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My 2019 Reading Stacks #2

Form of a Question!

The thrill of victory in front of a celebrity and an audience of millions. Art by Kate Kasenow, Jenna Ayoub with Ilara Catalani, and Laura Langston.

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. 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.

As time permits and the finished books pile up, I’ll be charting my full list of books, graphic novels, and trade collections I’ve read throughout the year in a staggered, exclusive manner here, for all that’s worth to the outside world. 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. Again.

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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.

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Yes, There Are Scenes During and After the “Spider-Man: Far from Home” End Credits

Spider-Man Far from Home!

And now my paychecks are thiiiis big!

The inspired, rambunctious Spider-Man: Far from Home marks Tom Holland’s fifth film as everyone’s favorite put-upon wall-crawler, meaning he’s now done as many Spider-films as Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield combined. While every Spidey has had his high points in my estimation, Far from Home may be the best translation to date of the Spidey-era from my own childhood, roughly 1978-1989 plus Marvel Tales reprints of the first sixty issues of Amazing Spider-Man (the entire Steve Ditko oeuvre plus John Romita’s first two years). It’s a winning coda to the emotional pinnacles and pitfalls of Avengers: Endgame, an encouraging sign of heroism to come and a herald of hopefulness for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Fair warning: this entire film follows the events of Endgame and reverberates from its ramifications. If you’re waiting for Endgame to hit DVD and living in the off-grid wilderness has sheltered you from learning of its major MCU-changing moments, you may want to flee now if you want to maintain your cone of silence. (True story: I know at least one person in this very situation. It is possible. I realize it’s hard to imagine, but not everyone in America is as entrenched in online living as you and I may be.)

On another level, anyone with zero foreknowledge of the antagonist Mysterio and his motifs from old Spidey-comics will want to skip the regular “Meaning or EXPLOSIONS?” section because, frankly, it was kind of boring to ruminate on that aspect spoiler-free. I’m not revealing all his secrets or recapping his scenes shot-for-shot, but…well, there’s stuff that spoke to me.

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“Dark Phoenix”: X-huming and X-amining the End of the Ex-Series

Dark Phoenix!

The all-new Firestar from a grim-and-gritty Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.

Remember the glory days when the prospect of a new X-Men film excited anyone who’d previously thrilled to their greatest spectacles, and not just the unconditional superfans?

Dark Phoenix isn’t the worst superhero film I’ve seen this year, but after the waste of resources that was X-Men: Apocalypse, I was fine with waiting until its fourth weekend to see it using free passes, sitting in a theater with half a dozen other viewers who likewise couldn’t be bothered to rush out to the not-quite-grand finale to Fox’s X-Men era (unless we keep holding our breath waiting for New Mutants). Their 19-year run had its highlights, but writer/director/producer Simon Kinberg’s Hail Mary of a retread isn’t one of them.

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Kid Dungeon Master’s Neighborhood Reign: Nostalgic Confession Inspired by “Die”

Die 1!

Teen RPG fan Solomon brings foreboding gameplay setup to Die #1. Art by Stephanie Hans, words by Kieron Gillen, letters by Clayton Cowles.

1. A Long-expected Party.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: my annual comic book reviews included a promise of a future entry inspired by Die, the new Image Comics series by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans that I encapsulated like so:

What if you took the structure of Stephen King’s It, but instead of fighting a murderous super-clown, the kids and adults in their respective eras were reliving the ’80s Dungeons and Dragons cartoon as a horror story, and the Big Bad was Tom Hanks from Mazes and Monsters turned into a truly mystical, manipulative interdimensional overlord?

Painted art by Stephanie Hans is like a high-end gallery showing on every page, while writer Kieron Gillen is engaging in ambitious, phenomenally detailed world-building, worrisome in its six-digit word count and rising. He’s exploring fantasy tropes and toying with them from within, but he’s also designed an entire RPG from the ground up to facilitate his vision, one that’s dredging up so many childhood memories for me — some I would dare label “definitive” in regard to my personal backstory — that I’ll need to devote a separate entry to this series in the near future. I have a lot of baggage to unpack here, and I blame Gillen for wheeling the baggage cart right up next to me.

I had the pleasure of meeting painter Stephanie Hans at this year’s C2E2, where I gave her the elevator-pitch version of this entry and she encouraged me to share it. I got a kick out of meeting Kieron Gillen at C2E2 2013, where we briefly chatted about his Britpop-magic fantasy Phonogram and he asked me which character I identified with most. I honestly hadn’t given much thought to it and was ashamed to have no answer, either prepared or improvised. I’m not used to pros at a con asking me a question beyond “Where are you from?”

(Having had time to think later, my answer came to me, obvious if twofold. As a young adult from 1989 to 2000 I imagined myself Seth Bingo, self-anointed tastemaker and DJ, bringing my boom-box and tapes/CDs to entertain at work after-hours — no requests allowed, sharing my collection with peers who just didn’t get me or my nightly playlist. For my life 2000-present I’ve been closer to Lloyd, engaging with music intellectually via long thinkpieces written only for the audiences in my head, but rarely physically and never socially, thus arguably denying its greatest powers. If only I could’ve written all that on an index card before approaching Gillen’s table. Or narrowed my answer down to just one of those two alienating dudes.)

The farther I’ve read into Die, the more I’ve found myself reflecting on my own experiences with Dungeons and Dragons, an integral part of my preteen years. It was a compelling confluence of entertainment and imagination. It was a big hit with the other kids who joined in. It also ushered in the end of my circle of childhood friends.

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I Have a Miyazaki Poster?

Nausicaa!

Yep, that’s art by Hayao Miyazaki.

I spent tonight diving into my own personal archives (by which I mean piles of old stuff) to research a potentially epic-length entry involving childhood memories, games, and psychological damage. A particular magazine box proved to contain only one of two items relevant to the search, but I stumbled across a small stack of posters I forgot I owned. I flip through a few of them and, lo and behold, find myself staring at a beauteous work of art by the Hayao Miyazaki, nearly the entire length of our card table.

I don’t remember owning this, but here it is.

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