Welcome to another edition of The Reading Pile, in which your dedicated Good Comics for Kids bloggers reveal the contents of our bookbags and night tables. We have quite a mix for you this week. As always, feel free to add your own recent reading in the comments section.
Mike Pawuk: This week I went a little nostalgic and read Spider-Man and the Secret Wars—a 2010 release that is a flashback to one of my very first Marvel Comics I ever collected, the 1984-1985 limited series called Secret Wars. Written by Paul Tobin and illustrated by Paul Scherberger, it’s a flashback to a more simple time for Spider-Man in his career like that time he and a bunch of Marvel heroes were transplanted by a mysterious god-like being called the Beyonder to battle the most powerful Marvel villains. Tobin’s Spider-Man is portrayed something like a rookie, which the then-1980s version of Spider-Man wasn’t really portrayed as, but the collection works to show a side of the classic storyline from Spider-Man’s eyes that we’ve never seen before. I enjoyed it a lot despite some minor rewrites of the character.
I’ve also been enjoying the 2nd volume of Bakuman, the continuing story of two manga creators in high school trying to find their way in a tough industry, created by the Death Note team of Tsugumi Ohba Takeshi Obata. The story continues as Moritaka Mashiro (Saiko) and Akito Takagi (Shujin) try to compete for the famed Tezuka Award, get to meet an editor from Shonen Jump magazine, and you find a little bit of what’s to come in both the relationships of the duo and an adversary waiting in the wings. Highly recommended.
Snow Wildsmith: I picked up DC Super Friends: For Justice because I’m always looking for superhero titles for younger kids. I’d avoided this one previously because of its ties to the toy line, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the stories inside have nothing to do with the toys. Instead it’s more about friendship and doing what’s right and other after-school-special type of messages. It’s a little over the top in terms of sweetness and lessons, but I still think that first and second graders will enjoy it. There are some nice touches: educational information about dinosaurs almost seamlessly slipped into one tale; codes and puzzles to solve; some funny jokes. The art is bright and colorful, but doesn’t seem too young. And unlike some of the other kids’ versions of superhero titles—which I often feel are really aimed more at the comic book loving parents—this feels like it’s really for kids.
Kate Dacey: It’s been a long time since I was a regular funny pages reader, but I recently discovered a new strip that’s great for kids in the eight-to-twelve range: Bleeker the Rechargeable Dog, by Jonathan Mahood. The series revolves around ten-year-old Skip Smalls, who is disappointed to receive a robot, and not a real, dog from his parents. It doesn’t take long for Skip to realize that Bleeker can do a lot of neat things that the average canine can’t: talk, read, fly, update his owner’s Wikipedia page. (Much to Skip’s dismay, Bleeker’s programming prevents him from cleaning rooms.) Yes, we’ve been to this well many times before, but Mahood manages to wring some good jokes out of the premise while creating an appealing rapport between Skip and Bleeker. The only downside is that Bleeker just got picked up for syndication in January, so it isn’t appearing in the print editions of many newspapers, where kids are most likely to find it. Not to worry: the official Bleeker website has a complete archive of strips, allowing new readers to get up to speed quickly.
Brigid Alverson: I haven’t been reading much kid stuff lately. Instead, I have been indulging myself by reading Bill Willingham’s Fables series, a sort of adult version of Fractured Fairy Tales in which characters from our childhood stories are cast out of their magical homeland and find themselves living in modern society. Willingham’s takes on the characters are a lot of fun—the Big Bad Wolf goes straight and becomes the law enforcement arm of Fabletown, Snow White runs the city (Old King Cole is the nominal mayor, but you know how it is) and her bad-girl sister Rose Red causes trouble. I’m also reading the spinoff Jack of Fables, about the exploits of the Jack who shows up in all those stories, killing giants and growing beanstalks and such. The stories are well written, with lots of clever allusions, and it’s lots of fun looking at those old stories from a modern, adult point of view.
On the manga side, I picked up Laon, which is actually a manhwa (it’s from Korea) but tells a story that will be familiar to dedicated manga readers: It’s about a nine-tailed fox who lost his tails in a bet and must search for them on earth. He teams up with a tabloid reporter who knows a good story when he sees one, but after a promising start, the story quickly spirals into a mishmash of bad horror. I was confused by the end of the first volume, and the second volume doesn’t promise much enlightenment, but I’ll probably soldier on for a while. If the storyline doesn’t settle down pretty soon, though, I’ll leave the other three volumes on the shelf.