Summer Reading Begins in June!
The Comic-Con International Graphic Novel Book Clubs blasted off into summer with another selection of eclectic reads.
For June, the Balboa Park group chose to read The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman. Moderated by Josh (who has 27.5 masters degrees), the themes of media, government and their relationship to the truth became significant threads within the discussion during the club’s June meeting. As the book was both written and illustrated by Hickman—who prior to entering comics, had a background of graphic design and advertising—members enjoyed discussing the non-traditional approach to formatting a graphic novel. Hickman’s departure from a panel driven format to large images interspersed with additional information for the reader to discover meant that different readers within the club engaged with the book on different levels, itself a reflection of mass media consumption.
The characteristic, realistic style introduced to the book through mimicking images that have become all too familiar in the 24-hour news cycle, paired well with the “ripped from the headlines” story. The authors intensive research skills were much lauded, and all though it was produced over a decade ago, consensus within the group was that it had striking relevance to more recent events. The group also celebrated the way in which the author routinely broke the fourth wall to pull you into the narrative, but was ultimately divided on the ending, which some suggested was nihilistic, or bereft of the pay-off that the book felt like it was building toward.
The Balboa Park group will meet again in August to discuss Vision written by Tom King and illustrated by Gabriel Hernandez Walta.
The Downtown Club decided to enter Scott Westerfeld’s and Alex Puvilland’s Spill Zone this month and found an engrossing story about the aftermath of a strange catastrophe that occurred in a town, and the woman who goes on dangerous photographic “assignments” there to make a living for her and her young sister. The club generally agreed that the story was highly intriguing and enjoyable and that the world inside the Spill Zone was satisfyingly creepy and interesting. A very stimulating discussion about the value of art in times of crisis was one of the highlights of the meeting and was a good reminder of the importance of art in our lives.
The Downtown group will be reading Starve, vols. 1 & 2 by Brian Wood and Danijel Zezelj when they meet again in August.
The Encinitas group is not afraid to tackle challenging reads, and this month was no exception as Charles Burns’ Black Hole was discussed. Moderated by Travis, the consensus amongst the Book Club members was that the book was fascinating and interesting, particularly because it pushes readers far outside of their comfort zones. Following the lives of a group of teens overcome by a mysterious sexually-transmitted disease that causes mutations, Black Hole tackles the topic of teenage angst in a very atypical way, employing the use of metaphor, grotesquely erotic imagery, and fantastical dream-like sequences that transport readers to a bizarre other world. The book’s artwork, with its bold black and white style, was appreciated by the group, especially considering Burns created the twelve issues that comprise Black Hole over the course of ten years, and his style remained incredibly consistent. Of special note is one member of the Encinitas Book Club attended the same high school as Burns during the era in which the book is set, and he was able to recognize many of the locations and details present in the book. For readers looking to experience the diversity of styles and tones that can exist in the comics medium, Black Hole is well worth exploring.
Next month, the group is reading The Princess and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang.
The Escondido Public Library chapter enjoyed our discussions of both Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, and Locke & Key Vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. Renate facilitated the chat, and the group discussed the humor and organic romance of the two main characters in Sex Criminals. The artwork by Zdarsky was a highlight with its vibrant colors and use of swirls and light to depict time stopping. The group agreed that this is another series that we would like to continue reading after finishing Locke & Key and Saga. Volume 4 of Locke & Key really picked up the pace. Everyone thought there should have been an ‘80s montage complete with music playing during some of the events that took place during the story. Overall the group thoroughly enjoyed this issue and can’t wait to dive into more of the story.
Up next In July, the group will read Locke & Key vol. 5, and Spider-Man/Deadpool: Isn't it Bromantic? by Joe Kelly and Tom King.
This month the La Jolla group dove face first into Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone By, with art by Tony Moore. About half the group had previously read this volume (or even more of the series), and most of the group was familiar with the property having watched the hit AMC show. The group really enjoyed the series, and many were impressed with the book’s focus being on the characters, and not the zombies. Overall, many enjoyed the black and white artwork, and felt it gave the book a certain feel that color would not deliver. It was inevitable not to compare the book to the TV show, and many felt the first season of the show stuck fairly close to the events in the book. Many expressed an interest exploring the series further.
We also dug ourselves deeper into our self-proclaimed “Brian K. Vaughan Fan Club” by continuing on our journey with Saga, Vol. 4, written by Brian K Vaughan with art by Fiona Staples. This volume was well received by a majority of the group; with many citing that they liked the more quiet tone to this particular story arc. The group liked how this volume dealt more with the characters and less about big events, giving the series a chance to breathe a bit. Many enjoyed the gender role reversals, with Alana becoming the breadwinner, and Marko becoming a stay-at-home caregiver. Fiona Staples’ art was praised, and her style lends itself well to the fantastical elements of the worlds that Saga inhabits. Many were also quick to point out how different heads in the Robot Kingdom distinguished class, with King Robot being a HUGE giant screen TV, and bulls in the Robot Kingdom having ‘80s style security cameras for heads. Many in the group are eager to continue with what Saga has to offer.
Next month, the La Jolla group will slow down our reading to prepare for a comics-related event at the San Diego Convention Center in July, and we will say our goodbyes to the club’s favorite series to date with Letter 44, Vol 6: The End, by Charles Soule, with art by Alberto Albuquerque.
For the month of June, the Mission Valley group read Rai vol. 1: Welcome to New Japan written by Matt Kindt and artwork by Clayton Crain.
The year is 4001 A.D. Led by the artificial intelligence called "Father," the island nation of Japan has expanded out of the Pacific and into geosynchronous orbit with the ravaged Earth below. With billions to feed and protect, it has fallen to one solitary guardian to enforce the law of Father's empire—the mysterious folk hero known as Rai.
This version of Rai is relaunched from the early ‘90s Valiant universe, although none in the group were familiar with that past work. Artificial intelligence plays a large role in the story and the group talked about the pros and cons of AI as it’s currently transforming the way we live our lives through our gadgets. The dark side of these technological advancements was discussed, including Amazon's Alexa recording a couple's private conversation, the development of flesh-eating robots (which brought up a potential GN for member Vince to create called Pleasures of the Flesh), and MIT using morbid Reddit captions to train an AI to become a psychopath.
Next month we take a break to enjoy Comic-Con and will return in August to discuss The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente.
North Park’s June selection was Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matt Wilson’s Phonogram Volume 2: The Singles Club. The Singles Club takes place on a single night in a dance club and revolves around seven phonomancers (people who perform magic through music) as they weave in and out of each-others’ lives. There are three rules to the club: No Boy Singers, You Must Dance, and No Magic.
The Singles Club is a comic steeped mostly in ‘90s British Pop music. Even with a Spotify playlist created by Kieron Gillen and a glossary of bands and songs at the end of the collection, many members just weren’t familiar with the music referenced throughout the story. On top of that, most of the characters’ personalities didn’t encourage people to relate to them. There were some members who did relate to the characters’ obsessions, especially how important music is in their lives.
Jamie McKelvie’s art and Matt Wilson’s colors were universally enjoyed, especially by the members who have been reading the creators’ current ongoing series The Wicked and The Divine. They also enjoyed the format of the series, with small side scenes in one issue being fleshed out in other chapters as the point of view changed between characters.
While they mentally prepare for the pop culture overload of Comic-Con 2018 in July, North Park will be discussing the body image horror/thriller The Beauty by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley, and John Rauch.