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Graphic Novelty²

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July 2016

My Boyfriend is a Monster #1: I Love Him to Pieces

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Tsang, Evonne, and Janina Gorrissen. My Boyfriend is a Monster #1: I Love Him to Pieces. 2010.

This was one of those things I was checking in at work one day and decided, “Why not?” I was intrigued by the covers and even though I’m not a horror fan, the premise and variety of the few I checked in were enough to pique my interest.

Dicey Bell and Jack Chen are parents – of an egg for their health class project. They have to coordinate taking care of their egg between Dicey’s baseball practices and Jack’s tabletop gaming nights. They manage to work it out, and become friends over the course of the project. But maybe… they both want to be more than friends. They go out on a date soon after the project is completed – only to have their first date interrupted by a zombie apocalypse. As they fight their way through the ever-increasing horde, Jack is bitten. Can they find a cure in time – and maybe have time for their first kiss?

After the cover was in color, I was a little surprised to open it and find it in black and white. It was a change of pace for me, though, and didn’t really mind when I got going. It was very clean and helped with the gorier parts. There isn’t anything in here that is over the top bloody and disgusting, which was good otherwise I would have stopped. The dialogue got super cheesy at times but I was kind of charmed. It was funny and a little tongue-in-cheek (multiple instances of making fun of zombie apocalypses even as it’s happening) and overall, I liked it.

– Kathleen

Essex County Collected

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Lemire, Jeff. Essex County. 2009.

Essex County is a beautifully written love letter to the author’s childhood home in rural Essex County, Ontario, Canada. This three part graphic novel interweaves a hundred years of history and family connections into a heartfelt epic about regrets, memories and family roots.

The first story, Tales From The Farm introduces you to a hurting boy, Lester, living with his uncle after his mother’s death from cancer. He derives his strength from always wearing a hero’s cape and mask, despite the derision of his peers. He befriends a simple man in town, Jimmy, who goes along with playacting superhero stories with him. Jimmy has a connection to Lester that is hinted at but not confirmed.

The second longer story, Ghost Stories, shares the decades in the making estrangement of two brothers Lou and Vince LeBeuf. The story is told from Lou’s perspective, as an old man, whose memories merge in and out of the past and current day. The two brothers, both excellent hockey players, move to Toronto as young men to join a minor league hockey team called the Toronto Grizzlies. Vince’s girlfriend Beth is loved by both men, and ultimately the falling out between the brothers is over her. A question of paternity arises, with Vince and Beth leaving the city to move back to Essex County and marry. Lou stays behind, lonely and filed with regret, making a life for himself in Toronto. Twenty five years go by, and only his mother’s funeral brings him back home. It takes yet another family tragedy to keep him there.

The final story, The Country Nurse ties all the connections together. Anne is a widow who is a traveling nurse, and a caretaker to Lou. As a nurse, she is privy to many people’s lives, thus she sometimes has to prod people into making the best decision, and sometimes has to take matters into her own hands. Her loving spirit runs in the family, as a story about her grandmother emerges, showing the final community and family threads. Anne’s care helps heal some rips in some family dynamics and brings the story to a poignant conclusion.

The illustrations are done in black and white, and look deceptively simple. Lemire’s stark lines are reminiscent to me of children’s author/illustrator Bill Peet, known for his work at Disney and books about animals and rural settings. There are signs of connectedness through out the multi-paneled pages, once you know what to look for. Anne is shown sewing a quilt, for her story pieces all of the tales together into a whole just as a quilt does.  Before the final family tree is revealed, showing all the links between the families we have met on the preceding pages, you can see family resemblances take shape. The picture on page 10 and then again on page 442, show two young men a hundred years apart in history, in the same pose but for different reasons.

I’ve been reading this book on and off for several weeks now, savoring each story. Themes of what makes a family, living with decisions that can’t be unmade, and the hope of reconciliation run through out the novel and have given me much food for thought. Lessons I came away with after putting the book down: put away your pride and don’t wait until tomorrow to make an effort, for tomorrow is not promised. Now go kiss your mother!

-Nancy

Essex

Star Trek Continues: Episodes 1-6

Star Trek Continues is a brilliant webseries that continues directly from the original Star Trek series, picking up where TOS left off, since it had a stated five year mission and only about three years was shown. The series has eerily recreated the look of the original set, along with the costuming and props. This webseries got off the ground in 2013 after fundraising through Kickstarter, which they also nicknamed Kirkstarter. Due to funding there are usually only two episodes a year, with six completed, and a seventh due out in early September.

The series has earned several well deserved awards over the years, including winning categories in The Geekie Awards, the Telly Awards, the Webby Awards along with awards from film festivals. The actors also attend Star Trek conventions and are active in social media to build the series up.

Captain James T Kirk is played by Vic Mignogna who also is the creator, writer and sometimes director of the series. He acts like William Shatner acting like Kirk. He get’s Shatner’s mannerisms just right, but has also shows some of himself in the Kirk portrayal so it comes off better than a mere impersonation.  He does a great job as the captain.

Commander Spock is played by Todd Haberkorn. His portrayal took awhile for me to warm up to, but now I’m a fan.

Doctor “Bones” McCoy was first played by Larry Nemecek in the first two episodes, and now is played by Chuck Huber. Nemecek did a nice job, but Huber’s portrayal is spot on.

Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott is played by Chris Doohan, the son of TOS James Doohan. It is a nice touch on continuity, and he fill’s his father’s shoes well, including the Scottish brogue.

Helmsman Hikara Sulu is played by  Grant Imahara, also known for his role on Discovery’s Mythbusters. He gives Sulu a sly attitude- oh myyy….

Communications Officer Nyota Uhura is played by the beautiful Kim Stringer. She is my favorite of the actors, and gives an elegance to the role, but also can be kick ass when needed.

Navigator Pavel Chekov is played by Wyatt Lenhart. He endearingly shows the young ensign who wants to stand out.

Counselor Elise McKennah is played by Michelle Specht and is modeled after TNG’s Deanna Troi. This is a brand new character, and in my opinion is given too much screen time to the deterrent of the “original seven”.

All pictures from Star Trek Continues website

The six episodes thus far have been campy awesomeness, just like the series it was based on. I saw that with love, because while well done and professional, they are obviously mimicking the 60’s TV show.

Pilgrim of Eternity– Unofficial sequel to  the original TOS episode Who Mourns for Adonais? The original actor, Michael Forest,  who played Apollo in the original episode is now an old man due to an energy drain and needs to learn how to deal with humanity again.

Lolani– Deals with the Orian slave trade and sexual objectification. Kirk has to weigh the moral issues between different culture’s traditions and the Prime Directive. Lou Ferrigno, from The Incredible Hulk series, plays a slave trader.

Fairest of Them All–  Direct continuation of the original Star Trek episode Mirror Mirror. Crew members go bad!

The White Iris– Due to a head injury Kirk begins to hallucinate and see his past dead lovers such as Edith Keeler and his Native American wife Miramanee. His guilt, and habit of closing off painful memories, floods over him and he has to deal with these experiences before he can heal. My favorite of the episodes.

Divided We Stand– Owing to a situation with new aliens and a temporal rift, Kirk and Bones are sucked back into the American Civil War. Of course they influence history for the better before being rescued.

Come Not Between The Dragons– An alien that looks like a pile of rocks infiltrates the ship and a crew member bonds with it before discovering the parent alien wants their child back. The alien looks deliberately bad, as they are recreating 60’s special effects. This was my least favorite of the episodes, for I feel they are using recurring actors too much, when one of the main characters (such as Uhura) could have received more development instead.

While not perfect, I highly recommended this series. When ever I find out someone I meet is a Star Trek fan, I immediately tell them about this webseries. Spread the word people- the five year mission is still underway!!

-Nancy

stc

 

Birds of Prey (Vol. 5): Between Dark & Dawn

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Simone, Gail, Ed Benes, Ron Adrian, Jim Fern, Eric Battle, and Eduardo Barreto. Birds of Prey (Volume 5): Between Dark & Dawn. 2006.

Three kids, dressed as superheroes who have already died, have killed themselves in quick succession. It bothers the Birds, and they send Huntress to Kinder Pines, Oregon, where all the kids were last. There, she infiltrates a cult led by a Soveriegn Brusaw, and she’s not quite sure what to think. The kids seem all right, and the Father seems genuine… up until she realizes that her backup, Vixen, no longer recognizes Huntress and has turned against her. In trying to remotely investigate, Oracle suddenly collapses and has a seizure, and soon she realizes it’s not just her inside her head anymore. Meanwhile, the Birds have gained a new member: Savant, who kidnapped and tortured Dinah on one of their first missions. Barbara has tasked him with clearing out a major crime lord in Gotham. This causes uneasiness in everyone, especially Dinah, despite believing whole-heartedly in second chances. Can Huntress get Vixen to snap out of whatever trance she’s in? Will Barbara survive?

You can really see the bond between the Birds tightening in this issue. Everyone has their own personality and their own code, but they share a mutual respect for each other and are even becoming friends – maybe a family. Simone is a great writer. The art is still superb, action-packed and dynamic. Every time I read one of these I fall in love with the series all over again. I might have to start buying them…

I hope everyone is having a fun and safe 4th of July!

– Kathleen

The Reading Habits Tag

 

FEH reading

I was tagged by the awesome blogger Michael at My Comic Relief to participate in answering these questions about my reading habits.  Based off his replies to the questions on his blog, he will be disgusted with me when he comes to one of my answers 😉

 

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

Mostly in bed or on my family room armchair.

Bookmark or random piece of paper?

What ever is closest to me- bills, post-it notes, grocery lists…

Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/ a certain amount of pages?

I used to stop at chapters but now I stop where ever, even in the middle of a sentence. I’m a mom, wife, librarian, grad student, daughter, friend, volunteer, blogger- I’m exhausted. If I can’t stay up another minute, I put down the book right then and there.

Do you eat or drink while reading?

Nope.

Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?

Who needs either when a great story is in front of me?!

One book at a time or several at once?

I always have several books going at once. I always have, and it’s no problem for me to remember the separate plots.

Reading at home or everywhere?

EVERYWHERE!

Reading out loud or silently in your head?

In my head.

Do you read ahead or even skip pages?

This is where I will freak everyone out- I read ahead ALL THE TIME. I read a few chapters in to understand the plot and get to know the characters. Then I read the ending!!! Then I go back to where I left off and finish the book. It’s like a puzzle to me then- if I read ABC and now I know XYZ, I enjoy how the book arrives at the end while I read the middle. I drive my friends in book club crazy that I read this way, but I’ve done it for years, and I’m not going to stop.    ***Sorry(not sorry) Michael!

Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?

I’m a librarian- I must keep the book nice for the next reader!!!

Do you write in your books?

Never.

Who do you tag?

My blogging partner Kathleen, but any one else who follows us! Go ahead and copy and paste these questions onto your blog if this tag seems intriguing to you. What weird reading habits do you have???

  1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
  2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?
  3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter/ a certain amount of pages?
  4. Do you eat or drink while reading?
  5. Multitasking: Music or TV while reading?
  6. One book at a time or several at once?
  7. Reading at home or everywhere?
  8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?
  9. Do you read ahead or even skip pages?
  10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?
  11. Do you write in your books?

-Nancy

(Picture above from Faith Erin Hick’s Friends With Boys book!)

 

My Friend Dahmer

This disturbing book about a serial killer’s youth was heartbreaking, as the book makes us witness to Jeffrey Dahmer’s slide into madness, from the viewpoint of a former classmate and “friend” of his.

The author, John “Derf” Backderf, attended high school with Jeffrey Dahmer. He knew JD as a lonely middle schooler, who then changed into a hulking strange young man in high school. He and his friends started taking notice of JD when they were amused by his strange mannerisms and talent for mimicking individuals with cerebral palsy. We learn some background about JD’s family, learning that his parent’s contentious divorce led to him being practically abandoned when he was most vulnerable, with no adults present to witness and possibly stop the behaviors he was exhibiting. JD’s death fascination started with road kill, escalated to the killing of pets and wildlife, and ultimately led to his first murder two weeks after high school graduation.

While the author would like to stand back and point at the adults as the only one’s to blame, he and his callous friends certainly played a part in Dahmer’s downward spiral. They were never true friends to JD, but let him tag along as a mascot and not an equal. They egged him into pranks and grotesque public displays, and then dropped him when they felt he had gone too far.  Dahmer never felt that he could be himself, for he was hiding his homosexuality and sick fantasies, but became a caricature whose shtick got old, and his peers left him behind once again.

Derf’s artwork is very reminiscent of Robert Crumb and of Don Martin from Mad magazine, with the angular and strangely jointed people. It is all drawn in black and white, and while not an attractive art style, it does get that 70’s era gritty punk vibe right. Derf also did his research to make the story as authentic as he could. When Dahmer’s murders first came to light, he wrote a small comic about him, but years later wanted to do the subject justice. An interesting prologue and sources section detail how the author got his information beyond what he observed, giving more credence to the story.

As a mother, and as someone who works with teens, I ache for bullied youth who are disenfranchised and lonely. There were so many signs that something was wrong with Jeffrey, and not a single adult stepped forward to help him. Most glaringly his parents, but what about teachers or his peers? How could the drinking not be noticed? This disheartening book should serve as a warning to youth and adults alike, to take note and help when you see someone struggling. Was Jeffrey Dahmer so far gone at that stage that no intervention would have helped? We’ll never know because no one did intervene, and his depraved acts went unchecked and he became the monster we heard about in the news.

-Nancy

MFD
Backderf, Derf. My Friend Dahmer. 2012.

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