May Books from Our Book Clubs!
Here’s what the 5 Comic-Con International Graphic Novel Book Clubs read in the merry ol’ month of May!
The Downtown group read both volumes of Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s Vision saga, “Little Worse Than a Man” (vol. 1) and “Little Better Than a Beast” (vol. 2), which chronicle the longtime Marvel Comics’ character's effort to (literally) build his own little family. The group, lead by moderator Erwin, was struck by this all-too-human story of an android’s—excuse me, synthezoid’s—quest for family and belonging. Readers commented on the similarities to the classic fairy tale Pinocchio, and one member outlined the fact that the story aped classic 1940s/1950s movie melodramas, with its plot points of murder, blackmail, romance, and family drama. Best quote of the evening was when one member called the books, “a David Lynch superhero story.” Readers were also taken with the Vision’s “children,” who tried desperately to understand the human world through literature, including Shakespeare. And everyone loved Walta’s art and Jordie Bellaire’s coloring. Next up for Downtown: all 15 issues of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s epic 1970s British spy story, Velvet.
This month North Park waded into the hard-boiled and anthropomorphically murky waters of Blacksad, a hardcover collection of three noir tales created by Juanjo Guarnido and Juan Diaz Canales. Originally published in French, each story follows the investigations of John Blacksad, a black and white cat private eye in a world full of people who look and act like animals. We followed John as he searched for his ex-lover's killer, confronted racism in a small town, and delved into the politics of Communism and McCarthyism after World War II. This collection was many members' first taste of noir and they enjoyed the violent and dark world a good noir story creates.
Everyone enjoyed the stories as a whole, pleasantly surprised by the use of animals to tell such dark stories although one reader was hoping for more Zootopia and less Chinatown. The format of three smaller stories instead of one long arc worked for the group, with one member just wishing that we could follow John as he investigated the mysteries a little longer. “Arctic Nation,” the middle mystery about a kidnapped child, the KKK, and small town secrets stood out as the strongest story. The creators' use of animal fur color representing race could have fallen flat, but everyone agreed it worked well within the story, with a black and white John always on the outside.
Some members were confused by the fact that many of the female characters were drawn to look much more human than the male characters. John always looked like a cat, whereas no one could really tell if his lover had been a cat, a deer, or something else altogether. That criticism aside, the art was the star of the book. Everyone loved the expressiveness of each character and the use of light and shadows in every story. One person mentioned that while previous book selections had simpler art styles, Blacksad could be considered "Art."
With everyone's reading palette piqued by this month's taste of noir, we're excited to read next month's selection: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s The Fade Out, about as noir a comic as you can get.
May’s titles for the La Jolla group came from two opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of tone and seriousness: I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young; and Letter 44, vol. 3 by Charles Soule and Alberto Alburquerque. IHF’s abrasive, acerbic humor had a mixed reception among members, but the art style was certainly attention grabbing. Also notable was the distinct lettering for various characters’ lines and the quirky dialogue. The dialogue was uniquely charming in that common expletives were replaced with cutesy, euphemistic words that are phonetically similar. Members concurred that the violence fit the story’s humor, and there was stimulating discussion regarding the age- and gender-appropriateness of the title. Opinions ranged from age 15+ to a hard “M for Mature,” 17-and-up rating.
As for Letter 44 (vol. 3), it was agreed that the plot twists were enjoyable, but some felt that this particular volume was lacking in comparison to the previous two. Although it was interesting to finally get some backstory on the former Administration’s actions, the flashback sequences would interrupt and sometimes muddle the plot. Entertaining debate was spurred around the trustworthiness of various characters as well. Soule appears to have done a good job keeping so many characters’ true motivations a mystery, and a member pointed out how the art does a good job of conveying how the characters feel about one another through their body language. This volume’s captivating cliffhanger spurred the group to vote to read volume 4 in a landslide. But next up for La Jolla in June is Tetris by Box Brown, and Paper Girls vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang.
The Encinitas group’s May selection was Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross, and it was the first foray into the superhero genre for many of this book club’s members. Though almost everyone noted the book was information dense—both in terms of its story content and its visual design—the consensus was that this was not at all a bad thing. In fact, many members commented that Kingdom Come led to them do more research about the multitude of characters, references, and in-jokes (antagonist Magog is essentially a riff on 1990s “X-treme” comic characters such as Cable). The symbolic elements of Kingdom Come proved to be ripe for discussion, with story elements touching upon themes such as religion and communism, and there was an agreement that the book would present more to readers with additional reads. One book club member also presented the theory that the entire story was simply the bad drug trip of a seemingly out-of-place “superhero” adorned in 1960s hippie garb, who only appears on page 118. You never know! Overall, the Encinitas group agreed that while Kingdom Come was not an easy read, it was an interesting one, and it was a good challenge for those members who are used to lighter fare. Coming up in June: volumes 1 and 2 of Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls.
The Mission Valley group read Lake of Fire by Nathan Fairbairn and Matt Smith. In June, they will read I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young.