April Showers Bring More Graphic Novels!
We took a month off from recapping in March to present WonderCon Anaheim 2018, but we’re back with another recap from all SEVEN of our Comic-Con International Graphic Novel Book Clubs, flung across the far-reaching cosmos of San Diego County!
In eager anticipation for the upcoming movie Avengers: Infinity War, the Balboa Park group tackled Jim Starlin, George Pérez, and Ron Lim’s The Infinity Gauntlet. While everyone realized this source material would be a small part of the Marvel Studios movie (there’s Thanos and the Infinity Gems, that’s for sure), the club, led by moderator Ryan, dove into this superhero story with gusto. The Balboa Park group, in its two discussions so far, has gone out to create an atmosphere at the meetings that immerses the group in the book, including props, signage, custom food items, and more. Ryan ran through a history of the comic series and what a big deal it was when it came out in 1991, which included a discussion on Pérez’s art and why Ron Lim took over with issue #4. The group discussed how female characters were drawn in the ‘90s, what it takes to be a superhero, and whether or not this was just, at heart, a big high school love story where the big man on campus (Thanos) lusts after the girl (Mistress Death) he can never get. In fact, many of the group felt Death was all in Thanos’ head, and not a real person (dead or alive). Either way, the club enjoyed this trip into a nostalgic superhero head-space from almost three decades ago. Next month, Balboa Park takes on Nameless by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham.
This month, the Downtown Club explored the world of luchador superheroes with Unfabulous Five by Jerry Frissen and the mysterious artist only known as Bill. Some of the group enjoyed how it captured the essence of classic Luchador B-movies, whose thoroughly silly and outlandish productions were the inspiration for the comic series. There was discussion that perhaps watching these films beforehand would have fostered a better appreciation of the book for those who were not thrilled with it. The realistic camaraderie of the Luchadores Five also resonated with those who liked the book. Most agreed that the artwork by Bill was excellent. Next month, the club will learn all about Wytches by Scott Snyder and Jock.
The Encinitas group discussed both volumes of Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, and the group agreed it was a very interesting and creative read. A few of the members went into the books with some hesitation, being that it was the first comic series written by famous rock musician Gerard Way, but came out impressed at the creative storyline and odd, clever humor. It’s no surprise that Way found success as a comics creator and has gone on to continue his career in the industry, with his Young Animal imprint at DC Comics. The concept of a team of adopted siblings with superpowers coming together to save the world might sound like it would be ripe to tread trite territory, but Way plays with the superhero motif in a manner that keeps it fresh and unique. Coupled with Way’s writing is fantastic art by Gabriel Bá, which matches the tone and pace of the story perfectly. Despite the fairly light atmosphere of Umbrella Academy, the Book Club members all felt the graphic violence was unexpectedly over-the-top at times, and the exploration of superhero archetypes results in slight pigeonholing of gender roles. Nevertheless, Umbrella Academy was definitely a selection that everyone in the group enjoyed, with one member giving a concise consensus as such: “Embrace the weird and go for the ride!” Next month the Encinitas Book Club will be reading Deadly Class vol. 1 by Rick Rememder, Wesley Craig, and Lee Loughridge.
The Escondido Public Library chapter of the Comic-Con International book club enjoyed our discussions of both Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, and Locke & Key, Vol 2, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. Erin facilitated the chat, and the group explored the use of both symbolism and humor in Saga. The Escondido group agreed that Saga was our overall favorite title to date, and that we would like to continue reading the rest of the volumes once we've completed the Locke & Key series. Volume 2 of Locke & Key (Head Games) was confusing to many of us, and several group members reported experiencing strange dreams after reading about open heads, but we're excited to continue the story! Up next in May, the group will read Locke & Key vol. 3, and Sex Criminals, vol. 1, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky.
The La Jolla group kept things strange for April by revisiting the Planetary series by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday, moderated by Rob. The episodic nature of the series continued with the second volume, The Fourth Man, although it seemed more appreciated this time around due to the more recognizable comic references, as opposed to the adventure pulp comic references from the first volume. Cassaday’s attempts to mirror and pay homage to various art styles to accompany each of Ellis’ references were widely enjoyed. The introduction of the Four as antagonists also helped to tie the overarching plot threads together in a more satisfying way, and some members expressed interest in going back to the first volume because of the callbacks. In the end, the group was enthusiastic about continuing the series, although it was suggested that months or even years should be allowed to pass before reading the next volume in order to simulate the experience of the original single-issue readers.
La Jolla also read The Infinity Gauntlet in anticipation of the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War movie being released by Marvel Studios. Some members had enjoyable speculation on the plot of the movie vs. the book, since there seemed to be significant differences between the events of the 1990s mini-series and the current set-up of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. George Pérez’s art involved significant numbers of characters being somehow fit into a single panel was universally enjoyed, although there was a noticeable art transition from George Perez to Ron Lim. However, this transition wasn’t regarded as jarring to the degree as other recent titles that had been read by the group. The Infinity Gauntlet was the first Marvel “event” title read by some of La Jolla’s readers, and the first event title read as a group, and it was warmly received.
Next month, the La Jolla group will again be exploring non-Big 2 superheroes with Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston, and Lovecraftian parallel dimensions with Locke and Key vol. 2 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez.
The Mission Valley Book Club was supposed to meet last month, on the anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, to discuss March: Book Two and Three by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, but a gas leak put a stop to that, so we met on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination to discuss the final two volumes in this Civil Rights memoir. A true civil rights hero, many of us were shocked that we had not heard of John Lewis before and lamented that our education of that period in history was sorely lacking. This led to a discussion of utilizing the March trilogy in schools and how children would benefit from not only the story but also the graphic novel form used to tell it. A truly powerful memoir, the March trilogy has lessons that all should learn and examples of the power of good people to overcome amidst so much adversity. Would we have been able to participate in peaceful, non-violent protests in the face of such unabashed hatred? We would like to think so. Everyone was touched by the novels, and the art really elicited an emotional response from all. It was clear that the message of the novels was hope, and all members agreed we could use a little more of that these days. In May, Mission Valley will read Birthright, vol. 1, by Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan.
The North Park Club dove into the convoluted and metafictional world of The Unwritten, by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Chris Chuckry, and Todd Klein. In this first volume, Tom Taylor is eking out an existence making appearances at pop culture conventions as the real life inspiration for a popular Young Adult book series in the same vein as Harry Potter. His life begins to unravel when his childhood memories are called into question and characters from the pages of “Tommy Taylor” begin to appear.
The elevator pitch of “Harry Potter books but based off a real person” was what drew everyone into voting for it and became the largest topic of the night, led by Adrienne. The group really enjoyed how closely the story of Tommy Taylor mirrored Harry Potter, with some members wishing they could read the Tommy Taylor stories and others wishing Unwritten had made more fun of the Boy Who Lived. Another aspect of the comic that connected with the group was the glimpses of and jabs at convention life for periphery stars. Overall, everyone was interested in the story and wanted to read more.
Next month North Park will pay a visit to the Weird West when they read Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s East of West, Volumes 1 & 2.