Friday, February 3, 2017

What Are You Reading? January 2017 Edition

Based on my year end review, I'm making a few changes to how I list books here.  First of all, I was lazy for most of last year and just copied the title and primary author from Goodreads, which means last year's monthly lists didn't give credit to a lot of great co-authors, illustrators, pencillers, inkers, etc.  I corrected that on my top 40 list, but putting a whole bunch of authors in last name-first name order was awkward, so this year I'm going further on re-formatting.

Also, following up on my post with graphs from last year, I've been thinking about how the organization of my posts before preferenced certain formats above others.  I don't want to do that, so this year I'll be putting them in alphabetical order by format, which means comics (the format I read most this month) comes first.  I'm also adding a category-- visual work-- for primarily visual books that don't fall into the categories of comics or picture books, so that at the end of the year I can get a more accurate breakdown of text-based work compared to visual work. (Yes, I know I could go through last years books and recategorize, but I'm looking forward now, not back.)

Comics and Graphic Novels
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns     Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, Lynn Varley
Batman: Haunted Knight   Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale
Batman: Year 100   Paul Pope
Marvel Comics: The Untold Story   Sean Howe
Showa, 1926-1939: A History of Japan   Shigeru Mizuki
Gotham Academy, Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy   Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl
Black Canary, Volume 1: Kicking and Screaming   Brenden Fletcher, Annie Wu, Pia Guerra, Sandy Jarrell, Lee Loughridge
Paper Girls, Vol. 1   Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson
The Case of the Good Boy  John Allison    
The Case of the Simple Soul  John Allison    
The Case of the Lonely One   John Allison   
I Kill Giants   Joe Kelly, J.M. Ken Niimura
The Flash, Vol. 1: Move Forward   Francis Manapul, Brian Buccellato
A Bag of Marbles  Joseph Joffo, Vincent Bailly, Kris, translated by Edward Gauvin
Everything Is Teeth  Evie Wyld, Joe Sumner   
Daredevil: Born Again   Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli
Daredevil, Volume 2: West-Case Scenario   Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, Javier Rodriguez
Green Lantern: Secret Origin  Geoff Johns,  Ivan Reis, Oclair Albert
Superman Archives, Vol. 1  Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster

Picture Books
Playing from the Heart  Peter H. Reynolds  
The Storyteller   Evan Turk
I Am So Handsome   Mario Ramos,
Fish    Liam Francis Walsh    
My Baby Crocodile  Gaëtan Dorémus  

Visual Work
Humans of New York   Brandon Stanton
Dan and Phil Go Outside   Dan Howell, Phil Lester

Quick Takes
As my nephew used to say, "I want to talk about my Batmans." I started out the year with three different takes on the Dark Knight, all of which fell short for me. Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns" is by far the most well-known, and was the one I found most disappointing. I'm fascinated by the set-up. Batman has been retired for 10 years, and is struggling to live his life as Bruce Wayne. He feels the pull of the streets, but tries to resist it. Yet apparently, the key principle in Miller's world is "The leopard can't change his spots" because the story starts out by ridiculing the possibility that criminals like Two Face or the Joker could be reformed and rejoin society, and then quickly has Batman return to vigilantism after his ten-year hiatus. Here, a villain will always be a villain, and a hero will always wear a cape. The fascist undertone of some superhero stories ably critiqued by "Watchmen" is fully on display here, with the strong implication that order in society can only be sustained by a brutal strongman who's willing to take on any challenger to maintain order in Gotham.

"Batman: Haunted Knight" is a much more melancholy take on this caped crusader. Here, we see Batman repeatedly pondering the possibility of developing genuine relationships, but finally retreating into himself.

Of the three, "Batman: Year 100" (playing on Miller's famous Year One) is the most successful, but that's not saying much. The core concept is strong-- Batman has gone underground in a dystopian future which allows no privacy whatsoever-- but the execution is often sloppy, and we never get the real stakes of this world. The art is stunning though, and Pope's rangy, grizzled Bat Hero draws us in to the story, underdeveloped as it is.

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