February Book Club Reads!
The seven groups of the Comic-Con International Graphic Novel Book Clubs got back in the swing of reading books in February. All the groups started the year in January with special “Show-and-Tell” presentations. This format allowed members to bring treasured comics and pop culture items to their respective groups, and tell the stories behind them and why they mean so much. While the Show-and-Tell concept was initially met with some skepticism, every club enjoyed hearing the personal stories behind favorite items, from a beat-up Harry Potter book that was a gift from Grandma and turned a young student’s disdain for reading and schoolwork around, to the discovery of cartoonist Lynda Barry’s Filipino background in her work, making a major connection with a member. Heartfelt moments like this were experienced in all the groups.
The Balboa Park group celebrated its first anniversary in February reading Monstress Volumes 1 and 2 by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda. The meeting was moderated by April and Janet jointly, and featured themed cupcakes decorated with quotes from the books. Monstress was well received by the club, with many members commenting on the interesting perspective that it adds to a traditional coming of age story. Discussion focused on the richness of the art, as well as the density of the writing and how the two create an intense experience for the reader. Club members also offered different reactions to the world-building style, where background was dripped into the character interactions over the span of both volumes. As several group members are experienced Manga readers, the discussion also explored the influence of different art styles on the work that created its distinctive character designs. In March, the Balboa Park will read Mockingbird, Volume 1: I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk.
The Downtown Book Club explored a different take on Batman with Sean Murphy’s Batman: White Knight. Nearly everyone enjoyed the book, from its refreshing look at the multiple sides of the Joker and Batman relationship to its fascinating reflections on social justice issues. The social justice content was especially intriguing to the group in the way Murphy uses the characters as expressions of current issues around the topic. The complexity of the Batman/Joker dichotomy and the ambiguity of who the hero(es) in the book really is/are was also appreciated. For many, the two Harley Quinns in the story were a major highlight and elicited a great discussion about the history of the character. If the surprisingly intelligent and multilayered writing weren’t enough for the group, there was also Murphy’s artwork which nearly everyone praised as superb in conveying detail, action, and character. Next month the club goes to the Prohibition era and takes a swig of Moonshine Volumes 1 & 2 by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso.
The Encinitas group chose Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen as their first selection for the new year. Mouse Guard imagines a world where mice live in towns and cities, adopt trades such as bakers and pottery makers, and struggle to exist in a treacherous world full of predators and other dangers. Thankfully, the brave Mouse Guard exists, providing protection for mice across the realm. However, when Guardsmice Kenzie, Liam, and Saxon venture out in search of a missing merchant mouse, they uncover a plot that poses a threat to the Mouse Guard, as well as the society they protect. With its colorful, detailed artwork and enjoyable storyline, members overwhelmingly enjoyed Mouse Guard: Fall 1152. Though the book is aimed at younger audiences, it truly appeals to all ages, and for adults the book can serve as either a quick escape or a longer read in which one takes time to notice and appreciate all the subtle details. For instance, one Book Club member pointed out that the colors of the Mouse Guard members’ capes coincide with their personalities. Anyone wanting to dig deeper into the rich, inviting lore of Mouse Guard will be happy to know there is even a roleplaying game, allowing players to eschew typical Dungeons & Dragons characters and monsters for those from David Petersen’s world. Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 was an excellent start to 2019 for the group, and many members are planning to explore the rest of the series. In March, the group will be reading Captain Marvel vol. 1: Higher, Faster, Further, More by Kelly Sue Deconnick and David Lopez.
For the February meeting of the Escondido Public Library club, the group delved into the Marvel Universe with Daredevil: Man Without Fear by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr. The discussion was guided by Joe, who had recommended this book as a favorite from his teen years. Joe posed the interesting question: How would life be different for Matt Murdock had he not gone blind? While the book is quite dark, the group overall enjoyed both the content and the illustrations, which we felt complimented the gritty subjects. The group also agreed we would love to know more about Stick and some background on Kingpin, while Elektra’s character was interesting but didn’t move the story forward. Our group agreed we’d love to see more from Foggy’s point of view.
In March, the group looks forward to reading Winnebago Graveyard by Steve Niles and Alison Sampson, and furthering our reading of Saga with volumes 3 and 4.
In February, La Jolla jumped into the new year and read Extremity by Daniel Warren Johnson and Deadly Class Volume 2 by Rick Remender and Wes Craig. The group really enjoyed Extremity. The world-building pulled us in and having Mr. Johnson be both author and artist really tied the two together. We all really liked the linework and how it brought power to scenes as well as the family dynamics. The book really left us on a cliff and we are all excited to read the next volume to see what happens next.
With the start of the new TV show, the group wanted to jump back into Deadly Class so that we could continue with our reading and do a comparison between the book and show. The group really enjoyed volume two and remembered what pulled us in from the first installment. We really liked how this book gave us some detail on the characters and their backgrounds. We discussed how this might differ if it was set in the present rather than the ‘80s. We all enjoyed the first few episodes of the TV show as well and look forward to continuing with both so that we can find out what happens next with everyone. In March La Jolla will be reading Daredevil Born Again by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli and Southern Bastards Volume 3 by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour.
For February, the Mission Valley group read Southern Cross Volume 1, with story and covers by Becky Cloonan and art by Andy Belanger. It is a space horror story, in the vein of the 1997 movie thriller Event Horizon. Protagonist Alex Braith is looking for answers after she learns of her sister Amber's mysterious death on the refinery moon Titan. To get there, she boards the spaceship Southern Cross, where she comes across a bevy of strange and suspicious characters. The ship itself seems to have a life of its own and affects the passengers in various ways.
Some members enjoyed the book enough to consider picking up the second volume to see where the story is headed. One member that had already read both volumes stated the second part went in an unexpected direction, but wouldn’t divulge what happens, thus saving the group from any spoiler alerts!
For March, the Mission Valley group will be reading Hedy Lamarr: An Incredible Life by Sylvaini Dorange and William Roy, a suitable choice for what happens to be Women's History Month.
The North Park Club discussed the first volume of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Robert Hack, and Jack Morelli. Sabrina is part of Archie Comics’ reimagined line of horror comics aimed at adults, which includes Archie surviving a zombie apocalypse, Jughead struggling with lycanthropy, and Veronica navigating life as a newly-turned vampire. This more adult version of Sabrina the Teenaged Witch leans heavily into B-movie horror: As Sabrina turns 16, she must choose between giving herself to the Devil to become a full witch or becoming fully mortal so she can be with her high school boyfriend Harvey. The book is filled with witches’ sabbaths, gory deaths, and a succubus summoned from Hell, bent on getting revenge on Sabrina and her family.
This month’s discussion was led by club member Katie, who arrived with pentagram-frosted cookies and promises of immortality. Most members were familiar with Sabrina the character either from the TV comedy from the ‘90s or the rebooted Netflix series from last year, however no one knew she was originally an Archie Comics character. Everyone enjoyed the series so far, with some eagerly wanting to read the following issues after an exciting twist at the end of the collection.
The group also appreciated Robert Hack’s art, feeling that the muted tones of the coloring definitely gave the story a ‘60s feel. The members who had seen the new TV series were hoping for more story from the series but did like some of the differences between the two interpretations. Those that hadn’t seen the series wanted to check it out after reading the book.
Next month, North Park is preparing for the cinematic release of Captain Marvel by tackling three Kelly Sue DeConnick-written volumes of the titular Air Force Pilot turned cosmic superhero.
On a side note, Comic-Con launched TWO new book clubs in February, one in Chula Vista, and a second group in Escondido! Look for write-ups of their first readings next month, as they join the ever-growing universe of Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs!