Graphic Novel Review: Making Friends

Making Friends coverMaking Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk. Scholastic Graphix, 2018. 9781338139228. 263pp.

7th grade sucks for Danny and she feels like she doesn’t have any friends and isn’t sure where she belongs. After watching Solar Sisters she draws the face of the blue-haired, misunderstood (aka evil) Prince Neptune in the sketchbook that she grabbed at her deceased great-aunt’s house, and his head pops from the page and comes to life. Prince Neptune refers to her as Princess Danielle, and is somewhat charming and snarky when he’s not feeding on her life energy or coaxing her toward being bad. Then Danny soon uses the magic of the book to draw a new best friend, and create a few magic items and cash. Nothing goes as expected and it would ruin everything to say more, though I want to add this: the few pages featuring a 1980s anti-bullying video had me rolling on the floor. Great book.

Making Friends 1 Making Friends 3

Tags No Comments - Read More

Graphic Novel Review: The Old Guard Book One

The Old Guard Book One coverThe Old Guard Book One: Opening Fire written by Greg Rucka, art by Leandro Fernández, colors by Daniela Miwa. Image, 2017. 9781534302402. Contains #1 – #5. Publisher’s Rating: Mature Readers.

Andy is the oldest member and leader of a small mercenary team with a secret: they’re immortal. After trying to save a group of abducted schoolgirls, their secret is out, and they need to get the information back under their control. There’s one complication: they have to retrieve a new immortal, a young female Marine in Afghanistan who just “died” for the first time.

There’s a bit of romance, a fair helping of cynicism, and a whole lot of bullets. Is this all a bid to relaunch the Highlander franchise without the idiocy and the lightning of the Quickening? God I hope so. Rucka (Queen & Country, Gotham Central, many others) is one of my favorite comics writers because he delivers beats every page, issue, and book. Fernández’s art reminds me of Risso’s in 100 Bullets — it’s powerful, emotional, full of well-used black spaces, and really violent when it needs to be.

The Old Guard 1 The Old Guard 2

Tags No Comments - Read More

Graphic Novel Review: Poppy & Sam And The Leaf Thief

Poppy & Sam coverPoppy & Sam And The Leaf Thief by Cathon.  Owlkids Books, 2018. 9781771473293. 48pp.

Poppy is a tiny girl who lives in a pumpkin in a garden, and she loves to hang out with her friend Sam, a tiny panda. When they’re out tending plants, Poppy hears some crying — it’s Basil (a plant of course). Someone has taken a bit of their leaf while they were sleeping! Poppy and Sam try to figure out who did it and they start by interviewing the insects.

Cathon has created an innocent, lighthearted world of cooperation and smiles. Even the endpapers, with their bugs and snails and plants, are delightful.

Poppy and Sam 1 1 Poppy and Sam endpapers

Tags No Comments - Read More

Graphic Novel Review: Fog Over Tolbiac Bridge (A Nestor Burma Mystery)

Fog Over Tolbiac Bridge coverFog Over Tolbiac Bridge (A Nestor Burma Mystery) by Léo Malet and Jacques Tardi. Translator: Kim Thompson. Fantagraphics, 2017. 9781606997055.

Detective Nestor Burma receives a letter from Abel Benoit, a man in a hospital who claims to know him. On the way to see him, he’s met by a striking woman, Bélita Morales, who tells him not to bother, that Benoit is dead. At the hospital, Burma is interrogated by a police inspector about his connection to the deceased man — it turns they were anarchist together decades earlier, when Benoit used another name.

Burma sets out to figure out why Benoit was killed, and by whom. He spends a bit more time with Bélita, and a lot wandering the shadowy streets of the XIIIth arrondissement. By the end he’ll have figured out who the man is with madness in his eyes, who was pacing on Tolbiac Bridge (an image that haunts the early pages of the story, and figures in its conclusion).

Tardi’s adaptation of this hardboiled detective story by Leo Malet, set in Paris’ XIIIth arrondissement, is a great mystery and gives a great sense of the locale. I’ve enjoyed Tardi’s adaptations of noir mysteries by Jean-Patrick Manchette, and this pulled me in in the same way as my favorite of those, Like A Sniper Lining Up His Shot. Or maybe this was just easy to identify with since it’s been wet and cold in Seattle, and it always seemed to be raining in Tardi and Malet’s XIIIth.
Fog Over Tolbiac Bridge 1

Tags 1 Comment - Read More

Graphic Novel Review: Land of the Sons

Land of the Sons coverLand of the Sons by Gipi. Fantagraphics, 2018. 9781683960775. 288pp.

Two boys eek out a living in a post-apocalyptic landscape under the tutelage of their father. Their father shows them no love, and at the beginning of the book, as they skin the dog they managed to kill in a fly-infested swamp, one of them considers skinning their father, too. They trade for food, they fish with dynamite, and are told not to touch the corpses they occasionally find. After the boys leave home, they encounter men much worse than their father.

Gipi’s black and white graphic novel is amazing in ways that snuck up on me. He draws the characters and their world in what at first glance looked like a bunch of black scribbles, but is in fact an expressive, brutal masterpiece. The boys harsh father clearly loves them, but is raising them to be uncaring and amoral because that’s the only way they’ll survive. He hasn’t taught them to read but keeps a journal. At one point Gipi even gives us a look at its pages, through the boys’ eyes, at text we can’t also read — an experience that reminded me of looking at art like Cy Twombly’s Untitled (NYC) (1968).)
Land of Sons 1 Land of Sons 2

Tags No Comments - Read More

Graphic Novel Review: Girl Town

Girl Town CoverGirl Town by Carolyn Nowak. Top Shelf, 2018. 9781603094382. 156pp.

Not a graphic novel per se, but a collection of five excellent and entertaining comic stories of varied length that, together, are one of my favorite “graphic novels” of 2018.  Not many books have a first line this good (atop the first panel of the title story): “I have lived with Ashley and Jolene since we all got kicked out of astronaut school for being too good looking to be sent to space.” Three women make zines and clean houses while having a low-level conflict and friendship with the three women next door. The “I” of that sentence also harbors a serious crush on one of her neighbors that is oh-so-poorly expressed. It’s a great story, and like Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost, it’s drawn in purple.  “Radishes” is an emotional tale of friendship and shopping with tigers and a magical food stall. In “Diana’s Electric Tongue” the broken-hearted title character orders a sex robot (it also stores her secrets) and refuses to be embarrassed about/by it.

I left the library’s copy around the house and I hope that my teenage daughter secretly picked it up when I wasn’t looking. Now I’m off to track down some of the issues of Lumberjanes that Nowak illustrated, plus her comics/prose combo Buffy the Vampire Slayer: New School Nightmare, which was just published.

Girl Town 1 Girl Town 4

Tags No Comments - Read More

Graphic Novel Review: little moments of love

catana comics coverlittle moments of love: a catana comics collection by Catana Chetwynd. Andrews McMeel, 2018. 9781449492977. http://catanacomics.com/

Catana Chetwynd’s comics about her relationship with her boyfriend John started out with a discussion of the mere-exposure effect!  That alone would have been enough to keep me reading, though there’s a lot more to love — the comics are sweet and silly and filled with butt jokes. And it looks like they’re at the heart of a merchandise empire that I envy — the strip below is available as a print on canvas.

catana comics image

Tags 1 Comment - Read More

Graphic Novel Review: Out in the Open

Out in the Open coverOut in the Open by Javi Rey, based on the novel by Jesús Carrasco. Translated from Spanish by Lawrence Schimel.  SelfMadehero, 2018. 9781910593479.

A young boy flees his village in an attempt to escape the abuse and violence he suffers at the hands of his father and the local sheriff. Men pursue him across a dry wasteland, but luckily he meets a kind, old man who offers help. When the sheriff’s men catch up with them, the old man suffers.

The boy’s nightmares are terrifying. At their center is the demonic, red-faced sheriff, and the boy naked or helpless before him. (In the worst of his dreams, his father leaves him for the sheriff.)

The colors Rey uses for the desert scenes made me feel the heat and dryness, and perfectly set up the hope-filled final scene.

Out in the Open image

Tags No Comments - Read More

Graphic Novel Review: Mami

mami_coverMami by Diigii Daguna. Peow Studio, 2018. 9789187325403. 64pp.

Detective Haiyan Nieto catches the thief, Goyong, who he’s been after for years. Goyong soon disappears, but only after making it clear that he wants to be found by his favorite detective.

Daguna’s short graphic novel has on old school manga style, bright colors, a touch of romance, and enough pages about Pinoy food to send me out in search of a restaurant. (I still haven’t found a place in Seattle that serves Taho, but I will.)

Be sure to check out the other fantastic looking books by Peowstudio. http://www.peowstudio.com/

Mami 1 Mami 4

Tags No Comments - Read More