Learn as much by writing as by reading –Lord Acton
This may not have been mentioned before, I am a big fan of graphic novels or comic books, which ever you prefer. I like them from every variety or genre, new stories or ones based on books, the American icons from the two major distrbutors and their imprints, the international Japanese manga and Korean manwha and the indie stuff. I based all my judgements on the story and artwork. If the writer and the artwork can hook me, I become an avid fan. I am quite happy to go over my book budget for them. Below are five graphic novels that had me all of 2015. Most were bought digitally. I just might do another review like this of my fave mangas and animes just to be fair, in the future.
Caitlin Kittredge/ Inaki Miranda – 10/09/2013
This paranormal urban fantasy series is about Eve Coffin a young woman who returned to her home town to fix the mistake she made when she was a rebellious teen. It is gritty, gory and weird in some places. There are several mysteries some solved by Eve or history. I like it because I know Caitlin Kittredge’s previous works of fiction, the Nocturne City and the Black London series. I was intrigued enough to see what she would do in the Coffin Hill story. In her introduction she mentioned Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series as inspiration to bring forth her original story in the graphic novel genre. An author I too admire and a series that is on my list to get into. With those two pluses I read Coffin Hill. I can openly admit she went places I don’t think I am prepared to go as a writer. Inaki Miranda also drew some truly unsettling but also fabulous work. I can also say that I was impressed and slightly envious.
Rookie cop Chandra Jackson is trying to establish her new life in her hometown. She is a former child star, forgotten by Hollywood but not her backstage mother or a maniacal fan turned serial murderer. I started reading Effigy because it was advertised in the back of one of the Coffin Hills. I was intrigued. An added plus was the main character is a black woman. Sometimes I am biased, I apologize. Effigy has its point of weirdness, but it was enough for me to follow. It turned from serial murder mystery solved by rookie cop (finding her path) and veteran detective (realizing rookie cop has value) to conspiracy, secret society/occult vs. rookie cop and veteran detective and entourage turned fugitives. In seven quick issues it got that crazy. It was also hilarious. Chandra’s mother is true stage mother/blanche dubois distressed and reminiscing about the past golden time of Chandra’s fame on a sci-fi show. She is constantly trying to get her daughter out of obscurity and into the Hollywood lime light again. Chandra tired of that life is diligently trying to forge another with little to no support. The unexplained murders make her life worse. It brings her into the sphere of her number 1 fan, a former childhood friend, who is startlingly different now. While reading Effigy, I was exposed to the underbelly of fandom and Cons. I do know that it can’t actually be like that but recent articles on the rules enforced and updated to deal with toxic behavior makes me not be surprised if one or two images were retellings with the names and characters changed. I know nothing about the writer Tim Seeley except that he is a comic book veteran. He has a wide variety of comics to choose from or so Barnes and Noble is telling me. It is the same for the artist Marley Zarcone and Mike Norton. This will have to be something I look into further.
Betty, Dee, Hannah and Violet are ride or die friends and hardworking mercenaries, in the fictional town of Palisades. They take YOLO to extremes and would most likely punch me in face for using that term with them. What is not to like?
This comic was touted by a feminist gamer podcast; I listen to online. I had seen the cover and full disclosure I had trouble with the name. Why would anyone want rat in their name? I did say I was biased. After all that praise I gave in and I am totally glad that I did. Rat Queens is one of my faves. I am honestly tempted to start buying single issues, digitally of course. I can’t wait for volume 3 to come out. It is irreverent and funny, unexpectedly funny. It is full of diversity, elves, orcs, dwarves, man and woman kind of every color, plus whatever the hell Betty is and trolls. Women of every shape and size, living their lives doing right and wrong. There is so much to love, just makes my feminist heart soar. The Queens all have complicated pasts and reasons they end up in Palisades. The two volumes introduce the characters and a devastating mystery that is eventually solved but also starts a new adventure. Should I be a little perturbed that the story is written by man? I don’t know or care the story is that good. I have stated earlier that I haven’t paid enough attention to comic/graphic novel writers and artists. So I can’t say much about them except they don’t make me cringe or wince. Which is an excellent thing.
All I’m doing for this whole review is admit to my shadiness. I bought this purely on the respect and admiration I have for Erika Alexander. I know her from of course the hit shows Living Single and the Cosby show. I also remember she had a bit part in an interesting live action play/movie called the Mahabharata. Don’t know it look it up. I read that the Concrete Park was pitched to Hollywood as a movie. The closed minded SOB’s response was that people of color are not into science fiction. WTF! So Ms. Alexander, Mr. Puryear and Mr Alexander, proved them to be out of touch bastids.
So what is good about Concrete Park? Well actually nothing. It opens in the future, the planet’s resources are very low and everything that is worth having food, water, shelter is at risk. Poverty and violence are high especially in gangs. Isaac is a young man caught up in that violence and raising his younger sister Rose, alone. He is by no mean an innocent, Rose pays for his transgressions. This introduces us to another character we will see again Boza. Isaac and Boza are hated enemies of opposing gangs. It is never said how it happens but they both get arrested and transported. This is where things become interesting. It seems that the world has taken a page out of Great Britain’s book. They found a habitable planet in space with no intelligent life but rich in resources to be mined. It becomes the punishment for many to be sent to this world. Like Great Britain did to many to form the country of Australia. To do hard labor for the mysterious company. It is never said outright but it looks like a one-way trip. Once your time is done in the minds, many inhabitants settle in the city of Concrete park. They join in the gangs that run place. Resources are so scarce if you aren’t part of something you die. Introduce Luca and her lover Lena. Luca has down her time and has established a place in the city. However, it hard out there for chick. Her place and life in the city is threatened as a leader, the potato king, she meant to make peace or lucrative deal with plans to kill her. In the midst of this do or die trial, a transport ship carrying Isaac and his enemy crashes. A down company ship means resources on the barren but mining rich planet. It is no holds barred to crash site.
Despite all the information I just gave, the story is intriguing and drawn really well. There are some things I have not spoken about that might intrigued the next reader. Questions that should be answered in the next volume. I am crossing my fingers.
Brian K. Vaughn/ Fiona Staples – 10/10/2012
Marko’s moon Wreath and Alanna’s planet Landfall have been at war for generations. The war has lasted so long; it has expanded to include to their known universe. It looks like a weird occurrence but somehow Alanna and Marko meet, agree on something and fall in love. Their bold star-crossed move to be together changes their lives and many others. It makes them criminals of both their planets and fugitives for life. Their daughter Hazel who we meet before she is born b/c she narrates much of the story, is a criminal from the day she is born. She is born with her father’s horn and her mother’s wings, she is a unique being hunted by both governments wanted dead or alive.
Even though the story begins with Alanna, Marko and new born Hazel, we are introduced to so many others, a diverse galaxy. Everyone has questionable loyalties and reasons to search and find the small outlaw family. Nevertheless, Marko and Alanna find a way to travel the universe and maintain a marriage and family life with and without the strain of being fugitives.
One of the weird and wonderful aspects of Saga is that it is extraordinary in its ordinariness. The universe created by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples is diverse, with humanized animals, as well impossible imagine being with TV for heads. Creatures that appear to look like plants, cyclops, elves etc. However, everyone lives their lives accordingly. I have five volumes of Saga and wait avidly for volume six.
Those are the first five. It took me three months to put up because of … well real life. I know I am not the only one out in the internet-verse writing about comics or graphic novels. There are many others more knowledgeable, this is just my take on what I have read. To emphasize the quote, I learned from reading as much as writing. The process is worth it.
P.S. Check out the book page.