Review of “Paper Girls, Vol. 1 (Paper Girls #1) by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang (Illustrator)”

“I’m not going to stand here and be eaten by some bitch’s dinosaur. I am finally doing something with my life.”

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Vaughan, B., Chiang, C., Wilson, M. and Fletcher, J. (n.d.). Paper girls.

Stats

4 out of 5 stars

Paperback, 144 pages

Published April 5th 2016 by Image Comics (first published March 30th, 2016)

Original Title – Paper Girls, Vol. 1

ISBN 1632156741 (ISBN13: 9781632156747)
Edition Language English
Setting Cleveland, Ohio (United States) 
Awards

Harvey Awards for Best New Series (2016)

Lincoln Award Nominee (2019)

Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best New Series & Best Penciller/Inker or Penciller/Inker Team (for Cliff Chiang) (2016)

Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Graphic Novels & Comics (2016)

“I’m not going to stand here and be eaten by some bitch’s dinosaur. I am finally doing something with my life.”

― Brian K. Vaughan, Paper Girls, Vol. 1

Summary

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From the publisher, “In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.”

My Thoughts

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I am just starting this series, so my review is limited to the first volume. With that said, I can tell you volume 1 is an absolute rabbit hole. Half the time I had no idea what was going on. There are dinosaurs, and crazy disfigured teenagers from the future, and some old dude with an Apple logo on his shirt. I have no idea what the four girls names are that star in the story. All I know is one is a Vietnamese, one is adopted, one Jewish, and one is a spirited red-head on her way to being a criminal. I wish I had a bit more than cliches to tell you, but I honestly have no idea.

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“…you girls… reminded us… of us…

…kids just trying… to make a living…

are always… the good guys…”

― Brian K. Vaughan, Paper Girls, Vol. 1

Here are the things I absolutely know for sure. First, this series is an absolute nod to the 80’s and pop culture. The book is full of Bon mot’s about 80’s fashion, movies, music, language, and general attitudes about the world. This speaks to me. I remember being one of these girls in the eighties. Secondly, this book is no Saga, but that is ok. It doesn’t have to be. It has badass girls, friendship, space, time travel, and dinosaurs. I mean cmon. It is pretty damn impressive. Thirdly, it has tons of room to grow and develop. The first book is apparently setting the stage for more awesome. I am not in love with it, but the characters are fresh and exciting, the story is rad if not slightly confusing and the graphics are clean. Lastly, don’t get too deep into why this series is called Paper Girls. It isn’t some clever allusion to young girls with paper thin identities or emotions. The girls run a paper route… I am on to volume 2. Looking forward to it. It can’t get any weirder or more confusing but it sure is fun.

Graphic Novel Review – Hey, Wait… by Jason

A choice made, a lifetime altered.

Stats

  • 3 out of 4 stars
  • Paperback
  • 64 pages
  • Published October 17th, 2001 by Fantagraphics (first published January 1st, 2000)
  • Original Title Vent Litt… ISBN156097463X (ISBN13: 9781560974635)
  • Edition Language English

Awards

  • 1995: Sproing Award, for Lomma full av regn 
  • 2000: Sproing Award, for Mjau Mjau 10: Si meg en ting
  • 2000: Urhunden Prize for the best translated graphic novel, for Vänta lite…
  • 2002: Inkpot Award
  • 2002: Harvey Award, Best New Talent, for Hey, Wait…
  • 2005: Brage Prize, Open Class for La meg vise deg noe…
  • 2007: Eisner Award, Best U.S. Edition of International Material, for The Left Bank Gang 
  • 2008: Eisner Award, Best U.S. Edition of International Material, for I Killed Adolf Hitler 

About

From the Publisher, “One of Europe’s most exciting young cartoonists makes his American debut. This superbly evocative graphic novella by the award-winning Norwegian cartoonist Jason (his first appearance in the English language) starts off as a melancholy childhood memoir and then, with a shocking twist midway through, becomes the summary of lives lived, wasted, and lost. Like Art Spiegelman did with Maus, Jason utilizes anthropomorphic stylizations to reach deeper, more general truths, and to create elegantly minimalist panels whose emotional depth-charge comes as an even greater shock. His sparse dialogue, dark wit, and supremely bold use of “jump-cuts” from one scene to the next (sometimes spanning a number of years) make Hey, Wait… one of the most surprising and engaging debuts of the year.” 

My Thoughts

This is a tale of childhood friendship, loss, guilt, and the affects of a single choice over the course of a lifetime. It will rip your heart out and leave you feeling melancholic and reminiscing about your personal actions long past. 

Jason(single name only) is the nom de plume of one of Norway’s most famous comic authors. In a typical Scandinavian style, Jason’s work can be both morose and hopeful in the span of a single page. He pieces together complexity through simple forms which have become his most well-known style. Much of the time his simplicity is successful and can be read as poignant instead of contrived. This simplicity in drawing and layout is great for a few pages, but over the course of the novel, it can be confusing and dulling. As is the case for this story. Same goes for the anthropomorphic animals, another one of his archetypes. Over the course of the story, it makes it difficult to differentiate between the different characters.

“Hey wait…” Words that are so simple, but sometimes if they are not heeded, disaster can strike. “Hey wait…” don’t cross that street. “Hey wait…” watch out for those open wires. Stop and pause before making your next choice. The protagonist’s “Hey wait…” was not heeded, and his friend died. What came after is the rapid growth into a character that never really moved on afterwards. He is forty years old and in a holding pattern and in a lot of ways part of him died with his friend.

The question that is asked by many readers of Jason’s novels and specifically this one, is what happens at the end? It is not easily identifiable wrapped up ending. It is ambiguous and on multiple readings you may still not have the answer. Did the protagonist die? Did he destroy his adulthood and start over bringing his friend Bjorn back? You can sit and debate the nuances of each panel, line weight and intent of the author for hours. In the end, it doesn’t matter what the author’s intentions where, what matters is if this spoke to you. What do you think happened? I am not going to tell you my answer, I don’t want to influence outcomes. But, if you do end up reading this I would love to know yours.

About the Author

John Arne Sæterøy (born 16 May 1965 in Molde), better known by the pen name Jason, is a Norwegian cartoonist, known for his sparse drawing style and silent, anthropomorphic animal characters.

He has been nominated for two Ignatz Awards (2000: Outstanding Story and Outstanding Series, 2001: Outstanding Story and Outstanding Series), has received praise in Time, and won the Harvey Award for best new talent in 2002, and several Eisner Awards.

Novel Review – “Tales from Outer Suburbia” by Shaun Tan

Not really for children, but for adults who remember what it was like to be a child in suburbia.

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“Tales from Outer Suburbia” by Shaun Tan

Hardcover
96 pages
Published October 28th, 2008 by McClelland & Stewart (first published 2008)
Original Title: Tales from Outer Suburbia
ISBN:0771084021 (ISBN13: 9780771084027)
Awards
  • World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Collection (2009)
  • New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award Nominee for Patricia Wrightson Prize (2009)
  • Ditmar Award for Best Artwork (2009)
  • Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Young Adult (2008)
  • Children’s Book Council of Australia Award for Older Readers Book of the Year (2009)
  • Aurealis Award for Illustrated Book / Graphic Novel (2008)
  • Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for Bilderbuch (2009)
  • Tähtifantasia Award (2016)
  • Australian Independent Booksellers Indie Book Award for Children’s (2009)
  • The Inky Awards Nominee for Gold Inky (2008)
  • Adelaide Festival Award for Children’s Literature (2010)
  • Australian Book Industry Award (ABIA) for Illustrated Book (2009)
  • Literaturpreis der Jury der Jungen Leser for Sonderpreis (2009)
  • The Inky Awards Shortlist for Gold Inky (2008)

About

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‘water buffaloes are like that; they hate talking.’

From the publisher, “Breathtakingly illustrated and hauntingly written, Tales from Outer Suburbia is by turns hilarious and poignant, perceptive and goofy. Through a series of captivating and sophisticated illustrated stories, Tan explores the precious strangeness of our existence. He gives us a portrait of modern suburban existence filtered through a wickedly Monty Pythonesque lens. Whether it’s discovering that the world really does stop at the end of the city’s map book, or a family’s lesson in tolerance through an alien cultural exchange student, Tan’s deft, sweet social satire brings us face-to-face with the humor and absurdity of modern life.”

My Thoughts

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‘He was saying the same sentence over and over, ending with “tasoo-ke-te, tasoo ke-te.”‘

This review may come off as a bit biased because I love “The Arrival.” Honestly, it isn’t so much as an “apple to oranges” kind of comparison between the two books, but maybe a comparison of two of the most glorious pieces of fruit one can eat. Each is wonderful in their own ways.

Both of these novels are excellent, but they are different in a slight, albeit essential way. There are words in “Tales From Outer Suburbia”… The experience of Shaun Tan’s illustrations is a bit more on the nose.

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‘It opened into another room altogether… an impossible room somewhere between the others.’

“Tales From Outer Suburbia” is a collection of fifteen nuanced short stories. All are threaded together with an exploration of the vapidness, bewilderment, joy, sorrow, and enlightenment of living in the suburbs; specifically the suburbs of eastern Australia. Each of the stories is captivating and a hell of a lot deeper than the two or three pages devoted to each. For example “Stick Figures,” is a story about wooden stick figures that are part of a suburban landscape. They move unimaginably slow, and their purpose is not precisely known. However, if you think about suburbia and the little bits of nature that come through the manicured lawns and the shopping malls, nature could very much seem like an unknowable creature that exists, but we have no idea the purpose of. As someone who has spent much of their life living in the suburbs and had to travel to visit nature, I get what he is trying to say. Nature can become the unknowable.

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‘How great it must have been long ago, when the world was still unknown.’

Another glorious story was “No Other Country.” This story explores what it means to be a person of two ideals. The unexplored model of what a place should be as one ideal and the current situation you live in as the other.

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‘The fire burned with astonishing intensity.’

What if you could escape to the ideal place at your leisure? Would that change how you felt about your current living situation? Again this taps into a lot of what Shaun Tan writes about in “The Arrival.” The idealized world and the reality. Would you appreciate your reality if you could escape it once in a while? It is a powerful short story, and absolutely worth the read.

I feel like reading a Shaun Tan book is meditative. They are never boring, beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated. However, his work is saturated with a calmness and purposefulness. His words and images are impactful without being jarring. You don’t see that often in any type of literary work. It speaks to a mastery of craft that I as a reader feel privileged to partake in. As you can probably tell, I am a fan and recommend his work. However, it isn’t for everyone. It is fanciful and calm and deep. Sometimes, that is not what one needs in their books. So my suggestion is that if you are feeling self-reflective or full of ennui, give one of his novels a try. I doubt that you would regret the experience.

Graphic Novel Review – 100 Months: The End of All Things by Johnny Hicklenton, Pat Mills

I have come to kill the pig god.

“Now show me the pig.”

100 Months: The End of All Things by Johnny Hicklenton.

Stats

  • Four out of Five stars
  • Hardcover
  • 170 pages
  • Published April 1st, 2012 by Cutting Edge Press (first published November 18th, 2010)
  • ISBN 0956544525 (ISBN13: 9780956544520)
  • Edition Language English

About

From the publisher, “The final work of a comics visionary, this intense, hallucinatory story with artwork of breathtaking intensity is a true graphic novel, engaging ultimate themes of life, death, and salvation
 The late John Hicklenton was one of Britain’s leading comic book artists, famous for the brutal, visceral draughtsmanship he brought to the 2000AD/Judge Dredd titles and Nemesis the Warlock. His final graphic novel is a parable of environmental devastation, depicting the quest of Mara,
Warrior and Earth Goddess, as she seeks revenge against the Longpig: a Satanic personification of capitalism, red in tooth and claw, whose followers, a legion of the damned, look quite a lot like us. The world of the Longpig is rich in killing fields and scenes of mass crucifixion that recall Goya, Blake, and Bacon, and represents a true crossover of the graphic novel form with fine art. John took his own life with the help of an assisted dying group, following a heroic struggle with multiple sclerosis. This book was drawn and written in foreknowledge of his imminent death, and its insight into universal themes of life, death, salvation, and damnation seems to come from a place between worlds. Its words those of a prophet, its artwork transcending the comic book form, 100 Months will redefine the adult graphic novel.”

My Thoughts

I am raised upon the breeze my love…

100 Months by John Hinklenton

100 Months: The End of All Thing Is John Hinkletons final brutalistic adieu to the world, and it is by far the hardest book I have ever had to review. I have spent the last two months mulling over how to say what this is without sounding vapid and constrained. Because this story is everything, and in the end, it is nothing because John is gone. 

Fear me. 

John Hinklenton died of MS in 2010. He chose to end his own life and his own battle with MS on his terms. Along the way he described his struggle the only way he knew how to, he drew it. A struggle between two unstoppable forces. In the Introduction to 100 Months, Hicklenton’s friend and colleague Pat Mills wrote “. . . [we would] never ask Jimi Hendrix to turn down the volume . . . and [we should] never ask John Hincklenton to turn down the netherworld, the examination of his soul and the loss of himself.” Hinklenton battled MS with every cell of his body, with every memory, emotion, moment, and power that he could muster.  What 100 Months is, is that struggle, the struggle of every cell put into pictures. It is his opus. 

I am the destroyer

The first page of this novel sees the release of The Beast. A daughter of pain and suffering released into the world after 100,000 years. This beast has no face and an androgynous body. She ultimately thirsts for annihilation. She vows to kill the Swine God. Throughout the course of the story you see The Beast lay waste to cities, step upon the skull of the fallen, and seek out the seed of the long pig to destroy it at its source. These are not the rantings of a wild man, but the calculated thought of man whose body is slowly being torn asunder from the inside. All brought forth by his pen. It is a powerful and unsettling book. 

Should you read this? That is entirely up to you. What I look for in literature is to be emotionally affected. This is effective in that regard. Was it pleasant to read? Absolutely not. But, the author’s death was neither friendly nor easy. It was pain and suffering. By reading this, I paid homage to his craft and to his last moments. In that, I am grateful to have read this. 

2019 Reading Goals

I am going to have a busy year!

I am going to attempt to the Book Riot reading challenge. It will be an enjoyable challenge and broaden my reading horizons. Crazy I know. But, I think I can do it. It has been forever since I read a romance book #16 and I don’t think I have ever read a cozy mystery #14. Hell, I am not even sure what a cozy mystery is? (I am taking advice from my fellow lovely cozy mystery bloggers)

  1. An epistolary novel or collection of letters
  2. An alternate history novel
  3. A book by a woman and/or AOC (Author of Color) that won a literary award in 2018
  4. A humor book
  5. A book by a journalist or about journalism
  6. A book by an AOC set in or about space
  7. An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America
  8. An #ownvoices book set in Oceania
  9. A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads
  10. A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman
  11. A book of manga
  12. A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character
  13. A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse
  14. A cozy mystery
  15. A book of mythology or folklore
  16. A historical romance by an AOC
  17. A business book
  18. A novel by a trans or nonbinary author
  19. A book of nonviolent true crime
  20. A book written in prison
  21. A comic by an LGBTQIA creator
  22. A children’s or middle-grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009
  23. A self-published book
  24. A collection of poetry published since 2014

I am also going to read 100 books this year. This is my standard reading challenge every year. I have been pretty good and accomplishing it except for when I had pregnancy brain. If I don’t hit it, that is ok. It is all about the content of what I am reading.


Additionally, I will be setting up a personal challenge regarding graphic novels. I will be reading one graphic novel/comic from every decade since 1900. There are so many wonderful and beautiful works out there to discover. Lots of fun and discovery in all the beautiful works out there to check out. Let me know if you want to do it with me!

So thats the long and short of it. It looks like it is going to be a remarkable and wonderful year. Cheers to 2019!

Graphic Novel Review – Flood!: A Novel in Pictures by Eric Drooker, Allen Ginsberg (Introduction)

The rise and the fall of the city.

Stats

  • 4 out of 5 Stars
  • Paperback, 138 pages
  • Published October 1st, 1992 by Four Walls Eight Windows (first published 1992)
  • Original Title Flood!: A Novel in Pictures
  • ISBN0941423794 (ISBN 13: 9780941423793)
  • Edition Language – English

Awards

American Book Award (1994)

#612 on The 1001 Comics to Read Before You Die


About

From the publisher, “An American Book Award winner and an Editor’s Choice of the New York Times, Flood! is the powerful first graphic novel by Eric Drooker, frequent cover artist for the New Yorker. Flood! is a modern novel written in the ancient language of pictures, with an expressionist, film noir edge. This “definitive edition” of Flood! is a unique record of our country’s turbulent past – and corporate present – and a must-read for students of graphic storytelling. This third edition also features a new cover by Drooker and a complete re-design. Flood! A Novel in Pictures was followed by Drooker’s acclaimed book, Blood Song: A Silent Ballad.”


My Thoughts

First, let me say right off the bat that this is a pure graphic novel. It is graphic storytelling in its unadulterated form as there are little to no words. Drooker tells his tale almost entirely with panels. This style of work is a throwback to the depression era and the 1930’s woodcut and printmaking art of Lynd Ward and Otto Nuckel. When pairing Drooker and Ward’s work together you can immediately tell that Drooker was heavily influenced by this era of artwork and of silent movie filmmaking. 

Drooker is a politically impassioned artist and who, while being a long-standing fixture in the East Village art scene in New York, has been drawing art and comics for the New Yorker for years and worked with Allen Ginsberg on an animated version of Howl. Ginsberg did the introduction to “Flood!”. 

The overall story is told in two parts. The parts are small short stories all around a common theme, “The City”. In the story “The City” is not identified as New York City, but anyone familiar with common sights knows that this is where the story takes place. ‘The City” has a sense of place. It has an aura around it that the author evoked throughout the book.

We first meet our protagonist in his dreary life. He dreams of things he is not doing and instead watches TV. There are multiple panels of him traversing the city and wanting to become apart of it, but he has to stand aside. Drooker drew the city panels as more than just background fluff. They have a looming and almost omniscient presence on the pages. This goes back to the sense of place that Drooker is diligently trying to create. “The City” itself has a personality. We later see the protagonist lose his job and his purpose. He wanders aimlessly amongst the city rabble almost losing himself on the streets, something that he has always wanted. “The City”, once drawn grand in scope has been reduced to a microcosm of itself. We see our protagonist start living his life the way he always wanted to, he drinks and meets women and subsequently having sex. However, all of this leaves him feeling more alone than ever.

The next part of our story is called, Flood. This section makes me think of the old adage of a frog in a pot of boiling water. Our protagonist goes about his daily activities. The viewer has an almost voyeuristic view of his life all the while, the rain falls. The protagonist is trudging through knee-deep water, but is unable to bring himself to leave “The City.” It is almost as if he believes “The City” will save him. He sets to drawing at his drafting table. The images he draws are almost prophetic in nature detailing the rise of the water and the fall of “The City.” Water, in the beginning, is shown to have cleaning and cleansing powers but now it has become destructive. A great aside from all this is the protagonist’s cat. He is seen in many of the panels, almost wondering “what the hell is he doing?” This plays out in the end in a great way.  

This book was not a fun book to read, I say “read,” but maybe pour over is the correct word usage. However, this book makes the reader question and think in each panel and it is an evocative read and at the same time, it is beautiful. The images are gorgeously and painstakingly rendered and it is worth the trouble looking at the images Drooker has created. It is a book that takes itself really seriously, maybe too serious. Almost to the point of being a parody. If you have read this, let me know what you think.

Classic Comic Review – “Dream of the Rarebit Fiend” by Winsor McCay (1906)

Surrealism and your darkest desires brought to light

Stats

#13 on 1001 Comics to Read Before You Die


Author(s)
Winsor McCay
Launch dateSeptember 10, 1904
End datec. 1925
Alternate name(s)The Dream of a Lobster FiendMidsummer Day DreamsIt Was Only a DreamRarebit Reveries
Publisher(s)New York Herald

Statistical information taken from wikipedia.org


About

From Wikipedia, “”Dream of the Rarebit Fiend” is a newspaper comic strip by American cartoonist Winsor McCay, begun September 10, 1904. It was McCay’s second successful strip, after Little Sammy Sneeze secured him a position on the cartoon staff of the New York HeraldRarebit Fiend appeared in the Evening Telegram, a newspaper published by the Herald. For contractual reasons, McCay signed the strip with the pen name “Silas”.

The strip had no continuity or recurring characters, but a recurring theme: a character has a nightmare or other bizarre dream, usually after eating a Welsh rarebit—a cheese-on-toast dish. The character awakens in the closing panel and regrets having eaten the rarebit. The dreams often reveal unflattering sides of the dreamers’ psyches—their phobias, hypocrisies, discomforts, and dark fantasies. This was in great contrast to the colorful fantasy dreams in McCay’s signature strip Little Nemo, which he began in 1905. Whereas children were Nemo‘s target audience, McCay aimed Rarebit Fiend at adults.”

My Thoughts

“Rarebit Fiend” is a piece of comic history. Winsor Mccay, who also wrote, “Little Nemo,” created this comic bit series as a response to the prevalent comedic strips of the time. It was a variety of the “serious but not funny” type. 

Each comic has a recurring theme, eating of Welsh Rarebit before bed, and the resulting nightmare it caused. None of the comics have any continuity or recurring characters. Each of the nightmares it “often reveal unflattering sides of the dreamers’ psyches—their phobias, hypocrisies, discomforts, and dark fantasies. (“Dream of the Rarebit Fiend,” 2018) Also, I find it highly amusing the McCay used rarebit as the plot device in his comics. “The rarebit is a dish typically made with rich cheese thinned with ale and served melted on toast with cayenne and mustard mixed in. McCay used it despite its innocuousness—cultural theorist Scott Bukatman states rarebit was not the sort of dish a person would associate with having nightmares. (“Dream of the Rarebit Fiend,” 2018)”

This is a worthwhile comic to note in history due to the use of political or social topics as a means of dealing with daily life. The comic spanned most class types finding something dark and worthwhile to talk about in the pauper or the playboy. In McCay’s mind, we all dream and we all have a darker self that can be rendered into a dream. 

“Dream of the Rarebit Fiend” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dream_of_the_Rarebit_Fiend.