Zoom Into Summer with Our June Book Club Reads!
Comic-Con’s Graphic Novel Book Clubs began what will hopefully be a long, lazy summer of comics reading with 6 new books (or series) in the month of June.
Downtown delved into the dark and mysterious world of Velvet, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s 1970s spy saga, featuring British agent Velvet Templeton. Velvet has been forced out of retirement, trying desperately to find answers to the death of her husband, a death that sidelined her from being an active field agent to working behind a desk. What she finds is a giant conspiracy and betrayal. Brubaker and Epting (the creators behind one of the best Captain America storylines in years, The Winter Soldier) are in full-blown 007 mode here, creating a vivid and provocative character in 45-year-old Velvet, who can out-Bond all of the other the agents she’s working with—or against. Moderator Melissa led a lively discussion which resulted in a Downtown first (or maybe second): EVERYBODY loved this book (for the record, we read the whole 15-issue Deluxe edition). Most surprising for our readers: the amount of characterization in the amazing older woman protagonist. Velvet was continually underestimated by her male colleagues, a byproduct of both the 1970s era and the male-dominated spy profession. Epting’s art was stellar (as was Elizabeth Breitweiser’s color art) and it was pointed out that Brubaker is a smart enough writer to shut up and let Epting’s art tell the story.
The question was asked of who would play Velvet in a movie if it was made in the 1970s and now. The choices for the ‘70s were Anne Bancroft, Diana Rigg, and Ava Gardner; for now, Gal Gadot, Thandie Newton, and Gillian Anderson. And of course, Charlize Theron is kind of playing Velvet in the upcoming 1980s-set Atomic Blonde.
And for snacks: The requisite red velvet cupcakes.
Downtown is taking July off but will return in August with part one of a deep dive into Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga (volumes 1-3).
Fueled with delicious treats from moderator Andrew, the Mission Valley Book Club devoured I Hate Fairyland, Volume One: Madly Ever After. With its electric pop color scheme and zany images bursting from every panel, Skottie Young’s creation is a fairy tale turned on its head. In the first volume, the main character, Gert, gets sent to Fairyland on a quest, but as the year’s pass by, she does not age and does not come any closer to finishing the quest that will send her home, and therefore becomes quite cranky! The mythology and morality of Fairyland gave the group quite a lot to chew on, as the characters were not clearly good or bad and their intentions were murky at best. Everyone had a different favorite character and Comic-Con cosplay preparation has already begun!
Mission Valley will be taking July off but will return in August with Mae vol. 1 by Gene Ha.
The North Park group tackled Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ noir opus, The Fade Out, about a murder mystery in post World War II Hollywood at the end of the studio era. Moderator Kha presented his questions to the group in a clever movie script format, including camera instructions and character types. The group agreed that The Fade Out is not an easy book to read. It offers an uncompromising look at an era in both Hollywood and American history that doesn’t easily lend itself to likeable characters and plot situations. Both Brubaker and Phillips should be commended for their uncompromising story, perfectly complimented by Elizabeth Breitweiser’s evocative color art, which helps set the dark tone. Members pointed out similarities to films like Memento and Sin City and agreed the real-life movie stars who make cameos in the story added an additional layer of Hollywood history. Most readers enjoyed the murder mystery aspect of the story and its slow burn, with more and more character details being revealed as it progressed. (Dottie was a particular favorite.) The red herrings eventually fall by the wayside to reveal the real villain behind the murder.
In July, the North Park group will delve into the world of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, with vols. 1 and 2.
The La Jolla group read two Eisner Award-nominated books that had a heavy ‘80s influence. First we discussed Tetris: The Games People Play, written and drawn by Box Brown, which details the improbable story of one of the most addictive games around. The group enjoyed discussing the politics that went into bringing Tetris out from behind Russia's Iron Curtain during the height of the Cold War. The group discussed how the book was confusing at times, but agreed it may be intentional to convey the feeling of not knowing which contract to sell the rights of Tetris was valid and the legal fights that ensued.
The second book discussed was Paper Girls Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughn and Cliff Chang. The overall consensus was that we enjoyed this volume, but the group was split on whether we enjoyed the first or second volume more. We enjoyed the ‘80s nostalgia and pop culture references, and were in agreement that we want to see what happens next after the cliffhanger at the end of the volume. Up next for us is the first volume of the DC Rebirth Wonder Woman by Greg Rucka and Liam Sharp.
The Encinitas group discussed volumes 1 and 2 of Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls.
The comic’s usage of bright, inviting colors was what immediately attracted most of the group’s members upon first opening the book. In addition, everyone enjoyed the 1980s setting, though some wondered if the premise would have had as much of a hook without the nostalgia factor. A few members reminisced about their experiences working as paperboys.
The discussion picked up steam on the topic of whether or not a group of men could effectively tell a story about four young girls. The group felt Vaughan and Chiang succeeded, though the younger age of the girls may have made this easier, as thus far in the story the characters don’t deal with issues or situations that delve too deep into female-specific territory. In fact, some Book Club members felt the four main characters could be substituted with boys and it wouldn’t change the storyline. Nevertheless, everyone was interested in learning more about the four main protagonists and are looking forward to more glimpses into their lives (such as the awesome Arkanoid scene).
Interestingly, there was a consensus amongst the group that even though Paper Girls’ plot is intriguing, nobody truly had any idea what exactly was going on. A great deal of information is introduced in volumes 1 and 2, both through storyline and artwork, yet few answers are given as to what all the parts add up to. One member who was new to reading comics remarked that she was surprised at what an unexpected challenge it can be, as you not only have to read the text, but interpret the artwork, consider the layout, and more. Reading comics requires its own kind of literacy, which is really cool!
Most members are planning to continue reading Paper Girls as the series continues, especially because they want to find some answers to their questions. In July, the group is changing gears completely and reading manga: Sunny, volume 1 by Taiyo Matsumoto.