{comics} 15 & Fated

cleo01_frontcoverCleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack

Graphix (Scholastic) 2014

Comics you should already have read (and hopefully own) before the middle-grade years hit: Jellaby (Kean Soo), Zita the Spacegirl (Ben Hatke), Amelia Rules! (Jimmy Gownley) and Kazu Kibuishi’s Explorer and Amulet series (still incomplete). I’m obviously only naming a few. And I am being quite specific because Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space is nice addition to this bookshelf for late middle grade into early High School readers.

Space saga geeks and Indiana Jones adventure fans will dig the familiar rush Cleopatra will provide, but that does not mean Maihack makes this series a predictable one.

Cleo in space
Newly-turned-15 and sucked through space and time, Cleopatra offers a lot of kick-ass action and snark. She also sulks. I mentioned she’s 15. As for Target Practice (book one), it is not as predictable as I’d anticipated plot-wise, which is nice. Really what Maihack is doing is developing consistent characters with a lot of potential for growth and adventure, which is excellent. I’m really looking forward to The Thief and the Sword (Book 2) due to be out in Spring 2015.

cleo in space 2

The artwork is damn likable and easy to follow. The panels follow contemporary trends of being as mobile as the characters themselves. The panels participate in controlling the movement and the action, contributing to mood and energy. I’m not suggesting it is completely nonsensical, but I was troubled by all the white space on the page. Is it more incidental than artful? I began to question whether the visual story could have been tighter, but its target audience will appreciate the expenditures. Maihack allots the action room to give chase and Cleo is a marvelous action star. She can be appropriately dramatic. And Maihack is savvy with the comedic timing as well.


Despite concerns on design-compositional scores, Cleopatra hits the targets of what makes for an entertaining comic: great artwork, characters, action, gadgets, humor, and story. Maihack is launching a series for this reluctant heroine that suggests the sinister and the exhilarating. He writes a satisfying start to a really promising new series. Be sure to check it out.

{images are Mike Maihack’s}

{comic} brand spanking new, except not.

battlingboycoverBattling Boy by Paul Pope

First Second 2013.

One of the things I like about superhero comics is their ability to both maintain continuity and prove regenerative. Need to reboot a character or story? Will do. Has the essence of the hero and their story really changed? No. Even so, it is still hard to break into the superhero realm of comics. Someone is always there to remind you that you didn’t start reading that particular comic early enough, never mind that you have to be born in order to have done so. Comparing storylines and/or creators is a competitive sport and that in itself can be entertaining. I get it. It is also exhausting. It is exciting to have the opportunity to start at the actual beginning with the character for once.

Battling Boy is familiar to the tradition of old school superhero comics with the paneling, line work, and a pleasing color palette just this side of garish.


We begin with Battling Boy’s origin story. Yet to be referred to as any name other than Boy, our reluctant hero hails from the Hidden Gilded Realm. He is set up to perform heroic deeds for the Acropolis as his rite of passage (a rambling).

battling boy westsAnother hero is introduced in the figure of Aurora West, the daughter of the recently departed Acropolis hero Haggard West. Her apprenticeship under her father was cut tragically short, but she has nerve and weaponry. Her “Alfred” is the impressive womanly amputee Ms. Grately—the only family Aurora has left.

battling boy T RexThe villains are creepy, and the scale of some of the monsters ups the ante for our action heroes. Battling Boy’s arsenal is clever. I love the t-shirt idea (and not just for its merchandising potential). Pope evidences a well-thought out narrative. He amusingly considers the angles, like where Battling Boy is going to reside and cover expenses. The relationship between parents and child is pretty sweet, too. I am trying desperately not to anticipate some looming tragic circumstance, Aurora’s loss is sobering enough.battling-boy-paul-pope-first-second-2013

battling boy

I feel a bit late to the Battling Boy party, but only a little. And now I won’t have to wait so long for The Rise of Aurora West. Battling Boy’s second(ish) installment hits store shelves late September. Yes, already with a prequel and Miss West’s backstory told from her point of view (which we do get portions of in Battling Boy). As for the first prequel published (October 2013), not sure how dedicated I am to getting a hold of the one-shot copy of Haggard West’s story—I wouldn’t say no if you could get my hands on a copy of the limited release…

Paul Pope has hit the ground running with an Eisner for Battling Boy. Battling Boy and Aurora West promise and fantastic series of adventures to grow up with. Too, the series returns us to the warm fuzzy of old school superhero aesthetics, while being all shiny and new and clever with it.


from Michael Cavna’s piece “Paul Pope: With Escapo and Battling Boy, 2014 Eisner Winner Deftly Blends the Old with the New” in the Washington Post

“There are all these classic superheroes we know, but [Battling Boy] is not another Spider-Man or Batman,” Pope says. It’s a new character — we don’t even know his name — and I think [that's] appealing to kids.”

“With ‘Battling Boy,’ I’m trying to use the rhetoric of the classic Silver Age hero’s story, and tell a genuine story about this kind of coming-of-age — through the metaphor of a superhero being a young person moving into their own,[...] “But I’m doing it through the [comics] language of Jack Kirby, John Romita and Steve Ditko.”

“But kids are getting it for the first time,” he continues. “They’re not aware of Kirby or Romita or Ditko. They might know the Red Skull from the movie, but they’re not going to know him from the comic.

“I’m trying to make a new story using these old tools, I guess.”


{images belong to Paul Pope, & remember to check out his site for more enticing fare}

{bookishness} Readers Imbibing Peril IX

RIP IX's Lavinia by Abigail Larson

RIP IX’s Lavinia by Abigail Larson

It’s that most wonderful time of the year…!!

It is that delicious time of year again: Carl V. at Stainless Steel DroppingsReaders Imbibing Peril (RIP)!

As Carl describes it, ’tis “a time of coming together to share our favorite mysteries, detective stories, horror stories, dark fantasies, and everything in between.”

From September 01 (today) to October 31st, Readers will imbibe & share books and screen that involve:

Dark Fantasy.

Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.”

R.I.P. IX hosts a series of challenges and the rules are simple: 1. Have fun reading (and watching).  2. Share that fun with others.

There are Perils the First, the Second, the Third, the Short Story, the Screen, and the Group Read. Check out the site for what each involves. I usually experience multiple Perils…and I love to see what others are reading and watching during this event. Here is the Review Site where the community shares their R.I.P. IX posts.

I’ve not made my list yet, but I will keep an updated one here. And maybe I will post a list of the darkly lovely reads I’ve reviewed that will be delightfully suited for R.I.P.

Do participate. It is a lot of fun!


{diversity in lit} Friday #16

 illustration by Francesca D’Ottavi

illustration by Francesca D’Ottavi

A few links to reviews, articles, sites, etc. of the Diversity in Literature concern from around a small portion the book blogosphere, accumulated over the past week or so.


A middle-grade read via Melissa (Book Nut): The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy (Delacorte 2014).  “the diversity of this one is my second favorite thing about it (my first favorite being the old-fashioned feel). I loved how Levy had a hugely diverse cast and showed how everyone is just. like. me. (Duh.) But she did it in such a way that wasn’t preachy. And I loved that. In fact, I want to hand this one to all the kids and say: “You know that person who is different from you? This will help you understand them.” I’m not sure that will sell this book, so I may just have to stick to “Penderwicks with boys.” I just hope kids read this one.”

–Found this via POC-Creators: The Recurrence Plot and Other Time Travel Tales by Rasheedah Philips (Metropolarity). “A journalist races against time itself to expose the entity preying on young male teens in Philadelphia. A crystal, memory-storing bracelet transports a young mother back to the day of her own mother’s traumatic death. An unknown force of nature causes time to start flowing backwards…  Using quantum physics as an imaginative landscape, Phillips’ debut speculative collection Recurrence Plot attempts to walk the fine line between fiction and reality, fate and free will, and past, present, and future.”

–Grace (Books Without Pictures) reads Octavia Butler’s Unexpected Stories (Open Road 2014), which “contains two previously unpublished short stories that were never released during Octavia Butler’s lifetime,” “A Necessary Mind” and “Childminder.”

“Butler is one of my all-time favorite authors.  She uses the platform of speculative fiction to deeply explore themes of race and gender, dominance and submission, and the use and abuse of power.  She sheds light on the dark side of human nature and shows how exploitation can become entrenched within a people’s way of life. [...] As usual, I am blown away by her stories and can’t stop thinking about them.”–Grace

–Grace also shared The Farthest Shore by Marian Perera (Samhain 2014) a short while back. The third book in the Eden series which sounds like a good set of stand-alones for readers of Romance/Fantasy/Steampunk. “I’m extremely impressed by the Eden series.  Marian Perera has a knack for writing a feel-good pick-me-up romance that’s set in a fascinating world in a time of transition.”

–Heather (Book Addictionfalls in love with Cristina Henriquez’s The Book of Unknown Americans (Knopf 2014). “After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel’s recovery-the piece of the American Dream on which they’ve pinned all their hopes-will not be easy.”–publisher’s comments.

“I found everything I was hoping for in this book: a unique perspective, memorable characters, great writing, and a truly emotional story that brought me to tears. It’s really a beautiful novel in a lot of ways. I need to read more fiction about different cultures because I always, always love the fresh perspective and a look into a life different from my own. That was certainly the case with this novel – I loved getting inside the Riveras’ home and lives and understanding what the United States would be like (terrifying) for someone brand new to this country who doesn’t speak the language. [...] Henriquez did such an incredible job getting the immigrant experience across to the reader and I so appreciate her doing so.”–Heather

–An old review ala Kirkus about Nadeem Alsam’s The Blind Man’s Garden (Knopf 2013). “The war in Afghanistan, as seen from the other side—or, better, another side. [...] Aslam sympathizes not with causes, but with people, and this is a memorable portrait of a people torn apart by war.”

–Katie Noah Gibson (for Shelf Awareness) reviews Thrity Umrigar’s The Story Hour (Harper 2014). “Umrigar deftly highlights the contrasts between Maggie’s American upbringing and Lakshmi’s traditional Indian heritage, and while Maggie is better educated, she often lacks the kindness and self-awareness shown by Lakshmi. At times, both characters seem generic, like the houses in the bland college town where they live. Despite minor flaws, The Story Hour is a thought-provoking meditation on marriage, friendship and the ramifications of small actions.”


Tor.com shared a short story “A Cup of Salt Tears” by Isabel Yap you’ll not want to pass up. “Makino’s mother taught her caution, showed her how to carve her name into cucumbers, and insisted that she never let a kappa touch her. But when she grows up and her husband Tetsuya falls deathly ill, a kappa that claims to know her comes calling with a barbed promise. “A Cup of Salt Tears” is a dark fantasy leaning towards horror that asks how much someone should sacrifice for the one she loves.” Victo Ngai’s piece (left) accompanies it.

–Alison (An Uncalibrated Centrifuge) talks “About PoC.” “It can be a confusing term, so I thought I’d share some information about it. [...]there are specific ways PoC should and should not be used.”

Book Riot shares “Book Club Suggestions if Your Most Diverse Pick was The Help.” “You’re searching for a new book club pick, and you want to branch out, but you have no idea where to start. You’ve read all of Khaled Hosseini, and you realize that despite the fact that Kathryn Stockett writes about minorities, she actually isn’t one, and Salman Rushdie is just too wonky for your book club.” Swapna Krishna offers up three suggested reads.

–POC-Creators shared this interview with Diana M. Pho in which they talk about interstitial life and art. Pho is “a scholar, activist, performer, and general rabble-rouser.” If you are really into Steampunk (and not just the bookish-sense) you may recognize her.

Ashley Hope Perez

Ashley Hope Perez

–Edi (Crazy QuiltEdi) interviews YA author Ashley Hope Pérez, “Her books bring the Latino experience to young adult literature. Her books include The Knife and the Butterfly (February 2012) and What Can’t Wait (2011), both from CarolRhoda Lab. Out of Darkness (CarolRhoda Lab) will be out in 2015.”

–while visiting Edi, read “SundayMorningReads” “I’ve got reviews to post this week, all books written by author of color. That’s my fight, getting more books out there with characters of color so that all young readers can realize there are brown kids who matter.”

–Booklists, Sites, etc.–

–Audrey (Rich in Color) browses for Historical Fiction and shares a few she found interesting enough to read–maybe you will find one or three as well. I did.

--Swapna Krishna is an editor and book reviewer who reads eclectically/diversely. She may be a book-blogger to add. Her review of The Story of an Hour, “A gorgeous novel full of hope and heartbreak, The Story Hour follows the lives of two very different women and how they change each other while dealing with serious issues such as race and the isolation of immigrants.”


{bookishness} Cybils call to/for arms…

Cybils-Logo-2014-Round-Lg-300x300Melissa (Book Nutshared the announcement: the Cybils 2014: Children’s and Young Adults Bloggers’ Literary Awards are calling for judges.

I’ve admired Melissa’s hard work as a judge and have reaped the benefits of her subsequent book reviews and the fantastic reading list the Cybils’ generates. I think I’ve yet to be offended by their choice in winners either.

If you haven’t heard of the Cybils, do check out their site. If you have and this is a reminder that it is that time of year to submit that Judge application, you have until September 5.

{bookishness + diversity in lit} #diversiverse

I mentioned BookLust‘s readerly challenge on Friday in the links.  I promptly got distracted by the weekend and one of those job interviews you’d like to be hired after. But I have signed up! yesterday…And now I am officially posting about it!

a a amdubanner-col2

As an eloquent Aarti (of BookLust) writes:

None of us lives in a monochromatic world, and yet the fact that terrifying hate crimes still occur makes it clear that we do not fully understand or trust each other.  And maybe part of the reason is because the media we consume does not accurately reflect the diversity of our society.  And books are such a massive part of the media we consume that we should demand and fight for those that do represent minorities and those that do present the world from a different perspective than the one we are used to.  So please – participate.  You may just discover a character or an author or a setting or a story that will completely change your life.

The criteria are as follows:

  • Read and review one book
  • Written by a person of color
  • During the last two weeks of September (September 14th – 27th) 

This has to be one of the least challenging challenges in the book-blogosphere–unless you find a book that will grow you.

I am excited to not only lend my voice to this community of passionate readers, but as Sarah pointed out in her post yesterday, there are going to be some great reading lists to be made after this event. Actually, I’ve already started mining lists like Sarah’s. I don’t know what I will be reading at the time. I am gearing up to spend September on comic books, so I will plan to share some particularly exciting comics written by persons of color.

I am going to cull the book reviews from my Friday posts and list them for options as well. Check out Sarah’s and participant sites, lists, and reviews as linked here at BookLust. Better, participate!

If you want to participate, but need a site to post your review, I will host you here on omphaloskepsis. I will even edit the post if you want. contact me: omphaloskepsis[at]stonhaus[dot]com.

{television} deep breath(ing)


Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman) & the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) in a wickedly creepy, yet delightful scene.

The household are Whovians to varying degrees, but all of us felt fairly equal trepidation with the New Doctor: the Twelfth Doctor played by Peter Capaldi. It isn’t that we doubt Capaldi as an actor. It’s just that we admit to liking the younger Doctors–and Series 8, Episode 1: “Deep Breath” called us out on it.

The first episode of the 12th Doctor (written by Steven Moffat) addresses the issue of a dramatic (backwards) shift in the age of the Doctor head-on. The Ben Wheatley directed episode opens with a dinosaur in old London–not subtle. When Matt Smith took over from David Tennant, his antics during regeneration could be described as goofy, the same antics played by Capaldi could easily misconstrued as senility. Tennant ran around in nightclothes, but Capaldi’s historical dress accentuate elderly over silly. Then there is Clara’s (Jenna Coleman) response to the new face and disoriented Doctor. Her response should harken back to Rose’s (Billie Piper) discomfort with the Christopher Eccleston-David Tennant transition during Series 2, but Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) calls her on confusing the Doctor as a dashing young love-interest rather than the very old Time Lord that he actually is. It is soon made apparent that the episode is using Clara as the audience’s avatar, both in guilt and self-defense. And bless it, Moffat offers a balm. (Have tissues ready).

Besides the challenging of ageism, the episode explores the question of pretenses, veils, facades.

deep-breath-capaldi-openingCapaldi’s Doctor is not adjusting to his old face with any greater ease, wondering “who frowned this face,” in a gorgeous dialog with a homeless man in an alley. “Where do the faces come from?” “Why’d I choose this face? Am I trying to tell myself something?” I love the accompanying question posed to the “regenerating” villain: “If you replace the parts often enough, are you still you? How many generations until you are not you?” (may have paraphrased).

“Deep Breath” punches the emotional core with its focus on lost and lonely creatures. The discombobulated Doctor and companion are juxtaposed to the household relationships between others who are out of time and place: Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart) and Strax (Dan Starkey). A central thrust to connect character drama and the criminal-mystery is in the dilemma of destroying a complete creature for one useful part? And what of that facet where a creature is destroyed to hide what it was that was taken from it?

Madame Vastra (Neve

Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh)

It took time adjusting to Capaldi, but we were won in an episode. We were equally impressed by how Clara had finally become a fully actualized character for us in one episode. Yes, we know that she had more than a full season for characterization, but after an intriguing play at a Jack Harkness-type character, they flattened her out and she became a mere vehicle for Smith’s departure. She’s back.

“Deep Breath” offers humor and horror and a really, really smart introduction to the 12th Doctor. We are feeling vastly reassured having seen it.

Of note: It will be worth your time to revisit “The Girl in the Fireplace” (S2, ep4: Tennant/Piper), wherein we realized that this new transitioning of the Doctor isn’t the only regenerating episode to reference “The Girl in the Fireplace.” The episode also rewards long-time viewers in other ways…yes, Sean winced when 12 rejected the notion of wearing a long scarf.