Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Review: Dark Jem by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell

Cover of Dark Jem, featuring a menacing white woman clutching a microphone. She has pink hair and wears a dress that seems to creep up her shoulders.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

DARK JEM [Amazon | The Book Depository] is the third volume of JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS, writer Kelly Thompson and artist Sophie Campbell’s take on the 80s icon. I must confess, I’ve been a bad Jem fan--I missed most of Volume Two, VIRAL. As per the comics tradition, though, this didn’t affect my enjoyment of DARK JEM. Yes, I’m sad I’ll have to read those vol 2 issues later than I might’ve done, but the story itself works perfectly well without them in the mix because Thompson and Campbell carefully seed their story with reminders as to the series’ overall premise and what’s happened in the recent past. I caught up easy-peasy and settled in to enjoy the ride.

Which is GREAT. Like, super-great. Like, all the Jemerrific goodness I loved in volume one with an extra dose of “let’s play with the wider comics tradition” in the mix. It delighted me and made me gasp in horror; my most favouritest combination, made all the better because it happened within one of my favourite comics.

The basic story is as follows: something’s wrong with Synergy, the AI the Holograms use to craft Jerrica’s stage persona and all their special effects. Really wrong. “Hey, let’s brainwash everyone,” wrong. Eep! Jerrica quickly falls under Synergy’s spell, and the other Holograms aren’t far behind her. With their new sound, they look set to infect everyone with Synergy’s pernicious virus and turn the world into a dark yet orderly hellscape.

Unless they can break Synergy's hold, round up a few helpers, and save everyone.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: August 14th to 20th

The premise: I love my dog, so I make him pose with every book I read (barring single issue comics). He's mostly okay with this, but he still hasn't learned to keep his head still.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary. They're now click-to-embiggen-able, too, because I got tired of resizing everything and I figure y'all might like that feature anyways. So hey! We both win!

(Unless you're just here for the alt tags and the commentary, in which case your experience stays pretty well the same barring any weird interaction between said tags and the embiggen code. If your screen reader can't pick up the descriptions, please let me know.)

Not pictured: I hit another crossover with UNCANNY X-MEN, so my reading slowed waaaaaaay down there. Still, I managed to pack in a few issues this week. Everybody's in space right now. Y'all know how much I love space.

I also read another chunk of Michelle West's SEA OF SORROWS, which is and shall continue to be my in-between book until I've polished it off.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, lies slightly behind a white Kobo with the cover of Whitehall Episode Eleven on its screen. The cover features a simple crown tilted against a sepia background.

Oh my goodness, this episode of WHITEHALL was intense. Writer Sarah Smith kept me reading at breakneck speed, so desperate was I to make sure things turned out as okay as they possibly could.

This was one of those instances where my sketchy knowledge of the Restoration worked in my favour. I knew one particular tragedy wouldn't come to pass, but there are a host of other possible tragedies herein and I couldn't be sure any of them was off the table. Catherine stands on the edge of great heartache. Jenny's got a major professional dilemma to add to the personal choice she faced last episode. And Catherine's illness forces Charles to make an important choice of his own, bringing Jamie's storyline to a head, if not a full resolution.

I couldn't put it down, and I once again struggled not to charge straight into the next episode. I try to space them out so y'all hear about them once they're already available to you (unless you've been following along on Instagram and Litsy, that is), but sometimes once must gush about things a little ahead of time instead.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: Yotsuba&! Volumes 1-12 by Kiyohiko Azuma

Cover of Yotsuba Volume One, featuring a small, green-haired girl clutching an enormous bouquet of sunflowers. The flowers are taller than she is.
The Short, Gushy, Ungrammatical Version:

OMG you guys YOTSUBA&! is my new favourite I love everything about it it’s the sweetest comic in the entire world and just thinking about it makes my heart happy Yotsuba is the best and so are all her friends I love that they’re GENUINE friends too in defiance of all the tropes that ruled my childhood reading list comics needs more of this especially children’s comics oh man do I ever wish I’d had YOTSUBA&! when I was a kid she enjoys everything and she’s so determined to see the wonder in the world and maybe that’s because she’s an alien but the series hasn’t touched on that in ages so let’s just treat her as a small girl the art is so expressive and motion-filled and I looooove all Yotsuba’s obsessions she gets REALLY REALLY INTO THINGS and the older people in her life are awesome at nurturing whatever she’s currently into and helping her discover new interests too I basically just wanna be like !!!!!!!!!!!!! whenever it comes time to rec this comic !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! because it’s so awesome !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! it’s my new favourite !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! and I’m a giant pile of feels !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! if you're sighted please read it then come find me and tell me how much you loved it because you’re gonna love it unless you hate kids and/or you have no soul it is THAT GREAT I'm making it a near-universal rec I'M GOING THERE AND I NEVER GO THERE.

The Sensical Version:

When the world gets really, really heavy, I go in search of some fictional relief from it all. I often turn to the sort of books that leave me a quivering wreck, since I appreciate the chance to cry over something outside my everyday experience, but on rare occasions I’m lucky enough to find something that’s uplifting and genuinely nice.

I count myself incredibly lucky to have discovered YOTSUBA&! in June, right as I reached the point where I had to disengage myself from a certain nearby country's news media lest it destroy my mental health.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: August 7th to 13th

The premise: I make my tiny and beloved dog pose with everything I read, barring single issue comics. He allows this with varying degrees of good will..

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: lots of X-Men. I've reached the point where UNCANNY X-MEN and X-MEN become permanent crossovers with one another, so I've added the shorter series to my rotation. I'm also reading as much X-MAN as Marvel Unlimited can give me because I grew unexpectedly fond of Nate during the Age of Apocalypse.

And I finally, finally finished REFLECTIONS by Diana Wynne Jones, which I started well over a year ago. Hurray! I've counted it as DWJ's final book for my bookish bingo card.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, appears in near profile with his ears perked. In front of him, at a slight angle to the camera, is a white Kobo with the cover of Whitehall Episode Ten on its screen. The cover features a ship sailing on a sepia-toned sea.

I couldn't resist diving into last week's episode of WHITEHALL first thing on Sunday morning, and it rewarded my impatience. Right away, writers Liz Duffy Adams and Delia Sherman deliver a climax to Eleanor's storyline with a scene both unexpected and completely in character for everyone involved.

"This is gonna be a great episode," I said. And I was right.

With Eleanor's storyline resolved, the writers turn to their attention to Barbara, Jenny, and Catherine, all of whom have major things going on. Barbara embraces her new faith and worries whether her relationship with Charles will endure, while Jenny's relationship with Mister Hammad leads her to a choice that could change her whole future. I can hazard a pretty good guess as to which side she'll come down on, and my heart hurts for her even as I'm pleased to imagine how far she'll climb.

I'm also desperately worried about Catherine, to the point where I'm tempted to comb through history in search of spoilers even though I promised myself I wouldn't do that. I know enough about this period to be sure she won't die of her poor health, but one can live with a great deal of heartache. I pray Catherine doesn't have to.

I managed not to read the next episode right away, but I imagine I'll have done so by the time y'all read this.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

An Uncanny Readthrough: #226-250

Two panels of Dazzler addressing Rogue, Storm, and Psylocke. She says, 'Given the way we live?! That is, if you call this living. I mean, anybody here ever ask themselves what all this is FOR? It's like, we fight, we save the world, we die, we get resurrected, we rest up, and then start the whole stupid cycle all over again. But where in that enter Moebius loop do we get to live?' Storm asks, 'What do you mean, Allison?'
The series in a nutshell. From UNCANNY X-MEN #244.

As always, this post contains spoilers that shouldn’t be of much consequence to anyone who’s familiar with the contemporary X-Men.

Welcome to Part VIII of my epic, UNCANNY-centric journey through the X-Men’s history. If you missed the first seven parts, you can find them under my dedicated X-Men tag. If that’s too much homework, you can jump in here with no worries.

That’s the nice thing about the X-Men. Everybody constantly talks about everything that’s ever happened to them, ever, so you needn’t worry about spoilers or confusion. Jump in anywhere! Enjoy the shenanigans!

But yes. Part VIII takes us from #226 to #250. These twenty-five issues ran from February 1988 to November 1989; slightly less than two years thanks to the introduction of a bi-monthly schedule with #233. Chris Claremont writes the scripts, and will continue to do so for a teensy bit longer. The title once again enters an era of artistic consistency as Marc Silvestri pencils the bulk of this segment, usually with inker Dan Green but also with Joe Rubinstein, Hilary Barta, and Steve Leialoha for an issue each. Rick Leonardi provides guest pencils four times with inks by Dan Green, Terry Austin, and P.Craig Russel, while Jim Lee pencils a single issue with inker Dan Green.

These creators recognize that no one could consider UNCANNY X-MEN a proper series if none of the characters ever faked their own death and/or went mad and tried to destroy the world. They also notice it’s been far too long since either of those things happened and proceed accordingly via two crossovers.

The first of these, Fall of the Mutants, is one of those comics events where each included series follows its own course. Readers needn’t jump back and forth between them to get the whole story, though you may wish to pop over to NEW MUTANTS and X-FACTOR to see how those teams deal with the fallout from the X-Men’s battle at Eagle Plaza. It’s all pretty low key, so far as interconnected stories go.

From the X-Men’s perspective, though, it’s intense. And after a lengthy struggle in the public eye (thanks to a mutant-friendly videographer who follows the X-Men into the breach), the whole team fakes their own deaths and goes to hide out in Australia without so much as informing their families they’re still alive and kicking. Because really, how else are they supposed to get a drop on the bad guys?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Review: Monstress Volume One: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takada

Cover of Monstress, featuring an Asian girl with long black hair. She wears a long white coat with the sleeves pushed up to expose her wooden left arm. Behind her looms an elaborate brass sculpture of a woman with her eyes shadowed.
Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.

Marjorie Liu and Sana Takada’s MONSTRESS [Amazon | The Book Depository] was one of my most anticipated trade collections of 2016. I loved the creators’ work on X-23, a Marvel property about young Wolverine clone Laura Kinney, and I couldn’t wait to see what they’d come up with in a creator-owned title, free from publishers’ restrictions and established canon.

Turns out, the results are impressive indeed.

MONSTRESS takes place in an alternate, matriarchal version of early twentieth century Asia. The war between Arcanics and humans is currently stalled thanks to a devastating weapon the Arcanics unleashed during the last major battle. The Cumaea, an order of scientist-nuns, are desperate to find a way to harness this technology for themselves and have stepped up their experiments on enslaved Arcanics, partly in search of answers and partly to mine the Arcanic essence that grants them their greatest power.

Maika, a teenage Arcanic, needs answers of her own, so she arranges to have herself sold to the Cumaea as a slave. But her bloody foray through their compound complicates everything and sends her on a journey in company with a fox-aspected young Arcanic and a two-tailed talking cat, plus a dark force that’s lodged itself in her soul.

It’s possible MONSTRESS isn’t entirely unique on the world’s stage, but I don’t believe anyone else working in English has put together a comic quite like this. Liu and Takada tackle concepts and issues that receive little thoughtful page time in mainstream comics, and they do so against a stunningly gorgeous backdrop.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: July 31st to August 6th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I combine the two by making my dog pose with (almost) everything I read.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday, with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: a smidge more UNCANNY X-MEN, of course but I needed to break from my five-issues-per-day-or-bust schedule and take a breather after the wild ride that was Age of Apocalypse. Much as I love the X-Men, they really cut into my prose-reading time. We'll reconnect this week.

A pale ginger cat, Ollie, lies on some black tiles next to an upright white Kobo with Bookburners Episode 7's red cover on its screen. The cover features a dark demon rising up behind a stylized sculpture of Queen Victoria.

Ollie and I hung out again last weekend and he agreed to give Murchie a day off from posing in exchange for a few good belly rubs. It was a deal.

The moment I saw mention of the Manitoba fishing industry in the jacket copy for BOOKBURNERS S2E7, I knew I had to bump it to the top of my reading list. Alas, the episode is set in Ottawa, not on my home turf, but it's still emerged as my favourite to date.

While BOOKBURNERS has a diverse cast--three out of five Team Three members are POC, and only one is American--the S1 writers' room was decidedly white and American. That's changed this season with the introduction of Canadian WOC Amal El-Mohtar, who makes her debut with "Fire and Ice." You can tell how much fun she had crafting a magical mystery set in her home town and centred on the Library of Parliament. She packs the episode with references to distinctly Canadian things like last year's election, Winterlude, Wilfred Laurier, and the still-unsolved Parliament Hill fire of 2016, which plays an enormous role in the plot.

I practically bounced in my seat as I read.

Not content to simply throw lots of Canadian content into the mix, El-Mohtar also delivers a new take on magic (a definite theme this season) with its roots in nonwestern traditions. I won't spoil the details for you, but it's seriously good. And she pushes the characters in all sorts of different ways, elaborating on their friendships and their interests outside of work. I'm super glad the series is doubling down on Asanti's queerness, all through the lens of her academic preoccupations, and I'm always pleased to see Grace having fun. Let's have MOAR FUN GRACE in the back half of S2, please!

Also, I highly recommend El-Mohtar's episode notes for "Fire and Ice" even if you're not following BOOKBURNERS. She has a lot of important things to say about racism and xenophobia in Canada.