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Graphic Novelty²

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February 2017

Wonder Woman: Down to Earth

I opted for Down to Earth as the only one to pick up from Diana’s 75th Anniversary box set… it was the only one I hadn’t read yet! XD

Jonah McCarthy has been hired as another assistant to Diana, Ambassador of Theymiscira to the UN. They could use the extra help at the office. She’s poised to publish her first book, titled “Reflections,” which collects some of her best speeches and essays from her time in man’s world. There are some who aren’t happy with what she says. Her words promote ideals like peace, feminism, taking care of the earth, but some twist that to mean she’s promoting pagan worship and deviance from the American way of life. Despite the divide, everyone is reading it, including the gods of Olympus. Could the controversy be good for Diana’s image, or will it destroy her and all she’s worked for?

Rucka is an exceptional writer. The story sucked me in and held me there until I finished. The art was decent. It reminded me a little of Birds of Prey (they were written around the same time), but simpler. Some things nearer to the foreground should have been more detailed in places. The character design of some of the gods especially were updated for a new millenium, which was kinda cool.

The state of the world in 2002, when the series was originally published, is very obvious in this comic. People are scared. People are looking for inspiration – a hero. People are also tearing down the truth and replacing it with fear-driven nationalist rhetoric. It bears striking resemblance to what is happening in the world today with the recent change of management, if you will. I will definitely be reading more.

– Kathleen

Rucka, Greg, Drew Johnson, and Ray Snyder. Wonder Woman: Down to Earth (75th Anniversary Edition). 2016.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

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Roz Chast’s memoir about her last years with her elderly parents is so true to life. Her story made me cringe, made me laugh, and made me cry for I could relate to all she had been through.

My father died close to four years ago, and my mother has had several life-threatening hospital stays; making me the perfect audience for this story. My parents, especially my father (we were his second family), were significantly older than my friend’s parents. As such, this has made me the first of my friends to deal with these situations.  I originally read this book a few years ago, after reading a positive review about it and having struggled with feelings of grief and resentment before and after my father’s death.

Roz Chast is a staff cartoonist for The New Yorker and has had over 800 of her cartoons published in it, so when I picked up this book I recognized her quirky artistic style, but not her name. Roz was an only child of older, dysfunctional parents who lived in Brooklyn and had a difficult childhood with them. Her mother was extremely dominant, while her father was passive with significant anxieties and phobias. Roz left for college at 16, and eventually married and moved to Connecticut with her young family. Years later, as her parents moved into their 80’s she visited more often, and tried to step in to assist when their health issues forced them to move into an assisted living facility. All the work fell to her as she had to find a new home for them, clean out a dirty hoarded apartment that they had lived in for decades, arrange healthcare and take care of their financial matters. While Roz did all this willingly, out of respect and love for her parents, there was also a great deal of resentment, guilt and stress associated with it. Her parents hadn’t mellowed with age, so their idiosyncrasies were magnified and hard to deal with. Roz shares personal details of their eventual deaths, as she processes her feelings, knowing there are no more chances to change the unhealthy dynamic that the three of them had shared.

This amazing book helped me process my own feelings, and see that I was not alone. The feelings that my four sisters and I had for our domineering and abusive father has been hard to deal with, for while we all have grieved in our own ways it was muted compared to how I have witnessed others grieve.  So, thank you to Roz, for a beautiful warts and all memoir.

-Nancy

My Revival Cameo!

 

The last issue of Revival, written by Tim Seeley and illustrated by Mike Norton, was published yesterday and I was honored to have a cameo in it!

Last month I was surprised to be contacted by Mike Norton who let me know he had selected me from a contest that I had entered in December to have my likeness included in the concluding issue of the horror/supernatural series Revival. To say that I was thrilled was an understatement. I wrote a post about it, but being a pessimist in nature, I worried everyday that it wouldn’t be included. I headed to Graham Crackers as soon as I got off work, and the moment I walked in, the manager called me over and handed me a stack of the comics they had set aside for me. I flipped through it, and there I was, near the end!

Revival has been a favorite of mine since I first discovered it last April. I have reviewed the first six volumes (Deluxe Edition One, Two & Three) and plan to do another review post of volumes seven and eight once the eighth volume is released in graphic novel form in mid April. I also included it when Kathleen and I wrote our best graphic novels of 2016, before I even found out that I would be in the last issue. In fact, I think my hashtags on Twitter about this series, is what put me on Mike Norton’s radar. It obviously was meant to be.

I have included some of the messages and pictures from my communication with Mike Norton. My cameo was added in on his last day of drawing, so I quickly had to send him photographs of myself. He based most of my likeness off my first photo, and then refined it, once he had more photographs of me. Details like my green eyes, and beauty mark on my left chin were added in too. It was amazing to see my likeness in cartoon form, and to see the stages that it went through, from the first sketch to the final colored panels.

The last issue was a poignant ending to the complete series, and felt true to the beginning. The series had such a promising start, and while I struggled a bit in the middle wondering where the mystery was headed, it came together beautifully at the end. The resolution of the character arcs made sense, even if a favorite of mine didn’t live to the end. Thank you to Mike Norton for my cameo and bravo to the extended team who created this outstanding story!

-Nancy

revival
All pictures used with permission from Mike Norton/ Revival

 

The Lego Batman Movie

This year my Valentine’s date with my boyfriend was seeing the Lego Batman movie! Suffice it to say it was the perfect date night movie =P

Batman is awesome! He saves the city on the regular from all kinds of villains, but mostly the Joker. Everyone in Gotham loves him for it! And yet… Batman is alone a lot. He doesn’t have any family, or really anyone he can call a friend. But it’s okay, he doesn’t let it bother him.

The Joker, offended that Batman won’t admit that he’s his greatest enemy, schemes to get Batman to admit how much Joker means to him. And that means… surrendering with all the other villains at the gala for Barbara Gordon’s promotion to Commissioner of Gotham City! Without any villains, Batman won’t have any crime to stop! A very bored Batman will do anything to get Joker out of jail and back to wreaking havoc on the streets of Gotham. Watching a newscast of Superman talking about banishing Zod to the Phantom Zone gives him an idea… a very good, yet very bad idea. But when sending Joker the Phantom Zone backfires horribly, it’s not a job that anyone can take all on their own – not even Batman. Can Batman truly learn to let people into his life and work as a team? Will he be able to stop the Joker?? Can there really be room for more than one butt in the Scuttler???

This movie is HILARIOUS. Everyone in the theater was dying at just the introduction and the laughs never let up. Not only were there plenty of butt jokes, but also jabs at Batman’s past movies, current DC movies, and even a running Marvel joke to keep both kids and adults entertained. There are lots of villains, including unexpected ones, to keep the action going and hints that Lego Batman is part of a bigger Lego-verse. Hardcore DC fans will be annoyed at how OOC Batman gets (I got there at some points… I mean I know it’s a kid’s movie but come on), but the writing overall is solid. There’s a great message about teamwork and family for everyone, as well as plenty of action.

And, of course, y’all knew this was coming… BATGIRL WAS AWESOME ❤ ❤ ❤ I WOULD GIVE MY RIGHT ARM TO SEE MORE OF HER IN ACTION IN THE LIVE ACTION DCMU!!! PLZZZ DC

– Kathleen

Blood Crime

Ivy and Rachel are still on the beat, bringing in drug dealers, petty thieves, and the like. But lately, more accidents have seemed to happen, even around the accident-prone Rachel. When a solid stone gargoyle from a church nearly falls on top of them, Ivy knows something is up. Someone has clearly put a hit out on Rachel, but who and why? Piscary? He gave Rachel to Ivy as a blood gift, but he has lied to Ivy about his intentions before. Art, Ivy’s old boss? He’s got motive, sure, but he’s rotting away in prison, right where Ivy put him.

As Ivy delves deeper into the mystery, she starts losing herself more and more in her feelings for Rachel. One of these days, she’s going to crumble… and everything she’s fought so hard to keep control over, to keep her own, will be undone.

I found this one to be slightly better than the first. My issue with the art is still there – blocky anatomy and lack of varied facial expression – but the characterization made up for it. We read the Hollows series from Rachel’s point of view, and though there have been short stories written from other’s point of view, I had never read any from Ivy’s. You really feel for her as she struggles to maintain control of herself to break away from her abuser. The mystery left unfinished in the last volume was never picked up here, which was jarring and disappointing.

As a whole, this duology is okay. Good writing and solid characterization carry the sub-par art. As much as I like this series and would like it to be accessible to GN readers, you’d honestly be better served reading the books.

– Kathleen

Harrison, Kim and Gemma Magno. Blood Crime. 2012.

Snow White

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Phelan, Matt. Snow White. 2016.

Wrapping up the last of my fairy tale themed graphic novels, this re-adaptation of the Snow White tale left me feeling disappointed. While it follows the Disney-esque story faithfully, it’s film noir vibe wasn’t enough to elevate it for me.

The quickly read story starts out in 1918 as Samantha (Snow) White and her father sadly witness the mother dying. Fast forward 10 years, and the father is suddenly an old man who becomes enchanted with the Queen of the Follies, a glamorous Broadway star. They marry, and Snow is sent away to boarding school for a few years. Snow’s father, the King of Wall Street survives and thrives during the Great Depression, but dies after being poisoned by his new wife.

Snow, now a beautiful young woman,  returns for the funeral and during the reading of the will it is discovered Snow was left most of the estate. Furious, the stepmother hires someone to kill Snow, but she escapes to hide in the snowy streets of NYC. In a shantytown (Hooverville) she befriends seven street urchins who have more savvy in keeping safe and she stays with them.

Snow’s stepmother discovers that Snow is still alive and disguises herself as an old woman so she can give Snow a poisoned apple. The boys discover Snow after she has taken a bite and some give chase to the Queen, in which she meets an untimely demise. The boys reunite to take care of Snow and take her to be displayed in the shop windows of Manhattan, representing the glass coffin. A detective thinking she is dead, kisses her (which is disturbing in modern retellings of this tale) and she awakens. There is a happy ending for all at the end.

The illustrations are sketchy and dark hued, with a bit of red used sparingly to signify blood and apples. I was reminded of the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, with the black and white illustrations, and I thought the look was reminiscent of stylized silent pictures.  The artwork is lovely, and that color is used in the last few pages to signify happiness, is effective.

Although all the pieces of the story and artwork are well done, it just didn’t fit together well in my mind, perhaps due to the very little dialogue. But I realize others might really enjoy the atmospheric retelling, so I would still recommend it to others who enjoy Snow White tales.

-Nancy

Guest Post on YASF Battle of the Books

As the Teen Services Coordinator at my library, I attend a networking group with other librarians who work with teens in the Chicagoland suburb area. For several years the YASF (Young Adult Services Forum) group has had a yearly Battle of the Books for YA novels, and this is my second year participating.

This year I wrote reviews for the second round of the tournament, once many of them had been eliminated. I had to read the fantasy novel The Star Touched Queen and the graphic novel Ghosts and decide which book would move to the next bracket. Who do you think I picked as the winner? Check here to find out!

-Nancy

stq-vs-g

 

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Non-Written Novels

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week’s topic is: Favorite Non-Written Novels!

If you read our blog, you know that a bulk of it is devoted to reviewing graphic novels, so instead I will choose to concentrate on audio books this week. I have a bit of a drive to work, and a heavy course load for my masters, so audio books are a perfect solution for me to enjoy novels when I drive. What made all of these books stand out was how they were voiced. I loved how some of the books had several different actors voicing the characters, for it made it more realistic and made the stories come alive. All of these editions will make you fans of audio books, if you didn’t love them already.

Leonard: My Fifty Year Friendship With A Remarkable Man by William Shatner- read by the author

William Shatner is known for his bombastic personality, and he remains true to form in this poignant novel about Leonard Nimoy. To be honest, this is a book that most likely will only appeal to Trek fans…of which I most definitely am.  But to hear Shatner’s voice describe his friend, IMO, is the only way to read this book. WS’s well known vocal idiosyncrasies just added to the experience.

In many ways it is a love letter to Leonard, but this book is as much about WS as it is about LN and is a way for WS to process his feelings that in the last years of LN’s life, the two had stopped speaking. WS shares many details about LN’s early life, for they both came from immigrant families of Jewish heritage, and this commonality bonded them when they started working together on Star Trek TOS. In many ways though, they were yin and yang, with different personalities and ways in which they approached their acting careers. Despite many misunderstandings, jealousies, and practical jokes their friendship endured beyond their working relationship. That there was bad blood at the end (at least from LN’s perspective), was sad, but that their friendship had lasted for so long beforehand was actually the surprise. This was a lovey tribute, and I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at these two iconic actor’s lives. For all Star Trek fans, I wish for you to live long and prosper!

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys- read by four voice actors

A fantastic YA historical fiction book, set in 1945 in the waning months of WWII. We meet four teens who converge on the ship Wilhem Gustloff to take them across the Baltic Sea to safety, and each carries a terrible secret. Joana is a nurse from Lithuania who is of German ancestry (guilt is a hunter), Florian is a Prussian art forger (fate is a hunter), Emilia is a Polish girl hiding her identity from the Germans (shame is a hunter), and Alfred is a toadish Nazi soldier stationed on the ship (fear is a hunter).

Told in short alternating chapters from each of the four perspectives that eventually intertwine, the story unfolds as the first three teens, who are refugees hiding in the countryside, slowly make their way to the port of Gotenhafen (now named Gdynia), Poland. I found the events behind the real evacuation fascinating, and it prompted me to research this little known maritime disaster. There are war atrocities detailed, and the the fate of some is sad, but this book is a well researched chapter of history that more people should be aware of.

The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry- read by various voice actors

Historical fiction at it’s finest! Set in 1241 in the countryside of Provensa France, after the bloody Crusades when religious fervor was still strong, the story details the unlikely friendship between Dolssa and Batille.

Dolssa is a woman of noble birth who is declared a heretic after she preaches of her passionate love for Jesus, whom she believes speaks to her. She escapes a public execution and is found near death by Batille, a young woman who work’s at her family’s tavern and is the village matchmaker. Batille and her two sisters hide Dolssa as she mends, although they are putting themselves in grave danger from Dominican Friar Lucien who vows to find her. Dolssa comes out of hiding to heal some villagers who were dying, and word escapes that there is a healer in their midst, for truly her beloved has given her some of His powers.

Vaguely reminiscent of Les Misérables (also French), the friar and his fellow Inquisition cohorts track Dolssa down, as they plan to burn her at the stake. The religious terror that envelops the village is gut wrenching. The book had made the residents come alive, so to see the Inquisitors torture and trick the people into betraying the young women was heartbreaking. Villagers turn against one another to save themselves, and I could see the roaring fire in my mind’s eye. Despite this, some heroes emerge at the burning, and there are still some miracles and tricks to be revealed.

This tale of friendship, love, loss and devotion will stay with you. The end of this richly researched book ends with an author’s note, and an additional reading list, for those who wish to know more of this era.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee- read by Sissy Spacek

This book is perfect in every way possible. I had read this back in high school, and while the themes of the story had stayed with me, I had forgotten many of the details of the Finch’s lives before and after the trial. This is why it is important to reread books at various stages in your life- you can see so many different threads in the book depending on your new life experiences. The symbolism of the mockingbird in the story, of innocence being destroyed by evil, and intolerance and injustice not always being balanced by integrity was so well written. The town and it’s inhabitants seemed so alive and very real to me, so I eagerly look forward to Go Set a Watchman and dearly want to know what the future holds for Scout, Jem, Atticus, Dill, Boo and the remaining Robinson & Ewell families. (Edit- don’t read GSAW if you wish to keep TKAM pure in your mind. I wrote this review a few years ago on Goodreads before I read the “sequel”)

Astray by Emma Donoghue- read by various voice actors

This book was a mix of several of my favorite genres- short stories, historical fiction and non-fiction. Every single story was amazing, even if it dealt with difficult subject matter, for the stories were based on real people or events in history. I will definitely be spending some time researching some of the information/sources that the author based her stories off. Some spoilers ahead.

Man and Boy: Jumbo the elephant & his loving zoo keeper are about to travel to the US. Onward: A lovely story of second chances and a promise of a clean slate through immigration. The Widow’s Cruse: The widow is not what she seems and plays the lawyer beautifully. Although you never find out why she did it- I was rooting for her to escape. Last Supper at Brown’s: Another story of an unlikely duo getting away with a crime. Counting The Days: So, so sad. The couple was so close to being reunited and there was no way to get a message to the wife to tell her what happened. The letters between the two showed both a loving but realistic marriage. Snowblind: A Yukon Brokeback Mountain story. The Long Way Home: A melancholy story of the limited options many women had and how they suffered because of their men’s choices. At first I misinterpreted the last scene between Mollie and Jensen, but even after I understood, I didn’t know why Mollie would want that. The Body Swap: A crime against President Lincoln’s tomb is thwarted. The Gift: Heartbreaking story about adoption through the Orphan Trains. I saw both parent’s perspectives and had sympathy for both view points. The Lost Seed: Plymouth era story of a closeted gay man who projected sins onto others and tried to cast blame on them. Vanitas: Selfish, selfish family. I cringed at the breeding comment about the slaves they owned. The Hunt: This was the most difficult story to read for it was about systematic rape that some English soldiers inflicted on women in NJ during the Revolutionary War. The men were a pack of rabid dogs and no one in command stopped them -sickening but historically accurate. Daddy’s Girl: How did any one not know? What Remains: A long-term friendship between female artists and the partnership they forged ends when one of them ‘leaves’ through her dementia.

-Nancy

Quick shout outs to previous audio books that I adore that I have reviewed in the past: Eleanor & Park, World War Z & Ready Player One

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Batgirl (Vol. 3): Mindfields

This one is sooo overdue… lol… I reviewed the last volume pretty much soon as it came out and this one’s been sitting in my to read pile for months… 8,D;;

Barbara’s been feeling… off, lately. She can’t remember the simplest things, or things that happened only a few months ago, or things that she definitely should remember. For someone with an eidetic memory, this is highly unusual. It could just be stress, though… she’s still plugging away at her thesis, she’s got her grade school friend Greg crashing on her couch until he finds a new place, she’s got Batgirl stuff to do. The nightmares she’s been having could certainly be stress-induced: every night, a man with shadowy forms and a great, glowing eye stands over her… yeah, definitely creepy, and definitely stress-related.

Batgirl has been running with all kinds of new friends: Spoiler, Bluebird, plus some old ones, like Black Canary and Operator. Together, they’ve been keeping Burnside safe. Until someone threatens to use an energy source machine Barbara built to level the district. Are her friends able to help keep Burnside safe? Or Babs safe from her own mind?

Various plot threads from the last 2 books are tied up quite nicely here, leaving us with a satisfying ending. The art is as adorable and animated as ever. I think what I like most about this Batgirl is… it’s feasible. Babs made her costume herself and it looks home-spun yet stylish. The girls use phones and laptops that any normal college student would have in addition to the usual crime-fighting gear. The last issue in this volume, Batgirl: Endgame #1, illustrates this well. She feels like any other college girl, and she feels believable. Plus, sprinkled throughout, we get nods to the Batgirl of the golden and silver age of comics (including a library scene =P).

I highly recommend the Burnside run. It’s cute, it’s funny, it’s light-hearted, and best of all, we get to see Batgirl as just a normal college girl.

– Kathleen

Stewart, Cameron, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr. Batgirl (Vol. 3): Mindfields. 2016.

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