J.H Williams III

Underdog Literature, April 2013: 15 fresh or urgent, off-the-wall titles

Underdog Literature Apr 2013 WordPress.

Here are 15 books that caught my interest lately.

Fresh, off-beat, quirky or curious titles that might deserve more attention:


01: RON CURRIE, jr.: „Flimsy little plastic Miracles“, 340 pages, February 2013.

02: HELEN GARNER, „Monkey Grip“, 245 pages, 1977. [Australia]

03: CHESTER HIMES, „If he hollers, let him go“, 224 pages, 1945. [Racism]

04: JULIE KIBLER, „Calling me Home“, 336 pages, 2012. [Romance / Mainstream]

05: DANA JOHNSON: „Elsewhere, California“, 304 pages, 2012.

06: KAREN BOYE, „Kallocain“, 224 pages, 1940. [Dystopia / SF]

07: JAKOV LIND, „Landscape in Concrete“, 190 pages, 1968.

08: LAWRENCE THORNTON, „Imagining Argentina“, 240 pages, 1987.

09: TYLER McMAHON, „How The Mistakes were made“, 352 pages, 2011. [Novel about a Courtney-Love-like punk / grunge singer.]

10: PETER NATHANIEL MALAE, „Our frail Blood“, 448 pages, February 2013.

11: MICHAEL KIMBALL, „Big Ray“, 192 pages, 2012.

12: STEVE ABEE, „Johnny Future“, 208 pages, 2009.

13: GOLDA FRIED, „Nellcott is my Darling“, 160 pages, 2001. [Young Adult; Toronto]

14: VIKKI WAKEFIELD, „Friday Brown“, 345 pages, 2012. [Young Adult]

15: FRANK DEFORD, „Alex. The Life of a Child“, 142 pages, 1983. [Biography / Death]


Here are five books that made me curious enough to buy them:

01: SHUSAKO ENDO, „When I whistle“ / „Eine Klinik in Tokyo“,  273 pages, 1979. [Japanese psychological novel about the war generation]

02: NATACHA APPANAH, „The Last Brother“, 165 pages, 2007.

03: ERLEND LOE, „Naive. Super“, 208 pages, 1996. [Finnish Young Adult Bestseller]

04: DEZSő KOSTOLÁNYI, „Skylark“, 222 pages, 1924. [Hungary]

05: IRENE SABATINI, „The Boy Next Door“, 416 pages, 2009. [Zimbabwe]


…and finally, here are three books that I read – and that were really good:

5 of 5 stars: „Batwoman: Hydrology“ (J.H. WILLIAMS III, W. HAYDEN BLACKMAN), 160 pages, 2012. The sequel, „To Drown the World“, is very good, too. If you want to start at the beginning – here’s a reading list I made for the character, from 2011.]

4 of 5 stars: TOBIAS WOLFF, „This Boy’s Life“, 304 pages, 1988. [Autobiography / Coming-of-Age]

4 of 5 stars: 05: SONALI DERANIYAGALA, „Wave“, 274 pages, March 2013. [Memoir about the 2004 tsunami]


related Posts:


The best place to start reading… Batwoman (and Renee Montoya!)

This is part 2 of my 24-part-series “Super-Heroes: Best Place to start” [Link to complete list… here!].


You’re interested in Batwoman [Link] / Kate Kane [Link]?

To me, the best place to start is:

“Batwoman: Elegy” by Greg Rucka (Writing) and John H. Williams III (Art), a trade paperback collection [Link: review] published in 2010.


What’s the appeal of… Kate Kane?

A socialite, a military brat, a proactive, aggressive vigilante with a personality, every bit as intense as Bruce Wayne…

Ever since Kate Kane was introduced in 2006, she provoked great character moments and raised smart questions on the nature of morality, duty and loss. A mature, charismatic hero – and the first high-profile lesbian protagonist in superhero comics.


Kate’s main storyline starts in „Elegy“. But her foes, friends and romantic foils were introduced in other, earlier „Batman“ series.

For the whole picture, please read:

…as well as „Gotham Central“, a Greg Rucka / Ed Brubaker series that (co-)stars Renee Montoya, the most important side character / romantic foil in „Batwoman“:

after this – lengthy – backstory, the Batwoman character gets introduced in an important ensemble story (co-)starring Renee Montoya:


both Kate’s and Renee’s story continue in:


If you’re okay with missing *some* details, I recommend you skip these more peripheral and / or weaker volumes:

for a complete list of Kate’s appearances, please see [Link]


common problems / grievances in “Batwoman” books:

  • Kate’s family has seen much drama, and Kate’s love life is equally complex. Since most „Batwoman“ characters bottle up their feelings *very* hard, it constantly feels like important conversation just… fails to happen: The comic has many cold, angry and bitter character moments.
  • Both Kate and Renee are fan favorite characters. Still, months can pass without either of them making an appearance. Where *is* Renee, right now? What is her status?
  • Introduced in 4 different books and drawn by too many different artists, Kate’s main foes, the cultists of the ancient „religion of crime“ have been a part of DC comics for 10 years… but still don’t feel conceptually strong or well-realized.


Is the current monthly “Batwoman” book, launched in September 2011, any good?

Yes. Even though Greg Rucka, the writer who created Kate Kane in 2006, has left DC Comics, the current „Batwoman“ storyarc, „Hydrology“, is even better-paced and more complex than „Elegy“. It’s a busy story with lots of side characters and backstory – but it still works as a starting point, and draws you in very quickly.

Update, 2014: The first 4 books of the new „Batwoman“ series are excellent and tell one continuous and exciting story. Collections 5 and 6 are pretty bad and can be ignored.

Interested in other comic book heroes / heroines?

I’d recommend the character „The Huntress“ (Helena Bertinelli), „Manhunter“ (with vigilante attorney Kate Spencer) and „Starman“ (Jack Knight), another artful, atmospheric and more mature series.

Plus: the 1990ies DC cult series „Chase“, drawn by J.H. Williams III, has story connections… and seems to have a similar tone / appeal.

Here’s my full list [Link]!


related Links:


my German comic book journalism: