Late summer reads in brief

As well as the proper serious books that I’ve read and reviewed lately, I’ve also been powering my way through lots of comics – and a kids’ classic. Tim keeps finding new comic series he thinks I’ll like – and he’s generally right – as he makes his way through the Marvel NOW relaunch. Which means my comic reading is almost exclusively Marvel at the moment. If anyone has any non-Marvel comic recommendations, please do send them my way! I’ve been reading single issues for the most part online, but I did splash out and buy the trade paperback volumes of Ms Marvel because it is awesome.

fantasticfour_nowFantastic Four issues 1–8
by Matt Fraction and Mark Bagley

I came to this reboot of the Fantastic Four – genius Reed Richards/Mr Fantastic, his wife Sue Storm/the Invisible Woman, her brother Johnny Storm/the Human Torch and Reed’s best friend Ben Grimm/the Thing – with my only pre-existing knowledge of the group being the 2005 film starring Ioan Gruffudd and Jessica Alba. Which is not a lot of knowledge. But Fraction does a pretty great job of summarising the current state of things before changing everything up. Essentially, Reed Richards and Sue Storm run a sort of school, the Future Foundation, for gifted children of all alien/non-human species as well as the odd human, including their own two children Franklin and Valeria. But the Fantastic Four are always off fighting evil away from the kids. And on their last adventure Reed discovered that his body is breaking down in some mysterious way that can’t be fixed with Earth technology. So he decides to kill two birds with one stone and suggests the Fantastic Four take Franklin and Valeria on an educational adventure across space and time. He doesn’t tell anyone that he is secretly searching for a cure that they may all desperately need. Matt Fraction’s stamp on this series is very clear, with gentle humour and genuine emotional complexity rolled in along with romping spacetime adventures. It’s a lot of fun.

Published 2012 by Marvel Comics.

Source: Tim’s Marvel Unlimited subscription.


FF_nowFF issues 1–8
by Matt Fraction and Mike Allred

This series is a spin-off from the new Fantastic Four designed to be read in tandem. When the Fantastic Four leave home, they have to find caretakers for the Future Foundation and superheroes to protect current-day Earth in their absence. They choose Scott Lang/Ant-Man, Jennifer Walters/She-Hulk, Medusa and Darla Deering – who is not actually a superhero, she’s a pop star who’s Johnny Storm’s girlfriend, but they make her a Ms Thing suit to wear and hopefully she won’t need to fight anyway. Except of course trouble comes a-knocking from all sorts of directions. There are some adorable alien siblings, romance for She-Hulk and soul-searching for Ant-Man, which is all fab. I must admit, though, that some of the storylines seem to require quite a lot of pre-existing knowledge of these and other characters. Or perhaps I’m just easily confused.

Published 2012 by Marvel Comics.

Source: Tim’s Marvel Unlimited subscription.


ms marvel vol 2Ms Marvel Vol 2: Generation Why
by G Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and Jacob Wyatt

I raved about this series when it started, and it continues to be fantastic. Kamala Khan has figured out her shapeshifting powers, for the most part, but she’s still learning how to be a superhero, particularly one who’s also a 16-year-old girl with strict parents and A grades to maintain. In this volume she faces the Inventor, who has been kidnapping children from Jersey City and has noticed that there’s a new hero in town. Kamala gets a little help from Wolverine (best team up I’ve yet read), Medusa and of course her friend Bruno. She has naive moments and wise moments, musing on her place in the world not just as a hero but as part of a generation that is universally despised. And she gets a dog. A giant teleporting dog. Seriously, how could anyone not love this series?

Single issues published 2014 by Marvel Comics. This collection published 2015.

Source: Foyles Bristol.


Rebecca-of-Sunnybrook-FarmRebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
by Kate Douglas Wiggin

For something a bit different from comics but also easygoing, I thought I’d try a classic children’s book. Also, I figured it was likely to have a happy ending, which was one of the squares on my Books on the Nightstand bingo card (without giving anything away, the ending is surprisingly mixed so I’m not sure it actually counts for the bingo). This is the story of Rebecca, second daughter in a large poor farming family who at the age of 10 is sent away to live in town with two maiden aunts to help them around the house in return for them putting her through school. They had been hoping to be sent the oldest daughter, a good obedient girl, and are a little taken aback by the arrival of talkative, imaginative Rebecca. But of course, she’s good at heart and wins over the whole town one family at a time.

Rebecca is a familiar character from these sorts of books – not beautiful but smart, good at making friends and wilful enough to get things done that others can’t – but to me less interesting than other versions I’ve encountered. For one, the scrapes she gets into are very minor, despite her Aunt Miranda’s opinion of her as a troublemaker. Wiggin seems to have written what she considers the perfect young girl, and no other character is ever as good as Rebecca in any way. That said, the story is not wholly predictable. Wiggins writes with more complexity about money, or rather the lack of it that characters experience to varying degrees, and the ways in which a small setback can be a big deal when you don’t have much to begin with.

Published 1903 by Houghton Mifflin.

Source: Project Gutenberg.

Challenges: This counts towards the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.