To say that I was excited when I found out Audible was adapting The Sandman, the iconic Vertigo comics series written by Neil Gaiman, into a multi-part audio series, would be a massive understatement. I'm an avid audiobook listener, Neil Gaiman is one of, if not my favorite author, and I'm a massive fan of comics. This was tailor made for individuals like me. Yet I found myself tempering my expectations a bit based on previous experiences with efforts at adapting comics. Perhaps the widest spread examples are the Graphic Audio adaptations of numerous DC and Marvel superhero romps. They are almost exclusively cheesy and often problematic. Locke & Key was adapted using a similar audio drama structure, but it's lack of a narrator made it un-listenable for me, despite my love of the source material. I should have known better. Gaiman and crew absolutely nailed it.
Verona Comics is the latest novel from author Jennifer Dugan. It's a YA romance novel that follows the intersection of two teens following a chance encounter at a comic con. Jubilee is a cello-playing prodigy whose stepmom runs a popular indie comic book shop. Ridley is high-strung and anxious and his parents own a huge chain of comic book superstores. At a comic con prom event, the two meet in costume and shortly thereafter begin to text, not knowing the other's identity. From there, romance blossoms and family secrets and business put the new relationship in jeopardy.
Pure Invention by Matt Alt is a new release that chronicles that wide-ranging impact that Japan's pop-culture has had on the world from the years following World War II through today. The breadth of topics is fairly wide-ranging, rather than focusing on a single industry or phenomenon. It's a testament to the sheer size of the pop-culture juggernaut that Japan has become over the 70-plus years that the book covers. While Pure Invention isn't an "own voices" history, Alt lives in Tokyo and seems to have a deep love for Japanese pop-culture and has crafted a compelling and well-researched history.
It's a little bit early, but here are my favorite things that I read in June 2020. Most of them had been released before this month. It was a month marked by trying to focus on primarily reading work from Black creators. It was also a month marked by having difficulty focusing on reading, spending a good deal of time doomscrolling instead. Nonetheless, I still managed to read quite a bit and discovered some great works from authors old and new to me.
Queen's Peril by E.K. Johnston is the latest entry in the Disney-era line of Star Wars novels. It's the second time that Johnston has penned a novel about Queen Amidala, after writing Queen's Shadow last year. Whereas Queen's Shadow found Johnston expanding on Padmé's time in the Galactic Senate after stepping down as Queen of Naboo, Queen's Peril bookends the Padmé story by going back to the time immediately after she was elected Queen. Johnston again focuses heavily on Padmé's relationship with her handmaidens, and fans of the series are sure to recognize some familiar faces as the Queen assembles the group. Much like Queen's Shadow, Queen's Peril is mostly targeted at a YA audience.
The City We Became is the latest from acclaimed sci-fi/fantasy author N.K. Jemisin. Building off of the short story The City Born Great, The City We Became is a fantasy/horror novel about a group of 5 people that have been chosen by New York City to protect itself from an evil threat seeking to destroy it. When I say chosen by New York City, I'm not talking about a democratic election. Jemisin utilizes the mythos of New York City as a core fabric of the book and personifies the city to make it both a character and setting. It's something that I felt to be very unique and original.
Batman: Blink collects issues 156-158 and issues 164-167 of the original Legends of the Dark Knight series. Originally published in 2002 and 2003, it's written by Dwyane McDuffie and drawn by Val Semeiks. There are two different stories collected here. The first is the initial 3-issue Batman: Blink storyline and the second has the pair returning to the same characters a short time later in the Legends of the Dark Knight series.
As part of an effort to boost Black voices in the comics and book community, I'm trying to mostly only read works by Black writers and artists for the month of June. This time I pulled down one I've been looking forward to for a while. Bitter Root , Vol. 1 collects the first 5 issues of the series written by David F. Walker and Chuck Brown and drawn by Sanford Greene. A sci-fi/horror series about a family of Black monster hunters living in 1920's Harlem, it felt like a natural fit to read this month.
I was writing a review today about a superhero comic book today and frankly it felt like a pointless thing to be doing this week. Instead, inspired by my friend at Words for Worms, I'm just going to list some of my favorite books and comics written by Black creators in my favorite genres. There's a ton of material going around about anti-racist material written by Black people. These books, poems, films, TV shows, etc are essential, but it seems vitally important to support Black creators in their endeavors that aren't just about explicitly tackling racism. I've put together a short and not-at-all comprehensive of some of my favorite recent fiction from Black creators. Black Lives Matter. Black Art Matters.