Review: Relish

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Relish
by Lucy Knisley

★★★★☆

2013 • 192 pages • First Second

Despite my love of cooking, I don’t review cookbooks for this blog. There are a lot of reasons for that. Firstly, I don’t actually read that many of them, because the Internet is my main resource for recipes. Secondly, I don’t actually read them the way I consume media. I rifle through them, searching for something I like, and when I finally do alight on a likely candidate, my improvisation is brutal because of my lactose intolerance, laziness, and cheapness. When I look for a recipe for myself, it’s with the specific intent of making it my own.

But when I read food histories or food-centered memoirs, it’s a different story. I’m seized by the urge to recreate a historical dish, to better access the past through my sense of taste, or by the need to go find the pizzeria this book recommends and see if it’s really worth all the praise. Relish’s recipes and recommendations proved all the more tempting for author Lucy Knisley’s clear, clean, and bright artwork. I have bookmarked places to go eat in Chicago because of this book, and I have never been to Chicago nor plan to visit Chicago. I have an ear of corn in my fridge from the farmer’s market, ready for me to eat raw, per Knisley’s fond memories of doing so. I even copied her recipe for sautéed mushrooms down to the letter, but my stomach was being peculiarly tender and refused to digest it.

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Review: Thor — The Mighty Avenger

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Thor: The Mighty Avenger
by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee

★★★½☆

2013 • 216 pages • Marvel

Thor: The Mighty Avenger was both the first Thor comic I ever bought and the first comic I ever bought sight unseen. Trawling eBay for Harley Quinn material, I found an issue of Joker’s Asylum II, a short anthology series. It’s a wonderful comic—I especially adore how the art allows Harley to be adorable, a little grotesque, and look like an actual human being—but the cost of shipping took me aback. Looking at the other seller’s items, I found the first two issues of Thor: The Mighty Avenger for pretty cheap. “Looks cute,” I reasoned, and added them to my order.

What I got was a delightful all-ages riff on Thor’s origin story, casting Jane Foster as the new Head of the Department of Nordic Antiquities in Bergen, Oklahoma, as well as the whole proceedings in a light, sweet tone. Contrasted against my desperate search for any Harley Quinn material that treated her well and wasn’t too grimdark for my blood, this was just one of many moments that slowly steered me towards Marvel and away from DC.

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Review: Marvels

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Marvels
by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross

★★★★½

1994 • 248 pages • Marvel

After my brother went off to college, his room, despite still having all of his stuff in it, was up for grabs. My dad seized upon it as an office without telling anyone or even taking the bed out, while I was finally able to rifle through my brother’s books to my heart’s content. (Madame McBride did not participate in this land grab.) Without my brother to kick me out or stop me from getting my grubby preteen paws on his lovingly curated collection of French comics (direct from the motherland!), I was unstoppable.

And that’s how I, at around the age of nine or ten, discovered the difference between Marvel and DC. I’d only been familiar with DC before, having watched Batman: The Animated Series and the odd episode of The Adventures of Lois and Clark, but I had only the vaguest idea that Spider-Man existed. In my brother’s library, there were two graphic novels from each company, alone among the Asterixes, Tintin, and Largo Winch. DC was represented by Kingdom Come, an epic and fairly dark Elseworlds end game story featuring roughly everyone in the DC universe. Ross was inspired to pitch Kingdom Come to DC because he was just coming off illustrating the only Marvel book in my brother’s collection—Marvels.

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Review: Young Avengers — Style > Substance

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Young Avengers: Style > Substance
by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

★★★★½

2013 • 128 pages • Marvel

Through sheer timing and luck, I have, in my comic book collection, Kieron Gillen’s entire run on Journey Into Mystery in single issues. I don’t mention this as a bragging point; its genius is readily available in trader paperback. I mention this because I really loved getting to follow the story of Kid Loki in weekly installments. In the digital age, it’s very easy to binge on something in days or weeks, so I really value being able to take my time with a series. (I’m doing the same thing right now with Sailor Moon. It’s awesome!) Gillen’s self-contained arc—best described as “a comedy in thirty parts and a tragedy in thirty-one”—is fun, heartwarming, thoughtful, meta, and heartbreaking, all at the same time.

And that’s without Gillen working with long-time collaborator Jamie McKelvie. I don’t mean to imply that Gillen’s writing sparkles less without McKelvie or vice versa, but the narrative and the art walk hand in hand when they’re working together. The two began their working relationship in 2003 at PlayStation Magazine UK on Save Point, a comic about gaming. (This is, to quote John Mulaney, a very old-fashioned sentence. I can practically smell my old GamePro magazines reading it.) Since then, they’ve worked together on Phonogram, the upcoming The Wicked + The Divine, and the short-lived but critically acclaimed and GLAAD Award-winning Young Avengers.

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Review: X-Men — Season One

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X-Men: Season One
by Dennis Hopeless and Jamie McKelvie

★★★★½

2012 • 136 pages • Marvel Comics

Why aren’t you listening to Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men right now?

I haven’t been this excited for a podcast… well, ever. Being led gently through the saga of the X-Men by a pair of awesome, feminist-minded comic professionals who know their stuff and have great banter is one of the highlights of my week. After those forty-five minutes are up, I’m brimming with recommendations, a greater appreciation for Chris Claremont, and my love for Dazzler.

(Well, my love for Dazzler is eternal, but you get the idea. Lupita Nyong’o for Dazzler 2016!)

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Review: Women of Marvel — Volume 2

womenofmarvel2Women of Marvel: Volume 2
by Roy Thomas, Chris Claremont, Mark Gruenwald, and Terry Austin

★★★½☆

Why am I not just reading Bronze Age comics all the time?

If you are not familiar with the ages of comics, the Golden Age covers roughly the late thirties to the early fifties, The Silver Age the mid-fifties to the early seventies, the Bronze Age the seventies to the mid-eighties, and the Modern Age the mid-eighties to now. Mark Voger makes the argument that the late eighties and nineties, known for its deconstructions, “extreme!” tone, and allowing Rob Liefeld to make a living, are the Dark Ages, which I can buy. This also allows me to predict that, when DC gets its head surgically removed from its derriere in the future, that the time we live in will be referred to as the Grimdark Age. (Although a new word will be have to be invented to describe Marvel’s current state, which should indicate ascension, a steamroller, mass media saturation, and rolling in money.)

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Review: Women of Marvel — Volume One

womenofmarvel01Women of Marvel: Volume One
by Stan Lee, Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas, Linda Fite, Tom DeFalco, Carol Seuling, Steve Gerber, Chris Claremont, Jim Shooter and David Michelinie

★★★★½

For the last three years, the amazing Jess Plummer has been noting what free promotional materials Marvel and DC have sent along to Wiscon, the world’s oldest feminist sf convention. After last year’s pretty decent showing, she was disappointed that Marvel’s offerings this year featured no ladies at all. After all, Marvel has so many interesting female characters and female-led titles these days, from Ms. Marvel to She-Hulk (featuring Kevin Wada’s deliriously delightful covers and Javier Pulido’s willfully and wonderfully grotesque art) to X-Men, which boasts an entire team of lady mutants without bothering to change the title. Why not celebrate that?

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Review: Green Lantern — Rebirth

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Green Lantern: Rebirth
by Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver

★★½☆☆

I’ll be honest: I don’t particularly get Green Lantern as a concept. I mean, space police, power rings, the fact that John Stewart is awesome, these are all things I get. But the Green Lantern approach to fear has always left me a little cool. Firstly, because it means that Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern for those unfortunate enough not to grow up on a steady diet of the DC animated universe, is a cocky, fearless pilot. As an Air Force brat, I only find this twentieth century archetype interesting when it’s played by Tom Cruise and set to the musical stylings of Berlin. So while I have seen (in slack-jawed amusement at its sheer badness) DC’s hilariously tragic attempt to bring Green Lantern to the big screen, I don’t really have any investment in the character.

But Green Lantern: Rebirth kept popping up over and over again as a good recommendation. Not so much to get into the character, but because it (like its spiritual sequel Flash: Rebirth) streamlines years of messy comic book continuity. When superhero comics are referred to as modern mythology, it’s largely because, like mythology, they consist of many stories (including often different versions of the same story) that are loosely but not firmly related featuring the same cast (including often different versions of the same cast). The accurate approach to adapting such a tentacled beastie is picking and choosing. This is how we end up with interpretations of Batman as varied as Batman: The Animated Series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and, as it is foretold, Batman v Superman: Grimdark Grimdark Grimdark. And, gloriously, they’re all valid—not only because all readings are valid, but because the source material encompasses all of those approaches. It’s an ever changing beast.

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Review: Rat Queens — Volume One: Sass and Sorcery

Rat Queens: Volume One — Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

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Out of all the films in Tom Cruise’s filmography that I haven’t seen yet, Legend is the one that intrigues me the most. While Cruise has been involved in a lot of genre fare, it’s his only fantasy outing. Plus, it came out in 1985 and features Tim Curry as Satan, so I’ll probably adore it. It sounds like old school fantasy at its finest. For me, that’s fantasy produced from 1977 (Star Wars is science fantasy, y’all!) to 2001 (when The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring legitimized fantasy in mainstream eyes to a certain extent), as codified by Dungeons and Dragons. It’s your Standard Fantasy Setting, but something about those specific dates make it work for me. (I’m probably romanticizing the idea of listening to Iron Maiden while reading The Lord of the Rings on your parents’ roof in 1994, but hey.) Past those dates, however, and my tolerance for the lack of diversity to be found in your Standard Fantasy Setting becomes nil. Heck, there’s diverse stuff to be found between my extremely scientific dates, so there’s no excuse.

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Review: Superman — Birthright

Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu

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To me, one of the most important elements of the Superman mythos is that Clark Kent is a journalist. It may not shock you to learn that I came to Superman through The Adventures of Lois and Clark, which focused heavily on its newsroom setting, but it’s more than just allegiance to the series that cemented my view of Big Blue. (Make all the Dean Cain jokes you want, he’s still “OH MY GOD IT’S SUPERMAN!” to me.) Rather, it’s an indicator of who Clark is at his core. Supposedly, Marvel’s heroes are the relatable ones and DC’s heroes are the aspirational ones (or used to be, before DC fell down Grimdark Canyon and came back wrong), but Clark’s interest in journalism means that, even if he didn’t have unimaginable power, he would still be out there, fighting for the greater good. Because that’s his greatest superpower: empathy for all humanity.

I have been disappointed again and again as of late when it comes to this integral part of Clark’s character for me: see Man of Steel (or It Came From Grimdark Canyon) and the new 52’s Superman/Wonder Woman (or Mortals Aren’t Good Enough). So opening up Superman: Birthright was a welcome relief, and not just because it was actually and willfully colorful.

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