Between movies, books, music, comics, podcasts, and the ever-growing glut of TV, there’s a ton of pop culture out there.
It can be a lot to keep up with. So we here at Vox Culture — where our current obsessions include the Netflix debut of Nick Kroll and John Mulaney’s Oh, Hello on Broadway, the best new additions to your summer reading list, and a fascinating documentary on the Grateful Dead — have a few suggestions for how to make the best use of your pop culture–consuming time.
Here are some items you should really consider adding to your pop culture diet.
Bitch Planet: Triple Feature gives the comic book a whole new feel
Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro’s Bitch Planet is one of the most exciting comic books to come out of the past few years. The concept is a mashup of exploitation films, dystopian stories like The Handmaid’s Tale, and science fiction — it’s set in a not-so-distant future where “non-compliant” women are sent to a prison planet that forces its inmates to fight battles to the death.
In Bitch Planet: Triple Feature, DeConnick and de Landro yield their book to three teams of guest writers and artists, to zoom out of the central story about the women on the prison planet and give us smaller, splendid vignettes about this dystopian future and the women who live in it. —Alex Abad-Santos
Watch The Journey, which reimagines the conversation that led to peace in Northern Ireland
What we know from the public record is that in 2006, DUP founder Ian Paisley and the IRA’s Martin McGuinness — archenemies in the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland — found themselves in a van together on the way to the airport, both of them en route to Belfast. Not long after, they agreed to begin their famously improbable power-sharing arrangement, as well as what by all accounts was a genuinely affectionate friendship between two men who had nothing in common except the land they called home. The Journey is a fascinating guess at what the two might have talked about — and examines the stakes in resolving any complicated, longstanding conflict. —Alissa Wilkinson
Say hello to Oh, Hello, John Mulaney and Nick Kroll’s gloriously demented Broadway show that just came to Netflix
By all rights, John Mulaney and Nick Kroll’s take on two men they once saw buying the same Alan Alda biography in New York 2005 should have been the kind of bit that five people found hilarious and everyone else just blinked at before it eventually died out. But Mulaney and Kroll are two of the sharpest comedians working today, and so they’ve managed to bring “George St. Geegland” and “Gil Faizon” with them through TV shows, podcasts, a live tour, and, in 2016, a Broadway run. And now that the Broadway show is on Netflix, you can see it for yourself, in all its bizarre glory, with a bonus of Steve Martin tapping in to get pranked with “too much tuna.” (You’ll get it later, or maybe you won’t! Either way, George and Gil will be charmed to meet you, I’m sure.) —Caroline Framke
SZA’s second album, Ctrl, is here, and it is great
Though SZA’s 2014 EP Z and collaboration with Rihanna on “Consideration” caught people’s attention, the R&B artist’s new release, Ctrl, sees her coming fully into her own. It’s a total dream of an album, lacing affirmations of self-worth with smooth bass, sweeping synths, and even voicemails from her mother and grandmother. The opening track — the pointed, confessional “Supermodel” — sets the tone for what’s to come; “Drew Barrymore” is a gorgeous ode to loneliness filtered through a haze of smoke; I’ve barely stopped listening to the dreamy “Prom” since I first heard it. There’s hardly a better way to spend 50 summer minutes than with this album in your headphones. —CF
The Unseen World was one of our favorite books last year, and now it’s out in paperback
The Unseen World is a lyrical and lovely coming-of-age story set at the dawn of the computer age, lightly inflected with touches of speculative fiction and American gothic — there’s both an AI and a torrid backstory of mistaken identities and amnesia. It was one of my favorite books of 2016, and now you can get it in paperback. Bonus: The author, Liz Moore, is celebrating the paperback release with a riddle game. —Constance Grady
A longread on Mallory Ortberg and the Toast will make you miss the Toast all over again
The late, lamented feminist humor and literary website the Toast closed up shop for good in July 2016, but its legacy still looms large for the tight-knit community of readers, contributors, and commenters that made the site so special. Motherboard’s sprawling new piece on Mallory Ortberg (a.k.a. Slate’s Dear Prudence), who co-founded the Toast alongside Nicole Cliffe in 2013, is called “Mallory Ortberg’s Internet,” and while it’s ostensibly a profile of Ortberg, it’s more accurately a celebration of the worldview that led her to the Toast and brought the site to life. It’s a warm, essential read for anyone still mourning the Toast, or simply curious about how it — and Ortberg herself — came to be so celebrated. —Genevieve Koski
The One Memory of Flora Banks is a thrilling and empowering YA adventure
Flora Banks has a very simple problem: She has no short-term memory. Every few hours, she needs to learn all over again that she is no longer 10 years old, that she is now 17 and also has trouble remembering things. Until she kisses a boy on the beach, and everything comes back.
What’s fun and thrilling about Emily Barr’s The One Memory of Flora Banks is that it sets you up to think it will be about a boy saving a girl through the power of first love, but it’s nothing like that. It’s about a girl coming into her own, and learning about how strong and brave and capable she is by herself, without anyone’s help. It’s a joyous romp of a story. —CG
Long Strange Trip is a terrific music documentary about the Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead sometimes seem like one of those “you had to be there” bands. If you weren’t around for a concert at the band’s height in the 1970s, well, you’d never really understand them from listening to recordings of their legendary live shows. But the four-hour, two-part documentary Long Strange Trip, which is newly streaming on Amazon, offers a two-pronged take on the legendary group.
Its first half tackles all the standard music documentary tropes you’d expect — the group discovering its sound, finding fans, going on tour, etc. — but the second half transcends those roots to consider the cost of fame, even amid a group of jolly hippies. In other words, the first half will help you understand the Grateful Dead, while the second half will help you understand something about being human. Director Amir Bar-Lev (previously of My Kid Could Paint That and Happy Valley, among other exemplary docs) has made a sprawling film that never feels overlong or unnecessary. —Todd VanDerWerff
Super Mario Odyssey was the talk of the world’s biggest video game trade show. Watch its trailer.
The annual video game expo E3 takes over downtown Los Angeles every June, filling attendees with excitement for games to come. This year’s event was a bit more downbeat than usual, with few big announcements. But there was still some substantial buzz for one of gaming’s oldest faces: Mario. In the upcoming game Super Mario Odyssey, the intrepid plumber has somehow gained the ability to possess others by throwing his hat onto their heads. In the trailer, we see him possess his greatest foes, a T. rex, a frog, and, yes, a human being. It’s alarming — but it also looks like a lot of fun, especially set to the jaunty original tune that scores the trailer. If you’re into it, you can also watch someone actually playing the game, which comes out in October, sooner than you might think. —TV