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Graphic Novelty²

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September 2022

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

This book was a fun behind-the-scenes look at Hollywood during its heyday but it didn’t wow me. I compared the aging star Evelyn Hugo to Marilyn Monroe (leaving her family behind and the first marriage) and Elizabeth Taylor (some of the subsequent marriages).

The twist that Hugo’s true love was a fellow female star, was supposed to be shocking, but really wasn’t. I was glad to see some LGBTQ+ representation in the novel, but her relationship with fellow actress and lover Celia St. James never rang true, and the pettiness they each exhibited took the bloom off the rose for me. Plus, the entire premise of why Hugo choose the young journalist to tell her memoirs to was ridiculous and far-fetched. That Hugo was an unreliable narrator and outlived anyone in her recollections to discredit what she said about them, makes her story suspicious. In addition, she was unlikable although I admired her moxie. I heard a Netflix movie will be made based on this book, and I will definitely watch it!

This was the beginning of a quartet of books by the author that would each feature a strong woman and that would all interconnect with one another as the decades passed, and I will post the remaining ones in the weeks ahead.

Gender Queer

September 18th-24th is Banned Books Week, so I took the opportunity to read Gender Queer, a graphic novel that has been challenged numerous times since its publication in 2019.

Author and illustrator, Maia Kobabe, has written a memoir about their experiences growing up. Born a female, they now identify as non-binary and asexual and wish to use the e/em/eir pronouns. Maia struggled with their identity from an early age, and through various experiences decided what identity worked best for them. I believe Maia’s memoir could help someone struggling to realize that they are not alone, and it often is a zigzag path to discovering one’s true self.

So what exactly is so controversial that it is number one on the Top 10 Most Challenged List, considering it was nominated as a Stonewall Honor Book? One reason is the description and illustrations of sexual acts. Another is that some people judge gender identity harshly. What some people don’t understand, they will reject and demand others also reject it. But as author Judy Blume once said, “Censors don’t want children exposed to ideas different from their own. If every individual with an agenda had his/her way. the shelves in the school library would be close to empty“.

Now I don’t want to pretend that this book didn’t raise any issues with me- I think the adult themes make it a better fit for the adult collection than the teen collection, but it is on the teen 2023 Illinois Lincoln List, and as a teen librarian, I have a shelf for these award-winning books. Thus it will remain there and then go back into the teen/adult graphic novel collection next January when I showcase the 2024 list (they are always a year ahead). I’m proud to work at a library that does not censor. In fact, our rural library has all ten books found on the 2021 list. As I handle the social media for our library, I have shared graphics, links and pictures on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts about Banned Books Week. Ultimately, people need to decide for themselves if they want to read this book, and I believe fully in everyone’s freedom to read! ❤

Surviving the City: From the Roots Up

This is a short sequel to Surviving the City which was a powerful graphic novel about two young First Nations women in Canada that face the perils of being Indigenous in the city together. We are reunited with Miikwan and Dez, after the death of Dez’s grandmother. Dez is struggling with their foster home placement and acts out, although a bright spot is that they and an Indigenous girl have begun a tentative new relationship. Dez is also coming to grips with being a Two-Spirit person and letting Miikwan and others in the community know. As everyone prepares for an upcoming pow-wow, Dez let the elders know that they don’t wish to follow the strict gender rules that are in place.

This was another well-done story that showcases the modern Indigenous experience, yet I did find it heavy-handed. In the last book, the author and illustrator effectively showcase dead Native women as spirits surrounding their loved ones and dark alien-type creatures besides men that wish these women harm, and they did so again, but too much so. Although I thought this was too much a message book, I believe a YA audience will find it appealing, informative and inspiring.

Devil’s Highway

Drive like hell!

Most of the AWA Upshot titles I have been reading recently are dark- and this certainly fits the bill. Sharon, a former soldier who has been out of touch with her father, plans to go home to visit him for Christmas but discovers he was killed in the diner he owned. When she bullies the local policemen into giving her pictures of the crime scene she sees that an intertwining snake was carved into his chest.

Sharon enlists a friend to help and gains intel from a soldier she formally worked with, and discovers an evil network of truckers who work together to hide their serial killings. Prostitutes at truck stops are easy prey for them, and indeed it was one that escaped that Sharon’s Dad hid, that led to his murder. Sharon’s quest for vengeance pays off, and her fighting skills when confronting some of the truckers are second to none. While she does obtain justice in the end, the network still exists and other predators still remain out there. As this is labeled volume one, I assume Sharon has more adventures ahead of her.

Set in the winter in the Midwest, the snowy landscapes and bundled-up people are accurate to the region. As a Midwestern girl, I recognized many of the towns and highways they referred to. The story is illustrated well with good panel placement, but at times close-ups of faces can be a bit off. Appropriately dark-hued, the panels include pink and red tones when there is (much) violence. Letters from the creators and an early mock-up of the first scene, that changed, were included at the end.

This was an interesting read with a kick-ass heroine, but the violence and references to sexual assault were too much for me. I don’t mind gritty stories, but this story takes it to an extreme.

Top 5 Comic Authors

Who are my top 5 comic authors? Let’s see!

Joe Hill

Locke & Key– need I say more? But I will! His six-volume horror/fantasy series is what put Hill on my radar years ago, but I have enjoyed many more books of his since then. With his Locke & Key series now on Netflix, and his novels and short-story collections in high demand, DC has given him a prestige project, his own label- Hill House Comics. This label had some great stories, plus adding in his very dark The Cape, has made Hill my go-to horror writer.

Cullen Bunn

The eight-volume eerie southern gothic fairy tale, Harrow County and necromantic horror trilogy Bone Parish make Bunn a favorite of mine. He writes creepy and suspenseful stories with excellent character development.

Faith Erin Hicks

Hicks is a double-whammy, for she both writes and illustrates. Her historical-fiction trilogy The Nameless City is timeless, and I demand a sequel to Friends With Boys! Her first YA book Comics Will Break Your Heart shows that she is as strong a writer as she is an artist.

Brian Wood

I almost didn’t put Wood down due to his sexual harassment allegations, but I have to be honest, I loved much of his early work. The seven-volume Viking saga Northlanders was fascinating, as was his two-volume series Rebels about colonial America. Due to the scandal, we will never know how the timely and gritty Briggs Land would have concluded.

Robert Kirkman

Invincible and The Walking Dead were both long-running series that I loved. That Kirkman wrote them concurrently for many years blows my mind. They both had huge casts and had their characters’ age, which I always like in stories, so kudos to him for creating two distinct and believable universes.

Honorable Mentions- Derf Backderf (My Friend Dahmer, Trashed, and Kent State) & Brian K Vaughn (Saga and Pride of Baghdad)

Who are your favorites, and why???

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

It has been 40 years since the second Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan, was released in the theatres. This now classic film saved the franchise, as the first movie had been rather underwhelming. When my oldest son told me that Fathom Events was sponsoring the movie for a week in the theatres and wanted to know if I’d like to go, I was ALL IN! While Star Wars has been an easy sell to my children, and all three are fans of that franchise, sadly, none (until now) have shown any interest in the Star Trek universe.

In preparation for watching the movie, we first watched the episode Space Seed (1967) which was one of the last episodes of season one of TOS. My God- was it equal parts awesome and cringy! The Enterprise crew come upon an old spaceship of 1990s origin, a time referred to as WWIII and the Eugenics War, thus records were spotty during that era. The ship is named Botany Bay, in reference to the penal colony of Australia from the late 1700s to the early 1800s. Kirk, Spock, Scotty and ship historian McGivers beam down and find 70+ people in deep hypersleep. The first to revive was no other than Khan Noonoen Singh, a genetically enhanced human who ruled much of Earth in the 1990s. McGiver is much taken by him, attracted to his charisma, and the feeling is mutual. As the rest of his followers awaken, he convinces McGivers to help him overthrow the Enterprise, in a disturbing masochistic scene. Of course, they don’t succeed, and in a surprising move, Kirk offers them sanctuary on a nearby uninhabited planet, with McGivers very willingly choosing to go with Khan. In the last lines of the episode, Spock and Kirk ponder what their society will be like 100 years from now.

Flash forward fifteen years, and Kirk has now been promoted to Admiral but a recent birthday makes him feel old and out-of-touch. Spock and Scotty are training a new batch of recruits on the Enterprise while it is docked, and Kirk, Bones, Uhura and Sulu head to the ship together for a tour. In the meantime, Chekov, who is now a first officer on another ship, and his captain encounter Khan and his remaining crew on the now desolate desert planet, that was knocked off orbit six months after they arrived. Khan’s wife and many of his followers are dead and he wants vengeance! This all ties in with a group of scientists who are developing the Genesis device, that alters dead matter into new life. Khan is able to use Chekov’s ship to capture the Genesis tool and they go into battle with Kirk and his ship of young and untested crew members. While Khan has the chance to escape with his followers with an incredible cargo, instead he is a revenge-obsessed megalomaniac, who is determined to make Kirk pay. An epic battle and a devastating sacrifice are made, while these two men helm their ships in a game of cat and mouse.

While I had seen both the original episode and the movie years ago, it was obviously the first time for both for my son. He laughed at the sexism (both unintentional and intentional) found in Space Seed, but he was impressed with the movie and now wants to watch the fourth movie, The Voyage Home (the one with the whales!) with me in the future. As with books and movies you revisit years later, you pick up on new things that you didn’t notice or had forgotten about. Why was Khan now so old, yet his followers were so young? I was glad that my son also noticed the glaring inconsistency with Chevok (which the actor later admitted knowing about, but he didn’t want to ruin his chance for a juicy scene) but I was truly bothered by the lack of character development that was given to Uhura and Sulu. In light of Nichelle Nichol’s recent death, it made me angry to see how little they gave her and some of the other characters to do in these movies. I still cried at Spock’s sacrifice and admired the brio Ricardo Montalban brought to the role of Khan.

This was a fun experience to share with my son, and reminded me why I became a fan of Star Trek so many years ago. Live long and prosper, my friends!

This much-parodied line is the best!

ElfQuest podcast premiere

My beloved ElfQuest is now a podcast! Yesterday the first episode, in a 13-part series, was released to the public. I was proudly part of the Kickstarter campaign over a year ago to help finance this new venture by talented creators Wendy and Richard Pini.

This movie begins with what happened in the first comics: “When a fierce tribe of woodland elves – the Wolfriders – are burned from their homes by hostile humans, their chief, Cutter, must tap every reserve of strength and will to lead his people to safety.”

This “audio movie” stars voice actors Cree Summer, Alejandro Saab, Osric Chau, Amber Benson, Aaron Douglas, Clare Kramer, Will Friedle, Zehra Fazal, Robert Picardo, Tim Russ, Ray Porter, and many more.

Make sure you turn in weekly to find out how the Wolfriders persevere and begin meeting more elf tribes from the land of Two Moons. Find this amazing series on Apple podcasts!

What a cast!

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