Toucan Blog Banner

Celebrate with Our Love for Comics!

Love was in the air in February, and what better way to celebrate than with our love for comics!


Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs-Balboa Park
Balboa Park

The Balboa Park group’s February selection was The Banks by Roxane Gay (writer) and Ming Doyle (artist). Marilyn led the in-depth discussion. The Banks is billed as a heist thriller about the most successful thieves in Chicago: the women of the Banks family.

The Book Club gave The Banks an average 3.5-star rating (out of 5) during the Rating Roundtable. Members praised the “relatable” story of the Banks women, the “strength and likability” of main character Celia as well as her moms Cora and Addie and grandmother Clara, and the smooth transitions between flashbacks and the present. Also coming in for praise was the ending, the supporting characters, and the realistic way the obstacles Celia faced in her career were portrayed. One focus of discussion was the how well the book told the family story of these women, while it left out many elements of the traditional heist tale. Some members felt that the art was cloudy and confusing at times, Celia’s actions seemed inconsistent, and sometimes characters seemed to do things because the plot dictated their actions.

Members also discussed Descender, Vol. 2 by Jeff Lemire (writer) and Dustin Nguyen (artist) as part of the ongoing Descender read-through. Members gave Descender a 5-star rating. Members again praised the elaborate world-building, the innovative watercolor artwork, and the thought-provoking theme of what constitutes life and intelligence in a universe of humans, robots, and aliens. Most members identified with the characters and were along for the ride, but one found the book hard to get into.

In March, the Balboa Park Book Club will be discussing House of X/Powers of X by Jonathan Hickman (writer) and Pepe Larraz, R.B. Silva, and Marte Gracia (artists). House of X/Powers of X is a reboot of the X-Men saga. The group will also be discussing Descender Vol. 3.


Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs-Chula Vista
Chula Vista

Chula Vista’s pick for February was Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona. Set in the world where superheroes exist, Kamala Khan is a teenager who wants to do big things. The daughter of conservative Muslim immigrants, Kamala is very much a typical teenager: she writes fan fiction (about the Avengers); pushes back against parents; and yearns to be accepted in her school. A chance encounter with a mysterious fog has gifted her with unusual superhero-esque powers. Will she be able to control and use those powers to do the big things she dreams of?

Yamine moderated the discussion, and everyone spoke about how much they enjoyed the story. There was a lot of humor to be found in the book, from visual gags (“LOL no battery” appears on the cell phone screen with no power), to dialogue (“Do not fail me, super snot”). However, the humor did not disguise other messages in the story.  Monique felt that the work highlighted the importance of people of color trying to find heroes that look like them. Jenna agreed, “Representation matters.” For Dennis, this was a story of someone who is struggling with identity and how she fits in the world. For others, this was a story that introduced them to different cultures and was the gateway to do more research (for both the Muslim culture and the life in New Jersey). Overall, this book received a unanimous thumbs up and many plan to share the book with younger members in their family.

March’s pick is Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru.


Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs-Downtown

The Downtown group read The Seeds written by Ann Nocenti and illustrated by David Aja. This dystopian view of the future focuses on a divided population trying to survive. On one side of the wall is a group of humans desperately clinging to technology; on the other, a group trying to forge ahead and get back to nature. In the midst of it all, aliens are trying to harvest seeds before Earth dies.

The group was a little torn on this one, because it was such a thoughtful read. Moderated by James, some felt the story was one of nature vs. nurture, told entirely in symbology, with references to Noah’s Ark in the gathering of the seeds, and including a pointed commentary on ethics and journalism.

For most, it was a very different reading experience, and some readers looked at it as impressionistic vignettes: small visions of what was going on in this obviously post-apocalyptic world., with the story asking the reader to make sense of the imagery and transitions. Some readers thought it was a “masterpiece” and loved Aja’s evocative art. One member called it “a book that you feel,” one of connection and disconnection at the end of things, more about themes and atmosphere than narrative.

In March, the Downtown group will read Dracula, M*therf*cker by Alex de Campi and Erica Henderson.


Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs-Encinitas

The Encinitas group’s February selection was Invisible Kingdom Vol. 1, by G. Willow Wilson and Christian Ward. This 2019 book from Dark Horse collects the first five issues of the science fiction series. The story is set in a solar system which has a dominating religious institution and a powerful mega-corporation.

James led the discussion. Mary Elizabeth liked the idealism of the character Vess, who joins a monastery in the first issue. Richard appreciated that the religious aspect of the character was treated sympathetically, as religious beliefs are not often portrayed in comics.

Artist Christian Ward won an Eisner award for his digital art on Invisible Kingdom. Travis found the digital art style to be challenging, with the use sometimes of abstract shapes and compositions. Karim pointed out some unusual juxtapositions of digital art with more traditional comic art styles. Robin appreciated the care and thought put into the clothing for the characters. Jon was particularly impressed with the composition of the eye-catching covers included for the first five issues of the series.

James thought the first volume set up several potential storylines for conflict between the religious and commercial entities. Brittany liked the use of blindfolds in a religious ritual in the story and thought it was an interesting metaphor for obedience.

In March, the Encinitas book club will discuss the graphic novel adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five (written by Ryan North, illustrated by Albert Monteys).


Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs-Escondido 1
Escondido 1

The Escondido Group 1 enjoyed the manga Spy x Family, Vol. 1, by Tatsuya Endo. It follows a makeshift family that the spy, codenamed Twilight, hastily assembled for a top-secret mission to prevent a war between powerful nations. Twilight can do anything—change his appearance and lifestyle overnight, slip into and out of dangerous places, and evade the most dangerous criminals. But can he adopt and train a child, marry a stranger, and pretend to be the head of a picture-perfect socialite family in order to infiltrate an elite private school? He can! But little does he know that the young orphan he picks is a telepath who will do anything to keep this new-found family and home. And the beautiful new wife he recruits is secretly a renowned assassin called Thorn Princess! Can the members of this family keep their secrets from the world and each other, succeed in Twilight’s mission, and maybe grow closer in the process?

Both Natalie and Renate said it took awhile for them to get into the story, but they eventually found themselves loving this manga. Natalie even reread it and asked for the second volume. Nicole said she loved it so much, she also sought out the rest of the series. Even though he’s an avid manga reader, Vince was hesitant to pick this title up. But he confessed that he was also pleasantly surprised. He said he liked that the narrative knew when to take itself seriously and when to be funny. Nicole and Azar said the art was great and the pacing was streamlined. Thorn Princess was the favorite character of multiple group members. Twilight’s world reminded Renate of the Mission Impossible movie. Sophia’s favorite part was Twilight’s flashy proposal, complete with an explosion.

The next graphic novel title the group will discuss is Octavia Butler’s Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaption, by Damian Duffy and John Jennings.


Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs-Escondido 2
Escondido 2

Escondido 2’s February selection was Planetary Book One by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday.

Amazon states that: " This book collects the adventures of Elijah Snow, a powerful hundred-year-old man, Jakita Wagner, an extremely powerful but bored woman, and the Drummer, a man with the ability to communicate with machines. Infatuated with tracking down evidence of superhuman activity, these mystery archaeologists of the late twentieth century uncover unknown paranormal secrets and histories, such as a World War II supercomputer that can access other universes, a ghostly spirit of vengeance and a lost island of dying monsters." This description barely scratches the surface of what Planetary has to offer. What seems like one off stories slowly start to connect the further along the story is read. The artwork of each issue was distinctive and fit the stories being told. Topics range from Godzilla, Hong Kong Gangsters, 1960's Sci-fi, Spy films, and pulp adventure. Book club members were fans of Jakita and the mystery behind Elijah Snow. Some members have already finished the series to see how it wraps up. The best takeaway from the book: "Keep the world weird!" The callbacks and references to other genres and old-school comic books was much appreciated.

 For March, Escondido 2 will be reading Daytripper by Gabriel Bá and Fabio Moon.


Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs-La Jolla
La Jolla

During the month of February, love wasn’t necessarily in the air for the two titles of the La Jolla book club. The group began the discussion with Something Is Killing the Children Vol. 2 from writer James Tynion IV, artist Werther Dell’Edera, and colorist Miquel Muerto. The story continues to follow monster hunter Erica Slaughter, in the small Wisconsin town of Archer’s Peak. Though many felt the plot didn’t progress as much as they were expecting, everyone enjoyed this particular arc. Readers found many of the reveals behind Erica and the mythology of the world intriguing and felt the combination of Dell’Edera’s linework and Muerto’s tones captured the dark and horror moods. There was a general consensus to continue reading the series when the next volume becomes available to see how Erica deals with this new threat and to learn more about her secret society.

The group then moved the conversation to Lady Killer Vol. 1 from writer/artist Joëlle Jones. She co-wrote the comic with Jamie S. Rich and Laura Allred provides colors. Josie Schuller balances the life of a traditional 1960s mom and homemaker with that of a merciless contract assassin. Readers thought the volume was a great solid outing as Jones’ first attempt at writing a series, although some found the hitman narrative a bit clichéd. What wasn’t in question is Jones’ artistic ability as she perfectly carries out a 60s vision from the designs, colors, and sound effects. Combined with visceral action sequences, she develops both Madmen and Batman ’66 vibes. Based on the strength of the ending, the group is eager to find out what else is in store for Josie.

Next month, La Jolla will read Thor: God of Thunder, Vol. 1: The God Butcher by writer Jason Aaron and artist Esad Ribic, and The Sandman: Dream Country, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, and Malcolm Jones III.


Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs-Mission Valley
Mission Valley

Mission Valley’s selection for February was Dark Agents Book One: Violet and the Trial of Trauma, written by Dr. Janina Scarlet with art by Mission Valley Book Club’s own Vince Alvendia. This first installment of the Dark Agents saga follows the journey of a young witch named Violet as she navigates her new life as a recruit of the Underworld Intelligence Agency while simultaneously being the target of an evil necromancer. The book features a diverse cast, including a staff based on characters in Greek mythology. On top of all of this, Violet is struggling to come to grips with a traumatic past and suffers from PTSD. 

The group had an overwhelmingly positive response to the art, the story, and the book’s message of self-care and healing. Although the book is classified as a young adult self-help book, the group found the story enjoyable and the characters compelling. The lessons of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) were organically written into the story and character interactions and didn’t feel clinical or heavy handed, which is a testament to Dr. Scarlet’s writing. Generous praise was heaped onto Vince’s artwork, unique style, and characterizations that complemented Dr. Scarlet’s storytelling. One member likened it to X-Files meets Percy Jackson, eliciting a hearty giggle from the artist. As a bonus, Vince was able to give the Mission Valley crew some behind-the-scenes insight into the creative process of drawing a graphic novel, with some fun anecdotes about the learning experience of drawing your very first graphic novel.

Dark Agents is intended to span about 8 books, with each book focusing on a different Agent and their specific mental health challenge(s). The Mission Valley crew expressed eager anticipation to continue following Violet and her friends on their adventures in the Underworld Intelligence Agency.

Vince would like to acknowledge the Mission Valley book club, whom he also considers dear friends, for their unwavering support and friendship during the creation of this book!

Mission Valley is still in the process of selecting the book for next month because it is a wealth of comic riches and hard to pick the next one.


Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs-North Park
North Park

After vigorous debate and multiple run-offs, North Park’s Great 2021 vote is over. Not only were several individual titles chosen, but so was the now-traditional complete series read for the year. First up for February was the first volume of Boom! Studios’ haunted coming-of-age YA series Ghosted in L.A. by Sina Grace, Siobhan Keenan, Cathy Le, and DC Hopkins. Ghosted is the story of college freshman Daphne Walters, who follows her high school boyfriend to college in Los Angeles. Daphne finds herself alone in a new city after her relationship falls apart and her dorm mate is less than welcoming, until she stumbles upon a mansion populated by ghosts who take her in. As they help her get used to her new life in LA, she learns more about their lives and how she might be able to help them in turn.

North Park members felt overall that Ghosted was an enjoyably light read. Sina Grace created a fun fish-out-of-water story for Daphne as she navigated Los Angeles. It reminded several members of their own experiences starting college in a new place and growing into adulthood. Readers also enjoyed the ghosts, whose histories were interspersed within each issue to flesh out their characters and sometimes mirror Daphne’s experiences. The ghosts ranged from a woman who tried coming to terms with her career in silent films ending due to the advent of sound to a man who wasn’t comfortable being openly gay with his boyfriend before he died in the early ‘80s. One member pointed out that they appreciated that Grace created multiple queer characters without making their queerness the only aspect of their personalities.

Almost everyone enjoyed Siobhan Keenan’s art style in the collection as well. It was cute and cartoony and fit the light-hearted story perfectly. Readers also enjoyed Cathy Le’s clever use of sepiatone coloring to differentiate the ghosts’ stories told in flashback. The meeting ended with a question of whether anyone would like to live in the haunted Los Angeles mansion filled with ornery ghosts. Everyone seemed onboard with enthusiastic Yeses!

March begins North Park’s long-read for the year: the first two volumes of Kieran Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, and Clayton Cowles’ epic The Wicked + The Divine.


Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs-Oceanside

The Oceanside group selected a silent comic, The Longest Day of the Future by Lucas Varela, to discuss this month. Silent comics, or comics with no words, were new to most of those in the group. The book is about a futuristic city where two mega-corporations rule and their leaders are constantly trying to take each other down. If you remove the flyer saucers, aliens, and artificial intelligence, this story felt very familiar to our world. The group compared this story to dueling companies and politics of today and the need to be loyal to one and only one. The workers in those companies were seen as dispensable by those in charge. Instead of fighting back, most workers accepted this mediocre existence. This led to the discussion of wage disparity and how some employers treat their staff. Everyone enjoyed the artwork, and the color scheme added to the analysis of the story, with “blue” representing one side and “red” representing the other side. The two corporations even had their own mascots plastered all over propaganda and products.

Despite the book not having any words, readers did manage to follow along with the story pretty well, although it did take more concentration to “read” the pictures. Members expected to have different interpretations of the story, but that didn’t happen. They wondered if it is common for silent comics to have more simplistic storylines in order to avoid confusion. Despite the simplistic storyline, this story led to some very rich discussions about important topics. One benefit to silent comics is that no translation is needed when books get published in other languages, and most storylines are equally relatable wherever you live.

In March, the Oceanside Club wanted to read something “hot off the press” so will be reading Batman: Three Jokers by Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok, which was published a few months ago.