Welcome to another edition of The Reading Pile, in which your Good Comics for Kids bloggers look up from their books and talk about what they have been reading lately. Feel free to join in in the comments section!Kate Dacey: I just read the first issue of the latest Eric Shanower/Skottie Young collaboration, Ozma of Oz (Marvel). When the story opens, Dorothy—she of the silver slippers—is sailing for Australia with Uncle Henry, where they plan to visit a relative. During a storm, Dorothy falls overboard, surviving her ordeal by turning a chicken coop into a lifeboat. She and Bill, a talking hen, eventually wash ashore—where else?—in Oz. The artwork is superb, as usual, but the story takes a little while to find its footing, tempo-wise; the pacing is oddly slack in places. By the end of the issue, however, Dorothy and Bill have crossed paths with one of the most menacing villains in the Frank L. Baum canon, suggesting that issue two will be a barn-burner.
I’ve also been looking at webcomics this week. At Brigid’s recommendation, I read the first 50 or so pages of Ectopiary, a new project from Hans Rickheit. The story focuses on Dale, a young girl who’s sent to live with relatives after some kind of weird (and, as yet, unnamed) tragedy befalls her parents. Ectopiary is almost impossible to categorize genre-wise; it has elements of a sentimental Victorian novel, science fiction, and horror. Oh, and an enormous, glowing white dog who purports to come from the moon. The artwork is lovely, toned primarily in inky grays that make Dale’s new home look like the setting of a Wilkie Collins novel. I’m not sure if younger readers will have the patience to wait for new installments of the story—Rickheit is posting one page at a time—though I could definitely see fans of The Dreaming enjoying what’s been posted so far.
Mike Pawuk: I’ve been reading mainly weekly comic books:Action Comics #894: Lex Luthor has died from a gunshot wound courtesy of Gorilla Grodd and who’s there to take him to the afterlife but none other than Death, the cute goth-clad ankh-wearing member of The Endless from Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed The Sandman series. Written by Paul Cornell and art by Pete Woods, it’s a treat for fans of the beloved Vertigo series. Gaiman himself wrote some of the dialogue for Death and gave it his approval, so you don’t see her fighting with Lex, who’s currently the star of the Action Comics books for the foreseeable future. It’s a unique look at a pragmatic villain who thinks he’s doing what he’s doing for the sake of humanity having a conversation with Death. Good fun and it ends all too soon.
Simpsons Comics #171: When the Simpsons go on a 12-hour road trip, what better way to pass the time than to listen to audio books. Soon the Simpsons parody yet another uncharted territory: the children’s book vault of classics as we’re treated to takes on The Phantom Tollbooth, James and the Giant Peach, and A Wrinkle in Time. I have to say the vaunted “litterasee issue” was actually a bit of a disappointment but I think it’s mostly due to the fact that my mind is like a steel sieve and I admittedly have a hard time remembering plots years after I’ve read them. I vaguely recall reading The Phantom Tollbooth and also A Wrinkle in Time, but I did enjoy the short James and the Giant Peach spoof. Not a bad effort. I really do still enjoy the monthly Simpsons Comics but 5th graders who have just read these books due to their Accelerated Reader lists will enjoy them.
Amazing Spider-Man #646: The conclusion to the Origin of the Species storyline in which Spider-Man tracks down a newborn infant born to Lily Hollister (the Green Goblin-like villain called Malice) and presumably Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin. Doctor Octopus has hired all of Spider-Man’s foes to capture the baby since its DNA is ripe for a cure that may reinvigorate Doc Ock, whose health is failing. A solid effort by Mark Waid, though I do have to say I don’t care as much for the art team of Paul Azaceta and Matthew Southworth. It’s a very realistic art style that harkens a little of David Mazzucchelli (Batman: Year One) but doesn’t quite feel right in this book.
Brigid Alverson: I’m re-reading Twin Spica, as I want to write a review of the first few volumes, and I’m struck once again with what a great series this is. It has the ingredients of any good series book, prose or comic: Plucky heroine, sympathetic surrounding cast, the good friend, the mean girl, and challenges to be overcome one by one. Yet this book goes beyond standard formulas, especially in the first volume, with its lovely exploration of the heroine’s backstory and her reaction to her mother’s death. I also find the art very appealing; it’s less stylized than standard manga art and full of telling little details that really draw you into the story. Vertical has a fairly ambitious schedule for this book, with a new volume coming out every two months, and I really hope it finds its audience.