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4 Distracting Comics On My TBR

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S.W. Sondheimer

Staff Writer

When not prying Legos and gaming dice out of her feet, S.W. Sondheimer is a registered nurse at the Department of Therapeutic Misadventures, a herder of genetic descendants, cosplayer, and a fiction and (someday) comics writer. She is a Yinzer by way of New England and Oregon and lives in the glorious 'Burgh with her husband, 2 smaller people, 2 cats, a fish, and a snail. She occasionally tries to grow plants, drinks double-caffeine coffee, and has a habit of rooting for the underdog. It is possible she has a book/comic book problem but has no intention of doing anything about either. Twitter: @SWSondheimer

I don’t read a ton of weekly floppies or their digital siblings these days. Not only are the constant universe reboots and retreads impossible to keep track of, but the Big Presses keep cancelling books I’ve only just gotten attached to, handing projects to artists and writers who are terrible humans, promising diversity and delivering…not that, and generally making a larger and larger dumpster fire of the industry.

The news coming out of smaller mainstays isn’t much better, and I’m still several hives of rage bees in a trench coat about the all white-dude indie press panel with which SDCC cursed us.

That isn’t to say that none of these companies are doing good books. What I am saying is that I, personally, am very tired in general and while I’m willing to dig to find potentially great titles, I’m not willing to put the time and effort into sorting through the detritus left by publishers who have let me down repeatedly to find an occasional gem.

So, instead of forcing myself to stare at stuff that lands me on the emotional spectrum somewhere between “don’t care” and “actively furious,” I’m walking around my house and collecting all of the graphic novels and comics I have which I haven’t read and putting them in an actual TBR pile. I’m also keeping an eye on the socials for anime and animation announcements and asking friends, like fellow Rioter Vernieda Vergara, which source books merit eyeball absorption. Then, instead of filing them away for later, I am adding them to that actual TBR pile.

As all readers know, there’s nothing like a self-imposed, publicly-announced deadline to get one’s ass in gear.

Alright, here we go!

TBR November 1–Nov 7, 2020

The Devil is a Part Timer! Vol. 4 by Satoshi Wagahara and Akio Hiiragi (Yen Press, 2016)

My introduction to the world of The Devil is a Part Timer! was walking by the screen while my husband was watching the anime and asking, “Why are you watching a boob one?” and him saying, “Okay, but hear me out…” This is one of the few times I have, in fact, heard him out where boob anime was concerned and I’m glad I did because there isn’t actually that much boobage and even if there was, this is such a weird, wonderful, ineffable, hysterical book, I’d read it anyway. When last I left it, a mysterious neighbor had moved in next door and was taking care of the boys while Alciel was sick (who knew demons, even demons in human bodies, could get taken down by germs) and Emi was doing some light, if not entirely subtle, spying (the dangerous front stairs gag continues to be hilarious). This is an easy, fun read you don’t have to keep close track of with enough volumes (16) to keep you in devilish glee for a while. Don’t be turned off by the trashy covers; they’re just part of the act.

California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & The Papas by Pénélope Bagieu (First Second, 2015)

I bought California Dreamin‘ after I stumbled across it doing a search for Comics A–Z: History. I’ve heard Cass Elliot’s voice hundreds if not thousands of times in my life, but I don’t know much about her other than the fact that she died tragically young and that her death deprived the world of all the music she hadn’t yet had the chance to make.

Why a graphic biography rather than a prose one? The art historian and romantic in me loves the idea of learning more about an artist from a book that utilizes both words and images to tell that person’s story. Every form of art is different, it’s true, but to make any of them, you have to have a certain kind of passion and I feel as though the more types of art you use to tell such a story, the more of that passion infuses the work.

Oishinbo: Ramen and Gyoza by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki (Viz, 2007)

I am extremely annoyed at myself for having let the Oishinbo books sit for almost a year, especially given the amount of Japanese cooking I’ve done in the last eight months (we discovered that one way to get the boy to try proteins and veggies of which he has previously been suspicious is to pair them up with a My Hero Academia character who enjoys them—thanks Uncle Kota who to know these details off the top of his head and was willing to send me recipes that suited) but it’s okay. It’s been a year and we’re going to remedy the situation in the coming weeks.

Part cookbook, part culinary history tour, and part ode to the variety and range of Japanese cooking and food, Oishinbo‘s frame narrative follows cynical journalist Yamaoka Shirō and his colleagues as they carry out their assignment to compile the “Ultimate Menu” embodying the “pinnacle of Japanese cuisine” for Tōzai News magazine’s 100th anniversary.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a few truly incredible meals in my life, so the overarching story grabbed my attention immediately. I also love the idea of learning more about a cuisine I enjoy through the eyes of an avowed curmudgeon whose “refined palate” and “encyclopedic knowledge” of food make it impossible for him not to enjoy well prepared food. I anticipate giggles. And also probably drooling. And since the fam is away this week, likely the ordering of real ramen better than anything I can recreate.

xxxHolic Omnibus 1 by CLAMP (Kodansha, 2003)

My Twitter TL got very excited when the trailer for a 2021 anime called Tokyo Babylon popped up last week. As someone who’s come to manga (and its cousins) and anime (and its cousins) later in life, I’m working my way backwards through the timeline and wasn’t sure what the ruckus was about, so I hit aforementioned fellow Rioter Ms. Vergara up for the deets. That’s how I learned about CLAMP, an all-female group of manga artists that formed in the late ’80s and continues working today though they were most active, and are most well known for work done in, the early to mid ’90s.

I am told that I am in for a ride as I make my way through this first chunk of one of CLAMP’s more well-known series. In it, Kimihiro Watanuki, cursed with the ability to see ghosts and spirits seeks help from the mysterious Yuko. She agrees and offers Watanuki payment in trade: she will assist him if he works in her shop.

Of course, nothing is as easy as it seems.

What fun would easy be?

Y’all know I love my comics with some folklore and a big old dash of drama.

This one is a fundamental classic I missed out on. Probably because I was trying to hide my geek and fit in with the rest of my family. Ugh. Glad those days are behind me. Life is so much better now.

Well. I’m going to go make dinner and get reading. Will report back!