Posts Tagged ‘graphic novel’

This one is a graphic novel, so if you aren’t a fan then turn away now. Or stick around, try something new. You might find something you like.

This one is decent, but in no way my favourite graphic novel. That title belongs either to the captivating Maus series (which follows the true story of a jewish couple in world war 2 Poland) or Matt Fraction’s entertaining version of Hawkeye.

If you’ve never read a graphic novel before and are currently pondering whether to give one a go, don’t start with Shazam unless you are already a fan of the comic book character. Maus is a great graphic novel for non graphic novel readers to start with. The artist depicts Jews as mice and Germans as cats in what sounds like an odd idea, but works really well to capture the poignancy of the story. The art captures the emotions of both the artist (who uses his art to bring his father’s story to life) and his father in a way I’m not sure words could manage.

Or, if you’re a fan of humor and the marvel avengers movies, then try out Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye comic. Some issues have been put together into a graphic novel. Words can’t describe how much I love this comic. The main character Clint (Hawkeye) is lovable, and kind of a hopeless case. He puts his heart and soul into everything he does, and usually makes a mess of things.

If you venture into this comic you have to stick around for issue 19. It’s amazing. Clint becomes deaf (which is something that happens in multiple versions of his character and something I wish they’d put into the movies) and Matt Fraction put so much work into depicting it accurately.

When Clint isn’t looking at a character when they’re talking, an empty speech bubble appears above his head. When he is looking at someone, bits of speech appear in the bubble and the rest is a gibberish mess – because unlike movies lip reading is never one hundred percent accurate. You get bits and pieces and have to work out from context what the person is saying. Likewise, the sign language isn’t translated.

Matt Fraction urged everyone reading the comic to read it first without the translation. He said that if someone had read it and was confused, then they had some idea what it’s like to be deaf. That’s what he wanted people to get out of it. Good representation of differences is so hard to come by, but this comic did such a good job. I just wish there was more of it.

Now my gushing is over, lets look at the graphic novel I actually wanted to review.

Ok, so Shazam doesn’t rack up against my greats. The art is oh so pretty, the story has a few laughs, but the plot line doesn’t have much to it. And it broke my character.

Shazam for those not in the know is often described as the superhero made to be a superman rip off. In a way that’s true, but not in the bad way people think. You see, essentially the original Shazam story is one of wish fulfillment.

A wise old man seeks to give all the powers of the gods to one pure of heart. Corny, yeah, but think about it. What would happen? That person with a pure heart is most likely to be a child who hasn’t become jaded yet to the cruelties of the world. Versions range in age, but Billy Batson is usually somewhere between six and ten when he first gets his powers.

When he calls out the wizard’s name ‘Shazam’ a lightning bolt hits him and he turns into a muscle-bound adult version of himself with superpowers. Superstrength, speed, he’s got it all. Only he still has his innocent child mind where all heroes save the day, and that ability to see the good in the world. (In most versions anyway. I ignore the other versions.)

That’s why I like the Shazam idea, because it asks the question ‘what if that sweet kid who wants to save the world from the bad guys actually has the power to do so?’ And it doesn’t answer with ‘well he’s a kid, so he’ll probably screw it up.’

This brings us to the main reason why I didn’t like this graphic novel. They broke Billy Batson. They made him into a troublemaking kid who has about one good trait for every five bad ones. And sure, it’s interesting at first. Then I quickly realised the reason why I like Billy Batson is because he is pure and good and knows how to have fun in a world of heroes who seem to do nothing but brood.

This new Billy Batson broods. He broods a lot.

So, no. Not a fan. I’ll stick to my sweetness and light version of Billy Batson, with all the strength of superman and the optimism of a child. Speaking of, if anyone comes across a good comic storyline with that version of the character, please tell me. I’d love to take a look.

For more reviews on this book go to: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17671918-shazam

P.S. I’ve heard they’re making a Shazam movie! Apparently it’s going to be a lot lighter than your usual superhero movie, so I’m hoping they use sweetness and light Billy Batson and have little to no brooding and lots of small child in a superhero’s body adventures. Here’s hoping!

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This one is another graphic novel, but don’t walk away if that’s not your cup of tea, you might surprise yourself. I’m very picky about which graphic novels I read because I don’t usually enjoy them as much as books. For me reading a graphic novel is like eating desert, it’s fun, but it doesn’t fill you up like books can. This one is worth a try.

And that’s the best thing about this graphic novel, you can try before you buy. Strictly speaking you don’t even need to buy, it depends on how much you want to support the wonderful artist / author Ashley Cope. Ashley very generously puts all her pages for this series (what’s in the book and much more) on a website for everyone to read for free. Here’s the link: http://www.casualvillain.com/Unsounded/

Unsounded is a lot deeper than other graphic novels I’ve come across. The world is rich and the characters are multilayered, and they grow as time goes by. Sette, one of the main characters has come such a long way from her first pages to the latest ones on the website. There are twists and so many things to discover as they go through their journey, and still more mysteries ahead. And the art is amazing!

Here, have a look at the cover as one small example:

Unsounded - Volume 1: The Zombie & The Brat

Nice, right? And believe it or not the art inside is actually better! Ashley draws these vibrant backgrounds, and she has this great skill to make the characters look so expressive. I have no idea how she does that for zombie Duane since his face is covered by that hood so much, but somehow she manages it.

Here’s the blurb:

Daughter of the Lord of Thieves, Sette Frummagem is on a mission, and she’ll lie, cheat, and steal to make sure it’s a success (she’ll lie, cheat, and steal anyway). Condemned to aid her in her rotten endeavours is a rotten corpse who seems oddly talented with the supernatural, and oddly not laying motionless in the dirt.

The road is long and no one is what they seem. Never trust a thief, and never trust anyone who won’t let you look into their eyes.

It’s funny, tragic, and heart pounding in all the right places. Seriously, this comic has so many feels it’s impossible to accurately describe them all in one short review. Ashley’s world building is immense, and her plotting in well thought through. Reading some of the comments on the site gives you a good picture. You have all these people predicting what’s going to happen next, and because of her awesome foreshadowing some actually get it right.

They discuss little bits of the world introduced through the comic like it’s some kind of religion. And the world is so thought through that you do pick things up, like the rules for prymary, or the caste system. One of the big ongoing mysteries (there are a few, and some wrapped up once you get to the latest pages) is how Duane is present mentally when all the other zombies seem to be more akin to the unthinking things we see on horror movies. We’ve had some clues, and there are several ongoing theories. People reference lines and emphasis that happened in the comic to try to work things out, and this comic is reliable enough that you can do that.

My verdict: go along to the site linked above and try the first few pages. It starts out as an adventure through a strange land with two hilariously incompatible comrades, both with mysteries we get to find out, and from there it gets richer and richer.

If you want to know what other people are saying about this comic follow this link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17372154-unsounded—volume-1

A graphic novel about world war two with mice as Jews and cats as Germans. Sounds a little out there, right? Not so much. I found it to be one of the most poignant¬† and realistic books on the holocaust I’ve read since Schindler’s Ark. The story goes back and forth between the author: Art, showing his difficult relationship with his father, and his father’s youth as a Jew in war-time Poland.

It’s heart breaking and funny too. You get a real sense that his father is just telling it like it is. We get to hear about the good parts, but also the bad too. While I loved Schindler’s Ark, it followed so many people that it could only add the extremes (not a bad thing – just a different type of book), but in Maus you get a real sense of Vladek’s life. Most of all you get a real sense of how different things were during the war. Morality was different back then, people had to do things to survive, and because of that you couldn’t trust many people.

Reading the graphic novel, you feel the atmosphere of the place. The art work does a good job of emphasising the story, and sometimes making it so much more powerful by showing it as it is with little comment. There are moments that will stay with me forever, and the idea that this actually happened is overwhelming.

There are two books: Maus 1 and Maus 2. Maus 2 wraps up the storyline nicely, while Maus 1 ends on a ‘to be continued’ note. Being graphic novels they were a short read. I spent a lot of time going back to absorb the artwork and memorable lines, and I still made it through each in a few hours with distractions included in that time.

I’d say that if you are half as interested in world war two as I am then Maus is a must read. It (a little ironically since the characters are shown as animals) puts a human face on the war. I’ve read a lot of facts and figures about world war two, and even some biographies, but this connected me to that place and time almost like I was there with them.

Best of all the people in this book are not heroes. Some do heroic things, but when people do you feel scared for them because the book puts you solidly in a time where heroic acts often killed you. Most are just people trying to survive and trying to help their families survive. This is what made the book so much more realistic than others I’ve read. This is the life of a typical Jew in world war two Poland, who by wits and more often pure luck made it through something that killed so many just like him.

Maus emphasises that the killings were random. The Nazis wanted all Jews dead, and if Vladek or his wife Anja had worse luck then they could have easily ended up dead.

In case you want to read further reviews on this book, here’s the link:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15196.Maus_I_