My 2014 in Books and Graphic Novels

Hollow City!

Ransom Riggs’ Hollow City, one of a precious few 2014 books I actually read in 2014.

Time again for the annual entry in which I protest to the world that, yes, I do indeed read books and stuff. Despite the lack of MCC entries about my reading matter, I’m never not in progress on reading something, but what I read is rarely timely, and those few timely items frequently don’t inspire a several-hundred word response from me. I can go on and on about movies and TV shows (albeit with mixed results); books, not so handily. It’s a personality defect that merits further analysis at some point.

Presented below is my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections that I finished reading in 2014, in order of completion. Three were part of a 3-in-1 Sci-Fi Book Club edition and made sense to read back-to-back, but consequently took up more reading weeks than I expected. A few other items were pure catch-up of books that had been sitting on the unread shelf for far too long and were technically irrelevant by the time I got around to them. As I whittle down the never-ending stack that’s bothered me for decades, my long-term hope before I turn 60 is to get to the point where my reading list is more than, say, 40% new releases every year. That’s a lofty goal, but I can dream

That list, then:

1. Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Kurt Huggins, et al., The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship That Sank Twice
2. Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Shawn McManus, et al. Fables, vol. 19: Snow White
3. Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, The Sixth Gun, v. 1: Cold Dead Hands
4. Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, The Sixth Gun, v. 2: Crossroads
5. Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic, Who is Jake Ellis?
6. Joe Harris and Steve Rolston, Ghost Projekt
7. Alex De Campi, Igor Kordey, et al., Smoke/Ashes
8. Guy DeLisle, A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting
9. Kathryn and Stuart Immonen, Moving Pictures
10. Paul Jenkins, Ramon Bachs, Shawn Martinbrough, et al., World War Hulk: Front Line
11. Charles Schulz, The Complete Peanuts 1989-1990
12. Ransom Riggs, Hollow City: the Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children
13. Max Collins and Terry Beatty, Return to Perdition
14. Jeremy Dale, Skyward, vol. 1: Into the Woods
15. Greg Pak, Ariel Olivetti, Giuseppe Comuncoli, et al, Incredible Hulk: Son of Banner
16. Greg Pak, Ron Garney, and Jackson Guice, Skaar, Son of Hulk
17. Greg Pak, Brian Reed, Tom Raney, Brian Ching, Barry Kitson, et al, Incredible Hulks: Dark Son
18. Tom Bancroft, Opposite Forces
19. Ken Krekeler, Westward, vol. 1
20. Greg Pak, Jonathan Coulton, Takeshi Miyazawa, Code Monkey Save World
21. Michael May, Jason Copland, Kill All Monsters! vol. 1: Ruins of Paris
22. Bob Mould, See a Little Light: the Trail of Rage and Melody
23. Jim Butcher, Storm Front
24. Jim Butcher, Fool Moon
25. Jim Butcher, Grave Peril
26. Jeremy Dale, Skyward, vol. 2: Strange Creatures
27. Warren Ellis and Mike McKone, Avengers: Endless Wartime
28. Danny Fingeroth, Mike Manley, et al., Darkhawk Classic vol 1
29. Various, Playlist: a Comic Book Anthology
30. Paul Sizer, BPM
31. Jane Irwin with Jeff Berndt, Vögelein: Clockwork Faerie
32. Gilbert Hernandez, Sloth
33. Harvey Pekar and Dean Haspiel, The Quitter
34. Daniel T. Thomsen, Corinna Bechko, Michael William Kaluta, et al., Once Upon a Time: Shadow of the Queen
35. Charles Soule and Renzo Podesta, 27: First Set
36. Charles Soule and Renzo Podesta, 27: Second Set
37. Richard Price, Clockers
38. Charles Schulz, The Complete Peanuts 1991-1992
39. Rick Remender and Wes Craig, Deadly Class, vol. 1: Reagan Youth
40. Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin, Princeless, vol. 1: Save Yourself
41. Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Russ Braun, Steve Leialoha, et al., Fables, v. 20: Camelot
42. Bill Willingham, Peter & Max: a Fables Novel
43. Donovan Scherer, Fear & Sunshine

Here’s what they look like shelved together:

Empty Shelf 2014 Results!

By way of comparison, my yearly book count from 2008 to the present has trended like so:

2008: 39
2009: 50
2010: 44
2011: 33
2012: 23
2012: 42

You can sort of tell which year Midlife Crisis Crossover began and took a toll on my free time. That’s one of the consequences when you shift your hobbying gears from input to output.

My three personal favorites in the stack:

* Clockers: The widely acclaimed 1992 novel is basically an A+++++ prototype for The Wire, to which Price would later contribute and probably help inspire. The alternating New Jersey street-level storylines of Strike the drug-corner manager and Rocco the murder po-lice are often as detailed, engrossing, and heartbreaking as The Wire could be, likewise bolstered with a large cast of characters and so many lamentably real-life scenes of squalor from a broken world no one wants to see. This is the kind of masterpiece that makes me want to stop collecting comics and graphic novels forever so I can just read nothing but rich, moving, engrossing works like this for the rest of my life. I’m afraid and curious at the same time to see how Spike Lee’s film adaptation treated it.

* Hollow City: In which present-day Jacob Portman and the time-displaced students continue fleeing from the bad guys while trying to find a solution to Miss Peregrine’s ongoing predicament, meeting a few new peculiars in unusual places and times, and running and running and running. The ambiance carries over effortlessly from the series’ first book (as previously covered on MCC), and I’m annoyed that I didn’t see the final-act climactic twist coming, but I’m intrigued by the implications of the very last twist. The final bit of dialogue is such a blatant, movie-ready kiss-off line that I had to laugh, and now I’m excited for more.

* The Quitter: Harvey Pekar, the late curmudgeon and creator of the autobiographical American Splendor goes back to pre-adulthood for the first time to tell the story of his upbringing in ethnic Cleveland neighborhoods, where he constantly started fights, threw away opportunities, and made a lot of poor choices that led to his lifetime spent as a struggling nervous wreck of a writer. If you like Pekar, it’s mandatory reading as the most candid, self-flagellating book he ever wrote. Haspiel remains one of my favorite among Pekar’s illustrators and he’s in top form here — well capturing the anguish, the anger, and the humility that didn’t overwhelm Pekar until years after the sins of his youth had taken their toll. (Full disclosure: I previously expressed my Pekar appreciation in an experimental fumetti post about our 2013 visit to Cleveland, which included stops at his gravesite and his library statue. So I’m a predisposed fan.)

Three least favorites:

* Darkhawk Classic: Writer/creator Danny Fingeroth was a guest at Wizard World Chicago and I felt obliged to buy something from him because of his long career as a renowned Marvel editor during my childhood, but a nine-issue compendium of a ’90s teen antihero with a standard ’90s compound name was not the best way to go. When you’re laughing at a book that’s not trying to be funny, and imagining yourself inserted into the bottom of every page with two wisecracking robots on either side of you, it’s possible you’re just not into that book.

* Once Upon a Time: A prequel to the TV series about the intertwined lives of Evil Queen Regina and her manservant the Huntsman — i.e., season 1’s Storybrooke sheriff. It’s a flashback team-up of one of the show’s best characters with one of its least delineated. Without Lana Parrilla’s delightful malevolence bringing Regina to life, everything felt flat and…well, like a rusty old fairy tale.

* Assorted Incredible Hulk(s): I’m the kinda-proud-ish owner of over 200 consecutive issues of The Incredible Hulk, but walked away in the ’90s when Marvel increasingly opted for “new” directions that bored me. When I discovered the Greg Pak/Fred Van Lente version a while back (which all started with the well-regarded Planet Hulk), I began tracking down collections of other story arcs I missed during their years in control. Some were written by other folks and just weren’t the same; others are nearly meaningless when read out of original publishing order years after the fact. I stopped collecting them all when I realized I was buying them just to own them, as opposed to buying them for reading joy. That young man’s gotta-catch-’em-all! impulse has been fading for me more and more in recent times.

* * * * *

Jeremy Dale!

Jeremy Dale, creator of Skyward, at Indiana Comic Con 2014. Photo by Anne Golden.

Special postscript:

Two of the volumes listed above, from the all-ages fantasy series Skyward, were written and illustrated by a young creator named Jeremy Dale, whom my wife and I had the pleasure of meeting at Indiana Comic Con back in March. I viewed samples of his work online on a recommendation from my local comic shop, liked what I saw, and made a point of seeking out his table.

No thanks to the ludicrous overpopulation situation I described previously, meeting him required us to wind our way around the thickening, increasingly disgruntled crowds and to burrow a hole through George Perez’s autograph line, which was scores of fans long and formed a blockade in front of several Artists Alley tables, including Dale’s own. Fortunately the convention map was one of the few things done right and I was able to locate him despite zero visual contact.

I expressed my appreciation, bought Volume 1 from him on the spot, and a few months later picked up Volume 2 the week of release. I was looking forward to seeing where the story and its assorted characters would go in future volumes.

On November 3rd, Jeremy Dale passed away three weeks before his 35th birthday. Words keep falling flat every time I try to articulate my reaction to any extent beyond how that absolutely, irrevocably sucks.

Thanks, Jeremy — for your books, your talents, and your all-too-microscopic time with us.


One response

  1. Your list looks interesting. I am an avid reader and so look for new ones to read. I am currently reading one of the books I won from the Dragon Knight Chronicles 12 days of Christmas contest! Will let you know when I start your group. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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