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: Webcomics!

Ok so I caught a nasty cold this week and didn't do the normal "What is Caitlin reading?" because Caitlin just slept and drank NyQuil a lot.  Instead, I compiled info about all of the webcomics I'm currently reading (and two that are finished that I think you should check out).

While webcomics aren't technically the first comics I ever read, they are near and dear to my heart, and for many years the only comics that blessed my eyeballs.  Needless to say, I read a big slew of them.

Webcomics:

At the moment, I read all of the below comics regularly.  with the exception of xkcd, they all have an overarching plot that means I do check them as they come out, using my webcomic system.

From Der-shing Helmer's   The Meek   (I spent 20 minutes deciding which panel to use and I'm still not sure I made the right choice because her art is THAT GOOD.)

From Der-shing Helmer's The Meek (I spent 20 minutes deciding which panel to use and I'm still not sure I made the right choice because her art is THAT GOOD.)

  • Agents of the Realm by Mildred Louis - Super queer, college-aged magical girls with real problems and the best fucking facial expressions. Plus magical girl outfits that are cute without being hyper-femme or objectifying.
  • Barbarous by Yuko Ota and Ananth Hirsh - Flawed female protagonist trying to be an adult...with magic.  As someone who's been following both the creators for...15ish years, Barbarous and Lucky Penny are worth every second spent reading them.
  • Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu - Gay hockey boys in love and the most amazing cast of supportive characters ever.  Super active online fandom community. Cute art, plus pie and hilarious hockey lingo.
  • Dumbing of Age by David Willis - Freshmen at major midwestern university deal with love, assault, bigotry, violence, addiction, and dating.  I swear it's cute and funny, but it's also very socially aware.
  • Eth's Skin by Sfé R. Monster (currently on hiatus) - Queer (and gender non conforming) friendly magic journey with lots of neat animals (a selkie!) and gentle, beautiful art (TREES!).
  • Full Circle by Taneka Stotts and Christianne Goudreau, colored by Genue Revuelta - Epic high fantasy story with siblings and actual people of color and all sorts of breathtaking backgrounds.  Some of the characters have wings, and I'm always fascinated by how humanoids with wings work.  (Are their bones hollow?  Is it all magic??)
  • Gunnerkrigg Court by Tom Siddell - Harry Potter but better, about girls and gods, and with technology, too.  Seeing Siddell's art mature and grow is fascinating.
  • Library Comic by Chris Hallbeck - A look behind the curtain of what it's like to work at a library: great jokes, lots of weirdos with a lot of personality.
  • The Lonely Vincent Bellingham by Diana Huh (currently on hiatus?)- This one is really hard to describe, in part because it's pretty short so far.  The posting schedule is a little irregular (creators have lives! they're giving me content for free! I'm blessed!).  So far, think Jane Austen male protagonist runs away and winds up at a witch's house, sorta trapped in the basement.
  • Love Circuits by Taneka Stotts and Genue Revuelta - Adorable love story with ROBOTS.  And cute ROBOT service dog!  Genue's art is just so soft and curvey and I want to touch it all the time. 
  • M.F.K. by Nilah Magruder (currently on hiatus, soon out in print form) - Young woman travels through a sprawling fantasy landscape so she can scatter her mom's ashes. ART SO LUSH. Winner of the 2015 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity (first winner ever!).
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things by Kelly Turnbull - A lot of these comics can be read without the context of the archive, but Turnbull has created a couple beautiful original characters that exist in the middle of a sprawling cast of macho video game protagonists. Beefcake and Mad Max jokes for days. (Turnbull posts the backstory of her main character on her Patreon, which is 100% worth it. Like Ender's Game, but LGBTQ+ friendly and also fuzzy mini velociraptors.)
  • Mare Internum by Der-Shing Helmer - Did you enjoy Moon (that movie with Sam Rockwell that was totally unexpectedly awesome)?  Do you like Alien?  Are you a fan of all sorts of creatures from outer space and also existential dread?  This is 100% the comic for you, plus Der-Shing's art is as fresh and crisp and layered and rich as key lime pie.  I wanna eat it.
  • The Meek by Der-Shing Helmer - So not only does The Meek live up to the art from Mare Internum, it also has a big cast of incredible characters, sprawling political intrigue, amazing world building and a giant freaking tiger god/monster thing?  Just freaking read it so I can shout at you about Soli and Phe.
  • Meaty Yogurt by Rosalarian - I love slice of life comics (and TV shows, and movies) but one of my biggest beefs is when everybody is just nice.  All the time.  And this comic gets me.  The characters aren't cruel to one another for the sake of being cruel, but there is the sort of blind self centeredness that just comes with being human, and a lot of the comic confronts the fallout of that.  Plus a lot of the ladies are drawn thick in a way most artists don't dare.  There's a dry, morbid sense of humor to Meaty Yogurt that I really appreciate.
  • Monster Pulse by Magnolia Porter - All the best parts of Digimon plus some really classic and beautiful YA love stories and evolving art that just continues to get better.  Magnolia's Twitter is also aces and she does fun journal comics sometimes.
  • Not Drunk Enough by Tess Stone - Think Resident Evil meets Parks & Rec, but better.  Tess's art is kinda sketchy, but that makes is super kinetic and really fun to read, because it's all about motion and movement.  These characters are stuck in an office building overrun by evil monsters, and the story of HOW the monsters came to be unfolds slowly and it's unexpectedly emotional and awesome.
  • O Human Star by Blue Delliquanti - I included OHS in my "Best of 2015" list over at the A.V. Club.  It's quite literally some of the best, kindest, most emotional sci fi I've ever read.  There's robots and AI and a love story (that's not always about love) and family affection and it's very queer friendly.  Please read it and come cry with me.
  • Power Nap by Maritza Campos & Bachan - What happens when we stop sleeping?  What if you're one of the few people in the world that can't just stop sleeping when humans push past the need for rest? You get recruited to a team of terrifying weirdos that do amazing (horrible) things in their dreams.
  • Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques - QC is one of the few webcomics that I started reading in college and I'm still sticking with.  It's always been a slice of life story, but as Jeph's talent and interests have shifted, so has the story.  The characters are nuanced and interesting, the stories are at once universal and pretty unique.  It's very bingeable, and it's neat to see how Jeph's art has grown.
  • Saint for Rent by Ru Xu (on prolonged hiatus) - When time travel is possible, there are places that need to be stable, and Saint for Rent is about an inn where time travellers stop to rest before moving on to their next destination.  It's a lot about people, and especially about the people who get left behind.  Plus it's cute.
  • Sinfest by Tatsuya Ishida - Full review here.  This one is really hard to explain, in part because it's got over a decade and a half of backmatter.  But ultimately, it's a sprawling cast of characters that are not always good, and what keeps me coming back is the raw, unflinching social commentary tempered with jokes.
  • Sleepless Domain by Mary Cagle - Mary Cagle did a bunch of journal comics called "Let's Speak English!" while she was teaching English in Japan, and I was so charmed by them that I not only backed the Kickstarter to get a printed copy, I also started reading her webcomic.  There are monsters and magical girls and it's very adorable.  I love the way she draws expressions of shock/disbelief in particular.
  • xkcd by Randall Munroe - I really shouldn't have to explain this one.
FLUFFY RAPTORS from Kelly Turnbull's   MGDMT

FLUFFY RAPTORS from Kelly Turnbull's MGDMT

Webtoons:

It took me a while to warm up to Webtoons (the mobile app that allows creators to upload strips and create community).  I'm generally really skeptical of any service that's free to creators and readers and hosts other people's IP, and as Tapastic proved, for good reason.  You can read stuff on Webtoons on a desktop, but it's a much better mobile experience.  90% of what I read there is slice of life or one-and-done joke comics, like the newspaper funny pages.  (Gosh I'm old.)

  • Average Adventures of Average Girl
  • As Per Usual
  • Bluechair
  • Girls Have a Blog
  • Live With Yourself by Shen - A man wakes up to find that his future self is now living alongside him, displaying the long term impacts of his current decision making.  It's great slapstick comedy, plus some fascinating philosophy about the power of choice.
  • Lunarbaboon
  • Lore Olympus by Rachel Smyth - Greek mythology meets Real World.  That's really the best way to describe it.  Like the best modernized Shakespeare, it's funny and ridiculous, and the art is quiet pretty.
  • Murrz
  • My Giant Nerd Boyfriend
  • Safely Endangered
  • Saphie: The One-Eyed Cat
  • The Strange Tales of Oscar Zahn by Tri Vuong - An undead supernatural hunter that has to go into what might be purgatory to save souls that are stuck.  And he's a dude with a floating skull.  And it's very Mike Mignola, both in art style and tone.  Kinda steampunky?  It's good, read it.

Occasional comics:

These are a "go and binge a few weeks worth now and then" category, with no real overarching story, but good one-and-done jokes.

  • Our Valued Customers by Tim Chamberlain (currently publishing reruns) - Ridiculous things that comic book customers have said in front of employees.
  • PhD (Piled Higher and Deeper) Comics by Jorge Cham - If you've ever been to grad school, this will make you laugh/cry.  If you haven't, this will convince you that maybe you shouldn't.  Also lots of fascinating science.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal by Zach Weinersmith - Funny and punny pop culture references with sidelong nihilism and philosophy.
  • Three Panel Soul by Matt Boyd and Ian McConville, creators of Mac Hall - I started reading this when Mac Hall ended, and I keep up with it now and then partially out of nostalgia and partially because it's comforting knowing that folks who make stuff I like are going through some of the same adulthood bullshit I am.  Their sense of humor never disappoints.

Patreon or pay-to-read comics:

Deja Brew   art by Sara DuVall

Deja Brew art by Sara DuVall

  • Avialae by Lucid (available for free on Tumblr, with delay) - Boy grows wings, boy falls in love with next door neighbor, drama ensues.  NSFW bits.
  • Deja Brew by Taneka Stotts and Sara DuVall (available via Stēla, first chapter free at link) - Eisner nominated!  Tea shop with monsters and adorable LGBTQ+ characters and magic!
  • Neighbor by Slashpalooza (available for free on Tumblr, with delay) - This is pretty much Teen Wolf fanfiction with the serial numbers rubbed off, but i don't care because it's cute and I like high school drama.  It's basically a CW show.  NSFW bits, and translated from author's native Spanish.
  • This Vacant Body by Reapersun - Still too early on this one to know more than "mystery with lotsa violence", but Reapersun's character designs and penchant for angst will suck me in every time.

Finished comics to check out:

  • The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal by EK Weaver (Full review at The A.V. Club here, also included in the "Best of 2015" list here.) - If I try to explain how good this is, I'm just gonna screech like a pterodactyl at you.  I've literally made significant others read this because if they don't understand it (they don't have to enjoy it) I know we're not going to work out.  It's a road trip not-quite-love-story and EK Weaver is a MASTER at the craft.
  • Octopus Pie by Meredith Gran (Included in the "Best of 2015" list on the A.V. Club here.) - Another "please don't make me articulate my thoughts I'll just cry" title.  Like QC, it's a slice of life comic, but it grew past that?  And Gran's art grew so much since she started, and the characters did, too.  It's what I thought Scott Pilgrim was supposed to be, but better.

What is Caitlin reading? Sept 1 2017

It has been A Week for a variety of reasons, so I'm going to keep this short and sweet.

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  1. I finished Princess Jellyfish Volume 5 from last week!  It was good!  It always is.  
  2. I read Mage: The Hero Denied #1 and did a full review over at the A.V. Club.  It was bad, and you should definitely not bother.
  3. Clueless: Senior Year by Amber Benson, Sarah Kuhn, and Siobhan Keenan.  This was freaking cute as hell, in the same way Princess Jellyfish is.  I love books where people are, at the heart of things, supportive and loving, and not afraid to show that.  Having met Amber and Sarah (they're both adorable and kind and charming!) I'm not surprised I loved this book.  But maybe maybe more importantly, this book addresses some of the things that annoyed me in the movie (there are LGBTQ+ couples!) and is beautiful to boot.  It did make me miss Brittany Murphy a bunch, and miss my own innocence when I didn't know anything about Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash as people.  Go buy it immediately.  Then go buy Sarah's Heroine Complex and Heroine Worship because they're both awesome.
  4. The Dispatcher by John Scalzi.  Technically I listened to the audiobook (narrated by Zachary Quinto, who does a good job) of this novella this week in an attempt to avoid the news for a little while.  It's a good speculative fiction story set in Chicago, and unlike a lot of books it actually feels like it.  The "what if" is a fascinating one, and I don't feel like I can say much without spoiling it, but it's a solid little mystery with a compelling core idea.
  5. Jonesy Vol 1-3 by Sam Humphries, Caitlin Rose Boyle, and Brittany Peer.  This was actually a re-read because I've been buying the individual issues of Jonesy as they come out but the arrival of the trade paperbacks made me crave it.  Another bright, poppy story about a young woman and female friendship and embracing your weird.  Clearly I was on a roll this week, between this, Clueless, and Princess Jellyfish.  Sam is awesome and knows how to write flawed characters that are still sympathetic.  Caitlin's art is fun and evokes all sorts of zine memories for me.  And Brittany (who participated in Ladies' Night Anthology years ago) makes the whole book pop off the page.  I really love this book and I'm so glad I have extra copies to lend out now.
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Full disclosure, I did get the copies of Clueless and Jonesy from BOOM!, but honestly I was planning on buying them.

Let's talk about how 16 year old me would be horrified by what I read this week, and how 32 year old me really does not give a crap and would tell 16 year old me to lighten up and have fun sometimes.

I started compiling a list of all the webcomics I read regularly and honestly ever 45 minutes I was only about half done.  I wanted to make sure every single one had a working link in it and also 1-2 sentences describing it, and hopefully I'll be able to finish up soon...I read a lot of webcomics, folks.

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.