Apr 7, 2015

Reading Notes: Comics, Comics, Comics!

Reading Notes: Comics, Comics, Comics!

Excitement about comics is in the air lately — at least in my corner of the bookish Internet. As Jenny was saying the other day, it seems easier than ever to be aware of ongoing and upcoming series, and to end up with far more that you want to read than you have the time or the money for (thank goodness for libraries) (though they don’t really help with the time bit). I don’t think there was ever a time before now when I knew about series I desperately want to read before they’d been collected as trade paperbacks, or even published at all (Monstress! ODY-C! Bitch Planet! Lumberjanes! I want them noooow). Jenny’s post included a list of culprits that more or less matches my own, except I’d also add Chris and Debi’s Comics February and last year’s Comics and Super Women Theme Week.

I’ve read too much in the past month or so to be able to talk about these books individually, much as I’d like to, so this is is the first in a series of comics-themed Reading Notes. Today I bring you some quick thoughts about three offerings from Image Comics, all of which I enjoyed:

The Wicked + The Divine Vol 1: The Faust Act by by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

This book! The Wicked + The Divine is full of music, mythology, complicated women — it short, it seems tailor-made for my feminist, music and Sandman-loving heart. The premise is this: every ninety years, a Pantheon of twelve gods returns to our world. They are incarnated in twelve young humans, and then spend the next two years being worshipped — in the case of the present-day cycle, as music stars. When the two years are up, the twelve gods die.

Laura is a seventeen-year-old music fan who’s obsessed with the Pantheon (well, most of it anyway). She goes to as many of their gigs as possible, and she eventually catches the eye of Lucifer. When Luci is accused of murder, it’s up to Laura to find out what really happened. Along the way, she meets a journalist named Cassandra who’s not as convinced by the gods as Laura is.

The first thing I need to comment on is the diversity of the cast of characters — and having read Gillen and McKelvie’s Young Avengers I know this is something they’re deliberate about, which makes me very happy indeed. First of all, there are ladies everywhere. Memory pointed out that “this is a book in which women do things for women with other women’s help—or in spite of their hindrance”, which is absolutely true. There are also lgbtq characters (and for once the “t” is not ignored: Cassandra is a trans woman) and characters of colour. It’s wonderful to see a fantasy universe whose makeup actually matches our own’s, and where the narrative reminds us that straight white boys are not the only ones who get to have exciting mythical music adventures.


The first volume of The Wicked + The Divine packs a lot: it throws us right into a complicated mystery, and it drops tons of clues about the premise and the world where the story is set along the way. I found the storytelling a bit dizzying at times, but not in a bad way. So far there are more questions than answers, but I look forward to following Laura and Cassandra as they find out more. And as with all of these books, it’s the characters that really have me hooked. More, please.

Sex Criminals Vols 1 and 2 by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

If there was some kind of Strangest Premise For a Series award, Sex Criminals would be a strong contender. It’s about two twenty-somethings, Suzie and Jon, who have the ability to stop time when they orgasm. The two grew up thinking they were the only ones with this strange super power — until they meet at a party, hit it off, and one thing leads to another. The title of the series refers to the fact that Suzie and Jon decide to make use of their newfound partnership to rob banks. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t take long for things to go horribly wrong.

There’s a context for Suzie and Jon’s doomed planned, and Sex Criminals is nowhere near as focused on bank robbing as it is on Suzie and Jon as people and as a budding thing. The thing I enjoyed the most about volume one, for example, was how it used the two main character’s back stories to explore different attitudes towards male and female masturbation and sexuality in general, and how that shaped Jon and Suzie’s experiences growing up. (Also, I loved that Suzie is a librarian who’s really worried about the future of her library, because how could I not?)

Sex Criminals is also about different forms of intimacy, about relationships, and about what getting close to another human being entails. For example, Jon struggles with mental health issues, and the fact that he isn’t always able to look after himself affects his relationship with Suzie. Volume 2 focuses on the ups and downs of their romance, and it explores the challenges of being close to someone who has to live with (as Jon puts it) “brain things” day after day in a thoughtful and moving way — and the same goes for the challenges of living with such issues yourself and attempting to negotiate intimacy with others. As you may have gathered, there are plenty of sad and serious moments, but these are always intersected with unapologetic jokes about sex and sexual attitudes. The result is an emotional tone that deftly balances ligh an darkness, and which worked like a charm for me.

There’s an overall plot to the series, involving Jon and Suzie’s misadventures with a sinister organisation they call the “Sex Police”, but if I haven’t said much about it it’s because I’m nowhere near as sold on it as I am on the characters. Jon and Suzie (and Suzie’s friend Rachel, and Dr. Kincaid) are what keeps me reading, and so far that’s more than enough.




Rat Queens Vol 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

Rat Queens just might be my favourite of the comics I read recently — which is saying a lot, because I’ve been reading some great stuff. Hannah, Betty, Violet and Dee are a group of adventurers that do what adventurers in sword and sorcery are wont to do: they go on quests, they brawl, they drink, they hook up with men and women, they save the day. They’re also all women, and they are, as Jenny so well put it, “fiercely loyal to each other”. I like stories that gender-swap traditional heroic roles, not only because they appeal to my sensibility but because the world still needs reminding that the full range of humanity should be as available to women as it is to men.

When I read Gail Simone’s Red Sonja last year, I said I enjoyed the genre deconstructions even if sword and sorcery remains not my favourite subset of fantasy. Rat Queens is as unapologetically sword and sorcery as Red Sonja, but! It’s also full of humour, and it turns out that makes all the difference. It’s playful and absurd and full of heart, and it affectionately pokes fun at storytelling conventions in a way that made me incredibly happy.


Also, I love that when portraying the Rat Queens, Wiebe and Upchurch made a point of including a range of body types. But they’re not only unique when it comes to their looks, of course — Betty, the Smidgen, is sweet and funny and thinks nothing of packing candy for lunch. She’s also interested in a local lady who may or may not be ready to pursue a relationship. Violet (my favourite) is a dwarf who left her family behind for a life of adventuring, and who has a complicated relationship with her twin brother. Hannah is an elf who casts spells and wants you to know just how little she cares what you think of her. And Dee is a healer who grew up in a family of octopus deity worshippers and needs to find out what she believes in.

I fell in love with these ladies. Bring on The Far Reaching Tentacles Of N’Rygoth.




So yay, comics! More soon.

16 comments:

  1. Also read Rat Queens in March and loved it. I've also felt the comics excitement and my wish-list has increased a lot. It got me wondering if there was always so many interesting comics out there that never knew about (or I wasn't the main target audience?) or if there is really more variety being published.

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    1. I think it's probably a mix of getting more word of mouth buzz and there being more stuff out there that fits out interests. Whatever the reason, hooray!

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  2. This post made me squeeee-fully excited! The Ana stamp of approval tends to make me more likely to pick up a book, after all. :) And yay! yay! yay! I actually have the first volume of each of these already on the shelves. :D

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    1. yay! Pretty confident that you'll enjoy them all :D

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  3. Thumbs up!

    I'm so eager for my library to get the second volume of SEX CRIMINALS through processing, but it looks like it'll be a while yet. Sigh.

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    1. Aww :( Come on, Memory's library! You can do it!

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  4. Yes! I have NEVER known about comics before they turned up in trade paperback. This is a whole new thing for me. It's -- actually sort of a bummer in some ways, because I have months and months of waiting before Lumberjanes FINALLY shows up at my bookstore/library.

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    1. I knooooooow >:( I'm not very good at waiting :P It's even worse with stuff like Monstress, because it hasn't even started coming out as monthly issues yet. It will be ages before I get to read it.

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  5. I am seeing SEX CRIMINALS around. I am thinking I should give it a try but so much else to get to in the meantime!

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  6. You had me at Strangest Premise For a Series award

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    1. Looking forward to hearing what you think! It has a lot of hearth and depth, which I guess is to be expected considering it's written by Matt Fraction.

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  7. I was really tempted by The Wicked + The Divine in my local bookstore the other day, I suspect it's be even harder to resist now!

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    1. I think you'll enjoy it, especially for the music connection. Happy reading!

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  8. I already had two of these on my wish list over at comixology. Time and money needed.

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  9. Love Rat Queens! Very much looking forward to the next volume in May. Sex Criminals is on my list. Husband just read it and liked it. I see I'm going to have to get myself a copy of The Wicked and The Divine. Looks great!

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