The Zook Club Chronicles
The Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs continued their online Zoom meetings in July with a plethora (we like that word) of new worlds to conquer, read, and discuss. The legend of Zook Club continues to grow!
The Balboa Park group’s July selection was Delicious in Dungeon Vol. 1 by Ryoko Kui (writer/artist). Jewyl led the in-depth discussion. Delicious in Dungeon tells the story of a group of adventurers who return to a dangerous, monster-infested underground realm to rescue one of their own. Along the way, they survive by eating the various monsters they kill
Most of the members of the Book Club gave Delicious in Dungeon a 3 to 3.5-star rating during the Balboa Park Rating Roundtable, with a few giving the book a 4 or 5-star rating. The book was generally enjoyed for its focus on the feast aspects of the story and its excellent use of diagrams and recipes. Members who gave the book a lower-star rating thought that characterization was sacrificed for fights and meals and that the lone female character was written to be very annoying. The group discussed how reading manga was different than reading an American comic book and also discussed at length the differences between Japanese humor and American humor. It was acknowledged that it is hard to read just the first volume in a manga series as they tend to start slowly and go on for a long time (sometimes over 100 volumes). Often the first volume does not give the reader a good idea of how the story will evolve.
Some members also stayed late to discuss Saga, Vol. 4 by Brian Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist) as part of the ongoing Saga read-through.
In August, the Balboa Park Book Club will discuss Sentient, a science fiction story by Jeff Lemire (writer) and Gabriel Walta (artist).
For July, the Chula Vista Group read and discussed Flashpoint, written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Andy Kubert. The series is an examination of the butterfly effect in time travel: Can a small change in the past lead to a catastrophic change in the future? The story begins with Barry Allen in the world he knows: He is part of the Justice League; his mother was murdered; he is Flash. However, after falling asleep on the job, he discovers that he is in a very different world. He is not Flash and he has no powers. There is no Justice League. Wonder Woman and Aquaman are at war, destroying much of Western Europe in the process. And, strangely enough, his mother is still alive. What has happened to Barry’s world, and can he fix it?
Chris led the discussion with a group that had varying degrees of DC Comics knowledge. Despite the differences, all enjoyed the book and found different messages in the story. Dennis found it an entertaining read and Jenna thought it was “pretty dope.” Eric felt that this was a Mother’s Day story as it was revealed that Barry changed time to save his mother’s life. Tiffany was interested in the examination of an individual’s pain: How far does one go to ease one’s pain? Is the death of thousands worth the life of one person? Yasmine thought the story was a great way to introduce DC characters, but wanted to know more details: How did Barry’s actions cause the rest of the world to change? The group also appreciated the more ruthless portrayal of characters, particularly Batman and Wonder Woman. Overall, the group gave the book a thumbs up and it has led some members to find more works related to the story.
In August, the Chula Vista group will read Peter Panzerfaust Vol. 1: The Great Escape, written by Kurtis J. Wiebe and illustrated by Tyler Jenkins.
The Downtown group journeyed to the Batman Universe, with a story by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Nick Derrington. Everyone was surprised by this story; after a decade of somber and morose Batman tales, this is a fun romp through the DC Universe, as Batman chases down Vandal Savage and a Faberge Egg with strange powers. It teams the Bat with Nightwing, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and—believe it or not—Jonah Hex, and bounces from Gotham City to Gorilla City, from the Old West to Hawkworld. And oh! … that Nick Derrington art. Many members were unfamiliar with this relatively new artist. Moderator Gary originally pitched this one-and-done graphic novel collection as a fun read, and the members unanimously found it to be light and entertaining and a great escape. Many were surprised with a story like this coming from Brian Michael Bendis and commented on how imaginative it was. It showed a “playful side” of Batman, not shown in years and was reminiscent of The Brave and the Bold cartoon series on Cartoon Network. Derrington’s cutaway-like art spreads that showed action flowing through different levels were standouts to his amazing art.
Next month, the Downtown group starts a two-month deep-dive into the complete saga of Paper Girls, by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang.
The Encinitas group’s July selection was Vision: The Complete Collection, by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta. The series won the 2017 Eisner award for best limited series.
Luke described the series as a Shakespearian tragedy using characters from the Marvel universe. Marina thought it was one of the most intensely emotional graphic novels she had ever read. Richard appreciated Tom King's use of language, including King's use of specific narrator voices. King has mentioned that he was inspired in part by Orson Welles' narration in the 1942 film The Magnificent Ambersons, and by Neil Gaiman's narrative experiments.
Several members of the group praised Walta's art for creatively presenting emotions through the characters' facial expressions and body language. Karim noted that even the dog was drawn quite expressively. Jon noted the story's subtext regarding outsiders trying to find their place in society. Whitney was impressed with the story's sophisticated presentation, and James appreciated the introspective nature of much of the story.
In August, the Encinitas Book Club will be discussing the first volume of Once & Future, by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora.
The back cover of Harleen reads “A young psychiatrist with a potential cure for the madness that haunts Gotham City, Dr. Harleen Quinzel must prove her revolutionary theory to a skeptical establishment by delving into the disturbed minds of Arkham Asylum's deadliest inmates. But the more time she spends with her criminally insane subjects, the closer she is drawn to one patient in particular—and the further she falls away from reality. The birth of legendary antihero Harley Quinn and the shocking origins of her twisted romance with the Joker are revealed in Harleen, a stunning new tale of love and obsession written and illustrated by renowned comics storyteller Stjepan Sejic (Aquaman: Underworld, Sunstone).”
And what a stunning tale it was! Moderator Darrow got everyone in the mood to discuss the book by having everyone wear their favorite DC character T-shirts. The artwork was absolutely gorgeous and invites readers to pour over it, looking for hidden details and Easter Eggs. All book club members had numerous favorite panels and agreed they’d want Sejic’s artwork hanging in their home. The surprising depth, attention to detail, and fresh take on Harley’s origin story was appreciated by all. It was clear that Sejic did his research when writing this story and speaking to psychiatric theories and practices. Looking back, readers can trace Harleen’s journey into becoming Harley Quinn. Joker is a truly terrifying villain that understands the mind and how humans work. DC fans know Harley’s origin story, but by far, this is the best and most complete retelling of it, while adding new elements that enhance her journey and eventual rise as an anti-hero unto herself. There is so much to this story and so many topics to explore, it’s hard to summarize it here. Harleen is a highly recommended read from Escondido 2. Based on voting, this is Escondido 2’s favorite read of 2020 so far. It will be hard to top this one.
Next up for Escondido 2 in August will be Scooby Apocalypse Vol. 1, by Keith Giffen and Howard Porter.
Excellence is real—the La Jolla club read the first arc of the Skybound/Image urban fantasy series from writer Brandon Thomas, illustrator Khary Randolph, and colorist Emilio Lopez. Gary lead the discussion about the graphic novel, which follows a secret order of magicians that stays in the shadows to protect the world. Young protagonist, Spencer Dales struggles with his father’s expectations as he unlocks his magical powers, all while learning the order’s darkest secrets.
The group was split on Excellence but found many likeable aspects. The art was well received and Randolph’s ability to convey such emotional beats in certain scenes was a highlight. You could really feel the familial bonds between the main characters, especially between Spencer and his grandmother. They also enjoyed how Thomas expanded upon the world by incorporating supplemental material on the order such as the rules, influential original families, unique runes, and the magician rankings. The first volume, “Kill the Past” was intriguing enough that some members would continue with the series.
Next month, La Jolla will read Immortal Hulk Vol. 2: The Green Door from writer Al Ewing and artist Lee Garbett, and Scalped Vol. 1: Indian Country from writer Jason Aaron and artist R.M. Guera.
For July, the Mission Valley Book Club took a chance on reading their first-ever manga together, and for some members of the group, it was the first manga they had ever read in their lives! That manga was Witch Hat Atelier by Kamome Shirahama, which won an Eisner Award this year and is a beautiful, exquisitely detailed read. Based on the art alone, everyone agreed they would have read more, but coupled with the story, Mission Valley had another unanimously positive review on their hands! Witch Hat Atelier is the tale of Coco, a young girl who dreams of becoming a witch. Believing one has to be born a witch, she thinks her dreams can never come true until wizard Qifrey arrives and she learns the secret of magic … ink and paper. One thing everyone can agree on is that books are magic, and Witch Hat Atelier casts an enchanting spell to say the least. This is a must-read for fans of comics and manga alike and opens up a new world for readers to become immersed in. One could spend hours pouring over the detailed black and white pages and intricate layouts, discovering a new world of magic through Coco’s eyes.
In August, after enjoying all of the offerings of Comic-Con@Home, Mission Valley will delve into The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television by Koren Shadmi.
This month the Museum Charter Member Club read MIND MGMT Vol 1, written and illustrated by Matt Kindt. Club member Jenny led the discussion, with the group starting the discussion with trying to parse where Kindt took his inspiration from and what other genres we were reminded of while reading Vol. 1. What is swiftly becoming a trope in the group, someone made a reference to a part of the book that reminded them of the seminal television drama LOST. The club was interested in Meru's story and where it went past Vol. 1.
A lot of discussion was centered around the art in the book and how the group felt it served the storytelling in different portions of the book. The general consensus is that it's efficacy shifted depending on what was happening at the time in the story. Everyone loved the notes and similar things on the outsides of the panels and in the gutters.
Next month the Museum group will be reading Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, written by Neil Gaiman, and illustrated by Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, and Malcolm Jones III.
Since the last time North Park read Monstress all the way back in 2016, some members have left while several new members have joined the group. We decided to catch up on Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda, and Rus Wooten’s award-winning series, starting with volumes one and two. Monstress takes place in fantasy word at war between two sides: Half-god/half-human magical creatures called Arcanics and human sorceresses known as the Cumaea, who rely on the bodies of Arcanics to fuel magic. Caught in the middle of this war is Maika Halfwolf, an Arcanic looking to avenge her mother, who was killed in a battle that resulted in Maika losing an arm but gaining a demon who periodically takes control of her body when she’s in danger.
Juan led this month’s discussion, and the focus of our conversation immediately gravitated towards Sana Takeda’s art. One member loved the disparate elements she synthesized into a unique style: Art Deco, Steampunk, Lovecraft, and Egyptian mythology all seemed to be influences. This eclectic style permeated every aspect of the art, from the characters to the architecture, and especially the clothing, which isn’t usually something that stands out in comics. Another member saw the influence of Final Fantasy conceptual designer and one-time Sandman artist Yoshitaka Amano in her style as well. Many members also appreciated that Takeda didn’t sexualize the women in the story, who make up almost all the characters in the story so far.
Marjorie Liu’s story was influenced by her grandmother’s stories of living in China during World War II and focuses on the damage and traumatic effects war has on ordinary people, with numerous characters physically and emotionally scarred by the constant enmity between the Arcanics and Cumaea. Maika Halfwolf was an interesting character to follow, dealing with her own trauma and as a result is a flawed character who we couldn’t quite pin down as a good or bad person. The standout character was a fox-girl named Kippa who is simultaneously terrified of Maika’s barely contained demonic side and determined to stick by her. Everyone is excited to continue reading the story to follow Maika as she unravels her past within this scarred fantasy landscape.