Have you ever wanted to read the Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, or Green Lantern comics but didn’t know where to start? Well right now is a good time to jump into reading a number of comics, all labelled The New 52, which are part of a large reset DC Comics did of its superhero comics (basically this means they all started over again at issue 1).
Superman and the Men of Steel is part of that reset, and Superman is going back to his roots. The invincible Superman of recent years is back to being a man who can be hurt when hit by a bullet train. He bounces back from being shocked in an electric chair, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Without disregarding everything that came before, Grant Morrison and Rags Morales have taken the Man of Steel and started retelling his story for a new generation.
In this graphic novel, Superman has to save Earth from the beings who destroyed his home planet of Krypton. Lois Lane is doing her best to get the story, Lex Luthor is looking out for himself, and Superman is viewed with suspicion by the masses as a mysterious alien of unknown origins.
When Frankie Pratt graduates from high school in 1920, she receives a scrapbook and her father’s old Corona typewriter. She can’t wait to leave her small New Hampshire home town and take on the world as a writer, but of course complications ensue. Frankie’s experiences include education, heartbreak, encouragement, and decisions both misguided and brave. We get to be there every step of the way as she types up her journal entries for her scrapbook and includes letters, candy wrappers, fashion spreads, and ticket stubs for our archival pleasure. The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt is a quick and delightful read with images that bring her and her era to life.
As a huge Doctor Who fan and someone who grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, how could I possibly resist this graphic novel that combines the two? I obviously couldn’t.
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory have decided to visit somewhere cool and foggy and end up in San Francisco. When they run into an android in a bar, they realize the TARDIS has materialized inside the holodeck of the USS Enterprise and they are speaking to Data, Commander Riker, and Doctor Crusher. It doesn’t appear to be a coincidence that the Doctor is suddenly in another science fiction universe when the Cybermen show up. The Doctor tells the crew of the USS Enterprise about his dealings with the Cybermen when they realize the Borg and the Cybermen are working together to attack a planet in Delta IV.
The Doctor starts remembering flashes of something that never happened and realizes that the Cybermen have gone back and changed history. Can the Doctor convince Captain Picard that the Cybermen are just as dangerous as the Borg? Sadly, we all have to wait until January to find out.
Today is Maggie’s first day of school. Ever. For the first 14 years of her life, Maggie’s mom homeschooled her. Her only friends were her three older brothers who are there at high school to watch out for her, but it definitely isn’t the same. Lucy and her older brother, Alistair, are the only ones who have shown an interest in trying to get to know shy, quiet Maggie. They eat with her at lunch, go with her to see Alien at Halloween, and take her with them to the local Maritime Museum. That’s where Maggie finds out the back story of the ghost that has been stalking her since she was a little girl.
I will state that I am not a graphic novel enthusiast. I am a dyed in the wool, old fashioned reader of books that only reads a few comic strips in the daily newspaper. Life is too short and there are far too many great books to waste my time on drivel. Now that I have alienated most of the youngish crowd that are the main readers of blogs such as this, let me share a graphic novels that I have recently appreciated, thereby attempting to redeem myself.
Carnet De Voyage by Craig Thompson, one of the top American graphic novelists, is an autobiographical travel diary he wrote while traveling three months through Africa and Europe. He documents his views of traveling sometimes as a tourist and sometimes as a famous cartoonist on tour. Thompson spends time in Paris being wined and dined with his French publisher during book signings. Then he goes to Morocco and is unhappy there as a lonesome tourist in a very alien society. He is insightful and introspective regarding traveling which makes this book something most every one can identify with. Craig shares funny stories, such as the time he gets everyone kicked off a train because he leaves his luggage in a rack outside their train compartment and the authorities fear a terrorism attack.
We meet all kinds of fellow travelers and natives that befriend him or annoy him. The drawings do a great job of telling his story, just as effectively as beautiful dialogue.
Carnet de Voyage is a very personal experience where we gain insight into Craig Thompson’s thoughts, desires and despair through traveling.
This simply but beautifully illustrated graphic novel tells the story of Marzi, a young girl coming of age behind the Iron Curtain. Marzena Sowa was born in 1979 in Stalowa Wola, Poland. The majority of this graphic novel, written as a series of vignettes, takes place in the years leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Ms. Sowa manages to demonstrate both the uncertainty of the time and the joys and wonder any child can find in the world. She and her friends often act out the visit the Pope made to Poland. She talks about her anxiety when her father is away from home for days at a time when he and his fellow factory workers go on strike. She also describes carefree summer days visiting her grandmother and playing with her cousins in the country. Presenting this story as a series of vignettes is very powerful. These snippets of a childhood spent in a country with stores filled with empty shelves and celebrations where people only show up and cheer because that’s what’s expected provide a unique perspective of a country that was shrouded in secrecy for decades.
Some other wonderful memoirs told in graphic novel form are Persepolis and Vietnamerica.
>Moon and Ba have done something wonderful in creating Daytripper, a stunning and emotionally resonant graphic novel following the life of Bras de Oliva Domingos. This graphic novel is the collection of a miniseries of ten issues, each issue about an important day to Bras and showing what would have happened if it was the day he died. This is not a story about death, however, it’s a story about life. It’s about the important things that happen to people during their life and how each of us interact with friends, family, lovers and acquaintances. The events in Bras’ life do not unfold chronologically, but something new is revealed about him and his life and the people important to him with each story, though many years can lapse between the events portrayed in each episode of Daytripper.
>Anorev is a place where people and machines have forgotten how to remember. One day there was a “tick” but no “tock” and day but no night and without yesterday there can be no tomorrow. Books are just convenient flat objects a child can stand on in order to reach things.
Ayden is a young boy living in Anorev who doesn’t fit in, and Zoe is a machine and his friend. This unlikely pair can feel that things are wrong but are unsure what is wrong and don’t know how to fix it. Everything changes one day when the Dapper Men descend from the sky and the “tock” returns.
Return of the Dapper Men would actually be at home in the children’s, young adult or adult graphic novel collections. Part of its beauty and charm is its layers of meaning. In many ways, it reminds me of Alice in Wonderland. The language is sometimes deliberately obtuse to give it layers of meaning, which allows children and parents enjoying this story together to enjoy it at different levels. It is gorgeously illustrated with a blend of simplicity and intricacy and some wonderful, complex paneling.
> This multi-layered offering from author Rucka and illustrator Williams is a wonderful addition to the world of Gotham as the new Batwoman (now lesbian and Jewish) battles the new High Madame of the Religion of Crime. Kate Kane takes up the mantle of Batwoman in a personal quest to serve and must face the new High Madame, a Lewis Carroll-quoting goth Alice. This nuanced story is full of action in the present day setting in the first half of the volume and full of psychological drama and social commentary in the second half of the volume as Batwoman’s personal connection to the High Madame is revealed. The illustrations of this volume are eye-catching and lend depth to the wonderful storytelling of Rucka. The illustrations from the different periods in Kate’s life are drawn in distinct styles to help differentiate the parts of her story and the evolution of her character.
Batwoman : Elegy has been on several Best Graphic Novels of 2010 lists, including the lists from Publisher’s Weekly and Entertainment Weekly.
>A number of films have been released in recent years that are adaptations of graphic novels. These, of course, include all the Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Catwoman, etc. movies, but they are definitely not the extent of this trend. They also include such graphic novels/movies as 300, Watchmen, and Sin City. In the past few months, movies based on the graphic novels Kick A** and the Scott Pilgrim series have been in theaters.
Coraline is another film with a graphic novel tie. The story was originally a novella by Neil Gaiman, adapted into the graphic novel format in 2008 and released as a film in 2009. The story is of a young girl who moves wtih her parents into a large old house transformed into four apartments. On a rainy day, Coraline explores inside rather than out and discovers a bricked up doorway in the sitting room. In the night, the doorway is no longer bricked up and Coraline passes through it into a world containing button-eyed copies of her parents and the other tenants of her building. At first this world seems better than hers, but her real parents disappear from the normal world and the other world starts to unravel. Coraline must figure out how to save her real parents and get away from her “Other Mother,” or be trapped forever and have buttons sewn over her eyes.
Persepolis is a nonfiction graphic novel adapted into a movie. It is the story of one young woman’s experience in Iran during and in the years following the Islamic revolution. The film was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. The graphic novels and the film chronicle Marjane Satrapi’s life from her childhood in Iran during the war between Iran and Iraq to her teenage years going to school in Vienna, Austria and then her young adulthood back in Iran where she attended college, married, divorced and then moved to France. The cinematic style is simple, with the present day depicted in color and Satrapi’s flashbacks to childhood animated in black and white.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a film released in 2003, was based on a comic book series of the same title published beginning in 1999. The film is a action/adventure/superhero movie very loosely based on the graphic novels. It is set in the late 19th century and populated by Victorian Era superheroes. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is brought together to combat the threat of the “Fantom” who is masterminding attacks throughout the world designed to create upheavel on an international scale. They stop the destruction of Venice only to discover their mysterious benefactor had ulterior motives for bringing the group together.
Whenever a work is translated into a new medium, some things are gained and others are lost. This is definitely the case for The Discworld Graphic Novels: The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, graphic novel adaptions of the first two books in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I really enjoyed this graphic novel because I felt the illustrations added quite a bit to the story. Pratchett’s humor was conveyed quite well through this new medium and I enjoyed the stories just as much as when I read the novels.
The Colour of Magic tells the story of Twoflower, the first tourist to visit Ankh-Morpork, and his guide Rincewind, a failed wizard given the task of watching over Twoflower. The stories follow their travels around the Discworld (a world that rides on the back of the giant turtle Great A’Tuin) as they travel to see all the sights Twoflower has read about in his guidebook (everything from pub fights to dragons).
In The Light Fantastic, only Rincewind has the knowledge to save the world (the spell in his head that scares off all the other ones he tried to learn). The problem is, the last time Rincewind was seen, he was falling off the edge of the Disc.
Not only does the library own The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic in their full length novel forms, it also owns The Color of Magic movie adaptation with Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgees in The Lord of the Rings) playing Twoflower.
I picked up this graphic novel because of the flashback scene in one of the X-Men movies about Magneto’s experience as a Jew during the Holocaust when he was a child. This graphic novel was absolutely amazing. It portrayed the Holocaust and the atrocities committed by the Nazis in a sensitive and powerful way with beautiful illustrations. It was also an interesting addition to the X-Men story and provided insight into the character of Magneto and his vehement and sometimes violent defense of mutant rights in the X-Men comics and movies. I don’t normally read the X-Men comics and graphic novels, and this graphic novel worked well as a stand-alone story. I wasn’t confused and didn’t feel like I needed background that I didn’t have. This book definitely read more like a story about a young Jewish boy growing up in Nazi Germany simply trying to survive Hitler’s Final Solution than like a superhero comic.
>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.