Comic Reading Recommendation: Extremity Vol. 1: Artist

Extremity Vol. 1: Artist

  • Writer, Artist: Daniel Warren Johnson
  • Colorist: Mike Spicer
  • Published by: Image Comics  Publish Date: September 6, 2017
  • Notes: Softcover format. Collects the original monthly issues of  #1-6.

Synopsis:

“Thea dreams. Not of a better life, but of revenge on the clan that ruined her family. With ferocious battles between man, machines, and monsters ahead…who knows where her quest for vengeance will take her? Creator DANIEL WARREN JOHNSON (Space Mullet) and colorist MIKE SPICER present a bold new vision, where the beauty and imagination of Studio Ghibli meet the intensity of Mad Max, in this all-new Skybound Original. Collects EXTREMITY #1-6”

Personal Review:

Extremity is an interesting series for those seeking something different in their post-apocalyptic style hybrid of fantasy and science fiction.  But more so, Extremity is an interesting journey of a family forever changed by oppression and violent conflict.

This first volume focuses on the story of a father (Jerome) and his two offspring (Rollo and Thea), living in a strange world of floating lands, odd technology and beasts. Their livesa changed, after losing the mother’s life and home to a rival tribe. The family is affected greatly by this cruelty, and we see the changes and developments in character. The father takes his surviving children in a new direction, pushing them forward as soldiers, encouraging ruthlessness with no mercy for the enemy. The two children react differently, leading to some surprising twists and interesting character developments.

The overall world-building is awesome, with some interesting ideas on technology, environment, and creatures. It’s a lot like Star Wars but set in a strange world. The character designs are a mix of cyberpunk, tribal and feudal era Japan, with some emphasis on badass styles borrowed from each. The action sequences bring out bigger panels, with some moments taking on an epic grandeur with much detail and clever angle of a cinematic approach to this epic family journey. The smaller character developments have excellent pacing with tearful moments, and changes that feel perfectly timed, not forced.

I also really enjoy the style inking and coloring of Extremity, providing the right kind of balance in the atmosphere that feels hard-edged, but not too gritty in the presentation. With the stylish art and strange concepts, this feels like a great adventure for those who enjoy ridiculous over-the-top visuals, yet developed enough in character direction to feel more involved on that the visuals are featuring. Also, big cheers to the sound effects used…

The first volume feels like the first act of a long epic drama, where we get to know the players and setting. Each chapter takes a good time with its pacing while hitting the eyes with hard-hitting action sequences. There are moments with heavy and graphic violence,  though presented to show brutality and seriousness of some very dark situations. the reactions of each, are the big payoff, towards what makes Extremity riveting.

If you enjoy older school fantasy western animated classics like Naussica: Valley of the Wind, Heavy Metal, Trigun, or the Max Max: Fury Road movie, check out Extremity. If you want something new and inventive that leads on character development, also check out Extremity: Volume 1. This read gives the right combination of storytelling, creative setting, and the excitement of a changing world where rules matter less. After finishing volume 1, you will likely find yourself wanting more.

Comic Reading Recommendation: The Flintstones: Volume 1

The Flintstones: Volume 1

  • Writer: Mark Russell Artist: Steve Pugh
  • Published by: DC Comics     Publish Date: March 28, 2017
  • Notes: Collects the original monthly issues of The Flintstones mini-series #1-6.

Synopsis:

“Fred and Barney reunite for Mark Russell’s modern take on Hanna-Barbera’s most famous stone-age family! This new series starring the first family of Bedrock (and civilization, really) tells the story of who we are and why we do what we do as if it all began with Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty, and the rest of the citizens of Bedrock. Shining a light on humanity’s ancient customs and institutions in a funny origin story of human civilization, Mark Russell (PREZ) blends modern interpretations with Hanna-Barbera’s classic character’s, bringing a breath of fresh stone-age air.”

Personal Review:

The Flintstones, as well as other Hanna-Barbera properties that aren’t Scooby-Doo, are one of many properties to fall into nostalgic obscurity, almost at a love-it or hate-it caliber. Personally, I’m closer to the negative end of the spectrum – simply remembering the show as a Honeymooners knock-off with rock puns. I was skeptical of Mark Russell’s reprisal, but quickly found myself pleasantly surprised.

Despite its stone-age setting, Flintstones is a raucous parody of modern culture: from religion to capitalism, nothing is safe. Additionally, key parts of the original reference material are revived with considerable weight and significance. Nothing breaks your heart more to learn that Fred’s iconic “Yabba-dabba-doo” was really a silly phrase taught in his veteran’s therapy group as something to say when things are just too hard to handle. Even the furniture – known to readers as Vacuum Cleaner and Bowling Ball – have an arc that could easily bring a tear to the reader’s eye.

The artwork is consistently vibrant and playful despite dreary topics. Additionally, there are plenty of hidden jokes and references scattered throughout the pages – a veritable Where’s Waldo of rock puns. (Much like the show, but less obnoxious.) On the other hand, I felt that Steve Pugh’s art style isn’t entirely all that definable; it does the job, but fails to pop.     

The largest issue with the series is, well, why The Flintstones? With the amount of liberties at hand, it’s hardly comparable to the source material, apart from sharing character names and basic relationships. Arguably, the intent could be a warning towards how history repeats itself: people then were dealing with what we’re dealing with now, just a little differently. A warning wrapped in a cuddly blanket of nostalgia and familiarity. This being said, is it a story of listless futility or of hope in the human condition? From the heartfelt family dynamic, I lean towards the latter.   

Banned and Challenged Comics Worth Reading

Banned Book Week

Banned Books Week is now, September 27 – October 3, 2015.

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 arts 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 make sure creative writings that may offend or bother select groups, are not hidden for that purpose. Within great comic selections, there are excellent readings not to be missed.

Below are my suggestions and notes for popular banned and challenged (in certain areas and 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.

Saga

Saga

  • Written/ Artist: Brain K Vaughan,  Fiona Staples
  • Publisher: Image Comics, 2012
  • Notes: 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 for age group ” Also, one monthly chapter of Saga was once removed by Apple for it’s 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

  • Written/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

  • Written/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

  • Written/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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  • Written/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 lot of dark humor in his writing, but with fantastic character development (other works including Preacher, Punisher, Hitman). The Boys is among his best creative work, though not as popular as his Preacher..but should be.

Perseopolis:

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  • Written/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  as Marjane Sartrapi’s memoir.

Sidescrollers:

SideScrollers

  • Written/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 videogame 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

  • Written/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.

Not personally read, but I have seen this book often on suggested lists for reading.

Blankets

Blankets

  • Written/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 do 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

  • Written/Artist:  Alan Moore, Kevin O’Neill
  • Publisher: DC Comics, 2008
  • Note: 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 on classic characters and events. While there is nudity and sexual references, I feel it is especially important that any profound interpretation on 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 have added at least a few of these to your reading list. If you checked out any of these banned books and have thoughts to share, or have suggestions of your own..let us know in the comments.

-Orion T