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December 2019

A Bride’s Story (Vol. 7)

Hello and welcome to the last post of 2019!

We follow Mr. Smith once again in this volume, as his travels take him to the home of a wealthy merchant in Persia. Though the merchant has a wife named Anis, it’s customary for the brides of Persia to never show their faces to men outside the family, so they never meet. However, Mr. Smith learns much about Persian culture and customs for his research, and Anis learns much about Mr. Smith and England from her husband. Though Anis has a child, and is very happy with married life, she is lonely and desires female companionship. Mahfu, her child’s nurse, suggests Anis accompany her to the women’s public baths, so she might meet other women. There Anis meets Sherine, a woman who reminds her of a cat: beautiful and aloof, but still a warm person underneath. They immediately hit it off, prompting Anis to ask Sherine to become her avowed sister. Will Sherine accept?

Mori goes into a little more detail about avowed sisters in the epilogue to this volume. Apparently, avowed sisters were a custom among Persian women somewhere between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. It was almost like a marriage, but between two women. They usually spent a year in each other’s company before one asked the other to be her avowed sister. Upon accepting the offer, a ceremony was performed in front of many witnesses, wherein the two women swore to be devoted friends for life.

I thought that was wonderful! I loved this volume because it highlighted the close friendships women can form with each other! It’s so important to see friends love each other so deeply and be able to express that love for one another! Plus, I learned something new, which is always exciting! XD

The extraordinary detail usually found in Mori’s artwork was a bit toned down for this volume. Much of the story takes place in the women’s baths, as Anis and Sherine get to know each other, so the backgrounds are hazy and steamy without much detail. There is a much higher level of nudity in this volume because of the setting, but it’s never inappropriate.

There is a short story at the end of this volume that takes place between Karluk’s parents. It’s the cherry on top of an already sweet volume. This latest installment may have given me diabetes!!! I’ll see you all in the new year if I survive this sugar rush ;D

– Kathleen

Mori, Kaoru. A Bride’s Story (Vol. 7). 2015.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

I hope everyone had the happiest of holidays! My gift for you readers out there are my thoughts about the most recent Star Wars movie! 😉

In the last week, I have read so many thoughtful reflections on the movie, so I will post my observations as character studies as I have in past movies, such as I did in Captain Marvel and Solo. While overall my viewing experience was mostly positive, my thoughts go far beyond what I can share in character reflections, but hopefully, enough is shared for readers to understand my conflicted thoughts on this movie.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Let’s start with the droids: C-3PO, BB-8, R2-D2  and D-O (not pictured).  No Star Wars movie is complete without an adorable or wisecracking droid. In this movie, C-3PO gets a featured role as being able to interpret a needed Sith artifact to find a hidden planet, but his sacrifice of giving up his memories is undone by D-O’s intel. Thus, his whole storyline ended up being filler, when other plot points could have been developed further. Still, it is always good to see these droids as part of the action!

Star Wars did Rose dirty! Obviously, they listened to some toxic fans who didn’t like her possible romance with Finn, and cut her role down to a bare minimum. She was left on the Rebel Base the entire time with little to do and no character development. She deserved more (plus, she almost didn’t get a character poster- this one was released after the rest)! For a thoughtful in-depth analysis of how Rose’s character was treated, read Jeff’s post The (Mis) Use of Rose Tico on The Imperial Talker site.

So instead we got a new character shoved down our throats- Jannah. She is an ex-Stormtrooper, who along with other trooper deserters gets sucked into the action. She is paired with Finn (instead of Rose!) in the last battles because obviously Finn always needs some sort of female side-kick in every movie. While I do think she was kinda cool, it took away from Rose, and what was the deal with her conversation with Lando in the last scene???Zorii is a rebel in a Boba Fett type costume that is from Poe’s past and plays a part in helping Rey, Finn and Poe get some needed information from C-3PO’s memory banks (which later proved to be a waste of time). I love actress Keri Russell who played her and was relieved when she lowered her face mask at one time to see some of her face. I liked the moment in the end when she didn’t automatically get swept up in Poe’s arms for a finale kiss (how very woke) but a bit of romance in this film would have also been welcome.

I’m throwing General Hux in here, although he did not receive an official movie poster. I always liked Hux’s scenes in all the movies, as he always came off as a petulant child, which I found amusing. So when he was revealed as the spy, I was thrilled as he helped Rey, Finn and Poe escape. However his true motivation was not in helping them, it was to screw over Kylo Ren who had disrespected him in front of others. Hux was not redeemed, as many people stay bitter and angry at the end, and I found that angle more realistic.

Chewie- the one surviving character that was in all three of the original Star Wars movies! I laughed when he received the medal that he should have received in A New Hope– there was finally #JusticeForChewie! I do wish he had received more character development in this recent set of three movies, as he was an integral part of the rebel alliance and he should have interacted more with Han, Luke and Leia. At least he was reunited with Lando for some fun adventure in this film.

Thank you for bringing back Lando! This rebel general still wears his capes with aplomb, and he was a needed legacy character to balance what little they did with Han, Luke and Leia. With Carrie Fisher’s death and the fact that Han and Luke’s characters were dead, this fan-favorite helped bring that chapter to a close. But is Lando’s story over? The clunky dialogue with Jannah at the end seemed to point to Disney having more adventures planned for this scoundrel.

I believe that Finn is force-sensitive. Is this what he was planning to say to Rey, or did he want to declare his love to her? Finn always seemed to be connected to a female in the three movies, first Rey, then Rose (did he ghost her?) and finally Jannah. There was always romantic tension with him and these three ladies, and let’s not forget his bro-mance with Poe! There were many fans who were clamoring for a relationship to develop between the men but frankly, Disney would never be brave enough to do that, instead, they had two females kiss in the last scene between characters we barely knew. Finn was my favorite of the new characters, his good nature and loyalty won me over.

Poe was first written as a Han-type, a pilot who could be a bit morally ambiguous but have the classic heart of gold. His leadership progressed in this film, and I finally truly saw him as a leader of the resistance, and someone who deserved the title of General. While Oscar Issac has leading-man looks, Poe never really had a romance developed for him, except for hints that perhaps something with Zorii will develop in the future.

I will always wonder what storyline was planned for Leia and Kylo, had Carrie Fisher not died. He killed his father and was a mass-murderer, how was he possibly going to be redeemed? That a romance with Rey was suggested throughout the movies, and their kiss before his death was part of his redemption was very uncomfortable because it played up a toxic and abusive relationship as romantic. What a horrible message to young viewers that one partner needs to put up with their partner’s abuse, because they can “save” that person. Please read the astute post from Michael of My Comic Relief: Reylo’s Role In Redemption- A The Rise of Skywalker Reflection that goes into much thoughtful reflection on the problems with a Rey and Kylo relationship. Seeking forgiveness and granting forgiveness is not and should not be a one-time conversation or deed by one person. While Kylo’s character was layered and Adam Driver is an amazing actor, his role was problematic from the start.

Rey is a strong character whom I liked quite a bit, but who was tarnished at the end with her family ancestry and with her choice of love interest. And what was the deal with her new healing powers? No Jedi in the past has ever done that. There had been much speculation that Rey would be Luke’s child or even Ben Kenobi’s, but in the end, she was shown to be the evil Palpatine’s grandchild. What?! Why was Palpatine even alive, much less that he had had an adult child who smuggled Rey away from him? While I hated almost all of The Last Jedi, the one thing I did like is that Jedi (or anyone) don’t need to come from an important family, they literally can come from anywhere. That was an important message for moviegoers, but that was erased here for Rey to now be fighting the dark side and her family connection to it. And that she choose Kylo to passionately kiss, over loyal and steadfast Finn? What the fuck! I did like her concluding scene, as she claims the Skywalker name, showing that one can claim their family alliance over blood-ties.

Lastly, and most importantly, let’s go over my beloved original three of Luke, Leia and Han Solo. I was devastated that Luke became a grumpy hermit and later died in the last movie (see my passionate post An Ignoble End to the Skywalker Saga on The Imperial Talker’s site) and in this movie, there was a bit of course correction in his role as a Jedi ghost, but what was done was done. Considering Fisher’s death, director JJ Abrams did his very best with existing footage of Leia to craft her farewell role. She got a good concluding arc, showing how she was helping train Rey as a Jedi, which was a lovely nod to her Skywalker heritage and the flashback to her and Luke during her own training was heartfelt and tied up some loose threads. I believe she was supposed to help redeem Kylo, and at least she did play a small role in helping him turn although I will always be sad that she and Kylo were never able to play a scene together. Han’s cameo came as a lovely surprise, I’m sure in part to push the narrative that Kylo’s parent’s love helped turn Kylo back to the Light. I just dearly wish that these three had been given a scene together (along with Chewie)- it will always be a shame that the directors choose not to have them reunite in some way.

While I’m sure Disney is far from done with Star Wars storytelling, this movie brought to a close the Skywalker saga. There is no way that all fans could be satisfied with any narrative that Disney filmed, but I just wished they had been able to capture the scope and mysticism that George Lucas had brought to his imagined universe. However, I will be forever grateful that these stories were told, and they have captured so many people’s imagination. May the Force be with you!

-Nancy

Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood

After the events of No Man’s Land, after Huntress thought herself proven worthy of Batman’s trust… he still doesn’t trust her. In fact, the only one in the Batfamily who seems to care for her at all is Nightwing. Huntress tells herself doesn’t particularly care, nor is she looking for approval from any of them – there’s a price on her head. Someone is setting her up to look like she’s killing members of the mob – who also happen to be members of her extended family. But Helena has already caught and exacted justice on the assassin who killed her parents and brother, and the man who ordered the hit. But one question still burns, after all these years… why was Helena spared, when the rest of the Bertinellis died? Clearing her name now may be tied to that old question somehow. None other than The Question is willing to help her out – if she’ll let him.

This one made more sense to me upon my second skim-through before writing this review. I would have very much appreciated a family tree or cast of characters page at the beginning of the book. Many characters from the mob appear in the book, of course, and Helena does explain who’s who and how they’re related – but one page of reference to go back to whenever you inevitably confuse people would have been welcome. It may have also gave the big plot twist a bit more weight, because by the time you get to who is really involved, you’ve forgotten who they are.

That said, with so many characters, there are also multiple layers of intrigue. It reads as if you, the reader, and Helena are figuring out who’s framing her together, bit by bit, eliminating suspect after suspect. Though Nightwing offers his help, Helena distrusts the Batfamily as much as they do her. Her drive to take care of this family matter herself is palpable in every page, and it really comes through in the art. The entire book has a grey tint to it; there are no bright jewel tones. Memories and backstory are colored in a cool sepia. Though there are lighter moments in the book, and they are appropriately written and colored, the overall tone is serious and somber.

Cry for Blood is a cornerstone Huntress story, but it’s also just a dang good read. This is a great example of how the writing and the art work together to set the overall mood of the book. I plan to read No Man’s Land next, for more context as to exactly why the Huntress and the Batfamily don’t trust each other… and because I seem to like reading backwards =P

-Kathleen

Rucka, Greg, Rick Burchett, and Terry Beatty. Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood. 2002.

Spawn Kills Everyone!

I recently took a trip to Georgia for a girl’s weekend with my college friends when I saw a comic bookstore named Mountain Man Comics, so I slipped away from them so I could properly geek out in peace. While browsing, I came upon this humorously titled graphic novel and I spontaneously purchased it for my library, thinking the patrons (and I!) would like it.

In 2016 there was a Spawn one-shot comic that spoofed the villain by having him portrayed as a potbellied child attending a comic-con and then going on a killing spree. Wanting a movie deal like the Marvel or DC heroes, he struts around killing anyone he views as a threat, although they in actuality are cosplayers. There is a tongue-in-cheek moment when he meets Todd McFarlane, his creator, but McFarlane is dispatched quickly. This storyline reminded me incredibly of Skottie Young’s 2017 FCBD I Hate Image comic, but Young managed his narrative and art better, as this story just seemed crass. Nevertheless, this was a popular story, with several printings to account for the demand.

So two years later, a second story about baby Spawn was issued with another artist. The story remains the same, Spawn wishes to kill everyone but this time he is able to create little minions to help him- turd babies! Yes, he creates evil little babies on the toilet! Do I even need to share much more about the narrative than that? There actually are some clever moments in this story, especially about how he kills Captain America and the Hulk. Often the names of the heroes are not mentioned and their costumes are a bit different to get away with using copyrighted heroes from other companies in an Image publication. At the end of this story Spawn goes to bed happy that his kill count was so high, and is so very proud of his little turds.

Artist JJ Kirby established the chibi style of Spawn with exaggerated child-like features in the first story. His anime-inspired art was darker, with cluttered panels and a black border. The second artist, Will Robinson, had cleaner looking art with a better panel flow. Plus, he got to draw the adorable (but insidious) turd babies! Both artists had fun with the story, as obviously that’s what attracted me to pick up this graphic novel.

Overall, this was a disappointing read. The humor was too crude, with too much gore. I didn’t expect finesse in a story like this, but I still felt let down. Perhaps I should have spent more time looking at it before I purchased it as I guess my humor is slightly more mature than a teenaged boy…

-Nancy

McFarlane, Todd, JJ Kirby & Will Robinson. Spawn Kills Everyone! The Complete Collection. 2019.

Best Reads of 2019

It’s that post you look forward to all year: Graphic Novelty2‘s Best Reads post! Here we have each compiled the five most exemplary graphic novels we’ve read in 2019, in no particular order. Enjoy!

bone parish

Bone Parish

Nancy: Cullen Bunn has created a new dark and dangerous graphic novel series, and this necromantic horror story grabbed me on the first page and never let go. The Winters family of New Orleans has discovered how to manufacture the ashes of the dead into a powerful hallucinogenic drug that lets the person snorting the drug to experience everything the dead person lived through when they were alive. In charge of this operation are Grace and Andre, with their four adult children. There are a few twists and turns in the narrative, with a surprising revelation that will make you backtrack to look for clues. The story has the potential for a thought-provoking moral debate about drug culture and the sanctity of life and for the body after death. I loved Jonas Scharf’s art, and am eagerly awaiting the concluding volume later this month (V2 came out in September) and I will review both of them together at that time.

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I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation

Kathleen: This was a sort of accidental read, in that for some reason I thought it was fiction, but in fact was non-fiction. In the end, it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise! Comic artist Natalie Nourigat documents how she transitioned to the animation industry in this part autobiography, part how-to graphic novel. She shares not only her background as an artist, but all the hard work she did to get into animation: building a portfolio, interviewing, and moving somewhere totally new to her. Included are interviews with animator friends and coworkers. The art and layout are simple and clean, to allow the text with information shine; it’s worth saying that while this graphic novel is more text-heavy than others, there is never a point where the reader feels bogged down by text. By reading this, I learned a lot about something I previously had no knowledge of, and had fun doing it.

harrow county

Harrow County series

Nancy: This eight-book series is an eerie southern gothic fairy tale about a young woman Emmy who is trying desperately to understand the mysteries of her possible origin and the decades-long secrets that the townspeople have. This story is so much more than an atmospheric supernatural tale- it touches on friendship, destiny, good vs evil and the choices we make and how they define us. Authored by Cullen Bunn, I read this soon after Bone Parish, so Bunn has quickly become a favored author of mine. But with all graphic novels, it is often the art that truly sets a book apart, and in this case, Tyler Crook’s illustrations do that. His haint creatures were creative and varied, and I thought of his work and H.P. Lovecraft’s as being similarly inspired. His work came to define Harrow County for me with its townspeople, rural landscapes and sinister woods.

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New Kid

Kathleen: This middle-grade graphic novel, written and illustrated by Jerry Craft, follows Jordan Banks, a seventh-grader who starts at a new school. Not just any school – the prestigious Riverdale Academy Day School. Jordan is an excellent student, and he got in on a scholarship, but he would have much rather gone to art school. He feels this way more and more as the school year goes on, as he experiences alienation and micro-aggressions from his predominantly white classmates and teachers. Jordan is able to express himself through his drawing and comics, but all he wants more than anything is to fit in. Reading this book and realizing what Jordan was going through made me uncomfortable, but I welcomed the discomfort, because it meant I was learning. Jordan’s story and all the hard truths that came with it were presented in an easily digestible manner for it’s targeted younger audience. Ideally both children and parents are able to use this graphic novel as a tool to grapple social and racial biases.

Warlords

Warlords of Appalachia

Nancy: Set in the near future, a corrupt dictator has been voted in as president, which plunges America into the Second Civil War. Afterward, 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.  Author Phillip Kennedy Johnson was new to me, but I 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.  Artist Jonas Scharf (mentioned in Bone Parish earlier) elevated this story further for he captures the look of Appalachia and it’s inhabitants, while also realistically rendering the military scenes.  Unfortunately, this graphic novel seemed to be a one-and-done, as I have not seen further stories from this duo.

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The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel

Kathleen: This graphic novel adaptation was my first experience of Margaret Atwood’s classic story. It follows the Handmaid Offred, a woman who lives in service to the Commander and his wife. Offred’s service is to bear their children, and nothing more. She is not allowed to read, write, or own anything, but she remembers a time before, when she was able to do these things and more. When she and the Commander begin to carry on a more-than-professional relationship, Offred realizes she might be playing for her freedom. The art of this graphic novel was, hands down, the best I’ve seen this year. Thin washes of watercolor and tiny, wobbly lines of ink give off a light and airy, yet foreboding and uncertain quality, as if (to quote from my original review) “you’re in a dream that could very quickly and easily turn into a nightmare.” The story was undeniably compelling, in a morbidly curious way, but Renée Nault’s spellbinding art is what sold this experience for me.

SGA cover

Snow, Glass, Apples

Nancy: Every Halloween I like to find a spooky read, and this year it was a twisted fairy tale from the esteemed Neil Gaiman whose dark and whimsical tales are sure to please. He once again tackles the Snow White story, but this story is told from Snow White’s stepmother’s perspective and she is far from a wicked witch. Instead, the twist is that young Snow White is the evil one, and is a vampire who manipulates others. Plus, there is quite the erotica element to this tale, so it is for mature audiences only. While Gaiman’s tale is excellent, it is the art by Colleen Doran that makes this book stand out. She draws in an Art Nouveau style and takes inspiration from famed artists Harry Clarke and Aubrey Beardsley. Her art is reminiscent of stained glass windows with deep jewel blues and purples. She incorporates mandalas and nature into the backgrounds, so the illustrations are a feast for the eyes.

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Just Jaime

Kathleen: Lifelong friends Jaime and Maya have finally reached the last day of seventh grade! But they haven’t reached it together. Jaime feels that her and Maya don’t have the friendship they used to have, and wants to fix it on this special day. Maya has been pressured by the older and more popular Celia to end her friendship with Jaime, who she says has been bogging down the friend group. Will Jaime and Maya repair their relationship, or let it go along with the rest of seventh grade? Terri Libenson wrote and illustrated this middle-grade graphic novel, and perfectly captured a wealth of issues – friendship, maturity, reputation, drama – over the course of one day. We alternate chapters told from Jaime and Maya’s points of view, but their format differs too. The heavier introspective side of Jaime’s story is told in mostly prose with little illustrations. Maya’s story involves others, so we see her side in mostly graphic novel format, in order to witness firsthand what others are putting her through. Though alternating points of view is a common trope, never before had I seen different formats for the different characters; it was extremely effective here.

Wolverine S1

Wolverine podcast

Nancy: My wildcard is not a graphic novel, but the outstanding two-season Marvel podcast about Wolverine. The premise: Following a string of mysterious deaths in Burns, Alaska, Special Agents Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall arrive to investigate. They soon find there’s more going on than meets the eye. Season one proved to be more a murder mystery, while Logan was kept on the periphery of the narrative, but in season two he is front and center, with an adventure in New Orleans that includes Gambit and Weapon X. Each season consisted of ten episodes that were about 30-40 minutes in length, which made my 45-minute drive to work enjoyable. Check out the podcast online at Sticher, as the episodes are free to listen to.

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Batman: The Long Halloween

Kathleen: Y’all didn’t think I was gonna go through 2019 without letting a DC title on this list, did you? Get outta here ;D One Halloween night in Gotham City, Johnny Viti, the nephew of mob boss Carmine Falcone, is murdered. Surrounding his body are dollar-store Halloween decorations. Thus begins the spree of the “Holiday” killer: picking off members of the Falcone family one by one on a holiday, and leaving that holiday’s trinkets near the body. Allies Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and ADA Harvey Dent wanted to take down the mob, but not like this. Soon the lies, double-crosses, and finger points begin to affect them to the point where they suspect each other. At the time of publication, this was a groundbreaking story that I believe changed the way Batman’s character and stories were told thereafter. All parties involved in the story are human, and therefore fallible. We see them each fall as they each believe they are doing the right thing. The art is stark, dark, and minimalist, with a great emphasis on light and shadow, which allows for greater movement of the story and greater focus on the characters and their intentions. If you’re a Batman fan, you need to read this comic. End of story.

There you have it: Nancy and Kathleen’s unequivocal Best Reads of 2019! Nancy read many excellent horror and creepy stories this year, while Kathleen found some phenomenal middle-grade novels. Most shocking is how only one superhero read and listen made the list apiece, from our die-hard DC and Marvel fans! The world just might be ending 😉

Thank you all for sticking around another year. We both hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

Nancy and Kathleen

Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation (Vol. 1)

Others have entered the Labyrinth before Sarah. In fact, Jareth decides to tell Toby, Sarah’s baby brother, about one such woman as he waits for Sarah to fail the maze. In 18th-century Venice, a young woman named Maria is married to Count Albert Tyton, and they seem to have the perfect life. But Tyton has been on the run from his father and the authorities since he married Maria, a woman below his station. When his father finally catches up to him, he succumbs to the temptation of his “visions,” the goblins, and wishes his child – indisputable evidence of his marriage to Maria – away. Maria was accidentally spirited to the Labyrinth as well, before the Owl King snatched her child from her arms and sent her back. She forces her return to the Labyrinth to rescue her son. Will she prevail?

It’s hinted multiple times throughout the book that this may be Jareth’s origin story – but in the Labyrinth, where things aren’t always as they seem, who can say? 😉 This first volume is the set-up for what is sure to be a winding tale of courage and deception, just what you’d expect from an offshoot of the original movie. It will be interesting to see how Maria’s journey parallels Sarah’s as the story moves forward.

The art is superb. The colors are bright, eye-catching, and fantastical. The linework is severely precise and clean, lending a grounding element to an otherwise tumultuous story. The goblins, and some new creatures, are rendered just as if they’d stepped out of Jim Henson’s imagination. Jareth and Sarah aren’t rendered exactly as David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, but there is a great likeness and they are still instantly recognizable.

Looking forward to the next volume!

– Kathleen

Spurrier, Simon, Daniel Bayliss, and Dan Jackson. Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Coronation (Vol. 1). 2018.

Avengers vs X-Men

I love both the Avengers and the X-Men- but who will come out on top in this epic battle?!

I have been meaning to read this collected edition since last year when I read Uncanny X-Men: Revolution that followed this event book. I kept picking up this series but putting it back down when other graphic novels caught my eye. But when I recently read Mr. and Mrs. X, and I had forgotten that a certain character was dead because of this storyline, I knew I needed to finally make the commitment to finish it.

This story follows House of M, when Scarlet Witch utters “No more mutants!”, thus no mutants have been born in years. When the first mutant child, Hope, is born who has the ability to psychically manipulate and mimic the powers of other mutants, current mutants divide as what to do. When it is discovered that Phoenix, the powerful being that killed Jean Grey, is headed to Earth to possibly consume Hope, the heroes are torn as what to do. What it comes down to is Cyclops, the leader of the X-Men, feels that Hope is strong enough to control the Pheonix and will use its power to reignite mutantdom vs Captain America, the Avengers leader, who feels that Hope will become a threat and destroy humanity, thus she needs to be taken down.

So begins the battles- many many of them, as this graphic novel collects twelve chapters to tell the story. When you have such a large cast not everyone can properly get featured and this book follows suit. Some heroes receive small cameos, with one bit of dialogue and then they are just part of the large fighting scenes. But I was pleasantly surprised that Iron Fist had such a large role, plus Nova got a nice part too.

As I don’t wish to spoil the narrative too much, I will limit my summary. When Pheonix arrives, five mutants- Cyclops, Emma Frost, Namor, Colossus, and Magik- take Hope’s place and all get considerable new powers that they use for improving the world. But we all know that’s not the end of the story. The Pheonix wants Hope and it is she and Scarlet Witch that finally subdue the Pheonix’s dark powers, but not before there is a lot of death and destruction.

There are powerful moments found within the story and some insightful and sometimes snappy dialogue, but it can be a slog to find them. Just as I found Captain Marvel unsufferable in Civil War II, so I found Cyclops. He has some extremely valid points, as mutants really have been persecuted, but I was really hating on him, plus…he’s the one who ends up getting briefly consumed by the Pheonix and doing something terrible.

Overall, the art was strong despite many different artists. While there are some style shifts in the different chapters, there is enough visual consistency when the various stories were pulled together in this collected edition. Although Hope sometimes varies between looking like a teen (which she was) and an older typical female hero hottie. I always enjoyed the crowd or battle scenes as its fun to see how the artists choose to portray everyone in mid-action.

In the large collected edition, there are also some tie-ins:

A vs X: This volume showcases personal battles amidst the war and has a whole slew of authors and artists detail how two connected heroes (or villains) duke it out. There is – Iron Man vs Magneto, Things vs Namor, Captain America vs Gambit, Spider-Man vs Colossus, Black Widow vs Magik, Daredevil vs Psylocke, Thor vs Emma Frost, Hawkeye vs Angel, Black Panther vs Storm, Hope vs Scarlet Witch, Cyclops vs Captain America, AvX: Science Battle, Captain America vs Havok, Red Hulk vs Domino, Toad vs Jarvis, Spider-Woman vs (several) X-Women, Iron Fist vs and Iceman and Squirrel Girl vs Pixie.

This is a motley grouping of short stories (some are only a page long), as some of the fights tie in with the preceding narrative, while others are just for laughs. The only one that I found truly memorable was the poignant Storm vs Black Panther battle because there is no winner as their marriage sadly crumbles because of their differences.

A-Babies vs X-Babies:  Skottie Young is well known for his variant covers of Marvel heroes, so this one-off is funny and good for a single read. On the corner of Fury Dr and Xavier Way is the peaceful neighborhood of Marvelous Meadows. Being tucked into bed is little Steve (Captain America) who is surrounded by his army themed stuffed bears. Wait- Bucky Bear is missing! Peering out the window he sees his neighbor Scott (Cyclops) taunting him with his beloved bear. Steve calls out “Avengers Assemble!” and quickly his team of baby friends has joined him. Scott calls for back up but laments he has no catchy phrase to get them there. Instead, he yells that there is an ice cream truck nearby, and the X-Men babies show up. A battle ensues for the bear between the two teams. There is a cuteness overload as baby representations of all famous Avengers & X-Men duke it out.

Putting this entire book down several times should have been my clue that it wasn’t for me. While I am typically a sucker for these crossover event books, I have reached a fatigue level with the fighting among team members trope. While I found Civil War fresh, this and Civil War II were anything but.

-Nancy

Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell

While on an undercover mission for the Justice League of America, Black Canary maybe accidentally got a spell put on her. A nasty one that’s causing the women she worked with on said mission to commit suicide. It’s only a matter of time before the spell takes her, too. She calls up her teammate and friend, Zatanna Zatara, to see if there’s a way out of it. Though Zatanna concludes it’s a bloodspell (one that’s bound to the person by – you guessed it – blood), she is certain she can break it if they find the person who put the spell on Canary. Trouble is… Tina Spettro is dead. How the heck do you break a spell when the one who cast it is dead???

DC veterans Paul Dini and Joe Quinones teamed up for this fun… well, teamup =P Though Green Arrow makes an appearance, along with a few other JLA members, the focus really is on Black Canary and Zatanna. Not only do we get the main story above, but we see how the two women met as fledgling heroes, and a few other fun flashbacks that give us more context about their relationship. Overall I got a Birds of Prey vibe from it, which with me, is never ever a bad thing!

What I found most interesting was Quinones’ renders of both women. The two are stylistically very similar – black jackets, dark leotards, and fishnet stockings. Quinones made the two women different visually: Canary has a bluer, cooler palette, and Zatanna’s is more mystical and warm purple. Zee is taller, with a more oval face and more delicate form and features; whereas Dinah is shorter, stockier, and a little more blunt, to indicate her incredible strength and physical prowess. These subtle differences in their designs tell us a lot about these characters before we even read any words!

For any reader who’s looking for girl relationship power remniscent of Birds of Prey, but who also likes a big slice of magic, give them this!

– Kathleen

Dini, Paul and Joe Quinones. Black Canary and Zatanna: Bloodspell. 2014.

The Death of Superman

I’m going to spend most of my December catching up on graphic novels that I never finished earlier in the year. I had picked up this classic Superman title when I was switching jobs, but it got set aside. So, let us now dive into the “death” of Superman!

The story opens with a new villain Doomsday smashing himself from underground to the Earth’s surface. He is established as a bad guy when he kills a bird in his hand and laughs about it- gasp! There is a convoluted storyline about Lois Lane and a random boy getting into trouble in the basement of a power station in which Superman needs to save them. I was amused that Lois left Clark a message on a computer of where to find her- and he mentioned that it was so high-tech of her do that, instead of on a note (as this was published in 1992). Superman dispatches all these underground baddies, not knowing the worst is yet to come. Then we are introduced to the B-level Justice League heroes such as Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Bloodwynd and Maxima who first meet Doomsday and can’t defeat him at all. Having just read Heroes in Crisis, I knew who a few of these lesser-known heroes were, but the entire time I was wondering why in the world Batman, Wonder Woman and other more powerful Justice Leaguers never came to help. While Supergirl briefly plays a part, I had to look up why in the world she was in a romance with a red-bearded Lex Luthor, and why she failed to be of any use. So Superman and Doomsday meet and they punch each other…over and over…and over and over again…until Superman dies. The end.

We all know Superman does not stay dead, and that very fact sucks the gravitas out of the whole story. As if DC would truly kill this icon, thus this storyline was just a publicity stunt when they had ran out of other ideas. Sequels Funeral for a Friend and Reign of the Supermen just negated the whole story.  Plus, Doomsday is the villain that kills him? All he does is punch- that’s it.

I’ve noticed in older Marvel and DC comics, that there are often several artists listed, but the art remains consistent. I’m guessing they were required to, as I am thinking of the book How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and they were given a blueprint for them to follow. I have mixed feelings about this- I become very annoyed when illustration styles change within a graphic novel, yet following a required design boxes artists in and they remain anonymous as their personal style does not shine through. And on a further aside, although this novel came out in the early 90’s the art retains the look of the golden/silver age of comics although the storyline was in the “modern age of comics”. The excesses of art that Image Comics was known for had not effected DC, at least in this graphic novel. But I truly loved the “countdown” of panels- the book opens with varied panel configurations, but as the story progresses the panels reduce to four a page, then three, then two with the final battle consisting of one-page splash pages.

All in all, this was a fun, somewhat campy read. While the storyline didn’t work, this was a turning point for comics and established a legacy of crossover events, so I am glad I picked it up to further my comic knowledge.

-Nancy

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