March: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

Posted by on Oct 18, 2016 in 2016, 4.5 stars, Book Review, Graphic Novel | 2 comments

March: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin with art by Nate PowellMarch: Book Three by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin with art by Nate Powell

Format: Paperback, Graphic Novel
Series: #3 in the March series
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Publication Date: 2016
Pages: 250
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

By Fall 1963, the Civil Rights Movement is an undeniable keystone of the national conversation, and as chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis is right in the thick of it. With the stakes continuing to rise, white supremacists intensify their opposition through government obstruction and civilian terrorist attacks, a supportive president is assassinated, and African-Americans across the South are still blatantly prohibited from voting. To carry out their nonviolent revolution, Lewis and an army of young activists launch a series of innovative projects, including the Freedom Vote, Mississippi Freedom Summer, and a pitched battle for the soul of the Democratic Party waged live on national television. But strategic disputes are deepening within the movement, even as 25-year-old John Lewis heads to Alabama to risk everything in a historic showdown that will shock the world.

My Thoughts:
I cannot recommend this trilogy enough. Even if graphic novels are not something you routinely read I absolutely encourage you to stretch your comfort zone a bit and give it a try. It’s an important story well worth reading.

This is an extremely well done story of the early 1960’s Civil Rights Movement told by one of its key leaders. John Lewis is now a congressman and his story is told with intermissions of him attending Barack Obama’s inauguration. The majority of the story in this volume takes place between the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four little girls and the 1965 Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery.

It’s tough to read at times but given the increasingly vocal racism that has permeated this year’s election season it’s a timely read right now.

The artwork is wonderful. It’s all black and white drawings but the emotions are well portrayed. The violence is a major part of this history and while it’s clearly portrayed enough to be unsettling it’s never too graphic (unlike the real events).

If you have kids this is an excellent nonfiction series in a very accessible format to teach them about the battle for the right to vote.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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Watchmen by Alan Moore

Posted by on Mar 15, 2016 in 2 stars, 2016, Book Review, Comics, Graphic Novel | 6 comments

Watchmen by Alan Moore with art by Dave Gibbons

Watchmen by Alan Moore with art by Dave Gibbons

Genre: Superheroes, Science Fiction
Format: Graphic Novel, TradePaperback
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date: 2005 (this edition)
Pages: 334
Source: Library

The Book:
From the publisher:

It all begins with the paranoid delusions of a half-insane hero called Rorschach. But is Rorschach really insane or has he in fact uncovered a plot to murder super-heroes and, even worse, millions of innocent civilians? On the run from the law, Rorschach reunites with his former teammates in a desperate attempt to save the world and their lives, but what they uncover will shock them to their very core and change the face of the planet! Following two generations of masked superheroes from the close of World War II to the icy shadow of the Cold War comes this groundbreaking comic story — the story of The Watchmen.

My Thoughts:
As a fairly recent reader of comics and graphic novels this is one that I have not read. It’s fairly well known as a classic and a critically acclaimed graphic novel. It was one of those books that I felt like I should read because it’s considered a landmark in the world of comics and graphic novels.

I enjoyed the retro look if it. I also liked the alternate history aspect and the way real events were slightly altered yet still familiar. The story does a lot of jumping around in time and there is a story within the story that someone is reading throughout the book. It’s more than a little challenging to keep track of the timelines and story but a bit of strategic googling helped.

The history of the superheroes in most cases is that of normal people without superpowers donning costumes and alternate identities. They weren’t all good all the time though. For a variety of reasons, the superheroes are outlawed and now it appears that they are targets of someone with a nefarious plan.

It’s not a quick read because the story is complex. The artwork is so densely packed with detail it was definitely one of the reasons I needed to take my time with this one. Most of the panels are small but filled with important elements of the story.

I didn’t love it. I’m not even sure if I liked it. I’m glad I read it mostly for it’ place in comics and graphic novel history, but it sort of felt like an assignment and I was ready to move on before I was done with it. I think the only reason I did finish it was because it does have an important place in publishing history. I’m glad this was not the first graphic novel that I read.

2 stars Rating 2/5

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American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Posted by on Aug 28, 2015 in 2015, 3.5 stars, Book Review, Graphic Novel | 0 comments

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Format: Graphic Novel
Publisher: First Second
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 233
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Chinese fables are intertwined in the stories of Chinese American schoolboys facing behavior born of stereotypes.

Why I Read It:
I read the author’s two volume work about the Boxer Rebellion about a year and a half ago. I really liked it and have heard that this was also excellent.

The Book:
From the publisher:

Jin Wang starts at a new school where he’s the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn’t want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he’s in love with an all-American girl. Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee’s annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny’s reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He’s ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there’s no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They’re going to have to find a way–if they want fix the disasters their lives have become.

My Thoughts:
What feels like three separate stories turn out to be linked by the end. Subtle and not so subtle stereotyping and racism plagues characters in all three stories.

Jin just wants to fit in. Danny desperately wants his cousin (deliberately written as an over the top cliché) to disappear. The monkey king just wants to be seen as a God.

Gene Luen Yang has a very distinctive style of art and uses it well. It’s simplistic at time and very bright and colorful. He really lets the artwork shine in the fable of the Monkey King.

As with Boxers and Saints, this book left me with much to ponder. It’s got a good message about accepting yourself and about how damaging even subtle racism can be.

3.5 stars Rating 3.5/5

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Posted by on Aug 25, 2015 in 2015, 4.5 stars, Book Review, Graphic Novel, Noelle Stevenson | 2 comments

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Genre: Fantasy
Format: Graphic Novel
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 266
Source: Library

The Short Version:
Nimona is a young shapeshifter who announces to the evil Lord Blackheart that she wants to be his sidekick and chaos ensues.

Why I Read It:
It seemed like everyone I know who read this loved it which both intrigued and frightened me.

The Book:
From the publisher:

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

My Thoughts:
I am always wary when a book seems to get almost universal praise from the wide variety of readers who are my friends. I worry that I will be the one who thinks otherwise. I worry about expecting too much when I start the book and being disappointed when I don’t think it’s as great as everyone else seems to think.

I hesitated a long time before requesting this one from the library. I’m not sure which of my friends made the positive comments that tipped me over the edge into requesting it from the library but whoever it was I wish I could send a personal thank you note.

I LOVED this one! It’s quirky. It’s full of dark humor and sarcasm. It’s got a heroine who’s not exactly a role model. It’s got fun villains. Many of the real villains are disguised to their public as good guys. Its got heart. It’s full of heart. You can stop reading now and just go get this book and read it.

You’ll thank me when you’re done.

If I haven’t convinced you yet – here is the information about the main characters from the author’s website:

NIMONA
Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter who aspires to supervillainy and has convinced Lord Ballister Blackheart to take her on as his squire. While quick-thinking and innovative with her powers, she is disturbingly destructive and rarely gives any thought to consequences. She’s trouble.

LORD BALLISTER BLACKHEART
Ballister Blackheart was once a fierce enforcer of the law until his best friend betrayed him and blew up his right arm, after which he decided that the law was wrong. He follows his own moral code now, which occasionally involves genetically engineered dragons.

SIR AMBROSIUS GOLDENLOIN
Goldenloin is the kingdom’s darling and the figurehead of the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. He is Ballister’s nemesis and former best friend, and responsible for Ballister’s lack of right arm – not that he’ll ever admit it. He has a very high opinion of himself. He wears a codpiece.

THE DIRECTOR
The Director is the shadowy figure at the heart of the kingdom’s inner workings, and the hand behind many of its darkest dealings. As far as anyone can tell her name is actually Director. No one knows much about her, and no one really likes her, but it’s not her job to be liked. She has work to do and no one had better get in her way.

DR. MEREDITH BLITZMEYER
Enthusiastic, optimistic, and a little scatter-brained. She’s traveled far and seen some things and nothing much fazes her anymore. Very excited about science. Not a witch. (Probably not a witch).

You want to read it now, don’t you?

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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Nutshell Review – The Country Nurse by Jeff Lemire

Posted by on Aug 7, 2015 in 2015, 4.5 stars, Book Review, Graphic Novel, Jeff Lemire | 0 comments

Essex County Vol. 3: The Country Nurse by Jeff Lemire

The Country Nurse by Jeff Lemire

Genre: Fiction
Format: Graphic Novel
Series: #3 in the Essex County Trilogy
Publisher: Top Shelf
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 126
Source: Library

The Book:
From the back cover:

The acclaimed ESSEX COUNTY trilogy concludes! The Country Nurse follows a day in the life of Anne Quenneville, the peculiar farming community’s traveling nurse. As Anne checks in on her favorite patients, the story finally reveals how all three volumes stitch together in a portrait of how loss and regret push and pull at the fabric of family in small town life.

My Thoughts:
The final chapter of this trilogy was a fascinating and satisfying finale. It wrapped up some loose threads from the first two volumes as well as adding more history and some progress to the storylines. I loved it.

Jeff Lemire has the ability to create characters who stick with me for a long time. I have said before that I think Jeff Lemire is a genius and this finale of the Essex County trilogy is no exception.

On the surface Lemire’s artwork is simple and sometimes crudely drawn black and white images. It’s deceptive because the story he tells with that artwork is full of emotion and rich in content. He often has multiple panels and sometimes pages with little or no text but each panel is a crucial piece of the story.

Now that I’ve read the three volumes of the trilogy over a period of several months I want to go back and read it all again with full knowledge of the pieces of the story from this third volume.

Fortunately there is a Complete Essex County one volume editon that contains the full trilogy as well as a couple of additional stories and some bonus material. It will be a wonderful way for me to do a straight through re-read and also get to read the additional material.

Once again I’m going to recommend that you read anything you can get your hands on that Jeff Lemire has done. He’s amazing.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

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A Binge through the Bone series by Jeff Smith

Posted by on Jul 30, 2015 in 2015, 4.5 stars, Book Review, Graphic Novel, Jeff Smith | 0 comments

A Binge Through the Bone Series by Jeff Smith

Bone Volumes 5 through 9 plus a couple of extras makes for a long post. You have been warned.

One nice thing about taking a vacation in which you drive to your destination is that you can take a giant pile of library books with you. As I mentioned before we left on vacation I was purposely planning on reading mostly comic collections and graphic novels on this trip and that turned out to be a perfect plan. I read a bunch of books on my TBR list and still had plenty of time to stop and stare at the ocean.

I finished up the remaining 5 volumes of Jeff Smith’s outstanding Bone series. So I’m just going to wrap this all up in one post. I really could wrap it up in a couple of sentences. This series is wonderful. If you haven’t read it you have missed out.

(Note: publication dates are for the reissued colored Scholastic editions.)

These were essentially the second half of the series. It’s a mix of fantasy, adventure, magic, and humor, along with tinges of politics, romance and revenge. While marketed and shelved as juvenile fiction these are absolutely just as much fun and perhaps more for adults.

After finishing the completely satisfying final volume I picked up the companion volume the Bone Handbook. It contains summaries of each of the 9 books. There are character profiles of most of the major cast. Be warned, however that you don’t want to read these before you’ve finished the series because they do talk about the entirety of the story. It has a fun little extra comic story. I enjoyed the bit of background history about the places and characters that talked about things that happened before the beginning of the series. I really enjoyed the interviews with the author and the artist who did the colorization of the Scholastic editions. All in all it was a fun follow up to the series and I’m glad I read it.


Next up were a couple of additional books that aren’t part of the main storyline of Bone. Rose is a prequel about events that took place long before the beginnings of Volume 1 of Bone. The artwork by Charles Vess is different from what Jeff Smith has done in the rest of the series but for a prequel it works. It was good to get more of the history after finishing the main series.

Tall Tales is a follow up collection of stories written by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski. This one delves into a bit of history of Boneville and the Bone cousins (which may or may not be accurate). As with the rest of the series, it was simply fun and entertaining.

Seriously, if you haven’t read these, you should.

This is a series that I want to own and I plan to purchase them so I can read them again and get The Hubster to read them too. In the meantime there is a spinoff trilogy of prose novels with illustrations called Quest for the Spark written by Tom Sniegoski who worked with Smith on Tall Tales. My library has them and they’re on my wish list.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5 for the whole shebang

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