The Wicked + the Divine Is Still Just a Really Terrific Comic

My project of reading 15% comics this year proceeds apace, and I have taken the opportunity to catch up on The Wicked + the Divine. One of the issues (ha ha ISSUES geddit it’s a COMICS PUN oh we have fun, my friends) with following a longterm comic is that you never feel resolved. There are always ongoing story lines, and you are waiting for years and years to see how any of the plots turn out. So I am happy to bring you, the discerning comics reader, a good jumping-off point for The Wicked + the Divine. Stand by.

The premise of The Wicked + the Divine is a little strange, so bear with me. Once every ninety years, twelve gods become manifest on earth, taking over the bodies of twelve humans. They have a variety of supernatural powers; they are loved and famous; and within two years, they all will die. Our protagonist is teenager Laura Wilson, who wants nothing more than to be around the Pantheon at any cost. Also, someone is murdering gods.

If you are interested in The Wicked + the Divine based on what I’ve just said, but nervous about the comics problem I mentioned in the first paragraph, I can wholeheartedly recommend the first four volumes of this title. The fourth volume, Rising Action, wraps up the major storylines that we’ve been following since the first issue, and then you can be on break until the next arc wraps up. (You probably won’t want to, though, because this comic is really fucking good.)

Writer Kieron Gillen and author Jamie McElvie have worked together on a number of projects before, including a run on Young Avengers, and they’re a well-oiled machine. The third volume of WicDiv has guest artists (presumably to cut McElvie a break because good God drawing a monthly comic seems like a lot of work), and they are all talented people, but there’s just a really great marriage of writing and art when these two dudes are working together. The character design is great, and each volume opens with cameo pictures of the major players (which I always appreciate because I’m a goldfish for faces) so you won’t forget who’s who.

(Has anyone here read Phonogram? Would I like it?)

If you do decide to continue past the fourth trade paperback, there’s a special issue mocked up like a magazine that is just a delight. Gillen and McElvie got a series of real journalists to conduct interviews with Gillen in character as various WicDic characters, then write up profiles with those characters. So Laurie Penny interviews Woden, Ezekiel Kweku interviews Amaterasu, and so on. One of the things I love about the comics format is that creators have room to do special issues like this where they take a break from the main story and just play around with characters or worldbuilding.

tl;dr, it’s been a minute since I checked in with The Wicked + the Divine, and I am thrilled to report that it’s still one of the weirdest, best-plotted comics out there. Much recommended.

A spoiler here follows under the cut.

Continue reading “The Wicked + the Divine Is Still Just a Really Terrific Comic”

Something on Sunday: 2/18/18

TWO MORE DAYS OF NECK BRACE. Oh God it’s all I can think about. I have tried to be generally cool about this neck brace (with limited success — I fucking hate this fucking neck brace and it makes me miserable) over the course of the last six weeks, but as my day of freedom draws closer I am turning into a rage monster about it. Every time I see a bed I can’t lie down and read on (which is all the beds), I’m freshly furious about it.

BUT. Two! More! Days! Then freedom! I CANNOT WAIT.

Link up what’s making you happy below, or hit me up in the comments.

 




Descender Made Me Feel Things about Robots

Old and tired: Feeling guilty about reading comics in trades rather than issues because I know issue sales are how comics publishers make decisions

New and wired: Feminist righteousness about an outdated sales model that refuses to account for the ways new comics readers tend to consume comics (ie trades and digital).

What I’m saying is that I just read four trades of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s series Descender, and I dug it so much, yet I am making no plans to read it in issues going forward. And I don’t feel guilty about it! I don’t! Reading in trades is just a better and more satisfying way to read comics and I’ve decided it’s also more feminist, do not @ me.

Descender

(Note: It is not more feminist to read in trades than to read in issues. I’m just being silly. It would be more feminist if comics counted sales of trades as sales when making decisions about what titles to renew, but that is outside of your or my control unless you are a major decision-maker at a major comics publisher, in which case I’m kind of surprised that you’re reading this post.)

(I do not know how this post turned into Comics Sales Data and Why They Bug Me 101. You will now be returned to your regularly scheduled review post.)

Descender is about a little boy called Tim who’s searching for his mother and brother, missing for the last ten years. His main accomplices are a drilling robot from the mining planet where he grew up and a robot who is a very good dog. His main obstacle is that androids are illegal due to unrest arising from MAJOR ROBOT DESTRUCTION that happened ten years ago. If Tim and Driller and Bandit are noticed by any of the numerous robot bounty hunters that roam the galaxy, they’ll all be destroyed.

Because oh yeah, Tim is a robot too. Also, his code may contain the key to fighting back against the robots that attacked humanity so devastatingly a decade ago.

If you’re anything like me, your first question was Are Tim’s mother and brother dead? and I’m going to answer that question because the answer to it is one of the reasons I’m enjoying this comic so much. If you don’t want to know the answer (it’s revealed fairly early on in the series run, but it is a reveal, and you may want to go into this clean), stop reading!

The answer–and I guess I should include some interim text so that your eye doesn’t inadvertently skip down a line and see the spoiler even if you didn’t want to, which means I have some room to mention another immensely frustrating thing about dependence on the direct market, which is that preorders are super important to whether a title achieves the markers of success that comics publishers like DC and Marvel are looking for; and that therefore new titles or titles by new creators (which women and people of color are more likely to be!) don’t see the same preorder numbers and are more likely to be judged as sales failures — is that the mother is dead (alas) but the brother! is! alive! And in fact has grown up to be this very grim sort of Winter Soldier-looking motherfucker who makes his living by killing robots and collecting the bounty on them.

GASP. I know. So what’s going to happen, you inquire, when Tim-the-robot meets up with his brother Andy-the-once-normal-kid-now-stone-cold-robot-murderer? I DON’T KNOW YET. I HAVE TO READ TO FIND OUT.

There are many other plotlines in Descender, including a society of robot outcasts that has banded together and become radicalized against humans (as who can blame them?); a cyborg lady who used to date Andy until she decided his career choice was too grim for her; and a human-army lady who more than anything wants to find a way to defeat the Murderbots (they’re called Harvesters) if they ever return. She’s not good with kids but I think she and Tim are going to become good pals, anyway.

Descender! It’s so fun! As long as you don’t tug too hard on the threads of the metaphors! (But that’s the way with a lot of SF allegories, don’t you find?)

Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 96: Spring 2018 Book Preview and Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West

It’s a book preview podcast! We’re talking about the books we’re excited to read in Spring 2018 — slightly belatedly, because I had a medical incident — and reviewing Mohsin Hamid’s book Exit West, which gave us a lot to think and talk about.

Exit West

You can listen to the podcast using the embedded player below, or download the file directly to take with you on the go!

Episode 96

Here are the time signatures if you want to skip around.

1:44 – What we’re reading
5:26 – Polar explorer update #1
6:21 – Polar explorer update #2
8:41 – Update on our fall 2017 book preview
14:16– Spring 2018 Book Preview
26:17 – Exit West, Mohsin Hamid
41:55 – Our first Hatening read

Learn more about teenage explorer Jade Hameister here. You can watch Ernest Shackleton Loves Me at Broadway HD if you are curious!

Get at me on Twitter, email the podcast, and friend me (Gin Jenny) and Whiskey Jenny on Goodreads. Or if you wish, you can find us on iTunes (and if you enjoy the podcast, give us a good rating! We appreciate it very very much).

Credits
Producer: Captain Hammer
Photo credit: The Illustrious Annalee
Theme song by: Jessie Barbour

Transcript is coming soon and will be available under the jump.

Continue reading “Reading the End Bookcast, Ep. 96: Spring 2018 Book Preview and Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West”

The YA Agenda

Happy early Valentine’s Day! Last week there came an article in the New York Times wailing that YA books don’t contain sex anymore. This was a baffling assertion on a number of fronts. The week before that, I wrote and submitted my February YA column for the wonderful blog Lady Business, in which I built a rec list of YA books where the main characters have sex and they’re fine. Because among the many things YA does well is that it sometimes models healthy decisions about sex. The kids are all right. Don’t panic.

That column is out today, so read it here!

Something on Sunday: 2/11/18

Happy Sunday! Despite feeling exhausted and fed up with my choices this week, I realize looking back on it that it included a lot of terrific things. Let’s review, and then y’all can tell me what’s been good in your lives this week.

Happy about

My new record shelf! This one here:

record shelf!

I have been wanting this for a while — ever since I moved, my record player has just been upstairs on top of a bookshelf, and my records have been in boxes — and I finally had the budget available to buy it! I love the way it looks, and it’s also given me some ideas for how Future Jenny can attain a better lighting plan in the living room.

Also, I have been listening to Diana Ross and the Supremes while I write (see next item), which has obviously been awesome.

Proud of

Reaching one of my writing goals for the month of February! I’ve given myself a fairly modest 10,000 monthly writing goal (which includes blog posts such as these), and this month I stipulated that 5000 of those words had to be fiction. As of yesterday, I reached 5000 words of fiction, which included finishing up a 10,000-word story I wrote my friend Ashley for the Tiny Friendship Yuletide that me and her and Whiskey Jenny did amongst ourselves.

(“But Jenny, shouldn’t you have given that to her on Christmas?” YES WELL WE DON’T ALWAYS MANAGE THINGS ON TIME DO WE.)

Looking forward to

Watching Black Sails with one of my oldest friends! She moved from Louisiana to California a few years ago, and I miss her terribly. This past week, we made a Google Hangout and watched Black Sails at the same time while chattering all the while about how magnetic Toby Stephens is in this role. It was terrific, and we’re planning to do it again this week, and I can’t wait.

Inspired by

This Twitter thread about nominating for awards even if you have imposter syndrome. As a first-time Hugo Award nominator, I have terrible imposter syndrome, but Fonda Lee has inspired me to set it aside and just get on with my nominations! (Also her book was really good and I am for sure nominating it for a Hugo.)

What’s been keeping you going this week? Tweet at me, leave it in the comments, or link up your own post below!




Too Sleepy to Think of a Title for My Links Round-Up

Happy Friday, friends! When my alarm went off this morning I lay in bed for two (2) minutes wishing not to get up, and I only successfully did get up by reminding myself that I can sleep late tomorrow. I AM SO TIRED. But here are some good links for you to enjoy.

Emily Asher Perrin’s Tor.com piece on identifying with uncool characters spoke to my nerdy, rule-abiding heart.

Akwaeke Emezi talks about finding a path to a truer identity, through Nigerian spiritual beliefs and Western surgeries.

This interview with Jia Tolentino reminds me of so many reasons why I dig her. If you’re not familiar with her work, familiarize yourself! She’s got a book coming out!

Gabrielle Bellot writes brilliantly and eloquently on the colonial thinking that produces remarks about shithole countries, and how every country has “a grandeur in spirit worth fighting for.”

A defense of Book Five Capslock Harry.

Millennial culture is this Twitter thread. (Major spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi contained herein.)

Amal El-Mohtar is taking over for NK Jemisin writing an SFF column for the New York Times Book Review. Two excellent reviewers for an excellent column! What a world!

Some elements of the trailer for The Shape of Water made me suspicious, and I decided not to see it. Elsa Sjunneson-Henry (who did see it) explores the film’s failures of disability representation. (One amazingly easy improvement would have been to cast a disabled actress in the main role.)

On good guys and bad guys and how old-time stories didn’t really have them.

“While men weren’t looking, women built a genre that tackles love, sex, pleasure, class, money, feminism, masculinity, and equality.” Romance novels! (With lots of my fave romance authors being quoted, so hooray for that too.)

Mimi Mondal offers a brief history of South Asian science fiction and fantasy.

The grand jury prize at Sundance this year went to a YA adaptation, The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Woot!

A twitter thread about how to fight in a dress.

One of my 2018 goals is to read more SFF short fiction. Luckily, I have the writers at Lady Business backing me up, including this MASSIVE post of 2017 favorites. What a time to be alive.

Rebecca Traister is so sensible, even when she’s talking about Katie Roiphe who I find to be mostly nonsense.

This interview with the guy who gets Super Bowl halftime shows on the field in LITERALLY SIX MINUTES is really fascinating from a process perspective.

Have a wonderful weekend, friends, and if you’re a Mardi Gras celebrator, have a wonderful Mardi Gras!

January YA Round-Up

Here’s what happened in January: I had to wear this neck brace that made it impossible to ever sit comfortably. In part because of this, I was very, very cranky in the month of January.1 Every time I thought about going out and doing something, I’d be like “ugh I’m too cranky for that so instead I will stay home and read and that will cheer me up.” But because it was impossible to sit comfortably, staying home and reading did not cheer me up. But because I am very stupid, I did not figure this out until I had already been through this cycle many, many times.

What I’m saying is that I read a lot of books in January. Some were YA.2 Here’s a round-up of those.

Beasts Made of Night, Tochi Onyebuchi

Beasts Made of Night

An excellent cover for an excellent book! Beasts Made of Night takes us to the city of Kos, where mages can call forth the spirits of sins from the sinners. Aki like Taj come forward to eat the sin-beasts that result, though eating sins marks their skin with tattoos and eventually drives them mad. I loved this fictional Nigerian city and the scrappy street kids that occupied it, and Onyebuchi drops plenty of hints about the magic the wider world contains. I’ll very much look forward to the sequel.

Burn Baby Burn, Meg Medina

Burn Baby Burn

I’ve been meaning to read a book by Meg Medina for untold ages, and at last I have done so! Burn Baby Burn takes place in Brooklyn in 1977, when the city is terrorized by the Son of Sam and our protagonist, Nora, is terrorized by the increasing violence and unpredictability of her older brother. Medina evokes the heat and danger of this time in New York, and I was glad to see a depiction of a type of family violence that rarely comes up in fiction.

Everless, Sara Holland

Everless

I loved the premise of Everless but thought it lost something in the execution. In Jules Ember’s world, time is literally money: Days and months and years are extracted from the poor and, by and large, given to the rich. When she goes to work at the Everless estate, Jules expects to gain some time to put away and maybe to solve the secrets her father has always kept from her. Holland maybe has a few too many balls in the air in her debut novel, such that the plot twist towards the end feels more confusing than shocking.

Wild Beauty, Anna-Marie McLemore

Wild Beauty

And Anna-Marie McLemore continues to make me revisit my dislike of magic realism. Wild Beauty is the story of the Nomeolvides women, five in each generation, who tend the grounds at La Pradera and whose love is a curse. When the Nomeolvides girls admit to each other that they have all fallen in love with the wealthy Bay Briar, they make sacrifices to La Pradera to keep it from taking her from them. The next day, a boy called Fel appears in their garden, with no memory of who he is or how he got there.

McLemore’s writing is as lush and dreamy as it was in When the Moon Was Ours, and she continues to write queer romance stories (and straight ones) that make my heart sing with their respectfulness and loveliness. She’s quickly become a must-read author for me.

Here We Are Now, Jasmine Warga

Here We Are Now

This was recommended by one of the authors in my December YA Agenda column, and I was delighted to check it out and discover this new author. Tal has long suspected that famous musician Julian Oliver is her father (the father her mother won’t talk about), but that doesn’t mean she’s prepared for him to show up at her door. She goes with him to see her grandfather in hospital before he dies, and in the process she and Julian learn about each other and themselves.

As always with secret-baby stories, Here We Are Now doesn’t quite manage to get me to buy Tal’s mother’s reasons for concealing her existence from Julian. She still just seemed like an immoral jerk. Apart from that, though, Warga gets at a lot of real truths about emotions, family, friendship, and the human experience. It was also terrific to see a protagonist who’s culturally Muslim but (mostly) doesn’t practice.

Turtles All the Way Down, John Green

Turtles All the Way Down

Actually I finished this in February, but close enough. In the five years since John Green has published a book, I had a lot of time to get annoyed with the narrative of John Green, Savior of Young Adult Fiction, but no new John Green books to read. Turns out, he’s a pretty good writer. I sort of forgot! Turtles All the Way Down features a treasure of a best friend character, plenty of snappy dialogue, a heartbreaking depiction of OCD, and an actually genuinely good and effective therapist. Good stuff!

So that’s my January in YA! Did you read any good YA this past month? Anything I shouldn’t miss?

  1. Narrator: She was still extremely cranky in the month of February.
  2. There is also this thing where if I start a YA book on a given day, I have to finish it on that day because most YA books are long enough for one day’s worth of bus rides too and from work, but not long enough for two. So when I get home and my YA book is two-thirds finished, I have to either read the whole rest of it real quick or bring two books on the bus the following day, which is inefficient.

Something on Sunday: 2/4/18

GUISE I have to say that my month of January was significantly derailed by the thing where a car hit me and I had to start wearing a terrible neck brace because my neck is lowkey broken. And I did not do Something on Sunday, and I do not want y’all to think that this means I am finished with it. I am not finished with it! It is still the Trump presidency and we still need to talk and hear about good things.

I have a big one for this week. Y’all are about to be shook. My sister masterminded and my friends brainstormed and my mother constructed the following BOOK BOUQUET.

book bouquetAre you impressed? I was so impressed. It will be very hard for me to convince myself to disassemble this book bouquet. Currently it is sitting on my dining room table so that I can gaze upon it while I eat. Every time I walk through the dining room, I am blown away anew by its beauty.

(For the curious, each book is propped up by two small dowels in the back, affixed with tightly-tied ribbons.)

Wow. What a great book bouquet. I am astonished. Link up what’s going on with you, or get at me in the comments!




However Shall I Think of an Adjective to Describe Glorious

There is something so intensely satisfying about finally reading a book that has been lingering on one’s TBR list for years and years. For the book to be as good as Bernice McFadden’s Glorious is just the cherry on top of an already almost perfect ice cream sundae experience.

(I read another book that’s been on my TBR list for four years — The Pendragon Legend, by Antal Szerb — and learned that right now is not a good moment for me to be reading books published in 1934 with all the attendant sexism that implies. Ha ha I wanted to fling it across the room and then stomp on it, only I was reading it on my Nook.)

Glorious

Glorious is the story of a girl called Easter who leaves her hometown because it’s unbearable there, and then leaves the next two towns where she works because it’s unbearable there, and then washes up in New York City just in time for the Harlem Renaissance. Easter is a writer, at a time when the world is not kind to poor black women of remarkable talent. In the acknowledgements to the book, McFadden writes that she was inspired by Zora Neale Hurston (who died in poverty) and Nella Larsen (whose writing career was derailed an accusation of plagiarism).

I read Glorious while on a beach vacation, and I recommend that y’all do the same if possible, because it’s a tough read. Easter faces unspeakable tragedy in her hometown and her family, and a subsequent chapter includes a brutal depiction of one of Easter’s friends being lynched. McFadden doesn’t shy away from depicting the realities of racial violence and hatred in the early twentieth century — neither the open violence in the South nor the more covert government interference with black activism in Harlem itself. McFadden even squeezes in a cameo from Ota Benga.

I read Glorious and We Were Eight Years in Power on the same day, and it was an unexpectedly apt pairing. McFadden depicts many of the strategies Ta-Nehisis Coates has identified for keeping black Americans in poverty and fear, all through the life of one fictional fiction-writer whose world conspires against her receiving her due as an artist. Despite the difficult subject matter, I’m very glad I read it (at last!!).