Banned and challenged, yet celebrated comic books worth checking out

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Banned Books Week is upon us again this week, bringing back the challenges of censorship vs. the freedom of expression. This includes all printed work, though much in the sequential arts are often targeted.

Since the days of metal moveable type, select books have been the subject of scrutiny, sorted for censorship and challenged by figures of authority. In our modern times, these books now include those in sequential art format (comic books, graphic novels).

The reasons for censorship vary further with comic art, as visuals often enhance the type and message. These comics can exhibit a powerful force for change and subversion. Such works can enlarge the meaning and stir powerful emotions. They can also change one’s growth and development, and often inspire. But creativity and imagination have no limits, and can interfere with the intended moral directions of ruling establishments. Banned Book Week is a resistance to censorship, and a continued fight to ensure creative writings that may offend or bother particular groups on narrow moral standards, are not hidden from for that purpose.

Below are my suggestions and notes for popular banned and challenged (in certain areas and past times) comics. I also included many “Case Study” links to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (cbldf.org). Keep in mind, some books do carry mature reader labels or age recommendations, which usually acts as a suggestion guide or warning.

(Special note – This is an updated post from a past post on this site, with some new additions and slightly changed intro):

Drama

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Writer/Artist: Raina Telgemeier
Publisher: Scholastic 2012
Graphic novel format

“Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon over Mississippi, she can’t really sing. Instead, she’s the set designer for the drama department’s stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!?.”

Banned/Challenged by: The Chapel Hill Elementary in Mount Pleasant, Texas in 2014 for being “sexually explicit” though there is little info towards what. There were some complaints about two boys who happen to be gay, who briefly kiss. Click here for the CBLDF Case Study.

Drama remains an otherwise highly-praised, critically acclaimed book.

Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories

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Writer/Artist: Gilbert Hernandez
Publisher: Fantagraphics, 2003

“For the first time ever, Fantagraphics is proud to present a single-volume collection of Gilbert Hernandez’s “Heartbreak Soup” stories from Love & Rockets, which along with RAW magazine defined the modern literary comics movement of the post-underground generation. This massive volume collects every “Heartbreak Soup” story from 1993 to 2002 in one 500-page deluxe hardcover edition, presenting the epic for the first time as the single novel it was always intended to be. Palomar is the mythical Central American town where the “Heartbreak Soup” stories take place.

Banned/Challenged byThe mother of a child who checked out the book at a school library in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, on the basis of it being “child porn.” However, there was no clear case for this other than the mother’s accusations and alarmed supporters taking her side. The book was further challenged by the local media and school officials. Click here for the CBLDF Case Study.

Meanwhile, it remains a highly-reviewed book held in high regard by fans of the Love and Rockets series.

Amazing Spider-Man volume 2: Revelations

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Writer/Artist: J. Michael Straczynski, John Romita Jr.
Publisher: Marvel Comics, 1999
Note: Collects Amazing Spider-Man (1999) #36-39

“Spider-Man comes to understand that not all heroes possess great powers. Meanwhile, Aunt May struggles with her discovery of Peter’s greatest secret. “

Banned/Challenged by: An elementary School in Millard Nebraska after a parent complaint of the book having “a lot of sexual overtones.” The book was apparently never returned during the review process, and was later listed in their online catalog as “out for repairs.”  Click here for the CBLDF Case Study.

Saga

Writer/Artist: Brain K Vaughan,  Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics, 2012
Monthly series in single issue and collected in volumes.

“The series is heavily influenced by Star Wars, and based on ideas Vaughan conceived both as a child and as a parent. It depicts two lovers from long-warring extraterrestrial races, Alana and Marko, fleeing authorities from both sides of a galactic war as they struggle to care for their newborn daughter, Hazel, who occasionally narrates the series. “

Banned/Challenged by: Often challenged for removal, according to the American Library Association, for reasons of being “anti-family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited to age group ” Also, one monthly chapter of Saga was once removed by Apple for its mobile devices. Click here for the CBLDF Case Study.

A fantastic series for those who like a little bit of everything in their science fiction, with no limits to the imagination.

Barefoot Gen

Barefoot Gen

Writer/Artist: Keiji Nakazawa
Publisher: Last Gasp 2004
Notes: Manga series, now collected in volumes. Originally published in Japan in Shonen Jump Magazine from 1973-1985.

“This harrowing story of Hiroshima was one of the original Japanese manga series. New and unabridged, this is an all-new translation of the author’s first-person experiences of Hiroshima and its aftermath, is a reminder of the suffering war brings to innocent people. Its emotions and experiences speak to children and adults everywhere. Volume one of this ten-part series details the events leading up to and immediately following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.”

Banned/Challenged by: Multiple educational institutions for being too graphic with violence and imagery, and also “anti-Japanese.” Click here for the CBLDF Case Study.

Otherwise critically acclaimed, and essential to those who appreciate manga as an art form in storytelling, and love historical fiction.

Bone

Bone

Writer/Artist: Jeff Smith
Publisher: Originally Cartoon Books 1991 (self-published), now by Scholastic
Originally a series, now collected in volumes and a all-in-one omnibus

“The BONE adventures tell the story of a young bone boy, Fone Bone, and his two cousins, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone, who are banned from their homeland of Boneville. When the cousins find themselves mysteriously trapped in a wonderful but often terrifying land filled with secrets and danger – and special new friendships – they are soon caught up in adventures beyond their wildest dreams.”

Banned/Challenged by: Multiple school libraries, often challenged for multiple reasons (political stuff, drinking) and being “unsuitable” for minors. Click here for the CBLDF Case Study.

Great fantastic series, but I think a repeat target because of the cartoony appearance of lead characters. Still, a great read for all ages wanting a bit more than the typical G-rated Disney formulaic stuff in their epic fantasy literature.

Maus

Maus

Writer/Artist: Art Spiegelman
Publisher: Pantheon, 1991
Notes: Originally published in serialized parts in Raw Magazine, 1980-1991. Now obtainable through the direct market in a complete book.

“The Pulitzer Prize-winning “Maus” tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story. “Maus” approaches the unspeakable through the diminutive. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), shocks us out of any lingering sense of familiarity and succeeds in ‘drawing us closer to the bleak heart of the Holocaust'”

Banned/Challenged by: Pasadena Public Library in Pasadena, California. Major book chains in Russia. Reason: anti-ethnic and unsuited for age group. Probably other areas for it’s Swastika imagery. Click here for the CBLDF Case Study.

An essential read for all those who love comics. The storytelling is emotionally gripping, and at times quite suspenseful. Also, the only comic story to win a Pulitzer Prize.

The Boys

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Writer/Artist:  Garth Ennis / John McCrea
Publisher: Year: Dynamite, 2007
Notes: Monthly series, collected in volumes.

“This is going to hurt! In a world where costumed heroes soar through the sky and masked vigilantes prowl the night, someone’s got to make sure the “supes” don’t get out of line. And someone will! Billy Butcher, Wee Hughie, Mother’s Milk, The Frenchman, and The Female are The Boys: A CIA-backed team of very dangerous people, each one dedicated to the struggle against the most dangerous force on Earth – superpower! Some superheroes have to be watched. Some have to be controlled. And some of them – sometimes – need to be taken out of the picture. That’s when you call in The Boys!”

Banned/Challenged by: Qatar’s Ministry of Culture, banned and denied checkout to a reader there for being “offensive.” More info here.

Garth Ennis uses a lot of dark humor in his writing, but with fantastic character development (other works including Preacher, Punisher, Hitman).

Perseopolis

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Writer/Artist: Marjane Sartrapi
Publisher: Pantheon 2003

“Persepolis is the story of Satrapi’s unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming–both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.”

Banned/Challenged by: Multiple schools for different reasons including “coarse language and scenes of torture.” Click here for the CBLDF Case Study.

Not only fantastic for its challenging content, but for the art style and storytelling. Though it was later adapted into an award-winning animated film, this book is a better known as Marjane Satrapi’s artistic memoir.

Sidescrollers

SideScrollers

Writer/Artist: Matthew Loux
Publisher: Oni, 2006

“Brian, Brad and Matt are best described as lovable perpetual losers. They’re good guys who just lack direction and are all too happy to be enjoying that lazy time after high school. Their favorite thing to do in life is to play video games, eat junk food and kick around the suburban town they live in. All of this tranquil laziness is interrupted when Brian, Brad and Matt discover that the new girl Amber (of whom Matt is sweet on) is going to that night’s big local rock show with Richard, the bully football jock. Determined to steer her away from Richard, the boys are launched off of their lazy rears and forced into a grand adventure. Chased by an irate football team, a vengeful troop of Girl Scouts and a stalking evil cat that may actually be possessed by Satan, our heroes are thrust into a giant rock ‘n’ roll video game adventure.”

Banned/Challenged by: Connecticut School District after a complaint of sexual references and profanity. Click here for the CBLDF Case Study.

Well received for its time, and often recommended on various shelves of comic stores and libraries. But, also relevant for the growing inclusion of geek culture to the current pop mainstream.

The Color of Earth

Color Of Earth

Writer/Artist:  Kim Dong Hwa
Publisher: First Second 2009 (Macmillan)

“First love is never easy…Ehwa grows up helping her widowed mother run the local tavern, watching as their customers – both neighbors and strangers – look down on her mother for her single lifestyle. Their social status isolates Ehwa and her mother from the rest of the people in their quiet country village. But as she gets older and sees her mother fall in love again, Ehwa slowly begins to open up to the possibility of love in her life.”

Banned/Challenged by: Multiple institutions according to the American Library Association, as it’s on their “Top Ten most Challenged Books of 2011.” This for reasons on nudity and sexual content.  Click here for the CBLDF Case Study.

Blankets

Blankets

Writer/Artist:  Craig Thompson
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions, 2003

“…A rarity: a first-love story so well remembered and honest that it reminds you what falling in love feels like. …achingly beautiful.” – Time magazine Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith.”

Banned/Challenged by: The Marshall Public Library, Missouri (2006), challenged for “obscene illustrations.” Click here for the CBLDF Case Study.

A fantastic multi-dimensional read with powerful story developments and emotional themes. Also, a long read for a graphic novel at 562 pages..something to take time with, as the artwork is beautiful.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier

Black Dossier

Writer/Artist:  Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill
Publisher: DC Comics, 2008
Part of a series, as the full story calls for the reading of Volume 1 and 2 of the series, while this is placed before Volume 3 and the Nemo sub-series (printed by Top Shelf).

“The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen returns in this amazing new Absolute Edition! England in the mid 1950s is not the same as it was. The powers that be have instituted…some changes. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has been disbanded and disavowed, and the country is under the control of an iron-fisted regime. Now, after many years, the still youthful Mina Murray and a rejuvenated Allan Quatermain return and are in search of some answers. Answers that can only be found in a book buried deep in the vaults of their old headquarters, a book that holds the key to the hidden history of the League throughout the ages:”

Banned/Challenged by: Denied checkout to an 11-year old girl by two employees of the Jessamine County Public Library in Kentucky (who were fired shortly after), on grounds of “pornographic” content. Click here for the CBLDF Case Study.

The work of Alan Moore has been challenged multiple times from Watchmen to Neonomicon. But what sets this book apart is Alan Moore’s unique interpretation of classic characters and events. While there are nudity and sexual references, I feel it is especially important that any profound interpretation of classic literature be kept in the open to anyone, regardless of content. Plus, the series as a whole, is fun.

That’s all for now. I hope you added some here to your reading list. Your thoughts or maybe some missed for this list, are welcome in the comments below.

Hardcover Comics, Graphic Novel Holiday Gift Guide 2016

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Tis the holiday season, to give something new for the sequential art lover you know…

Below, are my hardcover comic book volume and graphic novel suggestions. Why such things for gifts? Because, the hardcover format gives a lasting quality, and adds a bit of deserving specialness to it. The sequential art form within can hold deeper, longer lasting appreciation to those holding a hardbound shell, when prominent on their home bookshelf or coffee table.

So, these picks below are hand-picked favorites by us, having read and enjoyed each one. Each pick is likely available through local comic and retail bookstores. Ordering online is good too, but part of the fun for the holidays is also visiting local shops while humming Christmas tunes. So, print or write these out, and don’t forget the wrapping paper!

SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN

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  • Writer / Artist: Max Landis / Various Artists
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Format: Hardcover Publication Date: October, 2016
  • Pages: 224 Price: 24.99 ISBN: 978-1401262563

“Screenwriter and Eisner Award nominee Max Landis (Chronicle, American Ultra, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN) presents the seven-issue miniseries that chronicles Clark Kent’s development into the archetypal hero he will eventually become. With the tone of each issue ranging from heartwarming and simple, to frighteningly gritty and violent, to sexy, sun-kissed and funny, SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN is unlike anything you’ve seen before. This new hardcover includes special bonus features.”

Get this for: Superman fans of any age, short story readers, those who like a little art variety, fun-loving campy readers, fans of the Flash TV show (also Smallville.)

ALEX + ADA: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION DELUXE EDITON HC

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  • Writer / Artist: Jonathan Luna, Sarah Vaughan / Jonathan Luna
  • Publisher: Image Comics
  • Format: Hardcover Publication Date: November, 2016
  • Pages: 376 Price: 49.99 ISBN: 978-1632158697
  • Age Range: 16 and Up

“Working closely with Moebius Production in France, Dark Horse puts the work of a master storyteller back in print—with some material in English for the first time! Stel and Atan are intFrom JONATHAN LUNA (THE SWORD, GIRLS, Spider-Woman: Origin) and SARAH VAUGHN (Sparkshooter, Ruined) comes ALEX + ADA, a sci-fi drama set in the near future. The last thing in the world Alex wanted was an X5, the latest in realistic androids, but after Ada is dropped into his life, he discovers she is more than just a robot and takes a huge risk to unlock Ada so she can think for herself and explore life as a sentient android. Can they survive the consequences? This oversized hardcover collects issues #1-15”

Get this for: Science fiction drama fans, android lovers, Black Mirror fans, futurists

MOEBIUS LIBRARY: THE WORLD OF EDENA

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  • Writer / Artist: Moebius
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Format: Hardcover Publication Date: October, 2016
  • Pages: 360 Price: 49.95 ISBN: 978-1-50670-216-2
  • Age Range: 16 and Up

“Working closely with Moebius Production in France, Dark Horse puts the work of a master storyteller back in print—with some material in English for the first time! Stel and Atan are interstellar repairmen trying to find a lost space station and its crew. What they discover about the universe and themselves on the mythical paradise planet Edena, though, changes their lives forever. Moebius’s long-out-of-print World of Edena story arc gets a deluxe hardcover treatment, with its five main chapters—Upon a Star, Gardens of Edena, The Goddess, Stel, and Sra—collected here!”

Get this for: Fans of Moebius art, fans of classic Heavy Metal magazine and similar art of the late 1970s, early 1980s style, imagination lovers, science fiction fans

RIC AND MORTY BOOK 1

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  • Writer / Artist: Zac Gorman / various artists
  • Publisher: Oni Press
  • Format: Hardcover Publication Date: December, 2016
  • Pages: 296 Price: 49.99 ISBN: 978-1620103609
  • Age Range: Older Teen and up

“The hit comic book series based on Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland’s hilarious [adult swim] animated show RICK & MORTY is now available in its first deluxe hardcover collection! Join the excitement as depraved genius Rick Sanchez embarks on insane adventures with his awkward grandson Morty across the universe and across time. Caught in the crossfire are his teenage granddaughter Summer, his veterinary surgeon daughter Beth, and his hapless son-in-law Jerry. This collection features the first ten issues of the comic book series, including ““The Wubba Lubba Dub Dub of Wall Street,” “Mort-Balls!,” “Ball Fondlers Special,” and more, along with hilarious mini-comics showcasing the whole family. This special hardcover edition also includes an exclusive sound clip of Rick and Morty and all the cover art from the first ten issues of the comic book series!”

Get this for: Ric and Morty fans, of course. Also, those who like to laugh and not take a lot of things too seriously.

BRIEF HISTORIES OF EVERYDAY OBJECTS

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  • Writer / Artist: Andy Warner
  • Publisher: Picador (Imprint of Macmillan)
  • Format: Hardcover Publication Date: October, 2016
  • Pages: 224 Price: 20.00 ISBN: 9781250078650

“Brief Histories of Everyday Objects is a graphic tour through the unusual creation of some of the mundane items that surround us in our daily lives. Chapters are peppered with ballpoint pen riots, cowboy wars, and really bad Victorian practical jokes. Structured around the different locations in our home and daily life—the kitchen, the bathroom, the office, and the grocery store—award-nominated illustrator Andy Warner traces the often surprising and sometimes complex histories behind the items we often take for granted. Readers learn how Velcro was created after a Swiss engineer took his dog for a walk; how a naval engineer invented the Slinky; a German housewife, the coffee filter; and a radical feminist and anti-capitalist, the game Monopoly. This is both a book of histories and a book about histories. It explores how lies become legends, trade routes spring up, and empires rise and fall—all from the perspective of your toothbrush or toilet.”

Get this for: History and obscure trivia lovers. Those who engage in silly small talk. Those who need a new coffee table book. Anyone who likes to laugh and learn.

KLAUS

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  • Writer / Artist: Andy Warner, Dan Mora
  • Publisher: BOOM! Studios
  • Format: Hardcover Publication Date: November, 2016
  • Pages: 208 Price: 34.99 ISBN: 9781608869039

“Who is Santa Claus? Meet the man before he became a myth.He’s a myth. He’s a legend. He’s loved worldwide by children and adults alike . . . but does anyone truly know the origins of Santa Claus? Set in a dark fantastic past of myth and magic, Klaus tells the origin story of Santa Claus. It’s the tale of one man and his wolf against a totalitarian state and the ancient evil that sustains it. Award-winning author Grant Morrison (All-Star Superman, The Multiversity) and artist Dan Mora (Hexed) revamp, reinvent, and re-imagine a classic superhero for the 21st century, drawing on Santa’s roots in Viking lore and Siberian shamanism, and taking in the creepier side of Christmas with characters like the sinister Krampus. Klaus finally answers the burning question: what does Santa Claus do on the other 364 days a year?.”

Get this for: Grant Morrison fans, Santa Claus, Krampus fans, dark humor lovers, those who enjoy a mix of clever writing but not take it too seriously.

TURN LOOSE OUR DEATH RAYS AND KILL THEM ALL!: THE COMPLETE WORKS OF FLETCHER HANKS

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  • Writer / Artist: Fletcher Hanks
  • Publisher: Fantagrahics
  • Format: Hardcover Publication Date: December, 2016
  • Pages: 376 Price: 49.95 ISBN: 978-1606999677

“Fletcher Hanks was the first great comic book auteur: he wrote, penciled, inked, and lettered all of his own stories. He completed approximately 50 stories between 1939-1941, all unified by a unique artistic vision. Whether it’s the superhero Stardust doling out ice cold slabs of poetic justice, or the jungle protectress Fantomah tearing evildoers from limb to ragged limb, contemporary readers are stunned by the pop surrealism and outright violent mayhem of Hanks’ work. Originally featured in two paperback volumes, this deluxe hardcover collects―for the first time―all of Hanks’ previously published material, plus several gems newly discovered for this volume, making this the very first complete collection of the works of Fletcher Hanks. Full-color illustrations throughout.”

Note: Comics history buffs, vintage pulp lovers, classic Golden Age art fans.

THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL BEATS UP THE MARVEL UNIVERSE

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  • Writer / Artist: Ryan North / Erica Henderson
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Format: Hardcover Publication Date: October, 2016
  • Pages: 120 Price: 24.99 ISBN: 978-1302903039

“Proof that we’re living in the best of all possible worlds: THERE’S GONNA BE A SQUIRREL GIRL GRAPHIC NOVEL! It’s a stand-alone adventure that’s both great for new Squirrel Girl readers, and also for people who ALREADY know about how she can talk to squirrels and also punch really well! Behold: a story so HUGE it demanded a graphic novel! A story so NUTS that it incorporates BOTH senses of that word (insanity AND the weird hard fruit thingies) (they’re fruits, did you know that?) (I didn’t until I looked them up just now, so looks like we’re all learning science from this solicit text for a comic book!) Squirrel Girl has defeated Thanos, Galactus, and Doctor Doom. TWICE. But in this all-new graphic novel, she’ll encounter her most dangerous, most powerful, most unbeatable enemy yet: HERSELF. Specifically, an evil duplicate made possible through mad science (both computer and regular) as well as some Bad Decisions. In other words, SQUIRREL GIRL BEATS UP THE MARVEL UNIVERSE! YES. I CAN’T WAIT, AND I’M THE GUY WRITING IT..”

Get this for: Marvel fans, squirrel lovers, Deadpool fans, fun people.

ODY-C: CYCLE 1 HC

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  • Writer / Artist: Matt Fraction / Christian Ward
  • Format: Hardcover Publication Date: December, 2016
  • Pages: 400 Price: 49.99 ISBN: 978-1632159274

“ODY-C, modeled after Homer’s Odyssey, is a psychedelic, gender-broke science-fiction epic that tells the story of three legendary warrior-queens, Odyssia, Ene and Gamem, returning home after a centuries-long battle. Told in verse with a visual sensibility that redefines the very possibilities of the comics medium, this gloriously oversized hardcover also has exclusive bonus materials including essays by classicist Dani Colman, teaching aids, and a massive 10-page fold-out previously only available in the sold-out first issue.”

Note: Science fiction fans, epic story seekers, Greek epic tales connoisseurs, psychedelic art lovers, fans of the 5th Element.

That’s all for now. If you have any added suggestions or notes to add, please share in the comments below!

– Orion T

A Stranger Look at 4 new Young Adult Fiction novels

Young Adult fiction has always been a genre where shift is a constant. Every few years or so, the topic at hand shifts from one to another; from paranormal romance to the dystopian society that every female protagonist had to combat. These trends domineer the market, saturating the shelves with a new popular theme that seems to dictate whatever appears on them, trumping all original ideas and creativity along the way.

A Glance at Today’s Market – 

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Barnes and Noble’s website put out an interesting list; “The Best Young Adult Books of 2016 So Far“, highlighting 14 new promising new novels. I have strong thought on four books listed there…

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And I Darken by Kiersten White

Overview:

This vividly rendered novel reads like HBO’s Game of Thrones . . . if it were set in the Ottoman Empire. Ambitious in scope and intimate in execution, the story’s atmospheric setting is rife with political intrigue, with a deftly plotted narrative driven by fiercely passionate characters and a fearsome heroine. Fans of Victoria Aveyard’s THE RED QUEEN, Kristin Cashore’s GRACELING, and Sabaa Tahir’s AN EMBER IN THE ASHES won’t want to miss this visceral, immersive, and mesmerizing novel, the first in a trilogy. NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets. Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion. But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

Ultimately described as ‘What if Vlad Tepes, the historical inspiration for Dracula, had actually been a fearsome and brilliant teenage girl?’ (Publishers Weekly), the book describes the tale of a woman doomed either to be married to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire or to be executed for her father’s mistakes.  White plays heavily upon the presence of historical figures to highlight a gender-based commentary, geopolitical relations, and a religious conflict through a conversion in this crafted world.

This novel is no different than other typical modern-day young adult books with the usual tropes involved. Among the text, love-triangles and wrongful romances are ever present, even with characters who are described as ‘brutal and ruthless’. It plays into the lack of creativity that more modern novels suffer from; new ideas nowhere to be found. While the concept of rewriting history from a different point of view is no modern concept, it seems exhausted when used in a way where the only big change is the historical figure’s gender; using it as a plot point for romance.  In the end based on description alone, I would not agree with that four-star rating from BN.

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The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Overview: 

As the daughter of a time traveler, Nix has spent sixteen years sweeping across the globe and through the centuries aboard her father’s ship. Modern-day New York City, nineteenth-century Hawaii, other lands seen only in myth and legend—Nix has been to them all. But when her father gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. Rae Carson meets Outlander in this epic debut fantasy. If there is a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place and any time. But now that he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, the year before Nix’s mother died in childbirth—Nix’s life, her entire existence, is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years. Heidi Heilig blends fantasy, history, and a witty modern sensibility into a magical journey that will captivate fans of Sabaa Tahir and Leigh Bardugo.

Just by reading the description alone, I feel that the novel has the potential to be wonderful and interesting. It has a ‘time travel with exceptions’ approach to sci-fi, providing a more intriguing and structured aspect in comparison to free-form free-world travel. Heilig provides a sense of exploration that is non-linear, allowing aspects of the world to change in an instant as they had over time, providing myths, legends, and lore along the way.  Upon reading the description, it appears that the romance between the protagonist and a crew member is pushed to the side; something that is not seen too often in more modern Young Adult literature. In the end, I find that this novel is a step in the right direction when looking at the industry as a whole.

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The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Overview:

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

Premiering as Book IV in the Raven Cycle series, The Raven King tells of a magic-lacking girl living among a house of psychics, giving a life warning to that with her first kiss, death will come to who she loves the most. Leading up to this book in the series, the main character has interacted with three Raven Boys, an honest and fearless Ronan, a self-sacrificing Adam, and a hardworking and studious Gasey, ultimately aiding the protagonist on a dangerous quest. Upon interacting with these boys, the main character begins to question whether or not she actually believes in true love, finding that each holding their own charm and characteristics.

The Raven King is yet another example of young adult fiction playing importance into the romantic aspect of a plot more so than a plot itself. With the world built around it, I feel that there is more that the author could do with it all; highlighting different aspects of the character, her abilities, and struggles along the way through this dangerous quest. A setup does not need to be the defining plot trait of the novel, especially a four-part series. It is not something that I would necessarily read but does fit the love-stricken agenda of an average teen girl.

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Where Futures End by Parker Peevyhouse

The novel approaches itself from six different aspects, holding the viewpoints of six different main characters, describing how the world ended itself. In short, it is described as Cloud Atlas, but for teenagers.

Overview:

Five teens, five futures: Dylan develops a sixth sense that allows him to glimpse another world. Ten years from now, Brixney must get more hits on her social media feed or risk being stuck in a debtors’ colony. Thirty years from now, Epony scrubs her entire online profile from the web and goes “High-Concept.” Sixty years from now, Reef struggles to survive in a city turned virtual game board. And more than one hundred years from now, Quinn uncovers the alarming secret that links them all. These are stories about a world that is destroying itself, and about the alternate world that might be its savior. Unless it’s just the opposite.

To view the world in six different ways, all characters pinning exactly what caused the destruction of the world or society is a rather interesting topic. It gives light to what exactly those characters are like, glimpsing into their thought process and characteristics in a deeper way than speech and actions could. Although I feel that it could be narrowed down for a more personal and in-depth tone to the story, there is nothing inherently bad with looking at many different situations and trying to broadly link them. Peevyhouse provides an intriguing story line, questioning a commonality to a world’s demise and suggesting a backup once it happens.

Thoughts Overall – 

Despite themes from years past still being present in more modern Young Adult fiction, this is not inherently a bad thing. Plots seem to be stepping away from strict tropes and guidelines and exploring ideas and worlds as best they can. In the end, I have hope for the future. While a large majority of novels on the list are not books I would personally read, they touch basis on a much larger audience. They provide the sense of exploration, strength, questions and in the end, answers. Much like novels of years past, the themes are shifting and narratives follow along with it. In a world where no idea is original, I feel that the strides made are effective enough to induce change to the strict “Young Adult” guidelines.

-Katherine A

SW Comics Recommendation: PREZ, Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief

 Prez volume 1

Prez – Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief

  • Writer: Mark Russell
  • Artist: Ben Caldwell , Mark Morales
  • Published by: DC Comics
  • Pages: 161, Publish Date: February 9 2016, Age Rating: 12+
  • Notes: Collects 1-6 of the monthly series started in 2015, and seemingly discontinued. Available in print and DC digital apps

Synopsis:

“America’s first teenaged president is on the job in this contemporary twist on a DC classic! Oregon teen Beth Ross has just been elected President of the United States of America. Age restrictions were abolished when corporations gained the right to run for office and voting booths have been replaced by Twitter, making just about anyone eligible for the nation’s top job, including the viral-video-famous Corndog Girl! Now the eyes of the nation are on Beth. But in a world so out of control that the poor are willing to shoot themselves on TV for a chance at a better life, will even the new president have the power needed to overthrow the nation’s true leaders-Boss Smiley and his corporate shadow government?

Writer Mark Russell (God Is Disappointed in You) teams with artists Ben Caldwell (JUSTICE LEAGUE BEYOND) and Mark Morales (X-Force, Secret Invasion) to revive and reinvent a classic! Collects PREZ #1-6 and SNEAK PEEK: PREZ #1.”

Personal Thoughts (minor spoilers):

There is a lacking of something I from today’s comics storytelling, missing from the overall scope of costumed melodramas, laser guided dystopias, rebirthings, cosmic angst, and the usual civil disagreements. I don’t see much satire, hitting hard on familiar modern issues without pandering to any particular political mindset. I feel a popular mindset upon those who dare try, tend to focus upon the obvious disturbances of dystopia building, whether it’s privacy or the unending reach of the data-mugging social networkings.

But, along comes this new (and I think cancelled too soon) comic series based on an obscure short-lived series from the 1970s, Prez. The new series stands alone with little to do with the original other than the premise of a teenager president. The overall setting nor is a somewhat mix of the present, the coming present, and the far more reaching (yet less far-fetching with the absurdity of today’s headlines) style of the movie Idiocracy.  Prez invokes thought, while holding a fun house mirror to our current American views and changing ways of life. Such thought is not necessarily too serious or overlay pretentious; just brilliant in the execution that brings the reader into a strange new world of border guarding mechs and holographic politicians.

The premise of Prez one would assume is simple for the simple-minded, probably dumbed down it was for a movie, or passed off as a junior reader book. Beth Ross is a sort of victim of chance as her accidental online fame on Twitter, brought upon by a fast food accident. While raising money on a Kickstarterish health care program to her suffering grandfather, she finds more fame through and Anonymous 4-chanish prank to propel her into the Oval Office candidacy. As the title destined, Beth is eventually sworn in as Commander-in-Chief. But with that great power, comes great influence from private interests and sinister forces.

Beth Ross is a bit of conundrum in modern storytelling where the main character is not as prime as we would be lead to believe. Like our real presidents, we ponder just what they can change, with the grip on everything around her and then reaching out to her. Her very appearance is a sort of every-person, with a grasp on her own individuality and natural compassion for family and friends. She treats new problems with her own logic and fairness. It is perhaps through the reader’s sense of what’s wrong with her world and ours, is there a connection to her actions and reactions and if they truly can overcome the overreaching process. We can only wish, for there are some consequential developments in her decisions.

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The self-contained world of Prez is one with lunacy and far-fetching absurdity, or is it? Food delivery drones, health-care driven sickstarters, calculated pop-culture, war-machine driven entertainment, game-show immigration, and faceless industrial heads hidden behind images looking to graft their twisted culture and advert imagery unto us. Such things have elements of familiarity in our world, as all great satire should.

The trade paperback is a nice package of the first six issues, the sneak peek prologue story, and some extra goodies at the end providing a little insight and commentary. The art is well defined, with colors that pop-enough to tell the story. I hope there for a continuation someday, though more doubtful as time passes (sigh). Otherwise, still a worthwhile purchase for the content so far.

– Orion T

SW Comics Reading Review: Cursed Pirate Girl, by Jeremy A. Bastian

 Cursed Pirate Girl

Cursed Pirate Girl

  • Writer: Jeremy Bastian
  • Artist: Jeremy Bastian
  • Published by: Archaia
  • Pages: 120, Publish Date: November 18, 2015, Price: $19.99
  • Notes: New Softcover printing Feb 2016, collects the original three issues by Olympian Publishing in 2008-2009. First collected edition released in hardcover 2012.

Synopsis:

“Adventures on and under the high seas lead a cursed pirate girl to encounter mythic creatures, gnarled and crusty pirates, and ghostly apparitions as she tries to find her lost father, one of the dreaded Pirate Captains of the mythical Omerta Seas. A whimsical swashbuckling tale of wonderland journeys and unimaginable dangers, starting in Port Elisabeth, Jamaica in the year 1728, and quickly heading across—and beneath—the waves. The first three issues of Cursed Pirate Girl are collected in this edition with an all-new epilogue..”

Personal Thoughts (minor spoilers):

Cursed Pirate Girl is a definite treasure one could find at your comic store or retail comics hub, and for keeps on any bookshelf.

It’s a book for almost anyone of any age (9 and up suggested) who loves good adventure in graphic storytelling, with danger above the G rated level. Much of it feels carefree and fun, yet maintains balance in dramatism, intrigue. The premise is simple, as we get to know our young female pirate protagonist and the olden century style world she daring dwells in; everything else is not.

Foremost noticed when opening the book, is the amazing black and white artwork and stylish layouts. There is a distinct style of Jeremy Bastian’s art that draws from the best of the late 19th century comics detail combined with creative panel structures and skillful transitions. Supporting characters and villains are very distinct and memorable in their parts to the overall story, as their appearance commands instant familiarity and exposition. The overall environment and situations are exquisitely detailed, for which for being black and white feels as rich a colorful Disney classic. Here is a sample..

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For a mere three chapters and an epilogue, the book gives the readers plenty to amuse on for the story as well as the art. The main character is fantastic as the protagonist as she lives her own best fantasy. She is the Cursed Pirate Girl, in search of her father whose deep motivation in pirating comes from his apparent spirit, though there is more to that. The world around her is dangerous yet beautiful, especially when delving into the mysterious depths of her adventure. There are personal conflicts and external happenings that coincide, where her lifestyle is the best entertainment for those seeking high seas excitement. You’ll find fantastic villains and interesting companions, who border upon the stereotypical roles (parrots, aristocrats, monstrous fathoms, pirates) yet give off more in detail elements and elaborate story exposition.

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There is much else to love about the book, especially the freeform lettering that is as playful as the story itself. Many of the panels pack with astounding details in historical architectural and nautical visuals details. Overall, the presentation does not make for a quick read as the readers must take time to admire the details to fully appreciate. The result is a cool fairy tale with little to bear on actual pirate history, as the lifestyle aspects draw from the fantastical glamorous interpretations ranging from Captain Singleton to Captain Jack Sparrow. Jeremy Bastian then adds much of his own imaginative spin, probably influenced from his own travels and literary tastes.

The new softcover edition s the latest release, reprinting the original three issues and much more. The binding is a sturdier than normal glossy shell, with the higher quality one finds from the Archaia brand of deluxe volumes and graphic novels. The price is a worthwhile $19.99, a grand deal for the treasure within.

– Orion T, captain of the Stranger Worlds exploratory vessel and comic book/storytelling enthusiast. Loved a good comic book read to go with his milk and cookies. 

Comic Reading Review: Paper Girls #5

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Paper Girls (#5)

  • Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
  • Artist: Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson
  • Colorist: Matt Wilson
  • Published by: Image
  • Pages: 36, Publish Date: Feb 3, 2016, Price: $2.99
  • Notes: Monthly series

Synopsis:

“END OF STORY ARC! The first arc of the smash-hit ongoing series concludes with major revelations and another game-changing cliffhanger.”

Personal Thoughts (minor spoilers):

Back to Stony Stream, and beyond!

So goes the 5th issue, where things continue to pick up with more of the unusual weirdness. The time travel angle seems further developed with more explained, or not (trust no one?). Those scruddy “teenagers” are apparently a scavenger sort, storing junk in their “Whenhouse.” Also collecting, is Grandfather, with his collection of local residents. What could all that mean?

Heck if I know, but I do sense a sort of order versus disorder theme at work. We have more plot with a little less character development, of which can be a good thing when not in access. Our gals are just in the middle for now of this conflict, of which us readers remain uncertain of its grandness. To what extant will the current plot proceed beyond Sony Stream? I suppose we must read on with patience, with trust in our awesome creative team.

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Meanwhile for this issue, we have some bright, driven moments for our protagonists. Tiffany shows badassery with her sudden assertiveness to not let this grander game control her, a nice reflection to her recent Arkanoid flashback. Erin seems underfreaked out by the sight of weird tiny machines on her belly. Mac is still vary dangerous, by accident. Their reactions overall are still priceless, as we readers can share in them.

The art is again brilliant, but I notice a shift in tone. There is a later nighttime feel, with deep filters and thicker edges at play here, a sort of moonlit approach I enjoy more as the series progresses. I also feel there is lesser minimalism noticed, as technology and settings seem to taker a grander role in the storytelling than initially expected. Placement of the character is also important, with the proximity with danger also plays off well in establishing the continuous mood of the story. I feel that especially with any shot involving the giant dino-bird thing.

The lettering style is also growing on me, feels very special to the series. We see more of those otherworldly language text of which I am well aware of the  uncovered fan translations, elsewhere online. While interesting to know, I prefer my ignorance of unknowing until later; perhaps in a reread in later years. I pull myself to keep the perspective of our protagonists, and take guesses about the what’s being said by the strange visitors.

This issue ends the first story arc, with many answers leading to more questions. We have a curious end, though very clichéd in many time travel stories I have read. But, I do love good time travel stories, which is the bonus cherry to this dessert of a series. To where the series goes from here, could be any direction. This is a good thing, as each new delivery is worth picking up.

– Orion T

 

SW Comics Reading Rec : Mother Russia by Jeff McComsey

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Mother Russia

  • Writer: Jeff McComsey
  • Artist: Jeff McComsey
  • Published by: FUBAR Press (Alterna Comics)
  • Pages: 120, Publish Date: November 18, 2015, Price: $2.99
  • Notes: Collects 1-4 of the monthly series. Available in print and digital. For more info, visit alternacomics.com or ask your friendly neighborhood comic store for the print version.

Synopsis:

“Stalingrad, 1943. In the middle of a zombie apocalypse, a Soviet sniper risks her life to protect something she hasn’t seen in a long time: a perfectly healthy two-year-old baby boy.”

Personal Thoughts (minor spoilers):

I enjoy a fresh take on the zombie apocalypse genre. Our flesh-eating virus bringing carriers of undead fifth brings I feel can never be explored enough in modern horror literature.

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Also, zombies are intriguing when used as a metaphor for the various ills of our modern world. I see a degrading of humanity within zombies, till there is nothing but walking shells with strange animalistic urges. They hunger for a basic need to feed upon the living, to drag down all hopes for civilization in doing so. If not stopped, they eventually become absolute. Zombies I feel are, a violent interpretation of the worse of us from within.

As a child, I felt similar about the Nazi advance throughout Europe and the surrounding areas during the early years of World War II. The Axis spread, seemingly unstoppable in their lust to conquer and bring death, destruction along the way. Their ways were like an infection, bringing mass casualties in war especially to the Soviets, said anywhere from 7 to 43 million. For better use in horror and science fiction entertainment, Nazi’s are often picked as the perfect vessels for the undead. The terror of what they brought to the Soviet Union during World War II bought my interest to Jeff McComsey’s Mother Russia.

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Yet in this short series, we have the zombie plague taking over, but still an army joined together from the casualties of both sides. We have a heroic stand against them by a single female sniper isolated in a tower, Svetlana Gorshkov. She has little idea of how extent the virus spread, though she understands humanity is losing to the inhumanity. She cares little for hope that all will be well, just that she survives long enough to find out. Along the way, she finds a few companions (a child, a dog, a soldier) who carry on that will to survive; as she looks to protect them as well.

What follows is the best of humanity, standing against the hordes of the undead. I feel though this is science fiction, I can imagine to those who lived in the war-torn areas of the time (and similar places now), to see no end to the madness. To stand alone and be a sort of beacon of light to anyone not quite given up, is what I gathered in this series. We learn a lot about our heroine as well, as she once lived a simple life. Later, she befriends and finds common ground with a former enemy, as they both look to survive and palso protect a lost child.

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Within and throughout, are interesting sub-plots within stories. The focus is on what’s left, and worthwhile from the perspective of a child, the protective actions of a loyal pet, the kindness of good strangers, and the will to survive in a bleak setting. However, not too much talk as there is a demand for action throughout. The sequences of danger and zombie blood-letting are immense and plentiful. To mix such humanity of the characters throughout in such a gritty and terrible world is a mix that we see often in modern fiction, though not always done well. Mother Russia delivers in both, on a highly enjoyable level.

The art is great, and delivered to perfection in its black and white form. The mood of its time feels like something out a black and white cartoon or movie of its time. The greys and dull tones give the feeling of gloom and ever-present threat. Our expressionist faces in the survivors bring a sense of joy, life to the dreariness. There is exquisite detail in the surroundings of the war-torn areas, especially with the weapons and machines used. The zombies are not as much detailed, almost as messy and disjointed in every way, a perfect presentation to the disorder they bring.

Overall, Mother Russia is a worthwhile read for those who look for something more in their zombie horror, and for those who love good war stories as well. Pick us this up digital or in print, for it is also cheap but worth all the pennies needed and more.

– Orion T

Comic Reading Review: Paper Girls #4

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Paper Girls (#4)

  • Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
  • Artist: Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson
  • Colorist: Matt Wilson
  • Published by: Image
  • Pages: 36, Publish Date: December 2, 2015, Price: $2.99
  • Notes: Monthly series

Synopsis:

“What lurks beneath the streets of Stony Stream?”

Personal Thoughts (minor spoilers):

In this month’s local top story, time travel maybe. New reveals lead to some explanation into current happenings in this strange colorful world of our Paper Girls. Can some waking elderly man (and Public Enemy fan?!) have some foundation into these otherworldly happenings? Also more thrills, drama, action!

The fourth issue in many fresh comics series often reveals a serious unfolding of a bigger picture. Though for Paper Girls, its more of an unraveling to that of the Fruit Roll-ups with peeling shapes; to which I enjoyed in my pre-teen daze. There was that sweet purpose of it all, to consume the rewarding sweetness while finding embedded shapes within (some to my imagination) with each unroll. I had something more than initially desired, to which my satisfaction expanded. Or in this case, a comic book story revealing a bit more with each page turn.

We have new creatures, new concepts, new characters mixed in with the somewhat familiar by now. We got the new fleshing out of the two factions of visitors running about, something a bit more to their mannerisms, language and purposes though much is still left to mystery. We have new dangers, including a strange technological tentacle terror (the Editrix) within the deep.

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The giant bird creatures have grown on me quite, with their long beaks, necks; strong but not dangerous. In the picture below, we have these interesting dangers brought to us I think best represented by the giant dinolike bird, yet a tiny man-made bullet that brought on the unmoored fate of poor Alistar.

With the characters and creatures, we discover with them; especially the “teenagers” and their sensible explanation of time travel consequences. An understanding between two groups is intelligent, though still showing distance. Mac’s reaction is perfect for the sudden revelation to one male having a “boyfriend.” To which certain feelings are still a cultural norm of many today, I think the “effed up time” is referring to our modern times, still prevalent today…yet misplaced which we as a society are still growing. Mac’s youth and reaction (along with her friend’s counter reaction) I feel reflects that. This brings to mind and question, to how far ahead are our visitors and to what degree would we matter in our ever-evolving ways of thought.

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In that, we should be careful, and not completely trusting or easily lead by new supporting characters. Paper Girls has a somewhat new lesson veering off the trouble with snooping and gun safety. They are gullible in following strange strangers into the sewers and woods, to which in saving their friend. The end results proof such, though there could be come misunderstandings as well (will see). I can imagine this throwing back in the day of cartoon public service-announcements (prevalent in the time of our paper Girls). I can see KJ suddenly interrupting a possible abduction lure to a walking child from a passing stranger holding candy. Through a brief explanation of consequences we learn once again that “knowing is half the battle!”

But then again, perhaps no choice but to trust. But there is a laughable degree to which I can’t take this world of Paper Girls too seriously. that’s a good thing.

Meanwhile, we don’t get as much in major character development (more like reinforcement). That’s okay, as we need a little time to take back and breathe in the crazy developments. However, I loved the moment where Tiffany lives through a mundane “hell” as she relived her past in wasting her time away playing an Arkanoid style game. I would fondly welcome any chance to relive my first experience playing Blaster Master or the first Legend of Zelda on the old Nintendo system, both wasting in time but with no regrets.

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That whole sequence, is a fantastic showcase of sequential art. The colors, screen, intensity of colors, angles, all work fantastic together in a moment suitable for framing. I loved every panel of that, and can almost hear the beeps.

That art as usual, continues to present the best sugar to this overall treat. Not much more said, than already in past issues without continuing to feel like I’m gushing too much. As long as the great work is kept up by Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson, than I shall stick around.

So, I enjoyed my sweet fruit roll-up reading of this Paper Girls #4. I look forward to the next issue, and the peelings apart within.

– Orion T

 

Comic Reading Review: Paper Girls #3

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Paper Girls (#3)

  • Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
  • Artist: Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson
  • Colorist: Matt Wilson
  • Published by: Image
  • Pages: 36, Publish Date: December 2, 2015, Price: $2.99
  • Notes: Monthly series

Synopsis:

“The ongoing mystery series from BRIAN K. VAUGHAN & CLIFF CHIANG charges ahead, as the girls have a close encounter with an unexpected visitor.”

Personal Thoughts (minor spoilers):

Paper Girls delivers again!!

Open and there is more craziness to this stranger world for our hapless heroines. I see this weird unique aura to this latest issue, where I can feel to what Paper Girls might be moving towards; unpredictable fun. It’s not the horror, fantasy, or science fiction, but the sort meshing of all with drama and humor. Brian K. Vaughan does that well with his written work, without straying the reader too far away into pretentious nonsense. And, he has fun with it all…

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First, we open withTerry and Gabs, of who I assume are minor characters in the opening of this issue. Typical teenagers, though a bit more real life to how I relate to ideas of fantastic danger somehow uniting young couples together. That’s great for the 50s, 60s, 70s of campy storytelling but shit gets ridiculous in the 80s. I can sympathize with the otherworldly knight dude riding the dino-bird thing.

“Scruddy teenagers..”

Though his action was a bit uncalled for. By that, assuming they are dead..or perhaps teleported. Will see. Anything is possible in a comic book.

Also, guns are really bad in this world of Paper Girls. Erin was nearly fatally shot in a struggle for a gun between Mac and her step-mom. There exists a possibility I think, for a main character to die this early. Would the writer dare? Turning the pages later on, I might have been right. We have a badass, standing in front of a car daring to accelerate the story plot in a different direction. But then, a headshot happens and we have one less adult who can make a difference. Oddly enough, it’s more scruddy “teenagers” at fault.

Anyway, Erin has a cool weird dream with Cold War symbolism, Charlie Brown’s Christmas, and…Ronald Reagan?

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Back to the overall plot; to what I first thought was aliens, or the future, or perhaps some netherworld occult weirdness. I’m leaning towards dimensional portals now.

That all being said, the art is awesome again. I hope to meet Vaughan someday, and ask him on choice of artists and colorist in his work. Everything I come across by his writing has a special style combo. I can’t put my finger on it, as I will perhaps ponder the process of grouping a comics team in the future. That’s all I have to say on the art for now. More in-depth for another day.

Overall, another great issue giving you more for $2.99, and more than most $3.99 books flooding the comic store shelves. Not that I mind paying $3.99 for an issue of Paper Girls, but I just like feeling I have enough left over for a vended can of root beer after paying the $2.99. Root beer goes well with this.

– Orion T

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Hardcover Comics Volumes and Graphic Novels Holiday Gift Ideas..

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I got some gift suggestions for this holiday season, with something for everyone out there..

Below, are my hardcover comic book volume and graphic novel suggestions, (away from the superhero genre). Why such things for gifts? Because, the hardcover format gives a lasting quality for those who like their books on a shelf, and adds a bit of deserving specialness to it. The sequential art form within can hold deeper, longer lasting appreciation to those holding a hardbound shell. That’s how I see it, as I find myself bound to the hardcovers in my collection.

So, these picks below are hand-picked favorites by me (Orion!), having read and enjoyed each one. Each pick is likely available through local comic and retail book stores. Ordering online is good too, but part of the fun for the holidays is visiting local shops and checking out the holiday deco around. So, print or write these out, and don’t forget the wrapping paper!

Sweet Tooth – Deluxe Edition – Book One

Sweet_Tooth_Deluxe_Edition_Book_One

  • Writer/Artist: Jeff Lemire
  • Publisher: Vertigo (DC Comics imprint)
  • Hardcover Publication Date: Sept 8, 2015
  • Pages: 296 Price: 29.99 ISBN: 978-1401258719
  • Contains violent and mature content

“Kids like Gus have a price on their heads. Seven years ago, the Affliction raged like a forest fire, killing billions. The only children born since are part of a new breed of human-animal hybrids. Gus is one of these children, a boy with a sweet soul, a sweeter tooth-and the features of a deer. When vicious hunters descend on his isolated forest home, a mysterious and violent man called Jepperd rescues Gus. The hulking drifter promises to lead Gus to The Preserve, a fabled safe haven for hybrid children. As the two cross this dangerous new American frontier, will Jepperd corrupt the boy he’s nicknamed Sweet Tooth, or will Gus’s heart change Jepperd?  Written and illustrated by spectacular talent Jeff Lemire, SWEET TOOTH is a haunting tale of survival in post-apocalyptic America of friendships formed in tragedy, and the good and bad in humankind. Collects SWEET TOOTH #1-12, as well as never-before-seen sketches and an introduction by celebrated actor Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex, Frost/Nixon)..

Note: For anyone who loves a good hero’s journey through difficult times, with some fantastic twists and character development along the way. It’s got the right blend of humor, action, drama in post-apocalyptic storytelling.

Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland HC

Little Nemo

  • Writer: Eric Shanower
  • Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
  • Publisher: IDW, HC Publication Date: July 23, 2015
  • Pages: 120, Price: 19.95, ISBN: 978-1631400599

“An all-new, all-ages series full of magic and whimsy from award-winning creators Eric Shanower (Adventures in Oz) and Gabriel Rodriguez (Locke & Key)! Spinning out of Winsor McKay’s brilliant early 20th Century strip, Return to Slumberland sees King Morpheus’ daughter, in the Royal Palace of Slumberland, selecting her next-playmate – Nemo! Only Nemo has no interest in being anyone’s playmate, dream or no dream! Winner of the 2015 Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.. “

Note: A magical blend of breathtaking art and storytelling; for anyone who enjoys a fresh fairy-telling with all the magic of the original Windsor McCay strips. This book is a true imaginative escape, for all ages.

The Kurdles

Kurdles

  • Writer/Artist: Archie Goodin
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics, HC Publication Date: May 1, 2015
  • Pages: 60 Price: 24.95, ISBN: 978-1606998328

“Sally is a teddy bear who gets separated from her owner while on a drive in the country. Desperate to find her way home, she stumbles upon Kurdleton, home to a most peculiar group of characters in the midst of a crisis: their forest house has grown hair, eyes, and a mouth! The creatures work with their new friend to keep Kurdleton from growing legs and running away! Goodin, an animation industry veteran, delivers a timeless classic in his debut graphic novel, introducing an unforgettable and charming cast of characters. Printed in an oversized format to showcase Goodin’s stunning, hand-painted artwork, The Kurdles will capture the imagination of all ages.

Note: A warm story for all ages, and a good starter for the those discovering comics for the first time (and not so much interested in the superhero stuff out there).

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Minicomic Collection HC

MOTU

  • Writer/Artist: various
  • Publisher: Dark Horse, HC Publication Date: October 21, 2015
  • Pages: 1,232 Price: 29.95, ISBN:978-1616558772

“The toy juggernaut Masters of the Universe and its subsequent action figure lines featured memorable pack-in minicomics that aided in playtime for children across the world. This oversized hardcover collection features sixty-eight US releases, including all minicomics from the eighties Masters of the Universe line, the eighties Princess of Power line, and the eighties and nineties He-Man line, plus an introduction to the minicomics in the current Masters of the Universe Classics toy line. Relive the illustrated adventures that fueled your imagination!

Note: Ridiculous fun on some many levels, as these reprinted comic stories originally came with the toys (with pushes to buy other relayed MOTU toys). Many comic artists and writers had their early start with these in the early 1980s – Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead), Bruce Timm (Batman), Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5), Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo), and many more. Plus, it’s packed with interviews and other surprises. Overall, a gem for 80s nostalgia lovers, fantasy art seekers, and MOTU fans.

Locke & Key – Master Edition – Volume 1

Locke And Key

  • Writer: Joe Hill
  • Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez
  • Publisher: IDW, HC Publication Date: June 4, 2015
  • Pages:  328, Price: 49.99, ISBN: 978-1631402241
  • Contains mature and violent content

“Acclaimed suspense novelist and New York Times best-selling author Joe Hill (Heart-Shaped Box) creates an all-new story of dark fantasy and wonder: Locke & Key. Written by Hill and featuring astounding artwork from Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them… and home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all… Locke & Key creator Hill has received the Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection, the British Fantasy Award for Best Collection and Best Short Story, and the Sydney J. Bounds Best Newcomer Award-2007, among his growing collection of critical accolades.”

“Named a “modern masterpiece” by The A.V. Club, the critically acclaimed series takes on new life in a reformatted hardcover collection. The Locke & Key Master Edition, Vol. 1 features the first two arcs, “Welcome to Lovecraft” and “Headgames,” with all-new cover art and design by co-creator Gabriel Rodriguez. “

Note: My favorite comic horror story epics of all times. This is my favorite edition of the series for its cool cover design and book-shelf friendly spine. A fantastic comic story that takes you about a third of the way in, and leave you wanting more. Highly recommended for anyone who loves classic Stephen king stories, character building, and plot twists.

Wayward -Deluxe Edition- Book One

Waywad vol 1

  • Writer: Jim Zub
  • Artist: Steve Cummings, Tamra Bonvillian, John Rauch
  • Publisher: Image Comics. HC Publication Date: October 14, 2015
  • Pages: 300, Price: 39.95 ISBN: 978-1632154736

“Rori Lane is trying to start a new life in Japan, but ancient creatures lurking in the shadows of Tokyo sense something hidden deep within her, threatening everything she holds dear. Can she unlock the secrets of her power before it’s too late? Image Comics’s new supernatural sensation gets the deluxe treatment in this oversized hardcover collection that includes every stunning cover illustration, design sketches, and extensive essay material on Japanese culture and mythology by noted monster scholar ZACK DAVISSON. Collects WAYWARD #1-10.

Note: Fantastic for those who love a little modern Japanese supernatural horror, combined with Japanese mythology. The art is beautiful, especially for those who appreciate modern digital coloring style. Story is great too, but enhanced further with the many extras within this edition.

Archie vs. Predator – HC editon

Archie Predator

  • Writer: Alex De Campi
  • Artist: Fernando Ruiz
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics, HC Publication Date: November 4, 2015
  • Pages: 128, Price: 19.95, ISBN: 978-1-616558055
  • Contains violent content

“When Archie and friends head south for Spring Break, party games and beach games are soon replaced by the Most Dangerous Game! As the unparalleled fierceness of Betty and Veronica lures the trophy-collecting Predator to Riverdale, will the kids even realize they’re in danger before it claims them all?! Collecting issues #1-#4 of the smash-hit series!”

Note: This one is pure fun with  all that one could love about the Riverdale case, combined with the over-the-top violent actions of the Predator. This is highly recommended for those with a sense of humor, and old-school slasher flicks.

Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck, The Last of the Clan McDuck – The Don Rosa Library Volume 4

ROSA-vol4-COVER_FINAL

  • Writer/Artist: Don Rosa
  • Publisher: Fantagraphics, HC Publication Date: Dec  2015
  • Pages: 192,  Price: 29.99, ISBN: 978-1-606998663

“Uncle Scrooge, the world’s richest duck, knows exactly where he got every coin he ever earned. And in this fourth book of Duck epics by Don Rosa, that story begins to unfold at last! Relive Scrooge’s Scottish boyhood as “Last of the Clan McDuck,” then his teenage years as “Master of the Mississippi” on Uncle Pothole’s steamboat! Witness Scrooge’s first fights with the Beagle Boys and Flintheart Glomgold — and in a bonus “Chapter 0,” his earliest meeting with Magica De Spell! Presented with brilliant color and a treasure trove of Rosa’s cover art and behind-the-scenes factoids, these Duckburg epics are back in a definitive, comprehensive edition for posterity — at a bargain price worthy of Scrooge himself!”

Note: Why Volume 4? Because, this reprints the early half of the greatest Duck story of all, “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck.” Currently out of print as a standalone story, this story is now available through the Don Rosa Library (probably through volume 5, and maybe six). A sky-high recommendation for anyone who appreciates gripping art and storytelling, with solid character development on our iconic richest duck

Saga – Deluxe Edition – Book One

Saga

  • Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
  • Artist: Fiona Staples
  • Publisher: Image, HC Publication Date: November 24, 2015
  • Pages: 504,  Price: 49.99, ISBN: 978-1632150783
  • Contains mature content, graphic imagery depicting sex and violence.

“Collecting the first 18 issues of the smash-hit series, this massive edition features a striking new cover, as well as special extras, including never-before-seen sketches, script pages, and a roundtable discussion with the creators about how SAGA is really made. Altogether, this hardcover contains over 500 pages for less than fifty bucks! Written by Eisner Award-winning “Best Writer” BRIAN K. VAUGHAN (Y: The Last Man, The Private Eye) and drawn by Harvey Award-winning “Best Artist” Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), SAGA is the story of Hazel, a child born to star-crossed parents from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war. Now, Hazel’s fugitive family must risk everything to find a peaceful future in a harsh universe that values destruction over creation. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in a sexy, subversive drama for adults that Entertainment Weekly called, “The kind of comic you get when truly talented superstar creators are given the freedom to produce their dream book. 

Note: My personal favorite ongoing comic series now ongoing. I can’t recommend this enough to those wanting everything in their sci-fi, fantasy stories…action, humor, philosophy, conflict big and small, challenging ideas, concepts and landscapes that open the imagination, character development, an involving cast..the list goes on. This deluxe edition will give new readers plenty to jump on, and sturdy enough to reread as I have multiple times.

That’s all for now. I may come back with a second helping of suggestions who also waiting till the last-minute. in the meantime, if you have any added suggestions or notes to add, please share in the comments below!

– Orion T