February Wrap-Up (2014)

In February I spent most of my time playing Mass Effect and getting lost in tumblr. So, reading was on the back burner, and I only finished two books. I did read plenty of graphic novels, though!

Rating system
1 out of 5 – I didn’t like it: badly written or just got on my nerves
2 out of 5 – It was okay: other people might enjoy it more
3 out of 5 – I liked it: a fun/enjoyable read
4 out of 5 – I really liked it: good characters & plot, maybe some theme that spoke to me
5 out of 5 – It was amazing: I consider it a favorite and will probably re-read at some point

My favorite post of the month

My Favorite Secondary Characters


Books

Redshirts
Redshirts

By: John Scalzi
First published in 2012
Genre: Science fiction comedy

Soon after being assigned to the starship Intrepid, a group of new ensigns realize that on every Away mission, at least one low-ranked crew member is killed.

This book entertained me, and I did even laugh aloud a couple of times. I just watched Star Trek: TOS last year, so things were fresh in my mind, and I could appreciate the parody. I don’t think you need to have watched Star Trek to enjoy this (though it definitely helps), but you need to be familiar with the tropes and cliches of the genre. It’s sort of like Galaxy Quest, in that way.

There were a couple of editing mishaps – namely twice calling other characters Kerensky when they were Jenkins and Abernathy, respectively. I also found the prologue to be a bit too underlined and simple, and when I started reading, I was afraid the whole book was going to be like that. I now understand that the prologue was there to set up the whole Narrative plot point, but since I couldn’t know it at the time, the writing just felt too simple for me.

The “Codas”, kind of short stories, at the end were not necessary for the main plot, but I liked them, too. Made me want to get more productive and less lazy with my creative endeavors. All in all, the book was not mind-blowing, but it was very entertaining.
4 out of 5 stars

Punainen kuin veri
Punainen kuin veri (“As Red As Blood”)

(Lumikki Andersson #1)
By: Salla Simukka
First published in 2013
Genre: YA crime thriller

High schooler Lumikki Andersson gets caught up in the dealings of international drug business when she stumbles upon some missing blood money.

Once in a while I like to look at what’s going on in the field of Finnish YA literature. So I picked up Punainen kuin veri, a crime thriller with a 17-year-old high school girl as the protagonist. I have to admit that cover appeal was the main reason I picked up the book. The design of the whole trilogy is just gorgeous, with the black-and-white Snow White -themed cover images (the main character’s name, Lumikki, is Snow White in Finnish). The design is greatly elevated by the decision to colour the edges of the pages – in the first one they’re red (as blood), the second one just plain white (as snow), and the third one black (as ebony).

This is a pretty short and fast-paced book. Some things just work out way too conveniently, but I actually enjoyed the almost superhero-like characteristics of the protagonist, Lumikki. She was physically strong, quick-thinking, and good with disguising herself, all the way to changing her movements to appear like someone else. I liked how her abilities were explained with how she was forced to learn all this because she had been bullied in school. It felt plausible while reading the book. There were some other things that didn’t feel as plausible, like some of her dealings with the drug lords, but I’m willing to let it slide.

Punainen kuin veri was a pretty simple, younger YA story. I had fun reading it, and plan on reading the other books, too – mostly because they are quick reads, and because I like the protagonist.
3 out 5 stars


Graphic novels

YoungAvengersVol1Best of the Month sticker
Young Avengers, Vol. 1: Style > Substance
By: Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
First published in 2013
Genre: Superheroes

Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie reinvent the teen super hero comic for the 21st century, uniting Wiccan, Hulkling and Kate “Hawkeye” Bishop with Kid Loki, Marvel Boy and Ms. America.

I had so much fun reading this first trade collection of the new Young Avengers! When I read about superheroes, I always tend to gravitate to reading about teen superheroes. I have previous experience of the Young Avengers from a short tie-in story they had with the Runaways, but I remember that I liked them.

The story was good, although it wasn’t anything mind-shatteringly awesome. Due to Wiccan’s spell going wrong, the team has to battle against mind-controlled adults, including their own parents. If I only judged for the story, the book would get one star less. But the main attraction to me were the characters! I enjoyed all of them so much, and I laughed out loud at many of kid Loki’s quips. The artwork was very good and the vibrant coloring added to the overall feeling of whimsy and fun – the cover design represents the tone pretty well. I really want to follow these characters on their adventures, and will definitely read the further volumes.
5 out of 5 stars

Serenity Vol 1
Serenity: Those Left Behind

By: Joss Whedon, Brett Mathews & Will Conrad
First published in 2006
Genre: Science fiction western

This graphic novel closes the gap between the Firefly TV series and the subsequent movie, Serenity.

What started as a really promising book ended up being quite light on content. This graphic novel won’t do much for you if you aren’t familiar with the show – but of course that was the whole point: to tell what happened right after the show ended.

At the beginning I felt pretty optimistic about this book: everything felt a lot like an episode of Firefly. There was a heist, and the character’s voices were right, like this gem from Captain Mal:

“Change of plans. Looks like we’ll be leaving this world a bit sooner than anticipated. I’d like that last statement to prove specific and mundane, not spiritual-like.”

But after the beginning, my enthusiasm dwindled. Not much happened, and I wasn’t that interested in what did happen. One of the biggest weaknesses was getting rid of the Hands of Blue so quickly – they were such a presence in the TV series, that I think more comic issues would have been needed to really deliver on the threat they seemed to pose. The artwork was hindered by the artist trying to capture the actors’ likeness. By trying to be too realistic, the artwork came out as rigid and devoid of soul. Some characters were better captured than others, but for example Simon looked nothing like himself.

The good beginning as well as the simple joy of seeing these characters again made me add another star to the rating.
3 out of 5 stars

Y the Last Man Vol. 3
Y: The Last Man Vol. 2-5

By: Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra
First published in 2003
Genre: Dystopian science fiction

These volumes continue the search for the reason that escape artist Yorick and his capuchin monkey survived the plague that killed all other males on the planet.

I started this series in January, and in February I read four volumes in total. I have to say, I’m still pretty torn. A lot of people really enjoy the series, but I just can’t seem to get that into it. I’m going along for now and I intend to finish the series, just to see where it goes. The premise and the setting are pretty interesting, but I don’t care much for the characters, or how some things are handled. The tone of the series feels a bit off for me.

There are also some stupid things being said. A woman in an acting troupe saying that they shouldn’t even be practicing adventurous plays with swordfighting, since women only want to watch romance plays. Like, what woman would say that? An actress, no less? Another woman almost explains that she’s shaven her head bald, because there’s no point in meddling with hairstyles anymore now that there are no men on the planet. Granted, she was cut short, but that’s what it seemed she was going for. Because women only do their hair because men like it. Yes. Sigh…

I gave the individual volumes either 2 or 3 stars, so 2.5 out of 5 stars it is!

Chew Vol. 7
Chew Vol.7

By: John Layman & Rob Guillory
First published in 2013
Genre: Special agent drama-comedy with a twist

Tony Chu – the federal agent with the ability to get psychic impressions from what he eats – is back in action, just in time to face a cult of egg-worshipping terrorists who’ve declared holy war on the chicken-eaters of the world.

I don’t have much to say about this volume. It was ok, but pretty clearly an in-between volume before the plot gets back going again. Not one of the strongest installments. I feel like some of the things are played out, and hope the series finds its legs again soon.
3 out of 5 stars

Delilah Dirk Vol 1
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant

(Delilah Dirk #1)
By: Tony Cliff
First published in 2013
Genre: Historical adventure

Selim, a tea-drinking, peace-loving lieutenant in the Turkish Janissary Corps, is swept away on an adventure with globe-trotting troublemaker Delilah Dirk.

This book started as a web comic, and you can read the first few chapters here. First of all, I really liked the artwork, and the colouring is gorgeous. The physical book also looks really good, with the title embossed in silver on the cover. It’s also nice to follow the evolution of the art from the beginning to the end of the book.

As for the story itself, it was a fun adventure. I did like Selim, but wanted to learn more about Delilah. I have to admit, though, that I enjoyed artwork more than the story. This is one pretty graphic novel.
3 out of 5 stars

Advertisements

Current Reads: Wise Man’s Fear

This post is linked at “It’s Monday, what are you reading?”, a weekly meme that tells us what the blogosphere is currently reading. It is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. The links in the cover images take you to GoodReads.

I am currently reading

The Wise Man's Fear Hangsaman Punainen kuin veri
The Wise Man’s Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2) by Patrick Rothfuss
Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson
Punainen kuin veri by Salla Simukka (“As Red As Blood”)

I’m currently reading a couple of different books since I’m feeling a bit restless. I continued with the high fantasy series The Kingkiller Chronicle right after finishing the first book. That book is huge, though, and I’m also currently reading the modern classic horror Hangsaman, as well as a Finnish YA crime novel. I’m making slow progress with each, and reading graphic novels whenever I pause with these.

Last week I posted

January Book Haul

Last week I finished reading

Chew Vol. 7
Chew Vol.7: Bad Apples by John Layman & Rob Guillory
Last week I only finished one comic trade paperback, the latest volume of Chew. It was ok, but pretty clearly an in-between volume before the plot gets back going again.

September Wrap-Up (2013)

Last month I read a couple of hyped up YA novels, but wasn’t blown away by them. I’m also beginning to wonder if I rate too many books 3 stars, and am too stingy with my fives.

My favorite post of the month

My Most Anticipated SF&F TV Series This Fall

I use the following light grading system based on the GoodReads one:

1 out of 5 – I didn’t like it: badly written or just got on my nerves
2 out of 5 – It was okay: other people might enjoy it more
3 out of 5 – I liked it: a fun/enjoyable read
4 out of 5 – I really liked it: good characters & plot, maybe some theme that spoke to me
5 out of 5 – It was amazing: I consider it a favorite and will probably re-read at some point

This post is linked at “Best of the Bunch”, a monthly recap meme hosted by Always Lost in Stories.


Classic of the Month

Mansfield Park
Mansfield Park

By: Jane Austen
First published in 1814
My copy: Project Gutenberg free e-book

The daughter of a poor family moves into the house of her rich aunt and uncle.

This turned out to be my least favorite Austen novel. While it’s not bad – the language is as good as ever, it was easy to read through – the main character does remain somewhat distant from the reader, and the theme isn’t as clear as in some of her other books. During the first 50% of Mansfield Park, the story was told from the points of view of almost all the other characters than the heroine. After that, it switched to be told more from inside the heroine’s head, and also became more interesting. I wouldn’t recommend this for a first time Austen reader, but it was worth a read. 3/5

Further thoughts can be read from my discussion posts, which do contain spoilers.
Mansfield Park Read Along – Discussion, Pt. 1
Mansfield Park Read Along – Discussion, Pt. 2
The third and final part isn’t posted yet.


Fantasy Books

The Drowning Girl
Best of the Month sticker
The Drowning Girl
By: Caitlín R. Kiernan
First published in 2012
Genre: Dark fantasy / Weird fiction / Gothic horror
My copy: From the library

A schizophrenic woman tries to uncover the truth from her memories of meetings with mythical creatures, or perhaps with something else entirely.

Kiernan’s haunting, mesmerizing prose captured me again! The prose is far smoother and polished than in the early works by her that I’ve read. While I loved reading the book, I had to take pauses ’cause the narration took a lot out of me. The protagonist, Imp, is an unreliable narrator, a schizophrenic trying to dig the truth out from her own memories. The narrative is nonlinear, as Imp tells her story in in the way that she feels able to handle, skipping over some harder parts in order to return to them again later.

Who is the drowning girl of the title? There are multiple candidates – there’s Imp herself, the siren she met by the side of the road, the girl in an old painting – or is the drowning girl someone else entirely? So combine an unreliable narrator and a non-chronological timeline, and you’re left with the feeling that you don’t quite know what is real and what is not. Slowly the plot opens up to you, and you can start to put together the pieces of what actually happened. If you liked Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, you might enjoy the haunting atmosphere of this book. I almost slapped a five star rating on this, but I think the book was hard to embrace completely due to its challenging nature. 4/5

Poison StudyPoison Study
(Study #1)
By: Maria V. Snyder
First published in 2004
Genre: YA High Fantasy
My copy: From the library

A woman facing execution is given the chance of becoming the food taster for the ruler of the realm.

Poison Study was an enjoyable, if not very original, high fantasy novel. I found the characters likable, and the relationships were fun to follow. My favorite character was the multilayered and loyal Valek, but I also enjoyed Yelena’s camaraderie with Ari and Yanco. Perhaps because the protagonist’s name was Yelena, I started to imagine the setting as a sort of fantasy Russia with the neighboring people being Mongols, but as I read on I realized that it was off the mark… The neighboring country was clearly warmer than that!

Poison Study was a good read, but I’ve just seen this all before. For young adults who haven’t read that many fantasy books before, this will undoubtedly work much better, and I understand the fascination. The writing was mostly well done, but as this was Snyder’s debut novel, there were some places where she slips up and delivers clunky or clichéd language. Enjoyable, but not amazing. I most likely won’t be continuing with the series. 3/5

Legend
Legend

(Legend #1)
By: Marie Lu
First published in 2011
Genre: YA Dystopian SF
My copy: From the library

A young prodigy working for the government faces off with the government’s most wanted young criminal.

A normal dystopian YA adventure, nothing that new under the sun. This is quite a quick read with lots of action, so I can understand how it grips people. I just don’t quite get the amount of hype this has received. At the beginning I was intrigued, but I lost interest towards the end.

There were some mistakes in the book that the editor hadn’t caught, like a part where an officer’s buttons changed from gold to silver in the span of 10 pages. It wouldn’t have bothered me so much if the readers weren’t supposed to realize it was the same character from the description of the uniform…

One thing I really don’t get: why is Les Misérables mentioned in connection with the book? It really isn’t like Les Miserables at all… I mean, I know that the author got the idea while watching the movie version of Les Mis, but people get inspiration from many places that aren’t mentioned in the covers of their books. There just wasn’t that strong a connection with the story to warrant the cover mention, in my opinion.

Now, I realize that this review might make it sound like I didn’t enjoy the book at all, but I was entertained while reading, just not that invested in it. I won’t be reading the next book, this series just isn’t for me. 2/5


Graphic novels

Chew Omnivore Vol.3Chew: The Omnivore Edition, Vol. 3
(collects issues #21-30, trade paperbacks #5-6)
By: John Layman & Rob Guillory
First published in 2013
Genre: Special agent drama-comedy
My copy: From the library

This third Chew omnibus shifts the focus a bit from the Cibopathic (gets psychic impressions from what he eats) agent Tony Chu to the other characters.

This volume of Chew suffered a bit from being “all over the place”, with more focus divided between different characters. I do love all the characters (especially enjoyed Caesar in this one, and Olive is becoming very interesting), but there just weren’t that many new insights into the main plot. I really missed Tony, who was a bit sidelined here. I’m also not quite sure what to think about what the writer did to one of the characters – I think what happens next will decide how I’ll feel about it. In a side note, while I love Poyo, the badass fighting rooster, he suffered from a bit of inflation in this volume – I think there was too much of him, which took away a bit of the shine of this oddball character.

Overall I enjoyed the volume, but it was definitely weaker than the previous installments. 2.5/5

Marceline and the Scream Queens
Adventure Time: Marceline and The Scream Queens

By: Meredith Gran
First published in 2012
My copy: My bookshelf

Princess Bubblegum joins Marceline’s band on their tour.

This fun romp through the land of Ooo was a gift from my sister. The story and art was charming! I enjoyed the focus on the female characters – Princess Bubblegum is definitely one of my favorites from the show, and I do like Marceline, too. Meredith Gran did a great job capturing the look of the series. The little side stories by guest authors were also funny. Pretty math! 3/5

Current Reads: Poison Study

This week I am hurrying to finish some library books before the Wednesday return date… Gulp!

I am currently reading

Poison Study
Poison Study

(Study #1)
By: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: YA High Fantasy
From: The library

Choose: A quick death… Or slow poison… About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

First things first, I really don’t like this cover! There are so many better versions, and the character on this one is white washed… Anyway, I’m right about at the halfway point, and I’m liking it so far. It is an enjoyable fantasy romp, but nothing too unique. So many reviews of this book have been so positive – many people loved this book – that I was expecting it to be super awesome. Perhaps I’ve just read too many fantasy books, so this kinda blends in? It might still surprise me, though!

Next up

The Drowning Girl
The Drowning Girl

By:
Caitlín R. Kiernan
Genre: Horror
From: The library

India Morgan Phelps — Imp to her friends — is schizophrenic. She can no longer trust her own mind, because she is convinced that her memories have somehow betrayed her, forcing her to question her own identity.

Struggling with her perception of reality, Imp must uncover the truth about an encounter with a vicious siren, or a helpless wolf that came to her as a feral girl, or neither of these things but something far, far stranger…

Last week I finished

Chew Omnivore Vol.3 Marceline and the Scream Queens
Adventure Time: Marceline and the Scream Queens by Meredith Gran
Chew Omnivore Edition Vol. 3 by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Last week I posted

My Most Anticipated SF&F TV Series This Fall
August Book Haul
August Wrap-Up

This post is linked at “It’s Monday, what are you reading?”, a weekly meme that tells us what the blogosphere is currently reading. It is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.

August Wrap-Up (2013)

In August, I finally finished A Dance with Dragons, and it was a great month for my goal to read more epic fantasy and classics this year! I did like most of the books I read this month. I’m also trying a new thing by marking my favourite read of the month with a “Best of the Month” stamp.

I use the following light grading system based on the GoodReads one:

1 out of 5 – I didn’t like it: badly written or just got on my nerves
2 out of 5 – It was okay: other people might enjoy it more
3 out of 5 – I liked it: a fun/enjoyable read
4 out of 5 – I really liked it: good characters & plot, maybe some theme that spoke to me
5 out of 5 – It was amazing: I consider it a favorite and will probably re-read at some point

This post is linked at “Best of the Bunch”, a monthly recap meme hosted by Always Lost in Stories.


High/Epic Fantasy of the Month

A Dance with Dragons
A Dance with Dragons

(A Song of Ice and Fire #5)
By: George R.R. Martin
First published in 2011
My copy: From my bookshelf

The fifth installment of A Song of Ice and Fire that focuses on the characters missing from the fourth book.

A Dance with Dragons didn’t reach the heights of my favourites – A Game of Thrones and A Storm of Swords – but I did enjoy it more than the fourth book, A Feast for Crows. I think both the fourth and the fifth book suffered from the division of the POV characters; it might be that the only reason I preferred the fifth was that it featured some of my favourite characters who were missing from the previous one.

Now, the book did drag in places. Martin tends to have these “in-between” books that are just meant to move the characters to their places for the next huge scenarios. If the fourth and fifth books had managed to be just one book, this would have been easier to bear. Martin does make some good points about the toughness of ruling, with all the little things that a ruler or a commander has to take care of, but it did sometimes make for tedious reading. I felt like the plot didn’t progress enough. I had accidentally read some spoilers which I thought to be literal scenes in the book, but turned out to be popular theories about what was going on. It took out the pleasure of coming up with them myself by making me predisposed to think in a certain way about some characters. Waiting for the spoilers to happen did definitely lessen my enjoyment of the book. Also, a lot of the smaller characters now had point of view chapters, and I wasn’t sure if all of them were necessary. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong in the future! 3/5


Classics of the Month

The Scarlet Pimpernel
The Scarlet Pimpernel

By: Emmuska Orczy
First published in 1905
Genre: Adventure classic
My copy: Project Gutenberg free ebook edition

A young woman gets dragged into the mystery surrounding the Scarlet Pimpernel, the mysterious benefactor who rescues French aristocrats from the guillotine and transports them to English soil.

This month I read something else than an SF classic – some historical adventure! I have a soft spot for books dealing with French history. I did enjoy the book, although it focused more on the intrigue and less on swashbuckling adventures than I had thought. I have said before that I was surprised to find out that The Scarlet Pimpernel wasn’t the main character, but I was happy to have a female protagonist in a classic for a change! I liked the main character, as well as following her thought processes. A lot would have been saved if these people communicated better or weren’t so proud, but I could see where they were coming from. I also enjoyed following The Scarlet Pimpernel’s ruses, although I could see most of them coming. Now I think I’ll go check out the BBC adaptation with Richard E. Grant (love him!) as the titular character! 3/5

The Island of Dr. Moreau
The Island of Dr. Moreau

By: H.G. Wells
First published in 1896
Genre: Science fiction classic
My copy: From the library

A man gets stranded on an island where Doctor Moreau and his assistant are performing some pretty unorthodox experiments.

This is my favorite Wells book of the ones I’ve read so far (the other two being The Time Machine and The War of the Worlds). There were some wonderfully chilling moments, especially the main character’s first night on the island. There was some “good old-fashioned misogyny” that you sometimes tend to find in older books, what with mentions of the female experiments being more self-conscious about their appearances, and them reverting to their animal instincts quicker than the male ones. It wasn’t pervasive, though (perhaps because there just weren’t that many mentions of them), and I could enjoy the rest of the book.

Wells had some interesting musings about the nature of men and animals, and I especially loved the last few pages with the focus on the civilized society and the animal nature of humans. I don’t say I agreed with everything that was said there, but it made for some great reading. 3/5


Fantasy Books

Moon Over SohoBest of the Month sticker
Moon Over Soho
(Peter Grant, #2)
By: Ben Aaronovitch
First published in 2011
Genre: Urban fantasy police procedural / mystery
My copy: From my sister

Jazz musicians keep dying in London, and Detective Constable & trainee wizard Peter Grant is on the case.

I really do enjoy the characters and setting of this series. Aaronovitch brings the streets of London to life, making the city itself feel like a central character in his books. I’ve been to London, and love sometimes being able to follow where Peter Grant is doing some legwork, or chasing a suspect.

My favourite scenes are the ones where Peter is experimenting with the rules of magic, or being tutored by his governor Thomas Nightingale. Thomas “Tiger Tank” Nightingale also happens to be my favorite character, I just love him. Sometimes he acts like such a fish out of water in the current day and age, but he is powerful and capable, and a very sharply dressed complete badass, if you ask me.

The jazz theme of the book was intriguing, but the theme of the first novel was more close to my heart. Can’t wait to read more, have to ask my sister to borrow me my next fix ASAP. 4/5


Graphic novels

Buffy: The Long Way Home
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home

(Season 8 Vol.1, collects issues #1-5)
By: Joss Whedon & Georges Jeanty
First published in 2007
Genre: Supernatural action/drama
My copy: From the library

The story of Buffy the Vampire Slayer continues in graphic novel form, with the characters now belonging to a huge organization of Slayers.

I am a huge fan of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. Lately I’ve been craving for some Buffy, so I picked up the Buffy Season 8 comic. I was a bit hesitant to do so, ’cause what if the comic managed to ruin some past moments of the TV series for me? But I also thought that I might be missing out on some Buffy goodness – this comic is after all written by the man himself, Joss Whedon.

It turns out I wasn’t missing much. I think there weren’t enough character moments, although the dialogue could at parts bring the feel of the TV series to life. I just didn’t like the “now we’re all in a SWAT team!”-storyline, it was really alienating for me. It made me miss the close knit smaller group of the series. I loved the cover art by Jo Chen, and the inside artist, Georges Jeanty, managed to trim some characters to their essentials, adding his own style while keeping some key points to tell us who they were. But some just missed the mark completely. Mainly, Andrew didn’t look like Andrew at all? I wasn’t even certain that it was him at first.

I think I won’t be continuing with this series. I wasn’t interested in the story arc, and I really don’t like resurrected villains. I think there’s a definite danger there for some great moments of the TV series to be ruined or watered down by association. 2/5

Hawkeye: Little Hits
Hawkeye, Vol. 2: Little Hits

(collects issues #6-11)
By: Matt Fraction & David Aja
First published in 2012
Genre: Superheroes
My copy: From my sister

Clint “Hawkeye” Barton tries to settle into his new apartment building, while bad guys with a chip on their shoulder plot against him.

Hawkeye just keeps on delivering lovely slice-of-life superhero drama with some bigger storylines moving more and more to the foreground. Clint is a likable, if a bit of a mess-up of a character. His troubles only begin with coffee spilling on the table (“Aw, coffee, no”) and spread on to protecting the lives of the other tenants in the apartment building he has made his home. Kate is as likable, and a bit a lot more collected than Clint. My favorite issue in this collection was the one told completely from the POV of Hawkeye’s dog.

The artist, David Aja, won this year’s Eisner awards for Best Penciler/Inker and Best Cover Artist, and for good reason. I absolutely love how he e.g splits up some action scenes, or scenes with Hawkeye shooting an arrow, into little frames of time, and manages to make it look effortless as well as be completely easy to follow. His stuff is so good that the visiting artists almost always just make me wish for Aja back, as good as they might be. 4/5

Chew: Omnivore Vol.2
Chew: The Omnivore Edition, Vol. 2

(collects issues #11-20, trade paperbacks #3-4)
By: John Layman & Rob Guillory
First published in 2011
Genre: A bit cannibalistic special agent comedy
My copy: From the library

The Cibopathic (gets psychic impressions from what he eats) agent Tony Chu continues to encounter illegal chicken smugglers and people with other food related superpowers.

It was pretty hard to sum up the premise of Chew in that one sentence above. This book is zany, and has it all. Agents on the case. Avian flu conspiracy theories. People who get smarter as long as they’re eating. Area 51. Illegal turkey dinners. It sounds like a bit of a mess, but manages to be captivating, fun and dramatic. Chu, Colby and Savoy are great characters with very different personalities. The art style is well stylized and cartoony, and the coloring is uniform, done in lovely toned-down shades, and works well to create the mood of the page. My favorite issue might have been issue 17 with the high school case, but it’s hard to decide. 3/5

My favorite post of the month

Mansfield Park Read Along – Discussion Post, Pt. 1

Graphic Reads #1

In Graphic Reads I share my thoughts on the graphic novels I’ve read most recently.

Chew Vol. 1 Umbrella Academy Vol. 1 Locke & Key Vol. 2
Chew, Vol. 1: Taster’s Choice
by John Layman and Rob Guillory
First published in 2009

Tony Chu is a detective with a secret. A weird secret. Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. It also means he’s a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn’t mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit, and why.

I really liked Chew. The story was as wonderfully weird as only a story with cannibalism and bird flu conspiracy theories can be. The art style was stylized and lovely – it looked like the character designs could easily be used in an animated series. I also loved the coloring: it had stylish tones of blue, green and yellow that really helped give the book its own atmosphere.

Favorite Character: Agent Mason Savoy. I just love the way he speaks (“My friends, do I detect the slightest degree of consternation amid our humble vocational paradise?”). It seems like he can never use one short word if two longer ones will do the job. And his character design, described in the album as being “the lovechild of Orson Welles and a grizzly bear”, is full of personality and very recognizable.


Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1: Apocalypse Suite
by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá
First published in 2008

In an inexplicable worldwide event, forty-seven extraordinary children were spontaneously born by women who’d previously shown no signs of pregnancy. Millionaire inventor Reginald Hargreeves adopted seven of the children; when asked why, his only explanation was: “To save the world.”

I’m not really sure how I feel about this book. The beginning sucked me in instantly: “It was the same year “Tusslin’ Tom” Gurney knocked out the space-squid from Rigel X-9… It happened at 9:38 p.m… It came from an atomic flying elbow.” Immediately it’s established that the setting is pretty much like our modern world, but not quite. There are, for instance, space-squids.

There are similar entertainingly quirky ideas throughout the book, but it all felt a bit rushed. Like there wasn’t enough time to dwell on most of the ideas for long enough to really take root in the reader’s mind. We learn too little about the characters and their world. I felt like I could really grow to like these characters if I was given something more to work with. So all in all, this left me with a very uncertain feeling. I think I’ll see how a second read-through feels.

Update after second read-through: The storytelling felt a lot less jarring and rushed this time. There was only one scene that still felt like it wasn’t told clearly enough. After this second read-through I can say with more certainty that I liked this comic.

Favorite character: Séance. I don’t even specifically know why. I like how he floats around, an off-kilter presence throwing comments from the back. He also often looks like he can’t be bothered.


Locke & Key, Vol. 2: Head Games
by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
First published in 2010

The three Locke children – survivors of a horrific home invasion that claimed their father – have just begun to rebuild their lives when little Bode discovers a key with an incredible power. Q: What if overcoming your fears, mastering any skill, learning any art was as simple as turning a key in a lock? A: It could cost you your life – especially if Dodge, the malevolent creature who is the Locke family’s sworn enemy, gets his hands on it.

The Locke children continue to study the keys they find in Keyhouse. In the first book, the remaining Locke family moved to the house where the children found weird keys that unlock the strangest of things. Joe Hill comes up with some pretty interesting keys. These ideas manage to also give us the best introduction ever from Warren Ellis. Short and “sweet”.

Now, about the art style. The art is in no way bad, it is in fact pretty skillful. It’s just not my cup of tea. I have an aversion to the way Rodriguez draws small features in the middle of large heads. The coloring style is more realistic than for example in Chew, which worked with stylish, simple tones. This means that there are too many colors for my taste, and the end result for me feels a bit chaotic. But, I have to say, I prefer to read black and white comics, so bear that in mind.

Favorite character:
No one? Which could be why I find it hard to really get into this book. Even a book with really neat ideas can’t be a favorite of mine if I don’t like at least one character. I’ll still continue with the series, I think.

Have you read any graphic novels recently?