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Eisner Award

Kingdom Come

Kingdom Come
Waid, Mark & Alex Ross. Kingdom Come. 1996.

When IGN declared this story “One of the greatest comic book stories of all time” they were not far off the mark.

After I read Red Son and enjoyed it so much, this book was recommended to me by the manager at Graham Crackers, and he was spot on- I loved this book. The moralistic debate storyline and the artwork are top-notch, and holds up 20 years after first being published. The Eisner Awards that were given to Alex Ross were well deserved.

Set in the near future, the iconic superheroes have retired, giving rise to a new type of “hero,” some of whom are children of the original heroes, many of whom are selfish and are out only for themselves. They do not care for the destruction that occurs when they fight among themselves (Marvel’s Civil War seems to borrow from this plot point in the beginning of their book) as they are lacking personal responsibility.  We are introduced to Norman McCay, a pastor who is the story’s POV narrator and is shepherded around by The Spectre, The Agent of God’s Wrath. The two are privy to events, as an impending apocalyptic event looms.

Superman is in seclusion, after the death of his wife Lois Lane, but Wonder Woman visits him to ask that he reenter society to help ward off further catastrophic events, after a huge swath of America is ruined after two warring superhumans fight. The two reform the Justice League, with many heroes such as The Green Lantern, The Flash, Power Woman, and Red Robin joining them in solidarity. Superman approaches Batman, but is angrily rejected by him. Many other of the superhumans refuse to join with Superman so he reluctantly sends them to prison, nicknamed The Gulag, to reeducate them. Although the Justice League tries their best to help the world, their methods are not entirely successful and suspicions and resentment build in different factions.

Lex Luthor and his evil cohorts band together to form the Mankind Liberation Front, in which humans would regain control, just for Lex to control them in turn. Batman aligns with this group, along with a motley group of second-generation superhumans. Lex’s secret weapon, Captain Marvel, comes out of hiding with his alter ego, Billy Batson, completely brainwashed by Lex. The group stirs dissent in the public, and when disaster looms in the too full Gulag, the true intentions of Batman come to light.

Wonder Woman, who has been pushing for a more militant stance due to her Amazonian heritage, leads the Justice League to the prison to quell the riot. As the rioters emerge, an epic battle ensues. Captain Marvel appears and seems to be outfighting Superman. Can Superman appeal to him, and what will happen among the fighting factions?

The relationships between The Holy Trinity of the DC heroes- Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman- are perfect. Although I have not seen the newest Batman Vs. Superman movie, I am aware that there was criticism about how the guiding principals of the two heroes were changed.  This book stays true to each character’s back story, so kudos to Mark Waid for his familiarity with the history of all the superheroes!  As such, the Epilogue was a perfect ending. After my frustration with how clueless Superman was in Red Son about Wonder Woman, I thought this book ended the story in a wonderful way. The three heroes will remain united.

The artwork is photorealism in style and painted in gouache. This opaque watercolor dries to a matte finish so combining the painting, drawing and other graphic media such as Photoshop produced a unique look. I thought throughout the book that some of the heroes and public looked so realistic that models must have been used, and in the Apocrypha section, my suspicions were confirmed, with a list of who the artist based his drawing off, with the bystander, Norman McCay based off Ross’s own father. The heroes were all aged realistically, and not caricatures of themselves; the greying, lines and weight added was naturalistic. The layout was fun, with splash pages and varied spread panels utilized. Ross’s original idea for this story and his artistry are what made this novel superb.

I so needed a cheat sheet to help me with the many, many characters. As I am not typically a DC fan, I was not familiar with many of the supporting, second-generation superheroes. This Wikipedia page helped me sort out everybody and how they were connected to one another. Sometimes clues in the panels helped me figure out connections, but for example, this site cleared up some confusion to me in regards to three family relationships of Batman. An added bonus in identification was at the end of the book there were several pages that identified every character with a picture and a brief description.

Final asides: When this graphic novel was published, Shazam was still called Captain Marvel, but due to there being a Captain Marvel in the Marvel universe this hero is now known only as Shazam to avoid misunderstandings and lawsuits, with the name officially changing in the New 52 run. I felt the meeting between Orion and Superman didn’t fit in with the narrative (it was not included in the first issue). If Diana is ageless why did her fellow Amazonian sister Donna Troy age? Speaking of Donna, loved the pic of her and Diana reuniting on page 77. In fact I thought Diana looked like Lynda Carter in that panel and Green Lantern/Jade looked like Linda Hamilton of Terminator fame. I shipped on Green Arrow and Black Canary, now mature with a daughter. I’m sure I’ll think up more things, and type in a few edits later 😉

I feel I have not done justice to this book, it demands a second & third read through with more time spent examining the pictures. I am very glad I dipped into DC books with this & Red Son!

-Nancy

Kingdom_Come_Vol_1_3_Textless

 

Locke & Key: Welcome To Lovecraft

Locke & Key is truly one of the best graphic novels I have ever read, hands down.  It just dominates. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez are superb storytellers, and this first novel makes me anxious to read the rest of the horror series. Who cares that I have family, work and school commitments? Lovecraft is calling me. *Warning- some spoilers ahead!*

The story 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. This book is not for the young, as adult themes of sexual assault and extreme violence are implied or shown. 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.

Nina, the mother, shows extreme strength (although she drinks too much) in trying to keep it together for her children Tyler, Kinsey and Bode. Bode, at six years old, copes differently than his high school siblings who carry guilt and shame for their actions before and during the attack. The grieving family settles into their new home and explore the extensive grounds near the ocean. Bode, curious to a fault, is the one who discovers the secret in the locked-up well house. Who is calling to him from the well, and what do they want? So while the family believes they escaped from the monsters from their past, one is still following them intent on creating more havoc, and a new mysterious enemy is closer than they know.

Rodriguez’s artwork is what makes the novel so amazing. The illustrations are lush and detailed, and he makes each new character individual and unique. He captures emotions perfectly and makes Sam, one of the disturbed killers, eerie and believable. The supernatural aspects of the story with Dodge, the mystical being in the well, were appropriately creepy and drawn meticulously, and often you can find little clues hidden in the pictures if you examine them carefully.  The layout of the pages varies and is easy to follow, and no matter if it is a small panel or full page, each drawing contributes to advancing the story.

As the first in a six-part series (edit- volumes 2-6 reviewed here) the storyline is set up to explore threads that are introduced and hinted at to make you eager to continue reading. Joe Hill, aka Stephen King’s son, won an Eisner Award for Best Writing in 2011 for this series and it is well deserved. Hill also writes novels, but this story is better told in graphic form,  so his collaboration with Rodriguez was well worth the effort. I will definitely be buying this six-volume set for the graphic novel collection at my library, and I look forward to seeing other people enjoy this book as much as I have!

-Nancy

LockeKey2
Hill, Joe & Gabriel Rodriguez. Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft. 2008.

2016 Eisner Award Nominees

Eisner logo

 

The 2016 Eisner Award nominees have been announced! The list is substantial with many different categories, and includes many worthy writers and artists.

The category that I will comment on is the “Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)”, as I am a teen librarian, and am familiar with five of the six nominees. The books are:

Awkward, by Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press)

The author has illustrated manga novels in the past, and the illustrations for this story are obviously manga inspired. Awesome story about middle schoolers and the anxiety of fitting in and later acceptance they find in peer groups. Definitely worth the award nomination.

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, by Don Brown (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Non-fiction novel that shows youth who were born after this catastrophe, how “a weather disaster became a race disaster” in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Totally deserves this nomination.

March: Book Two, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf/IDW)

This sequel continues to show an accurate representation of what many African Americans faced during the Civil Rights era, told from the perspective of John Lewis, a Congressman, who fought for equality and continues to do so. Another worthy non-fiction nominee in displaying a part of our recent history that youth should be familiar with.

Moose, by Max de Radiguès (Conundrum)

I am not familiar with this book, as it is  translated from French and won’t be available in the US until next month. The description about bullying and revenge sounds intriguing though.

Oyster War, by Ben Towle (Oni)

A surprisingly long book for younger readers, this historical fiction/fantasy story with pirates and mythical selkies, set in the Chesapeake Bay, is an adventure book that has the potential to be a hit. Is it worth a nomination? That remains to be seen.

SuperMutant Magic Academy, by Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)

This book is a collection of the strips that the author had online about mutants and witches attending high school together and all the teenage angst that goes along with it. I skimmed this novel, as I read a previous GN by this author, This One Summer, and did not like it.  IMO, this book doesn’t deserve the nomination, but I’m probably in the minority on that thought.

Check out the list yourself: http://www.comic-con.org/awards/2016-eisner-award-nominees and see if your favorite authors and illustrators earned a coveted nomination! If they are not on the list, who would you have liked to see on it instead?

-Nancy

Runaways: Pride & Joy

Tagline: At some point in their lives, all young people believe their parents are evil…but what if they really are?

Geared towards teens, this graphic novel perfectly captures children’s angst towards their parents and their thoughts of how they will be better than them and their wicked ways. The story begins with six families preparing to meet for their annual meeting in which the parents gather to supposedly cut checks for charity, and the youth hangout together. The youth range in age from 12-18, and as they have gotten older this motley group no longer anticipate the gatherings. Once all the adults have sequestered themselves in the library, the six youth sneak down a secret passageway to spy on their parents. They are horrified to discover their parents are super villains, who have banded together in a group they call The Pride. They witness a murder and then need to hide from their parents what they saw. They vote if they should report the crime, but then the authorities do not believe them. This then sets them off on a journey of discovery, each discovering secrets of their origins and powers they now need to harness and understand. The six sets of parents discover that their children know the truth, and use their nefarious skills to try to stop them. The youth are forced to band together and hide, vowing they will bring their parents to justice. However, one child seems to waver, not believing that their parents are evil. So, who is the mole????

In the beginning it was hard to keep track of all the families, so here is a cheat sheet: Wilder Family- Alex is a prodigy at strategic thinking & planning and is the child of mob bosses, Yorkes Family- Gertrude has a telepathic bond with a dinosaur and is the child of time travelers, Stein Family- Chase is a jock who steals technology from his mad scientist parents, Hayes Family- Molly is the youngest in the group who discovers she has super human strength, and is the child of telepathic mutants, Dean Family- Karolina finds out she is an alien with flying ability, with her parents masquerading as movie celebrities and the Minoru Family- Nico discovers she has magical abilities and is the child of dark wizards.

Pride & Joy collects the first six issues of the Runaways series, and each section opens with alternative art of the six youth. These splash panels give a different perspective of each teen, and is done in a different art style than the novel. The series artwork is clean and attractive, and that they include the time and location at the top of some of the panels helps the flow of the narrative. In 2005 the author, Brian Vaughan, won the Eisner Award for best writer for this series and is also the author of Saga. The artist, Adrian Alphona, now draws Ms. Marvel. I love seeing writers and authors I have liked elsewhere in books I am now reading (although Runaways was written first)!

-Nancy

2016 Eisner Hall of Fame

 

Eisner-awards

The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards are the coveted prizes given for creative excellence in American comic books/graphic novels. The award is named after Will Eisner, a cartoonist famous for his book A Contract With God , and was one of the first to use the term “graphic novel”. The awards are given at the San Diego Comic Con in July.

In addition, a yearly Hall of Fame is announced, with a panel of judges picking some of the inductees while professionals working in the comic industry get to vote on preselected nominees. The criteria for being selected to vote on the remaining nominees are: you must be a professional working in the comics or related industries as a creator (writer, artist, cartoonist, colorist, letterer), a publisher or editor, a retailer (comics store owner or manager), a graphic novels librarian, or a comics historian/educator. As I am a teen librarian who orders graphic novels, I submitted my information and was eligible to vote!

Two cartoonists, Carl Burgos (The Human Torch) and Tove Jansson (Moomins) are locks for being inducted in 2016, but fourteen remaining nominees needed to be winnowed down, and I had to select four to vote on.

The possibilities with a brief comment of what they are most famous for-

Lynda Barry (Ernie Pook’s Comeek & The Good Times are Killing Me)

Kim Deitch (Stuff of Dreams & Amazing Katherine Whaley)

Rube Goldberg (Rube Goldberg machines & detailed illustrations)

Edward Gorey (Gashleycrumb Tinies)

Bill Griffith (Zippy)

Matt Groening (The Simpsons)  

Jack Kamen (Creepshow)

Francoise Mouly (co-founder of the comics and graphics magazine Raw)

George Pérez (Avengers & Wonder Woman)

Antonio Prohias (Spy vs Spy)

P. Craig Russell (Night Music & Batman)

Rumiko Takahashi (Manga- Ranma 1/2 & Rin-ne)

Jacques Tardi (The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc & WWI themes)

Herb Trimpe (Marvel, Hulk & Wolverine)

Such agony in deciding who would get my vote, as they are all worthy! My final votes went to Lynda Barry (love her unique illustrations & sense of humor), Francoise Mouly (rock on that she founded Raw), George Perez (Wonder Woman- nuf’ said) and Herb Trimpe (first artist to draw Wolverine). I almost picked Matt Groening, but he’s made millions already, and he can look at his bank account for his recognition.

So…who would you pick & why????

-Nancy

 

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