#comicsfebruary: Strong Female Protagonist, Captain Marvel

Strong Female Protagonist – Brennan Lee Mulligan, Molly Ostertag (Illustrations)

I wish I could remember where I first heard of Strong Female Protagonist. It turns out it was originally a webcomic that became a book because of a Kickstarter project. The webcomic is still updated twice a week! But I would suggest checking the book out first as it collects the first four chapters of the webcomic.

Anyway it is, as its title suggests, about a strong female. She is Mega Girl. Or rather she used to be. She used to be one of the most powerful superheroes. She’s still got her superpowers but she’s just trying to be a regular college student now. So essentially it’s a story about superhero trying to be a regular person again. It’s harder than it looks.

Strong Female Protagonist – despite the ugh title – is a pretty good read. It’s fun, funny at times, has a great central character as well as some side characters that make you rethink the ‘villain’ in things. It definitely presented a different view of superhero life than is typical in comics, but which also does have similarities with Ms Marvel and how Kamala tries to figure out her life.

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: Rise of Alpha Flight (Captain Marvel (2016-) #1-5) – Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas, Kris Anka (Illustrator), Tara Guggenheim, Felipe Smith (Illustrator)

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Captain Marvel, Volume 1: In Pursuit of Flight (Captain Marvel, Volume VII #1)- Kelly Sue DeConnick, Dexter Soy (Illustrations), Emma Ríos (Illustrations), Richard Elson (Illustrator), Karl Kesel (Illustrator), Al Barrionuevo (Illustrator)

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Captain Marvel Vol 2: Earth’s Mightiest Hero

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So this is the order in which I read these Captain Marvel volumes, written by different authors. If you’re a fan of Marvel’s Agent Carter, you may already be familiar with the names Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas as they’re the producers of that TV show. They’re new to comics but have written for a variety of TV shows including Dollhouse, Reaper and Agent Carter (so says Variety). Their version was fun, but it didn’t have the depth of the ones written by DeConnick.

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Anyway let’s rewind! Carol Danvers (Ms Marvel/Captain Marvel) has been around since 1968. She first appeared as a member of the US Air Force, then became Ms Marvel in 1977 – she was in an accident and fused with the powers of the alien Kree who was trying to save her. Somewhere down the line she became Captain Marvel and thankfully her swimsuit costume is now one with pants. And she’s got a more regular body shape than previous Carol Danvers, who well, just see below.

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Earlier last year, I read the Ms Marvel series written by Brian Reed which wasn’t great. I just couldn’t get over the huge bulging thighs. And now I can’t really remember the storyline….

So the best version of Captain Marvel is definitely by Kelly Sue DeConnick, the rockstar of comics! She’s also written Bitch Planet, Pretty Deadly and more.

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The two volumes of her Captain Marvel that I just had has such great writing and characters. It was funny and also full of heart. Also, this was the first time I’ve read any comics with Spider-Woman (Captain Marvel’s best friend apparently) and I kinda love her now!

#comicsfebruary – Captain Marvel, Buffy and more

 

Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Rise of Alpha Flight (Captain Marvel (2016-) #1-5) – Tara Butters, Michele Fazekas, Kris Anka (Illustrator), Tara Guggenheim, Felipe Smith (Illustrator)

I like the look of this Captain Marvel – the hair!! Although I have to say I am always confused by Captain Marvel and the different versions. There’s another one by Kelly Sue DeConnick? Anyway, this one has some Guardians of the Galaxy in it, and Alpha Flight, which is apparently a team of Canadian superheroes that had its own series in the 1980s to 1990s. There’s a sasquatch! The Captain Marvel storyline was kinda fun – they’re in a space station and at first it seems like a diplomatic position (i.e. desk job).

Buffy: The High School Years – Freaks & Geeks (Buffy: The High School Years #1) –Faith Erin Hicks, Yishan Li (Artist), Joss Whedon (Executive Producer)

Buffy: The High School Years – Glutton for Punishment (Buffy: The High School Years #2) – Kel Mcdonald, Yishan Li (Artist), Joss Whedon (Executive Producer)

I was so excited to see this! It was an interesting choice of illustration style, a little bit cutesy and I guess more manga-like? At times I thought, this does look like Sarah Michelle Geller and Alyson Hannigan (although she seems more demure and less quirky in the comic).

The storyline though was a bit lacking I thought. I preferred the first one, where Buffy was worried about losing her friends. In terms of other Buffy comics I’ve only read Season 8 but I think those were a lot better in terms of storyline. Of course the high school years were far more innocent and carefree (well as carefree as a slayer can be), so I can understand the different tone they’re going for here. And I’d still read more of this series.

Book three will be out in July.

And apparently it has been 20 years since Buffy first premiered on TV!!

Blue Bloods: The Graphic Novel (Blue Bloods: The Graphic Novel #1) – Melissa de la Cruz, Robert Venditti, Alina Urusov (Illustrator)

 

Well this was definitely a very pretty comic. I didn’t realize it when I picked it up but this is the graphic novelisation of a YA series about vampires in New York. Where of course everyone is very pretty, even the boys. And all the girls have long legs. Also, everyone is very white. It’s like Gossip Girl, with fangs.

Amazingly, the actual YA series has 7 (?) books.

But I don’t think I will read the books though. And as far as I can tell, this is the first and only comic version of the series.

The Arab of the Future: A Childhood in the Middle East, 1978-1984: A Graphic Memoir (L’Arabe du futur #1) – Riad Sattouf
This book is a graphic memoir of a young boy whose mum is French and dad is Syrian. His dad is a professor and they move from France to Libya and then to Syria for his work. And life in Libya and Syria as seen through the boy’s eyes is at once exciting and sad and terrifying. The kids in Syria were relentless bullies, even though they were related.

I wanted so much for the mum to do something about it all. To put her foot down and say no, we are not moving to Syria. Or no, we have to leave – for reasons perhaps including the not very ideal living conditions in Libya (where a house with no one at home means anyone can come and claim it for their own!), the fact that their child didn’t know any Arabic. His dad is one especially strange man.

Curiously, the second book in the series focuses just on 1984-1985. I will have to borrow it from the library to find out more!

 

Recent comics: Beauty; Nijigahara Holograph; Black Science; Low; Nextwave


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Beauty – Kerascoët (Illustrations), Hubert
A different kind of fairy tale. Poor Coddie spends her time scaling fish and stinks of fish and is teased for being ugly. So when she rescues a faerie, she asks for beauty and beauty she gets. Not that her looks are changed, instead the way she is perceived has been altered. And Coddie becomes Beauty, the kind that is magnetic and attractive and enchanting, the kind that men would die for. Her beauty is a kind of destructive force. And it doesn’t help that she is self-centered and naive (she has spent most of her life working in a kitchen in a small village), and thus easily led astray by Mab, the faerie. I wish that we could have learnt more about Mab and why she behaves the way she does – there are hints here and there but I think it could have added more depth if we had more background on Mab. In terms of illustrations, I love the use of colour.


Nijigahara Holograph – Inio Asano
Creepy children. I am not good with movies and books and things to do with creepy children – and this was even before I had children. This manga is set in a small town in Japan and flits between childhood and young adulthood. All kinds of weird things happen, which the children attribute to a creature living in a dark tunnel. It is really quite confusing a story, the reader is expected to fill in a lot of blanks on their own. But it reminds me of the potential for violence in all of us, and especially in young children. It is also beautifully drawn. I like the use of black, white and grey.


Shenzhen: A travelogue from China – Guy Delisle
I had to give up on this one. I didn’t really like how Delisle strung random Chinese characters together and pretended it was actual Chinese spoken. I kept wondering, if he was indeed in China and knew people who understood Chinese couldn’t he have gotten someone to write up some actual Chinese dialogue that made sense (or even better, had an inside joke for those who could read Chinese?). Or did he just assume that his book about China would not be read by Chinese people? As I said on Instagram, this is as insulting as if he had written ‘ching chong ling long’.

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Black Science Vol 1: how to fall forever – Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera (Artist), Dean White (Colorist)
Low Vol 1: The Delirium of Hope  – Rick Remender, Greg Tocchini (Illustrator)

I’m lumping these two together as there are similarities, besides the fact that both are by Remender. Both are SF-ish. Black Science has device that lets a group travel across dimensions. However, someone has sabotaged it and they can’t control where they are going. Oh and the guy who invents it has two kids and they get pulled into the different dimensions too.

Low (pictured above) is set underwater, deep underwater as the sun’s expansion has made the earth uninhabitable. But guess what, people are running out of air down there. Main character is this woman who searches for life-supporting planets using robotic probes.Her children have been taken from her, her husband dead. She’s struggling to keep going. While I like that there is a strong female lead, why must she always be scantily clad (and at some points, naked)?

I am curious to see how both series continue but the library only has the first volumes of both at the moment, so will have to wait and see how that pans out!

 

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Nextwave, Agents of H.A.T.E., Vol. 1: This is What They Want (Nextwave, Agents of H.A.T.E. #1) – Warren Ellis, Stuart Immonen
And now for something completely random, just because it was available on Scribd for free (i.e it doesn’t cost a credit).

Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

The Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort, or HATE put Nextwave together to fight Bizarre Weapons of Mass Destruction. When Nextwave discovers that HATE and Beyond are terrorist cells themselves, and that the BWMDs were intended to kill them, they are less than pleased.

Now I don’t typically read Marvel comics (unless it’s stuff like Ms Marvel or Captain Marvel), so some of these characters were a bit lost on me. Apparently they are lesser known characters of the Marvel comics universe like Photon, Boom Boom, Machine Man. But this volume was a ball of fun. It was the kind of comic that you can imagine its creators had so much fun writing. I mean, just read these panels:

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So. Much. Fun.

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?

Readathon – books read

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As usual I was over-ambitious when it came to making my TBR stack for the Readathon. After all, that’s what readathons are about right? Making TBR lists? 😛

That’s only part of it! If you’ve never readathon-ed before, you’re missing out! There’s great company – book bloggers, bookstagrammers, twitter-ers – wherever you turn. And it’s nice to know that somewhere out there, somewhere across the country, across the world, someone is reading at the same time as you! This April readathon though, I didn’t manage to do as much as I was hoping. My kids’ birthday party was on the same day, so with a party there’s prep before, cleanup after, and so much noise and things during. It was a wonderful party! So that meant I tried to do as much reading as I could before (I woke up at 430 for a 5am start time), and some after. But after the party was cleanup and opening presents and trying to get my younger boy to nap.

I didn’t get to do much online as I wanted to. Last year I cheered officially on Instagram, and it was fun getting to know lots of new-to-me Instagrammers (my social media of choice these days). I didn’t get to do much of that this year, but did manage to say hi to those I already know. I was a very casual readathoner this time, but that still worked out fine for me. I had fun! It was a long and tiring day for this introvert but hey, it was a good day!

So here’s what I did read!

I started off with an unplanned read, Andre the Giant by Box Brown, which I read on Scribd.

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Now, Scribd and I have had an up and down relationship of late. Last month (?) their new plan went into effect – no more unlimited reads, but just 3 books and 1 audiobook credit a month. And I went into retreat mode and didn’t use Scribd much, trying to figure out what is worth a credit! That’s silly though. It accumulates but only up to 9 a month or so? I can never figure it out, but I have been trying to use it more often now. At least until August when my yearly subscription expires.

But back to Andre the Giant. All I knew about him was his appearance on Princess Bride, the movie, as Fezzik. Please tell me that you’ve seen The Princess Bride movie! Otherwise, stop reading this and go watch it already!!!!

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And that was pretty much all I knew about Andre the Giant. I hadn’t a clue that he had been a professional wrestler before that, and this was in the days before WWF or WWE or whatever they are calling that nowadays (you can tell that I am not a fan). So for this not-fan of wrestling, it was a surprisingly good read! Brown made wrestling and its gimmicks (or not) easy for non-fans to understand, and revealed quite a few things I would never have known about wrestling and wrestlers. And of course about Andre the Giant. Who was French! And who suffered so much, both emotionally and physically, from his condition. Alcohol helped a lot, as did his generous and relatively good nature. So whether you’re a fan of wrestling or not, whether you’ve seen the Princess Bride (and why haven’t you??), this comic makes for a great read. It’s got a lot of heart.

 Rat Queens Vol 2 : The Far Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth 


Don’t you love it when a series just gets better? The second volume is better than the first! It really is! Maybe it’s because the writers bring in a lot more backstory. Like Violet’s story with her family. More about Dee. And even a bit about Hannah. But can I say, I really wanted more about Betty too!

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Resistance #1 – Carla Jablonski, Leland Purvis

I feel too old for this book.

And as a parent of two young boys, I wondered, would this be something I would want them to read when they’re older? It may be a good introduction to WWII and the French resistance but I felt that the story was a bit too simplistic and a bit predictable.

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The Cosmopolites: the coming of the global citizen – Atossa Araxia Abrahamian

A fascinating and quite short (128 pages) work of non-fiction. Largely about the sales of citizenship of impoverished nations like the Comoro Islands (huh, where? Exactly). It makes you think about the concept of ‘citizenship’ or nations and countries. And the bizarre notion that there are millions of people in the world (the UNHCR estimates it at 10 million) who are stateless. This could be because of shifting borders, unfair citizenship laws (in some states, women cannot transfer nationality to their children), war, discrimination and so on. A fascinating read.

 

 

Weekend Cooking: Comics for food nerds

Those of you who have been reading this blog may know that two of my loves are books and food. So I’m always thrilled to find books that have to do with food, whether fictional or not. And what is even better than foodie books? Foodie comics!

Now first I have to clarify. This list does not include manga as I had previously put up a list of awesome cooking manga. Check that out for more great foodie reads.

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Relish by Lucy Knisley

I am not a big Lucy Knisley fan although I have read most of her graphic novels (ironic perhaps). I love her cute drawing style and the colours she uses but she can get a bit too anxious and fret over minor things (case in point: An Age of License where she stresses out about a trip to  Europe). But I really quite liked Relish, and even bought a copy for my sister! The best parts in Relish where the illustrated recipes. Now if only all cookbooks were that way!

 

 

 

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Seconds – Bryan Lee O’Malley

You can’t get more foodie than this graphic novel with a chef as a main character and a restaurant setting. But this is Bryan Lee O’Malley so something strange happens, with some magical mushrooms no less. O’Malley’s manga-like art is always a fun read but this story has a slight melancholic tone to it.

 

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In the Kitchen with Alain Passard – Christophe Blain, Alain Passard (Recipes) (my thoughts)

For three years, Christophe Blain followed Alain Passard (he of three-Michelin-starred L’Arpège) (some real photos of L’Aperge in this New York Times article here). A graphic novel for any aspiring chef and foodie as it provides an insight into this great chef’s thought process, also a behind-the-scenes look into his kitchen and the restaurant’s gardens. L’Arpège is known for its vegetable tasting menus.
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The Initiates: A Comic Artist and a Wine Artisan Exchange Jobs – Etienne Davodeau (my thoughts)

The title is pretty self-explanatory! Davodeau, a comic artist, and respected winemaker Richard Leroy learn from each other. Even if you’re not much of an oenophile, this bande dessinée is  a fun read as we learn about tending to vineyards, making wine, and about comics.

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Over Easy – Mimi Pond
This graphic semi-memoir is set in a diner in California in the 1970s, so you know drugs are going to be involved. But it’s also a coming-of-age story of young art student Margaret who starts work at the diner when she’s denied financial aid. Kind of charming in that clueless-girl-becomes-savvy-waitress kind of way.
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Chew –  John Layman, Rob Guillory (Illustrator)
Now this is a bit of a gross one. Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic readings from what he eats. So that means if he eats bacon, he ‘sees’ the whole process from pig to slaughter. And that also means at a crime scene, he might have to take a nibble at a corpse. Disgustingly lovely. Gross and weird, but fun.
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Get Jiro – Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, Langdon Foss (Illustrations)
I can’t say anything about this as I’ve yet to read it. But the synopsis sounds awesome:
In a not-too-distant future L.A. where master chefs rule the town like crime lords and people literally kill for a seat at the best restaurants, a bloody culinary war is raging.On one side, the Internationalists, who blend foods from all over the world into exotic delights. On the other, the “Vertical Farm,” who prepare nothing but organic, vegetarian, macrobiotic dishes. Into this maelstrom steps Jiro, a renegade and ruthless sushi chef, known to decapitate patrons who dare request a California Roll, or who stir wasabi into their soy sauce. Both sides want Jiro to join their factions. Jiro, however has bigger ideas, and in the end, no chef may be left alive!
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 Starve by Brian Wood, Danijel Žeželj (Illustrations)
Also another I have yet to read but it has a promisingly deranged cover.
Here’s the synopsis:

Once the world’s most famous chef, Gavin Cruikshank’s been in a self-imposed exile for years. His little foodie television program has since evolved into STARVE, an arena sport that pits chef against chef for the pleasure of their super-rich patrons. It’s a stain on a once-noble profession, and Chef Gavin is ready to go to war to stop it. Two things stand in his way: his arch rival Roman Algiers, and his adult daughter Angie, who probably just wants her dad back and acting normal.

 

Have I missed out your favourite foodie comic? Let me know!

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Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, beer, wine, photographs

Comics for young readers

 

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My four-year-old and I read our first real comic together the other day in celebration of Comics February!. He can’t quite read on his own yet but we have been working hard on sight words and I’ve noticed that every day since our first comic he has been going back to the book, picking it up and looking at the book on his own. I of course was just thrilled.


But wait, you might thought-bubble, aren’t picture books already like comics? Yes a little, but comics for young kids often have several panels on one page that depict the action of the story, whereas most picture books often have just one big picture per page. There are some picture book exceptions, which are styled more like comics. For instance, The Gingerbread Man series by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery.

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And Extraordinary Warren by Sarah Dillard

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The next step up from picture books are beginning and emerging reader books, which have simple text and pictures but somehow these books aren’t as exciting and innovative as some picture books can be (and picture books these days are so wonderfully imaginative!). We are not venturing into chapter books yet, although I sometimes read aloud from kid classics like Roald Dahl’s works.

My aim in all this is to continue to nurture my two boys’ love for reading. They may only be two and four at the moment but there’s always a nagging feeling at the back of my mind, that one day they may only care for iPad games, sports and TV, and never open a book other than those for school.

All kinds of studies tell us what we already know.

  • Boys are slower to learn to read than girls.
  • Boys are less likely to read for pleasure than girls.
  • Girls do better than boys in reading tests*

So in the hope that they will continue to love reading, whether it’s picture books, chapter books or comic books, I’ve been looking up some comics suitable for younger readers.

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The one that we read together was Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. It may be aimed at those aged 7 and up, but my four-year-old (five next month!) enjoyed it. He did say that some parts were a bit scary, but seeing how he looked at the comic several times on his own, he must have liked it. There are two other books in the Zita series so far.

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Toon Books has a great-looking collection of easy comics for young readers. The comics are marked from Level 1 (Grades K-1), Level 2 (Grades 1-2), Level 3 (Grades 2-3), then Toon Graphics (Grades 3+). And some big names have written these books, like Jeff Smith (Bone), Art Spiegelman (Maus, also he and his wife are the ones responsible for the existence of Toon Books) and Renee French (Micrographica).

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The Owly books by Andy Runton would make my two-year-old’s eyes grow as big as, well, an owl. He LOVES owls, and there are so many owl picture books that he adores. This series is perfect for his age group as well because it’s a largely wordless graphic novel.

 

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The Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka looks like a delightful comic book series for elementary kids. I may pick one up to give it a try but I don’t think he’s quite ready for that yet.

I wish I had thought about looking up comics for preschoolers (or kindergarteners) sooner as  Finnian and I could do mini reviews of these books together for Comics February! But maybe we will still do that when we get our hands on these books. Now off to the library to put some holds on comics for kids!

Do you know of any great comics for emerging readers and kindergarteners?

 

*Sources include:

Why Women Read More than Men: NPR
Boys’ Reading Commission – National Literacy Trust; UK
Boys and reading – Services to Schools; New Zealand
Some fantastic ideas and more comic books, especially for those seven and up, can be found at The Graphic Classroom

Comics February part 2

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 Bandette (volumes 1 and 2) -Paul Tobin, Colleen Coover, Brendan Wright (Editor) 

(Library book)

Presto! Zis book was so much fun! Bandette is the world’s greatest thief, but she is also a teenaged girl with a motley crew who help her in her capers and provide her with candy bars, an arch-nemesis named Absinthe and a friendly rivalry with fellow thief Monsieur, and she sometimes helps out the police. It is just adorable but shhh don’t tell Bandette I said that. Also I am extremely pleased by the way all the items stolen (art, historical documents, coins etc) are actual artifacts which are detailed at the back of the books. Bravo!

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The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage – Jen Van Metee, Robert de la Torre (via Scribd)

This was a slightly unusual comic book. First it has a female lead who is Asian (or half-Asian?) and second, it has to do with the afterlife, which isn’t something I’ve really come across in comics (or maybe you have? I’d like to know). And I’m not talking about zombies or vampires or ghosts. Well sort of about ghosts I guess. Shan Fong can talk to the dead but the only one she can’t find is her late husband. A rich guy hires her for a special job but of course there’s something dangerous and mysterious about the whole affair. And Shan has to enter the underworld to go figure things out. Apparently this is part of the reborn Valiant comics line.

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That Salty Air – Tim Sievert (via Scribd)

Well it is safe to say that Sievert can draw. The illustrations in this graphic novel are quite beautiful. I just wish I could say the same about the story and the dialogue. There was a nice sentiment behind the story of loss and forgiveness but the dialogue was just too simple and seemed written by a kid.

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Princeless – Jeremy Whitley, M. Goodwin (Illustrator), Jung-Ha Kim (Contributor), Dave Dwonch (via Scribd)

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Loved the idea behind this one. A princess sets out to save herself and the rest of her sisters (who are imprisoned in different castles) instead of remaining in the castle guarded by her dragon, waiting for a (male) knight to be her saviour. Also there is a female dwarf, a mysterious knight, an adorable dragon, and some Wolves. Quite delightful although aimed at a younger audience.

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Jem and the Holograms – Kelly Thompson, Emma Vieceli (Illustrations), Corin Howell (Illustrations), Amy Mebberson (Illustrations) – via Scribd
I never heard of Jem and the Holograms until I read the comic. But while the main story is a little silly (she requires a hologram to perform), I love the pop of colours, and the way the characters aren’t all skinny white girls. Kinda fun.

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Black Widow: The Name of the Rose – Marjorie M Liu, Daniel Acuna (via Scribd)
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Oh Black Widow. I just wish that she had a bigger role in the Avengers movies. Because I really like all the Black Widow comics I’ve read. She’s tough, kicks ass, is intelligent and has a mysterious past. Perfect for a superhero. This one gives the reader a glimpse or two into her past.

Punk Mambo – Peter Milligan (via Scribd)
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A colourful weird but sadly one-off (?) piece about an unusual punk voodoo priestess.

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Night animals – Brecht Evens (via Scribd)

Evens is a Belgian illustrator but this book needs no translation as it’s a wordless one. It’s also kind of weird. A young girl becomes a woman (i.e. gets her period) and disappears into a strange world of wild things.

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Fingerprints – Will Dinski (via Scribd)

An odd little story about plastic surgery. A plastic surgeon’s assistant invents a new technique, a plastic surgeon works to perfect a starlet’s body while his own wife languishes. A bit forgettable.

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Jennifer Blood (volumes 1 to 3) – Al Ewing, Kewber Baal (Illustrator), Eman Casallos (Illustrator) (via Scribd)

Plenty of bloodshed and some nudity. Not for the faint of heart. I think I was just mesmerised by the ridiculousness of the acts of revenge that Jennifer Blood, suburban housewife/killer, is exacting on her extended family. I didn’t like her at all, and it was all a bit cliched in the end, and so far from the ‘girl power!’ kind of comic that I was expecting somehow. Yeah, somehow I ended up reading all the volumes available on Scribd despite the whole ugh gross, ugh this woman, ugh train wreck thoughts that kept running through my head.

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Fox Bunny Funny – Andy Hartzell (via Scribd)

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A rather bizarre wordless comic about foxes and bunnies. A young fox seems to want to be a bunny, but his parents find out and send him off to this boy scout-like camp to learn how to attack bunnies. Really, I was attracted by the cover.

I’ve still got more to write about but I’ll leave it for the last installment of Comics February next week. 

 

Comics February Week One (and a half)

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Here’s what I read in the first week (and a half!) of Comics February. I really meant to post this earlier but I couldn’t stop reading.

 

  
 The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye – Sonny Liew

I may not know much about comics but I do know this, when I see Sonny Liew’s name, I know it’s going to be a great read.

Liew has chosen a  Singapore comics pioneer as his subject and there are surprisingly political comics. And this book on his life and art has also found controversy after Singapore’s National Arts Council abruptly pulled its grant over what it deemed “sensitive content”. And just one day before the launch too. (That’s Singapore for you.) But in spite of that – or because of that – the first printing sold out almost immediately and it led to additional printings in Singapore. The book will be published internationally by Pantheon Books this year.

This is one amazing book. As a Singaporean, it made me rethink what I was taught in school about Singapore’s history, and how we had this watered down, one-sided view of things. I hope more young Singaporeans read this book. I even had the thought, what if this were taught in schools? Of course that wouldn’t happen, because it’s Singapore.

As a (sometimes) comics reader, I loved the different layers, Chan’s comics, Liew’s occasional commentary and appearance in the book, interspersed with Chan’s struggles in his career and his life (real or made up – it doesn’t really matter). I loved the idea of an alternative universe in which Barisan Sosialis won the political battle (in reality, the People’s Action Party took the vote and the Barison Sosialis leaders were accused of being communists and detained without trial). The mock posters of Singapore’s many campaigns were a hoot.

Perhaps you might be wondering whether a person who hasn’t the faintest clue about Singapore’s past can read this book, and yes, no worries. I think Liew explains things and issues pretty well, and I’m guessing that the Pantheon version may have a bit more explanation for international readers. But isn’t that what reading is about – to explore, to learn, to dive into the unknown. And in Sonny Liew’s capable hands, you’ll do fine.

 

 

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(This one also counts toward #readmyowndamnbooks and the Diversity on the Shelf challenges)

 

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A Wrinkle in Time graphic novel – adapted by and illustrated by Hope Larson

I am never quite sure why adaptations of books, especially classics like this one, are made. To attract a new audience? To have those who once loved the book as a child buy another copy?

Well, I never read this as a child, but I really did love it when I finally read it as an adult, a few years ago. And as with movie versions, I was hesitant to read this graphic novel version. In the end, I was just glad I did. Hope Larson has done a really fabulous job with this adaptation. It felt just right – not too modern and weird, not too truncated or too long.

In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Larson said:

My concern was never making more work for myself, but doing the story justice. It is like a house of cards–so delicate, most of it resting on L’Engle’s dialogue. I didn’t want to end up with an adaptation that felt truncated, or relied heavily on caption boxes to get you from point A to point B in the most economical way. There’s no way to tesser through A Wrinkle in Time. If you take shortcuts in a book like this, you damage it.

Indeed!

 An Age of License – Lucy Knisley

While I like Lucy Knisley’s very cute drawing style, sometimes her constant worrying and anxiety gets to me. Here she is about to embark on a vacation to Europe and she really gets so stressed out about it, that it is a bit painful to read. I kept thinking, it’s a holiday! You’re not moving there! So good thing she finally gets on the plane and those worries fly away and she instead lets us armchair travel with her as she ventures around Sweden, Norway, France. I think I was expecting more from a title like “An Age of License”, like there was something more… substantial. In the end it was a decent read, not very memorable.

Bad Houses -Carla Speed McNeil,  Sara Ryan

I was surprised by this one. First of all, estate sales seemed like a rather niche business to be making a graphic novel out of. One of the main characters works with the family’s estate sale company. They manage estate sales, you know, when people die, they organize belongings and sell those the family doesn’t want. The other, the girl with the camera, Anne, just likes to visit estate sales, listening to stories and taking photos. Sometimes taking things as well. It’s not really a meet-cute but a meet-weird I guess. The guy and the girl meet at an estate sale, get together, figure out their relationship, figure out their own families and their own selves. It’s a coming-of-age story in a small (failing) town and with estate sales. It’s a bit eclectic, at times a bit depressing (one mom works in a nursing home), but in the end, a different, absorbing read.
  
Apocalyptigirl : an aria for the end firms – Andrew MacLean

I really wanted this to work. I mean, a main character who’s a tough female, the end of the world, a cat named Jelly Beans nSounds fun. But in the end it wasn’t anything to shout about. Nothing very memorable. She’s searching for something but to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure what it was. 

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Harbinger (Volumes 1 to 6) – Joshua Dysart

So the only reason I finally read this is because of the new Faith series out from Valiant. And Faith was originally from the Harbinger series by Joshua Dysart.

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I had added Harbinger to my Scribd library a few months ago but whenever I glanced at that cover, with that angsty kid on it, I just never felt interested enough to try it out. Then I read about Faith somewhere and thought that maybe Harbinger was worth a try. And you know what, I read the whole series in two nights. Thankfully it was all available on Scribd. Confusingly, this is a reboot of the series which was first published in 1992. I haven’t decided whether I want to read the original one yet (also on Scribd).

The only problem is how to describe this series. They have superpowers. Faith can fly, Peter, well, he is just powerful all around. Others have superhuman strength, or can harness fire, a variety of things. They are pretty much misfits who have come together and are fighting against some sinister powers. It’s always a good versus evil thing, but I like how things are slightly different here. And that things aren’t always what they seem. I’m looking forward to reading Faith!


Ah comics, taking me to estate sales, traipsing across Europe, going back in time to Singapore’s tumultuous years, and changing the world, one plus-sized superhero at a time. 

Library Looting comics because #comicsfebruary

badge-4Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.


I put in holds for some comics last week and they’re here! I also had time to browse the comics shelves and grabbed a few more. I am however extremely disappointed to note that most the comics and graphic novels here in this post are by white authors. I do have some comics by POC authors up for Comics February (including the excellent Sonny Liew) but obviously not in this library loot. I’ll have to do better next time!

 

Above the dreamless dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics – edited by Chris Duffy

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As the Great War dragged on and its catastrophic death toll mounted, a new artistic movement found its feet in the United Kingdom. The Trench Poets, as they came to be called, were soldier-poets dispatching their verse from the front lines. Known for its rejection of war as a romantic or noble enterprise, and its plainspoken condemnation of the senseless bloodshed of war, Trench Poetry soon became one of the most significant literary moments of its decade.

The marriage of poetry and comics is a deeply fruitful combination, as evidenced by this collection. In stark black and white, the words of the Trench Poets find dramatic expression and reinterpretation through the minds and pens of some of the greatest cartoonists working today.

With New York Times bestselling editor Chris Duffy (Nursery Rhyme ComicsFairy Tale Comics) at the helm, Above the Dreamless Dead is a moving and illuminating tribute to those who fought and died in World War I. Twenty poems are interpreted in comics form by twenty of today’s leading cartoonists, including Eddie Campbell, Kevin Huizenga, George Pratt, and many others.

Bad Houses – Sara Ryan ; illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil

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Lives intersect in the most unexpected ways when teenagers Anne and Lewis cross paths at an estate sale in sleepy Failin, Oregon. Failin was once a thriving logging community. Now the town’s businesses are crumbling, its citizens bitter and disaffected. Anne and Lewis refuse to succumb to the fate of the older generation as they discover – together – the secrets of their hometown and their own families. Bad Houses is a coming-of-age tale about love, trust, hoarding, and dead people’s stuff from award-winning creators Sara Ryan (Empress of the World) and Carla Speed McNeil (Finder).

Bandette Vol 1, In Presto! – Paul Tobin; Colleen Coover

Suckered by the font.

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She is ALLURING

She is MYSTERIOUS

She is BANDETTE!

The world’s greatest thief is a costumed teen burglar by the nome d’arte of Bandette! Gleefully plying her skills on either side of the law alongside her network of street urchins, Bandette is a thorn in the side of both Police Inspector Belgique and the criminal underworld. But it’s not all breaking hearts and purloining masterpieces when a rival thief makes a startling discovery. Can even Bandette laugh off a plot against her life?

Bandette Vol 2, In stealers, keepers! Paul Tobin; Colleen Coover

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THEFT done well is not CRIME it is ART!

Bandette returns to steal readers’ hearts once again! The teenaged master burglar has thrown down the gauntlet with the Great Thieving Race, and friendly rival Monsieur has stepped in to take the challenge. This second charming collection of the Eisner Award-winning series sees the two competing to steal the most priceless artifacts from the criminal organization FINIS and turning over whatever they learn about its plans to the long-suffering Inspector B. D. Belgique. But FINIS’s response could make this Bandette’s final crime spree!

Marble Season – Gilbert Hernandez

Have had my eye on this for a while.

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Marble Season is the semiautobiographical novel by the acclaimed cartoonist Gilbert Hernandez, author of the epic masterpiece Palomar and cocreator, with his brothers, Jaime and Mario, of the groundbreaking Love and Rockets comic book series. Marble Season is his first book with Drawn & Quarterly, and one of the most anticipated books of 2013. It tells the untold stories from the early years of these American comics legends, but also portrays the reality of life in a large family in suburban 1960s California. Pop-culture references—TV shows, comic books, and music—saturate this evocative story of a young family navigating cultural and neighborhood norms set against the golden age of the American dream and the silver age of comics.
Middle child Huey stages Captain America plays and treasures his older brother’s comic book collection almost as much as his approval. Marble Season subtly and deftly details how the innocent, joyfully creative play that children engage in (shooting marbles, backyard performances, and organizing treasure hunts) changes as they grow older and encounter name-calling naysayers, abusive bullies, and the value judgments of other kids. An all-ages story, Marble Season masterfully explores the redemptive and timeless power of storytelling and role play in childhood, making it a coming-of-age story that is as resonant with the children of today as with the children of the sixties.

Ruins – Peter Kuper; edited by Dan Lockwood

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Found this while browsing the comics shelves. Looked interesting.

Samantha and George are a couple heading towards a sabbatical year in the quaint Mexican town of Oaxaca. For Samantha, it is the opportunity to revisit her past. For George, it is an unsettling step into the unknown. For both of them, it will be a collision course with political and personal events that will alter their paths and the town of Oaxaca forever.

In tandem, the remarkable and arduous journey that a Monarch butterfly endures on its annual migration from Canada to Mexico is woven into Ruins. This creates a parallel picture of the challenges of survival in our ever-changing world.

Ruins explores the shadows and light of Mexico through its past and present as encountered by an array of characters. The real and surreal intermingle to paint an unforgettable portrait of life south of the Rio Grande.

 

ApocalyptiGirl – Andrew MacLean

Sorry, no idea who Andrew “underground sensation” MacLean is. But I just like the idea of cat named Jelly Beans.

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The premiere graphic novel from underground sensation Andrew MacLean (Head Lopper), ApocalyptiGirl is an action-packed sci-fi epic!
Alone at the end of the world, Aria is woman with a mission! Traipsing through an overgrown city with her only companion, a cat named Jelly Beans, Aria’s search for an ancient relic with immeasurable power has been fruitless so far. But when a run in with a creepy savage sets her on a path to complete her quest, she’ll face death head on in the hopes of claiming her prize and, if all goes according to plan, finally returning home.

 

An Age of License – Lucy Knisley

Yeah, so it’s another Lucy Knisley!

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Midnight picnics at the Eiffel Tower; wine tastings paired with blowgun lessons; and romance in cafés, cemeteries, and at the Brandenberg Gate–these are just some of New York Times best-selling cartoonist Lucy Knisley’s experiences on her 2011 European book tour. An Age of License is both a graphic travelogue and a journal of her trip abroad. Fans of Knisley’s food-focused autobiography (French MilkRelish) savor her mouth-watering drawings and descriptions of culinary delights, seasons with cute cat cameos. But An Age of License is not all kittens and raclette crepes: Knisley’s account of her adventures is colored by anxieties about her life and career, depicted with fearlessness, relatability, and honesty, making An Age of Licensean Eat, Pray, Love for the Girls generation.

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage: The (Mostly) True Story of the First Computer – Sydney Padua

I kept seeing this around the book blogosphere. Can’t remember exactly who read this one, so hands up if it was you!

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THE THRILLING ADVENTURES OF LOVELACE AND BABBAGE . . . in which Sydney Padua transforms one of the most compelling scientific collaborations into a hilarious series of adventures.

Meet Victorian London’s most dynamic duo: Charles Babbage, the unrealized inventor of the computer, and his accomplice, Ada, Countess of Lovelace, the peculiar protoprogrammer and daughter of Lord Byron. When Lovelace translated a description of Babbage’s plans for an enormous mechanical calculating machine in 1842, she added annotations three times longer than the original work. Her footnotes contained the first appearance of the general computing theory, a hundred years before an actual computer was built. Sadly, Lovelace died of cancer a decade after publishing the paper, and Babbage never built any of his machines.

But do not despair! The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage presents a rollicking alternate reality in which Lovelace and Babbage do build the Difference Engine and then use it to build runaway economic models, battle the scourge of spelling errors, explore the wilder realms of mathematics, and, of course, fight crime—for the sake of both London and science. Complete with extensive footnotes that rival those penned by Lovelace herself, historical curiosities, and never-before-seen diagrams of Babbage’s mechanical, steam-powered computer, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is wonderfully whimsical, utterly unusual, and, above all, entirely irresistible.

What I hate from A to Z – Roz Chast

I enjoyed, well enjoyed isn’t quite the word for it, perhaps I should say I was moved, by Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? a graphic memoir about her elderly parents. So am curious about this one.

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The pages of the New Yorker are hallowed ground for cartoonists, and for the last thirty years, Roz Chast has helped set the magazine’s cartooning standard, while creating work that is unmistakably her own- characterized by her shaggy lines, an ecstatic way with words, and her characters’ histrionic masks of urban and suburban anxiety, bedragglement, and elation.
What I Hate is an A to Z of epic horrors and daily unpleasantries, including but by no means limited to rabies, abduction, tunnels, and the triple-layered terror of Jell-O 1-2-3. With never-before-published, full-page cartoons for every letter, and supplemental text to make sure the proper fear is instilled in every heart, Chast’s alphabetical compendium will resonate with anyone well-versed in the art of avoidance- and make an instructive gift for anyone who might be approaching life with unhealthy unconcern.

 

Gold Fame Citrus – Claire Vaye Watkins

Hey look! Not a comic!

I’ve been in the hold queue for this one for a bit so am glad to finally get it. May be hitting a bit too close to home what with the drought and all. But I’m typing this on a cloudy slightly drizzly day so there’s still hope.

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In a parched southern California of the near future, Luz, once the poster child for the country’s conservation movement, and Ray, an army deserter turned surfer, are squatting in a starlet’s abandoned mansion. Most “Mojavs,” prevented by armed vigilantes from freely crossing borders to lusher regions, have allowed themselves to be evacuated to encampments in the east. Holdouts like Ray and Luz subsist on rationed cola and water, and whatever they can loot, scavenge, and improvise.

For the moment, the couple’s fragile love, which somehow blooms in this arid place, seems enough. But when they cross paths with a mysterious child, the thirst for a better future begins.

Immensely moving, profoundly disquieting, and mind-blowingly original, Watkins’s novel explores the myths we believe about others and tell about ourselves, the double-edged power of our most cherished relationships, and the shape of hope in a precarious future that may be our own.

The kids’ loot:

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Comics round-up: Sharaz-De; Delilah Dirk

This post is so very overdue.

I don’t know how some bloggers manage to post regularly. I feel rather overwhelmed by everything that goes on at home and with the kids, yes, even though they go to school five mornings a week (boy do three hours go by fast!), that by the time bedtime comes around, and there is finally peace in the house, the last thing I want to do is sit at the desk and type things. I just want to read! So that’s probably why this is going to be one long post with short little notes about comics I’ve read in the past month or so.

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Sharaz-De – Sergio Toppi (Illustrator), Edward Gauvin (Translator)


I’m starting with my favourite. One of the most beautiful books ever. The use of colour, the use of white space, the gorgeous features of each character, even if they only are seen on one page.

The story we all know, so it is the illustrations that make this book truly unforgettable.

Toppi was an Italian illustrator and comics writer who died in 2012. While he has written and illustrated many comics in his native Italian, so far only Sharaz-De and The Collector have been translated into English, at least that’s what I’ve seen online.

I borrowed this book from my library. 

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Delilah Dirk and the Turkish lieutenant- Tony Cliff

Whee! Such a romp this comic! A sword-fighting, magic boat-flying, prison-escaping, treasure-stealing heroine with a sense of humour. And her new sidekick who makes the best tea in Turkey.

Good news! There are four other Delilah Dirk books!

Bad news! My library has only this one!
I borrowed this book from my library. 

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Creatures of the night – Neil Gaiman and Michael Zulli

 

This ones for the cat lovers. I don’t have a cat but have always wanted one. They are such gorgeous creatures and I love how this graphic story brings together so many different ones. The rest of the story though is quite dark. Very suitable for RIP if you’re looking for a graphic novel read for that!

I picked this one up while browsing through the ‘teen graphic novel’ shelves at the library, and was attracted by the Gaiman name. I’m always drawn to Gaiman’s graphic novels more than his novels!

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Lulu Anew – Etienne Davodeau
Davodeau’s The Initiates, where Davodeau and a winemaker learn each other’s crafts, is one graphic novel I really enjoyed last year. And I was glad to see his name on another graphic novel, which I read via Scribd. Scribd by the way has quite a few translated graphic novels, mostly from French.

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After a job interview that didn’t go well, Lulu decides to wander, and wander. She walks away from her deadbeat husband and three children and disappears off to the beach. Her story is told by her friend, to her other friends who have gathered at her house. I like that it’s a conversation of sorts, a story that takes place outside at the patio table, while we learn what Lulu has been up to. It’s a simple story, effectively told. And what lovely seaside views.

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Miss Don’t Touch Me – Hubert and Kerascoet and Joe Johnson
Another French comic. This one is a bit more risqué.

Ok maybe a lot more risqué. For Miss Don’t Touch Me is a dominatrix in a high-class Parisian brothel. Blanche, for that is her real name, is trying to figure out who killed her sister, and that leads her to the brothel. It’s a bit of a bizarre tale, with some violence and debauchery and nudity, so it’s not for everyone.

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But it does have some very lovely illustrations. And use of colour.

I read this on Scribd

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Supermarket – Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson

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Another comic full of vibrant colours that just pop off the page. Or tablet.

The story though was a bit lacking. A 16-year-old girl, Pella Suzuki, finds herself the target of the city’s rival crime families – Yakuza and Porno Swede (yes really). She’s the heir to a large fortune which everyone wants their hands on. Other than that, I didn’t know much about her.

A lot of action, a fun read, but also rather forgettable. Pity, as the artwork was great.

I read this on Scribd