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Briggs Land

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”

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.

-Nancy

Best Reads of 2017

As we did last year, we went through all the graphic novels we read and reviewed this year to give you a Top 10 list – the best of the best!

RoughneckNancy: Roughneck is a beautifully told standalone tale of a brother and sister’s quest to reconnect with one another and their cultural identity written and illustrated by the talented Jeff Lemire. Lemire handles the storyline of Derek and Beth’s Cree heritage with grace and respect. The reality of native families becoming disenfranchised from their cultural heritage, is mirrored in the excellent book The Outside Circle, which also deals with First Nation individuals whose circles of community were broken which led to fragmenting generations of people with no connection to their tribe anymore. The ending is open to interpretation, and while I at first looked at it one way, re-reading it I saw a more melancholy but poignant way of concluding the story.

 

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Kathleen: A review of this book is upcoming, but last week I read this graphic memoir, Lighter Than My Shadow . The illustrations were all drawn by hand by the author, who suffered from anorexia when she was younger. This is the story of her recovery, and all the difficulties and choices that came with it. I don’t want to spoil my own review (edit-added link!), but suffice it to say for now that the illustrations are among the most beautiful and effective that I’ve seen this year.

 

Nancy: This graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s story, Kindred, was extremely well done. Butler’s original novel, published in 1979, was a ground breaking story that liberally dipped into historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy within a time traveling framework. The author herself called the story “a kind of grim fantasy”, and this adaptation shows just that. This was a heartbreaking story, and through the juxtaposition of Dana’s (the main character) experiences in two different centuries, this fantasy novel actually gives a highly realistic view of the slavery era.

 

 

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Kathleen: Beauty is an adult fairy tale in graphic novel form. It tells the story of Coddie, a fishmonger, who wants nothing more than to be beautiful so she’ll stop being the laughingstock of her small village. When a fairy grants her wish, however, she quickly learns that she can now have whatever she wants – at a steep price. The child-like art belies the serious messages and themes within. The figures are loose and almost caricature-like. The writing is phenomenal, with unconventional characters and fairy tale tropes turned slightly askew. If you like your fairy tales with more of a brothers Grimm than Disney flavor, this is perfect for you.

 

Nancy: Although the Superman: American Alien has Superman in the title, it is really Clark Kent stories. The seven stories are chronological and fill in the gaps in the Superman canon. We start with Clark as a boy learning how to fly, move through his adolescence, and finally settle in his early years in Metropolis. Every story is strong, and fits in seamlessly with what we already know about Superman. I highly recommend this book, for it humanizes Superman. The seven stories are all excellent, and they flow and connect into one another, to form the larger picture of who Clark Kent is and who he will be. A must buy for Superman aficionados!

 

5820769-21Kathleen: Unfortunately, DC Rebirth has been a hit or miss for me, but the one story that I’ve consistently loved is Wonder Woman. Bringing Greg Rucka back to her title was the best decision they could have made! After discovering that she’s been tricked into thinking she could return to Themyscira at will, Diana sets out to discover the truth of herself and who has deceived her once and for all. She is vulnerable and human here, and I’ve cried shamelessly as she struggles to figure out the truth – her own truth, the truth of who she is. Greg Rucka is without a doubt one of the best writers of Wonder Woman. The art is nothing to sneeze at, either, beautifully detailed as it is!

 

Nancy: Vision- Little Worse Than A Man is as far from a superhero story as possible. While grounded in the Marvel universe, with cameos by other Avengers and villains, this book is about our definition of humanity. This quietly ominous story had such power, and felt especially moving to me to read at this time when I worry about our nation’s future. I feel some in our country have embraced a bullying rhetoric, and turn a blind eye to facts and justice for all.

 

 

 

 

91epsqx38slKathleen: The memories of her childhood ice-skating days became the subject of Tillie Walden’s graphic memoir called Spinning. The uncertainty of moving to a new city, starting middle school, and discovering her body and her sexuality make Tillie’s ice-skating routine comforting to her – until she starts questioning that, as well. The art is fantastic: only purples and yellows are used, and yellow quite sparingly, to highlight important parts of the story. Great blocks of deep purple around a single figure illustrate Tillie’s loneliness and uncertainty more than her words could.

 

 

Nancy: Briggs Land is 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. The second volume is scheduled to be released in late January, and I dearly hope it stays as strong as it’s debut volume was.

 

 

gunslinger-rebornKathleen: Like the rebel that I am, I read the graphic novel adaptation of The Dark Tower series titled The Gunslinger Born before I started the books. But let me tell you, it left me desperate for more and started my new-found obsession. The young Roland sets out with his two best friends to Mejis, where they are sent by their fathers to stay out of trouble. What they find in that sleepy little town is a conspiracy loyal to the Crimson King – and Roland’s true love, Susan, who may doom them all. I can’t say enough about the art in this book. I was in love with the stark contrasts and the way the figure’s faces were usually in shadow, leaving the reader to guess at their true intents. If the seven book series scares you, try reading the graphic novel first and seeing how fast you devour the books after that 😉

And there you’ve got your must-reads of 2017! We spanned several genres and publishers, and each of us had a DC and Marvel choice. Surprisingly Image didn’t make the cut. Here’s hoping 2018 brings us many more excellent graphic novels… we don’t think they made it hard enough for us to choose ;D

– Nancy and Kathleen

Hype or Like Friday: Books Set in a Small Town

As I live in a fairly small town, I decided to try this writing prompt from a Goodreads group that I belong to. This group was created by Jillian, Larkin and Britt who are book bloggers that want to share their opinions about overly hyped books.

 

This book ripped my heart out and stomped on it, yet I adored it. Senior year is starting for three high school misfit friends: Dill, Travis and Lydia. All three have different reasons for not fitting in with their rural Bible Belt Tennessee town, but their tight friendship buffers a lot of the ugliness surrounding them. Dill’s Pentecostal snake-handling preacher father is now behind bars for child pornography, leaving him and his mother deep in debt and shame. Travis deals with an abusive father whose shames him for being gentle and loving fantasy novels, while Lydia has caring parents but her edgy fashion blog alienates her high school peers. As Lydia prepares for a future in NYC after graduation, Dill and Travis have less prospects and worry about how their lives will change, especially Dill who secretly is in love with Lydia and dreads the future. A gut-wrenching incident affects one of the three, forever changing their dynamic. After it occurred, I was shocked. I had to put the book down for awhile and process what just happened. How the other two, and their family members cope (I ached for two of the mothers) bring the book to a poignant and hopeful conclusion. One drawback though was the portrayal of the Christians in the community. They were shown to be intolerant and judgmental, and a more balanced representation would have been welcome. But…overall, this was a brilliant book, that showed readers that they shouldn’t accept diminished dreams, they should strive to be the best they can.

All of Kent Haruf’s novels take place in fictional Holt, Colorado. Haruf is known for his plainspokeness and his beautiful but sparse writing style. His books are so true to life, and will make you feel like you have know these Holt residents for years. They are loosely chronological and have some recurring characters that move in and out of the books.  My Goodreads reviews:

The Tie That Binds   

  Where You Once Belonged         

Plainsong         Eventide

Benediction           Our Souls At Night

 

Briggs Land is 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.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I bring up these two final books often. Revival was a favorite of mine from the beginning. Inexplicably, twenty three people come back to life in rural small town Wisconsin. The “Revivers” are not your typical zombies looking for braaaiins. Instead they quietly rejoin their former lives, not even realizing or remembering their deaths. Their new existence sets the town on edge, with media scrutiny, a government quarantine and religious fanatics taking over the region. The series is being developed into a movie through Shatterglass Films.

One of the best graphic novels I have ever read, Locke & Key starts with a family tragedy as the Locke family is terrorized by two students who have an ax to grind with the father, Rendell, who is a high school guidance counselor.  After the father’s murder, the shattered family leaves California and heads to Massachusetts to start over at the Locke family estate, where Rendell’s younger brother Duncan provides them sanctuary. But alas, more evil awaits them there. This supernatural thriller set in a small coastal town is a winner and is being developed for a series on Hulu.

 

Living in a small town has it’s rewards, and all these novels give realistic representations of the joys and frustrations of knowing most everyone in town.

-Nancy

Mid-Year Freak Out Tag

I saw this recently and thought this would be a perfect mid-year review. I had fun going through my Goodreads data, and bonus, it highlights the other genres I read. My Goodreads challenge is 100 books, and I am currently at 59, so I am ahead of the game!

Best book you read in 2017 so far

Superman: American Alien was fresh and fun and exactly what I needed. It had seven short stories about what shaped Clark Kent into Superman, and was arranged chronologically from his childhood until his days in Metropolis. The stories fit right into Superman canon, and the different artists paired with author Max Landis made for a superb must read.

Best sequel you’ve read so far 

The conclusion to Revival had a poignant ending to the complete series, and felt true to the beginning. That I had a cameo in the last issue was an added bonus! Yes, I will find any excuse in the world to bring up again that I won a contest to be drawn into the series!

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

This is a tiny bit of a cheat, as the third volume of ElfQuest: The Final Quest is released on July 11th, but I will purchase it soon afterwards. (BTW- The pec definition on the male elves is going a bit overboard)

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

I am eagerly looking forward to Rainbow Rowell penning Runaways for Marvel! I thought the original had a great story line, so I think RR and Kris Anka working together will be gold.

Biggest disappointment

Civil War II– I feel like I have mentioned my disappointment in this book over and over again. I’m not even going to link the review- take my word for it.

Biggest surprise

Briggs Land by was recommended to me by Graham Crackers, my comic book store, and I was leery about reading about a rural armed white supremacy group- but it was very nuanced and timely to today’s political climate.

Favourite new author (Debut or new to you)

Jeff Zentner of The Serpent King. This book ripped my heart out, yet I adored it. I will definitely be reading what ever he writes next!

Newest fictional crush

I read a lot of graphic novels and YA books- and neither give me good options for a character that is crush worthy as I am a grown woman.

Newest favourite character

Botille from The Passion of Dolssa. Historical fiction at it’s finest! Set in 1241 in the countryside of Provensa France, after the bloody Crusades when religious fervor was still strong, the story details the unlikely friendship between Dolssa and Botille. Botille is a practical and loving peasant girl, whose act of kindness affects the whole town. I would want to be friends with her in real life.

Book that made you happy

The photography book Abandoned America:Dismantling the Dream  by Matthew Christopher made me happy. Why does looking at pictures of decaying and rotting building make me happy? I don’t know what that says about me, but I have followed this photographer and his website for years, and I like that he is achieving success for his passion. I enjoy learning about history and ponder modern society’s relationship with our past, and this book brings those thoughts to life.

Book that made you sad

Our Souls At Night by Kent Huruf was a beautifully melancholy novel, both in subject matter and in knowing this was Kent Haruf’s last novel. I have loved his Holt, Colorado set books, and will miss visiting the fictional town and feeling as if his townspeople are indeed real.

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a lovely book that is atypical in layout. It chronicles the scifi adventures of a group of people escaping from their planet that is under attack. Told through emails, schematics, military files, instant messages, medical reports and interviews- the graphics make for a fun read.

So there you have it- my mid year review! I could tag people, but as I wasn’t tagged myself and choose to do this, you can too!

-Nancy

Briggs Land: State of Grace

Briggs Land is 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.

Patriarch Jim Briggs, who is currently serving a life sentence for attempting to assassinate the president, has been leading the sect and still making orders with the assistance of his wife Grace, who visits him weekly in jail. Dismayed by his corruption, Grace decides to make a power play for leadership in the community, despite her three adult sons being valid potential leaders themselves.  Eldest son Caleb is a businessman and white extremist who feels he is being passed over, Noah is the muscle of the family with a reckless intensity and Isaac is the recently returned soldier who may prove to be a wild card.

Grace proves to be a worthy adversary in this patriarchal society, and literally survives a power coup by those that resent a woman taking the lead of Briggs Land. She has a steely resolve, but shows a love for her family and compassion for those in need. However, although she seems to want to rehabilitate the compound and honor the original intent of this secessionist group, she is also willing to manipulate others, including the FBI agents that are investigating the family. Don’t assume anything about Grace.

The artwork by Mack Chater is spot on for the gritty story and establishes the atmosphere of a trashy military compound. Sketchy with an earth toned color palette, the layout reminds me of storyboards, which is apropos as the series is being developed for TV on the AMC network. The Briggs family and the village as a whole are drawn realistically, with varied looks for these armed right wingers.  The only misstep is an oddly colored front cover to the graphic novel in which Grace is colored in blue with other family members in red. Lately I’ve seen the cover for the first issue used more often (picture with this post) which is more appropriate for the mood and frankly, just more attractive.

The world building in this story is superb, with this thinly fictionalized narrative being quite plausible in our current polarized world. There was also a short one-shot story in the back of the Avatar issue from Free Comic Book Day which adds another real world issue of meth dealership to the compound. Both stories make me anxious to find out what Grace and her complex family’s next moves will be in this fascinating crime saga.  Highly recommended!

-Nancy

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