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COMIC-CON GRAPHIC NOVEL BOOK CLUBS!

March Comes In Like a Lion with a Ton of Great Books!

We’re back with our March Book Club report, featuring the “origin stories” of two new clubs (okay, it’s their first discussions, no bats, no radioactive spiders, no strange visitors from another planet … that we know of … ). See you at WonderCon this weekend!

Balboa Park

In observance of March’s Women’s History Month, the Balboa Park Book Club read Mockingbird vols. 1 & 2 by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk. Led in discussion by Marilyn, who organized the meeting’s theme to align with the Hawaiian Cruise that Bobbi takes in vol. 2, members enjoyed a themed mocktail and received cruise ship boarding passes before the discussion began. Widely enjoyed by the club, Mockingbird’s predominantly female creative team was celebrated in the discussion for its pointed but humorous treatment of a range of important issues. Club members also noted the many Easter eggs placed throughout the book referenced other parts of the Marvel Universe as well as several other pop culture properties. Much emphasis was also placed on the gender role reversal that occurs within the book and the commentary that the book offers on broader social issues like Imposter Syndrome. The discussion concluded with a group-wide reflection on what it means to be a feminist in the world today, which was enriching and enlightening for all who participated.

Next month, the club will be reading A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman and Rafael Albuquerque, as well as voting on books for June and August.


Chula Vista

We welcome the Chula Vista Book Club with its first discussion meeting!

The Chula Vista group had a lively discussion about writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda’s Monstress, moderated by Matt. Many members commented on the complexity of the story and that this was not a book that can be read quickly! The shifting timelines and slower pace in the beginning brought out different reactions from the participants; some were impatient, some were confused, and others thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it. The group was in agreement that the art was exceptional and Kippa was a favorite. Many appreciated a strong female character in a world where decisions are made by females in a matriarchal world (at least in this first volume).

One of the great things about a book discussion group is to see if people’s opinions of the book changed after hearing others’ opinions. It did! At the end of the evening some readers are now intrigued enough to reread the first volume and pick up the second volume.

In April the group will read The Umbrella Academy, vol. 1, written by Gerard Way and illustrated by Gabriel Bá. 


Downtown

For the month of March the Downtown Club found themselves in a world of bootleggers and monsters with Moonshine vols. 1 & 2. from the Eisner Award-winning team of Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso. Moonshine is a unique genre mashup following wise guy Lou Pirlo into Appalachia where he is tasked with securing premium booze for New York's thirsty speakeasies. He soon finds that the moonshiners in the woods are just as dangerous as his own ruthless crime boss and a strange darkness is lurking behind the trees. In a place like this, his sweet-talking city ways won't get him very far. The discussion, lead by Attiba, dove heavily into a debate over the use of stereotypes as a writing tool to get readers quickly into a story, as well as the challenges and surprises of tackling a genre mashup. One member saw the tale as a mobster fish out of water story, focused on our protagonist, Lou, but the group wanted to see more of the interesting side characters. There was high praise for the striking imagery of looming monsters and for the well-crafted use of shadow as a storytelling tool. For those looking to read more by Azzarello and Risso, Eric and Attiba recommend picking up 100 Bullets.

Next month the group will be discussing The New World by Ales Knot, Tradd Moore and Heather Moore.


Encinitas

With Captain Marvel hitting theaters in March, the Encinitas group coincided by reading Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More by Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez. The story centers on Carol Danvers (AKA the titular Captain Marvel)’s attempts to assist a community of refugees who were relocated to a new planet. Unfortunately, after finally starting to settle in, the refugee colony faces another relocation due to a mysterious illness affecting a large portion of the population. As Danvers soon learns, tackling tricky diplomatic challenges requires a complex approach that can’t be solved with superpowers alone. For many Book Club members, this was their first introduction to Captain Marvel, and unfortunately there was confusion about which collection is actually volume one, and it turns out Higher, Further, Faster, More is the third collection of DeConnick’s take on the character. As a result, some members were a little confused about some of the story’s context and details, but everyone felt comfortable jumping in and going along for the ride, even if parts of the terrain were unfamiliar. Higher, Further, Faster, More is a fun, enjoyable read, featuring bright artwork and thoughtful writing, and many of the Book Club members are planning to explore more of the series. For anyone looking to dig into Captain Marvel, In Pursuit of Flight is the recommended starting point.

Next month the Encinitas group will be discussing Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, and Killian Plunkett.


Escondido 1

The original Escondido Public Library Club’s March read was Winnebago Graveyard by Steve Niles and Alison Sampson. This book was a surprise as no one was quite sure what to expect going into the story. One book club member described it as a very visceral visual experience. The overarching story has the feel of a B horror movie with all the clichés in all the right places. The artwork had subtle hints of the monsters that lurked in plain sight ready to terrorize the family who innocently stopped to check out a creepy carnival. Coloring on the pages highlighted the hopelessness and the horror of the protagonist. The story was short enough that it felt like it was part of a horror anthology. Essays at the end of the book added more depth to the story and encouraged a reread to see what was missed on the first go-round. The group then moved onto discuss Saga vols. 3 & 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fioana Staples. All book club members agreed that vol. 4 was a game-changer for the story and character arcs. It kicks things into high gear and introduces many new favorite characters (with the top new favorite seeming to be Goose the Seal). We are looking forward to reading more Saga and discussing it in future clubs.

In April, the group will be reading Star Wars: Vader Down by Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato.


Escondido 2

We welcome the second Escondido Book Club with its first discussion meeting!

The second Escondido Public Library club had their first official meeting on Wednesday, February 6. Their March read was The Adventure Zone: Here Their Be Gerblins ​by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, and Carey Pietsch. This book is an adaptation of the podcast with the same name. The podcast is a Dungeons and Dragons actual play with storytelling narrative taking front stage. The discussion was led by Dan, who recommended this book as it is one of his favorites of all time. The group thought the humor of the book was a highlight and made the concept of D&D more approachable. The artwork was simple, expressive, colorful, impactful, and really made the world and characters come alive. An enthusiastic club member said that one of the monster illustrations made her laugh out loud. The characters of Magnus, Takko, and Merle were liked by a majority of the group. Having listened to the podcast, book club members commented that it was a great adaption of an audio medium to a visual one. The book does a wonderful job of translating the humor, the story, and the fun the authors are having while recording the podcast. Overall, members loved the book and are looking forward to reading the next volume in the adventures of Magnus, Takko, and Merle.

In April, the group will be reading Mister Miracle​ by Tom King and Mitch Gerads.


La Jolla

In March, La Jolla read Southern Bastards vol. 3 and Daredevil Born Again. Overall everyone enjoyed Volume 3 of Southern Bastards. This volume truly portrayed the harsh realities of the South. There is always some kind of vengeance in play and no one can truly see which side anyone is really on. This story took place during the Craw County Running Rebs annual homecoming football game and is continued on after the suicidal death of Coach Big. With Coach Big gone, the volume started to break off into multiple stories instead of one big story. Each story was about a sub character from Craw County, and the reader can definitely see the tone of what the writer, Jason Aaron was portraying.  The artwork of this volume really stood out to the majority of us, as we felt that this made the book more enjoyable and it was able to really paint a grim picture of life in the South.

Another amazing read for the month of March was Daredevil: Born Again was a great read written by Frank Miller and drawn by David Mazzucchelli. One of Miller’s unique Daredevil stories shows Matt Murdock having his Daredevil identity exposed to Kingpin, who takes advantage of knowing and tries to ruin Murdock’s life. With Kingpin breaking Murdock down, we all agreed that the process was slow and painful to watch. But the way Miller showed Murdock rebuilding himself from nothing and trying to regain what he lost. Matt was able to redeem himself against Nuke who made his first appearance in this volume. With a few cameos from the Avengers and Captain America, we all think this volume had real impact and truly had a great storyline. Not only was the story an amazing one, but the artwork was one for the ages with a great retro feel. Overall, this is a highly recommended graphic novel to read.

Next month La Jolla will be reading Runaways vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona and Black Hammer vol. 2, by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston.


Mission Valley

For the Mission Valley group, “March Madness” included reading Hedy Lamarr: An Incredible Life by Sylvaini Dorange and William Roy. And what an incredible life it was. Richard led the discussion starting with historical background that helped create context for the book. Born in 1914, Hedy Lamarr fled her native Austria to the United States as the Nazis were growing in power across Europe. She caught the eye of Louis B. Mayer, signed a contract with MGM and became a movie star, all while developing the science behind frequency-hopping technology similar to the methods of today’s WiFi. Noting that the book’s art was reminiscent of French cartooning, the discussion turned to the events of Hedy’s life. The group pondered what her life would have been like if she had lived now rather than in a time when women had few opportunities to excel in the sciences. Many members of the group enjoyed learning about Hedy, while a few were disappointed that there were not more details. All agreed that the graphic novel set the stage for wanting to know more about this uniquely talented woman.

For April the group will be reading The End of the Fuxxxing World by Charles Forsman. Let’s hope this title isn’t prophetic.


North Park

The North Park club, led in discussion by club member Eva (providing ‘90s snacks like Hi-C coolers), tackled the first three volumes of Carol Danvers’ missions as Captain Marvel, written by Kelly Sue DeConnick just ahead of the movie release, or so we thought. Due to our general confusion with Marvel Comics’ trade paperback numbering system, we read the wrong volumes of Captain Marvel. Instead of reading the first vol. 1 of Captain Marvel, which influenced the movie and acted as an origin story of sorts, we ended up reading the second set of vols. 1-3, with Carol already established as Captain Marvel. Yearning to explore space, she becomes involved in the political fallout of an intergalactic war and a planet of refugees, the romantic entanglements of a teleporting rockstar, and the catnapping of her pet Chewie.

However, after our initial confusion most of the members enjoyed reading Carol’s space-faring adventures in the three volumes we did read: “Higher, Further, Faster, More,” “Stay Fly,” and “Alis Volat Propriis,” by Kelly Sue DeConnick, David Lopez, Lee Loughridge, and Joe Caramagna. While most members were confused while Carol was still on Earth in the beginning, everyone was happy to see the Guardians of the Galaxy make an appearance early on in space, especially Rocket Raccoon’s reaction to Carol’s cat Chewie. This set up a fun joke that paid off at the end of the first volume and continued through the rest of the volumes. The stories were mostly lighthearted and only partially connected to previous Marvel storylines and everyone enjoyed David Lopez and Lee Loughridge’s art, with slightly looser depictions of characters and vibrant color choices.

The club also briefly discussed the Captain Marvel movie, including any connections to the volumes we read. Because we read further along the comics timeline, there weren’t a lot of similarities besides a similar Chewie (named Goose in the movie) connection, but it did make several people want to go back and read more volumes of the comic.

In April, North Park will be reading its first manga selection My Brother’s Husband, vol. 1 by Gengoroh Tagame.

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