Sunday, September 18, 2011

Comics You Should be Reading: Mystic

You should be reading Mystic. 

I really thought the first of these posts would be about a webcomic. But then Marvel --big name, boring, monolithically superheroic Marvel-- decided to bribe me with  a gorgeous story about two young women fighting prejudice, fate, and steampunk robot monsters:

I don't know what I can say to hook you if that's not enough.

Well, I guess I could mention that the girls plan their schemes with no romance in mind. That they rely on their own skills and sense and not once their beauty. I could, if pressed, write whole essays about the wonderful variety in character design, not just for the two main characters but throughout the large main cast- a variety that reflects and includes body shape, age, and class, and not just colors and gender.* I could mention that the story deals with bigotry of all stripes within the context of the story world and without getting preachy. And I could maybe kind of fangirl all over David Lopez and Nathan Fairbairn's art,  or how I think I've got a new favorite writer with G. Willow Wilson, who's doing such a great job giving everyone a distinct voice.

But really: it's a steampunk revolution story with two kickass women leading the tale. It's got zeppelins, magic, and fancy dance parties that don't hide the servants. It's a mini-series, so there's no fear of committing to a never ending soap story with endless unresolved plot complications.  Mystic is, in short, just the sort of book the big publishers almost never want to risk publishing, because common publishing wisdom says no one will read it. But it's awesome. You should read Mystic: Order the first issue here:
or just go to your favorite local comic shop and ask!

* My one teensy quibble is that there could be a bit more diversity in skin color- but since this is a Fantasy Industrial Europe, more or less, I'll let them slide with what they've got. It's still more racially mixed than most modern New York City crowd scenes in comics. 

Links for more info, including some interviews with the writer:
Comic Book Resources
Comics Alliance
Marvel Sneak Peek

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Comics You Should be Reading: A Brief Introduction

Being an ardent comic evangelist in often non-comic-reading groups, I often get asked what comics X should read.This really happens! There's a weird persecution complex in comics fandom, where fans think that non-readers are just waiting to rank on them if they voice some enthusiasm, but my overwhelming experience is that most people are happy to learn about New Fun Things. They just don't know where to start.

The trouble is that I hardly know where to start either. As a lifelong fan, having someone ask me "What comics should I read" is a bit like having someone ask me "How can I have fun in life?" There are so many answers, and it depends on the person doing the asking, and I could talk for hours about any of the hundreds of comics I like well enough to follow and oh man now my brain is locking up and I need time and an internet connection and ...

And here I have both. So here, in what I hope will be a not-infrequent series, are the Comics You Should Read, with descriptions and links and everything. This by no means an exhaustive series- I'm going to stick mostly to online comics, and I have my own very specific tastes and all-- but if you're like me, and you should be if you're reading this blog, this should at least give you a place to start.

Now, what sort of stories do you like...?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Invisible Failure Mode

Righty-o, I THOUGHT I was gonna do a post about the Thor movie (synopsis: It is awesome and Thor's chest makes me wanna get [Norse] religion) but then Science in My Fiction started talking about Spirited Away.

The rest of the post assumes you have seen Spirited Away at least once. If you haven't, you need to go do that RIGHT NOW. It's got fairyland riddles and dragons and witches and soot sprites and mystery and some of the most gorgeous art direction this side of the mortal divide. It's be Miyazaki, and if that's not enough to get you watchign a thing I weep for your deprivation. Go watch it, I'll wait.


Here's the thing. Every official writeup of the film I've seen describes Chihiro as sullen, spoiled, and/or whiny. And this baffles me, because Chihiro is constantly one of the best kids I've seen. In the first scene-after a long car trip with nothing to do, over country roads, in the company of her really awful parents, moving away from her friends and life and into the unknown- she's...tired and quiet. I know, she doesn't jump for joy when her mother dimisses her entire life to that point as something she'll soon forget; good grief, who would? And yes, when her parents decide to invade the supernatural realm through the tunnel with the psychic alarm signals, she tries to stop them. And when her parents- who at this point are well beyond insensitive and arcing into criminal-- decide to just EAT SOMEONE ELSE'S MEAL, she tries again to make them act like kerning human beings instead of wallowing porcine greed spirits. And when they in fact morph into wallowing porcine monstrosities, and alien beings manifest around her, looking for a scapegoat, she scarpers...

and then starts Dealing With It. And not, say, by leaving and finding good parents to live with, as a more cold bloodedly sensible person might, but by trying to save her own pig-family (who really, I cannot stress enough, have done nothing to deserve this effort) At this point, the reviews and descriptors generally agree Chihiro starts behaving well, so I won't ennumerate her many many acts of awesome from this point on.

Seriously, I know part of the movie's arc is Chihiro becoming more than she was, but from what I see she goes from well meaning but overwhelmed to Total Badass. I've never seen anything in her behavior that invited any of the negative descriptors often used on her (and the standard synopses never mention the fact that she's being raised by the kind of parents who invite throttling in every restaurant around the world). Someone fill me in, what I am missing here?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Choose Your Messiah How

How do you define God?

In our world, of course, it's not too pressing or too difficult. Some guy comes up and waves his hand and the dead walk, hey, God! Likewise, anyone who goes around building new universes is pretty much a shoo-in for the job.

But what about fantasy? Gods run amuck in fantasy worlds- but most of them never actually do much. They "manifest" and give out vague prophecies, or perform minor acts of magic. Which makes them different from that world's It doesn't. And rarely is any explanation offered of how people know they're worshipping a true God (and how they choose which one to go with) as opposed to say, Steve in Accounting, who's figured out some foresight and projection spells.

It gets even weirder in superhero verses. Marvel has the gods of Asgard and Greece running around eating hotdogs and hitting on women. Plus multiple devils, about five universe-builders, and at least one Celestovore. And let's not forget the mere mutants who can reverse time, resurrect themselves and others, command the elements...all pretty solidly god-powers in our mythos. (My favorite bit of fictive dissonance involved a DC story where one hero explained to a sidekick that of course Santa Claus was ridiculous! Because no one can fly around the world in one night! And who would live in the north pole? And...this is in the universe where Superman lives, remember.Man who can fly around the world in the space of a sentence, lives in a giant ice fortress at the North Pole...)

A lot of fantasy 'verses seem to dodge this by giving their population a rather Classic view of the Gods- gods are just people who can ruin your life in new exciting ways instead of the usual guns and taxes, people pay tribute to them as they do to their rulers, so on and such.

So what makes a god, when the miraculous is common? And what does a god merit? And does anyone have any recommendations for stories that actually deal with this in a non-preachy way? 'Cause I'd read that.