>Today’s Graphic Novel Grab Bag covers two music-based novels, but that is where the similarities end.
The “metal” part of today’s grab bag is Black Metal volume 1 by Rick Spears and Chuck BB. The story follows two young boys with a love for the darkest of heavy metal music: Black Metal. Life would be one rock adventure after another if not for an over-protective mother and a snot-nosed little brother, and there is that thing about having to go to junior high school everyday.
It makes you wonder how they ever find the time to battle the dark forces of evil. This is volume 1 in what I hope is the first of many. Wonderful action shots and a pretty amusing story make Black Metal a fun read.
The “blues” portion of today’s grab bag is the Bluesman by Rob Vollmar and Pablo G. Callejo.
This three-volume series follows the journey of a blues musician in the deep south and his struggle to make a living. Wandering from juke joint to juke joint, the main character finally catches a lucky break. The only problem is when he and his partner find themselves in a situation in which the Bluesman is the only survivor. Who killed who and whose fault it is , are questions left for the local sheriff, who has to figure the whole mess out before his town erupts in a race war.
On the run and still dreaming of pressing that first single, we follow the Bluesman on his road to vindication. The surprise at the end is bittersweet and tear inducing.
There you go. Perfect reading for those with not only a love for music and of graphic novels, but of a good story as well.
This week’s graphic novel selections are of a darker variety than I am used to writing about, but both have some things in common: Murders in rural Kansas and authors that have considered Kansas home at one time or another.
The first selection is Capote in Kansas: a drawn novel. The author of this book is Ande Parks and the artist is Chris Samnee. Unlike the book In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, this book concentrates almost exclusively on the personal life of Capote as he investigates the murder of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas in November of 1959.
It feels weird to say you have a favorite part of a book that covers such a tragic event, but the interaction between Capote and the murderers in this story offer some very compelling reading. We don’t ever really find any reason for why the murder was committed, but we do start to understand why Capote felt that this story needed to be told. A very fine book by Ande Parks.
The second selection is The Saga of the Bloody Benders, with Rick Geary as artist and author. This story takes place in the year 1870 in Labette County, Kansas.
This book follows the Bender family as they strike out to make a living on the Kansas prairie. They start by running a grocery story that provides a place to sleep for the weary traveler. The only problem is visitors check in but they seldom, if ever, check out. Whereas in the Capote book the murderers are found and brought to justice, no one ever really knew what happened to the Bender family. Some have speculated that they weren’t even really a family, just a bunch of outlaws out to make some money off unsuspecting travelers.
My favorite part of this novel is the amount of historical detail that has gone into the drawing of each frame and into the telling of this macabre tale. The hard part is remembering that such an awful group once called the beautiful prairie lands of Kansas home.
Great book for learning about this infamous family in Kansas history.
Check both of these books out if you have the chance. But be warned, you might find yourself pulling the blankets up a little higher and checking the locks in the middle of the night.
>This weeks Graphic Novel Grab Bag covers three different stories and three different art styles.
The first graphic novel is entitled James Sturm’s America: God, Gold, and Golems. This is actually a collection of three previously published stories by James Sturm. As stated by the title all three stories focus on events that appear uniquely American: the gospel tent revival, a gold rush, and a traveling baseball team from the turn of the century. As bright and sunny as the cover might appear, all three are cautionary tales about prejudices, hatred, and racism. Ultimately, each story has a somewhat bright ending, much like the Sun poking out behind the cloud on the cover.
The second novel in today’s grab bag is Plastic Man: On the Lam by Kyle Baker. Plastic Man is a very humorous take on the action-hero comic. All the cliches are here: dimwitted sidekick, beautiful partner, working for a clandestine organization, and saving the world from destruction. The artwork in this novel is very vibrant, and in contrast to some of the darker comics I have read lately, this one is all about the slapstick. Probably my favorite part of this novel was all the different ways Plastic Man transforms himself, Scooby Doo one moment and Sherlock Holmes the next.
The third and final novel in today’s grab bag is WE3 by Grant Morrison. I am relatively new to the graphic novel format, but Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely are two names that I keep seeing over and over. Having had the pleasure to read a few of Grant Morrison novels, I would say that you really can’t go wrong with any title.
This story is somewhat tragic. A secret government program to turn everyday animals into lethal killing machines, the hope being that modern warfare will take place in remote locations without the loss of human life. As you can see from the cover, these animals are a far cry from the family pet sitting at your feet.
Everything seems to be okay, until these animals escape from the lab. That is when all hell breaks loose. The artwork in WE3 is what helps set this novel apart from its peers. With an ending that brought a tear even to this grizzled face, WE3 has gained a spot as one of my all-time favorite graphic novels.
Chick lit has had a bad reputation as fluff about shopping and romance, but I must admit that I, the person with the bachelor’s degree in English, love it. There is always romance and, personally, I don’t mind that. There are also really interesting and well-developed characters, funny situations, and some life lessons. If you’re new to the genre I would recommend Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding or In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner for starters. If you’re a long-time fan and looking for some new material, here are some good ones I’ve read recently.
Restoring Grace by Katie Fforde is the story of Grace, a divorced wine expert who is trying to rescue her crumbling London home and Ellie, a pregnant and struggling artist. Along the way they find solutions and cranky, interesting men. . . with potential, of course.
Friends gather together after hearing about the death of a former school mate in Second Chance by Jane Green. While grieving about their friend, they re-examine their lives exploring issues of love, infertility, careers, and bad marriages.
Women on the Edge of a Nervous Breakthrough by Isabel Sharpe is a surprisingly great book. The glamourous Lorelei Taylor returns to Kettle, Wisconsin seeking a quiet refuge from the press coverage of the recent trial where she was acquitted of murdering her husband. She assumes that nothing ever happens there, but is soon clashing with the town socialite, giving teens dating advice, unwittingly giving hope to an abused woman, and, of course, coping with a cute neighbor.
In the 1860’s it was unusual for babies to be born in hospitals, but that was not the most unusual thing about Benjamin’s birth. He was born looking like a 70-year-old man. Determined to make the best of it, Benjamin’s father orders him to shave his whiskers, dye his hair, play with toys, and stop smoking cigars. Benjamin grows younger with each passing year. He marries a woman who will grow older as he becomes youthful. He has a son who advises him to “turn right around and go back the other way before its too late.” He is able to attend kindergarten with his grandson until the boy moves into first grade and Benjamin remains behind.
I’m looking forward to the movie, but I expect the film will be quite different from this sweet, touching, and funny story about age and expectations. I recommend you read the story before the film is released.
>I have been reading a lot of graphic novels this week. Mainly because my friend Mickey convinced me that there is nothing wrong with a grown man reading graphic novels.
This week I had the pleasure of reading three really good graphic novels that cover the spectrum of what the medium has to offer.
Deogratias by Jean-Philippe Stassen is the story of a young boy on the verge of manhood in Rwanda days before the genocide of 800,000 Rwandans. Told in flashbacks, the story provides glimpses into the life of Deogratias in the moments leading up to this global tragedy. Touching, sad, and ultimately heartbreaking, this story displays the depth of emotion the author is able to invoke with not only his words, but with his artistic vision as well. This story has adult themes and is meant for an adult audience.
After Deogratias, I needed a book like Graphic Classics: Ambrose Bierce to put a smile back on my face. The graphic novel format is a perfect fit for Bierce. All the classic Bierce stuff is in this book: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Bierce’s Fables, and of course The Devil’s Dictionary. I remember the first time I picked up The Devil’s Dictionary, I was about twelve years old and was expecting a book of spells. I was of course surprised, but upon further reading, Ambrose Bierce became one of my favorite humorists. The beauty of this book is the variety of artists and artistic styles utilized to inform the modern reader of the amazing wit and cynicism of Mr. Bierce. My grandpa would call this one a “side-splitter”.
Every now and then, a book comes along that has a cover that requires you to read the book. Man with the Screaming Brain is just such a novel. Granted this probably happens a lot more with graphic novels since the cover gives you a general idea of the artwork. The story is written by Bruce Campbell best known for his roles in the Evil Dead comic-horror movies. The camp of those movies shines through brilliantly in this story as we follow a business couple on a trip to Russia. Gypsies, mad scientists, criminals, all come together in this send-up of 1950′s sci-fi horror movies. This novel is a quick one and only takes about twenty minutes to get through, but it is well worth the surprise ending.
Our graphic novels are on the second floor. We also have graphic novels in our Young Adult area, and in our children’s library. Ask a librarian for assistance if you need help finding them.
Read a book!