Category: book review

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 […]

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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 […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Taxi!: Stories from the Back Seat by Aimée de Jongh

Taxi!: Stories from the Back Seat by Aimée de Jongh. Conundrum, 2019. 9781772620399. 96pp. Taxi rides in four cities (Paris, Jakarta, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.) give de Jongh the chance to learn something about her drivers and to reveal a bit about herself. All of the rides are fascinating in their own way, though my favorites are probably the one in L.A. (it begins badly, but she manages to save it) and her ride in Jakarta, which starts out very out of control but ends with a deep, unexpected connection of the sort that I’ve only ever experienced far from home. This memoir is the result of de Jongh’s graphic novel The Return of the Honey Buzzard having led to a lot of international travel. ( Blossoms in Autumn is excellent, too.) This is a simple, somewhat indirect and brilliant memoir. De Jongh’s art is, as always, stunning.

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Guest Review: Tiger vs Nightmare by Emily Tetri

Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri. First Second, 2018. 978-1626725355. 65 pp. In this graphic novel for children, readers learn Tiger is lucky, so lucky that she has loving parents who dote on their only cub, a warm house, and any and all of the food she desires — not just raw meat- but exotic, homemade dishes. She also has a monster for her best friend. Monster lives in her bedroom,  eats dinner with Tiger, and stays up all night to combat any and all of the nightmares Tiger may have. Most of the time, Monster has no issue keeping watch so Tiger sleeps safely.  Unfortunately,  Tiger has “one of those days” that ensures a restless night. Monster vows to take his guard duties even more seriously than usual. When Nightmare shows up, Monster cannot scare him off. The two friends will have to work together to defeat Nightmare. This is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel for kids that even […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Eileen Gray: A House Under the Sun by Charlotte Malterre-Barthes & Zosia Dzierzawska

Eileen Gray: A House Under the Sun by Charlotte Malterre-Barthes & Zosia Dzierzawska. Nobrow, 2019. 9781910620434. 155pp. including biographies of everyone involved and a bibliography. Eileen Gray was an artist, designer, and the architect best known for the now-famous house she created for her lover, architect Jean Badovici, on the coast in the South of France in the 1920s and early 1930s. This graphic novel is a biographical sketch centered around her work on that house, known as E-1027. It also includes scenes of her childhood, of her studying lacquerwork, and of other friendships, but her relationship with Badovici is at the center of the narrative. It’s clear he doesn’t understand her, and that costs him their relationship after he allows another architect to ruin E-1027 for Gray. I have a minor interest in architecture and had never heard of Gray. I picked up this book because everything Nobrow publishes deserves a look, and I’m so glad I did. This […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Bezkamp by Samuel Sattin and Jen Hickman

Bezkamp by Samuel Sattin and Jen Hickman. Lion Forge / ROAR, 2019. 9781549304040. 251pp. In one of the narratives of this graphic novel, a teenage girl, Janny, survives with the help/companionship of a small, winged alien. Giant, fanged and thorny creatures abound, and she soothes some of them with music. On another part of the alien planet, near the village of Bezkamp, Nem collects forbidden technological artifacts. The land and its people are threatened by corruption, a kind of poison or sickness which is dealt with by Nem’s father and aunts, warriors who also keep the village safe from the monsters beyond their borders. Nem is no warrior, and after his father blames him for another’s death, things heat up between them. Nem lacks rage and fire, doesn’t follow the rules of Bezkamp, and doesn’t want to be a warrior. After his father finds Nem’s collection of artifacts, he takes Nem out beyond Bezkamp’s borders to test him. Nem will […]

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Book Review: The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds

The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds. Gollancz, 2007. 9780575078185. 410pp. I’ve been looking for a go-to space opera series since Iain M. Banks died, and I think I finally found it with the help of JB at BLMF books. (This bookstore is hidden in the bowels of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, but so worth finding if you’re looking for something to read.) JB said that where Banks is whimsical, Reynolds is brutal. Music to my ears. The book did not disappoint. Ten thousand human habitats (the Glitter Band) orbit a star far from Earth. They’re utopian societies of a sort (some are disastrous) that participate in a democracy maintained by agents of the Panoply, a kind of military/police force. At the beginning of the book, Prefect Tom Dreyfus, with the help of his deputies, is investigating a subversion of the democratic process, but soon he has bigger problems to investigate — a habitat has been destroyed. Evidence points to it having […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Max & the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce.

Max & the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce. Crown Books for Young Readers, 2019. 9781101931080. 288pp. Big Nate creator Lincoln Peirce gives such a great pitch for this book himself in the form of a comics format book report by Nate, which appears before the title page. You can check it out — I’ve included it as part of this review. This 279 page book slips between comics and prose naturally. The illustrations are great, the laughs are frequent, and the combat is not at all gory. It has everything you’d expect in a fun medieval quest — knights, swords, dragons, magic — plus a talking goose and fart jokes. Highly recommended.  

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Book Review: The Crap Hound Big Book of Unhappiness

The Crap Hound Big Book of Unhappiness edited by Sean Tejaratchi. Feral House, 2019. 9781627310857. 544pp. Tejaratchi’s Liartown is one of the funniest, most thumbed through books on my shelf, so I’m primed to love whatever he publishes. This is a huge reference book without an index or table of contents in which images from 20th century ads, grouped together by theme (suicide, armageddon, accidents) and because of common graphic elements (handguns, grimaces, explosives). One set of images rolls into the next. The only context for each element is the other bits of advertising on the same and surrounding pages. It’s not quite a history of 20th century negativity or graphic design, and it’s kinda both. It is often hilarious and sometimes disturbing — every time I flip the book open I need to see what came before and after the page I landed on. It’s like playing a party game I don’t know the rules to, and like shopping […]

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Graphic Novel Review: The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis

The Hard Tomorrow by Eleanor Davis. Drawn & Quarterly, 2019. 9781770463738. 152pp. Hannah and Johnny live in a truck in the woods. She’s trying to get pregnant. He’s supposed to be building their house while she works, but he spends more of his time smoking pot and hanging out with his buddy Tyler, a doomsday prepper. Hannah takes care of the elderly Miss Phyllis, and spends time with other members of Humans Against All Violence (HAAV). (Her friend Gabby is also a member, and Hannah seems more than a little enamored with her.) Hannah’s world is full of love and support, which is great since this is a police/surveillance state under President Zuckerberg. After the HAAV’s leaders are detained by police, Hannah rushes to a protest that gets out of hand. It’s a moment that has repercussions for her friendships, marriage, and the lives of everyone in the story, including the baby Hannah and Johnny are trying to create. Somehow […]

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