Jump Into Fall Reading with our Graphic Novel Groups!
Fall is in the air as we reveal September’s Book Club discussion selections!
This month the Balboa Park Book Club read volume one of Chelsea Cain’s ongoing series Man-Eaters, illustrated by Kate Niemczyk. The book built an interesting world where women sometimes turn into murderous wildcats at the onset of menses. Artist Katie Niemczyk and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg created vivid scenes, splashing blood (from both murder and menstruation) throughout the pages to establish the jarring reality that protagonist Maude lives in as she faces the unique challenges of becoming a woman.
The club examined the worldbuilding and the ramifications of EstroCorp’s solution to the wild cat problem, overall finding it to be a unique and interesting premise. Some members appreciated seeing the story shed light on oft-neglected topics (like the overwhelming nature of the instructions that come with a pack of tampons), and others particularly liked the background nods to a wide variety of fandoms. Most members were intrigued to continue exploring the story in Man-Eaters volume two, hoping to find answers to the pressing questions Cain establishes in the first volume.
Next month the club is excited to read Wytches by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Matt Hollingsworth
The Chula Vista’s choice for September was Batman: Hush, written by Jeph Loeb, penciled by Jim Lee, inked by Scott Williams, and colored by Alex Sinclair. Batman: Hush was the most anticipated book to read for many in the group. For some book club members, this was a welcome revisit of the title; for others, this was an introduction to Batman as the main character (last month the book club read and discussed Red Hood and the Outlaws: Dark Trinity written by Scott Lobdell and illustrated by Dexter Soy). The group’s reaction to the story ranged from “it’s alright” to “this is one of the best Batman stories written.” But everyone agreed that it was an enjoyable and beautifully drawn book. The book also gave a good introduction to many of the characters in the Batman world, including an appearance of Green Lantern. The group discussed how the Batman universe paralleled the real world at that time, including the intentional modeling of Lex Luthor after real estate mogul Donald Trump. While the story is a detective story—Who is Hush?—it is also an exploration of Batman’s identity. Is Bruce Wayne Batman’s true self, or it the other way around? Batman is aware that he doesn’t have an innate sense of good like Superman, and often compares his actions to Clark Kent. After he rescues a boy from kidnappers, Batman believes he doesn’t have the skills to comfort the boy, thinking, “He doesn’t have a Clark. He has me.”
In October, the Chula Vista group will read A Game of Thrones: A Graphic Novel: Volume 1 by Daniel Abraham (Adapter), George R. R. Martin (Author), Tommy Patterson (Illustrator).
For September, the Downtown Club wrapped up their summer adventure with Fables by discussing Deluxe Edition 2, by writer Bill Willingham and various artists, including Mark Buckingham, Bryan Talbot, and Linda Medley. Most of the members were excited to stick with Fables for another month with the story and artwork continuing to impress. The new tales were even better after the thorough establishment of the characters and world in our August read of Deluxe Edition 1. The creators took surprising paths and impressed the group with the clear foresight for the Fables run that enabled bold and surprising moves with characters and plot. The large ensemble story allowed for wonderful “character episodes” that dive into the past of our now beloved fables. Boy Blue became a clear favorite of the group and an appreciation for the layered depiction of Prince Charming developed the more he was discussed. Our readers included some who were reading these stories for the first time and many who re-read Fables for the discussion. A couple readers would have preferred a less verbose telling for a graphic novel, while many of our returning readers were thrilled to be spending time in Fabletown once more. Don’t be surprised if you see the Downtown Club circling back to this one again in the future to get another dose of mystery and magic from Fables.
October will find members discussing the Eisner Award-winning Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads.
The Encinitas group’s September selection was the Eisner Award winner Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads (small world!). Mary Elizabeth led the discussion, and it was lively, to say the least. Mister Miracle tells the story of Scott Free, son of Highfather and swapped at birth with Orion, son of Darkseid, as a means to keep peace between two kingdoms. Raised in what is essentially a literal Hell, Scott finally breaks free and comes to our world, where he becomes the apprentice of escape artist Mister Miracle, whose persona he takes on after his master’s passing. Struggling with his past, Scott attempts suicide, and the story focuses heavily on Scott’s life after trauma. Despite the book’s superhero elements, the plot spotlights much of the wonderfully mundane and routine aspects of adult life, such as renovating a home and becoming a parent, often played out over juxtaposed settings like battlefields. While all members of the Book Club gave Mister Miracle a “thumbs up” rating during the Encinitas Rating Roundtable, everyone admitted that the book was satisfyingly challenging to fully understand, making it a perfect selection for a group discussion. As Brittany mentioned during the meeting, “I’m not sure what I read, but I have ideas …” Other group members noted that the book is a “beautiful mess,” is “perfectly imperfect,” and “reading it makes you feel off balance”—all meant in a complimentary way. Beyond Tom King’s deep, rich storyline, Mitch Gerards’ artwork was something the group praised highly, both in terms of its detail and the clever manner in which panels were utilized. Much like Darkseid enjoying a veggie tray, many members of the Encinitas group noted they are going to “double dip” and re-read the book because the discussion helped with their comprehension.
In October, the Encinitas Book Club will be discussing Batman: Hush by Jeff Loeb and Jim Lee.
On the cusp of Banned Books Week, the Escondido 1 group chose to read Kill or Be Killed, vol. 1 by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Our conversation started with the group discussing the importance of the rating scale for graphic novels (this title being rated M/Mature). We spoke on how this preserves the artist’s freedom to accurately convey the mood and feel of the protagonist. That being said Kill or Be Killed is the perfect example of what the Mature rating stands for: Almost immediately violence is present and continues to be a mainstay of this story. An unexpected element was the mental illness the protagonist (Dylan) struggles with, so much so we are taken through his suicide attempt. This gave the character depth and his age enabled many of our members to relate to him directly. As with many other titles, the coloring related beautifully to the story and art as the protagonist evolved. Often times the color red was used to highlight points of interest and symbolize points of power. A great example of this is the color of Kira’s hair (point of interest) and the color of the face mask that Dylan later uses (point of empowerment). Another discussion worth mentioning is the demon itself. Some in the group saw ties between the demon and Dylan’s father, noting many elements of the story seem to stem from his father. Elements like: His father’s speech about “Sometimes you’re just the one that gets picked …”. The gun Dylan uses also belonged to his father, and the demon also originates in his father’s art. This also lead to conversations about whether or not the demon was in Dylan’s head. Volume 1 left many unanswered questions, leaving members wanting more and asking to check out the other volumes of the same title. Our group enjoyed the title, turning some of us into fans of the series.
October we will be reading: American Vampire Vol. 1 by: Scott Snyder (author), Stephen King (author), and Rafael Albuquerque (illustrator).
In September, Escondido 2 read Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H Williams III. There is only one way to describe the artwork: Gorgeous! There was so much detail and so many things to look at. The title pages announcing each issue should be printed out and hung on a wall. Members noted the distinct change in artistic style between Batwoman, Kate Kane in the present, and Kate Kane in the past. It helped to distinguish narrative shift. Batwoman and Batman's origin stories were compared, and many liked Kate's over Bruce's beginnings. There is a particular quote (won't spoil it here) that really defined Batman's mission vs. Batwoman's mission. The difference between motivations and goals is interesting and draws a parallel between the two heroes that is great to compare and contrast. Members really enjoyed the story and want to read more about this version of Batwoman.
In October Escondido 2 will read Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, just in time for the new HBO series, loosely based on the comics.
In September La Jolla read Unnatural by Mirka Andolfo and Y the Last Man Book 5 by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan Jr. We started our discussion with Unnatural and everyone agreed we really enjoyed the book. We enjoyed how telling the story from the animal perspective gave the reader an outsider view of the topics at hand. It allowed us to take a step back and watch things unfold, which we all really enjoyed. We were all surprised that the original story was told in a different language and translated to English, which lead to a great discussion on differences and preferences when one person authors and illustrates the book rather than multiple people. We all felt that having the same person both write and draw this story enhanced it, and lead to the wonderful flow between the written and artistic story being told. The group all agreed that they are looking forward to continuing with the next volume.
As we continue on our journey with Yorick in Y the Last Man Book 5, the group was excited to finally learn the secret of why Yorick survived. We were all surprised with the reasons and what that means for the future. We were also excited to finally get some info on Beth in Australia, which lead to a great debate on what that means for the story going forward. The group agreed we are all looking forward in continuing our journey with Yorick and the gang to see what happens next.
For October La Jolla will be reading The Boys Vol. 2 by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, and Tony Avina, and Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett.
For the month of September, the Mission Valley group read Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, and Kilian Plunkett. Superman: Red Son, published in 2003, is an alternate telling of the tale of the Man of Steel with the premise of “What if Superman had been raised in the Soviet Union?” In this version, Superman’s rocket crash lands on a Ukrainian farm instead of Kansas and he grows up to be the Soviet Union’s greatest asset and champion during the Cold War, under the tutelage of Joseph Stalin. Despite his upbringing, Superman retains his core values of doing the right thing and using his powers for the greater good, ultimately turning his country into a utopia. The story includes familiar DC characters such as Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and even a Russian version of Batman, complete with an ushanka bat-helmet.
A couple of members commented that the book had an “old school”, traditional comic feel and would have been delighted if the book was printed on newsprint paper. Some members only had a basic knowledge of the Superman tale and did not know that there were other traditional Superman characters weaved into the story such as his childhood best friend Pete Ross (Pyotr Roslov), childhood crush Lana Lang (Lana Lazarenko), and supervillain Bizarro (Superman 2). While the story is told over three books, some members would have liked if it were at least one additional issue so that more of the political background could be explored. There were mixed feelings on the twist ending, but overall just about everyone enjoyed the book and the artwork.
Mission Valley’s October selection is Passing for Human: A Graphic Memoir by Liana Finck.
For the month of September the Museum book club read Descender Vol. 1, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen and written by Jeff Lemire. It tells the story of TIM-21(a robot boy) and the aftermath of a system-wide catastrophe where the event itself and why it happened is the central mystery. Club member Davey led the discussion this month, and everyone agreed that they loved Dustin Nguyen’s art for the story, praising the way the colors and linework enhanced the storytelling and led them to wonder occasionally if there were books he had done in a similar style.
Time was spent examining each of the major characters in the story and the concepts of found family, trust, and betrayal, and members agreed that while it took some time for the major characters to meet each other the journey was well worth it. Jeff Lemire left enough of the questions unanswered in volume one that many members were excited to continue reading and a few had already purchased or placed the successive volumes on hold!
The club can’t wait to read The Vision by Tom King and Gabriel Herandez Walta for the month of October and is looking forward already to the months ahead for new books!
North Park returned to their Saga reread this month and tackled volumes 4-6 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. These volumes follow star-crossed couple Alana, Marko, and their now toddling daughter Hazel trying to live a somewhat normal life on a backwater planet after the traumatic events of the previous volumes. Of course, Saga being a saga, their semblance of an ordinary life doesn’t last long as the story introduces drug addiction, infidelity, and the prison industrial complex to the already heavy themes of war and the damage it inflicts on everyone.
While there were a few members who felt like the momentum of the story slowed down a little in these volumes, everyone still loved the series and characters. Some members who weren’t as invested after the first three volumes changed their minds after this set. Like our reading last month of Mister Miracle (by Tom King and Mitch Gerads), Saga does an excellent job of mixing mundane day-to-day human drama with crazy sci-fi concepts. Vaughan continues to develop every character and causes readers to care about them, even characters who may have been antagonists in the previous volumes or are brand new. He also has no qualms killing off characters at any given time which caused several members to worry about everyone in the comic.
Everyone continues to love Fiona Staples art as well. They enjoyed having the same artist on the series throughout its run as opposed to most long-running comics that have often have to switch out artists due to publishing time constraints. Her character designs are always extremely varied and fun, and her coloring is a vibrant change of pace from most other comics we’ve read.
Next month, North Park will be reading Tillie Walden’s space epic webcomic turned graphic novel, On a Sunbeam.