Comic-Con’s June Book Club Report
We’re back with a review of what each of our Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs read in June. This month we welcome the new Museum group to the fold, with their first-ever discussion meeting (see below).
Balboa Park’s book selection for June was Hawkeye, Volume 1, My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction and David Aja. Moderated by Janet, the discussion covered a number of characteristics of the book that were popular with the group. The author's focus on the day-to-day struggles of being a superhero were a focus of much of the volume, and became a starting place for the talk. Club members enjoyed the dynamic of including both Clint Barton and Kate Bishop in the book, comparing and contrasting the portrayal of Bishop to Bobbi Morse of Mockingbird (Balboa Park’s March 2019 book). The art style of David Aja was discussed at some length; some members of the club found it particularly engaging and connected to the story, while others found it to be at times distracting with discussion focusing on the use of specific colors. One particularly interesting point related to the way in which Hawkeye’s portrayal in this particular book was divergent from his portrayal in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or club member's expectations of how the character Hawkeye would respond to certain situations. On balance, the club found the book to be an enjoyable read that found the right mix of narrative advancement and fun, with members reflecting on the last time a book had actually made them laugh out loud while reading it.
The club will be reading Northlanders, Vol. 3 by Brian Wood in August.
Is it possible to retell 40+ years of the Uncanny X-Men in just six issues? That was the goal of Ed Piskor’s X-Men: Grand Design trilogy. The Chula Vista group discussed the first volume, which contained the first two issues, or “episodes,” of Piskor’s work, plus a recolored version (by Piskor) of X-Men #1 from 1963. The group agreed that yes, he did a very succinct job in retelling the X-Men story.
Eric moderated the discussion and the 1 ½ hours passed quickly. We all marveled (get it?) at the amount of work and Piskor’s skills to combine all the X-men stories into a cohesive storyline. The discussion soon became a history lesson not only for the X-men world, but Marvel and the comics industry in general.
The group enjoyed the cameos for future characters in the X-Men universe (Storm and Legion), as well other characters in the Marvel Universe (Tony Stark and Captain America). We were also surprised at how characters changed over the years. Jena liked Professor X’s backstory, including additional details of his non-mutant brother. Everyone was impressed by Piskor’s ability to match the style of the artists of the past X-eras and we talked about favorite panels from the book which included: the black and white photo of Magneto and his henchmen; the episode cover images; and the shift to Magneto’s point of view. The discussion went beyond this particular X-Men era as we also discussed our favorite mutants: Nightcrawler, Magik, Storm, Wolverine, Rogue, Jean Grey, and Magneto all received votes.
Next month, the group will read Skyward by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett and Antonio Fabela.
June marks the beginning of summer, so the Downtown Club kicked it off with a touch of nostalgia courtesy of W. Maxwell Prince and Martin Morazzo’s Ice Cream Man Vol 1: Rainbow Sprinkles. This deceptively sweet story draws you in with a classic ice cream truck serving up delightfully pastel artwork and smiling children, but it soon takes a turn towards the dark and treacherous with a series of horror inspired tales.
Kyle was our guide into the weird and terrifying world of the Ice Cream Man, and much like the book, he delighted us first with custom-made ice cream toys that he crafted with fellow club member Jane. Members were so excited to take home these assorted cones, which came in different flavors and were topped with sugary hints of horror. Kyle also prompted us to share our favorite ice cream flavor as we went around the room, which ranged from classics (vanilla and cookies & cream) to artisanal concoctions that had us all wanting to take a field trip to grab a scoop (sesame-mochi, yes please!).
Ice Cream Man’s tales sparked some fun conversation and further cultivated our love of the horror genre. It also highlighted just how many people are terrified of spiders! Eek! Members appreciated the artwork, especially the use of color to change the reader’s perception of what was happening on the page. Many noted the similarity to the Twilight Zone anthology approach of storytelling and one member was already on to volume 2 in hopes of discovering more about the mysterious Ice Cream Man and the origin of his wicked ways.
In August, the Downtown Club will plunge into the world of Fables by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, and Steve Leialoha, as they embark on a two-month binge including the first 18 issues of the landmark Vertigo Comics series.
After reading the light, funny The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol. 1 in May, the Encinitas Book Club did a complete 180 in June and discussed The Black Monday Murders vol. 1 by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Tomm Coker. The meeting was facilitated by Karim. A dark and beautiful book that draws you in as you explore its intriguing world, The Black Monday Murders focuses on the events after the 1987 “Black Monday” market crash, highlighting a mysterious and powerful group of individuals entangled in occult practices impacting world finance. The premise is refreshingly unique, with one Book Club member remarking, “A supernatural thriller about high finance? Never heard of that before!” Incorporating elements of horror, noir, mystery, and classic hard-boiled detective tropes, The Black Monday Murders comes together unlike anything else. Even Book Club members who were taken aback by the occasional gory and shocking plot elements and imagery were still drawn to the book, with one member noting that while much of the book left him feeling uneasy, he still read it in one sitting. Hickman weaves real-life events into the storyline, which adds a sense of realism and believability to what would otherwise seem a fantastical world. The Book Club’s discussion was lively and full of excitement, as the group shared ideas, information, and theories to gain a better understanding of the story. The Black Monday Murders is an exceptional read for anyone looking to explore something beyond more popular genres of comics and graphic novels, not to mention anyone looking to feel involved in piecing together the mysteries the book presents to readers. Next month’s book is Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.
The Escondido 1 group read Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee. The group initially spoke on this series acting as an introduction to Batman. The positive notes were that the series touches base with many of Bruce Wayne and Batman’s allies and friends. This inadvertently lead to detailed backstories on many of the characters you meet along the journey. Although, there are negatives to Hush being your first exposure to Batman. Let’s start with: what universe is this? The group explored the vast Batman universes and how they all differed from each other. There was a Bat-purist that said this universe had too many inconsistencies, while others felt this more contemporary universe added a better flavor to characters such as Killer Croc. Our next topic lead to a division among us as there was no clear winner to the question “Who was your favorite Batman sidekick?” (Many stated hands down, Dick Grayson.) Lastly we reflected on the romance between Batman and Catwoman, and if this story could really have merit in the future. Our group was tied between there being a romance and it not really working out, and there should not be a romance because Catwoman cannot be trusted.
Additionally, we discussed Saga Vol. 6 and all the character developments, and how far we have come. Like many of our Saga discussions, speculation became the center of our conversation with many upset about The Will’s recent outlook on life, and the fate of main characters moving forward.
The Escondido 1 Group will read Chew Vol. 1: Tasters Choice by John Layman and Rob Guillory, The Pro by Garth Ennis and Amanda Conner (artist), and Saga Vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples.
In June Escondido 2 read Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Group members really enjoyed this tale of Batman and that it took place over the course of a year. The artwork was a callback to Batman Year One and a mix of ‘90s nostalgia. The black and white scenes invoked a feeling of noir detective stories. The group loved that the murder scenes were all in black and white except for one piece of color that really tied it together. The classic "bat and cat” panels were a huge highlight of the book. It was interesting to see the parallels of Bruce Wayne/Batman and Harvey Dent/Two-Face. Becoming Two-Face simplified things for Harvey Dent to the point of his decisions just being the flip of a coin. Batman and Riddler couldn't figure out the case put before them, marking it as one of the cases Batman didn't solve on his own without help. One of the members pointed out that Batman and Catwoman are reflections of different worlds and how it shaped them. Overall the group thoroughly enjoyed this read.
In August, Escondido 2 will read Spider-Man: Kraven's Last Hunt by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck.
For June the La Jolla group read The Boys Vol. 1 by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson and Y the Last Man Vol. 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. The group started with The Boys and it brought a lively discussion about the topics the book presented. We all were extremely intrigued with the thought that superheroes could be kind, generous, and amazing in front of everyone, but behind closed doors corrupt and completely different. We also were curious how the books were going to progress; will The Seven be able to continue with their ways or will they be stopped.
As we continue with reading Y the Last Man, we agree we all love the pace of the books … before you know it you have completed the whole volume and are ready to move on to the next one. Volume 4 really gave the group an understanding of the timeline and the progress they have made in their journey. The mention of species ending due to life cycles brought a new method of feeling and understanding the repercussions. The group is still excited to continue on and see what Yorick, 355, and Dr Mann can get themselves into next on this epic journey.
Next month, La Jolla will be reading Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads.
The Mission Valley group read Coyote Doggirl by Lisa Hanawalt this month. When discussion started and the group was asked who liked the book, the response was mixed. When asked to clarify their mixed stances on the book, some simply didn’t understand the humor (as was indicated by the person who recommended it), while others didn’t get the sense that it was truly a traditional western story. As a group, going back through the book revealed passages that, when reread, the group found much more amusing than some had originally interpreted. During the discussion of various parts of the book, the group concluded that the story did follow a typical western story, even though the protagonist was not the friendliest or most likeable character. The watercolor look of the coloring in the book was unanimously praised. After re-examining the art and a few more passages, several people thought the book was worth a second shot. In August, the Mission Valley book will read Die Vol. 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker, by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans.
The Comic-Con Museum Book Club met for their first-ever book discussion. For their first title, Pride of Baghdad was selected. Written by Brian K. Vaughn and illustrated by Niko Henrichon, the opinions in the club were across the board on the book itself but all were in agreement about the quality of Henrichon’s art and the usage of colors in the story.
Vaughan’s story did engender many different discussion points as the topics jumped from what the animals were meant to embody to the dangers faced by the actual creatures themselves.
For the month of August, the book club selected Skin & Earth by Lights
The North Park Group also read Ed Piskor’s first volume of his X-Men continuity distillation experiment, X-Men: Grand Design. Grand Design tells the entire story of the X-Men from before Charles Xavier started his school for Gifted Youngsters through their stories told in the early 1970s as they dealt with persecution from the world while trying to save it. Piskor condenses a comic issue of X-Men down to approximately one to two pages in his adaptation, creating a quick and story dense read.
David led our discussion this month and gave everyone a quick background of the Piskor history with the X-Men before the rest of the group offered their thoughts. Almost everyone who read the physical copy commented on its size. The book is the traditional “Marvel Treasury” format, which was popular in the 1970s and 1980s at the company. The color of the pages of the comic were designed to imitate the newsprint coloring of the original comics. Piskor tailored his drawing style to match the old comics, which most members really appreciated.
For several members, Grand Design was their first dip into reading X-Men comics, with their first exposure to the mutant heroes either the 1990s cartoon or the movies. When speaking of the story of the X-Men and the recurring theme of ostracization and persecution, some members saw it as an allegory for race relations while some saw parallels with immigration, showing that the central idea of being misunderstood and feared still resonated with modern readers.
Next month North Park is starting an alternating month-long read of Saga by reading the first three volumes of Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples’ sci-fi epic.
Most of our clubs will be taking July off for Comic-Con, so we’ll be back in 2 months with the August Book Club Report!