Guest Recommendations: Abraham Riesman

New York Magazine editor Abraham Riesman likes superheroes gone bad, comedies wrongfully compared to Girls, and left-wing rage.

Irredeemable by Mark Waid

Superman made his debut on April 18, 1938… and by April 19, I’m sure at least one reader had thought, “Okay, that’s interesting. But what if Superman turned evil?” That question has served as the premise for countless stories, told in actual Superman comics and tales starring off-brand stand-ins. They’ve usually sucked, to be frank. But Irredeemable is something special. In 2009, Mark Waid (a veteran superhero scribe with a strong — sometimes constricting — reverence for genre conventions) set out to tell the ultimate Superman-gone-bad tale. It’s a self-contained graphic novel (originally released in 37 serial issues) set in a universe of Waid’s own concoction, and it begins in media res: Earth’s greatest champion, the Plutonian, has gone rogue and killed millions of people. No one knows why, and the world is in chaos. His former allies are scrambling to figure out what went wrong and what — if anything — they can do to stop a vengeful god in spandex.


Illustration for The Bygone Bureau by Hallie Bateman

What follows is pure superhero pulp brilliance, full of inventive twists, agonizing moments of despair, and a deeply satisfying conclusion. Unlike overserious superhero works such as Watchmen, Irredeemable doesn’t use Plutonian as a metaphor about, like, American military power or whatever; if it can be said to have a metatextual argument, it’s one about the nature of fiction and what we expect from protagonists. But mostly it’s just a cracking good yarn! I hadn’t been this gripped or moved by a superhero comic in years, and I read the damn things pretty much every day. That said, even though Waid takes his saga to some very dark places, this is light-years away from being a “realistic” story, so only read it if you’re prepared for something occasionally hackneyed and relentlessly fantastical.

Broad City

Depending on the crowd you roll with, I’m either the first or the eight-bajillionth person to tell you you should be watching Broad City. Either way: you should seriously be watching it. This Comedy Central series from NYC sketch-scene youngsters Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson is as funny as anything I’ve seen on TV in years. Given that it follows two twentysomething ladies in their New York travails, comparisons to Girls are as ubiquitous as they are useless and sexist. A much better comparison point would be Louie, or perhaps Louie crossed with Superbad. Like all the truly great slob comedies, it uses the slow pace of life enjoyed by fuckups as a way to savor the tiny absurdities we often miss in our frenzied rushes for success. And as the brilliant Sarah Seltzer pointed out, any comedy with protagonists who are stoners first and women second is its own little victory for feminism.

Alex Pareene

Is it weird to have a hero who’s younger than you? I guess that’s going to happen to me more and more as I age, but Salon‘s foremost leftist gadfly is the first person to make me ask that question of myself. I force myself to read Serious Political Commentary from an array of sources, but Pareene is the only columnist out there who puts me into giddy salivation when I find out he has a new piece up. He’s angry, he’s mean, he’s sarcastic… and I’m inclined to think he’s also almost entirely right. He’s become America’s premier ombudsman for all political columnists and columnists-in-journalists’-clothing, and even when he overstates his case (as he often does), he’s still the best there is at what he does. His recent guest-spot at The Baffler, savaging Andrew Ross Sorkin and business journalism in general, was just delightful, even when it went too far (I mean, I thought Too Big To Fail was an informative and non-hagiographic book, but I suppose he and I can agree to disagree). Alex recently followed me on Twitter, and a “favorite” from him is enough to keep me buzzing with pride for hours.

Abraham Riesman is an editor at New York Magazine and has gained a lot of weight recently.