Category Archives: comic books

the pages that pagelady read in 2013

Well, 2013 was not the best blogging year for me on here, was it? I’m way behind in writing up posts on the books I’ve read, but it’s a new year now so I have a fresh chance to do better in 2014.  Here’s a summary of the books I read last year and a brief reaction to them.  I still hope to post a full reaction to Allegiant soon, and a book-versus-movie comparison of The Book Thief.

In case you don’t want to read all my sub-cateogires, I’ll put my favorites first:

Favorite New Reads of 2013:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  So overwhelmingly, heart-breakingly beautiful.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancy.  I read this book one Saturday while home alone and the first half of it scared me to death; it seemed like a pretty realistic possible scenario if an alien invasion was to happen on Earth.  The latter half of the book got more cliche and predictable, but I like Cassie, the protagonists, and I’m still interested to see what happens next, although I’m not sure when the sequel is scheduled to be published.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.  As a shy fangirl who is more outgoing online than in real-life social situations, this book’s protagonist was totally relatable to me.  I’ve never really been into fanfic much but I am in multiple fandoms, I know these terms, I understand and partake in these obsessions. Plus, the Nebraska college-town setting was very similar to some of my own experiences in Kansas.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  Read this one because I loved Fangirl so much, and it did not disappoint.  From my review:

and i think that maybe it’s partly best explained by the answer Park gives in english class about the longevity of the story of Romeo & Juliet: “because people want to remember what it’s like to be young? and in love,” but this version is maybe a lot more relateable to an audience that isn’t part of a wealthy feuding italian family centuries ago, and to anybody that feels like kind of a misfit.

Rainbow Rowell is officially my new favorite author, not only because of her books but because of her twitter and tumblr which just made me instantly feel like “ah, yes, she’s one of us!“, which is too bad for David Iserson (author of Firecracker), because until I discovered Rainbow Rowell in the last weeks of December he would have been my choice for “favorite new YA author that I started twitter-following in 2013”.  He’s snarky and witty and I did love his book but I feel like I could spazz out about Rowell’s books in real life in front of her and she would be like “I know, me too!” but if I did that about Firecracker in front of Iserson he might just be like “wow, ok…” or say something cynical.

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It was recently announced that there will be a movie adaptation of Matt Kindt‘s Mind MGMT series, (published by Dark Horse Comics.)  This is a great article about it that includes an interview with Kindt from just before the news was announced.  (This, meanwhile, is a terrible article that repeatedly mis-spells Henry Lyme as “Henry Lime” and inaccurately summarizes Meru’s connection to the amnesia flight.  Come on,  Hollywood Reporter, put a little more effort into your work!  Although now I kind of want to draw a lime wearing Lyme’s sunglasses…)

Anyway: This.  News.  Is.  Fantastic!

As I posted in my piece on learning how to read comics, I’m totally into this series.  It’s exciting to be “in” on a fandom like this from early on, and I can’t wait to be able to boast about how I was into Mind MGMT “before the movie.”  (It’s similar to how I feel about Veronica Roth’s Divergent, which I picked up in the first month it was published and then got all my friends to read, and now a movie adaptation is underway for it, too.)  But mostly I’m excited to see a Mind MGMT movie because the story and characters are so great, and I can’t wait to see how the film medium translates them.

Like, can you imagine how much fun they could have with the advertising campaign alone?  Oh please don’t just make generic posters, please please make references to Mind MGMT‘s style of advertising, and make me want to see the movie but at the same time paranoid that I’m being mentally manipulated by a secret government agency, please!

I think I’m most excited to see who will be cast as Meru, but that may be because I’m fascinated by her character the most.  In issue #1 I actually wasn’t sure whether I liked her much, this sloppy slouching mess who can barely seem to keep her life together and doesn’t even wear pants.

Meru in Mind MGMT issue #1.

Meru in Mind MGMT issue #1. (credit Matt Kindt)

But she’s scrappy and persistent, and there’s so much more going on than meets the eye, and as it turns out Meru is full of unrealized bad-ass potential.  What I particularly love about Meru is that she is potentially one of the most powerful people on the planet, but she looks so ordinary and even kind of scrawny.  I hope the movie doesn’t try to make her look like a badass, or too glamorous.  I like that she’s badass without outwardly appearing to be.  Isn’t that part of the allure of the whole idea behind Mind MGMT, that the power of the mind could be so much stronger than all the muscles and weapons in the world?

Meru in issue #6

Meru in issue #6, (credit Matt Kindt). This is my favorite page in the series so far.

What fantastic character development–and that’s only the first few issues!  I mean, have you read #7 yet?  **SPOILER ALERT**  When I got to that last panel and she just nonchalantly drops that oh yeah, I must have subconsciously warded off an assassination haiku, I was all OMG!  Because I had been reading the side story about the assassination notes in the bottom margins as I went, and until I got to that last panel I just thought she was tough for having touched the envelope without being hurt!  And my next thought was, if it’s so easy for her to protect herself without realizing it, how long before she unintentionally kills someone, like a subconscious reflex?  Judging by the next issue’s cover, maybe not very long.  It’s the first cover so far that doesn’t feature a single-character headshot, and it looks very chaotic.  It comes out in two days.  Omg, I can’t wait!  **END SPOILER**

Henry Lyme is a fantastic character, too.  His enormous and deadly power could have made him overwhelmingly frightening, (like the way he appears in the #0 story “The Bear”), but the tragedy of losing his family and the struggle to know what’s real in a world he so easily manipulates humanizes him.  I didn’t realize until I read the aforementioned interview that there was debate over whether Meru or Lyme is the main character.  I had assumed it was Meru, but maybe I was just unconsciously rooting for the girl to be the hero.  There’s obviously a much bigger stage with many more players than were introduced in the first six issues, but I’m still sticking by my Meru.  It seems like she’s somehow key, especially since she wasn’t trained by the agency.  But then again, there’s the danger that without training, her powers will be too destructive.  But then again, Lyme had all the training and his powers were still too destructive!  But then again, maybe all of it is more complicated than I think and I’m being tricked by Mind MGMT “advertising” into thinking what they want me to think!  Or not think!  I love it.

I’m really curious to see how the movie will tell this story; there are so many ways it could frame it.  Will they copy the comics exactly, with the “how can your own mind surprise you” prologue that’s echoed later in Lyme’s re-telling of the Zanzibar tragedy, or will they do a prologue of one of the inner-cover side-stories or case files, just to set up the idea of the agency and what they can do, or will they have the whole thing be related as history by a monk in one of the psychic libraries?  And I wonder if they’ll uncover revelations in the same order, or mix it up?  I hope they keep Meru’s trajectory pretty much intact, because I want to watch that transition from barely-in-control to crazy-powerful, and then back to frustratingly disorganized and disoriented, but stomping blindly back to power…at least that’s what it seems like her path is, so far.

Stuff I can’t wait to eventually find out about in the ongoing comic series in the meantime: (might be some **SPOILERS** if you haven’t read any of the comics yet, and if that is the case I suggest you go read them immediately because they are awesome, then come back and see if you can think of more things to add to this list.)

  • How are the children with Mind MGMT aptitude recruited?  Like how does the agency figure out which kids have aptitude, and how to they coerce them away from their parents, or do they wipe the parents’ memories?  Has a recruited kid ever tried to escape and go home and then the parents just don’t recognize him or her?
  • If both sides knew about Meru all along, does that mean her foster parents are in on it?
  • I want to see more of the historical Mind MGMT files, like how they were involved in instigating, averting, or covering up major wars and events.
  • I want to see more of the story of The Animal Kid and the Black Ops dolphins she frees, and find out what the dolphins are up to now.  Are they coming back later or are they going to stay isolated?
  • I need like a whole arc about the monks.
  • I might need a Perrier twins flashback, mostly just because I want to see them together again and in happier times.
  • Basically every two-page Case File and inside cover story tucked into each issue, I would love to see expanded.  There’s just so much going on in this world, so many characters and storylines, that even though I gobble them up each month it just makes me hungrier for more.
  • When does my brain explode?

Re-reading my copies of all the issues out so far has just made me that much more excited to read the rest of the series, and then I remembered that I started this post to talk about the movie!  It’s a good thing there is a new issue coming out this week, or I might explode from anticipation.

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2012: the year pagelady got into Comics

Prior to 2012, I had only read a handful of comics.  I mean besides the ones in the newspaper on Sundays, which my siblings and I used to fight over, (and I have a video recording of one of my sisters bidding me farewell when I left for college saying she was glad I wouldn’t be around to “hog the comics” anymore.)  No, I’m talking about actual comic books.  And trade paperbacks, (a term that I learned to distinguish from “graphic novel” this year, in my evolution of becoming a comic book nerd.  A graphic novel is a book-like comic that was published as one whole.  A trade paperback is a book-like collection of weekly or monthly issues of comics from a particular storyline.  The term “graphic novel” is a little more general and is sometimes used to refer to trades, but my new-found comic-world sources say there’s a distinction and this is it.)

Before I got into comics for myself, I had really only read Watchmen and V for Vendetta, reluctantly and at the insistence of my husband.  I enjoyed both stories, but I found it difficult to read the comic format.  My brain was so accustomed to becoming fully engrossed in worlds built exclusively from text that it couldn’t quite make sense of this hybrid word-and-image realm.  My eyes jumped from word bubble to word bubble automatically without taking time to process the pictures that went with them, and then I’d have to go back and see what I’d missed.  Instead of processing the images and words together as a storytelling whole, I was tackling them separately, a distracting and disjointed method that left me frustrated and unenthusiastic about the comic format.

I felt less dumb admitting the format was challenging after realizing that it does demand substantial mental energy:

“Comic books make the brain work in a very interesting way,” says [Seattle Public Library librarian Blythe] Summers. “You are reading, but you are also filling in the ‘gaps’ in the story that occur between pictures.” -(source)

“Comics…stimulate both sides of the brain simultaneously: the right side processes pictures and the left side processes words. These operations reinforce each other, and readers get a double whammy of images and phrases that convey important information.”  -Glenn Herdling, (source)

That last quote is an overly simplification of how the brain works, because virtually any processing task lights up multiple locations of the brain and very little is handled exclusively by either the left or right hemisphere, but it’s still true that reading comics requires an ability to decode meaning from written words AND from non-linguistic images at the same time.  Recent  research by Neil Cohn actually indicates that images in comics are processed very similarly to sentences, and “we depend on a visual grammar in comics in order to make sense of them.”  (You can download Cohn’s paper, “Linguistics, Comics, and Visual Language: the past and future of a field” here, or any of his other papers here.  It’s all very interesting, especially to me with my background in linguistics, and I’m glad I chose to blog about this topic because I might not have found his work otherwise!)

Anyway, I eventually got over my inability to read comics smoothly.  And I can’t really point to one epiphany moment when I suddenly “got it,” I just adjusted as I read more comics.  My brain became more skillful at the simultaneous processing of linguistic and non-linguistic visual input, and I discovered that comic books are just like the traditional books that I’ve always loved; worlds of rich imagination and complex characters, relate-able villains, idealistic heroes, metaphors to process reality, alternate realities to escape to, adventures to experience, lessons to learn, lives to live; magic enchanted on a page.  The main difference between comic books and text books is in the format used to transmit the story from the mind of the creator to the mind of the reader.  (You could also argue that there is greater homogeneity in the fictional worlds derived from the story that live in readers’ imaginations, since comics provide visual representations instead of just occasional physical descriptions.  Do comic book readers argue about which actors could best resemble beloved characters as much as fans of something like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter do?)

One of the first comics that I read and enjoyed fully the first time through, (I don’t want you to think I didn’t fully enjoy Watchmen or V for Vendetta when I eventually re-read them!), was Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales.  I burned through all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD a few summers ago, and it was a lot of fun to revisit that universe and add depth to the story even though there were no new episodes.  Of course, you can really revisit Buffy and the whole gang by reading the continuation of her storyline in seasons 8 and now 9, released exclusively in comic format.  And I did read all the season 8 comics for Buffy the Vampire Slayer this year–I didn’t totally love them, but that’s not the important thing.  The important thing is that I was able to read them because I discovered that my local library has a collection of comic books!!

This was truly a thrilling revelation.  Like, not quite as good as discovering that libraries exist and that you can borrow virtually anything from them to read, but pretty close.  I don’t have to be able to afford to buy everything in order to read it!  (Which is fantastic, because comics are expensive, and also, as someone new to the genre I’m still getting caught up and sampling storylines, authors, and artists to find what I like).

Thanks in part to the library’s collection, (but also in part my wallet,

pic of civil war, the shepherd's tale, and the guild: the knights of good

I added these treasures to my personal collection in 2012.

my birthday giftcards, recommendations from comic-savy friends, and the Alan Moore/Batman obsessions of my husband), these are the comics I read in 2012:

Volumes 1-6 of Mind MGMT.

Volumes 1-6 of Mind MGMT.

Mind MGMT is a brand new comic, by Matt Kindt.  The first issue was published in May 2012, but I didn’t read it until July.  (Still, I feel like that is pretty dang close to getting in at the beginning!)  There are six issues so far, but then there’s also a #0 and some digital comics that tell little side-stories, too.  I picked up the first issue because by that time I had started following @DarkHorseComics on twitter, (step 2 in my evolution towards comic book nerd), and I was browsing in the comics section at Hastings, (step 3), and I saw Mind MGMT and remembered all the tweets praising its creativity and depth that I had flicked through in my twitter feed and decided to check it out.  (Good job with your social media marketing, guys!)  It’s about mind control and a secret organization and a novelist hunting down leads on a mysterious case of mass amnesia, and it is worth reading in the monthly format rather than waiting for the trade collection because 1.) it’s an experience that is another step in my evolution towards comic book nerd, and 2.) the story is so dense you get more out of it each time you read it.  The more that is revealed in later episodes, the more significant little things in the first pages are.  And each page has Mind MGMT “field guide” notes in the margin, that add another dimension to the story like tantalizing breadcrumb clues (!).

Becoming hooked on a monthly comic (and resigning myself to happily parting with a few dollars every time a new issue comes out) was a pretty significant step in my comic book reader evolution.  Additional steps I experienced this year included: one time I went to pick up the latest Mind MGMT and they were sold out of the issue I needed!  I had a minor panic attack and rushed home to order it online.  Afterwards I felt like I could legitimately say I had leveled up in the comic-reading world.

Somewhere along the way this year I created accounts to be able to read Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse comics online, and get e-mail updates about new releases.  Another step occurred on a recent trip to Chicago, when I visited not one but two comic book stores, and added some more treasures to my collection.  (I most excited about picking up a trade of  Captain America: The Death of Captain America.)   And finally, now I have an entire shelf devoted to my collection, complete with plastic protective covers and everything!   (Just one shelf, though, for now.  I’m still evolving.)

I solve the DC vs. Marvel quandary by maintaining Dark Horse Comics as my favorite publisher.  They do a lot of television and movie tie-ins, which is how I really started getting into comics in the first place, (Felicia Day’s The Guild comics were some of the first I purchased,) and besides that they publish Mind MGMT.  So, yeah, I’m a Dark Horse girl.

And now it’s time for the next step in my comic-book nerd evolution: what recommendations do you have for me?  What are the classics that you would assign if you were teaching a college literature class devoted to comics?  Or, what is something you’ve read that has an excellent story arc or beautiful illustrations or both?  I know I can get recommendations from or wikipedia or something like that, but I like hearing suggestions from real people on stuff they’ve actually read.

Also, can someone explain to me how canon works with these long-running comic characters?  Like, I know there have been other people besides Bruce Wayne who acted as Batman at different times.  So are they all Batman, like is there a continuous lineage that you can trace and say at different times who Batman’s alter ego is, or do they overlap?  And if there are multiple origin stories, then which one is definitive?  Or are they all canon and you just have to specify whether you’re talking about, for example, Spider-Man in the Marvel Universe or the Marvel Ultimate Universe, etc.?

*update* Okay, so this totally has to count as leveling up again, right?  Legit twitter recognition from my favorite comic publisher?  SQUEE!


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