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April 2016

Locke & Key: Welcome To Lovecraft

Locke & Key is truly one of the best graphic novels I have ever read, hands down.  It just dominates. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez are superb storytellers, and this first novel makes me anxious to read the rest of the horror series. Who cares that I have family, work and school commitments? Lovecraft is calling me.

The story starts with a family tragedy as the Locke family is terrorized by two students who have an ax to grind with the father, Rendell, who is a high school guidance counselor. This book is not for the young, as adult themes of sexual assault and extreme violence are implied or shown. After the father’s murder, the shattered family leaves California and heads to Massachusetts to start over at the Locke family estate, where Rendell’s younger brother Duncan provides them sanctuary.

Nina, the mother, shows extreme strength (although she drinks too much) in trying to keep it together for her children Tyler, Kinsey and Bode. Bode, at six years old, copes differently than his high school siblings who carry guilt and shame for their actions before and during the attack. The grieving family settles into their new home and explore the extensive grounds near the ocean. Bode, curious to a fault, is the one who discovers the secret in the locked up well house. Who is calling to him from the well, and what do they want? So while the family believes they escaped from the monsters from their past, one is still following them intent on creating more havoc, and a new mysterious enemy is closer than they know.

Rodriguez’s art work is what makes the novel so amazing. The illustrations are lush and detailed, and he makes each new character individual and unique. He captures emotions perfectly and makes Sam, one of the disturbed killers, eerie and believable. The supernatural aspects of the story with Dodge, the mystical being in the well, were appropriately creepy and drawn meticulously, and often you can find little clues hidden in the pictures if you examine them carefully.  The layout of the pages varies, and is easy to follow, and no matter if it is a small panel or full page, each drawing contributes to advancing the story.

As the first in a six part series (edit- volumes 2-6 reviewed here) the story line is set up to explore threads that are introduced and hinted at to make you eager to continue reading. Joe Hill, aka Stephen King’s son, won an Eisner Award for Best Writing in 2011 for this series and it is well deserved. Hill also writes novels, but this story is better told in graphic form,  so his collaboration with Rodriguez was well worth the effort. I will definitely be buying this six volume set for the graphic novel collection at my library, and look forward to seeing other people enjoy this book as much as I have!

-Nancy

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Hill, Joe & Gabriel Rodriguez. Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft. 2008.

 

 

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Black Canary (Vol. 1): Kicking and Screaming

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Fletcher, Brenden, Annie Wu, Pia Guerra, and Lee Loughridge. Black Canary (Vol 1): Kicking and Screaming. 2016.

Dinah is the new lead singer of a rock band called Black Canary – and, by the way, she goes by D.D. Trouble follows Black Canary everywhere they go on tour. The weirdest thing to date has been the weird shadow creatures that have started following them. They seem to want one thing: Ditto, the band’s gifted guitarist. Dinah, realizing they are entwined in some way, vows to protect Ditto at all costs. Their band mates, though skeptical of Dinah’s secrecy about her past, also take up arms against their enemies. When the former lead singer of Black Canary, Bo Maeve, discovers Ditto’s power, she will stop at nothing to get that power for herself.

I loved the art in this one. It’s really graphic: thick lines accentuating blocks of color. I also adored the visual change in color whenever Dinah used the Canary Cry. It was peppered with musical cues (pardon the pun) and visuals throughout, which was really cool. Get ready for a rockin’ good time with this one!

– Kathleen

Graveyard Quest

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Green KC. Graveyard Quest. 2016.

This book was quite an acid trip. Based off KC Green’s webcomic, Gunshow, his 59 strips about a petulant gravedigger with mommy issues has been turned into this unique novel, with an added epilogue bonus.

The gravedigger (no name given) has inherited the family business of you guessed it-gravedigging. He keeps his beloved mother’s bones in a box near his bed so he can converse with her, much to the dismay of his father’s angry ghost. His father steals the bones, sending the gravedigger on a quest to retrieve them from the Underworld. So begins a journey that has him meet a wise mole, train bandits who want to hijack their way to Heaven, a town of worms that live off the rot of the corpses he buries, Charon the river Styx conductor, and the creature Beelzebub who desperately wants to go back to Hell. How do all these expletive spewing characters relate to his odyssey? Well…let’s just say it’s the journey not the destination for the gravedigger to find closure with his father.

Green’s art style is primitive at best with a simple color scheme. The cover has a different art style than the story inside. The gravedigger’s eyes aren’t big enough and it looks like he is wearing lipstick on the cover, and is rather off putting, but as none of Green’s art is appealing in a traditional way, I guess it doesn’t really matter. (Edit- a commenter clued me in that the cover is like the game Fester’s Quest and this website confirmed it) The style of art and storytelling is reminiscent of the tv cartoon show Chowder, with Charon reminding me of this awesome clip from the series!

So if you have a warped sense of humor, like to swear and are familiar with Gunshow then this book is for you!

-Nancy

 

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2016 Eisner Award Nominees

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The 2016 Eisner Award nominees have been announced! The list is substantial with many different categories, and includes many worthy writers and artists.

The category that I will comment on is the “Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)”, as I am a teen librarian, and am familiar with five of the six nominees. The books are:

Awkward, by Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press)

The author has illustrated manga novels in the past, and the illustrations for this story are obviously manga inspired. Awesome story about middle schoolers and the anxiety of fitting in and later acceptance they find in peer groups. Definitely worth the award nomination.

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, by Don Brown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Non-fiction novel that shows youth who were born after this catastrophe, how “a weather disaster became a race disaster” in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Totally deserves this nomination.

March: Book Two, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf/IDW)

This sequel continues to show an accurate representation of what many African Americans faced during the Civil Rights era, told from the perspective of John Lewis, a Congressman, who fought for equality and continues to do so. Another worthy non-fiction nominee in displaying a part of our recent history that youth should be familiar with.

Moose, by Max de Radiguès (Conundrum)

I am not familiar with this book, as it is  translated from French and won’t be available in the US until next month. The description about bullying and revenge sounds intriguing though.

Oyster War, by Ben Towle (Oni)

A surprisingly long book for younger readers, this historical fiction/fantasy story with pirates and mythical selkies, set in the Chesapeake Bay, is an adventure book that has the potential to be a hit. Is it worth a nomination? That remains to be seen.

SuperMutant Magic Academy, by Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)

This book is a collection of the strips that the author had online about mutants and witches attending high school together and all the teenage angst that goes along with it. I skimmed this novel, as I read a previous GN by this author, This One Summer, and did not like it.  IMO, this book doesn’t deserve the nomination, but I’m probably in the minority on that thought.

Check out the list yourself: http://www.comic-con.org/awards/2016-eisner-award-nominees and see if your favorite authors and illustrators earned a coveted nomination! If they are not on the list, who would you have liked to see on it instead?

-Nancy

Dragon Age: The Silent Grove

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Gaider, David, Alexander Freed, and Chad Hardin. Dragon Age: The Silent Grove. 2012.

Ten years after the Fifth Blight that wiped out all but two Grey Wardens and nearly destroyed the world, King Alistair Theirin embarks on a quest. Enlisting the help of Isabela Rivaini and Varric Tethras, he sets off to Antiva to break into an archive. Not just any archive – the one kept by the deadly assassins, the Crows! He discovers a cell number in the Crow’s prison, one that holds someone very dear to him… but who? The way points to the Tellari Swamps, where the witch Yavana resides. Why is Alistair so desperate to speak to her, even though he hates Witches of the Wilds? What – or who else – will they find?

I looove Dragon Age. It’s one of my favorite all time games. I adored this graphic novel. I loved the attention to detail in the art, especially the lighting. The graphic novel was rendered as beautifully as the games! My favorite part was that Varric was in it. My best bro!!! I love him ❤

It would be pretty easy to follow if you hadn’t played the games. There is a short little forward that gives you some background information, which is nice. Fantasy readers will love it! =P

– Kathleen

A-Force: Warzones!

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Wilson, G. Willow, Marguerite Bennett & Jorge Molina. A-Force: Warzones. 2015

The 90’s called and they want their Super Team back!

I don’t even know where to begin with this convoluted mess. This is a Secret Wars book, so basically anything goes in this alternate universe. On the planet of Battleworld, there is a peaceful island nation called Arcadia, populated mostly by female superheroes. Each region in this unique planet is a domain unto itself, with distinct borders that must not be crossed, ruled by godlike Victor Von Doom and policed by Sheriff Strange and the Thors.

Arcadia is governed by She-Hulk, who is Baroness. Her patrol for watching their nation’s borders are Medusa, Dazzler, Captain America, Loki, America Chavez and Nico Minoru. When a huge prehistoric shark inexplicably attacks Arcadia, She-Hulk calls her team into action with her catchphrase  “A-Force Assemble!” In the heat of the battle, the shark is thrown by one of the team members into another of the planet’s domains, which immediately prompts a visit by one of the Thors. This member is then exiled by Sheriff Strange, leading to dissent within the team. She-Hulk discovers there is a traitor in their midst when a portal that had sent the shark is discovered. When the traitor is revealed later, a hero loses her life keeping the Thors away, and the traitor portals zombies from yet another domain to attack Arcadia. The Baroness gets to yell “A-Force Assemble!” again, while all of Arcadia’s heroes fight for Arcadia’s future, and a brand new character shows everyone the extent of her powers.

The artwork is a mix of good and bad. First the good: Singularity is beautifully colored, and Loki is especially well drawn, with some fantastic details as emotions play over her face. The composite picture of five faces combined into one was striking, and I loved the variant art by different artists between the chapters. The so-so: the front cover, while awesomely drawn, is misleading. Singularity is drawn as a sexy adult, when she was quite clearly younger in the series, and other heroines are drawn in when they play little to no part in this storyline. The bad: some of the battle scenes had muddy coloring,  as blobs of color were supposed to represent people in crowds.

Now for my many random observations and/or criticisms of this series: Pixie is shown as one of the heroes out on the original patrol, but then is dropped completely as a character- I don’t think she got a single line. Loved seeing so many of the Runaways after just reading the book– Nico as one of the main characters and then Molly, Karolina, Gert & Old Lace were shown in crowd panels. So many cameos- Jessica Jones defending Luke and their baby, Hulking & Hawkeye, Black Bolt with Medusa, Spider-Gwen & MJ, Kamala as Ms. Marvel (Wilson writes for the Ms. Marvel series), and Gambit with his arms around Rogue.

At my first read through I rolled my eyes at some of the plot, but on a second reading I discovered the little details and cameos that elevated this series for me at the end. I still believe the story was much too confusing, but at least it was FUN mess.

-Nancy

 

The Flash – Season 1

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I’m kinda late to this game… I’m kinda late to catch up on all my shows actually. Dat grad school life has got me able to only follow one show consistently, and I chose Supergirl. Mostly because I don’t have anything going on Monday nights, and mostly because I knew as a fledgling show, it needed my view more. What I do is, since I work in a library, I wait for the DVD sets to come out and put holds on them so my boyfriend and I can binge-watch them. He did buy me the first season of Flash for Christmas, and we just finished it this weekend. And holy COW.

Barry Allen is a forensic scientist in the Central City Police Department. He’s excited for a gigantic scientific breakthrough happening in the city: Dr. Harrison Wells has built a particle accelerator at S.T.A.R. Labs. He is in his lab, watching it turn on on TV, when it explodes. The resulting storm creates a lightning bolt that strikes him and puts him in a coma for nine months. When he wakes up, he’s at S.T.A.R. Labs. Dr. Wells, Caitlyn Snow, and Cisco Ramone (two S.T.A.R. Labs employees) explain to Barry that they took him from the hospital in order to stabilize him, because the doctors at the hospital couldn’t figure out why he kept flatlining. It wasn’t that he kept dying – it was because Barry’s heart was beating too fast for the machines to keep up. The lightning strike left Barry with supernatural speed.

This leaves Barry excited – and scared. When he was eleven years old, he witnessed his mother’s murder, and his father was convicted and sent to prison. No one believed Barry when he said that his dad didn’t do it – it was the man in the lightning. Joe West, lead detective on the case, takes Barry in and raises him alongside Iris, Barry’s best friend. For his entire life, Barry has investigated cold cases and paranormal events, looking for any scrap of a clue that could lead to solving his mom’s murder and freeing his dad from prison. Now, he is paranormal. And he is dedicated to using his powers to help people and to find out who killed his mother.

The world is a little different, though, as he remembers it before the coma. The failure and explosion of the particle accelerator has left the reputation of Dr. Wells and S.T.A.R. Labs tarnished. His best friend, Iris, is dating Eddie Thawne, Detective West’s partner. Barry tries not to let it show how much it hurts, because he secretly loves Iris. And more and more, Barry and the others at S.T.A.R. Labs are finding out that he was not the only one affected by the dark matter the particle accelerator gave off when it exploded. There are others with powers running around Central City, and they’re not all as nice as Barry. Joe finds Barry’s secret out pretty quickly, and makes him promise not to tell Iris, to keep her safe from the metahumans.

Caitlyn, Cisco, and Dr. Wells help Barry learn to use his powers, and become his team to help him stop bad guys and save people. They all grow very close. But more and more it becomes apparent to Detective West that something isn’t right with Dr. Wells. Joe, convinced now that Barry was telling the truth about the night his mother was killed, starts investigating Dr. Wells. There are things about his story that don’t add up, and Joe is determined to find the truth and reveal it to Barry – no matter the cost.

My boyfriend and I really enjoyed it. When stuff gets real, it gets really real, but it never loses its fun or humanity. Flash doesn’t take itself as seriously as Arrow does. Even the crossover episodes were more fun because of the contrast between the feel of Arrow in Flash’s territory. Everyone feels real and goes through a lot of growth: Barry of course, but Caitlyn, Iris, Detective West, and even Dr. Wells, too. I adored that Barry was never afraid to admit when he was scared or to show his feelings. He cries when he is stressed, scared, or missing his mom. While I used to like my men dark and broody, I find that there is a real strength in showing your feelings and being vulnerable (speaking from experience). I loved that Barry did it too, and showed that it was okay. There are tons of villains and other characters from the comics that show up, and even more are hinted at.

After that doozy of a cliffhanger, we seriously can’t wait to watch Season 2. We have one tiny little bit of it figured out already just from me watching the crossover episode on Supergirl the other week. But there is so much more we can’t wait to see! Curse you, grad school life!!! After I graduate I will be able to watch shows actually on TV (or at least DVR them) and not wait an eternity for the DVD’s to come out!

– Kathleen

P.S. Please no spoilers in the comments! Thank you =D

DC Comics Secret Hero Society: Study Hall of Justice

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Fridolfs, Derek, and Dustin Nguyen. DC Comics Secret Hero Society: Study Hall of Justice. 2016.

Like I’m sure many book-loving ladies do, I normally carry a paperback in my purse to read when I eat or when I need a few minutes to rest my eyes from computer screens. A few weeks ago I finished the paperback series I was reading and was waiting for the first of another to be delivered to work. I didn’t have anything in the meantime to take to my practicum! What a dilemma! Thankfully I had this one laying around; small enough to fit in my lunchbox and I hadn’t gotten around to it yet.

Bruce Wayne starts school at Ducard Academy, a prestigious school for kids. Right away, he notices some fishy stuff is going on. He decides to investigate the weird teachers, the ninjas that seem to prowl around the grounds, and the mysterious principal who never shows his face. He befriends two of his classmates, Clark Kent and Diana Prince, and together they form a Junior Detectives’ Club. They attempt to befriend the other kids and join different clubs to find clues, with varying degrees of success. In addition to investigating the employees and other kids, Bruce starts investigating his friends. They seem… different. Can he trust them? Can they overcome their differences and finish their task?

I own and have read Li’l Gotham, which is another Dustin Nguyen work, and it was just as cute! I was a little disappointed that this book wasn’t in color, but it soon didn’t bother me. In addition to standard graphic novel panels, the story was told by Bruce’s memos to himself, documents that he gathers for evidence, and IM’s between him, Clark, and Diana. Very clever! I also loved how many cameos there were by other characters in the DCU. Even kids as young as middle school age would enjoy it, I think. It was super cute and super fun and I loved it.

– Kathleen

Revival: Deluxe Edition One

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Seeley, Tim & Mike Norton. Revival: Deluxe Edition One. 2013.

I discovered a wonderful series that has it all- great story, outstanding art, a mystery and supernatural elements set in a rural landscape. I have a feeling that the Revival series will become a must read for me!

Volume 1: You’re Among Friends

Inexplicably, twenty three people come back to life in rural small town Wisconsin. The “Revivers” are not your typical zombies looking for braaaiins. Instead they quietly rejoin their former lives, not even realizing or remembering their deaths. Their new existence sets the town on edge, with media scrutiny, a government quarantine and religious fanatics taking over the region.

Officer Dana Cypress, a single mother and daughter of the sheriff, is asked to head The Revitalized Citizen Arbitration Team (RCAT). Dana proves to be a realistic main protagonist as her relationships with her father, younger sister, father of her son, and the towns people are built layer by layer, and affect the decisions she makes on this new task force. Dana discovers her sister, Martha (Em), is a Reviver when she is stabbed with a scythe and survives. Em does not know who murdered her, but as the story continues, hints are left that point to many different suspects. Dana is paired with a scientist of Muslim heritage (possible romantic interest), and along with the Hmong population in town, is a nice nod to diversity within the story. An unhinged religious demonologist and creepy ghost also play into the mystery- what are their connections to the Revivers?

The artwork in this self proclaimed rural noir is very well done. All the characters are unique in looks and personalities, with a good artistic representation of the different walks of life within a town’s inhabitants.  The variant art used to introduce each of the five chapters was beautiful and gave you a hint of what was to come.

Volume 2: Live Like You Mean It

The action picks up right where volume 1 left off with no recap- a handful of townspeople inexplicably revive after dying with no memory of their death, and the community and police try to piece together what happened. Officer Dana Cypress investigates several leads, with new people and situations being thrown into the mix. Revenge plots, ghosts, and harvesting of Reviver parts are added into the mystery; with more secrets being added than solved. This series will be like a large puzzle, with Dana and us, the readers, trying to put it all together so it makes sense.

Exceptional first volume in what will most likely be a long running series, for the characters and plot lines are set up for growth. I will definitely be reading future volumes to see how the idea of loved ones reviving, which could be a dream come true for some, will be a nightmare for many.

-Nancy

** Reviews for Deluxe Editions Two,  Three and Four

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