I don't know how to title this one!

I meant to say something last week (ugh, or was it two weeks now) when Spurgeon linked to Johanna's (we miss you!) note about the pending release of the last color BONE volume.

I volunteer at Ben's school library one day a week (what can I say... I believe in libraries!), and, man, do the comics circulate like crazy! I'm only in there one day a week, but based on looking at the shelves I think it is true for every day in there -- the comics circulate the INSTANT they get put back out on the shelves.

My responsibilities include checking in each classes books, as well as checking the kids out each week (basically, it's just retail, but it is free -- using POS to scan stuff in and out, the whole thing), and I quickly learned that the first thing I should do when I'm done checking everything in is to shelf the 741.5's. That's the Dewey Decimal System code for graphic novels. Virtually everything I shelve while the librarian is reading to the kids gets checked back out during the same shift. It is insane!

The King of 741.5? Jeff Smith's BONE.

Those always always always go back out the moment they come in (not even counting the Hold requests) -- even when the kids have to read them OUT OF ORDER, they freaking fly off the shelf. Our library has two full sets, and the Librarian is getting at least a third one in because they circulate so fast.

The only other books (at least during my shift) that circulate as fast are the Lemony Snickett "A Series of Unfortunate Events" books.. but even those aren't quite (to my eye) as consistent -- usually you can find 3 or 4 of the 13 volumes on the shelves (they also have two sets of those... I think)

I suspect that this couldn't have happened without Scholastic (as much as it pains the self-publishing lover in me), and it could not possibly have happened to a nicer guy. Jeff Smith is a sweetheart among sweethearts, and he deserves every single copy sold.

Obviously, this is just a snapshot of ONE Elementary school library, and ONE shift of that library, at that, but it is an awesome awesome thing to encounter every week, hopefully saying really good things about 21st century comics literacy and the future of the comics readership.

I love volunteering at school in general: watching the ASTONISHING gains the kids have made just blows my tiny little mind every time I think about it. It's been... 14 weeks, is that right? since Ben started Kindergarten. When he started he knew his ABC by sight, and he was pretty decent with the phonic sounds of the letters. He could JUST write his name (though oddly spaced, and nearly always with backwards "N"), but that was it.

Now he's writing (simple) sentences ("I see my _____"), and the characters are pretty correctly spaced and sized and facing. He can sound out a word and basically spell things about right.

What I find fascinating is that what we're meant to teach them isn't really how to do things exactly correctly, but for them to have the tools to do those things for themselves. In other words, my instinct when Ben asks "how do I spell...."? is to tell him how to spell it. "'Witch' is spelled 'W. I. T. C. H.', pal." But sitting in class one day a week, I've realized that what you do is actually turn it around. "How DO you spell that? What's the sound of the first letter?" "It is 'wuh', Daddy." "Right, so what is that?" "Uh...W?" "Exactly, you little rocket scientist! Good job!"

To the point where even if they're not spelling a word correctly (A "cuh" sound could be either a "K" OR a "C"), the important thing at this stage isn't that they're spelling it right or wrong (they're only five and six!), but that they're developing the tools to FIGURE OUT how to spell it. The actual spelling correctly part comes later -- confidence is the skill to install right now.

As far as I can tell, nearly EVERY kid in the class is making AMAZING progress... and thanks to their awesome awesome teacher, they're ENJOYING making that progress. Schoolwork isn't "work", it is FUN, which is EXACTLY the kind of attitude that I was hoping school would inculcate.

We feel hugely lucky that we got the Kinder teacher we got at the public school that we got -- for security sake I'm not going to really broadcast those details -- because we really won the lottery for the type of school environment we were hoping for where learning is something that not only every child sees has value, but that they encourage in one another as peers. I (naturally) think my kid is pretty inherently smart, but to have an environment that really works at encouraging that is something we weren't sure we were going to get from public school.

And it makes it even that much more exciting to volunteer into that kind of environment where you can help OTHER people's kids make the same kinds of leaps, too!

Kids WANT to learn, really. It's pretty awesome to watch them do so, so well.


A comic review? Sure why not...

SECRET INVASION #8: I'm not so bugged by the What of this, as I am of the How. I mean, no matter what, you've got to give the Marvel universe some props for changing up the status quo every few years, and doing so in FAIRLY organic ways. By this I mean, by and large, the things that have changed have largely flowed from character, rather than being imposed from above. Sure there's been a few mis-steps (most of them involving Spidey), but overall, the generalities of the Marvel U have been reasonably logical and satisfying.

YMMV, naturally.

While I might dun Secret Invasion for misreading the post-'08 Election environment (the ending feels a lot more suited for a McCain/Palin administration), you have to give it points for setting up what will POTENTIALLY be a story-rich new Status Quo. That doesn't mean that writers WILL be able to draw that potential out... but it is there.

But I'm more convinced than ever that Bendis just shouldn't be writing this kind of a story -- he's just not very good at it.

As a conclusion, SI #8 is marred off the bat by its structure: you WANT to see the Big Fight Scene at the end. We've had seven previous issues that were basically nothing than unimportant fights, and when we finally get to the Title Bout (as it were), Bendis decided that it's best to mostly cut away from it, or to handle it perfunctorily and via narration (!)

It opens with a completely pointless death -- one that isn't really relevant to the 150-ish pages that proceed it -- and one that can be retconned faster than Bendis drops to talking heads: Thor just sent her someplace that she'll end up getting saved. She'll be back faster than Mockingbird was, bet on it.

But even if it wasn't so trivially reversed, what sucks the most about it is that it was a punk death, where none of the characters involved were even remotely heroic. I have no problem with death (or even "death") in comics, but I do very much want for it to invoke heroism and sacrifice for the greater good. If the character who died did so by stopping the Skrull doppelganger she was most associated with by using a weapon based upon their technology, that might be one thing, but instead the character died from plothammer and fiat, where it wasn't even explained WHAT was happening, or really how it was resolved. Yuck, that's just awful storytelling, lacking any thematic resonance, IMO.

I also have to say that one of the few genuinely human relationships in recent comics has been Luke & Jessica's. I truly like those characters as "people", so for us to have a "The Dingos ate mah baby!" scene... and without ANY payoff; and with that being on top of what now appears to be a complete red herring of that "glowing eyes" thing... well, most of my goodwill is just utterly pissed away.

I'm also upset that the well-toted idea that the Skrulls had this religion, and that this was actually meaningful from a story perspective, and to have it all basically come to nothing in the end... sheer anti-climax. They had a real opportunity to make the Skrull newly significant in the Marvel U, and it all feels pissed away to me.

As for the "Illumi-naughty", I really am not buying it. Oh, it's a clever enough conceit, but not those characters in that way. I mean, really, do you think Doom and Namor and Loki are going to give 10 seconds consideration to Mr. Crazier-than-a-shit-sandwich, and the jumped up thug? Really? Emma doesn't make any sense to me either, in the post-San Francisco world. Gah, plus that coloring -- I thought Namor was a Skrull, at first...

So, yeah, I didn't like this as a comic. It was pretty stupendously EH, and your Big Finish to your Big Event needs to be a lot more than that.

What did YOU think?


Sorry for delay

Sunday and Monday I had a store project I needed to finish and forgot about until zero hour. All done, though. I just got back from the store (doing THIS week's books), so let's wrap LAST week by talking about all of the BOOKS you should go and pick up and your local funnybook emporium when you stroll in tomorrow.

In friendly alphabetical order (Or, at least, Alpha by Diamond listings):

B KRIGSTEIN COMICS HC: Yes it is pricey, but damnation, it's worth every penny. Krigstein was a genius, and even the slightest story in this big-ass volume is pure gold. My one quibble: despite it being in the first, biographical volume, I think they missed a big boat by not putting "The Master Race" in this edition.

BONE ONE VOLUME EDITION: Well, you probably can't buy it anyway. We got allocated at just over 1/3 of our order (*sigh*) and all of the rack copies sold out in like 10 minutes. Expect a much much longer thought on this in about a week in Tilting at Windmills over on Newsarama.... Either way, this is top notch comics by a top notch cartoonist, and some version of Bone should be in your collection. I can't wait until Ben is old enough for me to read this to him... (though, actually, it'll be the HC I'll be ordering once it is solicited. I left the SC at the store since we got allocated)

CEREBUS V 16: THE LAST DAY: End of an era, and this volume is worth it for the essay in the back, alone. Honestly, I think it explains a bit more than I had previously understood about the last few years. (Lester, read it before I come in on Friday -- should give us at least 30 minutes of conversation...) One of these days, if I ever find time, I'll write an essay about Cerebus as a complete work, but if you can find a better all-around cartoonist than Dave Sim, I'd like to meet him. The timing, the draftsmanship, the craft and care -- I don't really care if the whole thing ends on the biggest reductio ad absurdum ever, I don't really care if you don't care for his politics or his thinking (fuck, if George Bush could draw like this, I'd buy his comics too!), comics will be a poorer place for not having Dave Sim around, month-in, month-out showing us how to do it. Seriously, read Cerebus, you'll be better for it.

CRISIS ON MULTIPLE EARTHS V3 TP: Well, you know, I've always been a sucker for the JLA/JSA crossover, but, man, are these stinky-ass stories. ("TEPPY STRIKES BACK!") On the other hand, these stories suck so much they're actually great. C'mon, dude, THE HUMAN BOMB! Rocks out, with it's cock out!

FINDER V 6 MYSTERY DATE: Carla Speed McNeil is an amazing cartoonist -- kinetic yet compressed, mystical yet focused on human emotions. Why she isn't a millionaire is a mystery to me.

JIM WOODRING PUPSHAW & PUPSHAW: At $17 for what's effectively 16 panels (well, it is a Japanese import), you have to be a big Woodring fan to appreciate this. Thankfully I am. Plus I only have to pay cost, seeing how I own the store and all. But damn, if he can't draw and tell a reasonably compelling tale in those 16 panels....

KYLE BAKER, CARTOONIST V 2: An excellent companion to volume 1, though it feels a smidge light for the price point of $14.95. It's the week of excellent cartoonists, as you can see (it wasn't the comics what killed me, it was the books), and Baker is up there high in the firmament.

P. CRAIG RUSSELL'S LIBRARY OF THE OPERA V 3 HC: Yah, OK you could wait for the 6 weeks or whatever it will take for the SC to come out, I suppose, but I prefer to have a binding that will hold up for repeated rereadings. Loverly loverly stuff, and he makes the source material palatable to those of us who hate opera as it's own art form.

PAUL AUSTERS CITY OF GLASS: Finally this exquisite book of David Mazzuchelli's adapatation of the Auster story is back in print, and let me hear a fuckin' hallelujah! Despite the (very!) stiff competetition this week, this is the A #1 must have, bug-your-LCS-to-stock-it item of the week. Seriously.

POWERS V 6 THE SELL OUTS: The perhaps-ironically named first post-image volume. While it's begining to flag a bit at this point of the narrative, this is still sharper than 80% of the super-hero work on the market.

SAMURAI EXECUTIONER V1 : If you liked DH's presentation of Lone Wolf & Cub, you're also going to dig this story Koike & Kojima did before. I'm only about 10% into it, but it's reading just as well, to me.

OK, that's what I took home on the book side, at least.

See you.... tomorrow with the first part of this week's books!

(God, tomorrow already? Does this ever end?)