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Emil Ferris

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is an extraordinary and ambitious graphic novel. Equal parts memoir, murder mystery and coming-of-age drama, the art in this book is beyond amazing and was a perfect read during this upcoming Halloween season.

New author Emil Ferris has created a story set in Chicago in the late 1960’s, with the story framed as a graphic diary written in a notebook by Karen Reyes, a ten-year-old girl living with her single mom and older brother. Told in a non-linear fashion, the graphics tell as much of the story as the text does.

Karen’s upstairs neighbor Anka is discovered dead, with clues pointing to a murder, although the staging appears to be a suicide. As Karen pieces together information gained from observation and a taped interview that Anka’s husband lets her listen to, we learn that Anka’s past may have led to her being murdered. We get extensive flashbacks to Anka’s past in Nazi Germany in which she was a child prostitute and later Holocaust survivor, and these revelations go far in explaining adult Anka’s haunted behavior.

The other half of the book is Karen’s coming-of-age story, with her sharing how she feels like a misfit at her school.  Karen’s missing father is Hispanic and her mother is originally from Appalachia, so she already feels she does not match her citified classmates. She is obsessed with B-grade monster movies and pulp horror magazines, plus her growing attraction to girls led to her losing her best friend. We also get insights into the family with her mother’s cancer diagnosis and hints that her brother Diego has a dark secret.

But what sets this story apart is the art and the author’s choice to represent Karen as a werewolf, with the device being that Karen perceives herself as a monster.  Only once will you see how Karen really looks.  Ferris’s unique cross-hatching style and impeccable detail to cityscapes and backgrounds will astonish you. She captures the essence of people, although many of them are drawn in an exaggerated caricature manner. Others are drawn with a monster motif, matching how Karen draws herself. Many of the pages are in black and white, but she selectively uses subdued colors to help with telling the evocative narrative. That a new talent could create such a book is remarkable, and Ferris deserves the attention she is receiving.

For all my praise, this book is not perfect. The length of the book is quite daunting and the narrative is much too much. While I was sucked into the art, I kept on putting the book down because it could get overwhelming at times. The dense characterization and jumbled chronology make you question the interconnected stories and how the past and present were all related. However, I know a sequel is in the works and it will be a must-read. I am anxious to know how Karen and her family’s story ends, and how the monsters in her mind and in her life will come into play in this singular saga.

-Nancy

*This was originally posted on a friend’s blog as a guest post in 2018, but I am now putting it on my blog as well*

Free Comic Book Day 2019

For the fifth year in a row, I have brought Free Comic Book Day to my library. I pick up a good selection of titles from my favorite comic book store, Graham Crackers, and offer them to the library patrons when they come in. I also had some Star Wars and superhero crafts available for kids to do as well. I know, I know…I’m pretty awesome to offer such epicness to my library community, and this year we had the biggest crowd yet. As an added bonus, I love getting a sneak peek of the titles, and this year I choose seven.

Hope proved to be my favorite of the seven stories I picked up. It introduced the story about Julie, a mother who is secretly an Ultra and keeping her secret hero identity even from her husband and daughter. When a car accident with her family reveals her secret, Julie’s life is upended and her daughter is taken from her. This was strong introduction with very promising story lines, in addition to the bright clean art. Perhaps because I am a mom myself, I could imagine myself in her shoes (plus who doesn’t wonder what they’d do if they unexpectedly obtained super powers).

As soon as I saw a pug on the front cover, I knew immediately that Mike Norton of Revival fame was the illustrator, so this was a must read for me. This story is mash up of two existing comics- Grumble, with a physic and wisecracking pug, plus The Goon, a muscled fighter of supernatural creatures. It was odd pairing of characters, definitely more geared for existing fans of either series vs a new reader like myself. At the end there was a reprint of the story Hillbilly.

My Favorite Things Is Monsters took the comic world by storm and for good reason: the author/illustrator Emil Ferris is crazy talented. In this comic three vignettes are offered- one that describes Ferris’s path to publication, a short about Karen and her brother Deeze talking to neighbors and a how-to-draw-a-monster segment.

In this issue we get a small, touching scene between Nancy and Steve, as Nancy is concerned her little brother Mike is not coping well after their monstrous adventures. They try to draw him out by encouraging him to return to his involvement with his role playing games. There is an additional Black Hammer story afterwards, which introduced me to Madame Dragonfly.

This issue had a few Marvel stories in them, and like I said after reading last year’s FCBD issue, it can be hard for someone who is mostly a fan through the movies to connect with these stories that vary in author voice, illustration style and time period. The first story had some heroes that I don’t usually associate with the Avengers, such as Ghost Rider and Blade, so that was amusing at one level. The second story, The Savage Avengers, had a much grittier vibe and featured Wolverine.

This issue contains two stories- one about Venom and his reemergence, and the second one is a light hearted romp between original Spider-Man Peter and the younger Miles. The first story is very dark and violent, so I found it interesting that they paired it with the next story that was all about the two Spideys arguing over pizza and could be read by a younger demographic than the first story.

Blood Shot gets yet another revamp, this time under author Tim Seeley. I read Bloodshot: Salvation for the first time last year, and was intrigued by this soldier of fortune, who would just like to be free of the shadowy agency Project Rising Spirit and the super powers he had forced on him that transform him. In this story, he saves a scientist from a dangerous cult and it serves as a prequel to the upcoming series.

All in all, I felt I picked up some strong titles. I was most intrigued with Hope, and liked the peeks into Stranger Things and My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. The others were good reading, but the free issues won’t make me pursue the series.

-Nancy

Guest Post on Reads and Reels

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is an extraordinary and ambitious graphic novel. Equal parts memoir, murder mystery and coming-of-age drama, the art in this book is beyond amazing, and was a perfect read during this Halloween season.

But…you’ll have to check out the blog Reads and Reels to find it, as I shared this incredible book as a guest blogger on Shanannigan’s site. Please head on over to her site to read my post- Guest Post: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters.

-Nancy

(Picture from Emil Ferris)

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