Our April Book Club Report!
We’re back with more of our Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Club discussions, this time with all the books the groups read in April!
For its April meeting the Balboa Park group read A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman. Originally a short story written by Gaiman, it was adapted into a graphic novel with the support of Rafael Albuquerque, Rafael Scavone, and Dave Stewart. The book, suggested and moderated by Meg, blended the established lore of Sherlock Holmes with the world of Lovecraft. Although club members disagreed on how well the two worlds were integrated, the book was widely enjoyed, with a number of members choosing to also read the short story Gaiman originally wrote to determine how much had been lost in translation to the Graphic Novel. The art and color palette were appreciated as it embraced much of the Victorian aesthetic that helped establish the story in time, giving it a foundation from which to subvert the readers expectations. The group also discussed how familiarity with the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson was used to lead the reader into a strange world of adjusted morality. The twist in the story was also the subject of much conversation, with club members appreciating the unique way in which it humanized villains, revealing them to be more complex characters. A big thank you to all the members who participated in the construction of the altar to the old ones, and the Cthulhu themed potluck offerings!
Next month the group will tackle the Eisner Award-winning tale of Mister Miracle, written by Tom King and illustrated by Mitch Gerads.
The Chula Vista club’s second read was The Umbrella Academy, Volume 1 by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba. Monique led the discussion by starting off with an examination of the cover. Some found it provocative, others compared it to other works of art, and Matt alluded to wordplay from the cover art (violins = violence). Overall everyone enjoyed the story; the fast pace, the familiar yet strange world, and a speedy, yet somewhat bittersweet resolution. The motto while reading the story? “Just go with it.” This is a world where chimpanzees can talk and be detectives, the Eiffel Tower can be a space ship, music can kill. After all, the story begins with 43 babies born after an “atomic flying elbow” from a wrestling match between a human and a space squid. (Just go with it.)
Since the work has been adapted to a Netflix series, comparisons between the graphic novel and show were inevitable. Those that were not planning to watch the adaptation were strongly encouraged to do so by those who watched the series. Yasmine has picked up the second volume and was eager to read what happens to Luther, Diego, Allison, Klaus, and The Boy (a favorite in the group).
The May book will be The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 1 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie (Image Comics).
This month the Downtown club read The New World by Ales Kot, Tradd Moore and Heather Moore. The book collects issues 1-5 with a story of love and rebellion that takes a fun ride through a vibrant dystopia. James guided our discussion as the group frequently noted the futuristic tale’s relationship to Romeo and Juliet. Many picked up on the abundance of references to other literature, pop culture and history tucked into the tale and the group enjoyed finding as many as we could. While character fashion is always part of a visual story, it was agreed that this book took it to a new level. The ability to communicate what the world is all about through clothing was a big topic of discussion and greatly enjoyed by many of our readers. The much talked about cat, Godzilla, earned the affection of many club members through his unique relationship with Stella and their home. Overall the artwork proved a perfect collaboration. The detailed and engaging art by Tradd Moore was elevated by Heather Moore’s stunning color. Between the dynamic art and well-paced story the book is a fun and fast read. This isn’t the first book to tackle a dystopian theme, but the ability to tell it in such a vivid and entertaining way was agreed to be a much-needed break from the more common dark dystopian worlds of recent books and films. Some members feel it would be enriched by more sub-plots and complexity, but largely agreed that The New World is an entertaining adventure where the art truly shines.
In May, the Downtown group will read Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon.
With this month’s discussion of Superman: Red Son by Mark Millar, Dave Johnson, and Kilian Plunkett, the Encinitas Book Club returned to the DC Universe and world of Superman for the first time since the group read Kingdom Come by Mark Waid and Alex Ross in May 2017. Red Son takes an “alternate history” view of the Man of Steel, considering what would have happened if he had landed in Soviet Russia instead of the United States. The story arc works in a number of other DC characters, including Lex Luthor (of course!), Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, and (favorite of the group) “Russian Batman.” This fascinating scenario sets the scene for a (as one member described it) “concise but precise” read that is a satisfying examination of the Superman character and his role and identity as a hero when viewed from a different perspective. The story weaves in a number of political elements, but does so in a way that don’t bog down the storytelling or shift the focus away from Superman’s struggles as a leader. Though Kingdom Come was was well-received by the group when it was discussed, it didn’t prompt many of the members to explore more Superman-related comics. Red Son had the opposite effect, and there was a lengthy talk about similarly-intriguing Superman stories to read next. As one of the members stated, “When people say they don’t like Superman, it’s just that they haven’t found the right story.” For almost everyone in the group who felt “I thought Superman wasn’t for me, but …” it turns out Red Son was indeed the right story.
For May, the Encinitas Book Club will be reading Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, vol. 1 by Ryan North and Erica Henderson.
For April, the original Escondido Public Library group discussed Star Wars: Vader Down, written by Jason Aaron and Kieron Gillen, with art by Mike Deodata and Salvador Larroca. Vader Down provided a nice insight into the Star Wars universe, even to those in the book club who were not already fans. There was a good mix of action, story and characterization, although many found it disconcerting that characters were portrayed with the face of the actors from the Star Wars films. And while Luke did little to move the story along, the droids were very interesting in their interactions. Everyone wondered what wonderful, creative curse words we would hear from R2 if he was speaking human English. Vader is portrayed here as the hunted, rather than the hunter, and we got to see just how powerful he is as he takes on the entirety of the Rebel forces.
In May, the group will read Lady Killer by Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones, and also get back on track with our continued reading of Saga.
The Escondido 2 group read Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads. Overall, the group enjoyed the book. The group filled the whole 90 minutes with discussions and theories about the meaning of the complex graphic novel. Members thought that the art added to the many themes, especially the use of distorted images and the choice to use a nine-panel grid that represented Scott Free’s state of mind. A wide range of topics discussed included anxiety, mental health, the dynamics of family, the “face of god,” and the meaning of “Darkseid is.” Much of this discussion centered around the various theories members had about the book’s ending. Despite the heady issues discussed, many in the group appreciated the humorous dialogue and moments that provided a break from the more intense themes. After the discussion many members of Escondido 2 saw parts of the book in a different light based on the insightful discussion we had as a group. A couple of members noted that they are looking forward to a second read that was informed by the group’s discussion.
The group will be reading Saga volume 1, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples in May.
The La Jolla group confronted Runaways: Pride and Joy by Brian K Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, as one of their April titles. The group has had a steady diet of creator-owned Vaughan titles, and this was their first taste of one of the writer’s shared-universe, large publisher (Marvel) titles. Vaughan’s talent for writing witty dialogue and presenting wild science fiction ideas were again on display, and the book overall was an entertaining chase to stay one step ahead of the parental villains. The story spurred discussion around the nature of team stories and what makes them enjoyable, and the manga-influenced art stirred conversation around how inkers can influence the end product.
Since Runaways was an action-comedy romp featuring costumed heroes, the group’s next title was a meditation on costumed heroes. Black Hammer: the Event by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston, continues to piece together the mysteries of the farm that were left out of the first arc. The series continues to show off Lemire’s knack for character work, such as a jarring moment of betrayal between two characters. Members found the art and character designs to be fun pastiches of familiar costumed heroes, and the covers made for enjoyable nostalgic discussion around various superhero comic eras.
Next month, the group will be spellbound by the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Robert Hack, and will continue their reading of The Flintstones, by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh, with volume 2: Bedrock Bedlam.
For April, the Mission Valley group read The End of the Fxxxing World by Charles Forsman. Originally published in 2013, it was recently adapted as a Netflix original series. The story is told through the alternating perspectives of teenagers James and Alyssa as they face the growing pains of impending adulthood and turbulent young love. As the story progresses, we learn more about the tragic familial backgrounds of both characters which seem to bond them to one another. The story takes a nihilistic turn as James becomes more sociopathic, ultimately acting out his violent fantasies and leading them on a road trip that will forever change their lives.
Opinions were divided on the book which told the story in a minimalistic way. Our ace moderator, Paul, who was the only one in the group who had watched the entire series, conveyed how the adaption did a great job of fleshing out the characters and the storyline. By the end of the discussion, several members were open to giving the TV show a try.
For the month of May, the Mission Valley group will be reading Watersnakes by Eisner Award-nominated writer/artist Tony Sandoval.
The North Park club read and discussed Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband, volume 1 after nearly being picked multiple times by the group over the last year. My Brother’s Husband is a Japanese manga that tackles homophobia through the story of a single father, Yaichi, meeting and interacting with his dead brother’s Canadian husband Mike who comes to visit for several weeks. Most of the stories in this volume center around Yaichi’s daughter Kana discovering and appreciating the differences between her life and that of her new uncle.
This month’s meeting was led by Kha, who brought tons of Japanese snacks for the group while they discussed his questions as well as their general thoughts on the book. Everyone in the group loved the simple story and clear message of learning about different people. Several people appreciated Tagame’s decision to make Mike Canadian as well as gay as a clever way of introducing homosexuality to Kana as just two things that made Mike different.
My Brother’s Husband happened to be many members first time reading manga, or manga formatted traditionally (panels are read from right to left across the page). Although it took some of them several pages of story and a trip to reference websites, their brains eventually adjusted, and they were able to finish the book without any further trouble. Many members wanted to continue reading My Brother’s Husband, as well as being open to reading more manga in general.
Next month, the North Park Club will be reading Blankets by Craig Thompson.