Everything I Read in January, 2017

January was a really good month for reading, so I thought I’d chat about it for a bit. I’ve broken down what I’ve read into three categories: books and audioboks. graphic novels, and single issue comics. First off, books~

Books/Audiobooks
1. Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
2. The Ghost Train to New Orleans by Mur Lafferty
3. The Spirit Thief by Rachel Aaron
4. The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin
5. Batgirl at Super Hero High by Lisa Yee

Clearly, my book reading in January was all about knocking a few books off of my 2017 TBR, and that seemed to work out well. Calamity was the third and final book in Brandon Sanderson’s Reckoners series. I liked it quite a bit, even if I feel like the book didn’t quite live up to the (admitted sky high) level of quality I came to expect from the first two books- Steelheart, and Firefight. Ghost Train to New Orleans is the second (and so far, last) urban fantasy novel in Laffery’s Shambling Guide series. I felt like the book did a nice job expanding the mythology of the series, even if the overall plot line wasn’t quite as interesting as the first book’s- which focused on Zoe becoming an editor for travel guides for the supernatural community. The Spirit Thief was the first book in Rachel Aaron’e Eli Monpress series, and it was a really fun read, albeit not as strongly written as some of Aaron’s later works. I’ve heard the author describe the series as a fighting anime in book form, and The Spirit Thief totally nails that motif. So if you’re a fan or Naruto or Bleach, make sure you check this one out.

The Obelisk Gate is the second book in The Broken Earth Trilogy, and delivered the same high quality writing and characterization that I’ve come to expect from NK Jemisin after seven novels. It was a pretty dark book though, so I took a mental break by delving into the latest book in the DC Superhero Girls series (Batgirl at Superhero High). This was another charming installment to this fun middle grade series, although I didn’t like it nearly as much as I did the first two. I’m somewhat concerned that the books (all which have focused on a new student finding their place at Superhero High) are becoming a little formulaic.

Graphic Novels
1. Wonder Woman: Land of the Dead by Greg Rucka
2. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the Great Lakes Avengers by Various
3. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, vol 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It by Ryan North/Erica Henderson
4. Wonder Woman, vol 9: Resurrection by Meredith Finch/David Finch
5. Wonder Woman: Missions End by Greg Rucka

For graphic novels this month, it was all about Wonder Woman and Squirrel Girl. The two works by Greg Rucka (Land of the Dad and Mission’s End) finished off Rucka’s fabulous run on Wonder Woman from about 10 years back. Mission’s End was a bit of a step down, as Rucka needed to weave in larger crossover elements into his own storylines, but, all things considered, I thought he handled that challenge better than most. I also read the final volume in Meredith Finch’s run (Resurrection), and through it was the strongest volume of her run yet. Unfortunately, the Finch run on Wonder Woman was plagued by problems from the beginning to the end, and I can’t honestly say how many of these issues were due to decisions by the creative team, and how many were due to those by DC at large. As a result, I’m quite glad to see them pass the torch to another team (which includes Greg Rucka again, ironically).

The Squirrel Girl graphic novels, on the other hand, were like friggen night and day. Volume 4 of the Ryan North/Erica Henerson run (I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked It) was just as clever and enjoyable as I’ve come to expect from this creative team. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and the Great Lakes Avengers collection on the other hand was um… not. Don’t get me wrong, this volume, which collects Doreen’s pre-North/Henderson adventures has some good stuff, but those good comics have already been collected in OTHER Squirrel Girl trade paperbacks, as bonus comics. The remaining comics would have been better left forgotten. It’s also contains content that’s pretty adult (lots of violence, gore, and humor with a real cruel streak) which made me wonder why the hell they gave the collection such a kid-friendly cover. Very glad I went the library route with this one.

Comic Books
Black Widow #7
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10 #30
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 11 #1
Lazarus #24
Lazarus #25
Paper Girls #8
Paper Girls #9
Paper Girls #10
Saga #37
Saga #38
Saga #39
Serenity: No Power in the Verse #1

January comic book reading was all about catching up on my single issues. And well… we’re not there yet. Maybe someday!

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Top 10 of 2016: Television

On Monday, I posted my top ten movies of 2016. Now, it’s television’s turn.

Admittedly, television is a trickier beast. You can’t really make a list of the best television seasons, as network TV shows follow the school year, instead of the calendar year. You also can’t do television episodes, because shows on netflix are so arc-heavy that they don’t always have one episode that stands out above the rest. So instead, I’m just going to completely open things up. Which basically means that anything goes! That includes my favorite stand out episodes, beloved characters, story arcs, etc. The end result may be a little messy, but it’s a far truer representation of my top 10 of television of the past year.

Just like my movie list, this list includes TV shows that I first experienced 2016. And while not all of them first aired in 2016, most of them did. Also, like the movie list, this IS a countdown. So the number one was my number one moment of television in 2016.

10. Agent Carter– “Smoke and Mirrors”– Poor Agent Carter. While it was chock full of lovable characters, great humor, and did a wonderful job expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe to include post WWII America, it didn’t always live up to its full potential. “Smoke and Mirrors” is an example of how good it could be when it did. This episode not only revealed the origin story of Peggy Carter herself, but season two’s villain Whitney Frost, expertly exhibiting the challenges facing women in the 1920s and 30s without feeling hamfisted. While it’s tragic that Agent Carter will never see another season, I’m so happy that we got a season two, if just for this episode.

9. Daredevil- The Punisher– While season two of Daredevil wasn’t quite as impressive as its first outing, it certainly had its strengths. The most obvious of those strengths was The Punisher, expertly played by Jon Bernthal, who added shades of gray to this already very gray section of the MCU. I’m so happy to see that The Punisher will be getting his own spin off series in 2017, and that Karen Page will be following him as well. Their complex relationship was one of my favorite parts of this season.

8. Luke Cage– Misty KnightLuke Cage proved to be another strong addition to the Netflix corner of the MCU, bringing in several new memorable characters. Perhaps it’s due to my weakness for tough lady cops, by my favorite of these new characters was Simone Missick’s Misty Knight, the intelligent and driven Harlam detective. I can only hope that, much like The Punisher, Misty will be given a spin off of her own. I’d happily watch a show all about her.

7. Noragami– The Lady Bishamon Arc– Season one of the anime Noragami was plenty of fun, filled with great humor, fascinating ghostly worldbuilding, and action sequences. But it was the Lady Bishamon storyline of season two that really pulled me in. This arc was filled with twists and turns that really changed how you viewed the main characters, and the final showdown between Yato and Bishonen was nail biting. Can we get a season three? Soon?

6. The Flash– Earth 2– While I certainly have my quibbles with season two of The Flash (not to mention season three), it doesn’t change the fact that it was just so fricken fun to visit Earth 2. I’m a sucker for alternate universe storylines, and had a ball getting to meet the different versions of The Flash’s all-too-likable cast of characters (the highlights clearly being the alternative versions of Caitlin and Cisco). The actual visit to Earth 2 was short, but meaningful, and its effects were felt across the entire season.

5. Supergirl– The new characters of season two- Sometimes when you see that a TV show is bringing in A LOT of new characters in for a new season, you get nervous that things will start to feel crowded. This is how I felt going into season two of Supergirl, but dammit, somehow they managed to pull it off. I love all of the new faces that we’ve gotten to meet in season two, from the tough but likable Detective Maggie Sawyer (there I go again with awesome lady cops!), the morally complex Lena Luther, the should-be-annoying-but-is-actually-quite-charming Daxamite Mon-El, the secretive Miss Martian/M’gann, and Tyler Hoechlin’s wonderful new version of Superman (who I fangirl over on Speculative Chic right here). It’s a virtual smorgasbord of fabulous, new characters and I enjoy digging in every week.

4. Arrow‘s 100th episode– Perhaps the most impressive thing about Arrow‘s epic 100th episode is that it really shouldn’t have worked. Not only did it have to reflect on the legacy that Arrow has built over four and a half seasons, but it was also the third part of an ambitious four night crossover event. Under a lesser writing team, Arrow may have worked in one area or the other, but the Arrow team clearly knew what they were doing. Arrow‘s 100th episode was moving, exciting, and grand. I can see myself rewatching this one over and over again. If you’d like to see my further thoughts on the crossover event as a whole, check out this joint review I did with JL Gribble over at Speculative Chic.

3. Psycho-Pass– Season 1, part 2– I didn’t know what to think about Psycho-Pass at first. While the tech and worldbuilding were interesting (it’s kind of like Minority Report, only instead of killing all the future murderers, they turn them into captive hit men for the police force), it took several episodes before I was fully invested in the characters. By the time I got to part two of season one (which basically means season two), I was 100% on board, excited to learn more about this world and desperate for the pure-minded Akane and the latent criminal Kogami to just make out already. If you’re a dystopia fan, do yourself a favor and watch Psycho-Pass. You don’t need to be an otaku to find it as addicting as I did.

2. Game of Thrones– “The Battle of the Bastards”– And now for the most cliche item on the list! Having completely broken free of the incomplete book series, Game of Thrones reached new heights in season six, and no height was higher than the penultimate episode “Battle of the Bastards,” which managed to capture the horrors of war, finish off a long-running arc in a thoroughly satisfying way. I am crazy excited to see how the show will develop in season seven.

1. Agents of SHIELD– Fallen Agent– One of the best and worst things about network television is how long it takes to tell a story. Twenty-two episodes a season, with storylines that can go on for years. In its infancy, Agents of SHIELD showed the drawbacks of having such a long season (it took quite a while to get off the ground) but by the end of season three, it showed the strengths as we witnessed the final showdown between Skye/Daisy and Ward/Hive, a moment that we’ve been building up to for years. This was only a small part of what was an incredibly strong two part finale (topping off what I feel was SHIELD‘s best season yet). SHIELD‘s season three finale was everything a finale should be, filled with show stopping set pieces, dramatic emotional beats, and plot developments that will change the show and its characters forever. Last spring, I must admit, many of the finales left me feeling underwhelmed, but Agents of SHIELD made up for it all on its own.

Honorable Mentions– Master of None– “Parents”, Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt– “Kimmie Meets a Drunk Lady”, Doctor Who– “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”, Legends of Tomorrow– Captain Cold

And that’s it for me! I’d love to hear what shows/episodes/characters everyone else fell in love with during 2016.

Fallen to Earth: The Trials and Tribulations of The New 52’s Supergirl — Speculative Chic

Hey there! I have a new entry up on Speculative Chic! This one’s all about Supergirl, and adventures during The New 52. I break down both the good and bad (and trust me, there are both!)

Back when Greg Berlanti first announced that he was making a Supergirl TV show, I realized something very important. I knew embarrassingly little about Supergirl herself. Sure, I knew that she was a Kryptonian, and Clark Kent’s cousin, but beyond that? Yeah… not so much. To rectify this, I found myself hitting up my library,…

via Fallen to Earth: The Trials and Tribulations of The New 52’s Supergirl — Speculative Chic