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Graphic Novelty²

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February 2016

Batgirl of Burnside, Vol. 2: Family Business

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Stewart, Cameron, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr. Batgirl, Vol 2: Family Business. 2016.

Since it was such a beautiful day yesterday, I decided to walk to the comic book store near me. I went in for ONE THING (Bombshells #4, which is on backorder and not being delivered for another 2 weeks) and ended up spending $35. Why do I do this.

But this is where most of my money went 😄 I was so excited! I didn’t even know it was out!!! I absolutely had to get it and I devoured it as soon as I got home.

While rescuing people from a real life, very deadly, video game, Batgirl uncovers a cult devoted to Hooq, the social media site she took down in the last volume. They are worshipping a vessel that, as it turns out, contains Livewire. As she goes in for the takedown, Batman shows up – or, at least, a giant robot that looks like Batman, and who wants to arrest Batgirl! She manages to get away, but how long can she evade him? Gladius’ gang are kidnapping diplomats, and someone is releasing tigers into Luke Fox’s (Lucius’ son) new company to kill the employees, and on top of it all, Barbara is the maid of honor in her best friend’s wedding! How can she possibly do it all?

A bunch of characters show up here, so be prepared to say hello to some of your favorites! This volume kind of deviates from Barbara’s college experience, so there isn’t as much of it here as there was in the last. There was a single issue in the middle that changed art styles three times, which was super annoying. But overall, it had the same fun and light-hearted feel as the first volume.

This volume was just released on February 23, so no word yet on when the third volume is coming. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for it, though!

– Kathleen

Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal

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Willow, G. & Adrian Alphona. Ms. Marvel. 2014.

I’ve heard a lot of good buzz about Ms. Marvel, so I checked it out to see if the hype was accurate, and I’m happy to report it really was. As an origin story it hit all the right spots- we were introduced to Kamala Khan who is a relatable Muslim Pakistani teen; and we are given background on her family, school and identity issues. Kamala comes from a devout and traditional family, so all she can see is how different she is from her high school peers. Her love of the Avengers represents her wish for everything she is not: to be blonde, powerful and sexy. When a mysterious mist takes over the city one night she is at a party, she gets her wish-suddenly and without warning she is transformed into the retro Captain Marvel. Kamala is confused and struggles with understanding and harnessing her new Inhuman powers. The rest of the story deals with who Kamala confides in, how she establishes her own identity and look (thus, she takes the name Ms. Marvel to differentiate from the original version), and how she can balance fighting evil with curfew from her loving but in-the-dark parents.

The illustrations remind me of Manga art at times, for some of the panels are intricate with much detail, while other panels are cartoonish in nature and show oversimplified caricatures of some of the characters. The colors are muted, almost washed out, but are appropriate of a city setting. Strange animal mascots are hidden in many pictures, with the animals appearing more often once Kamala becomes Ms. Marvel. I was puzzled by this, and was wondering if there was an explanation as to how and why the animals are part of the storyline. Adorable yes, but also somewhat distracting to me as I glimpsed them. Humor was an added bonus throughout the story, and was a good balance to the more serious aspects of this graphic novel.
I definitely want to read further issues and get deeper into Kamala’s odyssey as a new super hero. Having her meet the Avenger’s team in the future (beyond the confusing  “vision” in the mist), and finding her place as a hero, friend, daughter and young woman will be a journey I want to take with her.

-Nancy

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Birds of Prey: Volume 1

 

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Dixon, Chuck, et al. Birds of Prey: Volume 1. 2002.

While I’m a huge fan of the 2002 TV series “Birds of Prey,” (I should rewatch that again and probably post about it later), I had never read any of the comics before going into it. This volume is not the start of the “official” first Birds of Prey run, but of the one-shot issues by Chuck Dixon leading up to it (source). They aren’t all chronological, so I’ll give a brief synopsis of each.

  • Black Canary/Oracle: Birds of Prey: Dinah Lance – the Black Canary – has just left the Justice League and is trying to start a new life. Barbara Gordon, as Oracle, contacts her to investigate the Green Brotherhood, an eco-terrorist group sabotaging billionaire Nick Devine’s philanthropic projects in third world countries.
  • Birds of Prey: Revolution: Oracle and Black Canary team up once again to stop a white slavery ring in the Caribbean.
  • Showcase ’96 #13: Black Canary and Lois Lane fight their way out of a warehouse full of disillusioned workers – by giving them a little help to believe in themselves.
  • Birds of Prey: Manhunt: This 4-issue run co-stars Huntress and Catwoman as the Birds reluctantly team up with them to take out Archer Braun- a secretive man with whom each of these ladies has a bone to pick!

Most of the authors and artists are the same for these different comics; as a result, there is a nice consistency here that might not show up in other collections of multiple runs. As it is, there are still slight variations on character designs and art styles from issue to issue. For example, Black Canary/Oracle reminded me of The Dark Knight Returns in it’s desaturated palette and high contrast between light and shadow. The color and tone get much richer in Revolution. The art in Showcase reminded me more of older comics with it’s stylized characters, bright colors, and often simple, monochrome backgrounds. Manhunt was a little more expressive with the panel layout, making it feel even more action-oriented and fast-paced. Overall I’m not a fan of Canary’s design in these – I love her original leather jacket and fishnets, and ’90s fashion was something else (this is coming from a ’90s kid mind you).

Of the four, my personal favorite was Manhunt. I adore crossovers and I loved how the four women interacted with each other and had different motives for wanting to get the bad guy X,D A central thread throughout was Canary and Oracle trying to understand and communicate with each other. It could go over into “girl talk” sometimes, which I found a little cheesy but otherwise didn’t mind. Overall it’s a fun collection, but I can’t wait to get to the Gail Simone era!

-Kathleen

Friends With Boys

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Hicks, Faith Erin. Friends With Boys. 2012.

I love me some Rainbow Rowell, so when I heard she was partnering with Faith Erin Hicks to do two graphic novels together, I had to check out FEH’s work and see if she was worthy. And worthy she is-her work is beyond awesome!!

Maggie is about to start high school, and after being homeschooled since childhood she is very nervous. Her three older brothers have been her whole social life before this, so she is scared and unsure of how to make friends, having none in the past. To make matters worse, her mother has recently left the family and Maggie is haunted (!) by the widow of a ship captain from the 1800’s. While her brothers are supportive, they are busy and have issues of their own, so she tentatively strikes up a friendship with a brother & sister who are on the fringes of HS society themselves. Alistair and Lucy have an interesting back story, and with their help (and later her brother’s assistance), Maggie tries to understand and then put an end to her haunting. What seemed like an odd plot thread, ties in neatly with her feelings of guilt in regards to her mother, and not always being able to fix things, no matter how much you’d like to.

The artwork is done in shades of black and white and captures the full spectrum of human emotion. The comic panels vary in size and perspective to convey different aspects of the story, from close ups of the characters to long shots to show atmosphere. The relationships between the McKay family (their last name was just icing on the cake!) were authentic and sweet, and I wanted to hang out with the two sibling sets by the end of the book. I demand a sequel! Seriously…please write a sequel.

I eagerly look forward to the collaboration of RR & FEH. It will undoubtedly be epic!

-Nancy

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Huntress: Crossbow at the Crossroads

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Levitz, Paul, Marcos To, and John Dell. Huntress: Crossbow at the Crossroads. 2012.

Thought I’d continue my Huntress theme with a newer one 😄 This one was a standalone story right before the New 52 reboot.

Helena traces gun shipments into Gotham back to Naples, Italy, and heads there to shut it down. However, she uncovers not only containers of automatic weapons, but also containers of women fleeing from war in the Middle East. Unable to stand by while vulnerable women fall prey to human trafficking, Huntress goes after the men responsible. There’s Moretti, an Italian crime boss as the storefront, and Ibn Hassan, a government official who supplies the girls. Employing the help of the press and her own ruthless methods, Huntress seeks to bring justice to the women she’s rescued.

This one was kinda middle of the road. Not great – it had it’s moments, mostly with Helena’s snarky one-liners, but they were few and far between. But it wasn’t awful, either. Even the art wasn’t anything spectacular, just kind of standard. There are some nice panels and spreads showcasing the Italian countrysides and seascapes, which is a nice change of pace from the gloomy Gotham streets.

What this book did for me in particular is it got me thinking about the Syrian refugee crisis. There was one panel where Alessandro (Helena’s reporter friend) says, in response to Helena’s wish to make sure the women get a better life, “Many places in Europe do not wish to see more immigrants, or help them” (34[ish. The pages aren’t numbered XD]). I felt that, reading the book in the time that I did, that it was a metaphor for corrupt government and the worldwide apathy towards those in need.

But that was just me. Read it or not; you might be entertained by it, but you’re not missing anything spectacular if you skip it.

-Kathleen

ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times

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MacLean, Andrew. ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times. 2015.

The tagline “A sci-fi epic about a postapocalyptic life…and cat ownership” guaranteed I was going to like this book! Wrong.

I picked up this slim graphic novel on a whim, for I liked the front cover, and I’m a sucker for cute cats. Aria is a young woman alone in a post apocalypse world, traveling with her cat Jelly Beans and singing opera while trying to reanimate a giant mechanical man, all while trying to evade two warring primitive tribes. While originally she seemed peace loving, the tribes get their butts kicked when they dare mess with her picking apples. Her mission becomes more clear later on, as she searches for a power source that will restart the photon grid that will return her to the mother ship and fulfill her duty. If only those pesky tribes would stop trying to attack her and her cat! Unfortunately, the story did not seem fully realized due to it’s thin plot. While at first it seems as if Aria is on Earth, the tribes look alien like, and while that is explained at the end, it is off putting.

There is a bit of double meaning in the story for aria means “self-contained piece for one voice”, and the character of Aria is alone; plus the author wrote, illustrated and inked this graphic novel all by himself. The coloring throughout is minimalistic and the art is cleanly drawn, with a good eye to detail. I will check out more work of MacLean’s in the future, for I liked the look of his artwork. Plus Jelly Beans. I loved me some Jelly Beans.

-Nancy

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Nightwing/Huntress

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Grayson, David, Greg Land, and Bill Sienkiewicz. Nightwing/Huntress. 2003.

I’ve been on a Huntress kick lately. And even more lately, on a Nightwing kick. I then found this comic and thought, “Well, what could be better???” 😄

A prostitute is found dead in a hotel room in mobster Frankie Black’s name, and Huntress is on the case. Problem is, Nightwing was at the warehouse Black was at at the time of the murder – watching him run a gun deal. Someone’s framed him, and the heroes need to figure out how to work together to figure out who. Nightwing is wary of Huntress and her ruthless methods, and Huntress is quickly frustrated by Nightwing’s straight-laced, methodical thinking. However, they find themselves attracted to one another. Under all that, can they work together? And who in the world has good reason to frame a mobster for murder?

I absolutely loved this one. It was interesting to see Huntress and Nightwing interact, since they’re so different. A recurring theme in the comic was loneliness and trying to find your place in a family, in a new relationship, a new place. The mystery keeps you guessing up until the very end. Be prepared for a plot twist! The color palette was subdued, very cool in tones of blue and purple. I loved the designs of their costumes; Huntress isn’t sexualized like a lot of other female superheroes are. However, I am a fan of the finger stripes on Nightwing’s costume – make of that what you will ;D

I definitely need to make a point of reading more of these two! I love Batman but haven’t read a lot of the stand-alone family books – save for Batgirl, of course =P

-Kathleen

In Real Life

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Doctorow, Cory & Jen Wang. In Real Life. 2014.

 

Anda, a teen who is part of a gaming guild, is encouraged to join a multi-player online game Coarsegold by an adult mentor who wants a larger female representation within the game. Anda becomes Kalidestroyer, a tough warrior who quickly develops a kick-ass persona who is noticed by other gamers, and is much different in looks and personality than she is. She is recruited by another player to earn real money by achieving certain goals within the game, and during one of her quests she meets gold farmers, avatars for gamers who are illegally collecting wealth to be sold to other players. Anda befriends one of the farmers and finds out he is a Chinese youth who works many hours with low pay and no health insurance. Anda tries to help her new online friend Raymond, but realizes the issue is larger and more complex than she originally thought. What options are available to them, and how can they convince others in their real and online worlds to fight for change?

This graphic novel is beautifully illustrated with a color palette that helps the reader merge in and out of the real and online world. When Anya is in her real world, the colors are a muted brown with different hues of earth colors verses the brighter jewel tones of the Coursegold world. The art panels are varied with a standard layout for Anda’s real world, and then utilizing engaging splash and spread panels when the online world is being represented. There is no mistaking that this book is definitely a “message” story, for the introduction spells out the dilemma Anda will be facing in her gaming world.

-Nancy

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Wonder Woman: The Contest

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Messner-Loebs, William and Mike Deodato, Jr. Wonder Woman: The Contest. 1995.

I was at a comic book store with my boyfriend this weekend and found this! I had read it before but knew I liked it so I picked it up (that’s the only way I allow myself to buy books anymore). It was a steal – only $10! Always support your local comic stores, kids.

Diana returns to Themyscira only to find it ravaged and war-torn. Her Amazon sisters had been fighting demons – and each other – while she was away. Diana befriends Artemis, a warrior of the cast-off Amazon tribe, in hopes of restoring peace between her sisters. Her mother, Hippolyta, upon hearing of Diana’s time away, thinks she has failed in her mission to bring peace and equality to man’s world. The queen then calls for a contest to determine who the new Wonder Woman will be.

That is but one thread in this story, but it’s the most compelling. Everything Diana has fought for so far is on the line. It’s an easy segway point into Wonder Woman comics if you’ve never read them before, because many of her familiar elements are here and the story is easy to follow. The art is angular, with sharp colors and high contrast: very dramatic. This and the volume that comes after this, The Challenge of Artemis, are two of my personal favorite Wonder Woman stories and I highly recommend them! I’ll have to go back to the store to see if they get it in soon~

-Kathleen

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