What I’ve Been Reading 2010: Part 3

3. The work of Nick Spencer.

Nick Spencer is a relative newcomer in comics, his previous works such as Existence 2.0 may have passed me by, but when a new series from Image, Morning Glories, began picking up acclaim and hype, I picked up the first issue. Morning Glories is simply the finest new ongoing series that came out of 2010, coming across like the evil bastard child of Harry Potter, Runaways and Lost. The mysteries are nicely mysterious (hopefully with the added payoff that Lost so deperately lacked) with the origins of the school and its various methods of teaching, beign kept under wraps for the moment. However, what makes Morning Glories shine is the characterisation. It would be easy for Spencer to write cookie cutter characters with little to no personalities and try and let the mysteries carry the series, but he doesn’t rely on anything like that. Each of the characters is rounded and interesting. This isn’t to say the mysteries aren’t worth the price of admission, from the first page onwards you’ll be hooked. Spencer has also re-launched DC’s T.H.U.N.D.E.R Agents, a title about a team of superheroes who work for the UN under the knowledge that their superpowers will eventually kill them, if you want to see what Spencer’s writing is like, have a read of these captions from the final few pages of issue one of this series:

“Then let’s say, just when you were at your lowest point, someone came to you and offered you a choice. A chance to change everything. A way to redeem yourself, to rewrite your own history…to make the world-to make yourself-forget your past. But even more than that, a chance to do great things, things most people can only dream of. A chance to be a hero. To save the world. And this is what we did. We gave them that choice. And once we accepted our offer-we equipped them….we trained them…we sent them in to rescue Raven and destroy Spider…and then we killed them. All of them.”

Perfect.

2. Lean on Pete by Will Vlautin

Willy Vlautin writes the American working class better than almost any other writer alive today. As the singer/songwriter behind the excellent band Richmond Fontaine, he can say more about the lives of people in three minutes than some writers fail to in 600 pages, so it only seemed apt that he became a writer. His first two novels, ‘The Motel Life’ and ‘Northline’ were both brilliant pieces of work, and his third, ‘Lean on Pete’ came out earlier this year. Telling the story of fifteen year old Charley, who moves to Portland with his father and starts working in what only a sadist would describe as a stables. The writing is excellent, and the story is capitvating, bordering on a socio-realism that books like Kes are famous for achieving.

1. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

Skippy Dies is a work of art. Pure and simple. It’s a nearly seven hundred page behemoth, the kind of length usually reserved for a Harry Potter novel, and yet it’s more akin to The Wasp Factory or The Rehearsal. It begins with the titular death of Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster, a geeky boarding school Irish boy who chokes on a donut and dies in front of his best friend, but not before leaving an ominous message in strawberry jam on the floor. From there the story jumps back to months before the incident and covers a whole host of characters, the highlight of which is Ruprecht, Skippy’s roommate, a homeschooled wannabe Stephen Hawking, who spends most of the book trying to break across into the eleventh dimension in order to discover a universe made of beer. The book was longlisted for the Booker Prize and it’s a wonder it didn’t fare better, it’s one of the finest novel’s of the decade, one of the funniest and most heartwarming books, and also contains a scene where rap music induces mass vomiting at a high school prom. In my books, there doesn’t get more praise than that.

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