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Graphic Novelty²

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Kathleen

I'm an artist/librarian in Chicago who loves reading, creating, and playing video games!

Magus of the Library (Vol. 4)

Theo returns to Aftzaak after passing his kafna exam for his training! Not only did he pass, but so did everyone he met on the road and in the exam: Ohgga, Natica, Sala, Peperino, Mihona, and Alv. As he meets the rest of his cohort, he begins to wonder anew how he fits in among them. As their entire first year is spent in training, he has some time to get to know them. Their class is led by Professor Xtoh, a hard and firm woman who does not tolerate softness. It’s during the Matriculation Ceremony that Theo sees Sedona again – as the head of the Protection’s Office. He meets her afterward and offers to return the book she gave him, but she encourages him to keep it. He vows to meet her again after he becomes a kafna. Will he be able to keep his promise?

I wasn’t expecting this series to have this big an ensemble cast of characters. It was a little overwhelming for me. The chapter breaks each had a few characters and bios on them, which did help, but I feel that a “cast of characters” page in volumes going forward would be very beneficial.

The most fun thing for me in this volume were the flipped gender roles. Theo is assigned a room with the only two other boys who passed the kafna exam: Alv and newcomer Sumomo. While very smart, he is intimidated by women as he comes from a family almost exclusively of kafna! At one point he explains how the women in his family had to become almost aggressively assertive so they would be taken seriously. The context of this passage is comical, but it was funny in part because it’s true!

Other than that, the poetic prose and rich lore and artwork keep me coming back. Looking forward to more!

– Kathleen

Izumi, Mitsu. Magus of the Library (Vol. 4). 2020.

The Witcher (Vol. 2): Fox Children

Geralt and his traveling companion – the dwarf Addario Bach – embark upon a ship bound for Novigrad in exchange for their services. The crew is on a rescue mission and they need protection. They are looking to recover the elf girl Xymenna, daughter of fur tannery heiress Briana de Sepulveda, who was kidnapped by a vulpess. Geralt instantly claims they are mad: a vulpess is a rare creature, but deadly in that she fights with illusions and deception. The crew and the Witcher bicker as the ship steers ever more slowly into the swamp and eventually loses its’ way. Now they must band together to decide what’s real if they are to make it to their destination alive.

I’ve been reading the Witcher novels, which prompted me to pick the graphic novel series back up. The thing I enjoy most about this universe are the very gray areas in which it operates. There is no truly good character or creature, nor truly evil character or creature. The art reflects that with blocky figures and backgrounds and stark shading, creating an ominous atmosphere which forces you to guess character’s intentions. It was a fast, quick read (unlike the novels in my experience, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing) that would be good for the beach 😉 Looking forward to more!

– Kathleen

Tobin, Paul, and Joe Querio. The Witcher (Vol. 2): Fox Children. 2015.

The Disney Bros.: The Fabulous Story of Walt and Roy

This slim graphic novel presents the start of the Walt Disney Company’s story. Together with Ub Iwerks, brothers Walt and Roy Disney start their own animation studio in 1928. Walt is the face of the company and the creative force; Ub is the main artist and animator; and Roy handles the business and financial aspects. We see the little studio grow and push the boundaries of animation – first adding sound, then color, then a full feature-length animated film called Snow White in 1937. We see the animation studio grow into a media conglomerate and a theme park revolutionary. We also see the Disney brothers and Iwerks grow together, then apart, then together again to create something the likes of which the world had never seen.

For everything it tried to accomplish – present Walt in a neutral light, track the founding and building of the company – it fell short in every case, because it was too short. Disney history, especially that of the man Walt himself, is fascinatingly convoluted and I felt there was a lot of context missing from it as a result of the short length. It felt from the art style and writing that this was supposed to be for middle-grade or YA readers. In that regard, I can appreciate the effort; as an adult reader, I found too much lacking for it to be particularly educational or enjoyable. It really needed to be the length of Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics (208 pages to Disney Bros’ 112) for it to be effective from a narrative standpoint.

It was more effective in its presentation. There were chapter breaks in order to give young minds (and older ones) a breather 😉 The colors were bright, cheerful, and very Disney-fied. Though it was hard to distinguish individual characters from one another, the figures were drawn in a visually pleasing manner: short, lean bodies with big heads and bulbous noses, recalling cartoon strips popular at the time.

While I didn’t enjoy this as much as I hoped, middle grade and YA readers will get an abbreviated look at how the Disney company started. The “Further Reading” section at the back will allow them to further satiate their curiosity.

– Kathleen

Nikolavitch, Alex, and Felix Ruiz. The Disney Bros.: The Fabulous Story of Walt and Roy. 2020.

A Map to the Sun

Ren the basketball player meets Luna the surfer one morning when Luna asks to play ball with her. The two form a fast friendship and for the rest of that summer, they’re joined at the hip. However, when Luna moves from Los Angeles back to Oahu due to her sick mom, she ghosts Ren. She comes back unexpectedly in high school – looks like permanently. Luna inserts herself into Ren’s friend group, trying to pick their friendship up right where it left off. Ren is guarded and aloof, not wanting to get hurt again, and feeling she can’t meet Luna where she’s currently at. When new teacher Marisol starts a girl’s basketball team, Luna and Ren join along with Nell, Jetta, and So. All have their strengths and weaknesses, all are trying to escape from something, and all are using their place on the team to do it. Can they come together as a team?

The art is a big draw for this one. It’s rendered in neon, L.A. colors that vibrate off the page. At the same time, there’s a dreamy pastel quality to it. The palette of both the artwork and dead space between panels changes depending on the mood of the story at any given moment. This did make it hard to read at times, such as when purple font is on a red background.

At its’ core, this is a story about friendship. Finding and making friends, maintaining the relationships, building your friends up and working together. Each girl has a different ethnicity, background, or sexual orientation. This isn’t treated as a novelty within the story – it’s just who they are. They are all refreshingly accepting of one another, and that’s what it’s about. These girls need to come together to form an effective team, especially Ren and Luna, whose fraught history serves as the main conflict. Everyone has friend troubles that they’ve needed to overcome in order to move forward.

A Map to the Sun might look like a sports story at first glance, but it’s much more than that. It’s an ode to the power of forming female friendships and working together to build something bigger than yourself. Rendered in vibrant neon, the art will imprint itself in your mind as well as the story.

-Kathleen

Leong, Sloane. A Map to the Sun. 2020.

A Bride’s Story (Vol. 10)

Karluk and Amir make a visit to her clan, but Karluk is staying for a while. He wants to learn the bow, how to hunt, and generally how his in-laws live. He’s even given a golden eagle to teach how to hunt. He starts to distance himself from Amir to try to show his growth and independence. He doubts himself… is he really manly enough for her? Meanwhile, Mr. Smith and Ali have finally made it to Ankara and met his friend, Hawkins. Though Mr. Smith wants to retrace his steps and photograph his findings, the war with Russia is getting very bad. Is it enough for him to prematurely go home to England?

I was so glad to see Karluk in the spotlight in this volume. Though Amir is the main character, we haven’t gotten a very clear picture of him until now. He went through some much-needed character development, and though he went through a lot of it in this volume, it didn’t feel rushed at all. It still moved at a leisurely pace, and there was a chapter dedicated solely to golden eagles and how they were used for hawking to break up the emotional content. His conversation with Amir – where they confess their feelings for one another – felt earned and well deserved. (Also made me tear up)

Upon finishing this volume, it occurred to me that I’ve never made it this far in a manga before! This one really speaks to me. The historical setting lines up with my interests. Though romance is a huge part of the story, it’s not cheesy, over the top, or melodramatic, and progresses organically. It’s a slice of life story, which is slow moving and focused on showing everyday things, not necessarily grand adventures or deep philosophical questions. This, coupled with the fact that it’s a manga, is definitely outside of my normal reading zone, but I am so happy I gave it a chance. I hope one day to find more manga like it!

Kathleen

Mori, Kaoru. A Bride’s Story (Vol. 10). 2018.

House of El (Book 1): The Shadow Threat

Zahn is an elite citizen of the planet Krypton. He has joined the resistance movement Midnight to expose the truth about Krypton’s decay. For example. the planet is experiencing earthquakes which have worsened over time. The Tribune is dismissing or minimizing these claims. Sera is a soldier who has gone on increasingly failing terraforming missions for the Tribune. She gets asked to participate in a mysterious experiment by Jor-El and Lara – Zahn’s cousin and the future mother of Superman. It turns out that Jor-El and Lara want to reverse her genetic code. They want to make her into a more well-rounded Kryptonian in order to make a difference in the planet’s future. If she goes through with it, will Sera be the same? Will she like who she becomes?

What’s very clear here is that all characters love their planet. They all show it in different ways and thus have different viewpoints and ideas on how to save it. Which one is the right one? This parallels the call for action about our own planet.

The art style overall was a sort of futuristic Art Deco. Straight, rigid lines dominate and recall Krypton’s societal structure. Yet at the same time there is a greater emphasis placed on expression rather than accuracy. This contradiction made the art not work for me as much as it should have.

I’m not sure if pandemic brain struck again, but this didn’t hit as well with me as I wanted it to. Superman fans will appreciate this graphic novel, the start of a trilogy about Krypton’s demise, for the context and moral conundrums it gives. Hopefully I appreciate the next volume more.

– Kathleen

Gray, Claudia, and Eric Zawadzki. House of El (Book 1): The Shadow Threat. 2020.

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Nomi Sunrider

March is Women’s History Month, and both of us here at Graphic Novelty² have joined forces for the third year with some other amazing bloggers to celebrate women under the auspicious blogging series title of: Fiction’s Fearless Females! During this month, we will have six bloggers sharing who they believe is a fictional woman to be admired, and we will share each entry of the series on our blog. Today’s post in our last one of this series, and comes from Star Wars expert, Jeff of The Imperial Talker‘s 2021 #FFF post, re-posted here with permission.

Seeking a refuge for healing and peaceful contemplation, Jedi Knight Nomi Sunrider returns to the planet Ambria and the dwelling of Master Thon, her former Jedi Master. Traveling with Sunrider is her beloved 4-year-old daughter Vima and fellow Jedi Knight Sylvar who, like Nomi, seeks the peace and wisdom which Master Thon can offer. The joyful reunion with Master Thon is brief, however, disrupted by the sudden ambush of reptilian creatures swelling with the Dark Side of the Force and controlled by Sith assassins. Commanded to destroy Master Thon and his company, the Sith-controlled creatures surround the Jedi and launch their assault.

Found in the fourth issue of Tales of the Jedi: The Sith War, a Dark Horse Comics series published in the 1990s which details stories of the Jedi living thousands of years prior to A New Hope, the vicious attack by these dark side creatures was emblazoned in my mind as a ten-year-old Star Wars fan, the deadly battle masterfully captured in a single image. The muscular reptiles tower above the Jedi , mouths baring sharp teeth and yellow eyes manifesting the evil driving them. In the background, Oss Willum – a Jedi being mind-controlled by a nefarious Sith spirit – commands the attack from high ground while his accomplice Crado, an acolyte of Sith Lord Exar Kun, stands closer to the fray. At the edge of the battle the Jedi Sylvar slashes at a creature with her yellow lightsaber while closer to the center Master Thon grabs one of the reptiles by the neck, pushing it away with his own muscular arm.

It is Nomi Sunrider who truly stands out, though; she is the reason this image is so unforgettable. Resolve and grit etched on her face as she braces for an attack, Sunrider holds her right arm in front of her, lightsaber in a guard position, the blue blade extending across her body horizontally. In her left arm Nomi clutches her daughter Vima, the child clinging to her mother in fear of the reptilian attackers.

Today, the power on display in this image, what it conveys about Nomi Sunrider, is apparent to me in a way I could not fully appreciate as a young Star Wars fan. Back then, I was enamored by the battle itself, the action being my focus above and beyond any subtle metaphors a picture meant to convey. Yet, this image of Sunrider stuck with me, it captured my imagination in a way other moments in Star Wars comic books did not. Why that is I cannot say. The simple fact is that the image never left my memory, and as a result, I have always had a fondness for Nomi Sunrider. For that I am incredibly grateful because when my interest in Star Wars shifted away from the “Wars” as I got older, when I began to experience the deeper layers of characters and events, my understanding and appreciation for Nomi Sunrider fundamentally shifted.

Sunrider’s story in Tales of the Jedi is rich and complex, with moments of incredible joy and devastating heartache. Through it all one thing remains a constant: her love for Vima. As a young Star Wars fan I could not fully appreciate the power in this image, or Sunrider’s story more fully, because at that time I could only see Nomi Sunrider as a Jedi Knight. I was obsessed with the Jedi, trapped in the belief, like Luke Skywalker, that the Jedi were great because they were warriors. In a sense, the glow of Sunrider’s lightsaber in the image blinded me to the deeper and far more important meaning being conveyed. I could not see back then as I do now that that the brave determination embedded on Nomi Sunrider’s face and reflected in her defensive stance is not that of a Jedi alone. No, it is more significantly that of a mother protecting her frightened young child.

Nomi Sunrider is the very best of the Jedi Order in Tales of the Jedi, a living symbol of Light Side of the Force which the Order serves. But her devotion to the Light Side cannot and must never be disconnected from her devotion to her daughter. Nomi Sunrider’s fearless love for the Light Side of the Force is fundamentally grounded in her motherhood, in the unconditional love she has for Vima. And that is exactly what is reflected in this singular image.


Fiction’s Fearless Females is in it’s third year!  Yay!  The series runs for the month of March and along with myself feature posts by Nancy and Kathleen of Graphic Novelty2, Kalie of Just Dread-full, Mike of My Comic Relief, and Green Onion of Green Onion Revival Project.  Be sure to follow each of these blogs and to check out all of the Fearless Females in the series. Just follow these links:

Kara Zor-El (Supergirl)

Martha Jones

Lieutenant Nyota Uhura

Lisa Simpson

Norma Bates

A Cat Story

In a city of cats and people, Cilla is a black and white cat who wants a home. A real home, not the leaky boat at the dock she shares with her best friend Betto. After yet another human says Cilla can’t live with them, her friend Alaya tells her the kitten story of the quiet garden. It’s a beautiful place where the sun is warm, the water is cool, the humans are kind, and cats are always welcome. Cilla decides that is the home for her, and starts her journey to find it. Though Betto is content with the dock and the leaky boat where they currently live, he eventually agrees to go with her. The oldest cat in the city, Old Paolo, points the pair in the direction of Gozo. There, they should find a cat named Dolche who knows the way to the door leading to the quiet garden. Once Cilla and Betto find the door, does the quiet garden really lie beyond it?

This was a lovely and delightful little graphic novel. Of course, the cats were all so cute! The expressive, frenetic linework and cross-hatching gave a perpetual sense of movement to the character designs and the environments. Since the story takes place on an island chain, slightly desaturated colors were used to suggest sun bleaching. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see famous paintings, from multiple cultures throughout history, recreated here. The main theme of this graphic novel is story: “There’s a measure of truth in all good stories.” Many stories are told within the context of Cilla and Betto’s main journey. Each time, the cats leap out of the panels and explore these famous paintings. An art notes section in the back gives information about each painting used, as well as why it was chosen for that certain point in the story. So, while the main plot is about Cilla and Betto’s quest for a real home, the artwork tells a story in itself.

I loved A Cat Story: the characters, the literary (art-erary?) devices, and the warm tale of friendship and finding your own home. Keep this one on your shelf if you need to visit a museum but don’t feel quite comfortable going out yet, or for a nice quick beach read 😉

– Kathleen

Murray Husted, Ursula. A Cat Story. 2020.

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