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My 2019 Reading Stacks #1

Anne's books!

So far this year’s list includes a few library books and two loaners from my wife, pictured above. Borrowed reading is still reading!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: at the beginning of each year I spend weeks writing year-in-review entries that cover the gamut of my entertainment intake, including capsule reviews for all the books and graphic novels I’ve read. Every book gets a full capsule summary apiece, because my now-canceled 29-year subscription to Entertainment Weekly got me addicted to the capsule format. I refrain from devoting entries to full-length book reviews because 999 times out of 1000 I’m finishing a given work decades after the rest of the world is already done and moved on from it. 2000-word essays on old works tend to be in severely low demand by the fly-by-night search-engine users who are MCC’s largest visitor demographic.

Back in the day (December 2013 to January 2019) I would write my book/graphic-novel capsule reviews as I went, store them offsite, then dump them here on MCC all at once during entertainment year-in-review season. It was an inefficient system, but it was mine. This year I’m changing up my protocols. Effective here and now, the reading capsules are a recurring feature. As time permits and the finished books pile up, I’ll be charting my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections in a staggered, exclusive manner here, for all that’s worth to the outside world. Seven months into 2019 I have some catch-up to do, so these initially won’t be listed in actual reading order.

Due to the way I structure my media-consumption time blocks, the list will always feature more graphic novels than works of prose and pure text. Novels and non-pictographic nonfiction will pop up here and there, albeit in a minority capacity for a few different reasons. Triple bonus points to any longtime MCC readers who can tell which items I bought at which comic/entertainment conventions we’ve attended over the past few years.

And now:…it’s readin’ time.

1. Saladin Ahmed, Eric Nguyen, and Paul Renaud, Quicksilver: No Surrender. An epilogue to an Avengers event I’ll never read, in which Marvel’s best-known super-speedster finds himself trapped at top velocity alongside strange monsters moving at his speed. Much of the book is a Quicksilver soliloquy given that he has no one to talk to, which would leave me nostalgic over all his old-school captions if it weren’t for the fact that, back when I read team books more regularly, he used to be a major jerk. Somehow that seems to have changed before this miniseries happened. If he had an epiphany and resolved to change his ways at some point, I totally missed out. That makes this version of Quicksilver relatively alien to me. Ahmed does devise a few neat super-speed tricks, so there’s that.

2. Neil Gaiman and Mark Buckingham, Likely Stories. The former Miracleman collaborators reunited at last! Buckingham adapts four Gaiman short stories that were previously adapted into a racy British TV anthology. Definitely not for prudes, though some readers might consider its most challenging aspect the claustrophobic layouts that sometimes pack sixteen panels per page, with the captions often taking up more space than their redundant illustrations.

3. Various, Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. After we returned home from Star Wars Celebration Chicago, I was still in the spirit of the occasion and plundered my wife’s six-foot-tall Star Wars Expanded Universe bookshelf for some way to prolong the magic. Hence my dive into this very special anthology stunt in which dozens of authors wrote short stories entirely set during the running time of A New Hope, all starring assorted action figures of varying import. What amounts to a creative writing exercise with precise boundaries yielded some repetitive results, but standouts for me included:

  • Nnedi Okorafor developing a rich inner life for the trash compactor monster — a logical extension for the author of the Dark Horse SF miniseries LaGuardia, which also delved into non-humanoid alien psychology
  • Daniel (then Mallory) Ortberg’s “An Incident Report”, among the most amusing of quite a few “Imperial baddie files a formal report on the movie scene they just lived through” tales
  • Charles Soule revealing the whereabouts of Lando Calrissian while “his” ship was engaging the Death Star
  • Daniel Jose Older also writing an incident report but for a snarky Stormtrooper fed up with his job
  • Jason Fry’s salute to the fandom legend of “Fake Wedge”, which I’d never heard of and had to go look up, and now I need an action figure of him to sit on the shelf next to my Ice Cream Maker Guy
  • Glen Weldon’s detailed logs for a mouse droid (I’m a sucker for stories that experiment with format)
  • Lucasfilm Story Group guy and eminent Twitter enlivener Pablo Hidalgo letting Grand Moff Tarkin revel in the power of “his” Death Star while savoring flashbacks to his final exchanges with the Rogue One personae who made it possible
  • A four-page hard-boiled vignette by animation legend Paul Dini that draws upon Episode IV’s most famous deleted scene and may just be the greatest Boba Fett moment of all time, which isn’t much of a competition but I think someone finally won it
  • A few pages with Aunt Beru, who naturally knows best, brought to life by Princess Diaries mastermind Meg Cabot
  • …so that was largely fun. Not all the stories were my thing, but that’s how anthologies roll.

    Tragedy Series!

    Sample vexations. Art by Ben Dewey.

    4. Ben Dewey, The Complete Collection of the Tragedy Series: Secret Lobster Claws and Other Misfortunes. Before gracing printed pages in such series as The Autumnlands and Beasts of Burden, artist Ben Dewey wowed followers with a long-running Tumblr devoted to handcrafted artisan single-panel depictions of cosmic ironies and total bummers rooted in the fantastical and the whimsical. The series has concluded, but this handsome hardcover represents all 501 tragedies, a bonus short story, and twenty-six “Sadness Reprieves” interspersed throughout the run, happy moments and little victories to alleviate the wearying oppression of a broken universe that plots against us and/or loves to make us look stupid. I crave artwork like Dewey’s that’s unafraid to add shades and dimensions in vivid black-and-white, and I remain grateful for the custom bookplate that was drawn before my very eyes with my in-person purchase.

    5. Adam Glass and Patrick Olliffe, Rough Riders, vol. 3: Ride or Die. Possibly the final rip-roarin’ adventure of 1900s America’s raucous answer to the League of Extraordinary Gentleman. Teddy Roosevelt, Houdini, Edison, Jack Johnson, Monk Eastman, and the formerly dead Annie Oakley reunite once more through gritted teeth to tackle foes from beyond this mortal coil. Joining the fray are two new teammates — H.P. Lovecraft, haunted speaker for the dead; and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the Presidential daughter whose real-life exploits confirm she was a chip off the old block (my wife told me more than a few stories), to say nothing of her battle-ready mettle shown here. The series is dormant while its writer/co-creator pursues work with DC Comics, but for now it’s bowed out with one last delivery of two-fisted panache…even though I wouldn’t call myself a Lovecraft fan. Like, at all.

    More to come!

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