The practice did not survive much of 2016. I think mainly because of those same feelings of inadequacy. See, I started this tradition some years ago (which, for the record, I abandoned this year because I was tired of it) of making Lord of the Rings the first thing I read every year. And because by 2016 I was already bored with this and didn't want to admit it, it took me longer than normal to slog through the books I'd already read, like, a half dozen times.
Don't get me wrong; I love Lord of the Rings. Reading Tolkien makes me want to write. Still does. But, you know, I kind of already know how Bilbo's going to end that party of his and sometimes the magic just isn't as potent.
So anyway, I think the practice of keeping a precise record of everything I read ended early in 2016 because I was embarrassed by just how little I'd read.
So far, the practice has survived 2017, I've kept it going. And listen, this is a totally obnoxious bullshit thing I'm doing. Seriously, I know. I will humor no illusions about it. I am stroking my ego here. I am turning up my nose to the illiterate masses choosing Fast and Furious and Netflix binges over novels or books of essays. I'm an asshole. I admit it.
But, that doesn't mean there's nothing good that can come from it. It genuinely is making me read more, which is always good. Unless I'm driving. Then I should read less.
And, if I blog about it a little, maybe it can expose you to some stuff you've never heard of and in which you might be interested. Who knows?
So, in the future, I'll probably put together a monthly list of what I read at the end of every month. But, since I started this blog a few months into the year, we'll have to catch up first. So here's the shit I read in January.
I'll write about some stuff. And some stuff I won't write about. Because.
I read the first two Dresden Files novels a few years ago. I liked them, but not enough to swear myself a fan. I read the third and fourth books - Grave Peril and Summer Knight - while I was recovering from surgery, and I was hooked.
If you're not familiar, the Dresden Files is a series about a modern day wizard/private dick. He's more Raymond Chandler than Tolkien. One of the review quotes regularly appearing in the front of the paperbacks describes it like this: "Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Philip Marlowe," and that's about as good a description as you can get.
Dead Beat is the seventh novel (and I'm actually surprised to learn I'm already that deep into the series). When like-minded readers first tried to get me to check out the series, the scene they always used to pull me in is one from the climax of Dead Beat: of Harry Dresden, the main character, riding an undead T-Rex through the streets of Chicago and tearing through hordes of zombies with it. I thought I would be disappointed to have been spioiled the scene, but no. No. Even if you're spoiled a scene in which a modern day wizard rides an undead dinosaur into mobs of zombies, it's still a scene in which a modern day wizard rides an undead dinosaur into mobs of zombies, so really there's no way for it to not work.
Noir by Robert Coover
I read Noir because the author was appearing at SUNY Albany to talk about his new novel, Huck Out West, which is supposed to be something of a sequel to Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I wanted to read something of Coover's before the event, and didn't think I had enough time to read both Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Huck Out West (I'd read the classic, but figured I should re-familiarize myself to fully appreciate Coover's effort), So instead I took Noir out of the library.
Noir is bizarre and great. It is telling us something about noir fiction. I'm not sure what. Really want to read it again. But I'm pretty sure whatever it was, it was important.
And of course, I missed the aforementioned SUNY Albany event. Because lazy.
Sal Buscema: Comics' Fast and Furious Artist by Jim Amash
My Hulk is the Sal Buscema Hulk. At least when I think of the Hulk - the ol' savage, monosyllabic version - I think of Sal.
Sal Buscema is basically a long interview with the artist, and considering how long Buscema has worked in comics, it's interesting to see not only his career, but the comics industry of the second half of the twentieth century through his lens.
There's a lot of art in here, and honestly the most interesting stuff is in the non-comics-related work presented in the book; his portraits and nudes. It's just kind of amazing from my point-of-view - the point-of-view of a lifelong fan who thinks "Sal Buscema" and then immediately thinks "Hulk punching M.O.D.O.K....lots of motion lines..." - working on art that had nothing to do with comics.
Coincidentally, just before writing this, I found the name Jim Amash in the inking credit of a strip in World of Archie Comics Digest #60. I had no idea the interviewer was a professional artist himself, though I suppose it makes sense.
MAGAZINES OR JOURNALS
I subscribed to Heavy Metal on a whim. I read their new Editor-In-Chief, Grant Morrison, had announced a Bible/Conan mash-up strip called The Savage Sword of Jesus Christ, and the title hooked me.
Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be re-upping my subscription to Heavy Metal. There's some good stuff in there, but most of it isn't to my taste.
There's only been one installment of Savage Sword of Jesus Christ so far and it was disappointing. I usually enjoy Morrison's work, but Savage Sword is disappointing in the way that most of his disappointing stuff is disappointing. From the various press I'd read about the strip, it was going to be the story of Jesus, but told as if Jesus were Conan. That is ridiculous and awesome and I was excited for it. Morrison explained to interviewers that the idea was inspired by learning that Adolf Hitler had planned to re-frame the figure of Christ as a kind of Nordic warrior. But rather than simply allowing himself to be inspired by this and giving us an honest-to-Hulk Jesus-meets-Conan strip, what we get is a strip that goes back and forth between the Jesus-as-Conan narrative, and scenes with Hitler and Joseph Goebbels in which they discuss the idea of re-framing Jesus as a Nordic warrior. And honestly I think there's more Hitler/Goebbels stuff than there is Jesus/Conan. And the Jesus/Conan is what I signed up for. I can't help but come away with the impression that Morrison really wants us to know how brilliant his ideas are by telling us more about the inspiration than the actual goddamn idea.
One Story #223: "In the Neighborhood" by Jess Rafalko
One Story is a fantastic journal. I've been reading it on and off for years.
The name says it all. They publish exactly one story per issue. Each issue is about the size of a pamphlet, and this has been very convenient for me over the years. From the time when I worked as a data entry operator, to my first civil service gig as an office drone for New York State's Office of the State Comptroller, to now, One Story has always been able to fit in my pocket, and so is easy to bring to the men's room for bathroom breaks that really just involve sitting down and reading whether or not there's anything that needs, you know. Expression.
Smithsonian November 2016
Book Pages December 2016
Book Pages is a free reader that has ads and reviews of recently published or soon-to-be published books. I've only ever seen it at my public library, and I always make sure to grab a new issue; both to peruse and in hopes the hot library director will notice and be impressed with my love of reading (so far, I have no indication this has happened, though I also have no indication it has not happened).
Deathstroke: The Terminator, Vol. 2: Sympathy for the Devil by Marv Wolfman and Dan Jurgens, et al.
Our Mother by Luke Howard
Eclipso: The Music of the Spheres by Matthew Sturges and Stephen Jorge Seqouia, et al.
I bought this a while ago, when I began my It Takes A Villain column.
It's exceptionally horrible.
Amazing Fantastic Incredible by Stan Lee and Peter David, et al.
I learned nothing new about Stan Lee in this graphic memoir. If even half of the stuff I've read in other books about comics is true, then Amazing Fantastic Incredible is simply confirmation of what I already knew: Stan Lee worked like a demon, had a big heart but not as great of a spine, and was always at least 65% full of shit.
COMIC BOOKS (single issues)
Abiding Perdition #1 by Nick Schley and Pedro Delgado, et al.
Archie, Vol. 2, #15 - #16 by Mark Waid and Joe Eisma, et al.
It is a mystery to me how I have become an Archie fan over the past year or so. Not only is Mark Waid's new "updated" Archie on my monthly pull list at the comic shop, but I use every chance I get to pick up the Archie digests. I was never a fan of the comic when I was younger. But now I can't get enough. It is strange enough to me, that I feel like I need to write some probing thing to get at the bottom of it. If I want to get at the bottom of it, but I don't really. I don't. I just want to enjoy it.
And in all honesty, I think there's a good chance if/when Mark Waid leaves Archie, I'll leave too. Maybe not. I'll give the new person a shot if/when it happens. I just know it isn't the Archieverse in general that I enjoy. I've tried some of the other new, updated stuff - like the new Betty & Veronica - and just wasn't into it.
I do want to get more into the Archie horror stuff though. There was a recent Jughead: The Hunger one-shot about Jughead being a werewolf. I still need to check out Afterlife with Archie and I REALLY want to read Archie Vs. Predator. I can't believe they did that. That's fucking beautiful.
I really hope it's Jughead who says, "I ain't got time to bleed."
Black Widow, Vol. 7, #9 - #10 by Chris Samnee and Mark Waid, et al.
Cage, Vol. 3, #4 by Genndy Tartakovsky, et al.
Carnage, Vol. 2, #16 by Gerry Conway and Mike Perkins, et al.
This is another series I started just because of my It Takes A Villain column. I didn't expect it, but I got hooked.
It's very Lovecraft-inspired, with Spider-Man's old enemy learning he has some connection to an Old God. He travels across the sea to summon the monster and hopes to be rewarded for it. Meanwhile a mish-mosh of characters hunt Carnage across the world, including Eddie Brock and Man-Wolf.
I would've kept picking it up if it hadn't been canceled. I wasn't too sad when it ended. I could've kept reading, but the premise didn't seem to lend itself well to an ongoing.
Champions, Vol. 2, #3 - #4 by Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos, et al.
Cougar and Cub #1 by Nick Marino and Daniel Arruda Mass, et al.
This comic is great and I'm worried it's been shit-canned early. I haven't seen a solicit for a second issue anywhere.
It's about a crime-fighting duo - a teenager and an older woman (though they aren't really clear how to define "older," I mean this ain't Harold & Maude) - and one night they give in to their carnal desires. Presumably, things change for the worse after that, but like I said they've only had the one issue so far. I really do hope there are more.
Dark Horse Presents, Vol. 3, #29 by Various
DC Rebirth Holiday Special by Various
Death Dealer, Vol. 2, #3 by Nat Jones and Jay Fotos, et al.
Deathstroke, Vol. 3, #8 by Christopher Priest and Larry Hama, et al.
Deathstroke is the only DC comic I'm collecting right now that's part of the main DC Universe (a.k.a Batman and some other assholes).
I've read some Deathstroke graphic novels, and they're mostly fucking awful. The volume collecting the very first Deathstroke: The Terminator comics is pretty great. Otherwise, I haven't been impressed. There were two New 52 Deathstroke series, I read the first trades for each (again, specifically for It Takes A Villain), and they were bad.
The new Deathstroke is a welcome change. I am picking it up for one reason. Well, okay, for two reasons. First, because it marks the return of Christopher Priest to comics (better known for his fantastic Black Panther from the nineties and early aughts). Second, because that means it's a fucking good comic.
Again, just as with Archie (and, no, I did not think I would be comparing Archie with Deathstroke today; but hey Archie Comics, there's another possible crossover), there's a big chance if/when Priest leaves the series, I will leave also. Probably by then, I will be invested enough in the story to give the new creative team its due shot. Maybe. But honestly, I am so disgusted and annoyed with DC's misuse of Watchmen that it was difficult enough to commit to Deathstroke. It would probably need to be a creator with equal good will built up in my mind for me to continue. They get Geoff Johns or Judd Winnick and I'll just laugh and hit Delete without thinking twice.
Deathstroke, Vol. 3, #9 - #10 by Christopher Priest and Cary Nord, et al.
Deathstroke, Vol. 3, #11 by Christopher Priest and Denys Cowan, et al.
Defenders, Vol. 1, #121 and #124 by J.M. DeMatteis and Don Perlin, et al.
Doctor Strange, Vol. 5, #15 by Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo, et al.
Doctor Strange & the Sorcerers Supreme #3 - #4 by Robbie Thompson and Javier Rodriguez, et al.
A bunch of Sorcerers Supreme from different eras are summoned gathered together by Merlin to stop some kind of big bad evil magic thing. I forget exactly what. Included in the mix is, of course, Doctor Strange. Then there's all-grown-up Wiccan, a 19th century Ghost Rider, and a younger and much douchier Ancient One.
I wasn't expecting to care at all about this series. figured (rightly) it was just a way to capitalize on the Doctor Strange film, that it seemed silly to have a team of nothing but sorcerers since after all they're all they're all just going to have the same powers. May as well call them Justice League.
But actually Doctor Strange & the Sorcerers Supreme has proven to be a pretty fun book with great art. The issue before last (I don't think it was one of these) was actually an choose-your-own-adventure issue I thought was well done.
Dreamery #5 - #14 by Various
A while back I ordered a value pack from an online comic shop; it offered a pile of various comics of a different theme for about $12. I thought it would be a fun way to find a bunch of series I'd never heard of before.
And I was right, though of course there was a lot of crap, too.
The value pack included Dreamery #8. It's a black-and-white fantasy anthology comic from the long-defunct Eclipse Comics. The stories are fairly light-hearted. Among other things there's an ongoing stories with a family of centaurs and a goofy prince unlucky in love.
Dreamery only lasted 14 issues and the nice part about that is that buying the rest of the series didn't put a huge hole in my wallet. I got the rest off ebay cheap.
It's a shame Dreamery isn't around anymore. I'd happily add it or a book like it to my pull list.
ElfQuest: King's Cross #2 by Christopher Lane and Brandon McKinney, et al.
Gumballs #1 by Erin Nations
An autobio comic that I really hope will see a second issue, but I'm worried. I remember seeing that the second issue was set to come out soon, but then it just disappeared from the list of upcoming releases.
He-Man/Thundercats #3 by Rob David and Lloyd Goldfine, et al.
A fun crossover mini-series that, thankfully, didn't take itself too seriously. Skeletor kicks Lion-O in the junk. I mean, that's pretty perfect.
Hulk, Vol. 3, #2 by Mariko Tamaki and Nico Leon, et al.
So, I haven't read all the relevant comics, but basically She-Hulk gets messed up by Thanos as part of Civil War II. She wakes from a coma physically changed, and learning that her cousin Bruce Banner was murdered by Hawkeye.
In Hulk, Jen Walters is trying to re-enter her life as a lawyer and desperately trying to keep her new, presumably much more savage Hulkiness inside.
And she's doing okay, I guess. As of the writing of this blog, the series the fourth issue has been released and we still haven't seen Jen Walters turn into her more Hulky self.
It's tough to not be reminded of the truly overrated Bruce Jones run on Incredible Hulk which barely saw the green guy show up at all, and only very briefly when he did.
Also, it reminds me of that older comic because even though I hated Jones's Hulk stories, the covers were fantastic. At least when Kaare Andrews was doing them.
I will say Tamaki's writing a much more interesting story and I really want to love Hulk, but I'm not sold yet and I won't be sold until we see the Hulk-out. And that's just it; I don't know if this series has much chance of surviving at all, but after basically waiting half a year to give us an actual Hulk-Out, that inevitable Hulk-Out has to be done just, fucking, perfectly. It has to be better and more awe-inspiring than any Hulk-Out since Jack Kirby first had that gray guy slap Rick Jones around.
Incredible Hulk, Vol. 2, #436 by Peter David and Angel Medina, et al.
Kill or be Killed #5 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, et al.
Mighty Thor #14 by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman, et al.
Patsy Walker, a.k.a. HELLCAT! #13 by Kate Leth and Brittney L. Williams, et al.
Red Sonja, Vol. 4, #8 and #13 by Michael Avon Oeming and Mel Rubi, et al.
Saga #41 and #42 by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan, et al.
Scooby Apocalypse #8 by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis, et al.
Silver Surfer, Vol. 6, #8 by Dan Slott and Mike Allred, et al.
Totally Awesome Hulk #14 by Greg Pak and German Peralta, et al.
Unworthy Thor #3 by Jason Aaron and Kim Jacinto, et al.
Warlord, Vol. 2, #3 by Bruce Jones and Bart Sears, et al.