Reading the GGNT 2015 noms: X-Men and L’il Gotham

by Tessa

Read about the whys of this series here.

I’m starting off with these 2 superhero books because it’s easier for me to write about stuff that I don’t enjoy. I like categorizing things so I made categories loosely related to how I would read things for the committee, with the knowledge that I have only the other nominations to compare them to because I haven’t been reading feverishly all year, and no teen feedback, so it really isn’t like a real committee reading experience.

One of the great things about the Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee is that there are 11 people on it, all with different tastes in comics, so hopefully no type of comic is given short shrift. Being on the committee exposed me to so many comics I never would have read. I still haven’t developed a depth of knowledge about Marvel and DC, but I do have a bit of breadth now, and a few new favorites. Full disclosure of personal biases: I’ve read enough to know that I have reservations about the usefulness of the superhero story and I might be a tad reactive to overused tropes. But I’d never say that I hate all superheroes. I just want better for them.

Batman_Li'l_Gotham_Vol_1_1

Batman: Li’l Gotham V. 1 & V.2

Dustin Nguyen, artist & writer

Derek Fridolfs, writer

DC Comics

Anticipation/expectation level: Guessing I’m going to enjoy it.  I like Batman comics, like a large number of people.  I like Dustin Nguyen’s art, and this book is no exception – just flipping through it ups the appeal.

Reality: The first volume has small stories that are all centered around holidays, some more popular and some that feel like a stretch. This seems like the one concession (other than the art) to Gotham being “Li’l” – the crimes and hijinks happen around something relatively frivolous like a holiday, so it’s cuter? Instead, it feels trivial and disjointed. And as much as the art is beautiful, it doesn’t quite fit the subject. The watercolors make the action more hectic & unfollowable, the chibi-izing of the characters, especially all the Robin iterations, make their features more indistinguishable, and creating some confusion. And Damian is annoying as usual, which doesn’t help.

Good to Know: I read these in a dour mood.

Will Teens like it?: I think younger teens will, for sure. I’d put this on the upper-elementary middle grade side of the library.

Is it Great (for teens)?: I don’t think it coalesces as a comic enough to be great, but I’d totally recommend it to a teen.

Art Taste:

Batman_Li'l_Gotham_Vol_1_1_Textless

X-Men: Battle of the Atom

Brian Michael Bendis, Brian Wood, Jason Aaron,  Frank Cho,  Stuart Immonen, David Lopez, et al 

Marvel

battleoftheatom

Anticipation/expectation level: I enjoyed the lead up to this event, All New X-Men: Yesterday’s X-Men, which if I remember correctly, was on the 2014 GGNT list. In that one, the X-Men of the past are brought into the future/present to scare them into making better choices. Also, I generally like the idea of the X-Men, and reading what Bendis writes, so I was expecting an interesting and pleasant ride.

Reality: It was so hard to force myself to finish this. The basic plot is that the X-Men from the past have stayed in the future-present because they feel they’re doing good there. But then X-Men from the future-future come in to tell them they are wrong and must go back to the past-past, but they can’t say why. No one trusts anyone, everyone fights with each other, even more future X-people become involved.Unless you are really into X-Men genealogy via time travel and enjoy the type of plot that consists of people sniping at each other endlessly, I find it hard to believe that this book holds an appeal to comics lovers who appreciate exciting art combined with an exciting story. Although if you read it as a cautionary tale about the drawbacks of being born a mutant in a world that will drive you and your kind to an extinction by infighting, then it is very interesting indeed. I found myself wishing for an alternate universe where X-Men stories were told in seasons like Star Trek, and could be enjoyed on their own. Each season’s strengths would make readers want to explore the universe as a whole, without creating events, crossovers, and time travel dilemmas.

Will Teens Like it?: Probably? Most of the teens I know read manga -this is one where I’d like to hear teen feedback.

Is it Great?: It’s a great big something.

Art taste: Standard superhero

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Reading the GGNT Noms Preface: What is it and why is it.

by Tessa

For the previous 3 years, I was lucky to be chosen to volunteer as a part of the Great Graphic Novels for Teens selection list committee. This list might be unfamiliar to anyone who is not a librarian, so I’ll explain: Librarians have a professional association called ALA (American Library Association). There are divisions within it, and the one that serves librarians working with teens is YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association). YALSA’s work includes selection lists and book awards that help librarians across the country know about the best books of the year for their readers and libraries, including audiobooks, books for reluctant readers, and more. Full info is here.

The awards process is much more secretive (and prestigious) than the selection list. The selection committees read within their charge – ours was to find the best graphic novels published from September of the preceding year through December of the selection year (eg. Sept. 2013-December 2014 for the 2015 list – the list is named for the year in which it is published and NOT the year most of the books were published, SO CONFUSING). The committee members (there are 11) nominate titles by reading as much as they can get their hands on (this can be difficult for comics), solicit feedback from actual teens about the titles, and meet to discuss nominations twice a year during the ALA conferences.

The nominations list is finalized at the end of October, and the list is voted on and published at the end of January/beginning of February in the following year.

Which is all to say: being on the committee was a lot of work and 3 years was enough, but I totally miss it because it was like the best book club ever. I don’t miss having to read books whether I liked them or not (and you can see the toll it has taken on my reading pace here:)Screen Shot 2014-10-27 at 10.20.57 AM

But I do miss feeling like I’m on top of what’s new in comics, despite having a fun gig reviewing at No Flying No Tights.

So I’m reading all the nominations this year and I’m going to do mini reviews here.  This is extra exciting because, even though our meetings were open to anyone at the conference, we were discouraged to talk about the books on social media/blogs, even if we didn’t explicitly say we were on the committee.

But now I’m not on the committee! Let the reviews begin – they will start tomorrow and go up every Friday.

I also want to note that anyone can nominate a book  (as long as you’re not a creator or publisher of the book)- there’s a form on the YALSA site. That doesn’t mean it’s an official nomination, but it brings it to the attention of the committee and they are then supposed to read it.

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