Graphic Novel Review: Invisible Kingdom Volume One: Walking the Path by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward

Invisible Kingdom Volume One: Walking the Path by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward. Berger Books / Dark Horse, 2019. 9781506712277. Contains issues #1 – #5.

The book opens with Grix, captain of a cargo vessel, making a crash landing on a remote moon. She’s behind on deliveries for Lux (an interstellar Amazon). As she and her crew try to repair their ship and get back on schedule, they discover evidence that they’re being used as part of an illegal payoff. Soon they’re on the run from the economic giant and who knows what else. There’s a space battle.

On planet Duni, in the capital city, Vess is blindfolded as she walks the Unseen Path, trying to get to the Unseen Gate, so that she can dedicate herself to the Renunciation and become a red-hooded none. (That’s not a spelling error.) She makes it, but as she begins her duties away from the world, she finds evidence of a conspiracy, and that all is not right with the Renunciation.

It’s not much of a surprise when Grix and crew cross paths with Vess. This is a great start to a series I’m going to continue to read. I’m a huge fan of Wilson’s writing (Ms. Marvel, Cairo), and it’s really enjoyable here, plus Ward’s art is stunning, especially the otherworldly way he uses colors. I can’t stop flipping through this book, the whole thing wows me.

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Book Review: Archipelago: An Atlas of Imagined Islands

Archipelago: An Atlas of Imagined Islands edited + with an essay titled “Islomania” by Huw Lewis-Jones, prologue by Chris Riddell, 90+ illustrations by almost as many artists. Thames & Hudson, 2019. 9780500022566. 192pp. including notes about each of the contributors.

Each of the island maps in the book is accompanied by a few paragraphs about it. The landscapes are usually beautiful and often bewildering or amusing, and each has its own style. My favorite maps are Xlibris by comics creator Kevin Cannon, who filled his island with stacks of books and locations like Rare Signed First Edition Mountain and Free Coffee Coast. It is, of course, full of happy readers and cats. Graphic novelist Isabel Greenberg’s island includes Angria and Gondal, which were invented by the Brontë kids (and I believe are the subject of Greenberg’s next book). Illustrator James Gulliver Hancock’s Laputa-Nova: Gulliver’s Island Of Perpetual Self Realisation & Connection is full of beautiful colors and simple shapes, and seems like a great place to get lost. Yeji Yun’s Tipple imagines a far north filled with animals in search of the perfect cocktail.

This is a lovely book to flip through, and the notes on each island are amusing, too. It could serve as a great introduction to different styles of illustration and to the artists’ work.

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Graphic Novel Review: Lorna by Benji Nate

Lorna by Benji Nate. Silver Sprocket, 2019. 9781945509346. 56pp.

Lorna is a young woman with a bad attitude, green hair, a knife, and a cat she loves (because it’s a cold-blooded killer with no remorse). She’s cruel, mean, and kinda adorable. The second half of the book is a flashback to her terrible first date in high school. The fact that she’s talking to her date’s skull at the beginning of the sequence is a bit of foreshadowing.

This is all much more fun than it sounds, and library censor-bait in the best way. Benji Nate also wrote and drew the happily strange graphic novel Catboy, about Olive and her best friend Henry, a humanoid black cat. It looks parent friendly but is creepier than it sounds.

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Graphic Novel Review: Charlotte Brontë before Jane Eyre by Glynnis Fawkes

Charlotte Brontë before Jane Eyre by Glynnis Fawkes. Introduction by Alison Bechdel. Disney Hyperion, 2019. 9781368023290. 92pp plus a postscript, discussions of source material for pages, and a bibliography.

This graphic novel opens in 1837 with Charlotte Brontë receiving a letter from Robert Southey warning her against writing for celebrity. The story then flashes back to her family life at Haworth Parsonage where, as a child, she lost not only her mother but her two older sisters in the space of a few years. Her father sent her to school, hoping to make her into a teacher and prepare her for her future. She and her remaining sisters and brother have vivid imaginations and make up stories together. Charlotte has ambitions of writing and publish, and this seems to carry her sisters along later in life as they struggle to work as teachers and governesses.

My favorite moment in Brontë’s life story is when, as a student, she gets in trouble for scaring another girl with a story late at night in a school dormitory, when they’re all supposed to be asleep. (Fawkes says in her notes that this was the only time the serious and reserved Brontë was ever in trouble at school, and explains how she made up that tale Brontë tells in the book.)

This is one of the times my love of comics leads me to learn about something I wouldn’t otherwise be interested in. I’ve read Jane Eyre and other books by Charlotte Brontë’s sisters, but had no idea about their lives. Glynnis Fawkes’ pencil drawings really brought them all to life for me, and led me to read a bit more about the Brontës after I finished this book. Next time I need a “comics do in fact lead to other reading” anecdote for a concerned parent in a library, I’ll honestly be able to use myself as an example.

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Graphic Novel Review: The Lady Doctor by Ian Williams

The Lady Doctor by Ian Williams. Pennsylvania State University Press, 2019. 9780271083742. 249pp. (mostly duotone).

Dr. Lois Pritchard is dealing with a lot. The other doctors she works with want her to become a partner, but she’s not sure that’s right for her. The National Health Service may soon be privatized (or at least partially so). One of her patients keeps hounding her for the pills he’s addicted to, her mother, who she hasn’t spoken to for 20 years, is suddenly trying to contact her and there are always more and more patients. These include an exhausting array of repeat offenders like the local Casanova who’s spreading STIs, and the guy with the Pinocchio tattoo on his junk. Dr. Pritchard worries she’s too cold, frequently drinks with a friend to unwind, and makes many mistakes but along the way does a great deal of good.

This story is really well balanced and human, and I particularly loved Williams’ use of color, but the patient interactions were my favorite bits. Librarians everywhere will relate to the daily craziness Dr. Pritchard is a part of, and I think they’ll be as happy as I am that no one is required to disrobe while visiting the library (though some, of course, choose to do so anyway).

Williams is a medical doctor and artist who also wrote and illustrated The Bad Doctor (great book!), coauthored the Graphic Medicine Manifesto, and co-edits the Graphic Medicine series that this book is a part of.

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Graphic Novel Review: The Grande Odalisque and Olympia

The Grande Odalisque by Florent Ruppert, Bastien Vives, and Jérome Mulot. Europe Comics, 2018. 124pp. http://www.europecomics.com/album/the-grande-odalisque/

The Grande Odalisque: Olympia by Florent Ruppert, Bastien Vives, and Jérome Mulot. Europe Comics, 2018. 135pp. http://www.europecomics.com/album/2-olympia/

Carol and Alex are daring art thieves who bring on a third partner, Sam, to help them pull off their most daring job yet — stealing The Grande Odalisque (a painting) from the Louvre in broad daylight. The action sequences are some of the best you’ll see in comics, and Mulot and Ruppert add absurd touches that made me laugh. On of my favorites is in the opening pages of the first book, when Alex is distracted because she’s getting dumped while she’s supposed to be helping Carol escape from a museum. There’s also a lot of humorous dialogue, mostly about sex and relationships. Fun stuff.

In the sequel, the thieves run into problems with a mafia boss who demands they steal three paintings in one night. He assigns a quiet killer to accompany them in case they don’t pull it off or try to run. The job is spectacular, as is the way they charm their would-be assassin.

Ruppert and Mulot (Barrel of Monkeys, The Perineum Technique) are fast becoming two of my favorite comics creators. These graphic albums have, so far, only been published in English as digital editions, but they’re worth checking out.

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Alternate version of 675

Willow and I had a misunderstanding about 675. I thought it was about a guy who thought he heard the phone ringing (something that’s happening to me personally more and more often when I work the reference desk), she thought it was about a guy who was actually hearing ringing (and that Grant was just being a bit of a jerk, since there’s some precedent for that).  Here’s a link to the version I intended, and below is how Willow saw it.

-Gene

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Graphic Novel Review: The Man Who Came Down The Attic Stairs by Celine Loup

The Man Who Came Down The Attic Stairs by Celine Loup. Archaia, 2019. 9781684153527. 48pp. Publisher’s Rating: Suggested for Mature Readers.

After moving into a new house and giving birth to Roslin, Emma is overwhelmed. Her daughter won’t stop screaming, and it’s not colic — she’s frightened. Emma’s husband Thomas never complains, but he has changed. Emma’s not sure who he is, and she’s afraid that he’s a danger to the baby.

This horror story’s black and white images fully convey everything Emma feels and experiences. Highly recommended, but not for kids.

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Graphic Novel Review: Creation by Sylvia Nickerson

Creation by Sylvia Nickerson. Drawn & Quarterly, 2019. 9781770463776. 192pp.

A new mother (an artist) reflects on living and creating in Hamilton, Ontario — “known as the armpit of Ontario…” — a city struggling through a transition from it’s industrial past. Gentrification is underway, there’s a lot of poverty, people are being displaced and excluded. Even though art is reinvigorating the neighborhood, the artist’s studio used to be cheap, substandard housing. Is she part of the problem? Motherhood isn’t quite the overwhelmingly hopeful, joy-filled time it’s normally presented as in the media, but it tilts toward joy. Somehow so does life in the imperfect city.

Nickerson’s black, white and gray art suits the setting — it feels a bit hazy, like the pollution from the dead factories is still hanging about. She illustrates Hamilton’s neighborhoods with more detail than the people in it, though she’s able to invest everyone she draws, even when she uses only a few lines, with a lot of character. (Drawn & Quarterly’s website indicates this is a fictional memoir.)

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Graphic Novel Review: Captive of Friendly Cove: Based on the Secret Journals of John Jewett by Rebecca Goldfield and Mike Short

Captive of Friendly Cove: Based on the Secret Journals of John Jewett by Rebecca Goldfield and Mike Short. Fulcrum, 2015. 9781936218110. 162pp including a list of commonly spoken words in the Nootkan language.

This graphic novel is based on the experience of sailor and blacksmith John Jewett, who lived for years as a captive of the Mowachaht people on Vancouver Island between 1803 and 1805. After the ship he was on, the Boston, arrived to trade in Friendly Cove, the ship’s captain insulted the local chief, Maquinna. His men later returned and slaughtered the crew, sparing the lives of Jewett because of his skills, and Thompson, because Jewett claimed he was Jewett’s father. After the ship’s goods were distributed at a potlatch and the ship burned, the men’s hope for rescue faded and they make a life for themselves, with Jewett creating jewelry, tools, and weapons. Overall they lived as well as their captors, and they come to understand how poorly the Mowachaht were treated by the Europeans and the reasons for their fury. Jewett comes across as ignorant at times and more enlightened at others, sometimes sorry for himself and at others just happy to be alive.

The writer, Goldfield, has created history and science documentaries as well as nonfiction comics. The art is realistic without being too gory, though the moment when the heads of the Boston’s crew are arranged on deck will be too much for some. For me it was a delight to find a graphic novel about the history of the Northwest in my local bookstore. I wish we’d had this in our high school library.

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