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Graphic Novelty²

I Hate Fairyland: Volumes Three & Four

I Hate Fairyland is fluffin’ over, with the third and fourth books bringing this series to a fantabulous conclusion! I applaud writer and illustrator Skottie Young for keeping this series to four volumes, for as I said after my review of volume two, “I am leery of falling into a candy-induced coma if I read too much of this series.”

Young has quite a distinctive illustrative style and is already well known for his past work such as Rocket Raccoon and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Plus, his chubby baby superheroes are a fan favorite for variant art in the Marvel books. As such, he is the only artist I can imagine pulling off this storyline. Colorist Jean-Francois Beaulieu gives the residents of Fairyland a candy-colored motif that is a perfect juxtaposition for green-haired Gertrude’s nightmare.

Volume Three: Good Girl

Volume three opens with a fun shout-out to comic cons as Gertrude actually looks forward to the annual Dungeon Festexpocon. There she acquires a super-fan who admires the destruction that she has wrought over the community. But as usual, that pairing doesn’t last and Gertrude moves onto the next disaster. We also get a lengthy origin story to her guide, Larry the Fly, but I wasn’t quite clear if it was a memory or a dream.

Our favorite psychopath decides to try something she hasn’t before in her quest to leave Fairytown- she is a good girl. Could this be the key to going home? However, after the swath of horror she has inflicted upon the Fairyland citizens for over 30 years, the creatures do not believe her and former foes come back to kill her. A trip to Hell seems apropos at the end.

On a funny note, when I went to pull these two books from the graphic novel collection at the library I work at, I couldn’t find them, although the computer said they were checked in. A new shelver of ours had put these two volumes in the kid’s graphic novel section, due to the look of this volume in particular.  I hope no youngster was traumatized by accidentally flipping through the very mature content!

Volume Four: Sadly Never After

Hell is filled with Gertrude’s former enemies who wish to make her suffer. As Gertrude is still longing for home,  the Devil plays with her insecurities and sends her to an alternate reality of her parent’s home. But he soon deducts that the real agony for Gertrude is to send her back to Fairyland. Back in Fairlyland, we meet Queen Cloudia who was vanquished in the first volume and who has now become Dark Cloudia. Bitter, she wants to destroy her former kingdom so some of the council leaders appeal to Gertrude to defeat her. They tell her that Cloudia’s defeat will earn Gertrude a way home.

While Gertrude’s way home is not straightforward and easy, the short epilogue with a grown up Gertrude back home is bittersweet, as it’s not exactly what she had been wishing for…

I loved the little jokes that you could find in the background panels, with dark humor and satire interwoven into it. The art remained fresh throughout and even knowing what kind of story this was, some of the violence and mayhem continued to surprise me. I will miss this foul mouthed sociopath, as Skottie Young created an unforgettable character in Gertrude.

-Nancy

Make sure you check out Volume One: Madly Ever After  &  Volume Two: Fluff My Life

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Best Reads of 2018

It’s that time of year again! Here we’ve compiled our list of the ten best books we’ve read in 2018, and their consequent reviews, in no particular order. Enjoy!

Continue reading “Best Reads of 2018”

Lost Soul, Be at Peace

From the author of Honor Girl comes another graphic memoir – this time, about Maggie’s time in the eleventh grade, after the events of Honor Girl.

Maggie’s an only child now that her brother moved away for college. She lives in a huge house with a dad who’s absorbed in his work and a mom who’s busy with everyone but her daughter. Teetering on the brink of failing eleventh grade and dyeing her hair purple can’t make them notice her. The only one Maggie can rely on is her cat, Thomasina. Tommi for short. Except when Tommi disappears inside their own house, that support disappears as well. Maggie searches top to bottom and finds nothing but a door to nowhere and a ghost of a boy named Tommy – but no sign of her grey cat. Tommy is searching too – but he’s not sure what for. Together, Maggie and Tommy search for her cat, his past, and the meaning of growing up.

It’s been a long time since I read Honor Girl, and I think the art style has changed a bit. I remember Honor Girl looking slightly fuzzy, unfinished almost, to convey the uncertainty of young love and teenage girlhood. Lost Soul, Be at Peace‘s characters are a bit more manga-like than I remember, but overall is a bit more polished. That’s funny when you take into consideration the supernatural elements – but at the same time, it doesn’t feel supernatural. It feels, in fact, quite natural for Maggie to be talking to a ghost! This is more about coming to terms with your history and realizing that you’re not a child anymore. It’s a quiet but powerful sentiment, one we all come to at some point. I look forward to more from Maggie Thrash, who manages to convey such complex emotions so succinctly and elegantly.

– Kathleen

Thrash, Maggie. Lost Soul, Be at Peace. 2018.

Black Road: The Holy North

Black Road continues Brian Wood’s take on emo Vikings. Set in Norway in AD 1000, Magnus The Black is a warrior who discovers a secret among the new Christian priests who are laying waste to the Norskk culture and landscape. This isn’t an extension of Northlanders, instead this series is set up to be a mystery thriller and not as historically accurate.

Magnus is a bear of a man, who respects his pagan upbringing, yet realizes that Christianity is taking over the region and wants to help his people through the transition. However, this makes his unpopular with both sides, as neither fully trust him. A former soldier, he is grieving the loss of his beloved wife and wants reassurances from the Catholic priests that they will be reunited in Heaven together. He takes on a job of escorting a Cardinal from the Vatican up the “Black Road” to a new compound up North. The job goes sideways, and he joins up with Julia, the Cardinal’s adopted daughter and the local blacksmith, Kitta, to finish the journey northward. There they find a rogue priest, Bishop Oakenfort, who wishes to shift the power of the Vatican from Rome to Norway and for him to be in charge. Chaos ensues.

I’d also like to know Wood’s true view on Christianity and about his faith journey, as many of his works portray the Church in a very negative light. While historically accurate in many respects, his bleak and dark views only show the negative side of this era’s conversions, and is not a balanced viewpoint. But I obviously find it fascinating, as I keep on reading his graphic novels.

The artwork was solid, by Garry Brown who did the artwork for Wood’s The Massive series.  His style is rather blocky, which doesn’t always translate for faces, yet his backgrounds are detailed and the Scandinavian landscapes are well drawn.  Dave McCraig does the coloring, as he did for the entire Northlanders series, and effectively guides you through the changing chronology with color changes to signal Magnus’s flashbacks. I read the compilation of the series, which included V1-The Holy North & V2-A Pagan Death.  At the end of the book it included a mock up of the first issue, after which Wood changed direction and re-wrote parts of it, which was interesting to see the evolution of the story.

This Norse saga will appeal to all Northlanders fans, although like I said earlier, it is not a continuation of that series. Magnus The Black is a layered individual with conflicting desires, and this story has the potential to say something fresh about faith and conversion, so while I doubt the series will continue, I’d read more if it does.

-Nancy

Wood, Brain & Garry Brown. Black Road: The Holy North. 2018.

Top 5 Wednesday: Books to Give Realists as Gifts

I’m back with a T5W post, after a very long break from it!  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 creating a recommendations guide for a certain type of person. I am a practical lass, and a bit of a pessimist truth be told, so I am choosing books a realist would like.  For the last year and a half, ever since I discovered Briggs Land, I have been having a reading affair with Brian Wood who takes real and edgy to the extreme.

Continue reading “Top 5 Wednesday: Books to Give Realists as Gifts”

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide

Graciela Iturbide is a famous photographer who was born in Mexico City in 1942. But, she didn’t start out wanting to be one. She wanted to be a writer when she was a girl. However, Graciela was from a wealthy and conservative family, and young girls simply didn’t have careers in the arts. When they grew up, they married, had children, and kept house. Graciela did do that for a time – until her daughter passed away. Then, she turned to the camera and what had before been only a hobby became her life’s work. She travels her home country of Mexico, and abroad to India and the United States, capturing portraits, landscapes, and birds. She looks for symbols, true reality, and death behind her lens. Her work has gone on to receive worldwide recognition and awards… and she’s not done yet.

This is quite an interesting graphic novel. It’s a memoir, a retrospective, a catalog of photographs, and an artist’s biography. Like Iturbide’s photographs, the art is all in black and white. The reason she only photographs black and white is, that’s how she feels reality is captured. Her photographs are a study in value and symbolism. There are a few within the book, and they are marvelous. The artist recreates some in his illustrations, and they are delightfully true to the source material. They are rendered with strong black lines but with gentle washes of grey to give tone.

Iturbide’s work strives toward understanding. Understanding her Mexican culture, the role of women and femininity, the juxtaposition of rural vs. modern life, and much more. Her work is held at many prestigious museums, including the Getty, who published this graphic novel. I hope it is the first of many portraits of modern artists and their work!

– Kathleen

Quintero, Isabel, and Zeke Peña. Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide. 2018.

Book Love

Book love- I know it well. If you too love books, then this is the book for you!

Author Debbie Tung has created a relatable book of strips that details how bookworms feel about their beloved books. Drawn in black and white within a simple four panel format, the comic showcases a woman obsessed with books (I assume she is based on the author herself) and her understanding husband. So many of the strips hit home for me, as I have loved books since childhood. Libraries have always felt like home, so it comes as no surprise that I am a librarian, surrounded by what I love.

The premise of the book is all about book love, so there is no plot or characterization, it is ALL about loving books and sometimes avoiding interacting with people in favor of the books. Each strip can stand alone. At times the strips become a bit one-note, yet that is the basis of the book. As I do all the social media for my library, I hope some of these adorable strips become available for re-print (with author credit, of course!) because posts on book love are always a big hit at my library.

Thank you to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy; I just wish it was being published a few weeks earlier, so people could scoop up copies to give to the book lovers in their life. So, if you are a bibliophile, this book of comics is for you, and will be available in January!

-Nancy

Gotham City Garage (Vol. 1)

Far in the future, The Garden is the only place in America that’s worth living. It’s a safe haven… or is it? Lex Luthor created The Garden, and sure, everyone inside is out of the desert elements, living comfortably, and seemingly happy. Buuut that’s probably due to the little chips he implanted in every citizen’s head, and due to the fact that his chief enforcer is none other than the Bat. When Kara Gordon accidentally brushes with the law, she knows she needs to run or die. She escapes into the “freescape”, the world outside The Garden, the lawless world in the desert. There, she meets a group of women who roam the freescape on motorcycles, kicking Lex Luthor and his Garden where it hurts. They ride or die for each other. Kara fits right in, even as she misses her sister Barbara. Inside The Garden, Barbara tries to uncover the truth about Kara and their father – but she works closely with the Bat, and she needs to watch her every step.

Like Bombshells, this arc started originally as a figurine line that got so popular they decided to make a comic from them! This comic is so cool. I’m a sucker for alternate universe arcs, and I really got a Mad Max vibe from this one. The landscapes are really important here, to either convey the twisted security of The Garden or the hot, vast emptiness of the desert freescape. Just enough of this world is explained to keep you in the loop, but just enough is left out to keep you reading and searching for more clues. Most of all, it’s just good fun with all your favorite heroines ;D

-Kathleen

Kelly, Collin, Jackson Lanzing, Biran Ching, Aneke, and Carmen Carnero. Gotham City Garage (Vol. 1). 2018.

SoulCalibur VI

I posted a while back about the announcement and a few character reveals for SoulCalibur VI, which I was super stoked for! It was the first game I’ve preordered and actually bought for myself in a long, long time. Now that I’ve played through it a bit, I’m coming back for a full review!

SoulCalibur VI takes us back to the stage of history – the original stage of history, as chronologically it takes place before/during the first game. We have the original roster back, plus some characters introduced in later games who make sense for a prequel. Geralt from the Witcher series serves as our guest character. I believe this was done because of the negative reception of SoulCalibur V, which introduced mostly new characters who were the children or protégés of main roster characters. The new characters in SoulCalibur V, especially the protagonists, were written poorly and were very one-dimensional. In addition, the story was rushed and much too short.

Both these issues have been addressed here in SoulCalibur VI!

(Heads up: After that last paragraph I’m going to refer to any SoulCalibur game by their abbreciated SCV, SCVI, etc… it’s just so long to type! X,D)

There are two quite beefy story modes for SCVI. One, called “Libra of Soul”, plays like an RPG. You create a character and play through your own SoulCalibur story, making choices that “weigh” your soul on a set of scales. Your scale can tip towards good or evil depending on the choices you make, and affects the story as you go forward. Pretty standard RPG stuff, but we haven’t seen anything like this in a SC game before, and it’s pretty neat! The most comparable would be the “Chronicles of the Sword” mode from SCIII, but that was more of a strategy mode than an RPG (if I remember right!).

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The “Libra of Soul” map.

The second story mode is “Chronicle of Souls,” which is more of a “traditional” SC story mode. You choose a character and play through their story! It is more beefed up than in the past, and laid out in a big timeline so you can see how your favorite characters’ stories overlap and interact within the bigger picture. It’s a nice quality of life feature that I really enjoy.

One thing I don’t like about the new story modes is the lack of cinematic cutscenes. I’ve so far come across none at all in “Libra of Soul” (at about 6 hours of gameplay) and only two in the few “Chronicle of Soul” stories I’ve played. Many of your interactions are only through text, or voiceovers with subtitles, with character profiles or illustrations, even for very dramatic scenes. After most of SCV‘s story mode was conveyed with what looked like unfinished concept art and voiceover with subtitles, it leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. At least the art used in SCVI is much more polished, which helps. The few cutscenes I’ve seen in both story modes look so good, I can’t help wishing for more.

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A typical dialogue in “Chronicle of Souls” mode, this one between Maxi (left) and Mitsurugi (right).

As far as gameplay goes, it hasn’t changed much. They did add two new features to combat. The first is “Reversal Edge,” in which you hold down R1 (PS4) or RB (XBO) to initiate what is essentially a “Paper, Scissors, Rock” interaction with your opponent. There is a slo-mo moment in combat while you and your opponent choose your attack: Vertical, Horizontal, or Kick. Vertical beats Horizontal, Horizontal beats Kick, and Kick beats Vertical. Guess right, and you deal a bit more damage than normal and look super cool doing it! Guess wrong, and you take a bit more damage than usual. If you’ve played the Injustice games and entered a “Clash,” the mechanics are the same. It’s a way to introduce an element of chance to an otherwise skill-oriented game.

The second new combat feature (they liked doing things in twos this time!) is the “Critical Edge” move. This is a character’s signature super-powerful move. This really isn’t new, as past games have had it, but it is much easier to implement in this game. As you fight, your “Soul Gauge” increases. Once it fills, you press one button to unleash your Critical Edge. In past games, triggering it was a string of button inputs that’s impossible for me to master! I like this game’s execution much better ;D

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A Reversal Edge buildup between Sophitia (left) and Mitsurugi (right).

Visually, the game is stunning. The SoulCalibur series has very real roots in history, but has touches of fantasy that, to me, comes through in the art style. The stages, backgrounds, and characters are life-like but have something of an ethereal quality. No matter the game, each character looks polished and fresh-faced. Each stage looks of this world, and yet not. Maybe from a world like ours, but not our world exactly. This installment in the series is no exception.

I am very much enjoying the game, especially after I was so disappointed with SCV (save the character creation and Ezio from the Assassin’s Creed series being the guest character!). My favorite character, Cassandra, is not part of the roster this time around. I surprised myself by choosing her older sister and series staple Sophitia over Talim, who I feel is my second best character, first time I popped in my disk. I’m decent enough with Sophitia in past games – Cassandra’s fighting style is derivative of Sophitia’s, but much faster, and I prefer speed to heavy hitting – but I don’t really go out of my way to play as Sophitia.

Somehow, for some reason, in SCVI, Sophitia just CLICKED for me. I feel like I finally got over a roadblock that had been previously holding me back. I understand her flow now, and I never could before. I had always thought of her style as “not Cassandra”… when really, Cassandra’s style is “not Sophitia”! It genuinely had never occurred to me that Sophitia’s style was her own until this game. I’m curious now to go back to previous games to see if they changed something with her between SCIV and SCVI, or if I truly do understand her style now. I can’t believe it took my favorite character’s absence to realize it! I am hoping Cassandra comes out as a DLC character, but for now… I’m content with my new favorite, Sophitia ❤

– Kathleen

Bandai Namco. SoulCalibur VI. 2018.

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My girl Sophitia! ❤

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