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Star Wars: Princess Leia

I was gifted this book by none other than The Imperial Talker– a huge Star Wars fan, a new dad and good friend! I was anxious to read an adventure about Princess Leia, one of my childhood heroes and penned by the esteemed Mark Waid.

Set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, this story is about Leia dealing with the pain of losing her family and the entire planet of Alderaan. Immediately after the medal ceremony Leia approaches General Dodonna to see how she can help and discovers that surviving Alderaan citizens that were off world when the planet was destroyed are being hunted down by Imperial forces. Leia quickly finds pilot Evaan Verlaine, a fellow Alderaanian, to help her find and save their brethren. With a few slick maneuvers they escape to Naboo to find an enclave of musicians who keep their culture alive. I did appreciate the few panels that showed Leia seeing her birth mother represented in stained glass (see picture below) and feeling a connection without knowing why.  Smuggler and pilot Nien Nunb joins the women as they continue searching other worlds for survivors, and there is an intriguing subplot about what makes a true Aldaraanian when they discover an outpost of survivors that have intermarried with natives of that planet.

Author Mark Waid, who has written Kingdom Come and Strange Fruit, two favorites of mine, gives Leia a story to work through her grief. He addresses some hard questions: Is Leia still a princess without a world? What parts of a culture are worth saving? Should descendants of a people who now look and act different be considered valid citizens of Aldaraan? This one-off graphic novel tries to pull together many threads, but isn’t able to delve deep into many of the issues. I ended up wanting a bit more from this story than Waid was able to deliver.

The artwork was a mixed bag for me. The most glaring issue for me was that Princess Leia did not look like Carrie Fisher. Artist Terry Dodson made Leia a hottie with form fitting outfits and sexy come hither eye makeup and hair-dos. And it’s not as if he couldn’t replicate the actors who portrayed them in the movies, as the depictions of Padmé  and Bail Organa looked very accurate. There were several panels that lacked detail and definition; in particular, there was a scene of Leia as a child where she looked like a monkey with her face in profile and her hair flowing out like a tail.  I typically love the way Jordie Bellaire colors, but in this book the coloring was just standard, with some odd shading of faces.

I deliberately did not ask Jeff his opinions on the story he sent me before I read it, so I hope he gives me some feedback with his thoughts on the book. All in all, this was an enjoyable outing with Leia that gave a look at a gap in the Star Wars narrative that helps explain how the loss of her people shaped her into the general she became in later years.

-Nancy

Waid, Mark & Terry Dodson. Star Wars: Princess Leia. 2015.
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The Amalgam Age of Comics: The Marvel Comics Collection

Back in the mid ’90s (ahhh, that glorious decade), Marvel and DC decided to create an entire crossover series. They blended characters from both camps to create something new and entirely different! But they didn’t stop there. They printed them under a “new” printing company called Amalgam. While each story was a one-shot, they peppered each issue with context and hints referring to “past” issues and events. Pretty cool, huh? The Marvel Comics Collection focuses on DC characters with Marvel spins:

  • Bruce Wayne: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.: In which Bruce Wayne prepares to finally confront his arch-nemesis, Green Skull (Ra’s al Ghul and Red Skull). Only it might not be him in charge of Hydra anymore…
  • Bullets & Bracelets: Diana Prince and Steve Castle (Steve Trevor and Punisher), together again – to save their son who’s been abducted!
  • Magneto & the Magnetic Men: Erik Magnus creats the Magnetic Men to bridge the gap between human and Mutant. To be honest, I really had trouble figuring out who was who in this one, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.
  • Speed Demon: BRUUUH. This mashup of Ghost Rider, Flash, and Etrigan was by far my most favorite. I’d kill to read actual stories of this!
  • Spider-Boy: This one blended the best of Superboy and Spider-man into one fun romp as he fights Bizarnage!
  • X-Patrol: Very cool mashup of Teen Titans and X-Men. The clean art in this one was my favorite!

Man, this whole collection was silly and I loved every minute of it. The creators didn’t take themselves seriously at all! I really miss when comics were fun like this. It was really fun figuring out who was mashed up with who. Some characters were pretty obvious, and others took a little more thinking to figure out. I enjoyed the mental workout ;D Stay tuned for the DC Comics Collection!

– Kathleen

Various. The Amalgam Age of Comics: The Marvel Comics Collection. 1996.

Marvel Rising- A Miniseries Deserving Of An Ongoing Title!

Today we have a treat- Michael from My Comic Relief kindly wrote us a marvelous guest post to cover Nancy’s absence while she and her family vacation in Washington DC.  After you read this post about the new Marvel Rising, make sure you check out his site and be ready to be impressed with his posts about comics, Star Wars, music and his poignant New American Resistance series. Enjoy!

Guest Writer: Michael Miller of My Comic Relief

When I was a kid, I enjoyed comic books for all sorts of reasons. The feelings that come most readily to mind when I let my memory drift back to those days are the joy I found in reading exciting adventures staring bright, fun, often funny, colorful characters and the reassurance of their simple homilies – no matter how dark it gets, the heroes always win in the end. When I returned to reading comic books as an adult, I was happy to find many comics still offering those same feelings…and I was impressed to find ones effectively coupling it with strong social justice messages. There are no two characters who perform these dual tasks better than Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) and Doreen Green (Squirrel Girl). And upon finding them, I became a fan for life. So I opened the pages of their first official team-up, Devin Greyson’s new miniseries Marvel Rising, with trepidation. Why was I worried? Well, could anything live up to my expectations?!? Would my hopes ruin the story for me? Thankfully what I found has me wishing it was an ongoing monthly series! Continue reading “Marvel Rising- A Miniseries Deserving Of An Ongoing Title!”

Black Widow: The Name of the Rose

Black Widow is a spy – lies and secrets are her trade. She’s been accepted into the Avengers and they trust her, despite her past. Someone from the old days is haunting Natasha, leaving her black roses and ribbons, and exposing one of her most well-guarded secrets. That trust her friends and fellow heroes have for her may not hold up so well. Furious and determined to get to the bottom of it, Natasha sets out to expose whoever is behind it. ‘Tasha couldn’t care less if she gets hurt – but they’re going after her friends, and they’re going to pay for that.

I’m not one for spy stories or movies  (unless it’s Archer) but I enjoyed this story well enough. I like Marjorie Liu’s other graphic novel work, and that’s what prompted me to pick up this Black Widow comic. As a first-timer, I was a little confused as to the lineup change of one of the Avengers, but I eventually figured it out. Other than that, it was easy to follow, but I might have to seek out a different title for first-timers who may only be familiar with the movies.

The art is deceptively simple: mostly figures with very little background, detail, or other exposition. I believe this was done purposely so the reader focuses on all the action – which, of course, as a spy story, never lets up from page 1. It made for a surprisingly uncluttered look and reading experience and I appreciated it immensely. Some graphic novels written at a fast pace like this one also try to pack as much detail as possible into the art, which can make a book overwhelming. The creators of this one scaled back a little on the art to showcase the writing more, which in my opinion was an excellent design choice.

Sorry this one’s a little late – was having too much fun over PoGo Fest weekend and I’m trying to catch up ;D

– Kathleen

Liu, Marjorie, and Daniel Acuña. Black Widow: The Name of the Rose. 2010.

Free Comic Book Day 2018

For several years 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.  As an added bonus, I love getting a sneak peek of the titles, and this year I went a bit crazy and picked six. But…none of them wowed me, as I think last year’s selection was better.

Free Comic Book Day Vol 2018 Avengers

Now I know comics can’t always follow whats going on in the movies, but having two Avengers stories that don’t correlate with what many of us saw on the big screen is confusing. In the first story, Black Panther and Odin, Thor’s father, talk of a threat that has been hidden for a million years. We get flashbacks to six God’s from the past that must be ancestors to modern day superheros. It’s hopelessly muddled and doesn’t make sense at all. The second story about Captain America is penned by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and picks up where last year Hydra’s story ended. This second story has some possibilities.

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A lighthearted romp with Han and Chewie getting into a scrape and then out of it. Typical Han Solo antics but the character is drawn with a face that looks more like actor Alden Ehrenreich than Harrison Ford. A nice tie with the upcoming Solo movie, but it didn’t advance his story line at all.

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This version of Bond isn’t drawn to resemble any of the past cinematic Bonds, and that’s just as well, as not to muddle our perceptions of him. 007 is being sent out on a mission, and due to some new regulations will not have his gun on him while he travels. This issue is a prequel to a future story, and humanizes James as he prepares to leave on this new job. The story and the clean art seem promising.

Image result for free comic book day 2018 invasionI picked up this title thinking the cover looked pretty cool, before I realized it was a Captain Canuck story. I almost put it back down after that realization, but then I would have missed the awesomeness of Canadian Trudeau, American Trump and Russian Putin facing off against one another at a United Nations General Assembly. Trudeau is portrayed as the voice of reason (true in real life) while Trump especially gets a comical (also true to form) depiction. Go Captain Canuck- save our world from alien invasion!

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I am not a fan of steam punk at all, but I picked the title up as I needed some female representation in my selections. This issue has two stories set three years apart, and is filled with the tired tropes of Mechanika having to find her origins, but as soon as she finds a clue, something prevents her from following it. This bionic female is sexualized with completely ridiculous outfits. Although the artwork is absolutely beautiful, I could not get past her comical vest that pushed out her breasts. Come on now. 

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This final story was a last minute grab for me, once I saw that it is an 80’s coming of age crime story, as I’m a sucker for that era! The opening story line appealed to me, as Diego works at a mob owned business, and (true story) I’m almost positive I worked at a clothing store that was a front for the mob when I was in high school. The plot then veers into cheesy 80’s movie territory with the story of a nerdy boy who wins over a hot girl. It was cute, but I don’t know where the continuing story will go. Also, the stylized cover doesn’t adequately represent the art inside, it’s completely different. I don’t like bait and switch.

So, I really question if I will continue with any of these stories. While I didn’t hate them, none grabbed my attention enough to make me rush out for future issues. Time will tell.

-Nancy

Runaways: Find Your Way Home

Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka  bring the Runaways back together in this promising re-boot!

When I first read the original Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona I said, “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.” I thought the premise of the story was fun and fresh and would really appeal to the younger reader. While I didn’t read further than the first volume, I know who of the original six was the mole, and what happened to the parents of these youth. Image result for runaways find your way home Continue reading “Runaways: Find Your Way Home”

Uncanny X-Men: Revolution

The X-Men regroup after the devastating Phoenix event in Avengers vs X-Men, with Cyclops taking the lead of his outlaw band of mutants and establishes the New Charles Xavier School. He, Emma Frost, Magik and Magneto collect new students from around the world, as new cases of teens gaining abilities out of nowhere are popping up all over.

The Avengers hear of Cyclops’ mission and try to stop him. Being partial to the X-Men, I feel that the Avengers came off as pricks with a holier than thou vibe. They got shown up when one of the new mutants used her powers to trap them, and the X-Men made their escape. The team head to the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning where they meet up with Kitty Pride, Wolverine and Havok who are leading a second school for mutants. Their differences are established, and it is sad to see such divisions among the former teammates, but a few students there switch over to Cyclops’ new school.

In the midst of this, we learn of a mole in the Uncanny team, and later are unsure if this team member is being truthful, or if there will be further double or triple crosses. Cyclops is torn about what he did to Professor X, and his culpability level as his, Emma’s and Magneto’s powers were compromised by the Phoenix. They need the new mutants as much as the new students need their guidance. The last chapter concentrates on Magik and her connection to Darkchild and the demon world. A cliff hanger is set up and this new team have their work cut out for them.

Right off, I was at a disadvantage as surprisingly I have not read A vs X (it is now on reserve for me at my library), so I struggled with my background knowledge. Most comics, including this one, try to fill the reader in on past events through dialogue between characters but I had to search some Marvel Wiki pages for info to fill in my knowledge gaps. What I probably should have done, is set this book aside until I read the other book, but I was on a time crunch and soldiered on.

Artist Chris Bachalo illustrates chapters one through four, while Frazer Irving takes over for chapter five. As the style changes dramatically in the last chapter, and not for the better, I was not happy. I liked Frazer’s backgrounds better with his swirling colors, but Bachalo’s illustrations of the heroes was far superior. If I am to read further into the series, first I must read A vs X, and then see if the art holds up in future volumes.

-Nancy

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Bendis, Brian Michael, Chris Bacalo & Frazer Irving. Uncanny X-Men: Revolution. 2014.

The Vision: Little Better Than A Beast (Volume 2)

The Vision series comes to a close in this second volume, and it brings all the pathos of a Shakespearean tragedy.

Considering my high regard for the first volume Little Worse than a Man and it’s inclusion on my Best Reads of 2017 list, surprisingly it took me a year to pick up and read this second volume. I knew that reading it in one sitting would be best, so the quietly ominous story could have it’s best effect. The conclusion did not disappoint, yet it did have a different feel than the first. The first volume showed how The Vision, a syntheziod, desperately wanted a family and how his creation upended what others considered human behavior. This concluding volume goes back in time and shows The Vision’s rationale for wanting to create a family, and his motives turn out to be a bit complex.

The volume opens with his past relationship with Scarlet Witch and how their unlikely romance resulted in marriage. The marriage deteriorates as Wanda’s delusion of having twin boys takes over (this plot point has always been confusing to me as Wiccan and Speed are now real Young Avengers) and a seemingly innocuous joke between the two builds and carries through to the end. It seems The Vision’s love for Wanda and her wish for family subverts itself in his later wish for the same thing, and how he creates his new wife Virginia.

When we are in present day we see twins Vin and Viv (again a connection to The Vision’s first twins) and Vin’s obsession with quoting some of Shakespeare’s work. A quote from The Merchant of Venice bring volume one and two’s titles into focus, “When he is best he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst he is little better than a beast” and we know that the story is building towards an unhappy climax.

Themes of destiny and intentions are interwoven throughout the narrative, with many of the Avengers coming off negatively, with many injustices heaped upon the Vision family by them. Decisions certain family members make in the name of love or revenge, can be connected to their true humanity vs the shaky moral high-ground that others around them take.

The art in both volumes is excellent.  When The Vision is with his family the panels are precise and clean, with a more sketchy style used when he is out of the house and interacting with others. I believe this a subtle nod to The Vision feeling when he is with his new family he is in control and being less clear when he has to deal with the conflicting motivations of people outside his realm of influence.

This two-volume story is outstanding and really subverts the typical superhero narrative. There are many layers to the story and it touches on important themes such as xenophobia, definitions of humanity and love for family. While I feel the first volume was a bit stronger than this second one, the poignant conclusion is a perfect wrap up, and the team that created it deserves major respect.

-Nancy

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Ling, Tom, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Michael Walsh & Jordie Bellaire. The Vision: Little Better Than a Beast. 2016.

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

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