Archive for Marvel Comics

Year End Book Report: My Favorite Books/Comics I Read in 2020

Posted in Blog Series, Book Report, books, comic books with tags , , , , , on January 11, 2021 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

2020.  Oh my god, guys, what a ride. I’m surprised, but I was able to get some reading done in 2020. It helped, sort of, that I was home most of the time. And, we read a lot more books as a family to each other. So that’s why you’ll see Diary of a Wimpy Kid on my list, and Little House on the Prairie, and Junie B Jones. These are book we read as a family or I read to my kids at bedtime. So it did seem we were all reading more together. I really liked that.

So, you can find my reading logs on Goodreads. I log everything I read there. My reading goal for 2020 was 105 books. And according to Goodreads, I read 170 books.

Reading 170 books certainly sounds impressive, but it’s deceiving as well. I had three books I did not finish, but Goodreads counts them in my “books read” and “pages read” totals.  There were also a couple large story collections that I only read one story out of, but Goodreads counts that whole book towards my totals.  Also, I read several comics series that weren’t collected into paperbacks so I had to list them as single issues. That quickly inflates my totals.  Plus, comics are super easy and quick to read. And I read a bunch of them this year.

Let’s look at some of my other Reading totals.

Here’s my shortest and longest book I read.  Both were read for AWESOME-tober-fest this year.  The short one is obviously a short story.  The longest one is a collection of the works of Stephen Vincent Benet.  He wrote The Devil and Daniel Webster.  I only read The Devil and Daniel Webster.  None of the other stories.  But that book is counted amongst my totals.

Here are my “most popular” and “least popular” shelved books.  I had read the first Harry Potter to my kids this year which started off a whole Potter obsession in this house that continues to this day.  We’ve watched all the movies, I’ve read the first three books to them, and they each have their own wands.  The least popular book I read is a comic from the Ultraverse: Prime comic series by Malibu.  I read a bunch of these Ultraverse titles for my apppearance on the podcast Wizards: The Podcast Guide to Comics.  These didn’t even exist on Goodreads.  I had to add them.

If you look at my Google Spreadsheet reading log, which I keep in parallel with Goodreads, you’ll see it listing 113 reads this year.  Minus the three aforementioned DNF books, which makes it 110 reads.  That number rolls up the single issue comics into their collected titles.  Still over my goal number of 105, so I’m happy with that.  Next year (or this year, I guess, 2021) I set my reading goal to 115.

Let’s move on with my recap of my favorite books I read this year.

Rules are the same.  Only books/comics I read for the first time in 2020 are eligible for this list.  No re-reads, of which I had a few.  You won’t find a lot of “2020” reads in here.  I don’t typically read brand new stuff the year it comes out, but it happens.  There was one big 2020 release that I did read.  Will it make the list?  Let’s find out.

Books

Immortality Inc
Immortality, Inc by Robert Sheckley
– I’ve been wanting to read this for YEARS.  This is the book that the movie Freejack was based on, and I am a fan of that movie.  We even covered Freejack on Cult Film Club in 2020.  Robert Sheckley is a prolific sci-fi author from the 50s.  And yes, Immortality Inc was written in the late 50s.  The novel is very different from the movie.  The movie took a few aspects of the story and that’s about it.  I’m considering doing an appendix episode of this novel on I Read Movies, so possibly stay tuned for that.  But the book is good, it’s packed with interesting ideas, and I had some fun with it.  I’m now curious to check out more of Sheckley’s work.  He’s written a *ton* of stuff including several short story collections, and a novel, Dimension of Miracles, that was a precursor (and possible influencer) to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Brilliance Trilogy 1 Brilliance Trilogy 2 Brilliance Trilogy 3
Brilliance Trilogy by Marcus Sakey
– I forget how I found out about this series.  The basic premise is that at some point in the 80s it was discovered that 1% of the population is born “brilliant”.  Meaning that they have special abilities.  But we aren’t talking throwing fireballs, super speed, or flying.  It’s more grounded than that.  One man can read your intentions through your posture or your muscles tensing.  Another man can read the subtleties of the ever changing stock market to such a degree that he racked up billions and shut the entire NYSE down.  One woman can turn invisible, not physically invisible, but she inherently knows where people aren’t currently looking and can occupy those spots at the exact time to make herself functionally invisible.  And there are many other degredations besides that.  Sakey creates a pretty interesting world.  It’s definitely an X-Men pastiche type story.  Which itself is a thin alegory for racism.  This book investigates all of that.  The government that’s scared that Brilliants will take over world.  What they do about it.  And all the political intrigue and drama behind the scenes.  It’s really good and I highly recommend it.

Making of ROTJ
The Making of Return of the Jedi by JW Rinzler
– So, I finally finished this series.  It took me three years, but I finally did it.  I read the original Making of Star Wars in 2018.  Then I read the Making of Empire Strikes Back in 2019.  And this year, I was able to finish the trilogy with Making of Return of the Jedi.  These books are exhaustive.  Thousands of pictures.  Script fragments.  Behind the scenes stuff.  I had the Kindle versions and they also came with snippets of audio and video clips.  There is so much to consume with this series.  It’s an undertaking.  But it’s highly satisfying and worth it for a die hard Star Wars fan.  And to be honest, lately, I’ve been sort of “taking a break” on Star Wars.  These books sort of put me back into the mindset of, “Yeah, there’s a lot to like about Star Wars.”  Then add in watching season 2 of The Mandalorian with my son, and I may be somewhat ready to dive back into….well, if not all, then certain…Star Wars things.

NBA Jam
NBA Jam (Boss Fight Books) by Reyan Ali
NBA Jam is one of my favorite arcade games of all time.  This book is an oral history of how the game was made, how it became a global phenomenon, and all the drama that went on behind the scenes.  It’s a lot of fun and I love oral histories like this.  I read another pretty great oral history this year about Jaws called The Jaws Log.  It was written by one of the screenwriters, Carl Gottlieb, who was there almost every day of shooting.  Check it out!

Ninth House Time & Again
This last spot was pretty hard.  Several things could go here.  I didn’t have any one, clear winner.  So how about a two-fer?
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – This book is a part of the plethora of “Magical Schools” books that have flooded the market since Harry Potter. See Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.  This one, though, doesn’t use a hidden magical school amongst our world, it takes place on an existing college campus, Yale, that has a whole hidden magical community inside the normal campus life.  I won’t lie, the book is a slow starter.  You are sort of dropped into this world with very few context clues to what’s going on.  But as I read and picked up more details about the magic in this world, I really liked it.  Life in this book is pretty much the same as our own, except magic exists.  The problem is, magic is dirty.  It’s gross.  And it’s not easy to do.  There’s a lot of ceremony and ritual that’s required, and not just anybody can do it.  And, it’s super dangerous.  I liked this approach to magic.  And the main protagonist, Alex Stern, is an interesting and complicated character.  I would definitely read any sequel Bardugo wants to write in this world.

Time and Again by Jack Finney – I love time travel books.  Especially ones that sort of try to take the material in different directions.  This is one of those “secret government experiment to make time travel a reality” type stories.  And it’s pretty good.  A shadowy government agency recruits Si Morley to their ranks.  They are attempting time travel.  But time travel doesn’t work with a device or a “machine”.  In this world, you have to almost will yourself into the past.  It reminded me a lot of the movie Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve.  And very few people have ever done it.  The way they handle time travel here is pretty great.  Si ultimately figures it out and travels back to the late 1800s New York.  Something goes awry.  He gets in trouble with a bad dude in 1880, but everytime he goes back to the future he notices small things are changing.  So he has to make a decision about what needs to happen and where is he going to wind up staying, in the future, or in the past?  This book was written in 1970.  There’s a sequel, but it wasn’t written until 1995!  25 years later!  I’m curious to read the sequel now considering some of the things that happen at the end of the first one.

I also read a bunch of movie novelizations this year for I Read Movies.  I wanted to place a few on this list, however, I think I may break them out and do an I Read Movies 2020 Year End round up.  And talk about the movie novelizations I read for the podcast there.  Stay tuned for that!

Let’s switch over to comics!

Comics

Flash 4 Flash YO
The Flash by Josuha Williamson
– This summer I went on a BIG The Flash read/re-read. First, I had gotten way behind on my current Flash reading. I had read the first couple volumes of Joshua Williamson’s Flash but stopped there. I wanted to catch up. So, I started where I left off, Volume 4, and read nearly straight through to Volume 12. And this includes Williamson’s take on Flash: Year One. There’s a lot of characters, and a lot of characters with super speed, which normally would bother me, but Williamson is able to handle that load. I enjoyed reading this run so much I actually went and read The Flash: Savage Velocity which is a collection of the first 18 issues of the 1987 Flash title.  That was the title I read back in the day as they were being released.  The first few issues are by Mike Baron and then William Messner-Loebs takes over.  Everyone always talks about Mark Waid’s Flash run, but he didn’t get on that title until issue 62, so there are 61 issues BEFORE him that are actually really good.  So I read the first 18 issues in Savage Velocity, and I happen to have a ton of these issues from when I bought them as they were coming out, so I pulled them out and read all the way up to issue #35.  Loved this full read.

Avengers MM Dr Strange MM
Marvel Masterworks
– I actually read several of these collected Marvel Masterworks books.  I read the first two Avengers volumes, as well as the first volume for Dr Strange, Iron Man, and Silver Surfer.  I really dig these high quality collections.  They are nice to read.  I’m going to call out the Avengers (issues #1-10) and Dr Strange (Strange Tales #110-111, 114-141) as my favorites.  I can’t express how much fun the Avengers books are.  They are mostly by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Don Heck.  These 60s stories are amazing and so different than what you expect out of these characters.  Iron Man has roller skates BUILT INTO HIS BOOTS!  And Dr Strange is exactly what you want it to be, these weirdly strange magical stories with TERRIFIC art by Steve Ditko.  I highly recommend reading some if you have the chance.  This year I’m hoping to bust into X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, and maybe even another volume of Avengers or Iron Man.  Or even Dr Strange.  Maybe all of them!

Paper Girls 1 Paper Girls 2 Paper Girls 3
Paper Girls (v1-v3)
– So I burned through the first three trades of Paper Girls this year based on people just *loving* this series.  I was curious, plus Brian K Vaughn is an awesome writer.  And there was talk about the 80s.  I thought maybe I’d get some sort of Stranger Things vibe out of this.  And that’s not wrong, but it doesn’t really do justice to what you get in this story.  There’s SO MUCH going on here, and at any moment, you probably are only aware of 50% of it.  There are constant revelations about things that already happened in the story that shed new light or change your perspective on the ongoing story.  It’s amazing how well this is written considering how bananas the story gets.  I mean BANANAS.  The art is great, the titular “paper girls” are awesome, and it takes place in the 80s.  I’m not going to spoil anything, just read it.

Calamity Jane
Calamity Jane: The Calamitous Life of Martha Jane Cannary by Christian Perrissin/Matthieu Blanchin
– I found this on a lark for sale and grabbed it to read for my western podcast, Hellbent for Letterbox.  And wow, it was super charming.  The art is terrific.  It’s black and white with some gray lowlights.  It reminds me of those Japanese paintings with ink and brush.  But the book tries to tell as accurate a story as it can from all the known facts about Mary Jane Cannary, aka Calamity Jane.  It takes from several books, and some letters Jane wrote to her daughter.  I loved this book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Infinite Kung Fu
Infinite Kung-Fu by Kagan McLeod
– This book reminds me a lot of the above Calamity Jane book.  The art is similarly fantastic.  Black and white with lots of brush strokes.  It felt like Kagan McLeod had found a lost 70s Kung Fu movie and illustrated it into graphic novel form.  An evil emporer, his evil kung fu master generals, kung fu gods, and lots of limb tearing action.  I really enjoyed this.

And those were my favorite books and comics I read in 2020.  Hope you enjoyed this article and found something new that you may eventually love.  Let me know if you do!

Lots more coming up, guys.  Expect to see an I Read Movies novelization round up, as well as my favorite movies of 2020 list.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: Marvel’s Mephisto!

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, comic books, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, The Devil with tags , , , , , , on October 7, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

Here we are, the Wednesday entry for the first full week of AWESOME-tober-fest 2020.  I can’t believe we made it this far guys.  HIGH FIVE!  I’m still looking at the Devil and today I delve into the realm of comic books!

Each of the “Big Two” comic companies have their own analogue for “the devil”.  DC has Lucifer Morningstar, and Marvel has Mephisto. Mephisto is the personification of all evil in the Marvel Universe. He performs a lot of the duties of a traditional devil figure.  Temptation being the main one.  His name is even a shortened version of Mephistopheles.

Mephisto

Mephisto first appeared in Silver Surfer #3 in 1968 and he’s still appearing in Marvel Comics today.  The depiction of Mephisto throughout his existence hasn’t changed much. He looks like the typical depiction of a demonic devil. Red skin and hair, fangs, sometimes horns, sometimes not. He’s immortal and a very powerful magic user. He’s been around at least as long as the Marvel Universe. He lives in a “hell dimension”. And he’s a collector of souls. Marvel is very cagey about calling him the traditional “Devil”. The character does admit that he may be the inspiration for the concept of the devil, and I know he’s referenced several times that he is the demonic figure in the Faust story.

Mephisto has had his hands in many different events in Marvel history.  He’s butted heads with Silver Surfer, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Doctor Strange, and even Thanos.  I wanted to cover a good story for AWESOME-tober-fest featuring Mephisto, and I have many choices, but there’s one I never got to read and I decided to take a look at it today, it’s Mephisto’s 4 issue mini-series from 1987, Mephisto Vs.

Mephisto 1 Mephisto 2
Mephisto 3 Mephisto 4

Mephisto Vs was written by Al Milgrom and drawn by John Buscema, and as I said, it was released in Spring 1987. It was mostly a standalone mini, but it did acknowledge a few things that happened within the books of the teams it crosses over with.

Overall, this is a pretty great story, and the art is classic Marvel.  Mephisto kicks off a long game plan by attacking the Fantastic Four and snatching the soul of Franklin Richards, the son of Reed and Sue.  This leads him to trade it for Sue’s soul, which then leads to X-Factor getting involved and Mephisto trading up different heroes’ souls from the X-Men and the Avengers.  And it’s clear that Mephisto has an endgame in mind, we just don’t know what it is until the very end.  It’s really cool too see that plan unfold throughout the books.

The story really leans into Mephisto as a soul collector.  And that he isn’t interested in just more souls, he views different souls differently.  He values some souls over others.  He makes it clear that while human souls are desirable, he covets super human souls more, and Homo Superior souls more than that.  Yes, Mephisto GRADES his souls like a comic collector!  Milgrom continues to draw this parallel between Mephisto  and readers collecting comic books when he reveals that Mephisto has a system in place for storing souls, and to some of you it may sound familiar.

Mystic Mylar Mystic Mylar

Mylar bags!  Mephisto stores his valued souls in double Mylar bags to protect them!  And Mephisto goes on to mention he needs to take inventory of the other souls he recently acquired.  Is Milgrom trying to say comic collectors are like “the devil”?  Ha, no, he’s not.  It’s just a funny metaphor.

This Mephisto business gets serious.  Serious enough that we get an appearance by The Living Tribunal.

I love the big, ethereal, cosmic entities in the Marvel Universe.  Eternity, Chaos, Living Tribunal…these guys were always a fun, unexpected appearance in books like Silver Surfer and Doctor Strange.  Only a few people in the Marvel Universe even knew they existed.  Look at that guy, he is *awesome*.

Ultimately, we get the final showdown with Mephisto taking on the current roster of Avengers in a fight for one of their members’ souls.  This roster of Avengers includes Black Knight, Silver Centurion Iron Man, She-Hulk, Tigra and Dr Druid.  Oh, and the West Coast Avengers show up as well to help out.  It’s a pretty epic battle.

This was a pretty great little mini-series.  I really enjoyed the writing but especially the art.  I would definitely recommend it if you have access to it.  Lots of fun.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

Year End Book Report: My Favorite Books/Comics I Read in 2019

Posted in Blog Series, Book Report, books, comic books with tags , , , , , on January 9, 2020 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Okey-dokey, my friends, it’s time for my year end round up articles. Every year in January (or February if I’m running late) I write up a list of my favorite things I read and watched in the previous year. I started doing movies in about 2007, then I added a books list in 2009.  These are some of my favorite articles to write because I can look back at the previous year and relive all the ups and downs in my own reading and watching.  It really is a lot of fun.

I keep my reading log in two places.  I’m still keeping a Google Spreadsheet of the books I’ve read.  But you can also check me out over on Goodreads.  See the details for all the books I’ve read, read my reviews, marvel at how handsome my profile pic is.  Lots of stuff to do there.

Here’s my 2019 Goodreads “My Year in Books” information:

According to Goodreads, and it’d know, I read 115 books last year, equaling 22,094 pages.  The longest book I read was Beastie Boys Book, which is surprising because I totally thought that Making of Empire Strikes Back book was longer.  Anyway, last year I had set my 2019 reading challenge to 80 books, so I beat that.  Yay!  I had a pretty good, consistent year of reading in 2019 so I was able to get my numbers up.  I hit a rough patch in October and November where I couldn’t read very much at all, otherwise, I would have finished with 120 books.  I set up my Goodreads challenge for 2020 just the other day, and I set it to 105 books.  We’ll see if I can keep last year’s momentum going.

The rules for this list are the same as always; only books I read for the first time in 2019 are eligible.  No re-reads.  I’ll probably do a followup article with Honorable Mentions and I’ll include any re-read books worth mentioning in that article.  I generally pick about 5 books and 5 comics to put in this list, but as always, I reserve the right to pick a few extras.  Let’s see if that happens this year.

First up…

Books

Four Legendary Kingdoms
The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly – I’ve been reading Matthew Reilly for years, starting with The Contest way back in 2007-ish.  Since then I’ve read almost all of his books over the years.  This is the 4th book in Reilly’s Jack West Jr series. The first three books of this series made a previous Favorite Books list (WAAAAAAY back in 2011).  I read both the 4th and the 5th book (Three Secret Cities) in the series this year.  Reilly is such a fun author.  He writes these incredible, fast paced, adventure novels with fantastical plots.  I love them.  And this book actually features a low key but great crossover with another of Reilly’s heroes from a different series.  So much story and adventure in this book, I really enjoyed it.  As well as the aforementioned 5th book.  Looking forward to the release of the 6th book, soon I hope.

Vengeful
Vengeful by VE Schwab – The second book in Schwab’s Villains series. The first book made my list last year.  The world in this book has developed EOs (extra-ordinaries).  EOs are people that have acquired super powers through a near death experience.  And how the person nearly dies kind of determines the powers that person will have.  This book picks right up after the previous book with Victor and his crew tracking down and trying to stop Eli.  But we also get the rise of a brand new EO with her own vengeful agenda.  This is a great followup to the also great, Vicious.  The characters are all well written, the storyline is dark, but I had a lot of fun with this.  And I like the manifestation and different types of power sets in this series.  Really well thought out and written.

Beastie Boys Book
Beastie Boys Book by Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz – The Beastie Boys are one of my favorite groups.  Ever since I discovered them on the Krush Groove soundtrack back in the mid 80s I’ve been a die hard fan.  Consequently, I was thoroughly excited for the guys to tell their own history.  And they don’t disappoint here.  You get a great time capsule of New York in the early 80s.  Some of the punk scene and then transitioning over to the hip hop scene.  The Boys were there on the ground floor for a *lot* of hip hop history.  Some of my favorite stuff in this is the pre album stuff.  The stuff they did while recording the albums.  We get a lot of reminiscing about hanging out recording all their albums, like Check Your Head and Hello Nasty out in California, which is great.  And touring.  So much content.  This book is PACKED with info.  If you’re even a casual fan, you need to give this book a shot.  The only sad thing is that Adam MCA Yauch is no longer with us to tell his part of this story.  That would have made this just that much more complete.

Making of Empire Strikes Back
The Making of The Empire Strikes Back by JW Rinzler – I read Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars book last year and it made my year end list.  So I started this book this past summer and read it on and off for about four months.  These books are exhaustive and super long.  I would read here and there, absorbing the details of filming on sets, the drama of actors, trying to get the story right, etc etc.  While this wasn’t as good as The Making of Star Wars, I really enjoyed the peek behind the curtain for Empire.  The lead up writing the screenplay, the tension that occurred between the actors over their parts, and the final marketing before the movie was released.  All of that info, and the book is packed with pictures, images, diagrams, script remnants.  So much to look at.  I also have Rinzler’s The Making of Return of the Jedi, and I hope to read that in 2020 the same way I read Star Wars and Empire the past two years.  I would say expect to probably see Making of Jedi on next year’s list.

Rewinder 1 rewinder 2 Rewinder 3
Rewinder series by Brett Battles – Every year Amazon offers its Kindle Unlimited program for a special low promo price. Normally it’s $9.99/month, but they will sometimes offer 3 months for $9.99, or 3 months for $.99, or even 3 months for free. With it you can browse and read a cultivated selection of kindle books and magazines.  I will usually take advantage of these special prices and read as many books as I can in three months for the low low promo price.  This series by Brett Battles is on Kindle Unlimited and during one of these promos I tried it out because it was about time travel.  And it’s a pretty great story.  Denny Younger was born into one of the lowest rungs of society.  His fortunes change when he’s recruited by a mysterious institute to become a Rewinder, a verifier of personal histories.  However Denny learns that verifying these histories doesn’t involve research in a library, but actually witnessing history and events through time travel.  And if he’s not careful, even the smallest mistake can have the largest consequences.  I blew through the first book and only had like a week or two before my promo period ended to read the second and third books which I was able to do with days to spare.  The whole series is a great read.  I had a lot of fun binging the three books back to back to back.  This series will definitely become a re-read at some point for me.

Impossible Fortress
The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak – This book was sent to me by my good friend, Shawn Robare.  He actually sent it to me years ago, but I didn’t get to it until this past year when I had an unexpected lull in my reading pile.  So I picked up this book, started to read it on a lark, and completely fell in love.  It’s set during the summer of 1987, and the book feels natural in that time period.  I don’t feel like it tries to hit you over the head with the nostalgic setting.  And the characters are very well drawn, especially our leads, Will and Mary.  It’s a wonderful, unassuming “back in the day” type story that I totally fell for.  Great great book.  Highly recommended.  Thanks Shawn for introducing me to it.

Here and Now and Then
Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen – I forget how I discovered this book.  It was published in January 2019.  It’s a really cool story about Kin Stewart, a man living a normal life in San Francisco in the 1990s with his wife and daughter but whose previous occupation was as a time traveling temporal police detective from 2142 who was accidentally stranded in the 90s after a botched mission.  18 years later, Kin is struggling with only partial memories of his previous life which is giving him headaches and blackouts, when his rescue team unexpectedly shows up and tries to take him back to his rightful future and a family he doesn’t remember.  This was such a good book.  I’m a sucker for time travel anyway, and this really hit the spot.  A lot of the story is about family and really hit home for me with the relationship of the main character and his daughter.

Time to move on to…

Comics

Superior Spider-Man collection
The Superior Spider-Man Complete Collection Volume 1 – I’ve had some of these issues for a while but never got around to actually reading them.  Then I was able to get this complete collection (the first 16 issues of the series) on sale for cheap and decided to give it a shot.  Just before he dies, Otto Octavius manages to switch his mind into Peter Parker’s body and Peter’s mind into Otto’s dying body.  Then Otto masquerades around as Peter/Spider-Man, being a super hero and living Peter’s life.  I think this is a great concept.  Otto tries to fit in and use his intellect to make his job as the new Spider-Man easier.  He’s also a lot more ruthless about catching criminals and it gets him into trouble.  It’s an interesting take on the “fish out of water” concept.  I really like it.  It reminds me a lot of Brian Michael Bendis’ Infamous Iron Man (which made my Best Books of 2017 list).

Kate Bishop 1 Kate Bishop 2 Kate Bishop 3
Kate Bishop: Hawkeye by Kelly Thompson
– Several years ago I read Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series and loved it.  Kate is a big part of that series and I loved her in it.  So when I found out she got her own series, I snatched it right up.  And it’s great.  Kate is an awesome character and I love how Kelly Thompson writes her, and her eclectic group of friends that gather around her.  This is a great series, I love Thompson’s humor and was sad there weren’t more issues of this series when I finished with the third volume.  I wanted more!

Gwenpool 1 Gwenpool 2 Gwenpool 3
Gwenpool the Unbelievable by Christopher Hastings
– There are 5 volumes of Christopher Hastings’ Gwenpool series.  I originally started reading it because we were having him on as a guest on our now defunct podcast, Down the Rabbit Hole.  The very first volume was a bit rough.  I had a hard time getting through it but it sort of worked itself out by the end.  Then, starting in Volume 2, it just took off.  The series was so fun.  I know, she seems like a total “girl Deadpool” rip off, but she’s not.  Exactly.  Yes, she has the same “break the fourth wall” abilities, and she’s very wacky, but, as far as this series goes, I think I like her better than Deadpool.  I really enjoyed how zany and meta this whole series got.  I want Gwenpool to show up a lot more from now on.

WCA 1 WCA 2
West Coast Avengers by Kelly Thompson
– So I loved the two previous series starring the badass ladies Kate Bishop and Gwenpool, so of course I decided to pick up the title that TEAMS THEM UP and is written by the gal that wrote Kate Bishop’s solo series! This was such a cool and quirky team book with an eclectic collection of characters that I had so much fun with.  I am doubling down on Kelly Thompson here, she is a fantastic writer.  I loved both of these series she’s written so much I’ve gone searching out more of her work.  She’s currently writing the new Deadpool book, which of course I am going to read, but secretly, after West Coast Avengers ended this year, I was hoping she’d write a Gwenpool solo book.  This Avengers book is awesome and I was super sad it only lasted two volumes.  I wanted so much more of this team!

Thanos Wins
Thanos Wins by Donny Cates
– On my list last year I grouped together a bunch of Jeff Lemire titles as favorites. One of those titles were his Thanos books (Thanos Returns, The God Quarry).  Those books were awesome and epic and I loved them.  So when I saw another guy, Donny Cates, was finishing off the third and final volume of the series, I was unsure what to do with that.  I loved those first books and I was disappointed Lemire wasn’t writing the third.  But I read it anyway and BAM! Cates knocks it out of the park.  It is BANANAS.  So much fun and I don’t know why I was worried or surprised because Cates also wrote Cosmic Ghost Rider: Baby Thanos Must Die and *that* book was cosmic and bonkers and amazing.  So, Donny Cates is now someone I’m paying attention to.

And those are my picks for the best books/comics I read in 2019.  Like I said, I may have some honorable mentions I can talk about in a separate article, but let me get my “Best Movies of 2019” list out there first.

Hope you enjoyed this list, stay tuned for my Best Movies list coming up soon!

Year End Book Report: The Best Books/Comics I Read in 2018

Posted in books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , on January 16, 2019 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Okay, I did my favorite movies of 2018 list. Time for my favorite books/comics of 2018 list.

I’m still keeping my reading log on Google Spreadsheets, however, I sort of re-upped my investment in Good Reads and updated my last two years of reading logs there. I want to test out that site’s functionality a bit more, possibly looking to keep my logs there permanently. You can check out my Good Reads shelves here.

According to Good Reads’ reading stats, I read 85 books/comics last year.  And here are the breakdowns of my starred reviews.

The stats also say I read 18,158 pages last year.  kind of strange to see that giant number written down as the number of pages I’ve read.  Yikes.

So, the same rules apply here as on my movie list.  Only new reads in 2018 count. No re-reads, which I did a few last year. It’s been hit or miss the last few years on getting 5 of both comics and books. However, I was able to get 5 books and 5 comics for this list. Let’s see what they are.

Books

Making of Star Wars
The Making of Star Wars – JW Rinzler
– I didn’t read this one straight through.  If you look at my read dates for this they go from Jun-Dec.  It took me several months because, first, the book is f’n HUGE.  And second, because I would read it in between other books a section at a time.  It’s a big, weighty tome but there’s a metric ton of information, charts, pictures, scripts, artwork.  You name it, it’s in there.  Rinzler combs through the Lucasfilm archives and gives us a micro drilldown on the making of the first movie in the trilogy. So much information and so much to process that I personally couldn’t have read it straight through.  But I’m glad I finished it.  I’m looking forward to Rinzler’s other two books in this series (Empire and Jedi).

Dark Matter
Dark Matter – Blake Crouch
– I got this on a lark during a Kindle sale. The premise was intriguing.  Jason Desson is mugged one night and knocked unconscious.  He wakes up in a place he’s never seen before in a life he never lived.  His wife is not his wife, his son was never born, and he’s not a college professor but a celebrated genius scientist who has achieved something impossible.  Is it this new world or the old one that is the dream?  See?  Great premise.  And the book delivers.  I really enjoyed where this book went.  It’s dark, but a fun read.  It gets pretty bonkers at the end, too.  Very much enjoyed this book, so much so I bought a few more of Crouch’s novels after I read it.

Vicious
Vicious (Villains Book 1) – VE Schwab
– I’d had my eye on this book for a while. The sequel, Vengeful, just came out the end of last year.  During their senior year, two brilliant college students form a theory that under the right conditions, humans could develop extraordinary abilities.  But when their research goes from theoretical to experimental, things go horribly wrong.  I really liked this book.  It’s a much darker take on super heroes and sets up a really cool world.  Several twists happen that I somewhat saw coming, but it didn’t bother me because I was enjoying the ride.  Yes, I *will* read the sequel.

Rap Year Book
The Rap Year Book – Shea Serrano
– Again, sort of bought on impulse at an end of the year Kindle sale.  Features the most important song from every year in hip-hop from like 1979 to 2014.  It’s the author that’s making the determination of “most important”.  I’m glad I got it, because rather than just be a giant list of facts, it’s actually a covert telling of the history of rap through the veneer of the most important singles of each year.  Lots of dropped information and the author is very entertaining in his writing.  And as I suspected, once the book got to about 2003, I hadn’t heard of any of the songs.  I was literally scratching my head the rest of the book.

Billy the Kid an Autobiography
Billy the Kid: An Autobiography – Daniel Edwards
– I thought long and hard about putting this book in.  But the more I thought, the more I realized it needs to go here.  If you’re at all interested in Billy the Kid or even the Wild West like I am, then this is a *very* intriguing read.  I talked about it on episode 49 of Hellbent for Letterbox.  This book does two things, first, it gives you a thorough account of the whole Brushy Bill Roberts saga through the original interviews with him in the late 40s.  Second, it supplements and comments on Brushy Bill’s story with research, facts, photo comparisons and conjecture from a third party, the author, in modern day.  You could almost call it the Brushy Bill Roberts Interviews: The Annotated Edition.  Daniel Edwards really digs in and tries to get to the bottom of the whole Brushy Bill saga.  I’d never really delved into that story, I just assumed it was all a bunch of bull, but there is so much to Brushy Bill’s story that I didn’t know!  Really opened my eyes to a few things.

Time to move on to…

Comics


Jeff Lemire books (Old Man Logan, Hawkeye, Thanos, Green Arrow)
– I sort of went through a tear of Jeff Lemire comics last year.  And I can’t pick one so I’m just going to group them together like I’ve done for the Jason Aaron Thor comics.  I started with Lemire/Sorrentino’s Old Man Logan series which pulls Mark Millar’s creation into the Marvel Universe proper.  Loved it.  Still reading through the series.  Then I tackled the Thanos comic which is an excellent series devoted to the mad Titan.  It’s huge, it’s cosmic, it’s epic.  I was already a fan of the Matt Fraction Hawkeye solo comics, so I was intrigued to see how Lemire would continue that series in All-New Hawkeye.  And it’s pretty awesome.  I love the developing relationship between Clint and Kate Bishop.  Finally, I found out late last year that Lemire took over the New 52 Green Arrow comic.  So I read it and it was a lot of fun as well!  Check out all of these, and while I’ve been a Lemire fan for a while, this latest run of comics has made him a must read for me.


The Mighty Thor: The Death of Thor – Jason Aaron
– And speaking of Jason Aaron’s Thor comics, he makes it on the list *again* this year with the finale to his previous Thor run.  I’ve spoken at length on these year end blogs and a few times on several podcasts about my love of Jason Aaron’s Thor.  It’s great, I love it, and this finale to the Jane Foster Thor saga is epic and heartbreaking and great.

Jughead's Time Police
Jughead’s Time Police
– So, yes, I bought all six issues of this comic off the rack back in 1990. And yes, I do, in fact, still have every one of those issues.  That did not stop me from buying the full collection in digital format last year and reading the entire series.  I’m surprised how much I still really like it.  I almost didn’t add it to this list because I was labeling it a re-read, but honestly, I don’t think I’d ever actually finished the whole series. I think I’d only read that first issue. So the *whole* series was new to me. It’s hokey, and cheesy, but in a very sweet way and the entire premise is wacky and fun.  Elements of this comic’s characters and story line even get a few call outs in the new Jughead reboot by Chip Zdarsky.  And this comic was ground zero for the creation of my 50cent Bin Teen Titans on Nerd Lunch last year.

Weapon X Weapon X 2
Weapon X – Greg Pak
– I’m a huge fan of Greg Pak. His Planet Hulk is phenomenal and I love Totally Awesome Hulk.  So I was intrigued by this team book featuring Domino, Lady Deathstrike, Warpath, Sabretooth and Old Man Logan being hunted by deadly, shape shifting assassin robots sent by the reformed Weapon X program which is now looking to eradicate all former members of the program.  Lots of fun with this eclectic and volatile team.

Archie 1 Archie 2
That Archie comics reboot by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples
– I was curious about this because I love Mark Waid, and I’m a mild fan of *some* things Archie (see two entries up).  So I was morbidly curious how this “reboot” was going to be handled.  And it’s pretty great.  It’s much in the same vein as the CW Riverdale series, but this comic reboot came first in 2015, so I guess the 2017 Riverdale took it’s cues from the comic.  I really like how it sort of reinvents Riverdale.  All the characters are great, Betty is adorable, and Veronica is actually not that bad.  In volume 3, we meet Cheryl Blossom and, YIKES, she’s a force to be reckoned with.  Give it a shot, I think you’re gonna like it, unless, of course, you’re horrified they even tried to reboot Archie in any way.

So, those are my favorite books/comics I read in 2018.  There were a lot more I could’ve put on, and normally, right here, I’d put in some honorable mentions.  But I may actually split out the honorable mentions into their own article.  So look for that soon.  And you can see all my ratings/mini reviews for the last two years on my Good Reads account.  Check it out.  Friend me.  I need friends.

Hope you enjoyed this 2018 round up.  Can’t wait to see what this year brings.

Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2017

Posted in books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2018 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Man, 2017.  That was a RIDE.  Kind of crazy it’s over.  But one good thing we get out of it is another of my semi-famous year end round up articles.

My book/movie logs have sort of gone through an upheaval the last two years. Back in 2008-2009ish I first put them up on Google Spreadsheet. Then, in 2016, I converted over to an online database tool called Airtable. I *really* liked the features and functionality of Airtable plus their iOS app was pretty slick.  However, I found out in early 2017 that the free version of Airtable only holds so many rows of data and that I had just busted up against the ceiling with both of my movie/book log databases.  If I wanted more, I’d have to pay.  Not willing to do that for these logs I once again searched for a replacement and wound up taking another look at Google Spreadsheet.  I decided to see if I could mimic some of the Airtable functionality in Google.  I was partially successful.  Through some fancy custom cell formatting, template sheet data validation and a little bit of script writing I was able to punch up the usefulness of my original Google Spreadsheets logs.  so I created a brand new spreadsheet, called it Book Log v2 and reimported all my data.  Now I have a visually nice representation of the books I read throughout the year including some cell highlighting for the current year and my rating system.  Here’s a quick look at the Book Log v2 in Google.

Book Log v2

All of this maneuvering and formatting is to make articles like this year end list easier to do.  So, let’s get on with it.

The rules, this list contains 5 books and 5-ish comics that I read for the first time in 2017.  No re-reads.  That particular rule really hampered the amount of books I could pick from because I did a lot of re-reads this year.  I’m re-reading the Artemis Fowl series and I did a few Star Wars re-reads this year so my “new to me” books in 2017 were much lower than usual.  But the comics were *also* hard to pick because I read a ton of them this year and there were some stellar entries.  So let’s see what I decide.  I don’t even know myself as I’m typing this.

Books


The Reckoners Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson – I picked up the first two books of this series on a lark in an Amazon sale for super cheap. I was aware of the author having already read one of his other more famous works, Mistborn, which made this list back in 2015. These books sounded interesting, sort of a dystopian future involving super heroes.  Several years before the books begin, a red sun called Calamity appears in the sky and causes certain people to gain powers.  These people are called Epics.  There are different levels of Epics based on the strength of their power profile.  Unfortunately, when someone gains powers and they start to use them, they change.  They become meaner.  More vain.  Paranoid.  It causes the Epics to essentially take over the world and create little fiefdoms in the larger cities.  The books follow a small resistance group called The Reckoners that work behind the scenes to undermine and even kill the worst of the Epics.
So I read the first two books, then there was a short story Sanderson wrote set in this world called Mitosis that I read, and I finally picked up the third and final book in the series and finished it all this year.  One of Sanderson’s strengths is world building.  He creates these super interesting worlds that work like our world but are different in many interesting ways.  Mistborn was the same way.  Just watching the mechanics of these books’ worlds happen is fascinating and he builds interesting characters in both regular humans and Epics.  So, this series is a winner.  Definitely give it a shot.


George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger – I love reading hyper focused history books involving little known tidbits of US history, especially in the revolutionary war period.  I know the Culper Ring was a hot topic for a while leading to this book, a TV show, and also a fictional thriller series by Brad Meltzer which all revolve around the secretive spy organization (side note: I’ve read that fictional thriller, it’s called Inner Circle and it’s pretty good, if a bit long).  This book is a pretty great condensed history of the Revolutionary War that mostly focuses on the real life exploits of Washington’s Culper Spy Ring and it reveals who all was in the ring and what they risked and sacrificed to be a spy during the Revolutionary War.  It’s totally engaging and I really loved it.  I’m now very interested in reading more of Kilmeade/Yaeger’s history books.  The next book involves Thomas Jefferson and Tripoli Pirates.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling – I decided I wanted to read this book but I also realized it had been a few years since I’d read the original series in full, so I decided to do a re-read of the Harry Potter series first.  I started Sorcerer’s Stone on Dec 14, 2015 and finished Deathly Hallows on Dec 29, 2016.  I borrowed a copy of this book from a friend and with much trepidation I began to read it this past summer (I had no idea how this was going to come off).  I shouldn’t have worried.  It’s delightful.  Almost a celebration of the entire Harry Potter series.  It sort of Back to the Future II‘s the story of Harry Potter.  The story takes place years later.  It involves our heroes’ children and what they deal with having such famous parents.  We get kids that don’t fit in and fall in with friends other people think they shouldn’t have due mainly to parents’ old rivalries.  There are time turners and visits to events from the original books, but now we see them from another angle.  I haven’t gone out to see what the reviews on this are but I could see people possibly not being happy because there’s a lot of retread over the original book stories.  Maybe even a bit of fan pandering.  But honestly, that’s why I loved it.  The characterizations were spot on.  The events were fun and I felt “whisked away” into whatever adventures the book took me.  It was a surprise how much I liked it.  I wasn’t originally going to buy this book, but I liked it so much I wound up buying the paperback at Sam’s to put on my shelf right next to Deathly Hallows.  As good as the original series? No.  But it’s a fun revisit of these characters and a world I was happy to jump right back into.


Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – I read and reviewed this back in February 2017 for my ongoing “Oz Reviews” that I do here from time to time.  It’s simultaneously a reinvention of Oz and a semi-sequel to the 1939 Oz film.  It’s kind of hard to describe.  I thought I may not like it due to how it may or may not reinvent Oz, but in actuality I quite liked the book.  It uses familiar Oz iconography and builds a world around it that seems both different and the same.  It’s new, but it’s familiar.  I mentioned before how good Brandon Sanderson is at world building in his books.  Paige does an admirable job world building in this series as well.  The sheer number of Oz deep cuts that show up are impressive between characters, objects and events that are mentioned.  And the story around it is interesting.  I’ve since read three of the prequel novellas as well as the sequel, The Wicked Will Rise.  I plan on continuing the series.

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