104 in 2014 : If I were in America, July would be Ice Cream Month

Instead, it has been the coldest winter for seven years, which is a great excuse to read graphic novels in the bath.

70 Afterlife With Archie : Escape From Riverdale

This is an excellent graphic novel. I don’t agree with the people quoted on the cover who say that it is “truly scary”, but I expected it to be as tired as everything else in the zombie genre, and it simply wasn’t. The storyline is simple, but each of the main cast get a moment of depth, and some of the supporting characters take up huge amounts of page space, fleshing them out in really appealing ways. I’m sorry that Life With Archie  is ending, but Afterlife with Archie is a great consolation prize.

I thought the original plotting was clever. The author deftly tucked Sabrina the Teenaged Witch out of the story early, so that the obvious question of her absence is dealt with. His choice of Jughead, who has been wearing a crown these forty years, as his King of the Zombies is a lovely touch. The way love draws characters together, but by doing that spreads the infection, then gives them the drive to resist it, is handled well.

When I said the book wasn’t truly scary, I don’t mean that it lacks horror. Betty Cooper’s role in the book, in particular, is to be broken over and over and yet still hold it together. There’s one trivial little jump scare, which is not frightening. What’s horrible is that the situation shows just how little love or support her closest friends give her.  Even in the middle of an apocalypse, as she’s cradling a weeping Archie in her hands, he can’t verbalize that he chose to fall apart with her instead of Veronica because she’s the one he loves, rather than the one he aspires to. Betty’s best friend is oblivious to the danger Betty’s family faces, and can’t even recognize Betty’s parents by sight. If you allow yourself to feel for the characters, then there’s some deep and terrible stuff going on in this book.

Recommended primarily for people familiar with the Archie series, because the underlying relationships are important to the plot.

71 Superman/Batman: Night and Day

There are so many excellent graphic novels each reader has yet to try, and this is not one of them. It is hard to recommend. As an example, it ends with a Bizzaro story tied in with Darkest Night, about which few readers will care now that the brand-wide crossover is complete.

72 Coffin Hill : Forest of the Night

There are many great creators whose words on the cover promise excellence inside. I could not see it. This may be a failure on my part, as a reader. The first few stories are filled with characters striking rhetorical poses. If you have read early superhero comics, you will be familiar with the sort of “You don’t know how powerful I am!” posturing that villains particularly, but also some of the heroes, used to go on with. This comic has that in spades. It’s been modernized, with some slang, but it is basically one character after another pointing out that they have secrets and are powerful, then not doing anything much. I could not empathize with any of the main characters, because they were too busy throwing broody poses. Each of the original flimsies ends with a hook, where the plot lurches forward a little, but the showdown between the heroine and the villain is absolutely forgettable and is based on having a convenient man nearby to do the killing.

73 – 74 Injustice : Gods Among Us volumes 1 and 2.

Injustice is based on a computer game, in which Superman has become a tyrant. This is far from promising territory for a book, as the idea has been well done in many other series. I enjoyed it though, because it had a very slow burn. Superman’s fall, if indeed in this universe he is going to fall as low as he did in the game that spawned it, is based on his desire to save everyone. Now, that’s also far from new, so it needs to be handled well for the story to be interesting. The authors here show each slow step into tyranny, and why that step seems measured and sensible. You can see Superman integrity gradually cracking under the accumulated weight of the terrible things he needs to do, to get to his goal.

I liked it a great deal, although I can only recommend it for people familiar with the old DC universe, or the computer game. At the end of volume 2, Superman’s ascendancy as tyrant is far from complete, although you can see how close it is.There is no concluding act, because the comic is a prequel to the game. The game’s narrative, of  resistance to the tyrant, is essentially is missing ending, if you just read the comics.

75  Black Canary and Zatanna  : Bloodspell

Paul Dini is an odd but creative author. He likes his comics light, and he writes female characters well. He does seem to have a contractual obligation to make one sex joke an issue, but provided that you can deal with knowing far too much about Black Canary’s love life, that’s not a deal-breaker. The plot is simple, and it is handled quickly. The main point is to develop the two female leads, and their relationship. The story is set in the old DC Universe, and I think it shows the weakness of the New 52 concept. I understand that by resetting everything to zero, new readers never feel left out. It does, however, throw away of lot of interesting material. So long as you like superheroes, and don’t need them to be gritty, this is worth a read.

76: Dilbert : I Sense A Coldness in Your Mentoring

I used to love Dilbert back when I was getting my business degree. He seemed the perfect antidote to my lecturers. They would tell me to my face that staff prefer praise to money, and Dilbert would point out that, strangely, executives who set salaries never gave them their wages back, in exchange for certificates of appreciation. On reading this, though, I didn’t really find it remarkable. It had no new insights, and the jokes were more a comradely “Well, we’re all in this together.” style of humor than actually funny. Hard to recommend if you are already familiar with the series.

and to finish on a book

77: Will Grayson will grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I enjoyed this book. I have discussed it at greater length in another post.

So, to finish the challenge I have to complete 27 books in 5 months. Seems doable. Wish me luck!