In this Sandman spin-off, one day per century Death descends to convene with the living in the form of an upbeat goth girl, and this time she’s befriended Sexton Furnival, a suicidal sixteen-year-old in need of perspective. Their adventures are easily resolved, but the real magic lies in Gaimon’s dialogue and in the Death-Sexton mismatch, which takes place before a decaying urban backdrop alongside a colorful cast of side characters. As a bonus, the collection comes with a ‘90s-era sex-safe comic outlining the importance of condom use as protection from AIDS, a PSA time-capsule fitting of the Philadelphia era.
Damned is Chuck Palahniuk’s What-If? take on Hell told through the eyes of cynical rich girl Madison Spencer (“Are you there, Satan? It’s me, Madison”) and her Breakfast Club-inspired gang. Though there’s very little in terms of plot, Palahniuk instead takes us through encounters with pagan demons, Hell’s geographic oddities (The Great Plains of Discarded Razor Blades, etc.), its candy-fueled economy, its telemarketing industry, and its bizarre damnation rules (honking your car horn more than 500 times lands you in Hell, no exceptions). Its whims are entertaining, but incredibly scattered, with an unsatisfying ending hindered by mediocre twists.
Is fleeting greatness worth the ultimate cost? How many of us can reach that greatness? Furthermore, what happens when we feel that greatness lies within our grasp but just can’t seem to reach it? These questions feel more pronounced in the Wicked + The Divine’s second collection, where mere mortal protagonist Laura tries vainly to reproduce the teensy little miracle we saw in Book 1 and questions her relationship to the Pantheon of reincarnated gods that the world continues to fawn over. Fantasy works best when it tackles real-world values in relatable ways, and this series does it beautifully.
Where I Got It
Gift from old college friend, Christmas 2015 (along with Book 1).
Book trailer on Youtube
Longer review, with pictures
Amaterasu, Baal, and ten other gods from world mythology get reincarnated every ninety years; this time they’re taking the form of teenage pop stars and a little bit of hell breaks loose when Lucifer goes rogue. The premise promises lots of action, and I loved artist Jamie McKelvie’s style, particularly the splash pages, where there’s always something to look at. The collection also comes with variant covers and apocrypha that form the graphic novel equivalent of a DVD bonus menu. Reading more chapters feels necessary to make a more concrete judgement, but I’m definitely liking the start.
Where I Got It
Gift from old college friend, Christmas 2015 (along with Book 2).
Kieron Gillen’s Tumblr
Jamie McKelvie’s website
I like reading myths from other cultures because they capture the familiar spirit of the Greek myths with new sets of heroes. Ancient Sumer’s Gilgamesh is no exception: our hero befriends a sidekick from the wilderness, journeys through forests to slay a deadly monster, grapples with a jealous goddess, and seeks the prize of eternal life. There’s even an ancient flood that shares more than a few similarities with the Biblical one. Editor N.K. Sanders also provides a lot of textual background in her introduction, padding out the Penguin edition since the myth itself is so short (60 pages).
Where I Got It
Bought used at a local book sale, October 2012, making it one of the longest-running books in the stack.
Background to the Epic of Gilgamesh on Wikipedia
The entire Epic of Gilgamesh in PDF form