No Flying No Tights review: Gast by Carol Swain

by Tessa

gastswain-224x300

I have a review of Gast by Carol Swain up at No Flying No Tights today. I thought this book was something very special.

Helen has just moved to rural Wales with her parents. She’s quiet and solitary, but she isn’t shy. She’s the kind of child whose mother must ask her not to bring any more dying animals to the house. Helen loves watching nature and recording her observations and theories in her journal, as well as the Welsh words she’s learned: “gwennol” is the name for the bird that we call a swallow, and “gast” is Welsh for woman. New to the language, Helen initially thinks the egg seller from town is talking about a dead bird when he mentions Emrys: “A rare bird. Down by here. Cuddig. I don’t know what he’d be called… took his own life… Upset my birds terrible it did.” Soon enough, she realizes he’s referring to a neighbor who committed suicide, and her inquisitive nature leads to an exploration of human life and death.

Check it out over there!

My Top Ten Picks for GGNT 2015

by Tessa

Friends, I’m going to post my Top Ten from the nominations list which is posted on the ALA page.

However! After seeing a picture of the committee with their top ten picks, it seems that the ALA list of current nominations was not the final nominations list, because there are books on the official top ten that are NOT on the ALA list. Such as: Trillium, Seconds, In Real Life, Through the Woods, and that book that Thomas is holding that I don’t recognize.

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This is disappointing to me as a lover of order and detail, and as a blogger who wanted to cover all of the nominations. This is how I feel:

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On the other hand, I’m happy that Through the Woods is there, because I was wondering why it hadn’t made the list. It’s definitely one of my top ten books I read last year.

So with my disappointment registered, here are my Top Ten, from the information that I have at hand, which is not complete, in no particular order:

1. Through the Woods, Emily Carroll

2. Beautiful Darkness, Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoet

3. El Deafo by Cece Bell

4. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood by Nathan Hale

5. Moonhead and the Music Machine by Andrew Rae

6. Ms. Marvel V.1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

7. This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki

8. Tomboy by Liz Prince

9. Above the Dreamless Dead edited by Chris Duffy

10. Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley

 

Overall, I thought that 52 of the 81 listed nominations were “great”, with 40 of those being really great.

 

Keep your eye on the ALA site to see an update on the final list… if they remember to update it.

Great Graphic Novels 2015 Noms: More Non-Fiction Comics

by Tessa

Read about why I’m reading these comics by clicking here.

This is the last of the batch!!! I’ll be posting my picks for Top Ten next week… what would yours be?

Also: HAPPY 3RD ANNIVERSARY, Crunchings & Munchings! Rebecca registered us on WordPress 3 years ago.

masterful-marks

Masterful Marks. Cartoonists Who Changed the World – 16 Graphic Biographies

Monte Beauchamp, editor

Simon & Schuster

Anticipation/expectation level: Picking up the book and flipping through it made me anticipate the act of reading it, because of the wonderful variety of drawing styles, many of them in the style of the artist that they are profiling. But an email discussion about the book pointed out some issues that I hoped wouldn’t be so prominent (spoiler alert: they were).

My Reality: Beauchamp has selected 16 figures who he thinks influenced comics history. The biographies are drawn by a wide range of artists and written by Beauchamp and others. I’m going to quote the publisher’s copy about the book to give you a better idea of the idea:

In a first-of-its-kind collection, award-winning illustrators celebrate the lives of the visionary artists who created the world of comic art and altered pop culture forever.

Sixteen Graphic Novel Biographies of:
• Walt Disney • Dr. Seuss • Charles Schulz • The Creators of Superman • R. Crumb • Jack Kirby • Winsor McCay • Hergé • Osamu Tezuka • MAD creator, Harvey Kurtzman • Al Hirschfeld • Edward Gorey • Chas Addams • Rodolphe Töpffer • Lynd Ward • Hugh Hefner

The story of cartoons—the multibillion-dollar industry that has affected all corners of our culture, from high to low—is ultimately the story of the visionary icons who pioneered the form.
But no one has told the story of comic art in its own medium—until now.

In Masterful Marks, top illustrators—including Drew Friedman, Nora Krug, Denis Kitchen, and Peter Kuper—reveal how sixteen visionary cartoonists overcame massive financial, political, and personal challenges to create a new form of art that now defines our world.

So, according to that, these are the figures that created comics – obviously not true. This is also not the first book that tells comics history in the comics form – there’s the Comic Book History of Comics,  comicbookhistorywhich is longer and more expansive, and might even include women! Actually, I’m not sure about that. But Masterful Marks definitely does not include women. It does manage to include Hugh Hefner, who was an amateur cartoonist and a publisher of comics artist. But it does not not an actual woman who creates comics or publishes comics. No Francoise Mouly. No Lynda Barry or Trina Robbins or Alison Bechdel or Tove Jansson or Jackie Ormes. Masterful Marks is narrowly focused because its editor is narrowly focused.

The comics themselves are lovely. But they are short. There is a lot of information to get into 16 pages or whatever, and so many of them have panels that are too crowded with narration, or panels that just have the biographical figure listing facts about themselves with no arc to the comic. The Walt Disney comic is just 2 anthropomorphic animals roaming the countryside – there is no point to that one being a comic at all.

Some of them are really great! Drew Friedman draws a personal story about how he knows Harvey Kurtzman, and because it has a personal connection that frames the story, it works. It doesn’t try to encompass the man’s entire life.

But not enough of them are great to make this book work. I would love to see full length, even 48 page comic biographies using this conceit, but the collection isn’t coherent enough to be even a rough history of comics, and the comics themselves are hamstrung by the length limitation.

Will teens like it?: I can see teens missing out on a lot of information trying to use this as a resource for a paper.

Is it “great” for teens?: No.

Art Taste:

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masterful-marks-addams

09-Shuster

dreamless dead

Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics.

Chris Duffy, editor

First Second

Anticipation/expectation level: Chris Duffy puts together some really excellent collections of comics adaptations of prose works for First Second, so I figured this had a good chance of being great.

My Reality: The poems and the art in this collection work so, so well together, better than I ever thought they would. The panels of the comics let the reader slow down and not rush through the poetry. It’s a treat to see how each artist tackles and interprets the pieces they have chosen/are assigned. Above the Dreamless Dead is a wonderful book to think about history, visual literacy, and poetry. And a great companion to read with Treaties, Trenches, Mud and Blood! The artists include Luke Pearson, Eddie Campbell, Anders Nilsen, Danica Novgorodoff and Hannah Berry, among others.

Will teens like it?: They’d be lucky to come across this book.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes.

Art Taste:

dreamlessdead1 dreamlessdead2 dreamlessdead3 dreamlessdead4

MADISON-SQ-TRAGEDYcover

A Treasury of XXth Century Murder:  Madison Square Tragedy – The Murder of Stanford White  

Rick Geary, writer and artist

NBM ComicsLit

Anticipation/expectation level: I like Rick Geary’s historical murder books. They are usually well-researched, with a well-balanced structure of plot, art, and historical context/facts.

My Reality: I was especially interested to read this because of the Pittsburgh connection – the murderer was Harry K. Thaw of Pittsburgh. As this book shows, he was a real jerk and suffered from a combination of mental illness and wealth that allowed him to shoot a man in the face, beat and emotionally abuse his wife, and feel like it was his right to do so, and suffer barely any consequences for it. Stanford White sounds like a creep, too, but that doesn’t mean he should have been shot in the face. And poor Evelyn Nesbit. This is really her story, and it’s not a happy one.

I think a good comic book about history gives a full story and makes the reader want to dive more into the subject, and Madison Square Tragedy had exactly that effect on me. I closed the book and started looking up Thaw’s home in Pittsburgh, hoping it was still standing (it’s not – but the carriage house was on the market for over a million dollars a couple years back, and that’s a Pittsburgh valuation, which means it would sell for much more in any other city). I did find articles about Thaw’s home and his trial in the New York Times database, and they were fascinating. And I want to know more about Evelyn.

Will teens like it?: I always wonder if the “old timey” stylization of Geary’s art is a barrier for teens – I think that teens who are into true crime stories could get past it, but I don’t think these books, however worthy, are ever going to be shelf-jumpers in the teen section (I just made that term up).

Is it “great” for teens?: I still think it’s great.

Art Taste:

gearypreview

strangefruit

Strange Fruit – Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History

Joel Christian Gill, writer and artist

Fulcrum Publishing

Anticipation/expectation level: The title certainly got me interested!

My Reality: As Gill’s first collection of comics, it shows a progression from competent to assured – you can see him relying on a similar format for story and panels for the first couple stories, then starting to branch out and become more comfortable with using his writing with his art. Consequently, the book gets more powerful as it goes along. Gill starts out with Henry “Box” Brown – the slave who shipped himself to freedom. That is the most well-known of Gill’s subjects – as promised, these are heretofore uncelebrated narratives in Black history, and I love that he has found them and started the celebration.

Will teens like it?: Yes, especially teens looking for subjects for their Black History Month projects.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes.

Art Taste:

strangefruit41

colonial comics

Colonial Comics: New England, 1620-1750

Jason Rodriguez, editor

Fulcrum Publishing

I’m still on hold for this, wah waaah. The cover has such lovely colors!

Great Graphic Novels Noms 2015: Manga Part 2

by Tessa

Read about why I’m reading these books by clicking here

uqholder1   uqholder2

UQ Holder! Vol. 1. 

UQ Holder! Vol. 2.

Ken Akamatsu, artist and writer

Kodansha

Anticipation/Expectation Level: None. Neutral.

My Reality: Tōta’s dream is to make it to the city and climb the giant tower to space and do something great (he’s not sure what yet). All he has to do is defeat his ultra powerful teacher/guardian Yukihime. She insists that it be done through fighting skills, but when Tōta and his friends try some magic, things quickly go wrong and Tōta ends up with the immortality of a vampire – a gift from Yukihime. Together they travel back to Tokyo through the semi-deserted countryside,Tōta’s naivete helping them pick up friends and avoid bounty hunters – or the former from the latter, in androgynous young Kurōmaru’s case, looking to attack Yukihime, to seek Tōtas fortune. Whatever it is.

UQ Holder ends up being the name of the group of powerful immortals of which Yukihime is the head. It’s not just a vampire book – there are all kinds of immortals with different vulnerabilities and strengths, which was cool. The group exists to protect a group of yokai (Japanese demons/monsters). As a manga, it has all the usual hallmarks of a shonen series – the enthusiastic young (but very talented) seeker, the journey, the mentor and sidekick(s), the tests/fights. Up to book 2, it’s not so clear what the evil organization is, although Tōta does get beat up a lot. Because I don’t read a lot of shonen, I am not tired of these tropes, but I also can’t judge if this is a fun iteration of the genre or not. I haven’t read the precursor to which this series has a small connection, Negima. And I read it on a computer, which means it felt tiresome just because I was reading it on a computer.

Will teens like it?: What I do know is that teens love this kind of book, and they’ll probably like this.

Is it “great” for teens?: Maybe?

Art Taste:

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.08.08 PM

nijigaharaholograph

Nijigahara Holograph

Inio Asano, writer and artist

Fantagraphics

Anticipation/Expectation Level: I ended up buying this because I was sick of waiting and really liked Solanin, and had read some very good reviews.

My Reality: The world of Nijigahara Holograph is mindbending and sad. Most of the characters, whether at age 10 or 20 are struggling through depression and other messed up stuff – they have been victims of and perpetrators of bullying and abuse. A lot of the worst things happen around the Nijigahara embankment, which leads to a field next to a stream coming out of a tunnel. Once a girl insisted a monster lived in the tunnel that would end the world. Her classmates pushed her into a well.

The story flashes back and forth in time, and possibly characters come back and forth in time within the story. I’m not sure. I just finished reading it and I feel like I have to read it again to solidify it. It’s a depressing vision, told beautifully. Asano’s art is much more realistic than most manga you will find published in America, the kind of characters that are easy to extrapolate to their real life versions. Which makes the surreal, disgusting, violent, and sad parts of the story that much more affecting.

Will teens like it?: I think some teens would like this type of story a lot.

Is it “great” for teens?: While I would recommend this to some teens who are into it, and think that teens who seek out complex stories should find it, I do think it is primarily a story written for adults, with adult themes. So after a couple reads I can tell you if I think it’s great, but right now I can say that I don’t think it’s for teens, even if teens will find it and like it (and I’m okay with that).

Art Taste:

nijigaharaflashback

worldtrigger1   worldtrigger2

World Trigger, Volume 1

World Trigger, Volume 2

Daisuke Ashihara, writer and artist

Viz Media

I can’t find these anywhere, legally. I have no interest in reading illegal copies, especially because they will be on a computer.

I really like the covers, though. Nice contrasting colors and angled edges!

Here’s the description from VIZ:

“Earth is under constant threat from Neighbors, invincible monsters from another dimension that destroy our way of life. At least we have the elite warriors of Border, who co-opt alien technology to fight back!

Our hero Osamu Mikumo may not be the best agent, but he’ll do whatever it takes to defend life on Earth as we know it.

When Osamu meets a feisty humanoid Neighbor named Yuma, everything that he thinks is right is turned on its head. Can the two natural enemies ever become friends?”

Great Graphic Novels 2015 Noms: One-Off Fantasy/Magical Adventures

by Tessa

Read about the whys of this series here.

Possibly my favorite genre of comics, and one of the larger lists to be culled from the nominations this year – graphic works are suited for describing the fantastic if done well, and there’s a lot of fun and variety in these selections, so if yo u find your attention waning partway through, please take a break and come back to appreciate the back end of the list with fresh eyes.

singnoevil

Sing No Evil

JP Ahonen, writer

KP Alare, artist

Abrams

Anticipation/Expectation level: Another one I’m on hold for – excited to read this! Although the comics I’ve read about people in bands are usually disappointing, this one looks like it could be fun.

Art Taste:

singnoevilpreview

giganticbeard

The Gigantic Beard that was Evil

Stephen Collins, writer and artist

Picador

Anticipation/Expectation level: Based on the title, pretty high?

My Reality: It’s one of those gentle stunners of a book that is somewhere closer to adult picture book on the graphic novel spectrum. A fable-like story about an island named here where everything is in its place, surrounded by a sea that leads to There, an unknown place of frightening chaos. An inhabitant of the island has one hair on his chin that goes haywire, causing problems for all of the island’s society and culture.

The text is gentle, with a sure tone and an almost-rhyming feel. It is very rhythmic and I sang part of it to my cats as part of their integration therapy. The art is penciled, with a sense of lighting that adds to the otherworldliness and gravity of the story. Collins balances the softness of his pencils and the lulling of his words with the helplessness of the unknown that lurks beneath both. It is a treat.

Will teens like it?: Yes, it doesn’t have an immediate hook apart from the great title, but it’s not hard to get into and provides its own rewards.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes – much like The Arrival, this is the kind of book that isn’t marketed towards teens but would be great to use in a book club, to introduce to an arts loving teenager or foist upon a book club with success, because there’s not really an impediment to getting something from it other than the thought that it might not be like what one is used to reading.

Art Taste:

The Gigantic Beard that was Evil

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Buzz!

Ananth Panagariya, writer

Tessa Stone, artist

Oni Press

Anticipation/Expectation level: It looked fun, but I knew nothing of it going in. I like the name Tessa.

My Reality: Like Hicks’ and Shen’s Nothing Can Possibly Go WrongBuzz! is a solid entry into the teen high school slightly off adventure comic market. It’s easy to pick up off the shelf and recommend because it’s a new concept (underground spelling bees) running on standard tropes (outsiders who used to be insiders take on powerful conglomerate with the help of a talented newbie, betrayal from sort of within happens). And there’s nothing that is objectionable unless you object to a hint of magic. The action starts quickly and escalates quickly and the art is dynamic, hitting a spot between Faith Erin Hicks and Brian Lee O’Malley (as does the tone of the story). In short: fun.

For me, the action was a bit too quick and I never felt any resonance with the characters or their struggles, everyone was a bit too blithe. However, I don’t really count my feelings as meaning much because I’m not the ideal audience for this book. I don’t think it’s meant to be resonant, and I don’t think it has to be to be a successful comic. In fact, as a teen services librarian I wish for more of these fun, one-off books for my shelves.

Will teens like it?: Yes.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes.

Art Taste:

buzz_panels

breathofbones

Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem

Steve Niles and Matt Santoro, writers

Dave Wachter, artist

Dark Horse

Anticipation/Expectation level: I’v always been a fan of golems.  I was interested to see what this book would do to distinguish itself in the saturated WWII market. (Pretty sure there are even already books about golems in WWII).

My Reality: A straightforward tale, as far as a tale about using a Golem against Nazis goes. A boy loses his father to World War… One, I think. Or two. Anyway, enough time that he grows up a bit in between. He’s waiting in a small village with his grandfather and other elderly people, all Jewish or mostly Jewish. He’s still waiting when a plane crashes outside of town. This is bad, because it is an Allied pilot who will bring scrutiny from Nazis. There is barely enough time to flee, so his grandfather entrusts  him with the secret of golem-making, and makes a Golem.

In keeping with the folsky, mythical vibe of the Golem, the tale is focused on the elemental parts of the story: good over evil, nobility over greed, sons discovering their strength in the absence of fathers and father figures. The Golem itself is elemental: the protection of earth and faith. The historical detail of the story adds another layer of pathos and dignity. And the art is gorgeous: detailed, black and white with a nice flowing sense of space and shadow, highlighted by brushy washes of grey and black. Unfortunately, by focusing on the elemental parts of the story, the story ends up being kind of forgettable. It’s evocative during reading, but might fade from the mind over time, merging with other golems or other WWII tales.

Will teens like it?: I can see some teens liking it.

Is it “great” for teens?: It’s good. I don’t know if it crosses over to great. For teens. But I bet someone else could argue it.

Art Taste:

bobtag1p3

lilychen

The Undertaking of Lily Chen

Danica Novgorodoff, writer and artist

First Second

Anticipation/Expectation level: High, because I read Slow Storm and Refresh, RefreshI loved those books and was excited to read a longer work with a more clearly defined plot from Novgorodoff.

My Reality: If The Undertaking of Lily Chen were a movie it would be a fast talking movie in the mold of 30s and 40s flicks and it would be a farce, only set in China and having to do with a less-loved son finding a corpse to bury with his dead, too-venerated older brother. It’s a strange mix but one that works – Novgorodoff is good at finding the groove in uneasiness.

The main story is a chase/road trip type format, with Deshi Li dealing with the abrupt and violent end of his brother (by his hands), his place within his family, and his desperation to find a corpse or someone to murder to become a corpse bride. He runs into Lily Chen, who is brassy and adventurous in contrast to Deshi’s sad and anxious mode. She is trying to get to Shanghai from the poor countryside by any means possible. She becomes Deshi’s target and companion. The story, as it is, is not the strongest part of the book. The central idea of the ghost marriage as an impetus is interesting, but not enough to sustain the whole book – that would fall on Deshi’s shoulders, and he never really proves himself as a main character. Lily, being the titular character and the more naturally active person, is compelling, but so concerned with her movement away from her past that it’s hard to admire more than her gumption.

What really pulls everything together is the art. Sweeping, melancholy vistas of mountains. Twlight and dawn-light. Out of body experiences. Novgorodoff mixes delicate watercolors with pen-line shadows and outlined characters, the exaggerated with the realistic, creating a world slightly beyond the real.

Will teens like it?: Yes. It’s intriguing and well-paced.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes  – the shortcomings of the characterization are balanced out by the art and themes that emerge near the end.

Art Taste:

lilychen lilychen2

MoonheadCoverFull

Moonhead and the Music Machine

Andrew Rae, writer and artist

Nobrow Press

Anticipation/Expectation level: I like Nobrow.

My Reality: This hit all the sweet spots for me. Palpable depictions of awkwardness that lead to heartwarming scenes of celebration of being weird. Joey Moonhead has a moon for a head. No one talks about it, but he and his family are the only ones who are visibly different from all the other humanoids. Joey is out of it and kind of shy, but he wants to build a music machine for a talent show. His first attempt is pitiful but he is discovered by a new friend – a ghost-person, dresssed in a sheet, who is kind of a musical genius, and he blows off his long time buddy to pursue the dream.  I found it to be relatable, a story that has been told, but a heartfelt, personal take on it that works. Rae’s art is all clear lines with a great sense of storytelling beats through the pacing of the panels. And he draws great creatures.

Will teens like it?: Teens might think it’s too weird or off their usual path, but I bet they would like it if they gave it a chance. Or they might think its message is too simple.

Is it “great” for teens?: I think it’s great!

Art Taste:

Moonhead_Page14-600x402

moonheadpreview

downsetfightcover

Down Set Fight!

Chad Bowers and Chris Sims, writers

Scott Kowalchuk, artist

Oni Press

Anticipation/Expectation level: Verging from neutral to vaguely wary about sports content.

My Reality: Down Set Fight! is unapologetically a book about fighting. To be specific, it’s about a football player who is most famous for fighting on field and has abandoned his career and aged into being a high school coach. Until mascots start seeking him out to fight him. (There’s also a back story with his sleazy dad.) The fun the writers had dreaming up the mascots is readily apparent, and although there’s a mystery element to the plot, it is really all about Chuck fighting mascots and figuring out why they want to fight him. It’s all done with a sense of whimsy and over-the-top violence that isn’t gruesome or realistic in anyway, and I admire that.

Will teens like it?: You could sell this to a teen.

Is it “great” for teens?: I don’t know if it’s great. I’m on the fence.

Art Taste:

pachyderms

BEAUT_DARK_cover-full

Beautiful Darkness

Fabien Vehlmann, writer

Kerascoët, artists

Drawn & Quarterly

Anticipation/Expectation level: Read a preview of this last year and really, really wanted to read it.

My Reality: Possibly one of the best books I’ve read, period. It is beautiful and terrible – terrible in the sense of being deeply frightening. Or maybe the right word is horror, or is there a word of witnessing the consequences of bad decisions or acts of god(s) and being struck by the impassive blankness of nature? It’s that. There are very visceral moments in here that will stay with a person.

So, the book is about these tiny fairy-ish people who emerge from the body of a dead girl in a forest. It’s not clear who they are or how they ended up in the body but they now have to survive in the forest. Some are oblivious to the dangers, some scheme to get power, some try to help out, some go out on their own. The team of Kerascoët is the perfect choice to illustrate this world, with their sure, delicate pen lines and richly colored, realistic backgrounds.

Why should I say more when you could be reading this book?

Will teens like it?: Yes. It might scar younger readers, but will also fascinate them.

Is it “great” for teens?: I mean… it’s great.

Art Taste:

BEAUTIFUL-pg61-817c1

Great Graphic Novels 2015 Noms: Spies and Assassins

by Tessa

Read about the whys of this series here.

SPY/ASSASSIN STORIES

blackwidow

Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread, Volume 1

Nathan Edmondson, writer

Phil Noto, artist

Marvel

Anticipation/Expectation Level: I like Black Widow comics well enough, even though sometimes I’m bored by the spy genre.

My Reality: Much like the delightful Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja, this follows the adventures of Black Widow in her non-Avengers life (and it does offer a nice Hawkeye cameo). Natasha is taking assassin or recovery jobs and trying to pick the lesser of many evils in so doing, trying to atone for her mercenary former life. Her only friend is her accountant and a stray cat. Over the course of the book the separate jobs she takes start to connect with each other and affect her. She starts to rethink isolating herself from other people.

Noto draws a vivid, stylized world. Black Widow as incarnated here is more realistic and believable, a great marriage with her characterization – tough, stubborn, smart, and sad, but still quippy. I wish the major theme hadn’t been hammered into every issue collected here. Read together, it is tiring to be told over and over what is implicit in the action. Otherwise, it’s a tangled, intriguing start to a series that is worth following.

Will Teens Like It?: Sure.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yeah.

Art Taste:

black-widow-4

zerov1

Zero V 1: An Emergency

Ales Kot, writer

Michael Walsh, Tradd Moore, Mateus Santoluoco, Morgan Jeske, Jordie Bellaire, artists

Image

Anticipation/Expectation Level: None

My Reality: I was neutral on this – it wasn’t bad, in fact it was a serviceable spy story, just not what I enjoy –  until the last issue, when there was a surprising twist. I read this in October so I don’t remember much of the story. It’s set in the near future, involves a man named Edward Zero who is a spy and is starting to realize that he doesn’t trust the people he works for, and each issue is drawn by a different artist. And now Ales Kot is writing a new story for a pilot TV show based on this.

I like watching different artists do interpretations of characters in a story. Um…. yep. That’s all I have to say.

Will Teens Like It?: Sure

Is it “great” for teens?: I feel like I have to read the 2nd volume to gauge where the story is going to say whether I think it’s great. It looks like it’s going somewhere interesting. But right now I’d say it’s so forgettable to me that it’s not great, just pretty good verging on very good.

Art Taste:

5d2b9_zero03_p1

kingsman

The Secret Service: Kingsman

Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, writers? – not clear from The Internet

Dave Gibbons, artist

Marvel

I’m far down on the holds list for the one copy of this book, and don’t expect to get it any time soon. It’s now a movie. My guess is that it reads like a book that was written to be a movie and that it’s not that great. Especially as it was originally published by Icon. In fact, I might cancel my hold, because this is not my favorite type of story to read, and the movie connection will be enough for many people to check this out, so I don’t feel like I need to write about it either way.

secretservice

Great Graphic Novels 2015 Noms: Reboots and continuations of superheroes

by Tessa

Read about why I’m reading these books here.

And now back to superheroes. I feel like there are more traditional superheroes than usual on the list, but am too lazy-slash-busy-with-other-life-things to go and look at old lists to back up the claim. My perspective is likely skewed. You may be anticipating more dissatisfaction but I liked all of these except for one – the one that you might thing I’d most like. Coincidentally, Brian Michael Bendis wrote none of them. I kid, I kid. Speaking of kids and what they grow up to be:

NEW SERIES, OLD CHARACTERS

QW_001_COVER_SOOK

Quantum and Woody, Volume 1: The World’s Worst Superhero Team

James Asmus, writer

Tom Fowler, artist

Valiant

Anticipation/Expectation Level: Went into it blind. Liked the goat on the cover.

My Reality: I found myself laughing aloud at this. Even though the premise is that Woody is a blundering ass who thinks he’s charming – which usually is a grating character type – and he causes his adoptive (Black) family heartache and problems, up to and including getting him and his adoptive brother new powers. Woody is grating, but not so much that he ruins the comic.

In looking up info about the book I saw that it is a reboot of a beloved 90s comic, so that is a fact. In the original comic Quantum and Woody are not brothers – I think the change is a good decision – it adds that Spiderman tinge of responsibility to the goings on. And there are probably other nods to the original that I didn’t get, having never read it. But that didn’t matter to me. I enjoyed it for its sense of fun and absurdity, and deadpan humor mixed with over the top situations.

Will teens like it?: I think they would. If they can find it.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes.

Art Taste:

quantumandwoody

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Volume 6: City Fall, Part 1

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Volume 7: City Fall, Part 2

Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and Mateus Santoluoco -some combination of writing and art I have not been able to define because IDW’s website is super slow and Amazon and Goodreads are no help to me.

IDW

Anticipation/Expectation Level: Although my most popular piece of writing and the thing I will be remembered for after I die is probably my defense of the TMNT movie from 1990 (and I think that’s great), I am not invested in the Turts in the wider world of popular culture. Except for the Original NES video game. It was fun to watch my sister play that. So I had never read the original comic or the new comic. I thought it might be fun, though.

My Reality: I confess that I read City Fall Part 1 and got bored during City Fall Part 2 and stopped reading because no one was forcing me to except myself. I think this is because of my personal reading tastes and not a failure of the comic. I think Eastman’s woodblock-influenced art is a compelling style and so is the other dude’s. There’s action, betrayal, pizza, quips, and pizza quips. April is, like, a teenager or something, and there’s a new girl who is kind of shady but also kicks ass, so I don’t see why it’s not a good comic. And it has good reviews from people who have followed it, so I’m going to defer to them. I feel like it’s not that exciting, but I don’t have any good arguments to put forth supporting my claim. I just wasn’t into it.

Will teens like it?: Inconclusive – I haven’t heard any teens talk about TMNT, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like these books.

Is it “great” for teens?: Clearly I’m not thrilled by it.

Art Taste:

tmnt001

 

silversurfer1

Silver Surfer, Vol. 1: New Dawn

Dan Slott, writer

Mike Allred, artist

Marvel

I haven’t read this yet because the holds list is long and there are only 2 volumes in the whole library system, and I guess people don’t read comics as fast as I thought they did. I predict that I would probably like it based on liking Slott’s writing on Superior Spider-Man and that I dig the cover.

redsonja1    redsonja2

Red Sonja vol 1: Queen of the Plagues. 

Red Sonja vol 2: The Art of Blood and Fire

Gail Simone, writer

Walter Geovani, artist

Dynamite

Anticipation/Expectation Level: Gail Simone is cool, even though I wasn’t into her Birds of Prey.

My Reality: Art of Blood and Fire came out in November and doesn’t even have a record in my library system yet, so I have no hope of reading it before the end of January unless I pay for a digital copy, and that’s not in my budget, sorry, so I’m basing my review on only the first volume.

Queen of Plagues is a tight origin/near-death/mythos-establishing story. I’m glad that for most of this Red Sonja was out of her customary chainmail bikini because it just makes me feel cold to see that. Volume one covers aspects of Sonja’s childhood, coming of age, and present state of confronting a plague and someone *important* come back from her past with a new, life-threatening attitude regarding Sonja. It’s not confusing in the book.

Superheroes, whether sci fi or fantasy, have been brought low as a plot point many times. So much that it might be seen as a tired trick if not written well. Simone writes it well in Red Sonja. Geovani backs it up with tight art – not exploitative but not going against the hyperbolic nature of Sonja’s existence. She’s not cheesecakey but she does wear a bikini normally. Geovani manages to make that not seem weird and objectifying.

Will teens like it?: I see lots of teens into the fantasy adventure stuff, and I think they would like this.

Is it “great” for teens?: It is grandiose, well written, and nicely illustrated, so yes.

Art Taste:

Layout 1

msmarvel

Ms. Marvel V.1: No Normal

G. Willow Wilson, writer

Adrian Alphona, illustrator

Marvel

Anticipation/Expectation Level: Very high.

My Reality: Lived up to the hype! Gosh, I loved this. Again, classic themes done well. Kamala Khan is struggling with her identity in multiple ways: as a Muslim kid in her family, as a Muslim kid in Jersey teen culture at large, and as a nerdy teenager among other teenagers. Then she becomes Ms. Marvel and is struggling with her secret identity, and how it intersects with her racial and cultural identity. Khan lives in a universe where the Avengers et al are real, so there’s also a real fanfic come to life element to her journey.

I have written here about how I was a big fan of Wilson’s novel Alif the Unseen, so I was glad to see her as a writer here. She makes it feel authentic and hyper-real, and Alphona’s art is the perfect complement, with thin pen lines and faces that can move from realistically modeled to frowny faces in a panel or less – both styles are gorgeous and fun. I’m also a fan of the coloring work.

Will teens like it?: They better because I’ll be shoving it in their hands.

Is it “great” for teens?: Heck yeah.

Art Taste:

kickass

ShadowHero-Cov-final2

The Shadow Hero

Gene Luen Yang, writer

Sonny Liew, artist

First Second

Anticipation/Expectation Level: Gene Luen Yang! High expectations. Also Sonny Liew is fantastic.

My Reality: It might be easy to believe that Yang dreamed The Shadow Hero up on his own, but it is based on a golden-age comic book whose origins are fantastic in and of themselves – its writer was not allowed to make his hero Chinese, so he just never showed the guy’s face! And a turtle like shadow follows him and is never explained! Click through from the cover image to see more info on Yang’s site.

The new imagining of The Shadow Hero is more complex and narrative based than its forebear. Set in 1930s Chinatown in San Francisco, it involves a young man, Hank Chu, who just wants to follow his dad and manage a grocery, a Chinese mob situation, ancient animal spirits and a mom who just wants a brave superhero son to be proud of, because after all, Americans have superheroes, so Chinese-Americans should, too! And her husband isn’t standing up to his extorters.

Liew does a great job evoking the era, and his customary great job drawing small-featured, a bit physically exaggerated characters who can change moods by just a subtle crook of an eyebrow or twist of the mouth.

Will teens like it?: Yes, but they might not rush to grab it off of the shelf because of its old-timey look.

Is it “great” for teens?:  Yeah.

Art Taste:

Shadow_New-1024x576

CONTINUATIONS

Batman_-_Death_of_the_Family

Batman Vol 3: Death of the Family

Scott Snyder, writer

Greg Capullo, artist

DC Comics

Anticipation/Expectation Level: I like Batman and Scott Snyder writing Batman, usually.

My Reality: Scary and grotesque, just how we like Joker stories, I think? Snyder keeps putting Batman in situations that play on his weak humanity. Joker’s story plays out very much like a serial killer drama, and that’s really what he is. In this case, gritty superheroism isn’t tiring to me.

Will teens like it?: Yes. Especially if they’re into Hannibal

Is it “great” for teens?: It’s a great example of a dark superhero book, so yes.

Art Taste:

jokercreep

 

We’re in the home stretch! I even got a free Crunchyroll trial so I could read some more manga. See you next week.

Great Graphic Novels 2015 Noms: Manga Part One

by Tessa

Read about why I’m reading these here.

seraph1

seraph2

Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign., Vol.1

Seraph of the End: Vampire Reign., Vol.2

Takaya Kagami, writer

Yamato Yamamoto, artist

Viz Media

Anticipation/Expectation Level: Wary about vampires.

My Reality: I liked it! This is a vampire dystopia, and a revenge drama. It starts out with some orphans that are used as food for the vampires in their underground world, after they’ve exploited a plague situation on earth and driven everyone underground and into their control. The children have a plan to defeat the vampires and escape, and it goes horribly wrong. The only survivor is the kid with too much energy and not enough planning. And I won’t spoil the rest.

I can’t speak much to the art because I only can articulate different styles in manga when they are obviously different. I could follow everything and everyone looked very elegant. The style preferred by the vampires is very gothic lolita and there’s a police type squad who have handsome almost American Civil War style uniforms.

Will teens like it?: I think even teens who are tired of vampires (there must be some, right?) will enjoy this. It has a lot of juicy drama and funny parts.

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes.

Art Taste:

 

Seraph-of-the-End-01-01

 

 

mylittlemonster3     mylittlemonster4

My Little Monster, Volume 3

My Little Monster, Volume 4

Robico

Kodansha Comics

Anticipation/Expectation Level: Considering that there were Volumes 1 and 2 also published this year, I thought it was strange that only volumes 3 and 4 are nominated. I read the first two volumes and felt uncomfortable with Haru’s lack of respect for personal boundaries – I realize that in some shojo romances this is normal, and this follows the pattern of single-minded or innocent girl gains weird friend and they help socialize each other. However, it was also textbook manipulation of personal boundaries – Haru is very needy and has an anxious attachment style. He doesn’t care that Shizuku needs to study or what her preferences are. His motivations get clearer in the 2nd volume but I didn’t look forward to reading up to 4 volumes.

My Reality: I think that one could enter this series at the 3rd book and it wouldn’t be that weird, but one would miss all the introductions to the characters. Eventually no one treats Haru’s behavior as romantic and that made me feel better. This is a series about a group of friends coming together, a story that is, understandably, done often in manga. My Little Monster is a solid example of the genre, but doesn’t offer much new.

Will teens like it?: Sure

Is it “great” for teens?: They’ll like it, but it isn’t great.

Art Taste:

mylittlemonster

beforethefall1   beforethefall2

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, V1

Attack on Titan: Before the Fall, V2

Ryo Suzukaze, writer

Satoshi Shiki, artist

Kodansha

Anticipation/Expectation Level: I was so psyched when I first read Attack on Titan.

My Reality: The premise failed for me. I could not accept that anyone would believe that a baby who is born when an obviously pregnant mother is swallowed by a Titan is in any way a Titan itself. Even the mom did worship Titans.

Will teens like it?: Probably?

Is it “great” for teens?: This one will be read because of the popularity of the original series. It is not great.

Art Taste:

attack-on-titan-before-the-fall-4676225

Great Graphic Novels 2015 Noms: Sci-Fi

by Tessa

Read about why I’m reading these here.

I had 4 sci-fi titles bunched up together. Two of them are not going to make it to my eyes in time.

ringworld

Ringworld, an adaptation of the sci-fi classic by Seven Seas, could not be procured even through my library system’s excellent ILL department, and I don’t think I’d like it enough to spend money on a digital copy. I would if I were actually on the committee, but luckily I don’t have to. It sounds like a cool idea, and I am tempted to read the original prose novel.

rust3

I am sad that my library does not have Rust V.3: Death of the Rocket Boy, by Royden Lepp, because it’s been out since May of 2014. This is a series, originally published by Archaia, that I’ve been following since it first came out. Each of its volumes has made it onto the Great Graphic Novels list, and last year the 2nd volume was in our top 10. I want to read the next (last?) installment of this story in an alternate historical time about a jet-pack/boy and his adventures in Canadian farmland. But I’m willing to bet that it makes it on the list again this year. I would buy a copy but it wouldn’t make it to me in time. Bad planning, me.

But anyway, on to what I did manage to read:

boom_woods_v1

The Woods Volume 1: The Arrow

James Tynion IV, writer

Michael Dialynas, artist

BOOM! Studios  

Anticipation/Expectation Level: It was on my radar but I didn’t know anything about it other than the cover looked cool.

My Reality: I had so much fun reading this. In many ways it’s very much a classic high school adventure, but the high school is suddenly transplanted to an alien planet with an extra-mysterious conspiracy added in (I will say no more about that). There’s a survival/road-trip element as a group of the students head out with a super-smart loner at their head, following him because he says he knows whats going on and because the scene inside the school itself is turning into a shitshow, with the gym teacher using all of his Machiavelli against the go-getter Student President, with the principal as a pawn between them. The jocks, nerds, and everyone in-between have roles to play. It gets heavy in a couple of places, but mostly maintains its humor within the tense situations. I loved the coloring here – very purply and saturated.

Will Teens Like It?: Yes, I can see myself booktalking this one for summer reading or something.
Is it “great” for teens?: yes.

Art Taste:

dinosaurnow ourfuture

alexada_tp_v1

Alex + Ada Volume 1

Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn, writers

Jonathan Luna, artist

Image

Anticipation/Expectation Levels: Pretty much the same as The Woods.

My Reality: Yay! This is speculative sci-fi that explores technology, identity, AI, android rights, loneliness, responsibility, and grandmothers who mean well. Luna’s style of drawing is perfect – very realistic and flat, with an eye for subtle changes in facial expressions. I almost feel like Alex is too good to be true, but I have to remind myself that there are guys out there who wouldn’t be total creeps in this situation. And he may change in the following issues. If you can’t tell from the cover and my rambling, Alex is gifted a robot companion by his grandma because she thinks he is being depressed for too long after his breakup. Alex is weirded out that Ada, the android, has no opinions and defers to his wants and needs. So he decides to figure out what to do about it.

Will Teens Like it?: Yes

Is it “great” for teens?: Yes.

Art Taste:

AlexAda03_mnchmnch

Great Graphic Novels 2015 Noms: Historical Fiction

by Tessa

Read about what this series is here.

Some of these are more historical than others. But they are all set in history, which is what I’m choosing to call historical fiction.

sallyheathcote

Sally Heathcote, Suffragette.

Mary Talbot, author

Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot, artists

Dark Horse 

Anticipation/Expectation level: I hoped it would be more focused on the movement and less on one person (due to my experience with Woman Rebel)

My reality: Please click on the art sample to read a well thought -out review from Forbidden Planet. I liked this title and thought it covered so much, with a realistic, period-appropriate art style, mostly black and white with pops of color that helped define scenes and keep the eye fresh. The reader sees a long arc of the women’s voting rights movement in Britain through the eyes of an orphan, Sally Heathcote, who is rescued from a workhouse by one of the main ladies in her youth and becomes deeply involved with two of the competing societies and a secret guerrilla movement. I knew nothing about this history and it was both sadly familiar and fascinating. It is a lot to take in. I should have read it more slowly. And the prologue that teases the split between two factions, I felt, just served to confuse instead of hook. I never felt like I really grasped why the split occurred- at first I thought it was because of differences in opinion regarding violent protest, but then both sides seemed to approve of that in some way. Still a worthy endeavor, I hope there are more comics coming through with such scope and focused vision.

Will teens like it?: I don’t know. I think it might be great in the classroom and welcome there. A bit heavy for the casual reader, but nothing that screams NO TEEN APPEAL.

Is it “great” for teens?”: Yes, this is one of those that I think belongs on the list despite limited appeal for the browser.

Art Taste:

sally-heathcote-suffragette-talbot-charlesworth-cape-04.jpg

LesMiserablesManga-cover

Les Miserables

Victor Hugo, author

Crystal Silvermoon and Stacy King, Adaptors

TszMei Lee, artist

UDON Entertainment

Anticipation / Expectation level: Les Miserables, judged only by its plotline, is kind of perfect for a manga adaptation. If you’ve read it or seen the musical, you know it is full of personal relationship drama enmeshed with life or death, youthful idealist vs. the ruling class drama. It deals with class issues, being a fugitive from the law, etc. So despite the fact that it is a long-ass book being made into a shorter ass book, I thought that this could possibly be entertaining.

My Reality: Unfortunately, cutting out all the detailed moral drama, description of setting and feeling from the book, plus losing the opportunity for maddeningly catchy and heart-pulling music makes for a bland soap opera of a plot. Even the art lacks the usual verve and dynamic panels that are part of most manga (this is probably why it’s the only manga I’m not covering in a manga-only post).  Which is not to say that I think the adaptors or artist did a bad job or made bad choices. Just that when the job is done, well or badly, it takes away something integral to the enjoyment of the story. I never felt immersed in the drama. I got the songs stuck in my head without the benefit of having heard them sung. The politics of the time is the vaguest backdrop – the war itself a blip. This is the least connected to history of these 3 novels.

Will Teens like it?: I wonder if manga loving teens would go for the classics in manga form. The ones I know would rather read a classic.

Is it “great”for teens?: No.

Art Taste:

FCBD-LesMis-Preview-4

47ronincover

47 Ronin

Mike Richardson, writer

Stan Sakai, artist

Dark Horse

Anticipation/Expectation Level: I’ve heard great things about Stan Sakai!

My Reality: 47 Ronin is a national legend in Japan, a tale about honor and revenge. As far as a story with a lot of talking in interior spaces can be, it is well-adapted for comics. Richardson has done a ton of research and Sakai’s art is so pleasing – it’s round and cartoony but solid and realistic. The colorist does a great job as well, giving the whole thing the muted but rich feel of art on parchment (or I guess rice paper in this case?).

Will Teens like it?: I can see kids who are very into Japan really liking this.

Is it “great” for teens?: It’s a solid entry in the legendary adaptation, so I would say yes.

Art Taste:

47ronin1p2

 

 

Get ready for even more posts in even less time as I try to get everything mini-reviewed by the end of the month!

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