What I Read May 2016

There is a theme this month, and that theme is Lois Lane. I was interested in the non-fiction book Investigating Lois Lane, but when I went to buy it I encountered a pair of Lois YA novels, so I snapped them up as well. And that took care of most of my book reading for the month of May. I really hope there are more of those YA books to come, they were very good.

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The Big Heat

William P McGivern

My local library had a sale, and I picked up a dilapidated copy of this, along with a half dozen other books, for about a quarter a piece. This is just a lean, muscular noir piece, turned into a well-respected movie. A police detective looks into a case despite being warned off, which gets his wife killed. He then resigns from the force and gets revenge. There isn’t anything especially unique about this story, but it is reasonably well told.

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Investigating Lois Lane

Tim Hanley

This is an insightful and illuminating look at the history of one of comics’ most prominent characters. Hanley takes us through the creation and evolution of Lois Lane, both in the comics and in other media, from the start of Action Comics up to the present day. There is a lot of good stuff in there, especially for fans of the character or even just Superman. It shows how her strengths as a character seemed to show through despite the stories she was in frequently undercutting her. I don’t want to just regurgitate the information found in the book, but it did give me plenty the think about and some stories I want to track down.

Tim Hanley writes in a clear, engaging style and while this isn’t the most intellectually rigorous subject matter he does make some thoughtful points. I did grow somewhat annoyed about how often it came back to the idea that Lois’ stories were being put on the backburner for Superman’s when these stories were taking place in a book titled Superman. Lois’ biggest problem, as displayed by this book, is that she is a supporting character. Still, there are a lot of great and plenty of terrible stories that Investigation Lois Lane can inform you about.

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Lois Lane: Fallout

Gwenda Bond

This book, and its sequel are pretty much perfect. Gwenda Bond takes Lois Lane and perfectly reimagines her as a high school student, albeit one in a world that has a touch more science fiction than our own. Lois is a 16 year old army brat whose family has relocated to Metropolis. She has a reputation for getting into trouble, usually by sticking her nose into tricky situations to help people. She quickly does the same at Metropolis while joining the Daily Planet as a correspondent for their youth blog. Also, she has an online relationship with a mysterious boy from Kansas who she met looking into this mysterious flying man her and her father saw while driving through the state. She is basically everything you could want from a teenage Lois Lane.

In this book, she gets entangled in a plot that uses at risk kids in some sort of experiment to develop a hive mind, only the hive mind isn’t being shut off and they keep recruiting new kids. They are doing this using a sort of VR video game that all the kids are playing. Lois, along with her fellow young journalists, investigate and try to get to the bottom of things, all while she tries to seem like she is following the rules to keep her dad off her back. It is amazingly fun.

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Lois Lane: Double Down

Gwenda Bond

As soon as I finished the first one I went back in for seconds. I am a huge sucker for the Superman mythos and characters, and this is one of the better takes on them I’ve encountered. This time, Lois helps out a couple of her new friends. One, Maddy, has a twin who is having some problems after she went to a mysterious research lab in order to earn a few extra bucks. The other is the son of the disgraced former mayor, who has recently been released from prison. While they investigate how the Mayor can appear in two places at once, they also look into why Maddy’s sister is having blackouts. As impossible as it seems, the two cases might be connected.

This book is a delight. Since it doesn’t need to spend the time on set up, it really gets to dig into Lois, as well as her friends and relationships. Readers get to know more about the protagonist through how she deals with her friends, her problems and her romantic issues with the mysterious SmallvilleGuy. While the weird sci-fi plot never relents, the book really lets the reader get to know its protagonists. While I am far from an expert on the genre, it is easily one of the best YA books I’ve read.

Comics

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American Barbarian

Tom Scioli

This was a belated Christmas gift (thanks Buge) that I tore into really fast. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it. On its surface, American Barbarian is the finest Kirby pastiche. It is a world where no idea is too big or too crazy to be put on the page. It reads like a half joke, but you can’t help marvel while you laugh. Meric, the titular red white and blue haired barbarian, seeks revenge on the giant evil Pharoah Two-tank Omen for the murder of his family in a post-post-apocalyptic world. Every page contains more and more amazing stuff. Tom Scioli has crafted something here unlike anything else you can find, and it is amazing. Writing about it is hard, since even thinking about it makes me as giddy as if I’d just eaten a bag of sugar.

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Seaguy: The Slaves of Mickey Eye

Grant Morrison/Cameron Stewart

This is not actually a collection, because I don’t think a collection exists for this mini-series, but I read it as one series and it deserves to be considered. This one picks up sometime after the original Seaguy and continues that story. At the end of that story, Seaguy had his memory wiped and was given a new partner. But he keeps seeing the ghost of Chubby the Tuna and having vague memories of his previous adventures. The villainous Seadog does his best to remove the threat to his idyllic world that Seaguy poses, but Seaguy keeps coming back. I don’t really want to get deeper into it than that, that would spoil the surreal fun of this series. It is definitely worth reading, Morrison is a master and Cameron Stewart is likewise great.

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Superman: Kryptonite

Darwyn Cooke/Tim Sale

Realizing that even with a purchase earlier in the week, see the next entry, I had not encountered wide swathes of the recently departed Darwyn Cooke’s work, I picked this up in a comixology sale. This has Cooke writing, but it is drawn by Time Sale. I liked this, but it is strange. It starts off as one thing, a story as close as Superman gets to noir, before shifting into some full on sci-fi stuff by the end. It is not an elegant transition. I still really enjoyed the story, but it is not as great as I’d hoped it would be after the first two issues. The story supposedly details Superman’s first encounter with Kryptonite, but it also tells a story about a new Metropolis business upstart and an interstellar entity. Clark, Jimmy and Lois are tasked with figuring out what is up with a supposedly reformed mobster as he opens a casino and gives tons of money to charity. Meanwhile, someone is messing with some Kryptonite while showing Clark visions of the past on Krypton. While the story doesn’t quite work at the end, it is still looks great and reads fine. Definitely worth a look.

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Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter

Darwyn Cooke

I picked this up, along with the other three Parker books, just days before Cooke tragically passed away. I’ve read plenty of other things written or drawn by Darwyn Cooke, but if the other Parker books maintain this level of quality, then they might be his masterwork. His art is wonderful, distinctive and creative. His works with limited colors in this book, and what he does use is excellent. Then there is the story, which is simple and nearly perfect. Parker has a kind of seductive competence to him; he is cool enough that it is easy to forget that he is basically a monster. He is a sociopath. The only thing only slightly redeemable about him is that most of the people he deals with are just as bad as he is. Still, thanks to Cooke’s mastery, you do end up sympathizing with him for most of the book. This is good, good stuff.

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