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

Comics round-up: Far Arden; Crater XV; Little Nemo

 

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I was in a bit of a reading slump recently. Picked up a book, nah not for me, at least not at this time. Picked up another. Also not quite the right fit.

So I figured a good comic would do. I’m not quite sure why I started on this one. Scribd recommended it to me, probably because I had read Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland before that.

I didn’t quite get it at first. Army Shanks? Arctic pirate? RCAN? What?

It’s quite simple.

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Army Shanks and a whole other bunch of people are searching for Far Arden, supposedly a myth, but someone once found out how to get there. And there’s a map! Somewhere….

But first there are villains and an orphan! And the Royal Canadian Arctic Navy!

It’s a big frozen ball of fun and laughter.

Army Shanks dives for fish and grabs it with his bare hands!

Army Shanks fights Angry!

Face kick!

Slice!

Punch!

Army Shanks turns up again in Crater XV.

This time he’s downtrodden and a bit sad. And he’s off to Antarctica, where Arctic pirates go to die or drink themselves to oblivion or something. But there’s this girl he meets, and he’s convinced she’s Pravda, someone he knew from the orphanage.

There’s also something about astronauts on a simulated moon mission at “Crater XV”.

I’ll say it again. It’s a ball of fun.

Army Shanks! Army Shanks!

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Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland –  Eric Shanower and Gabriel Rodriguez 

A very darling and enchanting comic for all ages, Little Nemo is an update on a classic early 20th century comic strip by Windsor McKay.

Nemo has been chosen as the royal princess’s next playmate. The only problem is getting him to Slumberland. As Nemo has no interest being the playmate. Because she’s a girl. Yuck! Will he ever get to Slumberland and meet the princess? Does he want to? What is Slumberland anyway?
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Fun for the young and young at heart, that’s what Slumberland is! Even getting there is a thrill.

 

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M.C. Escher would be pleased, I reckon. 

I read this because it was illustrated by the awesome Gabriel Rodriguez, who is responsible (with writer Joe Hill) for one of my favourite comics ever, Locke and Key. Little Nemo is about as far away from the gore and, as the husband put it, “so morbid”, Locke and Key as you can get but it is still a fun read nonetheless, with absolutely brilliant and whimsical illustrations from Rodriguez.

 

 

110 Per¢ – Tony Consiglio

 

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So 110 Per¢ (110 Percent) is some popular boyband. I’m guessing like One Direction or something. And this group of women, “Mature Older Fans of 110 Per¢” are one crusty bunch. They’re united by their love for the band and that’s about it. They’re in the same fan club yet they’re mean to each other sometimes. It’s a little bit sad really. One ignores her family in her devotion to the band. Another is an unfortunate caricature of a heavyset woman who has no friends at work. It was rather painful to read at times. 

 

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Second Thoughts – Niklas Asker

I was intrigued by the cover. Unfortunately, the story wasn’t as odd or mind bending as I was expecting. I mean, giant head! Teeny tiny town! But it was still an interesting enough story about the chance meeting of two strangers at an airport, and how this meeting changes their lives. I really liked the artwork but I think I was expecting something either a little more eccentric or deeper. 

 

 

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All read on Scribd.

 

Comics round-up: Underwater Welder; Adventure Time; Jem and the Holograms; Hexed….

This post is just getting longer and longer. I really have to run it soon.

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Underwater Welder – Jeff Lemire

Lemire excels in taking ordinary people, those living in small towns, their lives a little bit lost and their hearts a little bit broken, and turning it into an emotional, unforgettable, moving story. I loved Essex County, and Underwater Welder was just as excellent. It’s kind of weird to say, hey, you should read this comic about an underwater welder but luckily it s more than that. Jack and his wife are expecting a baby in a month when he goes off to the rig to work. He sees something in the water that makes him think of his dead father. Not just think but more like return to that time when he was a child and his father was still alive, and as that happens, as his memories creep into his life, they pull him away from his wife and his unborn child. It’s a story of how the past can affect, can take hold of the present.
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Lucille – Ludovic Debeurme
A painful read this one. Lucille is an anorexic teenager. She is slowly starving herself so that she can look like the other girls. Arthur is a boy with OCD, the son of an alcoholic fisherman. And they somehow meet and become friends, then more than friends. The illustrations are spare and panel-less, which makes for a rather different flow from the typical comic. A moving, minimalistic read.

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Borden Tragedy – Rick Geary
I didn’t know anything about Lizzie Borden except that children’s rhyme which I probably might be familiar with from watching TV/movies? So why did I read this? Still have no idea.

I did like the black and white illustrations. And the whole story, despite the potential for gore and bloodiness, is simply and effectively told, although we are not given any answers
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Pride and Prejudice (Marvel adaptations) – Nancy Butler and Hugo Petrus

This is one book that really shouldn’t be judged by its cover. Because I really adored the cover art – by Malaysian-Singaporean artist Sonny Lies – but I definitely did not like the artwork within. So it was very disappointing. Elizabeth Bennet always looks so harsh and angry. I don’t think I would recommend it, unless you’re introducing Jane Austen to a reluctant reader who prefers comics to classics.

 

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Adventure Time: Banana Guard Academy  – Kent Osborne (Writer), Dylan Haggerty (Writer), Mad Rupert (Illustrator), Britt Wilson (Illustrator), Whitney Cogar (Colorist), Leigh Luna (Letterer)

Ah what can I say, I adore Adventure Time. I never thought I would as it seemed rather cutesy. But it’s just such fun.

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The Cape – Joe Hill, Zach Howard, Jason Ciaramella

One of the more disturbing comics ever. I mean sure, having read Locke and Key, as well as two of Hill’s novels, I know that he’s got a strange mind, wandering towards the macabre, the creepy, the disturbing. But with Locke and Key, while it was violent and morbid, it had a lot of heart. Those were some awesome kids. Here in The Cape, it’s a superpower gone wrong story. A deadbeat guy who seems to hate everything and everyone and thinks the world has done him wrong. I felt so angry reading this.
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Jem and the Holograms – Kelly Thompson, Ross Campbell (Illustrator)

I hadn’t heard of Jem and the Holograms before Andi’s post. I guess this was one American TV show that didn’t make it to Singapore? It’s a fun read, mostly for its colourful outfits and big hair. And I love its diverse characters. That is, not everyone is skinny and white and straight.

 

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imageHexed – Michael Alan Nelson  (Writer), Dan Mora (Artist)

So Lucifer is a thief and there’s a lot of artwork involved and something about a Harlot and spirits and a necromancer. Ok I don’t really get it either. But compared to another recent read, Pretty Deadly, it was a little more easily understood (although still puzzling) and had some decent and relatable characters. One thing I did appreciate is that this comic written and drawn mostly by men has females as its main characters. And they’re tough and strong. I was just disappointed that Scribd only has seven issues.

(I really liked that page above where they wandered through several different art styles)

 

Comics Sunday: Edward Scissorhands; Hinges; Rot and Ruin

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Edward Scissorhands Vol 1: Parts Unknown – by Kate Leth, Drew Rausch (Illustrator)

I had such high hopes for Edward Scissorhands. Perhaps too high. I was looking for expecting a whimsical delight, a dark fairy tale, as I sort of remember the movie to be.

The story continues two generations after the movie, and stars Meg, Kim’s granddaughter who is curious about her grandmother and Edward. Edward is accused of hurting a kid and the town hunts him down. Again.

I was a bit disappointed that the artwork was more cute than the cover made it out to be. Nothing wrong with cute illustrations, i just prefer less-cute! It does have some nice detailing and great use of colours though.

 

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Hinges Vol 1: Clockwork City – Meredith McClaren

Hinges is set in a made-up world where citizens are grown, given a choice of “odds” (kind of like their familiars, made me think of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series and daemons) and sent out to find their role in society.

Now this was the kind of cute whimsy that I was expecting from Edward Scissorhands. The main character doesn’t say much and to be honest the story doesn’t really seem to have much pull. The art direction also confused me in some panels. I wondered if it was because I was reading it as an e-book version on my tablet. But this wasn’t my first e-comic. Yet it was the first time I had to stare and re-stare at more than one panel, relook the rest of the page, and wonder, what am I looking at?? In one case it was a close-up, I think, but I didn’t really see the point of the close-up. It made me a little frustrated and confused at points. It was a cute story but it wasn’t really propelling me toward reading more.

 

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Rot and Ruin Vol 1: Razor Smart –  Jonathan Maberry

Ok so another comic set in a zombie-infested world. This time the main characters are four teens, one of whom wields a samurai squad. Oh and they’re not zombies, their “zoms”.

For me, The Walking Dead is probably THE zombie comic or zombie anything really, especially since I’ve gotten further with the TV show than the comics. So reading this one was a bit tricky. I was trying hard to be fair and not compare it to The Walking Dead all the time. There are a lot of similarities of course as zombies are pretty much zombies wherever you go. This one is set in California and they start out living in Yosemite. I kind of wish they had shown more of Yosemite! But the kids move on, trying to find a plane they saw. And after finding a zom-infested hospital, they end up on a farm, a well-secured place with beds and toilet paper and a secret. Of course there’s always a secret hiding in the barn that has armed guards in front of it. It was however a bit different from what I was expecting and so I was intrigued enough to keep reading. However a part of my jaded 30-something self doesn’t fully buy the whole four teens on their own thing. I’m on the fence about this one!

So three comics from NetGalley this week, and I was just wanting a bit more from each of them. One I had too high expectations for (my inner teenager was very disappointed and thus, rather angsty). One was beautiful and whimsical but a bit confusing – it really needed more exposition. And the last, because it was yet another zombie story, needed to push the envelope more than it did. 

Panels’ Read Harder Challenge!

Andi recently put up her latest update for her Panels Read Harder Challenge. I’d seen this on Panels previously but wasn’t thinking of joining in. But as I read Andi’s post, I realized that hey, I could easily fill most of these categories with the comics I’ve read this year – and it’s only March! I’ve got plenty of time to finish up!

The comic book links are to my mini reviews.

 

Read a comic book from the Golden Age (30s to early 50s)

(Ok I am stuck on this one. And that link to Wikipedia isn’t helping).

 

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Read a comic book that features a creative team representing more than one gender 

Ms Marvel – writer G. Willow Wilson, and artist Adrian Alphona

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Read a comic book originally published in Europe 

Glacial Period – Nicolas de Crecy (first published in France)

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Read a piece of comics journalism

Showa: A History of Japan, 1926-1939 (Showa: A History of Japan #1) – Shigeru Mizuki

 

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Read a self-contained graphic novel 

Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs

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Read a comic book from an independent publisher 

Deadly Class Vol 1: – Rick Remender (published by Image Comics)

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Read a comic book by an all-female creative team

Pretty Deadly Vol 1: The Shrike – Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Ríos

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Read a comic book about a culture other than your own

I Remember Beirut – Zeina Abirached

Read a comic book about a religion other than your own

Just requested Buddha 1 Kapilavastu by Osamu Tezuka from the library

Read a comic book marketed for children or all-ages.

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Read a comic book that features an LGBTQ character

A + E Forever – I Merey

 

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Read a comic book that won an Eisner Award 

Saga. Volume three – Brian K. Vaughan, writer ; Fiona Staples, artist

Read a webcomic 

I did read Nimona by Noelle Stevenson but I’m using that for the ‘villain as protagonist’ category. So I’m going to see what other webcomics there are! Maybe I’ll try Thunderpaw (read it here), partly because I’m intrigued by the use of animated gifs.

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Read a comic book starring anthropomorphic animals  

Wonderland – Tommy Kovac, Sonny Liew. The White Rabbit!

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Read a volume of manga 

Children of the Sea – Daisuke Ishigara

 

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Read a comic book written and drawn by the same person 

Rose and Isabel – Ted Mathot

Read a collection of comic strips.

Hmmm….

Since there’s a Peanuts movie coming out this year, maybe that’s what I’ll read

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Read a comic about a non-traditional superhero 

Shadow Hero – Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew (obviously, Ms Marvel would fit here too!)

Read a book about comic books.

Just requested one from the library!

Read a comic book featuring non-traditional art.

Er….I’m not sure

 

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Read a new-to-you comic from the library 

Will and Whit – Laura Lee Gulledge (many others would fit in this category, as I get almost all my comics from the library!)

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Read a science fiction comic book

Pluto Naoki Urasawa x Osamu Tezuka – robots! Androids! Set in the future!

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Read a fantasy comic book

 The Last Unicorn – Peter S Beagle; Peter B. Gillis; Renae De Liz

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Read a comic set in a country other than your own 

A Chinese Life – Li Kunwu and P. Otie

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Read a controversial comic book.

Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan (Showa: A History of Japan #2) – Shigeru Mizuki (well, its translator calls it controversial. And since this second book is about Japan’s involvement in WWII, it is almost definitely controversial)

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Read a comic with a villain for the protagonist

Nimona – Noelle Stevenson

 

So I’ve still got some categories to figure out. And one in particular – Golden Age comics?? – I’m not sure if I can get my hands on… but hey, that’s not too shabby.

Comics February – the end!

I still have so many comics to read! Why does February have to be so short? Well I’ll just have to read it in Comics March then. (Not actually an event, I just made it up).

 

Showa: A History of Japan, 1926-1939 (Showa: A History of Japan #1) 

Showa 1939-1944: A History of Japan (Showa: A History of Japan #2)

By Shigeru Mizuki

 

Shigeru Mizuki is a very well-known comic book writer or mangaka in Japan. He’s known for his yokai stories, supernatural monsters in Japanese folklore. Well I didn’t know any of that. I just knew that I had to get my hands on it, thanks to this post!!

And I was only slightly intimidated by the size of these two books. Yup, they are big and fat and discuss history, but they were a quick read.

What was amazing though was that I think I learnt more about the Pacific War (as in the theatre of WWII that was fought in Asia and the Pacific) than I learnt in school in Singapore (which in case you didn’t know, was one of the countries that the Japanese occupied). The second book focuses on the war – Mizuki was drafted into the army and sent to Papua New Guinea. At first I worried that it would have a skewed version of Japan’s role in the war but I was surprised, it was honest, it is well-researched, and it is also very personal.

It is truly amazing that he survived the war. He was very naive and rather oblivious to the fact that he was in a war!

I kind of wish I had read this book while learning about WWII in Asia, it would have made it a far less dry lesson!

Showa is at times humorous, at times sobering and sad. It showcases the best of comics.

 

 

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Nimona- Noelle Stevenson

This is the first time I’ve ever read a webcomic from start to finish in a day. That makes me sound like I know a lot about webcomics. I really don’t. I’ve browsed through some but have never really read any fully. Here’s the link to Nimona or you can wait for it to come out in book form later this year. In May I believe.

Nimona was SO FUN! And I don’t really like to use CAPS so please believe me already.

Awesome characters. Hair swoops. Shapeshifting. Medieval Skype.

 

Ethel & Ernest: A True Story – Raymond Briggs
If his name sounds familiar it might be because you’ve read that classic picture book The Snowman.

This was one of the sweetest and saddest comics I read this month. Or ever really. It tells the story of Briggs’ parents’ relationship. Him a milkman, she a lady’s maid. And they get married and start their own family. And the years pass – and we catch glimpses of the world around them as they live in their house in London, through the war, through the advent of TV, raising their son, as the decades pass.

And also hilarious. Especially their discussions about politics and the rest of the world.

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A Chinese Life – Li Kunwu and P Otie

 

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60 years in 700 pages. I would count that as epic, but I just read Showa books one and two (see above) which explore 7 years in 560 pages in one and 5 years in 536 pages in another. These are very different books, very different lives. I think I am more fond of Mizuki’s illustrative style and narration.

It’s always difficult reading a memoir of life in China under Mao. The things people did, even as young children (see above). Li details the changing times, the hardships they go through. It has its bittersweet moments, and some rather sweet ones too.

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Lost at Sea – Bryan Lee O’Malley

Ah where was this comic when I was a teen?

Raleigh is on a road trip with some kids from school, kids she doesn’t really know and they’re very different from her, so how did they end up in the same car?

I wasn’t sure that I would like her at the beginning. Kinda weird (she thinks a cat stole her soul), aloof, a bit melodramatic. But then deep down inside I knew I was a little like her as a teen (and probably still am) – terrified of talking to other people, running a dialogue in her own head, always worried about others’ impressions of her.

Here are my previous Comics February posts!

Week 3

Week 2 

Week 1

 

Comics February Week 3

 

 

This week started out a bit slowly but I finally got back into the swing of comic things and ended up finishing plenty more comics!

I travelled to outer space, Japan, France (in the far off future), Vietnam (past and present) and Lebanon this past week. Just one week left! Gaah!

Saga 3 – Brian K. Vaughan, writer ; Fiona Staples, artist

 

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How does one begin to describe Saga? It’s a love story, a story about family and relationships and overcoming adversity, a story about struggle, about intergalactic love. It also has a lie-detector cat, assassins, a tree-spaceship, a little girl ghost, magic, android elites, and all kinds of bizarro goodness. It is weird and it is wonderful. This is the third volume so well, you know, don’t start with this one, begin at the beginning!

 

 

Glacial Period – Nicolas De Crécy

While I am into weird and wonderful (see above), this weird book may have gone over my head a little. Either that or it just doesn’t translate very well. Originally written in French, Glacial Period has such a promising premise – it is many years later and explorers somehow stumble upon the Louvre, buried under years of snow, hence Glacial Period. They wander among the artworks, speculating about the lives and culture of the people before them – were they non-literate? What’s with the angels? That kind of thing. Interesting idea that is not entirely carried out as well as one would hope.

And they are accompanied by talking dogs (ok so at first I thought they were pigs) who have wonderful powers of smell. It just gets weirder when artifacts come to life. The best part of the book are those lovely talking dogs, especially Hulk.

It also has this rather muted fuzzy style of drawing. To emphasize the cold, perhaps? I’m not entirely fond of it though.

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Vietnamerica – GB Tran

Tran, born in South Carolina in 1976, not long after his family fled Vietnam just three days before the fall of Saigon, explores his family’s past after a visit to Vietnam for his grandmother’s memorial. It is the first time he has met many of his relatives and he begins to piece together the story of his family’s past – emotional, moving, painful. And their struggle to survive, by whatever means necessary.

Tran’s art is vibrant, bold, colourful, with different font styles used to differentiate the dialogue. The tiny cursive (see the bottom of the second picture) often trips me up though and requires rereading to figure it out.

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A + E forever – I. Merey
I am so not the target audience for this comic which is definitely meant for the teenaged reader. The drawing style was more sketchbook-like, it has a hand-made kind of feel to it, the words not exactly flowing and orderly. I suppose that’s how it must be like to have grown up in the Internet age. And I suppose my calling that the Internet age tells you that I am way past that. I remember dial-up! I once carried a pager! We had a dot-matrix printer!
But back to the comic. It’s a relationship, friendship, love story between two schoolmates, one a girl, the other less certain of gender. Parents don’t really feature in this comic as they work the nightshift. So it’s pretty much a stay out late, hit the clubs, hookup with someone kind of story. But there is A and there is E and they are best friends, although one wants more than the other. It’s sweet sometimes, disturbing (at least for this parent) at others.

 

 

Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery – Kurtis J. Wiebe (Writer), Roc Upchurch (Illustrator)

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This comic makes me want to throw something. Not the book or anything – especially since I was reading an e-comic on my tablet! But more of a hoo-ah! let’s throw some knives at this tree or shoot some arrows and kick some a**! It’s a fun action-packed comic starring four, er, women. I say “er” because one is a dwarf and another is a Smidgen? and well they are female but not necessarily human.

But it is a bout of rambunctious fun.

The Big Skinny: How I Changed my Fattitude: a Memoir – Carol Lay

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Wow Lay sure is disciplined when it comes to eating. She’s one of this calorie counters, making notes about what she eats and all that. It made me want to eat more vegetables and that’s always a good thing. I’m not sure why I picked this up though. Curious I suppose.

Will and Whit – Laura Lee Gulledge 

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All the kids are so crafty! One makes lamps (which teenager makes lamps?? Or is that what teenagers do these days?), another does puppetry, yet another is into cooking and baking (ok at least that one I can understand). The “Whit” referred to here is a big storm named Whitney. Will is Wilhelmina, who’s coming to terms with her parents’ death a year ago. It’s a sweet story with lovely drawings.

Apollo’s Song – Osamu Tezuka

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So I thought that the first Tezuka I read was odd, this one is even odder and has less certain a plot, to be honest. It’s an exploration of relationships between men and women, by a young man whose life has been a troubled one, emotionally and mentally strained, and so he’s in a mental hospital, with a doctor hypnotizing him and some thing about androids and marathon running and being marooned on an island where animals co-exist peacefully. I am still trying to wrap my head around it. I am still rather intrigued by Tezuka’s work!

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I Remember Beirut – Zeina Abirached
I really enjoy Abirached’s bold black and white style. This book focuses on various memories, good and bad, of her childhood in Lebanon. But I think I prefer her first book, A Game for Swallows 

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And that’s what I managed last week! We’re heading into the final week of February! That’s quick! Now I’m off to devour more comics before the month is up!