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by Mark London Williams

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Autumnal greetings, dear readers

So Rick was off a month, and I was off a month, and I had to move out of a house, and my father died.

In fact, my father's passing, and the house moving, happened the exact same week. Four hundred miles apart.

I didn't get up to the Bay Area -- where he died at home, surrounded by my mom, and two sisters -- until the following week, after leaving a bunch of unpacked boxes in my downsized new dwelling. packing boxes

I did make it up there in time to drive my mom, and my sister, over to get dad's ashes and bring them back to the house. A couple days after filing this, I'm heading back up north for his memorial service.

Meanwhile, I'm still unpacking in the new place.

So that's what's been happening to me in the interim, and I certainly hope these last two months for you have not been too wrenching, and the transitions have been easy ones.

Have I been reading comics in this interval, you ask? Well, I've certainly been unpacking them, and since I'm going from the full-sized house I'd been renting, to a generally more relaxing guest house, I've had to transcend my usual storage and shelving habits and really pay attention to what goes where.

Additionally, the copious graphic novel collection that eldest son left at my place is now combined with my own shelves full of older stuff, and the review copies I get (I guess a silver lining of the "PDF" era of reviewing is that there will be fewer "new" boxes next time!), and they're all scrambled together, while I figure out what goes into the living room book case (where I have titles that might intrigue visitors who don't read comics much, and/or things I go back to a lot), and what goes in the bigger bookcase down the hall.

Not that "down the hall" is all that far from where the Alan Moore and R. Crumb and Batman books are in the living room.

Boxers Besides all this sorting, I have managed to get in a little reading this month. Of one big fat opus -- namely Gene Luen Yang's Boxers, the second part of his historical duo (a "diptych" as publisher First Second calls it) along with Saints, which I reviewed in my last outing here.

Like Saints, this is set during China's Boxer rebellion, though now we're following a male character, Bao, who is on the opposite side of the conflict from Four-Girl, our protagonist in the other book.

They briefly figure in each other's story, in a harrowing way, and "moving the camera" here, to a different POV, actually makes that intersection more harrowing still (since we already know what's coming). And Bao, really, is an even more tragic figure that Four-Girl.

Boxers/Saints Caught up in trying to do the right thing in standing up to foreign imperialism and occupation, and becoming part of a guerrilla army, he also becomes, essentially, a monster, capable of the same cruelties he insists he's fighting against.

And when Bao and his Brother-Disciples of the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, finally march to Peking (as it was called back then) accompanied by the pantheon of Chinese gods that Yang uses as a motif for the inner lives -- and turmoils -- of his characters (along with their flashes of literally operatic grandness), everyone's cruelties come up against everyone else's.

No one is going to "win," in any meaningful sense of the word, in this conflict.

Yang, in these two books gives us history as tragedy, with little farce to lighten the mood, though he always has a deft touch -- both as writer and artist -- with his characters.

And though you can read the books in any order, I think that sense of tragedy is heightened by reading Saints first, and then Boxers. Though I'd be curious to hear from someone who read them in reverse order.

Meanwhile, both books are going on the living room shelf at the moment. It's the kind of stuff you like to get into peoples' hands, whether they read comics or not. Or, perhaps, especially if they don't.

And whaddya know -- in just another eyeblink, Mr. Klaw and I will have to start coming up with our year's end lists.

Boy, that was fast.

Copyright © 2013 Mark London Williams

Mark London Williams wrote the Danger Boy time travel series, and a contributor to the fiction anthology Magical Mayhem Info on his work can be found at marklondonwilliams.com. His horror novella for adults, Ghostdance: Showdown at Carthay Circle was recently released on eBook platforms. Mark gets Twittery @mlondonwmz.


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