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Graphic Novelty²

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February 2019

Manfried Saves The Day

Manfried The Man was a quirky graphic novel about cats and humans having their roles reversed. In this second graphic novel Steve, an anthropomorphic cat, and his pet man, Manfried return to save a man-shelter from being closed.

Steve’s cartooning work is taking off, as his drawings of his pet Manfried are becoming popular. A former slacker, he still struggles with work deadlines and life responsibilities, but his romance with his neighbor Henrietta is promising. When a rich developer puts Henrietta’s man-shelter in danger, the two of them plus some friends band together to raise money to save the shelter. An upcoming pet show with an unrealistically high money prize seems to be the answer to their prayers. Will Manfriend save the day by winning best in show?

The artwork is clean, simple and attractive; always with a six panel layout per page. I am so used to graphic novels having layouts that vary from splash pages to atypically placed panels that this setup is refreshingly simple. The juxtaposition of the roles leads to clever sight gags with the little men. Seeing the men dressed up in adorable Halloween costumes, to aid in their adoption at the shelter, was by far the best part.

The first book was more nuanced than I expected, but this second outing was a bit trite and had a Hallmark movie feel. Yet, if you are a fan of Manfried from the first graphic novel or the author’s Tumblr page, you will enjoy this sweet story about the men’s adventures. Thank you to NetGalley for the chance to read an advance online copy.

-Nancy

(Aside- How do these men reproduce? No women or children pets have been shown. Curious minds need to know!)

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Top 5 Wednesday: Independent Ladies

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the topic is: favorite leading ladies who aren’t distracted from getting shit done by their love interest.

Princess Leia from Star Wars

Princess Leia was getting shit done before a certain flyboy and scoundrel came into her life! She was a member of the Imperial Senate and a member of the Rebel Alliance when she was just a teenager and later became a General of the resistance. Her romance and later marriage to Han Solo were fit in between her amazing adventures.

Wonder Woman from the Kingdom Come storyline

When a new generation of heroes was failing and an impending apocalyptic event looms, Wonder Woman comes out of retirement to retrieve Superman who was in seclusion to save the world. The two of them, plus Batman, put everything right again and only after that does a romance between Diana and Clark develop. Loved the epilogue of this story!

Tyleet from the ElfQuest saga

Tyleet is a favorite character of mine from the ElfQuest series who is kind, patient and steady. As a second generation of the Wolfrider clan, she was single for hundreds of years before she unexpectedly “recognized” (when two elves are drawn together to create a child) an older elf Scouter. Despite her subsequent pregnancy Tyleet remained true to herself and in helping neighboring tribes of humans. Scouter learned to help her instead of stopping her from assisting those he had previously viewed as the enemy.

Officer Dana Cypress from the Revival series

Inexplicably, twenty three people come back to life in rural small town Wisconsin.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 unit looking into this phenomenon. A problem arises when she discovers her younger sister is one of the “revivers”. She meets a scientist who is there to study the undead, and he becomes a love interest, but it is completely secondary to her solving the mystery.

Faith Herbert aka Zephyr of the Harbinger Renegades

Faith is a kick ass heroine! Not your typical scantily clad model type superhero chick, she transcends that stereotype and it becomes a non-issue. In this series, Faith has taken a break from the Renegades to discover herself. She still fights crime, but works as a journalist as her alter-ego. A new romance with another hero Archer is hinted at but her friendships remain a priority. She is a worthy adversary of any super villain, with promising future story lines.  You go girl!

I love how all these women are examples of how a woman can remain true to themselves while in the midst of a relationship. Women should be partners with the men they love and not subvert who they are.  These five examples of independent ladies are fantastic role models!

-Nancy

Wonder Woman: Earth One (Vol. 2)

Diana is back in Man’s World, preaching the Amazon way of peace and love. There are many who believe in her message, and receive it well, but there are many and more who think it’s unnatural – even dangerous. The US government has decided Diana Prince is a threat. They’ve discovered a weapon left on Paradise Island during World War II that could neutralize the Amazons – and Wonder Woman herself. All they have to do is pull the trigger…

I loved Earth One Wonder Woman when I read Volume 1, and I still love it now. The character is updated and challenged for modern times here. It’s heartbreaking how real her story feels: a woman, standing up and sharing her ideas on how to make the world a better place, only to be questioned, ridiculed, and labeled a threat by the men in power. There is an excellent passage in which Diana is questioned why anyone should listen to a a message of peace through loving submission spoken by a privileged princess. This one made me think, and I do love books that make me think.

Just as in the first volume, the art is excellent. The characters are solidly drawn and wonderfully expressive. There are still panels which are surrounded by the Lasso of Truth, or lightning, or other motifs; where I remember the first volume overdid these a bit to the point where it was hard to read, this volume did a better job of balancing them out. There are many Easter eggs once again to past incarnations of Wonder Woman’s character and story arcs, which are delightful for long-time fans to pick out.

Earth One definitely isn’t your mother’s Wonder Woman. That’s what I like about it 😉 This will challenge your perception of this DC staple in today’s world. As ever, looking forward to the next volume.

– Kathleen

Morrison, Grant, Yanick Paquette, and Nathan Fairbairn. Wonder Woman: Earth One (Vol. 2). 2018.

Aquaman: The Trench & The Others

Geoff Johns take on Aquaman is an absolute winner! He crafts the often maligned superhero into a charismatic and appealing champion of the people, that, dare I say, is now my favorite DC hero!

Volume One: The Trench

Straight off, Johns takes Aquaman’s reputation by the horns and addresses how many people perceive him as a joke. Poor guy- he’s been mocked on SNL and his abilities to communicate with sea animals is ridiculed. Despite his rugged good looks, powerful physique and amazing powers, he is often looked down upon.

But as the story progresses we get to know Arthur the man, not just Aquaman the hero. We are introduced to Mera, a princess of Xebel (which is a breakaway nation from Atlantis), who has joined Arthur on land. I adored their relationship; it was balanced, loving and free of drama. I’m warning you DC, don’t ruin this relationship! The two of them fight some aquatic monsters that come out of a deep trench in the ocean and are terrorizing Amnesty Bay. Their decisions on how to deal with the monsters help with character development, and this first volume ably gives you enough flashbacks and insights to Arthur’s past for readers to understand who Aquaman is.

Volume Two: The Others

This second volume tries to give more of Arthur’s backstory, and we find out that before Mera met him, he was part of a motley group of second-tier heroes called The Others that discovered, and subsequently protected, Atlantean weapons. Black Manta, Arthur’s arch enemy, tracks down some of these members to steal these artifacts to use against Aquaman. We also get to know marine biologist Dr. Stephen Shin, who helped Arthur develop his powers as a child, but betrayed him and his father, hoping for recognition for his work.

This story was more convoluted, and I had to refer to the website Comic Vine to keep track of The Others and their powers. Plus, there was one member, Ya’Wara, a sexualized hottie who wore a string bikini in Siberia. Come on now. It made me yearn for Arthur to become involved in the Justice League and for him to become a member of that team.  Still loving on Mera and Arthur in this volume!

Now let’s talk about the art. It’s fantastic! Ivan Reis impressively draws Arthur and Mera. The seascapes are beautifully rendered and richly colored in. He includes many one or two page spreads and drew the ocean creatures with precision. While the story line redeemed the character of Aquaman, it was the drawings that upgraded the story as a whole and made me fall in love with Arthur and Mera.

Johns was the perfect author to develop Arthur’s story. Kathleen’s review of the movie Aquaman showed that Johns’ screen-writing contribution to the movie elevated it above many of DC’s preceding disappointing adaptations of the DCEU (except for Wonder Woman -that was beyond good!). Johns has a handle on the DC characters and has penned previous novels such as Green Lantern, The Flash: Rebirth, Batman: Earth One and Forever Evil (although in this event book, Johns did not include Aquaman!!!).

I like how DC is developing both versions of Aquaman in books and on screen parallel to one another. Although Aquaman is now often portrayed with a beard, illustrators aren’t trying to make him look like Jason Momoa. Fans are intelligent enough to accept this, and one version doesn’t have to subvert the other. And while I truly am a fan of Momoa, I’m glad the comics are keeping Arthur as the blonde version that has been around for decades. I hope between this new adaptation of Aquaman’s story, along with any stories found in the Justice League comics, he gets the recognition and respect he deserves.

-Nancy

Death or Glory (Vol. 1): She’s Got You

Glory’s adopted father is dying. He needs to have a major surgery in order to have even a chance at survival. The money’s all run out, and Glory is getting desperate. She decides to set up a series of heists, stealing money from drug lords, to pay for Red’s surgery and save his life. It’s not really stealing if you’re already stealing from a criminal… right? But the first heist goes awry, and Glory soon finds herself in way over her head. Soon she’s dodging crooked cops and her ex-husband, all of whom trying to bring her in no matter what, in addition to well-meaning members of her trucker family. When things go from bad to worse, can Glory pull off her plan and save Red?

I admit I had to skim this one after a certain point. The story is interesting enough, but it was too violent for my taste. Strong language is fine with me, as are love scenes, but soon as one guy starts cutting another guy open with a chop saw, I check out. That said, most of it seemed well-suited to the story, and there were only a few scenes that I deemed excessive. Because of the violence, I’d have to say this one is adult only.

What I did enjoy about this one was Glory herself. She’s not some hero, and she’s not pretending to be one. She is straight up hurting for money and not willing to let go of someone she loves. She’s ready to do whatever it takes to save that person, even if it means breaking the law. Is that ethical? It’s up to the reader to decide. I’ve always been fascinated by stories like hers – it’s why I think Mr. Freeze from Batman is such a good villain. When written well, you question whether or not he’s even a bad guy. I questioned whether or not Glory was good here, and I loved it.

The art is great. The backgrounds and environments are rendered in sort of a dusty ’50s meets Wild West style. They’re rendered a little more carefully than the characters, grounding the reader in a plausible reality. The characters are a little more sketchy, a little more exaggerated, to suit the action-oriented story. Even though there is a lot of action, the panels are still laid out in a straightforward and easy-to-follow format.

Skip this one if you mind a lot of violence; but if you don’t, this story will take you on a ride-or-die roller coaster that has you questioning the morality of everyone involved.

– Kathleen

Remender, Rick, and Bengal. Death or Glory (Vol. 1): She’s Got You. 2018.

Star Wars: Princess Leia

I was gifted this book by none other than The Imperial Talker– a huge Star Wars fan, a new dad and good friend! I was anxious to read an adventure about Princess Leia, one of my childhood heroes and penned by the esteemed Mark Waid.

Set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, this story is about Leia dealing with the pain of losing her family and the entire planet of Alderaan. Immediately after the medal ceremony Leia approaches General Dodonna to see how she can help and discovers that surviving Alderaan citizens that were off world when the planet was destroyed are being hunted down by Imperial forces. Leia quickly finds pilot Evaan Verlaine, a fellow Alderaanian, to help her find and save their brethren. With a few slick maneuvers they escape to Naboo to find an enclave of musicians who keep their culture alive. I did appreciate the few panels that showed Leia seeing her birth mother represented in stained glass (see picture below) and feeling a connection without knowing why.  Smuggler and pilot Nien Nunb joins the women as they continue searching other worlds for survivors, and there is an intriguing subplot about what makes a true Aldaraanian when they discover an outpost of survivors that have intermarried with natives of that planet.

Author Mark Waid, who has written Kingdom Come and Strange Fruit, two favorites of mine, gives Leia a story to work through her grief. He addresses some hard questions: Is Leia still a princess without a world? What parts of a culture are worth saving? Should descendants of a people who now look and act different be considered valid citizens of Aldaraan? This one-off graphic novel tries to pull together many threads, but isn’t able to delve deep into many of the issues. I ended up wanting a bit more from this story than Waid was able to deliver.

The artwork was a mixed bag for me. The most glaring issue for me was that Princess Leia did not look like Carrie Fisher. Artist Terry Dodson made Leia a hottie with form fitting outfits and sexy come hither eye makeup and hair-dos. And it’s not as if he couldn’t replicate the actors who portrayed them in the movies, as the depictions of Padmé  and Bail Organa looked very accurate. There were several panels that lacked detail and definition; in particular, there was a scene of Leia as a child where she looked like a monkey with her face in profile and her hair flowing out like a tail.  I typically love the way Jordie Bellaire colors, but in this book the coloring was just standard, with some odd shading of faces.

I deliberately did not ask Jeff his opinions on the story he sent me before I read it, so I hope he gives me some feedback with his thoughts on the book. All in all, this was an enjoyable outing with Leia that gave a look at a gap in the Star Wars narrative that helps explain how the loss of her people shaped her into the general she became in later years.

-Nancy

Waid, Mark & Terry Dodson. Star Wars: Princess Leia. 2015.

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