Thursday, February 26, 2015

My Year With Marvel: Kate Bishop

Two orange-tinted panels. In the first, a bald blank man with a goatee says, 'Case--? Take this case--? I'm sorry, are you-- Are you a private detective or...' In the second panel, a pale skinned, dark-haired girl says, 'Even better. I'm a super hero.'

Y’all know how it is. You meet a fictional character and it's like, wow. You laugh at their jokes, cry when they’re hurt, grin like an idiot when they succeed at literally anything, and cringe when they mess up because you know they can do better.

Eventually, you grow impatient with any scene in which they don’t appear. "Now see here, book (or show)," you say to the page (or screen) before you. "This simply won’t do. You’re going to have to give me more of my favourite, or there’ll be hell to pay."

If you’re lucky, your chosen character has a history going back ten years or more, so the page (or screen) is quick to oblige. You can wallow in them.

I’m currently smitten with Kate Bishop (light of my heart; breath in my lungs). And I’m pretty durned lucky.

I first met Kate in the pages of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s HAWKEYE, which we talked about last week. All around Marvel lackwit that I was at the time, I’d never heard of her. She was Hawkeye, the comic told me. Not the male one you know from the movies (or any one of the core Avengers comics). The other one.

"Hmm," I said. "Tell me more."

The comic did, and I drank it down quick as Marvel Unlimited would let me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

Cover art for Rat Queens Volume One: Sass and Sorcery
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Past Memory devoured D&D-style fantasy by the armful. You know the sort of thing I mean; Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance and that ilk, where each character fills such a standard role in the narrative that you could run an RPG with 'em if you wanted.

RAT QUEENS operates in a similar vein, but it’s clearly out to smash its antecedents into bloody bits.

The Rat Queens are an adventuring company comprised of Hannah, an Elven spellcaster; Violet, a Dwarven fighter; Dee, a human cleric; and Betty, a Smidgen (think halfling or hobbit) thief. The four of them used to protect the town of Palisade, but general consensus says they and the various other adventurers who hang around the place have become as much trouble as the monsters they used to fight.

Awkward.

To encourage the Rat Queens and their colleagues to actually give something back to the community (and, like, avoid jail time), the Powers That Be hand down a series of assignments. The adventurers do their jobs; the charges get dropped. Easy peasy--except each of the jobs turns out to be a death trap.

Enraged, the Rat Queens set out to discover who set them up. They really hope it’s not that sexy guard captain Hannah’s kind of got a thing with.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: February 15th to 21st

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by posing my dog beside every book I read, barring the comics I get through Marvel Unlimited. Last week, these included LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD (fabulous!), an arc of Hudlin's BLACK PANTHER (no longer so enjoyable as it once was), and the first NYX arc (really good, if a bit set-uppy). I also hope to have read at least six issues of ARA√ĎA: HEART OF THE SPIDER by the time y'all see this. I loved Anya Corazon in Kelly Sue DeConnick's AVENGERS ASSEMBLE and can't wait to learn more about her.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I take them and appear here in digest form every Sunday.

A sleek grey poodle, Murchie, stands on a buff leather chair with his ears perked. In front of him is a trade paperback copy of Goddess of Vengeance, featuring a pale-skinned girl with long, dark hair. She wears a black halter top and large gold earrings.

I know I said I was taking a break from novels, but the worst Jackie Collins craving hit last Sunday and, well, I had to satisfy it.

Good choice, me. Good choice.

Right after I started GODDESS OF VENGEANCE, I realized it had been a full ten years since I last read Jackie Collins. Madness! Collins is trashy and turgid and wonderful, and I'm gonna have to revisit her backlist good and soon because darlin', I've missed having this sort of entertainment in my life. GODDESS OF VENGEANCE is peppered with problematic stuff, unnecessary repetition, and uninspired phrasings, and I strongly suspect it retcons details from the previous Lucky Santangelo novels, but none of that matters because it's also awesome.

Like, everybody's really rich, and some of them are famous, and sex is a super big deal, and each of the dozen characters has their own tormented storyline. Is the hotshot assistant DA's rich-as-fuck boyfriend right for her, or should she get together with the safe, boring screenwriter who's finally started to make a name for himself? Will that sexy movie star want to hook up with the wild girl again, or is the fact that she's his ex-wife's best friend's barely-legal daughter too much for him? How does the heir to that massive shipping fortune maintain his chain of super-exclusive clubs without dipping into his enormous trust fund? And so on and so forth.

Plus, there's this nasty-ass misogynistic rapist dude with a cocaine problem who's probably also insane? And he wants to steal Lucky's fancy-ass hotel/casino/apartment complex/generally awesome place from her? And he might be her random half-brother? You just know Lucky's gonna grind him into the dirt, thereby ruining him both personally and professionally--but can she manage it before he does dastardly things to her large and beloved family, all of whom have gathered to celebrate her daughter's eighteenth birthday?

I live for this shit, y'all. Don't you ever try to take this away from me.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

My Year With Marvel: Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye

Three panels depicting Clint Barton falling off a roof. The captions read, 'You cowboy around with the Avengers some. Guys got, what, armor, magic, super-powers. Super-strength. Shrink-dust. Grow-rays. Magic. Healing factors. I'm an orphan raised by carnies fighting with a stick and a string from the Paleolithic era.'

A superhero-shy friend recently asked me for comics recs. "Read HAWKEYE!" I said. “It’s about non-superpowered superheroes not being superheroic.”

It's a good soundbite and one I've stuck to in the intervening weeks, but it's also a touch misleading. Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, the two Hawkeyes, are most certainly heroic, caring people in the non-super sense. It’s just that HAWKEYE focuses on the smaller stories that happen between the earth-shattering missions.

No one goes to outer space in HAWKEYE. They don’t tangle with evil mutants or face off against vengeful gods. Instead, they clash with tracksuited mobsters from Little Irkutsk who harbour dastardly intentions towards small Brooklyn communities. They help regular people deal with devastating floods. They ensure soon-to-be weds have at least one orchid at their wedding. They fight street-level battles to keep folks safe.

If their heroism occasionally falters... well, they’re people as much as they're heroes. And sometimes people mess up.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Review: Jackdaw by KJ Charles

Cover art for Jackdaw, featuring two dark-haired white men in Victorian clothing against a blue background.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

JACKDAW, KJ Charles’s newest release, takes place in the same world as the author’s Charm of Magpies series, which follows a lord and his magician lover through an alternate Victorian London. Those books (beginning with THE MAGPIE LORD) are fabulous and I’d recommend you read them before this one, partly because I want you to have nice things in your life and partly because JACKDAW does contain some (mostly guessable) spoilers for the earlier books.

That said, those of you who’d rather start with JACKDAW shouldn’t have a problem doing so. The story picks up one particular thread from FLIGHT OF MAGPIES and follows it in a manner that largely divorces it from the previous books.

Some summary: Ben Spenser was a police officer until his thieving lover, Jonah, publicly disgraced him and escaped custody in the process. Kicked off the force, disowned by his family, and fresh from a ten-week hard labour sentence for sodomy, Ben has only one goal: find Jonah and make him pay.

Revenge is a lot easier to talk about than to exact, though, especially since seeing Jonah again causes certain feelings to resurface. When circumstances force the two men to go on the run together, Ben begins to question how he really feels about Jonah, and how much he's willing to forgive the first man he ever loved.

I’m always a tad leery of books that branch off from established series to follow new characters. If I like a series enough to keep with it, it’s because I enjoy the core characters, and I always worry I won’t feel the same about their replacements. In this case, too, I was rather neutral on Jonah in FLIGHT OF MAGPIES and didn’t know how I felt about him taking on a lead role.

I’m pleased to report my worries were unfounded. Jonah is an important character, yes, but the story is told entirely from Ben’s perspective--and Ben is great. Charles made me feel such a strong connection to him that I had no choice but to root for him over Stephen and Crane, my established favourites, who spend much of the book determined to take him down for entirely valid reasons.

Neat trick, that.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: February 8th to 14th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by ever-so-kindly asking my tiny and adorable dog to pose with every book I read, barring the digital comics I get through Marvel Unlimited. Last week, that was the first two volumes of HAWKEYE (a reread that was even better the second time through), an earlier Hawkeye comic I read solely so I could see where Clint got his ginormous pile of money, the first arc of Soule and Pullido's SHE-HULK, and the first arc of the latest CAPTAIN MARVEL series (finally!).

A non-exhaustive list of people who are awesome: Kate Bishop; Clint Barton; Jennifer Walters; Carol Danvers.

As I write this, I'm also preparing to launch myself into a reread of MARVEL 1602. I wasn't nearly as familiar with the Marvel Universe the last time I read it, so I'm excited.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I take them and appear here in digest form every Sunday.

A sleek grey poodle, Murchie, stands in front of a trade paperback copy of L.A. Woman. Murchie wears a pink hoodie with white trim.

How d'you like Murchie's Pizza Dog cosplay? He's not vaguely golden retriever-ish and I balked at feeding him pizza even for the photo op1, but cosplaying for your body type is an idea that must die and we'll pretend the pizza is already in his belly. Okay?

I started reading the third HAWKEYE arc on Marvel Unlimited months and months and months ago under the mistaken impression that issues 13-18 formed a complete story. Turns out, the comic alternates between two separate arcs on an issue-by-issue basis from #13 on, so I ended up with a sizeable chunk of a story about Kate Bishop and a sizeable chunk of a different story about Clint Barton.

I'd have been annoyed, complete-arcs-only comics reader that I am, except those six issues were some of the best comics I read in 2014. It killed me when the remaining issues remained absent from Marvel Unlimited (was there a HAWKEYE hiatus? I feel like there must've been a hiatus but I'm always scared to read up on HAWKEYE in case it's bad news) (though I already know the series is ending so what badder news could I possibly find?), but the trade collection of L.A. WOMAN finnnnnnnnnnalllllllly made it through processing at my library and arrived in my holds pile last Sunday. I reread the first two arcs and dove in.

The ending wasn't quite everything I'd hoped it would be, but the arc was still frickin' awesome. Kate Bishop remains the light in my heart and the breath in my lungs. (I'm hopelessly smitten with Kate, as y'all might have gathered. Mildmay from Sarah Monette's Doctrine of Labyrinths is still my favouritest of favourite literary characters, but Kate is my second favouritest of favourites.) I grinned so hard, y'all, and this storyline pushes her in some durned awesome directions. I think the ending will impact me more when I reread it, after everything's really sunk in.

Now begins the wait for the end of RIO BRAVO. Will the final issue appear on Marvel Unlimited before or after my library gets the volume through processing? The suspense is killing me.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hugo Eligible Comics

Cover of Saga Volume 4Cover of Nimona

The lovely folks at Lady Business invited me to come by and talk about some of the comics eligible for Best Graphic Story at this year's Hugo Awards, so that's where I'm at today. Y'all should stop by and see my top 10 comics released in 2014, complete with commentary and some hopefully-not-too-confusing stuff about what makes something a potential Best Graphic Story nominee.

Be sure to check out Lady Business's other Hugos coverage, too. They're big proponents of the award. Hell, they're the whole reason I got involved in the first place. It's mighty tough to resist their enthusiasm for promoting great SFF and making the genre a more inclusive place.