Our September Book Club Reads
Fall is slow to come to San Diego County, but the 10 Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs still hunkered down and read some fascinating books for the month of September. The clubs are still meeting online via our patented Zook Club technology.
The Balboa Park group’s September selection was Aya: Life in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet (writer) and Clement Oubrerie (artist). Chad led the in-depth discussion. Aya is loosely based on the author’s youth in Yop City, Ivory Coast in the late 1970s, a time of prosperity and stability in the country. Teenage friends Aya, Bintou, and Adjuoa deal with boy problems, careers, family issues, and overall life in their bustling community along with a cast of relatives and friends in a soap opera-like tale of daily life.
Most of the members of the Book Club gave Aya a 3 to 4-star rating (out of 5) during the Balboa Park Rating Roundtable. The book was generally acclaimed to have “relatable” characters, “beautiful” art and coloring, and an “amazing” setting that drew readers into the world of the Ivory Coast of the 1970s.
The group discussed the themes of male and female relationship power in the Ivory Coast of this era. Some of the storylines in this volume concerned older men having affairs and children with women outside their marriage, and the effect this had not only on their family but also on the whole community. Men could keep mistresses and take a second wife, but women could sometimes exert social pressure to keep the household as they preferred.
Another topic of conversation was the relatability of the characters and the situations in the book. Many members who grew up in other countries or in small towns in the US could relate to the characters’ problems and the way the whole community knew about them and got involved.
Some members also stayed late to discuss Saga, Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist) as part of the ongoing Saga read-through.
In October, the Balboa Park Book Club will be discussing Infidel, about an American Muslim woman and her multiracial neighbors who move into a building haunted by entities that feed off xenophobia, by Pornsak Pichetshote (writer) and Aaron Campbell (artist).
For September, the Chula Vista group read Trillium by Jeff Lemire. Billed as the “last great love story” the reader follows two timelines with two very different individuals searching for cures in their respective worlds. In 1921 former soldier William is in South America searching for the temple that has healing properties; in 3797 scientist Nika is at the edges of the universe looking for a virus that could end humankind. By fate and the help of the trillium flower, they meet. Despite the differences in time and space and language, they fall in love. But as fate would have it, they shift from timeline to timeline, but do not always meet in the same time and space. Are they destined to meet again, and will their love survive?
Matt moderated the discussion and began with the question, “Isn’t this book a trip?” Indeed it was, and the group enjoyed the journey. Tiffany felt that it is a story where you “just went with it” and don’t “get hung up on things not making sense.” Other readers liked the quieter moments in the story, as Monique appreciated the interaction between Nika and her mother. Dennis liked the similar—yet different—1920s world where the women were in charge. Jenna thought the book was “quite a trip” and read like a Doctor Who episode. She appreciated that destiny did not let time and space prevent true love. Yasmine and Eric both noted the “time is running out” pacing towards the end of the story and felt a sense of urgency as the end of mankind was approaching. In addition to the story, there was a spirited discussion of the art: Did it detract from or add to the story? The group had divided opinions in this regard, but admired the rawness of Lemire’s art style.
In October the group will read Kindred adapted by Damien Duffy from the novel by Octavia Butler and illustrated by John Jennings.
Downtown’s September selection was the second part of the group’s deep dive into the complete Paper Girls run by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang with color art by Matt Wilson. This covered volumes 4-6 (in trade paperback).
Everybody loved the conclusion to this story and felt it proceeded at a faster pace and had more depth than the first 3 volumes. Thematically, the story is about friendship and the ending confirmed that. The symmetry between the first and final volumes was noted, and everyone felt the book ended on a high note. And even though there’s a TV series in the works, the group agreed a sequel to this original story isn’t necessary; the saga of Paper Girls had been told.
In October, the Downtown group will tackle the manga, The Way of the House-Husband by Kousuke Oono, vol. 1.
The Encinitas group’s September selection was Long Walk to Valhalla, by Adam Smith and Matthew Fox. This 2015 book follows Rory, a young man who grew up in rural Arkansas. He meets Sylvia, a teen-aged girl who claims to be a Valkryie sent by Odin to deliver Rory to Valhalla. As they travel through the countryside, Rory must confront the memories of his past. The graphic novel is the first published book for the creators.
Karim led the discussion. Whitney liked the artwork by Matthew Fox, which features heavy linework and a muted color palette of black, white, and shades of blue. Mary Elizabeth was impressed by the panel design on many of the pages, which enhanced the storytelling. Karim took note of the restraint shown by writer Adam Smith, who sometimes kept the dialogue limited to allow the artwork to tell the story.
Jon appreciated the sympathetic portrayal of Rory's brother Joe, a character with mental illness (presumably schizophrenia). Jon also noted some apt comparisons—and differences—between this book and Steinbeck's portrayal of Lennie in Of Mice and Men.
Mary Elizabeth saw the book as being a voyage of self-discovery for the main character Rory. Robin and Karim also saw the book in this light, with the character Sylvia acting as a spiritual guide for Rory.
In October, the Encinitas Book Club will be discussing Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O'Connell.
The Escondido Group 1 read Zombies vs Robots, Vol. 1, Inherit the Earth by Chris Ryall and Ashley Wood. Colleen led the discussion and shared that she first encountered this title at a Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore author signing with creator Chris Ryall. This wild collection of short stories portrayed in different artistic styles presents a post-apocalyptic Earth where humanity has been eliminated by a zombie outbreak. All that remains is a never-ending showdown between grotesque flesh-eaters and an army of robots created to battle them before humanity fell. But this robotic army is led by a swearing, hulking Warbot with more personality and ammo than all of its targets combined. He may be the only hope for a group of wary astronauts that have just returned to earth in hopes of finding something left. The other short stories feature glimpses of a few scattered survivors trying to find answers and safety in various points in time of the onslaught.
The group agreed with Vince’s observation that this eclectic narrative reveled in not taking itself too seriously. While protagonists found little respite, the outrageous challenges they faced could easily inspire as much laughter as sadness. Natalie found she enjoyed the stories more when she let go of the seriousness. Colleen most enjoyed the chapter featuring a little boy and his pet robot and likened it to an apocalyptic Calvin and Hobbes. All members agreed that the different artistic styles and stories were beautiful and engaging, but many questions remained. Sophia wanted to know where the endless zombies were coming from in a particular part of the story. All members wanted to know more about the three young people presented in shorter secondary stories. Perhaps we can learn more about them in Vol. 2.
Group 1 will delve into the world of John Constantine: Hellblazer, Vol. 1, Original Sins by Jaime Delano and John Ridgeway in October.
Escondido 2's September selection was Vision: The Complete Collection by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta.
The back cover of Vision: The Complete Collection reads “A superhero story like no other. He was created to kill the Avengers —but he turned against his "father." He found a home among Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and love in the arms of the Scarlet Witch. It didn't end well. Now, the Vision just wants an ordinary life—with a wife and two children, a home in the suburbs, perhaps even a dog. But it won't end any better. Everything is nice and normal - until the deaths begin. Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta confound expectations in their heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, breathtaking magnum opus - collected in all its Eisner Award-winning glory." What a read it was! Jake lead a lively discussion about the twists and turns of this story. The dual nature of Vision was a catalyst for an interesting debate on the nature of humans and what they seek. The comparing of nice and kind was interesting and a theme that carried throughout the entirety of the story. Tom King is at his storytelling best with the philosophical themes and questions that he is known for. It was fun comparing this to Mister Miracle, which feels like the DC version of a family story. Everyone agreed that the artwork was amazing. Sparky was a group favorite. The group really enjoyed reading Vision and look forward to reading more from Tom King.
Next up for Escondido 2 in October will be Locke and Key Vols. 1 and 2 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez.
This month, La Jolla tackled Lazarus, Vol. 1 by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Lazarus takes place in the not too distant future in a post-apocalyptic world where a select few wealthy families now have control over land and power, and rule over their citizens (known as “waste”). Each family has a guardian/protector, known as a Lazarus. The first volume introduces us to the Carlyle family, and follows their Lazarus, Forever (known as Eve), as she is sent to deliver a business proposition to the rival Morray family. The La Jolla group found the world set up by Rucka very easy to enter, even though not a lot of details are given up front, and the first volume barely scratches the surface of what appears to be a very elaborate world and story. The group is eager to see what this story has to offer in future volumes.
La Jolla also dived deeper into the anthropomorphic animal world of Unnatural, Vol. 2 by Mirka Andolfo. The story of the Italian import/translation of Contro Natura continues as Leslie Blair is on the run with rebels looking to protect her from the Glance, and a shadowy corporation that wants to capture the power of “The Albino” that is living within Leslie. In this volume, mysteries surrounding the past of “The Albino” are told and we learn the Glance might be more personally involved than previously suspected. The La Jolla group once again found themselves in love with the beautiful artwork of Mirka Andolfo, and found the tonal shift from the first volume to be intriguing. The group expressed interest in finding out how things wrap up for Leslie and company in the final volume.
Next month for La Jolla: Saga of the Swamp Thing, Book 1 by Alan Moore and Stephen Bissette, and Locke and Key, Vol. 5 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez.
For September’s Zook Club, the Mission Valley group read Heart in a Box by Kelly Thompson with art by Meredith McClaren. Who hasn’t experienced crippling heartache due to a bad break up, and what would you be willing to do to never feel that way again? After spending days in bed and feeling lower than low, Emma wishes her heart away. Immediately, a mysterious figure appears offering the ability to make it happen. Frightened but intrigued, Emma accepts and her heart is magicked away from her body, broken into pieces and distributed to parts unknown. At first, Emma is relieved but in classic “be careful what you wish for” form, she comes to regret her decision and wants to take her heart back. The mystery figure, which Emma names “Bob,” appears again to let her know she might get her heart back, but it won’t be easy. Emma would have to go find the recipients of the pieces of her heart and get them to wish it back to her, trick them, or literally cut it out of them. The one rule Emma must follow is that she can’t let them know what she is doing or else she can’t reabsorb the pieces. While Bob is able to return one piece of Emma’s heart to her, there are six other pieces she has to retrieve to make her heart whole again. Thanks to the “borrowed” credit card of her best friend and nothing to lose attitude, Emma sets off to various locations around America, starting in a sex club in Oakland, acquiring a stray cat in Colorado, and ultimately face to face with the very person that broke her heart in the first place.
Overall, the group liked the book, especially the concept of literally losing your heart and what one must go through to heal. Not much is said in the story with how pieces of the heart are distributed to others, so it left a lot to the imagination. Readers found the main character, Emma, relatable in how she handled herself throughout the book as well as her dark sense of humor. The group appreciated her love/hate relationship with “Bob”, which one member pictured him as acclaimed actor David Tennant. Several members remarked that the book would make a good TV show so perhaps picturing David Tennant in it isn’t too far off! Feelings were mixed on the artwork but just about everyone really enjoyed the story. The beginning opens up physically violent but as the story progresses, we see more emotional turmoil and reflection tied to family, friendships and even pets. While the book is a standalone, many of us were left wanting more.
For October, the club will be reading Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell.
This month the Museum group read Something is Killing the Children Vol. 1, written by James Tynion IV and illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera. For all members of the Museum group, this graphic novel was unanimously liked and left everyone wanting more. The foreboding notes of horror as the story progressed paired well with the beautifully illustrated characters and scenes of the graphic novel. Sam led the discussion and provided several talking points that allowed members to explore the characters, artwork, and reminisce on different media, including television and literature, that would be comparable to this graphic novel.
Several films, TV series, and literature were brought up in discussion because of their familiarities, which were Buffy, The Polar Express, Calvin & Hobbes, Stranger Things, and The Umbrella Academy. There were also recognizable horror tropes used throughout this novel, like the quirky principal arising suspicion. The panel layout also had a great effect on the reader, which some argued could have been intentional or accidental. The Museum members are eagerly looking forward to the next issue release on December 1, 2020.
In October, the Museum group will be reading Descender Vol. 2 written by Jeff Lemire and illustrated by Dustin Nguyen.
After our quick diversion into Shakespearian Brooklyn last month, North Park got back to their long-read of Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda, and Rus Wooten. We caught up to the latest available trade paperbacks, volumes 3 and 4. Volume 3 finds Maika Halfwolf and her companions stranded in a town historically cut off from the war brewing between the Cumaea and Arcanics, but they can’t escape a demonic breach that threatens the entire world. Volume 4 tackles the aftermath of that breach while introducing even more players into the intricate court intrigue as well as members of Maika’s family. All this while Maika tries to unravel the mystery of the amnesiac demon who still inhabits her body.
This month’s discussion was a littler looser than usual, with everyone chiming in with their impressions as we delved deeper into Maika’s world. We had some members who missed the July meeting and had the opportunity to give us their thoughts on the entire story so far. One such member, Michael, introduced a couple of new aesthetics to the Art Deco, Steampunk, Lovecraft mélange. He saw influences of H.R. Giger (the artist behind the Xenomorphs of the Alien movie franchise) as well as Kaiju (the giant monsters in Japan best known in America from Godzilla movies) in Takada’s depiction of the beings who inhabit the world. Some members found the introduction of even more characters hard to follow, as everyone seems to have a different agenda, and double and triple crosses abound. However, members who were reading these volumes for the second or third time felt they were able to follow the story and characters much more easily. And both groups enjoyed the development of all the characters, especially Maika’s demon. He continues to gain personality and depth as we learn more about his past. Everyone would like to continue reading, however now that we’re caught up with the publication schedule, it may be some time before we have a chance to revisit this dense and dangerous story.
Next month North Park will looking in on the just as dense and convoluted machinations of Mutantkind in Jonathan Hickman’s soft reboot of the X-Men franchise, House of X/Powers of X in October.