Friday, 31 January 2014

Deep Sequencing: Food Freaks

Or an on-going tabulation of the various food powers in Chew
by John Layman and Rob Guillory, Image Comics

Part of the fun of Chew is how regosh-darn bizarre a comic it is. The premise of people with strange food powers living in a society with a strictly enforced poultry ban is just delightfully strange and wonderful. The thing is though, Chew, as crazy as it is, is manufactured in this really thoughtful, systemic way where each weird idea builds on the last so that entire nuthouse is constructed in this alt-logical, internally consistent way. It's pretty cool and a sign that we should be wary of John Layman and Rob Guillory eventually starting a cult-religion. (I am on to you, gentlemen.)

Anyway, in celebration of the weird world of Chew and it's intensely well constructed madness... and because I like to make info-graphics, here is my new recurring chart of all of the wacky food powers in Chew. Specifically in the Chew collections volumes 1-7.

There will be *SPOILERS* for Chew Vol. 1-7, so proceed with all due caution.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

So I Read Chew: Bad Apples

A 250 word (or less) review of Chew Volume 7
By John Layman and Rob Guillory; Image Comics

This short review could have *SPOILERS* for Chew 1-6. Click here for a clean review.

Chew is certainly one elaborate and lengthy comic for being so completely insane. Over it's many chapters it has grown from a comic about a psychic cannibal detective enforcing a poultry ban to a much larger story with a cast of dozens of weirdoes pursuing a kaleidoscope of crazy storylines. Chew is very much a mountain of madness built on a surprisingly meticulous foundation of characterization, story structure and pacing. Chew: Bad Apples is a Chew comic that is about maintaining the rigorous narrative logistics of this gloriously goofy comic. Chew has, in recent issues, diffracted into some pretty separate storylines, and Bad Apples is about touching base with all of these diverse elements. It's a comic that is about keeping all of the plates, piled high with their bizarre and gruesome deserts, spinning. But! Chew: Bad Apples is still a Chew comic! The stories the comic is touching base with include the psychic cannibal cop hunting a vampire that murdered a loved one, his cyborg partner discovering a secret betrayal, and well, a bunch of other Chew family madness. It's a great, funny, mad comic that really feels like its gearing up to go somewhere interesting with its wild premise. I’m excited to see the madness that is coming!

Monday, 27 January 2014

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a Good Book

Or why you should read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is the story of a legendary pair of comic book creators and their amazing adventures in the Golden Age of comics. It's the story of Joe Kavalier, a young Jewish artist and refugee, burdened with saving his family also from the Nazi menace. It's also the story of Sam Clay, a plucky Jewish kid from Brooklyn with big dreams and a plan to help his cousin bring his family to America. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay follows the pair as they form a partnership and create The Escapist, a comic book hero who frees people from the shackles of injustice. Their hero proves popular and the pair find success and a kind of fame, meeting the beautiful debutante Rosa Saks (herself inspiration for the comic hero Luna Moth), Tracy Bacon, star actor of The Escapist Radio Show, and many of the creative forces of their day. The novel asks if Kavalier and Clay can leverage their notoriety and wealth to save Joe's family, whether they can maintain their Golden Age in the face of global tragedy, and if they can escape when things fall apart.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is very much about the history of comic books. Through the lens of Sam Clay and Joe Kavalier the novel explores the larger than life, amazing story of the kind of young dreamers who created our most enduring and beloved superhero creations. We see the escapist and vaudeville cultural roots of the caped crusader, the crappy business deals, and the genesis of a new American artform. We see comics evolve from their earliest experiments to a mature art while also developing as a business and cultural force. Basically, as we read the very engaging, beautifully written story of Kavalier and Clay, we get to learn all about comics in this very researched, very organic way. It's really great.

Thematically The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay deals with Escapism in all kinds of literal and metaphorical ways. The real dramatic drivers of the novel are the bonds, subterfuges, and lengths the characters of the book will go to escape. From Joe Kavaliers incredible escape from Czechoslovakia, to the bonds of his obligation to free his loved ones. From the escape of comic book fiction, to the bonds of financial success, and the misdirection of the significance of that success. It's the bonds of family and love and desire and revenge. It's the misdirection of the lies characters tell themselves and the lies they tell the world to hide their bonds or intentions. And it's the escape, both good and bad, that characters enact for their freedom. It's beautiful and tragic and a magic worthy of the comic book Escapist.

This is a book that I think anyone could enjoy. It's literary and beautifully written, but still full of action and genre conventions. The story inside of it is universal and funny, exciting, tragic, sad, and wonderful. It's the kind of book I can hand to my mother who like's nice, emotionally involving stories, and my brother who reads books with axes on the cover. But I think more than anything it's a book that I can recommend to anyone who visits this website that loves novels and comics: this is a novel that builds a really incredible story out of the history of superhero comics. And in doing so it becomes this great new thing constructed out of a thing I love. If you like my taste in novels and my taste in comics this book is almost certainly something you will enjoy.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union

Friday, 24 January 2014

Deep Sequencing: Widescreen Action in Stumptown Vol. 2

Or a look at the ballsiest comics car chase in Stumptown: The Case of The Baby in The Velvet Case
By Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth, and Rico Renzi; Oni Press

In the hallowed days before digital special effects made movies lazy and terrible, there was a glorious halcyon age of stunts in action films that climaxed in dramatic, beautifully shot car chases. These car chases were high octane spectacles, meticulously crafted acts of stunt driving, grounded in the plausibility of having to actually have happened. And yet, these film segments were somehow larger than life, shot with the widest of angles in dynamic, kinetic styles that are so much bigger than the static, tighter angles of the more conversational story sections. These car chases are awesome, and special, and completely an artifact of a certain kind of film.

Or so I thought.

Because Stumptown: The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case somehow pulls this off in a static, comics form. It is magnificent.

This post will contain *SPOILERS* for Stumptown: Vol. 2. Do yourself a favour and read the comic first; it's really, really great.

So part of the magic of the car chase scene is how it contrasts to the more conventionally drawn portions of the comic. The majority of Stumptown: Vol. 2 is drawn beautifully and atmospherically in the standard mode of comics with panels progressing from the top left of the page to the bottom right. It's the comics equivalent of tight angled dramatic shooting.

The brilliant choice, that makes the entire car chase scene feel huge and cinematographic is that they took the page....

...and turned it on its side.

And the result is pure comics widescreen magic.

By turning the page on its side, Team Stumptown changes the entire feel of the comic. The unorthodox page orientation instantly makes the car chase sequence feel special, like its not comics as usual. But it's so much more than a simple gimmick, because altering the page orientation also changes the page into a series of short, wide panels that emphasize horizontal space and movement which enhances the feeling of speed throughout the chase. Add in some really clever, cinematic angles, stylish blurring, and really great use of the speedometer and street signs and team Stumptown completely catches the giant, amazing feeling of a true movie car chase in a comic. It couldnt get much better...


They jump the fucking bridge!

How amazing is this double page spread? Everything about this moment is perfect: the bridge decks peeking into either side of the spread to set boundaries, the tiny car hanging in the void, angled toward the apex of the leap. Perfect.  By maintaining the widescreen page orientation, the double page spread manages to emphasize both the height and the tremendous distance of the jump. The relative simplicty of the page also helps punch up the moment: the single colour background and the minimalist elements all help make the jump feel exceptionally fast, and yet due to its iconic simplicity, somehow timeless. It perfectly captures that sense of a super short moment, that due to the tension and insanity of it, just seems to stretch on and on. It's perfect comics.

Stumptown is a comic that I cannot recommend enough.

Stumptown: The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case
Stumptown: The Case of The Girl Who Took Her Shampoo (But Left Her Mini)
A Fistful of Rain
Deep Sequencing: Making an entrance in Stumptown

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

So I Read Stumptown: The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case

A 250 word (or less) review of Stumptown Volume 2
By Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth, and Rico Renzi; Oni Press

This comic, you guys. This comic. Stumptown: The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case continues the tradition of being outrageously good comics. This installment of the series follows perpetually down-on-her-luck private investigator Dex Parios as she hunts for Baby, the prized guitar of Mim Bracca, the lead guitarist of rock sensation Tailhook. When the investigation runs afoul of skinhead drug dealers and the DEA it becomes apparent that more than the guitar is missing and that Dex might just be in over her head. And it's all kind of perfect. The story is exciting, the mystery is satisfying, and this volume of Stumptown swaggers with all of its trademark charm, smarm, and humour. It's an endlessly engaging, infectious read. It's also a really ballsy comic: there is a sequence in this comic that is both technically brilliant and just gonads to the wind, rock and roll, brave. It's a sequence that absolutely HAS to be seen. I also really enjoyed the inclusion of Mim and Tailhook, the stars of Rucka's novel A Fistful of Rain (probably my favourite Rucka novel). While The Case of The Baby in the Velvet Case contains all the narrative information you need, it was fun to see Mim and to view her through the lens of her prose depiction. Stumptown Vol. 2 is a fantastic comic and I still have absolutely no idea how this series isn't a much, much bigger deal than it is.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Atoll Comics Round 10

Or changes to my top-ten

Due to poverty and an urge to buy better comics, I have decided to be super-selective about which superhero comics I read. Harnessing the Awesome Power of Maths, I have determined that I can afford to read 10 ongoing titles. So I get to read 10, and only 10, titles published by either Marvel or DC as well as one trade paperback a week of my choosing.

A complication of this is that I am forced to drop an on-going title if I want to try reading a new on-going title, an act of very tough love. Being financially responsible is the worst.

I will be adding Black Widow and dropping The Movement.

Why Black Widow: I feel like Black Widow is one of the most under-utilized characters in the Marvel roster: she is a femme fatale super spy that exists in a universe with all kinds of weird and interesting spy-stuff in a epoch when real life espionage is growing ever more prominent. Add in a solid movie presence and its a no-brainer that there should be a Black Widow comic. And I want a good, ongoing Black Widow comic so badly. Black Widow by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto has the potential to be this. The first issue was pretty solid, with some fun spy action rendered with Phil Noto's excellent character acting and cinematic style. It also has an encouraging premise: that Black Widow is taking freelance jobs to fund her various penance projects. My one reservation is that it portrays a pretty mortal, chatty Widow.... which flies in contrast a bit with my idea of the hyper-efficient, quietly ruthless Black Widow that lives in my imagination. But, I'd like to see where the creative team will take things and give Black Widow a chance to win me over. If nothing else, it's a very well made comic.

Why not The Movement: The Movement suffers from too much movement, and not enough of The Movement. Let me explain: I feel like The Movement is trying to do waaaay too much too quickly in a way that is robbing the series of a lot of its potential impact. In just seven issues we have been thrown into a new, corrupt location where a never-before-seen protest/rebel movement with a diverse core group of misfit superhumans are fighting the authorities, some rich dude, a serial killer, and an anti-Movement superteam. There has also been a traitor from within, the addition of a new team member, and an internal ideological struggle within The Movement. In seven issues. While too much decompression is boring and urgency is usually good for comics, I feel like The Movement is failing to explore key series concepts, rushing through characterization, and triggering plot moments before they have had a chance to develop significance. Like, I still don't entirely understand why the setting of the The Movement is bad enough to justify kidnapping cops or how The Movement works. The traitor from within plot was wrapped up before we knew who all the characters even were. Or characters are dropping significant character points in narration boxes that don't organically fit their situations. (I also think the story would be better served by a different artist with a more realistic style and a greater ability to tie setting to story, since I feel like this story begs to feel more grounded and real.) And it kills me that I feel like this: I love the series premise, and I love the way Team Movement are interested in representing groups of people who are typically ignored by comics. I really want to like this comic, but the execution isn't there if I am only going to read ten comics.

Don't get me wrong, this is still a pretty good comic. It just isn't living up to my expectations. However, I could see that if you belong to the aforementioned typically-ignored-by-comics groups how this series might mean the world to you. So I hope it keeps going (and maybe improves a bit) and maybe I can give it another try someday.

(I understand that the comics market is ruthless and DC comics has a policy of dropping under-performing titles pretty quickly, so there is an impetus for creators to rapidly tell their story to try and win an audience and tell their story before the axe might drop. That said, I think The Movement would have been great if it say took a sane (as opposed to Burden) character... say, Misfit, and showed her in the corrupt setting and joining The Movement as an opening arc. Then taking the events of these first issues of The Movement and spreading them out over a few arcs to let the story breath. Maybe there is something to be said about giving creators the security to make longterm plans?)


Friday, 17 January 2014

Only The Good Die Young Avengers

Or on the glorious/tragic end of Young Avengers 
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, others; Marvel Comics

Young Avengers is over. I am overjoyed, I am crushed.

I'm happy because Endings are IMPORTANT. For a story to have catharsis, to really have dramatic weight it has to conclude, it has to have something approaching finality. Superhero comics are, by their very nature, comics that do not end. As a result they are stories that are often denied the dramatic finality of stories. But sometimes, glorious sometimes, a particular creative run gets the opportunity to tell a complete story, and to end it in a way that provides a cathartic ending. And I absolutely love that Young Avengers was able to end so perfectly, so completely. 

I am crushed because I am really going to fucking miss this book. Young Avengers was one of my favourite comics during its run. The story was consistently fun and exciting and heartfelt. The artwork was always beautiful and experimental and a treasure trove of cool comics tricks. Young Avengers was a comic that would always throw something surprising our way: some wonderful plot twist or some never before seen piece of comics magic. It was also a deeply thoughtful comic filled with meta-thematic ideas about youth and authorship and a dozen other things layered into a story that was deliberately interacting with social media in a really interesting way. Young Avengers was a great comic that was as fascinating to read as it was fun. I'll miss it.

I'm happy that Young Avengers ended because I'm not sure the magic was sustainable. Quality and quantity are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but they often are at odds. Young Avengers danced like it was on fire: it packed an enormous amount of action and feeling into every issue. Team Young Avengers was also able to show us comics we'd never (or seldom) seen before while also delivering jaw-dropping plot twist after jaw-dropping plot twist. (YA holds the distinction of the comic I read immediately just to avoid internet spoilers.) I can't help but feel that level of creative experimentation and that constant parade of surprises could only be sustained for so long, eventually Young Avengers had to start looking more like a conventional comic. And I am forever grateful that Team YA decided to quit while they were still on top. Live Fast Die Young.

I am crushed because Young Avengers was reliably interesting to write about. Part of writing a regularly updating blog is that you have to come up with content every damn week. Preferably this is content that is fun to write and interesting for other people to read. And Young Avengers was a comic that I could count on every single issue to be super interesting, to show me cool comics process or provide some sort of nifty meta comment. It was ALWAYS fun to write about and with all the passionate, awesome fans, it was also a comic people were interested in reading about. (And Team YA has been super generous with signal boosts, for which I am forever grateful.) I am sincerely going to miss the enjoyable challenge of trying to criticize Young Avengers. 

I'm happy because the Young Avengers thematically HAD to end. One of the main thematic aspects of Young Avengers is, well, youth. Youth by it's very nature is impermanent, it's fleeting nature is part of what gives it its size, and impetuous, and magic. And a comic that is ABOUT this state of youth-on-the-cusp of adulthood can't carry on, can't become just another perpetually ongoing comic without destroying the magic of youth. Young Avengers have to grow up to be Avengers, they can't be Young forever. It is perfect that Young Avengers ends.

I can't wait to see the next thing Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson cook up. Because it's going to be spectacular. 

Favouring The Young Avengers #15
Favouring The Young Avengers #14
Favouring The Young Avengers #13

Favouring The Young Avengers #12 (pt. 2)
Favouring The Young Avengers #12 (pt. 1)
Favouring The Young Avengers #11
Favouring The Young Avengers #10
Favouring The Young Avengers #8
Favouring The Young Avengers #7

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

So I Read Ghost: In The Smoke and Din

A 250 word (or less) review of the first Ghost collection
By Kelly Sue DeConnick, Phil Noto, and Lee Loughridge; Dark Horse Books

Ghost: In The Smoke and Din is a modern re-imagining of a very 90s gun-toting ghost superhero. It is also written by Kelly Sue DeConnick who is reliably one of my favourite mainstream comics writers. So despite the comic being, at least on the premise level, something I could live without, I trusted to talented creators and gave it a try. Ghost: In The Smoke and Din, begins with the stars of Phantom Finders, a paranormal investigation reality TV show, Vaughn Barnes, a disgraced jorunalist, and Tommy Byers, a bro-y believer, as they test a stolen device and discover a real live (dead?) Ghost. A Ghost with no memory of who she is and a burning desire to solve her own murder. A quest that will uncover a larger conspiracy of corruption and murder and supernatural horror. It's a pretty good superhero comic. I mean, from a plot perspective it is a bit straightforward and the art, while very nice, is not experimental enough to really sell the book as an art comic. That said, the character work in Ghost: In The Smoke and Din is fantastic: DeConnick's dialogue in this book sizzles and pops and, when paired with Noto's excellent facial acting chops, really brings the characters to life. It's this facet of the book that elevates Ghost and makes it more than a by-the-numbers superhero comic and worth the price of admission. If you are looking for some Superheroic action with some remarkably excellent dialogue, I recommend Ghost.

Word count: 250

Monday, 13 January 2014

Favouring The Young Avengers #15

Or how colour is used to emphasize separation in Young Avengers #15
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Becky Cloonan, Ming Doyle, Joe Quinones, Jordie Bellaire, Maris Wicks, Matthew Wilson; Marvel Comics

Young Avengers #15 is the final, goodbye issue of Young Avengers. It's pretty much a pitch perfect issue that, along with #14, does a really great job providing closure to the various character-plots of the series in a fun and VERY Young Avengers way. YA#15 is a testament to everything I love about the series and a perfect note to go out on.

Young Aveners #15 is also a comic that features a Noh-Varr section, with art by Becky Cloonan and Jordie Bellaire, with some really clever colouring. Colouring is an aspect of comics that I find really fascinating and important, but given the subtlety of it, pretty difficult to talk about. That said, YA#15 features colouring that is obvious in its intelligence and effectiveness.

There will of course be *SPOILERS* for Young Avengers #15 in this post.

Actually, before I get to the colouring of this section of YA#15, I'd like to point out how great the pencils by Becky Cloonan are. The characters are alive with emotion, the story telling is crisp and clear, and the entire composition lives every moment in a really evocative way. The Noh-Varr section of the comic may be short but it really highlights the tremendous acting, compositional chops, and the ineffable magic of Cloonan's artwork. It's always a pleasure to read comics drawn by Becky Cloonan.

The plot of the Noh-Varr portion of YA#15 is essentially that Marvel Boy is ruminating on how his relationship with Hawkeye ended and meditating on the bittersweet flavour of love lost. This is all played out while Noh-Varr is behind the mixing table DJing and watching Kate having fun and being beautiful on the dance floor. As such, much of the dramatic weight of this sequence is the physical and emotional separation between Kate and Noh. This is accomplished in a bunch of ways: from the very discrete ideological demarcation between DJ and crowd (cerberal-observant/emotional-active) to the way the pencils separate the two groups physically and contrast Noh-Varrs aloneness in the booth to Kate's position in the people of the dance floor. But I think one of the most effective ways the separation between the two characters is emphasized is through the way the sequence is coloured.

The brilliance of the colouring is that it colours Noh-Varr in a different way than Kate and the dancing crowd and this contrast in colour emphasizes the separation between characters. Simple stated, Noh-Varr is colouring in a cool, shadowy blue, while Kate and the dancing crowd are bathed in a red glow that permeates every aspect of their colouring. Now, this fits very well into the plot of the series as the dancers are all lit by the dancefloor lighting which is the in-story source of the red glow, while Noh-Varr working in the DJ booth is not lit-up and therefore living in the shadows. So this colour separation makes perfect story sense. But it also makes really great emotional sense too: the cool blue of Noh-Varr fits his melancholy (he is literally blue!) while the hot, passionate red captures the fun and energy of the dancers. This difference in colouring, then, manages to emphasize both the physical separation (booth/dancefloor), the emotional difference (sad/celebrating), and the story distance between the Kate and Noh-Varr in a seamless way that brilliantly enhances the composition and storytelling. It's great colouring and great comics.

Favouring The Young Avengers #14
Favouring The Young Avengers #13

Favouring The Young Avengers #12 (pt. 2)
Favouring The Young Avengers #12 (pt. 1)
Favouring The Young Avengers #11
Favouring The Young Avengers #10
Favouring The Young Avengers #8
Favouring The Young Avengers #7

Friday, 10 January 2014

Describing Daredevil #34

Or a look at the beautiful transition pages in Daredevil #34
By Mark Waid, Javier Rodriguez, Alvaro Lopez, and Joe Caramagna; Marvel Comics

Daredevil continues to be one of the most consistently enjoyable Mainstream comics I've been reading. The stories are fun and unpredictable, and the artwork is always amazing and I am consistently left wanting the next instalment. One of the most noteworthy and interest aspects of Daredevil is the high level of design and technical storytelling that is present throughout the series. Daredevil #34 contains some great examples of design that make some excellent transitions worth a closer look.

There will be some mild *SPOILERS* for Daredevil #34 in this post.

My favourite sequences in Daredevil #34 all have to do with transition sequences where the left side of the composition portrays one status quo, a dramatic event occurs in the middle that changes the situation, and a new status quo is established on the right side of the composition. This double page spread here essentially shows the transition from Matt-Murdock-as-Daredevil-is-a-flirtatious-game to Matt-Murdock-is-Daredevil-and-a-new-partnership with a beautifully constructed action sequence in the middle. This whole sequence was unexpected and changed the issue, and probably the series going forward. It's great, smart comics.

This sequence here is an even more efficient and elegant transition scene. From a plot perspective this page simply conveys that the Sons of The Serpent rascists have shed their identifying vestments and donned the clothes, and associated authority, or civil authority figures. Part of this page is the balance, we have a group of Serpents in vestmens on the left, balanced on the fulcrum of the fire, and then an equal group of undercover-Serpents on the right: this tells us everything we need to know about the plot of this page. But this page has extra elements of construction that elevate the composition even further. For one, the images of the Serpents in either column show a step-by-step story of the Serpents stripping out of their villain-ginch on the left, and putting on authoritative clothes on the right going from top to bottom. Beyond even this, there are extra parallels between the panels on the left and right with images having very direct parallels between the two columns which helps emphasize that even though they are different men in each column, and even if they are dressed differently, they are still serpents. It's subtle but really, really great. This sequence here is a testament to what can be done with well designed, architectural comics.

Describing Daredevil 33: condensed motion
Describing Daredevil 30: the vectors of artwork
Describing Daredevil 29: A great page

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

So I Read East of West: Volume One

Or a 250 word (or less) review of the first East of West collected edition
By Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, and Frank Martins; Image Comics

East of West is the new Sci-fi infused Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse comic. But in a world with decades of repetitive Apocalypse X-men stories, complete with superpowered Horsemen, does the world really need another Four Horseman comic? Apparently yes. Hickman, Dragotta, and Martins create a Sci-fi, Cyberpunky, Western world where a meteor strike during the American Civil War (and concurrent Indian-American Wars) caused a premature armistice between the various sides. As a result the United States is split between seven nations: The Union, The Confederacy, The Endless Nation of the American Indians, the People's Republic (a California settled by exiled Maoists), The Dead Lands of the meteorite crater, the Kingdom of New Orleans, and, of course, the Republic of Texas. It is in this fractured America that a cabal of influential leaders from among the Seven Nations have heard The Message, a prophecy of The Endtimes, and are actively trying to kick off the Apocalypse. Unfortunately, they have betrayed Death, one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and he is aiming to have his vengeance on them all. That is, unless the other Horsemen can stop him. It's really, really, really good comics. And it’s all execution. Imagine how good a creator owned comic by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta should be. Now throw that idea out because, I promise you, East of West is BETTER. It’s bigger, more fun, smarter, funnier, more badass, and just all around greater than it has any right to be. I recommend it.

Word Count: 250

Monday, 6 January 2014

Novels Year In Review 2013

Or a look at the novels I've read in 2013 and some 

I went into the year with goal of reading a book a week and hitting the very DC comics number of 52 novels for the year. I managed to read 56 novels in 2014. (The trick, if you are curious, is to work in a place surrounded by very expensive housing that is really inconvenient to get to and reading on the lengthy metro/bus commute.)

The books in a particular order are:

        The Accord by Keith Brooke
        Harmony by Keith Brooke
        Wildseed by Octavia E Butler
        Mind of My Mind by Octavia E Butler
        Clay's Arc by Octavia E Butler
        Patternmaster by Octavia E Butler
        The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
        The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
        London Falling by Paul Cornell
        The Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross
        Incandescence by Greg Egan
        Gun Machine by Warren Ellis
        The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
        You by Austin by Grossman
        The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A Heinlein
        Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
        The Dispossessed by Ursula K Le Guin
        The Rook by Bryan O'Malley
        1984 by George Orwell
        Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
        The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi
        The Fractal Prince by Hannu Rajaniemi
        Finder by Greg Rucka
        Smoker by Greg Rucka
        Shooting at Midnight by Greg Rucka
        Critical Space by Greg Rucka
        Patriot Acts by Greg Rucka
        Walking Dead by Greg Rucka
        A Fistful of Rain by Greg Rucka
        Alpha by Greg Rucka
        Hominids by Robert J Sawyer
        Humans by Robert J Sawyer
        Hybrids by Robert J Sawyer
        Mindscan by Robert J Sawyer
        Red Planet Blues by Robert J Sawyer
        The Dark Glory War by Michael A Stackpole
        Fortress Draconis by Michael A Stackpole
        When Dragons Rage by Michael A Stackpole
        The Grand Crusade by Michael A Stackpole
        Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
        The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
        Accelerando by Charles Stross
        Glasshouse by Charles Stross
        The Family Trade by Charles Stross
        The Hidden Family by Charles Stross
        The Clan Corporate by Charles Stross
        The Merchant's War by Charles Stross
        The Revolution Business by Charles Stross
        The Trade of Queens by Charles Stross
        Saturn's Children by Charles Stross
        Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross
        The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
        Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
        Slaughter House Five by Kurt Vonnegut
        Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
        We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

In my comics year end post I take a survey of genre to point out that Mainstream comics are overwhelmingly comprised of one genre which is weird and reflective of some pretty bizarre market forces/publishing decisions. So I thought I would put together a genre distribution of novels, which have a much broader range of genre (books can be literally anything!). And this is what I got:

So... it seems that like Mainstream comics I am all about the one genre because I am a fantastic nerd. (Maybe my issues with Mainstream comics being overwhelmingly Superheroic is just based on the fact I want more Science Fiction?)

So I thought I would do the normal New Years thing and actually make some sweeping recommendations for novels, since my reading habits are basically powered by suggestions.

Before I get to my recommendations, I feel like pointing out that all of the books I read this year were pretty great and the experience of finding the perfect book is super personal. If I knew you, dear internet reader, I would recommend a specific book tailored to your interests. But since I have no idea who you are or what you like, I'm going to suggest some books that I think could be enjoyed by basically anyone. 

If you like Science Fiction

I would recommend The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi. This is a book I saw on a bookshelf a bunch of times but, due to a cover and title that could go either way and dust cover copy that sounded pretty schlocky, I gave it a pass. But the thing is, The Quantum Thief is kind of perfect: it's whip crack smart, beautifully written, and an elaborate jigsaw of wildly different literary elements all perfectly balanced in a story about a gentleman thief in a post singularity future. If you are into Science Fiction you really ought to try this book. And also don't judge books by their cover and copy....

(Honestly, if you are into Sci-fi, Accelerando, a modern classic, or The Accord a very, very underrated novel would also be ace choices. They were rereads this year, and The Quantum Thief was just such a fantastic surprise.)

If you like Fantasy

I would recommend London Falling by Paul Cornell. Fantasy is a genre that often leaves me a little cold: it can frequently be very formulaic and Tolkien derivative, too deeply, deeply creative, or kind of silly and unconvincing. London Falling is original, mature, and brilliantly, horrifically convincing. London Falling is about a misfit group of Police tasked with solving a horrific murder which brings them into contact with the terrifying shadow world of Supernatural London. It's fantasy that I think diehard fans of the genre will like but should also appeal lapsed Fantasy fans looking for something more substantiative. 

If you like Mystery/Suspense

I would recommend Gun Machine by Warren Ellis. In Gunmachine a New York detective stumbles into a room full of guns, infamous guns, each tied to an unsolved murder launching a hunt for New York's most elusive serial killer. It's a novel that is chilling, properly tense, inappropriately hilarious, and written in a beautifully evocative style. It's a satisfyingly intricate read that is still quite accessible and is maybe the book with the most universal appeal that I'm recommending here. Check it out.

If you like Superhero comics

I would recommend Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman. Although I didn't technically read this book during 2013 (I did review it), it is pretty much the perfect book for comics fans. It tells the story of Doctor Impossible an evil supergenius that will take over the world, for real this time, and Fatale an outsider cyborg who suddenly finds herself among Earth's mightiest heroes. It's a super fun story that works both as a grand sendup of the Superhero genre and a loving, detailed analysis of how the genre ticks. It's an essential novel for any Superhero fan and also, in my experience, a book that even non-geeks can really enjoy.

If you like Thrillers

I would recommend A Fistful of Rain by Greg Rucka. Thrillers are another genre I have had my ups and downs with, what with the might-makes-right attitudes and frequently formulaic plots. If you are a reader who likes nuance and quality writing than Greg Rucka is the Thriller writer for you. The man is a craftsman, building efficient, exciting stories that are clockwork machines of action, suspense, and intellectually mature stories. A Fistful of Rain is, I think, my favourite of the many Rucka novels I've read this year. It tells the story of Mim Bracca, the lead guitarist of the rockband Tailhook, as she finds her life crumbling as her alcoholism and broken past converge with a blackmailer's plot to ruin her. As Bracca hits rock bottom, she will do anything to protect what's left of her life. It's a properly tense novel with a great mystery and a really intimate, really brutal character study at the story's core. A Fistful of Rain, beyond being a good book is a really surprising and non-formulaic approach to a Thriller. That said, pick any Rucka novel and you will not be disappointed.

Or if you just like books

I would recommend The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon. The Yiddish Policemen's Union is a book with a lot of literary elements: it's a hardboiled detective story set in an alternate universe where the Jews of Europe were evacuated to Alaska told in a voice that is equal parts pulp and grandfatherly excess. It's a book that is at once exciting genre fun and beautifully constructed literary fiction. The Yiddish Policemen's Union is everything I love about stories. The Yiddish Policemen's Union has down-on-his-luck detective Meyer Landsman becoming involved in the murder investigation of a dead transient with a chess interest that will uncover a conspiracy with consequences for all of the Alaskan Jews. It's a great book that I would recommend to anyone.

So there they are, the novels I've read in 2013 and my recommendations for your 2014.

Have any recommendations for me?