ASTRO CITY: Honor Guard by Kurt Busiek and various writers is a collection of one shots dealing with the lesser-known members of Honor Guard such as Hummingbird, Starfighter, Thunderhawk and the Australian Wolf Spider. The stories follow the usual Astro City approach of looking at typical super-heroic situations from an ordinary human perspective; the standout was Wolf Spider’s story due to the depiction of Queenslaw, a takeoff on 1980s syndicated cartoons that captures the tone perfectly (and has a lot of Australian in-jokes — the goal was to make them “Australian stereotypes about Australia” rather than American stereotypes. Overall a fun read, as usual for this series; while I had a couple of stories in single issue format, that’s the last time I’ll have to do that (I stopped buying them when the local shops kept skipping issues for some reason).
ARCHIE: The New Riverdale by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples (cover by Staples, all rights remain with current holder), plus other artists, is the first trade for the new Archie series emphasizing realistic art and somewhat more realistic storylines: will besties Archie and Betty ever recover from the Lipstick Incident? Will Reggie expose Archie’s embarrassing past to Veronica’s father? Will Archie finally find the courage to play guitar in public (it fascinates me that almost fifty years after Sugar Sugar became a hit for the Archies, the idea of Archie as a rocker has stuck around). Staples’ art is awesome but even realistic-ized, this kind of teen story just isn’t my thing. Though I was amused by Waid discussing all the things he and Staples weren’t going to do (“Betty fails her pregnancy test.”) in the end notes.
THE GOLEM AND THE JINNI by Helen Wecker is one of the most thuddingly literal titles ever, but I really loved the book. A golem created to be a Jewish immigrant’s sex slave winds up free and lonely in 1890s New York, as does a jinni imprisoned for centuries in a magic bottle. Needless to say these two crazy kids find each other and bond over their mutual isolation, though set apart by their different temperaments (the golem, placid and subservient, the jinni hot-tempered and rebellious). And then there’s kabbalist who created her, in New York with a scheme to make himself immortal … Alien Life Form Among Us is an old specfic trope, but I think Wecker did a great job with it.