Thursday, December 27, 2012

Graphic Novel Book Club Selections May through August 2013

Hi all, it's that time again to choose your semi distant future reading selections for the club.  Here are nine of my personal selections, we need to narrow them down to four.  By all means, let me know if you'd like to add your own selections.  

Mother Come Home by Paul Hornschemeier

Mother, Come Home quietly studies the inner lives of recently widowed David and his 7-year-old son, Thomas. Thomas struggles desperately to keep up appearances while his father, a professor of symbolic logic, becomes lost in abstractions. Father and son begin to retreat into their fantasies, but only one emerges. Mother, Come Home is masterfully drawn: Eisner-, Harvey-and Ignatz-Award-nominated Hornschemeier's controlled brushwork is clean, and his nine-panel page layouts pace David's inexorable descent into utter despair. Hornschemeier is equally precise when it comes to Mother, Come Home's color palette: subdued but warm, which suits the story's melancholy and contemplative mode. Mother, Come Home is a powerful work, and, because of its universal themes of anguish and loss, has resonance beyond its core audience of alternative-comics readers.
Preacher series by Garth Ennis

Jesse Custer begins a violent and riotous journey across the country joined by his girlfriend Tulip and the hard-drinking Irish vampire Cassidy.
RASL series by Jeff Smith 

Cartoon Books proudly presents Jeff Smith's new adventure series, RASL - a stark, sci-fi series about a dimension-jumping art thief, a man unplugged from the world who races through space and time searching for his next big score - and trying to escape his past. In this first of three graphic novels, Rasl faces an assassin's bullet and stumbles across a mystery that not only threatens to expose his own illicit activities, but could also uncover one of the world's most dangerous and sought after secrets!

Heads or Tails by Lilli Carre

The creator of 2008’s acclaimed graphic novel The Lagoon — named to many annual critics’ lists including Publishers Weekly and USA Today’s Pop Candy — is back with a stunningly designed and packaged collection of some of the most poetic and confident short fiction being produced in comics today. Carré’s elegant short stories read like the gothic, family narratives of Flannery O’Connor or Carson McCullers, but told visually. Poetic rhythms — a coin flip, a circling ferris wheel — are punctuated by elements of melancholy fantasy pushed forward by character-driven, naturalistic dialogue. The stories in Heads Or Tails display a virtuosic breadth of visual styles and color palettes, each in perfect service of the story, and range from experimental one-pagers to short masterpieces like “The Thing About Madeline” (featured in The Best American Comics 2008), to graphic novellas like “The Carnival” (featured in David Sedaris’ and Dave Eggers’ 2010 Best American Nonrequired Reading, originally published in MOME).

50 Girls 50 and Other Stories by Frank Frazetta and Al Williamson

Barely old enough to drink when he joined the EC Comics stable, Al Williamson may have been the new kid on the block, but a lifetime of studying such classic adventure cartoonists as Alex Raymond (Flash Gordon) and Hal Foster (Prince Valiant) had made him a kid to reckon with — as he proved again and again in the stories he created for EC’s legendary “New Trend” comics, in particular Weird Science and Weird Fantasy. As a result of Williamson’s focus, it’s possible to compile all of Williamson’s “New Trend” EC work into one book — which Fantagraphics is finally doing here. Sci-fi aficionados should note that although most of the stories were written by Al Feldstein, 50 Girls 50 features three of EC’s legendary Ray Bradbury adaptations, including “I, Rocket” and “A Sound of Thunder” — and a unique curiosity, a strip adapted from a short story submitted by a teenage Harlan Ellison. Williamson ran with a gang of like-minded young Turks dubbed the “Fleagle Gang,” who would help one another out on assignments. Thus this book includes three stories upon which Williamson was joined by the legendary Frank Frazetta, and one story (“Food for Thought”) where Roy Krenkel provided his exquisite alien landscapes, to make it one of the most gorgeous EC stories ever printed. As a supplementary bonus, 50 Girls 50 includes three stories drawn by Fleagles sans Williamson: Frazetta’s Shock SuspenStories short “Squeeze Play”; Krenkel’s meticulous “Time to Leave”; and Angelo Torres’s “An Eye for an Eye,” an EC story that famously fell prey to censorship and was not released until the 1970s. As with other Fantagraphics EC titles, 50 Girls 50 will also include extensive story notes by EC experts.
Beta Testing the Apocalypse by Tom Kaczynski

Beta Testing includes approximately 10 short stories, most notably “The New,” a brand new story created expressly for this book. It’s Kaczynski’s longest story to date. “The New” is set in an un-named third-world megalopolis. It could be Dhaka, Lagos or Mumbai. The city creaks under the pressure of explosive growth. Whole districts are built in a week. The story follows an internationally renowned starchitect as he struggles to impose his vision on the metropolis. A vision threatened by the massive dispossessed slum-proletariat inhabiting the slums and favelas on the edges of the city. From the fetid ferment of garbage dumps and shanties emerges a new feral architecture.

Batman and the Court of Owls vol. 1 by Scott Snyder

After a series of brutal murders rocks Gotham City, Batman begins to realize that perhaps these crimes go far deeper than appearances suggest. As the Caped Crusader begins to unravel this deadly mystery, he discovers a conspiracy going back to his youth and beyond to the origins of the city he's sworn to protect. Could the Court of Owls, once thought to be nothing more than an urban legend, be behind the crime and corruption? Or is Bruce Wayne losing his grip on sanity and falling prey to the pressures of his war on crime?

Sweet Tooth series by Jeff Lemire (August)

A cross between Bambi and Cormac McCarthy's The Road, SWEET TOOTH tells the story of Gus, a rare new breed of human/animal hybrid children, has been raised in isolation following an inexplicable pandemic that struck a decade earlier. Now, with the death of his father he's left to fend for himself . . . until he meets a hulking drifter named Jepperd who promises to help him. Jepperd and Gus set out on a post-apocalyptic journey into the devastated American landscape to find 'The Preserve' a refuge for hybrids. (series finishes with its sixth trade in June 2013)

Sandman Mystery Theatre series by Matt Wagner

The hero of Sandman Mystery Theatre shares little more than a moniker with Neil Gaiman's Sandman, star of one of the most successful graphic novel series ever, but those who prefer the down and dirty to the airy and fantastic may also prefer SMT, which features the comics' original Sandman, millionaire Wesley Dodds, who, clad in trench coat and gas mask and armed with sleep-inducing gas, fought criminals in the 1940s. Wagner backtracks Dodds to pre-World War II New York City and models Dodds' adventures less on superhero comics than on 1930s pulp magazines. He and cowriter Steven T. Seagle create twisted crime stories--the arc this volume collects involves a series of grisly murders--that Guy Davis illustrates by expertly evoking the period looks of the pulps. SMT story lines are far franker than their 1930s inspirations. This one depicts, besides the killings, a circle of lesbian lovers, and the dialogue is R-rated. Although it hasn't matched the popularity of Gaiman's creation, SMT is one of the most successful revivals of a vintage costumed crime fighter.

Hawkeye vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction

The breakout star of this summer's blockbuster Avengers film, Clint Barton - aka the self-made hero Hawkeye - fights for justice! With ex-Young Avenger Kate Bishop by his side, he's out to prove himself as one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes! SHIELD recruits Clint to intercept a packet of incriminating evidence - before he becomes the most wanted man in the world. You won't believe what is on The Tape! What is the Vagabond Code? Matt Fraction pens a Hawkeye thriller that spans the globe...and the darkest parts of Hawkeye's mind. Barton and Bishop mean double the Hawkeye and double the trouble...and stealing from the rich never looked so good.

Batgirl vol. 1: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone

The nightmare-inducing brute known as Mirror is destroying the lives of Gotham City citizens seemingly at random. Will Barbara be able to survive her explosive confrontation with this new villain, as well as facing dark secrets from her past? A new chapter in the riveting adventures of Batgirl continue in stunning fashion, with script by fan-favorite Gail Simone and stellar art by superstar Ardian Syaf!

Queen and Country The Definitive Edition vol. 1 by Greg Rucka

Queen & Country, the Eisner Award-winning and critically lauded espionage series from acclaimed novelist and comic book author Greg Rucka, is back in a new series of definitive editions collecting the entire classic series in just four affordable soft covers. In this first collection, readers are introduced to the thrilling and often-times devastating world of international espionage as SIS field agent Tara Chase is sent all over the world in service to her Queen & Country all the while Director of Operations Paul Crocker walks a narrow tightrope between his loyalty to his people and the political masters that must be served!

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan follows THE ARRIVAL with a collection of off-the-wall tales combined with his genius illustrations in a unique hybrid format that will build on our current success.  An exchange student who's really an alien, a secret room that becomes the perfect place for a quick escape, a typical tale of grandfatherly exaggeration that is actually even more bizarre than he says... These are the odd details of everyday life that grow and take on an incredible life of their own in tales and illustrations that Shaun Tan's many fans will love.

reMIND vol. 1 by Ed Brubaker

All Sonja wanted was to find her missing cat, Victuals, but when he washes up on the shore of her sleepy coastal town several days later with a head full of stitches and the startling ability to speak and no memory of how he got that way her quiet life is forever changed. Together they set out to solve the mystery of his disappearance, embarking on a journey that leads to a strange kingdom under the waves and into the heart of a royal power struggle, where the answer to Victual s true identity could save or doom them all!

Ignition City vol. 1 by Warren Ellis

Grounded space pilot Mary Raven has come to the interzone settlement in the middle of Ignition City, Earth's largest spaceport, to recover the effects of her dead father... or so people think. Mary really wants to know how he died, and who was responsible. But today might be her last day on Earth, trapped on the last spaceport where no one cares about murder, and the only real currency is fear. She has her dead father's ray gun, and that's enough for space hero-turned-arms dealer Lightning Bowman to want her dead. But when she finds her father's lost diary she discovers something nobody else in Ignition City knows... and they'll want her dead for that, too. From Warren Ellis, the writer who reinvented science fiction in comics, comes IGNITION CITY, a retropunk "future of the past" where spaceships belch smoke and arguments are settled with blaster pistols.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

iZombie by Chris Roberson

iZombie is an unfortunately titled Scooby-Doo meets zombies graphic novel series.  Our zombie protagonist Gwen must eat brains of the dead to continue on living her "life."  Unfortunately, this series was canceled after its fourth trade, just released this month.

1.  One particularly sassy book clubber described iZombie as "it's like Nancy Drew if she was a zombie."   What are your thoughts on this bold assertion?

2.  I felt there were a number of similarities between this series and John Layman's Chew series.  Agree or disagree?

3.  The zombie genre is definitely becoming an overused and tired cliché in the world of comics and SF/F books.  Does Chris Roberson subvert enough cliches to make this series enjoyable?

4.  Female protagonists in the comics world are not often portrayed well.  Does Gwen break the mold? 
5.  Did you find iZombie's setting of Eugene, Oregon to be a character in and of itself?

6.  What inspiration do you think Roberson and Allred drew from when devising this comic?

7.  Many folks criticize the slow, ambling pace of the iZombie series.  Your thoughts?

8.  iZombie will be canceled after its fourth trade, just released December 11th.  What do you think didn't resonate with readers?

9.  The concepts of the undersoul (seated in the heart, emotions, fears) and oversoul (seated in the brain, thoughts, personality) are used to describe the difference between monsters and people.  Would it have been better unexplained?  Did you find these poetic explanations out of sorts in a zombie comic?

10.  The plot of iZombie seems to meander once in a while.  What is the driving element of the series?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a wordless graphic novel following a man who immigrates to a strange and new land.  Detailed sepia illustrations throughout help the reader follow along just like any other graphic novel. Below are the discussion questions:

1.  Did you find yourself reading The Arrival differently than you read other graphic novels due to its wordlessness?

2.  What is the purpose of the textures and colors used throughout the graphic novel?

3.  Each other person that The Immigrant speaks with seems to have a tragic past.  Does this imply that everyone has baggage or that this new world is some sort of peaceful utopia?  Is the new world just as vulnerable to terrifying giant vacuum monsters and tentacles?

4.  Do you find the new world's style reminiscent of any other culture or art style?

5.  What is the purpose of the two pages of multiple small square panels of clouds?  This technique has showed up in a few other graphic novels we've read, what's the deal?
6.  Why did Shaun Tan write The Arrival?  Why is it wordless?

7.  Mr. Tan has described himself as a "translator" of ideas.  Does this knowledge put The Arrival in a different light for you?

8.  What were the tentacle-things that drove The Immigrant away from home?  Were they symbolic or literal?

9.  Shaun Tan is usually a picture book author/illustrator.  What differentiates this from a picture book as a graphic novel?

10.  What was your favorite illustration in The Arrival?

11.  Did The Arrival harken back to any picture books you read when you were a child?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Transmetropolitan series by Warren Ellis

Transmetropolitan is a cyberpunk series following Hunter S. Thompson-of-the-future Spider Jerusalem as he spits out vitriol-soaked articles for the City's masses to read and get angry about.  With the aid of his Filthy Assistants and his bowel disruptor, he is on a mission to find the Truth. Here are the spoiler-free discussion questions:

1.  What are Spider Jerusalem's morals?  Who or what does he fight for?

2.  What are Spider's motives throughout these stories?

3.  I felt that the Filthy Assistants were entertaining, but ultimately not integral to the series.  Your thoughts?

4.  Not many graphic novels get political.  Ex Machina's stories were taken straight from post-9/11 
headlines, did you sense any of the political stories in Transmetropolitan ringing true or familiar?

5.  Transmetropolitan was written over the course of 9/11, yet the book continued on apologizing to no one and not confronting the issue as far as I could tell.  Was this a good choice by Ellis?  Do you think he offended anyone at the time?

6.  You only ever see excerpts of Spider's articles until the very last trade, which collects them all.  What did you think of this artistic choice?  Would the articles have clarified events or furthered Spider's character?

7.  Transmetropolitan is most definitely gritty, grimy, and over the top.  Did you find this to be appealing or not?  Why?

8.  Ellis seems to be a pretty varied writer, having this, Orbiter, and Planetary under his belt.  Are there any common themes among his work?

9.  As with many antiheroes, critics say that Spider Jerusalem is simply unlikeable and seems to never be humanized throughout the series.  What do you think?

10.  Vertigo Comics often seem to subvert what we consider to be a hero.  Is Spider a superhero in the same vein of the Sandman?

11.  Why does Spider Jerusalem return to and tolerate the City?

12.  How does this series illustrate the importance or lack of importance of journalism in a democracy?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tale of Sand by Jim Henson of Sand is a graphic novel adaptation of a "lost" Jim Henson film script.  It was written before the days of all of that mop-mixed-with-a-puppet fame, so its a bit more overtly existential and cerebral.  I think one reviewer explained it as Dark Tower inside of a Dali painting.  The art is incredible as evidenced by my expert opinion and the number of Eisner awards this graphic novel has won.

Here are the relatively spoiler-y discussion questions:

1.  Jim Henson is best known for The Muppets.  Were there any Henson-esque humor, themes, or ideas you caught in Tale of Sand?

2.  What does the man in the eyepatch (Patch) represent?  Why does he antagonize Mac?

3.  Tale of Sand won a number of art-related Eisner awards.  What makes the art so award-grabby?

4.  Why did Ramon Perez incorporate the original script pages into the art?  What does it represent?  The fourth wall is broken and Mac sees script pages as well, explain.

5.  There don’t seem to be any rules per se in the race/game that Mac is running.  What is the point of the race?  What conclusion or goal is Mac supposed to reach?

6.  One might say that  you only get out of Tale of Sand as much as you put in, meaning a quick read-through might only tell you the story of a very, very strange race through the desert.  What did you get out of the story?  Do you like/dislike this form of storytelling?

7.  Would a film adaptation of this script work?  

8.   What is being said by the fact that the race starts again at the end of the book? 

9.  What is the purpose of The Blonde?  Why does she unzip into Mac?

10.  At the beginning of the race, the sheriff says "remember that the worst thing you can do is panic.  If you don't panic, you've got a real chance of making it."  Is this a life lesson?  Does Mac make it without panicking?

11.  Patch is seen in various disguises throughout--as a woman, in a fat suit.  Is he masquerading as every antagonist throughout?  

12.  What does Patch whisper to Mac?  Why does he turn into sand?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Graphic Novel Selections January 2013 to April 2013

Hi all, it's that time again to select the four from this list that we'd like to read in the faaaaar future.  Here's what I'm thinking, as always suggestions are welcome.  Source for descriptions:

Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire

Pressure. As an underwater welder on an oilrig off the coast of Nova Scotia, Jack Joseph is used to the immense pressures of deep-sea work. Nothing, however, could prepare him for the pressures of impending fatherhood. As Jack dives deeper and deeper, he seems to pull further and further away from his young wife and their unborn son. But then, something happens deep on the ocean floor. Jack has a strange and mind-bending encounter that will change the course of his life forever! Equal parts blue-collar character study and mind-bending science fiction epic, The Underwater Welder explores fathers and sons, birth and death, memory and truth, and the treasures we all bury deep down inside.

 Wizzywig by Ed Piskor

They say "What You See Is What You Get"... but Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle could always see more than most people. In the world of phone phreaks, hackers, and scammers, he's a legend. His exploits are hotly debated: could he really get free long-distance calls by whistling into a pay phone? Did his video-game piracy scheme accidentally trigger the first computer virus? And did he really dodge the FBI by using their own wiretapping software against them? Is he even a real person? And if he's ever caught, what would happen to a geek like him in federal prison? Inspired by the incredible stories of real-life hackers, Wizzygig is the thrilling tale of a master manipulator - his journey from precocious child scammer to federally-wanted fugitive, and beyond. In a world transformed by social networks and data leaks, Ed Piskor's debut graphic novel reminds us how much power can rest in the hands of an audacious kid with a keyboard.


Kick-Ass vols. 1 & 2 by Mark Millar
Have you ever wanted to be a super hero? Dreamed of donning a mask and just heading outside to some kick-ass? Well, this is the book for you - the comic that starts where other super-hero books draw the line. Kick-Ass is realistic super heroes taken to the next level. Miss out and you're an idiot!

Funhome: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

In this groundbreaking, bestselling graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father. In her hands, personal history becomes a work of amazing subtlety and power, written with controlled force and enlivened with humor, rich literary allusion, and heartbreaking detail.

Distant and exacting, Bruce Bechdel was an English teacher and director of the town funeral home, which Alison and her family referred to as the "Fun Home." It was not until college that Alison, who had recently come out as a lesbian, discovered that her father was also gay. A few weeks after this revelation, he was dead, leaving a legacy of mystery for his daughter to resolve.

Blue by Pat Grant

Part autobiography, part science fiction, Blue is the story of three spotty teenagers who skip school to go surfing, only to end up investigating rumors of a dead body in their beach town. 
Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen

Throughout the 1980s, the highest priority of Seattle-area police was the apprehension of the Green River Killer, the man responsible for the murders of dozens of women. But in 1990, with the body count numbering at least forty-eight, the case was put in the hands of a single detective, Tom Jensen. After twenty years, when the killer was finally captured with the help of DNA technology, Jensen and fellow detectives spent 188 days interviewing Gary Leon Ridgway in an effort to learn his most closely held secrets-an epic confrontation with evil that proved as disturbing and surreal as can be imagined. Written by Jensen's own son, acclaimed entertainment journalist Jeff Jensen, Green River Killer: A True Detective Story presents the ultimate insider's account of America's most prolific serial killer. vol. 1 by Brian K Vaughan

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults. This specially priced volume collects the first six issues of the smash-hit series The Onion A.V. Club calls "the emotional epic Hollywood wishes it could make."

The Hypo by Noah Van Sciver debut graphic novel from (Denver-based) Noah Van Sciver follows the twentysomething Abraham Lincoln as he loses everything, long before becoming our most beloved president. Lincoln is a rising Whig in the state’s legislature as he arrives in Springfield, IL to practice law. With all of his possessions under his arms in two saddlebags, he is quickly given a place to stay by a womanizing young bachelor who becomes his friend and close confidant. Lincoln builds a life and begins friendships with the town’s top lawyers and politicians. He attends elegant dances and meets an independent-minded young woman from a high-society Kentucky family, and after a brisk courtship, becomes engaged. But, as time passes and uncertainty creeps in, young Lincoln is forced to battle a dark cloud of depression brought on by a chain of defeats and failures culminating into a nervous breakdown that threatens his life and sanity. This cloud of dark depression Lincoln calls “The Hypo.” Dense crosshatching and an attention to detail help bring together this completely original telling of a man driven by an irrepressible desire to pull himself up by his bootstraps, overcome all obstacles, and become the person he strives to be. All the while, unknowingly laying the foundation of character he would use as one of America’s greatest presidents.