68. Star Trek: The Manga by various authors and artists
69-71. Serenity: Those Left Behind, Better Days, and The Shepherd's Tale by Joss Whedon et al
72. The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
73. The User's Guide to the Universe
November doesn't usually leave me with a lot of time for reading, since I spend my time on the bus working on NaNoWriMo, so I decided to catch up on some of my comics reading last month. (The five-minute shuttle trips between the bus station and the office make for good chunks of comic-reading time.)
Scott Pilgrim took on the conceit of "what if life were more like a video game?" pretty awesomely, and the book managed to make me feel sympathetic towards the eponymous character for most of the book even though he doesn't have a lot to recommend him as a person. I liked him as a comic character far more than I would have liked him in real life, at least. But the way the video game tropes were embraced, parodied, and occasionally subverted was a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to watching the movie at some point.
The Star Trek manga basically felt like five short TOS episodes, parsed through a manga lens. It was no more and no less than what I was expecting. If something called "Star Trek: The Manga" sounds like something you'd enjoy, I think you will in fact enjoy it. If not? Well, it does what it says on the tin, is all I'm saying.
The Serenity comics seemed like an excellent way to fill in the gaps and plot holes left by Firefly's premature cancellation and the movie Serenity's departure from the TV series' status quo. Sadly, "filler" is pretty much what they end up feeling like. "Those Left Behind" is just an effort to explain what happened between the end of the series and the beginning of the movie, and so it feels like it was written off of a checklist. "Yep, we covered Inara leaving, Book leaving, and the blue-hands getting replaced by an Operative. Time to call it a day." "Better Days" feels like poorly-thought-out Firefly fanfic; despite its transparent attempt to examine the characters' personalities, the climax of the story comes off as extremely unrealistic. "The Shepherd's Tale" was the best of the three, but even so, it ended up cramming what should have been two seasons' worth of slow, occasional exposition about Book's character into a few brief, rushed-feeling scenes. So, I'm pretty disappointed with that.
The Difference Engine, on the other hand, was fantastic. Gibson and Sterling are widely considered to be the fathers of cyberpunk; this novel, written in 1991, likely renders them something like the godfathers of the steampunk movement - and I don't think it's quite been the same since. A ridiculous majority of modern "steampunk" completely forgets about the "punk" aspect of the term, ignoring the anarchy and the oppressed part of society in favor of well-bred ladies and gentlemen up to their elbows in engine grease, seeking swashbuckling adventures. Happily (and unsurprisingly), Gibson and Sterling's transfusion of their cyberpunk sensibilities into the bright morning of the Industrial Revolution works quite well, particularly the concept of information and knowledge being more important than issues of class or birth.