Posts tagged ‘Graphic Novel’

Space Dumplins

This week, in honor of World Space Week, we’ve got reviews featuring space, in all it’s many forms. Today, I’m presenting an action packed space adventure by an award-winning graphic novelist.

GRX050 Silver Six COV TEMPLATETitle: Space Dumplins
Author/Illustrator: Craig Thompson
ISBN: 9780545565431
Pages: 316 pages
Publisher/Date: Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc., c2015.

Violet Marlocke’s father is a lumberjack in a futuristic space-age time and her mother works as a fashion designer for a pretentious boss who only cares about next season’s trends. Lumberjacks in this alternate reality don’t cut down trees, but harvest and transports whale poop produced by giant flying space whales, which is then processed into energy. One whale has recently eaten Violet’s school, and areas in the path of destruction are being evacuated. When Violet’s father goes missing after a whale diarrhea environmental disaster, she heads off in a slightly restored space junker, along with a young chicken and a lumpkin, who’s contrariness is seen not just in his attitude but his uncharacteristically short and round body, resembling a walking talking kidney bean. Enlisting the helps of her father’s lumberjack buddies, Violet quickly realizes that there is more happening than she realized, her father’s life is on the line, and her actions might affect more than one family.

Rather than stick to a monochromatic scheme like some graphic novelists, Craig Thompson’s latest creation is literally BURSTING with color, starting with the raised lettering on the cover for the title. The roids, or asteroid belt, where Violet and her family work is the darker shades, lending to its recognizable position as lower class. By comparison, the space station reminds me of the Capital from The Hunger Games series, with overly prejudiced and super stylized citizens in neon and bright shades. Whale poop is portrayed as clingy green goo, reminiscent of the slime made in science class or seen on Nickelodeon, and the whales are bold purple. Even the aliens and fashions and ships are unique, with some of the aliens having claws, suction-shaped fingers, or appendages protruding from their heads. The details are also incredible, down to the tattoos on Violet’s father, which are distinct, identifiable, and most certainly contain significance, even if we don’t figure it out.

The plot is smart and sophisticated as well. Elliot the chicken has a dream journal and cites Biblical references. There’s commentary about socioeconomic classes, prejudices, environmental disasters, unions, and government conspiracies. At one point when talking with Elliot, Violet comments “You must go crazy cooped up here all the time.” and Elliot responds “COOP? Please no speciesist slurs.” Two panels later (on the same page), Violet deadpans “So, you’re no FREE-RANGE CHICKEN, huh?” (41) and we’re not quite sure if she meant it as a “slur” or seriously. The ending reminds me of Men in Black, and I even liked the epilogue, even if it does get slightly hokey/preachy towards the end. With plenty of action and subplots, this is meant for invested and engaged readers. For fans of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or any slapstick, unimaginable science fiction space odyssey that somehow meshes into a coherent, believable, and satisfying read, this one will surely entertain both kids and adults. This is poop humor done right.

Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth

This week, in honor of World Space Week, we’ve got reviews featuring space, in all it’s many forms. Today, I’m reviewing a graphic novel featuring visitors from another world.

Hilo Boy Crashed EarthTitle: Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth
Series: Hilo #1
Author/Illustrator: Judd Winick
Color by: Guy Major
ISBN: 9780385386173
Pages: 192 pages
Publisher/Date: Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, c2015.

“AAAAH! Is that a greeting? I like it! AAAAH! Where am I?”
“Berke County”
“Never heard of it. Who are you?”
“Um … I’m D.J.”
“What’s this green stuff, D.J.?”
“It’s grass.”
“It smells outstanding!”
“Who are you?”
“I don’t remember. That could be a problem. My memory is a busted book.”
“Busted book.”
“Yep. Missing a lotta pages. Gaps! Holes! For example, how did I get here?”
“Are you kidding? It was insane! You fell from the sky!” (21-22)

A giant meteor falls from the sky and in its wake D.J. meets Hilo, whose suffering from amnesia. Hilo has some peculiar qualities that lead D.J. to believe he’s not from around here. Another surprise visitor is D.J.’s old neighbor Gina, who has just moved back with her family after being gone for three years. D.J. isn’t really good at anything, not like his siblings with their many hobbies and talents, so teaching Hilo things about Earth, like you can’t go around eating grass and wearing only underwear is not something he’s looking forward to doing. D.J.’s job is going to get even harder though when he, Hilo, and Gina realize that Hilo might not be the only thing falling from the sky.

This fast paced and brightly colored graphic novel will catch reader’s interest as soon as they open its pages. It starts with Hilo and D.J. running away from a giant robot, and it doesn’t stop there. Hilo has a sporadic naivety, with flashbacks of his past and absorbed information from D.J. filling in some of the blanks. While he doesn’t initially know what grass and clothes are, he somehow knows how to use a spoon properly and how to create a distraction. There’s so much unexplained about Hilo though that you’re willing to look the other way to see what crazy thing he’s going to do next. Some of the nonstop movement and action is nicely depict, primarily the fight sequences, but others look like they are stills with the hair streaming behind Gina the only clue they are moving. Winick’s posing and running gags really show the Looney Tunes influence the author mentions in his back cover biography. It’s certainly an enjoyable option for younger sci-fi fans who aren’t ready for the scarier world domination movies.

Cleopatra in Space

Today, in honor of World Space Week, we’ve got two reviews on the first two books in the Cleopatra in Space series. Each month for a previous job, I wrote a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ve expanded that idea to the blog in a feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. The review of the second book (The Thief and the Sword) meets this criteria. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

Cleopatra in Space 1Title: Target Practice
Series: Cleopatra in Space #1
Author/Illustrator: Mike Maihack
ISBN: 9780545528429
Pages: 172 pages
Publisher/Date: Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., c2014.

“It was during this recovery that an ancient scroll detailing the arrival of a hero was uncovered. A hero who would appear at this exact time and place to defeat the Xerx and restore peace and order to the galaxy.”
“You are that hero in the scroll, Cleopatra” (51)

Cleopatra (yes, the queen from the history books) is teleported from her time into a very different future. Expected to save the world from the Xerx and their leader, Xaius Octavian, Cleopatra is flummoxed by the need to attend classes, where she excels at combat but is exasperated by everything else. Guided by Khensu, the ancestor of her long-dead pet cat and monitored by a council of cats and alien teachers, Cleopatra isn’t sure what to think of this new world. When her first assignment lands her in hot water, Khensu realizes the council might not have his protégé’s best interests in mind.

Although she may be old as a mummy, Cleopatra is anything but a relic from the past. Preferring to be called Cleo, using modern day slang such as “Yup” and “Jeez” even before she time travels, and adapting seemingly instantaneously to things like paper books. It’s all done very tongue and cheek, with her Egyptian friend Goz calling out her smack talking “You couldn’t hit the broad side of a pyramid” with an equally sarcastic “That doesn’t even make sense.” before getting cut off (29-30). The fast and furious action-packed opening scene begins with her assignment mission before going back in time and then forward again all within the first 50 pages. Maihack smartly skips over several months of classwork so we can then get some additional action sequences with her assignment, finishing up at the end of the first semester. Hopefully all the subsequent volumes don’t progress as quickly.

Cleopatra in Space 2Title: The Thief and the Sword
Series: Cleopatra in Space #2
Author/Illustrator: Mike Maihack
ISBN: 9780545528443
Pages: 190 pages
Publisher/Date: Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., c2015.

”Xaius Octavian, I presume? I hear you’re looking for a thief.” (19-20)

A nearly wordless fifteen page opening introduces a cocky but highly capable African-American thief hired to steal an artifact being temporarily stored in military headquarters. Next door, Yasiro Academy is having their winter dance for military cadets, including the time-teleported Cleopatra, who hinders but doesn’t catch the thief in a madcap chase scene through the school and city. Meanwhile Cleo’s friend Brian has discovered there may be a way to send savior Cleo back to her own time, whether she wants to or not. Their search begins, but advisor Khensu isn’t telling them everything. The cityscapes are gorgeous, reminiscent of Gotham and Giza, and the action sequences demand your attention. Readers should appreciate the little details, like Cleo taking off her shoes before beginning the chase. The characters are beginning to evolve, with back stories that unavoidably slow the plot. I look forward to upcoming revelations, especially about the thief.

Princeless 1

PrincelessTitle: Princeless (first four issues)
Author: Jeremy Whitley
Illustrators: M. Goodwin (art and colors) and Jung Ha Kim (letters)
ISBN: 9781939352545
Pages: Unpaged (128 pages)
Publisher/Date: Action Lab Entertainment, c2015

That very day, the prince and princess were married. They lived happily ever after and had lots of beautiful children. The End.
“That story is complete hogwash. [..] First of all, it’s full of plot holes. I mean, really, what kind of dragon dies with one blow? Not to mention, how did he get her down from that tower?”
“I suppose he climbed.”
“Climbed? Climbed Mom? He climbed ‘the tallest of tall towers’. Then managed to get the helpless princess of his down without any kind of magic? Did you see that girl’s arms? They’re PIPE CLEANERS! She’s not climbing down anything! […] And how did she get up there in the first place? Who has the kind of grudge against this beautiful princess that they would lock her in a tower? […] Plus where do you even buy a dragon? Dragons are wild animals! You’re going to put that thing in charge of your daughter? What if it wanders off? What if it eats her? […] All I know is, when I turn sixteen, you and dad had better not lock me in some tower.”

Oh, but that’s exactly what happens to Adrienne, is she gets locked in a tower guarded by a dragon waiting to be rescued. After several princes get eaten and one runs away screaming, she takes matters into her own hands. Breaking both herself and her dragon Sparky free, they begin a quest to rescue the rest of her sisters from their respective towers. Returning to her home leads to a case of mistaken identity, and now she’s running from her own guards. Will a plucky blacksmith’s daughter with her own ideas of women warriors be an asset to her quest?

Remember all those good things I said about Nimona, and how it subtly alluded to cultural tropes regarding superheroes, feminism, and tradition? Place all those things in glaring, blinding, glowing neon skyscraper height letters, and you get Princeless. Plastered on the front cover is a quote from Comics Alliance hailing it as “the story Disney should have been telling for the past twenty years,” but I feel that’s true only if Disney was being run by overly politically correct government officials. In less than two hundred pages we cover:

  • anti-feminist messages of old-fashioned fairy tales (quoted above)
  • blatant recognition of sexism in the costumes of female heroes (“What I’m saying is why should a woman’s armor have to show cleavage or stomach? […] Why not make real armor, which would actually be effective in a fight for a woman warrior?”)
  • the mistaken emphasis of women’s worth as a commodity instead of a companion that persists in some cultures even today (“And the worst part is, all he wanted was money for her”)
  • patriarchal views of the role of women in society (“It is not a woman’s place to rule, but to be ruled.”) and
  • the stereotyping against “feminine” qualities in men and “masculine” qualities in women.

Why don’t we just use Bedelia’s giant hammer to pound feminist philosophies into everyone’s head, as that would be about as subtle as this book. I guess for some people it’s necessary to be this obvious, but it seriously impacted my enjoyment of the story, not because I disagree with the messages. I agree whole heartedly that young girls need realistic role models of all types in literature, and have long wished that more superheroes took the functional female route instead of the spandex bikini-clad boobs and butts. However, let the story prove the point, and don’t make medieval characters spout modern-day political talking points ever dozen or so pages.

Now don’t misunderstand, I did enjoy the premise of the story. The details were really key, with Princess Adrienne actually falling off her dragon the first time she hops on due to the lack of a proper saddle. I like her ingenuity when it comes to getting herself out of trouble. Her ethnicity, minus one early mention about how she will never be a “fair maiden”, amazingly goes largely unremarked upon but is unquestionable in the illustrations. Princess Adrienne has an admirable attitude, not similar to Junie B. Jones but more to that point that she knows what makes sense and she’s not afraid say what she’s thinking. I’m hopeful the series will become less about what other comics and fairy tales are lacking and more about the good qualities that this storyline offers. There are certain scenes that really steal the show, especially the last one with Adrienne’s sister, and those are the types of scenes that I want to see more. A good, promising start if you’re willing to dodge the propaganda when necessary.


NimonaTitle: Nimona
Author/Illustrator: Noelle Stevenson
ISBN: 9780062278234
Pages: 266 pages
Publisher/Date: HarperTeen, an imprint of HerperCollins Publishers, c2015.

“The agency sent me. I’m your new sidekick!”
“That makes no sense. Why would they send some KID to be my sidekick?”
“I don’t know, something about helping your image? They want you to appeal to today’s youth.”
“Did the Agency really send you?”
“Where’s the letter?
“I left it in the… uh… FIIIINE so the Agency didn’t send me.”
“I KNEW IT.”(1)

Ballister Blackheart, “the biggest name in supervillainy” has just become the unlikely recipient of a surprisingly bloodthirsty sidekick named Nimona. Not because he really was looking or wants one, but he has to grudgingly admit that she has some traits that could be useful. While they both have their own ideas about villainy, they find common ground in fighting against the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics, specifically Ballister’s nemesis Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. Everyone has secrets though, and when those secrets are discovered, they lead to questions regarding who is good, who’s bad, and who can be really trusted.

An award-winning web comic gets the graphic novel treatment and I’m so glad it did. While I’ve gotten more involved in graphic novels and web comics in the past couple years, I am by no means an expert and it’s fortunate I can expand my exposure to them when they get printed through traditional means. Noelle Stevenson does an admirable job of embracing the stereotypes and tried and true troupes of the genre while still breaking tradition and flipping them on their head. Yes there is a bad guy and a good guy, a plucky sidekick and a secret agency, but there is also an overly secured secret lair that everyone knows about and double and triple cross traps that fail, succeed, and then fail again and are openly discussed. Oh how I love plucky sidekick Nimona! Her dialogue is spot-on, she’s all over the place with energy, and then she has this other side of her that you get to meet that makes you sit up and take notice of her in a whole new light.

The thought-provoking plot provides lots of surprises, with questions of good versus evil, personal identity, friendship, and science, most of which I can’t talk about without ruining the joy of discovering them for yourself. The artwork is just as stunning, with action-packed panels at every turn, filled with explosions but just as frequently zooming in on quieter character development, subtle hints and details, and back stories. This being originally a web comic, you do notice a change in the rendering of the characters, but I think they change for the better, and the sheer number of panels rendered for each page is impressive to say the least. Stevenson put a lot of effort into this, and it shows!

This is one of my favorite graphic novels of the year in a crowded field of girl-powered themed exploits that were published this year. I’m fan-girl fawning over her, and if I was to ever cosplay someone, I think Nimona would be my first choice, although I have no idea how I would do her hair style justice. Pick this up, get acquainted with her, and — since the ending ties up everything but still leaves an opening for more adventures — we all need to hope like heck Nimona will receive the sequel treatment.



Title: Gronk: A Monster Story Vol. 1
Author/Illustrator: Katie Cook
ISBN: 9781632290885
Pages: unpaged
Publisher/Date: Action Lab, c2010…

Gronk is a monster who runs away from the rest of the monsters in the woods and meets up with Dale. Dale brings Gronk home to live with her cat Kitty and her large dog Harli. That’s the entire plot of this very slim, episodic comic derived from a weekly online comic. Even the author jokes on the back cover it “will look great hanging from a magazine rack in your bathroom or as a nice, glossy coaster for your favorite frosty beverage.” That’s basically all it’s good for. Yes the drawings are adorable, and there are some sly geek references, but the jokes fall flat and there is no plot or character development. Almost 25% of the book is guest strips from other artists, making me wonder if Cook should have waited until she had more material to put out a published version of her work. As we used to tell my un-trainable terrier, “You’re lucky you’re cute, because that’s all you’ve got going for you.” It’s the same with this book.

The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel

Graveyard Book Vol. 1Title: The Graveyard Book Volume 1
Author: Neil Gaiman
Adaptation by: P. Craig Russell
Illustrators: Kevin Nowlan, P. Craig Russell, Tony Harris, Scott Hampton, Galen Showman, Jill Thompson, and Stephen B. Scott
ISBN: 9780062194817
Pages: 188 pages
Publisher/Date: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, c2008 (text), c2014 (illustrations).

Graveyard Book Vol. 2Title: The Graveyard Book Volume 2
Author: Neil Gaiman
Adaptation by: P. Craig Russell
Illustrators: David Lafuente, Scott Hampton, P. Craig Russell, Kevin Nowlan, and Galen Showman
ISBN: 9780062194831
Pages: 164 pages
Publisher/Date: Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, c2008 (text), c2014 (illustrations).

If you are familiar with the Newbery Winning title from 2008, your familiar with the plot of the graphic novel adaptation of The Graveyard Book, originally written by Neil Gaiman. It’s been a few years since I’ve read the original, so I don’t trust to comment on the accuracy or thoroughness of the adaptation. However, from what I remember, it seems to be true to the source material.

The opening pages of volume one could be disturbing to young readers. While in the original, the first page only shows the knife used in the murder, subsequent pages in the graphic novel show the bodies, with throats slit and blood gushing from the wounds. It’s appropriate for the tale, but it may affect readers more than the words in the original would have affected them. The same could be said about Silas, where allusions of his origin are made much more obvious in the illustrations than in the original.

The division point between the end of volume one and the beginning of volume two was well chosen, with the dance of Macabray happening at the end. There is an interlude though that I think would have been better served at the beginning of volume one, providing a symmetry between the volumes. Then each would have opened with a reference to the killings (as you see the knives on the first pages of each) and ending with references to Nobody Owen’s interactions with the living and the real world. It’s an interesting decision overall to have multiple artists do the illustrations and divide it into two volumes. Some artists contributing chapters to both volumes, and the shift in styles can be somewhat jarring, especially chapter three in volume one, where both Tony Harris and Scott Hampton contribute noticeably different drawings. The coloring is excellent though, with the moody graveyard in dark blues at night, and bright green and yellows during the daytime and in the outside world. The ghosts are portrayed in monochromatic blue-gray, further distinguishing them from the land of the living and allowing readers to tell when Nobody is invoking his freedom of the graveyard.

The accelerated pace of the adaptation also means that readers loose some of the suspense of the original. For fans of graphic novels or for readers who need an introduction to the format, this would be a good pick because it’s an adaptation, but I think there are works that impressed me more, including the original 2008 publication.


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