Tag Archives: graphic novel

Green River Killer – Review!

16 Jul

Green River Killer is a based-on-a-true-story fiction comic that delicately presents humanity in a murder story.  Now, this humanity isn’t necessarily directed towards the murderer, although it doesn’t rail against him.  Instead, the comic asks why or what would lead a person to do these things.

The comic does not present the story from the perspective of the killer who may or may not be caught at any given time, but opts to focus on the lead investigator detective Tom Jensen.  Writer Jeff Jensen happens to have great knowledge of the case on the detective’s side since Tom Jensen is his father.  A certain amount of authenticity is brought to the story with this relationship.

Prior knowledge of the story is not needed to enjoy the comic, although it helps to have a clue.  For instance, I lived in Tacoma – about half an hour south of Seattle – and had some familiarity with the serial murders.  Most of this, however, came from those true life cheesy recreation stories on TV.  I didn’t live through this like many people in the area did, but I had heard about it.  Actually, coming to this story without much previous knowledge allows you to be more drawn into the story without over-analyzing everything.

The writing strikes a chord because you become so heavily invested in Tom Jensen’s mission, and he becomes real to you without ever meeting the real life Tom Jensen.  He is a man with burdens upon his shoulders and a dedication to one sole mission; he’s someone you can rally behind.  The writing also shows a lot of the confusion and frustration involved for Jensen and the other detectives even after they bring in Gary Ridgway.  How do you go through with finding the history of a serial killer?

Jeff Jensen manipulates time with the use of multiple time periods without ever losing the reader.  It causes parallels and themes to the story and provides the reader with clues.  You know Gary is the killer, right?  But there’s more to that underneath his 48+ murders.

I’m a sucker for black and white artwork.  I love seeing the raw ink strokes and detail.  The great thing about Jonathan Case is that he adds just enough detail to the scenes while not drawing away the focus.  It’s impressive how subtle his art really is.  He draws a lot of talking heads, but each one has a slightly different expression making no two panels the same.  He can really convey a whole array of emotions with just a slight line manipulation.  Even though it’s a crime comic, Case doesn’t go with the typical heavy shadows which actually benefits the story.  The best thing about the art, however, is Case’s use of splash pages.  I’m usually not too big on splash pages, but there were two in a row where I literally said “wow” aloud.  That’s how gripping the art is.

There were little problems in the comic.  My one worry is the reread factor.  That’s where the art comes in, but it may be hard with a story you already know the outcome of particularly with something from real life.

Overall, the effect of the book mirrors the impact of the splash pages – a big “wow.”  It latched me into the story causing me to read it within one sitting.  The graphic novel truly deserves its recently announced Eisner Award.

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Stumptown – Review!

8 May

Matt Fraction’s quote at the top of Stumptown rings so true.  I read a lot of Greg Rucka – he’s one of/if not my favorite writer in comics.  He just writes women that kickass, and I would far rather see women kickass than seeing men do the same.  Stumptown is the perfect Rucka book.  It announces itself to the reader with a strong tone and clever writing.

Here’s the gist: Dex is a private investigator, a casino manager hires Dex to find her missing granddaughter at the expense of erasing Dex’s debt, Dex privately investigates and gets beaten up and shot.  This is at the same time as she tries to handle her home life with a brother who has down-syndrome.

When comparing to his other works with strong women (Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Tara Chace, Carrie Stetko, etc.) to Stumptown, it is easily apparent that Rucka has gone with something a bit more gritty and noir.  I grew up – in my early years – around Portland, and it’s easy to tell that Rucka has captured the nature of the city.  There’s a certain mentality of having Portland be a rather weird city, and Rucka grounds the story in this strangeness.  It’s not that anything really weird happens in the story – in fact, it’s rather straightforward – instead, it is this overwhelming queerness that you cannot shake out.  Rucka runs with this feeling and keeps it going throughout so the reader does not know exactly what might spring up.

Let’s just talk about Dex as a character some more: a comic writer’s job – like any writer’s job but perhaps more important because they have to deal with images, as well – is to create an engrossing character or series of actions that is thrilling.  Rucka opts for both and succeeds.  Dex is a spitfire and reminds me of a female Peter Parker but much more real and funnier.  The humor is very sly and black, but it makes you fall quickly in love with Dex as a character.  She kicks a lot of ass, and, by far, my favorite line in the entire piece is, “You put a hand on her — I let weather into your skull.”  Seriously, how badass is that!?

Rucka has always been paired up with fantastic artists and Matthew Southworth is no exception.  He has a scratchy, raw, and energetic line where his brushstrokes either always connect or miss each other just barely.  Plus, he incorporates a couple of different styles to match the mood of the scene.  Southworth’s art actually gets better throughout the series as you can tell that he’s taking more risks.  I also love how hands on his approach is.  For instance, Dex gets a black eye within the first part of the story that will stay with her for the rest of the piece, and Southworth uses his own fingerprints to represent the bruise.  He gets especially ambitious during his two page spreads which usually capture some phenomenal aspect of nature.  I also enjoy how weathered the colors appear even for three people (including Southworth himself – which probably occurred during a certain night scene) working on it.  Sure, the art style, for some people, may be hard to grasp at first, but give it some time and you’ll come to love it.

Let’s not forget to mention the beautiful package the series comes in.  It is a thick hardcover with a solid binding.  It feels good in your hands and will not disappoint you.

Overall, this is a fantastic investment well worth its $30 cover price.  It would make a wonderful gift even for the most casual comics reader.  If you want a badass female lead with a compelling story and art, then Stumptown delivers.

Comic Book Cache – Round 2

19 Apr

Welcome again to Comic Book Cache.  In this section, we have another three readers tackle some comics and let us know about their interpretations!  To see Round 1 for Comic Book Cache, check it out here.  Check out Monique’s review of Maus, too!  And, to see the master list which gives you the opportunity to join in on the fun, check it out here.

…..

Name: Sophie Blamey Age: 19 Occupation: Student
Book: Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Prior to reading Watchmen, I had read a few graphic novels (Fun Home and Persepolis: loved both), but my experience was clearly very minimal. To be perfectly honest, I picked this book because my roommate owns it and, being a student, I’m broke. But beyond that, I knew it was a movie as well and I really enjoy watching movie adaptations of books to compare them.

This super-hero style of graphic novel was totally new to me and truthfully I was pretty skeptical. I’ve never thought myself the type to enjoy action and fighting and leggings, but I was wrong. Turns out, I love leggings. And fighting. When they’re combined. What took the novel from just a little book of gore and bright pictures was the psychological depth with which the characters were depicted. Reading Watchmen felt like diving into the minds of the “super-heroes” and finding out why they do what they do, which I must say, I was much more interested in than the gory scenes. I cried, laughed, cringed, and wondered my way through Watchmen in less than three days.

I did not think I could ever like graphic novels as much as I love written novels because I thought I would miss the imagery of the words. I didn’t think I would appreciate literal images in lieu of the words I had come to love. I predicted that the part of reading that requires your imagination would be eliminated. I was wrong on all counts. Firstly, the words are just as beautiful as any novel I had read and secondly, contrary to the pictures detracting from the use of imagination, they only enhanced it. I was very impressed with the way the book twisted between a few different plots and my favorite parts were the effortless juxtaposition of Shea’s graphic novel-within-a-graphic novel with the current events troubling the newspaper salesman.

In fact, as difficult as I thought it would be to get through such a long and detailed graphic novel, it wasn’t difficult at all. Though at first I was on the lookout for every tiny detail, and trying to commit everything to memory, I quickly realized that it wasn’t necessary to do so. Once I realized that reading it wasn’t going to be an exhausting tax, I settled into it and really enjoyed the experience. I can’t say that I responded more to the words or the artwork because the two worked together so well. I was surprised at how much the artwork actually contributed to the plot, far from being just a backdrop for the words each frame was a crucial piece of the story. The experience of reading Watchmen was a very enjoyable one and I can’t wait to pick up my next graphic novel… I’m thinking I’ll go for Lagoon next! (:

…..

Selena Aston, Age 20, Student/Gallery Attendant
Book: The Lagoon by Lilli Carré

I found The Lagoon by Lilli Carré to be very pleasant. This was my first comic book reading experience and I enjoyed it. The artwork has a very simple and charming style, and I like the way she uses her lines to give things character. She has a unique way of drawing people that emphasizes their quirks, like the mother’s chaotic hair and the grandfather’s oddly shaped head. One thing that distracted me though was the black shadow that appears next to all the characters’ noses. It looks a bit out of place to me, especially in drawings where there is low contrast except for that nose shadow. I suppose its part of her style which is fine, it just kind of made me feel weird. I like the flowing look of the trees, smoke, fabric, and various background textures. There are also some really cute details, like the main character has a cat clock in her bedroom (it may have been a bear or a mouse clock, I couldn’t quite tell but it was cute). Overall, the art was good, and it was what made this book for me.

I was confused by the plot the first time I read this book and was equally confused the second time. This is what I gathered from it: an elderly man tells his daughter Zoey about a monster that sang a beautiful song in the lagoon. He sings the song to her, much to her annoyance. At night, she finds him in the lagoon looking for the monster. During the next day he picks all of the flowers from the family’s lawn. A few nights later, Zoey’s mother meets with the lagoon monster to smoke a cigarette and talk about her life while her husband is asleep. This interaction suggests that the family had some connection with the monster in the past. The rest of the plot consists of people drowning in the lagoon while listening to the monster’s song, cats singing, logs burning, and Zoey’s grandfather cutting her hair. After pondering how these events are related and what they might symbolize, I came to the conclusion that this story is beyond me. I decided to make my peace with this fact and just enjoy the nostalgic yet marshy nature of this book.

…..

My name is Nikki Jermaczonak, I’m 21 and currently a Junior at the Art Institute of Portland majoring in Media Arts and Animation. I’ve been very interested in comic books and graphic novels since I was in middle school, though I didn’t really delve into the Western side of it until my last year of high school. Some of my favorites are Tank Girl, Empowered, Detroit Metal City, and Scott Pilgrim.

I’m a Scottaholic, so much that I have a part of my room devoted to my merch and it overwhelms people with how much I want to talk about it sometimes. But enough about me, I’m here to tell you about Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley. This is the first of a six volume series and does an amazing job pulling the reader in for the start of a wild ride. O’Malley’s art style is bold and refreshing, showing heavy influences from Japanese manga. Emotions and movement are easily conveyed through simplistic faces and bodies and sound effects, and their clothing is well researched and interesting to look at. The art is unique, memorable and only gets better in later volumes.

The writing is superb. O’Malley knows how to write a good story, never skipping a beat with some laugh out loud humor or a videogame reference (but not so much that it’s annoying). The story is straight forward and takes something as simple as dealing with someone’s Ex-Boyfriends to a whole new level. There are themes of romance, music, action, and drama and this is just the beginning! The flow is fantastic, never leaving a boring moment or getting overwhelming.

Out of everything though, the thing I enjoy most about the book is the characters. Everyone can find someone to relate to in here, whether it is the loveable loser Scott, cold and sarcastic Kim, awkward Young Neil, or the rest of the cast. It’s fantastic to watch how they develop throughout this book and the rest of the series and to find a bit of yourself tucked inside one of them.

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life is an entertaining and easy read and leaves you wanting more. I would recommend this book to both hard core and casual comic readers; it’s the first thing I give to all of my friends when they ask me for comic recommendations. This is also a fantastic series for anyone wanting to transition from reading manga to Western graphic novels. Delivering entertainment in a complete package, Scott Pilgrim belongs in everyone’s comic collection.

MAUS: A Review

17 Apr

Maus has not only become a classic as time goes on, but a standard as far as Holocaust narratives are concerned. This is not the typical story of good vs. evil or hero vs. villain, it moves beyond abstract titles in order to convey the nature of ambiguity in all life; even in such a series of events that seem so very black and white, it reveals a million shades of grey.
In looking at this novel in terms of Holocaust trauma it is important to understand that such a disgusting and shocking event was completely unbelievable. Who would believe that something so horrendous and vicious could happen? Everyday people, living their everyday lives, being suddenly and completely uprooted for seemingly no reason at all. All clarity is lost in a single motion; the world has been virtually turned upside down. This leaves the narrative room for unclarity, ambiguity, and disproportion in a search for meaning that leaves the characters and even its readers with nothing in hand.
Even the title of the first book itself, “My Father Bleeds History” is an attempt to connect the emotional with the rational, two sensibilities that clash that leave even the grounds of communication a muddy brown. The narrative follows in the line of the title as it uses this clash of raw emotion with rational fact to play with language and roughen meaning to make them difficult to understand, as the events themselves are difficult to understand.
The use of silence and space is harsh yet fluid as it allows for shadow and an odd juxtaposition of simplicity and complexity to overcome, revealing a foreboding atmosphere with no past or future in sight. With his use of shadow and stark black and white shades Speigelman is able to exude an overwhelming sense of fear and terror. The construction of the novel being entirely devoid of color drains the reader of all sense of hope leaving him with no tangible element left to grab and hold for comfort.
Even the mere fact that the story is in graphic novel form shatters the paradigms that the Holocaust, by nature, shattered. Illusions of safety and clarity are demolished, the very past was destroyed. This is perhaps what makes this novel so unique. There was no other possible way to convey such a tale than in this form, as everything has been destroyed, we have no choice to resort to new forms in order to cope with tragedy.
Over thirty years after it was written and published, Maus is just as relevant and shocking as it was then. It reveals the very illusion we live in; and knowing this we are left wondering: “can we continue?”

Comic Book Cache – The Master List

31 Jan

Now, it’s no novel idea, and recently Kelly Thompson has utilized it for women, but I really want to see some of my friends and family read comic books and understand my strange addiction to them.

So, here’s the deal.  I will provide a master list of comics to choose from.  My friends who read this (who are in Tacoma) can then borrow the book (yes, this is me actually sacrificing my precious books – It’s a requirement to give it back to me, otherwise I charge you for it) and send me a review of it through e-mail or over a message in facebook.  People who are not in Tacoma can purchase the book or find it in a library (I’m open to suggestions to things that I may have read but don’t have a copy of) in order to participate.  Only one person can choose one book, and I’m more than open to suggesting books for people.  Sure, I know this is a stretch for time management, but I feel like it will be a wonderful process to get comics into the hands of people who wouldn’t normally view them.

The comics range from memoir to superhero to indie and everything in between allowing for something anyone can enjoy.  I highly suggest looking these books up on Amazon to see if you’re interested in them or not.

After reading the comic, it would be great to know your age, what you do, and your reactions to the book in a short, maybe around 200-500 word review.  That’s all I really ask.

The write-up can include:

  • Name
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Do you have any prior experience reading comics?
  • Why did you pick this book?
  • What did you like/didn’t like?
  • What stood out (writing, art, themes)?
  • How difficult was it to read a comic?
  • Did you respond more to the words or the artwork?
  • Do you feel like you would read some more comics after this experience?

We can include your picture, too.

I’m going to be posting these in sets of threes or fours depending on how many responses there are.  So, keep your eyes out for those.  I’m going to try to get these all within one to two months.  So, keep that time frame in mind while reading.

So, after that, here is the master list:

The Alcoholic

Fun Home

Something To Pet The Cat About

I Am Going To Be Small

Bizarro Comics

Marvels

The Lagoon

Tales of Woodsman Pete with Full Particulars

Nine Ways to Disappear

Parker: The Hunter

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Challenges

TMNT: First Graphic Novel

Planetary: Volume 1

Phonogram: Rue Britania

Phonogram: The Singles Club

The Birthday Riots

Toxic Avenger and Other Tromatic Tales

True Swamp: The Memoirs of Lenny the Frog

Asterios Polyp

Zot!

Suburban Glamour

Identity Crisis

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Promethea: Book One

Capote in Kansas

Blue Pills: A Positive Love Story

Whiteout Volumes 1 or 2 (They are fairly self-contained)

Queen & Country Volumes 1-4 (stories self-contained)

Usagi Yojimbo: Yokai

Persepolis I

It's a Bird...

Maus I

Long Hot Summer

Trinity: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman

The Brave and the Bold: Demons and Dragons

Kingdom Come

Air: Letters from Lost Countries

American Born Chinese

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Soul's Winter

Well, that’s it for what I own.  If you have a suggestion or something else that you may be interested in that you just haven’t given the time to, let me know!

“Smile” Reevu

8 Jun

A brilliant work!

I just zipped through Raina Telgemeier’s Smile today, and, I’ll admit, this young adult genre’d work pleases on a multitude of levels.

Now, consider that this graphic novel follows a young girl (Raina herself considering this is a short teeth-related memoir) through middle school and into high school.  Frankly, I’ve always had a problem revisiting these years in the things I read.  However, this graphic novel triumphantly captures the convoluted ups and downs of growing up… with a twist.

Raina knocked both of her teeth out in a completely unawesome, typical, nothing special way (racing), and we follow her through her dental mishaps and adjustments.  Her fears and doubts rise to the surface about – not only boys or school or friends – her teeth and the perception other people must have of her physically.

The art is simplistic but very emotionally charged.  Frames may seem familiar but completely different, and it really emphasizes that Raina has mastered this style.  I also really enjoy the coloring (and when the coloring breaks the formula on the jean patterns).

One of my favorite things about this work is its beats, layouts, and pacing (all of which are fairly interconnected).  Raina really knows how to hit right on the mark for when to stop, begin, speed up, slow down, and punctuate the story; this may be accredited to Smile beginning as a web comic.

Delightfully funny while having a great awareness.

This graphic novel really works for me.  As someone who doesn’t really delve too much into the young adult genre of literature or graphic novels, I have to say that I’m thoroughly pleased.  This graphic novel obtained the rare event of getting me to smile, chuckle, wince, and feel hopeful.  Although best suited for young adults or teenagers, this work is and should be accessible to anyone in any range.  The wonderful amount of respect and awareness to and of its content really raises the bar for what sequential art can accomplish in this frank, honest, and beautiful work.

Funny that my review began with “Smile Around the Face” by Four Tet…

Check out some more of Raina’s work and Smile right here!

Graphic Journal: April 11th

11 Apr

And he said that I said that she said that we all said “god bless you.”  In a moment when the realization hit me, coming oozing out of his mouth, I thought I met that god.  I met that god inside every serene moment of acute fever when my eyes were crusted over from simultaneous crying and cleansing.  I met that god outside on the porch when people were entering back into the house once they were done smoking their cigarettes in the small space between the railing and the neighbor’s fence; could a mouse fit down? I met that god when we were pretending to be sharks catching guppies on the beach on a family vacation.  I met that god when I boarded up the windows.  I met that god when the storm hit.  I met that god in every cover band.

But what was that?  Who could have decided between this or that?  I took two steps and the inside of my ears flared like firecrackers put inside two liter bottles.  Looking down I noticed that I hadn’t gone too far.  The rain was coming down, sure; the leaves fell, sure; the lamps lit, sure.

I glanced back at his lips telling me the occurrences within the game of phone tag.  His lips were like crescent moons without the pock marks.  His left hand twitched when he talked.  We were always lost when we came upon a freshly slaughtered stump.  The damage had already been done, why continue it?  Little boys with their magnifying glasses searching for bugs to burn in the fading sunlight like charcoal on the stove.

Postponing the deadline of when we’d finally be together;  postponing the lifeline of the husks;  postponing a single kiss.  Him and me.  Him and I action.  Him and I.