27 First Set (Twenty-Seven)/ Charles Soule & others

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A “how to sell your soul to the devil and get away with it” story, told in a refreshing contemporary way.

Rock guitarist wants to regain his ability to play. Somehow gets hooked up with an entity called The Nine.

Not exactly the devil but a devil’s bargain in that sense.

Strange buttons embedded in his chest, each giving him strange creative abilities.

He gets 27 chances, hence the title.

And what happens in the end?

A perfectly logical twist.

Like I wrote earlier, in a way this is the ageless “how to sell your soul to the devil and get away with it” story.

Like the Billy Goats Gruff triumphing against the troll.

Underdog wins. That’s all I can say.

(Aside: from another angle, it’s like the devil and trolls being short changed, but that’s for another tale, I think).


Chew/ John Layman & Rob Guillory

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Had to borrow these since the title sported my family name!

It did not disappoint.

Tony Chu is a “cibopath” investigator for the US Food and Drug Administration, one who can get psychic impressions (past sequence of events) by taking a bite into things. Some things include corpses.

What a oddly different class of super powers.

Plus a really weird storyline that’s so quirky and somehow believable, in a comic book way.

The FDA is a powerful agency namely because if the Avian Flu outbreak, resulting in a global enforcement of a chicken and poultry ban.

Add some high-powered (money and/ or similar new superpowers) characters — baddies and sidekicks — in a unfolding conspiracy, plus Alien writing in the sky.

So very X-files.

Chew. [Volume 3]: Just desserts

Chew. [Volume 4]: Flambé

Self/ Yann Martel

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A 1996 work. Earlier than his more well-known work, The Life of Pi.

I couldn’t help but compare this with The Life of Pi. In many ways it is just as good, with that twist of reality at the end and leaving the reader to wonder where were the crossover between reality and make-belief.

Reading this was like watching one of those unknown indie films – where you start off not knowing where the story is headed but you continue because the innocuous characters have grown on you. And when you reach the end of the story you think, “That was interesting”.

Essentially it is a mash of fiction and autobiographical elements. Probably should check out what a Wikipedia entry might say about this book.

It’s like the film, starring Robin Williams, “The World According of Garp” where you see the growing up of a child, from childhood to adolescent to adulthood; through friends, lovers, strangers.

But a lot weirder than the movie for sure.

A metaphysical exploration of where reality and escapism interjects.

Something changes to the protagonist and its a critical plot point so I won’t say anymore.

I think you can enjoy this if you just ease back, let the story unfold without trying to classify the book or anticipate the story.

Runaways: homeschooling/ Immonen & Pichelli

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Issues 11-14.

Military craft crashes to their home. Some mysterious and probably dangerous package that’s hinted. The Runaways have a casualty. Then an uncle shows up.


Includes a short story: what if the Runaways became be Young Avengers.

The iron dragon’s daughter/ Michael Swanwick

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First published 1993. Definitely an evergreen classic.

You could say this was also a coming-of-age story about the protagonist – Jane.

She’s a changeling, of unknown parentage. Her type has iron in her blood, and hence is the only species able to become dragon pilots. Something about being immune to the iron corrupting fey-blood.

The dragons in Swanwick’s fantasy realm are technological wonders, sentient war machines that require human pilots to fly. And maliciously evil too, such is their purpose.

Basically she ends up with a dragon and they both have an axe to grind with the status quo.

That’s super over-simplification of the plot but share anymore and you’d blame me for tainting Swanwick’s magic touch.

OK I’ll add that the end has that Sophie’s World twist to it. Right. Hate me.

Swanwick’s fey-steam punk world holds up a lot stronger than what I’ve revealed (which honestly isn’t much).

It’s a smooth ride, for every line — every backstory — seems such an intricately coherent thread to the whole telling. There doesn’t seem to be any frivolous bits. I found myself revisiting sentences just to replay the mental imagery over. Yet, I still managed to finish this work in days.

You get the assortment of creatures vile and fantastic. His magic is in telling them as if you’ve known them all that while. And the species and characters are there

The only readers who should avoid this novel are those who take offence at depiction of sex. Plus, the faerie-sex scenes can sometimes come across as rather deviant. Certainly much, much more sex than in Dragons of Babel (don’t make a beeline for the book now, y’all)

I’ve mentioned how every line in this book seems to be intricately woven, haven’t I? It’s all relevant to the fey-world and mood that Swanwick is trying to create, IMO.

This novel doesn’t delve as deep into the Babel or the Fey-world backstory (see “Dragons of Babel”) though one is quickly absorbed into the whole Dickensian steam punk-lord of the ringish-faerie tech realm.

Fantastic stuff.

American Born Chinese/ Gene Luen Yang

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A 2006 publication.

Coming of age story about a teenage boy coming to terms with his racial identity.

The concurrent backstory is of the legend of the Monkey King Sun Wukung, and a Sit-com character about a extreme Chinese stereotype.

In brief, the protagonist finds his race (Chinese) a mark that prevents him from being assimilated with his American school mates. The parable though, is that the real obstacle is one’s acceptance of oneself.

“Returning to your true form is not an exercise of Kung-fu, but a release of it.” (The Tang Sangzang character to Sun Wukung; with the latter being able to free itself effortlessly by just reverting to his smaller monkey form rather than trying to be a man).

The book tackles the issue of racial identity by highlighting the particular perspective of the protagonist.

The theme probably resonated more then, compared to now (or are things the same?), where the dynamics of what it means to be “Chinese” is a lot more of an identity divide than now.

Astro City: the dark age 1 – brothers & other strangers/ Busik, Anderson, Ross, Sinclair

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Set in the 70s US, with the Watergate political scandal and involvement in the Vietnam conflict as backdrop.

Storyline revolves around two brothers, who ended up pursuing different paths on life after the tragic deaths of their parents. One is a cop and the other involved in crime.

The interesting thing about Busik’s style is that the whole superhero thing develops in parallel, often anchored to the two brother’s individual narratives. Like the controversy over the superhero vigilantes, the superpowered battles. The Silver Agent has a central role in all that is happening but we are left with hints and curiosity.

Gotta look for book 2!

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