Book Survey! Part 4 of 5

You’re back, huh? Thanks.

Here we go.

Favorite biography?

Wow. I couldn’t even list a biography I’ve read.

Have you ever read a self-help book?

No. My version of self-help is usually to wallow in my own sadness until I get pissed off at myself and go to bed.

This reminds me of a couplet from a Garfunkel and Oates song I really like:
“Let me tell you a secret. It’s called The Secret.”
“Here’s another secret: you’re an asshole.”

Favorite cookbook?

Uhh … the instructions on a bag of gnocchi?

Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?

OK. This survey is getting a little touchy feely for me.

Favorite reading snack?

What? And get crumbs or grease on the pages?

Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.

Sometimes I think Warren Ellis is my favorite writer. Then I find things like Transmet or Nextwave and I go “This guy?” I had different reasons for my surprise on each. Transmet felt like a needle of “Wake up! Look at the world around you! Seek truth and make the world better!” hidden in a haystack of profanity and transgression. Nextwave felt hollow to me. Sure, there was cool action, but where was the emotion? It’s the same problem I have with a lot of Fred van Lente’s work and almost any comic described as “fun.” Yes, they may be fun but what are they saying? It’s the literary equivalent of a Peep. Tasty, sort of, but empty. Put another way, if a hero is always in costume, never getting some downtime, there’s a good chance I won’t enjoy the book.

How often do you agree with critics about a book?

Depends on the critic. I try to follow critics I agree with, so they’re suggestions are more in line with what I may enjoy. (“If you like this for the reason I do, you’ll like this, too” is better than “This is good.”)

How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?

It’s hard. First, I never buy a book I don’t think I’ll enjoy, so I tend to avoid things that far away from my taste. But sometimes a book just doesn’t connect with me.

From there, it’s hard to critique a creative work. Being fair and balanced on the internet is a thankless task. People want extreme opinions. To use the new Captain Marvel series as an example, I could argue that Dexter Soy’s art doesn’t match Kelly Sue DeConnick’s writing and I don’t think I’d be wrong. But it garners more interest when you say “This art blows goats. How did this guy get a job at Marvel? Who the hell put this team together? Steve Wacker should be fired!” You want to start a debate online? It often takes opinions like that, even if they’re false.

Also, people work HARD to put this stuff out. I’ve read and listened to a number of interviews; DeConnick wrote her heart out. She really wants this book and character to succeed. And now that the book is out, she’s going to push it all she can, praising Soy’s art, even if she may not like it. Why? Because the two of them (and everyone else from letters to production) worked hard. It’s your team. And you support your damn team! I’m sure Steve Wacker believed that Soy would be a great match. Perhaps he still does. But maybe he saw the final book and in three months, there will be a new artist that fits better, like Terry Dodson did on the Captain Marvel issues of Avenging Spider-Man. (Let me put in my two cents – with Defenders is cancelled as of issue #12. Jamie McKelvie can swap from one side of the Fraction-DeConnick marriage to the other. After all, he did design Carol’s new costume.)

And last, more personally, I’m afraid that I’ll say something and then have someone pop out of the woodwork and say, “You’re wrong. This is what you’re wrong.” and have them be right. For example, I liked The Dark Knight Rises, but found a lot of it ridiculous. (A prison with a built-in escape route? That you know someone has used before? Really? Wasting time to cover a bridge in lighter fluid so it displayed a bat symbol when you should have been saving your friend? Really?) But when you say things like that, people love to jump down your throat. And some of it I will be wrong about. I don’t want that kind of criticism right now.

_____

That’s part four. Some short answers. Some long.

Come back in a few days for the final part of this very exciting series of posts.

Book Survey! Part 3 of 5

Two down three to go. Are we having fun yet?

The traffic to the Kitchen is up recently. We even got a comment last time! Thanks for stopping by.

Do you ever dog-ear books?

Jeffry Eugenides - The Virgin SuicidesI’m with Greg on this one. HELL no. Though I do have a copy of The Virgin Suicides, which was lent to me and I never gave back. (Sorry Doug.) It’s dog-earred and double dog-earned. And I probably lent it out to half the girlfriends I had in college. As I write this, I flipped through and read some. “Why did I mark this … OH. That’s why.” Some of the sections in that book just give me a mix of butterflies and sickening recognition.

Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

NO!

Not even with text books?

I don’t have text books these days. Even in college I was a little skeeved by it. I much preferred reading packets, where I could desecrate the photocopies to my devilish content.

What is your favorite language to read in?

That would be English.

What makes you love a book?

Emotion. Get me to care about a character and if he gets his wish. From Invisible Monsters to Daredevil: Yellow, it’s all about how these people feel. Sell me on their emotions and I’ll believe that they can fly, have their jaw shot off and eaten by birds, anything.

What will inspire you to recommend a book?

Three reasons I can think of:
Phonogram 2: The Singles Club

  • Being able to connect a person with a book that reminds me of them, like when I suggested Raymond Carver to Jane, as she was writing a sparse, subtle short story.
  • Helping a person understand me. Like giving The Virgin Suicides to girlfriends.
  • When something is just THAT GOOD. I suggest Phonogram 2: The Singles Club to anyone that will listen.

Favorite genre?

This one I’m struggling with. Action? But with romance? And some jokes, not too goofy?

Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?

I’d like to read more non-fiction. But I’m afraid of things being to boring or didactic. Or not having someone I can pull for as I read.

Book Survey! Part 2 of 5

Welcome to part two of the big old book survey. If you want to read part one, just keep going.

Let’s get comfortable. Here’s part two …

Least favorite book you read this year (so far)?

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. No flow. No plot I could find. A whiner of a protagonist.

For comics, possibly Stormwatch #1. Partly because it was bad, partly because I had such high hopes for it. I’ve only read the Ellis and Millar days of those characters, so I was excited for something new. I was disappointed.

Favorite book you’ve read this year?

Greg Rucka - AlphaNovel was probably Rucka’s Alpha. I really like the idea of Disney World. Add guns and military operations and you’ve got something great. From the history of Wilsonville to the layout of the park, Rucka’s world building in that book is staggering.

 

 

Birds of Prey #1Comics could be Batman, but that’s an easy answer. Invincible Iron Man has been strong post-Fear Itself. The single issues that stick out in my head are issue #1 of Birds of Prey and the Sandbaggers-esque issue #3 of Warren Ellis and Cary Nord’s Ultimate Human from years back.

 

How often do you read out of your comfort zone?

When someone says, “Read this.” For example, Tipping the Velvet was suggested by a friend; I don’t think I’d have picked up a lesbian historical novel on my own. And the Heart Says Whatever was picked out of a box of books my sister was getting rid of.

Nick Abadzis - LaikaTerry Moore - Strangers in ParadiseComics, being as expensive as they are, it’s really only if something catches my eye at the library. Sometimes you get a great surprise like Laika or Strangers in Paradise.

 

 

What is your reading comfort zone?

Things with spies or criminals or superheroes. I put a premium on character though, so not just mindless action.

Can you read on the bus? What bus?

“What bus?” indeed.

Favorite place to read?

My CouchMostly on my couch, fighting the urge to lie down (and thus fall asleep). And in bed before sleepytime.

Here’s the scene. I’m sitting up. A few pages in, I lie down, get comfortable. Then the darkness creeps in. I drop the book on my chest a couple times. Then I give up. Glasses go on the table. I reach back and turn the lamp off. Hours later, I wake up with a sore neck. Damn you couch!

What is your policy on book lending?

Sometimes you just have to look in someone’s eyes, place a book in their palm, and say “Read this.” I just hope they don’t do anything stupid like dog-ear pages or crack the spine. And I’d never be surprised if I never get it back.

___

Do you read before bed? Or does reading just put you to sleep? Sound off in the comments.

Book Survey! Part 1 of 5

I’m always looking for blog topics, and when Greg Hatcher from the always worth reading Comics Should Be Good posted a survey a couple weeks back, I knew it was gold. Also, I’ve given a lot of thought of expanding the Kitchen past just comics to all pop culture. So in addition to comics, I’ll also be including book book answers when I can.

At first, I was going to post all the questions (41 by a quick count) in one post, but that’s nutso. No one wants to read 40+ answers in one shot. So I’m going to split up throughout the week. Feel free to post your own answers in the comments or if you want to complete the whole questionnaire, I’d be glad to link over to your own blog.

So here we go … Part one …

Favorite childhood book?

As I didn’t really get into comics until college, this is a strange on for me. But one of the first comics I remember buying, it was on a family trip up to Nova Scotia, was Adventures of Superman Annual #7.

Adventures of Superman Annual #7It was a Year One story. I hardly remember it now, even though I (probably) still own it. One sequence I remember is Superman taking down a group of thugs, leaving only their female member standing. “You wouldn’t hit a woman with glasses?” she asks. Superman then removes her glasses and either flicks or pokes her, but either way, she’s down. Sweet.

What are you reading right now?

Never one to be content reading one book at a time, the list is long.

  • Keeper by Greg RuckaKeeper by Greg Rucka. His first novel, about bodyguard Atticus Kodiak protecting a speaker at a conference on abortion. I’ve read his Queen and Country novels before, as well as his newest, Alpha. Rucka is, hands down, my favorite writer.

 

 

  • And the Heart Says Whatever by Emily GouldAnd the Heart Says Whatever by Emily Gould. One of those young woman’s memoir books. The kind of thing Hannah Horvath wants to write. I can’t say I’m the target demo, but it’s enjoyable.

 

 

  • Batman and PhilosophyBatman and Philosophy: The Dark Knight of the Soul by Mark White (Editor). Exactly what is sounds like. Philosophical investigations into questions like “Should Batman just kill the Joker” and “Is it right to take on a Robin?” Interesting, but in the end it’s another pop-psychology book. And a fluffy one at that.

 

  • Tipping the Velvet by Sarah WatersTipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters. A girl in 1890s London discovers and explores her sexuality. Beautifully written. An interest in gender/sexual politics helps as well.

 

 

  • The Life and Times of Martha WashingtonThe Life and Times of Martha Washington in the 21st Century by Frank Miller and Dave Gibbons. Two comics masters working together. Need I say more?

 

 

  • Johnny Cash: I See a DarknessJohnny Cash: I See a Darkness by Reinhard Kleist. A comics biography of The Man in Black. I don’t know much about Cash. I’ve never even seen Walk the Line. It reads like a music-themed southern noir. So yeah, awesome.

 

 

What books do you have on request at the library?

Nothing on hold, as I’m finishing up my recent stack.

What do you currently have checked out at the library?

The above mentioned Keeper, I See a Darkness, and Martha Washington are in progress. I’ve already finished, but have yet to return, Transmetropolitan Vol. 1: Back on the Streets, Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, Sentinel, Vol. 1: Salvage, Mary Jane, Vol. 1: Circle of Friends, Ultimate Human, and Spider-Man/Human Torch: I’m with Stupid.

Yeah. I read. A lot.

Bad book habit?

If I start a book, I finish it, no matter what. I slogged through 100 Years of Solitude confused and bored. Same with Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. “But it might get better!” I tell myself. It rarely does.

Do you have an e-reader?

I have an iPad, but mostly I use it like a laptop. I love the artifact of books too much. I do always think about buying books I don’t need to own on there – comedy, things I’m iffy about, things the library doesn’t have.

Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

Obviously, several at once. But for the most part, I pace myself on those books. For comics, one chapter a day, so I don’t blow through them. Books I’m rereading are open season though.

Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

There were some books I realized I wasn’t enjoying as I gave them bad reviews month after month. And I still think with that mindset, even though I rarely review anymore. “Is this good? Why? Do you enjoy it? Why?”

______

That wasn’t so bad, right? Again, please leave your answers in the comments.

To be continued.

Life Is What Happens …

Still alive, two months later.

I do still have that Phonogram piece in the works. And I’d also like to write something about the recently-concluded Secret Six.

But life’s been busy lately. These things happen.

In Kitchen news, I did have a friend tell me that she was reading the site recently, but couldn’t tell where/how to make comments. There was a whole deal about having to click on the post before you could see/make comments. So … I present you with a new WordPress theme. Nice, no? I’m sure I’ll be tinkering in the days and weeks to come. Maybe this will be the kick in the ass I need to get some new posts for you guys.

Here’s hoping.

Convention Sketches – Daredevil

One of the best parts of fandom, for me, is being able to get original pieces of art from my favorite artists. I’m a big fan of Ed Hopper, but I’m not about to own an original painting or have him draw something just for me. But as a comics fan, I can buy a book on Wednesday and commission an original piece that weekend. It’s my favorite part of conventions, so I though I’d share my pieces here.

My first convention was Baltimore Comic Con 2008. On of the reasons I wanted to go was Tim Sale. He drew my favorite story of all time Daredevil: Yellow. His minimalist sketches are great. It was one of Captain America in the back of Captain America: White #0 (yes, that came out in 2008). I made my way to his booth. He’s a really nice guy and gave my first sketch:

Daredevil by Tim Sale

Also at that show was David Mack. I love his Daredevil work as well as his creator-owned Kabuki. He had some great prints at his table, but his con sketches are unique. It’s hard to even call them sketches, as he draws them with a calligraphy pen. Matt Murdock truly lives up the “devil” in his name here:

Daredevil by David Mack

I have to admit though, my favorite piece is by Cliff Chiang. His comics work is great because of his simple, confident lines. But his sketches are great because he brings so much to the table. I asked for Daredevil and got Daredevil and two ninjas! Bad ass. In every one of his sketches, he really brings something to the table. Pick any character, between his style and willingness to go further than everyone else, he’ll be the best in your book:

Daredevil by Cliff Chiang

More to come. And hopefully even more after New York Comic Con next week.

$20 a Week, Part 2 – On the Edge

Two weeks ago, I posted about the books on my pull list, which I try hold to a high standard because of my $20 a week budget. But those aren’t the only books I buy each month. I also have a number of books on the edge. On the edge represents those books that haven’t been good enough to subscribe to, but haven’t been bad enough to stop buying.

Black Widow – Widow is one of my favorite characters who is always on the verge of supporting their own book. I find it genuinely confusing that the industry can’t support a monthly super-spy book, though I suppose Captain America fills a bit of that niche. I liked Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna’s arc, but now the creative team is already changing. I’m going to buy the next issue, but I’m treating it like a #1. I’ll give Swiercynzki two months to convince me. I dug his Iron Fist, so I’m optimistic.

Morning Glories – What a geat two issues this book has had. Anyone who read my review knows I was interested since the first teaser was released. I just hope the Spencer and Eisma can keep the momentum going.

Nemesis – I shouldn’t buy this book. I respect both of the creators, but this is so far below the level of quality that I have come to expect from each of them. I haven’t really enjoyed the two issues so far, but a day will come when I will wish I had read this. I dropped Kick -Ass around issue four, and then spent too much time tracking down the issues I missed once it had been completed. Eight dollars now is better than 20 dollar later.

Scarlet – In my last review, I said that Scarlet needed to give me the big hook soon or I was gone. Then on Wednesday, Bendis tweeted that the big hook is coming in issue four. So … I guess I’m reading until then.

War Heroes – What’s the book about again? Oh right, soldiers given powers to fight the war on terror. Maybe now that Ex Machina is finished, Tony Harris can knock these issues out.

Ultimate X – Batman: Hush was one of the stories that got me into comics. Daredevil: Yellow is my favorite hero story ever. Because of those facts, I have a soft spot for Jeph Loeb. Much of his current output has been, well, stupid, but Ultimate X is different. Where Hulk is dumb fun and Ultimates 3 was such a reversal of Millar’s Ultimates, Ultimate X has been a methodical, character-based book. There just haven’t been enough issues for me to commit yet.

Uncanny X-Men – This has until the end of the current arc before I make a decision. I’m a fan of the X-Men and since Messiah Complex, Uncanny has been the crucial book for following their adventures. Since Second Coming however, I’m not sure what this book’s mission or identity is. Even the idea of the current arc, showcasing five new mutants, will be usurped by Generation Hope in a couple months. After that, I get the fear that Matt Fraction will be left holding the bag. AND THEN … Marvel announced that Kieron Gillen, one of the geniuses behind Phonogram, will be joining Fraction on writing with issue #531. I haven’t been wild about anything Gillen’s done for Marvel, but this is an interesting development to say the least. DAMN YOU MARVEL AND YOUR CREATIVE TEAM TRICKERY!

The whole part of discussing a pull list is so you, the readers can see what I like (and I don’t) and make some suggestions. So have at it! What series am I missing out on right now?

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$20 a Week, Part 1 – The Pull List

I don’t have much disposable income. As a young dude, I’ve got to pay rent, food, dates, yada yada yada. Comics are a luxury item.

When I moved out on my own, I set my comics budget at $20 a week. With comics at $3-4 apiece, that’s not many books. Each purchase has to be justified. So what do I buy? How do I justify those purchases?

Most of my list is monthly superhero titles. That’s because of their shared universe. Seeing Iron Man and Captain America’s books react to each other is a big part of the fun. If a book is out of continuity or its own universe, I can read it on its own, often in a cheaper, collected format without missing out on any connections to the greater universe’s story.

Pulls:
Avengers Academy – Loving this book. I thought the quality of Avengers: The Initiative dropped right around Secret Invasion, but Christos Gage had a concept that pulled me in. Young people on the verge of becoming villains? Yes sir! His writing and Mike McKone’s art are great. Solid new book.

Avengers: The Children’s CrusadeYoung Avengers was a brilliant surprise. Allan Heinberg, who had worked on TV shows like The OC and Sex and the City, dropped himself in the middle of the Marvel universe and never seemed lost. Jimmy Chung slayed every page. Even better, this long-awaited follow-up features Magneto and Quicksilver, two favorites of mine.

Captain America – For six years, this has been one of Marvel’s best books. Ed Brubaker resurrected a 40-year-dead character. And it didn’t suck. He killed the title character. And it didn’t suck. He moved someone else into the role. And it didn’t suck. He resurrected Cap. And it didn’t suck too bad. If that, combined with the industry’s most consistent art in hero books, doesn’t belong on my list, nothing does.

Daredevil – Speaking of consistency … Smith, Mack, Bendis, Brubaker, Diggle. 12 years without a bad writer. Other than a rare fill-in, this book has been great. Brubaker/Lark’s “Devil in Cell Block D” and Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale’s Daredevil: Yellow made Daredevil my favorite hero. Lucky for me, he’s had a good book. Shadowland seems to be ending the current run, so we’ll see what happens.

Daytripper – Normally, this would have been a wait for trade deal, but these Vertigo books need a push at the start. I got sucked in. There’s only one issue left, but this has been a great, unique series. I dare anyone to show me another comic series about the various deaths of a Brazilian obituary writer. I’ve talked about Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá’s art before. It’s perfect. Can’t wait to see what they do next.

The Flash – I don’t read many DC books, but I’ve always liked The Flash. So when this relaunched this year, I wanted to check it out. Only a few issues in, the main draw has been the art. Francis Manapul’s figures are fun and distinct, but my hero is colorist Brian Buccellato. I don’t quite understand the process, but it seems like the linework gets an inkwash, then color over that, much like how Matt Hollingsworth treated Tim Sale’s art on the Marvel color books. The plot of Johns’ story has been slow-going, but he gives some nice setpieces, such as Barry Allen running on the spinning blades of a helicopter.

Invincible Iron Man – Matt Fraction understands the character of Tony Stark. His strengths, his weaknesses, his wants, his world. Add in one of the best current supporting casts in comics (Pepper, Widow, Maria Hill, Rhodey) and you’ve got a book that is always interesting. I’ve expressed my problems with the art, but overall these are the best Iron Man stories I’ve ever read.

Secret Six – DC’s best book. I’ve read a few things by Gail Simone, but nothing grabbed me like this. Her work with these characters, going all the way back to Villains United has been stellar. You wouldn’t know it reading Birds of Prey, by Simone is twisted. Nicola Scott was a perfect partner, but I can’t fault her for moving onto Teen Titans. Despite that title’s recent crap, it will get more eyes on her art. Give this book a chance.

Shadowland – I wish this book wasn’t important. Because it’s not good. One of Daredevil‘s greatest strengths over the past ten years was that it told personal stories. Matt Murdock was the Job of the Marvel universe. He was punished over and over, but was always a hero about it. Shadowland does a 180º. Murdock, seemingly possessed, turns on his friends, even allying with his greatest enemies. Paired with Billy Tan’s at best inconsistent art, this book isn’t good enough. It’s importance to some of my favorite characters is all that keeps it on the list. There are two issues left. I can only hope it ends well.

Stumptown – I wish Greg Rucka wrote more. His superhero work is worth reading, but he really shines with his own projects. Rucka writes believable female characters and stirring crime/espionage stories, so of course this is great. PI Dex Parios can already stand on her own with Carrie Stetko and my girl Tara Chace. Matthew Southworth’s art reminds of Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, and David  Aja, if more sketchy. The first arc just ended, but scheduling problems mean it’ll be early next year before the next story starts. Take this time to catch up.

Thunderbolts – I hopped on this book when Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato took over during the Civil War fallout. It dipped a bit before and during Siege, but Jeff Parker’s new Luke Cage-led team is off to a great start. Unlike that Siege-era team, packed with people Grizzly and Paladin, we now have known quantities like Crossbones and Ghost. Kev Walker’s take on characters like Songbird and Juggernaut are powerful and dramatic. It’s early in the run, but if it continues, this will be one of Marvel’s best.

X-Factor – I love this book, plain and simple. I was new to comics, but good reviews convinced me to give it a shot. I knew nothing about these characters, and now I list them all among my favorites. I talked about my love of Peter David’s writing last week, but in short, every choice he makes is with maximum dramatic effect in mind. The only shortcoming is the ever-changing pencilers. This book is ignored too much. It is so much more than just another X-book.

Young Allies – Along with Black Widow and Avengers Academy, Marvel’s Heroic Age has launched some amazing books. More than the actual characters, many of whom I wasn’t familiar with, writer Sean McKeever drew me to this book. If you’ve read The Waiting Place or parts of his Titans run, you know that he does teen soap opera as well as anyone. I don’t know if he loves being stereotyped as the youth guy, but why doesn’t Marvel give him Runaways? David Baldeon’s artwork is cartoony, but not exaggerated. His teens look like athletic teens rather than juiceheads or shrunken adults. This is another book you should jump on while it’s still new.

So that’s the pull list, but $20 a week can buy more than that. Coming up, I’ll talk about the series that straddle the fence between subscribing and being dropped, and those I follow, but in collected editions.

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Apologies, Apologies

I write far too quickly on this thing.

I just reviewed all my old posts and WOW were there a lot of errors. Duplicated words. Using the wrong “it’s” or “its”, “there” “their” or “they’re”. Misspelling people’s names.

I write a lot as part of my job. I am embarrassed. I apologize.

I will proof better in the future.

Who’s This Guy?

Welcome. Whether found Bells’ Kitchen early in its run or are searching the archives, I figure I should give you some background.

I was born in 1985. I’ve been reading comics since age 20. I live in the second largest city in New England. I work in advertising. I play guitar. I’m a bad driver, but I’m always on time. I hate whales and cilantro.

When it comes to reviews and commentaries, I like knowing about the writer. You need to know someone’s taste before you can relate their opinions to your own. I love Smashing Pumpkins. But if a reviewer doesn’t, how are their feelings on Silversun Pickups relevant to me? Context is everything.

So, who am I? Here are a few quick lists to give you some idea. And yeah, it’s my blog; I reserve the right to edit these any time I want.

Favorite Writers:
Brian K. Vaughan
Greg Rucka

Favorite Artists:
Jamie McKelvie
Tim Sale
George Pérez

Favorite Current Books:
X-Factor
Flash
Secret Six
Thunderbolts

Favorite Series:
Y: The Last Man
Queen and Country
Strangers in Paradise
Gotham Central

Favorite Stories:
Phonogram 2: The Singles Club
Daredevil: Yellow
The Ultimates 1 and 2
Daredevil: Born Again

Favorite Characters:
Daredevil
Magneto
Teen Titans