Tag Archives: graphic novel

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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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“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.

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The Secret Loves of Geek Girls

I had been waiting for the right time to read this book, one that I had gotten by way of a Kickstarter some time last year and that came with a gorgeous signed bookplate sticker, and finally the time had come. After days of heatwave, the evening had cooled down enough that I could snuggle in bed with a cup of tea and one of my bestie’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. I’d just come back from seeing the new Disney movie Moana, my dog was coming in occasionally to say hello to me, and in the background was the white noise of a fan and my boyfriend admonishing his randomly assigned teammates in Overwatch over voice chat. The mood was well and truly set.

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“The Secret Loves of Geek Girls” is an anthology compiled and edited by Hope Nicholson. The book contains non-fiction stories, comics and essays by over 50 creators (including Margaret Atwood) all about being a geek girl in love.

You never really know what you’re going to get when you back a Kickstarter project, but the final product of this book was much more than I had hoped for. It is a real celebration of women’s creativity, passion, intelligence and eloquence. I was really impressed at the diversity of voices that emerged from these pages and I felt their heartbreaks as my own heartbreaks. As somewhat of a geek girl myself, I knew about a lot of the fandoms (though the Dr Who references and any game that wasn’t a single player RPG was a bit lost on me). Some of the stories were much stronger than others, and I loved Minas TirithFanfiction, F/F, angstCherry and Montreal, 1993 the most. Some of the artwork in here is spectacular, and some a little less so.

This is an inclusive, well-considered collection of stories by geeky women for geeky women who are looking for everything from something nice to flick through through to dating advice and, most of all, solidarity.

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Australi

I’ve been anticipating this graphic novel for a long time. Like most Kickstarters, it’s always a bit of a gamble when it comes to whether the project will get funded, when it will get delivered and what the final product will be like. I backed the project in September 2015, and I only just got my reward this week and I couldn’t wait to crack it open.

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“Australi” is a graphic novel written by Timothy Wood and illustrated by Pius Bak. An alternative history with a good dash of fantasy, this story is set in an Australia colonised by three empires: the British, the Far East Serpentes Federation and the Red Jade Dynasty. These three empires are carving the land up for its precious gemstones but as a result of their greed, the beautiful country they have occupied has started to die. Australi’s fate is in  the hands of Maloo: a young orphan Aboriginal boy. In possession of a stolen gem and on the run from camel folk, Maloo finds himself on a serious detour after falling into a dark cave.

Probably the first thing you’ll notice about this graphic novel is the artwork, it is undoubtedly gorgeous. The story is short and gripping, and I was surprised that the first volume ended so soon. The dialogue and text is pretty sparse, but there’s a real sense of the beginning of an epic story. The character design is pretty cool and I particularly like the guardians, the giant animals and Imogen (though I’m looking forward to seeing some more female characters in later volumes).

As excited as I was to receive this graphic novel, I was also a bit apprehensive. I thoroughly support more representation of Aboriginal characters in media, and have been really excited about things like acclaimed TV series Cleverman and reading stories by authors like Anita Heiss, but I fretted about how this would go. Neither the author nor the illustrator are Aboriginal. However, when I first opened the book, right at the beginning there was a statement at the front that says:

“Australi was created to celebrate the heritage of Australia and the First Nations’ Peoples. This story is not their story, but an attempt to capture its spirit. The team consulted throughout with Indigenous artists, community figures and cultural centres and firmly believe what has been hidden, now needs to be seen. To know, to celebrate and to honour”.

It’s a little early to tell, but I think so far it seems like the author and illustrator have treated their story sensitively. We only meet Maloo and the Guardians in this first issue so I’m looking forward to seeing more characters. I think the only thing that was a bit confusing is that Maloo is an orphan who is isolated from his culture, yet he has a boomerang and is wearing body paint. I think this could have been a good opportunity to shed a bit of light on growing up disconnected from your culture, and I’d like to see this get either explained or fleshed out in later issues.

“Australi” looks like the beginnings of an original Australian fantasy adventure, and it’s great to see a bit more diversity in the leading character. It’s a cracking read and I’m really looking forward to future issues of what I hope is a great series.

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Filed under Australian Books, Book Reviews, Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Signed Books

Maus

Since I first got into graphic novels some years ago, this has been on my list to read. “Maus” by Art Spiegelman became the first graphic novel to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. When I saw a copy during a recent handover shindig at Book Passion here in Canberra, I knew I had to have it.

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“Maus” by Art Spiegelman is recounts the story of Spiegelman’s father Vladek’s life in Poland as a Jewish man before and during the World War II Holocaust. The graphic novel is a frame story split between two timelines. There is the present, where Spiegelman is recording his father’s memories and struggling with their difficult relationship and Vladek’s declining health and mental state. Then there is the past, when Vladek was a young and resourceful man who survived Auschwitz with a combination of luck and ingenuity.

This is really a standout example of the graphic novel medium. Although this genre still cops a lot of flak for being childish, this is a very serious graphic novel and the illustrations in “Maus” are deceptively simple. Jewish people are represented by mice and Nazis are represented by cats, and there are all kinds of inferences that can be drawn from that – everything from Mickey Mouse propaganda, the idea that Jewish people were considered ‘vermin’ and the obvious power differential. Another example is all the Ss drawn to look like the lightening symbols of the SS. It’s a story of tragedy, it’s a story of strength and it’s a story of trauma. While his father battles the demons of his experiences, Art battles spectres of a past that wasn’t his but impacted his life nevertheless.

I think that if you’ve never read a graphic novel before, then this would be a perfect place to start. If you’ve never read THIS graphic novel before, then you need to add it to your list. It is an evocative and painful reminder of how important it is to not fall prey to the temptation to make scapegoats.

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Priya’s Mirror

Last year I reviewed the incredible free online graphic novel “Priya’s Shakti“. An empowering story about an Indian woman who, after being raped, becomes a hero, its creators have just released the second installment of Priya’s story: “Priya’s Mirror“.

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With the blessing of goddess Parvarti and a tiger sidekick to boot, rape survivor Priya has been travelling India inspiring other women. While resting on her journey, Priya is approached by a man who asks for her help. The man is in love with a woman who has a beautiful voice but who is also the victim of an acid attack. She is trapped in a castle with other women scarred from acid attacks, and it is going to take Priya’s gumption with Parvarti’s help to break these women and their demonic captor free from their self-made prisons.

This graphic novel is so necessary. Drawing on elements of faith and fantasy, Priya tackles a social issue that is as much about reducing stigma as it is prevention. Acid attacks are a horrific example of gender violence and Priya’s story shows that part of the solution lies in empowering the women who are victims of these attacks and tacking back the self esteem the perpetrators tried to steal. In this beautiful illustrated and digital format where modern meets traditional, Priya’s stories are very appealing to a wide audience. The comic is free to download as well which makes it available to everyone, regardless of their socio-economic background.

If you have a spare 10 minutes, I would definitely recommend you read this comic. Stigma and shame are still rife when in comes to gender-based violence and fuel beliefs that women are somehow to blame. Stories like this one are essential to continuing the fight to empower women and to make our world a safer, better place.

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