I still haven't tackled a bell hooks book yet; it's next on the agenda. But I have just read some more comics, and I want to talk about them.
Let me skip through the others first. I say others, because not long ago I realised I had a favourite comic ever, and today I read the last of it and I teared up. But I'll come to that.
I borrowed some more Moore - proper Alan Moore - and some Brian K. Vaughn this time around. The Moore was Tom Strong volumes one and two - a far cry from the magical philosophy of Promethea. Tom Strong is Moore's stab at unadulterated fun, a pulp adventure comic and modern heir to Doc Savage and Jules Verne-syle science adventurism. It's pulp adventure informed by Alan Moore's intelligence and flair, of course, but while it's excellent fun it's not deep. I enjoyed it a lot, though.
Half of the Vaughn were volumes three and four of Ex Machina. This is a modern, political fable; the world's only superhero, a man who can talk to machines, gives up his costume and jetpack after saving the second tower on September 11, 2001 to become mayor of New York city. There are, of course, some superpowered hi-jinks, but in a way it's like a comic book superhero version of Boston Legal - the main story is a hook on which to hang socio-political commentary. It's good, very good; Mitchell Hundred, the mayor and ex-"Great Machine", is a very modern and "realistic" superhero, himself influenced by comic books. He feels like a real character, and he's serious about doing good, even if he doesn't always manage to get it right. And the book has lots of great touches - Mitchell's sexuality is not so much ambiguous as dismissed as irrelevant; his popularity rises and falls, rather than heading in one direction; there's a good mix of "science" and "magic" (both of the comic book variety) , and there's not an issue that's shied away from.
But for all that, it's not my favourite comic. It's not Y: The Last Man. I read the final two volumes of Y today, and I cried a little.
Y: The Last Man is a post-apocalyptic tale in which every male mammal is killed - save two. The survivors of the "gendercide" are Yorick Brown, a young escapologist and son of a congresswoman, and the Capuchin monkey he'd taken on to train as a helper animal, whom he named Ampersand. It's neither a utopia nor dystopia in the usual sense; it feels distinctly realistic. Society doesn't universally fall nor rise from the ashes of the disaster; the main characters travel all across the world in their quest to find both a way for the human race to move forward and, eventually, for Yorick's girlfriend, Beth, and along they way they encounter humanity at its best and worst and everything in between. They also meet hardened secret agents, assassins, cult leaders, mad scientists, religious zealots, patriotic soldiers, optimists, pessimists, heroes and villains...every one a woman. And they all feel like women, too - not just male characters drawn as women. But then I'm a guy, so I might have it all wrong. Perhaps bell hooks will set me straight.
The art is great - the whole series was drawn by Pia Guerra, and I think her distinctive character designs helped make the whole 60 issue shebang feel like a genuinely long journey. It doesn't hurt that the story takes place over nearly five years. And by the end of it, I felt every step had been worth it, and I shed a tear for friends lost. It's perhaps one of my favourite endings to any story I've ever read.
Here's hoping the rumours are wrong and Shia LaBeouf isn't playing Yorick in the upcoming film version. To be honest, I'm much rather there was a television series based very closely on the whole comic - it'd be an extraordinary work.
I think that'll be it for comics for the moment. Even with only ten books to go on project Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors, I should get back on track - and in any case, if anything written by a man can get me ready to read black feminism, then it's Y: The Last Man.