Ms. Marvel

Ms. Marvel, volume three
The Marvel franchise has been reinventing itself over and over again in the past few years—there are at least a dozen Marvel movies already out in the world, and scores in the works. But over in the land of comic books, where these stories first get made, Marvel introduced a surprising and exciting new character—Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel. Ms. Marvel has been around since the ’60s, but Kamala is a new creation—a Pakistani-American 16-year-old from Jersey City. If you’re in the comics world, like fellow A.V. Club writer Oliver Sava, you’ve known about this for ages. If you’re like me, you stumbled into this information during free comic book day. Either way, if you haven’t read it yet and have any interest in graphic novels, it’s a treat—and an easy entryway to the Marvel universe, which can otherwise be incredibly daunting. Ms. Marvel is written and edited mostly by women who have their own experience with Muslim-American identity: G. Willow Wilson writes the story, and Sana Amanat is its editor. Kamala’s world is brought to life by artist Adrian Alphona. Kamala is too interesting to be a token character—her sense of being “weird” because of her heritage is just a new cast on an old comic-book staple: the story of the weirdo. Add to that the magical, swampy fumes of New Jersey and her arguments with her traditional family—and a stuffed sloth, and high-school drama—and Ms. Marvel proves itself to be a very readable story in the midst of a vast Marvel universe. The issues are already in their second reprinting, so you might want to grab a copy sooner rather than later. [Sonia Saraiya]

With summer slowly making an appearance, it’s time for lawn games. But I’m not talking about bags (or cornhole if you prefer), ladder golf, or bocce. What I’m talking about is better. Hailing from Finland, Mölkky—or viking bowling, if you’re hesitant about the pronunciation—is the lawn game to end all lawn games. I first played with some friends while living in Minneapolis, and I’ve been hooked since. Unlike the aforementioned games, there’s no limit to how many people play and it’s simple, yet compelling enough to hold your attention as you drink into the warm summer evenings. It’s also extremely portable. Players use a wooden pin (also called a mölkky) to try to knock over numbered wooden pins (skittles) that are initially placed upright in a tight group (similar to pool balls). Knocking over a single pin scores you the number on that pin (e.g. a pin with a 12 earns you 12 points), whereas knocking over numerous pins earns you the total number of fallen pins (three down earns you three points regardless of the numbers on the pins). You then stand the pins upright in their new location. The first person to reach exactly 50 points wins, but if you pass 50 you’re penalized down to 25. It’s best to watch the video for a better understanding. [Becca James]

The Quality Of Hurt: The Early Years by Chester Himes
I first got hooked on Chester Himes’ writing after picking up his Collected Stories for a steal at a used bookstore; I needed a new spare-time book, something I could read at lunch or before screenings. I started by picking one story at random; within a few days, I’d read all of them. From there, I moved on to Himes’ best-known work, his Harlem detective novels—The Crazy Kill, Real Cool Killers, Cotton Comes To Harlem—outrageous, dark underworld yarns written in the 1950s and ’60s. Now I’ve just finished The Quality Of Hurt, the first volume of his autobiography, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Himes could be a devastating storyteller (some of his short fiction ranks up there with Maupassant, as far as I’m concerned); he was also angry, bitter, and sometimes just plain mean. As a record of Himes’ life, it’s questionable at best; he had a habit of exaggerating and embellishing the truth, and throughout the book he admits to not remembering certain key names, facts, or sequences of events. Not that any of that matters. Quality Of Hurt is more a record of a mind than of a time and a place—the ex-con-turned-expatriate, looking out at a world that seems diseased, disgusting, and absurd. (Heck, the second volume—which I’m about to start—is titled My Life Of Absurdity.) Though Quality Of Hurt is out of print, used copies are easy to come by. [Ignatiy Vishnevetsky]