Feathers, Avengers, pandemics and a feral child: this week’s reading.

FEATHERS by Jorge Corona is a fantasy graphic novel in which a noblewoman’s daughter and a bird-boy work together to stop a mysterious Someone who’s kidnapping kids from the rougher areas of the city. I think this is targeted to a younger demographic than me, but I enjoyed it.

So as part of rereading the Silver Age, I’m now up to 1963 (which I’ve discussed in a couple of Atomic Junkshop posts here and here) which is when the Avengers debuted. So on impulse I ordered AVENGERS: The Origin by Joe Casey and Phil Noto, which expands the first issue into a five-issue miniseries (I’ve often joked about how many Silver Age stories would be expanded into a Big Crossover Event if they’d done them today — apparently I wasn’t wrong).

This updated version (Rick Jones’ Teen Brigade are now sound like a proto-antifa) resolves some of the oddities of the original tale, such as a circus stumbling across the Hulk and thinking he’s a giant robot they can use in their show and gives the Wasp more character and capability than Lee and Kirby gave her. It also does a good job on showing these new heroes interacting awkwardly with each other (though Casey did better in his previous two Earth’s Mightiest Heroes retcon minis — and Mark Waid did it better in JLA: Year One). However it never addresses something that leaps out at me reading the original story — the complete absence of Bruce Banner. At the time, Banner used a ray to turn himself into the Hulk. Avengers #1 never explains why the Hulk is just leaping across the desert and even Bruce’s sidekick Rick Jones never mentions Banner (given how much the Hulk’s short-lived first series kept rebooting him, I’m guessing this was another reboot, to see if Hulk worked better without Banner).

I’ll make the minor complaint that while I largely enjoyed Noto’s art, his view of Asgard is way too neon — it’s feels like Vegas.

THE RULES OF CONTAGION: Why Things Spread — and Why They Stop by Adam Kucharski argues the same rules that shape pandemics and analyzing pandemics also affect financial crises (Too Big To Fail banks being the equivalent of superspreaders for the 2008 crisis), how memes and false news spread online and the problems of research (you can’t ethically launch a pandemic to see how it spreads, and some people debate the ethics of spreading rumors). While I’m normally suspicious of this kind of one-size-fits-all explanations, Kucharski knows his stuff (he’s worked in both epidemiology and the finance industry) and he’s clear that one size doesn’t fit all: despite the popular concept of memes miraculously going viral, they don’t usually spread both fast and wide. Interesting.

BEASTS OF EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCE by Ruth Emmie Lang tells the story of Weylyn Grey, a feral child who can also control the weather (though often badly), talk to animals, grow plants instantly and teach himself to read overnight. While this starts off with a nice folktale feel,Weylyn, powers aside, is too bland as a character, not changing much from where he starts out. He’s more the excuse for the story, which is told almost all from other people’s viewpoints than its heart, and in the end that runs out of steam.

#SFWApro. Cover by Jack Kirby, all rights remain with current holder.

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