Batman: Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite graphic novel authors. I have read Sandman and 1604. When I found out, he wrote a Batman novel, I knew I had to try to read it.

I grew up watching “Batman: The Animated Series” and the DC Animated Universe. I am very fond of “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited”. As a result, Batman is one of my favourite fictional characters, and my Batman will always be Kevin Conroy’s. I have read some of the Batman popular novels, but I have never been a true comic book reader.

This review is mostly about things that aren’t this graphic novel. There is not much to say about it really. It’s not bad, but it’s the kind of work you have to read for yourself.

This is a “last” Batman story. There won’t ever be one of those really, but it’s an interpretative work about the life and legacy of the Batman. I liked some of the moments and it was metaphorical at times. I think some true Batman fans will understand appreciate the sentiment behind it.

Not an essential Gaiman work, but interesting Batman appreciators.

Read September 21 2013.

Soulless vol. 2 by Gail Carriger and REM

This steampunk and urban fantasy series is great in manga form. So fun and in many ways, even more hilarious and better than the books since it’s done in this style. I hope this series is popular in Japan too because it definitely would have a market there.

The exaggerated expressions and face sweats are typical manga form, but there is also a restraint it in because this is still an action series. I’m enjoying this manga more than I thought. I think people who have not read the books would like them as well as it misses very few details. It even adds many not shown in the book for comic effect.

Fun manga and graphic novel series.

Read June 12-13, 2013.

Hark A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

Regular readers of Beaton’s blog Hark! A Vagrant will be familiar with the content in this book, and if you haven’t seen the blog, please check it out. If you like what you see, you can read this lovely book containing comics about literature, comics, history, and often times, Canadian history! In sub categories, there is a fair amount of Feminism and Political History. A few times, her comics are just random out there humor which I also love.

Beaton and I have the same interests in all the above. I get and understand almost all of comics in the book and their allusions. It is funny and apt. Here are the subjects she tackles in her comics in this book: Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, Crime & Punishment, Nancy Drew, Batman, various works of Shakespeare, The Great Gatsby, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and much more.

Her commentary is very insightful and intelligent not only in the comics, but in the few times she explains her work. You learn things such as the following:

  • H. G. Wells allegedly called Jules Verne an “old fusspot”
  • General Montcalm was very romantic
  • Brahms fell asleep at a Liszt concert

It is whimsical, fun and educational!

Read February 26th to March 5th 2013.

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Craig Thompson is probably one of my favourite graphic novelists. I enjoyed both Blankets and Carnet de Voyage, both of which were more memoirs of his life in graphic novel form.

Habibi is more dark and violent than his other works, but it was still full of hope, love, sly humor, and the simpe art work that I found addicting to read. As intense as it got, I couldn’t look away. I find Thompson’s characters real and honest.

The story seems to take place in multiple time settings or in a different universe, but there is a timelessness to it. It’s almost a cautionary tale about how greed and lust can take over humanity. It also tackles the role of religion in that darkness. The work is not preachy about faith, but it makes me even more fascinated with Islam and Arabic as Thompson seems to be.

The novel reminds me a bit of Alan Moore and I can see how fans of his work would enjoy Thompson’s take on old stories as well. This not light reading though, but if you like philosophical and thought provoking graphic novels, I’d recommend this.

Read December 2, 2012.

Soulless Manga, Vol. 1 by Gail Carriger and REM

Soulless the manga

As someone who has read and enjoyed The Parasol Protectorate Series and also graphic novels in general, I decided to read this managa to spur my current reader’s block.

This is actually a manga rather than a graphic novel. It has been awhile since I read the original Soulless novel, but I remembered relatively quickly. The adaptation worked really well. I found Alexia even more sympathetic in the manga than in the novel and while Alexia/Maccon is a bit more rushed, I also felt more invested in it. The visuals really helped and really illustrates this is more of adult book for teens.

I imagined Lord Maccon as looking more bigger and macho, but his depiction really grew on me too. Then again, this style of art renders everyone too being more pretty than handsome. Something I’ve really liked about this series is the supporting characters and Lord Akeldama is wonderfully depicted here too.

I don’t know if I’ll get the chance to read the rest of this series from my library, but I enjoyed myself as one should from manga. I think this series would do very well in Japan as it really reminded me of when I did read manga years ago, not only the artwork but the storyline too.

Recommended if you enjoy manga and fantasy series.

Read November 17th 2012.

The Wizard’s Tale

This young adult graphic novel was nominated for the Eisner Award for Graphic Album in 1998. It tells of a wizard who is descended from a long line of evil wizards except he’s quite bad at being evil. He reluctantly has to set off on a quest for a magical book otherwise he’ll get kicked out of his castle by other evil wizards. There is a quest, there is romance, there is a squire who wants to be king, and a talking toad. It is a very short and quick read, and while it is a young adult, I think many younger readers would like it. It’s an unconventional sort of fairy tale with touches of humor throughout.

Promethea

This review covers the whole series from books 1-5. I quite enjoyed this graphic novel series by Alan Moore, J. H. Williams III, et al. There are style and art changes throughout the series. The story has themes of folklore, mythology, spirituality, magic, and most of all, imagination. It is very epistemological and a bit psychedelic (in the good way). Sometimes, a lot of the concepts went over my head, and it really is a series that requires reread to appreciate all the messages and the beauty. There were many times I did not know where to look as so many things were on the page. It is meticulous and beautifully done. By Book 5, the series gets incredibly meta; it is very cool. I can not really summarise all the ideas of the series, but it is fascinating. I would love to own it and reread it when inspiration strikes. I’ve grown to really love and appreciate Moore’s work, and this may seem like a shift from The Watchmen and V for Vendetta, but at the same time, it is not. He is still spiritually and emotionally evocative in his works. I would highly recommend it to be people who are open to fantasy, epistemology, philosophy, and visual storytelling.

Pyongyang

Pyongyang: A journey in North Korea is Guy Delisle (a Quebecois, now living in France) graphuc memoir of two months spent working in the North Korean capital for a French animation company outsourcing work to the North Koreans. It is a fascinating look at North Korea and its regime. While he is not in NK for very long, Delisle observes the expat community of NK, and the dictatorial regime’s forceful propaganda machine. All foreigners seem to be kept in a very closed bubble constantly watched by their assigned guides. The author takes a copy of Orwell’s 1984 and observes the parallel. It is apt because the regime seems to permeate in all aspects. It is the most closed country in the world, and it is rather frightening the extent in which the whole population seems to live in a bubble themselves. Without any outside media and severe limited ability to travel and educate themselves, many seem to genuinely believe the personal cult and god-like presence of the Kims even if one of them is dead. The cult of personality is rather creepy. Though there is little choice, but to pretend to believe because the dictatorship has some of the worse human rights violations globally. A lot of what the memoir describes is not creepy. Nothing can last forever, and the NK regime certainly won’t. It will be interesting when that happens since the country is in a time warp. It’s like how people go to Cuba and say it looks the 1950s, but North Korea and its population seem to be still in the 50s since they are limited in communications, food security, electricity, industrialisation and manufacturing. Since the culture is protected is by the government, art is monitored. This is especially significant in that all its neighbours are accelerating at a very fast rate in the globalisation. Having read on North Korea a bit from my studies, I would recommend further reading of the subject if you are intrigued after this short, but interesting read.

The Complete Persepolis

The two volume omnibus edition of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic memoirs and Bildungsroman of growing up in Iran.  I actually did not know about the French edition until too late. As is the case sometimes, I regret not having found the original French version to read especially since I perpetually need to brush up my linguistic abilities. I did see the movie in French. Overall, I found this read immensely enjoyable and wonderful. I love it as much as I love The Complete Maus by Art Spielgman, another identity searching and family history memoirs of conflict. Persepolis was moving, tragic, beautifully drawn, funny, painful, and honest. It is beautiful memoirs of childhood and finding one’s own identity with change and upheaval. I liked all the characters; I could feel for them. I liked young Marji’s spirituality, faith, and religion, and while it was difficult to watch her go through her teen years, I could relate to her in a way I have not for a character in a long time. While I did not live through the political and violent times of war and revolutionnary torn Iran, we have similar family dynamics and other things such as the scene with Marji as waitress that hit home.

I often do not cry for movies or books which is quite odd since I can be so sensitive to things. I must admit that the scenes with Marji and her Uncle Anoosh left me verklempt. I read it twice and it affected me, and the film’s scene with it left me in tears. I cannot say why it particularly resonated with me more than some others things, but the scene moves me above so many others.

The film is wonderfully done as well, and while it is a condensed version, it still has the same simple yet affective black and white imagery. It has a couple of things the graphic novel does not, and it is nicely voice acted all around. It is harder to find a more truer to the novel adaptation than with Satrapi as the co-writer and co-director of the film. Both are recommended.

Wanted

This is the most violent graphic novel I have read yet and probably one of the most violent books I have read in a long time. I am curious about the upcoming movie adaptation, so I decided to read the graphic novel I never heard of. It was not worth it. It was violent, dark, depressing, and dystopic. Funnily enough, I do not think it was intended as nihilistic as other modern graphic novels tend to be, but that message is not clear. I think Millar intended it to be a hero’s journey for villains, and it has been described as “The Watchmen for villains.” I do not know if we are suppose to feel for the amoral protagonist Wesley. I considered him too immoral to actually care about. It was just too dark for me. I would not recommend this graphic novel.

Having said that, I am looking forward to the movie (it’s a good movie year I think). It is going to be a lot different from the movie in terms of plot. I will probably like the movie a lot more than the books. Fox in the comic books is modelled after Halle Berry (due to Fox’s similarity to Catwoman), but I’m glad it’s not Halle Berry because I like Angelina Jolie more. Similarly, Wesley was modelled after rapper Eminem, but a big part of the reason I want to watch this movie is for James McAvoy. I actually do not take issue with Eminem as much as some other people, but it was creepy reading the comics with him as Wesley. According to this behind the scenes featurette, the first 40 pages of the book are copied fairly accurately into the movie. The movie is going to be violent and R-rated. I am not into violent movies per se, but I am into humor/mindless action flicks once in awhile. I won’t mind the violence in the movie as much as the comics which always tend to be more violent than the movies. Actually, If they kept the plot of the comics as it is, I highly doubt anyone would want to see the film. This comics plot really does not have a wide appeal. So, this is one of those rare cases where I will probably like the film more the original and want them to change as much as they can from it.

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth

This is the story of a lonely, awkward man who meets his father for the first time over Thanksgiving weekend. There are also a series of flashbacks to the childhood of Jimmy’s grandfather who also had an alienated relationship with his father. While the artwork and the symbolism is well crafted, I am unsure if I actually like this work. I appreciate it, and the last panels of the ending were hopeful, but for much of the novel, I did not feel invested in Jimmy or the story. I can understand why this is such an acclaimed and influential work. It’s a sad story that is told well through the well crafted imagery.

The Best American Comics 2006

best american comics 2006Edited by Harvey Pekar, this first edition of The Best American Comics anthology showcases the variety of comics and visual storytelling available today. Many of the stories are very political which is understandable since comics has history of being subversive. Even more off the comics featured are based on autobiographical experiences or nonfictional accounts which seems to me the biggest movement in comics and graphic novels these days. The end of the book includes notes about the contributors and on the pieces in the book by the authors themselves. There are quite a few that did not stand out for me as it often happens in some anthologies, but many were well done, a couple extremely so, and one made me laugh out loud. Pekar wanted it to feature the best of the 2004-2005 time frame and allow old and new readers like to appreciate comics. I don’t think this would necessarily be the best introduction to the graphic storytelling medium, but it really does showcase the diversity of styles in the medium. It is short, and I would recommend reading the introductions after the comics themselves.

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