one shot here or there but it’s a real struggle to think of comics that I love that are single issues rather than two to ten jammed together to make a cohesive story. Single issues of comics are hard to craft, they’re beholden to so many different influences and short enough that they fall out of your head a lot faster than a 300 page book might.

But what I was really hung up on was the idea of a top ten. Did that mean my personal ten favorite comics? Did it mean the ten I think are mandatory reading for all comics lovers? Is it the ten comics I wish more people read? None of that seems particularly helpful to anybody, if I’m honest. There are a lot of “required reading” comics, those books that were hugely influential to the industry in so many ways, that I would never demand (in some cases, would never even suggest) people read. Do you need to read The Killing Joke and Frank Miller’s triptych of suffering in order to understand modern Batman comics? No, absolutely not. Does having a baseline knowledge of what those books covered help? Yeah, probably.

So after thinking about it way more than I should have, I landed on my own personal criteria for what I would include in a top ten list:

  • It has to be easily accessible.

  • It has to be a comic I would happily encourage someone to pay money for, let alone read.

  • It has to be able to at least vaguely be able to stand alone as a single issue.

  • It has to demonstrate in some way why I think comics are so great and what comics are capable of.

That fourth one is really loosey goosey, but I couldn’t think of a better way to put it. I love converting non-comics folks to enthusiastic comics readers. I love watching people who’ve only ever read cape-and-cowl stuff from DC or Marvel pick up something way outside their comfort zone and be blown away by it. And really, that’s what I’m talking about. I want a comic that I can hand someone and even if they’ve never read a comic before they’ll have an emotional reaction and want to read more.

So here’s my list:

  1. Pluto: Urasawa x Texuka Act 21: Uran’s Search (this is in volume 3 of the collected manga)

  2. Bitch Planet #6

  3. Sandman #48

  4. Hawkeye #19

  5. All Star Batman (2017) #13

  6. Lady Killer #5

  7. Preacher #8

  8. Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth

  9. DC Bombshells #12

  10. Batgirl (Vol 4) Annual #2

Of course, there were a slew of honorable mentions. These all fell off for a variety of reasonsons, either because they didn’t exactly fit the format of the request or because I honestly can’t count to ten and thought I needed more.

  • Shaft #6

  • Monstress #1

  • Russian Olive to Red King

  • Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1

  • Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? (Batman #686 and Detective Comics #853)

With one or two exceptions, these aren’t from my favorite series of all time, and they certainly aren’t the issues that mean the most to me, personally (off the top of my head Batman (2011) #27 is probably pretty high up there). It doesn’t even approach how much I adore webcomics and graphic novels have been left out of the conversation almost entirely. But they are comics I would give to someone and say “This is why I dedicate so much of my time and energy and love to this medium. Please spend a half hour with this.”

And really, that’s the best part of my job as both a reader and a reviewer. Sharing a book with someone and saying “I like this, I hope you like it too.”

What is Caitlin reading? Jan 19 2018

Something new I've learned about myself (or more likely, something that I knew but have finally accepted):

  Generation Gone , art by André Lima Araújo  (Also a good representation of how I felt with the flu last week.)

Generation Gone, art by André Lima Araújo

(Also a good representation of how I felt with the flu last week.)

I am not good at writing things on a consistent schedule unless I'm getting paid to do it.  I used to write thousands of words of fiction every week in college and grad school, on top of my actual schoolwork.  I also used to read thousands of pages a week on top of my actual schoolwork, but something about having a day job and being a grown up makes this a lot harder.  One of my big goals (I'm not super into "resolutions" as such) is to start pulling back from some things that keep me busy in order to dive back into things I really enjoy but haven't been able to dedicate time to.  Writing and reading more for myself is a big part of that.

So here's what I've been reading lately:

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  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin.  I've actually been listening to the audiobook of this, because I've discovered I'm a lot more likely to "read" fiction if I can do it while doing something else (washing the dishes, cleaning, and for the month of December and into January definitely while packing up Ladies' Night Anthology Kickstarter packages).  My friends have been telling me to read this for a long time, they've all (appropriately) raved about how great it is.  I honestly just waited until all three books in the trilogy were done because I know me and I know that I wanted to read it all at once.  Not only has The Fifth Season lived up to the hype, Robin Miles, the narrator, is one of the best audiobook narrators I've heard in a long, long time.  She does a great job with different voices and makes it very clear which character's perspective she's occupying at any given time.  The book itself is just astonishingly well done.  The chapters not only switch perspectives, but also between points of view (second versus third person).  The story unfolds naturally, and the world that Jemisin has built is rich and textured and nuanced and everything I want in my speculative fiction.  I honestly put off listening to the last hour of the book for almost two weeks because I wasn't ready to let it go, and then I remembered I could go get the second book right away and blasted through it.  (Audible subscriptions are GREAT.)
  • Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal). I finished this sometime in December and somehow forgot to write it up.  Maybe because I have this weird comics =/= reading thing in my head?  That's dumb, I'm gonna stop doing that.  Anyway, I've met Mary a couple of times as we have mutual friends and it's very charming to listen to an audiobook narrated by someone you know personally.  It's like having a friend that's especially good at telling stories tell you a great story that lasts for hours.  I love it.  The book is charming and dark in really great ways, and it evoked a lot of the same emotions in me as I felt when I was first diving into really great fantasy when I was 10-13.  Lots of rich characters and crazy adventures, and urban fantasy that looks like the kind of city I live in, instead of a bunch of white folks being inexplicably rich and magic.
  • Everything is Awful and Other Observations by Matt Bellassai (narrated by the author).  I started following Bellassai when he was making "Whine About It" videos while working at Buzzfeed.  He would get super drunk on wine and rant about random things and it was hilarious and fun.  So I followed him to his equally fun podcast, and purchased the audiobook version of his collection of essays/memoir type thing as soon as it came out.  I'm not sure I would enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed listening to Matt read it, if I'm honest.  But he talks a lot like my friends and I do when we're ranting, and it felt a little like a love letter from one weird fat Chicagoland kid to another.  
  • Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch (narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith).  This is technically a re-read, as Chicago Nerd Social Club's monthly book club is discussing the title in February.  I love the Rivers of London books (and the comic books!) so much.  Aaronovitch has a really conversational writing style and the main character Peter Grant has one of the most realistic and fascinating arc of character growth over the books that I've ever read.  It's another urban fantasy title, complete with a reserved, skinny, older British man (my jam) and a dog (named Toby!).  I love the idea that there are gods and goddesses for every single body of water, down to little creeks and offshoots of bigger rivers, and I really appreciate the way Aaronovitch incorporates modernity, immigration, and refugees into the "gods exist where people believe in them" idea.  I'm stoked for book club.
  • Generation Gone by Ales Kot and André Lima Araújo.  I read all of the individual issues as they came out, but my colleague Oliver let me know that my review of the first issue was a blurb on the back of the trade, and I couldn't resist buying and rereading it.  I wasn't familiar with Araújo at all, but I like Kot's work a lot, and if anyone else had written a book pitched as "what if millenials had super powers" I would've noped out real fast.  But this book explores issues with technology, endless war, the cost of protest, police brutality, medical debt, student loan debt, and BOTH ends of toxic masculinity (the macho asshole and the Nice Guy).  It's great.  I like this book so much.
  • Black Hammer Volume 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston.  Black Hammer is one of those alt-universe superhero books kind of like Supreme Power that takes a lot of recognizable superhero tropes and "flips them on their head" partly by making them more human and nuanced, which so far has necessitated making them darker and more difficult to swallow.  Lemire's work is good and I'd heard a lot of great stuff about this series, but I'm still a little torn.  For what it is, I really like Black Hammer.  But in the context of Lemire's other work and the industry writ large, it feels...repetitive?  Too familiar?  Though the characters aren't exactly big name heroes, it's really clear who they're based on.  And SO many of these types of story mirror DC characters more than Marvel, and in doing so kind of shit all over them?  I need to check out the second volume for sure, because the execution is really great, I'm just not sold on the core idea I guess...mostly because I've read it before, and a lot of the time it ends up feeling like whoever made it doesn't like superhero comics all that much but feels totally justified ripping into them.  I like stuff like Superman: Red Son or Justice League: Gods and Monsters because it re-imagines the characters as someone different without rejecting cannon; it's an attempt to dive deeper into what makes them who they are, instead of mocking who they've always been.
 Jack Kirby and his famous quote, by Dylan Horrocks

Jack Kirby and his famous quote, by Dylan Horrocks

  • Hicksville by Dylan Horrocks.  I haven't read Hicksville in a couple of years, and it was before I got so involved in the industry as both an editor/publisher and a reviewer.  Rereading it now, when I'm part of the very machine that the book portrays, was a different, more personal and intimate experience.  But it also reminded me of how much I love about this medium, and why I want it to be as good as it possibly can be.  I might need to start a regularly scheduled reread, just to reinvigorate myself and take stock of if I'm really doing what I want to be doing.  Everyone should read this book, but especially people who make comics, and extra especially people who are frustrated by the way the industry has been shaped by business instead of art.  I honestly can't even start to describe what it's about without getting into really personal stuff about my feelings on capitalism and "selling out" and what art means to people who make it.  (Horrocks is also an incredible artist and really genuinely kind person, which only makes me love this book all the more.)

So there's a truncated version of what I've been reading.  I also started reading a couple new Webtoons*, and a bunch of fanfiction that's more self care than anything else.

*Super Secret (a werewolf is in love with his human neighbor but won't admit it, hijinks ensue), Sweet Home (horror comic that's just started and feels very internal and meta), I Love Yoo and Green & Gold (random romance comics that are full of shenanigans and familiar but satisfying tropes).

What is Caitlin reading? Dec 15 2017

It's been awhile since I did one of these (holidays! family! work!) but as 2017 comes to an end I want to make sure I'm at least writing down what I've been digging lately.  In a few weeks here I've got a big chunk of time off and a huge to-read pile to get through, so there's gonna be a bunch more of these soon.  But! In the meantime, here's some of what I've been reading lately:

  Mister Miracle , art by Mitch Gerads and writing by Tom King

Mister Miracle, art by Mitch Gerads and writing by Tom King

If you haven't already, check out the A.V. Club's Best of 2017 List, which I contributed to along with Oliver Sava and Shea Hennum.  (If you're interested, we also have a Best of 2017 So Far from June, too.)  My picks, in no particular order, are below.  You should definitely go check out Oliver and Shea's recommendations, too.  We all have very different taste, but that's part of what I love about working with them.

  • All Star Batman (Scott Snyder, Raphael Albuquerque)
  • Batman/The Shadow (Steve Orlando, Scott Snyder, Riley Rossmo)
  • "The War of Jokes and Riddles" Batman arc (Tom King, Mikel Janin)
  • Mister Miracle (Tom King, Mitch Gerads)
  • Shipwreck (Warren Ellis, Phil Hester)
  • Redlands (Jordie Bellaire, Vanesa Del Rey)
  • Not Drunk Enough (Tess Stone)
  • Wilde Life (Pascalle Lepas)
  • Letters for Lucardo (Noora Heikkilä)
  • Dinosaur Empire: Earth Before Us (Abby Howard)
 I always do it alphabetically, like a nerd.

I always do it alphabetically, like a nerd.

About once a year at Ladies' Night at my LCS (Graham Crackers Comics in the Loop), we do something we call the Attack the Stack challenge.  It's aimed at getting people to really try to get through their to-read pile.  Whenever you catch up on a series or finish a graphic novel, you post a picture on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter and tag it with the #AttackTheStack hashtag, which means we all act as eachother's accountability buddies (and we try to have a prize for someone to win in a random drawing of folks who posted).  I knew I wasn't going to completely finish my stack, but you can see what I read over on my Instagram.  I did make a pretty big dent, and then immediately turned around and bought some more, because that's how book addiction works.  Some standouts:

  • I Hear the Sunspot by Yuki Fumino was a serious highlight for me.  It's a beautiful, arty romance manga about two young men slowly falling for each other.  One of them is hard of hearing, and the characterization is really wonderful.  It scratches all the same itches that really well written fanfiction does, a little angsty with a lot of fluff and genuine emotional depth.  I'm also bummed that books like that aren't really supported in western comics, while they're relatively easy to find in manga.
  • The Influencing Machine by Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld.  This was a rough, slow-going read, mostly because there was so much information to get through.  Gladstone (of NPR fame, she's one of the hosts of WNYC's On the Media) lays out the historical ways that media has been manipulated and done the manipulating since the beginning of the United States.  It's a really info-heavy book, but excellently done, and Neufeld's art is great.  The thing is, I'm not sure I'd call it a graphic novel so much as an illustrated novel.  It's laid out like a comic, but it's incredibly text heavy and it feels like the illustrations were done after the prose was written.  In fact, Neufeld is credited as an illustrator instead of the artist, so while I whole heartedly recommend the book, I'm not sure I'd call it a comic.
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  • Land of the Lustrous 1 by Haruko Ichikawa is sort of like Steven Universe, but leaning a bit harder into the magical girl tropes and a lot darker.  Maybe Steven Universe meets Magical Girl Madoka/Puella Magi Madoka Magica.  I'll admit that while I really liked the story, I found the art difficult to parse sometimes.  One of the hardest things about reading manga is that it is almost always in grayscale, and because of the scope and ambition of the action sequences in particular, it was hard to tell exactly what was going on , particularly because it really does plop you right down in the middle without a lot of explanation.  As a cartoon, or a full color comic, I think it would look absolutely stunning (and thankfully there is an anime that aired just a few months ago).  It does leave me with the impression that this was always planned to be a show instead of a comic, and I'm not really a fan of that.  As it is, it's pretty but I probably won't be picking it up as much and as often as I do stuff like Princess Jellyfish or Ōoku.
  • My Brother's Husband Vol 1 by Gengoroh Tagame (translated by Anne Ishii).  Tears.  Tears streaming down my face the whole time.  It's about a Japanese man struggling with meeting his dead brother's husband, and trying to understand how someone can love someone the same gender they are.  It's sweet and beautiful and really heartbreaking and happy-making all at the same time.
  Ōoku  by Fumi Yoshinaga

Ōoku by Fumi Yoshinaga

  • Ōoku: The Inner Chambers Vol 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga is one of the most beautiful mangas I've ever read, and it's all down to the fabric.  Set in a universe where men are a commodity thanks to an illness that kills many of them, the (female) ruler of Japan has created what amounts to a harem for herself.  Ōoku is largely set inside the confines of this space, telling the story of the shogun and her dozens of male companions, and it's lush with detail and fascinating characters.  Plus, there's the added benefit of essentially getting a history lesson while you read, because besides the gender reversal it's fairly accurate to the period, as far as I can tell.  It's basically clothing porn set in feudal Japan, it's super subversive and pretty queer and I love it.
  • Taproot by Keezy Young.  If there's one theme you can take from this list, it's that I needed some awesome LGBTQ+ love stories and boy did comics deliver.  Taproot is, a lot like I Hear the Sunspot, the love story of two gay young men that gives me all of the same emotional investment as the best fanfiction does.  Young's art is colorful and sweet and soft, just like the story, and it's one of the few times I thought I was going to get a sad ending for a gay couple and didn't.  This book warmed my cold dead heart in the best ways.

I also stumbled upon a new (to me) webcomic last week: Banquet by A. Szabla.  Like Wilde Life, it's an example of me feeling like a dummy for not recognizing a webcomic creator I already follow.  Szabla also makes Bird Boy, but the styles on these two comics are really quite different so I don't feel too much like an idiot.  Banquet is like if Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) and Jim Henson (especially Labyrinth) had a love child in Pacific Rim.  Without giving away too much, it is about a toddler that falls into a world populated by massive monsters with a strict hierarchy.  I'm a sucker for big monsters and stolen children stories (thanks, too many stories about changelings as a kid) and I'm an extra sucker for a gay love story, which Banquet also includes.  There's only a couple dozen pages up so far and it's really fun.

  Banquet  by A. Szabla

Banquet by A. Szabla

What is Caitlin reading? Oct 13 2017

I've been listening to Seanan McGuire's Rosemary and Rue once I'm done with my podcasts and really enjoying it.  It's a bit weird because I've met Mary Robinette Kowal, the voice talent narrating the book, before, but the voices and accents she does are just spot on and really elevate the experience.

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  • Wilde Life by Pascalle Lepas.  I just this second realized that Lepas made one of my favorite webcomics that I started reading in college (Zap!) and I'm really embarrassed I didn't recognize her art, but that's a testament to her skill, I think.  Wilde Life is VERY different than Zap! in a lot of ways, and I can appreciate that.  It's very kind, but without being soft, and I know that's not super helpful.  I find myself lately really needing to read (and watch) things that are full of people who care about each other, even if they can't always show it in productive, gentle ways.  There's a lot of crazy stuff and danger in Wilde Life, but the overwhelming sense is that the main characters are kind to one another, even when they're teasing.  It's a classic fish out of water story, a writer moves to a small town and gets caught up in a bunch of supernatural shenanigans, including the most wonderful petulant teenage werewolf in the world (the ginger up there).  Three's ghosts and witches and all sorts of fun stuff, and it's funny without being mean.  I love that.  Binged the whole thing in two sittings.
  • Heartstopper by Alice Oseman is just a very sweet webcomic about two boys in school in England playing rugby and struggling with their identities and falling in love.  It's the perfect way to combat all the worst parts of watching the news right now, and Oseman's art is so soft and expressive.
  • Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa.  I know Anissa and she is not only super skilled but also super sweet, so I was super stoked to check out this book.  Her art has gotten so strong and expressive in the five years (holy shit) since I first met her, so Cast No Shadow is an absolute joy to look at.  But honestly, the story was...a bummer?  For really nuanced reasons that an editor at First Second should have put a stop to right off the bat.  I'm still sorting through my feelings on the book.  I still think people should pick it up and check it out, the central idea is neat and the art is freaking delectable.
  • Batman: White Knight #1 by Sean (Gordon) Murphy).  I liked this book a lot more than other people I think, which isn't a huge surprise given that I'm a sucker for anything about Batman, anything about the GCPD, and anything about social justice.  My full review of the comic is up on the A.V Club this week, but one thing I didn't get a lot of time to dig into was the idea that the Joker isn't actually the best character to tell this story.  The central idea isn't "what if Joker was a good guy" but more "let's talk about the ways Batman (and the GCPD) are the bad guys" and I would be super interested in seeing that story told without the Joker being the protagonist.  What if the residents of the infamous Narrows filed a class action suit against Batman and the GCPD?  There aren't many famous lawyers in the DC universe, but Harvey Dent might still have his license, and it'd be neat to see one of the Manhunters back in the courtroom.  Even MORE compelling to me would be if the law suit coincided with a Justice Department investigation of the GCPD led by Amanda Waller and Jim Corrigan.  Can you imagine what would happen if Batman was confronted by Spectre?  Especially if it was the pants-shittingly terrifying version from Gotham by Midnight, I would pay good money to see that.
 Templesmith and Fawkes just did some really goddamned neat stuff with  Gotham By Midnight .

Templesmith and Fawkes just did some really goddamned neat stuff with Gotham By Midnight.

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I also re-caught up with much of the same list of monthly comics from September, with a couple of additions:

  • American Gods
  • Black Magick
  • Black Monday Murders

I was really doubtful they were going to be able to pull off getting American Gods to work as a comic.  It's way too wordy, but it's a really solid book that I'm enjoying the heck out of.  Black Monday Murders continues to be one of the most thinky comics I'm ready (it's basically Wolf of Wall Street + Cthulhu) and I love the art by Tomm Cocker so much.

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What's really blowing me away this week is Tom King's 'War of Jokes and Riddles' arc in Batman.  I really like King's work generally, but I'm not a fan of Mikel Janin (I know) so I've been waffling a lot about how I feel.  Especially since I hate Bruce and Selina as a couple, and their romantic relationship has been at the center of so much of this story.  But King did an incredible job with this arc, and he really pushed Riddler in particular to entirely new, and super fascinating, limits.  He's digging deep into the psyches of some really messed up characters (Batman included) and showing me things about them that I never even considered.  So even though Janin's art distracts me when it gets weirdly and inopportunely stiff, I loved this arc to pieces.  King somehow made me care about Kite Man, which is just...bonkers.

I'm gonna leave it there and go back to knitting and watching murder mysteries because it's finally fall and I feel like a new creature.

What is Caitlin reading? Sept 29 2017

 From Abby Howard's  Last Halloween

From Abby Howard's Last Halloween

  • Though it wasn't this week, I also read the first volume of The Last Halloween and Dinosaur Empire! Earth Before Us, both by Abby Howard.  Howard is a really talented artist and she managed to write what to me was the perfect spooky Halloween story, with humor and heart and real risk.  It's actually the printed volume of her webcomic with the same name, which you can check out hereDinosaur Empire! reminded me of the best parts of The Magic School Bus and Connections with James Burke.  (Random aside: my favorite computer game of all time was based on this show, and I wish someone would make it work on my phone because I'd play it constantly.) For an entire weekend I was 7 years old again and super stoked about dinosaurs.  I'll be buying several copies of this to give to kiddos in my life as Christmas presents.
  • Pockets, a bonus comic from Melanie Gillman (creator of the webcomic As the Crow Flies).  I have really complicated feelings about camp, because I didn't always have great camp experiences and I think a lot of that was rooted in the fact that I was a very anxious kid that had a very tough time socializing.  I wanted to read and be with horses, and camp involved a lot of things that weren't hose.  So Melanie Gillman's As the Crow Flies is the first thing about camp that I can read without being really knotted up in my own feelings, and I had the immense pleasure of meeting them (and moderating a panel where they shared their awesomeness) this past May at WisCon.  Pockets is a short bonus comic they made that's in the same vein as As the Crow Flies and it made me have a good cathartic cry this morning.  It's very sweet and very real and very full of love, which is all the words I would use to describe Gillman's work in general.
  • Jane by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend writer/produce Aline Brosh McKenna and Ramon Perez.  It's a terrible book written by someone who I sincerely doubt ever actually read the book it's supposedly based on (Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, which is one of my favorites.  You can read my review for the A.V. Club here and listen to me and the amazing Lauren Burke discuss it on her Bronte/Austin podcast, Bonnets at Dawn.
  • Angelic #1 by Simon Spurrier and Caspar Wijngaard.  It's a super fun looking book with a good visual sense of humor and some fun details, but it's got notes from Animal Farm and A Handmaid's Tale in it.  You can read a full review at the A.V. Club here.
 Gaze upon my shame.

Gaze upon my shame.

Here's where I make a confession that I alluded to previously: I am super behind on print comics.  SUPER behind.  Like...there's stuff from the beginning of Rebirth last summer I haven't gotten to yet behind.  So I'm calling myself out.  This picture?  That's three short boxes of "to read" comics.  To steal a phrase from Ladies' Night at Graham Crackers, It's time for me to attack the stack, so I'm going to show my progress here.  Recently I've caught up (or partially caught up) on a couple of different titles:

  • Batgirl
  • Batgirl and the Birds of Prey
  • Batman
  • All Star Batman
  • Batman and the Shadow
  • Batwoman
  • Bitch Planet
  • Black Cloud
  • Black Panther

When left to my own devices, I tend to tackle things alphabetically.  It keep sme from skipping to only the stuff I'm really excited about, which makes it harder to gauge what I should be dropping off my pull list.  To be honest, I have really freaking enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, all of the titles I just listed.  I'd probably put Batman and the Shadow and Batgirl up at the top; the former because I grew up on radio dramas like The Shadow and absolutely adore Riley Rossmo's art, the latter because Hope Larson is telling a great story that feels appropriate for Babs, her age, and her role in the DC universe.  Batgirl and the Birds of Prey is a bit uneven, but I love seeing Batgirl, Black Canary, and the Huntress working together.

So there's the truth.  I don't read nearly as many comics as I get, and I really should do something about that.  But there's just so much great TV happening.  And knitting.  And friends.  And other books.  So I'll just be perpetually behind, and constanly trying to catch up.

What is Caitlin reading?

So I won an Eisner.  That's a thing that happened.  And, as with many life events that are both hugely impactful and also really do nothing to change my day to day life (e.g. getting married) this win made me kinda thinky for a bit.

One of the things that I wonder about a lot is what critics and reviewers read in their spare time, when they're not getting paid to read.  I don't know about anybody else, but I have pretty specific tactics when it comes to stuff I write reviews on: I don't care if it's popular or well known, but I do care if I think it's well made.  I've reviewed plenty of stuff that didn't align with my personal tastes, but it was well executed enough that I could give an honest review of it.  I don't like giving reviews of stuff I just plain don't like.  I have an easier time articulating the good parts of something in a mostly objective way...but if I dislike something, I struggle to not say just that.

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So, a few days ago I put up a Twitter poll asking what folks might want to read from me...and the results were a bit surprising? (At least to me they were.)  Given people's responses to "how do you keep up with webcomics?" I thought more folks would be interested in how I keep up with print comics (hint: I don't).

But! This does mean I have some insight into something I can try to maintain for a while.  I'm notoriously bad at personal blogging, and have been for...well, since I made my first Livejournal in college.  I'm just not consistent with writing unless it's a job, I guess.

So!  New semi-regular feature!  What is Caitlin reading right now?

This week I read a couple of TPBs and stared balefully at the three (3!!) short boxes of floppies I have waiting for me to read them.  (Told you I don't keep up.)

  Dead Letters  #2 by Ron Wimberly

Dead Letters #2 by Ron Wimberly

  1. Dead Inside (Vol 1) by John Arcudi, Toni Fejzula, and Andre May (Dark Horse).  So I'm addicted to police procedural shows and one of the things I never really considered or even occurred to me that there are cops that specialize in investigating crimes inside prisons and jails.  Like...wow.  Idea.  This is a really interesting story with an interesting, nuanced main female character and lot of interpersonal drama.  There's several POC characters that are just as nuanced, and it doesn't feel like anyone lacks agency.  It's a bit like Orange is the New Black plus Happy Valley (both are on Netflix, Happy Valley is must-watch).  
  2. Dead Letters (Vol 1) by Christopher Sabela and Chris Visions.  I'm pretty sure I got this from Oliver at some point?  Who knows.  My home is like a leaky ship filling with books.  It's good!  There are a lot of "what happens after you die" stories out there (please go watch The Good Place) but this one is different in tone and scope, which is nice.  It's closer to the Vertigo's version of Lucifer talking about people punishing themselves in hell than most other comics about the afterlife.  The characters are clearly based in some tried and true tropes, but they've got enough depth to start to break away.  The art is very...messy?  In a good way?  It often felt claustrophobic and completely overwhelming, with some moments of "Jesus where am I even supposed to be looking right now?" thrown in, but that was very fitting given the situation the main character is in.  I'm bummed I missed out on the floppies of these, Ron Wimberly's covers (which are in the back of the trade) are fantastic, as always.
  3. Princess Jellyfish (Vol 5) by Akiko Higashimura (Kodansha).  I fucking love this book so much.  I fell in love with the show when it was on Netflix and have been gobbling up the English translations of the manga as they come out.  Haven't finished this volume (and weirdly, it starts on page 6?) but I can say with no qualms if you like silly love triangles and gender fuckery and fashion you should definitely read this.

I'm also reading a prose novel called The Club Dumas which according to a blurb on the front "It's like Umberto Eco meets Anne Rice."  It certainly is obsessed enough with appearance and clothes to be Anne Rice, but it's very thick and pretty dense and these days I want to watch a lot of cartoons so I haven't made it very far.

That's it!  That's the first "What's Caitlin reading?" which hopefully will be a regular thing if I don't completely forget.  I'll make a completely separate post about what's on my pull list and what webcomics I read because honestly they're both long enough to warrant that.