Category: book review

Graphic Novel Review: The Hidden Witch

The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag. Scholastic Graphix, 2018. 9781338253757. 204pp. – This sequel to Ostertag’s The Witch Boy is just as good. It continues the story of Aster, a boy who wants to learn to be a witch with the girls, and his non-magical friend Charlie. Back at school, Charlie befriends a new student, Ariel, who is secretly a witch and who sends some nasty magic Charlie’s way. Aster is having a hard time catching up with the girls, so Grandmother offers him the opportunity to improve his skills by helping with a special project (something in The Witch Boy). While other creators might turn the story toward a huge battle, don’t expect that here; the emphasis is really on friendship and helping one another even when it’s difficult, forgiveness, and being true to oneself. Ostertag’s art throughout is fabulous — my favorite pages involve literal meetings of minds and frightening shadows.

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Graphic Novel Review: Woman World

Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal. Drawn & Quarterly, 2018. 9781770463356. 260pp. – What would the world look like if men not-so-suddenly disappeared and the world went through a series of natural disasters? “…this is the story of a village in this new world.” And the story is pretty great, from the little girl who thinks all men must have been like Paul Blart to the design of a new flag to a grandmother trying to explain the phrase “that’s what she said” to her granddaughter. In a world with no men, no one sees dick-shaped clouds anymore. It’s pretty much the most lighthearted, good-natured post-apocalyptic graphic novel ever. One more thing to recommend it: the final comic provides one of my favorite endings to a graphic novel ever. – Left this one on the dining room table and told my daughter I thought she’d enjoy it, but she beat me to the punch — she said she used to read […]

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Fiction Review: An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris

An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris. Saga, 2018. 9781481494922. 306pp. http://amzn.to/2WGtaWS – Cover blurbs from Lee Child, Seanan McGuire, and Anne Bishop? I picked this up out of curiosity, never having read a book by Harris, and then couldn’t put it down. – Lizbeth Rose is a small, deadly young woman in Texoma, where she works as a gunnie on a crew guiding/guarding others. Her part of the fractured, alternative version of the US feels more like the old west than not, though there are some modern conveniences, including weapons and vehicles, plus: magic. Gunnie Rose is the kind of quiet western hero who always does what she says she’s going to, whether that means killing, risking her life to get people to safety, or guarding wizards into Mexico to locate a descendant of Grigori Rasputin. The latter journey takes up most of the book, and an open secret of Gunnie Rose’s seems destined to set her at odds with […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Off Season by James Sturm

Off Season by James Sturm. Drawn & Quarterly, 2018. 9781770463318. 213pp. http://amzn.to/2FGeKiq – I fear there’s no pitch I can make for this book that will show how much I enjoyed it, but here goes: A marriage disintegrates during/with the help of the 2016 Presidential election. A dad struggles with work and the custody schedule while thinking about his estranged wife and his feelings for her. The most heartbreaking moment: when they take their kids trick-or-treating together. I remember the misery and awkwardness of those nights when I was little, and my divorced parents tried to hang out together in order to act like a family for a bit just for the sake of us kids. – Sturm paces the story perfectly within it’s constraint — there are two panels of equal size on each page. Highly recommended.

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Graphic Novel Review: Skybourne by Frank Cho

Skybourne by Frank Cho with Marcio Menyz (colors). BOOM! Studios, 2018. 9781608869862. Contains #1 – #5 plus a gallery of some covers, including variants by other artists. – Lazarus’ kids were “blessed with superhuman strength, impenetrable skin, and immortality. This is their story.” Thomas is off the map — he’s tired of being alive. Grace works for the Mountain Top Foundation, out to improve mankind’s lot through science and magic. On a mission to retrieve a magic sword, things go wrong. The Foundation talks Thomas into coming back with a promise and they’ll help him end his life. Cue magical calamities involving a famous wizard and many, many dragons. – It’s all really light and amusing. No one draws beautiful super people doing dangerous stuff better than Cho, and it’s fun to see their super punches knocking jaws and heads apart. It all reminds me a bit of Invincible in the best way. (If that kind super heroic violence is […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Emma G. Wildford

Emma G. Wildford by Zidrou & Edith. Translated by Marc Bourbon-Cook. Statix Press / Titan Comics, 2018. 9781785869280. 104pp. – Emma, an English poetess, tired of waiting for news of her fiancé, defies the stuffed shirts at the Royal Geographic Society and sets out to find him. She picks up the trail of his expedition in Tromso, Norway, and heads to the shores of Finland’s Lake Inari with a guide. Things don’t go well, and while it was occasionally bruised, she never loses that free spirit. My favorite moments in this were unexpected like when Emma puts her brother-in-law in his place, and when she plays rugby in the snow with her guide.

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Graphic Novel Review: Grand Theft Horse

Grand Theft Horse: A Graphic Novel by G. Neri, illustrated by Corban Wilkin. Tu Books, 2018. 9781620148556. 230pp including photos of and an afterward by Gail Ruffu. – Neri (Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty) recounts the story of his cousin Gail Ruffu, who told him the story of how and why she stole a thoroughbred on Christmas Eve in 2004. She was trainer and part owner of Urgent Envoy, and hoped to use his love of running to turn him into a champion racehorse. When the other investors urged her to start racing him earlier than she wanted, Urgent Envoy was injured and needed time to recuperate. No one but Ruffu had the horse’s best interests at heart — they were willing to re-injure and drug him to try to make back their investment quickly. So she took UE, hid him, and ended up in a bunch of trouble, legal and otherwise. (I’ve never been to the […]

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Graphic Novel Review: One Dirty Tree

One Dirty Tree by Noah Van Sciver. Uncivilized Books, 2018. 9781941250273. 116pp. – This is cartoonist Van Sciver’s graphic memoir about growing up poor, the eighth of nine kids, in a house with a twisted dead oak tree in the front yard. His family’s Mormon household seems to have centered around religion and comics. His older siblings took time to torture him a bit (ghost stories!), and his father’s struggles with bipolar disorder affected everyone. Half of the book takes place in present day, contrasting Van Sciver’s early life with his current girlfriend, a woman who is clearly not cut out to date a working cartoonist. My favorite parts are the unexpected appearances of non-comic art, both the bits Van Sciver drew as a kid and two beautiful, more realistic drawings of his girlfriend that really made me feel his love for her.

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Graphic Novel Review: bad friends

bad friends by ancco. Translation by Janet Hong. Drawn & Quarterly, 2018 9781770463295. 173pp. – I always suspect there are great, gritty Korean comics out there, but too much of the time the only manwha I can find on the shelves in US bookstores look like standard anime. When I taught in South Korea I had almost no contact with the “bad” kids. Instead I was locked in a cycle of teaching academically oriented students and adults trying to improve their English. The only time I seemed to be able to talk to anyone whose life didn’t revolve at least partially around extracurricular tutoring was during shared taxi rides, and then only if they weren’t too shy to chat. On both counts it was great to read this beautifully rendered, dark graphic novel about less-than-successful high school students. – It opens with a flashback, to the narrator being beaten and thrown out of the house by her father. It’s a […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Batman: The Dark Prince Charming

Batman: The Dark Prince Charming by Marini. DC Comics, 2018. 9781401283322. 144pp oversized hardcover, includes several pages of sketches. Contains #1 – #2 of the series. – The artistry of Italian comics artist Enrico Marini (The Scorpion) makes this hand-painted Batman story worth reading: the Joker’s hair glows, his smile is totally creepy, and Batman looks terrifying. The fight scenes are as kinetic as the Joker is psychotic, which is saying something here. – The plot points: the Joker is trying to acquire the perfect present for Harley Quinn’s birthday, Catwoman is stealing high-end jewelry, and a paternity suit has been filed against Bruce Wayne. It has all the usual murder and mayhem you’d expect plus a hilariously deadpan henchman and an amazing drag scene.

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