What should the Avengers read?

by Cassie Hall, et al., April 24, 2018, first appearing on Novelist Blog

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War opened in the U.S. last weekend, and its sprawling cast of heroes and villains offers an irresistible readers’ advisory opportunity. Below, NoveList staff share book recommendations for their favorite MCU characters.

T’Challa (Black Panther)

Oh, T’Challa, we love you, and want to pick the perfect books for you. Bear with me, I have a lot of thoughts here. First, I choose the graphic novel Malika: Warrior Queen, by Roye Okupe. Malika, like T’Challa, is a warrior and ruler in Africa, with strong ties to her countrymen (and, hello, graphic novel?). To embrace his love of Wakanda, a nation that thrives on its technological advancements, T’Challa would likely enjoy Everfair, by Nisi Shawl, a steampunk story set in Africa. T’Challa obviously has the utmost respect for the strong women in his life — Shuri, Nakia, Okoye — so chances are he would enjoy books featuring strong female protagonists. How about the Akata Witch fantasy series by Nnedi Okorafor? And, since he’s so totally awesome, he would share his books with his fellow Wakandans (or donate them to the public library when he finished them). –Suzanne Temple

Shuri

I’m assuming that Shuri, the smartest person in the MCU (fight me), has already read allllll the STEM books, and so I think she might want to try something different. Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper Cypher series features several elements that will feel familiar to Shuri — ancestral magic, people with unusual abilities, and a powerful heroine — but it’s set in contemporary Brooklyn, the kind of place that Shuri can explore now that Wakanda has emerged from isolation. Also, while she clearly doesn’t need fashion advice, Shuri might enjoy browsing Amber Keyser’s Sneaker Century. –Rebecca Honeycutt

Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier)

Much like his BFF (truly…these guys are old) Steve Rogers, Bucky will eventually need to catch up on pop culture. What better way to get him up to speed than by exploring concepts close to his heart? Chuck Klosterman’s witty and thought-provoking essay collection I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) explores pop culture villains like Bernhard Goetz and Darth Vader, and asks such philosophical questions as: Where do we draw the line between hero and villain? What does it mean to be a villain? Speaking of pop culture, Bucky is probably still confused about Tony Stark calling him “Manchurian Candidate” in Captain America: Civil War, so he should read Richard Condon’s nail-biter thriller as well – after all, he can empathize with Raymond Shaw, the Korean War veteran who returns home brainwashed to serve nefarious purposes. –Kaitlin Conner

Now that he’s free from the grips of Hydra’s brainwashing and has a sweet new (vibranium???) arm courtesy of Shuri, Bucky really just needs a hug. Call me Katniss because I VOLUNTEER. But seriously, someone get this guy a cozy blanket, a stack of Shel Silverstein books, and throw on some Bob Ross in the background. –Cassi Hall

Steve Rogers (Captain America)

History repeats itself, and Steve Rogers understands this more than most. He’d appreciate Timothy’s Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, which offers examples of how to protect democracy from authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, drawing parallels between current events and 20th century threats like the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe. Timely, reflective, and most importantly, concise — at 128 pages, it can be finished in one sitting — On Tyranny is the perfect read for Steve, a man ready to save the world but without a lot of time to spare. –Kaitlin Conner

Thor

Our very own Norse god! The obvious choice for Thor would be Norse Gods, by Neil Gaiman, but let’s face it — he would spend his time picking it apart. He may enjoy another Neil Gaiman book inspired by mythology: American Gods. Obviously, Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series would be a fun read, but you know he’d be getting into arguments with every Riordan fan he encountered, because he’s a god and thinks he knows everything. If this happens, steer clear of Thor, kids! –Suzanne Temple

Loki

Poor Loki. It’s hard when everyone sees your brother as the stronger, virtuous one, and you are the black sheep. He may feel that his path is set, and there’s no turning back. Did anyone ever tell him he’s loved? I believe the words and aphorisms of Mister Rogers can crack even the hardest heart. Loki should read The World According to Mister Rogers to learn his value and worth in the cosmos. Maybe it will inspire him to see the upcoming documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, too. –Lindsey Dunn

Pepper Potts

Pepper is a successful, high-powered businesswoman who’s likely spent years enduring the casual and not-so-casual sexism of corporate America, so I think she’d get a kick out of Penelope Bagieu’s Brazen, a collection of short comics profiling both famous and lesser-known women who forged various paths in directions they weren’t expected to go.  –Kendal Spires

James “Rhodey” Rhodes (War Machine)

In between striking up a formative friendship with Tony Stark at MIT and stepping into the War Machine suit in Iron Man 2, James Rhodes pursued a successful career in the U.S. Air Force. Given that background, Rhodey would likely enjoy the insight of Redeployment, fellow vet Phil Klay’s National Book Award-winning collection of short stories told in and around the Iraq War. –Kendal Spires

Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow)

Resident superspy (and former KGB agent) Natasha Romanoff would likely find upcoming thriller Star of the North compelling. Featuring a CIA agent infiltrating North Korea to track down her twin sister (who was abducted by North Korean operatives 20 years ago), this suspenseful and realistic exploration of an elusive government will appeal to Natasha, a woman all-too-used to a life in the shadows — and to going to great lengths to protect those she loves. –Kaitlin Conner

Natasha’s been in the spy game for a long time, and would find something to relate to in the exploits of Tara Chace, another espionage veteran and the protagonist of Greg Rucka’s classic Queen and Country comics. The series depicts both tense missions in the field and bureaucratic maneuvering in the office, and Natasha might even find it refreshing to read some straight-up spy tales that don’t involve superheroic dramatics. –Kendal Spires

Peter Quill (Star Lord)

At this point, it’s an understatement to say that Peter Quill has daddy issues; I wouldn’t blame him if he decides to keep up the charade that his real father is David Hasselhoff. If Peter’s still looking for solace, he might find it in the Hoff’s upbeat autobiography. Don’t Hassel the Hoff is at turns self-deprecating and self-congratulatory (sound familiar?) and, per Kirkus Reviews, “covers [Hasselhoff’s] life in standard greatest-hits format” — a narrative structure music lover Peter would dig.  Reviews aren’t the greatest, but since when does Peter care about reviews? At the very least, he can catch up on the life of the father he wishes he had. –Kaitlin Conner

No one knows better than Peter Quill the maxim that “everything old is new again” (see: his treasured mixtapes, his love of sitcom tropes). No book explores pop culture’s cyclical nature quite like Ernest Cline’s nostalgic, action-packed Ready Player One (and its recent film adaptation), in which teenager Wade Watts escapes his dystopian world in 2044 for a virtual one that embodies 1980s pop culture. Self-made superhero Peter — call him “Star-Lord,” thank you very much — would see a kindred spirit in Wade, whose alliterative name is meant to recall superheroes of yore and whose passion for 1980s pop culture is unparalleled.  –Kaitlin Conner

While I agree that Peter/Star Lord has daddy issues and loves all things nostalgic, if he’s at all representative of a male brain, what is really on his mind right now is a more practical, pressing matter. Now that Gamora seems ready to open her heart, how can he form and maintain a good relationship with her? It would be my duty as a librarian to guide him to the relationship book section. Mating Intelligence Unleased by Glenn Geher should do the trick. He has a lot of intelligence to gain in this ignored area of his life.  –Lindsey Dunn

Clint Barton (Hawkeye)

Clint is possibly the only hero not present on the massively overpopulated Infinity War poster (having apparently been sick on Avengers class picture day or something), an amusing omission that puts me in mind of his more hapless counterpart and his canine sidekick Lucky in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye comics. Assuming MCU Clint holds a similar affection for dogs, I’d hand him John Grogan’s Marley and Me, because who doesn’t love crying their eyes out over someone else’s dog? –Kendal Spires

Peter Parker (Spider-Man)

Poor Peter Parker. He was just a sweet, nerdy kid, minding his own business, until — BAM! — he’s bitten by a spider and life is forever changed. I know for a fact (yes, a fact!) that Peter loves a good, goofy comic. Since he already lives the superhero life, I would recommend the Rick and Morty comics for a healthy dose of offbeat humor. –Suzanne Temple

Special mention (and possible spoiler): Miles Morales is incredibly serious, so would surely enjoy Game, by Walter Dean Myers. Miles and Drew both have strong families, live in New York, and are likeable characters who are just trying to keep their noses clean. –Suzanne Temple

Bruce Banner (Hulk)

This dude has some problems, and no one understands him. They think he’s just a big, green lunkhead inside a guy who can’t control his anger. Some obvious classics come to mind (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, The Island of Dr. Moreau), but as Dr. Banner is a very learned scientist, chances are he has already read these titles. To help him not feel so alone, Hulk would enjoy The Only Child, by Andrew Pyper, a take on multiple classic characters within one monster. Being the genius he is, Bruce Banner would want to hear about the scientific aspect of good and evil, so he would like The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, by Philip G. Zimbardo. (Honestly, though, how much of a genius could Bruce Banner be if he can’t take the proper precautions when doing his experiments?) –Suzanne Temple

For all the Avengers:

Ok, I’ll be honest. I really just wanted to make this recommendation and the more I thought about it, the more I believe that all of the finally-assembled Avengers would take something away from it. Worm is a completed web serial by the author known as Wildbow and clocks in at roughly 1,750,000 words. It’s a dark, complex, wildly imaginative superhero story that surprises (and often, shocks) at every turn. I will offer a warning that the word count isn’t the only reason Worm is not for the faint of heart — some of the more villainous parahumans (powered people) take on names like Jack Slash, Bonesaw, Hatchet Face, Acidbath, Lung, Murder Rat…and yes, they’re all even worse than they sound. Seriously, if you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to superheroes, superpowers, and especially supervillains, I promise that you haven’t.

Nat and Bucky would appreciate the moral complexity of Worm’s multitude of characters (fair warning: there are a lot of them), and Ant-Man would definitely relate to the protagonist’s powers. Many of the antagonists would have our big purple baddie Thanos wishing he could recruit them to the Black Order — and honestly, no shade to Marvel but the Slaughterhouse Nine make the Black Order look like a 90’s boy band. Worm is the single most ambitious work I have ever read, so it’s a fitting recommendation for the culmination of this ambitious franchise.  –Cassi Hall

 

Editors Note:

Cassi Hall is the Communications Specialist at NoveList, and unashamed by her love of supervillains.

Kaitlin Conner is a Readers’ Advisory Librarian at NoveList.

Lindsey Dunn is a Readers’ Advisory Librarian at NoveList.

Rebecca Honeycutt is a Readers’ Advisory Librarian at NoveList.

Kendal Spires is a Collection Development Analyst for Core Collections.

Suzanne Temple is a Metadata Librarian II at NoveList.

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Here’s What You Need To Know About Infinity Stones Before The New Avengers Movie

Ya Got The Stones For This? Thanos (Josh Brolin) blithely ignores Coco Chanel’s advice on accessorizing — so you knowhe’s evil — in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War.
Marvel Studios

by Glen Weldon, April 16, 2018, first appearing on Books : NPR

Call them the Mighty Marvel Movie MacGuffins. They’re the glittery objects that drove the plots of several individual Marvel movies and that collectively shaped the direction the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe has been heading (almost) since its inception.

They are the Infinity Stones — immensely powerful gems that contain and channel elemental forces of the universe. They’re what the villains crave and what the heroes protect. They can be used to destroy or create.

Mmmmmostly that first thing.

They’ve been seeded throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2011, and now, with the release of Avengers: Infinity War on April 27, all the logistical heavy lifting of seven years’ worth of films — chasing the Stones, finding them, wielding them, handing them off to shady minor characters for safekeeping — comes to a head.

Well. To a hand, anyway.

Thanos’ hand, to be specific. Thanos’ gauntlet, if you want to get technical.

Thanos is the MCU’s biggest Big Bad, first glimpsed in a post-credit scene in 2012’s The Avengers. He is a hulking, purplish-reddish-bluish (seems to depend on the movie’s color balance) space warlord determined to reduce the population of the universe by half. If he collects all of the Infinity Stones and affixes them to a metal glove-thingy called the Infinity Gauntlet, he will be able to go about his deadly halving business, according to his daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in the trailer, “with a snap of his fingers.”

(Leave aside, for the moment, how difficult it would be to snap one’s fingers in a metal gauntlet.)

(I mean it would be less of a snap and more a rasp, right?)

(Or maybe a clang? Like he was striking some terrible Xylophone of Pan-Galactic Death? Or a Wind Chime of Cosmic Annihilation?)

Anyway. That’s Thanos pictured at the top of this post. He is played in the movie by Josh Brolin and a superfluity of CGI chin dimples. And that thing he has on his left hand (so literally sinister!) is the Infinity Gauntlet.

As you can see, he is already well on his way to collecting ’em all — not quite at full, “Billie Jean”-era sparkle-glove status, but close.

Let’s review where the various Infinity Stones were the last time we saw them — and what they do.

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Space Stone

AKA: The Tesseract

What It Looks Like: When first glimpsed in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), a glowing blue cube. (The cube is just a housing that allows the glowy blue stone inside to be handled by us lowly humans.)

What It Does: Opens wormholes in space, making possible instantaneous travel between any two points in the universe. Also has undetermined (read: hazily defined) power to develop weaponry.

Transporting is what the eeeevil Red Skull did with it in Captain America: The First Avenger. It was later recovered by S.H.I.E.L.D., which lost it when Loki absconded with it in The Avengers (2012) and used it to open a wormhole above Manhattan through which an alien army attacked Earth.

Where It Is Now: It spent some time in Asgard’s armory, but at the end of Thor: Ragnarok (2017), it was stolen by Loki. (At the very end of Thor: Ragnarok, the spaceship Thor and Loki were flying was intercepted by what was very likely Thanos’ ship. So if you’re taking bets, the Space Stone is likely one of the first Infinity Stones we’ll see Thanos add to his collection.)

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Mind Stone

AKA: The Scepter

What It Looks Like: At first, in The Avengers, a scepter housing a glowy blue gem. Nowadays, a yellow gem (long story) embedded in the forehead of Vision.

What It Does: Oh, a lot of stuff. In its Scepter mode, it granted Loki zappy powers and the ability to manipulate minds, and its mere presence made the Avengers more snippy than baseline. In its current mode (as of 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, it grants Vision the ability to … do lots of stuff, including phase through matter, fly, zap others with energy beams and, you know … live.)

Where It Is Now: Doing time on Vision’s forehead. But the trailers suggest this will not be a permanent condition. Look for Vision to get blurry.

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Reality Stone

AKA: The Aether

What It Looks Like: Not like a stone, for one thing. Instead, it’s a thick, red liquid that sends out tendrils that undulate in a cinematically creepy way.

What It Does: Look, it’s OK. You didn’t see Thor: The Dark World (2013). A lot of people didn’t. So you didn’t see the Reality Stone (in the form of the Aether) take over the body of Thor’s girlfriend, Jane Foster, allowing her to send out shock waves and … whatnot. As its name suggests, the Reality Stone alters reality, by converting matter to dark matter. Don’t bother asking why that’s a thing. Doesn’t matter. Lots of people didn’t see Thor: The Dark World.

Where It Is Now: For safekeeping, it was given to an ancient being who collects lots of stuff. His name, appropriately enough, is the Collector. (He is played by Benicio del Toro in Thor: The Dark World, and his character is the brother of Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster from Thor: Ragnarok.)

Given that not a lot of people saw Thor: The Dark World, I’d wager we won’t get a big protracted scene of Thanos hunting down and claiming the Reality Stone, and Infinity War will simply cut to the (end of the) chase.

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Power Stone

AKA: The Orb

What It Looks Like: When we first see it, at the beginning of Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), it’s encased in a silver spherical rock-thing. Later, the Orb is split open and the stone inside is grafted onto a bad guy’s space-hammer and given the awesomely ridiculous name of Cosmi-Rod. Once the bad guy is defeated through the power of dance, the Stone is returned to another Orb-casing.

What It Does: Grants … power? Look, I know, the specific abilities of the various stones seem kind of frustratingly all over the place, but this one’s legit. It makes its wielder more powerful — better, stronger, more zappy. You know: energy blasts and energy tornadoes and energy waves and energy bars. (No, OK, not that last one.)

Where It Is Now: Benicio del Toro’s Collector character nearly added it to his collection, but it sent out a massive energy blast, as is its zappy wont, that destroyed most of his menagerie. It ended up in hands of the Nova Corps — basically the Marvel Universe’s resident space-cops, run by Glenn Close in a complicated wig — and there it will stay, until it won’t.

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Time Stone

AKA: The Eye of Agamotto

What It Looks Like: First (and only) seen in Doctor Strange (2016), it’s a glowy green gem housed inside an amulet embossed with an eye.

What It Does: Finally, some specificity! Some truth in advertising! The Time Stone allows its wielder to control time — to speed it up, slow it down, reverse it or create time loops. See, there, Marvel? Simple. Precise. Clean.

Where It Is Now: Hanging around Doctor Stephen Strange’s neck, right under his dumb goatee.

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Soul Stone

AKA: ?

What It Looks Like: Again, ? It has yet to turn up in a Marvel movie, at least by that name. It’s most likely an orange gem, the largest of them all, which fits on the back of the gauntlet — not, as the others do, on the fingers.

What It Does: In the comics, it grants its owner the ability to do lots of mystical things — trap souls in an artificial existence, see into a person’s soul, etc. It’s not known how closely the film will adhere to this.

But given the fact that so much of the Infinity War trailer is set in and around Wakanda — and the fact that the “heart-shaped flower” seen in Black Panther grants the ability to commune with the dead — many have speculated that the Soul Stone will turn out to have something to do with vibranium.

Where It Is Now: Your guess is as good as any. Unless you guess, “in Wakanda,” in which case it’s slightly better than most, probably.

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Sharon Stone

AKA: Catherine Tramell, Ginger McKenna, Iris Burton

What It Looks Like: A human woman.

What It Does: Wears the Gap to the Oscars, famously. And nowadays? Rocks the hell out of a Disaster Artist cameo and gives a great interview in a sweater to which attention must be paid.

Where It Is Now: Not getting the work it deserves, HOLLYWOOD.

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Slyandthefamily Stone

AKA: Sly Stone, Freddie Stone, Rose Stone, Cynthia Robinson, Greg Errico, Jerry Martini, Larry Graham.

What It Looks Like: Deeply groovy.

What It Does: Effortlessly fuse rock, soul, funk and psychedelia into chart-topping, socially conscious pop anthems.

Where It Is Now: On the set list of every wedding DJ at or slightly after 10:30 p.m.

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Coldcreamery Stone

AKA: “That place your Aunt Janice likes? With the slab? What’s it called?”

What It Looks Like: An ice cream store, duh.

What It Does: Grants its wielder one unusually muscular forearm.

Where It Is Now: 1,100 locations in the U.S. and abroad.

Your Monthly DITTO

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