The Private Eye is a book about anonymity. It’s a future noir that centers on a paparazzo instead of a detective. The story takes place in a post-internet world where one generation ago, all of everyone’s personal info was made public causing the world to give up the social media and web browsing to protect their personal lives. People take their privacy so seriously that they wear strange masks to hide their faces.
Marcos Martin draws a beautiful, deeply strange world with creature-like characters and vehicles. Martin who did such great work on Daredevil creating the backgrounds and cityscapes of hell’s kitchen, is beautifully suited to the project. The future L.A. the story imagines is colored in saturated brilliant shades from Munsta Vicente. But the reason I picked this book up is Brian K Vaughn. His book Saga is probably the best on-going comic book in print.
I want to say as little as possible about this book, not because it’s easy to spoil, but because it’s impossible to recreating a beautiful comic like this in prose is. It might be better to say it’s as good of an LA noir as has been written in decades, even if it is half dystopian SciFi. It reads clear and fast like a potboiler, but what sticks with you after the book is done is the world. I’d recommend this book to anyone.
The physical version of this book just became available in December. The work was originally published online at panel syndicate via the pay as you go model. It’s a lovely execution with long landscape pages, thick paper, that give the art the room it needs to breathe.
This post should be the first in a string of Trade Waiter posts. Look for a post on another of the great Brian K. Vaughn books next week.
Cameras catch giant squid surfacing in Japanese harbor.
Sesame Credit is a score like an American credit score, except it doesn’t track whether you pay your bills on time it tracks what you do and buy online through websites like Alibaba.
Sesame Credit rates Chinese citizens through a “complex algorithm” that takes into account their online support of the Chinese government. It’s administered by Alibaba, the country’s primary online shopping site, and gaming giant Tencent. Citizens receive boosts to their scores by posting pro-government news on their social media and by buying Chinese goods. They harm their scores by buying goods from rival Japan and by posting information and articles from non-state sponsored sources.
This strange and frightening system is explained in this video from Extra Credits:
Today, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates .25%. Markets have so far failed to react strongly and are up for the day. This news was not a surprise to markets, which had been anticipating a move like this for months.
The adjustment marks the first rate increase since 2006 and projects confidence in the US recovery. I don’t share the Fed’s enthusiasm. While it’s true that the unemployment rate has fallen to 5%, the labor pool is much smaller than what the US has seen in past recoveries. More worrying, is the lack of wage growth.
Further, we have yet to see the inflation that generally creates the need to raise rates and pull money out of the economy. Inflation has held under the 2% target rate for years and that’s even without factoring in the price of oil (which has plummeted over the past year).
My fear regarding rate hikes is not so much today’s move (though I think it’s premature) it’s what Yellen’s Fed may have planned for the coming year. If the economy continues to chug along without significant wage growth or a bump in the number of actual people employed (not just the official unemployment rate) we will scuttle this recovery by fighting an inflation boogieman who never appeared.
I don’t know that I remember when newspaper comics were important or good. I read Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes and The Boondocks (published in the last gasps of the medium) but I think they were already in reprints or collections. Most of my memories of newspaper comics come from my parents explaining how important they used to be.
But, if there were an alternate timeline in which Sunday comics hadn’t sunk with the newspapers, in that world, everyone would be reading SuperMutant Magic Academy.
This book is sweet, subtle, and smart. If you miss a joke, it’s not because the humor’s not in there, it’s because the jokes are delicately constructed and reward close attention. SMMA’s characters are careful refinements of the classic archetypes. They have a unique vision of superherodom laid over top of them. A more real version of super powers, that’s not about fighting evil but instead concerned about how to be an artist or what it’s like to have a gay crush on your straight best friend.
Jillian Tamaki’s story doesn’t capture the entire high school experience, it tackles a very specific high school experience and that makes it so much more compelling.
I read some truly excellent books this year. They didn’t all necessarily come out in 2015, but that’s when I read em’.
- Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
Oh, Jeeze. If you aren’t reading Staples and Vaughn’s sprawling intergalactic Romeo and Juliet, you’re missing out on the best comic coming out right now. I would recommend this to anyone. You don’t have to like science fiction, romance or beautiful space monsters to love this book, though it only helps if you do. The book is exciting, heart-breaking and full of great dirty jokes.
- The Godfather by Mario Puzo
I wouldn’t have read this if I didn’t love the movies so much. It’s not my favorite genre and it came out 20 years before I was born, all that said, I’m glad I did. The book is excellent. It has scale without being slow. It’s a book you can’t put down (is that a review cliché? Don’t care. It’s true). The brutal moments feel real and earned. The book deserves its status as a classic.
The Godfather is also interesting to look at in relation to the movie. The parts of this book that didn’t make the screen aren’t terrible, but they’re absolutely a distraction. The story of the singer (Johnny Fontane) from the movie is much improved from the way it was told in the book and the part about plastic surgery? That is almost completely removed (the less said about that the better).
- The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman
If the Game of Thrones series changed how we saw The Lord of the Rings, stripping away some of the clichés and critiquing the conventions it created, then The Magicians series is the doing the same for Narnia and the Potter series. I reviewed the first book a couple years ago and I still think all those things I said are true.
- Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and Various artists (David AJA)
Fraction did a fine job writing this book but it doesn’t matter. This book would be on the list if every speech bubble were gibberish. It’s that beautiful.
- Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
People who say there’s nothing left to do in superhero comics, are usually older white men. This is a fun comic book that’s deeply accessible. This is my go-to piece to recommend in kids books.
- Magic Goes Away by Larry Niven
This book is a trifle, but it’s a damn fine trifle. I read Ringworld this year, as well, which is supposed to be Niven’s masterpiece, but I would read this book again, before I picked up the next Ringworld book. It’s just faster and more fun.
- Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
This book scared the crap out of me. VanderMeer’s book on writing is great too.
- Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
I read this and The Rosie Project, because Bill Gates recommended them, and I liked both a lot. Brosh has a singular mind and the way she talks about ambition, depression and life in the internet era is unique. Her prose and comics are strange, funny and powerful. It’s a book that makes you happy for the author, because you feel that you know her after you’ve read it.
- Mo’meta Blues by Questlove
Worth reading just for the album reviews – very uneven – good enough that I’d read it again.
- Daredevil (Mark Waid and Chris Samnee run)
By changing the tone, Waid zagged on a character that has been zigging for about 40 years. Samnee’s art is fantastic and perfect for the sunny disposition of the story (Paolo Rivera is no slouch either).
- Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker
No one explains social science better than Pinker. The arguments are completely compelling.
Books I didn’t get into for whatever reason: Red Shirts by John Scalzi and Authority by Jeff VanderMeer. If somebody loves those and wants to talk me into them, I’m down to be converted.