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Best Reads of 2019

It’s that post you look forward to all year: Graphic Novelty2‘s Best Reads post! Here we have each compiled the five most exemplary graphic novels we’ve read in 2019, in no particular order. Enjoy!

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Bone Parish

Nancy: Cullen Bunn has created a new dark and dangerous graphic novel series, and this necromantic horror story grabbed me on the first page and never let go. The Winters family of New Orleans has discovered how to manufacture the ashes of the dead into a powerful hallucinogenic drug that lets the person snorting the drug to experience everything the dead person lived through when they were alive. In charge of this operation are Grace and Andre, with their four adult children. There are a few twists and turns in the narrative, with a surprising revelation that will make you backtrack to look for clues. The story has the potential for a thought-provoking moral debate about drug culture and the sanctity of life and for the body after death. I loved Jonas Scharf’s art, and am eagerly awaiting the concluding volume later this month (V2 came out in September) and I will review both of them together at that time.

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I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation

Kathleen: This was a sort of accidental read, in that for some reason I thought it was fiction, but in fact was non-fiction. In the end, it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise! Comic artist Natalie Nourigat documents how she transitioned to the animation industry in this part autobiography, part how-to graphic novel. She shares not only her background as an artist, but all the hard work she did to get into animation: building a portfolio, interviewing, and moving somewhere totally new to her. Included are interviews with animator friends and coworkers. The art and layout are simple and clean, to allow the text with information shine; it’s worth saying that while this graphic novel is more text-heavy than others, there is never a point where the reader feels bogged down by text. By reading this, I learned a lot about something I previously had no knowledge of, and had fun doing it.

harrow county

Harrow County series

Nancy: This eight-book series is an eerie southern gothic fairy tale about a young woman Emmy who is trying desperately to understand the mysteries of her possible origin and the decades-long secrets that the townspeople have. This story is so much more than an atmospheric supernatural tale- it touches on friendship, destiny, good vs evil and the choices we make and how they define us. Authored by Cullen Bunn, I read this soon after Bone Parish, so Bunn has quickly become a favored author of mine. But with all graphic novels, it is often the art that truly sets a book apart, and in this case, Tyler Crook’s illustrations do that. His haint creatures were creative and varied, and I thought of his work and H.P. Lovecraft’s as being similarly inspired. His work came to define Harrow County for me with its townspeople, rural landscapes and sinister woods.

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New Kid

Kathleen: This middle-grade graphic novel, written and illustrated by Jerry Craft, follows Jordan Banks, a seventh-grader who starts at a new school. Not just any school – the prestigious Riverdale Academy Day School. Jordan is an excellent student, and he got in on a scholarship, but he would have much rather gone to art school. He feels this way more and more as the school year goes on, as he experiences alienation and micro-aggressions from his predominantly white classmates and teachers. Jordan is able to express himself through his drawing and comics, but all he wants more than anything is to fit in. Reading this book and realizing what Jordan was going through made me uncomfortable, but I welcomed the discomfort, because it meant I was learning. Jordan’s story and all the hard truths that came with it were presented in an easily digestible manner for it’s targeted younger audience. Ideally both children and parents are able to use this graphic novel as a tool to grapple social and racial biases.

Warlords

Warlords of Appalachia

Nancy: Set in the near future, a corrupt dictator has been voted in as president, which plunges America into the Second Civil War. Afterward, Kentucky refuses to rejoin the nation, leaving them a demilitarized zone and caught in the cross-hairs of the fascist leader who will do anything to bring these rebels into line. In the midst of this, mechanic and former soldier Kade Mercer reluctantly becomes Kentucky’s de facto leader as he leads his townspeople into the woods to escape from a military attack. Mystery surrounds his silent young son, who is kidnapped and held as ransom by the army, and in regards to the “blueboys” who live hidden in the mountains.  Author Phillip Kennedy Johnson was new to me, but I found out that he is a musician in the Army. This explains his familiarity with the armed forces and their inner workings, plus the beautiful folk-like songs that begin each chapter.  Artist Jonas Scharf (mentioned in Bone Parish earlier) elevated this story further for he captures the look of Appalachia and it’s inhabitants, while also realistically rendering the military scenes.  Unfortunately, this graphic novel seemed to be a one-and-done, as I have not seen further stories from this duo.

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The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel

Kathleen: This graphic novel adaptation was my first experience of Margaret Atwood’s classic story. It follows the Handmaid Offred, a woman who lives in service to the Commander and his wife. Offred’s service is to bear their children, and nothing more. She is not allowed to read, write, or own anything, but she remembers a time before, when she was able to do these things and more. When she and the Commander begin to carry on a more-than-professional relationship, Offred realizes she might be playing for her freedom. The art of this graphic novel was, hands down, the best I’ve seen this year. Thin washes of watercolor and tiny, wobbly lines of ink give off a light and airy, yet foreboding and uncertain quality, as if (to quote from my original review) “you’re in a dream that could very quickly and easily turn into a nightmare.” The story was undeniably compelling, in a morbidly curious way, but Renée Nault’s spellbinding art is what sold this experience for me.

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Snow, Glass, Apples

Nancy: Every Halloween I like to find a spooky read, and this year it was a twisted fairy tale from the esteemed Neil Gaiman whose dark and whimsical tales are sure to please. He once again tackles the Snow White story, but this story is told from Snow White’s stepmother’s perspective and she is far from a wicked witch. Instead, the twist is that young Snow White is the evil one, and is a vampire who manipulates others. Plus, there is quite the erotica element to this tale, so it is for mature audiences only. While Gaiman’s tale is excellent, it is the art by Colleen Doran that makes this book stand out. She draws in an Art Nouveau style and takes inspiration from famed artists Harry Clarke and Aubrey Beardsley. Her art is reminiscent of stained glass windows with deep jewel blues and purples. She incorporates mandalas and nature into the backgrounds, so the illustrations are a feast for the eyes.

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Just Jaime

Kathleen: Lifelong friends Jaime and Maya have finally reached the last day of seventh grade! But they haven’t reached it together. Jaime feels that her and Maya don’t have the friendship they used to have, and wants to fix it on this special day. Maya has been pressured by the older and more popular Celia to end her friendship with Jaime, who she says has been bogging down the friend group. Will Jaime and Maya repair their relationship, or let it go along with the rest of seventh grade? Terri Libenson wrote and illustrated this middle-grade graphic novel, and perfectly captured a wealth of issues – friendship, maturity, reputation, drama – over the course of one day. We alternate chapters told from Jaime and Maya’s points of view, but their format differs too. The heavier introspective side of Jaime’s story is told in mostly prose with little illustrations. Maya’s story involves others, so we see her side in mostly graphic novel format, in order to witness firsthand what others are putting her through. Though alternating points of view is a common trope, never before had I seen different formats for the different characters; it was extremely effective here.

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Wolverine podcast

Nancy: My wildcard is not a graphic novel, but the outstanding two-season Marvel podcast about Wolverine. The premise: Following a string of mysterious deaths in Burns, Alaska, Special Agents Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall arrive to investigate. They soon find there’s more going on than meets the eye. Season one proved to be more a murder mystery, while Logan was kept on the periphery of the narrative, but in season two he is front and center, with an adventure in New Orleans that includes Gambit and Weapon X. Each season consisted of ten episodes that were about 30-40 minutes in length, which made my 45-minute drive to work enjoyable. Check out the podcast online at Sticher, as the episodes are free to listen to.

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Batman: The Long Halloween

Kathleen: Y’all didn’t think I was gonna go through 2019 without letting a DC title on this list, did you? Get outta here ;D One Halloween night in Gotham City, Johnny Viti, the nephew of mob boss Carmine Falcone, is murdered. Surrounding his body are dollar-store Halloween decorations. Thus begins the spree of the “Holiday” killer: picking off members of the Falcone family one by one on a holiday, and leaving that holiday’s trinkets near the body. Allies Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and ADA Harvey Dent wanted to take down the mob, but not like this. Soon the lies, double-crosses, and finger points begin to affect them to the point where they suspect each other. At the time of publication, this was a groundbreaking story that I believe changed the way Batman’s character and stories were told thereafter. All parties involved in the story are human, and therefore fallible. We see them each fall as they each believe they are doing the right thing. The art is stark, dark, and minimalist, with a great emphasis on light and shadow, which allows for greater movement of the story and greater focus on the characters and their intentions. If you’re a Batman fan, you need to read this comic. End of story.

There you have it: Nancy and Kathleen’s unequivocal Best Reads of 2019! Nancy read many excellent horror and creepy stories this year, while Kathleen found some phenomenal middle-grade novels. Most shocking is how only one superhero read and listen made the list apiece, from our die-hard DC and Marvel fans! The world just might be ending 😉

Thank you all for sticking around another year. We both hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!

Nancy and Kathleen

Wolverine: The Lost Trail podcast

Wolverine is back in another strong podcast from Marvel! I was a huge fan of season one which proved to be more a murder mystery, while Logan was kept on the periphery of the narrative, but in this season he is front and center.

Among the Missing

After the Burns, Alaska, disaster, Logan returns to the New Orleans area looking for his ex-lover Maureen. He had made a few calls to her when up north, so when he can’t get in touch with her, he assumes the worst and searches for her. He tracks her down to a bar she sang at, and a teen employee there, tells Logan that her disappearance might be related to another case. All the people in Marcus’s mutant village disappeared after someone mysterious had convinced him to take him to the remote bayou where they were hiding. Agent Sally Pierce is back on the case, sounding different as she wants to blend in (but also a nod to what we discovered about her in season one).

The Forgotten

Marcus tracks Logan to Maureen’s apartment where he is looking for clues. Maureen was obviously onto something, as she has newspaper clippings and a map tracking a rash of disappearances of both mutants and humans in the area.  A playing card pinned to the fridge points Logan in the direction of my favorite rogue Gambit. But Gambit doesn’t truly have much information to share, and in my opinion, he didn’t sound suave enough with the delicious accent I have come to expect, in this podcast. (If you are interested in Gambit growing up and marrying Rogue, checkout Mr. And Mrs. X)

The Cold Blooded

Logan moves on to Bourbon Street where he meets up with a flamboyant former operative, to help him get the talkative Marcus to safety. A trashy biker gang is put on the case by Pierce and they are very anti-mutant, as people in Louisana are more aware of them than they were in Alaska. Things go haywire and Marcus and Logan barely escape and head into the swamp to look for the man they believe is responsible for all the missing people.

Into the Swamp

This was a bridge episode- not a lot happened but we were privy to some character development about Logan. We also get some clarification on Agent Pierce and her connection to Weapon X. The man they are after is revealed, and while it was who I thought it would be, I was abashed at how long it took me to think him up, as I am rusty on my Marvel villains. I should have guessed who Wyngarde was right off based on Marcus’s first description of him.

Riverboat Revival

Logan’s mind had been wiped clean several times by Weapon X, and while some memories occasionally bubble to the surface, Marcus realizes Logan needs help retrieving them so he can find Wyngarde and his mysterious compound Greenhaven. They meet with a fortune teller to help Logan access his memories, and her characterization is such a broad stereotype that it made me cringe to hear her talk. Marcus is scared off by Logan’s dark past and runs off just to meet up with Gambit again. The sound effects in this episode were confusing and made me lose track of what was supposed to be going on.

Blood on the Bayou

The biker gang is intent on killing Logan, although that goes against the wishes of Agent Pierce who only wishes for him to be captured alive. The hate the leader of the gang expresses towards mutants is very reminiscent of the classic X-Men story, God Loves, Man Kills.  Pierce is showing some uncharacteristic empathy these last few episodes, which is quite different from her brusque personality from last season. Gambit and Logan work together to save Marcus from the bikers, and off they go again in search of Greenhaven.

Welcome to Greenhaven

Marcus and Logan arrive in Greenhaven but they both have different experiences when reunited with their loved ones. Not surprisingly, all is not what it seems at the mutant haven, led by the cult-like leader Wyngarde. What is Wyngarde really planning?

The Proposition

Maureen and Logan are reunited, but Maureen’s demeanor seems off- how much has she been affected by Wyndgarde’s telepathic powers? Their memories are suspect, and you begin to wonder what really happened between them and Wyngarde when all three escaped together from Weapon X.  After Maureen leaves, Pierce arrives and makes a proposition to Logan that he reluctantly accepts. No one is to be trusted at this point, with conflicting motivations and intentions.

Greenhaven is Everywhere

Maureen and Pierce meet, as do Logan and Wyndgarde. Betrayals and alliances are forged, but as the Weapon X sentinels are arriving to wage war with the mutants, everything is up for grabs. Will Wyndegard be able to dominate the world with his mind tricks? Plus, the first reference about Gambit and Logan being X-Men in the past together is mentioned, which ups my confusion- why aren’t they X-Men any longer??

Deal with the Devil

All hell breaks loose at Greenhaven as the sentinels arrive. Marcus tries to escape with his mother, as Maureen and Pierce come up with a plan to stop the robots. That leaves Logan and Wyngarde to battle it out, and as not to spoil how it all ends, let’s just say there is double-cross after double-cross. I was relieved that Logan finally listened to Maureen, because a trope that annoys me is the “noble” person who sacrifices everything for their loved one, but never consults that loved one. I enjoyed the epilogue which both brings the story to a close, yet leaves enough plot threads open to continue.

These two podcasts about Logan/Wolverine have been excellent. In some ways, I enjoyed season one more, as the narrative was more atypical, and this season was the classic superhero story. I read that the Fantastic Four might get the next podcast treatment, and if so, I will check it out, as writer Benjamin Percy has shown himself to create superior stories that capture the audience’s attention and never let’s go!

-Nancy

Voice Cast:

Richard Armitage as Logan / Wolverine

Bill Irwin as Jason Wyngarde / Mastermind

Bill Heck as Remy LeBeau / Gambit

Rodney Henry as Marcus Baptiste

Christina Bennett Lind as Agent Sally Pierce

Blair Brown as Bonnie Roach

Mugga as Ruby Baptiste

Rachael Holmes as Maureen

Wolverine: The Long Night podcast

Although I am a fan of Marvel and especially the X-Men, I have read remarkably few graphic novels about them recently. I heard about this Wolverine podcast during a commercial on the LeVar Burton Reads podcast that I listen to, so after I wrapped up season three of that podcast, I decided to give this one a try. I’m so glad I did!

The set-up of this ten chapter series: following a string of mysterious deaths in Burns, Alaska, Special Agents Sally Pierce and Tad Marshall arrive to investigate. They soon find there’s more going on than meets the eye.

A Thousand Ways To Die In Alaska

In this first episode, FBI agents Pierce and Marshall arrive in Burns, Alaska to investigate a fishing boat massacre that seems to be more than a drug run gone bad. When slash marks are found in the boat hull, we know that Logan, aka Wolverine, is tied in- because that’s what the podcast is all about, hence the title!

Goodnight Nobody

The agent’s line of questioning of the local police and townspeople point to them suspecting Logan, although they won’t admit that they are there under false pretenses. For a podcast based on Wolverine, he as a character has factored in very little yet. He is described by others and in some of these remembrances his voice is heard, but he has yet to play a significant role. The agents are also questioning the supposed bear attacks of two local women recently and the quote “Goodnight Nobody” tattooed on one of the victims leads them to a new mysterious cult.

Underground

Additional suspicions are raised about the Aurora cult, a reclusive group that has settled in the area recently, led by Nicholas Prophet. Agents Pierce and Marshall investigate, accompanied by young Deputy Bobby Reid (who sounds incredibly like Tom Holland of Spiderman fame), to see if the Prophet could shed any insight on the rash of deaths in the community. Their compound is creepy, but no big clues to connect the cult with Logan are obvious as of yet.

Hunters

More suspects are interviewed by agents Pierce and Marshall.  The rich Langrock family, who are benefactors to the town but are  (not surprisingly) not what they seem, become the newest suspects. Could they be behind the drugs that one fisherman saw on the fishing boat before the bags disappeared? Other clues point to eco-terrorists in the area, and one family with feral children have connections to Logan. Descriptions of Logan are shattering my view of him as the dreamy Hugh Jackman, as he is described as short, squat and ugly. Sigh…

Into the Woods

The Langrock family sponsors a hunt to find the bear that has supposedly killed two women and the night before attacked yet another woman. Are they doing this as a true public service to the community or are they trying to distract the agents from the real killer? Clues would point to a double-cross, as video footage viewed by the agents show the local police in the Langrock’s back pocket, and they advise young deputy Reid to not be so subservient to those in power.

Archeology of the Night

A sacred grove of old-growth trees located in a canyon with ancient petroglyphs is scheduled to be logged by the Langrock family, and this news ties in with the eco-terrorists, the cult, the woman most recently mauled and Logan. A web of clues is slowly coming together, but more clues are needed such as who is the creature that is doing the mauling, that doesn’t quite sound like Logan (of course we all know he didn’t do it). And we find out some surprising news about Reid, and that perhaps his aww-shucks persona is hiding another agenda.

You’re Next

Clues on how the Langrock family is managing to smuggle the drugs between their fishing cannery and their logging company is revealed through research at the local library (be still my heart!). The sacred grove and a recently discovered cave with mystical symbols reminds me of the Pet Semetary novel by Stephen King and is furthered by a reference to a Wendigo monster that an Inuit man brings up…yet the Wendigo monster is a mythical creature from Native American tribes on the eastern coast of the United States and Canada and not of Inuit folklore. This hallowed area is also referred to as the Tarrack—a spiritual nexus that has the power to exact revenge on those that wish to destroy the region.

The Red Sunset

When a prime suspect is found dead, the agents are thrown for a loop, especially when the cult is found worshipping in front of the dead body and Prophet speaks of another future sacrifice.  A young woman with a strong allegiance to Logan clues them in to look into another suspect that I guessed earlier would be the true culprit. References are made by the agents about mutant genes, yet they seem slow on the uptake that there could be another mutant local to the town, besides Logan.

The Changing

In this penultimate episode, we find out definitively who the killer is (it’s who I thought it would be!) and there is a deep pathos in the person’s background that twisted them into a cold-blooded killer when their mutant power kicked in. Used as a pawn for revenge against others, the killer has a break with reality and fights Logan, just to run off and disappear into the woods. As we head into the last episode, questions remain about how the cult ties into all of this, and what the agents know about Logan’s past and mutant powers. I do want to mention that the sound effects in this podcast are excellent, with the noises heard in a pivotal scene in this chapter really adding to the atmosphere.

No Escape

What an ending! Turns out there was a huge secret that brusque agent Pierce and easy-going agent Marshall were hiding, and I was completely surprised, although there had been a tiny clue in the last chapter. What I liked is that some of the plot’s threads remain open, there is no neat conclusion to what happens to all the residents of Burns, Alaska. Logan finally takes center stage in the last chapter as he meets one of the agents, and through some references he makes to his past, I remain a bit muddled on his timeline in the X-Men universe. But no matter what, Weapon X (btw, that’s not a spoiler to the big secret I mentioned earlier) won’t give up on capturing what they consider their biggest asset, and I’m sure that will play a big part in Season Two- The Long Trail.

This podcast was beyond good! The voice actors were perfect for their roles, with Logan, Pierce and Marshall standing out. There is a graphic novel based on this story available, and I look forward to reading that to compare how the visual and the auditory versions match up. I will definitely be listening to season two, and between that and the LeVar Burton Reads podcast, I have much to enjoy listening to on my commute to work!

-Nancy

Voice Cast:

Richard Armitage as Logan / Wolverine

Celia Keenan-Bolger as Agent Sally Pierce

Ato Essandoh as Agent Tad Marshall

Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Deputy Bobby Reid

Scott Adsit as Sheriff Ridge

Brian Stokes Mitchell as Nicholas Prophet

Bob Balaban as Joseph Langrock

The Infinity Gauntlet

Thanos is a big whiny crybaby!

Despite Thanos achieving omnipotence by collecting the six Infinity gems of time, space, mind, soul, reality, and power he is distraught that Lady Death does not love him back. Desperate to impress her, and egged on by Mephisto, Thanos kills half of humanity including many of the Avenger and X-Men heroes.

A seemingly random group of heroes remain: Captain America, Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, Hulk, Wolverine, Scarlet Witch, Iron Man, Spider Man and a few others. They band under the direction of Adam Warlock, who is mysteriously alive again, to defeat Thanos. There were some confusing interactions with some cosmic deities,  and eventually his own self doubt leads to his undoing. But what of the huge swath of death that Thanos cut across the universe? You will just have to read this classic series to find out how!

I admired Jim Starlin’s story, as it didn’t become too convoluted and he gave Thanos a real pathos. The art work by George Pérez and Ron Lim is outstanding, of course.  I like how people are drawn realistically and proportionally, none of this bulked out men and sex kitten females that some artists feel they need to draw. I laughed out loud when in the background of a panel depicting a giant wave, a Trump tower was seen collapsing. Written in 1991, who knew what that picture would symbolize years later.

Depending on when you come into a fandom, there will be certain characters that you know better than others. As I was an X-Men & ElfQuest fan originally, and did not read many Avenger titles, Thanos is a new character to me. And although this book is due for some attention because of the upcoming Avengers Infinity War movie, I actually picked this up because I am on a Pérez kick (thanks to Kathleen!). Two other characters that I have recently come to know better in this book and last week’s JLA/Avengers are Galatcus and Nebula. While I vaguely remembered Nebula from Guardians of the Galaxy (I have not seen part 2 yet), I find it funny that my first connection to Galatcus came from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl!

I enjoyed reading throw back stories these two weeks, for they give me a better understanding of past adventures and spotlighted characters I didn’t know that well. This was an epic story, one that newer Marvel stories pale next to.

-Nancy

Starlin, Jim, George Perez & Ron Lim. The Infinity Gauntlet. 1991.

Guest Post on My Comic Relief

Image by Babs Tarr @ Babs Draws

Michael at My Comic Relief has been running a series on his and other blogger’s reviews and reflections on the Logan movie, so I was excited to be able to add a guest post, Logan : A Fitting End,  to his blog. Logan was a superb movie that gave a fitting end to the story of Logan’s life, but his successor Laura is more than capable of carrying the Wolverine mantel into the future.

Please check out Michael’s site to not only read the Logan series but to read Michael’s erudite posts on comics, movies, and his excellent ongoing political series about the New American Resistance. Michael has been a big supporter of our site, and we are very proud to call him a friend!

-Nancy

You’re Fired Wolverine!

In anticipation of the upcoming Wolverine movie, Logan, coming out later this week I want to share this hilarious video by comedian Pete Holmes about our favorite brooding hero.

For his now defunct late night show, Holmes did a series of skits on the failings of many of the X-Men heroes, and how their vulnerabilities made them a threat to the team. Because if you really think about it -Wolverine’s metal claws could be manipulated by Magneto, he needs to be close up to fight effectively, and he’s often off “discovering” himself.  But…he’s sexy and has good hair, so who cares!

Just a heads up- the video is for mature audiences for it has profanity and raunchy humor.

 

There are eleven of these X-Men spoof videos,  so you can look forward to more posts on this topic in the future!

-Nancy

Top 5 Wednesday: Series That Got Worse With Each Book/Season

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Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week’s topic is: series that got worse with each book/season. Unfortunately, I knew immediately what I would write about!

Old Man Logan was an awesome way of restarting Wolverine’s story, and a movie based on the series will be coming out in 2017. The first book had an intriguing line up of past and future heroes and villains, and I liked the dusty western-like feel to the illustrations. But going forward, the books had an author and illustrator change, and it is now in the Secret Wars/Warzones series, and that absolutely kills it for me. This new planet in the Marvel Universe where anything goes, rubs me the wrong way. It’s sloppy storytelling, where continuity doesn’t matter and because of that, I no longer am interested in reading the rest of the series.

Marvel 1602 was penned by the famous Neil Gaiman and I loved it. I again had the problem of the artist changing in future volumes, and the rest of the series looked amateurish to me. Kathleen recently read 1602: Witch Hunter Angela and liked it, but it is now in the Secret Wars/Warzones series, which as I stated, I hate. Done.

The X Files tv series was an absolute favorite of mine for many years. Dana Scully was a tough, smart professional who was beautiful, but that attribute was secondary, for she was all business. Fox Mulder was the believer, who was good looking enough for me to appreciate, but he also was a professional that wanted to solve the mysterious cases. Their relationship was realistic, with witty banter, and a touch of romantic tension between them. I usually liked the stand alone episodes the best, because the mythology of the series started to become unwieldy. When David Duchovny left the series for awhile and two other actors were brought in, the quality went down, way down. But I refused to give up on it. I’ve watched all the movies, and I enjoyed the recent reboot. True believers never gave up on Scully and Mulder!

The YA book, Life As We Knew It, was a solid dystopian novel about if the moon got knocked off orbit and how our weather would change drastically, which led to chaos. The main character was likable, the plot was realistic and I imagined what I would do under the same circumstances. The next two books in the series continued with the same family but also introduced another family into the mix. The quality declined, but still a good trilogy. Then the author decided to tack on another book, The Shade of the Moon, and ruined the whole series for me. Read my scathing Goodreads review to understand why.

Another example of a how a fourth book undermines the earlier books, is The Giver series. The first in the series is a classic, and for good reason. The village and moral dilemmas are fully fleshed out, and youth connect with the message of the novel. The second and third books deal with other people and villages, and it doesn’t seem as if they all reside in the same world. The fourth book, makes mention of a few earlier characters from the previous three books, but is very disjointed and rambling. Just read the first in the series, and leave it at that.

So readers, do you agree with my choices? What are your thoughts on the books and series I mentioned?

-Nancy

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X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills

Graphic Novelty²  would like to introduce our first guest to post on our blog, Nancy’s husband, Cliff!

So, final exams week for Nancy. I volunteered to do a guest post to give her a break, then remembered I really haven’t kept up with the comics world for many years (besides ElfQuest). Nancy’s already done a review of the elves, so I figured we’d go back to school; the Old School, that is…

I read The Uncanny X-Men for awhile in the mid 80’s, and this is the book that drew me in (I picked it up several years after it had originally been published). I’ve read that it wasn’t considered part of the overall X-Men canon for many years, but the story is a doozy nonetheless. Religious extremism bordering on fascism, an unlikely alliance between the X-men and Magneto, innocent mutant children being hunted and killed, torture and deception, a lot of suspense wondering about the fates of several key characters, and a final showdown at a Madison Square Garden crusade. The artwork has a dark and rough around the edges quality that fits the mood of the tale.

Looking back, I remember thinking that Wolverine was the coolest thing ever (I was in my early teens when I read this, ’nuff said) and wishing that he’d had a more prominent role (although he did play a significant part in the story); nonetheless, this graphic novel has a good overall balance. The character development is spread pretty evenly (with the notable exception of Storm), and two things in particular stood out when I re-read it: at the end, Cyclops/Scott confronts the evil William Stryker on the podium and makes an eloquent plea for acceptance and tolerance. I also was impressed with the way Kitty Pryde’s character was written. I remember her not being very well developed in the monthly comics; here, she shows a lot of backbone, standing up for herself and her fellow mutants, and she isn’t afraid to get angry. She also shows of some pretty cool survival skills that help her to outwit her opponents.

A few negatives: too many characters with huge thought balloons or those talking-out-loud explanations of what they’re doing that would never cut it in real time (think of those movies where James Bond has only 30 seconds to defeat an enemy and disarm a bomb, but the scene takes more than two minutes); however, this being a graphic novel that was sold in bookstores to the general public, maybe the author went in with the idea of placing a lot of character info in the story for those who were not familiar with the X-Men or their history. Also, while I’m no fan of fundamentalist religious beliefs, the bad guys felt a little too cookie cutter and one dimensional, though I did find Rev. Stryker’s background story pretty interesting.

Overall, I’d give this one a solid B. It was fun re-reading it all these years later. Maybe the costumes haven’t aged well, but the universal themes behind the story remain timeless. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone, comics fan or not.

School is now dismissed!

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Claremont, Christopher and Brent Eric Anderson. God Loves, Man Hates. 1982.

Bit of trivia: What is wrong with this picture???

 

Wolverine: Old Man Logan

OldManLogan
Millar, Mark & Steve McNiven. Wolverine: Old Man Logan. 2008.

Mark Millar, you did it again. Civil War, Red Son, now Old Man Logan– you really know how to tell a story!

I’ve been circling this comic for awhile, not sure what to expect from it, and feeling that Wolverine already gets a lion share of Marvel’s attention, did I really need to read another Wolverine book? Well, I did, and will be definitely be coming back for more.

Wolverine, who now goes by Logan,  is living in a post- apocalyptic world with his wife and two children (I’m sorry, but you just know they’re doomed) and is a pacifist with flashbacks to some great trauma from his past. He and his family are barely scraping by on their dying farm, when the Hulk family comes by to collect the past due rent. They beat Logan down, knowing he won’t fight back, and give the family one more month to pay up. While Logan is recuperating, for he still has his power of speed healing, old friend Hawkeye comes to visit with a proposition. Hawkeye, who is now practically blind, wants Logan to help him cross the country from the West Coast (present day Sacramento area) to the East coast (current day Washington DC). He is willing to pay Logan enough money to cover all his debts, so Logan gives his family a loving goodbye and sets off with Hawkeye in a former Spidey-mobile.

They run into a bit of trouble…Hawkeye’s rebellious adult daughter, Ghost Riders,  mole men called Moloids, dinosaurs imported from the Savage Land; all the while battling the flashbacks of what happened fifty years prior. We find out what happened to the X-Men, and I won’t spoil what happened, but it’s brutal.  You will understand why Logan put down his persona of Wolverine that day, and why he has not stepped up to help when all of America was falling to the super villains.

The duo make it out East to meet with an underground group and the secret that Hawkeye was carrying is revealed- serum to make super soldiers so they could restart an Avengers team. Betrayals and deaths occur and Red Skull is revealed to be behind it all. Logan fights the villains, but without his claws being unsheathed. He is able to make it make home with his reward, but as expected his little family is no more, killed by the Banner clan in his absence.

The claws come out in his grief, and he is Wolverine once more. The large inbred Hulk family doesn’t stand a chance when confronted with Wolverine’s fury. The show down between the original Bruce Banner and Wolverine is epic, with Wolverine persevering in an awesomely gory way.

The ending is apropos, with a nugget of hope built in. Enough plot threads and hints of other characters out there are left, to fuel future stories of how Wolverine is back and is going to reclaim the land, before he rides off into the sunset.

The artwork by Steve McNiven is outstanding. The color scheme is sepia toned and dusty, with an Old West feel to the people and terrain.  The characters are drawn realistically, with a good eye for detail.

I highly recommended this graphic novel- for it has a great way to restart Wolverine’s story, with an intriguing line up of past and future heroes and villains.

-Nancy

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