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Graphic Novelty²

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April 2019

Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 7): Amazons Attacked

I sat on this and sat on this, reluctant to read it after how much Volume 6 bothered me… but then it came up overdue at the library I work at so I had to read it and give it back! X,D

Diana and Jason are getting to know each other, and of course that comes with getting on each other’s nerves, as siblings do! Diana is frustrated that Jason says he wants to become a hero, like her, yet he continues his frivolous, excessive lifestyle. Jason is frustrated Diana won’t see that he feels he’s ready to become a hero. When Jason disappears, the note he leaves behind says he is working to become worthy of being a hero – but Diana isn’t too sure. The memory of the carnage Grail left behind is too fresh, and she is worried that she’s returned, and that he was next on her demi-god hit list. Steve has made it no secret that he doesn’t trust Jason, and thinks he went back to Grail, to Darkseid. Could it be true?

As Jason wasn’t in much of this volume, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I can understand more of why they introduced him: with Diana’s home island of Themyscira in another dimension, and Diana not able to get back home any longer, it makes sense to introduce a new familial element. Doesn’t mean I have to like it! I am worried that Jason will come to overshadow Wonder Woman in her own story, when she’s been overshadowed by her male counterparts by the same publisher for a long time. It really rubs me the wrong way.

Silver Swan was reintroduced back into the story with this volume. I’ve always thought she was an interesting villain, and the Rebirth incarnation is no exception. Vanessa Kapatelis becomes the Silver Swan upon introducing nano technology into her body, enabling her to walk again after an accident that caused paralysis from the waist down. There was a hint of a sinister force behind the Silver Swan, which will be fun to untangle as the run goes on.

What I enjoyed most in this volume was Steve and Diana’s relationship getting more of the spotlight. Steve was kind of on the back burner for a while there! It was a treat to see the mutual respect and admiration they have for each other, which is the bedrock of their relationship. The romance is there, but never takes center stage, and – more important! – never downplays aspects of either character for the sake of the romance. I, for one, hope there’s a lot more Steve and a lot less Jason going forward!

– Kathleen

Robinson, James, Emanuela Lupacchino, Ray McCarthy, and Romulo Fajardo Jr. Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 7): Amazons Attacked. 2018.

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Animal Man

Animal Man was this month’s selection from the Goodreads group  I Read Comic Books and because of it I was introduced to the kitschy awesomeness of Grant Morrison’s 1988 take on this B-level superhero. The graphic novel starts with a lengthy introduction by Morrison that explains how he and other Brits were contacted after Alan Moore’s success with Watchman and Swamp Thing, to give life to DC’s back catalogue of superheros. Morrison choose Animal Man and the rest is history.

The story establishes Buddy Baker as a married “everyman”, who as he nears thirty is having an identity crisis. In this world, heroes are common with Superman and Wonder Woman being the recognized top tier, with the other heroes scrambling to find a niche and a super-group. Buddy struggles to provide for his family, so he wishes to gain recognition, hoping to join a prestigious group and use his powers of temporarily picking up the abilities of animals nearby. Despite the campiness, the stories could be more nuanced than you would think. Animal cruelty,  family responsibilities, societal commentary and humanizing villains are all tied into the story lines. However, these themes are inconsistently used, as sometimes they are pulled together in  a witty way, but other times they are groan-worthy.

So let’s talk about The Coyote Gospel. OMG- I loved it. The jokes were so sly- starting with the trucker (who looked like Freddie Mercury) and hitchhiker singing the The Modern Lovers song Road Runner right before they accidentally struck the human like coyote in the desert. Animal Man is actually just a secondary character in this chapter as the coyote man and trucker duel it out. This homage to Will. E. Coyote in Looney Tunes, and comparing him to Jesus, was a trip. By coincidence I attended a small anime convention last week and as I was looking through the bins of posters of comic covers, I ran across the picture of Animal Man being painted on the road in an obvious crucifix symbolism. One week ago I would not have known who Animal Man was or the significance of the pose, but now I can claim more credibility as a comics fan!

I also picked up the recent Jeff Lemire version and absolutely hated it. The art was grotesque and I quickly put it down. Which goes to show that no matter how good the story is, art can torpedo a graphic novel. Luckily this first version has strong art with a Golden Age vibe and it elevates the stories. Artists Chas Truog, Doug Hazlewood and Tom Grummett, with some Brain Bolland covers, bring the Baker family to life along with the animal menagerie that Buddy encounters in every chapter. All in all, I enjoyed this graphic novel especially the deeper themes of animal rights activism that Animal Man advocated for.

-Nancy

A Bride’s Story (Vol. 5)

The twins, Leila and Leily, are finally getting married! There is so much to do and prepare: their wedding attire, the feast for the guests, and more! The day approaches, but as custom dictates, the brides cannot participate in any of the festivities. They’re instead expected to sit quietly and await their grooms. If they thought snagging husbands was hard, they’re in for a trial on their own wedding day! Of course, Mr. Smith is there, taking notes and asking questions on every aspect of the wedding festivities, but it will soon be time for him to resume his journey to Ankara. Amir has taken in an injured hawk and is trying to nurse it back to health. She worries it won’t be able to fly again, but Karluk is worried the hawk is getting more attention from his wife than he is! How does he navigate these feelings of jealousy?

So far, I haven’t minded that the series is in black and white – but man, with this volume, I really wish it was. The wedding festivities would have been amazing to see in color… I’m sure it would have been a riot of reds, yellows, and whites – cheerful colors. It is fun to imagine, don’t get me wrong ;D Mori’s drawing is so detailed and precise that I could almost smell the food being prepared. The art of this manga is so sensual and transports you to another place simply by looking at a panel.

I am glad we circled back to Amir and Karluk’s relationship in this volume. There is a beautiful chapter where Amir narrates a day – one day – in their life together, yet it feels like a snapshot of their whole married life thus far. Being engaged to be married myself… it hit a little hard. I feel like we’re digging a little more into the “meat” of the story here, with further character development, and the deepening of Amir and Karluk’s relationship. As ever, looking forward to the next volume!

– Kathleen

Mori, Kaoru. A Bride’s Story (Vol. 5). 2013.

Black Badge

Premise: “An espionage series about a top-secret, elite branch of boy scouts tasked by the government to take on covert missions.”

I was intrigued by the idea of elite scouts who infiltrate different countries undercover, as both my boys are scouts. At first I was amused at the idea of scouts as decoys, but the story by Matt Kindt proved to be more nuanced than I expected with some deeper themes regarding political and social agendas.

Kenny, Cliff, Mitzi and new team member Willy begin their adventure in South Korea with a mission of getting into North Korea to spy. When caught there (and anywhere else) they claim to be lost, and government officials never take them seriously as a threat and always release them. They next move to Siberia, and later Pakistan, and we are introduced to a larger web of connections and conspiracies. A lack of communication between team members and higher ups was an unwelcome trope and led to the reader, and the team themselves, questioning who could really be trusted. The book ends with an upcoming Hunger Games-esque competition between this Black Badge squad and other young scout teams.

The sketchy artwork by Tyler Jenkins, colored in with watercolors and gouache by Hilary Jenkins, was reminiscent of Jeff Lemire’s work (who does a variant cover). While this style can be imprecise for small details, it gives the story an appropriate restless and shadowy look. Flashbacks, which often were suspect, are shown as boldly monochromatic and give you visual clues of time shifts. The layouts were varied with some nice splash pages, with the outdoor scenes drawn especially well.

Thank you to NetGalley for giving me an advance online copy. This new series could potentially take off with the YA crowd, as an edgier and more mature version of Lumberjanes, for both sexes. I’ll keep my eye on this as a potential purchase for my library collection.

-Nancy

Kindt, Matt, Tyler Jenkins & Hilary Jenkins. Black Badge. 2019.

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Rey

In celebration of Women’s History Month and beyondboth of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! This is the seventh of our planned eight piece series, and Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous features Rey of Star Wars!  In Kiri’s Star Wars blog she shares heartfelt reasons why Rey is fearless and connects the theme to love and her own life. Make sure you check out out her site and her thoughts on a galaxy far, far away…

Guest Blogger: Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous 

I have heard that the opposite of love is fear, not hate, which may be first emotion that comes to mind due to the love/hate analogies we often make. If we go by that assumption, then someone who is fearless, or without fear, is someone who loves immensely.

When asked by My Comic Relief to join in on the #FictionsFearlessFemales and write about a character from Star Wars, I immediately thought of Rey. Not Leia, like so many people often think of when they think about a fearless woman from Star Wars. Not Leia, but Rey.

Why is that?

As I dove deeper into my own exploration of Rey versus Leia and why I think Rey epitomizes a fearless woman more, I realized that much of why I like Rey is due to her relatability. Leia is stone, Rey is warmth. It’s not to say that Leia is not fearless, but more that I believe Rey is easier for me to relate to in her fearlessness.

When going by the theory that the opposite of fear is love, Rey demonstrates that in full capacity. When loving to your fullest extent, you:

  1. Love yourself
  2. Love others
  3. Love life

That is how you are fearless.

My past 6 months have been a whirlwind of horrible fear. In a nutshell, I have been bombarded with heavy subjects like drugs, addiction, overdose, death, and loss of money. I was not fearless. Even just writing this makes my heart rate rise and I get clammy hands. It was like an earthquake happened in my life. I am still dealing with aftershocks of this earthquake which namely include my lack of sleep due to hypnic jerks which leave me awake until 2 or 3am that happen night after night, physical symptoms that have been knots in my stomach for months so much so that I can’t distinguish happy or tense emotions from general anxiety, and pins and needles in my chest from sleeping in the fetal position every night.

I am not fearless. I am fear-filled.

To break away from fear, you need to love. You need to accept your limitations and others and love the life you have.

LOVE YOURSELF

Rey loves herself. I think she had to learn to love herself and be okay with waiting days on end for parents to return to her. This was part of her core and it gave her hope on Jakku. Even after the horrible realization that her parents were nobodies in The Last Jedi, she did not give into fear. Giving into fear would have been joining Kylo Ren because he would then represent the safety that she had been looking for in her parents. But Rey realized, or had possibly been beginning to realize through her training and with the mirror, that the safety and home she was looking for could only be found in herself.

Loving yourself means having a strong conviction and not deterring from it. Rey shows that stronger than any other Star Wars character, except possibly Luke in the Original Trilogy. In The Last Jedi, we are bombarded with the message of the movie: hope. But I think the message of the movie is always doing what you think is right, no matter what others think. Rey exemplifies this throughout both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, but especially in The Last Jedi. I would not be able to continue to do what was right after

being turned away by Luke. She followed her feelings and went to save Kylo, even if it didn’t work out. She went back to the Resistance, instead of going back to Luke at the end of the movie even though it may have made more sense to continue her training. She knew she was needed with the Resistance, to bring them hope again. Rey’s sense of self makes her more fearless than many people I know in my everyday life.

LOVE OTHERS

Rey shows her love for others unabashedly. It’s one of the character traits that I aspire to – the fact that she can show her emotions and not fear her emotions.

So often our society tells us to hide our emotions and Hollywood perpetuates this with their definition of “strong”. I think it is the main reason that I could not relate to Leia when I grew up but related more to Luke. The one scene that I would act out over and over again when I was younger was when Luke tells Leia about Vader being her father. It’s the one scene where she lets her guard down, where her emotions overtake her and she needs to be held by Han at the end. It’s a glimmer of emotion.

I immediately connected to Rey after the first viewing of The Force Awakens. She laughs with such joy over simple fixes in the Millennium Falcon, her excitement over meeting Han Solo is so real, and her devastation over Finn’s possible death and serious wounds tugged my heart strings. Rey wears her heart on her sleeve and I love her for that.

She continues this in The Last Jedi. Her anger at Kylo erupts from her when she yells at him for not appreciating his father, her frustration with Luke at his unwillingness to help culminates in physical fight, and her delight in seeing Finn at the end of the movie reminds us of her loyalty to her friends and the Resistance.

I hope that we see more women like this in movies as Hollywood continues to evolve. Not only for women, but also for men. It’s okay to cry and it’s okay to be unrestrained in your joy. We don’t need to act like toddlers with no control whatsoever, but we need to get over our fear of showing our emotions. We need to become fearless, like Rey.

LOVE LIFE

 

 

 

 

 

We love life by walking through it without fear holding us back. We take leaps of chance, hoping it turns out okay, and if it doesn’t, knowing that we will be okay in the end. When you’re filled with fear, you don’t follow your passions, it’s hard to make attachments and your focus is keeping yourself safe.

While safety is important, if we are always full of fear about something happening, we miss out on the beauty life offers us.

Rey waited around on Jakku for her parents to return for a long time and with a lot of patience. But when Finn and BB-8 were thrown into her life, she accepted the change and went along with what life threw at her. She had an adventure of a lifetime.

Rey loved herself enough to know that she would harness life and try new things without fear. She felt the Force, and used it to get out of her jail cell. She went off in search of Luke Skywalker and stayed there until she knew life was pushing her in a different direction. Rey could have stayed on Ahch-To long past when she left, insisting on doing things the “right” way and getting a complete training. But instead, she followed a different path and believed that life and the Force would take her where she needed to be.

We may not have the Force, but we do have gut feelings. We are only given one life, as far as we know. Don’t give into the fear of feeling like nothing will work out and that you need to remain safe. That is a fear trap.

If you made it to the end of the post, I hope you are swayed on how Rey is fearless, and perhaps more fearless than Leia. Today is my birthday and while I was writing this, I knew that this next year had to be one of less fear and more love. To stop worrying because what will be, will be. I no longer want to feel the chains of fear, but instead to have more conviction in my beliefs, show more emotion, and take chances that throw me into an adventure.

In short, I hope to be more like Rey and be FEARLESS.

******

I’ve joined forces with some other exciting bloggers and YouTubers – Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Jeff of The Imperial Talker, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Mike of My Comic Relief and Green Onion of The Green Onion Blog – for a little salute to “Fiction’s Fearless Females.” Starting on International Women’s Day and going forward over the next couple months, a different contributor will offer their take on a favorite female who harbors a fearless spirit. Click on the links below to read about the other women being profiled.

Fiction’s Fearless Females

Ellen Ripley

Captain Janeway

Amy Pond

Wonder Woman

Scarlett

Princess Leia

Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 4): Strange Loop

An unseasonal snowstorm brings an unexpected clean-up and good cheer ally to Burnside: the Penguin! He’s reformed and looking to clean up his image in order to run for mayor. But Batgirl finds he’s being a little too effective at persuading the citizens of Gotham that he’s a good guy. What is he really up to? Then, in a freak occurrence, Babs finds herself trapped inside her own mind: in a dream of her own deepest desires. It’s too good to be true. Can she escape, or does she even want to?

This run keeps firing on all cylinders and does not once slow down. We keep swinging from story to story with nary a breather. Besides the two main stories above, there are also two shorter ones in this volume. Four in one trade paper – that’s impressive, but even more impressive is how exciting all the action still is even at the end.

That’s not to say there isn’t any introspection or soul-searching in this volume or run, because there definitely is! When Babs is trapped inside her own mind, she questions whether or not this fantasy she’s living out is better than her real life, and whether or not it’s worth it to continue being Batgirl. Hope Larson continues to be a top-notch Batgirl author.

The art, while it’s become less stylized and graphic since the beginning Burnside title, keeps the feel of the Burnside aesthetic – pretty impressive, considering multiple artists have worked on the title since then. The art in this volume is a little more nuanced, a little more rounded and realistic, but still keeps the dynamic pop colors and clean lines. Batgirl’s designs have changed a bit too – they gave her a winter coat! She’ll not shiver in sub-zero temperatures wearing skin-tight leather any more! =D

Rebirth Batgirl now holds the title for my favorite Rebirth title, after the disappointment of the last Rebirth Wonder Woman. Larson’s phenomenal writing and the art continue to be a big draw. Looking forward to the next!

– Kathleen

Larson, Hope, Sami Basri, Scott Godlewski, and Minkyu Jung. Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 4): Strange Loop. 2018.

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Princess Leia

In celebration of Women’s History Monthboth of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! This is the sixth of our planned eight piece series, and Jeff of The Imperial Talker features Princess Leia of Star Wars! I do not think it was a coincidence he posted the feature on his site the day before the first trailer dropped for Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (OMG, the movie looks fantastic!). Read on to find out what this Star Wars expert has to say about the indomitable Leia Organa!  

Guest Blogger: Jeff of The Imperial Talker

There is a line in Star Wars: A New Hope which often gets lost in the greater scope of the film, a quote which points to the toughness of the movie’s lone female protagonist, Princess Leia. It comes when Darth Vader, the movie’s villain, speaks to Grand Moff Tarkin, the secondary villain in the film. Pacing back and forth as if annoyed, Vader admits that, “Her [Leia’s] resistance to the mind probe is considerable. It will be some time before we can extract any information from her.” Prior to this admission, we saw Vader enter Princess Leia’s prison cell with an interrogation droid floating behind him, a needle protruding from the droid and Leia’s face giving off subtle apprehension. Now, Vader states that it was for not, that the Princess has resisted this “mind probe” and that breaking her will take more time.

I have always loved this line; it has always resonated with me because it points directly to the fearless resolve which resides in the heart of Princess Leia. Even before Vader utters these words, we know that Leia is a force to be reckoned with, a whirlwind of confidence capable of holding her own. After all, it is Leia who was leading the mission to Tatooine to find Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi at the film’s outset. When the ship fell under attack, Leia created a new plan to secure Kenobi’s help EVEN AS IMPERIAL SOLDIERS STORMED THE VESSEL! Dispatching the droid R2-D2 to Tatooine’s surface, Leia awaited her inevitable capture, and even shoots/kills an Imperial stormtrooper before she is apprehended.

Leia and Vader
Leia confronts Darth Vader after her ship is attacked and she is captured.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Captured by the Empire’s white-armored soldiers, Princess Leia is escorted before Darth Vader, the nefarious and imposing villain we were JUST formally introduced to as he lifted a man by the neck and crushed his windpipe. The black-clad Vader towers above the petite, white dressed Princess, an obvious visual meant to represent the power of the evil Empire towering over the small, fledgling Rebellion. But Leia is far from intimidated. Oh no, not only does she stand tall next to this masked monster, she speaks first AND is the one who chastises him with palpable disdain!!!

In just a few frames, Leia presents herself as competent and fearless, especially under pressure. Rather than quivering and backing down, she boldly stands her ground against imposing odds. It is no wonder then that later, when Darth Vader assaults Leia, probing her mind for the “location of the Rebel base”, her resistance is “considerable.” Princess Leia is the embodiment of fearless resolve, the very heart and soul of the small Rebellion against an Empire which spans a galaxy. There was never a chance the mind probe would work, it was always going to be an act of futility on the part of Vader.

An Alternative Form of Persuasion

It is Grand Moff Tarkin who chooses a new tactic to extract the information they seek following the failure of the mind-probe. Rather than probing her mind, Tarkin gives Leia a choice: give up the location of the Rebel base OR watch as her home planet of Alderaan is destroyed by the Death Star superweapon. It is a brilliant move on Tarkin’s part, one that catches Leia off-guard. Pleading with him, the Princess turns into a supplicant as she tells the Grand Moff her planet is “peaceful” and has “no weapons.” Tarkin, of course, does not care and, presenting the question again, demands to know where the Rebel base is located. It is now that Leia gives in: “Dantooine. They’re on Dantooine.”

Leia Stares Down Tarkin
Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin square-off.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

That Leia gives in to Tarkin is shocking, but all the more painful as Leia must continue to stand and watch as Alderaan is destroyed. This is an unsurprising move on Tarkin’s part, an obvious example being made to the whole galaxy (and the Princess) that no one, not even “peaceful” worlds, are safe from Imperial military might. Now, the fearless young woman who stood her ground at the film’s opening, who chastised Vader and resisted his mind probe must steel herself as she watches her home world and her family perish in a ball of fire.

And yet, what we do not realize in this moment is that Leia has tricked Tarkin. Presented with the choice of Alderaan being destroyed OR the Rebellion being destroyed, the quick-thinking Princess chose a different route: an open-ended lie. We do not discover this right away, not until an Imperial officer informs Tarkin that scout ships discovered a deserted Rebel base on Dantooine. Furious, but more importantly humiliated, the Grand Moff orders the immediate execution of the Princess.

That Leia lies about the location of the Rebel base is brilliant, a narrative misdirect that leads Tarkin and the audience alike to THINK this strong-willed woman has caved under pressure. It is easy to forget this, as later we DO discover the real location of the Rebel base. But in this instance, we are led to believe Leia has given it up, that Dantooine is, in fact, the location. Instead, what we discover a few scenes later is that Princess Leia was in control the entire time, and while her plea to the Grand Moff that “Alderaan is peaceful” is certainly genuine, it, too, was also part of her quick thinking plan to save both Alderaan AND the Rebellion.

Awaiting Tarkin’s Fury

Knowing she has lied to Grand Moff, we can surmise that after being returned to her cell that the Princess sat and waited for Tarkin’s fury. Surely, too, she sat there in mourning, the loss of her world and family weighing heavily on her heart. One could hardly criticize the fearless female if she did break down and cry, although it is hardly necessary to know whether she did. The imagination is enough in this case.

Regardless, when we next see Leia she is reclining on the hard bench in her detention cell. Luke Skywalker, wearing stormtrooper armor, barges in to the rescue and, without missing a beat, the reclined Princess – certainly suspecting Tarkin’s fury has arrived – directs a shot of insulting sarcasm at the soldier: “Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?” While Vader’s comment about her resistance to the mind-probe directly points to Leia’s strong-willed personality, this shot of sarcasm – coupled with the sarcasm she throws at Tarkin earlier (see video clip) – highlights her constant disposition towards her Imperial foes. Basically, Leia is always ready to level an attack against the Empire, even if that attack is in the form of words alone.

But she is also more than happy to criticize her own allies, in this case her rescuers: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca. Cornered by Imperial soldiers in the detention center, the Princess chastises the films heroic men, noting that it “Looks like you managed to cut off our only escape route.” What makes this all the better is that the quick-thinking Princess – who, we should remember, was not anticipating a rescue – immediately comes up with a plan and puts it into action. Taking the blaster from Skywalker, Leia blasts open the wall across from her and demands that everyone jump into the garbage chute. Before objections can be raised, Leia is already on her way into the depths of a Death Star trash compactor.

To be perfectly honest, this has always been my favorite “Leia Moment” in A New Hope. On one hand, her action makes the film’s heroes – Luke and Han – look incredibly foolish for not actually thinking about HOW they should go about completing their rescue mission. On the other hand, and more importantly, this moment demonstrates a clear reversal in fortune for the Princess. When the film begins, and her ship falls under attack, the protocol droid C-3PO tells R2-D2, “There will be no escape for the Princess this time.” True in that moment, C-3PO is ultimately proven wrong as Leia not only escapes, but does so by taking control of her own rescue when she and her allies are quite literally backed into a corner.

Into the Garbage Chute
“Into the garbage chute, flyboy!” – Princess Leia
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

But there is an additional element of control which Leia brings to her escape: her decision to travel directly to the Rebel Base on Yavin 4. Why, if Leia knew the Millennium Falcon was being tracked, would she willingly lead the Empire to the Rebel Base, the location she resisted sharing with Vader and Tarkin? For some time, I felt this was a curious move on her part, a clear flaw in her thinking. Yet, the deeper I have considered it, the more I have realized that it is the safest choice given the stakes. With Alderaan destroyed and Obi-Wan Kenobi dead, Princess Leia is left with the only choice that makes any sense: getting the Death Star schematics stored in R2-D2 to the Rebel High Command as quickly as possible. A detour to another world, or a stop to acquire a new ship, runs the risk of Imperial capture, while traveling directly to the Rebellion ensures that the Death Star information (not to mention her own life) is protected. Besides, the sooner the schematics are delivered, the sooner the Rebellion can craft a plan of attack to destroy the planet-killing superweapon.

A Beacon of Hope

Once Leia and company arrive at the Rebel Base on Yavin 4 her role in the film becomes primarily observational. While Luke Skywalker will jump into an X-Wing to participate in the impending engagement, and Han Solo will get a reward and leave before the fight begins, Leia will stand in the Rebel Command Center watching the battle unfold on display screens. Admittedly, it is a bit odd that with the Death Star approaching and preparing to destroy the Rebel Base, Leia (along with others) choose to stand-around watching rather than evacuating. On some level, this sorta gives away what we know the inevitable outcome of the battle will be: the Rebels will win and the Death Star will be destroyed.

On another level, though, that Leia remains in the Command Center puts the final stamp of bravery on her fearless nature. With the Death Star approaching and preparing to destroy Yavin 4, it is conceivable that the Princess was asked (perhaps even ordered!) to evacuate before the battle begins, her safety and importance to the Rebellion being tantamount. Instead, by remaining, Princess Leia reveals once more that she is the very heart of the Rebel cause, a beacon of hope for the Rebel soldiers fighting the Imperial war machine. She may not be in an X-Wing or Y-Wing fighting the battle, nor giving orders as a General, but Leia’s stoic presence in the face of imminent death testifies not only to her personal resolve, but also the resolve of the Rebel Alliance.

Given her status and importance to the Rebellion, it is unsurprising that Princess Leia is the one to bestow medallions upon Luke Skywalker and Han Solo following the Battle of Yavin. With the Death Star destroyed, the two men (accompanied by Chewbacca) will march down the center of a great hall, flanked on both sides by the entire assembly of Rebels on Yavin 4. Arriving at the bottom of a staircase, the trio ascend the steps until they are standing before, albeit slightly below, the magnificently dressed Leia. This is the only point in the film in which Leia has changed clothing, and she is now without the iconic hair “buns.” Wearing a gown, with her hair in a braided updo and jewlery drapping her neck, Leia now, officially and formally, looks like a Princess. Never-the-less, while she is resplendent in her royal attire, we also know that there is far more to her than meets the eye, and that what makes Princess Leia truly regal is her considerable fearlessness and capacity for hope in the face of overwhelming odds.

The Princess
The Princess
Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

I’ve joined forces with some other exciting bloggers and YouTubers – Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Mike of My Comic Relief and Green Onion of The Green Onion Blog – for a little salute to “Fiction’s Fearless Females.” Starting on International Women’s Day and going forward over the next couple months, a different contributor will offer their take on a favorite female who harbors a fearless spirit. Click on the links below to read about the other women being profiled.

Fiction’s Fearless Females

Ellen Ripley

Captain Janeway

Amy Pond

Wonder Woman

Scarlett

Warlords of Appalachia

Another Goodreads suggestion was spot on for me- as this gritty dystopian tale had a timely political message that spoke to me.

The premise of the story: Set in the near future, a corrupt dictator has been voted in as president, which plunges America into the Second Civil War. Afterwards Kentucky refuses to rejoin the nation, leaving them a demilitarized zone and caught in the cross-hairs of the fascist leader who will do anything to bring these rebels into line. In the midst of this, mechanic and former soldier Kade Mercer reluctantly becomes Kentucky’s de facto leader as he leads his townspeople into the woods to escape from a military attack. Mystery surrounds his silent young son, who is kidnapped and held as ransom by the army, and in regards to the “blueboys” who live hidden in the mountains.

There are some interesting threads running throughout the narrative that were intriguing. Drug addiction is a very real problem in parts of Appalachia today, and author Phillip Kennedy Johnson incorporates drug addiction into the story as physically manifesting in people, turning them blue and zombie like. Political extremism and hero worship tie into President Roth’s portrayal, with uncomfortable parallels to our current president. There is also a religious aspect, as those following Kade have tied him to being “The Messenger” as foretold by the Prophet Luther. Both sides fanaticism doesn’t bode well for a meeting in the middle.

I was unfamiliar with author Johnson’s prior work, so I looked him up and found out that he is a musician in the Army. This explains his familiarity with the armed forces and their inner workings, plus the beautiful folk-like songs that begin each chapter. I was captivated by these songs and sang each aloud, reminding me of my mother’s family from Indiana and Kentucky. On a personal aside- I have retained a bit of my family’s Appalachian/southern vernacular, as I say crawdad instead of crayfish or crawfish, soda instead of pop, and I pronounce the diphthong // as ä making words like tired sound like tarred. I tease my kids by saying I swan instead of I swear, as my Grandmother used to. All of these little connections made me appreciate this story even more, as I imagined some of my family as these rebels.

Another huge reason as to why I enjoyed this tale was the art. Massimo Carnevale, who did all the cover art for Northlanders, drew this cover. He is a master of picking up the theme of the story and representing it in a way that is sure to grab your attention. I recently loved Bone Parish, so I was pleased to find artist Jonas Scharf as the main artist of this graphic novel too. Scharf captures the look of Appalachia and it’s inhabitants, while also realistically rendering the military scenes. Colorist Doug Garbark also adds to the mood by using a muted color palette to show the weariness of the people during the brutal occupation.

An afterword by the author gives some insight to the story, and perhaps should have been at the beginning to give some clarification to some of the threads I mentioned earlier that were at times confusing. I have not seen a continuation of this story, which is a shame, for I got sucked into this plausible world, and would like to see Kade and the other Kentuckians fight for freedom. This is too important a story to let go of and I hope Johnson and Boom Studios will be able to continue this series.

-Nancy

Johnson, Phillip Kennedy, Jonas Scharf & Doug Garbark. Warlords of Appalachia. 2017.

Modern Fantasy

Sage of the Riverlands lives in the legendary city of God’s Helm. She moved there after school for a life of adventure – but ends up working in a cubicle, doing data entry for a boring old company. Through a series of unfortunate events, her roommate’s boyfriend steals an ancient amulet, said to have incredible powers. The mob who bought it illegally in the first place will do anything to get it back – up to hurting anyone who gets in their way. To recover the amulet and save the world, Sage must team up with her friends and coworkers for an epic modern adventure.

This one disappointed me. I thought I’d like it, considering it’s fantasy, but this was just too much. It’s like a D&D campaign set in an almost-real world. There are computers, cell phones, dating apps, student loans – but the pharmacies sell herbs and crystals, the gyms have archery targets instead of weight machines, and the phones are tiny scrolls. It’s… odd. And not in a good way. It all clashed together in some haphazard, half-baked, Millennial high fantasy.

It didn’t help that your typical fantasy stereotypes were present in this graphic novel. Of course the cleric is a nerdy med student. Of course the elf is an artsy, wannabe actor. Of course the barbarian is a meathead who speaks in simple phrases. And worse. I like fantasy and it’s tropes as much as the next girl, but again, this was way too much, and was incredibly detrimental to the plot and character development. Everyone stays the same by the end. There was no sense of urgency or grand purpose to the story at all.

The art does it no favors. It’s rendered relatively simply, as there is a lot going on. Sometimes, there is too much going on, as if this slim volume needs to show everything about this world, all the time, all at once. The reader struggles through as opposed to moving intuitively from one panel to the next.

I am honestly struggling to see how this was so acclaimed. It’s trying to be too much at once, and trips over itself in the process, leaving the reader highly unsatisfied at the end. Big skip.

– Kathleen

Roberts, Rafer, and Kristen Gudsnuk. Modern Fantasy. 2019.

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