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Graphic Novelty²

Spyro: Reignited Trilogy

One thing I don’t think I’ve told you guys: I LOVE Spyro the Dragon.

Not that Skylanders crap, though. Jeez, they made him UGLY. That shouldn’t have been possible, and yet they managed to do it. No, when I say I LOVE Spyro the Dragon (yes, it must always been in caps), I mean I’m a Spyro purist. Original trilogy plus Enter the Dragonfly because it was the first one I ever played. It doesn’t live up to the original trilogy, but has a special place in my heart nonetheless. As a wee lass, I was captivated by the bright candy colors, the phenomenal music, the way every unique level was infused with obvious love, and of course, by our favorite wise-cracking purple dragon and his sparkly dragonfly sidekick. Though I’ve replayed them many times over, and I didn’t get 100% in the first game until I was already an adult (thanks, Tree Tops), they have never lost their charm for me.

So you can imagine me, a woman in my mid-20s, learning they’re going to remake the series, and that it will be available this fall, and bursting into tears of joy. Watch the trailer below!

As you can see, they are completely revamping it. All the models and levels have been reworked, updated, and in HD. I don’t mind at all that it looks different – my mind knows it is, but in my heart, it looks exactly the way it looked to me as a child. They couldn’t have done better than that ❤

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I know this news is a little old, but they announced one more thing yesterday that I just had to share…

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He’s getting a Funko Pop figurine!!! LOOK HOW CUTE HE IS!!!!!! I LOVE HIM 😭😭😭

Man, this is a great year of gaming for me. We’ve gotten more news about Kingdom Hearts III than the past 13 years combined, SoulCalibur VI is getting the original roster back, and now a Spyro remake. My inner middle-schooler is sobbing with joy… okay… it’s me on the outside too…

Kathleen

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The Flash: Rebirth (2010)

Barry Allen sacrificed himself during the Crisis on Infinite Earths to restore balance to the Multiverse. He’s escaped the Speedforce and was brought back to life, a feat that no other Speedster has been able to accomplish. Everyone – the League, the citizens of Central City, and his family – are overjoyed to have him back. In fact, the only person who’s not happy about it is Barry himself. He feels a strange urgency, like time is running out. But for what, he’s not sure. The world is telling him to slow down, but Barry feels he needs to go faster than ever. He’s not entirely convinced he escaped the Speedforce on his own – he may have been set free. But by who, and for what purpose? Could he have been brought back to life just to die again?

As big a fan as I am of the show, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to actually pick up a Flash comic. I absolutely loved it! The artwork was dynamic and crackling with power and emotion. You know anything Geoff Johns writes is going to be good, but this story was just phenomenal. The emotional pull of Barry’s dilemma and his family willing to do anything to help is what makes this story special. The story is just as fast-paced as you’d expect a Flash comic to be, but the love that was obviously infused into the story and characters carries a lot of weight. I will definitely be looking for more.

– Kathleen

Johns, Geoff, and Ethan Van Sciver. The Flash: Rebirth. 2010.

Northlanders: Book Two and Three

Three weeks ago I read Northlanders: Sven the Returned (Book One) and I said “This is a series (that continues on with different characters and dates) I will not continue.” Yet…here we are. When I heard that Book Three included a short story on Sven whose story was all of Book One, I ordered it. Then I thought, well, I should get Book Two just to keep it in order. Damn it all- I was hooked.

The Cross + The Hammer: Book Two

While Book One had taken place in AD 980 on the Orkney Islands of Scotland, this story takes place in occupied Ireland in the year AD 1014. The story centers around brute father Magnus and his pre-teen daughter Brigid who are on the run. Former monk Magnus is on a crusade to kill as many of the King’s men as he can while defending his homeland, despite having his beloved daughter by his side. Lord Ragnar, using unlikely detective skills (for that era) tracks this vigilante. But Ragnar is no noble Norse leader; he and his fellow soldiers leave as much destruction as Magnus does, each feeling their cause is worthy and justified.  Then the last chapter pulls the rug out from under you, and everything you thought about this father and daughter is suddenly upended. I had to re-read the concluding pages several times to truly understand what had just happened. Not all the pieces fit (you have to have a suspension of disbelief) but I applaud the author Wood for trying something new.

The artist is Ryan Kelley, different from the artist in Book One, and he ably recreates the Irish countryside and it’s inhabitants. The men are rugged and battle weary, but Brigid is always drawn as a beautiful waif, making her a studied contrast with her father.

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Blood in the Snow: Book Three

This volume is broken into several vignettes (similar to how Wood wrote Rebels), where as the two previous books dealt with one extended story at a time. While I at first only planned to read the last chapter about Sven, I was sucked into the other stories, that were all drawn by different artists.

Lindisfarne– Northern England AD 793: Teen Edwin hates his bitter father and older brother and when Vikings land near his home he leads them straight to his village. Conniving Edwin sides with the Northlanders and forever turns his back on his Saxon kin.

The Viking Act of Single Combat– Northern Europe AD 790-1100: Six generations of two neighboring lords battle regularly. Two ugly Vikings battle to the death. Whatevs.

The Shield Maidens– Danish Mercia AD 868: Three widowed Danes escape and become shield maidens who were women warriors who fought alongside men in Scandinavian folklore and mythology. They escape to an abandoned Roman fort and defend themselves against the invading Saxons. Fate is intertwined into the story, so how they succeed seems less due to their own prowess than just luck. The very dark coloring and lack of individualization of the three women made this female-centric story less powerful than it could have been.

Sven The Immortal– Oslo Norway AD 1009: Sven and Enna are back! As is original artist Gianfelice and his issue with eyes! Sven has been in exile for several decades when young men who want to prove their manhood by killing the fabled Sven Of Orkney, decide to find him. Sven sends his two children into hiding, and he and Enna prepare for the attack. These young bucks underestimate the greying Sven but he shows them that he can still battle with the best of them. While I won’t spoil how he and Enna persevere, I will say that I was extremely happy with the ending. Sven- who knew that your character would end up being so appealing to me?

There are seven books total in this Northlanders series, and while I truly don’t plan on reading the remaining four, never say never!

-Nancy

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Wood, Brain & various artists. Northlanders: Book Two + Three. 2009 +2010.

Above The Timberline

Above The Timberline by Gregory Manchess is a unique book, that isn’t quite a graphic novel, instead it is a highly illustrated book, a so-called “painted novel”. Very reminiscent of the Dinotopia book series (minus the dinosaurs but add polar bears) by James Gurney, this large sized book has 240 pages of lush paintings that transport you to another time and place.

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Set in the year 3518, a cataclysmic event approximately 1500 years ago (that just happens to match our current date!) caused the Earth’s mantle to spin faster than it’s crust, resulting in huge tectonic shifts. Continents broke away and collided with others destroying cities and plunging them underground, with the original equator thrown towards the poles, and the poles at the new equator. Society was disrupted and much technology was lost as a new extreme ice age descended upon everyone. Now the current population seems to be in the early 20th century with British overtones, but bits and pieces of past mechanization such as airships remain so the entire setting has a steam punk vibe.

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Polar bears as pack animals and allies

The premise of this alternate future has the son of a missing famed explorer searching for his father who had been seeking a lost city under the snow. We have past journal entries from the father, Galen, that provide clues for Wes to follow. Soon into his journey through the Phantom Waste he meets up with some nomads and it just so happens that a lovely young woman of the tribe, Linea, helps him escape. Her knowledge of the terrain is invaluable as they work together to find Wes’s father, ahead of a former friend now turned villain who wants the glory for himself.

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Rhinos had to adapt and now have furry coats!

The artwork is exquisite. Manchess is known for his art in Newsweek, Time, Atlantic Monthly, and National Geographic and the beauty of his work can not be understated. He vividly creates a believable tundra landscape, and paints his characters, animals and interior backgrounds with precision. Although Manchess has contributed art to other books, this is the first he has authored, and at times the characterizations were thin. However, the narrative is set up for more adventures so I’ll definitely check out what further exploits await Wes and Linea!

-Nancy

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A Bride’s Story (Vol. 2)

Things are good in the Eihon household. Amir has met a young woman named Pariya, an outspoken, accomplished baker, and the two become fast friends. Mr. Smith, a long-time guest of the household, has finally decided to move on to continue his research, resulting in a bittersweet parting. Amir and Karluk’s bond has deepened. However, Amir’s family has come to take her back. They were turned away by Karluk’s grandmother in the first volume, but they are back to take Amir by any means necessary. They insist Amir wasn’t the girl they intended to send to marry Karluk. The entire family – even the village – stands their ground to protect Amir. When it’s all over, how can Amir forgive, forget, and move on?

The first volume was mostly about Amir and Karluk’s relationship, but here we have multiple plot threads going for different characters. It added some much-needed plot and depth to the story. It’s really more of a study in the traditions and customs of the people as it is an actual story, but the leisurely pace is appealing to me at the moment. I’m happy to report the art in this volume was just as superb as the last! Looking forward to the art in the next volume too 😉

– Kathleen

Mori, Kaoru. A Bride’s Story (Vol. 2). 2010.

Free Comic Book Day 2018

For several years in a row, I have brought Free Comic Book Day to my library. I pick up a good selection of titles from my favorite comic book store, Graham Crackers, and offer them to the library patrons when they come in. I also had some Star Wars and superhero crafts available for kids to do as well. I know, I know…I’m pretty awesome to offer such epicness to my library community.  As an added bonus, I love getting a sneak peek of the titles, and this year I went a bit crazy and picked six. But…none of them wowed me, as I think last year’s selection was better.

Free Comic Book Day Vol 2018 Avengers

Now I know comics can’t always follow whats going on in the movies, but having two Avengers stories that don’t correlate with what many of us saw on the big screen is confusing. In the first story, Black Panther and Odin, Thor’s father, talk of a threat that has been hidden for a million years. We get flashbacks to six God’s from the past that must be ancestors to modern day superheros. It’s hopelessly muddled and doesn’t make sense at all. The second story about Captain America is penned by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and picks up where last year Hydra’s story ended. This second story has some possibilities.

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A lighthearted romp with Han and Chewie getting into a scrape and then out of it. Typical Han Solo antics but the character is drawn with a face that looks more like actor Alden Ehrenreich than Harrison Ford. A nice tie with the upcoming Solo movie, but it didn’t advance his story line at all.

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This version of Bond isn’t drawn to resemble any of the past cinematic Bonds, and that’s just as well, as not to muddle our perceptions of him. 007 is being sent out on a mission, and due to some new regulations will not have his gun on him while he travels. This issue is a prequel to a future story, and humanizes James as he prepares to leave on this new job. The story and the clean art seem promising.

Image result for free comic book day 2018 invasionI picked up this title thinking the cover looked pretty cool, before I realized it was a Captain Canuck story. I almost put it back down after that realization, but then I would have missed the awesomeness of Canadian Trudeau, American Trump and Russian Putin facing off against one another at a United Nations General Assembly. Trudeau is portrayed as the voice of reason (true in real life) while Trump especially gets a comical (also true to form) depiction. Go Captain Canuck- save our world from alien invasion!

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I am not a fan of steam punk at all, but I picked the title up as I needed some female representation in my selections. This issue has two stories set three years apart, and is filled with the tired tropes of Mechanika having to find her origins, but as soon as she finds a clue, something prevents her from following it. This bionic female is sexualized with completely ridiculous outfits. Although the artwork is absolutely beautiful, I could not get past her comical vest that pushed out her breasts. Come on now. 

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This final story was a last minute grab for me, once I saw that it is an 80’s coming of age crime story, as I’m a sucker for that era! The opening story line appealed to me, as Diego works at a mob owned business, and (true story) I’m almost positive I worked at a clothing store that was a front for the mob when I was in high school. The plot then veers into cheesy 80’s movie territory with the story of a nerdy boy who wins over a hot girl. It was cute, but I don’t know where the continuing story will go. Also, the stylized cover doesn’t adequately represent the art inside, it’s completely different. I don’t like bait and switch.

So, I really question if I will continue with any of these stories. While I didn’t hate them, none grabbed my attention enough to make me rush out for future issues. Time will tell.

-Nancy

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls

I put this book on hold at work thinking it was a collection of fictional stories in graphic novel format. What I got was an interesting mix of mini memoirs, both written and in comic format, written and illustrated by many different female creators. I was surprised, but didn’t enjoy it any less 😉

The central theme of the stories is love, which is interpreted many different ways. The majority of the stories, of course, deal with romantic love. From dating mishaps to long-distance relationships to exploring sexuality, it’s all covered here. The love of friends, comics, nerd culture, video games, and fictional characters are all covered here as well, though of course the most impactful are those that deal with real relationships. That the creators are all sharing their own experiences makes it all the more emotional and resonating.

The format varies from story to story. Some are all written word. Some are strictly comics. Still more are a mix of both: written word with one or two illustrations or a few short comic panels that emphasize a point. No two stories are alike, because no creator worked on more than one story.

As ever with anthologies, there are some great stories and some not-so-great stories. I personally found more on the “great” end of the spectrum. There were a couple I finished by skimming and only one or two I skipped entirely after the first few paragraphs. Hope Nicholson, the editor, did a very good job of making sure the quality of the content was top-notch! A few that stood out to me especially were:

  • “Minas Tirith” by Marguerite Bennett
  • “Waxing Moon” by Meags Fizgerald
  • “Yes, No, Maybe” by Meagan Kearney
  • “How Fanfic from an American Girl Captured an English Boy” by Megan Lavey-Heaton
  • “Love in the time of Ethernet: Geeks & LDR” by Natalie Zina Walschots

The love of fandom and for significant people in the authors’ lives permeates all, along with self-love and acceptance. These girls are geeks and proud of it! The confidence and vulnerability in all these memoirs are at once inspiring, comforting, and heart-warming. Some of the stories have a little more mature content, but not enough to where I wouldn’t give it to an older middle-schooler. If you’ve got any younger geek girls in your life who need a confidence boost, hand them this. It’ll be just what the doctor ordered.

– Kathleen

Nicholson, Hope (editor). The Secret Loves of Geek Girls. 2016.

Superman: Grounded (Vol. 1)

Superman can fly through space. He can move planets. He can do incredible feats. He’s a symbol of hope to many, but… how much saving people does Superman actually do? Humbled after the events of the 100 Minute War, Superman comes back to Earth – literally. He sets off walking across the United States, helping out when needed with normal things. Fixing cars. Organizing storerooms in small-town diners. People don’t understand. They think he’s crazy – the League especially. But Superman knows that even though he can do incredible things, the most incredible thing he can do of all is just to lend a helping hand when it’s needed.

This one was a suggestion from Walt over at comicreviewsbywalt on the last Superman comic I read, and boy am I glad I read it. I was laughing on one page, then ugly crying on the next. This one sure gave my heartstrings a workout. This one is another one you might need a hot drink handy for 😉 Seeing Superman, freakin’ Superman, walking across the U.S. just to help out ordinary people – well, it’s humbling and inspiring. Of course, there are a few action scenes to break up the otherwise leisurely pace. The art is good, but it’s the writing and solid characterization that keeps you going.

– Kathleen

Straczynski, J. Michael, Eddy Barrows, and G. Willow Wilson. Superman: Grounded (Vol. 1). 2011.

Satania

Macabre. Unsettling. Gruesome.
I loved it.

My introduction when I reviewed Beautiful Darkness, also by Vehlmann and Kerascoët, had the above words and they prove true in this unique graphic novel too. At first glance, the story line seems to be simply a dark fairy tale- yet, it goes deeper than that.

The story begins with a cave exploration gone wrong. Spelunker Christopher has gone missing, and experienced guide and priest Father Monsore can not find him. Another recovery team sets out to find him that include’s Christopher’s younger sister Charlotte. Monsure tries to save this group too when poor planning on smug team leader Lavergne’s part traps them in the cave and a spring flood pushes them deeper into the caverns.

Once the six characters are established, we find out the real reason for Christopher’s exploration- he was writing a book to prove the existence of Hell by using Darwin’s theory of evolution. Lavergne, a believer of Christopher’s theories, expounds further by explaining that perhaps Neanderthals moved into the cave’s depths and evolved to combat the heat, over thousands of years, to resemble demons of folklore.

Soon time begins to bend, and hallucinations occur for some of the team, so it’s hard to know if what they are experiencing or seeing is true. Some of the team disappear or go crazy and only three remain- Father Monsore, Charlotte and Lavergne. The three find some clues that Christopher might still be alive and they push deeper finding grotesque creatures and other-worldly landscapes. They encounter some demon looking beasts, and one seems to take a liking to Charlotte. I will not spoil the end of what happens to everyone in the land of Satania, but the last few pages were perfectly disturbing.

The illustrations are lush and detailed with special attention to the subterranean landscapes.  The world created is strange and lovely, with vivid coloring to help bring each part of Satania to life.  The art is credited to Kerascoët, which is actually a pseudonym for the husband and wife team of Marie Pommepuy and Sébastien Cosset. These two have also worked with the writer Hubert to create the book Beauty, that Kathleen reviewed. While their illustrations may seem suited for children’s tales, read further in and you will see why all their books are only meant for mature audiences.

If you like your fairy tales dark, pick up this book and the others by Kerascoët, to experience thought provoking, haunting and allegorical tales.

-Nancy

Vehlmann, Fabien & Kerascoët. Satania. 2017.

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