Graphic Novelty²

Briggs Land: Lone Wolves

“Secure the perimeter. Protect the land. Preserve the family.”

When I first read Briggs Land (V1) I said it was an absolutely riveting new series about “an American family under siege” by both the government and their own hand. Set in rural upstate New York, Briggs Land is a hundred square mile oasis for people who want to live off the grid. Established in the Civil War era, the Briggs family would give sanctuary to those who wanted to live a simple life, but this anti-government colony has taken a dark turn in recent times. The village that grew within it’s fences has morphed into a breeding ground for white supremacy, domestic terrorism and money laundering. So, would the second volume deliver following such a strong start? I’m glad to report- yes!

In this second volume an unsuspecting couple wander too far while hiking and inadvertently wander onto Briggs land from the southern border of Canada. They run into Grace’s youngest  son, Issac, a former soldier who panics that the couple will tell authorities that he is hiding out. While he doesn’t harm them, he locks them in a cabin and then consults with his mother and brothers Caleb and Noah on what to do.

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My husband and I hike a lot, so I couldn’t help but imagine us accidentally trespassing on someone’s land!

When the local media start to  piece together the missing hikers with the Briggs family, law enforcement jump at the chance to surround the compound and lay siege to the armed community. As we learned in the first volume, don’t underestimate Grace. She has an effective plan for dealing with the law and the locked up hikers.

In the midst of all this jailed patriarch Jim Briggs, furious that he has been supplanted by his wife as leader, plots revenge. He still has strong ties and allegiances within the village, and plans a way to hurt Grace and regain power. But we are given a poignant flashback as to how Jim had callously used his son Noah as a cover when he attempted to assassinate the president twenty years ago, and we see why Grace’s sons and many in the community have sided with her. We also get some additional plot threads about Grace’s daughters-in-law. We learn some of the reasons they joined the family and discover their mettle in dealing with authorities and outsiders.

Several illustrators are credited with the art, and as such, sometimes the style can change significantly from one chapter to another. This is somewhat distracting,  but the earth toned color palette throughout gives it enough consistency. I loved the guest artists that did the variant art and enjoyed their interpretations of the characters. I’ve read enough graphic novels by now, that often at first glance I can recognize an artist’s style and know who drew it before I even see their credit.

This series is a perfect read in our current polarized world, with all the outcry about guns and the NRA. While I am a strong proponent of gun control, I can still enjoy this nuanced view of a militaristic family and the morally grey area in which they lead their lives.


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Wood, Brain, Mack Chater & Lee Loughridge. Briggs Land: Lone Wolves. 2018.

SoulCalibur VI: Announcement and First Character Reveals

One of the premier fighting game series is coming out with a new title this year: SoulCalibur! I was surprised to hear of a new game, as it’s been 5 years since the release of SoulCalibur V. And let’s just say… SCV, with Ezio Auditore as the guest character, was what got me into Assassin’s Creed. That’s about the only good thing I can say about it. Check out the announcement trailer and the latest character reveal trailer for Zasalamel:

So far, series staples such as Sophitia, Nightmare, Mitsurugi, Kilik, Xianguha, and Ivy have been confirmed. Zasalamel, introduced in SCIII and somehow missing from V (he’s immortal… where’d he go?) is a pleasant addition as well. This new character, Grøh, looks promising! It seems like they’re pulling back on the new characters after V, where the roster consisted of mainly new characters (most were descendants or trainees of series regulars) due to a 17 year time skip in the story. I think this may be because of the negative fan reaction to a lot of the new characters. As one of those fans, I think it’s a very good move!

Man, seeing all this news and watching the trailers made me so nostalgic for the rest of the series… SoulCalibur II for the PS2 was the first video game I ever bought with my own money, way back in middle school. I’ve been into SoulCalibur since I’ve been into video games. I’m not as big into it now as I used to be, but I have been revisiting the old games. It feels like coming back to an old, beloved friend after a long separation. Seeing these characters back in action leaves me with high hopes for SCVI

– Kathleen

P.S. One thing, though… where’s my girl Cassandra??? FIX IT NAMCO

My girl Cassandra in my favorite outfit – SCII Player 2 ❤

Green Arrow (Return, Vol. 2): Sounds of Violence

Things seem to be looking up for Ollie – which is good, ‘cuz you kinda need a break after returning from the dead. Both his biological son Connor and his ward Mia are living with him. Connor and Ollie make a great team, but Mia is looking to make the duo a trio. Ollie even has a date with Dinah, the first since he’s been gone. She doesn’t see it that way, though. Small setback, but no big deal, right? Then Connor is attacked by a villain who’s been taking out new heroes and speaks only to say words that are also noises. Okay, maybe things aren’t going so great after all…

This volume was a little shorter than the last one, but it’s so fast-paced you might not even notice. Ollie is still finding his feet after getting back, but he really hit the ground running! Multiple threads going on at once pull the story along nicely. The identity of this villain wasn’t resolved here, but I’m sure it will be resolved in a later volume. Most interesting to me is the question of whether Mia will become part of Team Arrow or not ;D

Hester’s art is still appealing to me, because of the clean lines and blocked-in shading. However, in this volume I found that a lot of facial expressions looked the same even when expressing different emotions. Something about the way he draws eyebrows leaves everyone looking a little too serious or angry. There was also a sequence where Dinah fights naked which I found tasteless. I was a little shocked after there was nothing similar in the last volume, and I do hope it’s the last. Tentatively looking forward to the next volume.

– Kathleen

Smith, Kevin, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks. Green Arrow (Revival, Vol. 2): Sounds of Violence. 2003.

Star Trek Discovery: Season One

Star Trek Discovery has been quite a ride!

I had been anticipating this new series for over a year, but with several production delays, it did not premiere until September 2017. I eagerly watched the first three episodes and felt it was intriguing, although I had some major issues with the feel of it considering it is a prequel to TOS. I basically was having a hard time with suspension of disbelief that all the changes fit in with established canon. I then took an extended break from the show, as I was in my last semester of grad school and had to concentrate on my portfolio and final projects. It wasn’t until after Christmas that I binge watched all the episodes I had missed.

Watching the episodes in a cluster really changed my viewing experience for the better. All of a sudden I was immersed in the Star Trek universe and looked at it as a whole instead of dissecting the parts like I have tended to do in the past. With all of it swirling in my head, I was able to watch the final episodes as they were released and came away pleased with the series.

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I read an interesting article “The Fascinating Ways Star Wars and Star Trek Are Challenging Their Own Franchises”  which compares the new directions that both Star Wars and Discovery have chosen to take with their leads. I found I have some personal contractions in how I feel about these new antiheroes- for I was aghast at Luke’s portrayal in the recent The Last Jedi but was okay with how Captain Lorca of the U.S.S. Discovery was a warhawk and quite arrogant.

Discovery also changed up the pacing of the series with a prequel to a prequel in the first few episodes, with the series first starting on the U.S.S. Shenzhou and for it’s lead character not being a captain. The odd pacing also included what seemed to be a season ending arc concluding a few episodes shy of the finale, with the last two episodes taking a sudden u-turn that seemed to aim towards story lines that might align with TOS.

I think what has tipped the scales for me is the characters. I like them! They are diverse in the very best way. Michael Burnham is an appealing lead, whom I predict will eventually become a captain and be the one that will be included in captain montages with the other Star Trek series leads.  Commander Saru is a unique alien that has captained ably, but I worry that his quiet fortitude will be overshadowed by more dramatic staff. Crusty Lt. Stamets and his husband Dr. Culber are a perfect example of showing a loving relationship and Ash Tyler showed male vulnerability (before his huge secret was revealed). Sure, I liked Captains Lorca and Georgiou, but it is the regular crew that has elevated the show for me.

And Tilly- I shall devote a whole paragraph to her! I love her! She is me! 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 her Mirror Universe counterpart was Captain Killy (she was bad-ass there!) I was thrilled. More Tilly please!

As proof of how much I like the show, when I saw the picture below- I teared up in happiness. Included are additional bridge members (the two on the left and the three in the back row on the right) who haven’t had much development yet, but have so much potential! The picture makes me hopeful that the episodes won’t always concentrate on the leads, and that lesser known ship crew can get their due. They deserve a #DiscoParty!

Was the series perfect? Hell no! I have come to think of it as not quite Star Trek, for it is a grittier and less idealistic show than I have come to expect. Instead, it is sci-fi adventure show that pays lip service to the series, and I suspend logic (Spock!) for the sake of enjoyment. It is quite rare for me to do, but my tendency to make mountains out of molehills would only do me a disservice and I would miss out on this flawed but captivating new series.

I look forward to season two! In the meantime- live long and prosper!


Bingo Love

Bingo Love is a sweet and heartwarming story about a love story between two women than spans over 60 years.

The story begins in 1963 at a bingo hall, as two thirteen years olds are introduced to one another by their grandmothers. Told from the perspective of Hazel Johnson, a pretty and plump teen, she is immediately attracted to the cool California transplant Mari McCray.

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The two girls become inseparable best friends throughout middle and high school, but Hazel (also known as Elle) keeps her feelings to herself. Only when their closeness is looked upon with suspicion from their family, does Hazel first kiss Mari, and finds out the feeling is mutual. Spotted by Mari’s grandmother, the girls are shamed and quickly separated, with each girl being forced into early marriages to save face.

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48 years go by from their separation, and we are given a quick montage of Hazel’s life over the years with her husband James, a veteran of the Vietnam War, and their three children and families. Although Hazel has a deep affection for her husband, and adores her children, the marriage is empty of real love. When Hazel and her daughter and two daughters-in-law head out to their annual Mother’s Day bingo game when across the church hall, Hazel sees Mari for the first time in close to fifty years. Mari spontaneously kisses her in front of everyone, and Hazel’s quiet life is upended.

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Mari and Hazel reconnect and we find out Mari is a lawyer and still married herself with five children, but is willing to divorce her husband immediately for Hazel. While Hazel’s feelings are still as strong as ever for Mari, she is unsure about making such a radical change herself. She eventually does tell James, and we learn there are additional secrets in their marriage, and their lack of sexual life comes into focus as to why.

The conclusion of the story does have Hazel and Mari marrying and their children to coming to terms with their mothers’ new relationship. The two women have several happy years together, but old age is harsh for Mari and their time together is eventually cut short. This bittersweet but realistic ending was poignant, but the last page will make your heart happy.

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The artwork is a joy. It is bright and colorful, and gives a wide representation of skin tones and body types in the black community. I admired the outfits the two women wore through the years, and the backgrounds that included the homes and larger communities were fun to look at.

While I truly enjoyed this story and think it is perfect companion piece to Love is Love (in fact author Tee Franklin contributed a story to the anthology), there are a few missteps in this story. At only 92 pages, it felt unnecessarily rushed in spots, and could have been longer. I believe that their teenage friendship (all we were given was a two page spread) could have been expanded, in addition to Hazel’s later family life. Plus by choosing to center exclusively on Hazel, we had no insight to Mari’s life which left a huge void in the narrative. Hazel experienced almost no fall out from her reveal to her husband, and used terms that a grandmother would not say to explain her coming out. The secret that James referred to (we all can guess what it was at that point) felt like an easy way out of the marriage, and sucked the gravitas out of a story that tried to be realistic as to what women of that era endured.

I was pleased to be able to obtain a digital copy of this graphic novel from Edelweiss for an honest review. Despite my few criticisms of the book, I still believe it is a solid book and want to pick up a print copy and add it to my library’s collection. The diversity shown in the story is much needed and deserves much praise. More books like this please!


Voices in the Dark

Hermann Karnau is a sound engineer for the Third Reich. It’s his job to set up the microphones for speeches. He also has an unquenchable obsession with recording all sounds imaginable. Sounds of human origin, of natural origin, of machine origin – he wants to record it all, and is blind to most everything else. He keeps records of these sounds in his apartment, dissects animal heads to study the auditory organs and places in the brain, and takes a portable tape recorder to the front lines to record the sounds of war. His work also takes him into the home of Joseph Goebbels, where he meets an unexpected friend. Helga is the oldest daughter: vivacious, curious, and just beginning to wake up to the world around her… both beautiful and terrible. Will their friendship be a bright spot in an increasingly dark world, or will the darkness swallow it as well?

I have to confess this one was too disturbing for me to finish. I usually avoid reading material set in WWII, but wanted to try pushing my boundaries a bit as per my 2018 reading resolutions. However, I did get about halfway through before skipping to the end, which I’m counting as a win. Hopefully I finish the next one I try!

This graphic novel is based on a novel of the same name by Marcel Beyer, and you can tell by the format. It’s a lot more text-heavy than your usual graphic novel. A lot of that has to do too, I think, with the fact that it deals so heavily with sound. Onomatopoeia abound: from the sighs and huffs of people in conversation to pitter patter of rain and chirping of birds to the staccato reports of gunfire, there is hardly a panel without a sound in it. Many graphic novels have such indications of sound, but it’s so absolutely central to the story here that sound itself becomes a character.

The art is very good. The figures are stylized, almost childlike. It appears to be drawn and colored in marker. The colors are mostly muted grays, but color is used in sequences of Helga’s childhood, Hermann’s epiphanies, and in tense moments. Usually one color is used by itself – for example, one sequence may be all in pink, with values indicated in lighter or darker shades of the same pink. Two or more colors are used sparingly, but to great effect as it befits the story.

The story itself is chilling. It starts out with Hermann being quite impersonal and detached to all around him but his work. At the end, it’s clear he’s changed. There are changes within Helga and her family, as well. Both their stories show the spectrum of apathy to awakening within trying times. A haunting read for those who can stomach it.

– Kathleen

Lust, Ulli, and Marcel Beyer. Voices in the Dark. 2017.

Speak: The Graphic Novel

The 1999 YA novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was a poignant, uncomfortable but terribly necessary novel about a teen-aged girl surviving rape.  It is on many school reading lists, but also has been banned by some school districts for it’s mature content. In fact I had a long conversation with a conservative friend about the book, when our children read it during middle school for an English class, and whether parents and students should have the choice to opt out of reading it.

This graphic novel adaptation recently came out and was penned by the author and illustrated by Emily Carroll, best known for her eerie graphic short story collection Through the Woods. Carroll was an excellent choice, as her inky black, white and gray panels perfectly captures Melinda’s depression and internal struggle. Her depiction of realistic looking teens gives it a timelessness, so that you don’t even notice that no one has a cell phone, as it is based in the time frame it was originally written in.

As Melinda begins high school she knows she is an outcast, as most of the school knows she is the one who called the police to bust a drinking party a few weeks prior. Her former best friend Rachel won’t  associate with her and other students jeer at and bully her. Her only friend is Heather, a new student, who doesn’t know her past. Melinda’s depression is quickly established and the ongoing closeups of her bitten bloody lips that signify her anxiety establish Melinda’s descent. Her parents’s marriage struggles blind them to their daughter’s muteness and retreat from society. It is only much later in the book that we discover the real reason for Melinda’s struggles- her rape by a popular senior at the summer party. I do not feel I am spoiling anything by saying Melinda was assaulted, for I feel most readers picking this book up are aware of the novel’s subject matter.

The narrative covers a school year, and in the end Melinda grows stronger and has some hard-won redemption. This adaptation, at 372 pages long, compared to the 198 pages of the chapter book, still had me at the edge of my seat during the scary confrontation between her and her rapist at the conclusion. I truly was impressed that this version is as strong as Anderson’s first book, and perhaps even more so, as Carroll’s illustrations aptly depict this difficult subject matter and Melinda’s journey towards recovery.

As to my earlier conversation with my friend about the subject matter, I voiced that I felt it was too important a topic to ignore, and students should read it. I stand by that opinion and would recommend it to teen readers who all should be educated as to the horrors and fall-out of sexual assault.


Anderson, Laurie Halse & Emily Carroll. Speak. Text 1999 & Pictures 2018.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you! Hope you’re all having great dates ;D

This past weekend, as those of you also residing in the Midwest know, was a nightmare! All the snow we got on Friday made my work close, which was awesome, but left me at home shoveling and throwing snowballs for the dogs. It also almost left me without a Valentine’s day date – it was doubtful my fiancé would be able to come visit, but he managed to on Saturday after the weather blew out. We spent that afternoon out and about playing PoGo and it was the best time we’ve had together in a while. Sunday, though, we stayed in, baked, and watched this movie we didn’t get to catch in theaters.

Professor William Moulton Marston is being interviewed by the Child Study Association of America about the moral integrity of his creation: the comic called Wonder Woman. As he defends the themes and images in his work, he also reveals his life story and the inspiration behind the character. In 1928, Bill and his wife, Elizabeth Marston, are teaching at Harvard University and developing the lie detector test. Olive Byrne, daughter of Ethyl Byrne and niece of Margaret Sanger, becomes their teaching assistant and helps them develop the test. The three become close, and it’s soon clear that their feelings for one another go deeper than any of them expected them to. Once their relationship is revealed, the Marstons are fired from Harvard. Adding to their struggles is Olive’s pregnancy. How can the three possibly rebuild their lives after their scandal, let alone build a family together?

I’ve read The Secret History of Wonder Woman by Jill Lepore, so I knew already about the man behind Wonder Woman and his family. I would say a good bit of the film was built from speculation because, due to the taboo behind polyamory and discussing sexuality at the time, there probably wasn’t a lot of primary sources from the subjects of the film to draw from. Still, the story is crafted well, and I was able to suspend my disbelief easily enough to enjoy it.

One of the things that surprised me the most was the emphasis on Elizabeth and Olive’s relationship rather than either of the women with Bill himself. Though he is part of the title and one of the main characters, Professor Marston was almost a secondary character in his own film. Thinking back now, it seems as though we the spectators were watching the film unfold mostly through Bill’s eyes. Many of the scenes place him in the background, with Elizabeth and Olive in the spotlight. Sometimes we see them from far back, as if we were Bill watching from the corner of the room. We are spectators too, but we are also Bill the spectator, watching these two powerhouse women fall in love with each other. I certainly hope it opens the door to more romance movies with same-sex or polyamorous couples in the future!

To the eye, every detail was perfect. The costumes and sets were fantastic. To both casual fans and diehard Wonder Woman fans, there are tons of cameos to pick out. The soundtrack was also very good, especially in the romance sequences.

It was an enjoyable film. There is a greater emphasis on the women who inspired Wonder Woman than on the creator himself, which opened the door to a romance film between two women. If Diana wouldn’t be proud of that, I don’t know who would be! It’s crafted well, from the costumes to the music. For reading with your viewing, I recommend either The Secret History of Wonder Woman or Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine by Tim Hanley to learn more about Bill, Elizabeth, and Olive, and how their dynamic shaped Wonder Woman!

– Kathleen

Robinson, Angela. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. 2017.

Batgirl: The Bronze Age Omnibus (Vol. 1)

I mentioned in my review of Batgirl: A Celebration of 50 Years that I really enjoyed all the stories from the older comics contained within. I thought they were awesome! Luckily, this Bronze Age omnibus fell into a graphic novel order I submitted at one of my libraries so I could read more of them ;D

Barbara Gordon, daughter of police commissioner Jim Gordon, is the head librarian at the Gotham City Public Library. A plain Jane, so to speak. Who just so happens to be a judo expert and possesses a photographic memory. She designs a Batgirl costume for a masked ball the police department is throwing. En route, she stumbles across a crime-in-progress: Killer Moth accosting Bruce Wayne on his way to the ball! Without a second thought, Batgirl springs into action to save him. When Batman shows up to save the day, he is shocked and surprised! Who is this woman who styles herself after him to fight crime as he does? Will she be an asset or a liability to the Dynamic Duo’s crusade against crime?

The stories within are all Barbara Gordon Batgirl comics starting with her debut in 1967 and going all the way to 1977. I am totally in love with early Barbara Gordon. She was a librarian instead of a computer whiz – not that there’s anything wrong with being a computer genius, but the fact that she was originally a librarian is near and dear to my heart. Time and time again throughout these stories, we see her using her awesome librarian skills to deduce patterns in crimes and uncover clues. I just love that!!! It gives me hope that I can, one day, be as badass as Barbara Gordon.

Another thing I really loved was Batman and Robin’s quick acceptance of Batgirl as an ally. Sure, within the first few issues they are very vocal about their doubts. But Barbara proves herself time and time again, with her physical and mental prowess. She never lets it get to her, she just keeps proving them wrong until they come to the (obviously right) conclusion that she’s there to help, and she’s there to stay.

One thing that was surprising was how quickly she was given her own comic. Within the first few issues, we see Barbara on her own, with only guest appearances by Batman and Robin. It really speaks a lot to the popularity of Bab’s character, her self-assuredness, to be given a break from the hero she stylized herself after so early after her initial appearance.

These older comics are much different in format than newer ones, which is probably why I like them so much. There are narration panels which bring you up to speed and give context for some scenes. The art is focused more on the action and the characters than their surroundings. And, of course, bad puns and alliteration abound =P They are charming and I genuinely enjoy them. I hope to enjoy many more of these in the future!

Do you guys enjoy older comics too? Or am I alone in my fascination???

– Kathleen

Various. Batgirl: The Bronze Age Omnibus (Vol. 1). 2017.

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