Faith Erin Hicks proves once again why she is on my Top 5 Comic Authors list with this sweet coming-of-age story.
Blue-haired Victoria has recently switched horse stables, from the top-regarded stable in the area to a smaller one where she hopes for a less stressful riding experience. There she meets three other horse lovers, who extend a hand of friendship that she initially rejects. But they wear her down with their authenticity and mutual love for the tv show Beyond the Galaxy, which is an IRL homage to Star Trek: TNG. As a Trekkie, I loved how these young teens band together over their shared hobbies, with a funny scene of them dressing up in futuristic costumes at a local Renaissance Fair.
The spunky characters have Hick’s trademark look, with additional loving depictions of horses. This is a perfect book for middle school or very early high school students, for many of them are going through that bittersweet ritual of adolescence, outgrowing childhood friends and (hopefully) finding a new set of friends with similar interests. In this semi-autobiographical tale, Hicks shares her own love of horses and crafts a happy ending for Victoria. While not all friendship woes will wrap up as neatly as they did in this one, I believe teens can gain some positive insight into real friendship in this lovely tail (tale)!
Locke & Key– need I say more? But I will! His six-volume horror/fantasy series is what put Hill on my radar years ago, but I have enjoyed many more books of his since then. With his Locke & Key series now on Netflix, and his novels and short-story collections in high demand, DC has given him a prestige project, his own label- Hill House Comics. This label had some great stories, plus adding in his very dark The Cape, has made Hill my go-to horror writer.
The eight-volume eerie southern gothic fairy tale, Harrow County and necromantic horror trilogy Bone Parish make Bunn a favorite of mine. He writes creepy and suspenseful stories with excellent character development.
I almost didn’t put Wood down due to his sexual harassment allegations, but I have to be honest, I loved much of his early work. The seven-volume Viking saga Northlanders was fascinating, as was his two-volume series Rebels about colonial America. Due to the scandal, we will never know how the timely and gritty Briggs Land would have concluded.
Invincible and The Walking Dead were both long-running series that I loved. That Kirkman wrote them concurrently for many years blows my mind. They both had huge casts and had their characters’ age, which I always like in stories, so kudos to him for creating two distinct and believable universes.
Honorable Mentions- Derf Backderf (My Friend Dahmer, Trashed, and Kent State) & Brian K Vaughn (Saga and Pride of Baghdad)
“Something isn’t quite right at Camp Fielding” is the premise for a summer camp from hell experience for a pair of young teens.
I actually read this YA graphic novel a few years ago and never reviewed it, and while recently taking a walk through my local library I spotted it and checked it out again. I also re-discovered why I didn’t review it, it just wasn’t that great, but Kathleen and I are honest in our reviews and I can share reviews even if they aren’t completely positive.
Jenna and Lucas are underachieving teens who mysteriously are selected for an all-expenses-paid summer camp, that they never applied for, under the premise that it will boost their college readiness skills. Their parents eagerly agree and off they go the very next morning arriving a week later than most campers. These two misfits bond with Dwayne and the three immediately notice that something is very off at the camp. Campers seem to be growing intellectually in leaps and bounds, but a strange bird-like creature is controlling the camp directors and feathers ominously appear in connection with unexplained events. When Dwayne is sidelined it is up to Jenna and Lucas to figure out what is happening and try to save all the campers from an insidious plot.
Faith Erin Hicks is a favored author/artist of mine (Friends with Boys, the Nameless City trilogy, Pumpkin Heads and Comics Will Break Your Heart), although in this book she strictly provides the art. And the art is what elevates this meh graphic novel. She draws appealing characters and really shows emotions and nuances that help push the narrative forward.
Taken in parts there are some good elements in the story- there is an attempt to show some racial and socioeconomic diversity, issues with growing teen bodies are addressed, and there is an interesting supernatural twist. But stitched together it didn’t quite work. As I said earlier, the art by FEH elevated the story and I have read many books by her since. I believe a YA audience will enjoy this story and art as they consider how they themselves would save the day like Jenna and Lucas did.
I have been waiting on this graphic novel by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks for years and it is finally here! An article was written about this duo collaborating back in January of 2014 and as I was then a fan of Rowell because of Eleanor & Park, I checked out Hicks’s work and loved her books too. But the wait was so long…
Pumpkinheads does not disappoint and is so adorbable! I eagerly scooped up a copy that I had ordered for my library’s graphic novel collection before it hit the shelves (working at a library has its perks). The story takes place on Halloween night at a popular pumpkin patch farm, and if you aren’t from the Midwest you might not know how big of a deal that pumpkin patches, corn mazes and apple orchards are in the fall. Attending is an EVENT. Friends Josiah and Deja, who have worked at the patch for years, are facing their last night as employees as they are seniors and will be at college next fall. Josie is morose about leaving the patch, while Deja wants to grab the opportunity to live it up, and that includes pushing Josie to talk to another employee he has a crush on.
What follows is an adventure around the patch that pushes them both out of their comfort zone and on a journey of discovery about themselves. What I love about Rowell is that she captures teenage life perfectly. Senior year is a difficult time for many, as you are almost at the end of your school career and thinking of the different path you will soon be taking, yet you need to live in the here and now. It’s easy to get caught up in your head about choices you should make in the future and lose sight that one can still enjoy the moment they are in and that they can build a bridge between the two. The characters are believable, with spot-on conversations and interesting backstories. Deja’s personality is especially nuanced, and I liked how she was portrayed. Her race, sexuality and size do not define her, they are just a natural part of who she is. And while Josie was more a rule-follower, he ended up having a believable arc of self-discovery and learned how to not be so passive.
The art by Hicks is so fresh and inviting, and is truly reminiscent of local patches that are similar in a way to amusement parks. Hicks captures emotional moments perfectly and the pacing builds to a very satisfying end between Josie and Deja. Her backgrounds included fun details and the recurring runaway goat carried through with a certain someone getting a well-deserved comeuppance on the last page. Colorist Sarah Stern uses a warm palette with a lot of oranges (of course!), golden yellows and mellow purples. The colors are evocative of autumn and bring the story further to life. A map of the imagined patch is on the inside covers, which further world-builds and an enjoyable interview between the two creators concludes this fun book.
This graphic novel was everything I hoped it would be and I will be singing its praises to the teens at my library. I believe this book will become a classic to be revisited every fall.
I am a huge fan of Faith Erin Hicks- as I love her graphic novel Friends with Boys and her Nameless City trilogy, so when I saw that she had written her first YA chapter book, I jumped to read it.
Set in Canada (FEH’s home country) this sweet novel tackles first love, with a Romeo and Juliet framework for teens Miriam and Weldon. Years ago Miriam’s grandfather illustrated the comic book Tomorrow Men, but sold his rights to the author before it hit big, as happened IRL to too many artists back in the early days of DC and Marvel (as such the title is based off a quote from artist Jack Kirby who never made it as big as his sometimes writing partner Stan Lee). Now Weldon’s family is reaping the profits as the comic is poised to be the next big movie series, while Miriam’s family lives modestly even after a settlement was made in court. There has been bad blood between the families for decades when the teens meet and begin to fall for one another. I really appreciated there was no instant love, as far too many books use that trope, instead it was gradual and realistic steps towards romance with Weldon showing his interest first. While there was the obligatory misunderstanding that almost derails the relationship, the story ended on a good note at a big comic con which was apropos to the theme of the narrative. This novel gets a definite recommendation from me for it was a lovely ode to nerd culture and love.
The website AV Club had a great article and a FEH graphic to describe the book and the origin of Kirby’s supposed quote. Despite the publicity picture below, the only art is found on the front and back cover of the book. While I missed FEH’s illustrations, her story stood on it’s own!
The Divided Earth is the final book of The Nameless City trilogy, and wraps the narrative up in a thrilling and satisfying conclusion!
Preceded by books The Nameless City and The Stone Heart, the story takes place in the fictional city Daidu, named by the Dao’s, the most recent conquering nation. However, due to centuries of conquest, the inhabitants of many different nationalities simply call it The Nameless City. This politically important Asian city sits alongside a mountain pass and is the only route to the sea, making it a critical location for trade and military movements. An ancient people carved a passageway through the mountain, but the technology they used has been lost to the ages.
The main characters are teen Kaidu, a Dao recently of the distant Homelands who is sent to the city to train as a soldier, a street-wise girl named Rat who has lived in the city her whole life, Ezri, who is the General’s son and who has just taken drastic measures to rule the city and his dangerous bodyguard Mura. These four young people have just discovered a mystical tome in the monastery that they believe has powers to dominate all the surrounding nations.
Ezri and Mura take the book that holds the formula for making Napatha, a powerful fire that can destroy armies and eat through stone, and plan to use it for the Dao nation to remain in control of the city. Both have complex and diverging reasons for wanting this power, and author Faith Erin Hicks deftly weaves in their back stories to explain their viewpoints. We see in the above panel how Ezri desperately justifies his actions, and his layered portrayal shows that he isn’t crafted to be a pure villain in the story.
Additional characters come into play, as adults from Kai and Rat’s life play integral roles in trying to thwart the war that Ezri and Mura are intent on starting. The conclusion has Ezri and Kai, two young men who come from privileged upbringings, face off. Paired with that, is the poignant confrontation between Mura and Rat whose backgrounds include tragedy and broken homes. These matches between the pairs show how similar starts in life don’t always lead to the same paths; as love and support from others and your own personal integrity can help shape you.
The conclusion is satisfying, with a three year time jump to show a realistic wrap up to the story. A few details were a bit pat, but as the story is geared towards young readers, the arcs for the four main characters ended appropriately. I was invested in the city’s inhabitants and would love to visit them again in a future story by Hicks. As such, I was excited to be approved for this book by NetGalley, so I could get a sneak peek at how the series concludes.
Hicks has crafted a story that tied in adventure, friendship and the cost of war. She creates a believable world inspired by 13th century China and her artwork was wonderful with the precision of her backgrounds and how she captures emotion. The coloring by Jordie Bellaire is lovely- and her work should get a shout out, as a colorist’s work establishes an aesthetic that is a crucial part of the storytelling. This captivating trilogy is a must read, not only to a YA audience, but also with older readers who will enjoy the nuanced tale.
Faith Erin Hicks’s second book in her The Nameless City trilogy shines!
In the first book we were introduced to the fictional city Daidu, aka Dandoa, named by the Dao’s, the most recent conquering nation. However, due to centuries of conquest, the inhabitants of many different nationalities simply call it The Nameless City. This politically important Asian city sits alongside a mountain pass and is the only route to the sea, making it a critical location for trade and military movements. An ancient people carved a passageway through the mountain, but the technology they used has been lost to the ages. The main characters are teen Kaidu, a Dao recently of the distant Homelands who is sent to the city to train as a soldier, and a street-wise girl named Rat who has lived in the city her whole life. Their unlikely friendship helps prevent the General of All Blades from being assassinated in book one.
In this second book, the plot is more character driven, and Kaidu and Rat’s back stories are fleshed out. Not only do we learn more about their families, we get a brief interlude that goes further into world building, for Hicks has created a believable and exquisite city based on 13th century China. In addition, we are shown an authentic friendship and realistic banter between Kaidu, Rat and others.
We are also given background on the General’s son Ezri and his mysterious green-eyed bodyguard Mura. Ezri and Mura are shown to be calculating and murderous, and both make decisions that can only lead to the ruin of the tenuous treaties that the Dao nation was making with other kingdoms. They storm the monastery named The Stone Heart, which houses irreplaceable books including a mystical tome that they believe will give them powers to dominate all the surrounding nations. What they do next sets in motion the narrative for the final book The Divided Earth.
I eagerly look forward to how Hicks will wrap up this powerful graphic novel series. Her art work and storytelling are absolutely first rate!
Faith Erin Hicks + Avatar: The Last Airbender vibe + mythology + friendship = must read!
I am reading The Nameless City with my library middle schoolers for our graphic novel book club early in August based off several requests of theirs for this book. Despite my love of FEH’s book Friends With Boys and my excitement for her upcoming collaboration with Rainbow Rowell, I had not picked this up on my own. I typically am drawn to more mature storylines, and as this graphic novel is marketed to younger readers, I had not made an effort to read it until I needed to. But the story is anything but basic.
The story takes place in the great city Daidu, aka Dandoa, named by the Dao’s, the most recent conquering nation. However, due to centuries of conquest, the inhabitants of many different nationalities simply call it The Nameless City. This politically important Asian city sits alongside a mountain pass and is the only route to the sea, making it a critical location for trade and military movements. An ancient people carved a passageway through the mountain, but the technology they used has been lost to the ages.
Young Kaidu, a Dao recently of the distant Homelands, is sent to the city to train as a soldier and meet his father General Andren. While out on his first walk with his father through the city streets he spots a young girl who is sitting on a roof and who nimbly runs away across the rooftops.
Kai has reason to meet her again the next day when he slips out to explore the city unescorted, which is against the rules. He and the street-wise girl, named Rat, develop a solid friendship despite their differences, and she teaches Kai how to quickly move about the city overhead in an extreme style of parkour.
As Kai gets to know his bookish father, and the inhabitants of the city, he realizes that the 30 year reign of the Dao is not as stable as he thought. Undercurrents run through the political organization with the head leader, General of all Blades, and his son Erzi training new recruits to maintain their hold on the city. When Rat and Kai hear of a plot to assassinate the head leader they take action and much adventure occurs.
The art by FEH is spot on. She has created a believable and exquisite city filled with details in the architecture and in how she draws it’s varied people. While many times Hicks gives her characters extreme Manga-type expressions, other times she is more subtle and the variety is appreciated. Colored by Jordie Bellaire, the aesthetic is subdued with a pleasing earth tone palette.
One good reason in waiting this long to pick up the first volume is that I can pick up the second volume The Stone Heart immediately, and then the concluding volume, The Divided Earth, will be available in September. I look forward to reading the entire trilogy and highly recommend this series!
I love me some Rainbow Rowell, so when I heard she was partnering with Faith Erin Hicks to do two graphic novels together, I had to check out FEH’s work and see if she was worthy. And worthy she is-her work is beyond awesome!!
Maggie is about to start high school, and after being homeschooled since childhood she is very nervous. Her three older brothers have been her whole social life before this, so she is scared and unsure of how to make friends, having none in the past. To make matters worse, her mother has recently left the family and Maggie is haunted (!) by the widow of a ship captain from the 1800s. While her brothers are supportive, they are busy and have issues of their own, so she tentatively strikes up a friendship with a brother & sister who are on the fringes of HS society themselves. Alistair and Lucy have an interesting back story, and with their help (and later her brother’s assistance), Maggie tries to understand and then put an end to her haunting. What seemed like an odd plot thread, ties in neatly with her feelings of guilt in regards to her mother, and not always being able to fix things, no matter how much you’d like to.
The artwork is done in shades of black and white and captures the full spectrum of human emotion. The comic panels vary in size and perspective to convey different aspects of the story, from close ups of the characters to long shots to show atmosphere. The relationships between the McKay family (their last name was just icing on the cake!) were authentic and sweet, and I wanted to hang out with the two sibling sets by the end of the book. I demand a sequel! Seriously…please write a sequel.
I eagerly look forward to the collaboration of RR & FEH. It will undoubtedly be epic!