Graphic Novelty²


Hope Larson

Salt Magic

When Vonceil’s older brother, Elber, comes home from World War I, he does the worst thing imaginable: proposes to his boring sweetheart, Amelia. Long gone is her mischievous brother. He’s changed into someone quieter, more responsible, more… ordinary. Vonceil can’t forgive him that. She sometimes feels too big for their small Oklahoma farm near their small Oklahoma town. Shortly after Elber and Amelia’s wedding, a glamorous woman named Greda comes to town, asking for him. They had had an affair while he was in Paris. When Elber refuses her pleas to come away with her, she flies into a rage and curses the family’s well, turning it to salt water. Feeling responsible, Vonceil sets out across the West to undo the curse and save her family.

I was totally absorbed by this middle-grade Wild West fantasy. Though there are truly some unique fantastical elements, it’s firmly rooted in reality. Research was obviously done to ensure all the details of rural life between the World Wars was accurate.

Speaking of details, there was something Studio Ghibli-esque about this graphic novel. I think a lot of it had to do with the high attention given to all those little touches. The character designs were similar as well: Vonceil’s short stature, cropped black hair, and wide face reminded me of Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service. In addition, magical elements being strongly rooted in reality is another Ghibli touch. Though the colors here are muted to sun-bleached or salt-stained tones, it felt like reading a Ghibli movie in every way but name.

Middle-grade readers and up will enjoy this tale of love, sacrifice, and living life to the fullest. Apparently this is Larson and Mock’s second graphic novel – excuse me while I seek out the first 😉

– Kathleen

Larson, Hope, and Rebecca Mock. Salt Magic. 2021.

Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 4): Strange Loop

An unseasonal snowstorm brings an unexpected clean-up and good cheer ally to Burnside: the Penguin! He’s reformed and looking to clean up his image in order to run for mayor. But Batgirl finds he’s being a little too effective at persuading the citizens of Gotham that he’s a good guy. What is he really up to? Then, in a freak occurrence, Babs finds herself trapped inside her own mind: in a dream of her own deepest desires. It’s too good to be true. Can she escape, or does she even want to?

This run keeps firing on all cylinders and does not once slow down. We keep swinging from story to story with nary a breather. Besides the two main stories above, there are also two shorter ones in this volume. Four in one trade paper – that’s impressive, but even more impressive is how exciting all the action still is even at the end.

That’s not to say there isn’t any introspection or soul-searching in this volume or run, because there definitely is! When Babs is trapped inside her own mind, she questions whether or not this fantasy she’s living out is better than her real life, and whether or not it’s worth it to continue being Batgirl. Hope Larson continues to be a top-notch Batgirl author.

The art, while it’s become less stylized and graphic since the beginning Burnside title, keeps the feel of the Burnside aesthetic – pretty impressive, considering multiple artists have worked on the title since then. The art in this volume is a little more nuanced, a little more rounded and realistic, but still keeps the dynamic pop colors and clean lines. Batgirl’s designs have changed a bit too – they gave her a winter coat! She’ll not shiver in sub-zero temperatures wearing skin-tight leather any more! =D

Rebirth Batgirl now holds the title for my favorite Rebirth title, after the disappointment of the last Rebirth Wonder Woman. Larson’s phenomenal writing and the art continue to be a big draw. Looking forward to the next!

– Kathleen

Larson, Hope, Sami Basri, Scott Godlewski, and Minkyu Jung. Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 4): Strange Loop. 2018.

Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 3): Summer of Lies

Batgirl and Nightwing get the same tip, for the same spot, at the same time. Which can only mean one thing: it’s a trap! Two girls, identical to someone from their shared past, attack them before jumping off the roof. Someone has brought this Dynamic Duo back together for what can only be one reason: revenge. Batgirl and Robin once worked a case together, way back in their early days of crime-fighting. It involved the Mad Hatter, a new kind of drug, Barbara’s new friend Ainsley, and the growing chemistry between Batgirl and Robin. They’re going to have to reflect back on that summer – on all the painful memories – if they’re going to have a chance at uncovering who’s behind this newest scheme.

I do love me some Nightwing with my Batgirl ;D The plot unfolds in ways you don’t expect and keeps you on your toes as much as our heroes are. The emotional investment that Barbara has in this case is palpable – just as in the flashbacks, we’re shown that it’s difficult for her to keep Barbara and Batgirl separate. The feels stakes are pretty high here. A nice artistic touch was the sepia tone that was overlaid on the flashbacks – infused with a little more golden light that perfectly recalls looking back on summers past.

Before the main story, there are two one-shots. The first is about Batgirl’s investigation of a ghost in the local Y’s pool. The second, and infinitely more adorable, is about the disappearance of internet celebrity pets – and how Batgirl finds herself teamed up with Catwoman, of all people, to recover them! Eagerly looking forward to more~

– Kathleen

Larson, Hope, Chris Wildgoose, Jose Marzan Jr., and Mat Lopes. Batgirl (Rebirth, Vol. 3): Summer of Lies. 2018.

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