Summer Fun Time Reading ’13

thori thumb It’s hot and the air already feels like unset Jell-O, but you still have some time to prepare for summer, because all the list-happy magazines and websites tell me, summer must be prepared for. Dig out your seersucker suit! Bob your hair! Find that most fashionable bathing suit–might I suggest a kicky Twenties number?

You’ll be the cutest kid on the beach, at the club or hiding in your room protecting yourself from the evil of the sun and other people with these seven books.

Adventure Time titles: Adventure Time (KaBOOM! Studios) Ryan North, writer; Braden Lamb, Mike Holmes, Shelli Paroline, artists.  Marcelline & The Scream Queens (2012) Meredith Gran.  Adventure Time with Fionna & Cake (2012-2013) Natasha Allegri.  Adventure Time: Playing with Fire (2013) Danielle Corsetto, writer; Zack Sterling, art.

adventuretime14cvrbOkay, maybe more than seven books.

I’m cheating and squishing a lot of titles together here, because Boom Studio’s all-ages Adventure Time comics are all fun with some different slants. The ongoing Adventure Time comic is consistently fun though less genderqueer/melancholy/weird/surreal/rad than the cartoon.  North’s choose-your-own story in issue #10 is genius.  In Marcelline & The Scream Queens, Marcelline’s brings her monster of rock tour to the Land of Ooo. In Fionna & Cake, the creator of the genderswitched versions of Finn and Jake, Natasha Allegri, is putting out a slower-paced, but gorgeous comic for Fionna the human girl and Cake the cat as Fionna tries to save a dying flame boy. I’m only sad it’s a miniseries. And Playing With Fire is an original graphic novel, following the Fire Princess’ attempts to control her own power and rescue Finn. The books are especially exciting because they have been including a variety of covers and back-up stories by independent artists.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Search, Part One. (Dark Horse, 2013) Gene Luen Yang, writer; Gurihiru, artist; Michael Heisler, lettering.

the search coverI’m so pleased that Gene Luen Yang is writing Avatar comics, because I’m a fan of both Avatar: The Last Airbender and Yang’s comics, American Born Chinese (Top Shelf) and The Eternal Smile (First Second). A slight graphic novel that captures the look and some of the heart of the original cartoon series while continuing the story. It also helps pass the time until the new season of, Avatar: The Legend Of Korra. Taunted by his sister, Zuko, teenage lord of the Fire Kingdom, goes in search of his mother and to discover her fate after she disappeared when he was a small boy. He’s accompanied by Avatar Aang, Katara and Sokka. While I don’t think you need to watch Adventure Time to enjoy Boom’s various books, I do think watching Avatar: The Last Airbender helps with getting the most of out of this book. And if you haven’t watched Avatar, well, get watching.

Just make sure it’s the series and not the movie that sources officially deny ever happened.

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Creepy: Vol. 1 (Dark Horse, 2008) Shawna Gore, editor.

“Weird and Haunting Tales of Fright!” A beautiful hardcover collection of the first five issues of Creepy, a horror anthology comic from days of yore. Yore being 1964 and 1965 and containing artists such as, Frank Frazetta, Jack Davis, Al Williamson, Alex Toth, and Angelo Torres, and writers like, Archie Goodwin and Joe Orlando. If the names don’t mean anything to you, I suggest the book for lovers of classic horror—tales of vampires, werewolves, ancient tombs and vengeful women all rendered beautifully in black and white.  Perfect for cooling off on a hot day.

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Jimmy Olsen: Adventures by Jack Kirby: Vol. 2 (DC, 2004) Jack Kirby.

I circled this comic for a while at the local comic bookstore. I picked up it, and felt joy at seeing the warning of “Briga-DOOM!” rising. Then I’d put it back. Feeling gloomy, I finally picked it up one day to cheer myself up with it’s creative, crazy stories of crazy craziness. Lately, I’ve been really interested in what are often seen as the cheesier aspects of the Superman Family. I’d probably buy a copy of Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, too, despite its many problems. Fans of DC history will be happy to see Jack Kirby’s cosmic Fourth World creations, but everyone will enjoy seeing the Mad Science that results. A book filled charming super-antics from Briga-DOOM! to Superman at a disco to the Newsboy Legion.

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Journey into Mystery (Marvel, 2012) Kieron Gillen, writer; Dougie Braithewaite, Pasqual Ferry, Richard Elson, Whilce Portacio, Mitch Breitweiser, artists.

It was hard to choose between Journey Into Mystery and Kieron Gillen’s lastest collaboration with , Young Avengers. Both feature Loki as a tween trying to make up for past mistakes, past deliberate choices with horrifying consequences and his reputation as a villain. Basically, I went with Journey Into Mystery, because there are already four volumes of story for you to enjoy. A lot of people compare it to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, but it isn’t as weighty. I enjoy the playful juxtaposition of the archaic and the modern, the mythic and the mundane. The dialog and characterization are fantastic. It’s witty and thoughtful, and plays with the forms and conventions of superhero stories—storytelling itself—without being too heavy-handed. Plus, there’s a hell-puppy. I love hell-puppies, especially foulmouthed, murder-minded ones. You might also enjoy Gillen’s first book, Phonogram (Image), an indie comic all about the magical power of music in a London club scene.

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Silence & Co.: Money Is Power (2013) Gur Benshemesh, writer; Ron Randall, artist; John Workman, letterer.

Every summer needs a thriller and Silence & Co.: Money Is Power is a good one. Alexander Maranzano is just in enough with his father’s crime family to get sucked into The Life, but just out enough to never be accepted as a real Maranzano. Alexander becomes the protege of his Uncle Saul, the family hitman, but looks for a different kind of life in the special forces. Discharged honorably, he goes solo, but “family is family.” After killing a federal judge, Alexander lies low at a resort in Marrakesh, where he’s approached by members of Silence & Co., an underworld financial institution that has, like its daylight counterparts, diversified. As Saul tells Alexander, “If you’re serious about making a mark on our thing, Alexander, there is no one above Silence.”

But of course, things go wrong, a lot of money is involved and things keep going more and more wrong. It’s well within the thriller tradition, with elements of mafia, hitman, military thrillers, drug trade and spy novels, but well-paced enough that the detailed descriptions of weapons and the technology of surveillance don’t become a morass. The art is nice, with a beautifully minimalist cover by Steve Lieber. Silence & Co. reminds me a little of Matz and Luc Jacamon’s The Killer (Archaia) but it’s less an existentialist meditation and more in the straightforward vein of Richard Stark’s Parker novels. One character even resembles Lee Marvin. If you like Parker, you’ll like Silence & Co.

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The Green River Killer: A True Detective Story (Dark Horse, 2011) Jeff Jensen, writer; Jonathan Case, artist.

Last year, I recommended Jonathan Case’s charming, Dear Creature. This year, I recommend his heartrending, enthralling collaboration with Jeff Jensen, The Green River Killer. An account of the years Jensen’s spent tracking Seattle’s Green River Killer and, later, working with Gary Ridgeway. Ridgeway had pled guilty to some of the Killer’s suspected 48 murders and was willing to help the police recover the remains of other undiscovered victims. A haunting and painfully beautiful book. I’m particularly taken with Case’s ability to set Det. Jensen in each of the decades he hunted the serial killer. Easily one of the best comics and best books that I’ve read.

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 If you need Carol Borden, she will be clinging to the air conditioner for the next three months. Maybe four.

(Carol received a review copy of Silence & Co.: Money Is Power).


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