Recent Reads: Displacement; Supermutant Magic Academy; Dial H

Last week’s reads include quite a few comic books/graphic novels. Some of which took me by surprise.


Displacement: a travelogue – Lucy Knisley



Knisley’s illustration style is always so pretty and pleasant. Just really cute and kind of huggable. Even when the subject is a little bit less than pretty and pleasant – taking care of her two aging grandparents on a holiday cruise. Her grandparents are in their early 90s. And amazingly they are still up and moving and able to go on a cruise, something that the retirement home they live in has organised. Although whether they are able to enjoy the cruise is a different thing. Lucy’s grandfather has asthma and can’t walk much, and while her grandmother is more mobile she is less lucid and doesn’t know who anyone is except her husband. So this holiday for Lucy is more of a stressful one than she expects. She has to shepherd them around, make sure they take their medications, help them pack and unpack, make sure they don’t get lost in the huge ship, get them fed and in bed. It is at times an uncomfortable read, knowing that this is the life that awaits many of us.

Supermutant Magic Academy – Jillian Tamaki


This is a collection of webcomics that Tamaki has been writing and illustrating since 2010, although according to her website, “minus the really, really bad ones”, and including some new pages. You probably can guess from its title – set in a magic school, full of weird characters, some not exactly human. But whether human or not, they face the usual teenage problems. Boys. Girls. Crushes. Relationships. Problems at school. Problems keeping their human form together and disintegrating into the ether. You know, the usual stuff.

Probably my favourite page

One has to keep in mind its original form, that of a webcomic, when reading this. So instead of a proper storyline, the book is more to be read as anecdotes in the lives of these students. The exception is the story that spans quite a few pages at the end.

I rather enjoyed Tamaki’s sense of humour, as well as her illustrations. And I liked how, despite the lack of a proper story arc, we get to know the characters and their rather unique lives.

Tamaki, by the way, illustrated the Eisner Award-winning This One Summer which she co-created with her cousin Mariko.


This counts towards the Diversity on the Shelf challenge.


Loyola Chin and the San Peligro Order – Gene Luen Yang


I was surprised to see this book on the teen comics shelves at the library, mostly because I thought I had read all – or nearly all – of Yang’s comics. Turns out I was wrong! This is a rather weird book, it starts out with Loyola learning that she can alter her dreams by consuming weird foods. But it is cornbread that leads her to this strange being whom she develops a major crush on. Then learns that he has some strange schemes up his, erm, non-existent sleeve.

I always appreciate it when Asian characters in books are just regular people. Ok, so in this case, a regular cornbread-eating-weird-dreaming girl. What I mean is that this story is not about being Asian. That Loyola Chin could easily be substituted for any other girl of any ethnicity who dreams weird dreams.

While parts of this story was just a bit too odd (plugging a TV wire into your nose-kind of weird), I did like the bits that were less dream-like and more reality-based, like her classmate Gordon Yamamoto having a crush on Loyola. This book, by the way, is apparently the sequel to Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks. I didn’t know that when I borrowed this book. So now I’m going to have to go find that one, because I liked the Gordon Yamamoto character, the big dumb guy who’s kind of sweet.

Also why is Loyola always wearing a t-shirt and a long skirt?


This is yet another Diversity on the Shelf read

Dial H Vol 1: Into You – China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco (Artist), Riccardo Burchielli (Artist), David Lapham (Artist)

When I spotted China Mieville’s name on this book, I had to pick it up. I didn’t know he wrote comics and was excited to see it. But it didn’t start out so great for me. The first part of the book was a bit confusing.

Nelson Jent is overweight, unemployed, and a bit of a loser really. But when his friend gets beaten up by thugs, he tries to help out and finds himself in a phone booth trying to call for help. But instead he turns into….


the very ugly Boy Chimney.

I was very put off by that. Ugh. Cannot stand looking at that image. And I’m not usually squeamish.

Thankfully Boy Chimney isn’t his forever-costume. Instead, the dial turns Nelson into a variety of superheroes, like Iron Snail and Captain Lachrymose.



And yes, while Nelson is male, he is not your typical good-looking athletic young man type of superhero, he’s large and generally unhappy with his life. I also appreciate the women in this superhero comic, on both good and bad sides.

Apparently this is a reboot of a classic DC series. Is this something I’d like to read more of? I’m still on the fence there.


  1. So many good ones! The Knisley looks really good, I loved her food memoir. I’ve only read one of Gene Luen Yang’s comics, I should get on that. Reading comics for Diversity on the Shelf is such a good idea.


  2. Huggable! That’s a great way to describe Knisley’s work. I love that it’s cute and engaging but also packs a punch…especially Displacement, given the content. Definitely want to try Supermutant Academy since I’ve enjoyed Tamaki’s work before.


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