Author: Gene Ambaum

Guest Book Review: Letters to a Prisoner by Jacques Goldstyn

Letters to a Prisoner by Jacques Goldstyn, translated by Angela Keenlyside. (Traslated by Le Prisonneir sans Frontiers). Owlkids Books, 2018. 9781771472517. In this nearly wordless picture book, a man is thrown into prison for political activity, right before the eyes of his young daughter. Then he’s held in a solitary cell in a remote prison. Even the guards give him as little human contact as possible. And then the letters start to come, from people around the world. From workers, children, academics, and even aristrocrats. The guards try to dispose of the first big batch by burning them, but this just lets the words in a variety of languages drift free.  It’s beautiful visual effect — the primary illustrations are pen and ink, colored by washes, so the letters to the prisoner match the illustration style. This is charming picture book about the power of written letters to effect change. Guest Book review by Robert in Silicon Valley

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Graphic Novel Review: Innsmouth Volume 1 by Megan James

Innsmouth Volume 1 by Megan James. ComicM!x, 2019. 9781939888730. Contains issues #1-#5. (Physical and digital copies available at https://www.meganjamesart.com/innsmouth which may be the best way to get one.)  also has a few. This is another gem recommended to me by Chris at Seattle’s Comics Dungeon, a book James in her introduction calls “a modern day revisionist horror comedy featuring a diverse cast that would be accessible to newcomers and old fans alike.” It’s a beautiful, fun graphic novel that updates HP Lovecraft’s mythos to the masses. Go by the Comics Dungeon some weekend and ask Chris what you should be reading, he never lets me down. Randolph Higgle from Innsmouth attends East Arkham High School. A Junior Acolyte for his church (or cult, depending on what you believe), he passes out pocket Necronomicons door to door. They’re not well received. He’s well intentioned but maybe a bit dim. His stepfather is a fishman. He wants to go to college but […]

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Graphic Memoir Review: Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill

Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence by Joel Christian Gill. Oni Press, 2020. 9781549303357. 256pp. This graphic memoir by cartoonist Joel Christian Gill is filled with painful childhood memories that include racism, violence, and bullying. (It’s worth noting Gill was the victim of sexual abuse as well — while it will be clear to older readers what’s happening, it’s not shown on the page.) His story begins with him walking with his mama, who had just gotten out of jail and was dropping him off to stay at a friend’s place for a few days — Gill sees a dead animal and a man at the side of the road. It ends with his marriage at a young age, a successful relationship which continues to this day. In between is a lot of cursing, moving, ups and downs. It’s amazing to see that Gill made it through, and that both the public library and drawing were important parts of his […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Palimpsest: Documents from a Korean Adoption by Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom

Palimpsest: Documents from a Korean Adoption by Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom. Translated by Hanna Strömberg, Richey Wyver, and Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom. Drawn & Quarterly, 2019. 9781770463301. 156pp including a postscript and notes on selected panels and pages. Sjöblom was adopted from South Korea by a family in Sweden in 1979. During and after the birth of her second child, she thinks about when she was born, her birth mother, and her early life when she was handed to strangers in a place she couldn’t understand a word who renamed her Lisa. She does an amazing job showing how everyone tried to make her feel about her adoption and her place in Swedish society without ever asking how she felt. As her Korean-ness was erased she was constantly reminded that she didn’t fit in, and even attacked. After escaping high school and moving away from home, she started looking into the story of her adoption, including what it meant and how it […]

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Graphic Novel Review: The Forbidden Harbor by Teresa Radice and Stefano Turconi

The Forbidden Harbor by Teresa Radice and Stefano Turconi. Translated by Carla Roncalli di Montorio and Nanette McGuiness. NBM, 2019. 9781681122328. 1807. Young Abel, who has lost his memory, returns home with the British naval officer, William Roberts, who found him on a beach in Siam. (Abel easily took to life on the ship and playing the violin that belonged to Captain Stevenson. The Captain seems to have betrayed the navy and his ship by disappearing with some treasure, though that may not quite be true.) In England Robertson introduces Abel to the Captain’s three daughters, who give him a place to stay. This all sets Abel on a long and winding path to discovering who he is and how to set things right. It’s a romantic and somewhat magical adventure that involves love, betrayal, the madame of a local brothel, poetry, family, and revenge. Turconi’s pencil art is beautiful, and includes a spectacular sea battle that brings everything to […]

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Graphic Novel Review: The Complete Curvy by Sylvan Migdal.

The Complete Curvy by Sylvan Migdal. Iron Circus Comics, 2019. 9781945820403. 520pp. Publisher’s rating: ADULTS ONLY. Fauna, a liar (magic user) from Candy World, is fleeing an awful arranged marriage. On Boring World (our world), she meets and quickly falls for (and into bed with) Anaïs. This starts a fun, sex-filled adventure that includes lots of magic, a hot candy octopus lady, pirates, superheroes, a plan to conquer Boring World and a plot to democratize magic. Anaïs and Fauna’s love for each other is at the heart of the book, though they clearly need to talk about their relationship. The story is kinda structured like a video game, and sex is everywhere, friendly, and involves every combination of folks and beings you might imagine (and some you might not). It’s a bit like a good-natured, pornographic version of Adventure Time. I just recommended this to a friend who once complained to me that she couldn’t find anything else as fun […]

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Book Review: Manga (The Citi Exhibition)

Manga (The Citi Exhibition) edited by Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere and Matsuba Ryoko. Thames & Hudson, 2019. 9780500480496. 351pp including notes, a checklist of works in the Citi exhibition at the British Museum in 2019, a glossary, a Japanese language bibliography, an index, and more. This is simply the most attractive, best designed reference book on manga I’ve ever seen. From the dust jacket art (it’s from Golden Kamuy by Noda Saturo) to the cover art (“Edo As It Was!!” by Akatsuka Fujio) to all of the manga reproduce within, this book is one that belongs in every public library. It’s as fun to flip through as it is informative to read. Many extracts of manga drawn in different styles are reproduced, with translations in the gutters alongside the pages. The book can function as an introduction to manga and graphic novels, or a resource for those who want to know much more than they already do. There are interviews with […]

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Book Review: The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. Dancing Cat Books, 2017. 9781770864863. 234pp. In this post-apocalyptic future, the Earth is pretty messed up, and so is a lot of  humanity. Most people can no longer dream, but the indigenous people of North America are the exception, so they’re being rounded up and sent to “schools” where their ancestors’ dreams are harvested from their bone marrow. The process is as awful as it sounds and kills those subjected to it, reducing them to the material the non-indigenous want. Frenchie has lost his family, but becomes part of a group of mostly children trying to evade agents of the Canadian government’s Department of Oneirology. Guided by two adults — Miigwans, a man still struggling with the loss of his husband, and Minerva, a quiet old woman who does a lot of watching and a little laughing — they head north. Along the way they tell stories and try to help the kids heal, […]

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Graphic Novel Review: are you listening? by tillie walden.

are you listening? by tillie walden. First Second, 2019. 9781626727731. 306pp plus some process drawings in the back. Any new graphic novel by Tillie Walden is a reason to celebrate, and I’m hurrying to finish my review of this one so that my daughter can read it next. Bea seems to have run away from home (she’s eighteen, though, so she can leave if she wants to). In a mini-mart she runs into Lou, her mother’s friend, who is on a road trip of her own. Lou offers to drop her off in McKinney as long as she doesn’t try to steal her car again. (Apparently Bea thought about it years ago.) As they start to talk, it becomes clear that Bea doesn’t really have anywhere to go. There’s a cat that they try to return to its home, a lot of conversations about their families, and some creepy dudes from the Office of Road Inquiry who seem to be […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Mimi and the Wolves Volume 1 by Alabaster Pizzo

Mimi and the Wolves Volume 1 by Alabaster Pizzo. Avery Hill, 2019. 9781910395486. I need to rave about Alabaster Pizzo’s art. The anthropomorphic animals she draws are (mostly) wonderfully cute (the wolves can look a bit sinister.) Her writing plays against the cuteness in the most perfect way. It’s like a deep, PG-13 version of Animal Crossing that looks better because it’s drawn in black and white. Mimi is a garland-making mouse who lives with her mate, Bobo. Ever since she was little she’s had a recurring nightmare full of weird creatures and violence (it doesn’t scare her). After taking a concoction to help her have a lucid dream, she speaks to the Holy Venus in her dream. Mimi paints the symbol Holy Venus shows her onto leaves and soon makes a friend who knows about Venus, too — Egort, a wolf. He tells her about Venus, talismans, and spirit guides. Bobo is alarmed — he tells Mimi its the […]

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