Tag Archives: graphic novel

Persepolis

This is a book that I have been meaning to buy for a long, long time. I’m a pretty big fan of graphic novels in most genres, but I really enjoy the perspective that you get from non-fiction graphic novel and this one is meant to be one of the best. I finally picked up a copy with a gift card I got for my birthday this year.

20180717_1750281992468571.jpg

“Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi is a graphic autobiography about Marji’s experiences growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution. Marji’s parents, politically active and reasonably well-to-do, protest tirelessly against the regime of the last Iranian monarch, the Shah. However, when fundamentalists seize power, Marji’s family publicly acquiesce to the new and frequently changing laws while they watch friends and family around them suffer under the brutal new regime. Living an educated and liberal life at home, but forced to wear a veil and be submissive in public, Marji starts to chafe against the double life she lives. Her parents decide to send her overseas to live and continue her education in Austria. However, when she arrives, Marji’s expectations and the reality of a new country and culture seem worlds apart.

This is a fascinating take on a part of recent history that before reading this, I knew nothing about. The black and white artwork is very understated which allows the dialogue and the narration to take the forefront of the story. However, Satrapi’s creativity really shines through when young Marji is imagining the things that she doesn’t always see herself but hears about from her family, the news and her friends. I thought another particular strength was the way that Satrapi depicted Marji’s deteriorating mental and physical health during here time in Austria, and the overwhelming challenges of navigating another country as a teenager with no support.

I think probably the only thing that was a bit challenging as a reader of this book is that unlike most graphic novels, this one takes much longer to read. Part of that is the complex and heavy subject matter, but part of it is that the subtly of the artwork is quite demanding and the images are a bit hard to distinguish between sometimes. This means that it takes a lot of concentration to interpret what is going on in each page.

This is a challenging but incredibly important graphic novel, and if you would like to learn more about the diverse history of Iran, this is a really great place to begin.

3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, Non Fiction

Black

I supported this graphic novel on Kickstarter. The original campaign ran in early 2016, but like a lot of Kickstarter fundraisers, it took about two years for my copy of the book to actually arrive. I can’t remember where exactly I came across the The authors had been sending me digital versions of chapters via email as they were completed over the time, but I decided to wait until I had the entire paper volume in my hot little hands before I read the story.

20180512_164434-1598206649.jpg

“Black” by Kwanza Osajyefo and Tim Smith 3 is a graphic novel about a world where superpowers exist: it’s just that the only people who have them are black. Kareem is walking home with friends after playing some basketball when they are shot dead by police who recklessly mistake them for somebody else. When Kareem comes back to life in the ambulance, he breaks out to run for his life. Little does he know that the police are not the only ones after him and healing factor is just the beginning of his powers.

This is a very fast-paced story with a complex plot. Aside from the cover and the chapter title pages, the entire graphic novel is in black and white. The art is both striking and consistent with the superhero genre, and effectively captures the diversity of the cast of characters. Kareem is a particularly interesting character who is determined to find his own morals in a new world that tries to convince him everything is black and white. I think there are some great messages in this story and that brings really important social issues into a popular but perhaps underutilised genre.

I think that there were only two things that I found a bit challenging about this book. While I completely appreciate the significance of the use of a monochrome palette, the lack of colour did make the different superpowers a bit unclear – especially in the action scenes. This story also does feel like it is quite rushed. Not rushed in the sense of quality, but rushed in the sense of the reader is not really given a lot of time to process information and meet new characters. I actually think that the contents of this story could have been stretched out over a few volumes rather than squeezed into the one volume, and it would have given a bit more space to explore some of the great characters and themes that were introduced.

Nevertheless, this is a fun and hard-hitting graphic novel that I was so glad to finally get in my mailbox. I’m looking forward to seeing what the authors come up with next.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Saga Volume 8

I’ve been reading the “Saga” series for some time now, and have been reviewing them as they come out on this blog. If you’re not up to date, you might want to go back a step or two so you aren’t dealing with spoilers.

20180203_2027201365037060.jpg

“Saga Volume 8” by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples picks up where the previous volume of the graphic novel series left off. Hazel’s mother Alana, who is pregnant with a second forbidden mixed-race baby that has died in utero, visits a town on a remote planet called Abortion Town with Prince Robot IV pretending that the child is theirs. When they are refused entry, Alana and Marko have to put their faith in the “doctor” in the Badlands who may be able to help.

I’ve said in previous reviews that I’ve been enjoying these comics a bit less, and I think part of the problem is that each one has a lot of hard-hitting social issues that are tackled but there isn’t a lot of overarching narrative. I felt like this one tackled the tricky issues of abortion and transgender identity in an interesting way. As always, the animal side-kicks are on point. However, it’s really hard to see where this is going. Are we just going to be following Hazel’s entire childhood, or are we going to actually get to Hazel as an adult? Is this a comment on the broader socio-political issues of Alana and Marko’s respective planets?

Am I enjoying this as much as I did at the beginning? No, honestly, I’m not. Will I keep reading them? Definitely yes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Science Fiction

Blankets

I think I picked this book up at Canty’s bookshop a while ago. They’ve been getting some really great graphic novels in recently, and I was really in the mood for an excellent one. I remember selecting this one in particular because it’s so highly acclaimed and I’d heard of it before.

20171027_215457889184474.jpg

“Blankets” by Craig Thompson is a mostly-autobiographical graphic novel about Thompson’s experiences growing up as an Evangelical Christian in Wisconsin. Although Craig’s parents are very strict, he has a close relationship with his brother and they share vivid imaginary adventures together. However, as Craig grows older, they grow apart and a teenaged Craig begins to feel increasingly isolated, bullied and harassed in his small town. Then, one winter at Bible camp, Craig meets a young woman called Raina – finally, someone he connects with.

This is a stunning graphic novel, no question. Even though all the illustrations are black and white, Thompson’s illustrations are incredibly rich and expressive. The winters feel cold and Craig’s loneliness is palpable. The relationship between Craig and his brother Phil is one of the highlights of the book. The way Thompson maps their closeness when they share a bed, their increasing distance as teens and then their refound closeness was beautifully done. The imagery of blankets was done brilliantly as was Thomspon’s blend of reality and fantasy. Thompson’s exploration of religious themes and identity were also incredibly insightful and I think would resonate strongly with people who have grown up in a conservative Christian household. There is a lot packed in, and it’s quite long for a graphic novel, with all the themes very carefully constructed.

However, perhaps because the focus of the story is mostly on Craig’s faith, or perhaps because it’s a semi-autobiography, I felt like the story arch itself was overall a bit fuzzy and kind of trailed out towards the end. This book is definitely more journey than destination, but I did feel like there wasn’t much resolution at the end. I think the reason for this really goes to the heart of the story which was Craig’s friendship (and later relationship) with Raina.

Raina was really the classic manic pixie dream girl archetype who seemed to exist solely to be Craig’s “muse”. Although he was young, I really felt like Raina got the rough end of the stick. Juggling a lot of primary care for two disabled siblings, trying to graduate high school and balancing a long-distance relationship, I felt like Craig’s ultimate betrayal of Raina and the personal boundaries she asked for was never properly addressed. Instead of being a real person with real feelings, Raina ends up being  treated as an “experience” for Craig. A person about whom he is angry and then later nostalgic, but not quite enough of a real person to justify an apology. Thompson has explained that the character of Raina is actually an amalgamation of a high school love and his current partner. I think that Craig’s inability to appreciate that Raina has a life and priorities outside of him is visible as the reader, but I’m not sure it’s visible to Craig the character. In the end I felt like he was still thinking of what Raina could do for him, and not what he could have done for her.

Regardless, this is an excellent graphic novel and one that I think might resonate with a lot of people. If you haven’t read many graphic novels, I think this would be a great place to start.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Aya of Yop City

I reviewed the first in this graphic novel series back in 2015. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I knew that there were others in the series, but for some reason I had gotten the idea that only the first had been translated into English. I was so surprised when I found a copy of this one in Canty’s graphic novel section and I bought it immediately.

20170607_203137

“Aya of Yop City” is a bandes dessinées by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie picks up almost immediately where the last one left off. It’s the 1970s in the unprecedented prosperous time of the African nation of the Ivory Coast. While Aya strives to become a doctor, she is roped into helping her friends deal with their dramas. Adjoua has had a baby and the identity of the father isn’t going to be a secret for long, while Bintou has been swept of her feet by a stranger from France who perhaps isn’t quite what he seems.

These graphic novels really are an absolute joy to read. A perfect blend of soapy drama, humour and culture, this series is as entertaining as it is educational. I liked the first one, but I felt like the story consolidated even more in this one. I remember I had some reservations about the artwork in the first one, but even that too has grown on me now. One of the things I was looking forward to the most was the afterword with some little cultural tidbits about life in the Ivory Coast and I wasn’t disappointed. In addition to a glossary, instructions on how to carry your baby on your back in a pagne and how babies and new mothers are welcomed back into the community after the birth was a new recipe for me to try. I actually outsourced the cooking on this one, and my partner made for me the chicken kedjenou which he liked so much he’s asked for it to be put on our rotating menu.

A delightful series that should be on the list for any lover of graphic novels, or anyone who wants to learn more about a different culture.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Graphic Novels

Saga Volume 7

I’ve been following this graphic novel series (by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Fiona Staples) for a while, so if you want to see what I’ve written about earlier volumes you can check them out here, here and here.

20170503_205919

In my last review, I said that I liked Volume 6 a bit less than the other volumes. I’m very sad to say that I think despite starting out all guns blazing, Saga is on a downward trend. If you’re going to kill off main characters, you need to replace them with something of equal or greater value. Unfortunately, I’m just not loving the replacements. It’s such an action-intensive series that, especially with these volumes only coming out every 9 months or so, it’s a bit hard to keep tabs on everything that’s going on. I think maybe it’s also crossed the line from being wild and irreverent to actually quite maudlin.

Anyway, look, I’ll probably keep reading these, but I’ve definitely lost a bit of my enthusiasm after the last couple of volumes. It’s still hard-hitting, but maybe not as fun.

3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Graphic Novels, Uncategorized

(Adults Only) My Monster Boyfriend

As soon as I heard that one of my favourite online artists Noora Heikkilä was going to be contributing a short comic to an erotica anthology, well, I would be lying if I said I didn’t mash the support button on that Kickstarter page immediately. When it arrived I was delighted to see the beautiful cover with metallic lettering and couldn’t wait to set some time aside to read it. A note though, this review will definitely be talking about sex in an explicit way, there will be links to NSFW websites, so if this is not for you, please stop reading now.

20170305_223316.jpg

“My Monster Boyfriend” edited by C. Spike Trotman is a collection of short graphic erotic stories. Each story is centred around the theme of a male object of desire being some kind of monster ranging from gargoyle to satyr to shapeshifter and, of course, even to vampire. There are some high profile contributors to this book including the artist behind Oglaf and the artist behind the wonderful Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal. Every story has diverse characters and unique settings, especially the vampire story, the shapeshifter story, the harpy story and the story with the dark, shapeless creature.

Before we go any further, I would like to make a note that graphic novel pornography is really my medium of choice (next being erotic literature). I enjoy the art and I enjoy the frame-by-frame format that allows you to both be guided and use your imagination.

First, on the art quality of “My Monster Boyfriend”. There is no doubt, the art throughout this volume is beautiful. There were only one or two out of the ten that didn’t grab me and I overall, I was very impressed. Next, the sex. Every story in this collection is a celebration of sex positivity, enthusiastic consent and showcases characters of diverse race, gender, body type and sexuality. There were 4 male/female stories, 4 male/male stories, one male/gender diverse story and one male/agender story. These stories definitely demonstrate that there is more than one way to have sex and that it is critical that both partners are not just willing but eager. I think it’s important to note that not everyone will be into every single story in this book. Whatever genders involved, the sex depicted is graphic and as much as some people may not be into heterosexual penetrative sex, others may not be into the other kinds of sex depicted. Although I appreciate that this anthology is called “My Monster Boyfriend” for a reason, I did feel a bit as though female/female or female/trans sex was missing from this collection.

Anyway, some stories definitely hooked me more than others. Although Clutch involved the least human “monster”, it was nevertheless very compelling with plenty of cultural and LGBTIQ insight as well as having a twisty plot. Lonesome Palace was quite a beautiful and sad story in its own right and the sex seemed more incidental rather than central to the story. Nebula and Spoilsport were both very entertaining and a nice reminder that sex can and should be fun and funny. I thought Nebula in particular got the balance right between being sexy yet full of positive communication. Thirsty Work was a sweet love story that highlighted the importance of trust and negotiation in relationships. I think in terms of the one I found to be the sexiest, it would have to be A Winged Man Flew Into the Shed. I felt like this one really had the best of both elements: an interesting and immersive premise and exactly the right amount of sexual tension.

Overall, a fun, inclusive collection that I enjoyed flipping through.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Graphic Novels