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Three Jokers

Best Reads of 2022

My blogging partner Kathleen stepped down early in the year, so it dawned on me that this would be the first year I made a Best Reads list without her. In the past, we each choose five, for a total of ten- but this year ALL the choices are mine!

This year I was on the committee for 2022 Best Graphic Novels for Adults through the American Library Association, an honor I have had to keep under wraps until we were finished compiling our list. So there have been outstanding books that I have read this year that I can not review publically until the list is revealed in January (stay tuned!!), so next year’s list will include a few of those.

No One Else

Author and illustrator R. Kikuo Johnson expertly showcases a true-to-life look at grief and family dynamics set in Hawaii. This multi-generational take is bittersweet and tender- adults who are facing new chapters in their life will relate.

Stray Dogs

“What do you get when you crossbreed Silence of the Lambs with All Dogs Go To Heaven? Well, you get Stray Dogs” (Forbes). While some people, especially dog lovers, might not enjoy this wicked thriller, I believe the juxtaposition of cutesy art and a deadly storyline make it a graphic novel not to be missed!

Not All Robots

In the year 2056 robots have supplanted humans in a futuristic world. Humans are no longer required to work, with newly sentient robots doing everything for them. An uneasy alliance has formed between the two factions, with each nervous about what the other is capable of. Author Mark Russell’s satire is spot-on, highlighting toxic masculinity, consumer society, corporate greed and white supremacy. Taken as purely social commentary, the narrative is biting, with a side of snark.

Behind You: One-Shot Horror Stories

This creepy collection of one-panel stories was absolutely perfect! Each page is its own little eerie story that gives you an introduction to a greater narrative of your own choosing. As a child, I loved the book The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg which gave you pictures and a one-sentence prompt, and this graphic novel does the same.

Saga V10

Welcome back Saga! Alana is doing her best to raise Hazel and Squire, with a motley group of misfits making a new family of sorts. I really miss Marko and am clinging to a shred of hope that he is alive. While I don’t consider this volume the best so far, I was thrilled that this series has returned after a multi-year break.

So Much For Love

Part memoir, part self-help book, Sophie Lambda is a French illustrator who shares her disastrous love affair with a narcissist. The art is delightful, as Sophie takes a self-deprecating look at her life and builds comedy into it. A trash-talking teddy bear (unseen to all but herself) is her ally, and she isn’t afraid to show her own foibles.

Year Zero

Year Zero is basically World War Z in graphic novel form! Five stories run parallel to one another to represent a microcosm of a global zombie epidemic- Sara is a polar research scientist who is the one who inadvertently finds the first zombie frozen in time, Daniel is a young orphan from Mexico City, Saga is a paid assassin in Tokyo, Fetemah is an army informant in Kabul and BJ is a doomsday prepper in Minnesota. These five individuals, deal with the sudden fallout when they become the few who have survived the apocalypse.  Volume 2 recently came out too.

White Ash

“The smaller the town, the bigger the secret…” White Ash is set in a Pennsylvania blue-collar mining town, and recent graduate Aleck is desperate to leave and start his freshman year of college. But a mining accident in which his father is hurt badly puts his plans in jeopardy, and he is thrown together with the mine owner’s daughter Lillian who recently returned from boarding school. At first, it seems like a straightforward story of star-crossed lovers from different socioeconomic classes, but then a secret is revealed that puts a fantasy twist on the entire narrative.

Batman: Three Jokers

Three Jokers have emerged in Gotham- the Criminal, the Comedian and the Clown. In this strong story, author Geoff Johns has pulled together threads from A Death in the Family and The Killing Joke, that ties in Jason Todd aka Red Hood and Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl, the two from the Batman Family that have been most affected by The Joker. The art by Jason Fabok is fabulous and this is a Batman story not to be missed.

The Complete Maus

Maus is extraordinary! I read this two-part graphic novel series by Art Spiegelman years ago and remembered the framework, but re-reading it was eye-opening as further life experiences can make you look at it with whole new eyes. We simply can not close our eyes to the horrors of the past or the realities of today, and books that address those issues should be read by everyone. This book truly was deserving of the Pulitzer Prize it won in 1992!

2022 proved to be a challenging blogging year for me. I really missed writing with Kathleen, although blogging solo has had its advantages too. I was worried my stats for the entire year would be in a free fall, but I gained traction later in the year with a consistent blogging schedule, and while they are slightly lower than the previous two years, they are above the 2018 & 2019 stats. All in all, I’m glad that I continued blogging and I look forward to sharing new reviews next year. May 2023 be your best year yet!

Batman: Three Jokers

Three Jokers have emerged in Gotham- the Criminal, the Comedian and the Clown.

In this strong Batman story, author Geoff Johns has pulled together threads from A Death in the Family and The Killing Joke, that ties in Jason Todd aka Red Hood and Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl, the two from the Batman Family that have been most affected by The Joker.

When a crime spree occurs, with video evidence, showing The Joker in three different places simultaneously, Batman realizes there is more than one. Jason Todd, the second Robin who was thought dead by the hand of The Joker, has reappeared as Red Hood who is now an avenging hero. But his brand of justice goes against the code of most heroes, who do not kill. Bruce and Barbara risk outing their secret identities if they reveal Jason killed the Joker that had so brutalized him, and Bruce feels great guilt for not being there for his former partner. There are several nuanced conservations about where to draw the line on justice, for Barbara has an equally valid reason for hating the Joker that had put her in a wheelchair for awhile, but why can she control herself and Jason can’t? The entire storyline was very interesting for all three characters and really added some gravitas to how all three have evolved over the years.

And we need to touch on the possible romance between Jason and Barbara- I read it at two different times and had two different reactions. On my first scan through the graphic novel, I saw the note and thought it was so romantic, and I wanted the two of them to be together. But then I read the graphic novel thoroughly and realized a relationship between the two would be toxic and one-sided. Barbara can’t save Jason- he needs to do the work on himself. He is looking for connection so when Barabara offered him kindness he morphed it inappropriately into love. Once he has healed, perhaps they could try, if they both want to.

The art by Jason Fabok is fabulous. With white borders, the vivid coloring stood out, and every panel was drawn with precision. I think the faces were especially well-done, with an almost photo-realistic approach. My only criticism is the absolute skin-tight costume that Batgirl wears. While there were some typical 9-panel layouts, there was also a lot of variety on the pages with different panel placements. I love Fabok’s work, but this was the first I’ve seen of his art since he works mostly for DC which I don’t read a great deal of.

Although this book came out in late 2020, it is still going strong and I’m so glad I purchased it for my library and read it myself. This is a Batman story not to be missed!

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