Book Club Members Stay Cool with New Graphic Novel Reads!
August got hot-Hot-HOT here in San Diego County, so the Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs stayed indoors and beat the heat by reading another selection of great comics and discussing them via Zook Club!
The Balboa Park group’s August selection was Sentient by Jeff Lemire (writer) and Gabriel Walta (artist). Margaret led the in-depth discussion. Sentient tells the story of a group of children on a colony spaceship whose parents have all died in an act of sabotage. Now, they survive with the help of Valarie, the ship’s computer, whose protocols have been overridden by their parents right before they died. As the saboteurs close in on the ship, can Valarie save the children and get them to the colony planet safely?
Most of the members of the Book Club gave Sentient a 4- or 5-star rating during the Balboa Park Rating Roundtable. The book was generally acclaimed to have “great” writing, “impressive” art and coloring, and a “compelling” concept. Many members wanted to read a sequel. One member who rated the book lower felt that the pacing was slow.
The group discussed the themes of family—how Valarie became a mother figure and the children became a family for her and themselves. Also discussed was the theme of the sentient AI—both Valarie and her opponent Victor achieved sentience and used that freedom in different ways, for different reasons. The group discussed how the use of color and art supported these themes.
Some members also stayed late to discuss Saga, Vol. 5 by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist) as part of the ongoing Saga read-through.
In September, the Balboa Park Book Club will be discussing Aya: Life in Yop City, a memoir of life in the late-seventies Ivory Coast, by Marguerite Abouet (writer) and Clement Oubrerie (artist).
The Chula Vista group loves to read re-imaginings of familiar characters and stories, and August is no exception. This month the group read and discussed Peter Panzerfaust Vol. 1, The Great Escape written by Kurtis Wiebe and art by Tyler Jenkins. The series takes elements of the Peter Pan stories and places them in France during World War II. Peter Pan(zerfaust) is an American looking for someone named Belle. The reader meets the Lost Boys (in this iteration, they are French orphans), the Darling children, and Captain Hook (Kapitän Haken). This volume provides the reader a thorough introduction of the characters and the world they live in.
Dennis moderated the discussion. He was drawn to the title because of the mix of history and comics. He noted that he found himself looking for Peter Pan references in this retelling, and there were plenty. However, the reader can appreciate the story without being a Peter Pan fan. Both Eric (unfamiliar with Peter Pan) and Jena (a fan of the books and the movies) enjoyed the work as a coming-of-age story during war time. Chris liked that some aspects of the story “were actually true,” and Matt thought it was “cool” that the Lost Boys were part of the French Resistance. Yasmine felt an emotional connection to some of the characters. Monique appreciated the straightforward telling of the tale and that she didn’t have to read between the lines. Tiffany liked the story but found herself wondering if it really took five days to travel from Calais to Paris via the sewers. Overall, this was a book that everyone was pleasantly surprised to like as much as they did, and many will continue with Volume 2, if they have not done so already.
In September, the Chula Vista group will be reading Trillium by Jeff Lemire
The Downtown group began their annual deep dive into a completed series. This year it’s Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, with colors by Matt Wilson. While the club read volume one years ago when it first came out, everyone was excited to read the continuation of this popular series, which we’ve broken up into 2 months’ worth of reading: Vols. 1-3 in August and Vols. 4-6 in September. The tale involves four girls who meet while delivering morning newspapers in the 1980s and get thrust into a time-traveling adventure that has them—for better or worse—encountering their older selves while trying to save the world.
Moderator James started off with a short list of questions, but the discussion went down a number of different rabbit holes, including the time travel nuances of the story, and how the entire tale gets better the more you know about the characters and their situations. Everybody loved Cliff Chiang’s art and felt Matt Wilson’s colors took that art to a different level. It’s very easy to like the four “paper girls,” and our group liked the fact that they were all so different in background. One member pointed out that this was a story about GIRLS, and not about the boys they like, their first kisses, etc. … and that it was like a 1980s adventure movie (The Goonies, Stand By Me), but turned around to be about girls, not boys. The discussion also moved to what would future you tell your 12-year-old self (the answers were surprisingly hair-oriented!). Everyone enjoyed the 1980s references, including malls, early Apple products, Radio Shack, Kay-B Toys, and Walden Books.
Next month … you guessed it, we’re still time-traveling with the Paper Girls for the epic conclusion!
The Encinitas group’s August selection was the first volume of Once & Future, by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora. This is a new ongoing series from BOOM! Studios; the first volume was released in March 2020. It received an Eisner Award nomination for best new series. The story features retired monster hunter Bridgette McGuire and her unsuspecting grandson Duncan, combating threats from Arthurian legend.
Luke led the discussion. James liked the interplay of family dynamics with the fantasy action genre. Mary Elizabeth appreciated that the grandmother's explanations to her grandson also served to inform the readers of necessary backstory regarding Arthurian legends.
Whitney was grateful that the series features a woman of more mature years (or as the French elegantly put it, une femme d’un certain âge). Whitney's comment led to a wider-ranging discussion of how few comics feature women over 40 in an active role.
Abe commented that the book was exploring some of the same subject matter as a 2020 Netflix series Cursed, which is a re-imagining of Arthurian legend through the eyes of Nimue. (Comics creator Frank Miller is one of the executive producers of Cursed.)
Karim enjoyed artist Dan Mora's kinetic style in the story's action sequences. Luke gave credit to the contributions of colorist Tamra Bonvillain, and her imaginative use of colors for mood-setting.
Richard appreciated the story's subtext commentary regarding current nationalist and populist movements, including some not-so-subtle jabs at Brexit. Jon thought that the first arc's world-building provided a springboard for many potential stories.
The group also discussed some of their favorite panels from the Comic-Con@Home event in July. Whitney was particularly pleased that the format exposed her to some panels and topics that she otherwise may not have been able to see.
In September, the Encinitas Book Club will be discussing Long Walk to Valhalla, by Adam Smith and Matthew Fox.
The Escondido Group 1 read the newly released The Rise of Kylo Ren by writer Charles Soule and artist Will Sliney. Jordan led the discussion and answered Star Wars extended universe questions regarding this prequel and titular character torn between the Light and Dark Sides. Born Ben Solo, the young jedi struggles under the weight of his family’s legacies and outside expectations for greatness. During a mission with his war hero uncle, Luke Skywalker, Ben Solo faces a group of murderous foes that will one day serve as his own comrades, the Knights of Ren.
Chris found it interesting that Ben Solo was more willing than most to embrace both the Light and the Dark Side in hopes of finding a path for himself. Jordan shared that this view of neutrality was more in the line of thought of Grey Jedi. Chris also pointed out the unusually jagged nature of Kylo Ren’s red lightsaber, reflecting his own instability and emotional turmoil. Sophia found it sad that from the beginning, Ben would not confide in those closest to him, his family and padawan friends, but rather trust the poisonous advice of an outsider in secret. Natalie liked seeing Ben’s childhood friends fight to bring him to his senses and face his misdeeds; especially Voe, a female jedi who took great pride in being taught by Luke Skywalker. Jessica liked seeing the wild and lush plant life of the artificial planet ship where Snoke was hiding out. Jordan felt Ben Solo’s struggles for identity sovereignty were very relatable to those of modern teenagers uncertain of themselves and torn by the expectations of family, peers, and society.
Escondido Group 1 will meet again digitally in September, to discuss Zombies vs. Robots Vol. 1 by writers Chris Ryall, Steve Niles, and Ashley Wood, and artists Anthony Diecidue and Val Mayerik.
Escondido 2's August selection was Scooby Apocalypse Vol.1 by Keith Giffen and Howard Porter. The back cover of Scooby Apocalypse Vol.1 reads: “Fred. Daphne. Velma. Shaggy. Scooby-Doo. Roaming the globe in their lime-green Mystery Machine, they’ve solved countless crimes and debunked dozens of sketchy supernatural shenanigans. But what if the horror was real? Something terrible has transformed our world, turning millions of people into mindless zombie hordes. And only five people—well, four people and one mangy mutt—have the smarts, the skills and the sheer crazy courage to stare down doomsday. Can these pesky kids and their canine companion—using every incredible contraption in their arsenal—defeat the evil that has overwhelmed planet Earth? We’ve got only one thing to say about that: ZOINKS!”
Krysten started the discussion off asking each member what their familiarity with Scooby-Doo was. Most members remember watching the Scooby-Doo, Where are You! animated series growing up. Some members have never seen or read anything dealing with Scooby-Doo. The artwork and coloring of the book really stand out. Everyone was a fan of the monster designs and the update on them being real. Each character was updated with hints of their past version intact. The mystery being based more in the supernatural with science mixed in intrigued book club members. It was interesting to see the reason why Scooby-Doo was able to talk with everyone. A good, fun read, with a couple hilarious moments. Members will be exploring more volumes of this post-apocalyptic tale.
Next up for Escondido 2 in September will be Vision: The Complete Collection by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta.
This month Kyle moderated the La Jolla Zook Club meeting as we discussed two gritty titles. First we discussed Scalped: Indian Country Vol. 1, by Jason Aaron and illustrated by R.M. Guéra, the first volume in their critically acclaimed series. Scalped is a crime/western series that features a Native American tribe plagued by organized crime trying to open the Crazy Horse Casino. Dashiell Bad Horse had been away from the tribe for several years and is forced to address his former life. Since we have previously read Aaron’s Southern Bastard run, we immediately made the connections and were able to see Aaron shape his craft and cut his teeth with Scalped. We found Guéra’s art to blend perfectly with the characters, lawlessness, and grittiness of this western title. We are excited to continue this series in future months.
Next we shifted gears and read a horror comic in the Eisner Award-nominated series Immortal Hulk, Vol. 2: The Green Door, written by Al Ewing, with art by Joe Bennett, Lee Garbett, and Martin Simonds. Here we find Hulk battling Banner, some of the Avengers, and Carl “Crusher” Creel aka Absorbing Man. We enjoyed Hulk in a horror format and could feel the boundaries being pushed and see the different places Marvel could take this iconic character using this format. We thought the coloring paired well and enhanced the horror atmosphere. Add this to another title we are excited to keep reading!
Next month Bob will be moderating as we read Lazarus Vol. 1 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark and UnNatural Vol. 2 by Mirka Andolfo.
Zook Club carried on in August, with the Mission Valley club reading The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by acclaimed illustrator and cartoonist Koren Shadmi. Before Black Mirror and Tales From the Crypt, there was The Twilight Zone first airing in 1959. The show was conceived and executed by genius (or mad man?) Rod Serling, prolific writer and innovator of television. Considered ahead of its time, the show explored issues such as racism, war, and censorship using science fiction themes. Much of Serling’s writings derived from the horrors he witnessed while serving as a paratrooper during World War II. Postwar, Serling began his career by exploring writing and radio which he’d had an interest in since his youth. He wrote many radio shows before moving on to television in its early days. Serling would ultimately win a whopping five Emmy Awards and is credited as a pioneer, changing the landscape of television forever.
Members of the club liked the book, especially the uncanny resemblance of Rod Serling himself. The black and white art was very fitting. Some members were already longtime fans of Serling’s efforts, but learned a great deal of his background and early life through this graphic novel. The book also tells of the many A-list actors that starred in Serling’s works throughout the years, including William Shatner, Robert Redford, Dennis Hopper, and Carol Burnett. Overall, it was an enjoyable read and even included its own Twilight Zone twist ending.
For September, the club will be reading Heart in a Box by Kelly Thompson and Meredith McClaren.
For August, the Museum Charter Member Book Club read The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg.
Tommy led the discussion and provided several thoughtful talking points for the group. For some members, this was their first time entering The Sandman universe. The discussion began with remarks on the many allusions to popular culture of the times; seeing as how it was written in the ‘80s, there were characters in the novel that members saw resembled popular music artists of the time, such as Death having a resemblance to Robert Smith of The Cure and Lucifer looking like David Bowie.
Members continued to remark about the re-readability of this graphic novel. There was substantial dialogue on how this series did a fine job of pulling people in and introducing the reader to the greater universe. Overall, the Museum group enjoyed reading The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes.
Next month the Museum Charter Member Book Club will be reading Something is Killing the Children Vol. 1 written by James Tynion IV and illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera.
For the month of August the North Park group read Prince of Cats by Ronald Wimberly. Described as a “B-Side of Romeo and Juliet,” Prince uses Shakespeare’s classic tragedy as a jumping off point to tell its own story: The comic follows Tybalt, just returned from boarding school to a 1980s Brooklyn and back into his old life. The Montegues and the Capulets are rival gangs, with members vying for territory and reputation through tagging and samurai duels.
Our moderator for this month, Katie, started our meeting discussing the book’s Foreword and how ‘80s Hip Hop music often sampled multiple existing songs to synthesize something entirely new. Everyone loved the style of this book and felt that Wimberly executed this type of sampling into a graphic novel. Several members only had a pop culture-adjacent knowledge of Romeo and Juliet (or vague memories from High School), however they were still able to engage with and enjoy the story. For those who had more connection to Shakespeare’s original story, they enjoyed seeing minor characters like Tybalt and Rosaline fleshed out into their own stories.
Everyone appreciated Wimberly’s art and choice of color, with heavy use of bright ‘80s colors throughout. Sometimes the sword fights could be hard to follow, but we did enjoy the concept of the duels and that there was a dueling ‘zine with articles on different gang members. Members also really enjoyed the book’s dialogue. It bounced between iambic pentameter and African American Vernacular English before mixing them together into something unique and interesting.
Next month, North Park will be finishing up their re-read of Monstress with Vols. 3 and 4, by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda, and Rus Wooten