I really enjoy Matt Phelan’s books. I think they are wonderful slices of life. I appreciate the minimal text and lovely illustrations. Bluffton is the story of Henry and his summers spent with Buster Keaton. It seems Keaton and other vaudeville acts summer at Bluffton and fictional Henry was able to get to know them a bit. Henry wasn’t happy working in his dad’s store and really wanted to do more with his life. Unfortunately, Buster never shows him any tricks and just wants to hang out and play baseball. The book takes place over several years as Buster and family returns to Bluffton each summer. While I enjoyed this book, I am not sure it will find a wide audience with kids. I would guess very few kids have heard of or know of Buster Keaton or even vaudeville. Also, they might not be interested in a book that really doesn’t have a lot to say or a very exciting story. This is a sleepy little book that is a fast read and great for fans of Phelan. But we don’t really learn a whole lot about the historical characters and I am not sure we learn enough about Henry to really care that much. Beautiful as always with a Matt Phelan book, but limited appeal.
Trapped in an Underwater Vessel with a Brilliant Mad Misanthrope! that about sums it up. Since our challenge this month was classics, and I haven’t tried many graphic novels, I thought I’d give this book a go. This is my 2nd or 3rd graphic novel, and I find I don’t get much out of these [though as a kid, some of the Classic Comics really brought to life some of the classics, but others didn't work]. On top of the limited plot-line the artwork was dreary, you could have had some beautiful underwater scenes, for example of Atlantis or the cool fish. But No.
The first graphic novel in the Dresden Files series that is not based on one of the original novels. Harry Dresden, a Chicago private investigator and wizard is contacted by a small-town police deputy from an isolated town in Missouri. A local family has suffered for generations from a curse with family members dying in strange unfortunate accidents. The deputy wants to protect the remaining family members including two children but the sheriff is convinced it’s all coincidence so he turns to Harry for help. Can Harry save them? Is it just the family curse or are other supernatural creatures at work in this small town? Can Dresden cleanse the Talbot bloodline of its curse without a blood sacrifice of his own?
Continue with the adventures of young Salamandra, the orphaned, mysterious, witch-in-training on the haunted island of Hopeless, Maine! When Sal discovers she might have a grandfather living on the island, she seeks him out, only to find him full of even more mystery than the rest of her past. Before she can unravel the secrets of her family’s past, however, her best friend, Owen, is thrust into a family trauma of his own. Salamandra must choose between helping Owen and finding the home and family she has always longed for.
Violent Cases marks the beginning of many astonishing and award-winning collaborations between author Neil Gaiman and artist Dave McKean. It is now offered in a hardcover format with an expanded art section and introductions by Alan Moore, Paul Gravett, and Neil Gaiman! A narrator remembers his childhood encounters with an old osteopath who claims to have treated Al Capone. Gradually, the England of the 1960s and the Chicago of the 1920s begin to merge into a beautifully drawn and hauntingly written tale of memory and evil.
Are you on the global frequency? If so, you’re one of 1001 agents scattered across the globe. Each one of the members has a skill set, everything from technology to Parkour, that drew the attention of the enigmatic Miranda Zero, the spokeswoman/leader of the Global Frequency. If you’ve been tapped by Miranda Zero, you may find yourself called in by her central operations operator, Aleph. Aleph will keep you connected with your new comrades and together, you will all mount incredible rescue missions of the top secret variety, the sort that’s too difficult for more conventional organizations. Being on the frequency is both an honor and a risk.
In trademark Ellis style, this comic is simultaneously original, exciting and thought-provoking. It’s a short series, so it’s all nicely collected in one volume. Each comic is a different rescue operation featuring different characters. Technically, the comics can be read in any order and still not diminish one’s understanding of the series.
Saints is the second part of Yang’s duology “Boxers & Saints”. It follows Four-Girl, a fourth daughter so named because her family no longer even had the interest in naming a fourth girl. Poor and neglected, Four-Girl decides she must be a devil. How can she be more of a devil? Why, by seeking out the “foreign devils” (the missionaries) that are becoming increasingly present in rural China. The missionaries give Four-Girl a name, Vibiana and a community that accepts her as she eventually accepts it. While she finds some peace in Christianity, she cannot ignore the rumors of an uprising against the Christians, both foreign and Chinese. Vibiana must now become prepared to choose between her country and her new-found faith. She begins to have visions of Joan of Arc, who encourages her to follow her faith even as the missionary stronghold is attacked by the Boxers.
While each of these books can be independently, the full range of their complexity is not revealed until both are read. We meet Four-Girl/Vibiana briefly in Boxers and Little Bao makes a reappearance in Saints. Four-Girl and Bao have more in common than they think. Where Four-Girl imagines Joan of Arc, Bao imagines himself and his followers as the Chinese gods. Both are from smaller villages that are impacted dramatically by imperialist forces. I really, really love how the two stories are told and how they’re presented. This treatment of showing each side through a different visual context seems like it should be simple and yet I have never seen/read anything quite like it. The reader develops sympathy for both sides of the conflict, which is probably how all historical conflicts should be presented. There are always multiple ways to view a story or incident, but it is frequently difficult to see beyond one side or another. Yang does an excellent job of balancing a complicated story with excellent storytelling technique.
Boxers begins the two-part story of the Boxer Rebellion, which took place in China at the end of the 19th century. Fed up by increasing presence of foreign missionaries and soldiers, a boy named Little Bao begins training in the traditional art of Kung Fu along with several others from the village. As foreign influence spreads, so too does the general sense of discontent among many of the Chinese commoners. Bao and his friends believe that they have taken on the power of their own gods; gods who help them win their battles against the “foreign devils” that appear to be taking over China. They travel from town to town, training more men (and even some women) to join the fight. As the violence reaches its apex, Bao finds his band of men winning over and over. Even still, there is a heavy price to pay as many of Bao’s own countrymen and women are being identified as “secondary devils” (Chinese converted to Christianity) and are slaughtered for it. Is this what the gods wanted?
The first half of this story is gripping and action-packed. It is difficult, however, to review this book without referencing the second, so I’ll save my thoughts on the work as a whole for my review of Saints.
Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part.
Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.
Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.
Or so she thinks. Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol.
Jules Verne’s undersea adventure novel gets the graphic novel treatment by artist-author Gary Gianni, best known for his illustrating work on the Prince Valiant comic. Gianni’s beautiful retro art style is perfectly suited for Verne’s stories, so I’m not surprised he was interested in adapting Leagues. The narrative is necessarily pared down, but the tone and major plot points of the original are here, and the art is wonderful. A reprinting of a 1962 essay by Ray Bradbury serves as an introduction, and alone is worth picking up this book. Also included is the full text of Sea Raiders, by H.G. Wells, which Gianni also illustrates. Highly recommended for those appreciative of classic adventure writing and illustration.
An exchange student who’s really an alien, a secret room that becomes the perfect place for a quick escape, a typical tale of grandfatherly exaggeration that is actually even more bizarre than he says… These are the odd details of everyday life that grow and take on an incredible life of their own in tales and illustrations that Shaun Tan’s many fans will love.
This book is a quick read, but is emotionally exhausting (in a good way!). The short stories play on human emotions and leave you thinking at the end. It reminds me of old-time stories where the meaning was not necessarily written in the words, and the endings left you with nothing but the moral. Some are sad, some are hopeful, and some are just weird!
Preparation for war between Fabletown and the Empire begins! The Adversary calls a conference of the Imperial elite to decide what to do about Fabletown and Pinocchio has to face up to his divided loyalties between his friends and his family. Meanwhile, Bigby decides the time has come to confront his father, the North Wind, while the cubs learn more of their family and celebrate their birthday! Plus, Burning Questions by the fans answered!
The diverse mythology of angels is explored in this lushly painted graphic novel from high-profile fantasy authors including Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles) and Bill Willingham (FABLES).Deep in the woods outside of a magical kingdom, a strange group of faeries and forest creatures discover a nearly dead angel, bleeding and unconscious with a sword by his side. They call a tribunal to decide his fate, each telling stories that delve into different interpretations of these winged, celestial beings: tales of dangerous angels, all-powerful angels, guardian angels and death angels, that range from the mystical to the mysterious to the macabre.
Nate and Charlie have known each other for a long time, but they don’t really have all that much in common other than the fact that they’re neighbors. Nate is the super-neurotic geek who is the head of the school robotics club. Charlie is the captain of the basketball team and a generally nice, down-to-earth guy. When extra money for extracurricular activities becomes unexpectedly available, the school decides that it will let the Student Council determine whether it goes to the robotics club (which needs the funds to go to national competition) or the cheerleaders (who need new uniforms). Nate really, really wants to take his robotics team to nationals and decides that he will personally run for Student Council president so that he will have a say over how the money is spent. The cheerleaders catch wind of this and decide that they will run Charlie in opposition to Nate, sparking a war between Nate and the cheerleaders.
This graphic novel is an amusing variation on the nerds vs. jocks genre. Instead of jocks being meat-head guys, we have scary-smart and ambitious cheerleaders to reckon with. Instead of stereotypical nerds, we have a diverse group of smart kids (including one very awesome girl and a pair of slightly odd twins). Charlie is neutral territory, in spite of being used by the cheerleaders who decide they are going to run his campaign. Charlie has no intention of being on Student Council and would really prefer not to get in the middle of the funding issue. When things get out of hand, however, it is Charlie that brings the voice of reason to the table. “Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong” is a genuinely fun read.
This lovely graphic novel depicts angels watching over the affairs on earth. Eventually, the strain becomes too much of one of them and the angel sinks to earth. Immobilized by the overwhelming struggle, the angel is mistaken as a statue. Eventually, a rag-tag group of beings start to rehabilitate the angel.
There’s minimal text; the story is mostly told through pictures. The artwork is absolutely gorgeous. It’s mixed media and it’s beautiful. This is a very fast read, but the story and art will stick with readers long after the cover is closed.
A young orphan is stalked by cannibalistic, sharp-toothed psycho. Set in the early 20th, this comic is slightly reminiscent of Snyder’s other work, American Vampire. Unfortunately, the characters here are nowhere near as memorable or interesting as those in some of Snyder’s other work. While Severed is billed as being super scary, it’s really not all that horrifying. It’s not because the artwork is lacking, rather because the story itself is rather pedestrian. There’s really nothing all that original going on here. What really redeems the comic is the artwork itself, which is nearly perfect and absolutely lends itself not only to the tone of the story, but creates atmosphere where the story is lacking in it. A serviceable entry in the horror comic genre.
One hundred years ago, steamboats ruled the rivers. Captain Twain of the Steamship Lorelei is one of the best-known captains on the Hudson River. One day, he rescues a mermaid who has been injured by a harpoon. The captain hides her away in his quarters and tends to her wounds. As she recovers, the two begin get to know one another. Twain, who hopes to be a writer one day, also finds that his writing block has vanished. Meanwhile, the ship’s owner, the Frenchman Lafayette has been corresponding with a mysterious author about ways to rid oneself of a mermaid’s curse. The mysterious author prepares for a very public debut aboard the Steamship Lorelei. As the three characters’ lives converge, so too do elements of mythology and folklore, culminating in a series of events that none of the characters could have ever foreseen.
I went into this thinking that it had something to do with that other Twain of Midwestern fame, but such is not the case. The real Mark Twain is, however, referenced at least once by the characters themselves. Captain Twain is, in many ways, a parallel to the literary figure. I loved the artwork in this comic; it suited the story beautifully. It tends to have an almost-underwater/dreamlike quality to it. The story is rich and unexpected, with distinct magic-realism tendencies. In short, it’s pretty much everything I look for in a graphic novel.
I can’t help but think that this manga is really more for established fans than those new to the Soulless series. I haven’t read any of the series, so I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up the manga-style adaptations. I was not terribly impressed. In fact, I was kind of annoyed at the whole experience.
The story is lacking in detail and world-building, but that’s probably the result of it being an adaptation. The artwork is merely OK; it uses a lot of manga tropes, which, in an American comic, feels off somehow. I’m honestly getting very tired of popular series being turned into “manga”. Particularly annoying to me in this particular volume is the depiction of the female characters. The ridiculously large breasts and plunging necklines come across as entirely superfluous.
I wanted to like this series; I really did, but ultimately it just fell flat.