Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Dragon Plus+ A Guide to Hybrid Creatures

Written by: J Feinberg

First line: The cockatrice is a fairly infamous creature worldwide.

Why you should read this book: It's a delightful little art book with colorful illustrations cataloging a menagerie of creatures that never were, many of which exist only within the pages of this book. While standard magical hybrids such as the chimera and the manticore are represented here, the bulk of the collection features wildly unusual mashups—dragon-skunk, dragon-elephant, parrot-lion, kraken-clownfish—that will amuse and delight fans of the mythological animals and creativity. If you've ever wondered what it might look like if a unicorn mated with a flamingo or a dragon had a baby with a bee, this is the book for you.

Why you shouldn't read this book: According to the artist, she took a lot of direction from her fans on the internet, so there is some incredibly silly stuff in here (looking at you, penguin/bat/wolf hybrid).


The Complete Curvy

Written by: Sylvan Migdal

First line: I am so royally screwed.

Why you should read this book: Squee! It's The Complete Curvy, a 520-page hard copy of a surreal, sexy, candy-themed webcomic featuring polyamorous perversion, magic, tons of queer sex, interdimensional beings, a token amount of heteronormative sex, the fate of the universe, and more sex. While worried about her physics final, Anaïs of Boring World (i.e., the one we live in) accidentally rescues Princess Fauna, Despoina of Candy World, and finds herself propelled into a prurient adventure across the many worlds. Meet Jonathan the trans-human, Mallory the peasant Liar, Fervid the terrible federal agent, and a vast cast of pirates, candy people, superheroes, and assorted horny bystanders as Anaïs and Fauna screw their way through the apocalypse.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You have no sense of humor, particularly where sex is involved.

La Voz de M.A.Y.O. Tata Rambo

Written by: Henry Barajas and J. Gonzo

First line: It was the weekend before Cesar Chavez Day.

Why you should read this book: The author relates events from the life of his great-grandfather, interspersed with modern moments from his own life and Tata Rambo's last days. When the city of Tucson decides to build a highway through the neighborhood where the Pascua Yaqui people have begun to improve their own lot, the Mexican American Yaqui Organization and Congressmen Udall jump into action to save the community, and Tata Rambo is on the front lines the entire time. Through protests, political machinations, and meaningful alliance, the Yaqui people are able to make their voices heard, maintain their land, and eventually become officially recognized by the government.

Why you shouldn't read this book: No interest in local history, social justice, community organization, biography, or indigenous issues.

The Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper

Written by: Kazu Kibuishi

First line: We're supposed to pick up Navin at eight o'clock

Why you should read this book: Following their father's untimely and unlikely death in a car accident, Emily and Navin's mother takes them to live in their mysteriously vanished great-grandfather's enormous spooky mansion, where Emily discovers a magical amulet. Later that evening, Mom is enveloped by an enormous ghostly octopus-thing straight out of HP Lovecraft and they are all transported, via a passage in their basement, to another world. Now Emily must learn to unlock and wield the power of the amulet to save her family, and perhaps an entire world.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Feels a bit derivative. 

The Last Temptation

Written by: Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli

First line: Autumn leaves, yellow and orange and red, tumble down the empty street, blown by a sudden chill gust of October wind.

Why you should read this book: Alice Cooper commissioned Neil Gaiman to write a story for a concept album, which Cooper used as a scaffolding for Lost in America, and which Gaiman then used to write this book about an ordinary boy, Steven, who finds himself in the landscape of Ray Bradbury's October Country. Through the device of a magical theater, Steven finds himself tempted by the devil, who is pretending to be a vaudevillian but who looks an awful lot like Alice Cooper. Promising freedom from fear and boredom and change in exchange for children's lives, the antagonist seems ubiquitous and omnipotent, but, like most Hollywood monsters, he's mostly special effects and optical illusion.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Like the Grand Guignol itself, the story is mostly smoke and mirrors.

Friday, November 15, 2019

FTL, Y'all! Tales from the Age of the $200 Warp Drive

Edited by: C. Spike Trotman and Amanda LaFrenais

First line: Mornin'

Why you should read this book: It's a graphic anthology featuring nineteen short comic stories linked by the common theme of a near-future reality in which anyone with $200 and an internet connection can build a faster-than-light drive and explore the cosmos. There are heroes, villains, aliens, overworked moms, and hapless researchers, in a world that is much larger than our own, but still features elements the human race will not likely outgrow for a while: misogynistic internet trolls, unpleasant airport experiences,  heroic rescues, teenagers searching for themselves, liars, loneliness, idiots, geniuses, and bad parenting. Also, due to the nature of the technology, basically any vessel can be a starship, so there are some hilarious looking starships.

Why you shouldn't read this book: While connected by the theme of the $200 warp drive, there's no further continuity to the stories, so they don't actually feel like they're all set in the same world.

Upside Down: A Vampire Tale

Written by: Jess Smart Smiley

First line: AAUGH!

Why you should read this book: This is an incredibly silly graphic novel for young readers about a kid vampire, whose vampire parents send him to the dentist because he's rotted his sharp teeth eating too much candy, and a crabby witch, who accidentally destroys all witches in her quest to rule over all witches. There's a clueless scientist who has invented an immortality potion and there's a bunch of kid bats. It makes basically no sense, which will appeal to most nonsense-loving children.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are not a nonsense-loving child.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Octavia E. Butler's Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

Adapted by: Damian Duffy and John Jennings

First line: The trouble began long before June 9, 1976...but June 9 is the day I remember.

Why you should read this book: While it's categorized as science fiction, this absolutely brutal time travel story reads more like a work of horror. Dana, a young black author married to a young white author, finds herself mysteriously whisked back and forth from her own time and place—southern California in the 1970s—to antebellum Maryland, where she must repeatedly save Rufus, the white slave owner who will eventually/has already (depending on your orientation in time) become her ancestor after sexually assaulting a slave. With the knowledge that her own existence depends on Rufus's survival, Dana feels compelled to save his life over and over, despite him becoming increasingly irredeemable, but the truly terrifying aspects of this story are Dana's experience of American slavery.

Why you shouldn't read this book: This is a graphic novel adaptation, and while it's very, very good for what it is, you may get more out of the original text-based work. I had to check Wikipedia to understand a major plot point at the end of the story.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

We're Still Here: An All-Trans Comics Anthology

Edited by: Tara Madison Avery and Jeanne Thornton

First line: "You're totally my fetish!"

Why you should read this book: As the title says, it's a comic anthology written entirely by trans comic creators. The stories run the gamut from factual ("A Brief Timeline of Singular They") to autobiographical to allegorical to bizarre. Often, the quality of being trans is rendered metaphorically through a speculative lens—there are ghosts and monsters—but other stories offer very literal retellings of formative moments in the author's past. Some of the stories are funny or exciting, others are thought-provoking or heart-breaking, but each is an honest expression of idea a trans author wishes to communicate with a world that has too often sought to silence their voice.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're incapable of feeling empathy.

[note: I bought this comic directly from one of the artists at a convention. It is not available on Amazon and it appears to have sold out its original print run, but you could check back or contact the publisher to see if it's ever going to be reprinted.]

Tinfoil Butterfly

Written by: Rachel Eve Moulton

First line: I swing my body up to the front seat of the van and put my feet on the dashboard.

Why you should read this book: Emma is on the run from the pain of her past, en route to a planned suicide (second attempt) when she gets sidetracked by a would-be rapist and his sweet van, which eventually leaves her stranded in a strange ghost town inhabited by a strange little boy, Earl, his stranger father, and possibly his most strange mother. Emma's own demons include addiction, regret, and uncomfortable family relationships, but Earl's demons are much more immediate, and suddenly Emma finds that she doesn't want to die all that badly, at least not in this cold and confusing place. As Emma struggles to make sense of her current situation, she must also work through the confusion of her previous life and her growing maternal feelings for the wounded child in the tinfoil butterfly mask.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Bad things happen.

Dementia 21

Written by: Kago

First line: Private elder care service company, Green Net. Our Motto: "There's no place like home in the twilight of life."

Why you should read this book: This comedic horror manga pokes fun at the divide between youth and old age while creating a genuine sense of dread at the concept of aging; to be elderly in this world is to be a sort of monster, a distant, dangerous, unknowable and uncontrollable other cut off from humanity in particular and distressing ways and determined to make the young as miserable as you are. Yukie Sakai is an excellent and dedicated home help aide, so of course one of her co-workers gets jealous and ensures that Yukie gets the worst jobs, and indeed, her clients have a strange way of turning into monsters while the world gets more and more bizarre, a la Winsor Mccay's nightmare visions. While the overall thesis may be a commentary on the dissolution of family bonds in a world that increasingly turns to technology to fill the gaps that once held tender community, it's also hilarious and terrifying.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're about to check in to a care home, as a resident or a worker.

Hot Comb

Written by: Ebony Flowers

First line: I remember the first time I got a relaxer.

Why you should read this book: A collection of short, quiet graphic stories loosely tied together around the theme of black women's hair, although, of course, it's not really about hair. I'd call this a feminist work in the sense that the primary thrust of each story arc isn't about conflict as much as it as about relationships: girls' relationships with their mothers, with their hair, with their families, with their friends. The innocence of childhood and the joy of loving relationships is juxtaposed with the painful truths of reality, including sibling rivalry, micro (and macro) aggression, peer rejection, and identity formation.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Your head is on fire because of the relaxer.