graphic novels

All posts tagged graphic novels

Review Roundup!

Published October 10, 2017 by admin

Time to see what I’ve been up to this week!

anyasghost

I’m looking at some creepy YA graphic novel offerings this month, so of course I had to go with the classic Anya’s Ghost for Books by Violet! A tale that really hits on the outsider theme in school/teen years, it also includes a really unique ghost and some truly unnerving moments. Read the full review here!

 

babyandme

 

I’m back at I Smell Sheep with another manga review! This time it’s the shojo-tastic, downright adorable Baby & Me. If you want a decent-sized series that’s full of cute to take your mind off your troubles, this is definitely one to check out. Read the full review here!

 

 

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SJ Reads: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina

Published September 25, 2017 by admin

I was going to wait until October, but since the news broke last week that it’s getting a TV option and I LOVE this series, I decided what the hey.

sabrina

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is another offering from Archie Horror, who brought us the magnificent Afterlife with Archie. A few things to keep in mind:

This is based off the 60’s comic book Sabrina, so it takes place in 1966. It has absolutely nothing to do with the 90s television series – the character went through a lot of incarnations before this point. Honestly, for me it makes it a little easier to take, because there’s less of an association with the outright familiar.

This series has much more of an existential dread vibe than Afterlife. There’s not really any humor, and between the time period and the art, there’s a nice tension throughout the story. In the intro to vol 1 the comparison is that if Afterlife is Evil Dead, Chilling Adventures is Rosemary’s Baby or Exorcist.

If you are offended/bothered by anything of an occult nature, you will not like this series. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. You can dislike that they did this, dislike that it was with this character, but there are a lot of Archie stories, so luckily you don’t have to wander into this if you don’t want to. There is no denying that the witches are malevolent in this series. The occult/satanism vibe is extremely overt, so it’s not something you can really read around if it bothers you.

This story has nothing to do with Afterlife – Sabrina, Betty, and Veronica are characters in both, but the stories don’t cross over at all, so just pretend they’re not even in the same world.

There are some similarities to the show, mostly that Sabrina is half witch/half mortal. Also, like in the show, witches aren’t really supposed to fall in love with mortals. That’s about where things end.

The day that Sabrina is supposed to be claimed by the coven as an infant, her mother rebels, which leads her being lobotomized by spell and put in a mental institution. For other reasons, her father is sent to Hell, so she’s raised by her aunts in another town. As she hits her sixteenth birthday she has to make a decision as to which way she’s going to live her life. Meanwhile, her father’s old ex, Madam Satan, has been summoned from Hell and is after revenge, and Sabrina.

So, yeah, little different.

There are a lot of interesting things going on here. The time period lends itself not only to the horror vibe, but to the subtexts of racism and gender roles, as well. You always get a sense that Sabrina is fighting to be who she is around different groups of people, which makes for an interesting read. It’s also picked up with the Betty and Veronica practicing witchcraft in secret storyline, and some other places, as well. A lot of the characters we’ve come to expect as being benign become super-interesting in this version. Hilda and Zelda, as well as Sabrina’s father, project a definite malevolence, though her aunts sort of swing back and forth. They want the best for their niece, but they also definitely want her to commit to the coven.

And by commit I mean sign her name in Satan’s book. Let’s just put that out there now so I don’t get yelled at when someone tries to read this thing. I told you, this ain’t yer 90s Sabrina. There’s also some very sixties stuff with school shenanigans and trying out for a play, and other things that are foiled when Madam Satan shows up in disguise and takes Sabrina under her wing.

Sabrina, herself, is facinating. She’s the protagonist, but she also isn’t the goody goody we’re used to seeing. She’s somewhat victim to manipulations, but she also is ready to stand firm in what she wants and believes. She’s hardly innocent and uses her powers however she wants. I think there’s even a moment where she says something like ‘I’m a teenage witch, this is what I’m supposed to do!’

Honestly, after so many seasons of seeing her as a kind-hearted goofball (and I love Melissa Joan Hart’s portrayal of her), it’s kind of awesome to see her like this. She’s still kind of at the mercy of some things, but more of her decisions (even if she’s being misguided) come more from her.

You’ll still see familiar faces – there are some from the comics that we don’t see a lot of in the show. For you 90s fans, Harvey makes an appearance (heh), and Salem is there, though in a much less comedic capacity. Ambrose, her British cousin, also shows up and ends up joining Salem as more of a sympathetic sidekick.

It’s very important to note that this isn’t Sabrina as Buffy, Sabrina as Practical Magic, Sabrina fighting evil. And honestly, I don’t want those. This is what I want. This is horror. This is dark. This is something distinctly of and for this character. This reads like a showrunner snapped after being criticized over the 90s show one too many times and decided: FINE, SEE HOW YOU LIKE THIS. (note: this is my headcanon and not the actual origin of this series. The writer and artist are amazing in their own bodies of work and deserve a ton of praise for this). This is something that absolutely should not work because it is definitely against type and uncomfortable.

And it is magnificent.

Honestly, I was shocked when I read it. I did not expect it to be good, let alone this good. Does it unnerve me? Sure. Does it make me uncomfortable? Yep. But that’s what good horror does. Seriously, if you can step back from your expectations and how you feel about the television show, if you can embrace this for what it is, it’s truly amazing how strong of a title this has turned out to be. My only gripe is that it’s super slow to release (something that I hope changes now that it’s under the public eye).

The art is also some of the most beautiful stuff I’ve seen in a horror comic in a while. It has a distinct retro/vintage feel (some of it has a straight up EC or Creepy/Eerie vibe), and with the majority of muted colors, you just feel everything knot up inside you while reading. Characters you want to like and agree with become horrifying then revert back, and the familiar never feels altogether safe. It’s easy to fall into this series based on the art alone.

As for my thoughts on the television show…I’m not sure. I think it could be amazing. I really want it to be all that’s in my head. However, I also expect that because it’s going to CW that there will be changes (there’s at least one aspect that I kind of wonder if they’re going to have to change), or be dialed down, or whatever. I hope I’m wrong, because I think there is a market for this as is, if it can overcome people’s nostalgia over the 90s show.

For what it’s worth, I loved the 90s show. I thought it went on too long and became somewhat stale and a caricature of itself, but I loved the first few seasons. It’s cute, it teaches lessons, it’s feel-good. Salem is one of my favorite characters. However, it’s been done. I don’t need the further adventures of, I don’t need soap opera Sabrina or teen angst Sabrina or whatever.

Something based straight from Chilling Adventures would give them a lot of room to build (it’s only 2 collected volumes so far, I think), plus it provides a lot of subtle social commentary. I don’t know that marketing it is going to be the easiest thing between instant knee jerking and people wanting something close to what they remember, but with Riverdale’s success, hopefully I’m wrong.

If you’re brave enough to check out the comic, you can find the first volume here. It’s absolutely not for everyone, but if you like horror and different takes on the familiar, definitely give this a try.

 

Here, There, Everywhere!

Published September 19, 2017 by admin

Got some news in these here parts!

I’ve updated the who I am page with better contact explanations and such – eventually, I want to convert to an actual website and do something either connected or separate for my costume work, but that’s going to take time and planning.

 

Bibliorati has a new column and I was the first interview! I talk with Paula Hardin about how I got into writing, my creative motivations, and all sorts of other things. She’s great at what she does, Tommy Hancock has a wonderful site over all, and I’m happy to be featured there. Check out the full interview here!

YA Graphic Novel Reviews – wow I’m behind in posting these. My bad, go on vacation and everything crumbles to oblivion.

through the woods

I talked about how much I love Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods a few weeks ago. If you like horror that isn’t too graphic and has a slow burn, plus some beautiful art, check out my review here. 

 

courtney crumrin.jpg

I will never not shout my love of Courtney Crumrin. If you like series, you’ll love this. If you just read the first volume, it still works. This thing makes me want to run off to Goblin Town and hang out with all the fantastic creatures Ted Neifeh creates. Check out my full review here. 

 

americus

This is one of those single-book titles that’s necessary, especially for mid grade readers and above. This looks at the topic of censorship from all sides, and while I do think some portrayals are a little caricature-based, I think that overall it does a great job of promoting literature. I also really like that it’s the younger characters caught up in all of this who are the heroes and who really are the focus of the book. Read the full review here.

I’ve got a lot more on the horizon and some things are still being cemented, so definitely keep your eyes posted for where I’ll be next!

SJ Reads: Natsume’s Book of Friends

Published September 11, 2017 by admin

 

natsume

Today I want to hit another of my favorite, recent titles, this time in manga. While recovering from respiratory issues this winter and trying to deal with a case of sudden existential dread, I started reading a lot of manga again. I hadn’t really gone on a binge like that in years, and I was amazed at the different types of titles I was finding. The one closest to my heart at the moment, though, is Natsume’s Book of Friends. 

It’s nice to find a shojo title that isn’t romance-centric, and I really like the episodic feel of this one, too. Although there is some plot progression through the series, the author does a fantastic job of recapping the main issues of the series at the start of each volume, so you really could pick it up anywhere.

Natsume is an orphan who has been bounced from relative to relative and doesn’t have a lot of friends because people think he’s antisocial and weird. In reality, he can see and communicate with yokai (there’s a big debate as to what this term actually refers to, but think spirits and supernatural creatures/events). At the start of the series he’s moved in with relatives who are trying to connect with him, and is being hunted by yokai that have mistaken him for his deceased grandmother. It turns out that Reiko (his grandmother), trapped a lot of yokai by their names in a book. Natsume comes to the decision that he’s going to give these names back, so most of the series is him either attempting this or running from more predatory yokai. Pretty early in the series he runs into the yokai Marada, who he calls Nyanko-sensei because he tends to take the form of a lucky cat.

I really like how the foster parents in this series really want to include Natsume, and a good portion of the stories are him trying to relate to his family and his new friends at school, some of which, as it turns out, have also had interactions with the supernatural. The whole series has a nice, slightly autumnal/melancholy feel that really hits a nice nostalgia/coming of age vibe. Everything feels temporary as Natsume learns lessons the more he interacts with different people and spirits. He’s very much between two worlds, and there’s always the silent question lurking as to whether he’s going to have to choose one.

Nyanko-Sensei is also a brilliant character who provides a lot of quirky comic relief. Parts of these books are really just so funny (without feeling intrusive or out of nowhere), and it gave me a much-needed lift. He’s definitely my favorite character, and I love the differences in his art depending on which form he’s in. There’s always a lot of great banter between him and Natsume (he’s guarding Natsume until he can get the book for himself, in theory, though they grow to be friends as the series goes along). There’s also some interesting bits as new characters like several exorcists are introduced, and the sheer different personality types of various yokai are really nice. This is less like the booga booga style ghosts we’re used to, and more like they’re just separate entities, doing what they do and trying to figure out what their lives are now.

The artwork is gorgeous, and each volume is so easy to relax into. I’m at volume 19 so far, and it doesn’t look like it’s over yet, so that makes me extremely happy.

Get the first volume here

SJ Reads: Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things

Published September 4, 2017 by admin

 

courtney crumrin

So since September is my birthday month (I will take your adulations in the form of praise, reviews, and other related worship), this month’s SJ reads will cover stories that have really reached up through the nostrils and grabbed me by the soul.

Today, we look at the Courtney Crumrin series by Ted Naifeh.

It took a few years of reading book one, not finding it again, and tracking down the actual title to read the rest of the series to really figure out what this is. And wow. Just…wow. Although its aim is a YA audience, I fell in love.

The plot is Courtney and her yuppie moves in with her Uncle Aloysius, who lives in an upscale town. She’s the typical new kid being bullied up until the moment she tries to take a shortcut through the woods and her only friend gets eaten by a goblin.

Obviously, this thing was meant for me.

You see, Uncle A is actually a warlock, and through her own explorations, Courtney learns magic, herself.  There are a lot of fun tropes explored in new ways, and a lot of heartbreaking stories, as well, like Courtney trying to protect a simple forest creature caught between the woods and Faerie, a human torn between her own life and the one her heart yearns for, and the complex relationship between Courtney and her uncle. The whole town is secretly prosperous because of the witches and warlocks who run it, and there’s a lot of internal politics that are fascinating, too. The stories are grounded in amazing folklore, from changelings to Tommy Raw-head, to Goblin Town/Faerie, to a trip to eastern Europe where we run into werewolves and vampires. Everything slowly winds things up a notch and throws the relationship between Courtney and her uncle and their abilities to deal with emotions into question.

I love that a lot of different kinds of people are represented in this. I love that Courtney is somewhat unlikeable and you still pull for her. I love that a lot of your assumptions in the first book are suddenly turned in the last. I love that there are actual high stakes and permanent consequences. I love all the little asides that you catch if you’ve grown up reading folk and faerie tales. I just plain love it.

I also love the art and if I had money would totally have Ted Naifeh draw on all my walls, because now I want nothing more than to hang out with Butterworm and run around Goblin Town. I love most of his work, but he really, truly shines when he’s illustrating his own stories. It’s just such a whole other level it isn’t even funny.

Totally recommend this for middle school on up. If all you can find is the first volume, Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things, it actually reads pretty much like it’s own thing. The other volumes run the gamut between being episodic and arcing more together as you go along.

Find the first volume here!

Free read and new reviews up!

Published August 29, 2017 by admin

Geez, I’ve been all over the place in the past week.

 

level up

I’m back at Books by Violet talking about YA graphic novels. This time it’s a title that focuses on gaming, family obligation, and finding your life path (with some questionable supernatural help). Go here to see my thoughts on Gene Luen Yang’s Level Up

 

I’m also starting my new venture over at the I Smell Sheep blog, where twice a month I’ll be forcing my opinions on different manga titles on you! Think of it as manga reviews for the non-manga reader. This month it’s an introduction to what manga actually is, some misconceptions, and basically how I’m going to work things. Check it out here!

 

natsume

Read it and you’ll be as serene as Natsume and Nyanko-sensei 

 

I’m also back with the Ladies of Horror Flash Project, where I’ve got a nice little macabre piece up this month based on this image:

image_02.png

If you like creepy hotels and short, free fiction, click and read your heart out! (and check out the other awesome ladies who are writing this month, as well!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SJ Reads: American Vampire

Published August 28, 2017 by admin

 

So, as we all know, I love vampires in general, especially when they’re done well. I’ve mentioned American Vampire on here before, but I recently reread/caught up, and this just affirms that more people need to read this series.

american vamp

The concept of vampires through history isn’t a new one, but it’s really interesting how this series just goes for it, as well as picking some interesting moments. Sure, in some cases it goes for the obvious ones (WWII being the easiest choice), but a lot of times it explores stuff I wouldn’t have thought of, like 1920s Hollywood, Boulder Dam in the 30s, various parts of the 1800s, the space battle of the 60s.

Oh yes, there are vampires in space. The thing is, though, that even when you think things are going off the rails and it’s going to completely crash and burn…somehow the next volume pulls it out and makes it amazing again. Things that could be completely corny like a greaser slayer or the mentioned vampires in space really explore parts of characters in ways that I didn’t see coming.

So basically the whole plot is Skinner Sweet is this vampire turned in the 1800s – in this comic, vampires have powers specific to where they’re located and how they’re turned and Skinner is the first “American” vampire, having attributes that are different and stronger than what’s come before. It’s also interesting that instead of exploring other paranormal creatures like werewolves and the like, the mythology makes them a type of vampire that people /assume/ to be man-wolves or whatever. So basically everything paranormal is vampires. Which is gutsy. Sometimes it works better than others, but it does help to tie the universe together. There’s also a parallel plot exploring an organization bent on stopping vampires, so you have the slayer element as well. The downside is it’s sometimes hard to keep the timelines and characters straight, especially in the volume format. Honestly, though, at the end of the day, it’s still a really fascinating series. The series is really good at exploring society – be it segregation, class warfare, immigration, modernization, the works. You do have some jump the sharky moments – there’s an anthology volume that I’m not particularly fond of, the Dracula arc seems a little random, and while I’m fascinated by the current Gray Trader arc, it also kind of seems like cheating to introduce a whole other big bad to make Skinner more heroic.

Because, at the end of the day, yeah, there are a lot of great and interesting characters, but Skinner is the best in this thing, with maybe Pearl as competition. Whereas Pearl’s battle focuses more on the traditional vampire vs what’s left of her humanity, Skinner has always been a self-serving bad dude, from his outlaw days to the current arc. He does do some heroic things, but I would hope that the writers keep to his core nature – brutal, self-serving, side-switching, and inadvertently hilarious. And somehow, you still end up feeling for him.

The art is also just incredible – the variety of vampire art used throughout the series is diverse and insane, as well as all the research that must have gone into planning all the historical details.

Find vol 1 here

Any other vampire fans get into this series? How far have you gotten? What are your thoughts on all the changing arcs? Favorite vampire type?