Description: Based on the hit podcast “The Adventure Zone”, join the older two McElroy brothers and father as they play D&D characters in a world DM’d by the sweet babiest brother, Griffin. Or rather, join the brave/foolhardy human fighter Magnus Burnsides, the disaffected/cowardly elf wizard Taako, and the jocular/scatterbrained dwarf cleric Merle Highchurch as they take a simple job that soon gets complicated by redacted knowledge and terrible ancient artifacts.
Description: Kate Bishop (ex-Young Avenger and Hawkeye 2, after training under Clint Barton) has struck out on her own, moving out to Venice, California while trying to find where her rich father has vanished to. She’s started her own detective agency, which would probably be more legit if she, you know, had $245 to spend on a license. But even without one, Venice has a lot to throw at Kate, from mind control cults to rampaging dragons. Kate is on the case!
Letters for Lucardo by Noora Heikkilä is a graphic novel and the first of four books. The protagonist, Ed Fiedler, is a normal human, 61 years old and a scribe by trade with rather unusual employers—the Night Court, ageless royals with a taste for blood (so, yes, absolutely vampires). He has the even more unusual distinction of being courted by the handsome, eternally-33 year old Lucardo. As both grow ever closer, they have to deal with a variety of culture shocks—a human among the inhuman, a man just this side of elderly with the eternally youthful, and a tangle of mortality with and against immortality.
I loved the art and concept for this book when it first went up on kickstarter and jumped on the chance to contribute, and was so glad I did. I absolutely wish I had been able to buy in paperback, not just digital, but shipping to Canada is always a buzzkill. If there’s an omnibus of all 4 parts later? I’ll take the plunge for sure, because count me in as a new fan.
I found this work absolutely charming. It’s sweet and hot in equal measures, with a thread of potential tragedy running throughout, and a great sense of when to build drama and when to undercut it. Which is to say, it does one of my favorite things when characters are annoyed with each other, which is to get them distracted by how much they like (and are attracted to) each other.
I enjoyed that Ed’s age wasn’t treated as a barrier to sexuality in any way, either to Lucardo or to the artist. Ed comments that age wasn’t kind to his body, but Lucardo really does not give a damn. It’s drawn likewise—he’s no silver fox, and Heikkilä doesn’t shy away from the physical features that often come with aging, from sagging chins to thin ankles and everything else in between. But it’s drawn with respect and affection and acknowledgement that he’s still sexual, both to himself and others, rather than being treated as off-limits or grotesque as older bodies so often are in media. Likewise, his desire for romance, intimacy, and a lot of really enthusiastic sex isn’t either ignored or treated as abnormal. (This should probably not be so rare as to be praiseworthy, but it is. And it is so deliberately and easily handled as completely normal here!) Likewise, Heikkilä is great at character design; there’s a wide variety of characters with distinct and varied appearances (and a very multi-ethnic cast as well).
Oh, one note—this is not a book to read in public, at work, or around kids! There are a lot of graphic sex scenes and the heat index is quite high in it.
Despite the thread of potential tragedy, it doesn’t feel like it will end up a sad story. This volume covers the setup to that developing tragedy, sure, but mostly seems to illustrate the political background and players for the story to develop further in the later volumes. It’s cute, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s visually delightful—and also, it’s a really good length, at 142 pages absolutely packed with content.
I for one can’t wait to see volume 2 announced on Kickstarter!
A Distant Soil: The Gathering by Colleen Doran is a fantastic and beautiful space opera in comic format. “The Gathering”, in particular, is a graphic novel compilation of the first 13 issues of the late 80s/early 90s era of her comic (still ongoing, though after a long hiatus, so currently up to issue 42). Doran came up with the story when she was twelve, and originally published the early issues when still in high school.
I chose this book for the #readproud June challenge Wild Card category because I know that most of the people I know aren’t familiar with it, and I wanted to bring it to a larger audience. Having last read it in my teenage years I was looking forward to revisiting it!
Teen siblings Liana and Jason are psychics, being experimented on by a terrible government agency; when they finally break out, they imagine they’ll finally be free—but their powers came from their alien heritage, and two warring alien factions take advantage of their being out in the open to snap them up, one each, to try to use in their political striving. Jason is captured by the evil Hierarchy; Liana, the protagonist, ends up being rescued by a pair of alien rebels (and lovers, both male) who are hoping to overthrow the Hierarchy. Since Liana seems to be the next Avatar—in other words, super-powered psychic—of their people, she seems like the best place to start a rebellion. If you liked “Jupiter Ascending”, I imagine you’ll love this early take on a similar idea!
A Distant Soil is notable for a lot of things—it’s one of the first US graphic novels created solely by a female writer/artist, and also one of the earliest comics to feature openly gay characters (Rieken and D’mer, the pair of aliens who are trying to overthrow the Hierarchy), as well as presenting them as the romantic leads. The art is lovely (and improves drastically across the series as well, which one would expect as the artist aged and gained more practice; she actually redid the first 300 pages a few years after starting) and the characters are treated with sensitivity and love. The cast includes quite a few poc, as well (including D’mer, and three of the major secondary characters). In general it’s a book with a lot of inclusion in it.
It’s also just a lot of fun. The characters are entertaining, the storyline is wide-sweeping and epic, and the villains are genuinely threatening. With a intense and quick-developing story, it still takes time to develop its leads. You pick up bits of their tastes throughout, and see a lot of their personalities—rather than focusing solely on the plot, you get plenty of scenes of, for example, Rieken getting distracted by new disguises to pass as human, and see D’mer’s relentless teasing of him. It wants to tell its story, but not without making us come to love the cast first.
The problem with this volume is primarily in its subtitle, “the gathering”. The main story of the Ovanian Hierarchy, the Avatar and the Resistance, and the confused half-alien children is compelling and strong. However, this volume also includes a large amount of Rieken and D’mer trying to find people willing to help them, and this large number of wacky secondary characters occasionally feels like a distraction from the main story. It even includes an Arthurian mythological character, Sir Galahad, who falls through a space-time rip. I assume they all will have skills that will come into play later, but it does read very much like a Getting The Team Together arc. Regardless, I’d say it’s well worth getting through the actual gathering part of the Gathering for the rest of the content within.
I haven’t reread the rest of the volumes yet, but previously I owned vols 1-3 and I see now there’s a volume four out now—that’s something I’m going to have to grab, because now that I’ve come this far in my rereading, I don’t want to stop!