We Give Thanks for Graphic Novels!
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the collective Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs have put together a tasty buffet of good ol’ graphic novel reading for the month of November!
The Balboa Park group’s November selection was Ghosted in LA by Sina Grace (writer) and Siobhan Keenan (artist). Meg led the in-depth discussion. Ghosted in LA, a light-hearted YA comic, is about a young woman who follows her boyfriend to college in Los Angeles and finds that the only apartment she can afford is abandoned and haunted.
Most of the members of the Book Club gave Ghosted in LA a 4-star rating (out of 5) during the Balboa Park Rating Roundtable. The book was said to have an “intriguing” premise, “emotive” art and coloring, with “emotionally appealing characters.”
The group discussed how the YA genre may or may not have affected how deep the story went, and the appeal of some of the characters to our group. We also talked about how much we enjoyed the ghost characters, and how we would have liked to learn more about their past, their unique powers, and their reasons for being at Rycroft Manor.
Another topic of conversation was the choice to include only four issues of the series in the graphic novel, and whether the ending truly wrapped up the storyline or not.
Some members also stayed late to discuss Saga, Vol. 8 by Brian Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist) as part of the ongoing Saga read-through.
In December, the Balboa Park Book Club will be discussing Klaus: How Santa Claus Began, by Grant Morrison (writer) and Dan Mora (illustrator).The book tells the origin story of Santa Claus in a tale of one man and his wolf against a totalitarian state and the ancient evil that sustains it.
For November, the Chula Vista group explored the world of gods and wombats in Digger, Vol. 1 written and illustrated by Ursula Vernon. The first volume covered the first four months of a 6-year Hugo award winning webcomic. The titular character is a wombat who—after a series of mishaps—is hopelessly lost. In her efforts to get home she meets the god Ganesh, encounters hungry hyenas, and befriends a shadow. This is a world where “Remember tunnel seventeen!” is a battle cry.
Susan moderated the discussion. In terms of storyline and presentation, this is a story that is quite different from what the group has read in the past. Matt thought this was a “weird and off the wall” story. The group wondered if the reading experience would have been different to have read it the way it was presented (a few panels a day online) vs. binge-reading over the course of a few days. As the group read the story, they realized this portion is mostly world-building. The group observed there’s a clash of different worlds: a south-Asian god, an Australian marsupial, hyenas from Africa, and humans in a European setting. Dennis felt this format brought a kind of nostalgia of serial comics in the past but commented that this is a slow-burn story. Yasmine was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed the story and the humor. The entire group appreciated the art, especially the portrayal of Ganesh and the animal characters. As the protagonist, Digger was universally liked. Dennis stated it succinctly, “The wombat is pretty badass.”
For December, the Chula Vista group will read Klaus: How Santa Began by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora.
The Downtown group tackled The Banks, written by Roxane Gay, illustrated by Ming Doyle, and colored by Jordie Bellaire. The Banks is a story of a crime family (the titular Banks family), and flips the gender of the normal heist storyline from primarily male to female protagonists. Grandmother (Clara), daughter (Cora), and granddaughter (Celia) all team up to rip off $300 million in Bitcoin from a particularly scummy individual. But with this heist comes a bonus: The ability to right an old family wrong, when a figure from the Banks family’s past enters the picture.
The story involves a generational clash between the family members, with the granddaughter, Celia, not particularly wanting to join the family business. But when she’s passed over for a promotion at the big investment firm she works for, her attitude changes, and she comes up with the plan for the heist of a lifetime.
Gay creates a great bunch of characters and a real “popcorn movie” type of story (luckily, it’s been optioned for a movie). Doyle’s art is effective and Bellaire’s color helps set the various scenes. And while the characters are all well-defined, the one thing that was lacking: not enough heist! The members of our group discussion, moderated by Elissa, all agreed we were expecting more heist action, and went on to name some of our favorite genre movies along those lines, including The Heist, Out of Sight, The Hot Rock, Entrapment, Ocean’s 11, etc.
In December, the Downtown group will read Spider-Man: Life Story by Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley.
The Encinitas group’s November selection was Second Coming, by Mark Russell and Richard Pace. The book is a humorous, irreverent story about Jesus returning to Earth, unhappy at how his message has been twisted over the centuries. God the Father asks Sunstar, the world's mightiest superhero, to accept Jesus as his roommate and teach him to use power in a more forceful manner.
Richard led the discussion. James offered that one of the themes of the book concerned power and the use of violent means to achieve one's ends. Karim concurred, noting that Sunstar (a Superman-type character) finds that his vast power is often not helpful for solving real-world problems. Richard agreed, appreciating that such story points as infertility, and caring for an aged relative, are not solved by punching.
Brittany thought the humor of the book was quite successful. Karim enjoyed the satirical jabs at some of the practices of modern churches. Luke thought the book had some thoughtful looks at how religion affects culture. Robin appreciated that in addition to the humor and satire, the story also offers sincere, even earnest, discussion of religious messages.
Karim also liked the storytelling skills of artist Richard Pace. Richard appreciated the supplemental sketches at the end of the book, with the artist's explanations of some of his character designs.
In December, the Encinitas Book Club will have a "show-and-tell" meeting, revisiting the books read during 2020 and discussing some of our favorite pop culture experiences of the year.
The Escondido Group 1 explored the world of Rose, Vol. 1, The Last Light written by Meredith Finch and illustrated by Ig Guara. Jessica moderated the discussion of this fantasy story about a young woman learning to use her magical abilities amidst the chaos of losing a battle that will decide the fate of the kingdom. Having lost what little she had, young Rose joins forces with a band of freedom fighters who are trying to save the lives of villagers terrorized by the henchmen of the terrible sorceress Drucilla. Despicable Drucilla is waging a war against her own people in order to quash any possibility of the rise of another Guardian, a magic user who can summon the aid of a powerful beast known as a Khat. Together the legendary Guardians and their giant feline Khats could restore peace in the land, but not if Drucilla finds the last Khat before Rose does!
This first volume reminded Vince of a lot of other fantasy titles and was “a little trope-y,” but enjoyable. Natalie was pleasantly surprised by how much she loved Rose because it’s not a graphic novel she would have ever gravitated toward. Jessica thought the story had just the right amount of action, enough to emphasize the danger characters were facing, but not too much to distract from the narrative. The art was quite beautiful, and the different color dialogue bubbles made the story flow easily. Everyone liked Thorne, the giant black Khat. Renate and Sophia loved Drucilla’s over-the-top character design and Chris wondered if she was a necromancer. Chris wanted to know more about Rose’s possible healing powers, as her full capabilities were not made clear in volume 1. There was group debate over Drucilla’s henchman, Dante. We want to know where his loyalties lie in volume 2.
Escondido Group 1 will take a break for December and return to read The Chronicles of Hate, Vol. 1 by Adrian Smith in January 2021.
Escondido 2's November selection was The Witcher Vol.1: House of Glass and Vol.2: Fox Children by Paul Tobin and Joe Queiro.
The Witcher focuses on Geralt of Rivia and his many adventures. A witcher is a hunter hired to slay monsters. Readers learn that there is immense training and mutations used to create witchers; it is not a gentle process. The first issue of Vol. 1 introduces readers to Geralt and a bit about the world. Club members were worried it was going to be a rehash of the popular video games, but Tobin surprised everyone by telling an original and creative story. The five issues of House of Glass are creative in the way the story unfolds and concepts of Witcher are introduced. The artwork was a great fit for the story and the literal House of Glass the characters find themselves in. Vara is a club favorite as a playful character who is out for herself but also has a general liking of Geralt. Their dynamic is fun. Vol. 1, House of Glass at its heart is a murder mystery. Vol. 2, Fox Children tells a more traditional witcher tale. It finds Geralt and a new dwarf companion travel via boat and getting wrapped up in a monster’s revenge for being wronged. The monster involved with Fox Children was a fun and clever surprise. Favorite monsters of the group included the Grave Hag and Leshin from Vol. 1, as well as the main monster from Vol. 2, which we won’t ruin in this review! It was unanimous that club members will be reading the rest of Geralt’s stories. The world is filled with great myths and monsters. One club member commented that the Witcher is great for storytelling twists you don’t see coming (if we aren’t paying attention) and life lessons. The group really enjoyed spending their time with Geralt of Rivia and his companions and many club members will be checking out the video games, Netflix series, and novels.
Next up for Escondido 2 in December will be Second Coming Vol. 1 by Mark Russell and Richard Pace.
For the month of November, the La Jolla graphic novel book club read BTTM FDRS (Bottom Feeders) from Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore and Saga Vol. 5 by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples.
Gary led the discussion and began with BTTM FDRS. The graphic novel inextricably links horror and social issues when an aspiring fashion designer finds the perfect apartment in a neighborhood in the beginning stages of gentrification. However, she gets more than she bargained for when she discovers a dangerous secret. The group really enjoyed the book and how the horror was a vehicle to tell the story the creators wanted to make but with stronger societal statements about race and gentrification. Though reactions to the artwork were mixed, we all agreed the coloring and use of shading and empty space created a creepy, suspenseful feeling.
The conversation then moved to the fifth volume of Saga. It had been a while since the group last read the series but found the book lent itself to jumping in and quickly helped everyone remember all the characters. Overall, everyone enjoyed the arc. Even those who didn’t like the series initially are coming around as the story progresses and they become more familiar with the world. It was interesting to see Marko and Alana separated from each other and it allowed readers to see who they were individually and how they’d handle different situations. There were definitely some shock factor moments and the reveal at the end was enough to keep our graphic novel book club interested and wanting to read the next installment.
In December, La Jolla will read Something is Killing the Children Vol. 1 from James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Eldera and The Sandman: The Doll’s House written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli and Steve Parkhouse.
For November’s Zook Club, the Mission Valley group read The Backstagers, Vol. 1 by James Tynion IV, Rian Sygh, and Walter Baiamonte. Jory is a basket case when he first transfers to an all-boys private high school, opting to hide in the bushes if he can get away with it. Encouraged by his mother to break out of his shell, Jory ends up at the Drama Club meeting. Snobbish actor twin brothers Blake and Kevin McQueen send Jory off to fetch a prop, where he meets what will become his friends for life: stage crew members Sasha, Aziz, Hunter and Beckett, collectively known as the titular Backstagers. Jory clicks with them immediately while discovering that there is a literal other world beyond the stage, a world that is holding a dark secret … what happened to the stage crew kids from 1987?
Overall, the group liked the story but were mixed on the artwork. Members commented the art was like Steven Universe meets Scott Pilgrim, old school Betty Boop, and one mentioned the contrast between Teen Titans as compared to Teen Titans GO. All of the members really liked the alternative covers at the end of the book, especially making them look like Playbill covers to go with the theme. Jory was a well-liked character that represented the readers journey, learning about this new world through his eyes. Another main character, Sasha, was likened to a Josh Gadd or early Jack Black character. The group really enjoyed the eclectic and diverse characters, including their sexuality which was done beautifully. Many members would recommend this book to others and are interested in continuing the series.
For December, the club will be taking on WEBTOON webcomic Lore Olympus by Rachel Smythe.
The Museum group’s selection this month was The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen. Simplistic yet visually beautiful, this graphic novel illustrates how sharing old stories can be the best way to learn how to share new ones. The discussion was led by Karina and provided the group many interesting and thought-provoking questions. Everyone in the group liked this graphic novel, especially the artwork. The simplicity of the drawings added to the story rather than detracting from it. The differing color schemes and rich color palette added to the art, which made it easier to tell when it shifted from story to story. Everyone liked the allegory of the communication issues shared in the graphic novel.
In December, the Museum group will be reading Something is Killing the Children, Vol. 2, by James Tynion and illustrated by Werther Dell’Edera and Miquel Muerto.
To coincide with the end of October and stretch Halloween by just a few days, North Park read the first volume of Ice Cream Man by W. Maxwell Price, Martin Morazzo, Chris O’Halloran, and Good Old Neon. Ice Cream Man is a series of horror vignettes taking place in one small town. Each issue is its own story, from a child who befriends one of the most venomous spiders in the world to a one-hit-wonder still chasing down his next chart topper decades later, with small nods to the other stories. And throughout each issue is the titular Ice Cream Man himself, a seemingly supernatural entity who pops in to give the characters what they think they want or to twist their dreams into nightmares.
Although some members aren’t the biggest fans of disconnected one-shot stories, others enjoyed the quick read this volume ended up being. Our book last month, House of X/Powers of X was a long and involved read. This month was a nice palate cleanser. One member likened the Ice Cream Man to another seemingly innocent character from the Joe Hill horror novel and TV series NOS4A2: Charlie Manx, a creature who lures children to a place called Christmasland before they meet grisly ends. Others enjoyed the dark humor and weirdness of the series. One member wanted to know what everyone’s favorite ice cream flavor was and in probably the largest scare of the night, the majority of us loved mint chocolate chip.
Next month North Park will be wrapping up 2020 and dialing the weird up to 11 with The Umbrella Academy, Vol. 1 by Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba, Dave Stewart, and Nate Piekos.