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Graphic Novelty²

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July 2017

You’re Fired X-Men (the ladies edition)!

Pete Holmes is a wickedly funny comedian, and he had some spot-on videos about the weaknesses of the X-Men team.  For his now defunct late night show, Holmes did a series of skits on the failings of many of the X-Men heroes, and how their vulnerabilities made them a threat to the team. He portrayed Professor X in eleven hilarious but vulgar video clips. I previously featured Wolverine’s firing and then Nightcrawler, Gambit & Jubilee’s swan songs, while today we see how the esteemed leader treats the ladies.  Warning- they are for mature audiences only!

 

Rogue: Professor X is not taken in by Rogue’s southern charm and accuses her of being an energy vampire. Her need for love risks death for other team members, if she were to touch them.  Bye bye, sugah!

 

 

Storm: While he appreciates Storm’s abilities, he wants to harness them for his own benefit. A little black mailing isn’t out of the question for him, although she shows him the integrity he himself is lacking.

 

 

Jean Grey: Beware my gentle readers for this last video clip. Turns out our kindly Professor X has a secret crush on Jean and lets her know in no uncertain terms. He might now need to be called Professor X-Rated.

 

If you made it this far, you will agree with me that our staid Professor X is secretly a big ole’ perv. Now we know what he was really thinking!

-Nancy

 

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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol. 1)

Wilhelmina Murray has been tasked with an intriguing adventure. She is to find and recruit gentlemen of certain talents for espionage work for the British Empire, as per her superior, Campion Bond. Allan Quartermain, an excellent marksman, is found in an opium-induced stupor in Cairo. Dr. Jekyll has been roaming about the dark side of Paris since his supposed suicide. Hawley Griffin – well, he could be anywhere, as he’s invisible. They are all assembled in due order and they travel on none other than Captain Nemo’s submarine. They learn that Britain was planning a moon landing on the year of 1900, but the technology to make it happen was stolen. The Cavorite has fallen into the hands of someone called the Doctor, but what he wants with it is an enigma, and it’s their job to find out.

In a word, it’s fun. The writing is tongue-in-cheek and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. That many of the characters are references to literature of this period makes it even more enjoyable. Yet it doesn’t hesitate to touch on very adult themes, such as sexuality and PTSD. The art is fantastic: dark, sketchy yet very detailed, and highly atmospheric. The dialogue is also true to this era. I really felt I was reading a penny dreadful – if they were in comic book format! It could appeal to superhero, steampunk, or literary fans. It’s easy to see why it’s so acclaimed. A must-read graphic novel!

– Kathleen

Moore, Alan, and Kevin O’Neill. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vol. 1). 2002.

Kindred

This graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s story, Kindred, was extremely well done. Butler’s original novel, published in 1979, was a ground breaking story that liberally dipped into historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy within a time traveling framework. The author herself called the story “a kind of grim fantasy”, and this adaptation shows just that.

The story begins in 1976 California, when a newly married black woman named Dana is unexpectedly sucked back into antebellum Maryland in the early 1800’s. A young white boy is drowning in a nearby river and she wades in to save him, although his parents are strangely aggressive towards her afterwards. When the father levels a rifle at her, she is transported back to modern day. Only gone a minute in her time, she is justifiably confused as to what just happened.

Dana is soon sucked back again, but at a different year in the past, as she meets the boy again during a time he is in danger. She gets to know Rufus and truly discovers the location and time period she is in. It is during this second journey that she realizes she is in extreme danger, for she will be perceived as an escaped slave due to her color. When she is sent back to her home after being threatened with death, she is able to ascertain that she is sent to the past when Rufus is in danger, and she goes back home when she is threatened with death.   On her third journey her husband Kevin grabs hold of her, and he too goes back in time, where they meet Rufus again as a young man.  Kevin’s experiences as a white man in the past are much different than hers, and the gulf between the two is shown in stark contrast.

Eventually we discover the tether between Rufus and Dana- he is a distant ancestor of hers and she needs to ensure his survival if she and future family members are to exist. And this is where she needs to make a soul-corroding choice, in regards to a young slave woman Alice, whom Rufus is enamored with and who will be her many times great grandmother. This, and a myriad of other choices she needs to make, shows how slavery chipped away at both blacks and whites, and Dana comments “I never realized how easily people could be trained to accept slavery”. This was a heartbreaking story, and through the juxtaposition of Dana’s experiences in two different centuries, this fantasy novel actually gives a highly realistic view of the slavery era.

Damian Duffy has adapted Butler’s classic story into a tense narrative, with chapter breaks that tie into Dana’s journeys to the past. The experiences Dana and Kevin have, and the loss of humanity we witness, are deftly portrayed. The dialogue heavy narrative is a perfect vehicle to be shown as a graphic novel, and Duffy’s vision of Butler’s work is spot on. An introduction by fellow author Nnedi Okorafor, and some concluding information about Butler and her other works, was a good way to bookend the story.

The illustrator, John Jennings, brings the story into focus with his evocative illustrations. His sketchy art is reminiscent of The Dark-Thirty, a children’s supernatural short story collection about the slavery era, drawn by Brian Pinkney. Jenning’s work truly is graphic and the depictions of the extreme violence will make you cringe, but it is a crucial part of the narrative, and it should make you cry out for all the injustices inflicted upon the innocent. An interesting choice was showing modern day in sepia tones, while the past was a full array of colors. Dana and her husband lived a rather mundane life, so her experiences in the past became more real and vivid to her.

This was my first introduction to Kindred, as I have not had the pleasure of reading the novel, but instead of replacing the first, it has just increased my interest in the story. While a wonderful adaptation, I hope to someday read the richly imagined original.

-Nancy

Butler, Octavia E, Damian Duffy & John Jennings. Kindred. 2017.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition

I’m a little late for the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, but I hope it’s okay anyway =)

Harry has always been a little strange. He makes things happen without meaning to, like that time he talked to a snake at the zoo and made the glass vanish when his cousin Dudley pushed him out of the way to see it better. Harry got in big trouble for that one. His Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia don’t like anything or anyone out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, Harry is VERY out of the ordinary. This is only emphasized by the fact that Harry has been getting letters – lots of them – saying he’s been accepted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Exactly what Hogwarts is, and what it means for Harry, is summed up by four words spoken by a giant in a shack on the sea: “Harry – yer a wizard.”

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The illustrated edition is absolutely beautiful. It’s huge, too! The better to fit all the gorgeous illustrations in 😉 Jim Kay’s work is perfect for the world of Harry Potter. They appear to be watercolor, and they’re whimsical, incredibly detailed, and have a strong sense of lighting. Some pages have full two-page spreads, and some pages have only a little scene. Some pages are just full text, but the whole book is printed against a background that looks like watercolor or parchment paper, with some paint splashes or tiny little illustrations of keys or frogs or owls. It’s probably going to serve a double purpose in lots of young families as both a collector’s item and a bedtime story staple. Children would love the illustrations just as much as adults would. The best part is, it’s unabridged, so you get the full story along with all the all the illustrations. In truth, it’s making me a little worried about the sizes Goblet of Fire on will be, which were really big to begin with!

Not that I’m complaining I’m gonna buy them all no matter what

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Just as Hagrid’s words changed Harry’s life, the words J.K. Rowling wrote about him and his adventures changed mine. I had been a big reader before Harry Potter, so I can’t rightly say it got me to read. However, it did get me to read more fantasy. I first read Lord of the Rings and most of Tamora Pierce’s work in middle school thanks to Harry Potter – and I haven’t stopped since!

Harry also got me to write – my very first piece of fanfiction was Harry Potter. I love to write, and even if I don’t have a lot of time anymore (and am probably very rusty), I still catch myself composing stories and stringing words together in my head from time to time. As well as each and every first edition hardcover HP book, my mother got me Eragon for Christmas as well one year. She told me that she got it for me because Christopher Paolini was also a young author. At the time Eragon was published, he was 19, and I around 13 or 14 and very serious about becoming an author. Both series were major inspirations to me when I was younger.

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The reason that Harry Potter both as a series and as a character mean so much to me is… well, I was different too when I was a kid. I was constantly walking around with my nose in a book or my head in the clouds. I’ve always kind of lived in a world of my own making, and I refused to conform to what my peers deemed normal. Unfortunately, I was bullied for it, and it’s left scars on me to this day.

Harry made me believe that being different, and standing out, might not be so bad. We all like to believe that we have some special power inside us. We might not literally be the Chosen One, like Harry or Frodo or Eragon, but we DO all have a special power. We all have the ability to change the world and the lives of the people around us. We’re all more powerful than we believe.

The real magic of Harry Potter, and arguably of the fantasy genre as a whole, is that it makes us believe in ourselves as much as it makes us believe in the world we’re immersing ourselves in.

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Thank you, J.K. Rowling. Thank you for sharing your world with all of us. Thank you for being an inspiration to so many. Thank you for bringing a little boy out from the cupboard under the stairs so we wouldn’t have to feel like we were alone in being different.

Kathleen

Rowling, J.K., and Jim Kay. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition. 2015.

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Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 1): Beyond Burnside

Babs needs a break after those chaotic few weeks in Burnside where her memory was tampered with. So she sets off on a backpacking trip through Asia. On pure coincidence, she runs into an old friend, Kai, at the hostel she’s staying at in Okinawa. It becomes clear that he’s being targeted – but by who? The attackers all have the same tattoo: the Chinese characters for “student.” So who is the Teacher, and why do they want Kai so badly? He’s gotten into trouble in the past, but he swears to Babs he’s clean now. Batgirl isn’t so sure. She needs to find this Teacher, and why he or she is after her friend, fast.

I’m 50/50 on this one. It was a quick, light read, the story was pretty good, and the international setting was refreshing. There was a really fun story at the end, when Babs is traveling back to Gotham, with a killer plant eating the plane and Batgirl and Poison Ivy trying to stop it. But the art was AWFUL. It looked like the entire book was half-finished. The backgrounds were blurred and out of focus, and the figures had that odd blend of cross-hatch and block shading that I absolutely loathe. I’ll pick up the second volume to see what Babs makes of herself in Gotham after this adventure, but if the art is more of the same I’m just going to have to put it down.

– Kathleen

Larson, Hope, Rafael Albuquerque, and Dave McCaig. Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 1): Beyond Burnside. 2017.

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