Sunday, December 27, 2015

Murchie Plus Books: December 20th to 26th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing Murchie (or one of his able stand-ins) beside every book I read, barring the comics I get in single issue form.

The photos: go live on Instagram as I edit them and appear here in digest form every Sunday (barring catastrophe), complete with descriptive alt tags and additional commentary.

Not pictured: I’ve decided to read my way through all those old Star Wars comics I coveted in my youth but couldn’t afford, for real this time, so I’ve been poking at the various TALES OF THE JEDI series. They’re really 90s, complete with the let’s-narrate-exactly-what’s-happening-in-this-panel thing. Still, they’re scratching my Star Wars itch and I’m happy.

I finally finished the first arc of Marvel’s ongoing STAR WARS comic, too, and it’s exactly what I want it to be. Hurray!

I also read ARCHIE #1, which comiXology gave away during their 12 Days of Comics promotion, and ARCHIE #2, which they sold me for 75% off because I downloaded the freebie. This new series is so much fun. It’s got enough in common with the Archie I read when I was a kid that there’s a major nostalgia factor, but it’s fresh and interesting and the art is great (as is only to be expected with Fiona Staples at the helm). Plus, Hot Archie doesn’t respect the fourth wall even a little bit, and this has endeared him to me forever. I'm eager to get my hands on the rest of the series, but $3.99USD per back issue is rather outside my budget. Sigh. Here's hoping my library buys the collected edition, which drops in late March.

A deep black miniature schnauzer, Duffy, lays on a beige fabric couch with his face twisted toward the viewer. His eyebrows arch out from his face like insects. Beside him is a white Kobo with Hand of Isis's yellow-toned cover on its screen. The cover depicts a blonde Egyptian woman overlaid against a river.

I’d like y’all to meet Duffy, my favourite schnauzer. Duffy’s parents went to Mexico for Christmas, so he and I spent the holiday together.

No sooner had I ensconced myself in Duffy’s house than he tucked up beside me on the couch as I tackled Jo Graham’s HAND OF ISIS, a book I actually started a couple months ago and drifted away from because I wasn’t in quite the right mood for Cleopatra’s Egypt. The story proved simple enough to sink back into, with one significant blip: it seemed to be taking forever. I read and I read and I read, and the little percentage-finished notification refused to go up more than 3% after even the lengthiest chapters.

Baffled, I looked up the mass market paperback edition on Amazon and discovered HAND OF ISIS has 656 pages, not 400-odd like I thought. That explained it.

I wasn’t quite prepared to read a 650-pager so soon after I’d finished EVIL FOR EVIL’s 730 pages, so decided to make HAND OF ISIS my in-between book instead; however, every time I reached a convenient stopping percentage, something encouraged me to read on. Eventually, I gave up and flat out wallowed in it. The plot is a bit this-happened-then-this-happened, since it’s rooted in the historical record, but I fell in love with the characters and didn’t want to leave them be.

Now I’m all ready to read BLACK SHIPS and THE GENERAL’S MISTRESS early in the new year, since I’m tackling this series completely out of order in defiance of my usual mode. I’ve already read the third and fifth books, not counting the related short story collection.

Duffy curls into a tight ball. A white Kobo with The Wicked + The Divine Volume Two's pale purple and blue cover rests across the place where his paws meet.

In between chapters of HAND OF ISIS, I finally got down to my long-delayed reread/catch-up of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE.

Y’all. Y’all.

I don’t even want to say anything about it lest I spoil you. Basically, I’m super excited to see what happens next, and to watch everything snap into sharp relief as we learn more about what’s really going on with the Recurrence.

Also, I’m pleased with how Gillen and McKelvie handled Dionysos. Y’all know Dionysos is a particular interest of mine.

Duffy curls up on his couch. In front of him is a Kobo with the cover of Beauty and the Beast, Act One on its screen. the cover features a golden-maned beast who spreads his dark cloak wide to reveal silhouettes of a woman and a kneeling figure in a bare forest.

Alas, small black dogs are tough to photograph in crappy winter light. My apologies for all the graininess.

Last year I backed a Kickstarter for a comics anthology called VALOR. There were some delays in delivering the finished book, so the organizers kindly included a variety of extras for digital supporters. I’ve neglected them shamefully, as is all too common with me and large stacks of books, but Duffy's internet was down for a couple of days and I needed some non-Marvel comics to binge.

The first act of Megan Kearney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST happened to be on top of the abovementioned large pile of unread digital comics. Kearney’s comics adaptation of the oft-told tale is both faithful to the spirit of the original and determined to cover less trodden ground. She humanizes Beauty’s two older sisters, which I always appreciate, and she isn’t afraid to explore Beauty’s smaller adventures in the enchanted castle even as she slots in a fair amount of revelatory backstory.

Her art is wonderful, too; stark black and white, with a wonderful sense of movement and layouts that draw the reader deeper into the mystery.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is an ongoing webcomic, so you can sample it for yourself if you are so inclined. I plan to catch up on Act Two as soon as I can squeeze it in.

Duffy sits upright on his couch. A white Kobo with Satellite Sam's cover is propped against his front legs. The cover features a white woman in black lingerie kneeling provocatively behind a glass globe, her hands raised to hover over it.

Sometimes you buy an enormous Humble Bundle in January and still haven’t read it all by December. And you feel bad about that, you really do, so you turn to your stack of unread digital comics and it spits out SATELLITE SAM, written by Matt Fraction and drawn by Howard Chaykin.

And you think, yeah, okay, you’ve been ignoring this for ages because it has a deeply unfortunate cover, but it is written by Matt Fraction and surely anything he’s had a hand in is at least worth trying. So you open it up, and it’s all about 1950s television with a side of suspicious, sex-related death, and the greyscale art is a perfect fit, and you decide this is gonna work out after all.

The schnauzer agrees with you, naturally.

Duffy lays curled around a white Kobo with The Sheltered City's red-toed cover on its screen.

John Tristan creates such interesting fantasy worlds, friends. THE SHELTERED CITY is a postapocalyptic fantasy, in the sense that a fantasy world has weathered an apocalypse (by dragon, no less!) rather than the usual "scientifically advanced society falls into medievalesque patterns after Technology Goes Wrong" sense. This makes it both rather different from most of what I’ve read and still deeply relevant to my rarely-indulged interest in fantasy apocalypses.

Tristan's characters didn't hook me to the same extent as his world so my attention did wane somewhat near the end, but I enjoyed the setup all the way through.

A white hand holds a red-bordered white iPod at a slight remove from Duffy's face. The iPod's screen shows the cover of A Civil Campaign, featuring two people in wedding clothes walking into a column of bright yellow light.

I’m a great big bundle of joy and excitement over A CIVIL CAMPAIGN, Lois McMaster Bujold’s thirteenth Vorkosigan novel. It is so great, what with all the POVs and the complicated love affairs and the people doing science together in fun and unexpected ways. And you just know everything's gonna collide in the messiest, most delightful way somewhere down the line.

I’m over the moon about it. I want the universe to provide me with an opportunity to binge-listen, but it’s now far too cold to take casual walks so I’m pretty well SOL on that front. Sigh. Maybe I'll take a page out of certain friends' books and do some colouring just so I have an excuse to listen.

Or I could, like, do some serious cleaning back at home. That's probably the more productive option.

Duffy lays his face very close to a white Kobo with Afterlife With Archie's cover on its screen. His beard slightly overlaps the reader. The cover features Jughead's desiccated, greenish, one-eyed face looming over a cemetery through which several other zombie-like figures walk.

I was so impressed with the latest Archie series that I finally took the plunge and started AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla’s darkhearted take on Riverdale.

It's every bit as good as you've heard. The familiar characters mesh beautifully, horrifically, and often heartbreakingly with the horror genre. Aguirre-Sacasa and Francavilla don't pull a single punch just because they're dealing with a beloved universe. People get eaten, zombified, or forced to beat their loved ones to death on a regular basis. It hurts even as it delights.

There are secret teenage lesbians, too--it's been so long since I was fully immersed in Archie that I'm not sure if this is also the case in non-zombified contemporary Riverdale--and the collected edition includes such extras as letters pages, creators' statements, and vintage horror comics from the company's vault. I'm looking forward to the next volume.

Duffy lays curled on his couch with my Kobo propped against his hip so his face is right beside it. The screen holds the cover of Lies and Prophecy, which features an assortment of tarot cards tumbling from a white hand.

Rest assured, I'm properly ashamed of myself for taking more than three years to get to Marie Brennan's LIES AND PROPHECY. It centres on a magic-oriented university in an alternate world that's had magic for about three generations. Since the shift is relatively recent, everyone treats magic as another branch of science, complete with academic examinations of what all this means in terms of practical application and cultural impact.

It's got me squeeing my arse off. Alas, I started it on Christmas and so couldn't find much time to wallow in it, but I hope I read an enormous chunk after I scheduled this post yesterday.

Next week: the return of Murchie! Probably some K.J. Parker, too, and another slew of comics.

Twelve Books of Christmas Tally:

  • MEMORY by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • STATUS UPDATE by Annabeth Albert
  • KOMARR by Lois McMaster Bujold
  • THE WITCH HUNTER by Virginia Boecker
  • OF SORROW AND SUCH by Angela Slatter
  • EVIL FOR EVIL by K.J. Parker
  • THE DREAM HUNTERS by Neil Gaiman and Yoshitaka Amano
  • THE LAST WITNESS by K.J. Parker
  • HAND OF ISIS by Jo Graham
  • THE SHELTERED CITY by John Tristan


  1. Well, I obviously miss Murchiemoo but that is a damn adorable schnauzer. Are schnauzers busy busy beasts? Or are these photographs of Duffy snoozing an accurate representation of his daily activities?

    Also, I greatly sympathize with the difficulty of photographing black dogs. My childhood poodle, Nora, was a beautiful beast, but photos didn't capture her. By contrast we have approximately 5000 photos of Jasmine, and they all come out adorable.

    1. Duffy is the busiest of beasts. I could only attempt to photograph him at nap time because the rest of the time he rushed madly about, throwing himself at the front window and doing adorable little dances to demonstrate his skills to any and all onlookers. He's a great one for walking on his back legs, in particular. He'll walk upright for thirty seconds at a time, but alas that didn't give me enough leeway to set up a book in front of him and get snapping. Or get snapping sans book, even.