Read in 2016 – Comics

Here are all the comics I read in 2016. I should probably organise this list better than “roughly in the order I read them”, but here it is for now. I’ve tried to do better about crediting people here – particularly colourists and letterers – but it’s not easy on some books and there’s often not enough space to list everyone.

Alias omnibus – Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos, Matt Hollingsworth, and others
The Sandman: Overture – Neil Gaiman, J. H. Williams III, Dave Stewart & Todd Klein
Kaptara vol 1 – Chip Zdarsky & Kagan McLeod
The Wrenchies – Farel Dalrymple
Red Sonja vol 3 – Gail Simone, Walter Geovani, Simon Bowland and others
The Private Eye – Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin & Muntsa Vicente
The Wicked + The Divine vols 3 & 4 – Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles, and many others
The Wicked + The Divine 1831 special – Kieron Gillen & Stephanie Hans
Prophet vol 4 – Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Ron Wimberly, Giannis Milonogiannis, Joseph Bergin III, Dave Taylor, Ed Brisson, and many others
Catwoman vol 7 – Genevieve Valentine, David Messina, Gaetano Carlucci, Lee Loughridge & Travis Lanham
The Fade Out vols 2 & 3 – Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser
Lazarus vol 4 – Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Tyler Boss, Santi Arcas & Jodi Wynne
Batgirl vols 1-3 – Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, Babs Tarr, Bengal, Maris Wicks, Serge Lapointe, Jared K. Fletcher, Steve Wands, and many others
Black Canary vols 1 & 2 – Brenden Fletcher, Annie Wu, Sandy Jarrell, Pia Guerra, Moritat & Lee Loughridge
Welcome Back vol 1 – Christopher Sebela, Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, Claire Roe, Carlos Zamudio, Juan Manuel Tumburus & Shawn Aldridge
Secret Six vol 4 – Gail Simone, J. Calafiore, and many others
Secret Six (New 52) vol 1 – Gail Simone, Ken Lashley, Dale Eaglesham, Tom Derenick, Drew Geraci, Jason Wright, Carlos M. Mangual, Travis Lanham & Wes Abbott
Thors – Jason Aaron, Chris Sprouse, Goran Sudzuka, Karl Story, Dexter Vines, Marte Gracia, Israel Silva & Joe Sabino
Injection vol 1 & 2 – Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire
Giant Days vol 2 & 3 – John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Max Sarin, Whitney Cogar & Jim Campbell
Gotham Academy vol 1 – Becky Cloonan, Cameron Stewart, Karl Kerschl, Mingjue Helen Chen, Steve Wands, and others
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vols 3 & 4 – Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi, and others
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe – Ryan North & Erica Henderson
Sex Criminals vol 3 – Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
Rat Queens vol 3 – Kurtis J. Wiebe, Tess Fowler, Tamra Bonvillain & Ed Brisson
Saga vol 6 – Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Paper Girls vol 1 – Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matthew Wilson & Jared K. Fletcher
ODY-C vol 2 – Matt Fraction Christian Ward, Chris Eliopoulos & Dee Cunniffe
Ms. Marvel vol 5 – G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Nico Leon, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring & VC’s Joe Caramagna
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat vol 1 – Kate Leth, Brittney L. Williams, Natasha Allegri, Megan Wilson, VC’s Clayton Cowles & Joe Sabino
The Vision vol 1 – Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire & VC’s Clayton Cowles
Monstress vol 1 – Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
Clean Room vol 1 – Gail Simone, Jon Davis-Hunt, Quinton Winter & Todd Klein
Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl – Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson & Clayton Cowles
Velvet vol 3 – Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Elizabeth Breitweiser & Chris Eliopoulos
Black Panther vol 1 – Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Laura Martin & VC’s Joe Sabino
Pretty Deadly vol 2 – Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, Jordie Bellaire & Clayton Cowles
Losing Sleep – Joe Latham & Luke Hyde
Egg – Amy & Oliver Murrell
Deeds Not Words – Howard Hardiman & Sarah Gordon
Mockingbird vol 1 – Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, Ibrahim Moustafa, Joelle Jones, Rachelle Rosenberg & VC’s Joe Caramagna
How to Be Happy – Eleanor Davis
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur vol 1 – Brandon Montclare, Amy Reeder, Natacha Bustos, Tamra Bonvillain & VC’s Travis Lanham
Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special – Various
Trees vol 2 – Warren Ellis & Jason Howard

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X-Men Apocalypse

X-Men Apocalypse would be a good film, if they hadn’t decided to skimp on character development in favour of filling the middle with pointless fanservice and padding.

(Spoilers ahead.)

I just got back from seeing the film, and I already tweeted a bunch of thoughts on it, but here I’ll go over them in a little more detail.

So you’re making a movie, and you have a group of teenage characters who are just getting to know each other. The foreign exchange student wants to see a bit of US culture, so what else is there to do but have them take a trip to the mall? (This is set in the 80s, after all.) They get to hang out together on their own terms for the first time; you can show how they interact as a group, start them bonding. Maybe the new kid gets into some trouble because he looks different, and his new friends stick up for him. When they come back to school and find out that plot has happened, they’ve already become a team to the audience’s eyes.

Or you can have all that happen off screen and show another Quicksilver slow-mo sequence instead. The fans liked that last time, right? They won’t want to get to know these new characters, what they want is the same thing as last time, but twice as long and with way more forced humour.

And that there is where X-Men Apocalypse falls down. While we do get to know Scott Summers, Jean Grey, and Kurt Wagner somewhat, their initial bonding as a group happens off screen. This is perhaps because the following segment of the film has the three of them working together to help rescue several other X-Men (and Moira McTaggart) from Colonel Stryker, but the problem with that is the entire sequence is irrelevant to the plot of the film.

At best, the section in Col. Stryker’s secret base exists only to have a fanservice scene of a newly-created Weapon X Wolverine slaughtering his way through a small army. It’s padding, pure and simple, and adds nothing to the Apocalypse story.

(Can I just jump in here to say how bullshit it is that it’s the three characters who get to work together here? There are four friends who go to the mall together, and thus avoid getting caught by Stryker. Jubilee, another fan favourite character, is one of their group. And yet I’m pretty sure the film never even named her, and she disappeared entirely after the destruction of the school.)

Speaking of the Apocalypse story, this too suffers from the unnecessary padding of the film. When he first ventures into the modern world and encounters Ororo (also never named, iirc) it seems like we’ll get to see how he brings her onto his side – but instead, he gives her power and that’s it, she’s on side with no explaining or convincing. Each of the first three of his Four Horsemen – Storm, Psylocke, and Angel – is turned completely at the first demonstration of his power. There’s no sense of why these characters would go along with his plan to destroy the world. Their recruitment scenes wind up perfunctory, and kind of repetitive. Only the fourth Horseman, Magneto, gets an extended scene convincing him to join – because of course he does, this latest trilogy of X-Men films always likes to make everything about Magneto when it can.

Considering the amount of padding in the film, they had so much room to develop all these characters. Show us how Apocalypse convinces Ororo, what it is about his message that gets to her, and it would become much more meaningful when she turns against him. If they’d spent less time shoehorning in Wolverine cameos and Quicksilver music videos, maybe we could’ve got to know why Angel is the way he is, and maybe we’d know a single damn thing about Psylocke.

This film had a villain whose entire plot was “recruit followers, then use their power to destroy the world”. When there’s little in the way of event in your plot, you make it up with character. Make us empathise, make us understand. Don’t just throw in additional empty action to keep us occupied until you reach the page on your screenplay marked “start climactic battle here”.

(The rest of the film was alright. Not amazing, but certainly not bad.)

My Hugo Award Nominations, 2016

Today is the last day for submitting Hugo Award nominations, and I’ve been working on finalising my ballot. Below, you’ll find all the works and people I’ve nominated, plus some other bits where there were close calls. I’m making this post mostly as a record for myself of the stuff from 2015 that I liked enough to nominate.

If you’re interested in checking out any of the works I’ve nominated, I believe everything in the Short Story and Novelette categories is freely available online, as is one of the novellas.

Best Novel
– The Grace of Kings, Ken Liu
– Ancillary Mercy, Ann Leckie
– Uprooted, Naomi Novik
– The Fifth Season, N K Jemisin
– Archivist Wasp, Nicole Kornher-Stace

This was tough to winnow down to 5 nominations. Also in the running were:
– Black Wolves, Kate Elliott
– Radiance, Catherynne M Valente

Best Novella
– Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
– Sorcerer of the Wildeeps, Kai Ashante Wilson
– The New Mother, Eugene Fischer

Technically, Sorcerer of the Wildeeps is above the length requirements for this category at 43k words, but the rules have some allowance for works that are close to the limits and fit the category better.

Best Novelette
– The Oiran’s Song, Isabel Yap
– Ballroom Blitz, Veronica Schanoes

This was a difficult category not because there were a lot of things to choose from, but because I looked at the list of short fiction I’d liked from 2015 and found only one novelette on that list. There’s a surprisingly small amount of fiction published at this length. I managed to catch up and read the Isabel Yap story today, which was recommended on a few other people’s lists, and it immediately went onto my ballot.

Best Short Story
– The Shape of My Name, Nino Cipri
– Madeleine, Amal El-Mohtar
– The Half-Dark Promise, Malon Edwards
– Three Cups of Grief, By Starlight, Aliette de Bodard
– Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers, Alyssa Wong

There are a bunch of other short stories I wanted to read, but I never made time to catch up on all the links I have saved. These five, however, are all deserving of their spot on the ballot, so I don’t feel bad about not seeing all the other options. Also under consideration were:
– Elephants and Corpses, Kameron Hurley
– The Language of Knives, Haralambi Markov
– Planet Lion, Catherynne M Valente

Best Related Work
SFF in Conversation: Foz Meadows – Thoughts on Fanfiction

I don’t keep up with a lot of stuff that fits this category, but I thought this essay by Foz Meadows on fanfiction was excellent, a very in depth exploration of the subject.

Best Graphic Story
– The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol 1
– The Wicked + The Divine vol 2
– Bitch Planet vol 1
– Saga vol 5
– Nimona

There are always lots of good comics. Some that didn’t make my ballot this time:
– Ms. Marvel vols 3-4
– Rat Queens vol 2
– ODY-C vol 1

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)
– Mad Max: Fury Road
– Star Wars: The Force Awakens
– Marvel’s Jessica Jones
– Sense8
– Ex Machina

Fury Road all the way. Please don’t lose this to Star Wars. (The others are also good, though I think I’m less excited about Ex Machina.)

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)
– “Cut Man”, Marvel’s Daredevil
– “AKA Sin Bin”, Marvel’s Jessica Jones
– “What Is Human?”, Sense8
– “4,722 Hours”, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

I’m not all that enthused on this list. They’re decent episodes, but a lot of the TV I’m watching these days works best as single long works.

Best Fan Writer
– Foz Meadows
– Abigail Nussbaum

I don’t keep up with a lot of fan writers, but these two I do are consistently good.

Campbell Award for Best New Writer
– Alyssa Wong
– Sunil Patel
– Isabel Yap

I’ve not read a whole lot of work by these three, but what I have has been strong.

The following categories were left blank, because I don’t really know what to do with them:
Best Editor (Long Form)
Best Editor (Short Form)
Best Semiprozine
Best Fanzine
Best Fancast
Best Fan Artist

Read in 2015 – Comics

On the other hand, I did read a lot of comics this year. More than are listed below – I got Marvel Unlimited, and there are several series I dipped into but gave up on after a few issues. I’ve split this list into two parts, first the comics I read in trades and issues from larger series, then the much shorter list of standalone titles.

So many really good titles in this list that I’m going to just highlight them rather than list favourites separately.

Batgirl (New 52) vols 4-5
X-Men vol 1
House of M
All-New X-Men vol 1
Thor: God of Thunder vols 1-4
Black Widow vol 2
Superior Foes of Spider-Man vol 3
Runaways Complete Collection vols 2-3
Trees vol 1
Ten Grand vol 2
Secret Six vols 1-3
Sex Criminals vol 2
Ms. Marvel vol 2-4
She-Hulk vol 2
Lumberjanes vols 1-2

Wonder Woman (New 52) vols 5-6
Lazarus vol 3
Captain Marvel vols 2-3
Captain America: Red Menace
Iron Man: Extremis
Astonishing X-Men
Rat Queens vol 2
Velvet vol 2
Thor: Goddess of Thunder vols 1-2

The Unwritten vol 11
Planet Hulk
ODY-C vol 1
The Wicked + The Divine vol 2

Marvel’s Civil War
Black Panther (Marvel Knights) #1-12
Inhumans (1998) #1-12
Young Avengers (vol 1) #1-12
The Fade Out vol 1
The Death of Captain America
Phonogram: Rue Britannia
Phonogram: The Singles Club
Hawkeye vol 4
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vols 1-2

Ultimate Spider-Man
Catwoman (New 52) vol 6
Saga vol 5

Angela: Asgard’s Assassin
Gotham by Midnight vol 1
Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E
Bitch Planet vol 1
Exiles #1-38
Daredevil (vol 2) #26-119 & 500
Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps
Giant Days vol 1
Lady Killer vol 1
Wytches vol 1

Standalone books:

Friends with Boys – Faith Erin Hicks
The Squidder – Ben Templesmith
Porcelain – Benjamin Read & Chris Wildgoose
The Sculptor – Scott McCloud
Nimona – Noelle Stevenson

Super Mutant Magic Academy – Jillian Tamaki
Rites, Customs and Histories of the Great Empire of Migdal Bavel – Isabel Greenberg
Fairy Tales for Bad Bitches – Comic Book Slumber Party
Porcelain: Bone China – Benjamin Read & Chris Wildgoose

What’s in the Box?

Back in December, I made a donation to Worldbuilders – a charity started by Patrick Rothfuss that raises money for Heifer International, and gives out donated items as prizes to lucky donors. A few weeks later, I got an email telling me I was one of the lucky ones and asking for my address. And today, I got home and found this waiting for me:

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I had no idea what to expect, as I’d checked most of the boxes on what kind of prizes I’d be interested in. I decided to livetweet the unboxing, which ended with this:

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That’s a copy of board game Journey to the Center of the Earth, and a signed copy of graphic novel Porcelain. I’m eager now to try out the game next time I’m at Newcastle Gamers.

So this post is just to say thank you to Worldbuilders, and congratulations on raising $882,156(!).

Read in 2014: Comics & Graphic Novels

In contrast to the book list, I read a lot of comics this year. I’m actually thinking about cutting down, because it’s an expensive habit. As usual I generally only read in trade collections and not issues.

Rachel Rising vol. 3-4 – Terry Moore
Irredeemable vol. 3-6 – Mark Waid, Peter Krause, et al
Saga of the Swamp Thing books 2-6 – Alan Moore, John Totleben, Stephen Bissette, et al
Hyperbole and a Half – Allie Brosh
Amelia Cole and the Unknown World – Adam P. Knave, D. J. Kirkbride, Nick Brokenshire, et al
Wonder Woman vol. 1-4 – Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chang, et al
Batgirl vol. 1-3 – Gail Simone, Ardian Siaf, et al
Ten Grand vol. 1 – J Michael Straczynski, Ben Templesmith, C F Smith
The Unwritten vol. 8-10 – Mike Carey, Peter Gross, et al
Dial H vol. 2 – China Miéville, Albert Ponticelli, Dan Green
Prophet vol. 3 – Brandon Graham, Simon Roy, Giannis Milonogiannis, et al
Red Sonja vol. 1-2 – Gail Simone, Walter Geovani, et al
Saga vol. 3-4 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Rat Queens vol. 1 – Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch
Batwoman vol. 4 – J. H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman, et al
Sex Criminals vol. 1 – Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
Pretty Deadly vol. 1 – Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios, et al
The Movement vol. 1-2 – Gail Simone, Freddie Williams II, et al
By Chance or Providence – Becky Cloonan
All You Need is Kill – Nick Mamatas, Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Lee Ferguson
Young Avengers vol. 1 – Kireon Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, et al
Velvet vol. 1 – Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Elizabeth Breitweiser, et al
Lazarus vol. 1-2 – Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Santi Arcas, et al
Avengers: The Enemy Within – Kelly Sue DeConnick, Scott Hepburn, et al
This One Summer – Jillian & Tamiko Tamaki
New X-Men Omnibus – Grant Morrison et al
Mara – Brian Wood, Ming Doyle, et al
Black Widow vol. 1 – Nathan Edmondson & Phil Noto
The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys – Gerard Way, Shaun Simon, Becky Cloonan, et al
Rocket Girl vol. 1 – Brandon Montclare & Amy Reeder
Fantastic Four Ultimate Collection Books 1-4 – Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo, et al
Runaways Complete Collection vol. 1 – Brian K Vaughan, Adrian Alphona, et al
Seconds – Bryan Lee O’Malley
Afterlife with Archie vol. 1 – Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Francesco Francavilla
Wraith – Joe Hill & Charles Paul Wilson III
The Superior Foes of Spider-Man vol. 1-2 – Nick Spencer, Steve Lieber, et al
Blue is the Warmest Colour – Julie Maroh
Superior Spider-Man vol. 1-6 – Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, et al
Leaving Megalopolis – Gail Simone, Jim Galafiore, et al
Moon Knight vol. 1 – Warren Ellis, Declan Shelvey, et al
Through the Woods – Emily Carroll
Hawkeye vol. 3 – Matt Fraction, Javier Pulido, Annie Wu, et al
Captain Marvel vol. 1 – Kelly Sue DeConnick, David Lopez, et al
She-Hulk vol. 1 – Charles Soule, Javier Pulido, et al
Locke & Key: Alpha & Omega – Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
Ms Marvel vol. 1 – G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, et al
Blacksad: Amarillo – Juan Diaz Canales & Juanjo Guardino
Captain America: Winter Soldier – Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, et al
The New Avengers – Brian Michael Bendis, et al
Chew, Omnivore Edition vol. 4 – John Layman & Rob Guillory
Newt – Nicholas Mahler & Hans Wolf
The Suitcase – Dan Berry
The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath – H P Lovecraft & I N J Culbard
The Wicked + The Divine vol. 1 – Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie
Three – Kieron Gillen, Ryan Kelly, et al
Strong Female Protagonist book 1 – Brennan Lee Mulligan & Molly Ostertag

And I’m glossing over a hell of a lot of people with “et al” there – Jordie Bellaire stands out on particular as a colorist on a lot of those titles – but there are often too many contributors to list them all.

The Thing That Bothers Me About Spider-Man

(or about the Spider-Man movies, at least,)

…is that they always have to give Peter Parker a love interest whose only purpose is to make him worry about her getting hurt. Whatever else is going on in the story, Peter Parker needs to angst about whether his being Spider-Man puts his girlfriend at risk.

We had five movies of this now. Five movies of Peter breaking up with his girlfriend because he doesn’t want her to get hurt. Five films of her breaking up with him because he can’t make up his mind one way or the other. Five films where villains realise he cares for her and target her specifically, so that Peter has to rescue her. Even when it’s as strong a character as Gwen Stacy in the newer films – who is smarter than Peter, accomplished, independent – she falls into the same role.

Occasionally – such as in the latest film, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – the writing acknowledges Peter’s protectiveness as a problem. Gwen Stacy is intelligent, capable, and independent – and she has specific knowledge that will help with what Peter’s about to do – and when Peter tries to leave her behind to keep her safe, she calls him out on it. But even then, the narrative inevitably goes on to prove Peter right.

These characters, even when they aren’t actually fridged, exist to present the threat of fridging. Their place in the story is to be the potential woman-in-refrigerator, so that Peter Parker can agonise over the danger he is putting them in.

Now maybe it’s true that these issues are just inherited from the comic books, that the creators are adapting the stories that already exist. But by doing that, they must acknowledge that they are perpetuating this trope, the image of the love interest as a victim, or potential victim. After five movies of the same thing, it really starts to stand out. It’s time they tried to do something different.