August Book Club Report
All 5 branches of the Comic-Con International Graphic Novel Book Club met in August and discussed 6 new books!
At long last the Downtown club began reading the much-acclaimed blockbuster Saga series! While most enjoyed the first 3 volumes of the Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples self-proclaimed “Star Wars for perverts,” a few in the group were turned off by its superficial soap-opera-esque storytelling. The ones who praised it admired the creativity and absorbing story (“it may be a soap opera, but it’s a damn good soap opera!”). Others liked how it seemed to be a satirical, almost screwball comedy that was a sendup of everything it was inspired by. One of the more intriguing discussions was how the more-than-meets-the-eye romance novel in the story was perhaps Vaughan and Staples winking at the reader to say that the similarly “pulpy” feel of Saga might also be a Trojan horse delivering a deeper message. There was also some debate about the validity of their idea that the opposite of war was sex. Some liked the ambiguity of the “heroes” and “villains” in the story and how the reader is able to root for every character, even though they are extremely flawed. Others contemplated how Alana and Marko’s decision to visit the author of the book was perhaps a metaphor for the obsessions of fandom and how people will do anything, in spite of their own health and safety, to meet their favorite creators. In September, the Downtown group will tackle the second deluxe volume of Saga, which takes us up through issue #36.
The Mission Valley Book Club met up to discuss their latest read, Mae Volume One by Gene Ha and Paulina Ganucheau. Mae, the protagonist, learns that her sister, who disappeared years ago, had discovered a mysterious portal and crossed over to another world. Moderator Paul started the discussion with a great question about the book’s origins. Now published by Dark Horse, Mae started as a very successful Kickstarter project. As the first graphic novel the group had read to start this way, there was a very in-depth discussion regarding if the book’s origins would have any effect on the book itself. The group also had a lot to say about the art and the choice to have all the main characters be female. Next up for Mission Valley is Paul Dini and Eduardo Risso’s Dark Night: A True Batman Story.
For the month of August, North Park chose the action-packed book, Forever Evil by Geoff Johns, David Finch and Richard Friend. The story features the Crime Syndicate, which is essentially the evil version of the Justice League. They have one main goal: global domination. But Batman and a group of “good” villains led by Lex Luthor, are the only things standing in their way. Although some members of North Park were new to the DC world and felt a little lost at times (while wishing there was a small recap page), the story was found to be enjoyable, but not groundbreaking. It was a refreshing break from some of the more serious reads. Many found it interesting to see a different side of Lex. And, it was almost unanimous that the favorite duo of the book was Lex and Bizarro, an imperfect Kryptonian clone that he created. Next month North Park will dive back into the Sandman series with vol. 3-4.
The La Jolla club’s selections for August included The Flintstone’s vol. 1 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh, and Letter 44, vol. 4 by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque. For the Flintstones, the group’s overall reactions were favorable and it was fairly easy to see why the title received such critical acclaim. The book’s version of social satire was welcomed and thought to be generally effective, although it was acknowledged that it could get a bit heavy-handed at times. The slightly more intellectual humor that the series adopted over its animated counterpart was appreciated, and members also took note at how the stories also had some more emotional or darker elements (such as the “animal appliances” existential musings) to contrast with the humor and satire. Although the series’ episodic format was appropriate considering its source material, some members also expressed that they missed having an over-arching plot similar to other titles that had been read.
Letter 44, vol. 4 seemed to get a much more favorable reaction from the group in comparison to the previous volume. The current plot events took on such gravity that really could not be overlooked or downplayed. The President’s current dilemma regarding humanity’s fate was regarded as being well-thought out, although some of the club’s members were still able to brainstorm some additional options not mentioned in the story. The writer seems to be doing a good job in keeping readers guessing, since members were still debating motivations behind certain characters, such as the Snapelike ex-President Carroll, or the murderous Colonel Drumm. The artist’s use of color for the flashback sequences also spurred interesting debate between members regarding why certain characters were colored or not. Overall, the group seemed to concur that it would be reading this title through to its conclusion. Next month La Jolla will read Saga, vol. 3 and Girls, Vol. 1: Conception by the Luna Brothers.
The Encinitas group tackled the Ms. Marvel Omnibus written by G. Willow Wilson, covering issues 1-19 of the comic series. All members gave the series a “thumbs-up” rating, with one member stating she actually asked herself “Was this comic made for me?” as she was reading it. While only one Book Club member had the real-world experience of growing up in a Muslim household, all members felt they were able to identify with protagonist Kamala Khan because the universal experience of being a teen was portrayed so well. The group felt Willow Wilson was brave in her presentation of Ms. Marvel, exploring the extra intensity of Kamala trying to fit in with her classmates culturally in addition to simply fitting in as a teen. In addition, Book Club members enjoyed the way Kamala’s sense of community was tied to living in New Jersey, serving as a significant source of price, alliance, and inspiration for her as a superhero. Willow Wilson sneaks a great deal of fun, clever references (such as “Doge speak” during the Wolverine scene) that don’t detract from the story and don’t make readers feel they’re missing something if the in-jokes go over their heads. The group thought the story arc wrapped up well in episode 19, though one member said it did feel akin to “beating the final boss in a video game but not being able to save.” Beyond the well-done story, the Book Club appreciated the artwork’s softer, almost “indie” look, and everyone absolutely loved Lockjaw and would want a dog like him as a pet! Next month the group will be discussing Sonny Liew’s Eisner Award-winning The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye.