Category: comics

Review Minis: Recent Comic Reads

Review Minis: Recent Comic Reads

Paper Girls: Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
I’ve heard a lot about Saga but I’ve never actually got started on that series (despite owning the first volume…). I was looking for some comics and graphic novels on NetGalley before a holiday earlier in the year and when I saw that this was on and by the man behind Saga, I figured it would be a reasonably safe bet. When I was reading it, I didn’t have a clue what was going on (to be honest, I’m still not sure I do) but not in a way that annoyed me. This volume follows a group of paper girls who are out on their early morning round around Halloween. They’re threatened by a group of young men and ultimately saved by a man in a weird looking costume. As said weird man is fleeing the scene, he drops a strange looking box that baffles the girls but is familiar to readers as an iPod.  The story gets and stays weird from there on in!  The group of girls are fun to read about but they haven’t a clue what’s going on in the world, where everybody has disappeared off to or what the devil they’re supposed to do now.  Their confusion is readers’ confusion and the panels racket about until the final few that hint at where the overarching story might be going.  The whole thing was completely bizarre but because I felt as though it was clearly setting the scene for a bigger story, I still enjoyed it.  It’s difficult for me to know what else to say, really, given that this was such an unusual story.  It looks cool and the popping colours and art have a strong 80s vibe that’s a lot of fun and packed full of nostalgia. A series I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for in future!
3 out of 5 stars for keeping me baffled but intrigued
Get your own copy (affiliate links):  Amazon  |  Wordery
The Jekyll Island Chronicles, Book One: A Machine Age War by Steve Nedvidek
Another NetGalley find, it was the alternate history spin in this graphic novel that drew me in.  It’s set in the 1900s and features a host of historical figures, just not as we might know them.  As the story opens around World War I, we learn that Jekyll Island is a ‘holiday’ destination to the rich and influential (Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Morgan, Canegie and Ford all hanging out there at various points).  As it becomes apparent that the world isn’t quite done pulling itself apart, the ‘Jekyll Island Club’ set about trying to track down those with the skills that could be used to combat emerging new enemies.  Their development of the heroes that they find and their forays into battling a lurking evil were entertaining enough.  Not necessarily particularly original but enjoyable to read.  It reminded me of a steampunk version of the X-Men to be honest so if that sounds like your thing, you’ll probably enjoy this one.  I think the main thing that I felt that I was missing out on was knowledge of the American ‘leads of industry’ from the time. I knew the names most of the time but not necessarily what they were famous for and I don’t doubt that there were references that I missed as a result.  It wasn’t obstructive and it didn’t detract from my face value enjoyment but maybe there’s more to this for readers who are better versed in American history than I am.  I believe that this is the first in a series of six graphic novels and I liked this enough to give another one a go.  Especially if there’s more of the lady whose name I’ve forgotten but who can conduct electricity!  The art and colour work really add to the vintage, steampunk feel and I liked the way drawing style and how it was more true-to-life than surreal (I feel as though there’s a term for that that I just don’t know…)
3.5 out of 5 stars for the cameos from British historical figures that I did recognise and for giving me a steampunk action fix!
Get your own copy (affiliate links):  Amazon  |  Wordery
Fables: Volume 2 – Animal Farm by Bill Willingham 
The first volume of this series was actually the first comic book volume that I ever read and I loved it so I was curious to see how the second volume would fare now that I have a bit more graphic experimentation under my belt.  I was pretty jet-lagged when I finally picked it up and although it didn’t quite manage to stave off the dreaded mid-afternoon sleep, it did a much better job than I expected and than a lesser volume might have done.  Where the first volume takes place in New York and focuses on those of the Fable outcasts that can blend into modern society, this volume features more of ‘Animal Farm’, the residence of the talking animals and other creatures that even the more ignorant humans might spot as out of the ordinary.  It’s brilliant.  It exposes the conflicts between factions of the human Fables and the non-human Fables and the impact that might have on the overall community. The story reveals something deeper and darker lurking behind the ‘fairytale heroes trying to make it in the big city’ front. The characters are still as strong as ever (I *love* the Snow White/Rose Red sister dynamic) and the series continues to be just the right amount of dark that it’s just possible to offset the sense of impending doom with wry humour.  Meeting new characters and getting to play ‘Guess the Fairytale’ is as good as ever, too.  I can see why this series has continued to maintain its popularity despite the pretty epic number of volumes.  I already have the third volume and then this series will become the series into which I have read the furthest to date!  My relationship with Fables is seemingly all about the meaningless accolades.
4 out of 5 stars for the black humour, the twisted versions of my favourite fairytale characters and just generally being my favourite comic series that I’ve read so far
Get your own copy (affiliate links):  Amazon  |  Wordery

Review Minis: Opening Volumes of Comic Series

Earlier in the year, I went through a bit of a binge of requesting books from my local library.  Volumes of comic books are pricey and I still don’t feel as though I know enough about what I like and what I don’t to be able to buy with confidence.  I’m starting to get a feel for what artistic styles I’m keen on and what I’m not and the types of story that I enjoy reading in comic book form and those I’d rather avoid.  Where £10 is a bit of a gamble, my library’s 90 pence reservation fee is nothing of the sort.  My experiments have been a bit of a mixed bag…
The Wicked + The Divine: Volume 1 – The Faust Act by Kieron Gillon

This was…odd.  I can only imagine how confused my expression must have been the entire time that I was reading this.  I don’t need things to be completely spelled out for me but I do need them to make at least some kind of sense.  Especially given that this volume is made up of the first five issues of the series.  If I’d been buying them as they were coming out, I would never have made it to volume five.  It’s a shame because the concept sounded right up my street – twelve gods become incarnate every ninety years and get to live as human for two years.  What’s annoying is that that’s pretty much all I still know.  Laura, a sort of fangirl to these gods-turned-modern-celebrities, stumbles into their company and for some reason they let her hang around despite professing to want to be discreet.  There are no hints at all about why exactly the gods might be reborn, why they’re only allowed to live for two years, what on earth might happen after their two years is up or…well, just what the whole point of the story is, really.
To be fair, it wasn’t all confusion and bafflement.  The colours are incredible, bright and vivid but without seeming childish.  The art is quirky but still clear.  The gods that are featured aren’t just your usual Ancient Greek or Egyptian gods but also Shinto deities and Sumerian goddesses.  If you’re into ancient civilisations and lesser known gods, there’s plenty of diversity and enough to keep you distracted from the fact that nothing else really makes any sense.  And I suppose the other upshot to not having much of a clue to what was going on was that nothing was particularly predictable.  I couldn’t have told you what had recently happened, never mind guess at what might be coming up.  I might pick up the next volume to see if there is a point but I’m not too bothered if I don’t happen across it.

2.5 stars for some stunning art and perhaps a little too much originality for me
Rat Queens: Volume 1 – Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

The Rat Queens are described in the volume’s blurb as “a pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire…in the business of killing all god’s creatures for profit“, which sums them up far more neatly than I ever could. The first volume reminded me a lot of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, if slightly more sweary.  I think because the plot follows a group of misfits, a watch full of mysterious characters and a whole host of quirky races, all set in a world full of unusual creatures.  It has a sarcastic and dry sense of humour that suits me down to the ground.
While I was reading the issues, I really enjoyed them.  They’re quite light and the dialogue is witty.  The kind of witty that actually prompted a couple of giggles too, rather than just a bit of a wry smile.  My only real problem is that for all of that, the volume was a little bit forgettable.  It was a series of amusing fights and parties, with only snippets of characters’ backgrounds and hints at a bigger story arc.  I’ll almost definitely pick up the next volume because it’s just so damn readable but if you’re looking for something that will really make an impact and have you gripped to the series, I’m not sure that this is that something.
3.5 stars for putting and keeping a smile on my face for a jolly afternoon or two 

Wytches: Volume 1 by Scott Snyder

For every moment in Rat Queens that made me laugh, there was one in this first volume of Wytches that terrified me.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect from a comic in the horror genre but I don’t think I was expecting it to be as scary as what I got.  Because man alive was this scary!  The art is horrifying; unbelievably dark and easily the stuff of nightmares.  The story (of child-eating wytches that haunt forests and lure ‘marked ones’ to their doom by twisting the minds of those in their communities) was scary enough by itself but the drawings and the colours made it something else entirely.  I won’t pretend to know a lot about art but I really loved the use of colour slashing across the panels to create something truly, truly haunting. 
Aside from the fact that it was completely disturbing, the plot that follows a father trying to save his daughter across the six issues was well-paced and had just the right amount of twists and manages to tackle mental illness along the way. To be honest, if I wasn’t such a great big wimp, I’d have rated this volume more highly.  It deserves four stars.  It sets out to scare and who am I to mark it down for doing its job too well?  In the end, rightly or wrongly, I’ve given it the rating that reflects my personal enjoyment.  If you’re a horror fan, I really do recommend this series because it’s just so twisted and clever.  Even I might pick up the next issue when it’s released (to read during the day, obviously) just because I’m curious about where the story will go next.
3 stars for scaring my socks off and giving me art that made me think

Comic Review: Lumberjanes – Volumes 1 and 2

Ratings:  3 stars to Volume 1; 4 stars to Volume 2

At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together… And they’re not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! 

The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here!

I loved Nimona when I read it earlier this year and I looked around pretty much straight away for anything else that Noelle Stevenson had been involved in.  This comic series is a collaboration between her, Shannon Watters and Grace Ellis and it has all of the humour and warmth that made me such a big fan of Nimona.  The dialogue is sharp and there are nifty puns abound.  The art is bright and vivid and fits with the feisty and fun characters.  It isn’t quite the style of Nimona because Stevenson isn’t the lead artist but it does have a similar quirky feel that I really like.

The first volume is a bit…odd and feels very much like a few opening issues that just happen to have been bound up together.  I read it on my phone on the Comixology app and when I finished, I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d maybe missed something and spent a while flicking backwards and forwards to see if I really had finished.  It sets up a few of the more unusual aspects of the overarching story but it’s a bit haphazard.  The second volume is much better.  The story weaves in some Greek mythology and develops some of the secondary characters, which helps the main characters feel less conspicuously one-dimensional.  More importantly, it feels much less like scene setting and more like a mini story arc.  I finished the second volume feeling much more fond of the whole series.

Reading the comics is entertaining and easy.  The pages fly by and they’re funny enough to elicit some genuine smiling and the occasional brief chuckle.  Not laugh out loud stuff perhaps but clever.  Personally, though, I find that they’re aimed at too young an audience for me to really get into them and want to collect them.  I would recommend them without a second thought to children of maybe 8ish to young teens.  I’d recommend them to older readers too but with a caveat that they can feel a little twee.  The peril is pretty mild and wraps up neatly and quickly in most cases.  There’s an overarching story that remains a bit of a mystery but generally each volume is pretty compact and a little predictable.

Minor grumbles aside, the focus of the comics is particularly fantastic for younger female readers; the main characters are a bunch of young women away at a summer camp who have formed tight friendships and who launch into adventures without a second thought.  Each of the girls has a unique skill set that means they can take it in turns to save each other without relying on a handily placed group of boys.  Traditional “manliness” is openly made fun of at some points but without crossing over into man-hating.  I love that the girls are almost never saved from danger but instead save themselves.  I’d rather they were a little less pigeon-holed (there’s a Smart One, a Brave One, an Athletic One etc.) but it works without being too annoying for the most part.  If you want to encourage independence and reliance on friends rather than a significant other, Lumberjanes really does seem like the way to go.

Overall:  I’ll definitely keep reading it but I’ll be keeping an eye out for it at the library or for the next volume to appear at a decent price on Comixology.  The stories are fun to read but not quite enough to live up to the £10+ per volume price tag of the later instalments.

Date finished: Volume 1: March 02 2016; Volume 2: 16 March 2016
Format: Volume 1:  Digital copy on Comixology; Volume 2: Paperback
Source: Volume 1: Bought; Volume 2: Borrowed from my local library
Genre: Comic
Pictured Edition of Volume 1 Published: by BOOM! Box in April 2015

Graphic Novel Haul

In 2014, Hanna bought me Relish by Lucy Knisley for Christmas.  I read it in January and was kind of surprised by how much I liked it.  Laura helped me continue my foray when she bought me French Milk, also by Lucy Knisley.  I might not have reviewed it but I did really like it and it made me want to branch out and try some graphic novels not written by Lucy Knisley.  And then Bex (aren’t book blogger friends great?!) bought me the first volume of the Fables comics for my birthday and it was so much fun.  What can I say?  I’ve kind of caught the graphic novel bug.  On a whim over Christmas, I headed over to the Book Depository and bought up most of the graphic novels on my wishlist…whoops?
Ok, so the pile might scream ‘Graphic Novels for Beginners’ but I’m pretty damn excited.
First up is Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  Told in black and white comic strips, this is the story of Satrapi’s childhood in Tehran during years that (according to the blurb) “the overthrow of the Shah s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq”.  It sounds utterly fascinating and I’ve heard that it’s also very witty and very moving.  It’s not the glossiest on my pile but I’m really looking forward to it.  
Sticking with the ‘moving’ theme, I also got The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman.  I’ve been curious about this for years and finally took the plunge and bought it.  I’m sure you’ve all heard of it but, in case you haven’t, it’s written and illustrated by a man whose father was a Jewish survivor of the Holocaust and tells of the horrors of the holocaust by depicting the Nazis as cats and the Jewish population as mice.  The book won a Pullitzer prize and I have extremely high hopes for it, even while I’m wary to start out on what promises to be quite a harrowing journey. 

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll is another book that I’ve heard a lot about.  The paperback copy that I have is gorgeous.  The cover has a gnarled feel to it and the drawings are stunning.  It also promises to be seriously creepy, featuring five stories set around journeys in to or out of the woods.  Patrick Rothfuss’ review on Goodreads sums up with “This freaked my shit out”.  I’m intrigued and I’m going to brave my wimpy instincts to explore these “fairy tales gone seriously wrong”.
Lightening the bundle up is Nimona by Noelle Stevenson, which honestly just sounds like it will be so much fun.  It has a quote from Rainbow Rowell on the front for heaven’s sake that declares the story “full of humour and heart”.  It’s the story of a young girl, Nimona, who is sent by an agency to be the sidekick to Lord Ballister Blackheart, a supervillain.  I’ve heard that it’s sharp and that there will be chuckles.  From a quick flick through, the illustrations look bold and colourful and I can’t wait to get stuck in.  The back of my copy shouts about “Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism!” Yes, please.
The last new arrival is the next instalment in the Fables series, Fables: Animal Farm (Volume 2) by Bill Willingham.  This series seems pretty popular among the bloggers that I follow and if they carry on in the vein of the first instalment, I can see why.  They’re pretty expensive (although this one is actually £3 cheaper now than it was when I bought it) so I’ll probably be taking the series pretty slowly and won’t be picking this one up straight away.  I could obviously borrow them from the library (I say ‘obviously’…I haven’t checked…) but now that I have a couple, I kind of want to collect them all.  The illustrations are super detailed and they’re quick to read so they’re the kind of thing that I can see myself flicking back through when I’m further through the story.
And there you have it!  Which ones do I need to be picking up sooner rather than later?  Anything else that I need to be picking up to add to my fledgling collection?

Thoughts on Fables: Volume 01 from a Comic Newbie

I’ve always been pretty wary of comics.  I never really got into them when I was younger and might have been a little less obsessive about making sure that my comic reading was just so.  I have a thing about series and making sure that I read things in the “right” order.  It was a source of much discussion when Boyfriend and I first got together whether we should embark on the Star Wars films in the order they were released or so the story was in chronological order (we went with the story being in chronological order).  The world of comics always intimidated me because I was gravely concerned about ‘getting it wrong’, especially with long-running series where there are all kinds of story arcs and spin-offs and whatnot.  
I’ve been eyeing up Fables for a while.  I’ve read a couple of graphic novels this year (also a first for me) and I’ve really enjoyed them.  The next logical step seemed comics and Fables was a series I’d seen mentioned all over a whole range of blogs.  I put it on my wishlist, thinking that one day I’d give it a try and then the great and lovely Bex sent it to me for my birthday.  I’m so glad she did.  
The premise is pretty awesome.  A whole host of fairytale and nursery rhyme characters have been chased out of their world by the Adversary and are settled in modern day New York.  The community is led by Old King Cole, with Snow White acting as his deputy.  Bigby Wolf (of Red Riding Hood fame) heads up the security/crime division.  In this first volume that bundles together the first five issues, Snow White’s sister, Red Rose, is missing and presumed dead and Bigby Wolf is tasked with finding out what happened.  Folklore meets detective fiction – what’s not to like?
As my first comic experience, it was a superb one.  There are a couple of artists adding gorgeous illustrations to Bill Willingham’s words and the effect is quite something.  Separating each issue is a double spread illustration that has a completely different look to those that bring Willingham’s characters to life.  I think what surprised me was the more…adult content.  There’s sex, a smidgen of violence and some swearing.  I thought it would feel awkward and it didn’t.  The text and the illustrations fit together perfectly and I was able to get into the story.
I’ve read that this is sometimes billed as a comedy.  There is some humour and I did find it entertaining reading but I definitely wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as a comedy.  I don’t know what I would describe it as but not a comedy.  I actually cared about the mystery so it works on that level.  It’s tongue in cheek about its fantasy elements so it fits neatly into that genre too without being too twee about it.  In short: if you like fairytales and you want to play ‘spot the reference’ while getting to enjoy a good old-fashioned murder mystery, Fables is for you.
I’m still a little bit worried about not quite getting the order right but I have a guide on a good reading order saved to my phone and I think I’m safe to just keep reading until Volume 06 so I’ll definitely be carrying on with Fables.  It’s a lot of fun and it’s top notch escapism so if you’ve been considering comics but haven’t had a clue where to start (like me), this is as good a place as any.