Tag Archives: graphic novel

Shelved: Sandman by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman is another graphic novel series, this one by Neil Gaiman. It is very famous, and was so from the time it was first published in 1989. The Wikipedia page details it's history well.

Having recently read the Saga series, Sandman is quite different which probably colors my reaction to it. It is very dark and dense, using every bit of space on the page for either a lot of text or illustration. That's not a bad thing, it's just a very different style. Many of the pages seem busy, overwhelming the reader with detail. Panels are heavily used, appearing more like a comic strip in someways. Saga though would often use a whole page to tell a scene of the story instead, with sometimes very minimal, if no, text.

The story itself revolves around a character called the Sandman, or Dream or Morpheus depending on who is talking about him. No matter his name, he rules dreamland and makes it possible so that people can sleep and thus dream. However, the story starts with him being accidentally captured by a cult whose spell went wrong, leaving the whole world without proper sleep and dreams for around 70 years. The main plot meanders away from Sandman and covers various other people, making it difficult to connect with the main character since he is barely mentioned and focused on for quite some time in the first volume. In the second volume, he is the main focus but by then I felt but I was barely connected to him as a reader and so didn't care very much whether or not he reclaimed his kingdom and built dreamland back up again.

About halfway through the second volume, I put the graphic novel down and have it picked it up since. I just didn't feel connected to the story or compelled to read more. Having not read Gaiman before, I wanted to give Sandman a chance since it is a very popular, famous work of his. Compared with more modern graphic novels, it just didn't speak to me. I know that it means a lot to many people, I just think I picked it up too late.

Recommended?: To Neil Gaiman fans and anyone who loves classic graphic novels. For the most part, the content is just dark but there is some brutality and a side plotline of brutal violence in a diner that lasts for quite a while. This is another adult graphic novel, due to its violence and sophisticated story, which likely would be too high level, slower-paced, and philosophical for younger readers anyway.

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Read: Saga, volumes 1-7 by Brian K. Vaughan

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Saga is a graphic novel series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples. The story itself is gripping but the artwork is truly engrossing. A friend recommended the series and it was the perfect quick read when I wasn’t feeling well earlier this summer. Thanks to the public library’s subscription to Hoopla, I raced through the entire set that’s been published so far and now have to wait for the next!

Saga takes place in space, set in a very different universe from ours, with many different alien and creature races. They have spaceships for interplanetary travel and distinct cultures that don’t always get along. The two main characters include a man whose race is at war with the race of the woman that he comes to love while he is in prison. She is a guard who watches him and feeling drawn to him, busts him out and escapes. They marry and have a child which is at once both appalling to both races who are at war and shocking as they refuse to believe that such a union is possible between their two people. The main action of the plot is to catch these Marko and Alana and punish them for their crimes. Different people of all types are trying to track them down, including famous bounty hunters.

Very quickly the story balloons in the number of characters and plot lines. You start first with Marko and Alana who then have a daughter named Hazel, get multiple people chasing after them who are intertwined with others, and then we’re introduced to a whole different society who also has a vested interest in tracking them down, and on and on. However, as complicated as it gets, the story’s main focus is on Marko, Alana, and Hazel as a family. For a while, they get separated from each other and so it’s also a struggle about reuniting and what it means to truly be a family. This consistent, main plot line makes the story all the more compelling. It is through the tangents connected to them that we learn about their world and universe.

Very quickly, the characters are made into deep and complex people with touching and sometimes heart wrenching stories of their own. Even side characters have a lot of depth and the little bit we find out about them is meaningful and paints a fuller picture of them. There is so much emotion in that only the plot lines but also the characters, which draws me in as a reader even more. It is easy to connect with many of the characters and their situations. For being a graphic novel, there is so much packed into the limited dialogue and illustrations. It really does feel like reading a lengthy novel, in a good way.

While the illustrations are gorgeous, they can be very brutal and occasionally gory. This graphic novel is truly for adults only, as there are at times explicit sexual acts as well as graphic violence. They do further the story and showcase the true nature of certain people, but some of it can be difficult to read and, as this is a graphic novel, look at. Regardless, Staples’ drawings are incredible and for most of them, I could stare at them for quite a while, captivated by her unique style. Amazing.

Recommended?: For adults who love sci-fi, especially space, and complex alien and creature races. Considering that I haven’t read many graphic novels, I rank this series very highly among them and think it would be good for someone just getting into them. They are easy to read and, as long as you don’t mind the adult content, they are wonderful. I can’t wait for the next volume to see where the story goes!

Read: Transmetropolitan volume 3 by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

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If possible, Transmetropolitan: year of the bastard volume 3 is even more offensive, explicit, and violent than the previous two. The main character Spider Jerusalem is oven emperor again consumed by city life and back to his bad habit of being constantly drugged up to make it through the day and write his columns. Previously led to his demise by reporting on politics, he begrudgingly agrees to cover the current divisive election. Keep in mind, this graphic novel was published in 1999. 

The plot of this volume is Spider starting to cover the election that he’s tried so hard to ignore up until now. Neither choice is good but one side is using hate and bigotry to divide people and feed off of it for popularity while the other candidate is still and fake, always smiling but not much substance. Just as he gets involved and starts covering the candidates, the opposition’s campaign advisor gets shot on air and dies. With such a cliffhanger ending, I’ll need to order the next volume soon from the public library. 

Oddly, the second the third volumes have been in near pristine condition while the first was well used. Seems like people try out that series and then do not continue on, which makes sense considering the content. If these were movies, they wcould hid certainly be rated R for drug use, violence, and sexual content. Despite these aspects, the story itself is compelling because while Spider is clearly flawed, he writes for and cares about educating the common person who he believes is getting screwed by society and those running it. His drug use stems from not being able, or perhaps willing, to deal with his disgust for how the world works and the scum who live in it, in a more healthy way. He doesn’t date, hang out with friends, and so far lacks or isn’t close with his family so there’s no support net; instead he fills that void with drugs to get by. However, with his new assistant, in this volume she shares her concern with her uncle who is Spider’s editor so perhaps in future volumes he will turn this around or at least work on it.

Recommended?: For graphic novel fans, and readers of Transmet as this fills in the political aspects of the world and what makes Spider tick. Also, for anyone interested in Ellis’ take on a divisive political race, as long as the other material isn’t a deal breaker. It feels weird to recommend this series, due to its explicit nature but the story so far is intriguing and the main character is complex. 

Tranmeyropolitan volume 3 cover

Read: Monstress: volume one Awakening by Marjorie Lin and Sana Takeda

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Monstress by writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda is a fantasy graphic novel about a world in a tentative peace after a brutal war with weapons and magic. There are five main races, including humans and other creatures with some that are magical.

From the first page, the drawings are stunning. They are in the style of steampunk mixed with fantasy elements that are reminiscent of Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke. The detail and movement captured add to the atmosphere of the story.

Also, the world is mainly women, which is refreshing for a change. Whether or not there’s a reason for it isn’t addressed in this first volume. Nearly all covenversations are between women and never about men so it passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, even the new one proposed by Slate. Despite this, there is still a fair amount of fighting and deadly battles. Life in this world is difficult and cruel, especially for certain types of creatures who are taken advantage of by those in power.

While there is a lot to like about Monstress, the story itself isn’t very clear. There’s a main character but there are several others and a handful of different locations in which the story takes place. Perhaps the other volumes build upon it further but I wish there was more explanination in in this one. Nothing particular hooked me as a reader plus with new aspects being introduced then receding just as quickly as it turned back to the main character, it felt disjointed and confusing at times. I am not sure if I will read the others.

Recommended?: For graphic novel lovers and fantasy fans who would enjoy a beautifully drawn, creative story about a curious magical land in turmoil and on the verge of another war.

Monstress cover image

Read: March: book one by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

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Continuing the trend of graphic novels, I recently finished reading Congressman John Lewis‘ March: book one. Lewis played a large role in the civil rights movement and marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This book is part of a trilogy and the final one was published earlier this summer.

March: book one takes place on inauguration day on January 20th, 2009, as Lewis ready himself in his office for President Obama’s swearing in. However, it’s only the backdrop of this first book, as most of the action takes places during Lewis’ childhood and the start of the civil rights movement. The story ends in April 1960 and in the present, Lewis just leaves his office to head outside for the ceremony.

Similar to Maus and Persepolis, March uses the form of the graphic novel as a conduit for the serious and often violent history of the civil rights movement. It’s a great medium for showcasing important scenes in a visual form, with concise story and dialogue to explain. This makes for an accessible, inviting read for what could be an otherwise dense and detailed non-fiction book. Perhaps this way it will attract more readers and hopefully younger ones who likely don’t know about the history or don’t know much of it. 

With a trilogy, the story is allowed more time to develop. For this first book, while it spans many years of Lewis’ personal history as well as the beginning of the civil rights, not much happens. This book feels like it’s just getting started as it wraps up. The end feels too abrupt but then again, the subtitle conveys that there will be future books. As a stand alone, it feels incomplete although they seem to have done a good job with it. 

Recommended?: Yes but I have a feeling that all three books will need to be read together. This book covers Lewis youth and the Woolworth lunch counters demonstrations along wth Rosa Parks. It’s really the tip of the iceberg but the story and sketches are so well done. I can’t wait to read the next two!
March graphic novel cover

Transmetropolitan volume 1 by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson

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While not originally on my reading list or bookshelf, Transmetropolitan: Back on the street volume 1 sounded too intriguing to pass up. The only graphic novels that I’ve read are Persepolis and Maus, more memoir than traditional comic book/graphic novel. I wasn’t sure what to expect but Ellis and Robertson, though, do not disappoint with Transmet.

Wow! This graphic novel is “in-your-face” from the start, gripping in its oddity, imagery, and dramatic characters. Spider Jersualum has lived alone in the mountains for five years, hiding from his journalistic past and, well, the world. However, he still owes his editor two books and must return to the city to work. He actively seeks out trouble for journalism’s sake and begins writing a weekly column to make money.

The setting for the story is a cyberpunk, gritty, commercialist future. At first, the style reminded me of a mix of the movies Bladerunner and The fifth element. However, the more I read, it seemed more accurately along the lines of a serious version of Idiocracy. The City is grimy, a mingling of all cultures and peoples, and run by a controlling Civic Center. The base tv package includes 2000 channels, hedinoism and drugs are rampant, and sex is pervasive. People can embed themselves with technology and some even enjoy becoming aliens temporarily. Transients are people that live between being human and alien, caught in the slow morphing process in which they will one day be fully alien. These transients are a main focus of the story that Spider makes his pet project.

Transmet was originally released in 60 issues but the version that I’m reading from the public library is a 10-volume set. The format works well, as it is addictive to read, even if the characters and world are abrasive and extremely rude, and sometimes downright disgusting. I read it in three days, mesmerized for most of it by the detailed and bizarre artwork and story. The next two volumes are already on order from the library. Despite the depravity, the future is a compelling one that’s really not too different from the present. Ellis weaves social commentary into the story, such as transient human rights and chastising the corrupt politician. Cory Doctorow even thinks that Transmet gives insight to the current election, although I’ve yet to see that so far with volume 1.

So far, this volume has intrigued me to continue on with the series. We will see if I make it through the nine remaining.

Recommended?: While certainly not for everyone, and it truly is adult for the explicit language and violence and allusions to sex, there are many people who would enjoy this crazy character, story, and setting. For graphic novel readers, try this one out if it sounds interesting. Also, anyone who enjoys the above movies might want to consider it as well. If any part of my review or your looking into this series turns your off from it, then go ahead and skip this one. There is a lot to read in the world, and while you should push yourself out of your reading comfort zone now and then, this is probably not the one for that.