Archive for Holiday Gift Bag

Holiday Gift Bag: Spacelore

It’s almost Christmas! But there’s still time to do some last-minute shopping! So let’s dive back into the Holiday Gift Bag to look at J.B. Zimmerman’s Spacelore.

Spacelore

I previously reviewed Zimmerman’s first book, “The New York Magician,” a modern urban fantasy novel, a couple years back. This one collects a bunch of his short science fiction stories, and they’re pretty dang keen.

Among the stories we get here are:

  • “Radar Ghosts and Dead Cosmonauts” – A motley band of techno-shamans try to save the lives of astronauts who died long ago.
  • “The Screams Grow in Green Ice” – An astronaut lost in space, a secret military space station, and something deeply terrifying make for an astonishingly tense sci-fi thriller.
  • “Universal Destructor” – Sometimes, when you get the right genius working on the right project, the whole universe can open up for you.
  • “Notes from the Long Dark” – Deep space exploration sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? Of course, it’s best when you’re a willing explorer. And when you’ve got more than just your brain tethered to a spacecraft…
  • “The Bleeding Machine” – A salvage crew encounters a wrecked spaceship, but once on board, they find themselves being attacked and separated by unseen forces. Who’s trying to kill them? And why?
  • “A Trembling in the Sun” – A group of AIs seek to solve the mystery of what’s killing the sun before all life on their planet is ended.
  • “Elevation” – A religious pilgrim in a primitive society undertakes a quest to climb a massive rope into the heavens — but where does the rope really lead?

Verdict: Thumbs up. You get over a dozen fantastic science fiction stories in this book — and they’ve got a serious classic feel to them. I think when we all discovered science fiction for the first time, what brought a lot of us in was a fascination with outer space, rocketships, astronauts, robots, and science so wild it’ll break both your brain and the laws of physics. Zimmerman grew up with the same fascination, and the result is this collection of space-based wonder.

And space-based horror, too. Quite a few of these tales feature strong elements of terror, fright, and suspense. Spaceships that keep themselves lubricated on human blood, voices of long-dead astronauts whispering through the radio, space zombies, and more remind us that space can inspire us — but that doesn’t make it safe.

But there’s also adventure and humor and science and daring men and women exploring the galaxy and fighting aliens and performing miracles with newly invented propulsion systems and doing all the things we’ve always dreamed of getting to do out there in the vast, cold, wonder-filled darkness between the stars. There are stories that’ll scare you, but there are also stories to excite you and make you laugh and make you wish we were focusing more of our efforts on making our science fiction dreams come true.

If you know someone who loves science fiction and great writing and the glories of space travel, they’ll definitely love this book. And hey, it’s late enough that you can’t get anything shipped on time, and the malls are just ridiculous, and you still need a good stocking stuffer — well, you can get this one on the Kindle, and it’s inexpensive enough that you can surprise the sci-fi fan with a little extra present without breaking the bank. So go pick it up.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Cleopatra in Space

It’s Christmas Week, so back we go into the Holiday Gift Bag so you can find great gifts for the comics fan in your life. Today, let’s check out Cleopatra in Space!

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Some of y’all may recognize Mike Maihack’s name and art style — he’s the artist behind the wonderful “Batgirl and Supergirl” mini-comics. Well, he also created this astoundingly cool series of graphic novels. So far, there are two — “Target Practice” and “The Thief and the Sword” — but there’s a third one coming up in 2016.

So we start out with Cleopatra, teenaged princess, soon-to-be ruler of all Egypt — and a deeply bored kid who feels stifled by demands that she be a proper princess. She likes to go playing and exploring with a commoner friend, and one day, they accidentally uncover an unknown tomb, which ends up teleporting Cleo into the distant future. There, she discovers a high-tech Egypt-inspired utopia, where talking cats hold many positions of authority — and where she is foretold in prophecy as the savior of their society!

So on one hand — awesome! The future! Talking cats! But on the other hand — not awesome! She still has to go to school! Ugh, school. But on the other, other hand (We can do that because the future probably has three-handed aliens), part of her schoolwork involves combat training — and amazingly, Cleo is really, really good at combat. Which is good, because there are some bad people in the universe, and a lot of them want to kill her.

Oh, and one more bad thing — there’s no way to send Cleo back to her home time. So how can she get back to her friends and family? How is she going to become Queen of Egypt like history says she’ll be?

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Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s an incredibly fun story, with great art, characters, action, and more.

If you’re familiar with Haihack’s work, you’ll be pleased to hear that his art is just as charming and wonderful as ever. The main characters are wonderfully emotionally satisfying as art — and the background characters, scenery, and architecture are also really fun to look at. The design of the techno-Egyptian future is outstanding.

Character interaction and conflict are really great, too. Cleo is our main character, but as the Chosen One, a lot of mundane things often come really easy for her, and everyone’s expectations for her are really high — and her more normal, non-Chosen friends just kinda want her to hang out and have fun instead of being the uber-popular badass. This ends up being a lot more fun than you’d expect.

It’s also pretty cool seeing everyone take orders and learn lessons from cats — the cats are generally a lot more intelligent than humans and they hold most of the teaching positions. It’s pretty fun to watch Cleo sassing the cats who hold authority over her.

The action is entirely fantastic. We get just about every kind of action scene — shootouts, chases, melee, mass battles, you name it — and they’re all exciting and fun and amazingly kinetic.

These books will be really popular with anyone, young or old, who enjoys all-ages comics — they’ll probably be extra-fun for girls who crave their own comic book action heroes. Go pickem up!

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Holiday Gift Bag: Blacksad

It’s time for us to take another dive into our Holiday Gift Bag for great comics gift ideas for your family and friends. Today, let’s take a look at Blacksad.

Blacksad

So what do you get when you have two Spanish comics creators, Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido, creating a giant comic book for a French publisher about American detective stories — and anthropomorphic animals? You get something that’s way cooler than you were expecting.

Our main character is John Blacksad, a black cat and private investigator. He lives in a version of 1950s America where everyone is a semi-cartoonish anthropomorphic animal. He grew up poor, he’s pretty easy-going, but you don’t want to make him mad, because he knows a lot about dishing out violence.

What kinda stuff happens to Blacksad? Film noir stuff happens to Blacksad.

In our first story, his former lover is murdered by persons unknown, and he dedicates himself to digging through the muck of the underworld — and their big-money financiers — to learn the truth.

In the second story, he’s called upon to investigate a kidnapping involving a bunch of white supremacists — white fur supremacists, actually — and their leader is a gigantic polar bear who’s also the police chief.

In the third story, Blacksad meets an old friend, his favorite professor from college, and must help him and his associates when they’re accused of being Communists — but being a private eye isn’t going to help much when the FBI and powerful politicians get on his tail.

In amongst all this are shootings, beatings, sex, double-crosses, alcohol, cigarettes, jokes, terrors, sorrows, and a whole lot more.

Verdict: Thumbs up. These are wonderfully told stories, as hard-boiled as you can get, and lushly, astonishingly beautifully illustrated.

The art style is cartoony — Guarnido, the artist, used to work at Disney — but the content is a lot more adult. There’s sex and nudity, and people in these stories don’t bounce back from violence — there are a lot of deaths. In other words, even with the funny animal style, you won’t want to get this for your younger kids.

The stories are for adults — and even the animal characters help emphasize this. There’s nothing that quite shows how silly racism is when the white supremacist group is obsessed with the color of their own fur. Blacksad gets on the bad side of both the Arctic Pride group and an opposing gang of black-furred animals — because he’s got just a little white fur on his muzzle.

But even with characters who are cats and dogs and bears and foxes and rhinos and turtles and owls and gorillas and roosters and lizards and deer and giraffes — there are still plenty of times you forget you’re reading a comic full of animals and start thinking of all of them as just as human as you are. And that’s one of the signs of a hell of a great story.

Got someone on your shopping list who loves hard-boiled detective stories or beautifully-illustrated comics? They’re going to love this one. Go pick it up.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Relish

Time for us to get back into our pre-holiday gift recommendations, so let’s take a look at Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley.

Relish

I am, I should say, an amazingly bad cook. I have enormous trouble putting a meal together that doesn’t involve either pouring milk on cereal or sticking a package in a microwave. For that reason alone, I was hesitant to get this book — it’s got a reputation as being a comic made for foodies and chefs, so I was concerned there’d not be anything in it for me. Obviously, I was wrong.

What we’ve got here is a memoir comic — Knisley tells a number of stories from her life. She introduces us to her New York City childhood, growing up among food lovers, chefs, restaurant critics, and people who loved to eat, prepare, and share food.

We follow her as she and her mother move to the country, slowly getting used to rural life and rural cooking. We tag along as she takes trips to Mexico, Japan, and Italy, as she discovers the food cravings she shares with her mother, as we explore her secret love of junk food, her quest to create the perfect croissant, and the worst meal she ever ate.

And after almost every chapter, we get a recipe.

Marinated lamb, pesto, chocolate chip cookies, huevos rancheros, sushi rolls, sangria, shepherd’s pie, and much, much more. All of them wonderfully illustrated to help make the entire process easier and cooler.

Verdict: Thumbs up. The writing and art are both lots of fun. Knisley’s stories are grandly human and often hilarious. Her childhood trip to Mexico with an old friend is spotlighted with — aside from all the glorious details of the food they got to eat — her friend’s acquisition of a colossal stash of pornographic magazines, which he carted all over in his overstuffed backpack, convinced he’d purchased the greatest treasure of his life. Her attempts to make her own croissants are constant but hilarious failures, and her recipe at the end of the chapter recommends that readers just get the canned croissants at the grocery store. And during her teenaged trip to Italy with her foodie father, she rebels by… eating at McDonald’s.

And her skill at writing about all the glories of food — good food, gourmet food, junk food, comfort food, and every other kind of food — is where this comic is really just absolutely fantastic. I’m a terrible cook, and I have a terribly unsophisticated palate — but her writing, art, and recipes make me wish I were more of a foodie and that I was capable of navigating my way around a kitchen.

If you’re looking for a gift for someone who loves cooking and loves good food, you can bet they’re going to enjoy this. Go pick it up.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Some Goddamn Compassion and Empathy

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We can return to the standard here’s-gifts-you-can-buy Holiday Gift Bags another day. I’m not going to do it today, though. Today, I’m too mad.

I’m sick of mass shootings. I’m sick of politicians and pundits and social media sociopaths shrugging off white men bombing clinics one day and howling for mass incarcerations for brown people the next. I’m sick of listening to an organized crime cartel that masquerades as a gun-rights group demanding that guns be given more rights than actual living humans. I’m sick of members of the most bankrupt religion on earth offering “thoughts and prayers” — and nothing else — and then pretending to be oppressed when the rest of the world calls them on their faithless cowardice.

I’m sick of racists and sexists and homophobes and transphobes. I’m sick of people using their power, no matter how strong or petty, to bash people with less power. I’m sick of people who sneer at retail workers and baristas and waitresses and old people and young people and poor people. I’m sick of living in a nation and world where assholes are rewarded and the innocent are abused.

And I know most of y’all aren’t the problem. I’m lucky that the relatively few readers I have are good people. And I’m not asking you to go out and single-handedly fix the goddamn world.

But could I ask that, for this holiday season and every season after that, you work to foster as much compassion and empathy as you can in the world around you, in your coworkers and friends, in your children and family, in casual acquaintences and strangers?

We live in a world full of monsters, there is no doubt. We’ve been a world full of monsters for decades, centuries, millennia. It’s likely impossible for us to reverse that. But every time we light a match against the darkness of the world’s rampant assholatry is, frankly, a damn good day all on its own. It’s a good thing to do, and it makes you feel good to do it, too.

Most of us reading this damnable blog are superhero fans. Yeah, yeah, indie comics rock, there are lots of cool genres, superheroes are all flash and fight scenes — but still, pretty much all of us got our starts with Stan and Jack, with the World’s Finest and the Brave and the Bold, with Spider-Man and Ben Grimm teaming up with every dang superhero they met. And I want us all to be the heroes, in big ways and small, instead of the villains populating the world around us. Let’s be heroes this year and every year.

Thanks, and happy holidays.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Princeless

Well, here we are again. It’s the day after Thanksgiving, and we’re being told by advertisers and the media — and way too many people who should know better — that the very best post-Thanksgiving activity is getting up in the middle of the night to run around shopping malls like good credit-card-wielding psychotics, abusing exhausted retail clerks and breaking the bank on “doorbuster bargains” that aren’t actually very cheap. There is, thank goodness, a slowly growing backlash over the idea that we all have to go crazy for Black Friday — but on the other hand, there’s not really much to do after Thanksgiving, and it’s not like shopping is some sort of crime.

But you can shop better and smarter. You don’t have to deal with the gibbering lunatics at the department stores. There are lots of stores out there that don’t attract hordes of zombie shoppers — and one of them is your Friendly Neighborhood Comic Book Store, which tends to be much more sedate on Black Friday and which still has great gifts you can buy for the comics fan on your shopping list.

So let’s begin our annual review of some of the best comics gifts out there. Today, we’ll start with a comic series called Princeless.

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Careful readers should take note of the “L” right in the middle of the title — this is a story about a princess, but she’s certainly not defined any attempt to get herself a Prince Charming.

The story, written by Jeremy Whitley and illustrated by M. Goodwin, focuses on Princess Adrienne, who has been imprisoned at the top of a tower by her cruel father. The similarities to any other stories you may have read end there — she thinks the idiots trying to rescue her are, well, idiots. She teams up with the dragon assigned to guard her. She rescues herself. And then she decides to go rescue her sisters, who have all been similarly imprisoned in towers by their tyrannical father.

And when she realizes she needs decent armor, she goes to a cool half-dwarf armorer (she got her mother’s height) named Bedelia — and then she teams up with Bedelia, too, so they can go on fightin’ evil and rescuing her sisters!

Do Adrienne, Bedelia, and the dragon Sparks have a chance to rescue everyone? Will her fairly awful father come after her? Will her poetry-loving brother be able to aid her? And will Adrienne finally find some armor that’s built for action and not for cheesecake?

Verdict: Thumbs up. The story is pretty dang fantastic, the art is pretty dang fantastic, the whole thing is pretty dang fantastic.

Characterization is a big thing in this book, because Adrienne is a wonderful character. She’s peeved at all the nonsense around her — her father locking her in a tower, a bunch of idiots trying to rescue her and then getting eaten by a dragon, sexist guards who think they’re allowed to mack on every girl in the area. And she’s not just peeved — she also does something to deal with the things that peeve her. She’s no passive nobody — she gets up, she kicks ass, she learns how to kick more ass.

There’s a lot of great humor, too. This is designed to be an all-ages comic, and kids love a heroine who can crack jokes — and who can lose her dignity without losing her awesomeness.

If you’ve got a kid — or an adult, for that matter — who loves clever fantasy, they’ll love this. If they love kick-ass female heroes, they’ll love this. If they love kick-ass female heroes of color (because yeah, Adrienne’s dark skin isn’t a tan, and her straightened hair came out of a bottle — and it gets curly fast once the adventuring begins), then they’ll definitely love this.

You know what? You should go pick this one up.

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Holiday Gift Bag: New (and Cheap!) Trade Paperbacks

We’re getting mighty close to Christmas, but there’s still time for some more gift recommendations for the comic book lover in your life.

Today, we’re going to talk about three different comics that I’ve already reviewed multiple times (click on the links at the bottom of this post if you want to see my more in-depth reviews of each issue) — but they’re now out in trade paperbacks, there’s a decent chance they’ll still be available in your local comics shop for you last-minute shoppers, and they’ll make great gifts for any comics fan who hasn’t yet gotten to enjoy the series.

First, there’s Moon Knight: From the Dead, by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey.

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Ellis and Shalvey’s much-too-short run on the series produced one of the best superhero comics of the past year, as Marc Spector takes on military cyborgs, snipers, killer psychotrobic mushrooms, punk rock ghosts, and more, all wearing amazing all-white costumes — standard superhero costumes, suits and ties, magical bone armor.

The art and storytelling here are simply amazing. You get six done-in-one stories, beautifully illustrated, gloriously colored, fantastically action-packed. Almost every issue Ellis and Shalvey produced could be nominated for awards — and should be — and if you know a comics fan who loves innovative storytelling and spectacular art, you can get this at your local shop for about $18.

Next, we get Southern Bastards: Here Was a Man, by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour.

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This is a grimy, deep-fried Southern noir starring an old man named Ernest Tubb who’s returned to Craw County, Alabama for the first time in decades. He gets pulled into the dirty political machinations of the town, thanks to a bunch of redneck thugs picking on innocent people, and because of Coach Boss, the coach of the local football team, owner of the best barbecue joint in town, and the local crime boss.

Aaron and Latour are both from the South, and they end up bringing a lot of both the good and the way-too-frequent bad of the Deep South. The noir is pitch-black — more a tragedy than a traditional Southern gothic — the characterization and dialogue are grand, and there’s even a recipe included for Aaron’s mom’s fried apple pies. And it’s just $10, which is a great way to introduce this series to the crime fiction fan on your shopping list.

And finally, here’s The Wicked + the Divine: The Faust Act, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson.

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This one has a really great hook — every 90 years, a dozen young people become the avatars of actual gods. They are worshiped and revered, despised and denounced. They perform miracles, and they perform concerts. And within two years, all of them die. It’s time for a new celestial cycle, and we follow two main characters — Laura, a divine fangirl and wannabe, and Luci, which is short for Lucifer. She’s the Devil.

The art is crisp and glorious, the story is inspired and mind-blowing, and the characters are people you want to learn more and more and more about. The “gods as supernatural pop stars” is a fantastic set-up, and the mystery at the heart of the story is fascinating and terrifying. You’ve got someone on your holiday list who would absolutely love this one, and you can get it for ’em for just ten bucks.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Sentinels of the Multiverse

Still more time for some great holiday gift recommendations! Today, we’re heading over to the gaming side of the store so we can look at Sentinels of the Multiverse!

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This is a cooperative card game by Greater Than Games, where a team of superheroes battles a supervillain, usually in a wildly chaotic setting. Each player has their own small deck of cards controlling a single superhero, while the villain and the setting itself also have their own decks, but no one plays them — their cards are automatically flipped during each turn. The villain usually has a ton of hit points — way more than any of the heroes — so you’ve got to whittle them down while preserving your heroes and trying to prevent the bad guys from getting to their own victory points.

You’re not playing generic heroes either — you get comic-style art on every card and usually some little bit of flavor text that helps create a real personality for the character. And each of them have their own special roles they bring to the fight. You’ve got the Superman-esque Legacy, who specializes in absorbing damage. You’ve got the battlesuit-wearing Bunker, who lays down the firepower. You’ve got the Wraith, a jill-of-all-trades vigilante who can damage enemies and support allies. You’ve got the technokinetic Unity, who creates robot minions. And you’ve got a heck of a lot more than that, too.

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Now, they’re not in every version of the game. The main game features 10 heroes, four villains, and four different environments, ranging from the big city to a Mars base to a dinosaur-filled jungle. There are several other expansion sets — Rook City, Infernal Relics, Shattered Timelines, and Vengeance — all with new heroes, villains, and environments to play in. You can set up a pretty vast variety of super-battles with every combination of good guys vs. bad guys.

Verdict: Thumbs up. There are a slowly growing number of superhero board and card games out there, but this is the one that originally led the pack, and nothing yet has managed to top it.

It’s really great how varied every game can be. Sometimes you’re dealing with a villain who can drop untold mini-minions on you, sometimes with a straight-up brute, sometimes with someone with a special victory condition that means you have to avoid attacking them directly.

The variety of abilities that your heroes get are also very impressive — some healers, some gadgeteers, some bricks, some blasters. And even when one hero gets knocked out, they’re still able to contribute. They may not be able to play cards and powers, but even defeated, the heroes have special abilities that provide small benefits to their allies. It lets everyone contribute, even if only in small ways, so they’re not sitting around bored watching their friends play.

It’s also very cool how strong the comic-book flavor comes across in this game. A lot of it is the art, the quotes, and the flavor text on the cards. These aren’t just cards, with attacks and debuffs and heals — they’re heroes with great one-liners, victories and defeats, and even their own (fictional) comic series. The game publisher has even created a few promotional comics starring the characters — and it would be pretty keen if there was a regular series about the heroes, too.

About the roughest thing about the game is that it can get a bit predictable after a while. Sometimes, you’ll recognize certain attacks by the villains, and everyone playing will immediately know what to do to counter the danger. Once this happens a few times too many, a lot of the suspense starts to leave the game. I’ve found that it sometimes helps to assign the heroes randomly, so everyone sometimes has to deal with a powerset they’re not accustomed to. Of course, this can sometimes stick you with a bunch of healers instead of damage-dealers, which is also a bit less than ideal.

Long story short: It’s a really fun game for anyone who loves superheroes. And you can buy the game for a friend — and then you can play it, too! A true win-win situation! Go pick it up!

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Holiday Gift Bag: Strong Female Protagonist

Alright, folks, it’s time for us to dive back into our Holiday Gift Bag for some great gift recommendations for the comics fan in your life. Today, it’s time to review Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag.

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Strong Female Protagonist” got its start as a webcomic before recently being published in book form, partly thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign and partly due to a publishing deal with Top Shelf Comics. Our lead character here is Alison Green, a college student and former superhero with breathtaking superstrength, invulnerability, and, as the webcomic puts it, “a crippling sense of social injustice.”

As Mega Girl, Alison was a member of the Guardians, fighting supervillains and giant robots, but when her mind-reading arch-nemesis, Menace, presents her with evidence that other superhumans — who had powers that would let them drastically improve the world — had been murdered by governments and corporations because they’d upset too many rich and powerful people, Alison ends up quitting the superhero gig to try to learn something in school that’d let her really help people around the world.

That doesn’t leave her out of the superhero business entirely. She’s going to class, helping out with one of the local fire departments, trying to live a normal human life — but she still runs into the members of the Guardians, especially the shrinking super-scientist Pintsize, she socializes with Menace, and she tangles with a couple of supervillains, particularly the monstrously powerful Cleaver. She meets a fellow superhero named Feral, whose powers involve animal-like fighting skills and a beyond-Wolverine healing factor, and who has an unusual plan for saving the world by herself. And she also has her college friends, her professors, and her family back home, who help keep her grounded, and who sometimes help contribute to her superhuman sense of guilt that she can’t keep everyone safe…

Verdict: Thumbs up. This is a really fun series, and it’s really cool to have it all collected in a nice thick book.

I love Ostertag’s art, which is pretty wonderfully humanizing while still embracing some of the cool and sometimes bloody weirdness of the superhero world. And Mulligan’s writing is great, too, with lots of fun dialogue and plotlines that combine with Ostertag’s art to make some really grand storytelling.

The characters are probably the most fun part of the entire book. Alison is fantastically fun to read about, earnestly trying to be both a normal person and a hero — all while frequently showing off strength and sometimes furious rants that make her absolutely terrifying to everyone around her. Also great are awkwardly geeky Pintsize and the sometimes villainous, sometimes romantic Menace, whose mind-reading abilities are convincing, weird, and often fairly funny. Feral is an absolutely amazing character, rough-hewn and animalistic, but still probably the most purely heroic character in the entire book. Even Cleaver, who seems to be only a one-note brute, gets his moments of sympathy within his storylines.

Why should you get the book instead of reading it all for free online? Well, it’s got fantastic art and storytelling, and these days, we all need more fantastic art and storytelling. It’s a great way to support a couple awesome comic creators. And it’s easier to read in book form than it is online. And it’s a heck of a lot easier to give as a gift. You do want to give this as a gift, don’t you?

If you’re looking for a great gift for a superhero fan, this is going to make a great present. This may also make a great gift for teen readers — there’s some rude language and blood, but no nudity — and Alison is definitely the type of hero almost anyone can look up to. Go pick it up.

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Holiday Gift Bag: Small Town Heroes

Time to check inside our Holiday Gift Bag again, to see some more ideas you can get for the person in your life who loves comics and superheroes. Today, we take a look at Wearing the Cape: Small Town Heroes by Marion G. Harmon.

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If you’ve kept track of this series, you know most of the main characters already. Our lead is, as always, Hope Corrigan, better known as the superstrong superheroine Astra — she’s now leading the Young Sentinels branch of Chicago’s Sentinels superteam. There’s Shell, the techno-ghost of her late best friend, now residing in a robotic exoskeleton as the superhero Galatea — and there’s Shelly, her late best friend now returned to life, and a completely separate person from Shell. There’s Jacky, the vampiric (but also alive) superhero Artemis.

Hope has been having weird dreams — not normal dreams either, as they’re being telepathically sent by a maybe-hero, maybe-villain called Kitsune. The dreams warn of the fiery destruction of a small town in the Midwest that no one can seem to identify. Hope’s attempts to figure out where the town is and what the dreams mean put her in touch with some of the Sentinels’ contacts with the federal government — and that leads to Hope being recruited into the Department of Superhuman Affairs. They’ve got some serious secrets hidden at Guantanamo Bay — namely a little town that can’t possibly exist called Littleton. Can Astra keep a secret hyper-science town from its foretold destruction?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Y’all know I love the stuffing out of this entire series, right? I’m pleased to announce that this one maintains the high quality we’ve come to expect from these books.

Really, pretty much all the stuff I loved from the previous books is here in this new one, too. Excellent characterization, bone-rattling action, realism and superhero fantasy that fit side-by-side without breaking either one.

It’s rare that you get superhero fiction that doesn’t end up turning dark and grim, or just focusing on the supervillains, all for the sake of faux-maturity — but this series sticks to the idea that superheroes are the good guys, it does it unironically, and it makes the entire thing work like a dream.

Do you have someone on your shopping list who loves superheroes, especially ass-kicking female heroes? You’ll definitely want to pick this one up for them. And if they haven’t read this series yet, you may want to get the rest of the “Wearing the Cape” series for ’em, too.

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