It’s that time again! We’ll spend the first few days or weeks of January 2017 making all sorts of resolutions, short-term goals and long-term targets; and feeling real optimistic and so into that “New Year, New Me” shit.
And that’s coming right after the long party season known as Christmas, which actually starts in September in the Philippines. I’m not kidding. So all in all, it’s been three or so months of gluttony and greed. Not complaining, though. 😉
The next steps in this year-long routine: a look back at the year that was, and goal-setting for the current year. 2016 was fucking horrible for many reasons, among them the deaths of multiple cultural icons, ongoing and escalating wars and conflicts, the rise of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Duterte, Putin, Xi, and Trump), endless racism/sexism/misogyny/chauvinism online and offline… yeah, I think I’ll stop there. Good times were had as well, although the pessimist in me leans more toward the other side if asked to look at the bigger picture.
2016 wasn’t any better for my reading backlog. Many of the books on my shelf remain untouched and unopened until now. And for multiple reasons that are perfectly logical only to legitimate book hoarders like myself, I keep buying books I don’t have time to read.
Unlike in previous years, there’s some form of acceptance on my part. I’ve already lent out a bunch of books to my friends and MFA classmates because I know I won’t read them anytime soon. I can now enter book stores and leave with nothing, making my wallet breathe easy but my self-control reach its limits. And the 70+ books I donated back in 2015 haven’t been summarily replaced — which means I don’t miss those books as much as I thought I would.
This blog hasn’t seen much activity, either. The last decent review I’ve done dates back to a year ago! And if I did finish something from cover to cover, most likely it’s because it’s required for grad school.
What I did manage to read in 2016 are comic books and graphic novels… a whole lot of them.
That’s better than nothing, right? Since I’m too lazy to go in-depth with it, here’s a quick take on the few books I did go through last year. Here’s to hoping I do better in 2017! 😃
Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert, and Richard Isanove
This compilation of the eight-issue series gets many of the famous Marvel Comics characters and dumps ’em in the year 1602. Everything seems normal at first, but then the heroes soon realize they’re in the wrong era. They must find out why they’re in the 17th century, and how they can return to the correct timeline.
I read this volume earlier this year, and I admit I’ll have to reread it again because I’ve forgotten most of it already. Shameful, I know. It was really fun though to see the great Marvel heroes out of their element. Spiderman, the Hulk, Magneto, Daredevil, Thor, the Fantastic Four, Nick Fury, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and other major characters are here, with different names and Elizabethan-era roles. I’m also a moron because it took me until the last few pages to realize that the giant Native American guardian “Rohjaz” is actually Steve Rogers/Captain America.
Fables, The Deluxe Edition: Books Two and Three, Bill Willingham et al.
It’s been a while since I went through the very first book, so reading the second and third felt much like being reacquainted with Fabletown’s finest. Our favorite fictional characters from childhood are back, taking on baddies from their ranks, fighting wars started by wooden clones, and going through their own story arcs.
Out of all the characters, I love Rose Red’s development the most. From the childish and jealous fable in the first book, she’s now the Farm’s responsible and capable leader, with a status equal to her long-heralded sister Snow White. It was also satisfying to see Bluebeard die at the hands of Prince Charming, and Fabletown + the Farm kick ass on the streets of New York City.
As for the stories, the Snow White and Bigby Wolf union is problematic at best. I knew it was coming, but… really? That way? Where’s the agency, people? And Boy Blue’s recounting of his escape from The Adversary’s forces — and the fables who sacrificed their own lives to defend the last boat out — was a sad read.
I got these two volumes from Fully Booked‘s massive sale at the Manila International Book Fair a couple of years ago. Get your hardbounds from that book store chain, or from National Book Store, Amazon, or Book Depository.
Trese: Stories from the Diabolical, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo
The Trese series’ eponymous Alexandra Trese and the Kambal take a back seat in this paperback detour from Tan and Baldisimo. Instead, Hank — the loyal and knowledgeable bartender of Trese’s cafe-turned-bar The Diabolical — is in charge, and serving up drinks to go with the ghost stories.
Out of all the side stories in this thin collection, The Choir and The Last Full Show appealed to me the most. I’d do more than drink at the neighborhood bar if a group of kids sing Silent Night at my doorstep past midnight. And dying peacefully at the movies, with your life highlight reel playing on the big screen, sounds like a good alternative to the usual method.
The art also eschews the usual panels in favor of a one-illustration-per-page approach, with the styles varying per story. Coffee Black‘s artwork reminded me of cubism, The Last Full Show comes closest to the visuals we recognize from the main Trese universe, and The Usual Spot and One Last Drink at the Diabolical contained illustrations that looked unfinished and raw.
Saga: Volumes Five and Six, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
I’ve talked about Saga before. You know I love this graphic novel series. Which makes me feel a bit sad for what I’m about to say next.
The last two volumes get readers moving through the story quickly, and they have the expected beats and heavy emotional moments we’ve long associated with the series. Staples’ art is still jaw-dropping; if I could drool all over it, I would. It’s a space opera, all right, and frankly I wouldn’t expect anything less.
But especially with the sixth volume, I felt that the bow was tied too neatly, if there’s such a thing. You know they’ll all find each other again at the end, and you know they’ll fight back. That kind of takes away part of the joy I have in reading the volumes — there are no (or minimal) twists, and the heroes will always win. Hindi pwedeng patayin o saktan ang bida, so goes the saying in Filipino. I may have been spoiled by things like The Walking Dead (TV series, y’all), which offs characters indiscriminately for shock value. Then again, if it gets too predictable…
And that ending in Volume Six.
Also: Klara’s decision to stay at the prison made sense, but I will miss that bad-ass mother. I hope Petrichor can get out of momma’s huge shadow and make her presence in the series worth it. And I like Prince Robot IV. Does that make me a horrible person?