Graphic Novelty²


Rafer Roberts

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.


Modern Fantasy

Sage of the Riverlands lives in the legendary city of God’s Helm. She moved there after school for a life of adventure – but ends up working in a cubicle, doing data entry for a boring old company. Through a series of unfortunate events, her roommate’s boyfriend steals an ancient amulet, said to have incredible powers. The mob who bought it illegally in the first place will do anything to get it back – up to hurting anyone who gets in their way. To recover the amulet and save the world, Sage must team up with her friends and coworkers for an epic modern adventure.

This one disappointed me. I thought I’d like it, considering it’s fantasy, but this was just too much. It’s like a D&D campaign set in an almost-real world. There are computers, cell phones, dating apps, student loans – but the pharmacies sell herbs and crystals, the gyms have archery targets instead of weight machines, and the phones are tiny scrolls. It’s… odd. And not in a good way. It all clashed together in some haphazard, half-baked, Millennial high fantasy.

It didn’t help that your typical fantasy stereotypes were present in this graphic novel. Of course the cleric is a nerdy med student. Of course the elf is an artsy, wannabe actor. Of course the barbarian is a meathead who speaks in simple phrases. And worse. I like fantasy and it’s tropes as much as the next girl, but again, this was way too much, and was incredibly detrimental to the plot and character development. Everyone stays the same by the end. There was no sense of urgency or grand purpose to the story at all.

The art does it no favors. It’s rendered relatively simply, as there is a lot going on. Sometimes, there is too much going on, as if this slim volume needs to show everything about this world, all the time, all at once. The reader struggles through as opposed to moving intuitively from one panel to the next.

I am honestly struggling to see how this was so acclaimed. It’s trying to be too much at once, and trips over itself in the process, leaving the reader highly unsatisfied at the end. Big skip.

– Kathleen

Roberts, Rafer, and Kristen Gudsnuk. Modern Fantasy. 2019.

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