Perfect Solution for the February Blahs: Comics!
The Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs chased away the winter blues with a wide selection of the graphic novels for discussion!
The Balboa Park group’s February selection was Die: Fantasy Heartbreaker Vol 1 by Kieron Gillen (writer) and Stephanie Hans (artist). Joshua led the in-depth discussion. Die tells the story of a group of high school friends who play a fantasy role-playing game and are drawn into its invented world of cyber elves, mechanical dragons, and zombies. They return two years later, without one of their own. Twenty-five years later, as adults, they are drawn back to the world and have to face the sins of their past if they want to return to the lives they have left behind.
All but two of the members of the Book Club gave Die: Fantasy Heartbreaker Vol. 1 a 4- or 5-star rating during the Balboa Park Rating Roundtable. The books were generally acclaimed to have “amazing” art and coloring and “compelling” writing. The group discussed whether the story was more character driven or story driven with members coming down on both sides of the question. The club members who were familiar with RPGs loved the twists the author put on the character archetypes as well as the way he played with RPG conventions. One member felt that the time jumps made the story feel like “a sequel where I didn’t know what had happened before.” Another member felt that the changes of heart of some of the characters at the end came out of nowhere, where others felt those changes were foreshadowed. Some readers were eager to read the next collection, released earlier this month.
In March, the Balboa Park Book Club will be discussing Uzumaki, a Japanese horror manga by Junji Ito (writer and illustrator).
For February, the Chula Vista group read March: Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. March tells the story of John Lewis’ fight for civil rights in the 1960s, beginning with “Bloody Sunday” (March 7, 1965) at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. The scene quickly shifts to January 20, 2009, President Barack Obama’s inauguration day. Before the ceremonies, a mother and her two children visit John Lewis’ office to see “how far we’ve come.” As the children inspect his office, a simple question, “Why do you have so many chickens?” leads not to a simple answer, but a compelling story of the fight to end racial discrimination.
Monique led the discussion, and the group gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up. All agreed that John Lewis’ contribution to the civil rights movement needed to be told, and the graphic novel medium is one of the best ways to do it. One of the members felt that March invited dialogue and conversations about a tumultuous period in United States history. Members used the word “accessible” to describe the book; it was easy to read, the artwork was clean, and—as one member noted, “It was an attractive way to tell us a difficult subject.” A member likened herself to one of the children in the book, learning from John Lewis’ story. Younger readers found March compelling, too. Group member Eric’s 11-year-old daughter saw what her father was reading and started reading it on her own. March was more than just a history lesson; it’s a lesson to keep fighting for justice and what is right, even if told, “that’s enough.”
Chula Vista’s March pick will be Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran.
The Downtown group read Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen. This series from 2007 teams up Marvel characters Monica Rambeau (formerly Captain Marvel and Photon), Aaron Stack (Machine Man), Tabitha Smith (X-Force's Meltdown), monster-hunter Elsa Bloodstone, and “The Captain,” as they form the “Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort,” or H.A.T.E. Moderator Didi led the discussion on this quirky and absurd take by Ellis and Immonen featuring some of Marvel’s heroes and their efforts to just plain blow things up as they come against the “Bizarre Weapons of Mass Destruction.” Some group members found it entertaining, with fun riffs on comics and video games, some of which the members grew up with. One member appreciated the definite British sense of humor of writer Ellis, and everyone enjoyed Immonen’s art.
Downtown will return to the Marvel superhero well in March with The Immortal Hulk Vols. 1 & 2, written by Al Ewing and drawn by Joe Bennett.
The Encinitas group’s February selection was Tokyo Ghost, Vol. 1, Atomic Garden, and Vol. 2, Come Join Us. Both volumes are by Rick Remender and Sean Murphy. Tokyo Ghost is a dystopian science fiction series set in 2089. Much of humanity is addicted to technology and entertainment. Los Angeles is partially flooded and toxically polluted. Constable Led Dent and his lover Debbie are tasked with infiltrating Tokyo, which has been transformed into a garden nation free of technology.
Karim led the discussion. The male lead of the story, Led Dent, is physically addicted to the technology he consumes. The group discussed the story as a metaphor for other addictions, and whether the romantic relationship between the two lead characters is an example of co-dependency.
Karim also discussed some of the artistic influences for artist Sean Murphy, who cites Bill Sienkiewicz and Italian artist Sergio Toppi as artists he admires. In an interview, Sean Murphy described a style used by colorist Matt Hollingsworth based on Japanese woodblocks, and how pleased they were to use this technique in Tokyo Ghost for scenes set in Japan. The group compared the overall feel of the book to a 1980s sci-fi action movie, and noted a number of 1980s nostalgia Easter eggs.
In March, the Encinitas Book Club will be discussing Death Wins a Goldfish by Brian Rea.
The Escondido 1 group read Y The Last Man, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra.
Our protagonist, Yorick Brown, who lives in the Eastern United States with his pet Capuchin monkey Ampersand, has personal reasons to navigate a sudden–without explanation–new and dangerous world where it seems he and his pet monkey are the only males to survive the death of all male species on the planet Earth. Yorick’s motivation in the story is to be reunited with his girlfriend, who the reader is first introduced to as roaming the Outback of Australia. With the assistance of a genetic scientist, and a super badass (although mysterious agent), he must stop whatever top secret agency started this disaster in the first place.
The art sets the tone for the story and the chapter cover art in particular looks like small movie posters, giving hints to what is about to take place. While some contemporary creators choose to go monochromatic in their dystopian world stories (like The Walking Dead), Y The Last Man is in full color, giving some vibrancy to a rather dark story. Club members found the story compelling enough to continue reading this.
The title for March will be Thor, God of Thunder, by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic.
The Escondido 2 group's February selection was Lady Killer Vols. 1 and 2 by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich.
The Dark Horse website describes Lady Killer as "Betty Draper meets Hannibal! Josie Schuller is a picture-perfect homemaker, wife, and mother—but she’s also a ruthless, efficient killer for hire!" This month’s discussion was led by Jake. The artwork for both volumes was outstanding, with Joelle getting even better with Vol. 2. The style and nature of the advertisements of the 1960s was thoroughly communicated in the panels and story. A favorite highlight included the single issue covers in each volume depicting different advertisements for murder and mayhem. All book club members were rooting for Josie and the struggles of having a healthy work/life balance of being an assassin for hire and a wife and mother. It was discussed as to why we like stories like Josie's that are filled with murder and blood. One of the book club members mentioned Stephen King was once quoted as saying something along the lines of "Giving into the horror feeds the beast within and keeps it at bay." The book did an excellent job of not pulling any punches. The club wondered why Josie hated firearms and preferred to use a knife. It was unanimous that Ladykiller is one of the best graphic novels Escondido 2 has read to date and we want more! There was a pun about Josie "doing bloody good work" as an assassin that was great.
In March, the Escondido 2 Book Club will be discussing Sandman Vol.1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman and Sam Kieth.
La Jolla’s first book for February was Animal Man, Vol. 1, written by Grant Morrison, with art by Chas Truog, Doug Hazlewood and Tom Grummett.
The club unanimously enjoyed the “blast-from-the-past” feel of the book. The ‘80s style of dress; the bright (almost pastel) coloring; the grid panel layouts … all made it obvious this book was produced last century, and also adds to the charm of Morrison’s first breakout, American hit comic. Animal Man’s animal rights agenda and Morrison’s focus on the character’s family life brings an interesting twist to the superhero story. The group also appreciated the short, single-issue stories in this collected edition, especially the Eisner Award-nominated issue #5, “The Coyote Gospel,” and issue #8’s light-hearted, home invasion story, “Mirror Moves.” The club’s only complaint was that Artist Truog didn’t include more recognizable landmarks in this San Diego-based adventure!
La Jolla also read Y: The Last Man, Vol 6: Girl on Girl. Writer Brian K. Vaughan and artists Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan Jr’s post-apocalyptic adventure continues to delight! Though protagonist, Yorick also continues to be a bumbling, goofball … at least he’s a lovable, bumbling, goofball! Members were happy to see Yorick’s journey finally put him on the path towards Australia, and possibly closer to a meeting with his girlfriend that has been six volumes in-the-making.
La Jolla’s March books are Murder Falcon by Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer and Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil by Jeff Lemire and David Rubin.
For the month of February, the Mission Valley group read Spider-Man: Life Story by Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley. The book is ambitious storytelling at its best, telling Spider-Man’s entire story from his first appearance as 15-year-old Peter Parker in 1962 and aging him naturally over the decades to present day. Each volume covers a different decade in Peter Parker’s life, inspired by real world events such as the Vietnam War, Cold War, and 9/11, along with iconic Spider-Man and Marvel storylines like the Clone Saga, Kraven’s Last Hunt, and Civil War. Our favorite characters and villains make appearances along the way, aging alongside our hero.
Ace moderator Michael led a lively discussion. Although some members were highly knowledgeable of Spider-Man’s background and lore, others were not as well versed and only familiar with recent incarnations of the character. The whole group enjoyed the book, especially the stunning artwork by Bagley. Some members said that this book reignited their adoration for Spider-Man and reminded them of why he’s such a great character. Others expressed that they would like the life story concept applied to more superheroes. Zdarsky’s writing along with Bagley’s art effortlessly tied 60 years’ worth of storylines and characters together, making them coherent and immensely entertaining. Aging Spider-Man put more weight and depth to the axiom “With great power comes great responsibility,” and in Peter Parker’s case, great guilt as well, as he dealt with the ups and downs of balancing life, love, family, friendships and what it means to be a superhero.
Next month, Mission Valley will be reading In Waves by A.J. Dungo.
This month the Comic-Con Museum Charter Member club experienced the myriad lives and deaths of Bras de Olivias Dominguez as told by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon in Daytripper. Club member Tori led the discussion which took a deep look at what death means, how those themes were examined in the story, if the tale was one of magical realism or if it was just a morality play about the life and the importance of those moments to oneself.
Multiple club members lauded the choice of color and art style variations throughout the story and how it was used by the creators to showcase different parts of the protagonists life; the mirroring symbolism of different moments was also examined.
Much of the discussion towards the end of the evening was dedicated to authorial intent and even further onto how each club member values things and portions of their lives. Overall, it was an incredibly in-depth discussion about one of the most talked about books for this club so far.
For the month of March the club will be reading Paper Girls Vol. 1, by Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Jared K. Fletcher, and Matthew Wilson.
For the month of February North Park discussed Kabi Nagata’s My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, an autobiographical manga chronicling the author’s struggles after graduating from high school. She grapples with finding and maintaining a job while dealing with depression, an eating disorder, and coming to terms with being gay in Japan. The main story culminates with her encounter with a female sex worker, but she intersperses stories about her parents and growing up throughout.
Our discussion was led by Katie this month and it began with each member giving their general impressions of Kabi’s story and art. Her story acted, as Katie succinctly put it, “like a mirror for some and a window for others.” Some members related strongly to several aspects of Kabi’s life, whether it was dealing with mental illness or trying to live as an adult for the first time. Other members mentioned that they didn’t necessarily share her particular issues, but the way she described her condition and her art helped them feel empathy towards her and gave them a better understanding of how people function with mental illness in their day-to-day lives. They also enjoyed the humor Kabi peppered throughout the book to lighten her memoir’s mood periodically.
One member appreciated how well Nagata was able to use her comic to convey complex emotions through clever imagery, and an interesting use of pink monochrome to color the entire book. They also appreciated the book’s climactic scene with a sex worker, which conveyed sex work in a positive light and the scene itself was drawn to reflect Nagata’s anxiety during the entire encounter.
Next month, North Park will begin their 2020 long-read by reading the first three volumes of Paper Girls, by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Jared K. Fletcher, and Dee Cunniffe.