This summer I profiled Marcus Henderson, the farmer, educator, and activist who started the gardens in Cal Anderson Park during the Black Lives Matter protests. At the time, the Internet was derisive — how could those protestors think that their tiny little gardens could possibly produce enough food to feed the hundreds of people packing in the park?
The answer, of course, is that the protestors didn’t think that; the gardens were never about feeding everyone; they were about much larger issues of Black land ownership. Sometimes, a garden is more than just the bugs and sprouts and soil.
I thought a lot about Marcus as I read The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food, one of the excellent new graphic publications hitting shelves this week. (As always, thanks to Phoenix for bringing it to our attention!) On the surface, the book is about starting a garden wherever you happen to be situated — not for the purpose of becoming your sole source of food, which no garden could ever be; but for a larger purpose of transforming your relationship with the out-of-doors.
THE COMIC BOOK GUIDE TO GROWING FOOD
Has there ever been a better time for this book? The spring growing season is barrelling toward us after a loooong indoorsy year, and we’re all bouncing off the walls of the apartments we’ve been stuck inside. We’re desperate for a reason to go outside, but nobody’s vaccinated yet so we need something solitary to do. So! Let’s all stick our hands in the dirt and make food come out. The Comic Book Guide to Growing Food is a lovely introduction to a super-rewarding pastime, starting with the most basic basics for people who have never managed to keep a houseplant alive for longer than a week. With nicely illustrated guides, the book walks you through the process of choosing a location, figuring out what edible plants you want to grow, and how to deal with setbacks like bugs and unhealthy soil. As someone who’s been growing his own food for years, I’m glad to see that this book sets some realistic expectations — some guides like this make wild promises that you’ll be able to fully live off of your garden, which is absurd. Instead, this book reframes edible gardening as a pleasant, relaxing hobby that’ll yield a few nice treats now and then. Nice.
You would not be out of place to wonder “why now?” when looking at this collection of Deep Space Nine mysteries — if any installment in the franchise was going to get a new line of stories, I would have expected that it would be TNG since there’s that new Picard show. (What a disappointment it turned out to be, by the way; but that’s a rant for another time.) However! It turns out that there’s never a wrong time for a moody noir murder mystery that centers grumbling Constable Odo, and I truly adore what they’ve done with the stories in this paperback. If I may get super nerdy for a moment (in the midst of a comic book review): I’ve always felt that DS9 came along at the exact wrong time, attempting to do a show that was serious and serial before television really learned how to do that a decade later with shows like Battlestar Galactica. The four crime stories in this collection are crafted with the expertise that I wish showrunners had in the mid-90s, transforming the space station into a moody city of twisting alleys, scowling informants, and ambiguous moral dilemmas that feel at times like a Hitchcock film in space. This genre is a natural fit for the premise that was established for DS9 and not always paid off on; the more I think about these books, the more my curiosity shifts from “why now” to “why did this take so long?”
MORE DC FUTURE STATE
DC’s great big honking marathon of futuristic stories barrels ahead this week: In Superman vs Imperious Lex, our hero confronts what is essentially a planet of Q-Anon delusionists; Aquaman places the focus on Andy, a young Aquawoman; and the Legion of Superheroes has been fractured by betrayal. Of these, I’m most intrigued by the Superman storyline, written by Mark Russell — you might know him from the shockingly good reimagining of Flintstones and Snagglepuss. Both of those stories were orders of magnitude smarter, funnier, and more meaningful than they needed to be, and it’s a pleasure to see Russell doing more great work with Superman.