Archive | December, 2013

Comics Wrap-Up – 2013

27 Dec

This has been a pretty serious year for comics, with many new excellent titles emerging and some existing titles having exciting runs. There are many comics I still have not quite gotten around to reading yet, but I’d like to go over some of my favorites from this year and a few others that have been highly recommended to me. Note – the titles I’m discussing here are ones that appeal to, and are often designed for, an adult audience. With that in mind, there is some fantastic writing going on in the world of comics, bringing a combination of realism, fantasy and complexity of character and theme. Truly, in 2013 many comics transcend the traditional conception of comics as simple low art meant for a young audience. Without further adieu, let’s check out some of my favorite comics!

Saga – writer – Brian K. Vaughan / artist – Fiona Staples
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Saga is far and away my favorite comic of the year. Also, Saga won the Eisner Award for Best Writer (Vaughan), Best Continuing Series and Best New Series in 2013. It is a distinct pleasure reading every issue and it’s one of those series that I can’t wait for the next issue to come out! In short, Saga is the story of two lovers from opposite sides an inter-galactic war who try raising a child in the midst of this chaos. However, that description does not do the comic justice. Brian K. Vaughan has written both a sweeping sci-fi epic bringing forth a universe filled with creativity and imagination. It reminds me of a Star Wars style universe, but grittier and more grown-up. However, Vaughan has also written a beautiful story of two lovers and young parents struggling with family, love and raising children. The story is almost more about their transition into parenthood, rather than  an inter-galactic space saga. More over, Fiona Staples provides unique and rich illustrations, bringing fashion, style and a unique flair to the pages. While Saga is certainly meant for an adult audience (really, 18+), I can’t recommend this enough to anyone who is a fan of comics meant for adults that offer complexity and entertainment. One of the best new comic series in years, Saga is a must read! There are currently two collected editions that you can get from the library (Volume 1 and Volume 2) – these cover issues #1-14. As of December 2013, there are 17 total issues.

Saga Volume 1 and 2

Batman (New 52) – Scott Snyder
batman

DC Comics New 52 series has, from my experience at least, had a lot of good success with some major titles. Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman, Animal Man and Action Comics (Superman) have all had good stories in the New 52 run. However, there is one that stands out from the rest, and indeed, from all comics in 2013: the Scott Snyder written Batman: The New 52 title. So far there are three collected issues out there, all available from the library: The Court of Owls (issues #1-7), The Night of the Owls (issues #8-12) and Death of the Family (issues #13-17). Scott Snyder has written some very fresh feeling stories for already rich title history of Batman comics. The first two collected editions detail the stories of the Court of Owls, a unique Gotham City challenge for the caped crusader. The reader also experiences Batman’s inner thoughts, his self doubt, his fears, his emotions, etc.  The stories are rich, action packed and offer more complexity than your standard superhero comic. If you are a fan of the classic Frank Miller or Alan Moore Batman stories, this run of New 52 Batman might be a good fit. And if you like what you are reading then don’t forget that their are tie-ins and crossovers with the other New 52 Batman related titles: Detective Comics, Nightwing, Batman and Robin, Catwoman, etc.

Volume 1: The Court of Owls
Volume 2: City of Owls
Volume 3: Death in the Family

And check out the classic Alan Moore and Frank Miller Batman if you haven’t already!

Batman: Year One – Frank Miller
The Dark Knight Returns – Frank Miller
The Killing Joke – Alan Moore

Fables – Bill Willingham
cubs

Of the titles I’ve listed here, the issues from this year may not have been quite as good as those from the other comics. However, writer Bill Willingham announced recently that this series will be wrapping up when it hits issue #150, which is not too far away. This year, Fables will have two collected editions published:

Cubs in Toyland (January 2013)
Snow White (coming later in December 2013)

Fables has been published since 2002 under DC’s Vertigo imprint, and has always provided a highly creative world with characters an adult audience can enjoy. If you’ve not heard of the title before, Fables is the story of characters of folklore and fable who find themselves in contemporary New York City and live secretly among normal people. The title is so much more than that description and has had many great storylines and characters in its 10+ year run. If you’ve not read it before, now is the time to start and get caught up before the big finale 🙂 There are currently 18 collected editions of Fables (we have them all) with a 19th coming out soon. Start with Volume 1 – Fables: Legends in Exile.

Unwritten – Mike Carey

The_Unwritten_1

I admit that I only just started reading this title after delaying getting into it. I will also say this: Unwritten is definitely a comic for librarians and literary gurus! In a similar vein as Fables (and in fact there are crossover issues between the two titles), Unwritten tells the story of Tom Taylor, a man who was the inspiration for a series of books similar to Harry Potter. At first, he is just a guy who was the model for a very famous series of books, however as the story goes along the lines between reality and stories starts to break down. Tom’s world is thrown into chaos. A very unique concept positing writers and fiction as somehow effecting or creating reality, this title offers something unlike most other comics out there. For any literature majors out there, this series is jam packed with references. There are 7 collected editions so far, start with volume 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity.

Hawkeye

Hawkeye1

While the Hawkeye comics have been around for a while, the latest run from writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja is something very different than what you would might expect. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Hawkeye is the bow and arrow toting non-superpowered member of The Avengers. You probably remember him shooting down various flying bad guys in The Avengers movie. Well, this new run follows the life of Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) and his life and times AWAY from The Avengers. A whole lot of the comic feels like its following the life of just an everyday dude who messes up a lot, fumbles his love life and many times finds himself in situations where he says to himself “This looks bad.” Also, there is a dog character called Pizza Dog – enough said.  Fraction’s writing is witty and makes Clint a very down-to-Earth and relatable character. There’s lot of good one-liners and plenty of irony to keep you amused AND entertained in this unique take on a traditional superhero title. There are two collected editions out so far, which you can reserve here:

Hawkeye: My Life As a Weapon
Hawkeye: Little Hits

Prophet
prophet (1)

Perhaps the strangest entry for my favorites from this year, Prophet is a sci-fi based comic with a whole lot of bizarre. This comic by Brandon Graham details the story of John Prophet – or rather, John Prophets – a series of clones spread out throughout the galaxy who begin to ‘wake up’ in order to restart the human empire. The comics follow the different John Prophets as they traverse bizarre alien landscapes and encounter strange and sometimes grotesque alien species. The story begins without answering many questions and moving forward more questions arise just as others are answered. This is certainly a unique comic, but is not for everyone. If you like the bizarre along with mysterious sci-fi – well then this will be perfect for you! So far there are two collected editions with one currently available in the library and the other coming very soon:

Volume 1 – Remission

Volume 2  – Brothers – coming soon

The Boys

The-Boys_Volume_One

This title actually finished publishing the final collected edition in December 2012, but I wanted to include it anyway. I actually wrote about this title in the first post for this blog! Its a great series from Garth Ennis, creator of the legendary Preacher comics. This is certainly a title for adults, as the series is replete with violence and sex. However, the storyline and world created are both fascinating: there exist super-powered humans in the world, but they are far from the “good guy” classic superhero image. In response, the United States government has created super-powered humans of their own for the purpose of monitoring the others and trying to stop them when they get out of hand. If you were a fan of Preacher, this is a must read. Definitely for adults though (18+). There are 12 collected editions from this series (we have them all) – start with volume 1: The Name of the Game.

A Few Other Suggestions

I admit there are a lot of titles I have not quite gotten to yet, however I’ve heard quite a bit of good about some of the titles below. For each I’ve given you a quick description and a link to the first volume of each in our catalog. Let me know how some of them are! I’ll be catching up too 🙂

astro
Astro City
– the classic title from Kurt Busiek debuted with a new monthly series in June 2013.  There are no collected editions yet in our system, but as soon as they come out we will start getting them. Check the catalog for the classic series though, which is fantastic.

locke and key
Locke and Key
– I hear a lot about how good this title is from writer Joe Hill. Here’s the description of the plot – you decide: “After the gruesome murder of their father, the Locke kids, Tyler, Kinsey and Bode move with their mother Nina to the ancestral family home, Keyhouse. They soon discover that the house is full of secrets when they start finding magical keys which hold impossible powers, such as turning people into ghosts or being able to erase someone’s memories. They are not the only ones who know of the keys; a demonic creature known as Dodge is also after the keys, with the goal of opening the Black Door, which will allow the demons of hell to enter our world.” Yeah, I’m sold too. There are 5 collected editions so far, which you can reserve here:

Locke and Key – V. 1 -5

battling
Battling Boy
– A long awaited title from writer Paul Pope, Battling Boy sounds like a pretty fun ride: ”

Monsters roam through Arcopolis, swallowing children into the horrors of their shadowy underworld. Only one man is a match for them – the genius vigilante Haggard West. Unfortunately, Haggard West is dead. Arcopolis is desperate, but when its salvation comes in the form of a twelve-year-old demigod, nobody is more surprised than Battling Boy himself.”

Check it out here: Battling Boy

private
The Private Eye
(digital comic only!) – I will be reading this ASAP – another  sci-fi title from Brian K. Vaughan (Saga). This one is currently a digital only comic, which you can find here: http://panelsyndicate.com/ In this title, Vaughan depicts a future where all personal information (bank accounts, medical, personal messages) have been made visible to everyone online. After this happens the Internet is banned and everything returns to paper based and people wear masks in public to protect their identity. This remind you of anything? (i.e. – Edward Snowden, NSA spying, etc.). Sounds fascinating.

mind
Mind MGMT
– Another one I’ve been hearing about (and I have on hold!) is this title from writer Matt Kindt. Check out the description: “The story is about Meru, a true crime writer who searches for the truth behind a mysterious airline flight and discovers a secret government agency of super spies, espionage, and psychic abilities. Henry Lyme, the former top agent, has gone rogue and is working to dismantle the organization.” Intrigue, suspense, spies, secrets? Sounds fun! We have the first collected edition here:

Mind MGMT: V.1 – The Manager

Whew! That’s a lot! Thanks for sticking it out and reading through to the end here. This has been a great year in comics and lots of great stuff to look forward to. Come by and check out some awesome comics and enjoy!

If you are looking for even more suggestions, check out this post from Comics Alliance on the year’s best: http://comicsalliance.com/best-comic-books-of-2013-master-list/

– Written by Matt Latham
Program Coordinator/Librarian
Comics/Manga/Graphic Novel collection development

Top Mysteries of 2013

20 Dec

Whether you like your books gritty and real, calm and cozy or somewhere in between; 2013 was a great year for mysteries. I will admit to being partial to mystery series. Once you come across an author and fall in love with the writing, imagery and the characters you never want the story to end. It was difficult to narrow down this list from the dozens that were true contenders, but overall the following five are ones that struck a chord well after the final pages were turned.

1. How the Light Gets In – Louise Penny

how-the-light-gets-in

Louise Penny never fails to delight and draw her readers into the world she creates for us. The tale begins with the death of an old woman, as the story unfolds, she is revealed to be the last surviving sister of quintuplets (a la the Dionne quints) whose every existence was filmed, reported and followed. But who would kill someone so harmless, who, in later years, along with her sisters, shunned the constant spotlight and chose instead to live quietly, under an assumed name? Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called in to takeover this potentially high profile case. Meanwhile, Gamache, while trying to expose corruption at the highest level finds himself vulnerable professionally and personally, having been betrayed by his deputy whom he regarded as a son. Penny draws us into an explosive conclusion carrying the darkness into the purity that is Three Pines.

2. Just One Evil Act  – Elizabeth George

just-one-evil-act

Beginning where her last book ends (Believing the Lie, 2012), Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers steps in to help her friend Taymullah Azhar find his daughter, Hadiyyah, kidnapped from his home by the girl’s mother. However, nothing is as first appears. Taymullah, never married Hadiyyah’s mother, he is in fact still married and has a family from whom he is ostracized. He was also never named on Hadiyyah’s birth certificate. As weeks turn into months with no clue as to her whereabouts, Hadiyyah’s mother returns claiming that Hadiyyah’s been kidnapped while in Lucca, Italy. Barbara requests a leave of absence to help find Hadiyyah and begs DI Lynley’s help as well. Through several surprising plot twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat, it begs the question, how well do you ever truly know someone? In addition to an absolutely wonderful mystery is George’s amazing depiction of Lucca, Italy, she brings every aspect of this town to life in a way all her own.

3. Question of Identity – Susan Hill

question-of-identity

Susan Hill provides another addictive entry in the Simon Serrailler series. In the peaceful town of Lafferton, the heinous murder of an old woman shocks the entire village. The killer, however, is just beginning, several more murders follow the first, sending the town into panic. The ‘signs’ carved on the victims’ bodies point to a series of murders years ago. The suspect in that case was acquitted for lack of evidence and subsequently disappeared. Leaving the people of Lafferton to question how well they know their friends, neighbors and even their own families.

4. Sound of Broken Glass – Deborah Crombie

sound-of-broken-glass

Friendships and professional relationships are put to the test, when DS Talbot spends the night with the witness in a murder case, who may also be a suspect. Talbot’s reluctance to tell her boss and injured colleague causes a rift in their relationship and the investigation. Andy Monahan had a fight with the victim, Victor Arnott, a barrister, shortly before he was killed. Found in a seedy hotel naked, tied up and strangled with a scarf. Shortly after, another barrister, Shaun Francis, is found murdered in the same manner. The only tie between the two men is Andy. An errant piece of gossip brings to light a case of underhanded legal maneuvers that destroyed lives leaving one person seeking revenge.

5. An Old Betrayal –  Charles Finch

an-old-betrayal

Charles Lenox, formally a private detective, now a Member of Parliament, making a name for himself. Called in to help his former protégé, the ailing John Dallington, Lenox, slightly bored with the tedium of Parliament, jumps at the chance. The case involves the blackmail of Queen Victoria’s secretary tied into a case of long-standing revenge that leads to murder and mistaken identity. Back at Parliament, the honor and integrity of Charles’ secretary is also called into question by a barrage of insidious gossip and thereby could besmirch Charles’ own integrity. Charles and Dallington make a fine duo in this seventh installment to the series.

Written by Rosary Van Ingen, Librarian, Head of Circulation

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