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Graphic Novelty²

Poison Ivy: Thorns

Pamela Isley is a loner who loves plants. So much so that she releases a gas (toxic to humans, not plants, of course) in a local park in an effort to stop it from being bulldozed and constructed over. A few people get seriously sick, and residents in the surrounding area need to evacuate. This leads one of Pamela’s classmates, Alice Oh, to stay temporarily with Pamela and her father. Though Pamela would rather hang out in the greenhouse her mother donated to her high school than with her peers, Alice is all right. She’s helped Pamela avoid Brett, a guy at school who bothers her. However, Pamela isn’t sure she can trust Alice; especially with the family secrets she and her father keep. As she and Alice get closer, as more than friends, can Pamela open up?

This is a perfect pre-Halloween read. The overall tone is dark, gothic, and creepy. Most of the story takes place in the Victorian Isley mansion, or in settings surrounded by plants. Readers who know that Pamela eventually becomes Poison Ivy will be interested in this origin story, but horror and suspense fans will find plenty to appreciate as well. Pamela’s honest struggles to open up and do the right thing in this story juxtaposed against the knowledge of who she eventually becomes is what makes this read so tense.

What was most interesting to me was the seamless inclusion of feminism into Pamela’s character. She states more than once throughout the book that she has had enough of men controlling her body. It fits within the context of the story (that I can’t go into for spoiler reasons), but also is interesting given the history of the character as a femme fatale who uses her womanly charms to get what she wants. A teenage Pamela standing up for herself, specifically to stop men from taking advantage of her body, added a depth to her character that I hadn’t realized was missing until now. I had good timing reading this shortly after the new abortion laws being passed in Texas (though admittedly, Pamela takes “my body, my choice” to the extreme here!).

Contributing to the suspenseful atmosphere are the murky, muted colors and low lighting in the art. Pamela’s red hair is the brightest thing on most pages, but not by much. The linework is sharp and thin, evoking the titular thorns and reminding readers that no one person or place is safe.

Though you’ll come for the perfectly creepy atmosphere and art, you’ll stay for this queer and feminist representation of Pamela Isley becomes Poison Ivy. Add it to your TBR pile this October!

– Kathleen

Keplinger, Kody and Sarah Kipin. Poison Ivy: Thorns. 2021.

LeVar Burton Reads: Season Nine

Season Nine was dominated by speculative fiction that LeVar loves, so he ran a writing contest looking for writers to send in short stories from this genre, with the winner’s entry read next season.

The Bank of Burkina Faso by Ekaterina Sedia

We are all familiar with the scam of a foreign-born prince who needs our help in attaining his funds… but what if were true? In this short story an exiled prince now living in Moscow teams up with the widow of a military general to recover their fortunes from the Bank of Burkina Faso. This magical realism tale weaves together dogs and dreams into a very odd conclusion.

Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot by Robert Olen Butler

In this odd little tale, a husband is reincarnated as a parrot and bought unknowingly by his widow who is now dating the man that the husband had been jealous of. In fact, that jealousy had led to his death and he pines away for his wife, as a lack of communication then and now prevents him from ever being happy with her.

Dark Spaces on the Map by Anjali Sachdeva

A 107-year-old woman is interviewed about her experiences as a form of cultural anthropology and she needs to decide what she is willing to share in this speculative fiction story. Memory becomes subjective when compared to photos and verified documentation, but it also takes away emotional weight from the person remembering the past. Does everything need to be shared especially when it could put someone in a bad light or the facts can be manipulated to fit an agenda? This story was timely, for I recently saw a friend from middle school, and she shared stories that I barely remembered or remembered differently, and it made me really ponder memories and how perspective can adapt a shared experience into different memories of it.

Milagroso by Isabel Yap

Milagroso means “miracle” and that is what Marty is looking for as he returns to his hometown in the Philippines with his family. Marty is a selfish scientist who helps engineer synthetic food and had turned his back on his dying elderly father, only coming back for an annual festival that promises a special phenomenon of real food being transformed from fake food. The miracle occurs and he is torn as to whether he will allow his children to eat the authentic fruit, as he and others are so brainwashed that synthetic food is better.

The Angel of Khan El-Khalili by P. Djèlí Clark

Set in 1912 in an alternative Cairo, this steampunk story is set within the author’s Dead Djinn series. A young woman, burdened with guilt, seeks a miracle from a mechanical angel in the Ministry of Alchemy. But every gift comes with a price, and she must reveal her dark secrets to obtain a gift to help her sister. Ultimately, this is a story about forgiveness and I thought the world-building was strong for such a short tale.

The War of the Wall by Toni Cade Bambara

This story is a refreshing slice-of-life story set during the Vietnam War instead of the speculative fiction that dominates his podcat. In this short story, two youth are dismayed that an artist is creating a mural in their city neighborhood and are worried that she will ruin the wall that so many people congregate near. She doesn’t seem friendly or responsive to other’s overtures, so the boys plan to graffiti the wall. But once back from their trip out to the country to visit family they come back to see the mural beautifully finished and honoring their culture and incorporating their community into it. The story really captured personalities and capably showed how change can be viewed with distrust but can end up being for the best.

You Perfect, Broken Thing by C.L. Clark

In this apocalyptic future, a degenerative disease has taken hold of the population, and medicine is in short supply. Athletes participate in a grueling race to win shots for themselves and their loved ones, but the training also speeds up the disease’s toll on their bodies. One participant pushes her body to the limit for a chance to save her lover and daughter, with a win at all costs mentality, but her sacrifices prove worth it.

The Years of My Birth by Louise Erdrich

This excellent tale is a layered story with a moral dilemma. When a white baby girl is born disabled she is rejected by her mother, who takes home her healthy twin brother instead. Tuffy is adopted by a Native American nurse and raised on a Chippewa reservation. Her new family helps rehabilitate her, leaving her with few signs of her original diagnosis and she knows she is loved. But years after her parent’s death, her biological mother contacts her and wants to meet with her, showing her true colors with an agenda that becomes clear quickly. Tuffy is faced with an unenviable decision regarding her brother and we are left not knowing what happens next, yet knowing Tuffy’s heart, we can guess what she will do despite how reprehensible her twin is.

 Words We Say Instead by Brit E. B. Hvide 

The story started out slow but gained traction, as a veteran space pilot is at a shady spaceship dealership, looking for old technology that has been banned by the government. Turns out years ago, she and other pilots were given AI ships that connected to their brain waves, and these ships became like family to them. When they were ordered to decommission their ships due to potential problems with the technology, she reluctantly complied but has regretted it in the decades since. Now she searches for bits of old technology that she hopes she can reinstall and seeks penance for betraying her AI ship years ago.

Shock of Birth by Cadwell Turnbull

A man who feels that he was switched into another body at a different age and in a different city plus there are details about the world at large that are incorrect, reminded me of the Star Trek: TNG episode The Inner Light. That is praise indeed, as that is one of my favorite ST episodes ever. As there is no proof and no way to switch back even if he convinced others of his new reality, he unhappily continues through life. Only at the end does he start to realize he needs to make the best of his situation and live in a manner that would honor his old life. No matter if we are time travelers or not, the message of blooming where you are planted is a good one! 

Tía Abuela’s Face, Ten Ways by Lisa M. Bradley

Coping with death can be very challenging, as a space anthropologist finds when she arrives back at Earth to find that her beloved great-aunt has died. Chided by some family members at not being there at the end of her aunt’s death, she takes it upon herself to honor her in an extreme way. Set sometime in the future, technology enables her to transform her face into what her Tía looked like. Although she seems sane, I felt this was an incredibly unhealthy way to deal with her grief. My mother and aunt both recently died within five months of one another, and while I miss them terribly and like to wear jewelry of theirs or use some of their household belongings in my own home, what this woman does is disturbing.

On the Lonely Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Best described as a Victorian Gothic with a fantasy twist at the end, the story builds slowly. Balthazar is an ailing young man sent to live seaside along with his companion Judith, as his family is strangely uninvolved. A romance develops between the two, although his health deteriorates and he seems to be dying, but Judith is more aware of his condition than he realizes. This atmospheric short story has a melancholy end, and its conclusion will leave you with questions.

My favorites this season were Dark Spaces on the Map, The Years of My Birth and The War of the Wall. I look forward to hearing the winning entry from the contest next season, so in the meantime I suggest you check out his podcast if you haven’t already, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.”

-Nancy

My Last Summer with Cass

Megan and Cass spend summers in the cottage their parents rent. Megan’s family drives to Topinabee, Michigan from Illinois; Cass’ family from Pennsylvania. The two girls are inseparable artists. After an incident where they were caught drawing on the walls, they start to collaborate on each others’ drawings. Each subsequent summer, they show each other what they learned in art class over the past year and create new work together. Something changes the summer they both turn 13. Cass’ father is away on a “business trip,” Megan’s father is pressuring her to give up art to study business and take over the family hardware store. The next summer they spend together is their senior year of high school, in New York City where Cass and her mother have moved. Megan meets Cass’ artist friends and connections and sees how she’s grown and changed since last they met. Cass encourages Megan to take chances, but when will it go too far?

Upon closing this graphic novel, it immediately shot to the top of my Top 10 list for this year. It’s indescribably good and gave me all the feels. The writing deftly shows how growing up changes us and our friendships: for better or worse. We see how each character handles the expectations from family and how they are able (or not) to operate and express themselves with the constraints they are given. These cues build up to the climax, which (without spoilers) is so dang HEARTBREAKING given all the progress that both characters had made. Afterwards, they must learn how to rebuild what they had broken.

Muted pastels color the whole book, as if you’re watching the story unfold through a summer haze. The linework is messy, loose, and sketchy, conveying movement and emotion above all. It recalls charcoal or pastel pencil. These media are known for being easy to erase and start over again, which perfectly reinforces the main theme of reformation. Once I realized that that was probably the idea behind the art choice, I was blown away all over again.

I can’t talk any more about this graphic novel without spoiling it, so I highly recommend you experience it for yourself. You will fall in love and get your heart broken, and perhaps mended again, by Megan and Cass: two artists who learn how to take chances and be honest not only with each other, but with themselves. I cannot, CANNOT, recommend this graphic novel enough. Easily the best I’ve read this year.

Kathleen

Crilley, Mark. My Last Summer with Cass. 2021.

Invincible: Volumes Eleven & Twelve

This is it! There are some spoilers in this review, but frankly if you have read this far, then you are familiar with the Invincible series and can properly geek out with me over the reveals in these concluding volumes.

Volume Eleven:

Mark and Eve have settled somewhat uneasily into life on the planet Talescria, and when he and Oliver are helping keep Thragg and his soldier children at bay, Mark is sucked into a deep cave and meets a strange entity. In a deus ex machina plot device, he is thrown back into his past on Earth as a teen but with his current memories. With his hard-won knowledge, he is able to keep his father from killing the Guardians of the Globe and helps the various heroes (good to see Rex Splode again!) prevent mishaps that save millions of lives. However, he knows by remaining in this timeline, he will never have his baby girl Terra so he makes the hard decision to return to his original life, erasing all the good he was able to do in the past. Going between dimensions, the timelines don’t sync and he returns five years later finding Terra a child. Just wanting to reunite with his family he declines to help Allen fight Thragg, but Thragg and his children don’t care what Mark wants. More battles, more betrayals, and then a devastating death that I felt was unnecessary.

This volume has Ottley do the art in the first half, and Walker in a more cartoony format illustrates the second half. I’ve noticed that Kirkman and Ottley are always ego-boosting Walker in the sketchbooks that conclude each book, so I wonder what was going on behind the scenes between them all. But I am looking forward to seeing how the three of them conclude this entire series in the next volume! 

Volume Twelve:

The end of all things! We open with Oliver’s funeral…I am still salty about this. We’ve had some hard deaths in the past, especially Rex Splode, but this death hurt. We find out Allen had him spying on Thragg and pretending to betray Mark, because I didn’t believe for a minute Oliver would have gone to the dark side. But that left me hating on Allen, who used the philosophy of sacrificing the one for the many. Mark even understood this, but still. (Aside: The Viltrumite genes are supposed to be so strong than any child will look humanoid despite the alien species they are mating with. But it was a big stretch that insectoid Thraxan mothers would not pass down any of their characteristics to their children- like Oliver and then all of Thragg’s offspring. I could even accept that, but when Oliver has children with a lobster-looking alien, his twin children still look like him!)

Thragg and Mark have their final battle, but at a great cost to Thragg’s children. At one time he seems almost loving to his twin daughter Ursaal, but then he reveals his true colors as he admits he has bred his children to be fodder in battle. He views them as inferior and doesn’t care they are dying by the thousands for him. Mark’s last fight with him was very talky, as Mark is explaining how his cause is better, and thus he has more to fight for. While Omni-Man survives the battle, he takes a hit that proves to be too much for him. He is able to have some last poignant words with Mark, but I was very upset that Debbie was a few minutes too late to be with him. As a wife and mother myself, that upset me, because I have really bonded with her character. (Another aside: I have enjoyed getting to know many of the heros and villains that dip in and out of stories over the course of the twelve volumes. But where did Tech Jacket and Wolf-Man disappear to?)

With Thragg dead, now Mark can finally deal with Rex. Rex has had absolute power, but that power has absolutely corrupted him. He was given a pass for far too long, with Nolan even accepting him, but Mark knows the good can’t last. Finally the two of them have it out, and Mark is able to neutralize Rex but still harness his intellect. The story can now conclude, as Mark steps up to lead the Viltrumites and meets Annissa’s son, Markus. We see Markus and Terra age (Terra is such a brat!) with Debbie as a loving Grandma. A few threads are left open if the story is ever continued with Mark or with his children, but the series is brought to a close in a neat bow.

Invincible has been an amazing series! It took familiar superhero tropes and twisted them in unusual and bloody ways. Kirkman, Walker and Ottley told a story from beginning to end and were able to offer fresh commentary on issues going on in our own world but adapted into the Invincible universe. I am amazed that Kirkman was creating and writing about The Walking Dead at the same time, with a fifteen year overlap. In fact, as much as TWD has been heralded, I feel Kirkman’s Invincible was the better of the two. And in a graphic novel the art work is as important as the writing, if not more, and both Walker and Ottley contributed mightily to the series. Their illustrations defined the books. I’m loving the animated series, and look forward to many years of watching future episodes, and seeing how similar or dissimilar it will be to these graphic novels, so I’m happy that I have more Invincible in my future!

-Nancy

Start at the beginning and read the first volume at Image Comics!

Read my reviews of previous books:

Volume One, Volumes Two-Four, Volumes Five-Six, Volumes Seven-Eight, Volumes Nine-Ten

Marvel’s “What If…?” Episodes 1-3

The latest Marvel TV show, What If…?, premiered last month. The episodes are self-contained story arcs narrated by a being called The Watcher, who takes the viewer through different universes. In these alternate realities, we see familiar events occur differently.

Episode 1 shows us a universe where Peggy Carter took the Super Soldier serum instead of Steve Rogers. While she is now stronger than most men, she still encounters the same barriers as before… just because she’s a woman. When a dangerous mission comes up, she knows she has to go. She’s the only one who can carry it out. She takes up the shield and becomes Captain Carter, with the help of Howard Stark and Steve himself. A strong start to the series where Peggy shows how strong she really is!

Episode 2 shows us a universe where T’challa became Star Lord instead of Black Panther. The Ravagers abduct him instead of Peter Quill! Yondu, his adoptive father, tells him that Wakanda was destroyed. Viewers follow Star Lord and the Ravagers as they attempt to steal the Embers of Genesis (a powerful artifact that creates plant life, and therefore can end hunger across the galaxy) from Taneleer Tivan: the Collector, and the most powerful man in the universe. This was unfortunately Chadwick Bosewick’s last performance before his passing. It was a very emotional episode for me and is easily my favorite so far not only for him, but the high stakes heist!

Episode 3 shows us a universe where the Avengers never assembled. Nick Fury tries to call them together, but they all die under mysterious circumstances. The injection that Natasha Romanov gives Tony Stark is accidentally fatal. Thor is shot dead by Clint Barton, who maintains he didn’t shoot before dying himself in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. In her final voicemail to Fury, Natasha declares, “It’s all about hope!” Can Fury deduce what she meant before it’s too late for him, too? This one might be the most thought-provoking one of the three, speculating what the world would be like without the heroes that have defined the series.

Of the Marvel TV shows to come out in the last year, this one is up there on my favorites list. It certainly is fun to ponder “What If…?” and explore other possibilities for the universe. Since it appears they are setting up other multiverses in other shows, it’s a nice, easy way to explain to viewers unfamiliar with the concept. It’s also easier viewing in the sense that, as mentioned above, each episode is it’s own self-contained story. The only overarching element (so far) is the Watcher himself. Unless there is a big reveal at the end where everything becomes connected, you may be able to watch any one episode that seems interesting to you.

They’ve got most of the cast to reprise their roles for this series. Chadwick Boseman reprised his role as T’challa, as mentioned above. Haley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, and Mark Ruffalo reprise their roles, among others that I won’t spoil 😉 It adds a lovely layer of immersion and truly feels part of the universe. If they had used different voice actors for everyone instead of a few, it would feel like more of a spin off.

However, I feel something is off with the animation. A still is nice to look at. Movement seems a little jerky to me, and facial expressions don’t quite capture the intended emotions. Husband compared it to watching a Telltale video game, but I feel as if Telltale animations are smoother than this. Telltale games are more graphic (with the thick lines and blocky coloring) in style; the show seems to be trying to emulate a moving comic book. I appreciate the attempt, but it’s falling a little flat for me =(

Overall, I’m looking forward to more of the series! Even if the animation is falling flat for me, the writing is thought-provoking, action-packed, and funny. My biggest hope is seeing a Thor episode! New episodes premiere on Disney+ every Wednesday. Look for Nancy’s post soon on episodes 4-6!

– Kathleen

Andrews, Bryan. What If…? 2021.

Invincible: Ultimate Volumes Nine & Ten

I’m nearing the end of the series, with only two volumes to go after these two, and the action, humor and pathos never stops!

Volume Nine:

In the first half, Mark regains his powers, so he checks in with Dinosaurus who he left unsupervised. Big mistake! This dinosaurus plotline fell flat for me- it was just so talky about right vs wrong just for Mark to learn a lesson about understanding Cecil’s decisions better. So it’s ok that a million people died, so long as Mark realizes life is not always black or white. Plus, it has bothered me to no end that we never learned what turned mild mannered David into an insane dino/human hybrid. At least there was some amazing artwork with some very cool one or two-page spreads, as the various heroes dealt with the chaos that Dinosaurus caused, with all the faces of characters reacting to Mark’s “death” being a favorite. Another significant plot was that Nolan was revealed to be the Viltrumite royal heir and all of a sudden Thragg is overthrown. Eve reveals she is pregnant and won’t be able to use her powers as it could hurt the baby. A little joke with Mark attending a comic-con about hitting the 100 issues is appreciated, as Invincible was hitting 100 issue at this time IRL.

Angstrom Levy pops up again and he and his multi-verses of different Invincibles worries Mark, and despite Eve seemingly talking sense into Levy after he threatens them, Mark is concerned about what Levy could do in the future. We also get worrisome windows into what Battle Beast, Rex and Doctor Seismic are up to. Rex, especially, is unraveling and reveals his true nature to Mark.

Although Ottley is credited for all the art in this volume it seemed off. Eve and Debbie’s faces seemed different, and I double-checked that Walker wasn’t part of the art team in this volume. Speaking of art teams I should mention that Rathburn (inks) and Rauch (colors) always hit it out of the park.

Volume Ten:

Often in the Marvel & DC comics, heroes make decisions that are always for the best, but in this series Mark is always making mistakes. He often learns and grows from them, but chaos and death often follow him. His determination to kill Levy drives a wedge between him and Eve, and he has to figure out how to get out of a dimension that Rex stranded him in. Months go by, and Eve is nearing the birth of her child when he returns. Mark tries to warn people that Rex has gone insanely evil, but his pleas come too late, and Rex attacks all the heroes resulting in many of their deaths. In the midst of all this, the Viltrumite Anissa assaults Mark, demanding he father a child with her. She rapes him in a very uncomfortable scene. He understandably is reeling from her attack, and it throws him off his game while he deals with all that is happening around him. That his and Eve’s baby daughter is born is a bright spot in this grim volume.

Battle Beast and Thragg get into a fight to the death when they encounter one another, as Thragg has settled down on a familiar planet and has worked VERY diligently at increasing the Viltrumite ranks. The planet he picked is actually brilliant and his children will be ready soldiers in no time. Speaking of other planets, Mark & Eve with their baby daughter Terra leave Earth as they can’t cope with Rex’s betrayals and how everyone is looking past his choices. They meet up with Oliver, who due to his mother’s bloodline, has aged rapidly and they are now are about the same age. We meet Oliver’s girlfriend, Haluma, who looks like a giant lobster but turns Oliver on (love the mandibles joke).

As we now move towards the conclusion, some threads are being tidied up. We see Mark’s first girlfriend with a new boyfriend, and some bow ties are added to Art the superhero’s tailor, Eve’s parents and William & Rick’s character arcs. This was a more poignant story than usual, although you can’t have an Invincible volume without battle scenes throughout. The last page was a gut punch for what it symbolized, and in the enjoyable sketchbooks at the end of each book, artist Ottley said it was rough to draw.

I’m now ready to head into the last two volumes and see how everything gets wrapped up!

-Nancy

Who will win this epic battle?

Kiki’s Delivery Service

It’s been quite a summer for me. I hit a milestone birthday, got promoted at my part-time job and am now down to 1 (ONE!) full-time job, and just this past weekend: moved into my husband’s and mine first house.

My body still aches from moving – I’m not as young as I used to be 😉 Not being able to go to the gym for over a year couldn’t have helped either. So this morning instead of unpacking more I had a feeling I needed to watch a Ghibli movie. Howl’s Moving Castle is my favorite, but – it didn’t seem right. Kiki was calling my name for some reason. So I curled up on the couch and clicked “Play.”

Kiki is a witch who has been waiting for the perfect night to leave home. As is tradition, 13-year-old witches leave their homes for a year to begin their training. On a clear midnight under a full moon, Kiki and her black cat Jiji take off on her mother’s broom and are drawn to a city on the southern coast near the sea. While searching for a place to live, they witness a baker attempting to give back a pacifier one of her customers dropped. Kiki offers to deliver it on her broomstick, and the rest, as they say, is history. The baker, Osono, gives Kiki her attic room and use of her phone for Kiki’s new flying delivery service in exchange for occasional help around the bakery. As time goes on, Kiki and Jiji gain customers, make deliveries, and find friends in aviation enthusiast Tombo and painter Ursula. After a delivery gone wrong, Kiki becomes depressed and slowly begins to lose her powers: flight and talking to Jiji. Will she be able to recover them and resume deliveries?

I see why I was drawn to this movie: it was just what I needed. Kiki is finding her independence and becoming self-reliant, but she also needs help occasionally from her loved ones. When she starts to lose her powers, she needs to look inside herself and find her inspiration again. After her introspective period, she doesn’t go back to exactly how she was before. She still can’t talk to Jiji, but she adjusts and accepts it. In her letter to her parents, she admits that while she’s having a great time and finding her way, she still gets homesick. By the end of the movie, she has grown through her “artist’s block” (as it were) and learned to be vulnerable and ask for and accept help when needed and offered – while still maintaining her independence.

The animation – oh, the animation! – is just lovely. It has a painterly feel to it. There are multiple points throughout the movie where there is just a pause. A pause to take in the scenery, or the character standing still. These points taking place in Kiki’s attic room reminded me of Johannes Vermeer’s paintings, most of which he composed and worked on in his attic room in Delft. While the characters’ movements and expressions are buttery-smooth, the big draw of these films for me are the scenery and attention to detail of everyday life. You can smell the bread and pastries in Osono’s bakery. You can feel and smell the wind coming off the sunlit sea. I was astounded by the sound direction: the pattering of Jiji’s feet on a wood floor, Tombo’s voice being distorted through the propeller on his invention. The thing that makes Ghibli movies so successful and immersive is this high attention to detail.

Immersed I was, so immersed that I’m fully awake, fixed my tea, and am rolling up my sleeves (well, I would if I weren’t wearing a tank top) to get cracking on unpacking before my second first day at work tomorrow. Just like Kiki, I have found my inspiration and am ecstatic to be starting many new chapters of my life all at the same time.

Kathleen

Miyazaki, Hayao. Kiki’s Delivery Service. Original Japanese release 1989; English dub released 1997.

Once & Future: The Parliament of Magpies

This third volume of the Once & Future series is as strong as the first two, and I am loving these twisted King Arthur tales!

The story starts out innocently (I’m not fooled), as Gran relaxes with one of her many cigs out on the patio of her senior home, when six magpies fly to her. She recites two nursery rhymes that would correlate with the six birds and realizes they are a bad omen of what is to come. Of course the colored orbs surrounding them is always a clue that magic and mayhem are around the corner. She calls her hunky ginger grandson Duncan over to help and he brings along his love interest Rose along as she has some foretelling powers.

While the story continues with a dark King Arthur and Merlin, some other English tales and characters are incorporated- such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Elaine of Astolat and Elaine of Corbenic. All of these mentions made me have to look up Wikipedia entries on them all, as my knowledge of Arthurian tales is rather scant. The way that Gran, Duncan, Rose, and Duncan’s mother Mary twist all of these legends around to suit them can be a bit confusing, yet it works. Rose is incorporated more into this story, as she takes charge of a beheading and then later befriending a flying dragon.

The concluding pages seem to put Arthur and Merlin to rest, but of course there is a twist that brings them alive once more. And now because of someone’s stupidity, the dark magic is out in the world for everyone to see, not just monster hunters and sinister government agencies. The strange creatures on the last page are creepily awesome. I look forward to what author Kieron Gillen and artist Dan Mora have planned next for readers!

-Nancy

Make sure you read The King Is Undead (V1) and Old English (V2)

A simple nursery rhyme foretells the chaos to come!

Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human

“So… what is sex? Are there different forms of it? What counts as sex?” “What if I don’t like it?!” “What is consent and how to I give/get it?” “What if I’m not sure of my gender identity or sexuality yet?” “Why won’t anyone give me straight advice about relationships?!”

If you’re asking any of these questions and/or looking for sex ed in comic book form: this is for you. But it’s also so much more! Each individual chapter addresses the above questions, plus:

  • Body positivity and how to talk kindly to yourself about your body (but also in general!)
  • Masturbation and the different forms it can take
  • How to have safe sex, including what methods are good for preventing pregnancy and which are good for preventing STIs
  • Kinks, fantasies, and aftercare
  • Dealing with emotions such as jealousy and rejection

Each chapter is a conversation between two to four individuals about these topics. The characters are either friends, significant others, or siblings. All are presented as teenagers or college students, so each character is discussing with their peers. That was awesome! I think generations younger than I are becoming more comfortable with having these frank conversations with people they trust, and it was wonderful to have that shown! Also shown were a vast array of body types, including skin color, sizes, and differently abled! It reinforced the chapter on body positivity in a wonderfully passive way!

There were helpful (and anatomically correct) diagrams and illustrations throughout. There is also an index and a resources section at the back. Overall the language was plain and straightforward, though with some slang that (I felt) was a touch overused and will be outdated quickly.

Overall this was a very informative graphic novel that is presented in a no-nonsense, yet conversational and easy to understand manner. I think it’ll be easier for teens to digest this graphic novel – presented as conversations between peers of all types – rather than a more traditional or drier sex-ed book. Highly recommended for all YA library collections.

– Kathleen

Moen, Erika, and Matthew Nolan. Let’s Talk About It: The Teen’s Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human. 2021.

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