My local and quite wonderful Medina Library is part of a consortium of a hundred libraries in northeastern Ohio. Though ClevNet, I can request any book that resides in any of those libraries. I make the request online. They send the book to my library and also send my an e-mail altering me to the book’s arrival. I can also check such things on my online Medina Library account.
Being able to read so many books and graphic novels without buying them is a boon to my finances. In addition, they don’t add to the Vast Accumulation of Stuff that I’m downsizing. The result of that downsizing - the completion of which is a few years down the road - will allow us to make Casa Isabella more comfortable and open. It will also give Saintly Wife Barb and myself the option of moving to a smaller and easier-to-maintain house someplace other than our way too Republican and way too white city of Medina. I’m going to apply for Wakandan citizenship.
In the meantime, here are my comments on some of the recent books I borrowed from the library...
When it comes to She-Hulk, I’m around 30-70. I have truly enjoyed some of what’s been done with the character and truly appalled by the excess with which she’s been treated by various Marvel writers over the years. When it comes to Dan Slott and his impressive runs on a number of major Marvel titles, I’m around 60-40. I generally like his work and, while I’m not current with most Marvel titles, he’s one of the few writers I seek out when his work appears in collected editions. The Marvel Comics Universe became way too complicated and event-driven for me to follow in periodical format.
She-Hulk by Dan Slott: The Complete Collection Volume 1 [Marvel; $34.99] was published in 2014 with a second printing in 2016. I’m not sure why I didn’t read it then or how it got on my radar this time around. Since I like She-Hulk (when presented consistent with her core values) and I like Slott’s work, requesting this 413-page tome was a no-brainer. Here’s the back cover pitch:
Everyone's favorite Jade Giantess, She-Hulk, has returned for tons of fun, both on and off the field of battle! As a superhuman lawyer, She-Hulk has tried some of the strangest cases on Earth...but now, Shulkie is heading into deep space to practice Universal Law! And upon her return, the emerald enchantress matches muscles with Hercules...but it's going to take brains, not brawn, to get the Prince of Power out of some Herculean legal problems. Plus: No one hates She-Hulk more than Titania! What makes her one of the deadliest threats in the universe? And how is Hawkeye's fate tied to She-Hulk's latest case? Join She-Hulk as she deals with the bizarre legal problems of the Marvel Universe!
The book collects She-Hulk #1-12 from the 2004 series and issues #1-5 from the 2005 series. I’m not sure what She-Hulk has been up to since then, but, as she was featured in the Immortal Hulk title, it was probably grotesque. I.e., not core values She-Hulk.
Slott focuses on some of the more interesting aspects of Jennifer Walters’ life as an attorney. She’s hired by the firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg and Holliway. The catch is they don’t want She-Hulk. They want Jen, her civilian identity, to move them forward in the area of superhuman litigation and trial. This makes for a some very interesting examination of her life and a nice combination of humor, human drama, science-fiction and fantasy, superhero action and good sexy fun.
Among my favorite elements in these stories: seeing Marvel heroes and villains portrayed as more than just heroes and villains; Andy the office assistant who was formerly the Mad Thinker’s awesome android; Jen being tapped to be a Universal Law judge in the cosmic Star Chamber; and her running afoul of the Time Variance Authority recently seen in Marvel’s Loki series on Disney-plus. Great ideas presented in an entertaining manner.
The only real negatives for me was Slott’s valiant attempts to make virtually every past She-Hulk story, indeed, every Marvel Universe story, part of the proceedings. The continuity became stifling at times. Too much back story and it usually slowed down the stories. While the vastness of the Marvel Universe can be a wondrous thing, I prefer a core values approach that concentrates on the story at hand and includes back story only as necessary. Of course, I’m also one of those rebels who think oppressive continuity can be avoided by the simple expedient of not mentioning it.
Overall, I do recommend this book, which is available on Kindle and the secondary markets. I’m planning to catch up on other Dan Slott collections in the future. Any suggestions?
An Empty Grave is the latest Andy Hayes mystery from Andrew Welsh- Huggins [Swallow Press; Ohio University Press; $21.95]. Here’s part of the back cover pitch:
In 1979, a high-profile burglar shot a cop, was apprehended, and then disappeared without ever being prosecuted. Forty years later, after the wounded cop’s suicide, his son, Preston Campbell, is convinced there’s been a cover-up that allowed his father’s attacker to go free. At first, Hayes dismisses Campbell’s outlandish conspiracy theories. But when a mysterious Cold War connection to the burglar emerges, the investigation heats up, and Hayes discovers a series of deaths that seem to be connected, one way or another, to the missing criminal. Nothing seems to add up, though, and Hayes finds himself hurtling headlong down a decades-old path of deadly secrets.
Welsh-Huggins relies heavily on coincidence in this series. By the end of each book, almost every element and plot twist ties neatly, perhaps too neatly, into the conclusion. In the early books, this bothered me. I have since decided that Hayes has the mutant ability to bring connections together when no one else even sees them. Let us face it. We couldn’t write super-hero comics without the use of coincidence. I’m okay with that.
For me, the biggest attraction to the series is Andy “Woody” Hayes. He’s a former star and now disgraced football player. His private detective business is always on the brink of financial doom as he
deals with two ex-wives, two sons (one from each) and a rocky love life. He’s very relatable, especially when he names Milton Caniff as his favorite artist.
The series is set in and around Columbus, Ohio, yet another draw for me. I’m a voracious reader of crime, mystery and police novels set in my home state. It helps that Welsh-Huggins is a reporter for the Associated Press in Columbus. He gets the little things right, which helps me accept the coincidences easier.
An Empty Grave is the seventh book in the Andy Hayes series. When I finish one, I look forward to the next. Are these books classics? No, but they are entertaining. As I’ve taken to reading them in one night, I can attest they’re a pleasant way to pass an evening and recommend you give them a try.
Before I get to my review of the latest young adult graphic novel from Zuiker Press founders Michelle and Anthony E. Zuiker, I want to nominate them for the Eisner Awards’ Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award. They produce graphic novels that fearlessly discuss issues vital to young people: divorce, racism, cyberbullying, body image, autism, suicide, transitioning and more. The books deserve a place in every public and school library in the country.
One Shot: A Story of Bullying [$12.99] was released in late June of this year. It’s a graphic novel by Alex Bruorton, who was born with a disfiguring disease and was bullied by kids and adults, even some of his teachers. In the graphic novel, written by Anthony Zuiker with art, colors and lettering by Fantoons Animation Studios, Alex talks about his life, pain, loneliness and courage in standing up to all those bullies, young and old, and, in doing so, finding joy in his life. He is one very cool kid.
These graphic novels are consistently overlooked by comics awards that should be celebrating them. I request the judges and voters of those awards give these books consideration. I haven’t read one yet that didn't deserve to be nominated.
That’s all for today’s bloggy thing. I’d appreciate it if readers would leave comments on this and other posts. While all posts have to be approved before they appear, I do try to approve them as soon as possible. I’ll be back soon with more stuff.
© 2021 Tony Isabella