Thursday, May 4, 2017

Books I read in April

Comics and Graphic Novels
Bad Machinery Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road  John Allison
Bad Machinery Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor   John Allison
El Iluminado: A Graphic Novel   Ilan Stavans, Steve Sheinkin
Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne (Atomic Robo, #1) Brian Clevinger, Scott Wegener
Templar  Jordan Mechner, LeUyen Pham, Alex Puvilland
Tetris: The Games People Play  Box Brown
Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey  Ozge Samanci
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye  Sonny Liew
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous   G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, Nico Leon
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 6: Civil War II  G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona
Clan Apis  Jay Hosler
Astro City, Vol. 1: Life in the Big City Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson
The Engineer, Vol. 1: Konstruct   Brian Churilla, Jeremy Shepherd
From Under Mountains  Claire Gibson, Marian Churchland, Sloane Leong
Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero   Fred Chao
The Five Fists of Science  Matt Fraction, Steven Sanders
Peter Panzerfaust: Deluxe Edition, Volume 1    Kurtis J. Wiebe, Tyler Jenkins
Shutter, Vol. 2: Way Of The World  Joe Keatinge, Leila del Duca, Owen Gieni, John Workman
Shutter, Vol. 3: Quo Vadis  Joe Keatinge, Leila del Duca, Owen Gieni, John Workman
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 1 Hayao Miyazaki
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 2 Hayao Miyazaki
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 4 Hayao Miyazaki
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 3  Hayao Miyazaki
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 5  Hayao Miyazaki
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 6  Hayao Miyazaki
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Vol. 7  Hayao Miyazaki
March: Book Two  John Robert Lewis,  Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
March: Book Three  John Robert Lewis,  Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell
Nelson Mandela: The Unconquerable Soul Lewis Helfand, Sankha Banerjee
FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics, Vol. 1: The Paradigm Shift   Simon Oliver, Robbi Rodriguez
The New Avengers, Volume 1   Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen
Ghosts  Raina Telgemeier
Saga, Volume 6  Brian K Vaughan, Fiona Staples


Novels
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus  Orson Scott Card
The Call of Earth   Orson Scott Card
Xenocide   Orson Scott Card
Speaker for the Dead  Orson Scott Card


Nonfiction
Good Life Lab: Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living  Wendy Tremayne


Picture Book
How This Book Was Made  Mac Barnett, Adam Rex


Visual Work
Tales from Outer Suburbia   Shaun Tan

Quick Takes
Fun literary event of the month: On April 22nd, I was on a panel celebrating the work of Orson Scott Card at the 2017 Association for Mormon Letters conference. After I agreed to be on the panel, they announced that Orson Scott Card would be there in person to receive his lifetime achievement award, and that he would be attending the panel. That raised the stakes a little bit, from "talking about an author I like to some random people" to "talking about an author I like in front of the author himself." Thus, the reading and re-reading of a wide range of OSC books this month. Overall, I think the panel went pretty well, and I'll post audio once AML has it up.

I'm a big fan of Steve Sheinkin's 'Rabbi Harvey' stories. So when I saw El Iluminado, a graphic novel collaboration between Sheinkin and religious scholar Ilan Stavans about conversos and marranos in colonial Mexico, I was interested. It's a great, fourth-wall bending tale, with Ilan serving as both author and main character. The plot is a sort of Southwest Da Vinci Code, with the professor getting pulled into noir-style investigation of the theft of documents that purport to hold the key to the history of Luis de Carvajal, a converso who secretly re-converted to Judaism and was hounded by the Inquisition.

You wouldn't think that the history of a medieval monastic order of knights would make the perfect inspiration for a buddy comedy heist stoy, but that the jumping off point for Templar. When the Order is banned and arrested for show trial, their legendary treasures go missing. But several lax Templars missed the roundup when they snuck out of the monastery for a night of carousing. It is up to them to honor the memory of their order and make sure that its treasures are kept safe from the greedy King of France and his devious advisor.

When I first picked up The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, I wasn't aware that Charlie was fictional. I thought that the book would introduce me to an early Asian comics pioneer in the same way that Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew's Shadow Hero introduced me to Chu Hing, creator of the Green Turtle. I quickly began to suspect that Charlie was an invention, but his story is still powerful and deeply moving, and Liew convincing apes a growing and changing artistic style reflecting the growth of the comics medium through the twentieth century, and situates his protagonist's story within the politics of Singapore.

Clan Apis is a fun story about the life of a bee from a practicing entomologist who is also a talented cartoonist. The punny humor may be off-putting to some readers, but I enjoyed it a lot. And it fits fascinating information into a funny and sometimes poignant narrative.

We have a tendency to mythologize our history and selectively forget darker episodes in the American narrative. March, the excellent memoir-in-comics from Rep. John Lewis helps correct that by unflinchingly depicting the difficult struggle of the civil rights movement. We still have far to go, and this series helps remind us how present problems are connected to our history, while still giving us hope that brave, kind people can change the world for the better.

I read Good Life Lab in chunks, on and off, starting in November last year, and finally read the last chapters this month. It's a good primer for starting an off-grid life, and reminds me of Walden in that it is a reminder that there are other ways to live that the one our society pre-programs for us.

Tales from Outer Suburbia is a very different kind of reminder of the same truth. There are many paths, and even the suburbs are filled with the wondrous and strange if we open our eyes. Tan's stories, illustrated with mixed media and filled with all sorts of visual and verbal cleverness, are invigorating and powerful.