Our November Book Report!
The Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs wrapped up their individual meetings for 2018 with another set of great reads. In December, everyone will come together for our annual Holiday Party and the reading of Emil Ferris’s Eisner Award-winning graphic novel, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters. And January is "Show-and-Tell" month, where everyone brings a favorite book and talks about it to their respective group!
The Balboa Park Club decided to go for with something slightly more light-hearted for their November read. The group’s selection, Rat Queens Volume One: Sass and Sorcery by writer Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrator Roc Upchurch, was moderated by Sarah, who recommended the book to the club. With 5-star ratings all around, Rat Queens was our most well-received and universally loved book so far! The club discussed the way the author positions friendship within the book, remarking on the interplay between sarcasm and loyalty that made the relationships between the characters seem so authentic. The interrelationship between sexuality and strength in female characters was also touched on by the group as well as the presence of multiple LGBTQ Storylines that earned the book a GLAAD award.
The book itself is a love letter of sorts to Dungeons and Dragons, and Sarah had a selection of source books, game mats and dungeon master screens on display for the club. Each member of the club also received a set of dice, and a character sheet and was invited to stay on after the meeting for a game of Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition, with club member Sam serving as Dungeon Master.
Downtown tackled Superman: American Alien for their November read. This atypical Man of Steel tale by Max Landis and seven different comics artists explored untold stories of Superman growing up and becoming … well, Superman. From an elementary school student to his first encounter with Lex Luthor, young Clark Kent matures, discovers his powers, and transitions from life in Smallville to Metropolis. Moderated by Didi, the club really enjoyed these coming-of-age stories. Everyone had a favorite, with the chapters drawn by Francis Manapul, Tommy Lee Edwards, and Jae Lee topping the list. Members enjoyed the depiction of Luthor and the side-story of a very young Dick Grayson learning to become a detective. Some of the other DC characters seemed to be a bit of a distraction when they popped up in various chapters, but everyone was somewhat touched by the vulnerability of Superman as he discovered himself … and everyone felt that writer Landis clearly loves the Man of Steel.
Encinitas selected Roz Chast’s memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? for November, and it made for a very powerful discussion. All of the members were able to personally relate to some aspect of Chast’s honest, open book about her experience caring for her aging parents. In fact, for some members reading the book, it was an extremely emotional experience as it hit close to home. Though the book utilizes a great deal of humor, it does so in a way that helps lighten the content, which would be heavy and difficult to get through otherwise. Interestingly, the discussion focused solely on the themes of the book, and it wasn’t until an hour into the meeting that one member commented there hadn’t been any discussion of the artwork. While Chast’s charming comic art doesn’t necessarily contribute to the storytelling anywhere near the same degree other graphic novels’ art and layout may, it helps make the reading experience more approachable and relatable, and it’s hard to imagine the book having the same impact if presented in another format. Small touches, such as the inclusion of family photos and Chast’s mother’s poetry provided a means to link Chast’s graphic depictions to the real world. Overall, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? was thoroughly appreciated by the Encinitas group, and it is a comfort for people who’ve gone through similar experiences, helping readers who’ve had similar experiences know they are not alone.
In November, the Escondido group discussed Fables Vol. 1 by writer/creator Bill Willingham and artists Lan Medina and Steve Leialoha. Sara moderated the discussion, which was one of the more animated and deep talks the club has had about a book. It was interesting to compare the characters in the graphic novel to their fairy tale and folklore counterparts. Many of the characters (Bigby, Prince Charming, Blackbeard) personified their original defining characteristics, while other characters such as Cinderella and Flycatcher were vastly different from their original selves. The artwork fit the story that Willingham was telling. It was noted that it was awesome to see past events surrounded in gilded artwork to differentiate it from current events. The storytelling lends itself to various genres such as the noir detective story seen in V.1 and future instalments. The illustrations reminded the group of old style comic strips that were centered around “soap opera/drama.” In essence, the plight and existence of the Fables is one big soap opera playing out to the audience with plenty of humor, mystery, intrigue, and so much more on display. Bigby Wolf, Prince Charming, Snow White, and Colin the Pig were character favorites. The group is interested in reading more volumes of Fables to see what happens to the characters and where the story goes. Overall, the Escondido group really enjoyed the book.
The Escondido group also discussed Saga Vol. 2 by creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. The group thought the story was getting even better in Vol. 2. The cliffhanger ending was perfect, and Lying Cat is the best character ever. Saga is a comic that combines several genres together that make it an enjoyable read.
The La Jolla group continued their usual plan of reading two books each month.
The Activity Volume 1 by Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads
The group’s overall feeling of this volume was that of a unique story. At times the reading was a bit tough but thankfully there was a glossary in the back to assist some of us to understand some of the words that raised some eyebrows and were a bit confusing. There was also a feeling of something missing or not noticed but towards the end of the book it still left us all with a desire to see what comes next. The art of the volume was gritty, realistic and had a modern-day feel. Artist Mitch Gerads included great detail to each character to truly portray how they would look in the world today.
Y The Last Man Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
The group’s overall thoughts on volume 3 compared to the first two was that the story is picking up and is truly evolving as we follow Agent 355 and Yorick to discover what is going on. We all agreed that the antagonist of this particular story was Alter, who is a lieutenant general for the Israeli army, chasing Yorick to capture him and take him back to Israel. Overall, we feel that this post apocalyptical fiction is different from most other stories that also have a post-apocalyptical storyline branches out more to other places and truly travels around the country, with an ultimate goal and conclusion in mind.
Continuing our devotion to Saga, Mission Valley read volume 9, having previously read the first 8 volumes. The group continues to enjoy this series and all felt sadness and anger when one of the members stated that the creators of Saga are taking an indefinite break on this series. Once again everyone was enamored with Brian K. Vaughan’s writing (including a detailed look at Hazel’s comments throughout this volume and a feeling that we should revisit Hazel’s comments in the first 8 volumes to look for insights that may have relevance for this last one) and Fiona Staples’s art. Everyone felt shock on two fronts at the ending of the volume. We discussed several tangents and were still wondering if one day Vaughan and Staples will ever answer the question posited in a previous write-up: Can there be a happy ending when the journey has been so cruel (especially after this volume)?
For November, the North Park Book Club read the first two volumes of the exorcism horror book Outcast by Robert Kirkman, Paul Azaceta, Elizabeth Breitweiser, and Rus Wooton to celebrate Halloween. The story follows a reclusive and damaged man by the name of Kyle Barnes as he is drawn into performing exorcisms with a reverend to find out what happened to members of his family possessed in the past.
The discussion was led by club member Ernesto, who started the discussion off asking members’ general thoughts. Everyone enjoyed the story overall, though some thought that the story dragged a little in the second volume after an intriguing and scary set-up in the first book. Almost everyone did want to continue reading to see what happened next, as Kirkman added some interesting twists to the usual demonic possession story, adding some noir and Stephen King vibes to it.
Contributing to the noir feel of the story were Azaceta’s art and Breitweiser’s coloring. Heavy shadows were shown throughout, and the reverends smoking habit lent itself to several moody panels with cigarette smoke wafting in the air. Azaceta also incorporated miniature panels within the larger panels to emphasize a character’s reaction or sense of paranoia. Breitweiser cut through some of the shadows with vibrant shades of color, which everyone loved. So much so that several members wanted to read more books that she has already colored, as opposed to any other creator on the book.
Interested in joining a Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Club? We’re opening enrollment in some of the clubs later this week, and will be adding two groups in 2019 … stay tuned for details!