2020 Begins with New Book Club Discussions!
The Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs jumped into the New Year with another round of lively discussions in January!
The Balboa Park Book Club read Spider-Man: Life Story by Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley. The book retells the story of Peter Parker AKA Spider-Man through the years, from the character’s creation in 1962 until now, with each of the six issues focusing on key events in one decade. Members liked that it was a complete story with real life consequences and that Peter was finally allowed to age. They enjoyed the progression from decade to decade and felt the ending was great, allowing Spidey to be a hero one last time. Some members felt the one book/one decade format was too limiting and wanted two issues per decade. The strongest writing was in the moral dilemmas Spidey faced in each book, with one person commenting that “with great power comes great guilt” as the defining theme of the series, and for Spider-Man to win, Peter Parker has to lose. Members also felt that the covers, designed and illustrated by writer Chip Zdarsky, were particularly strong.
The Balboa Park group will be reading DIE, Vol. 1, Fantasy Heartbreaker by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans in February.
The Chula Vista group January pick was Farmhand, Vol. 2, Thorne in the Flesh by Rob Guillory. Volume 1 was so well-received that the group wanted to continue the story. Monique led the discussion.
Many members “blazed right through it” because of the compelling storyline. Farmhand continues the ramifications of the Jedidiah Jenkin’s implementation of transplanting limbs, eyes, and other body parts. Former patients find their bodies growing flowers and other plantlike features, and they can see green spindly vines through their skin. Patients (and the FDA) want answers, but Jedidiah is not providing them. Volume 2 also solidified the group’s suspicions that Jedidiah’s one-time colleague and now nemesis Monica Thorne has her own malevolent agenda.
Like the first volume, the book was a hit with a group. The group commented that it was a “quick read,” but much more time was spent re-reading the book, looking for clues in each panel and noting details that were missed in the first read. Many noted the cinematic feel of the art: “You could see this story play out on the screen, or a TV show,” noted one member. The book was a jumping-off point to other questions: Can technology and religion work together in this world? Does Thorne consider herself THE mother of the patients? Are people inevitable products of their family trees?
Did the group want more Farmhand? Volume 3 can’t come soon enough!
February’s pick will be March Vol. 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.
The Downtown Club kicked off the new year with Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran. Most enjoyed this fun re-telling of Snow White through the eyes of the stepmother/queen. In this version the queen is the sympathetic character and Snow White is portrayed as a terrifying and rather creepy villain. The group was unanimous in its praise of the absolutely exquisite art by Doran. Her extraordinarily ornate and detailed visuals were stunning and effectively elevated the narrative in spite of the ample gore and disturbing acts by some characters. Many were impressed with the unusual paneling choices that still managed to make the story flow well. There was even some discussion about how superb the lettering was. Although some felt the story was somewhat mediocre it was clear that the gorgeous visuals were what made the book and what dominated the evening's discussion.
In February, the Downtown group will read Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. vol. 1 by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen
The Encinitas group’s January meeting opened with an informal book exchange. Members brought some books they no longer needed to keep, in order to pick up some new books which would bring them joy. Yes, Marie Kondo was invoked.
Next on the agenda was a “show and/or tell” conversation, where we discussed some of our favorite pop culture experiences during 2019. The discussion was wide-ranging, including books, movies, television, and web comics. Members had strong and varying opinions on the film Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and the TV series The Mandalorian. Writer Jonathan Hickman received plaudits for his innovative world-building in House of X/Powers of X. (In 2019, the club had enjoyed Hickman’s and Tomm Coker’s work on the unusual financial/horror book The Black Monday Murders.) Mary Elizabeth gave an enthusiastic recommendation for the 2019 HBO miniseries Chernobyl, which three days after our meeting received the Golden Globe for best miniseries. Clearly, great minds think alike!
Finally, the group reviewed an impressive list of 19 potential books to read for the next few months. After the meeting, the group voted for the next three books to read. Next up in February, the Encinitas Book Club will be discussing Tokyo Ghost by Rick Remender and Sean Murphy.
The Escondido 2 group's January selection was Darth Vader Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca. The back of Darth Vader reads "The original Dark Lord of the Sith stars in his first ongoing series! Ever since Darth Vader's first on-screen appearance, he has become one of pop culture's most popular villains. Now, follow Vader straight from the ending of A New Hope into his own solo adventures, showing the Empire's war with the Rebel Alliance from the other side!” Dan lead the book group discussion. This volume was a combination of fan service, adding new characters, and intriguing story hooks that lead into wanting to read the rest of the collected volumes. The club enjoyed the artwork for the aliens, space ships, Vader, and the battles. Members that weren't as familiar with Star Wars enjoyed reading about Vader and getting a bit more into his background with the Empire. Favorite character standouts included Vader (naturally) Doctor Aphra, and her two droid assistants. Triple Zero had many good laugh-out-loud lines. Overall, the group enjoyed this book and will be reading more volumes of the story.
In February, the club will be discussing Lady Killer Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 by Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones.
La Jolla kicked off the year by reading Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons and John Higgins. Watchmen shows us an alternate history where superheroes emerge in the ‘40s and ‘60s and their presence changed history. John led the group in a lively discussion, starting with talking about superheroes and how the book demonstrated humans could be superheroes, and you didn’t have to have a “super power” in order to be a superhero. We all enjoyed the incredibly well thought out storyline, how it all came together and fed into each other from chapter to chapter. We all enjoyed the art and how at some points there was a break in the 9-panel format, which gave us more impact and how some of the panels worked so well together as they flowed. We ended the discussion with some comparisons and discussions about the new HBO series and how many of us have watched and enjoyed it.
Next month, La Jolla will be reading Animal Man Book 1 by Grant Morrison and Y the Last Man Vol 6 by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra.
The Mission Valley Book Club met in January to start their seventh (yes seventh!) year of book club. Instead of reading a book together, the group decided to have a show-and-tell, where members brought a personal item to share. The items ranged from comic art and playbills to travel souvenirs and action figures. The most personal of the night was an advanced reader copy of a member’s own graphic novel, which definitely brought one member to tears. Mission Valley also carefully selected their first few books for the year. February will be Spider-Man: Life Story by Chip Zdarsky, March sees Mission Valley reading In Waves by AJ Dungo. In April, it will be a double feature with Crowded by Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, and Ted Brandt and Dark Agents: Book One by Janina Scarlet and Mission Valley’s own Vince Alvendia and rounding out May is Little Bird by Darcy Van Poelgeest & Ian Bertram. What a great way to start 2020!
This month the Comic-Con Museum group rolled into DIE Vol. 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans. Club member Lauren led a lively discussion that started as an examination of the themes Gillen and Hans explored within the storytelling of tabletop role-playing games and how it served to tell the overall story. Many of the club members enjoyed the story allusions to a well-respected fantasy author and Jumanji as well.
Stephanie Hans’ use of color and style in art was also a major point of discussion while club members tried to decide if certain choices were more stylistic or intentional to telegraph later storytelling choices, but overall her art was lauded as adding multiple layers to Gillen's prose.
The discussion turned to the themes of the story and which characters club members identified with at the beginning and became quite involved in whether those choices continued at the end. Overall most of the club was excited to continue reading the story and maybe even play some role-playing games in the future.
For the month of February the club will be reading Daytripper, the graphic novel by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon.
North Park’s January meeting was almost a full house. It may have been the “Comic Book Yankee Swap” we had or the opportunity for members to nominate books to read for the rest of the year, but it was also to discuss our book for January: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, written and illustrated by Tony Cliff. Delilah Dirk is the story of the titular Delilah Dirk, a 19th Century English aristocrat and adventurer who is captured by a corrupt sultan in Constantinople. She escapes with the aid of a lieutenant from the sultan’s army, Salim, and together they roam the countryside in search of treasure.
Delilah Dirk was, according to one member, “Delilah-ful.” The story was short, with well-drawn and scripted action scenes and a quick pace. The description every member came back to was that the book was fun. The art felt animated, with some members enjoying Cliff’s costuming choices. One aspect that lent to the fun atmosphere was Cliff’s jokes within the story, as well as his use of creative sound effects sprinkled throughout the action scenes. Members also appreciated the strong characterization of Delilah herself, earning comparisons to Indiana Jones as well as Carmen San Diego. One member was excited to add this volume as well as the sequels to his high school library shelves for his students.
For February, North Park will be reading and discussing the feel-good romance manga My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, by Kabi Nagata.