Sunday, January 10, 2016

Murchie Plus Books: January 3rd to 9th

The premise: I love my dog. I love books. I bring the two together by photographing my dog (and his able stand-ins) beside every book I read, barring the comics I read as single issues.

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

Not pictured: I finished Comic Book Herald's story selections for 1962 and made a good start on the ones for 1963 once they appeared on Friday. The reading series continues to be a fun way to check out some comics I might've otherwise shied away from because of their age.

I finished another couple TALES OF THE JEDI series, too, and have been procrastinating on the next ones because they won't load in the Marvel Unlimited Android app and I'll have to read them through my browser. Such a drag.

And hey, I finally read the first arc of DARTH VADER! I initially thought I might follow this one as each issue hit Marvel Unlimited, but #1 didn't wow me so I decided to wait. Now I have no idea what six-months-ago-me was thinking because #1 hooked me but good and I loved the arc overall. Hurray!

(Vader was my big character when I was a teenage Star Wars junkie. I was basically Kylo Ren without the hero worship, the melted skull, and the emo dark side predilection.)

On the non-comics front, I started following a fic! For real! (Only took me seven months.) Hello Tailor threw out a Twitter rec for "to the sky without wings" by leupagus, I clicked through, and it's blowing my mind. I live in hope of new chapters, and I may have become enamored of Poe Dameron.

Come on, Marvel. Give us a Poe Dameron comic.

Or y'all could give me Poe-centric fic recs in the comments. Whichever.

A fuzzy grey poodle, Murchie, takes a big stretch in front of a trade paperback copy of Descender Volume One. Murchie wears an orange t-shirt with brown trim. The book's cover features a child-size, pale-complected android raising his face to the moon against a solid black background.

Murchie's back! Hello, blurry-faced Murchie!

Renay talked Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen's DESCENDER up as a Forthcoming Comic Of Possible Interest To Me, so I put in a request with my library and patiently waited for it to come out and make its way through processing.

And it gripped me hard from the first issue on. It's set in a distant future (or possibly an alternate universe?) where everything's completely peachy until some ginormous killer robots show up and kill about three quarters of the population before they mysteriously disappear. Ten years of prejudice against robots later, the government gets a lead on a recently-recommissioned child-style android that might hold the key to building a ginormous killer robot of their own (purely for defensive purposes, and we all believe that)--provided they can get to him before the anti-robot factions.

It's bleak, both socially and visually; just what one expects after a robotic apocalypse. Artist Nguyen's watercolours do fantastic things with white space, while Lemire's script is often brutal as it explores the characters' postapocalyptic emotional landscapes. Everyone had hope and prospects before the Harvesters came. Now they're all just scraping by.

I'll look forward to the next volume.

A black mini schnauzer, Duffy, stands staring upwards at something outside the frame. In front of him is the edge of a trade paperback copy of Invisible Republic Volume One. The primarily black cover features two pale-skinned people arrayed against a galactic montage.

Duffy stayed with me for a couple of days while his parents dealt with an issue that made it tough for them to go back and forth to attend to his needs, and of course he wanted in on the comics action.

I think I heard about Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko's INVISIBLE REPUBLIC on Panels, but don't quote me on that. Wherever it came from, it arrived at the same time as DESCENDER and paired well with it.

Avalon, a colonized moon, recently weathered a regime change and is now muddling along without many of the services that make large societies habitable. A disgraced journalist has come to report on the aftermath, but he can't seem to catch a hook until he finds the remnants of a forty-year-old journal that paints the old regime's origins in an entirely new light.

This one isn't as immediately gripping as DESCENDER. Instead, it reveals its world and its premise via a series of careful hints as the present day story rolls along beside the journal's account of a long-vanished political landscape. The comic is very much concerned with the difference between the official story and what actually happened on the ground, and with the ways even vitally important people can be cut out of the historical record if they don't fit with what the leaders want the people to know.

The setup pays off with the arc's final issue. I'm excited to see what happens next.

Murchie snuggles into a blanket cave so only his face is visible. In front of him is a white Kobo with Tremble Maker's cover on its screen. The cover features a black and white image of a pale-skinned, dark-haired, bearded young man in a casual black shirt. He stands against a varigated yellow, white, and pink background across which music notes snake.

Back to you, Murchito.

I loved Annabeth Albert's STATUS UPDATE so much that I knew I'd have to seek out everything else she's ever written. TREBLE MAKER, her New Adult acapella romance, is on Scribd and so made an easy place to start.

There's a lot more sketchy consent stuff in this one than there was in STATUS UPDATE, but it was still an enjoyable, nuanced read. Both characters grow into themselves because of their relationship--something I always appreciate--and the music angle didn't hurt. I'm terribly fond of books with a music angle.

Murchie stands in front of a hardcover copy of Wonder Woman Volume One so he slightly overlaps the book. Its cover features Wonder Woman, dressed in her iconic red bodice and star-studded blue dance pants, leaping through the air brandishing a sword, her free fist raised. Arrows whoosh around her without hitting their mark.

I'm living the goal-free reading life this year, but I'll be keeping a casual eye out for any DC series openers that may grace my library's shelves. The first volume of Brian Azzarello's WONDER WOMAN popped out at me during my last visit, and now here we are.

I read some Wonder Woman comics in the far distant past, but I'm mostly familiar with the character as a cultural icon. From this perspective, I enjoyed her first New 52 appearance very much. It establishes the key players and some of the conflicts Wonder Woman's gotta face going forward, just as any good intro volume does, and there are plenty of hooks for the next storyline.

Which awaits me at the library, and will be in my hands as soon as I return from the country.

Ollie, a pale ginger cat, flops on a dark grey surface with his face slightly overlapping a white iPod with Diplomatic Immunity's cover on its screen. The cover features three space stations hovering over a red planet.

This is young Oliver. I'm looking after him and his canine brother, Buster, (who you may remember from previous Murchie Plus Books installments) while their people are in Mexico. Ollie's into everything and particularly likes flopping out beside me while I'm typing away, so you're liable to see a lot of him on Instragram.

He's been helping me listen to DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY, Lois McMaster Bujold's fourteenth Vorkosigan novel. It's more of a "here's Miles solving a mystery" novel than a "here's Miles being deeply affected by events" novel and I tend to prefer the latter by a pretty wide margin, but it's made for a good opportunity to catch up with everyone nonetheless. And I'm still laughing at Miles being all, "Let's use uterine replicators to have sextuplets!" and every women in his life telling him this is absolutely unacceptable behavior.

Also, early in the book I was like, "I wonder what Bel Thorne's up to these days?" No sooner was the thought out of my head than Bel Thorne showed up and proceeded to play a large role. Now I'm wondering what else I can make happen.

Ollie reclines in a bathtub. On the ledge above him is a white Kobo with Southern Cross's cover on its screen. The cover features a pale-skinned person's face suspended upside down within a triangle surrounded by a white, seven-point star in a sea of deep blues.

Lemme tell you, it's quite a shock when a fuzzy beige head pops up over the edge of the bathtub while you're engaged in other activities.

The bathtub is one of Ollie's favourite places to sleep, so I snuck up on him during a nap and managed to get a picture with the first volume of Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger's SOUTHERN CROSS. (This was my week for SF comics published by Image.) Renay put this one on my radar, too, and I jumped at the chance to read an advance copy of the collected edition when it appeared on NetGalley.

And y'all, it's pretty durned good. Cloonan and Belanger have crafted a gritty, lived-in future with roots as deeply planted in weird fiction as in SF. Alex Braith boards the Southern Cross, a tanker bound for an offword refinery, to discover what happened to her murdered sister. The ship is a who's-who of sketchy characters, from the peculiarly obliging doctor to the captain who straight out admits he prefers cash over justice, and things only get stranger when Braith's roommate disappears under mysterious circumstances. When Braith learns the woman was sent to head the official investigation into her sister's death, she follows the evidence to a truth far stranger than anything she could've expected.

This, too, is very much a first volume, but it delivers the goods even as it sets everything up. Cloonan's script and Belanger's art blend seamlessly. We get an instant sense of who the characters are and how their world is liable to work, and the creators keep us on our toes as they reaffirm some characters in their roles and redefine others throughout the course of the story. Belanger's layouts are often maplike, physically transporting the reader through the ship from one panel to the next, then holding her in place for a while as Braith works through a new clue. Colourist Lee Loughridge shakes things up in a big way whenever there's a shift in tone. And the arc's final issue goes to some exciting, unexpected places that left me eager to see what'll happen next.

All the issues are already available, but you probably want to hold out for the collected edition's January 13th release. Image's first volumes are always $9.99 through comiXology and barely more than that in print, which makes them good value for money.

An enormous yellow lab, Buster, flops on his side with his legs outstretched. Perched above him is a white Kobo with Cinder's cover on its screen. The cover features a pale foot in a shiny, red, high-heeled shoe. Mechanical workings are visible through the person's skin.

Now we have Buster, yellow lab extraordinaire. He offered to do some serious sleeping while I reread Marissa Meyer's CINDER, and I took him up on it.

CINDER is a reread for me. I want to revisit all the Lunar Chronicles before WINTER comes in for me at the library, and luckily Scribd obliged me with the first book. (They couldn't oblige me with the cover, for whatever reason, so I dug it out of the internet.) I might've finished it yesterday evening, quick and absorbing read that it is. It's still my least favourite novel in the series as of the halfway point, but that's mostly indicative of how good the others are.

Oh! Remember how I love retellings of the "The Snow Queen" but I almost never recognize them right away? This's another one. All the characters in this SF series have ties to various fairy tales, and I was so fixated on Cinder as Cinderella and Kai as Prince Charming that I completely missed Kai as, um, Kai.

It's not like his name was a dead giveaway or anything.

I finally figured it out a few weeks ago as I gazed longingly at my position on the WINTER holds list, and have been rereading the bits where he and Levana interact with that in mind. I'm always interested in the various Kais sprinkled throughout literature, redemption and forgiveness junkie that I am.

I wonder if Cinder being from the moon is an intentional reference to Moon from THE SNOW QUEEN by Joan D. Vinge, too.

(Um. Spoiler: Cinder's from the moon. Lunar Chronicles, y'know?).

Next week: books and stuff. Probably an Elizabeth Bear novella. Possibly Chuck Wendig's Star Wars novel. Definitely some comics, unless I get a personality transplant.


  1. Whoa, Kai is TOTALLY Kai! And yep, I completely missed it, because of course I did. At least you're not alone, eh?

    Descender is at my library being processed, so hopefully I can swing by and pick it up when I'm at the library next week. And maybe it can pull me out of my reading slump. I am in a reading slump. It blows.

    1. We can be Missing Out On Fairy Tale References buddies!

      It also took me a super long time to figure out who Thorne is, fairy talely speaking, but I think that's because all the versions of Rapunzel I read in my youth had the squicky bits cut out.

  2. I read DESCENDER on NetGalley last year and I am intrigued but you sound like you enjoyed it more than I did...