Happy New Year, Happy New Reading!
All 4 branches of the Comic-Con International Graphic Novel Book Club started off the rainy New Year with new books. Here’s what they read.
Downtown: Clean Room, vol. 1
The Downtown branch read Clean Room vol. 1, the Vertigo series by writer Gail Simone and artist Jon Davis-Hunt. The series concerns a writer’s investigation of the sudden suicide of her boyfriend after reading a book by the reclusive leader of a movement (or is it a cult?). While moderator Sam and the group debated whether the story was horror or sci-fi (probably a little of both, actually), they did enjoy what they felt was a very original storyline with well-established characters. Everyone also liked Davis-Hunt’s clean, evocative artwork. There was some discussion about the movement’s similarity to Scientology. The character of Spark was a particular favorite. In February, Downtown will read Baltimore, vol. 1: The Plague Ships, by Mike Mignola, Christopher Golden, and Ben Stenbeck.
Mission Valley: Bitch Planet, vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine
2017 is a new year and Mission Valley started it off with a dose of non-compliance by reading Bitch Planet, Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Robert Wilson IV, and Valentine De Landro. In the story, women who don’t fit a very narrow mold are called non-compliant and sent off to a prison in space. The cover asks “Are you woman enough to survive?” and moderator Vince asked the group just that, as everyone contemplated whether or not they would be deemed non-compliant and why. As stories were shared about friends, family, and our book club members themselves being deemed non-compliant, or suffering misogyny and violence, Bitch Planet started to feel a little less fictional. Once again, the group was reminded of the importance of comics in our lives and their ability to start not only insightful discussions, but to allow people to be vulnerable with themselves and with others. As the New Year starts, the Mission Valley book club is ready to continue their journey together with their next selection, Plutona by Jeff Lemire and Emi Lenox.
North Park: Paper Girls, vol. 1
After coming off a nostalgia-filled journey with Stranger Things and left craving more Goonies-fied adventures, it was no surprise that Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang was voted for the January pick. Cue the inevitable comparisons!
Before delving into the story, many of the members discussed their shared admiration for the art, and more specifically the use of vibrant colors, which contributed to the '80s vibe. The tale is set in 1988 and follows four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls, who encounter a series of strange occurrences in the wee hours after Halloween. Things get even more bizarre while progressing through the story and the girls have to figure out who are their allies or enemies … and try to get to the bottom of the most underlying question: what the heck is going on? Paper Girls was a fun ride and left most readers with the desire to continue on the entertaining adventure!
Next up: Castle Waiting by Linda Medley.
La Jolla: March, vols. 1–3
In recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. day this January, the La Jolla group discussed March, volumes 1-3, written by Representative John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, and illustrated by Nate Powell. This non-fiction graphic novel outlined the violence and animosity between Southern institutions and community organizers who struggled to obtain equal rights for all, regardless of skin color. The story is told starting in the early ‘60s timeframe from Lewis’ perspective as a burgeoning civil rights activist. Although the title was received positively by the group, it was agreed that these volumes could not be considered a light read, by any definition. The group also concurred that Lewis and Aydin did a grimly effective job in conveying the sheer bitterness and visceral violence inflicted on many demonstrators who had committed to respond using non-violent methods. Powell’s rendering of the many different faces of historical figures was commended, and the deliberate use of black and white also lead to interesting speculation about what the creators intended, ranging from illustrating racial tension to a lack of color emulating television from that time period. Lewis himself had also been inspired by a comic book of Martin Luther King Jr. back in the ‘60s, and it was intriguing to be able to peruse a replica of the original comic that he had read, thanks to a member who had obtained it during his Comic-Con appearance. Overall, this title did not fail to generate lively and provocative discussion.
Next up for La Jolla in February: Head Lopper and Letter 44, vol. 2.