Zook Club Strikes Again!
The Balboa Park group’s May selection was Heart in a Box by Kelly Thompson (writer) and Meredith McLaren (artist). Pebbles led the in-depth discussion. Heart in a Box tells the story of Emma, who wishes away the eight pieces of her heart after her boyfriend breaks it. But she can’t live the emptiness, and so she goes on a quest to retrieve the pieces and come to an understanding of her own history and the cost of recapturing what she thought she no longer needed.
Most of the members of the Book Club gave Heart in a Box a 4- or 5-star rating during the Balboa Park Rating Roundtable, with a few giving the book a 2-3-star rating. The book was generally acclaimed to have “great” writing, “amazing” coloring, and an “unexpected” concept. The group discussed how the excellent coloring helped the at-times problematic artwork, and how reading the book on comiXology with its panel by panel flow made for a different and in some ways better experience than reading it on a phone or in paperback. Some members felt that the more violent first section of the book didn’t fit in well with the rest of the book, but that overall the story flowed well and each section built toward a satisfying ending.
Some members also stayed late to discuss Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughn (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist) as part of the ongoing Saga read-through.
In June, the Balboa Park Book Club will be discussing Crowded Vol. 1, a near-future mystery/action story by Christopher Sebela (writer), Ted Brandt and Ro Stein (artists).
In honor of Star Wars day (May the 4th be with you!), the Chula Vista Zook Club read and discussed Star Wars: Darth Vader, Vol. 1, Vader by Kieron Gillen, Adi Granov, and Salvador Larroca. Taking place between Star Wars Episodes 4 and 5, the story is told from the perspective of Vader’s side of the well-known epic. In his quest for revenge against the rebels and redemption from the Emperor, Vader builds an army with the help of archeologist Dr. Aphra and a pair of droids. But as he plots and gathers resources towards his revenge, he discovers another threat against him, this time from a surprising source. As the story progresses, the reader begins to understand Vader’s motivations, recognize familiar characters (hello, Jabba!) and discover characters new to the Star Wars universe.
Dennis led the discussion which included statements such as “I really like murderous robots” and “Skywalkers are the most boring family.” The members felt engaged with the plot and the art; Eric felt that this was “my kind of story.” Jenna liked how it helped “fill in the blanks” between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Monique (who greeted the group in a Vader mask) stated that there wasn’t anything she “didn’t like about the storyline.” A good majority of the discussion was about the characters. Tiffany thought Darth “seemed more human,” and Yasmine “liked Darth a little bit more.” But Dennis reminded the group that while the book humanizes Darth a bit more, keep in mind that, “This is a bad dude; remember, he killed all the kids.” Chris agreed, but added, “Vader was bad, but Palpatine was worse.” Another popular character in the story was Doctor Aphra; the group liked her personality and characterized her as “chaotic neutral”—neither good nor evil. Knowing that she will appear in future storylines and has a book of her own made the group extremely happy. The verdict? Seeing familiar characters in a new story was satisfying to read and some member will read Volume 2 (if they haven’t already).
For June’s pick, we are headed to Whitechapel where we will read A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman and Rafael Albuquerque.
The Downtown group read Skyward Vol. 1: My Low-G Life by Joe Henderson and Lee Garbett. Skyward takes place in a world where gravity doesn’t exist and the book’s young protagonist, Willa Fowler, thinks it’s awesome. But there’s trouble in this brave new world, too, as people float away, rain takes on a new, scary form, and Willa’s reclusive scientist dad and his former partner are the cause of gravity’s demise.
Moderated by Roya, the Downtown group enjoyed this new idea in science fiction oriented comics. They pretty much loved the art by Lee Garbett, and everyone was interested in continuing the series, which clocks in at a slim three volumes. Many felt that writer Henderson, who was the showrunner of the TV series Lucifer, was warming up for a new show with this tale, but the special effects budget alone would be a killer (everybody flies!), so maybe an animated movie in the style of Garbett’s art would be the best route. The group gravitated (yes, I went there) to Willa’s plucky resourcefulness and also picked apart some of the science do’s and don’ts of a world without gravity.
In June, the Downtown group will read Murder Falcon Vol. 1 by Daniel Warren Johnson. This is where we’ll separate the metalheads from the boys and girls.
The Encinitas group’s May selection was The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, written and illustrated by Isabel Greenberg. The 2013 book by the British writer/artist was her first graphic novel. The story takes place in a fictional pre-historical civilization, with allusions to Biblical stories and mythological tales.
James led the discussion. Luke observed that the book felt like a storybook of fairy tales and fables. The group discussed some of the many allusions included in the stories, with parallels to the stories of Cain and Abel, the Tower of Babel, the voyage of Odysseus, and other tales.
Robin observed that the book was well suited for reading aloud, and the group speculated whether this was a specific intention of the author. It would appear to be consistent with the book’s references to stories which were themselves part of an older oral tradition.
The group also discussed Greenberg’s art style for the story. The artist, who was only 24 when the book was released, attended the Brighton School of Art. She generally uses a simple, direct style in the book, with thick black lines and primarily black and white illustrations, with sparing use of color accents. Karim noted that the direct art style was appropriate for the fairy tale approach of the stories. Robin complimented the artist’s character designs; the book has a large cast of characters, but Greenberg’s effective character designs helps readers easily differentiate between the characters.
In June, the Encinitas Book Club will be discussing Death: The Deluxe Edition, by Neil Gaiman and Chris Bachalo.
The Escondido Group 1 chose the mangas Golden Kamuy, Vol. 1 and 2, by Satoru Noda for our May discussion. Renate chose this title for the group, hoping to discuss both the heavily researched historical content representing the Japanese Ainu people, and how the level of violence depicted compared to other American titles we have read in the past. Golden Kamuy follows Russo-Japanese War veteran Saichi Sugimoto and his young Ainu companion, Asirpa, on their harrowing journey to find escaped criminals who carry tattooed maps leading to a stolen Ainu gold hoard. Sugimoto seeks the gold in order to keep a promise to provide for a fallen comrade’s family, while Asirpa seeks revenge for the father that was murdered by the original gold thief. Together they face countless dangers from both the harsh environments and wild animals of Hokkaido, and the many ruthless individuals who will do anything to collect those skin maps. Sugimoto will bet everything on his soldier skills and knack for surviving as “Sugimoto the Immortal,” and Asirpa may be the only one who can stop him from throwing away his humanity.
Renate loved the unique historical portrayal of this postwar Japan and positive representation of the marginalized Ainu people. She and Vince also liked the many depictions of Asirpa’s cooking skills, and lamented that they couldn’t try these captivating wild animal dishes. Everyone thought Asirpa was a great child character because she was smart, strong, and funny but lacked the typical bratty nature main child characters often have. This manga was gritty throughout with violent combat and animal attacks, but Vince assured the group that it was not as graphic as other comics he’s read. Sophia said that some of the horrific scenes caught her off guard, but could see how they would get readers talking.
The Escondido Group 1 plans to have an all-member show-and-tell discussion on June 15.
Escondido 2's May selection was Akira Vol. 1 by Katsuhiro Otomo. Jeff lead a lively discussion. The publisher description sums the first volume up as "Welcome to Neo-Tokyo, built on the ashes of a Tokyo annihilated by a blast of unknown origin that triggered World War III. The lives of two streetwise teenage friends, Tetsuo and Kaneda, change forever when paranormal abilities begin to waken in Tetsuo, making him a target for a shadowy agency that will stop at nothing to prevent another catastrophe like the one that leveled Tokyo. At the core of the agency’s motivation is a raw, all-consuming fear of an unthinkable, monstrous power known only as Akira." This description barely touches on the revved up motorcycle ride of a journey the story takes readers on. The main characters are quickly introduced as well as the setting of Neo-Tokyo. As the original graphic novel was written in the ‘80s, it's always fun to see what creators thought technology would be like in the future. Kaneda starts as a character who is not very likeable, but his development over the course of the first volume has readers rooting for him to succeed in his mission. This was the first time many members of Escondido 2 read a manga. Overall the group enjoyed Akira and is looking forward to reading more volumes in the future to see how the story progresses and concludes.
Next up for Escondido 2 in June will be the complete collection of Uzumaki by Junji Ito.
For the month of May, the La Jolla club read Locke and Key Vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom. Gary mediated the discussion about the graphic novel written by Joe Hill and illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez. In the fourth installment, readers continue to follow the Locke children as they hunt for more magical keys in their ancestral home all while battling a terrifying force. They discover the threat may be closer than they expected.
The group welcomed the stylistic art changes in some of the chapters as they provided a fresh aesthetic but still remained consistent with the tone and mood of the story. Rodriguez’s take on Calvin & Hobbes in particular was enjoyed. They also felt the teenage high school drama grounded the characters and made them feel like normal people but some thought it detracted from the supernatural aspects. Though Keys to the Kingdom may not be everyone’s favorite volume of Locke and Key, it was still well received and the group would be interested in continuing the series.
In June, La Jolla will have double the Jeff Lemire fun as they read Descender Vol. 1: Tin Stars, which is illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, and Black Hammer Vol. 4: Age of Doom Part 2, which is illustrated by Dean Ormston and Rich Tommaso.
Mission Valley Book Club’s selection for May was Little Bird by Darcy Van Poelgeest and Ian Bertram. Little Bird is award-winning filmmaker Darcy Van PoelGeest’s first comic and it’s set in a post-apocalyptic world where the protagonist is set on a path to fight against a corrupt church establishment. The group found the story concept intriguing with numerous twists and turns. One member pointed out that the story is an allegory of the struggle of indigenous peoples against colonialism, because they are super-smart. Everyone was enamored with the art of Ian Bertram, although the graphic nature of some of the more violent scenes are not for the faint of heart.
For June, Mission Valley will be reading Ghosted in LA by the team of Sina Grace and Siobhan Keenan.
The Comic-Con Museum group’s May selection was The Magicians: Alice’s Story written by Lilah Sturges, illustrated by Pius Bak, and overseen by original creator and author Lev Grossman. The graphic novel is set during the events of the widely popular The Magicians and immerses the reader through the perspective of the main character, Alice Quinn. Karina led the discussion and provided thoughtful talking points that helped the group explore how this story fits within the larger universe of all the other The Magicians related works. In Alice’s Story, the Museum Book Club was treated to a version of Alice’s journey as she enrolled in Brakebills College, learned about her innate talent for wizardry, and the relationships she made during her spell there. The story continues soon after graduation where Alice and her friends embark on a journey to the fantastical world of Fillory where unlikely outcomes would take place for each character.
Several of the club members read the original works by Lev Grossman and watched its adaptation as a television series, which contributed to a dialogue on how this graphic novel compares. The group enjoyed how Alice’s Story fit within the larger universe, although there was a point in the discussion where some members thought the resolution was not as satisfying as it could have been. Overall, this was an entertaining read for many of the members and did its source material justice.
In June, the Comic-Con Museum Book Club will be discussing Husbands by Jane Espenson and Ron Chan.
This month, North Park wrapped up Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson Jared K. Flecther, and Dee Cunniffe’s 1980s (as well as 2016, 2000, 1958, 11,706 BCE, and far-flung 71st Century CE) time-travel adventure Paper Girls, reading Volumes 4-6. The war between the Old-Timers of the future and the Teenagers of the even further future rages on in these volumes, catching up and entwining the four paper girls from 1988 into a conflict that gets to the heart of any time-travel discussion: If you can change the past to make a better future, do you? Or do you preserve the past and try to make a better present? As Erin, Mac, KJ, and Tiffany are flung from one epoch to another as they try to reunite and get back to 1988, they become the key to ending this time-war and possibly saving existence.
For a time-travel story, many members were impressed with how well Vaughan was able to tie up all the loose threads of the story by the end of these volumes, although some members wished for a happier ending than what was presented. Another fun addition to the story was Vaughan’s use of slang, vernacular, and “alien” language tied to each timeline. They showed a nod to the evolution of language over time and how Americans may speak in the future. Members who had already read the story enjoyed it much more a second time, as they weren’t trying to figure out the temporal twists and turns of the story and could focus on the characters. Cliff Chiang’s art and Matt Wilson’s colors continued to be standouts for Paper Girls, with one issue being split into four separate but simultaneously occurring timelines on the same page as a particularly inventive standout of these volumes. Along with the other long reads of entire comic series we’ve read, everyone appreciated being able to read a story that was self-contained.
In June, North Park will be reading Spider-Man: Life Story by Chip Zdarsky, Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy, and Frank D’Armata.