Graphic Novelty²


December 2017

Forever Evil

The Justice League is no more! Instead the Crime Syndicate from Earth-3 in the multiverse have managed to “kill” most of the heroes and round up all the villains, so as to take over the world. The Crime Syndicate consists of doppelgangers Ultraman (Superman), Super Woman (Wonder Woman), Owlman (Batman), Power Ring (Green Lantern), Deathstorm (Firestorm), Johnny Quick (The Flash) and Atomica (Atom) with their Sea King (Aquaman) not surviving the trip over.

After busting dozens of villains out of jail, this group of seven demand obedience from the motley group in front of them. They explain that the strongest should survive, and the way the former heroes have been protecting the weak of the planet was wrong. Ultraman declares “Aeternus Malum”, which roughly translates to forever evil, to his new army. Thrilled to be allowed to act on their base instincts, this new secret society go out and create deadly chaos all over the world.

But not all is well within the crime syndicate. The seven argue endlessly among themselves, and fear that the creature that destroyed their previous world will find them here. We discover Super Woman is pregnant and secretly telling both Ultraman and Owlman that they are the father, so we know she is planning on playing them off one another in the future.

In the midst of the lawlessness and disorder, Lex Luthor takes stock of the situation and takes action. He has a powerful secret weapon that he had been working on for years, and puts it into play. We also discover that not everyone from the Justice League is gone. A certain someone, who often fights dark impulses (you have to know who I’m referring to!), joins forces with Lex and some other surprising villains to take down the syndicate.  The conclusion reveals who the mole in the Justice League was to allow the syndicate to take over, and Super Woman has another surprising disclosure.

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This was an extremely dense story, one that took me time to go through. While I have been reading more DC graphic novels recently, I still had to look up many characters to find out their backgrounds and how they connect into one another. There were some inconsistencies and some holes in the story that were distracting, but I felt as a whole, it was a very strong story. It made me think- can someone who has been evil for a long time, change? Does his/her new good actions erase all the bad they have done in the past? On the flip side, can someone who has been good but then makes a horrible choice, does that negate their past good deeds?

The artwork was fantastic. It took real skill to illustrate the 100 or so characters in the story. There was an amazing four page spread of the syndicate with the villains surrounding them, that I wish had been a pull out, so we could see the whole cast of characters at once. Despite this four page spread, there were hardly any other two page spreads, but there were occasionally one page panels. With black borders, the rich coloring stood out, and every panel was drawn with precision.

This New 52 crossover event was definitely successful. Not only was it a fun read, but the ending leaves some open story lines that can be built upon in the future.  I’m definitely interested in knowing what awaits the villains that survived and how that will affect the Justice League in the future.


Johns, Geoff, Davis Finch & Richard Friend. Forever Evil. 2014.

2018 Goals

As I look towards a new year, I recently reflected on my 2017 goals to see if I had met them. For the most part I had, so I look towards creating a new 2018 list for myself, for as author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wisely said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

1) Search out new career opportunities. I recently graduated with a Masters Degree in Library Science (MLIS) and I spent 2.5 years working towards furthering my education so that I could be an asset to any public library. I need to voice my ambition and work diligently towards obtaining a leadership position.

2) Write more! Now that my endless homework is done, I will have more time to devote to it. In conjunction with that goal, I welcome writing guest posts. I already have a The Last Jedi piece in the works for Jeffrey at The Imperial Talker, an environmental piece for Michael’s American Resistance at My Comic Relief and YA book reviews for the 2018 Tournament of Books through the Young Adult Services Forum group I belong to planned.

3) Hike more! To be honest I’m not one to hit the gym. But I really like hiking and will happily spend hours walking in the woods. It’s great exercise and wonderful for my soul.

4) Take more nature photographs for my Instagram account nancyandnature. I am planning to purchase myself a better camera soon, and hope that I can spend more time outdoors (see above goal) capturing good shots. I had nine pictures selected to be featured on photography sites Only in Illinois, Midwest Snaps and Illinois Shots in 2017 and I aim to have more selected this year. I have included one of my favorite pictures I took this year.

5) Organize my drawers, closets and basement in my home. I bet my co-workers would appreciate me working on my desk too. But I’m creative, and have lots of art projects and the corresponding supplies in mid-completion.Luckily I have a steady stream of teen volunteers at the library to assist me and the other librarians with various projects.

Some of these goals are repeats or very similar to last years, but they are ongoing and one year is not enough to complete them (if ever). Wish me luck on my goals and planning, so in one year they have been achieved instead of being wishes that never came to fruition.



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Lighter Than My Shadow

Katie always had a difficult relationship with food, even when she was a little girl. She was a slow and picky eater. Soon she developed a ritual for herself, where everything had to be cut the same size, chewed a certain number of times… her parents showed no concern, as lots of children develop their own way of doing things. Her relationship with food grows worse as she enters high school. She is bullied, and she binges when she comes home upset. Everything around her is changing so rapidly, and Katie feels she has to be perfect in everything. Her feelings of inadequacy are squashed by self-control and dedication – to her schoolwork, her appearance, and starving her body to the right shape. Though she’s admitted to therapy multiple times from high school throughout college by her family and friends, Katie ultimately has to choose recovery for herself.

This is a stunning memoir. Each and every illustration was drawn by hand, in what looks to be ink. The medium is used to great effect. Katie’s negative thoughts are portrayed by dark, dense clouds of scribbles. If you look close enough, you can pick out words: mean names and feelings that her illness would call her. It makes her mental illness a real, physical character in the story as much as Katie and her family are. The most harrowing illustrations are those of a close-up of Katie in the throes of a difficult moment, the black scribbles closing in on her.

Lighter Than My Shadow is not an easy book to read. But it does give us a first-hand account into anorexia, an oft-misunderstood and deadly mental illness. It’s not always about being skinny, as Katie shows us. It can also be about the conflict of the perception of ourselves vs. others’ perceptions of us, self-control and dedication, and the quest for perfection. Ultimately, it’s a map through one person’s recovery, and a demonstration of how she chose it. I was moved to tears at her “breakthrough” moment. A brave and wonderful message of hope in the face of the darkness of your own mind.

– Kathleen

Green, Katie. Lighter Than My Shadow. 2017.

Happy Holidays!!!

In lieu of Kathleen’s usual Monday post, we wanted to say happy holidays to all of you, our lovely followers! We hope you all are enjoying quality time with your friends and family, receiving everything on your wishlists (books, books, and more books, are we right?), and eating yourselves silly! We don’t want to take too much time away from the festivities, so instead we’ll say again: Happy holidays!!! ❤

– Nancy and Kathleen

Locke & Key: Heaven and Earth

As an extreme fan of Locke & Key, I was thrilled to see a book of collected stories set in the world of Keyhouse. Unfortunately, this book depends on your knowledge of the six-book series to understand the power of the keys that play a significant role in the stories. As two of the three stories are prequels, you are meeting family ancestors to the Locke children, and you will see some uncanny resemblances between generations.

Open The Moon

While this story could be a stand-alone, this story is better understood if you have read the issue Small World, as this has the family found in that story. We meet Chamberlin Locke and his wife Fiona and their four children. This story centers on their sickly son Ian, who is prone to convulsions, who can’t be cured by the magical mending cabinet in their home. Ian, his father and family friend Harland board a special hot air balloon to take them to the other side of the moon. This beautiful but melancholy story reunites loved ones, and Ian’s parents make a heart-rending sacrifice for Ian.

Picture taken from Deviant Art (artist & colorist credit on picture)


This crime-noir story is set in the 1930’s and features some French-Canadian criminals that get in over their heads at the Keyhouse. Sisters Mary and Jean from the previous story are all grown up when the gangsters burst into their home and threaten them. Bombshell Mary is calm, even when her little boys are in danger and the women are forced upstairs to be assaulted. Luckily these two women know how to utilize the keys of the house to their advantage, and the crime spree ends in a shocking manner. This story is graphic and meant for mature audiences only.

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In The Can

We are reunited with the three Locke siblings from the original series in this short. Spanning only a few pages, this story takes place in what I assume would be Volume 4 when they are searching for additional keys in the house and grounds. Bode, the youngest, discovers a magical outhouse in the woods. Each time he opens the door different creatures greet him. In-jokes abound in this story, so be on the lookout for clues in the first few panels that will explain what Bode sees. That some of these creatures can be found in other IDW publications comes as no surprise.

The concluding pages in the book are a photo gallery of the Massachusetts region that the fictional town of Lovecraft is based off and the author and illustrator mugging for the camera. Then we are given three drawn portraits of Bode, Kinsey and Tyler with Locke & Key mythology behind them.

This hardback book is a treat for already established Locke & Key fans and should not be missed if you miss the series and are waiting on the Hulu series to start filming (edit- Netflix picked up the series to film when Hulu passed on it).


Real Life Superheroes

Did you know… that there are actual real-life superheroes?

It’s true! Reporter Nadia Fezzani interviewed, trained with, and even patrolled with multiple people who participate in the “Real Life Superhero” (or RLSH) movement. These people dress in costumes and body armor and go out and fight crime, keep the peace in their neighborhoods, or provide supplies and relief to the poor, homeless, or disaster-stricken. They also are active online and have created a sort of support group for themselves.

Fezzani interviewed multiple RLSHs both in person and over email and telephone. She asks questions about their early and personal lives, the inspiration for their costumes, what their signature method of superheroism is, and more. She wanted to understand why the RLSHs do what they do, and how they differ. Many of these heroes have had difficult lives, many have families and jobs, and some have even been arrested and done jail time. But they all have something in common: they were inspired by the fictional heroes of their youth, and they want to give back to their community.

And, of course, you can’t have superheroes without supervillains! Fezzani takes the time to talk to some real live supervillains (RLSVs). They range from online trolls to actual villainous organizations, but for the most part, a lot of the villains feel they are foils to the heroes. They sort of police the RLSH community, to weed out the “heroes” who only call themselves so for the online fame, for the media attention, or who harass other heroes. Some of the real-life villains and heroes are even friends! (Now there’s something you don’t find often in the comic books =P )

The book is short – barely over 200 pages – but I found myself stopping and mulling over it a lot. Fezzani writes succinctly, and yet, there’s a lot of food for thought. The reader becomes just as fascinated as Fezzani herself did about these heroes, and one can’t help thinking about their formative years, the events that made them into heroes, the dangers they face. It’s a world that shouldn’t be real, and yet is, and it’s somewhat hard to fathom after trying so hard to convince yourself it can’t be!

Yet, at the same time, you might even find yourself brainstorming about your superhero name would be and what your costume would look like.

There isn’t a lot of graphic violence in this book, which makes it excellent for teen or squeamish readers (like me), who want to learn more about the RLSH movement but who might not want any blood and guts. Again, it’s a short read at just over 200 pages. The pages are filled with larger-than-life characters who truly want to make their communities, and the world, a better place. It’s both humbling and inspiring. A fascinating glimpse into an unreal – but very real – world.

– Kathleen

Fezzani, Nadia. Real Life Super Heroes. 2017.

Best Reads of 2017

As we did last year, we went through all the graphic novels we read and reviewed this year to give you a Top 10 list – the best of the best!

RoughneckNancy: Roughneck is a beautifully told standalone tale of a brother and sister’s quest to reconnect with one another and their cultural identity written and illustrated by the talented Jeff Lemire. Lemire handles the storyline of Derek and Beth’s Cree heritage with grace and respect. The reality of native families becoming disenfranchised from their cultural heritage, is mirrored in the excellent book The Outside Circle, which also deals with First Nation individuals whose circles of community were broken which led to fragmenting generations of people with no connection to their tribe anymore. The ending is open to interpretation, and while I at first looked at it one way, re-reading it I saw a more melancholy but poignant way of concluding the story.


Kathleen: A review of this book is upcoming, but last week I read this graphic memoir, Lighter Than My Shadow . The illustrations were all drawn by hand by the author, who suffered from anorexia when she was younger. This is the story of her recovery, and all the difficulties and choices that came with it. I don’t want to spoil my own review (edit-added link!), but suffice it to say for now that the illustrations are among the most beautiful and effective that I’ve seen this year.

Nancy: 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. This was a heartbreaking story, and through the juxtaposition of Dana’s (the main character) experiences in two different centuries, this fantasy novel actually gives a highly realistic view of the slavery era.

interior ortc.inddKathleen: Beauty is an adult fairy tale in graphic novel form. It tells the story of Coddie, a fishmonger, who wants nothing more than to be beautiful so she’ll stop being the laughingstock of her small village. When a fairy grants her wish, however, she quickly learns that she can now have whatever she wants – at a steep price. The child-like art belies the serious messages and themes within. The figures are loose and almost caricature-like. The writing is phenomenal, with unconventional characters and fairy tale tropes turned slightly askew. If you like your fairy tales with more of a brothers Grimm than Disney flavor, this is perfect for you.

Nancy: Although the Superman: American Alien has Superman in the title, it is really Clark Kent stories. The seven stories are chronological and fill in the gaps in the Superman canon. We start with Clark as a boy learning how to fly, move through his adolescence, and finally settle in his early years in Metropolis. Every story is strong, and fits in seamlessly with what we already know about Superman. I highly recommend this book, for it humanizes Superman. The seven stories are all excellent, and they flow and connect into one another, to form the larger picture of who Clark Kent is and who he will be. A must buy for Superman aficionados!

5820769-21Kathleen: Unfortunately, DC Rebirth has been a hit or miss for me, but the one story that I’ve consistently loved is Wonder Woman. Bringing Greg Rucka back to her title was the best decision they could have made! After discovering that she’s been tricked into thinking she could return to Themyscira at will, Diana sets out to discover the truth of herself and who has deceived her once and for all. She is vulnerable and human here, and I’ve cried shamelessly as she struggles to figure out the truth – her own truth, the truth of who she is. Greg Rucka is without a doubt one of the best writers of Wonder Woman. The art is nothing to sneeze at, either, beautifully detailed as it is!

Nancy: Vision- Little Worse Than A Man is as far from a superhero story as possible. While grounded in the Marvel universe, with cameos by other Avengers and villains, this book is about our definition of humanity. This quietly ominous story had such power, and felt especially moving to me to read at this time when I worry about our nation’s future. I feel some in our country have embraced a bullying rhetoric, and turn a blind eye to facts and justice for all.

91epsqx38slKathleen: The memories of her childhood ice-skating days became the subject of Tillie Walden’s graphic memoir called Spinning. The uncertainty of moving to a new city, starting middle school, and discovering her body and her sexuality make Tillie’s ice-skating routine comforting to her – until she starts questioning that, as well. The art is fantastic: only purples and yellows are used, and yellow quite sparingly, to highlight important parts of the story. Great blocks of deep purple around a single figure illustrate Tillie’s loneliness and uncertainty more than her words could.

Nancy: Briggs Land is an absolutely riveting new series about “an American family under siege” by both the government and their own hand. Set in rural upstate New York, Briggs Land is a hundred square mile oasis for people who want to live off the grid. Established in the Civil War era, the Briggs family would give sanctuary to those who wanted to live a simple life, but this anti-government colony has taken a dark turn in recent times. The village that grew within it’s fences has morphed into a breeding ground for white supremacy, domestic terrorism and money laundering. The second volume is scheduled to be released in late January, and I dearly hope it stays as strong as it’s debut volume was.

gunslinger-rebornKathleen: Like the rebel that I am, I read the graphic novel adaptation of The Dark Tower series titled The Gunslinger Born before I started the books. But let me tell you, it left me desperate for more and started my new-found obsession. The young Roland sets out with his two best friends to Mejis, where they are sent by their fathers to stay out of trouble. What they find in that sleepy little town is a conspiracy loyal to the Crimson King – and Roland’s true love, Susan, who may doom them all. I can’t say enough about the art in this book. I was in love with the stark contrasts and the way the figure’s faces were usually in shadow, leaving the reader to guess at their true intents. If the seven book series scares you, try reading the graphic novel first and seeing how fast you devour the books after that 😉

And there you’ve got your must-reads of 2017! We spanned several genres and publishers, and each of us had a DC and Marvel choice. Surprisingly Image didn’t make the cut. Here’s hoping 2018 brings us many more excellent graphic novels… we don’t think they made it hard enough for us to choose ;D

– Nancy and Kathleen

Birds of Prey (II, Vol. 1): End Run

A little backstory before my review. It turns out, my last review of Birds of Prey was the last of the original run! After the Platinum Flats arc, it was cancelled!! I know, I’m outraged too!!! I will have to do more digging and see what happened. The good news is, they rebooted it for a short while after the Brightest Day event, with Gail Simone returning as writer. There isn’t much of this run before the New 52, but I’m addicted and need my fix!

The Birds have disbanded. In the aftermath of the Brightest Day event, they are back again… because someone wants them to be. A masked woman dressed all in white is threatening to kill one of the Birds every hour – unless Black Canary agrees to go with her. Of course, Dinah is not going without a fight, and the rest of the Birds will fight tooth and nail to keep her by their side, even after their separation. They’re going to need a little help though, from the resurrected Hawk and his partner, Dove. The bond of the Birds is about to be tested like never before. Will they hold strong together, or crumble once again?

The Birds are truly at their best while under Simone’s wing. They are more than a team, they’re a family. The love and respect these women have for each other, and that Simone has for these characters, is palpable in every page. Hawk and Dove made a fun addition, especially the war-mongering Hawk, who added a wild card element to the already fast-paced mix. Ed Benes has been a favorite artist of mine throughout this title, for the emotive qualities he brings to the heroines. Though I wouldn’t recommend it for first-time readers of this title – too many past events are referenced – it’s one of the best examples of the title there is.

– Kathleen

Simone, Gail, Ed Benes, Adriana Melo, and Alvin Lee. Birds of Prey (II, Vol. 1): End Run. 2011.

Herding Cats

When I discovered Adulthood Is A Myth early this year, I was enamored with author Sarah Andersen’s humor and her trademark artistic style. Despite her city living vs my small town setting and the age difference between us, there were many parallels between her thoughts and mine.  I read her second book, Big Mushy Happy Lump, soon afterwards (review below) and then was doubly pleased when I was able to read her third book through NetGalley that will be out in March 2018.

What stood out in this third volume was her honesty about the creative process and how self doubt and self sabotage come into play even as she has now gained mainstream success.  There is a section in the back in which Andersen gives advice to new illustrators and shares how the internet has corrupted much of her former joy in sharing her work. Her guide for the “young creative” is actually appropriate for all ages as her practical advice about artist survival is from her own hard won experience. While this book is as funny as her previous two, there is definitely a maturing in her work that was welcome.


Andersen’s second book includes more funny cartoons about self esteem, relationships and the foibles of being a woman. She also shares some personal insight as to how social anxiety, over thinking and lack of confidence has affected her. This was a quick read that was lighthearted but also can help others with anxieties feel that they aren’t alone. The roller coaster cartoon was especially apt, as I too struggle with self esteem, and to see in print that others also struggle with it was reassuring.

I look forward to future Sarah’s Scribbles book, as the talented author and illustrator has created a very relatable set of books. Bravo!


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