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Giant Days, Vols. 11-14 by John Allison, Max Sarin, & Whitney Cogar

I go on a lot here about endings: how important they are, that it’s not a story without an ending, and especially that comics have been allergic to endings for several decades now, much to their detriment.

But that still doesn’t mean I’m happy to see a long-running story that I like come to its ending. I get that “what do you mean, there isn’t any more?” feeling. It’s just that I know it has to happen.

Giant Days is now over. It was the story of three young women at a particular point in their lives, while they were undergraduates at the fictional Sheffield University, and undergraduate life in the UK only lasts three years. Writer John Allison and his artistic collaborators – originally Lissa Treiman as the primary artist, then Max Sarin for most of the run, and Whitney Cogar on colors the whole time – spun out fifty-four issues of the main series and a handful of one-offs over the course of four years of comics, so the comic took more time than the actual life would have.

Now, some artistic teams would have kept Esther, Susan, and Daisy in college for decades or longer – if it was an American comic book or syndicated newspaper strip, they could still be in their first year until at least 2050, or the heat death of the universe, whichever came first. But – and, again, this is important – stories don’t work like that. You can put out product in which nothing important ever changes, in which no one ever grows or learns, but you’re a hack and you know know it. Allison and Treiman and Sarin and Cogar are not hacks, and they want to tell stories that matter about real people that change.

So this was inevitable: they would graduate, their days at Sheffield would end. It doesn’t mean we won’t get more stories about some of them, in some permutation, in the future: remember that Esther was a major character in Allison’s webcomic Scarygoround for nearly a decade even before Giant Days. But this time is over.

For most people, it ended a couple of years ago. I’m just catching up on the back quarter of the series now, since I finally gave up waiting for more of the Not on the Test hardcovers to emerge. So I read Volumes Eleven  and Twelve  and Thirteen  and Fourteen  all together, a year’s worth of comics in a day or two. It’s not a bad way to read an episodic humor comic, I have to say: stories based on characters get better with familiarity with the characters, so reading a big chunk all at once can be really resonant.

I’m not talking about the specific issues here, because there’s more than a dozen of them, and that’s really not important. Each one is a small story, one moment in this larger story, and they add up together to Giant Days, all fifty-some of them. They’re all good, they’re all stories, they center on various parts of the cast – mostly Esther and Susan and Daisy, but some McGraw and even enough Ed and Nina to make me wish I got a lot more of that. (Hey, John Allison! If you randomly read this, Ed & Nina in the Big Smoke together could be fun, at least for a short-run thing. Maybe other people than me would even like it!)

I read these because I wanted to know if Giant Days ended well, and it does. (Well, also because I was enjoying it a lot, and why give up in the middle on something you like?) If you’ve managed to avoid Giant Days for the last six years, I don’t know what I can say here to convince you: it might just be not to your taste. But it’s a smart, fun, well-written, colorful, amusing, true, real, occasionally laugh-out-loud series of stories about people I think you will recognize and like, and if that’s not what you’re looking for I frankly have to worry about you.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 8: My Best Friend’s Squirrel by North, Henderson, & Renzi

I’m trying to figure out how far behind I am on Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and it is surprisingly difficult, since this is a Marvel comic. The series ended in late 2019 with issue 58, but the trade paperbacks are still dribbling out, since they’re all slim. I believe Marvel has only managed to emit Vol. 12, which probably collects issues 47-51, meaning there’s one or two more books yet to come.

But none of this is simple, and places like Wikipedia and the Grand Comics Database and the Marvel Database fail to list those trades at all. But, I am behind, though the series has now ended, so I won’t get any further behind from this point.

Anyway, I’m here to talk about The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 8: My Best Friend’s Squirrel , written by Ryan North, drawn by Erica Henderson, colored by Rico Renzi. It collects issues 27-31 of the second series (let’s not get into that) and Not Brand Ecch #14, which appears to be a 2018 one-shot continuing the numbering of the 1967-69 series, which is exactly what you want to do for a story about a girl who likes squirrels and computer science and whose core audience are six-year-old girls. (Marvel, once again: there’s nothing they can’t make more complicated and difficult for no good reason.)

It follows the previous collections one and two and three and four and the OGN and five and six and seven ; see my posts on those if you’re feeling particularly bored today.

Squirrel Girl is still Doreen Green, second-year computer-science student at Empire State University, and her super-powers are (most obviously) being super-strong and talking to squirrels and (most usefully) actually being a thoughtful, friendly person who can talk out problems, unlike every other human being ever extant in the Marvel Universe. And this volume, as usual, collects a big four-issue plotline in which she defeats a Major Threat (less Major this time, since she’s already run through all of the big Marvel supervillain names) and then a single issue in which odder things happen.

The four-issue story sees Doreen’s best friend, Nancy, and her sidekick, Tippy-Toe, whisked away to a world on the other side of the galaxy where a race of intelligent squirrels (well, squirrels on Earth seem intelligent enough when Doreen talks to them, so maybe I mean civilized?) are under threat from a shakedown from Galactus’s herald the Silver Surfer. The SS says he and his similarly-shiny buddies – all of whom are stereotypically “surfer” types – will leave this planet along if they give all their valuables to the SS and compatriots.

Long-time readers of Marvel comics may well be confused, since the actual SS is more prone to zooming around on a surfboard, emoting at great length in bad pseudo-poetic prose about how sad his life is and how anguished he is and how he desperately needs to find a nice snackable but uninhabited planet or else his master will slaughter billions yet again, oh the misery. They may suspect this is an impostor, and they would be correct.

Eventually, Doreen makes her way to the squirrel planet, along with some allies, and there is a series of confrontations, which all end peacefully, because this is Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. (Doreen does fight the actual SS on sight, which I think is the first time that very hoary superhero trope actually happened in this comic.)

The one-off story is a kind of timeslip tale: an accident with a villain’s weapon strands Doreen and Nancy in hypertime, living much faster than everyone else in New York City. So, over the course of one weekend, they live the entire rest of their lives, leaving written messages for their friends, saving everyone in the city from everything for three whole days, and working on a time machine to save themselves before they die of old age. And maybe doing something else, which is hinted at but not spelled out in this book larger for pre-teens.

Squirrel Girl by North and Henderson was dependably fun and positive and kid-friendly and just about every appreciative adjective I could think of: it was nice down to its core, creating a world that was equally nice, which has never been common in Marveldom. I think these were the last Henderson-drawn issues, so, if I continue, I’ll get to see if whoever came next was able to maintain that sweetness.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Steve Trevor Proposes in a new Justice Society Clip
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Steve Trevor Proposes in a new Justice Society Clip

A short break in the action opens the door to romance in an all-new official clip Justice Society: World War II.

Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, the feature-length animated Justice Society: World War II, the next entry in the popular series of the DC Universe Movies, will be distributed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital starting April 27, 2021, and on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Blu-ray on May 11, 2021.

Steve Trevor’s relentless pursuit of Wonder Woman’s heart takes the ultimate next step with a proposal of marriage in this romantic, humorous clip from Justice Society: World War II. Steve Trevor (Chris Diamantopoulos) and Wonder Woman (voiced by Stana Katic) are central to the clip, which also includes Hourman (Matthew Mercer), Black Canary (Elysia Rotaru), Hawkman (Omid Abtahi), Jay Garrick (Armen Taylor), and Barry Allen/The Flash (Matt Bomer). Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the all-new feature-length animated film arrives on Digital starting April 27, 2021, and on 4K Combo Pack and Blu-ray on May 11, 2021.

First Details Revealed for Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One
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First Details Revealed for Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One

BURBANK, CA (April 8, 2021) – Atrocious serial killings on holidays in Gotham send The World’s Greatest Detective into action – confronting both organized crime and a mysterious murderer – in Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One, the next entry in the popular series of the DC Universe Movies. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the feature-length animated film – which will be accompanied by the latest DC Showcase animated short, The Losers – is set for release on Digital and Blu-ray on June 22, 2021.

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One will be available on Blu-ray (USA $29.98 SRP; Canada $39.99 SRP) as well as on Digital. The Blu-ray features a Blu-ray disc with the film in hi-definition and a digital version of the movie. Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One will be available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack at a later date in 2022 as a combined presentation of the film with Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two.

Inspired by the iconic mid-1990s DC story from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One begins as a brutal murder on Halloween prompts Gotham’s young vigilante, the Batman, to form a pact with the city’s only two uncorrupt lawmen (Police Captain James Gordan and District Attorney Harvey Dent) in order to take down The Roman, head of the notorious and powerful Falcone Crime Family. But when more deaths occur on Thanksgiving and Christmas, it becomes clear that, instead of ordinary gang violence, they’re also dealing with a serial killer – the identity of whom, with each conflicting clue, grows harder to discern. Few cases have ever tested the wits of the World’s Greatest Detective like the mystery behind the Holiday Killer.

Lauded for his performance as Red Hood/Jason Todd in 2010’s Batman Under the Red Hood, Jensen Ackles (Supernatural, Smallville) returns to the DC Universe Movies as the title character of Batman/Bruce Wayne. The late Naya Rivera (Glee), who passed away in 2020, gives one of her final performances as Catwoman/Selina Kyle. The all-star cast includes Josh Duhamel (Transformers, Las Vegas) as Harvey Dent, Billy Burke (Twilight, Revolution, Zoo) as James Gordon, Titus Welliver (Bosch, Deadwood, The Town) as Carmine Falcone, David Dastmalchian (The Suicide Squad, Ant-Man, Dune, The Dark Knight) as Calendar Man, Troy Baker (The Last of Us, Batman: Arkham Knight) as Joker, Amy Landecker (Your Honor, Transparent) as Barbara Gordon, Julie Nathanson (Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay) as Gilda Dent, Jack Quaid (The Boys, The Hunger Games) as Alberto, Fred Tatasciore (American Dad!, Family Guy) as Solomon Grundy, Jim Pirri (World of Warcraft franchise) as Sal Maroni, and Alastair Duncan (The Batman, Batman Unlimited franchise) as Alfred. Additional voices provided by Frances Callier, Greg Chun and Gary Leroi Gray.

Chris Palmer (Superman: Man of Tomorrow) directs Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One from a screenplay by Tim Sheridan (Reign of the Supermen, Superman: Man of Tomorrow). Producers are Jim Krieg (Batman: Gotham by Gaslight) and Kimberly S. Moreau (Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Butch Lukic (Justice Society: World War II, Superman: Man of Tomorrow) is Supervising Producer. Executive Producer is Michael Uslan. Sam Register is Executive Producer.

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One – Special Features

Blu-ray and Digital

DC Showcase – The Losers (New Animated Short) – The legendary rag-tag team of World War II outcasts – Captain Storm, Johnny Cloud, “Mile-a Minute” Jones, rookie Gunner and Sarge – find themselves marooned on an uncharted island in the South Pacific that is completely overrun with dinosaurs! Their would-be ally on this deadly mission, the mysterious and beautiful Fan Long of the Chinese Security Agency, tells them their job is to rescue the scientists that have been sent to study the time/space anomaly. Perhaps… but what is her mission?

A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie – An advance look at the next animated film in the popular DC Universe Movies collection, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two.

From the DC Vault – Batman: The Animated Series – “Christmas With The Joker”

From the DC Vault – Batman: The Animated Series – “It’s Never Too Late”

Looking for a refresher course on animated super hero entertainment before seeing Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One? Check out the wide array of DC Universe Movies now available on HBO Max.

Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One will also be available on Movies Anywhere. Using the free Movies Anywhere app and website, consumers can access all their eligible movies by connecting their Movies Anywhere account with their participating digital retailer accounts.

BASICS

Blu-ray   $29.98 USA, $39.99 Canada

Blu-ray Languages: English, Spanish, French, German

Blu-ray Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian

Running Time: 85 minutes

Rated PG-13 for violence, bloody images, language and some smoking

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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

What’s the opposite of a romance? Is there a word to describe a story about realizing you’re not in love, and that you need to get out of a relationship?

We could call it “anti-romance,” but that misses the point. It would be a useful word. Maybe someone will comment to let me know it already exists.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me  is that kind of book: it’s a graphic novel, in that nameless opposite-of-romance genre. Francesca “Freddy” Riley is in high school in Berkeley, and is in a relationship with her school’s most magnetic and compelling figure, the titular Laura Dean.

Laura is a jerk, in the way that massively popular and attractive teenagers often are: no matter what she does or how she acts, everyone accepts it, even loves it. So, as we see her, she’s practically amoral, a monster of need who does whatever she wants at any moment and everyone else swoons at how awesome she is.

Freddy is not happy with this. But she is Laura’s girlfriend. That’s good, because being Laura’s girlfriend is exciting down to the ends of her nerves all the time, often even in good ways. They have some level of a physical relationship — Laura is very physical, with Freddy and other girls, as you would expect — but Breaking Up keeps it school-library friendly by showing the girls in bed or kissing without getting into details of how physical these seventeen-year-olds are getting. [1]

Being Laura’s girlfriend is also good socially, to some degree: everyone in school knows who Freddy is, and she gets reflected glory. Of course, Laura is mercurial and capricious, so everyone in school also knows when Freddy is no longer Laura’s girlfriend, which has happened at pretty much every holiday over the past year.

So being Laura’s girlfriend is also bad. For that reason, and because Laura’s massive neediness keeps Freddy focused on her all the time, rather than on her friends and own life and plans and goals. (Especially friends, in this graphic novel’s case. Most seventeen-year-olds would be worrying about their futures and planning for college, but that’s not happening here.) Those of us who are further along in adulthood will see it as all bad: even the supposedly good stuff is tending to erode Freddy’s sense of self and empowerment. 

Breaking Up is more of a character study than a book of plot: things happen, and time passes, but they’re mostly accumulating moments, each giving Freddy a little more perspective and distance, until she can finally stop being the person Laura Dean keeps breaking up with. She’s got a circle of friends at the beginning, and a new friend she meets along the way – and a girl she kisses impulsively at a party – but this does not turn into a romance. This is not the story of how Freddy dumps Laura and finds Tru Wuv.

It’s the story of how Freddy dumps Laura because it’s what she needs, which is a more honest and true story. And it does take her a long time to do that, which may make some readers of my age start yelling at her through the pages of the book, but the book would be much shorter if Freddy were quicker to realize what she needed to realize.

I’ve gotten this far without stating the obvious: Freddy and Laura are both women. (Girls? Seventeen is so in-between. But let me give them the benefit of the doubt.) [2] That will be important to a lot of young readers looking for stories that represent their own lives — Freddy’s friend group also is a good diverse collection of people you can see someone like Freddy gravitating to in a place like Berkeley. But that they’re both women is not important to the story being told, or the genre it’s told in. And that’s a good thing.

Romances, and whatever anti-romances should really be called, are about people. Two people, typically, though I don’t know if I need to be dogmatic there. They need to have an attraction to each other. Their gender and sex and presentation, though: that can help shape a specific story, but it’s not genre-defining. It’s still romance. These two people are women. That’s what this story is. But a thousand other variations are possible, and exist out there.

So this is a good anti-romance, that happens to be about two seventeen-year-old high school women in Berkeley. I’d expect that from Mariko Tamaki, writer of Skim  and This One Summer . I probably should have expected it from Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, best known for Don’t Do Without Me , but I’d never read her work before this.

If you’re in the mood for anti-romance, or just a story about complicated teenage relationships, check it out. If you’re in a complicated teenage relationship, I feel for you, and hope you know that life does go on and will settle down in time. Maybe Freddy can help show the way for you.

[1] Having been a seventeen-year-old, my bet is as physical as possible, as often as possible, all the time. Laura seems that type, for one thing.

[2] As I type this, I realize that I don’t have a tag for LGBTQ+ books, and suddenly wonder if I should create one. But my tag style is so arch and sarcastic that anything that “fits” here would be a bad idea for multiple reasons. So, unless I just use “LGBTQ+,” it will be without a tag. And, frankly, who cares what this old white guy thinks of LBGBTQ+ books, anyway?

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

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Slaughterhouse-Five: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Ryan North and Albert Monteys from Kurt Vonnegut

So this is how it goes: two years ago I had the urge to re-read Slaughterhouse-Five, possibly Kurt Vonnegut’s best novel [1]. And I did . It was still a great novel; it was still deeply sad about humanity. 

About a year later, a graphic novel adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five came out. It was adapted by Ryan North, creator of Dinosaur Comics and longtime writer of the current, popular version of Squirrel Girl. It was illustrated by Albert Monteys, a Spanish cartoonist who has worked mostly in satire. And now I’ve read that version, too.

So, this time, I need to talk about the pictures, and the transformation of Vonnegut’s words on a page into a visual format. I’ve already said what I had to say about the story itself, about poor Billy Pilgrim’s fate – many of the things I wrote here two years ago I thought again while reading this version; I still agree with all of that. My favorite line is still “Among the things Billy Pilgrim could not change were the past, the present, and the future.”

I have the sense that North has fiddled a bit with the structure and timeline, but that’s a dangerous assumption to make: Vonnegut told the story sideways to begin with. Remember: Billy is unstuck in time. Slaughterhouse-Five, in any version, follows him that way, skipping from moment to moment across decades. It may well be that this is exactly the same structure as Vonnegut’s original. But I don’t think so.

I think North has tweaked things a bit to make better visual transitions: to turn Slaughterhouse-Five into something more purely comics, and not just prose poured into a new form and illustrated. He has to do that just to make Kurt Vonnegut a character in this version. Well, Vonnegut was a character in the novel: his voice was omnipresent, his viewpoint was consistent, his actions were mentioned more than once. But he was the omniscient authorial voice, without a name, mostly not taking human form. North isn’t pretending to be Vonnegut to tell this story – that’s another choice he could have made, or Vonnegut might have made if he’d adapted it himself  – but he wants to tell the same story, and include the Vonnegut bits. So we see Kurt on a plan flying back to German years later with an old buddy. We see him in the distance at the POW camp, at least twice. We see the famous scene where he admits all of the soldiers were babies and agrees to the subtitle of “The Children’s Crusade.” He’s there throughout.

He’s just not our point of view, the way he is in the novel. The graphic novel is less personal to Vonnegut, and maybe more for us: we are the ones watching Bill Pilgrim, directly. We’re not watching Vonnegut put him through his paces. He’s front and center, blinking, confused, trapped in amber. Unstuck.

Monteys has a lightly caricatured style: Pilgrim is probably the least “realistic” looking character, with a very long face and a gigantic nose. It’s an open face, one for showing details of emotion: it was a good choice. It works well. Monteys also varies his panel layouts a lot, dropping into a grid only rarely and breaking out splash pages and huge expanses of white multiple times. He and North have thoroughly turned Slaughterhouse-Five into a visual representation; this is not some Classic Comics template with all of the words shoehorned in.

Listen: I can’t tell you this is just as good as the original. I don’t know how to compare art works across formats like that. The original is a towering masterpiece of 20th century literature. It’s one of the great anti-war novels of all time. That’s a lot to live up to. But this version of Slaughterhouse-Five is beautiful and heartbreaking and sad and true and wonderful and magnificent and engrossing. There is no part of it that I can imagine changing to be better. It’s worth reading if you know the original. It’s maybe even more worth reading if you don’t. That’s what I can tell you.

[1] I haven’t re-read them in decades; my opinion is outdated. I want to read him again; maybe I will.

And I say I had the urge. Maybe I didn’t. Maybe I always was going to re-read it in 2019, and just got to that moment in my own personal mountain-range. Who can say?

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

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The virtual WonderCon panel examining the forthcoming Justice Society: World War II ended a short while ago and can be watched below.

Headlining the panel discussion were actors Stana Katic (Castle, Absentia, A Call To Spy) as the voice of Wonder Woman, Matt Bomer (Doom Patrol, White Collar, The Boys in the Band) as Barry Allen/The Flash, Elysia Rotaru (Arrow) as Black Canary, Omid Abtahi (American Gods, The Mandalorian) as Hawkman, Chris Diamantopoulos (Red Notice, Silicon Valley, voice of Mickey Mouse) as Steve Trevor, Armen Taylor (JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind) as Jay Garrick/The Flash,  Liam McIntyre (The Flash, Spartacus, Justice League Dark: Apokolips War) as Aquaman, and Geoff Arend (Madam Secretary, Batman: Hush) as Charles Halstead/Advisor alongside director Jeff Wamester (Guardians of the Galaxy TV series), co-screenwriters Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, DC Super Hero Girls), and Jeremy Adams (Supernatural, Batman: Soul Of The Dragon), and supervising producer Butch Lukic (Superman: Man of Tomorrow, Constantine: City of Demons). Publicist Gary Miereanu moderated the festivities.

Surprised to find himself in World War II, but instinctively aware of his new role, The Flash (voiced by Matt Bomer) makes quick work of a platoon of Nazi soldiers terrorizing a war-torn village in this all-new clip from Justice Society: World War II. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the all-new feature-length animated film arrives on Digital starting April 27, 2021, and on 4K Combo Pack and Blu-ray on May 11, 2021.

“The Suicide Squad” new trailer has a BIG Easter Egg for c
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“The Suicide Squad” new trailer has a BIG Easter Egg for comics fans

Hey, we just got a new trailer for The Suicide Squad, which will be in theaters and streaming on HBOMax August 6th! Let’s see if you can spot the BIG Easter egg. Go watch it, then come back here…

All done? Fun, huh? But what Easter egg am I talking about? It’s this:

In the trailer, we see Savant, played by Michael Rooker, getting a bomb implanted in him so that Amanda Waller can keep him in line– do anything she doesn’t like, and BOOM!

But who’s doing the implanting? Dr. Fitzgibbon, that kindly old gent on the right who looks like he wouldn’t harm a fly?

Why, that’s John Ostrander, ComicMix columnist and creator of the Suicide Squad and Amanda Waller. He’s quite literally the guy who killed off at least 18 members of the Squad and maimed so many more. So it makes perfect sense that James Gunn would reach out and bring John (who’s a gifted actor in his own right) to inflict further damage onto these poor actors.

Come to think of it, it reminds us of the first issue of Suicide Squad where John killed off an entire airport full of actors.

Here’s the official statement:

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Trese, Vol. 1: Murder on Balete Drive by Budjette Tan & KaJo Baldisimo

Thirteen years ago, I saw this book for the first time (in an earlier edition). I was fairly late: it was published in comics form several years before that, but I did have the slight disadvantage of being on the other side of the world.

I was impressed then; I’m equally impressed now. The Trese stories are great urban fantasy in comics form: taking a lot of the standard furniture of the genre (attractive young female protagonist with a mysterious past, powerful protectors, and a complicated relationship with the local supernatural powers, plus a lot of the mystery-plot aspects) and using them well, while also centering on very specific supernatural elements that we non-Filipinos are unfamiliar with. (See also my post on the third volume ; that’s as far as I’ve seen so far.)

It didn’t have to be Philippine mythology: there are probably dozens of places in the world that could support a similarly new and energetic series, from Vietnam to Nigeria to Chile to Nunavut. (Not the Lake District or Transylvania or Bavaria.) But these creators were Filipino, so that was the world they knew, and they have been making great use of it.

The good news is that you can find Trese now, which you mostly couldn’t for the last decade. (After I lost my copies in the flood of 2011, I didn’t have them, either.) The American comics company Ablaze published an edition of this first collection, Murder on Balete Drive , late last year, and the second one is scheduled for June. There’s an animated series on Netflix, though some googling hasn’t gotten me to any solid information on the date it will be (or was?) released. With any luck, the rest of the eight books published in the Philippines will come here (and the rest of the world) as well, and creators Budjette Tan and KaJo Baldisimo can spend more time making these stories and less time being high-powered global advertising guys.

Balete Drive collects what were the original first four issues, all standalone stories. Baldisimo has redrawn the art, so it’s even stronger than it originally was: stunningly inky and atmospheric, in a style immediately accessible to Americans but still inherently Filipino. (Remembering how many Filipinos have done great work in American comics for the past six or seven decades, this should not be a surprise.) Tan has added short sections after each story to give a little more background on the supernatural entities in each section – these aren’t necessary, but they’re useful for us non-Filipinos. So this is the best possible edition of these stories: possibly annoying to Filipinos who have been supporting it for a decade, but gratifying to those of us elsewhere in the world who finally get to see it for ourselves.

All of the stories are about Alexandra Trese. She’s young, she’s called in when the Manila police have a weird case that they don’t know what to do with, she has skills and knowledge and contacts that can solve those problems – usually in ways that at least do not add more violence. But the supernatural is a dark and dangerous place, for anyone caught up in it and and possibly even for Trese. Her father, Anton, was respected and powerful but does not seem to be around now – and she’s very clear she is not her father. So there are story hooks for later, set carefully and with skill.

These are the first four cases of hers we know about. They clearly were not the first cases of her life: Tan and Baldisimo may some day go back and tell those stories. (They may already have.) They are dark and dangerous cases, with various monsters causing trouble and relationships that need to be carefully talked back into place. Luckily, Manila has Alexandra Trese to do that for them.

And, luckily, you have the stories of Alexandra Trese to look forward to.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

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5 Worlds Book 3: The Red Maze by Siegel, Siegel, Bouma, Rockefeller & Sun

I am bad at reviewing books in a timely fashion. And that can lead to being bad at reviewing books, period. I’m going to keep this post short, but I reserve the right to decide it’s pointless to begin with and delete it all.

(If you’re reading this, I didn’t.)

5 Worlds is a young-readers graphic novel series, coming out roughly annually. I missed the first book, The Sand Warrior . If any of what I type below sounds interesting, go check out that book. I did look at the second one, The Cobalt Prince , during my 2018 Book-A-Day run. I’ve now just read the third book, 2019’s The Red Maze . Last year there was a new book, The Amber Anthem . And the finale, The Emerald Gate , is coming this May, but doesn’t seem to be available for pre-order yet.

I didn’t remember Cobalt well when I dove into Red, and I obviously never went back to Sand, and won’t move on to Amber or Emerald. So most of what I could say about this book is beside the point – and that pains me, since a publicist actually sent this to me, back in the spring of 2019, in the hopes I would give a little attention to it when it was new and shiny and looking for an audience.

The five worlds are an interesting, mildly complex soft-SF universe, with five habitable spheres (I think four are actually moons, though it’s not super-clear if they’re moons of the same thing or not) and different governments and people on each of them. It’s all pitched at a level for young readers, but these stories are about ecology and corruption and believing in yourself and doing the right thing and finding the people who can make things better. All good things, obviously.

I read this too quickly, and I’m not going to get into plot details. There is a mild case of Chosen One-itis in our heroine, Oona Lee, and maybe almost as much in her friend Jax Amboy. Actually, the third major character, An Tzu, might be equally chosen for other things.

This isn’t really a book for me: I try to engage with YA graphic stories, since I love their energy and the sense of possibility in great books for young readers. But I somewhat bounced off of this, after not quite clicking with Cobalt. So all I can do is point to it, say that it looks to be quite good for what it is, but that I’ve been reading it half-assedly, and that’s not good for me or the book.

Reposted from The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.