Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are indoors, having to find ways to stimulate ourselves, without congregating with others. Some people have taken this time to make their parents Tik-Tok stars, while others are still in school, and of course, Zoom meeting bombers. During this time, I’ve taken to reading more — I have a new bookshelf, full of books and graphic novels I have been meaning to get through, in addition to what I have bookmarked on my computer. Until the world is in a safer place, I’m going to keep adding to that list, so here is what I’ve gotten through so far and what I plan on starting soon.
New X-Men Vol. 4: Riot at Xavier’s: This is actually my first graphic novel purchase ever, mainly because I read most of Grant Morrison’s run with New X-Men in the comic book/manga section of different Barnes & Nobles around Boston. Sooner or later, I had to buy something. Either way, this story, and Morrison’s run particularly, draws on the depth of the large student body. The X-Men are representatives of a school, so what’s happening there? Xavier’s is a deeper peek into that, focused on our antagonist Quentin Quire, an angry teen genius with telepathy & an ego, and his Omega Gang, who are tired of Xavier’s pacifist leanings. It is clear that there’s going to be a predictable ending, with the teachers aka trained X-Men winning. Nonetheless, there are seeds being sown, which will have future consequences, all over the book. Morrison’s run ends with a major secret being uncovered, and when you look back on his stories there are hints out there of the truth. I’ve said too much. In accord, this is the first major story for Quire, who will later become a major figure in X-Men stories, be it as a villain in training, a hero, or a general nuisance.
Civil War: I genuinely hate most of the big event series from Marvel. They do them every year, and whether it is a major team-up of heroes or a major fight between heroes, it feels basic. Maybe the writer thinks they’re more innovative than they are or it is just the task presented. Civil War is distinct though. The heroes are fighting each other on the basis of morals. Captain America vs Iron Man is not because someone is secretly a Skrull — they are genuinely on opposite sides of legislation that would make superheroes government workers and to find Cap against it is shocking. Not as shocking as Spiderman revealing he is Peter Parker to the world to buy goodwill, but still. From start to finish though, this political thriller asked the heroes who they are and why they do what they do?
March: I mostly read autobiographies, mainly because I like the idea of personal histories and how different people frame them with what’s going on around the world at the same time. This series does that in spades. Congressman John Lewis was a Freedom Rider and helped organize the March on Washington with SNCC, before going into formal public service. None of it is simple, and the narrative moves that Lewis and Andrew Aydin, Lewis’ digital director & policy advisor, build a picture of a complex man who fought tooth and nail to better the world for others like him, and who look like him. Visually, it pops in a way I didn’t expect — this isn’t a superhero story, but carries a strong vibrancy. The washed-out grey tones help build a focused look on Lewis’ work, while reminding you this is an ugly time in American history.
Heroes in Crisis: The idea that superheroes probably have PTSD is not surprising. Imagine making a career of fighting guys like the Joker or Kite Man? Throwing yourself in front of runaway trains because you can physically take it, but will you be able to mentally? That’s what got the Justice League’s Trinity to create The Sanctuary, a secret rehabilitation center for heroes and rehabilitated super villains to seek help for mental health issues. However, when the facility is the site of a massacre, it quickly turns into a murder-mystery, with two possible suspects, Harley Quinn and Booster Gold. Nonetheless, it is not a straightforward answer. King’s miniseries asks one big question of the heroes: where do you go when the heroics are not enough? How do you heal what is not seen? The idea that these themes are explored in a relatable way is really cool, especially in a time where there is a press for us all to address our mental wounds as much as our bodily ones.
What I Plan on Reading
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: I loved the Power Rangers growing up, and have always seen the Boom Studios series around. It looks like it’s giving the very baseline characters from the show a level of interest and personality that probably comes with being superpowers teenage superheroes, who are fighting aliens.
New Mutants: Demon Bear: This is partially the inspiration for the New Mutants movie, which will drop sooner or later. More importantly, it fits into a classic theme in comics: super-powered teens who can’t trust the adults around them and how they grow, through experiencing the traumas of death and mortality, which starts with this saga.
Batman and the Outsiders Volume 1: I’ve previously expressed interest in the Bat-family, so this extends that further into my literary queue. Also, I like the idea of a black-ops Justice League, since they’re so public-facing, with characters like Halo and Katana, to do the dirty world. It is a layer of superhero work that deserves exploring.
All in all, this is what I’m doing to keep stimulated while social distancing. I hope this is a good starting point for anyone else, who is looking for something to read.