It's been a couple of weeks since Leed's annual Thoughtbubble Convention, which is one the highlights of my year, not least because its in my Home City and I can spent lots of time there without having to worry about transport, hotels and the like. But it's also a fantastic atmosphere to be in, with a open, egalitarian spirit to the tables, panels and general con culture that makes it such a pleasure. And each year I go with a wodge of cash to spend with as little an idea on what I want as possible, just so I can pick up stuff that grabs my interest. So this year, these are the results:
I would normally say "in no particular order" but I'm going to start with what is, on reflection, my favorite choice; Knight and Dragon. How it works is this - starting at page one, each page has a series of coloured numbers at the bottom representing one of the six characters in the story. To follow the story, pick a character and follow the page numbers as instructed. The story is dialogue free, so many pages are reused, sometimes in different orders, and sometimes in entirely different contexts. There are also several endings, my clear favorite being the Dragons. I've been a fan of Bevis Musson's art for a while, and its great to see it paired with Matt Gibbs' story which really shows it off, and the colours by Nathan Ashworth are vibrant and befitting the Fairy Tale theme. It's adorable, accessible and unique, and I've read it nearly a dozen times, including with the kids.
Also from Improper Books was Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale. They gave an introduction away last year, which pre-sold it to me (and this year with Briar, actually) due to an evocative style and pseudo-victorian setup. The story of a young street urchin girl who is caught attempt to rob a reclusive rich man, and is drawn into his work, and craft of creating living Porcelain. Which is a pretty cool idea right off the bat. Its a melancholy tale, touching in some places and deeply sad in others, and feels fresh and interesting despite "gothic fairy tale" being a pretty overused trope in recent years. This however, is well worth checking out.
I always seem to end up spending a fair bit on Cinebooks, at last in part because they do an escalating "buy X get Y free" offer which is a bit like catnip to bargain hunters. I only ended up with three this time though, go Willpower!
Firstly the last part of Long John Silver volume 4, a sort-of sequel to Treasure Island, but darker and bloodier. This volume rounds off the story, kills off most of the cast and generally blows stuff up, and is a decent ending, although if I'm being honest I think the series has generally declined as it went along, from "wow!" to "pretty good".
Also in ongoing volumes, I picked up Orbital Volume 5, an ongoing crazed space opera that I'm really quite attached to. Picking up after Volume 4's cliffhanger ending, Volume 5 follows what seems to be a series pattern of a "setup volume - action volume" as the next phase of intergalactic shenanigans are built up. Orbital still feels the sort of high Space Opera that you don't get a lot of these days, and is great fun because of it.
Last of the three, I picked up The Chimpanzee Complex Volume One, which is best described as a long series of questions as, in the near future what appears to the Apollo 11 mission splashes down (again). The whole thing just piles mystery upon mystery throughout, and in a good way, but it feels very much like a volume of heading down the rabbit hole without ever seeing a glimpse of the bottom. There is some good character work, and an interest female lead character. Will definitely pickup the next volume, but hope that the shape of the story starts to fall out of it.
Probably the closest to a mainstream publication I bought this time was Ed Brubakers's Fatale, a gritty, twisty noir tale featuring dames, and stiffs, and the less typically genre elements such as demonic cultists and magical murders. Definitely going to pick up more of this over the next few months.
Finally, the Nao of Brown, which has won loads of awards and has generally been recommended everywhere. Its a big book, and takes a bit of reading, but manages to maintain a light touch through some pretty heavy stuff. The art is lovely, especially in the "parallel" story, which I really liked, and its full of solidly, interesting, human characters. Another pick thats well worth a look out for.