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Graphic Novelty²

The Sleeper and The Spindle

A reimagined fairytale combining parts of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty into one story, that because of the author Neil Gaiman, you know will be a dark and whimsical tale.

Snow White is about to have her wedding and her happily ever after, but she’s really not into her Prince and would rather have an adventure without him. She kisses him goodbye and heads off with three dwarfs to look into a sleeping sickness she heard about in the kingdom over. You are already off-kilter from that start, and the rest of the story follows suit. When she arrives at the castle you assume you are about to meet Sleeping Beauty, and are half expecting a romance to develop between the two women. But that’s not where Gaiman goes, and the surprise ending elevates this short story.

The book is more a novella with lots of illustrations, too long and mature in theme to be a children or even a junior book, but not quite a teen book or a graphic novel either. I enjoyed the twist ending but it is really Chris Riddell’s illustrations in black and white with gold leaf that pushes the book beyond a simple fractured fairytale. His illustrations are lush and detailed, with the gold touches used to great affect. This story is worth a read, especially if your like your fairy tales a bit on the creepy side.

-Nancy

Gaiman, Neil & Chris Riddell. The Sleeper and the Spindle. 2014.
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I Feel Bad: All Day. Every Day. About Everything.

As a mother, I feel bad and doubt myself every flippin’ day. Not a day goes by that I at least once (and up to 100+ times) ponder how I am messing up. So when this book popped up on my Goodreads suggestions list, I tracked it down.

Orli Auslander is a mum who shares her worries and regrets in 100 sketches of how exactly she feels bad. She opens the book with an introduction of how after she had her first child she began to journal and draw how she felt guilty in her daily life. In this collection she shares her worries on her parenting, sexuality, religious beliefs, extended family and the greater world around her.

(In my case it would be reversed, with me boring my family with my Star Trek thoughts)

At times she seems to over share, but the point of the book is for her to be brutally honest, and for readers to find situations in which they can relate to. I actually applaud her for showcasing her anxieties for it takes courage to admit in our social media obsessed world that we are not perfect. There are only a few people in my life I will share the REAL me with.

Auslander’s illustrations have been compared to Roz Chast’s, and I can see why. She captures the essence of the moment in a seemingly simple sketch, while letting her neurosis shine through. Her ink drawings have a distinctive feel, for she depicts expressive large eyes, and gives her pictures a swirling layered look.

As I do not watch a lot of television, I did not realize a new NBC comedy is based off this book, when I first picked it up.  I watched the pilot this morning and thought the diverse cast did a nice job with the source material. So, for anyone looking for a book on the realities of parenthood and adult life, give this collection of strips a read, and realize you are not alone!

-Nancy

The Amalgam Age of Comics: The Marvel Comics Collection

Back in the mid ’90s (ahhh, that glorious decade), Marvel and DC decided to create an entire crossover series. They blended characters from both camps to create something new and entirely different! But they didn’t stop there. They printed them under a “new” printing company called Amalgam. While each story was a one-shot, they peppered each issue with context and hints referring to “past” issues and events. Pretty cool, huh? The Marvel Comics Collection focuses on DC characters with Marvel spins:

  • Bruce Wayne: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In which Bruce Wayne prepares to finally confront his arch-nemesis, Green Skull (Ra’s al Ghul and Red Skull). Only it might not be him in charge of Hydra anymore…
  • Bullets & Bracelets: Diana Prince and Steve Castle (Steve Trevor and Punisher), together again – to save their son who’s been abducted!
  • Magneto & the Magnetic Men: Erik Magnus creats the Magnetic Men to bridge the gap between human and Mutant. To be honest, I really had trouble figuring out who was who in this one, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
  • Speed Demon: BRUUUH. This mashup of Ghost Rider, Flash, and Etrigan was by far my most favorite. I’d kill to read actual stories of this!
  • Spider-Boy: This one blended the best of Superboy and Spider-man into one fun romp as he fights Bizarnage!
  • X-Patrol: Very cool mashup of Teen Titans and X-Men. The clean art in this one was my favorite!

Man, this whole collection was silly and I loved every minute of it. The creators didn’t take themselves seriously at all! I really miss when comics were fun like this. It was really fun figuring out who was mashed up with who. Some characters were pretty obvious, and others took a little more thinking to figure out. I enjoyed the mental workout ;D Stay tuned for the DC Comics Collection!

– Kathleen

Various. The Amalgam Age of Comics: The Marvel Comics Collection. 1996.

I Heart Characters: A Kickass Who’d Have Your Back

Today is my first time using the writing prompt I Heart Characters!  It is a weekly meme hosted by Dani @ Perspective of a Writer to showcase book blogger love for characters. Each week she supplies a topic and we supply the character from whatever media we love and link up so others can blog hop and share the character love. ♡

This weeks topic is: A character you super admire for their abilities! Share with us when and why you think they’d have your back.

My choice is Nightfall from the ElfQuest saga. I fell in love with ElfQuest when I was in high school and my boyfriend who was collecting them introduced me to the World of Two Moons. Sometimes our dates would consist of us sitting side by side reading for hours and debating the finer points of elf lore. That my high school boyfriend eventually became my husband makes this series dear to my heart.

Nightfall is a Wolfrider, a warrior for an elfin tribe that rides wolves and live in the woods, or as they call it, The Holt. She is an amazing archer and a devoted mate to Redlance, a plant shaper. Best friend to Cutter, the leader of the Wolfrider’s, she always has his back and is ready to fight for the tribe at a moment’s notice. However, when not needed to defend the tribe she is gentle and kind, and her gestures of friendship make her a contrast of yin and yang. Later in the epic series, she and Redlance have a daughter Tyleet, and this mother and daughter duo became my absolute favorites. Nightfall goes to show that you can be tough and tender at the same time. Although she is a warrior, she does not let that get in the way of being a loving partner, mother and friend to others.

Check out the ElfQuest site for yourself, and fall in love with the Wolfriders!  Online, you will find the website includes decades worth of the comics in chronological order since the story’s creation in 1978, and a who is who list of characters.  A four book conclusion to the series, The Final Quest, wrapped up earlier this year, at the exact 40 year mark in which it started.

I am pleased that I can give a shout out to a favorite character from a series I have been reading since the 1990’s. ElfQuest was my first introduction to graphic novels and it’s storytelling scope and exquisite artwork makes it “One of the most beautifully crafted, well thought out comic book fantasy epics of all time” as Comic Book Resources so aptly said about this classic series.

-Nancy

Tyleet & Nightfall ♥

Cosplayers

Annie is a cosplayer – she makes costumes for fictional characters and dresses up like them for conventions and for fun. Verti is a photographer and aspiring videographer. They meet and become friends. They spend a summer together making videos, posting them on YouTube, and attending conventions to meet other fans and participate in cosplay contests.

There isn’t so much an overarching story here as it is a series of related vignettes. There is very little plot, character development, or conflict. There really isn’t that much about cosplay. To me, it felt like a few stories about two flimsily-written girls and their screwing around over a summer – and they happen to like anime and cosplay. The hows and whys are omitted, plopping us right in the middle of their story (such as it is) without exposition. There are some stabs at themes of loneliness, attachment in the digital age, and even existentialism, but they felt half-baked and tossed in because, “Why not?”

The art is subpar. It’s drawn simply, which provides easy access to the book, but I found it overly simple. Many panels are one color, or two variations of, and it sort of reminded me of two-color prints. Normally I would have enjoyed it more, but the writing was so paper-thin I just couldn’t get into it. Overall, I found this one really frustrating and disappointing – I am wondering why it was so hyped.

– Kathleen

Shaw, Dash. Cosplayers. 2018.

Gothic Tales of Haunted Love

Gothic tales + haunted love + diverse characters = yes, please!

This strong anthology has 200+ pages of short illustrated stories that are horror-themed, as they are a tribute to 1970’s Gothic pulp novels. Each story has a different author and illustrator, with lends to many different styles within this collection. The stories are extremely diverse, with characters of different nationalities, cultures and sexual orientations plus they take place in several different time periods. This variety will give every reader some stories that they will absolutely connect with as there are stories with revenge motifs, historical heartbreak or the supernatural.

As with any anthology there are some stories that are stronger than others. Pair that with a graphic novel format, and there are some illustration styles that will not appeal to everyone, but the art as a whole is well done with evocative coloring. The book includes eighteen new stories, and one reprint of an original Korean Gothic comic. A prologue, art gallery and author bios round out the collection.

My favorites included:

Crush– Janet Hetherington, Ronn Sutton, Becka Kinzie & Zakk Saam: An African American governess falls in love with a widowed Sea Captain, father of the seven children she cares for. When he disregards her as a love interest, she obtains revenge.

The Return– David A Robertson & Scott B. Henderson: A Native American woman comes back from the dead to be reunited with her fiancee, but she finds a better man who sees beyond her beauty to what was in her heart.

Green, Gold, and Black– Cherelle Higgins & Rina Rozsas: Set in Jamaica on the eve of a slave uprising, an enslaved woman is giving birth. She is chained by her white mistress, for her husband had raped the woman and the child is his, and she is consumed by jealousy. This is the most heartbreaking of all the stories, although I found a nugget of hope in the end, depending on how you interpret the mother’s visions.

Mistress Fox– Megan Kearney & Derek Spencer: A bride shares an unsettling dream with her guests the morning after her wedding – the night before, her new husband had killed a maid that he was having an affair with. You know she is framing her cad of a husband, but there is one more sly twist at the end.

I received an online copy from NetGalley for an unbiased review back in April, but I had downloaded it close to it’s expiration date, and had to do a quick review based off only one day at looking at it online. That just wouldn’t do, so I ordered a print copy for my library, so I could re-read it and have library patrons enjoy it too. And isn’t that the point- to purchase a book you’d like to read over and over again- and then share it with others?!

-Nancy

Mary’s Monster

In honor of Halloween and the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, I choose Mary’s Monster, a poetic and beautifully evocative book about Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, the author of the classic 1818 novel. This fictionalized biography by Lita Judge details Mary’s life from childhood onward and is told in free verse.

Mary was born into a literary family- mother Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer while her father William Godwin was a political philosopher. Her mother died when Mary was an infant, also leaving an older half sister. William remarried, which brought step siblings into the family, in addition to having a son with his second wife. Failed business ventures and an unhappy family life plunged the family into poverty and discord. Mary was sent to live with family friends in Scotland for two years, and when she returned as a teenager, tensions at home were still high.

Soon after returning she met Percy Bysshe Shelley, a young poet from a rich family who seemed enamored with Mary’s scholarly family, and her father and step-mother hoped he would help them with some debts. Quickly Percy convinced Mary that his marriage to his pregnant wife Harriet was over, and he seduced her easily. Step-sister Claire is also taken in by his words, while the rest of the family is scandalized by Mary and Percy’s affair. The two girls steal away with Percy and head first to Paris, then around Europe.

But words don’t pay the bills, and the trio are soon destitute with Mary pregnant. Shunned by her family, she delivers a daughter but the baby soon dies, and Mary is heartbroken. Throughout the next few years, Mary endures Percy’s whims, with him dallying with Claire and him stringing along his wife Harriet until she commits suicide. Two more children are born and die during their travels, with only their fourth child, a son, surviving to adulthood.

During this time Percy, Mary and Claire visit Lord Byron in Geneva, Switzerland, and the famous challenge is issued for them all to create a horror story. The genesis of the story takes root, and Mary begins her magnum opus. Mary takes threads of despair from her own life and weaves them together with biting political and society commentary to create the Frankenstein masterpiece. Despite his many flaws Percy encourages Mary to write and believes she has just as much right to be creative and write as he does. It is only after Percy’s accidental sailing death a few years later, leaving Mary a widow at twenty four with a young son, does Mary claim ownership of the Gothic story that had originally been published anonymously.

Dark and lovely, the art brings Mary to life, just as Mary brought the creature Frankenstein to life. Judge’s moody black and white watercolor illustrations, paired with the sensuous verses, effectively show the ideals and passions that ruled Mary and Percy. Mary’s tumultuous life helped shape her into a masterful writer, and led her to create an unforgettable novel. She and her creature won’t soon be forgotten.

-Nancy

Guest Post on Reads and Reels

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is an extraordinary and ambitious graphic novel. Equal parts memoir, murder mystery and coming-of-age drama, the art in this book is beyond amazing, and was a perfect read during this Halloween season.

But…you’ll have to check out the blog Reads and Reels to find it, as I shared this incredible book as a guest blogger on Shanannigan’s site. Please head on over to her site to read my post- Guest Post: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.

-Nancy

(Picture from Emil Ferris)

Batman: White Knight

Been a while since we’ve done a Batman title, eh? I knew I had to read this as soon as it popped on my radar.

Once again, Batman confronts the Joker. Once again, Batman puts the Joker in Arkham. But this time… Joker is cured? Batman force-fed the Joker an unknown medication that seems to have driven him sane. The newly reformed Jack Napier, along with Harleen Quinzel, are now on a crusade to save Gotham from Batman. Not too many people take him seriously at first – come on, it’s gotta be another of Joker’s schemes, right? – but as time goes on, and Jack doesn’t let up, it becomes very clear that he is serious, and that he won’t stop until Gotham is delivered from her Dark Knight and corrupt police force. Will the public’s opinion of Jack change? Will Batman be revealed as the villain after all, or will the Joker come back out of the woodwork?

W o w. This is definitely a Batman comic worth reading. It challenges a lot of things that Batman has previously gotten away with, and then some, revealing no clear answers in the process. It makes you question if Batman is really doing good, or if he’s just another criminal in a mask and cape. His design in this one – with a Dracula-esque collar, more angry scowl lines on his cowl, and hints of fangs – definitely hint that Batman is more of a villain than he lets on, and we see it in the art. Obsessively detailed and cinematic, with many Gothic elements in the architecture and character designs, the art is a constant reminder of the seedy city we’re in. This stellar start to the DC Black Label series is provocative, thought-provoking, and will have you mulling it over long after you’re finished.

– Kathleen

Murphy, Sean, and Matt Hollingsworth. Batman: White Knight. 2018.

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