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Recent Reading

Last weekend I had a hard time deciding which of the too-many books in my TBR pile I wanted to start, so I ended up reading some single issues and finishing a trade instead. After that, I made a decision and managed to read a book during a busy week. Oh, and the new issue of Astro City came out. Some thoughts...

Astro City: Confession - I love what Kurt Busiek does with this six-part storyline. It's the story of Brian, who moves to Astro City after the death of his father and sets about getting involved in the world of super-heroes. He manages to get noticed and becomes Altar Boy, the sidekick of The Confessor. That's the basic plot and it sounds like a typical type of super-hero comic. It's not. Sure, we are given some scenes of The Confessor training Brian but those scenes are marginally about the nuts and bolts of fighting crime with no powers and a cape. Brian is also learning how to be a detective and about that world of super-heroes he is joining. This story deals with the nature of heroism - if you should be one when the public turns against you and if you are one even if you are something "evil." The story has an alien invasion (set up in the original six issue mini-series), a series of killings in Shadow Hill, secret revelations, and plenty of heroes, old and new. It's a great story and Brent Anderson (with Will Blyberg on inks) draws the hell out of it. As a bonus, the collection includes an issue originally done for Wizard that focuses on a lost love and timeline anomalies and is regarded as one of the best single issues of the series.

The Unwritten #49 - This is the third issue of the "Orpheus in the Underworld" story and at the conclusion the group that has been in a story version of hell reenacts the story of Orpheus in order for Tom to try and find where Leviathan came from and maybe figure out how to heal him again. This is notable for the last page, where Tom finds himself with the characters from Bill Willingham's Fables series. A sorta-crossover with that series will occur over the next few issues.

Young Avengers #5 - Jamie McKelvie's inventive layouts continue in this issue - this one features a two page spread in which the action of the various team members radiates out from the points on a pentagram that Kid Loki is using to help them fight against demons. It may not sound cool but it sure looks cool. As far as the story goes, I will be happy to get beyond this storyline and get some interaction with the whole group...characters as great as Kid Loki, Miss America Chavez, Marvel Boy, and Kate Bishop (Hawkeye) should make for great moments.

The Sixth Gun #30 - This comic would be great solely on the strength of artist Brian Hurtt and colorist Bill Crabtree. Seriously, Hurtt is demonstrating cartooning of the highest order and I can spend minutes looking at how he draws folds in a person's clothing or the backgrounds. Crabtree makes the art sing that much more; the colors just pop on my iPad. Thankfully, Cullen Bunn's story is also worth sticking around for. This issues starts a new story, in which both Becky and Drake are sick. Becky's is more of a spiritual sickness from using the Sixth Gun and she ends up in a spirit-realm with a very sarcastic stork spirit guide...which promptly gets killed. Great comics, this.

Chew #34 - Can a comic that features a person who has a cheeseburger for a head be considered darker than it once was? This answer with this comic is yes. Ever since a big death a few issues back, Tony Chu has been a different man - more focused, more serious, and more deadly. He comes face to face with the vampire here. Meanwhile, another plot brings in cheeseburger-head and it makes total sense. John Layman gives us a bunch more food-related powers as well (like a sabopictor, who paints pictures you can taste); I love the inventiveness. One more issue left in this arc, I believe.

The Wake #1 - This was a great first issue, taking place in three different times with cool ideas, solid character work, and fantastic art by Sean Murphy. There are 9 issues more to go in this Scott Snyder story and you should sign on immediately. Seriously.

Astro City #1- After all the anticipation, my favorite comic returns as an ongoing series and it was worth the wait. Busiek introduces new characters, like The Broken Man (who breaks the fourth wall and enlists the readers as helpers...but he may be insane) and American Chibi (who looks like a giant doll), and catches us up with old ones, like Ben Pullam (who has now raised his daughters and takes on a new challenge) and Samaratin (who new heroes still look up to). There are cool concepts like arcanobiology, which is the science of things that shouldn't exist) and cool moments, like when Telseth comes out of the mysterious door speaking loudly...and then apologetically turns down the volume. Anderson gives us a Kirby influence in those Telseth scenes but also has pitch perfect storytelling when the Pullam family gets together. This is the 60th issue of the series as a whole but also serves as a great introduction to new readers while being a great reintroduction to those of us who have been reading since 1995. Welcome back, Astro City. I promise to drive carefully.

High Crimes #3 - Just a quick mention of this Monkeybrain digital-only series. This series is about a man and woman in Kathmandu who help guide tourists as they climb mountain peaks and have a grave-robbing business on the side where they steal from those who died while climbing. Of course, they robbed the wrong grave and found someone they shouldn't have and now they're on the run. It's a sharp series by Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa.

The Black Country by Alex Grecian - This is the second book in Grecian's Scotland Yard Murder Squad series; the first, The Yard, came out last summer and I liked it quite a bit. This books takes Day, Hammersmith, and Kingsley out of London and into a coal-mining village in the titular Black Country. Three people have disappeared and when they arrive, they discover superstition and sickness and suspicious outsiders. Also, two interludes in Andersonville prison during the Civil War. The shift in setting gives the book a different feel from its predecessor but it still retains its page-turning proclivity. I'll be ready to read the third book in the series when it comes.

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