Will's Picks

Will became an avid reader at a young age (thanks to the daring adventures of those master sleuths Frank and Joe Hardy) and has attempted to build a life around books ever since. In addition to working at Phoenix Books as a bookseller, he has worked as a book editor for over thirteen years. He is also a frequent speaker at writers' workshops and literary festivals.

He is a lifelong resident of Rutland, Vermont and currently serves in local government as the president of the Rutland City Board of Aldermen. He lives in a book-filled home with his wife Alison, three children, two dogs, five cats, and a rabbit.
Reviewed by: 
Will
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power Cover Image
By Ryan North (Text by (Art/Photo Books)), Erica Henderson (Illustrator)
$15.99
ISBN: 9780785197027
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Marvel Comics - September 1st, 2015

This book was so much fun! With four decades of comics reading under my belt, this book is exactly what I am looking for in a graphic novel: an optimistic hero, a dash (strong dash) of silliness, and world saving adventures.


As a parent of daughters I also find it a consistent annoyance that so many female superheroes are portrayed in such a questionable manner. I’ve lost count of the number of team books with bulky male heroes clad in head to toe armor, while the wispy female heroes often seem to place cleavage and bare legs at the top of their costume must have list. So having Squirrel Girl be a strong lead, with a realistic costume and body proportions is a real plus. It is nice to have an entertaining comic I can share with my young daughter without qualms. The book reprints the first four issues of the comic book series and includes the letters pages from the comics. Normally this would strike me as annoying filler, but Squirrel Girl is such a revolutionary, affirming character that in this instance it is enjoyable to share in the excitement of other readers discovering the series and building a community.

The book abounds in novel ideas. That necessary recap of the previous issue that comics can’t seem to escape? Done here as a series of tweets that are so fun I would miss them if recaps were deemed unnecessary.

Additionally, any comic book, whether it is technically a solo title or not, is essentially a team book—a good supporting cast makes or breaks a book with a fringe lead. This book is off to a good start with SG’s roommate Nancy Whitehead. Nancy is a well-written, quirky, not-quite-everyman. She provides a fine snarky counterbalance to Squirrel Girl’s naïve optimism.

This book is tied into Marvel Comics regular continuity. This is a plus and a minus. As a long-time comics reader I love the way the author is playing with the Marvel Universe here with a unique but faithful rendering. After this arc I will never look at Galactus the same again. It took a character I didn’t previously care much about and really redefined him in a way I supremely enjoyed. However, this book tosses three long-time Marvel villains into the mix, all of whom have fairly significant back-stories. Newer readers, especially younger ones, may be a little confused as to the whos and whats of some of the characters in play. Squirrel Girl would benefit from having some original villains without so much Marvel baggage.

At the end of the day though, I strongly recommend this to anyone who likes some comedy in their comics; readers in search of positive, female leads; and any fan of the Marvel Universe—it is worth a read to see just how much the envelope of existing continuity can be pushed while remaining faithful to decades of comics history. I will definitely read future volumes of this series.
--Will


Reviewed by: 
Will
Outcast by Kirkman & Azaceta Volume 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9781632150530
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Image Comics - February 10th, 2015

This is a well-done, thoroughly creepy start to a new series involving demonic possession with the main character agonizing over and then attempting to solve the question of why demons seem determined to get to him through the people he loves.

The artwork pairs perfectly with the narrative to set the tone, making this a great book to read in one sitting, late at night, under the light of a single lamp.

The main characters are fleshed out in their portrayal as flawed human beings who are attempting to get a handle on the unexplainable. They know they are in over their heads but do not realize just how incredibly badly. I like these characters and want to see them succeed, I want to see them victorious, but given the nature and the power of what they are up against I just do not see that happening.

So I will keep reading—with a sense of dread for what is to come, with a strong desire to know what comes next. I finished this volume and immediately ordered the next.

I recommend this to anyone with an interest in non-superhero comics or a taste for horror stories. A generous amount of gore and sex does make this inappropriate for younger readers, but mature middle school readers and up should be able to handle the contents with just a few nightmares and lingering moments peering cautiously into dark shadows.


Reviewed by: 
Will
Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family Cover Image
Email or call for price.
ISBN: 9780812995411
Availability: Special Order
Published: Random House - October 20th, 2015

This is a wonderfully written book about a husband and wife that adopt identical twin boys only to discover that one identifies as female. While examining the issues and contraversies from all sides, this is "compassionate journalism" at its best and the account of the family as they evolve from their initial confusion to a determination to protect their daughter and help her through her transition is moving. This could be a wonderful roadmap for families facing similar issues or inspiration for any parent (or sibling) who loves a child that does not conform to society's norms.