Look, I just really like shrimp, okay? So when I got one of those $10 shrimp trays from QFC, I thought I was going to enjoy a nice little treat, with a wedge of lemon and that little cup of red sauce.
Instead, within a few hours, I thought I might actually be dying; symptoms of food poisoning took over my body and wracked it with searing pain that lasted days. (Sidenote: Big thanks to HealthNet for telling the emergency nurse line that my health coverage had been canceled when, in fact, it had not! That really helped the situation!!!)
It is stupid and gross that our minds live inside of biological organisms that must eat even smaller organisms that in turn may be infected with invisibly tiny organisms that, in turn once again, have the power to destroy us or at the very least force us to interact with health insurance companies.
Anyway, after a few days of barely keeping any food down and watching the worst episodes of Star Trek (the one where Wesley is sentenced to death for stepping on a plant!), I recovered, and as I write this I realize that I once again would very much like to eat some shrimp, so I guess I learned literally nothing.
Our fragile meatbags are the topic of several new comic releases this week, and while it makes me feel a little uncomfortable to be reminded of the fact that we are made of mortal goo, it’s probably healthier to accept it and move on — which is just what at least some of these books recommend. Thanks as always to Phoenix for the recommendations!
Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home, has a marvelous new meditation on our relationships with our own bodies, expressed through the strangeness of being creatures of consciousness and of physical form. A comic memoir, the book traces Bechdel’s nearly life-long history of engagement with diets and exercise fads, attempting to mold herself into the physical shape she desires while also wondering why. Why is it not enough to cultivate the mind? Why are we so affected by outward appearances? Why does physical activity have such authority over our emotional state? And is it possible to ever escape consciousness of the self? These may seem like heavy concepts for a picture book, but Bechdel’s reliably comfortable visual style keeps the tone light enough, and her deadpan comedic touches will be a familiar joy to fans of her previous hits. It’s an unlikely sort of anti-self-help book, resolving as it does with the proposition that perhaps we do not need the sort of help that we thought.
Rating: 🏋️🏋️🏋️🏋️ (4/5)
A fascinating look at the weird meatbags we inhabit, The Body Factory introduces us to a young man whose arm must be amputated after a motorcycle accident. So begins a dialogue with an (imagined?) portrait of the pioneering 16th-century surgeon Ambroise Paré, who brings us on a ten-thousand-year tour of amputation, body modification, and transhumanism. From early human societies to imagined futures, the book presents human bodies as a sort of post-conscious sculpture, a work in progress that we have permission to adapt and modify as circumstances require. While holding the book, you may find yourself looking at your own hands and thinking about just how much a part of you they truly are, and how you might adapt to their loss or replacement. Lovely art and a keen sense of humor make the topic surprisingly easy to spend time with. An excellent pairing with the new Bechdel book.
Rating: 💪💪💪💪💪 (5/5)
THE GOOD ASIAN
Edison Hark is a hard-boiled detective in this intriguing Asian-American historical crime noir, set in 1930s San Francisco. A fantastic concept! But alas, I was a bit befuddled as I read — a disembodied narrator often interrupts the dialogue within scenes, asking the reader to track two different simultaneous conversations at the same time; flashback jumps are abrupt; characters are ambiguous introduced; wiggly stems on the speech bubbles are disorienting. But despite these difficulties, I’m hooked. Edison straddles a complex line, a cop who feels the call to defend other Chinese characters from the crushingly racist system in which he himself works. He seeks justice, but in this world, justice isn’t blind — racism renders it explicitly unjust. Meanwhile, the setting is absolutely marvelous, weaving between Chinatown, San Francisco’s Angel Island internment camp, and mansions of the rich and powerful. Artistically, the book perfectly captures the feeling of a classic film noir; and perhaps my confusion as a reader is intentional, all a part of the mystery being woven in this very fresh take on a very old genre.
Rating: 🕵️🕵️🕵️🕵️ (4/5)
ALSO: EVIL BILLIONAIRES, INVISIBLE BOY, and DEADLY LOVESICKNESS
Also of interest this week is a new book called Billionaires: The Lives of the Rich and Powerful, which doesn’t contain any information you didn’t already know: All billionaires are inherently evil, because exploitation is the only way to become a billionaire. Marvel’s launching a new series called Heroes Reborn that shakes up the usual superhero melange by simply retconning many familiar characters into nonexistence; there’s also a great reprint of All New Wolverine, featuring Logan’s clone, Laura. For the youngsters, check out Where Are You, Leopold? 2: Hero in Plain Sight, a fun goofy adventure about an invisible boy on a farm. And those whose lives are defined by existential malaise will be happy (if they are indeed capable of that emotion) to hear that there’s a new Junji Ito book — Lovesickness is exactly as horrifying and disgusting as rippling with terror as you would expect.