September Book Club Book Report
Summer is winding down, but that didn’t stop our 5 book clubs from meeting and discussing new books in September, the first month of Autumn!
Downtown continued their deep dive into Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Eisner Award-winning saga, Saga, with discussion on trade paperback volumes 4-6 (or deluxe edition vol. 2, with that adorable cover of Hazel, pictured at left). The rambling discussion covered the creators’ great sense of pacing throughout the book, Staples’ amazing art (she pencils, inks and colors the series), and how complicated and messy the story—and the relationships in it—are, but still it all works. There was a bit of debate about too much soap opera in this space opera, but everyone seemed to pretty much enjoy it the way it is. One member wanted a Robot Kingdom spin-off (the characters with the TV sets for heads), based on the class structure within the kingdom (color sets for aristocracy, black and white for those less fortunate). And of course, everyone loved Ghus and Hazel, the story’s narrator, and the ever-growing child who is the center of Saga.
Next month, Downtown continues our chaste and from afar love affair with Ms. Staples’ artwork when we read The Mystery Society, written by Steve Niles.
For the month of September, Mission Valley read Dark Night: A True Batman Story, an autobiographical tale written by Paul Dini and illustrated by Eduardo Risso. The story details the legendary animation and comic writer’s violent mugging and how he, already suffering from loneliness and depression before that night, dealt with the trauma of that ordeal. Moderator Michael—who had nominated the book—asked the group how well they could identify with Dini’s struggles and coping mechanisms, leading to conversations about self-acceptance issues and dating misadventures.
Many in the group enjoyed the art and thought that Risso, known for doing crime comics, was effective in conveying the severity of the mugging. Members thought that this story was particularly suited for the graphic novel format, especially since Dini used Batman characters to personify his internal conflicts. While some members had trouble relating to Dini’s experiences, everyone appreciated that he was able to discuss them so candidly and that a book like this existed, because it helped to destigmatize depression and could inspire people recovering from trauma. The discussion prompted some members to reread the book with a new perspective.
Next month Mission Valley will read March: Book One by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.
The North Park group continued their deep dive into the world of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, with volumes 3 and 4. A complete report on the entire series is coming soon, after they finish all 10 volumes.
In October, North Park will read Black Magick, Vol. 1, Awakening Part 1 by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott.
The La Jolla Graphic Novel Book Club read Girls Volume 1: Conception by writer Joshua Luna and artist Jonathan Luna, and Saga Volume Three by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Overall, we enjoyed both books. The group agreed that the third volume of Saga seemed to be less action-packed than the previous two volumes. Despite vol. 3’s seemingly slower pace, Saga continues to be an entertaining read, with art that continues to impress. Vaughan's sly and subtle commentary on subjects, such as LGBT issues and writers and fandom, continue to add depth and spark conversation. The group all expressed a desire to continue with the series.
Most of the group had a good time reading Girls. The story, about the appearance of a strange, naked woman in a small town—and the bizarre havoc she brings with her—kept most of the La Jolla group engaged. The well-crafted dialog and the mysterious plot helped to effortlessly move along the story. The large cast of characters trying to navigate an apparent apocalyptic situation caused some of us to liken Girls to the TV series The Walking Dead, Under the Dome, and Eureka. Most of the La Jolla group are eager to see where Girls progresses after vol. 1 ends!
In October, to celebrate Halloween, the La Jolla Graphic Novel Club will read Hellboy, Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction, and Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft!
The Encinitas Group read The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, by Sonny Liew. After some brief discussion, several members were surprised to find out that the biographical narrative was actually fiction, a tribute to Liew’s ability to weave a story around a historical narrative. Some members related that this, in combination with the graphic novel medium, made it easier to present historical facts that otherwise may be dry and unmoving. Moreover, knowing that the entire book is from one person’s imagination gave the work a deeper complexity, especially as Liew transitioned across different and unique artistic styles (plus, knowing that the book was the creative work of one artist explains why he won three Eisner Awards!). Some members felt that the story did take on a more somber tone as Chan’s life paralleled the political struggles of Singapore, especially since the political viewpoints—which themselves are a driving force of the work—are unidirectional. As one member described, “As a history, it is very one sided!” This lead to a discussion of politics in comics in general, and whether the medium is a good or appropriate method for expressing political viewpoints.
Members also found that the book was a great “history” of publishing itself, as Liew explores the trials of printing and publishing comics, including technologies available during specific periods and marketing tactics. Ultimately the members felt that the historical aspects of The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye could have been dry and disengaging if not for the personal narrative helping it along. By giving the reader an emotional investment in the characters, Liew softened the historical and political impacts, and made the book a keeper for many of the Encinitas branch members.
Next month, the Encinitas group will read The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman, just in time for October!
If you live in the San Diego area and interested in joining one of our book clubs, we have a new one starting in October at the Escondido Public Library. The deadline for applying for membership is Monday, October 1st. Click here for details ... and join us monthly to talk comics!