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Graphic Novelty²

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Nancy

I'm a busy mom and teen librarian! I manage to fit in some time to be the co-writer of the blog Graphic Novelty².

Manfried Saves The Day

Manfried The Man was a quirky graphic novel about cats and humans having their roles reversed. In this second graphic novel Steve, an anthropomorphic cat, and his pet man, Manfried return to save a man-shelter from being closed.

Steve’s cartooning work is taking off, as his drawings of his pet Manfried are becoming popular. A former slacker, he still struggles with work deadlines and life responsibilities, but his romance with his neighbor Henrietta is promising. When a rich developer puts Henrietta’s man-shelter in danger, the two of them plus some friends band together to raise money to save the shelter. An upcoming pet show with an unrealistically high money prize seems to be the answer to their prayers. Will Manfriend save the day by winning best in show?

The artwork is clean, simple and attractive; always with a six panel layout per page. I am so used to graphic novels having layouts that vary from splash pages to atypically placed panels that this setup is refreshingly simple. The juxtaposition of the roles leads to clever sight gags with the little men. Seeing the men dressed up in adorable Halloween costumes, to aid in their adoption at the shelter, was by far the best part.

The first book was more nuanced than I expected, but this second outing was a bit trite and had a Hallmark movie feel. Yet, if you are a fan of Manfried from the first graphic novel or the author’s Tumblr page, you will enjoy this sweet story about the men’s adventures. Thank you to NetGalley for the chance to read an advance online copy.

-Nancy

(Aside- How do these men reproduce? No women or children pets have been shown. Curious minds need to know!)

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Top 5 Wednesday: Independent Ladies

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the topic is: favorite leading ladies who aren’t distracted from getting shit done by their love interest.

Princess Leia from Star Wars

Princess Leia was getting shit done before a certain flyboy and scoundrel came into her life! She was a member of the Imperial Senate and a member of the Rebel Alliance when she was just a teenager and later became a General of the resistance. Her romance and later marriage to Han Solo were fit in between her amazing adventures.

Wonder Woman from the Kingdom Come storyline

When a new generation of heroes was failing and an impending apocalyptic event looms, Wonder Woman comes out of retirement to retrieve Superman who was in seclusion to save the world. The two of them, plus Batman, put everything right again and only after that does a romance between Diana and Clark develop. Loved the epilogue of this story!

Tyleet from the ElfQuest saga

Tyleet is a favorite character of mine from the ElfQuest series who is kind, patient and steady. As a second generation of the Wolfrider clan, she was single for hundreds of years before she unexpectedly “recognized” (when two elves are drawn together to create a child) an older elf Scouter. Despite her subsequent pregnancy Tyleet remained true to herself and in helping neighboring tribes of humans. Scouter learned to help her instead of stopping her from assisting those he had previously viewed as the enemy.

Officer Dana Cypress from the Revival series

Inexplicably, twenty three people come back to life in rural small town Wisconsin.Their new existence sets the town on edge, with media scrutiny, a government quarantine and religious fanatics taking over the region. Officer Dana Cypress, a single mother and daughter of the sheriff, is asked to head the unit looking into this phenomenon. A problem arises when she discovers her younger sister is one of the “revivers”. She meets a scientist who is there to study the undead, and he becomes a love interest, but it is completely secondary to her solving the mystery.

Faith Herbert aka Zephyr of the Harbinger Renegades

Faith is a kick ass heroine! Not your typical scantily clad model type superhero chick, she transcends that stereotype and it becomes a non-issue. In this series, Faith has taken a break from the Renegades to discover herself. She still fights crime, but works as a journalist as her alter-ego. A new romance with another hero Archer is hinted at but her friendships remain a priority. She is a worthy adversary of any super villain, with promising future story lines.  You go girl!

I love how all these women are examples of how a woman can remain true to themselves while in the midst of a relationship. Women should be partners with the men they love and not subvert who they are.  These five examples of independent ladies are fantastic role models!

-Nancy

Aquaman: The Trench & The Others

Geoff Johns take on Aquaman is an absolute winner! He crafts the often maligned superhero into a charismatic and appealing champion of the people, that, dare I say, is now my favorite DC hero!

Volume One: The Trench

Straight off, Johns takes Aquaman’s reputation by the horns and addresses how many people perceive him as a joke. Poor guy- he’s been mocked on SNL and his abilities to communicate with sea animals is ridiculed. Despite his rugged good looks, powerful physique and amazing powers, he is often looked down upon.

But as the story progresses we get to know Arthur the man, not just Aquaman the hero. We are introduced to Mera, a princess of Xebel (which is a breakaway nation from Atlantis), who has joined Arthur on land. I adored their relationship; it was balanced, loving and free of drama. I’m warning you DC, don’t ruin this relationship! The two of them fight some aquatic monsters that come out of a deep trench in the ocean and are terrorizing Amnesty Bay. Their decisions on how to deal with the monsters help with character development, and this first volume ably gives you enough flashbacks and insights to Arthur’s past for readers to understand who Aquaman is.

Volume Two: The Others

This second volume tries to give more of Arthur’s backstory, and we find out that before Mera met him, he was part of a motley group of second-tier heroes called The Others that discovered, and subsequently protected, Atlantean weapons. Black Manta, Arthur’s arch enemy, tracks down some of these members to steal these artifacts to use against Aquaman. We also get to know marine biologist Dr. Stephen Shin, who helped Arthur develop his powers as a child, but betrayed him and his father, hoping for recognition for his work.

This story was more convoluted, and I had to refer to the website Comic Vine to keep track of The Others and their powers. Plus, there was one member, Ya’Wara, a sexualized hottie who wore a string bikini in Siberia. Come on now. It made me yearn for Arthur to become involved in the Justice League and for him to become a member of that team.  Still loving on Mera and Arthur in this volume!

Now let’s talk about the art. It’s fantastic! Ivan Reis impressively draws Arthur and Mera. The seascapes are beautifully rendered and richly colored in. He includes many one or two page spreads and drew the ocean creatures with precision. While the story line redeemed the character of Aquaman, it was the drawings that upgraded the story as a whole and made me fall in love with Arthur and Mera.

Johns was the perfect author to develop Arthur’s story. Kathleen’s review of the movie Aquaman showed that Johns’ screen-writing contribution to the movie elevated it above many of DC’s preceding disappointing adaptations of the DCEU (except for Wonder Woman -that was beyond good!). Johns has a handle on the DC characters and has penned previous novels such as Green Lantern, The Flash: Rebirth, Batman: Earth One and Forever Evil (although in this event book, Johns did not include Aquaman!!!).

I like how DC is developing both versions of Aquaman in books and on screen parallel to one another. Although Aquaman is now often portrayed with a beard, illustrators aren’t trying to make him look like Jason Momoa. Fans are intelligent enough to accept this, and one version doesn’t have to subvert the other. And while I truly am a fan of Momoa, I’m glad the comics are keeping Arthur as the blonde version that has been around for decades. I hope between this new adaptation of Aquaman’s story, along with any stories found in the Justice League comics, he gets the recognition and respect he deserves.

-Nancy

Star Wars: Princess Leia

I was gifted this book by none other than The Imperial Talker– a huge Star Wars fan, a new dad and good friend! I was anxious to read an adventure about Princess Leia, one of my childhood heroes and penned by the esteemed Mark Waid.

Set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, this story is about Leia dealing with the pain of losing her family and the entire planet of Alderaan. Immediately after the medal ceremony Leia approaches General Dodonna to see how she can help and discovers that surviving Alderaan citizens that were off world when the planet was destroyed are being hunted down by Imperial forces. Leia quickly finds pilot Evaan Verlaine, a fellow Alderaanian, to help her find and save their brethren. With a few slick maneuvers they escape to Naboo to find an enclave of musicians who keep their culture alive. I did appreciate the few panels that showed Leia seeing her birth mother represented in stained glass (see picture below) and feeling a connection without knowing why.  Smuggler and pilot Nien Nunb joins the women as they continue searching other worlds for survivors, and there is an intriguing subplot about what makes a true Aldaraanian when they discover an outpost of survivors that have intermarried with natives of that planet.

Author Mark Waid, who has written Kingdom Come and Strange Fruit, two favorites of mine, gives Leia a story to work through her grief. He addresses some hard questions: Is Leia still a princess without a world? What parts of a culture are worth saving? Should descendants of a people who now look and act different be considered valid citizens of Aldaraan? This one-off graphic novel tries to pull together many threads, but isn’t able to delve deep into many of the issues. I ended up wanting a bit more from this story than Waid was able to deliver.

The artwork was a mixed bag for me. The most glaring issue for me was that Princess Leia did not look like Carrie Fisher. Artist Terry Dodson made Leia a hottie with form fitting outfits and sexy come hither eye makeup and hair-dos. And it’s not as if he couldn’t replicate the actors who portrayed them in the movies, as the depictions of Padmé  and Bail Organa looked very accurate. There were several panels that lacked detail and definition; in particular, there was a scene of Leia as a child where she looked like a monkey with her face in profile and her hair flowing out like a tail.  I typically love the way Jordie Bellaire colors, but in this book the coloring was just standard, with some odd shading of faces.

I deliberately did not ask Jeff his opinions on the story he sent me before I read it, so I hope he gives me some feedback with his thoughts on the book. All in all, this was an enjoyable outing with Leia that gave a look at a gap in the Star Wars narrative that helps explain how the loss of her people shaped her into the general she became in later years.

-Nancy

Waid, Mark & Terry Dodson. Star Wars: Princess Leia. 2015.

Harrow County: Countless Haints

Harrow County is an eerie southern gothic fairy tale, and after recently reading Bone Parish and now this, Cullen Bunn is becoming a favorite author of mine.

The opening pages begin with the hanging of suspected witch Hester Beck. As she is hanging from a tree while lit on fire, she swears revenge and tells the surrounding crowd that she will be back.  This old burnt hanging tree is on the edge of the property of teen Emmy and her widowed father. Emmy is about to turn eighteen and is helping her father with a calf’s birth, when a traveling salesman and his granddaughter Bernice arrive on the farm. The two men speak privately about their worries that Emmy could be a reincarnated Hester, and that her birthday will reveal a hidden evil. Later when Emmy is exploring the nearby woods, she discovers her first haint, a skinless boy that speaks to her. It is his later warnings that alert Emmy that danger is near, and her seemingly kind father doesn’t even trust her. A showdown occurs, and secret alliances are revealed. Who can Emmy trust? Her father? Bernice? The skinned boy? Can she even trust herself?

The story has a lot of potential, as Emmy is shown as a young woman who is trying desperately to understand the mysteries of her possible origin and the decades long secrets that the townspeople have. This is a much better adaptation of that sort of story than the disappointing Wytches. The title hints that countless more ghostly haints will be discovered, and how Emmy reacts and utilizes them will certainly be intriguing.

Illustrated by Tyler Crook, he creates an atmospheric southern locale with believable and varied townspeople. His dark woods scenes are my favorite, with his spooky corners that could harbor sinister haints. He opened each new chapter with a two page spread that somehow incorporated the words Harrow County into the background, and I enjoyed looking for how he would do it each time. His artwork is reminiscent of Emily Carroll’s work in Through the Woods, and the comparison holds up because both Carroll and Crook draw their characters young looking with an apple cheeked motif. In this case, Emmy was drawn way too young looking. At eighteen years old, she should have been drawn as a young woman and not so child-like, but other than that complaint, the artwork is a perfect match for the story.

As this was the first of an eight book series, I aim to visit Harrow County more in the future and see what awaits Emmy!

-Nancy

Bunn, Cullen & Tyler Crook. Harrow County: Countless Haints. 2015.

I Heart Characters: A Character Overrun with Personality 

I ♥ Characters is a weekly meme hosted by Dani @ Perspective of a Writer to showcase blogger love for characters. Each week she supplies a topic and we supply the character from whatever media we love and link up so others can blog hop and share the character love. ♡

This weeks topic is:  A Character Overrun with Personality (This character totally bowls you over due to their powerful / expressive / in your face personality. Do you enjoy them or are they annoyance incarnate?!)

I am choosing Ensign Sylvia Tilly of Star Trek Discovery as my example of a character that has personality to spare. Typically Star Trek ships are shown to have crew members that are professional to the extreme. Set in the future, it’s as if crew members have evolved, and that they are never awkward or make mistakes. While it’s nice to think that people will develop, let’s be realistic. Discovery seems to be pushing boundaries on what fans consider Star Trek, and this is one example, as this series seems to be letting us see crew members as more realistic. As such, Tilly has become a breakout star in the cast, for many people relate to her.

Tilly is a new engineering crew member of Discovery and is very eager to please. She yearns for more, and gets accepted into the command track, as she has ambitions to captain some day. When Michael Burhham, a disgraced crew member from another ship is assigned to her as a roommate, Tilly teaches her empathy and helps Michael integrate better into this new ship’s crew. But despite her awkwardness, Tilly is very smart and a good soldier.

A reason why I connect so much with Tilly, is that she reminds me of myself. She is sweet, and can often be overlooked or not taken seriously because of her kindness. She is curvy and has wild curly hair plus a parent that she never could please. But she is also extremely competent and has a steely resolve that takes some people by surprise due to her being underestimated.

When the show was on hiatus between seasons CBS created four shorts to tide over viewers, and Tilly headlined the first mini-episode. Her big personality has made her a fan favorite, and Discovery would not be the same without her!

-Nancy

Star Trek: Discovery -Short Treks

Star Trek Discovery tried an innovative approach in keeping it’s audience’s attention and building interest- it put out four shorts (each approximately 15 minutes long), one each month starting in October. They were non-linear, with three of them showcasing fan favorites.

Runaway

Ensign Sylvia Tilly was featured in the first episode, with a short that featured Tilly befriending a stowaway alien.

Tilly, in all her awkward glory, has become a favorite of the Discovery crew for many viewers (including me!). In this short, she accidentally meets a new species of alien that can turn invisible. When the two encounter one another in the mess hall, chaos erupts, but when other crew members arrive for a meal, the shambles can be attributed to Tilly being known for unintentionally being a magnet for mayhem. I had to have a huge suspension of disbelief that Tilly never reported this alien, even for the somewhat valid reasons for her being there, and got away with transporting her back to her home world. Wouldn’t there be logs of those kind of transmissions? But I digress. The friendship between the two and the character development you see in Tilly make up for these issues, and it was a sweet slice-of-life short.

 

Calypso

This short proved to be the most atypical as it is set 1000 years in the future and is set on the empty USS Discovery, and the title name refers to a story in Greek mythology.

An unnamed human soldier, who later goes by Craft,  is found drifting in an alien shuttlecraft and inadvertently comes near the USS Discovery.  A tractor beam brings him inside the ship and he awakens in sick bay. Wary, he tries to escape, but he is calmed when the female speaking through the intercom is friendly and non-threatening. We find out the ship had been abandoned 1000 years prior by the crew, and the AI has evolved in that time and calls herself Zora. Craft shares that he was escaping a battle and wants to be reunited with his wife and child, whom he hasn’t seen in ten years. Craft and Zora (in holographic form) bond, and there is a poignant scene in which the two recreate a dancing scene from the movie Funny Face.  The ending harkens back to the title of this episode, and if you aren’t familiar with that myth, look it up!

 

The Brightest Star

 

Commander Saru gets an origin story that explains how the first Kelpien joined Starfleet.

We first meet Saru, living a quiet agrarian life with his father and sister, but the village lives in fear as an alien nation demands tributes on a regular basis. When the alien ship drops some technology Saru examines it on the sly, refusing to accept that this life is all there is. His questions to his father are rejected but he continues trying to send out a message to others beyond his home planet.  Time goes by, but he eventually receives a message from an unknown ship that they will arrive the next day. I gasped with who stepped out of the shuttle, and I’m sure all Trekkie fans started checking their Star Trek canon to see if the years matched up. While this story had a bit of a discrepancy with what Saru previously shared about his home world (edit- and a comment in the first episode of the second season didn’t match either), this was a lovely origin story. His last quote “I saw hope, in the stars. It was stronger than fear. And I went towards it” was perfect.

 

The Escape Artist

Harry Mudd, an expert on long-cons, pulls the wool over many bounty hunters and renegades in a clever way in this last episode.

Mudd is a recurring scoundrel in the Discovery series, based off a character that only appeared twice in TOS. Actor Rainn Wilson is having fun with this role, so his inclusion in one of the shorts was welcome. In this episode Mudd has been sold by a bounty hunter to an alien that was previously wronged by him. We see Mudd also trying to get out of previous jams with other aliens, so we don’t know if this current alien will fall for his tricks. The way he was begging not to be taken to the Federation made me think of Brer Rabbit, and the reveal at the end of exactly how this rogue got out of trouble again was ingenious.

All four of these shorts were strong, and each had a different feel. They were a wonderful lead-in to the start of the second season of Discovery and I hope they continue making them for future seasons. In the meantime, live long and prosper, my friends!

-Nancy

Top 5 Wednesday: Most Disappointing Reads of 2018

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the topic is the most disappointing books you read in 2018.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

I was so excited at the premise of the story, that detailed what would happen if females were limited to 100 words daily, and how American society would shift because of this discrimination. Since our current administration seems to revel in discrimination, I felt this book was going to carry a deep and timely message, such as The Handmaid’s Tale did. Unfortunately, I could not connect with the main character Dr. Jean McClellan despite the strong start of the narrative, and felt her withering contempt for her husband was too much, especially in light of what he did at the conclusion. I wanted to like this book more, but it didn’t touch me as THT did.

The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell

I was terribly disappointed with this book, especially after seeing many positive reviews by others. I am a fan of the zombie/dystopian genre (Revival, TWD, World War Z) so I thought this book would definitely be up my alley, but after a promising start, it fell apart for me.

Temple is a teen surviving alone in a world that collapsed about 25 years ago in a zombie apocalypse. She is practical to a fault, knowing how to fend for herself, but haunted by her memories of a younger brother who is no longer with her. During her travels she happens about a conclave of survivors in a nearby city but her independent streak makes it an ill fit for her. While there, she thwarts a sexual assault, and in self defense she kills the man. His brother vows revenge, and the rest of the book details the ridiculous pursuit between them, and reminded me of Jean Valjean and the obsessive Javert saga in Les Misérables. The people they encounter on their travels range from Southern Gothic wannabes to a deranged mutant family and of course endless zombies. The whole time people keep on remarking on how amazing and deep Temple was which annoyed me- for I felt it was pretentious, show don’t tell this characteristic. I kept on putting this short novel down which is never a good sign, and by the time the conclusion wrapped up everything, I simply did not care about any of the characters.

Artemis by Andy Weir

When I read The Martian, I was sucked into Andy Weir’s plausible science fiction story. His resourceful hero was funny and appealing and readers rooted for his survival. So I eagerly looked forward to his next book and was pleased to find a heroine living on the moon in his second novel. Imagine my dismay when my opinion of the book plummeted chapter by chapter.

You can read more about my dislike for the book in my previous blog post.

The Rooster Bar by John Grisham

Vaguely reminiscent of Grisham’s book, The Litagators, this story delves into the world of everyday lawyers, not the high paid corporate lawyers from his famous earlier books. Students Mike, Todd and Zola are in their last semester at a third rate law school, and up to their eyeballs in debt, when a good friend commits suicide. Shaken by his death, they all impulsively drop out of school and start to masquerade as a law firm despite no degrees.

This is when the story went absolutely sideways for me. Upset that their loans are overwhelming and with no job prospects, they decide that committing fraud and hustling unsuspecting clients is a legitimate way to live their lives. They bumble around, get caught, but then decide to double down by getting involved in a mass torts case against the bank that worked with their law school giving loans to unqualified students. In the midst of this Zola is dealing with her undocumented family getting sent back to Senegal. Mike and Todd, who quite frankly are interchangeable, manage to keep one step ahead of the authorities and the whole ending is just preposterous.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

I listened to this book on audio, which had received the 2018 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album, and was prepared to love it. I didn’t.

At first, hearing Carrie Fisher’s voice was both wonderful and melancholy, due to her passing. I’ve been a big fan of hers for years, as she surpassed her Princess Leia persona, and was a well respected author plus funny as hell. The new set of Star Wars movies yanked her back into the fandom and people are eager for any tidbits about the original trilogy, so the finally confirmed romance between Fisher and Harrison Ford was big news. She writes of their romance, but yet I still did not feel it was fleshed out. She has every right not to share details there were too intimate between the two, but the romance remained an enigma to me.

She ends up being very repetitive elsewhere in the book, and much of it seemed filler. She speaks wryly of life for an actor after their biggest fame is over, and the struggles and concessions they need to make to remain relevant and earn an income. As she re-imagines some conversations she has had with her fans at conventions, I had to skip ahead on the audio as they were painful to listen to. So I ended up feeling disappointed by the end of the novel, and felt guilty thinking so. Nevertheless, her candor and humor make me want to look up more of her past works.

I rarely give up on books, and most of these books had promising starts, but they all ended on unsatisfactory notes. Did anyone else have similar feelings about these books?

-Nancy

Bone Parish

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.

A quick synopsis: “A new drug is sweeping through the streets of New Orleans—one made from the ashes of the dead. Wars are being fought over who will control the supply, while the demand only rises.”

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. The oldest, Brae, is chomping at the bit ready to take over the enterprise and questioning his mother. Brigitte is the scientist who is the only one who knows how to turn the dead into ash properly and won’t reveal to others how to do so as to keep her position in the family safe. Leon and Wade end up doing much of the grunt work for the family, with both of them questioning the morality of it all.

As the popularity of the drug grows in the Big Easy, other drug cartels realize the scope of the operation and want in on the action. Several contact Grace with offers of buy-outs but she refuses. Not surprisingly they don’t take it well, and put a target on the family’s back. Some dirty cops are also involved, with Brae trying to control that aspect, but double crosses are part of the game.

There are a few twists and turns in the narrative, with a surprising revelation that will make you back track to look for clues. The story has potential for a thought provoking moral debate about drug culture and the sanctity of life and for the body after death. My excitement for this new series rivals what I felt for Briggs Land, another layered crime saga with an intriguing family led by a strong woman.

The art by Jonas Scharf was perfect for the story, and was reminiscent for me of Gabriel Rodriguez who illustrates the Locke and Key series, which is high praise indeed from me. He establishes the Winters family in a distinct manner, showing a welcome diversity within the family, in addition to when he draws other characters and realistic crowd scenes. The colorist Alex Guimarães really sets the tone with the coloring with an earthen palette for the everyday life, and vibrant pinks and purples to signify the hallucinogenic effect.

As much as I loved the story, I have a few criticisms. The big one: how is the drug controlled by the user? How do they tap into the specific memory of the deceased, as they would have a lifetime of memories to choose from? How do memories from the past physically manifest in those who are taking the drug? Will this be explained, or do we just have to have suspension of disbelief and go with the flow? Also, while I love that Grace is portrayed as a powerful and still sexy matriarch of the family, she looks too young to be a mother to her children, especially Brae. I, myself, am a mother to three teens and I still want to be thought of as a hottie, but Grace should be realistically aged just a tiny bit more.

I believe this new series has a lot of potential for growth and I absolutely will be reading future volumes, as I wish to find out what consequences are in store for the Winters family and those who choose to take the drug. Thank you to NetGalley for approving me to read this novel early, as I believe this series could really take off after it’s release in March.

-Nancy

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