Women’s History Month

This year we’re trying something new for Women’s History Month. We’ll be highlighting women in comics and graphic novels throughout the month. This week I found one I hadn’t seen before, Bessie Stringfield: Tales of the Talented Tenth No. 2. It’s a great read for those who enjoy history or biographies. Bessie Stringfield was born in Jamaica and came to the U.S. with her parents as a young child. Her mother died  and her father abandoned her soon after. She had a rough start in the U.S., but Bessie was an independent young woman who followed her dreams. She rode her motorcycle across the country multiple times before the civil rights era in spite of the dangers and went on to accomplish many things. Bessie was a courageous and determined person and I enjoyed learning about her adventures.

I’m also excited about a new comic series releasing today. America is written by Gabby Rivera (author of the fabulous novel Juliet Takes a Breath) and features queer Latina superhero America Chavez. I will definitely be taking a look at this series. If you want to know more about it, listen to the Women of Marvel podcast and/or check out the cover over at The Verge.

For my review next week, I picked up the new graphic novel adaptation of Kindred. I’m looking forward to  reading graphic novels and seeing what other titles are shared this month. Please let us know in the comments if there are any graphic novels or comics you think we shouldn’t miss.

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Review: Mirror: The Mountain

mirror-the-mountainTitle: Mirror: The Mountain
Author: Emma Ríos, Hwei Lim (Illustrator)
Genres: Graphic Novel, fantasy, science fiction
Pages: 184
Publisher: Image Comics
Availability: September 20th, 2016

Summary:  A mysterious asteroid hosts a collection of strange creatures – man-animal hybrids, mythological creatures made flesh, guardian spirits, cursed shadows – and the humans who brought them to life. But this strange society exists in an uneasy truce, in the aftermath of uprisings seeking freedom and acceptance, that have only ended in tragedy. As the ambitious, the desperate and the hopeful inhabitants of the asteroid struggle to decide their shared fate, a force greater than either animal or human seems to be silently watching the conflict, waiting for either side to finally answer the question: what is worthy of being human? [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: I came upon Mirror: The Mountain by happy (very, very happy) accident at the library. The moment I flipped it open, I recognized the art style as that of an artist I follow on Tumblr (lalage) and knew I had to get it. The whole time I was checking out the book, I gushed excitedly about it — I had no idea this artist had a comic book out. Look at how gorgeous it is! And so on.

But seriously, the art is truly beautiful. Each panel is worthy of framing on your wall by itself. The story itself perfectly matches the fluid, painted look of the illustrations. The whole thing is told in flashbacks and moments that all weave together into one narrative. At times, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what’s going on, but you get the hang of it eventually.

In Mirror: The Mountain, people live at odds with animal-human hybrids, guardian animals, and more. The story comes together in bits and pieces, illustrating the history of the people on the asteroid, and the rebellions and battles of years gone by — all centering specifically on Ivan, a powerful human mage, and Sena, a dog-human hero who wants to free the animals of the asteroid.

The volume is worth picking up for the art alone, but the sci-fi/fantasy story takes the graphic novel to the next level. It’s an amazing combination of the mythological and the environmental, and I am absolutely looking forward to the next installment. If this sounds like your kind of thing, definitely get it! And if you’re unsure, check out the incredible art of Hwei Lim here.

Recommendation: Get it soon!

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Mini-Review: March: Book Three

Title: March: Book Three
Author: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Artist)
Genres: graphic novel, autobiography
Pages: 246
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Availability: August 2nd 2016

Summary: Welcome to the stunning conclusion of the award-winning and best-selling MARCH trilogy. Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, joins co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to bring the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world. [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: I first learned about John Lewis’s March series through its Free Comic Book Day issue. I read it, got hooked… and then forgot about it for a year. But then a month ago at the library, I found all three books from the series chronicling John Lewis’s life and work in the Civil Rights Movement, and I ended up reading them all in one go. They were that good.

The art is powerful, as is the story of how John Lewis grew up to become an important part of the fight for civil rights in the 1960s and onward as one of the Big Six who organized the March on Washington and the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The books don’t shy away from tough topics and imagery such as racist violence and death, but that made the March series all the more compelling in its accuracy.

March: Book Three focuses on the latter part of John Lewis’s career and work as he struggled with others to gain voting rights for the African American community. It details how he looked for a way forward for the movement in the face of political and local pushback. It’s an eye-opening view into how activism and organizing works, along with the shameful role the American government played in blocking progress.

I honestly believe this should be required reading in school — and in life. Given the recent elections, the 2013 gutting of the Voting Rights Act, and rampant voter suppression in America via voter ID laws, the March series is more relevant than ever.

Recommendation: Buy it now! And watch this powerful speech by John Lewis during the National Book Awards.

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Review: The Totally Awesome Hulk, Volume 1

27163012Title: The Totally Awesome Hulk, Volume 1: Cho Time
Author: Greg Pak, Frank Cho (Artist), Mike Choi (Artist)
Genres: Comic
Pages: 152
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Availability: July 26th, 2016

Summary: There’s a brand-new Hulk in town, and his name is Amadeus Cho! Get ready for gamma-fueled entertainment as the kid genius decides he’s gonna be the best Hulk ever -and just possibly brings the entire world crashing down into chaos! Cho is taking on the biggest monsters in the Marvel Universe, but can he handle the danger posed by Lady Hellbender? What will She-Hulk and Spider-Man make of this very different Green Goliath? And what exactly happened to Bruce Banner? With monster mayhem in the Mighty Marvel Manner, all from the wild and crazy minds of Planet Hulk writer Greg Pak and superstar artist Frank Cho, this is better than incredible, it’s totally awesome! [Image and summary via Goodreads]

Review: I’ll be honest. I went into this knowing next to nothing about the Hulk (or much about superheroes in general) save for what I’d seen in the movie theater. I picked up The Totally Awesome Hulk, Volume 1 purely because it was Korean Hulk! What! Yes.

I spent a lot of the volume trying to figure out how Amadeus Cho fit into the whole superhero world, where he came from, who he was previously, and trying to reconcile it to the hormonal, green monster he was in the story. I think some of the disorientation was certainly due to my total ignorance on superhero lore.

Despite the cluelessness that I brought to the table, I still managed to thoroughly enjoy reading Amadeus as the Hulk. I especially loved his interactions with his genius sister, who helped keep him grounded with snark and remote controlled robot advice. It’s definitely an action packed, mostly light-hearted adventure.

I’m looking forward to reading more of Amadeus Cho as Hulk. I want to learn more about who he is (and was), and I’d recommend it to just about anyone — even if you’re totally clueless about superhero stuff, like me. It’s not hard to dive into, regardless of your background.

I’m loving the trend of more PoC in superhero comics, and hope to see more and more of that. Also on my list is the Superman comics starring Kenan Kong by Gene Luen Yang and more of Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel. Dipping my toe into superhero comics is going swimmingly so far.

Recommendation: Buy it now!

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Book Review: Ghosts

ghostsTitle: Ghosts
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Genres:  Graphic Novel/Magical Realism
Pages: 240
Publisher: Graphix
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now

Summary: Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake — and her own.

Review: With Hispanic Heritage month just finishing and Dia De Los Muertos coming in a little over a week, I thought Raina Telgemeier’s new graphic novel would be a good fit for this week’s review. I’ve never reading anything by Telgemeier before, nor have I reviewed a graphic novel either, so I went into this book without any preconceived notions. I saw that the characters were Mexican and thought – cool! I saw the inclusion of Dia de los Muertos and got excited about an author who incorporated a culturally significant holiday. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay that way.

At it’s heart, Ghosts is a story about family, specifically sisters. At the beginning of the story there is a bit of tension between the sister, specifically on Cat’s behalf as Maya seems none the wiser, because they are moving to a small town in Northern California due to Maya’s cystic fibrosis. We also learn that the two shared friends which gives us insight into how much Maya depends on Cat, and how often Cat is responsible for her sister. While there is love between the two, and they are close, Cat does yearn to establish herself apart from her sister. Initially this makes Cat seem like a bit of a brat, but to me, she was written as the typical teenager who is trying to adjust to life just when peer relationships are becoming important. I was actually endeared to Cat because of it as I could totally understand where she was coming from. It also made her growth more believable. Through meeting friends and Maya’s illness taking a turn for the worse, Cat is able to come to a place of acceptance and be open to her new life in Bahia de la Luna.

I love magical realism and Ghosts is swimming with it because, well it is essentially a ghost story. Cat is really afraid of ghosts as they make her think about death, especially in terms of Maya’s illness, so much of Cat’s growth comes with accepting that she lives in a town that is filled with harmless ghosts. At the beginning Cat runs away from the ghosts because she believes they harmed Maya, while Maya just wants to get to know the ghosts. Eventually, in a lovely heart to heart, Cat decides to go to the midnight Dia de los Metros party the town has for the ghosts on behalf of Maya. This is also where the book falters. In incorporating Dia de los Muertos at this point of the story, Telgemeier changes the meaning of the holiday to fit the narrative. The celebration of Dia de los Muertos doesn’t come out of no where as Telgemeier does a good job of explaining the ofrendas, and having the girls make an alter for their grandmother, but the main crux of the holiday for Telgemeier is the big party at the end. Though, I will say this reminded me of the ending of The Book of Life (if I’m remembering it correctly) so I am a bit conflicted with Telgemeier’s use of a festival like atmosphere to the day instead of the close family atmosphere. I do know that Dia de los Muertos festivals are growing as more and more people come to celebrate the holiday, for example, my school incorporates Dia de los Muertos into our Halloween activities as we create a communal alter to celebrate deceased family members, so while her use of the holiday in such a manner is troublesome, it does reflect how the holiday is currently changing.

What I did love, besides the story of sisterly love, is how diverse this novel is. Bahia de la Luna is a small town but actually reflects the population of California as I know it. The friends that Cat meets are of all different backgrounds and in crowd scenes, the variety of the human palette is reflected. Telgemeier also has a character state that the ghosts prefer to speak in Spanish because many of the ghost there are from Mexico (which CA originally was) and she doesn’t translate the Spanish. All the interactions with the ghosts are in Spanish therefore the reader must figure out what the ghosts are saying if they don’t understand Spanish. To me, this inclusion is important because I feel like when Spanish, or any language really, is translated on the page, it’s made for the comfort of the reader and may not actually fit the story. The fact that her publishers allowed her to not translate the story made me respect them so much, and added to my enjoyment.

Recommendation: Overall, I enjoyed the book for it’s sweet story despite it’s troublesome elements. I think before this is shared with kids, an adult reads it for themselves and makes their own decision. Or even, read it with a group of students and use it as a learning tool for Dia de los Muertos.

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Review: Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection Volume 1

Moonshot SOFT CoverTitle: Moonshot: The Indigenous Comics Collection Vol. 1
Editor: Hope Nicholson
Book Layout & Design: Andy Stanleigh
Publisher: Alternate History Comics Inc.
Pages: 174
Format: Graphic Novel/Comic, Anthology
Review copy: Borrowed from the library
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: Produced by AH Comics Inc. (Titan: An Alternate History, Delta, Hobson’s Gate, Jewish Comix Anthology) and edited by Hope Nicholson (Brok Windsor, Lost Heroes, Nelvana of the Northern Lights), MOONSHOT brings together dozens of creators from across North America to contribute comic book stories showcasing the rich heritage and identity of indigenous storytelling.

From traditional stories to exciting new visions of the future, this collection presents some of the finest comic book and graphic novel work in North America. The traditional stories presented in the book are with the permission from the elders in their respective communities, making this a truly genuine, never-before-seen publication. MOONSHOT is an incredible collection that is sure to amaze, intrigue and entertain!

Here are some of the talented writers and artists who have contributed to MOONSHOT:

Claude St-Aubin (R.E.B.E.L.S., Green Lantern, Captain Canuck), Jeffery Veregge (G.I. Joe, Judge Dredd), Stephen Gladue (MOONSHOT cover artist), Haiwei Hou (Two Brothers), Nicholas Burns (Arctic Comics, Curse of Chucky, Super Shamou), Jon Proudstar (Tribal Force), George Freeman (Captain Canuck, Aquaman, Batman), Elizabeth LaPensee (Survivance, The Nature of Snakes, Fala), Buffy Sainte-Marie (Fire & Fleet & Candlelight, Coincidence & Likely Stories), Richard Van Camp (Path of the Warrior, Kiss Me Deadly), David Robertson (The Evolution of Alice, Stone), David Cutler (The Northern Guard), Menton J. Matthews III (Monocyte, Memory Collectors, Three Feathers), Jay Odjick (Kagagi: The Raven), Ian Ross (Heart of a Distant Tribe, Bereav’d of Light, An Illustrated History of the Anishinabe), Lovern Kindzierski (X-Men, Wolverine, Incredible Hulk, Thor, Spiderman), Arigon Starr (Super Indian, Indigenous Narratives Collective), Michael Sheyahshe (Dark Owl, Native Americans in Comic Books), Fred Pashe (SpiritWolf) and more!

Review: The cover art for Moonshot is simply stunning. When I saw that image, I knew this was a must read. So yes, I did judge the book by the cover, but this powerful painting is just a hint of the treasure hidden within the pages. The many images are vivid and pack a punch. This was a collaboration between Native and non-Native contributors resulting in a spectacular collection of stories from indigenous voices. The art and stories contained in this volume are at times breath-taking, chilling, thought-provoking, amusing, and just plain entertaining.

Hope Nicholson, the editor, explains in the foreword, “There is no single, homogenous native identity and MOONSHOT is an extensive exploration of the vast variety of indigenous storytelling in North America.” In this volume there are many different voices sharing stories that represent their heritage. In his introduction, Michael Sheyahshe (Caddo) explains that there are many stereotypes about Natives in mainstream comics. “The MOONSHOT collection, and perhaps others like it, provide a wonderful venue for indigenous storytellers to shrug off these misrepresentations and amplify our collective voice: here we are.”

With collections, the stories are often hit and miss, but here, each piece was a solid contribution. The words and artwork combined to make a feast for the eyes, heart and mind. I really appreciate the mix of stories. They included tales from the past explaining how things came to be, contemporary stories, steampunk and futuristic science fiction too.

I applaud the design of the book. Every page is used to communicate and tell stories even if there isn’t a single word there. Opposite the table of contents there is an illustration featuring caribou. Opposite the foreword, there is a picture done in blues titled “Water Spirit.” You may see both illustrations on the publisher’s website. Before the first official story, there is a two page spread by Jeffrey Veregge showing a basket weaver. There is a story within decorations on the basket, but animals are also flowing out of the basket into the sky. A brief explanation is included, “Weaving images into the material is a way to capture and preserve their stories and culture.”

The first comic is the story of Maya Lopez, also known as Echo. It’s an excerpt from the Daredevil Vision Quest series. Maya is deaf and she shares how she developed ways to communicate. The comic itself uses many ways to deliver the story. There is text, but there are also representations of sign language and unique ways of manipulating the text and images. There are many layers in the graphics and it reinforces the idea that there are countless ways to communicate our stories. The rest of the collection proceeds to demonstrate this thought.

The stories have entertainment value, but may also share things like history and truth. Coyote and the Pebbles is one example. It shares how something came to be (history) in a slightly amusing way (entertainment), but also delivered a truth: people often find it easy to see the selfishness of others, but overlook it in themselves.

In this collection readers will find tales of love, terror, transgressions, forgiveness, loss, and more.  There are thirteen stories surrounded by vibrant images that also speak volumes. The title of the book came from the song Moonshot by Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree) and the lyrics are featured after the final story. On her website, Sainte-Marie notes Moonshot was “Written after a conversation with Christian scholars who didn’t realize that indigenous people had already been in contact with the Creator before Europeans conquered them.” The song shatters stereotypes and embodies the purpose of this collection. A sketchbook section adds a deeper look into some of the illustrations. Brief biographies of contributors are also provided.

Recomendation: Buy it now particularly if you enjoy comics and graphic novels. Even if you don’t typically read that format, I highly recommend this volume to anyone who loves a good story.

Extras:
Selected images may be seen here.
Review (including many images) at Indian Country Today
7 Indigenous Comics Creators… (includes more images)

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