My April – May Reading Log

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older is a YA novel that ties in to his Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series. The magic of the shadowshapers is very, very cool, and so are the different ways it can be manifested. However, my favorite thing was the ancestry theme. The protagonist, Sierra, is a high school student, and her friends are a big part of the story, but so are her grandparents and mother and others of their generations that live in her Brooklyn neighborhood. A secondary character, who seems destined to be Sierra’s love interest, is tattooed with iconic images of the peoples from whom he’s descended. And plotwise, the problems Sierra faces come from two generations back, and she must come up with new solutions. Not only a lovely book from a worldbuilding perspective, but thought-provoking.

In April, I finally finished The American Slave Coast: A History of the Slave-Breeding Industry by Ned and Constance Sublette. It’s “…the brutal story of how the slavery industry made the reproductive labor of the people it referred to as “breeding women” essential to the young country’s expansion. Captive African Americans in the slave nation were not only laborers, but merchandise and collateral all at once. In a land without silver, gold, or trustworthy paper money, their children and their children’s children into perpetuity were used as human savings accounts that functioned as the basis of money and credit in a market premised on the continual expansion of slavery.”

The book does what is says it will do, with thought-provoking seeming-diversions that deepened my understanding of how the presented pieces of economics and colonialism and slavery and culture fit together, both in the past and continuing over time until today. Slavery was even more pervasive in the United States and its history than I had ever imagined. It’s presented both in large scale and in intimate, painful, personal detail. Sometimes, especially in the section focusing on Andrew Jackson, the connections with our current government and its actions were overwhelming. I felt smarter after I read this book. Things I already knew fell into a framework I hadn’t understood existed before.

It’s physically a really big book, and it took me a long time to finish, even though it reads quickly and clearly; I bought the hardcover, which is too large to carry around comfortably, so it became bedtime reading. Some nights, sometimes many nights in a row, I did not want to think about the horrors of people being bought and sold right before sleeping. But it was a good and necessary book to read. You should read it, no matter how long it takes you. If I’d had this book when I was in high school…if only history books had been like this, or this had been the sort of book we were given to read.

NYX: The Complete Collection was in the TBR because the second series, “No Way Home,” was written by Marjorie Liu. NYX is set during the period that Marvel’s mutant population was decreasing, and features young mutants who are cast out by their families/forced to run away/self-supporting. Kiden can slow down time; Tatiana shapechanges if she encounters blood; Bobby can take over another person’s body, but has amnesia afterwards. Bobby supports his nonverbal “Lil’ Bro,” who has psychic powers. I remain puzzled why Lil’ Bro apparently has no other name. Of possible interest to fans of X-Men, the original series, “Wannabee” by Joe Quesada, included X-23 as a character, but she has no lines (that I remember) and is a sex worker, which I found disturbingly stereotypical for stories about homeless teens. She isn’t in the second series. I like “found family” stories in general but didn’t become emotionally attached to this one, possibly because the series, to me, felt like a retread of the 1980s Cloak and Dagger series, also an attempt at Edgy. My cynicism interfered with my appreciation. However, the preponderance of female characters was nice to see.

Immortal Iron Fist: The Complete Collection Volume 1 by Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction was especially notable for featuring several historical Iron Fists, all but one of them Asian. The series does jump around in time a bit, so it helped to read it all in one shot. My favorite sections were the story of the female Iron Fist, Wu Ao-Shi, and the section in which Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and Colleen Wing show up to help out, bringing the banter with them. This series could have used more female characters with more lines, and though I liked the warrior Fat Cobra, why does the fat character always have to be jolly and lusty? Thor totally would be buddies with this guy. There is also one female character who has no name. Really? Even if she’s denied one for Plot Reasons, wouldn’t she give herself a name? Or does she just not want to share it with anyone?

Faith Volume 1: Hollywood and Vine, from Valiant Comics, is notable for featuring a Superhero of Size, with the bonus that her story has nothing to do with being fat. How rare! It’s also a lighthearted, fun comic. Geeky Faith (whose superhero name is Zephyr) has recently left both her boyfriend and a superhero group to move to L.A. and work as a content provider for a Buzzfeed-like operation. She’s still figuring out how a secret identity might work for her, and how she’s going to combine a dayjob with fighting crime. It was sweet and fun in a realistic way.

Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked On A Feline was also lighthearted, a nice change from my usual superhero reading. The whole way through, I was thinking, “this comic is meant for Millenials,” but that didn’t mean it wasn’t for me at all! I even enjoyed a guest appearance by Howard the Duck…though I hope he doesn’t appear too often. If you’re looking for something lighthearted and a bit silly, this is it. The tone is a major switch from the last time I saw the Hellcat character, back when I read Defenders in the 1980s. The art has a manga-ish look to it, with some chibi moments.

Mockingbird Vol. 1: I Can Explain is for when you’re feeling sarcastic and feminist. The plotline jumps around in time, which I don’t usually like much, but the technique was used well and I stayed interested. The dialogue in this is fabulous.

Defenders by Matt Fraction: Volume 1 entangles Dr. Strange, Red She Hulk (Betty Banner), Silver Surfer, Namor, and Iron Fist in a dimension-spanning plot that eventually tied in to Fraction’s Iron Fist run. Dr. Strange gets the most page-time, but as usual I enjoyed Fraction’s skill with banter and characterization, particularly with Namor.

Defenders by Matt Fraction – Volume 2 finishes off the story from Volume 1, brings in Felicia Hardy/Black Cat, and features some unexpected (to me) cameos from Nick Fury and Scott Lang/Ant Man. Overall, I enjoyed the story even though, as expected, it pretty much resulted in a reset. I loved that Silver Surfer is sometimes used for humorous purposes.

X-23: The Complete Collection Volume 1 starts before Laura Kinney/X-23’s birth and continues past the events of the Nyx series. What interested me is how little we get inside Laura’s head in these issues. She’s been raised to be a killing machine, with little to base a personality on except being forced to kill people with whom she has emotional ties, and the text of Pinocchio. She decides she doesn’t want to kill, but there’s no indication of where that comes from, or how she arrived at that decision. I am possibly overthinking this. The discussion around this character’s creation probably revolved around, “she’s this tiny young girl, and she’s wearing a sexy cropped corset, but then, shocker, she slices you up!” I feel there is much meta-thinking about X-23 in my future. Also, reading Volume 2 and the new Wolverine series in which she stars.

never thought about love when I thought about home by napricot takes a common plot, “pretending to be married for a case,” and makes it emotionally moving as two closed-off cops find out how much their mutual trust means to them. The fandom is the cop show Life, which starred Damien Lewis and Sarah Shahi; I loved the show because their characters did not have a romantic relationship, but the one in this story, I could buy.

they’re gonna send us to prison for jerks by napricot, a Captain America story, is just pure adorableness, and cheered me up so much the day I read it.

The Consultants by thebratqueen has neither coffee shop nor bookstore, but was nevertheless really fun. It’s a plotty gen crossover between MCU Avengers and White Collar, with a background Tony Stark/Bruce Banner relationship. You do not need to be overly familiar with White Collar to enjoy it.

Petrichor by manic_intent is post-Star Wars: the Force Awakens in which Han Solo is not dead and everybody has adventures and there are new perspectives on the Rebellion and cool stuff with Leia. Finn/Poe is in there. Also characters from the Extended Universe whom I will not spoil, but enjoyed despite not being familiar with them ahead of time.

Love among the Hydrothermal Vents by DevilDoll is a story in which Namor really is flirting hard with Steve Rogers and Steve has to get fake-engaged with Tony Stark but he wants to be real-engaged and…it’s really funny. Namor is both very hot and a total dick, which is as it should be.

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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