Happy New Year! Or, as I like to think of it, Nerd Year. Yeah, I’m a total nerd, married to a total nerd, who raised a total nerd. We are out and proud, baby. And, as The Avengers has taught us, we are legion.
Everyone does Christmas and gift lists, but honestly, if you don’t have The Avengers already (or Firefly, or Dr. Who, etc.), or didn’t buy it for the nerd in your life, you need a lot more help than any column I can write will provide.
My birthday is in late January, so I’ve become quite adept at creating a list of all the things I desperately wanted but didn’t get in December. And now, thanks to the good folks at Slice of SciFi and It’s Comic Book Day who’ve asked me to become their featured guest columnist (and they’ll learn why that might have been a mistake, but later… later), I get to share this wisdom (hey, I call it wisdom and you will too, if you know what’s good for you) with all of you.
So, let’s get to looking at some of the things you or the nerds in your life might have missed out on during all the recent holiday brouhaha, and what’s coming up that you sincerely must have.
Totally Recommended – get this puppy right away
Recommended — if it’s your thing, you’re gonna love it
Hmmm — it’s neither graphic, nor a novel, but it’s still worth checking out
Meh — didn’t do much for me, but might for you
Disappointing — broke my heart in 23 places
The Adventures of Superhero Girl — by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Cris Peter, introduction by Kurt Busiek, releasing March 12, 2013 from Dark Horse
I’m a funny girl, and I write funny books. So I enjoy comics that are funny. (Yes, I love The Tick, for example.) And this comic is funny. And sweet. And incredibly relatable. Everyone who’s ever dreamed of stepping out of someone else’s shadow, who wants to make a difference even if a difference doesn’t always seem needed or attainable, or who strives even when the odds, public interest, and familial support are against them will enjoy this really well done comic. Love the writing, love the art, love the concept. I’m hoping there’s a follow up coming. Soon.
Danger Girl/G.I. JOE — written by Andy Hartnell, pencils by John Royle, inks by Phillip Moy, colors by Romula Fajardo, Jr., Letters by Neil Uyetake, releasing February 5, 2013 from Diamond Book Distributors
I know, I know. “The two most incredible covert action teams — together!” Is this the stupidest crossover idea ever? Actually, no. The art is amazing, the colors pop, the dialog is believable (for the two lines), and while I expected to be sniggering through the whole thing, I got caught up in the story pretty quickly. If you haven’t read either comic, this is a cool place to start. If you have, well, then you probably already know this is coming. Let me mention that the artist has a thing, a serious thing, for butts. Never have I seen characters’ behinds more on display than in this comic. And I mean every character. The men’s butts are as awesome, and as prominent and prevalent, as the women’s. If you like big butts and you cannot lie, this is also the comic for you, regardless of content or interest in the subject matter.
Teen and Above (mostly because of, well, those amazing asses)
Last Days of an Immortal — written by Fabien Vehlmann, illustrated by Gwen De Bonneval, released Nov. 12, 2012 from Archaia Entertainment
This graphic novel is in black and white, which is not a problem, and its pacing is good. The artwork is very basic, but consistent throughout, and clearly being done as a stylized choice. The story is very different, which is great. It sort of reminded me of what Frederick Pohl did with the Gateway series, although it’s certainly not the same. But giving off a Pohl vibe is a damned good thing. This is not a graphic novel loaded with action, but it’s not boring, either, and there is a distinct story being told. I didn’t love this like I loved The Adventures of Superhero Girl, but it’s still worth reading. This won’t be for everyone, but if you enjoy future man stories, and are open to a graphic novel taking you on a somewhat philosophical journey, this one could be for you.
Teen and Above (due to some sexual content)
The Soul of Anime — written by Ian Condry, Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, from Duke University Press Books, February 2013
Note the author’s main profession. This is neither truly graphic nor a novel. It’s an extremely comprehensive history of anime. This is a strictly nonfiction, black and white limited pictures or illustrations book that could double as a textbook in the History of Anime class (which I’m now willing to bet exists within MIT’s curriculum). This is not to say that it’s boring, it’s not, but it’s definitely on the teaching and informative side of the house. As such, don’t get this for fun, light reading. Get this if you’re interested in the depth of anime, the pioneers and renowned figures within the anime movement (yes, of course including Miyazaki), and significant anime milestones (yes the Spirited Away Oscar win is discussed but, strangely enough, there’s no mention of Akira except on the 7th page of the 10 pages of References. Guess Prof. Condry wasn’t a fan). For the serious anime lover who wants to move from fan to expert, though, this is a must.
Teen and Above
The Dark Knight Trilogy: The Complete Screenplays with Storyboards — written by Christopher Nolan, David S. Goyer, and Jonathan Nolan, storyboards by Martin Asbury, James Cornish, and Gabriel Hardman, from OPUS, released August 15, 2012
As with The Soul of Anime, this is neither graphic nor a novel. It’s truly exactly what it says it is — all three scripts for the Dark Knight trilogy. Don’t get it expecting to learn how to storyboard, or in the hopes (which I had) of seeing all the storyboards to go along with the scripts. Of course, that would have made this book about 1,000 pages long, so I understand why the publishers chose to go the way they did. But this means what you do get is one set of storyboards, covering one scene, per script. However, if you can’t get enough of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and/or if you’re interested in seeing the screenplays for three extremely successful and influential movies, then OMG, you need this book.
Teen and Above
The Monkey King: Birth of the Stone Monkey — created by Wei Dong Chen, illustrated by Chao Peng, from JR Comics, released September 4, 2012
My husband pretty much lives for Chinese and Hong Kong action movies of all kinds. So, needless to say, I’ve seen movies about the Monkey King. I loved that this graphic novel starts by giving you a history of the characters, which is incredibly helpful. The art is definitely on the anime side, and very well done. This is essentially a Cliff’s Notes version of The Journey to the West, by Cheng En Wu, but don’t let that deter you. The artwork is vibrant and well done, the pictures ooze action, the Monkey King has charisma even as he’s very reminiscent of younger anime heroes. The dialog is clearly written for younger American audiences; there are times the Monkey King sounds like he’s trying to audition for a Bill & Ted remake. However, “whoa, cool” and the like aside, this is an enjoyable read whether you know anything about epic Chinese stories and heroes or not. It’s also the first of 20 installments, so be prepared to get hooked and, as with Pokemon, need to get ‘em all.
Children and Above
Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson — written and illustrated by Mark Siegel, from First Second Books, released October 2012
Unlike our earlier entries, this is both graphic and a novel in, for me, the truest sense of the word. This is an actual hardcover book, not a hardcover or trade sized comic book (not dissing those, but this would shelve in the Fantasy section of the bookstore, not in graphic novels). The art is done in charcoal, which fits the setting, which is, for the most part, in the 1880’s. Twain has no relation to the author, but the name definitely has meaning within the story, which is both romantic and foreboding with a lot of mystery. There is indeed an author involved, along with two French brothers, lovers separated, and a mermaid. To tell too much more would spoil the plot, but this is a dreamy tale, with illustrations that appear simple for all their complexity, and an intricate storyline that will still leave you surprised at the end. The art alone is definitely worth several re-reads.
Teen and Above (some nudity and sexual situations)
I had hoped to review and recommend Justice League Vol. 2: The Villain’s Journey (The New 52), Green Lantern Vol. 2: Revenge of the Black Hand (The New 52), Batgirl Vol. 2: Knightfall Descends, Batman: Night of the Owls, and Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Guts all from DC Entertainment. However DC has not deemed me worthy to review these installments. Oh well. Um, buy something else, ’cause I can’t recommend these puppies.
Arrow — the CW, Wednesday nightsSure, some of you have probably caught this show, because it’s in no danger of cancellation. I missed the premiere at San Diego Comic-Con last year because I had a conflicting panel I was on (and SDCC frowns on panelists missing their gigs for some strange reason), and I really didn’t care. Then. But if you, like I, felt that it was just going to be stupid and pretty, tune in and catch up now. Yes, it’s pretty (Stephen Amell’s abs deserve their own Emmy, and if that boy is truly doing all his own workouts, and it surely looks like he is, then a new category of Total Hunkdom needs to be created). But it’s all pretty damned good. It’s dark, with a lot of mythology that’s somehow easy to catch up on and stay abreast of, but manages to have some humor and romance along with a lot of action. The show is doing what I call Rock Star Moves — going places with the characters other shows would wait a full season to try out. And while some of the characters are annoying, our main character, Oliver Queen is not, and there are enough mysteries and intrigue to cover three shows. And Capt. Jack (from Torchwood) has a semi-recurring role. Seriously, what’s not to love?
Teen and Above
Green Lantern, the Animated Series — Cartoon Network, whatever day they deign to return this to the airwaves
I love, no, make that adore, animation. And I hate the animation style of this series. However, the storylines are so great (and so much better than the Green Lantern movie) and the voice talent so good, that I don’t care. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth was had in Fall 2012 when the second season of this show started — and then stopped almost immediately, to supposedly return in January 2013. It had damn well better return, and you should make time to catch up (Cartoon Network makes this easy) and be ready, because this series is doing for Green Lantern what the movie didn’t — making it cool, interesting, and relevant. And in no way just for kids.
As an author, of course I want to tell you to get all of my books. But that’s a given, right? So let’s talk about some other books you may not have gotten around to yet, but which you really should.
Legacy of Wolves, The Shard Axe, Skein of Shadows — by Marsheila Rockwell, from Wizards of the Coast
Ewww, Wizards of the Coast, I don’t read those kinds of books. Well, you should, at least if Marsheila Rockwell is writing them. Speaking of Rock Star Moves, she does them all the time, in every book. Legacy of Wolves was my favorite read of 2010, and she hasn’t lost a step since then. Set in the fantasy world of Eberron, you don’t have to know a thing about D&D or the DDO game to enjoy these books — they’re well written, with lyrical prose that carries you along, peopled with compelling characters doing interesting things. These books make getting an ereader worthwhile.
October Daye Series – by Seanan McGuire, from DAW Books
My other favorite read of 2010 was the first in this series, Rosemary and Rue, and I haven’t stopped loving this series since. The 6th book, Ashes of Honor, hit the NYT Bestseller list. But that doesn’t mean you’ve read them. If you haven’t started, join the royal world of the fae, which overlaps and overflows onto our own, and follow Toby Daye as she fights the good fight, investigates that which needs investigating, inflicts violence and has it inflicted upon her, and dances with cats. Toby’s not perfect, but her books are.
Teen and Above
SEAL Team 666 – by Weston Ochse, from St. Martin’s Press
Like horror? Like military? Like a great read from a great author? Then grab a copy of SEAL Team 666. Wes Ochse has been writing horror for a very long time, and he just keeps on getting better and better. This has been optioned for a movie. Read it now so when said movie happens, you can compare with me about which is better. Oh, fine, yes, the book will be, I’m sure, but hey, they can do a lot with this material, and the book is awesome, so fingers crossed that the movie, whenever it shall appear, will do the book justice. It could happen. (Peter Jackson, are you reading?)
Teen and Above
John Carter — available now on BluRay
Yes, Disney’s marketing campaign for this movie should go down in history as the best example of the worst of the worst. Yes, the title was moronic (“but ‘Mars’ in the title spells bad box office!” dontchaknow). And no, Taylor Kitsch is not now, nor does it look like he shall ever be, a movie star (just like Josh Hartnett before him — the audience chooses, Hollywood, not you, and you’re stuck with Tom Cruise and Will Smith, etc., because we still like to see them, thankyouverymuch). But the movie itself? Great. Truly great. Believe those who’ve seen it, many of them multiple times, and go watch what one of the pioneers of science fiction created. Burroughs may have written the source novel a century ago, but the movie shows you why some things are timeless.
My fans are aware that I’m hugely dependent on music. No music, no writing. I have very wide, eclectic musical tastes — I probably like something in every genre out there, including the old stuff and the very new stuff. So, from time to time, you’ll get musical recommendations from me. And now is one of those times.
A lot of my favorite artists came out with new albums in 2012, and many of them made creative changes from their prior work. Artists are allowed to expand and try new things, at least they should be. So here are three that have been ignored — not “you’ll never play a gig again” ignored, but ignored enough to have sales considered disappointing — which I happen to love beyond measure.
Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s the fact that this band had the nerve to, you know, expand a little. Maybe it was choosing one of the songs that requires repeated listening to really “get” as the lead single. But sales for this album weren’t nearly as high as expected. And I can’t understand why. The lyrics are very typically No Doubt, Gwen Stefani still sounds (and looks) great, the music shows expansion while still sounding like the same band they were before they took a (very long) hiatus. Maybe it’s the fact that we have yet another Boy Band resurgence or that if you’re not a big DJ or Taylor Swift you’re getting ignored, but if you want a really catchy album you can dance to, drive to, relax to, and enjoy whenever, wherever, this is your album.
Okay, yes, this is my favorite band in the world (as anyone who’s read my Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series knows). And I do understand why Honkin’ on Bobo didn’t burn up the charts. But this is a great album that bridges old, pre-Run-D.M.C. “Walk This Way” Aerosmith and post Just Push Play Aerosmith. Rock, ballads, lyrics you really should listen to, and Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, and the rest of the bad boys from Boston sounding better than bands half and a quarter their age equals something that anyone who claims to like rock will enjoy. Besides, that title is totally SciFi.
His singles burn up the charts. This album, though? Dead on arrival. But why? It already has something like 6 hit singles. And the rest of the songs are just as good. The claim that all of Flo’s songs sound alike could be assigned to any boy band or pop tart out there with the same accuracy, but I disagree. While my fave Flo song ever is indeed the title track (hey, the MC for my Necropolis Enforcement series is a werewolf — that song works for me), every other song on this album is excellent. With the best blend of hip hop and rap going (really, why is Drake a star, someone explain that to me), and his always excellent guest singers, this album should have hit the top of the charts, just like all its singles.
Is that it? Oh, no, there are more. But we’re so out of space that we’ll have to save them for another time. After all, there are many holidays coming, and I think nerds deserve gifts on all of them!
So, until next time, peace out, my li’l gangstas, and let’s be purveyors of popular and nerdist culture out there!
About Gini Koch
Gini Koch lives in Hell’s Orientation Area (aka Phoenix, AZ), works her butt off (sadly, not literally) by day, and writes by night with the rest of the beautiful people. She writes the fast, fresh and funny Alien/Katherine “Kitty” Katt series for DAW Books, the Necropolis Enforcement Files series, and the Martian Alliance Chronicles series for Musa Publishing. As G.J. Koch she writes the Alexander Outland series. She also writes under a variety of other pen names (including Anita Ensal, Jemma Chase, A.E. Stanton, and J.C. Koch), listens to all kinds of music 24/7, and is a proud comics geek-girl willing to discuss at any time why Wolverine is the best superhero ever (even if Deadpool does get all the best lines). She speaks frequently on what it takes to become a successful author and other aspects of writing and the publishing business. Because she wasn’t busy enough, she’s added on featured guest columnist and reviewer for Slice of SciFi and It’s Comic Book Day. She can be reached through her website at www.ginikoch.com.