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.

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

6-battle-of-the-atom

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