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.
  • 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? 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.