Fall is a good time for books that will destroy your everything. It’s not winter, when disaffection can stretch on into misery. Fall? There are pumpkins to carve, fallen leaves to jump into, and forget seasonal affective disorder–there’s still enough sun to keep you from the black pit of despair we call deep winter. I read a lot of crime fiction in the fall, and a lot of gorey, existential horror. And ok, a lot of animal books. A surprising number of my fellow WWAC writers are of like mind!
But lest you think this is a list is nothing but blood, guts, and meanness, there’s some Sabrina the Teenage Witch in there to lighten up the mood. Pull up a chair. It’s time for WWAC’s fall reading picks.
“I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte.” So begins Dashiell Hammet’s Red Harvest. I’m not quoting it so you can savour the line. You don’t savour Hammett, so much as you experience it. Hammett novels need character charts–not because there are so many speaking parts, but because there are so many bodies full of lead. The prose, likewise, is so brisk and so tight, that you won’t see the resolution coming until it lays you out flat. It’s the Contintental Op narrating in that line, the mean as shit Pinkerton agent who appears in several other Hammett novels. His job in Red Harvest is ostensibly to investigate a murder, but mainly, to kill his way through a city that lives up to its nickname. André Gide once called Red Harvest “the last word in atrocity, cynicism, and horror,” and damn if it isn’t. It’s Poisonville: nobody gets out clean.
Michael Alan Nelson, Declan Shalvey, and Alejandro Aragon
This series bridges the gap between 28 Days Later and unnecessary sequel 28 Weeks Later. It suffers sometimes, from doing the dirty work of giving Weeks a reason for being, but it’s got its own work to do. Namely, to follow the inimitable Selena, and a troupe of adventurous but foolish journalists through the soon to be repatriated wastelands of Scotland and England. The journalists want the scoop: what’s it been like in the Infected UK, and what’ll it be like for those survivors who choose to return? They track down Selena, now a resident of French refugee camp, and convince her to be their guide. It’s unclear why she aggress, and the series spends a lot of time on the question–hang on till the end, I promise you’ll have some feelings about the answer. The art here is competent but rarely inspired, but if you’re a fan of 28 Days Later (and you are, aren’t you?), then you’ll appreciate this pitch-perfect continuation. And hey, those Templesmith covers are incredible.
Before the late, great Satoshi Kon was an anime director, he was a manga artist, and Tropic of the Sea is his first full-length work translated into English. For decades, Yosuke’s family shrine has been secretly protecting a mermaid’s egg, but when Yosuke’s father reveals the egg’s existence on television, their coastal town risks incurring the wrath of the sea. Kon’s detailed, expressive artwork shows the influence of Katsuhiro Otomo (not surprising, since Kon cut his teeth as an assistant on AKIRA), and the story’s dreamlike fantasy is recommended for fans of his film Paprika. An early work by a master creator.
On the (furry) nose? Maybe so. But when I think of seasonal comics, the rich autumnal colors of David Petersen’s ink-and-watercolors leap immediately to mind. In this first adventure of the series guards Kenzie, Saxon and Lieam are dispatched on a simple mission to find a missing grain merchant, only to uncover a plot that risks shaking the foundations of their world. It’s a perfect all-ages read for curling up in an armchair with some tea or hot chocolate. And yes, everyone’s a mouse.
Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson
Also, spinning out of the charmingly-illustrated-unfunny-animals theme, Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s Beasts of Burden, a poignant and creepy supernatural mystery series starring household pets.
– Mai Pucik
I can’t recommend them through experience yet, but I invite everybody to join me in summoning up some vintage Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Mister Kitty featured an excerpt recently – date trouble, inflatable doll, drive-in, magic – and I guess I’m just a sucker.
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
If you’re like last-week me, pick up Saga; this-week me wants to evangelise. It’s mean enough (“realistic”? Whatever) to atmospherically echo the autumn wind that bites through your tights and makes the laughs, sweetness, and rich, RICH creativity all the snugglier.
Tomb of Dracula
And last but never least: Tomb of Dracula, babies. It’s a year-round staple.
For me, nothing says Fall/Halloween more than Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For older stories, anything from the Tales series (Tales of the Slayers and Tales of Vampires) are just fun additions to the Buffy-verse. In October, Angel & Faith volume 4, Buffy the Vampire Slayer volume 4, and Willow volume 1 come out just in time for Halloween!
Gene Luen Yang’s epic Boxers and Saints, which came out last month. There’s never a bad time to learn about the social constructs that connect, constrict, and sustain us, and Yang writes about transitions – both personal and collective – like nobody else can.
Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
Autumn is prime comic reading season, folks. No more worrying about your books getting ruined by sand and sweat, yet plenty of days left to sit outside and sip your tea or coffee and read as the chill air approaches. It’s also a good time to catch up on the critically acclaimed gothic horror comics of late. Artist Gabriel Rodriguez and writer Joe Hill’s Locke & Key is wrapping up its five year run this October, so no more excuses for putting this one off. The story follows the Locke family’s cross country move after a brutal attack leaves them emotionally devastated. As they try to start life anew, more tragedy and magic greet them in Lovecraft, Massachusetts.
Another gothic read worth checking out that doesn’t get nearly enough buzz is Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising. After waking up in her own shallow grave, Rachel wonders home to her loved ones and slowly adjusts to life after death, or something in between. In Moore’s nightmarish world, no one ever quite reacts appropriately to the ambiguously dead. The series is only up to issue 21, so get in early on this one.