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August 2019

My School Library Journal reviews

I have been reviewing YA books (plus one graphic novel!) for the magazine School Library Journal for a year now, but haven’t really advertised that I was doing so, as this blog mostly revolves around graphic novels, but I thought why not share these great books since I’m (half) boss of this blog! Reviewing has been interesting, as I am limited to 250-300 words for each review, and can only share once it has been published with their edits. All the books have been worthwhile, so afterward I’ve purchased them for my library collections once they are available for purchase.

Better You Than Me by Jessica Brody

Two 12-year old girls, Disney-esque star Ruby Rivera and her biggest fan Skyler Welshman, meet on the set of Ruby’s hit television show and improbably switch bodies by accident. At first, thrilled with the situation, each tween believes the other has the better life in this Freaky Friday-like storyline. Due to various scheduling constraints, the girls plan to meet in several days to switch back. Meanwhile, each girl’s assumptions about one another are put to the test as they struggle to cope with scenarios they never expected and to make the best of their new lives. Brodt takes a common trope and freshens it up with realistic details. Whats starts out as a formulaic plot device evolves into a strong story about appreciating friends and family and making good choices. The alternating chapters with each girl’s perspectives gave each chapter a distinctive voice.

* Review published in the September 2018 issue of School Library Journal on page 102.

Second Star by JM Sullivan

Peter Pan is reconceptualized in this futuristic space fantasy with rogue Captain Hooke crash landing on the mysterious planet Neverland as his crew was mutinying. Ace mechanic Peter and his motley group of deserters take refuge away from the main ship and settle into life away from the devious captain. One hundred years in the future, the Londonierre Brigade receives a transmission from Hooke, and newly appointed Captain Wendy Darling leads her own crew across space to rescue the survivors of the Jolly Rodger. Once they arrive, loyalties are tested and the two crews fight an evil that could consume the universe.

Alternating chapters between Peter and Wendy’s point-of-view establish the character’s backstories, however, the world-building is slow before the story begins to gain momentum in the last half of the book.  Author JM Sullivan works mightily to stay within the classic story’s framework, but sometimes to the detriment of the story. A cliff-hanger sets up the narrative for a sequel, which might allow the series to evolve as it won’t need to hew so closely to the original fairytale.

*The review can be found online here.

All The Walls of Belfast by Sarah Carlson

American teen Fiona travels to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to reunite with her father whom she has not seen since she was a toddler. Having no memories of her older half brothers or her birthplace, Fiona tentatively begins to get to know her family and explores her culture and community. She discovers her Catholic father was formally a key member of the IRA and his bombs killed many people during The Troubles, a time when ethnonationalism led to violence between Catholics and Protestants. Fiona meets Danny, a Protestant who is studying for his school finals and wishes to join the British Army as a nurse against his gangster father’s wishes. The two begin to see one another, but their parents’ pasts threaten their relationship.

Alternating chapters between Fiona and Danny establish their family dynamics, and then allows the reader to root for them as their believable romance blossoms. Author Carlson creates an atmospheric narrative, explaining just enough of the current political and cultural landscape to understand how the walls running through Belfast still affect both communities on either side of it.  The story doesn’t shy away from showing gritty reality and dysfunctional families that are partly due to the conflicts that ended only fairly recently. This contemporary drama has an appealing romance and the nuanced story may push teens to think critically about religious and cultural differences, and ultimately about forgiveness.

*Not chosen for publication

Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir and Sarah Andersen

Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Peter Pan’s Wendy are now teens and very misunderstood- no one else believed their wild stories, and they were diagnosed as delusional. However, the teachers at the boarding school Cheshire Crossing believe them and know that each one possesses amazing powers. When the girls’ fantasy worlds collide and Captain Hook and the Wicked Witch of the West band together, the three teens must harness their talents to save humanity. Weir, author of the sci-fi book The Martian, and Andersen known for her funny webcomic Sarah’s Scribbles, may seem an unlikely pair, but they pull it off admirably if not perfectly. The world-hopping is at times confusing and the character of Nanny is unnecessary. Several swear words and references to sex make the tale more appropriate for a YA audience, although the charming illustrations might attract younger readers. The art is appealing, with eye-catching details. A lovely red poppy motif appears throughout the narrative and Anderson uses bold colors to depict the fantasy realms. The epilogue hints that the girls’ adventures are not done, with another familiar villain ready to take center stage.

*Review published in the June 2019 issue of School Library Journal on page 86.

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Violet is an out-of-control NYC teen who is shipped off to her mother’s hometown in coastal Maine after her younger brother attempts suicide and her parents try to get a handle on both of their children’s problems. While living with her uncle, Violet is forced to volunteer at the aquarium in town. While there, she makes friends with some of the local teens and begins to research her family’s origins, with help from her new friends Orion and Liv. Supposedly her great-great-grandmother survived a shipwreck and was a founder of the community. Violet’s search for answers about her mysterious ancestor mirrors some of the journey she and her brother Sam are on.

Debut author Drake has created an authentic and romantic tale, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, that shows that life can be embraced again even after enduring a tragedy. Teen sexuality is respectfully addressed with a frankness that is welcomed. The realities of questioning yourself and the deep emotions that go with falling in love are ably displayed with the burgeoning relationship between Violet and Liv. Sibling bonds and the importance of family also balance out this narrative about battling grief and building bridges to a better tomorrow.

* The on-line review can be found here.

Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

Ava has endured soul-crushing tragedy- her parents and cousin perished in a house fire, leaving Ava the sole survivor but with terrible burns all over her body. One year late she is released from the hospital after enduring skin grafts and surgeries. Moving in with her aunt and uncle who are grieving the loss of their daughter, Ava is encouraged to go back to high school, but she resists knowing her considerable scars will make it hard to make friends. In a support group, she meets Piper, another burn survivor from her new school, and the two girls bond together while trying to navigate their new realities. Ava is encouraged to get involved with the school play, as she had loved singing and the drama department at her old school. But Ava has to endure the cruelties of some, while also discovering new allies and a resolve she never knew she had.

The research that debut author Stewart did to write such an insightful book about burn recovery is evident. She also capably showed how Ava and her aunt and uncle come together to form a new family unit despite crushing grief. Stewart also captures the highs and lows of teen friendship. An interesting facet of the friendship between Ava and Piper was the often unhealthy dynamic between the two and could push teens to explore where they would draw the line regarding boundaries between friends. Ava’s journey toward healing, both physically and mentally, is thought-provoking. Not all scars are evident to the eye, and this narrative will push readers to think deeply about empathy, hope, and resilience in the face of heartbreak.

*The online review can be found here.

I have another book review that I just submitted, so perhaps down the line, I’ll share again once I have several to post.

-Nancy

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Pumpkinheads

I have been waiting on this graphic novel by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks for years and it is finally here!  An article was written about this duo collaborating back in January of 2014 and as I was then a fan of Rowell because of Eleanor & Park, I checked out Hicks’s work and loved her books too. But the wait was so long…

Pumpkinheads does not disappoint and is so adorbable! I eagerly scooped up a copy that I had ordered for my library’s graphic novel collection before it hit the shelves (working at a library has its perks). The story takes place on Halloween night at a popular pumpkin patch farm, and if you aren’t from the Midwest you might not know how big of a deal that pumpkin patches, corn mazes and apple orchards are in the fall. Attending is an EVENT. Friends Josiah and Deja, who have worked at the patch for years, are facing their last night as employees as they are seniors and will be at college next fall. Josie is morose about leaving the patch, while Deja wants to grab the opportunity to live it up, and that includes pushing Josie to talk to another employee he has a crush on.

What follows is an adventure around the patch that pushes them both out of their comfort zone and on a journey of discovery about themselves. What I love about Rowell is that she captures teenage life perfectly. Senior year is a difficult time for many, as you are almost at the end of your school career and thinking of the different path you will soon be taking, yet you need to live in the here and now. It’s easy to get caught up in your head about choices you should make in the future and lose sight that one can still enjoy the moment they are in and that they can build a bridge between the two. The characters are believable, with spot-on conversations and interesting backstories.  Deja’s personality is especially nuanced, and I liked how she was portrayed. Her race, sexuality and size do not define her, they are just a natural part of who she is. And while Josie was more a rule-follower, he ended up having a believable arc of self-discovery and learned how to not be so passive.

The art by Hicks is so fresh and inviting, and is truly reminiscent of local patches that are similar in a way to amusement parks. Hicks captures emotional moments perfectly and the pacing builds to a very satisfying end between Josie and Deja. Her backgrounds included fun details and the recurring runaway goat carried through with a certain someone getting a well-deserved comeuppance on the last page. Colorist Sarah Stern uses a warm palette with a lot of oranges (of course!), golden yellows and mellow purples. The colors are evocative of autumn and bring the story further to life. A map of the imagined patch is on the inside covers, which further world-builds and an enjoyable interview between the two creators concludes this fun book.

This graphic novel was everything I hoped it would be and I will be singing its praises to the teens at my library. I believe this book will become a classic to be revisited every fall.

-Nancy

Rowell, Rainbow & Faith Erin Hicks. Pumpkinheads. 2019.

Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 5): Art of the Crime

One of Gotham’s old villains, Grotesque, is back, but he’s upped his game. Where once he was a petty art thief, he’s now turned to murdering those he steals from, and poses the bodies in an “artistic” manner. Batgirl tries to stop him, but an attack from an electrical escrima stick throws off the implant in her back that enabled her to walk again. What’s more, her memory appears to be failing as well as her legs. She has trouble remembering who Grotesque is, what he’s up to, and how she even planned to stop him. With dogged determination, Barbara plows on to foil his deadly plans – but potentially at the cost of her mind, and her legs – for good.

The writing in this volume really highlighted why I think the Batfamily is so popular. Though none of them have special powers, they are determined and willing to put their lives on the line to do the right thing, and above all protect the innocents of Gotham City. Barbara’s iron will, especially after regaining the use of her legs, and keeping on fighting the good fight though she could lose the ability to walk again, really shone through here. There were a few moments between her and her father, Commissioner Gordon, that suggest it’s a hereditary trait, and were very touching.

This volume did, however, feature a change in Barbara’s costume… I hate it. I absolutely hate it. The Burnside costume was so cute, and modern, and refreshing. Best of all, it was practical: covered everything that needed covering, offered protection against slides across pavement and rooftops, and was undoubtedly warmer in the winter.

While the new costume does harken back to older ones, especially in the colors, I cannot get over the “mask.” You can’t even call it that! It hides nothing! All I heard in my head from the costume change on was Blake Lively’s line in the abominable Green Lantern movie, where she exclaims, “You don’t think I would recognize you because I can’t see your cheekbones?” (IMDB)

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Joshua Middleton’s variant covers are stunning, but unfortunately the best part of Batgirl’s new costume.

Keep up the great writing, but bring back the Burnside costume!!!

– Kathleen

Scott, Mairghread, and Paul Pelletier. Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 5): Art of the Crime. 2019.

Heathen

Heathen was this month’s selection from the Goodreads group  I Read Comic Books as this month’s topic was own voices. At first, I wondered if the author, Natasha Alterici, was a half-naked woman Viking, but no, she is lesbian and we are given a fresh take on Viking mythology with a welcome LGBTQ+ storyline.

Aydis is a young Viking woman warrior who has recently been outcast by her tribe for she was caught kissing another woman and did not renounce her feelings like the other young woman did to save face. Her father was told to give her two choices- death or marriage, and her father knows she has the skills to survive on her own, so he lies and tells the villagers she is dead. Aydis wishes to take her destiny into her own hands, so she seeks Brynhild, a former Valkyrie banished by Godking Odin for disobeying him, and forced to marry any mortal who can free her from a magical mountain. Already the parallels are clear-  women are being punished by the patriarchy for going against their wishes of what they feel is proper.

A short interlude introduces us to Skull (aka as Sköll) and Hati who are two wolves from Norse mythology that are forever trying to eat the Sun and Moon. At first, their inclusion in the story seemed odd, but as the story progressed there was also Aydis’s talking horse Saga and the trickster God Ruadan who appeared as a bull. All of this contributed to the world-building of this fantasy-based Viking tale, in addition to Aydis’s journey to Odin’s decadent castle with the Goddess Freyja.

The art, also by Alterici,  really grew on me. Inked in black and white with a few sepia and blush overwashes and black gutters, it captured the iciness of the Northlands. The ladies were often very scantily clad lithe beauties, and I being a practical lass, wondered wouldn’t they be cold or more battle-worn? Then it dawned on me that guys aren’t the only ones that can admire the female form! While not a lot of background is drawn into the panels, it lent itself to a more character-driven story.

A fan of Brian Wood’s Viking series Northlanders, this similarily themed graphic novel was lighter with more of a mythology angle. I found it extremely appealing, and plan to read volume two that just came out of the planned three-volume series.

-Nancy

Alterici, Natasha & Rachel Deering. Heathen. 2017.

Just Jaime

The last day of seventh grade is finally here! For most of Jaime and Maya’s classmates, that means a half day of classes and cleaning out lockers, then field day, then the first official pool day of the summer. For Jaime and Maya themselves… they are absolutely dreading the day. They’ve been best friends since elementary school, but Jaime doesn’t feel like they’re friends anymore. She has a nasty feeling Maya, along with Celia and Grace, the rest of their friend group, don’t want to be friends with her anymore, and wants to try and fix it. Maya, however, encouraged by Celia, wants to find a way to break off their long-term friendship. If the popular, mature Celia says it’s the right thing to do, then it must be… right? Then why does she feel so guilty for what she’s about to do?

This middle-grade graphic novel takes a singular, and yet universal, aspect of navigating friendships, drama, and reputations, and examines it in great detail over the course of one day. We alternate between chapters from Jaime and Maya’s point of view, which was a smart design choice in that readers get to see some background information and events from both girls’ perspectives. What interested me about the layout was not so much alternating chapters themselves, but the format was different for Jaime and Maya.

Jaime’s chapters were mostly prose, with small illustrations between paragraphs. Even though her chapters are much more text-heavy, there is sufficient white space between the text and the illustrations so that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a whole lot. This makes sense for Jaime, who spends much of the book inside herself, trying to figure out what went wrong. Her introspection-heavy side of the story might not have translated as effectively in either just prose or just graphic novel.

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Pages 6 and 7 of Just Jaime, from a chapter from Jaime’s point of view.

Maya’s chapters were in more traditional graphic novel format. Her chapters deal with more people than herself, as she interacts with Celia and Grace for most of the story. We see firsthand, rather than are told about, the friend group’s dysfunction. To show rather than tell Maya’s side of the story was an excellent choice. It allows the reader to discover that the friend group aren’t truly friends on their own.

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Pages 12 and 13 of Just Jaime, from a chapter from Maya’s point of view.

I’m not the intended target audience for this book, so me as an adult reader kept rolling her eyes at who I knew to be the perpetrator, and the extreme melodrama of youth and friend groups that I definitely don’t miss. However, middle-grade readers will adore it. It will get them thinking more critically about their own friends and friend groups. Perhaps they, like Jaime and Maya, will discover that friends can be found in unexpected places, and that old friendships can withstand anything.

– Kathleen

Libenson, Terri. Just Jaime. 2019.

Middlewest

Skottie Young, known for his fanciful stories, does it again with Middlewest! It is an intriguing graphic novel that is a mash-up of the classic hero’s journey, steampunk and The Wizard of Oz.

Abel is a young teen living with his single Dad in the town of Farmington, and is going through the usual stages of teenage angst. But when he gets caught up with some friends and makes a poor choice his father overreacts and kicks Abel out of the house for an evening. They have words and his father flies into a fury transforming into a powerful tornado. Abel and his sidekick animal, Fox, escape onto a train but not before the tornado grabs him leaving a strange mark on his chest. Abel and the wisecracking Fox meet a hobo wizard that helps them escape from yet another bad situation, and eventually, they end up joining a traveling circus. All the while, Abel’s father is searching for him, and a mysterious woman at the circus might be able to help when chaos looms.

Jorge Corona’s art is reminiscent of Young’s I Hate Fairyland series, yet it is all his own. Abel’s world is an interesting mash-up of steampunk, fantasy and Midwest reality. The people are drawn with an exaggerated style that matches the fantasy aspect of the story. Corona includes details that will make you do a double-take, as he juxtaposes the every day with the fantastic.  Containers of some sort of pink liquid are everywhere, and while you assume they are fuel of some sort, it is never explained. The colors that Jean-Francois Beaulieu add are eye-popping, as they can veer between subdued colors of the surrounding countryside, and then they become bold especially in later sequences at the circus.

I was pleased with book one of this new series and will be interested in finding out what happens to Abel and how the toxic masculinity that his father has modeled will affect him as the dangerous magic is beginning to transform him.

-Nancy

Young, Skottie, Jorge Corona & Jean-Francois Beaulieu. Middlewest. 2019.

T5M: Top 5 Dream Fictional Vacation Spots

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

Hello, friends! It’s my birthday today, and I just moved into my first apartment over the weekend, so I am BEAT! My muscles have never been so sore, even when I first started going to the gym and lifting weights. In fact, one could even say I need a vacation! Here are my top 5 dream fictional vacation spots ;D

5. Middle Earth

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I mean, I wouldn’t want to visit when Sauron is doing his bit with the Ring, but the scenic imagery in these books is unparalleled. Tolkien was a master of placing you in the environment so exactly, you’re surprised to look up from the book and realize you’re not there. Especially in the fall time! Autumn is my favorite season, so I’d love to visit then. Perhaps the elves, or the hobbits, to wander the explosively colorful forests or sample some cider. If I were braver I’d venture underground to visit the dwarves, but alas! I’m not made of such stern stuff.

He found himself wondering at times, especially in the autumn, about the wild lands, and strange visions of mountains that he had never seen came into his dreams. ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

4. Pellinor

 

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One of the things I love most about this series is the imagery. The descriptions of the countryside the characters journey through is reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, but I also love the food descriptions. Just as in Middle Earth too, there are many different regions with different types of food, and Alison Croggon details them all lovingly. I love to eat, so I’d travel to Pellinor for the food alone!

The taste on her palate was pungent and rich, the flavor of woodlands and dark earth simmered in sunshine. ― Alison Croggon, The Naming

3. Assassin’s Creed series

This one is a little unusual, as the Assassin’s Creed series takes place in real history, with some sci-fi elements. The biggest being that the main character relives the memories of his ancestors, which are locked in his DNA, by use of a machine called the Animus. Therefore, the games are highly accurate to their respective time periods, and totally immersive. I’ve since fallen off with this series (Black Flag was where I stopped playing), but I go back to the early games again and again. It’s easy to lose myself for hours in their landscapes.

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Assassin’s Creed is stylistically my favorite, as it takes place in the Middle East during the Third Crusades. Middle Eastern art and architecture is my favorite style, and was a joy to study in school. Playing a game within that place in history is a wonderful experience for me.

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The runner up would have to be Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, which takes place in Constantinople in the 16th century. That sprawling city, with it’s eclectic mixture of Middle Eastern and European elements, made me curious enough to research and seek out information on Constantinople, and the Turkish empire, on my own.

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And of course, who WOULDN’T want to visit the Renaissance Italy of Assassin’s Creed II and Brotherhood, and rub elbows with the master artists??? I think I need say no more ;D Hurry up and invent that Animus already!

2. Themyscira

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I mean, come on! It’s also known as Paradise Island! There are beaches to lay on and tan with the ocean steps away. There’s ancient Greek art and architecture galore for an art nerd like me. Plus, it’s protected by the Greek gods, so there’s a guarantee your vacation will be uninterrupted by mortal danger… and even if there is, the entire island is populated by badass warrior women, so you’d be safe. Who wouldn’t want to visit???

1. Agrabah

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Daring sword fights, magic spells, princes in disguise… wait, I think I’m mixing up my Disney movies, but I daresay the sentiment remains the same ;D The lush textures and flavors of Broadway and live-action Aladdin adaptations were totally spellbinding for me. What I wouldn’t give to wander the marketplaces of Agrabah: to run my hands over the silks and jewels, to taste the fruits and delicacies, and drown in all the scents! And visit the royal palace, to lounge sunbathing beside the fountains and make friends with a certain tiger ;D And, of course, if you’re up for a little adventure, the Cave of Wonders is only a camel ride away.

Any of my dream fictional vacation spots make your list, too?

Kathleen

Twilight Zone (2019): Season One

I am a huge fan of the original Twilight Zone, and have watched many of the 1959-1964 series episodes over and over again. Indeed, my family looks forward to the TZ marathon that the Syfy station puts on television every New Years Day. I also was a big fan of the 1985-1989 series, although I did not watch many episodes of the 2002-2003 series. So when I heard Jordan Peele, of Get Out fame, was producing and hosting this new version, I was in! Careful- a few spoilers in the following quick recaps.

Episode One: The Comedian

A comedian isn’t connecting with his audience when he is convinced to use info from his own life in his performance. The thing is- when he mentions people by name they disappear from existence, so he begins to exploit this by getting revenge against people he hates. While his new show begins to bring him fame and fortune it obviously comes at a price. As the episode concluded, it pans out and the comedian is found in a group picture that reminded me of the movie The Shining, plus a few people in the crowd had distorted features found in the original episode Eye of the Beholder. I was disappointed with this first episode, I believe it would have been better shown later in the season.

Episode Two: Nightmare at 30,000 Feet

One of the original series most famous episode’s had William Shatner (before his famous Star Trek role) as a passenger on a plane that was the only one that saw a gremlin on the plane’s wing, putting everyone’s safety at risk. This episode pays homage to that episode but with a more modern retelling of it. A man traveling home finds an I-pad that is playing a podcast about a downed plane, and as he listens to it, the details match with the plane he is on. He keeps on seeing signs that point to this flight crashing and he does everything in his power to prevent the tragedy but he ends up causing more problems for the crew. In the end, you are made to wonder was this disaster going to happen no matter what or did the man make it worse by getting involved? A stuffed animal gremlin, based off the creature found the original episode of this name, washes up on the island that they crashed on it the end.

Episode Three: Replay

A black single mother and her college-aged only child travel to take him to school through the mother’s hometown area, known for its racism. At a roadside diner, she playfully tapes her son on a recorder and experiences her first déjà vu that day. Later when they are pulled over for a traffic violation by a racist white police officer things get out of hand and the son is shot by the officer. She discovers if she plays back the recording she took earlier she and her son will go back in time to the diner before the accident happens. Determined to change the outcome she changes her plans, but no matter how many times she tries to alter the future, the officer finds them and kills her son. Finally, with her brother’s help, they are finally able to outwit the officer and make it to college safely. But it’s the Twilight Zone, so there is one more twist at the end. This was a very strong episode and should have been the first to set the tone for the remaining season.

Episode Four: A Traveler

A Christmas story set in Alaska, it puts a spin on colonialism and the white savior complex. Every holiday the white sheriff wishes to pardon an inmate in the local jail so one of his Native deputies reluctantly picks up her drunk brother, knowing he won’t be charged this time, to fulfill this sham her boss insists upon.   But in the jail is another prisoner, that no one arrested, who insists on being part of the party because he says the sheriff’s exploits are legendary. While the sheriff gets puffed up with pride, his deputy suspects something is amiss, and this Traveler starts sowing seeds of dissent in the community. This sly episode relates to fake news and harkens to the original TZ episode The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.

Episode Five: The Wunderkind

John Cho headlines this outing, which already elevates it, as I am a huge fan of his Lt Sulu role in the new Star Trek movies. Here he is a young political manager, who crashes and burns when the sitting president candidate whose campaign he led, is not re-elected.  He improbably takes on an 11-year-old boy as his next candidate who is a YouTube sensation and gets him elected President on a platform of change. Giving someone who is not qualified unlimited power is a recipe for disaster, and this allegorical tale of presidential madness can be directly compared to our current administration. It also had shades of the original TZ episode It’s a Good Life when a child begins to terrorize the adults who have given their power away to a little dictator.

Episode Six: Six Degrees of Freedom

Five astronauts are about to blast off to Mars when a nuclear war begins on Earth and they make the soul-crushing decision to continue with their mission- knowing they might be the only survivors and they will not have any help going forward. They endure some interpersonal drama but seem to be holding up well in the months it takes to reach Mars when one of the crewmembers seems to lose touch with reality and believes it is all a test and none of the crisis is real. Of course, there is the requisite TZ twist at the end for the long-suffering crew.  This was a strong episode that had me guessing to the end, and had a movie-type scope narrative.

Episode Seven: Not All Men

A young woman has a date with a co-worker to watch the meteor shower and when she rebuffs his advances he gets angry. The next night while at a bar with her sister and friends, men in the town begin to go crazy, and she believes it is exposure to the meteor that is effecting the men only. After finding her teenaged nephew who resists the anger, and the army comes to save the women of the community, she wonders if the meteor shower was just an excuse for toxic masculinity to go haywire. I’ve now noticed a few Easter eggs such as the number 1015, a Busy Bee Cafe logo and the name Whipple are cropping up in several episodes.

Episode Eight: Point of Origin

This episode has a clear message about illegal immigration when a privileged white woman, played by Jennifer Goodwin, is detained as an illegal alien. The episode begins with this wealthy woman planning a party, and you can easily see how she marginalizes those that work for her. When her foreign nanny is forcefully taken from her home, she and her entitled friends sniff that it’s the immigrant’s fault in coming here in the first place and they deserve their fate. But when she herself is placed in custody and interrogated, the first hints of her early life in another desolate dimension, are hinted at. The interrogator is the actor who plays Sarek (Spock’s father) on Star Trek Discovery, so this sci-fi connection was a further nod to the alienness of the episode. The ending was bleak, but I won’t reveal why.

Episode Nine: The Blue Scorpion

A man is shocked when his elderly father commits suicide, as he had been a pacifist hippy, and was not known to own a gun. Jeff is going through a divorce that he doesn’t want and this additional blow throws him into a depression. As he cleans his father’s house, he discovers a safe that had held the previously unknown gun and bullets, when he finds a bullet with his name engraved in it. He later begins to meet many other Jeff’s such as his wife’s lover and lawyer, and you begin to wonder who the bullet is intended for.  While the story is seemingly resolved in a satisfactory manner, there is an additional twist at the end, that is like a punch in the gut.

Episode Ten: Blurry Man

This very meta episode began with a story you thought was going in one direction, but then caught you by surprise by having the episode be about a writer for this Twilight Zone series. She lives and breathes TZ, and her complete dedication to it begins to take a toll when she has hallucinations. But are they real or not? Who the Blurry Man is (look for him in all the preceding episodes!) is pure gold. It was a fun and atypical way to end season one, although we never did find out the significance of the number 1015 or the other Easter eggs that have been sprinkled throughout the season.

This series was good- a real good thing (I just did my own TZ Easter egg!). It had some well-known actors and actresses take interesting roles, and they all did a remarkable job with it. After each episode, I went to YouTube and watched videos put out by GameSpot Universe that had excellent recaps, commentary and spotted Easter eggs.  The show was renewed for a second season, so I will need to continue my subscription with CBS All Access so I can watch it, Star Trek Discovery and the upcoming Star Trek Picard!

-Nancy

Where We Live: A Benefit for the Survivors in Las Vegas

Where We Live is a riveting comics anthology to benefit survivors from the horrific shooting in Las Vegas on October 1, 2017, that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds more.

As with any anthology, this collection will not suit everyone’s tastes and pair that with a graphic novel format, and there are some illustration styles that will not appeal to everyone. However, this anthology included some big names such as Brian Michael Bendis, Neil Gaiman, Kurt Busiek, Jeff Lemire, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Gail Simone, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Mike Mignola and they all brought their A-game.

My Favorites:

Whoa, You’re From Vegas? What’s That Like? by Warren Wucinich

This opening story was a great choice to kick off the anthology- for it showed that Las Vegas isn’t just a tourist mecca, it’s a vibrant city that people live in, hence the title of the book.

All The Possibilities of Paper by W. Haden Blackman & JH Williams III

A powerful essay is shown on a splash page that hits you in the gut, especially if you are a parent and worried about school shootings.

Everything After by Justin Jordan & Tom Fowler

A poignant look at how everyday workers in the city, in this case, a female bus driver, can get sucked into a tragedy.

A Simple Twist of Fate by Jeff Boison & Tyler Boss

An almost wordless story about how careless remarks can be regretted especially when tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Ghost by W. Haden Blackman & Richard Pace

Can one parent’s anguish be enough of a voice for change? What if it’s many?

Biography of a Bullet by Scott Bryan Wilson & Cliff Chiang

This two-page story hit home with the message of bullets having their target’s invisible names written on them. I was already affected by it when I saw the word DeKalb at the bottom- one of the many locations of a mass shooting- which is a nearby town and the location of Northern Illinois University, my alma mater, which was the site of a shooting in 2008.  I teared up at this story due to the personal connection.

The Watershed by Gary Spencer Millidge

A ghostly girl starts to speak to a movie hero about the danger of glamorizing guns and how the Second Amendment was written at a very different time and thus shouldn’t be compared to today.

The Deadliest Man by James Robinson, Dean Kotz & Stefano Gaudiano

Two men from different eras, 1781 and 2018, are both hunting in the woods with guns of their time when they inexplicitly meet with deadly results.

Daddy’s Little Girl by Erica Schultz & Liana Kangas

This sad story details how mental illness can tie into gun violence and the role that concerned family might need to take if they suspect the potential for escalating violence.

Stains by Cameron Stewart

A comics artist is shown drawing ultra-violent scenes that are read by many. In the end, his hands are not just stained with ink but blood.

Stopping Power by Alex Paknadel & Chris Wildgoose

When school violence has become a norm, a parent takes extreme precautions to safeguard their child.

Several stories recounted survivor’s stories which gave it added authenticity and weight. There were also many stories about gun control that offered different viewpoints. Many of the stories include statistics and share the many factors that play into gun violence in the US. Many of the comics were powerful and made me tear up, or even better, made me think about the issues beyond that page.

I have read several excellent graphic novel anthologies that benefit different causes- Love is Love to benefit the Orlando Pulse shooting survivors and Puerto Rico Strong to benefit the island after the devastating back to back hurricanes in 2017- but this one is the best. Its varied artists and authors came together to create a nuanced anthology about a tragedy that was entirely preventable if only there were tougher gun laws.  While this is a strong collection, I hope there is not a need to create this type of graphic novel again.

-Nancy

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