Blackbird Vol. 1 by by Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel (Artist)

About

Nina Rodriguez knows a hidden magical world run by ruthless cabals is hiding in Los Angeles. When a giant magic beast kidnaps her sister, Nina must confront her past (and her demons) to get her sister back and reclaim her life. Don’t miss the first collection of the smash-hit neo-noir fantasy series from fan-favorite writer SAM HUMPHRIES (Harley Quinn, Nightwing) and red-hot artist JEN BARTEL (Mighty Thor)!

Stats

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Paperback
  • 168 pages
  • Expected publication: May 14th 2019 by Image Comics
  • ISBN1534312595 (ISBN13: 9781534312593)
  • Edition Language English
  • SeriesBlackbird #1-6

My Thoughts

Blackbird Vol. 1 was a decent comic. It is visually well put together. The story is interesting but I felt it was rough and flat in sections. More detail could be added to flush out the characters and back stories. Substance abuse was represented in the story, but that did not feel authentic. “I need my pills. I need my pills.” Then now what? It felt as if it was a side note, and not a major part of the characters life. As the issues progressed, the story and writing became better and more coherent.

The visuals were very well put together. Often when looking at the page it seemed like the colors would pop out at you and start blinking like a neon sign would. The character design and aesthetics had a manga vibe for me which was interesting. Over the top and over saturated. I will be looking into the next issues to see what happens with the characters if I happen upon the books. Otherwise I might give future reading a pass.


Procurement

I received an electronic copy of this via Edelweiss+ and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.


About the Author

Sam Humphries is a comic artist living in Los Angeles.

Graphic Novel Review of “Punk Rock Jesus” by Sean Gordon Murphy

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Awards

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About

From the pubisher, “A reality TV show starring a clone of Jesus Christ causes chaos across the U.S. of the near future in PUNK ROCK JESUS, a new graphic novel written and drawn by Sean Murphy, the acclaimed illustrator of JOE THE BARBARIAN and AMERICAN VAMPIRE.

J2 causes both outrage and adulation. Religious zealots either love or hate the show, angry politicians worry about its influence on the nation, and members of the scientific community fear the implications of cloning a human being at all, let alone the Son of God.

Thomas McKael is the clones’s bodyguard and former IRA operative, who despite his turbulent past is hired to protect the new Jesus—a baby who captivates the world, but grows up to become an angry teenager.

When falling ratings force the network to cut Jesus’s mother from the series the young star runs away, renounces his religious heritage and forms a punk rock band. And what starts off as babysitting for Thomas becomes an epic battle, as Jesus goes to war against the corporate media complex that created him.”

My Thoughts

I seriously can’t decide how I feel about this series. It is angry, defiant, thoughtful, and current. It reminds me of a manifesto written by a Catholic school teenager who wants to rise against his upbringing, It is really, really strange. Strange and a solid read.

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Chris is a typical 15-year-old Jesus clone. Angry at the establishment. The establishment being all of Christianity who have deified him as some supposed clone and destroyed and the chance he will ever have at a normal existence. Turned his life into the Truman Show, and killed his mother because she is weak for ratings. SO F#$% YOU, F#$% RELIGION, F#$% EVERYONE (cue guitar riff.) Somehow there is a scientist who has a pet Polar bear, a daughter who is really not her daughter, and the cure to save global warming.

As you can see, this is a book about extremes. Extremes in Christianity, extremes in religious fanaticism, all of America is brimming with fat, lazy and stupid people who don’t know their ass from their elbow. Everything is black and white. Life is not black and white at all, which is why this book reminds me of an angry teenager. The dialog, the plot, even the graphics and pen work are all done in this stark and contrasting style. Whether the illustrator/writer did that on purpose or that was just a stylistic choice remains to be seen, but it lends itself to the dialog. In a lot of ways, the pacing of this novel is a mess. It speeds and jumps around in gigantic leaps of time. The clone of Jesus is 1 years old, then 3, then 10, and then 15. Again, this might be a stylistic choice emulating the time jumps in the bible. If it is, that is a pretty nuanced plot addition.

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Hello, tame polar bear.

I feel like all these decisions the author made regarding the extremes in his storytelling where very specific and deliberate. He could have written a much better and more exciting book with the same plot and given it more heart and reality and less punk rockness.  But that’s just me. It is an entirely plausible thing for a Hollywood studio to do. Clone a famous person who is a deity to a billion people and watch the ratings soar.

My recommendation is, as usual, to read it. It isn’t great, it isn’t horrible. Just angsty enough for me to feel old and annoyed at the very same time. But kinda fun, and crazy. Again, what the hell is up with a polar bear. Make up your own mind, and drop me a note about it. I am curious about other takes.

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Tender is the Soul in Waves by Ingrid Chabbert (illustration) by Carole Maurel

Synopsis

A young woman and her wife’s attempts to have a child unfold in this poetic tale that ebbs and flows like the sea.

After years of difficulty trying to have children, a young couple finally announces their pregnancy, only to have the most joyous day of their lives replaced with one of unexpected heartbreak. Their relationship is put to the test as they forge ahead, working together to rebuild themselves amidst the churning tumult of devastating loss, and ultimately facing the soul-crushing reality that they may never conceive a child of their own.

Based on author Ingrid Chabbert’s own experience, coupled with soft, sometimes dreamlike illustrations by Carole Maurel, Waves is a deeply moving story that poignantly captures a woman’s exploration of her pain in order to rediscover hope. 


Stats

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover
  • 96 pages
  • Expected publication: May 7th 2019 by Archaia (first published February 15th 2017)
  • Original Title Écumes
  • ISBN1684153468 (ISBN13: 9781684153466)

My Thoughts

We all have that moment where we are storm-tossed sheltered in a proverbial dingy clinging for safety. A moment where we look upon the future, and it seems like nothing more than waves crashing against the boat. Miscarriage, but really infertility in general, is one of those things that can toss you among the crashing waves and cause you to have to find your way back home. It is damaging, brutal, heart wrenching and prompts you to question everything you have ever held dear. It is also one of those things that are rarely discussed but affects so many. In Ingrid Chabbert graphic novel, Waves” she speaks of the before, during, and after of miscarriage and heartbreak after suffering miscarriage. It is poignant and painful, and she broke my heart as she stood in her little boat and faced a future among the crashing ways after a miscarriage. She is fierce in the most real sense of the world, and she broke my damn heart…

This story is a true story of Ingrid Chabbert and her partner’s struggle with infertility, pregnancy, and miscarriage and then the struggle back to the light of life afterward. Anyone at all who has dealt with infertility can tell you how devastating it can be on every aspect of your life. Pregnancy is everywhere from the woman at the grocery store to adds on TV. It is such an important book to write and create because no one wants to talk candidly about it. With pregnancy rates as they are 1 in 10 women are infertile or have problems staying pregnant. This is such a real struggle, and that is 6 million women out there that have to contend with this every day.

No one wants to tell stories like this, it is as if our collective culture thinks something like infertility is a catchable disease like cooties or chicken pox. But Chabbert does, and she tells it beautifully. Not only is it a gripping and emotional read, it is beautifully rendered by Carole Maurel. Each page is done in a kaleidoscope of soft and beautiful colors and the images Maurel created of Chabbert being lost among the sea’s waves are so right and so real.
Readers and people appreciative of graphic novels should read this. She put her heart out there and her journey with this story, and this is an incredible work of art.


Questions

  1. How do you think infertility is portrayed in modern society and media?
  2. Do you think there is an associated stigma with infertility and mental health issues resulting from it?

Procurement

I received this as an eARC from Netgalley and the publisher Archaia in exchange for my open and honest review.


About the Author

Ingrid Chabbert was born in 1978 in Aveyron and lives today in Carcassonne.
She has been writing since her early childhood, everywhere and on anything. 
She did not study letters but playing with words, talking about life to children is her passion. His very first youth album was released in 2010. 
Since then, nearly thirty titles have been created.

Review of Firefly: Legacy Edition Vol. 2 by Joss Whedon

The Ballad of Serenity

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me.

Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain’t comin’ back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can’t take the sky from me.

Leave the men where they lay
They’ll never see another day
Lost my soul, lost my dream
You can’t take the sky from me.

I feel the black reaching out
I hear its song without a doubt
I still hear and I still see
That you can’t take the sky from me.

Lost my love, lost my land
Lost the last place I could stand 
There’s no place I can be
Since I’ve found Serenity

And you can’t take the sky from me. 


About

The official follow-up to the critically acclaimed hit film Serenity, that sees the band of space outlaws scattered to the far ends of the universe, on the run from the Alliance

From the heart of the Whedonverse comes the next chapter of Firefly! Picking up where the critically acclaimed film Serenity left off, the ‘Verse is on the brink of war, and Captain Mal and his crew are on the run from the Alliance and an old, unstoppable foe. Babies are born, friends are lost, and there’s a new sheriff in town to lead the Browncoats into battle. With the crew scattered to the far ends of the ‘Verse, it’ll take quite a gamble to pull them back together . . . but when the chips are down, never bet against Captain Malcolm Reynolds!

Contains: 
  *   Leaves on the Wind #1-6
  *   “The Warrior and the Wind”
  *   No Power in the ‘Verse #1-6

Stats

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Paperback
  • 336 pages
  • Published February 12th 2019 by BOOM! Studios
  • ISBN1684153085 (ISBN13: 9781684153084)
  • Edition Language English

My Thoughts

There is not enough western space opera in this world. It is an odd mash-up, but it works so well. Firefly, and by extension the movie Serenity caused a cultural sensation and one of the most gigantic disappointments in nerdom. After one season, Firefly was summarily canceled and the nerd community at large gasped their shock. Firefly, though only one season and excellent movie, has lived on in the hearts of millions of fans the world over.

This is why this book was so much fun for a die hard Firefly lover like myself. It is the excellent continuation of a story that needs to be told. Some of this was new material for me, other’s I have read before. Now it is all joined together in a perfect tidy package. All three plot lines are very good, although watch out for “The Warrior of the Wind.” That is a tear jerker. The art is fantastic, typical Whedon style. The art is a continuation of the TV show aesthetic. Which is completely welcome in my book.

If you are unfamiliar with Firefly and Serenity, it pays to go back and watch some of the shows beforehand. Starting this book from scratch is fine, but you will miss many of the subtle nuisances from the story. If you know all about the story, this is a must read.

Procurement

I checked this out from the library.

About the Author

Joss Whedon (born Joseph Hill Whedon) is an American screenwriter, executive producer, film and television director, comic book writer, occasional composer, and actor, and the founder of Mutant Enemy Productions and co-creator of Bellwether Pictures. 

He is best known as the creator and showrunner of the television series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003)’, ‘Angel (1999–2004)’, ‘Firefly (2002)’ and its film follow-up ‘Serenity (2005)’, and ‘Dollhouse (2009–2010)’, as well as the web-series’ ‘Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)’. Whedon co-wrote and produced the horror film ‘The Cabin in the Woods (2012)’, and wrote and directed the film adaptation of Marvel’s ‘The Avengers (2012)’, the third highest-grossing film of all time.

Many of Whedon’s projects have cult status and his work is notable for portraying strong female characters and a belief in equality.

Review of American Gods, Volume 2: My Ainsel by Neil Gaiman, and P Craig Russell

About

The bizarre road trip across America continues as our heroes gather reinforcements for the imminent god war!

Shadow and Wednesday leave the House on the Rock and continue their journey across the country where they set up aliases, meet new gods, and prepare for war. 

The Hugo, Bram Stoker, Locus, World Fantasy, and Nebula award-winning novel and hit Starz television series by Neil Gaiman is adapted as a graphic novel!

Collects issues #1-9 of American Gods: My Ainsel.

image via nerdist

Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover
  • 232 pages
  • Expected publication: April 23rd 2019 by Dark Horse Books

My Thoughts

“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”

American Gods – Neil Gaiman

American Gods, Vol 2 My Ainsel has the dubious task of portraying the middle of a book. Often when reading a story, the center is the boring part. The part that is not the exciting beginning or the escalating and profound conclusion. No. The middle is the part where the characters walk. If you are reading Lord of the Rings, odds are they are walking. It is significant but taken as a slice of the bigger narrative pie; the walking is boring.

Not so much with My Ainsel.

Don’t get me wrong; this slice of the narrative is not as exciting as the first American Gods Vol. 1. Or, dare say, will it be as impressive as the not-yet-written Vol. 3 as the denouement of the American Gods book plays out. But, this story was an exciting and faithful adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s much-beloved novel. Oddly enough, instead of walking, this is the story of a long road trip. It is a vital part of the narrative, a needed pause. The characters, mainly Shadow and Wednesday, circle the wagons and gather the forces. The story also chronicles Shadow’s time in Lakeside and touches on the parallel dimension that is accessible to gods. Because the narrative is pausing, the artwork has to do the heavy lifting to progress the story forward and create compelling visuals. I think that this is where the volume shines. The artwork is beautiful. I am a fan of Gaiman’s comic style, expressive, artistic, and a touch wonky. It isn’t perfect. Some of the character renderings are a bit off. For example, the young girls Shadow interacts with on a bus ride look much older than their 14 years. It can throw the reader out of the story. I did appreciate the depictions of Las Vegas as they were colorful and otherworldly. They are what someone thinks Vegas should look like, and in that way are useful. Although, as someone from Vegas I always find depictions of Vegas as some kaleidoscope adult dream world a description that lacks in imagination. But, in terms of the story, I liked the scene quite a bit.

Overall, this adaptation was excellent. It wasn’t perfect; it had slight pacing, art, and story issues. But as far as a middle goes, it excelled. It did the original story justice, and undoubtedly will bring more American Gods fans into the fold.

I am looking forward to the third volume to see the artwork and how it further adapts the source material. If you are new to the series, congratulations, stay awhile. American Gods is a treat.

As a side note and a bit of cleverness on Neil Gaiman’s part, My Ainsel is a Northumbrian folk tale and means My own self. I doubt that was a coincidence.


Procurement

I received a copy of this from the publisher via Edelweiss+ in exchange for my open and honest review.


About the Author

Neil Gaiman is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre, and films. His works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book

A Story of the Muted – Review of Stitches by David Small

Synopsis

One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die.

In Stitches, Small, the award-winning children’s illustrator and author, re-creates this terrifying event in a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a gothic family drama where David—a highly anxious yet supremely talented child—all too often became the unwitting object of his parents’ buried frustration and rage.

Believing that they were trying to do their best, David’s parents did just the reverse. Edward Small, a Detroit physician, who vented his own anger by hitting a punching bag, was convinced that he could cure his young son’s respiratory problems with heavy doses of radiation, possibly causing David’s cancer. Elizabeth, David’s mother, tyrannically stingy and excessively scolding, ran the Small household under a cone of silence where emotions, especially her own, were hidden.

Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that turn nightmare into fairy tale, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen whose risky decision to run away from home at sixteen—with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist—will resonate as the ultimate survival statemen.


Stats

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover 
  • 329 pages
  • Published September 8th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company
  • Original Title Stitches: A Memoir
  • ISBN0393068579 (ISBN13: 9780393068573)
  • Edition Language English
  • URL http://books.wwnorton.com/books/detail.aspx?ID=12185
  • setting Detroit, Michigan (United States) 

Awards

  • Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee (2011),
  • ALA Alex Award (2010)
  • National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature (2009), 
  • Goodreads Choice Award finalist

My Thoughts

“The odd thing about recurring dreams is that, no matter how many times you dream the same thing, it always takes you by surprise.” 

David Small, Stitches

“Graphic Novels. They Aren’t Books. They have no literary value.”

Sigh.

I have often heard this. Repeatedly. Books like Stitches are the reason that the argument against graphic novels not being literature heavyweights is so brainless. This story is poignant, as well as painful and oh so very real.

David Small is a famous children’s illustrator who took his childhood memories held them, squeezed them, and wrapped them up into a ball and served us this novel. His childhood was not a happy one; “Dad was never there except occasionally for one of mother’s dry, burned little meals; mother coiled tight inside her shell of angry, resentful silence; my brother in his, and I in mine.” This is a story full of angry moments. At the beginning usually from his mother, later into David’s adolescence, the anger belonged to him. It was full of lying and cruelty on the part of his parents. Often when reading this, I had to put the book down and take a moment to appreciate my own family, my own parents, and myself as a parent. I am doing better than I think I am.

Most of the story centers on a lie David’s parents told him regarding his health and the casualty cruelties accompanying it. What was supposed to be an easy cyst removal in his neck was actually cancer and left David disfigured and mostly mute. His parents never acknowledge what had happened to him until much later. This leaves him with both physical scars, “A crusted black track of stitches; my smooth young throat slashed and laced back up like a bloody boot,” and understandably the mental scars that would come with that.

I am sure at this point you are wondering why someone would read something like this. It sounds like a long story of pain, and it is. However, David’s story is also one of hope and overcoming your past. It is beautiful and tragic and heartbreaking. But this is a story that will dig into your mind and stay with you. There is a reason it is considered one of the best graphic memoirs ever written. Stitches is a collection of profound moments, and by the end of the story, we understand that even in the worst of circumstances one can find their own voice, and be who they want to be even if they are mute.


Procurement

I checked this out from the library.

About the Author

David Small is the recipient of the Caldecott Medal, a Christopher Medal, and the E. B. White Award for his picture books, which include Imogene’s AntlersThe Gardener, and So, You Want to Be President? He lives in Mendon, Michigan.

Mafia Meets Magic in Bone Parish Vol. 1 by Cullen Bunn, Jonas Scharf, Alex Guimaraes

Synopsis

A necromantic horror series about an upstart crime family trafficking in a new designer drug that’s just hit the market made from the ashes of the dead.

A new drug is sweeping through the streets of New Orleans—one made from the ashes of the dead. Wars are being fought over who will control the supply, and the demand is rising. While the various criminal factions collide, users begin to experience terrifying visions of the dead coming back to life…through them. Eisner Award-nominated author Cullen Bunn (Harrow County, The Empty Man) and illustrator Jonas Scharf team up for Bone Parish, a haunting blend of horror and crime that takes an unflinching look at how we connect to—and disconnect from—the world around us.


Stats

  • Paperback
  • 112 pages
  • Expected publication: May 7th 2019 by BOOM! Studios
  • ISBN1684153549 (ISBN13: 9781684153541)
  • Edition Language English

My Thoughts

I loved this story.

Mafia meets magic. The story begins with a man in the street under the influence of a necromantic drug that allows you to see or live the life of the dead body the drug is made out of. In other words, you inhale this necromantic powder and POOF you are a warrior, or a thug or whatever. The drugs are created with different purposes. So, the drug supplying mafia family needs different types of bodies with diverse backgrounds to make them. The story is dark, atmospheric and gloomy. Very fitting for the source material. The first book of the series has a typical story arc, the mafia family is generally good but has a tragedy caused by their evil deeds, strikes revenge, wins, sniffs the charred remains of their enemies as they are driven before them, and tacos. Just kidding, no tacos.

This is a winner of a book, good story, great art, interesting and inventive take on mafia families. Check it out. 

Questions

  1. What do you think of necromantic drug selling mafia families?
  2. Do you like tacos?

Procurement

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this story in exchange for my open and honest review. 


About the Author – Cullen Bunn

Cullen grew up in rural North Carolina, but now lives in the St. Louis area with his wife Cindy and his son Jackson. His noir/horror comic (and first collaboration with Brian Hurtt), The Damned, was published in 2007 by Oni Press. The follow-up, The Damned: Prodigal Sons, was released in 2008. In addition to The Sixth Gun, his current projects include Crooked Hills, a middle reader horror prose series from Evileye Books; The Tooth, an original graphic novel from Oni Press; and various work for Marvel and DC. Somewhere along the way, Cullen founded Undaunted Press and edited the critically acclaimed small press horror magazine, Whispers from the Shattered Forum.