Transmetropolitan is a Cyberpunk Technicolor Fever Dream and Why We Need It Now More Than Ever

Synopsis

After years of self-imposed exile from a civilization rife with degradation and indecency, cynical journalist Spider Jerusalem is forced to return to a job that he hates and a city that he loathes. Working as an investigative reporter for the newspaper The Word, Spider attacks the injustices of his surreal 23rd Century surroundings. Combining black humor, life-threatening situations, and moral ambiguity, this book is the first look into the mind of an outlaw journalist and the world he seeks to destroy.


Stats

  • 5 out of 5. I mean c’mon this is a classic.
  • Paperback
  • 144 pages
  • Published February 1st 1998 by Vertigo (first published January 1998)
  • Original Title Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1: Back on the Street
  • ISBN1563894459 (ISBN13: 9781563894459)
  • Edition Language English
  • URL http://www.dccomics.com/vertigo/graphic_novels/?gn=1719
  • Series Transmetropolitan (Collected Editions) #1, Transmetropolitan (BR) #1
  • CharactersSpider Jerusalem, Channon Yarrow, Mitchell Royce, Fred Christ
  • Setting United States of America

A side note. This is a reread for me that I had the utmost fun doing it with Paul at Paul’s Picks. It was terrific to see Spider through the eyes of someone else, and I want to thank Paul for taking a chance on one of my favorite books.

My Thoughts

“TRUTH comes easier when you’re nine years old, too. Everything’s a lot less complicated. This or that. Us or them. Truth or lie.” 

Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan, Vol. 1: Back on the Street

Spider is the hero you did not know that you needed. Brash and deranged, Spider yells at the top of his lungs things that make you uncomfortable. And, if you are nervous? Good. Scared to exams painful truths? Good. Because the truth is coming for you, and Spider is going to bringing it with the fervor and intensity of a bulldog on crystal meth.

Transmetropolitan was written twenty-one years ago, published by DC Comics between 1997 – 2002, but it might as well been written yesterday for how current and prescient it is. The story is built around the antics of our protagonist and antihero, an investigative journalist named Spider Jerusalem. He is tattooed, brash, brilliant, sarcastic, caustic, drug addicted, and a wild man of journalists fervor. Often drawn wearing a pair of stereoscopic sunglasses, one red lens, and the other green while streams of smoke curl out of his nostrils and usually sporting a scowl of discontent while gesticulating wildly at the idiocy of passers-by. Describing him, he sounds like a lunatic when in actuality he is the reincarnation of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson dropped into the 23rd century.

The first six issues of the 60 issue story make up Vol. 1 Back in The Streets. It is written as Spider is getting his feet under him after a five-year voluntary sabbatical. Called back to finish his book deal with his editor, lovingly known as Whorehopper, he unwillingly reenters The City and society and is equal parts horrified and fascinated by it. The City, as it is referred to, is Id and hedonism run amok puked out in a cyberpunk Technicolor fever dream. If you can dream it, and have the money, you can do it. All of which sounds impressive when tempered with wisdom and ethics. However, The City is neither of those things. Spider is constantly reminded of why he hid in the wilderness and eschewed all human contact.

Issue three of Volume 1 talks about Spider’s first story back into the throes of journalism. He is covering a pseudo-alien messiah named Fred Christ, as he represents the Transcience movement. The Transience movement being a subculture of body modification fetishists who use technology to change themselves to something resembling a new species. In this case, adapting aspects of an alien species. Fred Christ’s base is located in the Angel 8 district of The City. After Spider burns a transient guard in the eye with a cigarette, Spider notices how tense the Transient population is. It is a powder keg ready to blow. Spider finds Fred Christ and has a brief interview with him where Spider basically eludes that Fred is puffed up with fake power and that the government is going to come down and stomp out this little movement of Freds.


“There’s one hole in every

revolution, large or small.

And it’s one word long— PEOPLE.

No matter how big

the idea they all stand under,

people are small and weak

and cheap and frightened.

It’s people that kill every revolution.” 


Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan,
Vol. 1: Back on the Street

Here is where the writing shines. Eventually, the government does get with the stomping, and Spider gets right in the middle of it and live blogs. He brings the gritty moment to moment of the brutal beating of the Transient population by an uncaring police authority to the people. Eventually, this sways the audience gawking at this display via Spider’s writing and causes a public outcry shutting down the beating. Spider helped. I don’t think he intended to help but to speak the truth as he saw it; however, his truth saved some transient people.

God, I love Spider Jerusalem. He is everything I wish Journalists still were. Raw, uncut assholes who search for the truth as they see it no matter what they have to go through. In the politically charged climate of now, it seems that those who speak truth to power are not the journalists as we used to know them, but bloggers and users of Twitter.


“- You know what this is?
– Nope
– It’s a bowel disruptor.

And you are just full of shit.”


WARREN ELLIS, TRANSMETROPOLITAN,
VOL. 1: BACK ON THE STREET

The question is “Should you read this?” Should you delve into the gritty world of Spider and meet with the truth on his terms. I am of a resounding yes, there is a reason why he is a classic graphic novel series. I think the world needs Spider Jerusalem’s even if he is just ink and ideas. All Hail Spider Jerusalem!


Paul and Myself’s Running Issue Commentary

Paul – #1. What the hell had Beth got me into?!?! Transma-What?!?! Ok. So there’s this guy who lives in a house on a mountain. Spider Jerusalem been there for 5 years, sorta paranoid, hermit style. He was an author/journalist, but still owes his publisher 2 more books on the contract. He needs money and inspiration.He gets in his car and drives back to the rat race in the big city, and yes, he has a rat as a passenger and bombs his local bar on the way… yet, as he crosses the city line, his journalistic blood starts pumping. Itching for a story.
What a character! I’m not really sure what the story will bring, but I know I will like Spider’s vicious one-liners and outlandish ravings. I can already tell that Ellis and Robertson have created a crazy-clever future world of greed, vice, and dark speculation…

Beth – #1. It’s crazy! Spider is who I think most journalists want to be. He is living on all sorts of edges trying to get the truth, the real story. I think #1 and most of #2 are just giving you background on who he is and where he comes from. Hirsute crazy dude living on a mountain, no human contact because he hates people. Has to come back to “The City” two write two books, plus earn enough money to love. Earning money means finding stories. The one-liners are amazing.

“My household appliance is on drugs.”

Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan,
Vol. 1: Back on the Street

‘you worthless scrap of frogshit with a pulse and a bit of authority.” I agree this world is greed, and vice run amok. It is if you took the Id of the general population and laid it out on the table for everyone to see. It reminds me a lot of this scene from Fear and Loathing



Paul – #2. Spider’s first story is an investigation into transcience… a body mod movement that has spliced alien genomes into people and created humanoids who are ‘between bodies.’ Not allowed jobs and forced to live in slums, the transcients are two steps away from government annihilation. An interview with their leader, Fred Christ, gives Spider the insight he needs. This is a story arc with mordern-day implications. An ‘other,’ a people who have chosen to have body modification and are deemed different and illegal. I’m wondering what role Spider will play in this as a journalist. And how he will help these people. Lots of thoughts going on. Can’t wait to get read another issue tomorrow night.

Beth – #2. It is current, right? The things spiders sees and the insight he has can be directly laid on top of our current political climate.

“I don’t have to put up with thus shabby crap! I’m a journalist!”

Having read this before, and with the reread I am catching so much more than I did the first go through. It is almost like I am reading a brand new story.


Paul – #3.

‘Journalism is just a gun.

It’s only got one

bullet in it, but if

you aim right,

that’s all you need.’

Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan,
Vol. 1: Back on the Street

A transient riot has been manufactured and Spider speeds to the neighborhood to report the brutality handed down by the police. The power of Spider’s pen is about to be unleashed!
This is a great issue that really helps the reader see past the image of the main character to what he is actually capable of. His ‘superpower’ of reportage. The ability to expose corruption, and we find that the plot will not be as simple as we maybe first thought. 

Beth – #3. Yes, the power of the written word and of truth. For all of spider’s bluster and screwing up things and people, he has a real gift of getting t the heart of a matter and explaining it to the people. He isn’t all bluster and bravado. I think if he were his publisher would not give two shits about him. I am so glad this is connecting with you. Spider is one of my favorite characters. 

This story is about fist clenching stomach churning anger. Anger at the system that we are all involved in, the mass media, commercialism – but mainly I think this story is outrage and a desire to not just lash out but to make things better. Spider at his venomous little heart wants to use the truth to set people free. Whether that truth is painful or not. It is still the truth, and because of his journalistic integrity and his give no fucks attitude he wants to rip the band-aid off peoples wounds and sally forth. 


Paul – #4. A new assistant and a meeting with the president. Spider has a chance to mentor a young journalist in the art of The Truth. And then during an unexpected chance meeting with the president, he gets a couple shots in.
The entrance of a tutee enables Ellis to open up Spider’s many thoughts on the role of the press… and yes, Beth is correct, even though published 20 years ago, Transmetropolitan is buzzing with current issues. Spider’s accusations of the presidents nefarious behavior is a front page story in many present-day newspapers.
I’m wondering where this will go. What is Jerusalem’s endgame? 

Beth – #4. I really like the young journalist. She makes a perfect counterpoint to Jerusalem’s antics. Where spider is spastic, Channing is more measured. Probably no less nuts, but at least she is more measured in her actions.

I am not sure at this point Spider has an endgame except to expose the truth from as any nefarious characters as possible. It doesn’t even phase Spider that the president might not be a person who he should screw with. Or the cops as we found out the last issue. Bring them all down!


Paul – #5. This issue doesn’t move the plot forward too much, but it certainly utilized Spider/Ellis’s fangs when it comes to popular culture and media. Jerusalem decides he needs to hunker down and really do some research into the culture of The City. So, he promptly turns on the TV and starts flipping through the channels. Reality TV shows like Cops and the sexualization of advertising are parodied and lampooned to the extreme. He also takes some shots at the talk show circuit. Funny stuff!!!
And I definitely agree with Beth. Spider’s assistant is perfect. She gives it right back to him and then some. He was attacked by angry police a couple issues ago, and she seems to know that his antics will garner only more recourse from the authorities. What protections will he have and will his words be enough to combat the powers that be? 

Beth – #5. This issue is pure holding pattern, very funny but I think it is setting us up for the next issue. It doesn’t move the plot forward as it is for having Spider acclimate back into popular culture via TV. Which is pretty much the cesspool of popular culture. Spider responds in the typical Spider fashion by lashing out and attacking lies that he hears. This time via call-in radio/television shows. My favorite part of this issue is where an advertising bomb exploded in his head so he dreams advertisements. I know that I have gotten jingles stuck in my head for days at a time so I can relate.


Paul – #6. The New Religious Movement Convention! Oh boy. What’s Spider going to do here? ‘Fucking Vampires…’Many ‘truths’ out there and our man has decided to rough up the convention goers. Shake em up and crack some skulls while he’s at it. Whoa!Quick aside. I was very happy that Channon punched Spider in the nose in this issue. Ok, maybe not literally, but she got him to shut up for a minute and listen.

The first six issues have established Spider and Channon’s characters, and given them at goal/ mission. His character develops further while he flings his philosophy around the city, and we are exposed to the currents in society… media, religion, and alien infusion. A mindwarping title that I suspect is only going to get better. And I dare say that as Beth and I have discussed, this comic will hold up for a long, long time.

Beth – #6 This is Spider in his element. Ample opportunity to dissect the masses and fling his philosophy around like he is sprinkling the masses with holy water. It would be preachy if it weren’t so damn good. The writing is fantastic. Ever see that scene on Newsroom where the lead answers a question that generally would be verboten. “Why is American the greatest country in the world?” It would be preachy or awful as if the writers of the series going on a rant, but it isn’t. It is amazingly well written, so good that you are stunned into silence.

That has been this volume for me. It could have gone the preachy, ranty path but instead, we have a crazy character, great journalism, and writing. 

Questions

Do you think there are any gonzo journalists left?

What would a city look like if it was all hedonism and money? How would someone speak truth to power?


Procurement

I checked out a copy of this from the library as a buddy read with Paul.


About the Author

Warren Ellis is the award-winning writer of graphic novels like TRANSMETROPOLITAN, FELL, MINISTRY OF SPACE and PLANETARY, and the author of the NYT-bestselling GUN MACHINE and the “underground classic” novel CROOKED LITTLE VEIN. The movie RED is based on his graphic novel of the same name, its sequel having been released in summer 2013. His graphic novel GLOBAL FREQUENCY is in development at Jerry Bruckheimer TV for the Fox network, and his GRAVEL books are in development for film at Legendary Pictures, with Tim Miller attached to direct. IRON MAN 3 is based on his Marvel Comics graphic novel IRON MAN: EXTREMIS. He’s also written extensively for VICE, WIRED UK and Reuters on technological and cultural matters, and is co-writing a video project called WASTELANDERS with Joss Whedon that will appear some time before we both die.. He is serialising a new graphic novel, TREES, with artist Jason Howard, through Image Comics. Warren Ellis is currently working on a non-fiction book about the future of the city for Farrar Giroux Straus. His newest publication is the digital short-story single DEAD PIG COLLECTOR, from FSG Originals. His next book will be the novella NORMAL, also from FSG.

A documentary about his work, CAPTURED GHOSTS, was released in 2012.

Recognitions include the NUIG Literary and Debating Society’s President’s Medal for service to freedom of speech, the EAGLE AWARDS Roll Of Honour for lifetime achievement in the field of comics & graphic novels, the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire 2010, the Sidewise Award for Alternate History and the International Horror Guild Award for illustrated narrative. He is a Patron of the British Humanist Association, an Associate of the Institute of Atemporal Studies, and the literary editor of EDICT magazine.

Warren Ellis lives outside London, on the south-east coast of England, in case he needs to make a quick getaway.

Magic, Sexism, and STEM

“Apparently your feminine wiles are capable of making them idiots, Rhen.”

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

Synopsis

Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.

In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.

With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.


Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover
  • 352 pages
  • Expected publication: March 19th 2019 by Thomas Nelson
  • ISBN0718080963 (ISBN13: 9780718080969)
  • Edition Language English

My Thoughts

“Rhen Tellus opened it simply to see if she could scrape off the ink and derive which substances it’s been created from. Using her father’s strangely fashioned microscope. Which is how she discovered that this time the lettering was created from two types of resin, a binding paste, gold flecks, and a drop of something that smelled quite remarkably like magic.”

To Best the Boys is a lot of great and grand things. It is surprising, exciting, sad, bittersweet, and most of all remarkable. Mary Weber wrote a noteworthy book. It is a YA dipped in light fantasy without coming off as silly or unsophisticated, a rare feat nowadays. I cheered Rhen, she is a hero that young and teenage girls can look up to. Who says that women can’t be excellent at science and math? Who says they can’t look at dead bodies and not squeal. Rhen can! Rhen is the person capable of doing the saving, and if you listen to her, respect her opinion, she might help you out along the way and be your savior instead.

Rhen is a woman in her late teens trapped in her families financial situation. They dare to be working class people. Rhen’s parents, her mother born an Upper and her father born a lesser, fell in love and married against her mother’s families wishes. Rhen’s family has been shunned by her mother’s side her entire life. But, in a city built on familial connections, Rhen has been associating with her Aunt and cousin Seleni most of her life. In a bid to help her out of the Lesser social class. Rhen is a bit of a prodigy in math and sciences, and along with her father work tirelessly to find a cure to whatever is ailing the poorer classes in her port town. Those affected include Rhen’s mother. Here is the impetus of the story. Rhen must work tirelessly to find a cure, but Rhen is a woman and therefore not worthy of having her opinions heard. She is stuck in a catch-22 unless she can change the social equation. Each year a wealthy aristocrat and inventor holds a contest of magical and mathematical tests.

“All gentlepersons of university age (respectively seventeen to nineteen) are cordially invited to test for the esteemed annual scholarship given by Mr. Holm toward one full-ride fellowship at Stemwick Men’s University. Aptitude contenders will appear at nine o’clock in front of Holm’s Castle entrance above the seaside town of Pinsbury Port on the evening of 22 September, during the festival of the Autumnal Equinox.”

If Rhen can win the tests, she can gain access to the education that is necessary to help her friends, family, and people of Pinsbury Port fight off this spreading disease. She has the need and drive to succeed in this. What she faces as a contestant is fantastical creatures, science, math, and logic puzzles. As well as other contestants conspiring against her. You know she can do this, but Weber affectively amps up the suspense of the story until the reader is on proverbial pins and needles.

How does this story mimic our world today?


Although we live in a reasonably forward-thinking world, generally speaking, little girls face the same challenges of sexism when it comes to STEM(science, technology, engineering, math). Woman are still considered too illogical by some to be analytical enough to be a scientist. There are still real sociological and environmental barriers that girls need to overcome to become immersed in STEM. This story echoes that. Rhen is a woman continually being told that she does not have the mind and attitude for male-dominated STEM subjects.

Different men in Rhen’s Life


A quality I appreciated in this story was how men were depicted. Men are just as varied in personality, intelligence and spirit as women are. The author could have gone the route of stereotyping the male characters, but she didn’t. There was no type-casting for characters. Each of the players in this story has an individual mind and personality that mimics the variances in actual culture.

Political opinions and class warfare


Rhen comes from a poorer class, and although it is a peripheral plot point, Rhen’s working-class neighbors and friends have to deal with out of touch upper-class people thinking they know what is best for them. Those decisions cause a significant calamity for the working middle class and poor people of this village. It is an important vignette that mirrors political and social change taking place in our world even as we speak.

What I did not like

There is very little not to like with this story. My only slight complaint was that I felt like maybe there was one too many ideas in the plot. The plot line with the town’s fisherman seemed just a little much. Maybe that plot line would have been better seen in book 2.

Should you read this?

Absolutely. I cannot stress this enough, I loved this book. It is exceptionally well written, the plot is interesting, the characters are cheer-worthy. The message is one that can resonate with young girls, and when you get to the end, the reader feels empowered. You want to do better in your life and for those around you after reading this book.

Quotes taken from eARC are subject to change upon publishing.


Discussion Questions

  1. Many times in the story Rhen encounters situations with other male characters in the story that leave her uncomfortable. Rhen is gaslighted, talked over, embarrassed, shamed, and shunned. How does this make you feel as a reader.
  2. Are there other books in the YA light fantasy genre that talk about STEM and girls? How is it portrayed in other stories.

Procurement

I received an eARC of this novel from Netgalley and Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for my open and honest review.


About the Author

Hi. I write books. I eat things. I kiss things. I believe in mermaids.

I’m also the author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow series, and the March 2019 release, To Best the Boys. When not working, I sing 80’s hairband songs to my three muggle children, and ogle my husband who looks strikingly like Wolverine. We live in California, which is perfect for stalking aging movie stars while wearing fanny packs and sweatpants.

For those who like to know such things (mainly my mom), Storm Siren was featured in the Scholastic Book Fair and my novels have been endorsed by such nice humans as Marissa Meyer, CJ Redwine, Shannon Messenger, and Jonathan Maberry (in fact, Marissa Meyer and I have a fun interview in the paperback of her book, CRESS). Also, Boba tea & sweatpants are life. 

Graphic Novel Review of “Through the Woods” by Emily Carroll

Stats

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Hardcover 
  • 208 pages
  • Published July 15th, 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books (first published July 1st, 2014)
  • Original Title Through The Woods
  • ISBN1442465956 (ISBN13: 9781442465954)
  • Edition LanguageEnglish

Awards

  • Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Best Graphic Novel (2014) 
  • Rhode Island Teen Book Award Nominee (2017) 
  • Milwaukee County Teen Book Award (2015) 
  • British Fantasy Award for Best Comic/Graphic Novel (2015) 
  • Lincoln Award Nominee (2017)
  • Green Carnation Prize Nominee for Longlist (2014) 
  • Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best Graphic Album-Reprint (2015) 
  • Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Graphic Novels & Comics (2014) 
  • IGN Award for Best Original Graphic Novel (2014)

About

From the publisher, “‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…”

My Thoughts

This book is a collection of five gothic horror scary stories beautifully illustrated. Each of them in one way or another is about the horrors that exist inside of a person, and the horrors we cannot see that are lurking for us in the dark whether literally or figuratively.

Our Neighbor’s House – This is the story of three pioneer girls: Mary, Beth, and Hannah waiting for their father to come back from a hunting trip. When he doesn’t come back after three days, instead of heading off to the neighbor’s house as they were instructed they sit and wait. A mysterious stranger starts coming to the door. He is full of smiles with a wide-brimmed hat, and one by one the sisters are charmed away. He is stealing the children away much like the pied piper. This is a slow burn of a horror story, in the beginning, it seems innocuous enough that a man, maybe a neighbor, comes to the door and offers reassurance to the girls. One by one though, as they disappear into the night, you know something is wrong with the man. Until finally, there is no one left at all and he is, in fact, not a man.

A Lady’s Hands Are Cold – To me, this is the most Gothic of tales in the collection and probably my least favorite. It is the story of a young lady married off to a Man in a large white manor. From the first night onward the lady would hear a moaning wail coming from somewhere in the house decrying “I married my love in the springtime, but by summer he’s locked me away. He murdered me dead in autumn, and by winter I was naught but decay. It’s cold where I am and so lonely…” Every night the wailing would get louder as if it was coming from the houses very bones. When the young lady could not take it anymore, she took a hatchet and began to hack at the house. Inside the walls and floor of the house, she found the decaying body parts of a woman and eventually the head which sang an awful lament. The young girl pieced the body back together holding it fast with red ribbons where it rose up and proclaimed, “Do you think he loves you know? Think you usurped my role? When I’ve torn you to pieces, girl then I’ll be whole.”

His Face All Red – This is a story of two brothers, one charismatic and loved while the other always lived in the first one’s shadow. One day while hunting for the mysterious beast that had been plaguing their village, the brother who still lived in the shadow killed the charismatic one and buried him in the woods. The shadowed one returns to the town with naught but a bloody scrap of his brother’s clothing proclaiming “I have killed the monster. I have avenged my brother.” Then the brother returns…but his brother is not actually his brother.

This story leans heavily on ambiguity to produce the necessary ambiance for a Gothic tale of this type much like the previous story. What the reader doesn’t know is the chilling part of the story. Again, I felt like this story fell flat. To me, the story moved to quickly to really produce the necessary environment for me to be scared.

My Friend Janna – This is a story about two girls who say that they can commune with the dead, but it is a hoax. Two bored girls playing a prank on the malleable. What Janna’s friend does not tell her is that Janna is haunted. There is a spirit that surrounds her, and it slowly is taking over Janna eventually until Janna disappears entirely.

The Nesting Place – This is my favorite story of the bunch. It is the story of Bell, a young girl home visiting her brother and his new fiance. The horror part of this story is that Rebecca, the fiance, is not at all what she seems. There are worms, I will leave it at that.

I am a bit torn on this collection. It is evident that Emily Carroll is a skillful artist and writer. The graphics for this collection are beautiful and striking. But, the stories left me feeling flat. They seemed rushed and because they seem rushed the setting that Carroll creates doesn’t have the buildup necessary for it to be effective. I wish it had worked for me, but it just didn’t. Not to say that it won’t work for you, this is a very beloved story collection. Give it a try! I am in the minority here when it comes to this story collection, let me know what you think!


Procurement

I checked this out from the library


About the Author

My name is Emily Carroll, and I was born in June of 1983. I grew up in London (Ontario) but moved to Vancouver for work after graduating Sheridan College’s Classical Animation program. I have since moved back to Ontario and now live in Stratford with my wife, Kate Craig. We have a very large cat.

10 Must Read Graphic Novels Written by Women

Comics and graphic novels, until very recently, have been a male-dominated field. Comics were for boys, not little girls. The perception is rapidly changing and it is so exciting to see such wonderful books come out on to the forefront and say comics are for everyone. This is by no means a definitive list but marks some great examples of new books.

Vagrant Queen – by Magdalene Visaggio, Jason Smith (Artist) 

From the publisher, ” They took her throne. She told them to keep it.
Former child queen Elida was driven from her throne at age ten and forced to wander the galaxy, evading the revolutionary forces that wanted her dead. When an old frenemy claims to know the whereabouts of Elida’s long-lost mother, she is forced to return to her former kingdom and stage a rescue.
If Star Wars was directed by the Coen brothers, you’d have Vagrant Queen. Brought to you by Eisner-nominated and GLAAD Media Award-nominated author Magdelene Visaggio, illustrator Jason Smith, colorist Harry Saxon, and letterer Zakk Saam, this is one wild ride. “

You want a wild ride, this story will give you a wild ride. Magdalene, of Eternity Girl fame, helms this story about former child queen Elida. Elida, having been deposed years ago, is pretty much an all-around badass thief and smuggler. The writing is and graphics are razor sharp. The plot is a very typical rogue scoundrel a la Firefly and Hans Solo, but instead, we have a female character who does not fall into typical writing tropes. It is just a damn fun read and so wonderful to have a female lead who takes no guff.


Hyperbole and a Half

From the publisher, “This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative–like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it–but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book:

Pictures
Words
Stories about things that happened to me
Stories about things that happened to other people because of me
Eight billion dollars*
Stories about dogs
The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!”

True story, I had never heard of Allie Brosh till last year when I found a copy of this story at a second-hand shop. My husband and I poured through it over the course of a weekend and laughed ourselves silly. She is us, neurosis and all.

This book which made me laugh so many times I lost count. I either full on guffawed or chuckled; each “chapter” is a perfect bon mot on something that will make you feel all the feelings. Most of the scenarios I have felt or gone through myself. I too have a psychotic dog that wants to end the existence of all other dogs by doing a scream yodle thing.  So, this book is a weirdly relatable collection of great stories and I am not sure how comfortable I am with that. It all made me realize that I am in fact this weird. As for her actual writing, her wit is honest and open even when dealing with tough subjects such as depression. It doesn’t come off as simplistic, but relatable and real. It was such a pleasure to read. I would recommend this book to anyone


Bitch Planet – by Kelly Sue DeConnick

From the publisher, “Eisner Award-nominated writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (Pretty Deadly, Captain Marvel) and Valentine De Landro (X-Factor) team up to bring you the premiere volume of Bitch Planet, a deliciously vicious riff on women-in-prison sci-fi exploitation.

In a future just a few years down the road in the wrong direction, a woman’s failure to comply with her patriarchal overlords will result in exile to the meanest penal planet in the galaxy. When the newest crop of fresh femmes arrive, can they work together to stay alive or will hidden agendas, crooked guards, and the deadliest sport on (or off!) Earth take them to their maker? “

Bitch Planet makes me so happy and I do believe that Kelly Sue is my spirit animal. It is so over the top awesome. Feminism.. we got that. Badass female characters.. got that too. The best clap back against body shaming I have ever read. YAS. It isn’t for everyone, but if you appreciate the over-the-top kind of graphic novels this is the one for you.

Read my original review right here


Through the Woods – by Emily Carroll

‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

I added this as a nod to those who like a little horror with their graphic novels. This is well done and indicative of a cool artist style in a graphic novel format. It is effective and downright scary in some parts. Worth checking out.


This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

In This One Summer two stellar creators redefine the teen graphic novel. Cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the team behind Skim, have collaborated on this gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about a girl on the cusp of her teen age — a story of renewal and revelation.

This book is a collection of smooth and quiet moments. For me when reading, not all moments have to jump off the page at you. Life isn’t like that, and neither should writing about life be. It is highs and lows, of which the author has written about so well. Also, Tamaki has walked a very delicate line, she has created a book that can easily be viewed from both sides of childhood divider. Kids and teenagers can read this book and relate to the moments that Windy and Rose experience throughout a Summer: Scary movies, talking about boys, walking home at night through the scary dark, and swimming in the lake. All these moments are quintessential parts of a summer childhood experience. However, simmering in the background are very adult-like issues such as pregnancy, inability to conceive, marriage dynamics, peer dynamics, anxiety, and depression. These issues touch Windy and Rose, and they react to them with a burgeoning adult understanding. Adults can read this story and read about these adult moments from a different lens and think back to what it would have been like to be at the age on the cusp of becoming an adult. It is very well written.

This is a worthy award winner and should definitely be checked out. Wholeheartedly recommend.

Find my original review here


Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

In this graphic memoir, Alison Bechdel charts her fraught relationship with her late father.

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.

This is an autobiographical memoir graphic novel. It is sarcastically written and heartfelt. You can tell Alison has a flair for writing levity into the most sundering of situations. It is engrossing and a wonderful read.


Embroideries – by Marjane Satrapi

From the best–selling author of Persepolis comes this gloriously entertaining and enlightening look into the sex lives of Iranian women. Embroideries gathers together Marjane’s tough–talking grandmother, stoic mother, glamorous and eccentric aunt and their friends and neighbors for an afternoon of tea drinking and talking. Naturally, the subject turns to love, sex and the vagaries of men.

As the afternoon progresses, these vibrant women share their secrets, their regrets and their often outrageous stories about, among other things, how to fake one’s virginity, how to escape an arranged marriage, how to enjoy the miracles of plastic surgery and how to delight in being a mistress. By turns revealing and hilarious, these are stories about the lengths to which some women will go to find a man, keep a man or, most important, keep up appearances. 

Full of surprises, this introduction to the private lives of some fascinating women, whose life stories and lovers will strike us as at once deeply familiar and profoundly different from our own, is sure to bring smiles of recognition to the faces of women everywhere—and to teach us all a thing or two.

Again, this is a semi-autobiographical story about the lives and history of a group of Iranian women. It is vibrant and well written with a definitive narrative from each of the members of the get-together. It is women talking candidly about their lives and an excellent read.

Castle Waiting – by Linda Medley

Castle Waiting graphic novel tells the story of an isolated, abandoned castle, and the eccentric inhabitants who bring it back to life. A fable for modern times, Castle Waiting is a fairy tale that’s not about rescuing the princess, saving the kingdom, or fighting the ultimate war between Good and Evil, but about being a hero in your own home. 

The opening story, “The Brambly Hedge,” tells the origin of the castle itself, which is abandoned by its princess in a comic twist on “Sleeping Beauty” when she rides off into the sunset with her Prince Charming. The castle becomes a refuge for misfits, outcasts, and others seeking sanctuary, playing host to a lively and colorful cast of characters that inhabits the subsequent stories, including a talking anthropomorphic horse, a mysteriously pregnant Lady on the run, and a bearded nun.

Hands down one of my favorite graphic novels I have ever read. It is witty, smart and wonderful with a great fantasy story underneath. Linda Medley needs to be on more best-of lists for this great bit of writing and graphics.

Anya’s Ghost – by Vera Brosgol

Anya could really use a friend. But her new BFF isn’t kidding about the “Forever” part.

Of all the things Anya expected to find at the bottom of an old well, a new friend was not one of them. Especially not a new friend who’s been dead for a century.

Falling down a well is bad enough, but Anya’s normal life might actually be worse. She’s embarrassed by her family, self-conscious about her body, and she’s pretty much given up on fitting in at school. A new friend—even a ghost—is just what she needs.

Or so she thinks. Spooky, sardonic, and secretly sincere, Anya’s Ghost is a wonderfully entertaining debut from author/artist Vera Brosgol.

To call this writing and plot clever is an understatement. This story takes you places you were not prepared for. Hello, Plot twist! The writing is a masterpiece,

My Favorite Thing is Monsters – Emil Harris

Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of late ’60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the fictional graphic diary of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, filled with B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines iconography. Karen Reyes tries to solve the murder of her enigmatic upstairs neighbor, Anka Silverberg, a holocaust survivor, while the interconnected stories of those around her unfold. When Karen’s investigation takes us back to Anka’s life in Nazi Germany, the reader discovers how the personal, the political, the past, and the present converge. Full-color illustrations throughout. 

Another great series, and not just for graphic novels but great in general. The characters, story artwork are all top notch. It absolutely revels in the 60’s Chicago backdrop. Read it, trust me.

Review of The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaVille

About

From the publisher, “People move to New York looking for magic and nothing will convince them it isn’t there.

Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father’s head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.

A storm that might swallow the world is building in Brooklyn. Will Black Tom live to see it break?”


Stats

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Paperback 
  • 149 pages
  • Published February 16th 2016 by Tor.com
  • Original Title The Ballad of Black Tom
  • ISBN0765387867 (ISBN13: 9780765387868)
  • Edition LanguageEnglish

Awards

  • Hugo Award Nominee for Best Novella (2017) 
  • Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novella (2016) 
  • World Fantasy Award Nominee for Long Fiction (2017) 
  • Shirley Jackson Award for Novella (2016) 
  • British Fantasy Award for Best Novella (2017)
  • Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Horror (2016)

My Thoughts

The Ballad of Black Tom is the reimagining of the Lovecraftian tale, “The Horror at Red Hook” and is one of those rare books that can straddle the dividing line of fiction and urban fantasy. It is a book of many hats.

The story is one of a street hustler named Charles Thomas Tester of Harlem in the 1920s. Charles, who goes by Tommy, makes his way as best as he can by a variety of hustling gigs. Whether it’s as a Delivery man or guitarist, Tommy does pretty much anything to make some money. Along with the hustles are the obvious and not so apparent undercurrents of racism present in 1920’s Harlem. Tommy is an African-American man and deals with Racism and prejudice on all sides. The writing about the racism of that era is poignant and well done. Tommy gets involved with some occult figures throughout the story, and different types of tragedy ensue. He begins to take matters in his own hands, and the story ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.

The original story “The Horror at Red Hook” was stunningly racist as was Lovecraft is as a person. It makes sense why LaVille would respond to that story from the angle of an African-American Protagonist. I think it is fitting. That being said, I have not read “The Horror of Red Hook.” Matter a fact, when I originally picked this up I was reading it blind having known nothing about the back story of this novella. I was familiar with the writer and the stories status as a Hugo award nominee which guided me in selecting it to read, but that’s it. I have got to tell you overall I was not impressed. I found LaVille’s writing to be excellent. He has a way with both the structure of his sentences and the imagery his sentences evokes. However, the pacing of the story was slow and frankly a bit boring for my tastes. That might be because I am unfamiliar with the original Lovecraft story and style. Or, I just was not in the right mind frame to read it. Either way, I am not the right reader for this story.


About The Author

Victor LaValle is the author of the short story collection Slapboxing with Jesus, four novels, The Ecstatic, Big Machine, The Devil in Silver, and The Changeling and two novellas, Lucretia and the Kroons and The Ballad of Black Tom. He is also the creator and writer of a comic book Victor LaValle’s DESTROYER.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards including a Whiting Writers’ Award, a United States Artists Ford Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Shirley Jackson Award, an American Book Award, and the key to Southeast Queens.

He was raised in Queens, New York. He now lives in Washington Heights with his wife and kids. He teaches at Columbia University.

He can be kind of hard to reach, but he still loves you.

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

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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 of “The Prince and the Dressmaker” by Jen Wang

Stats

  • Paperback 
  • 288 pages
  • Published February 13th, 2018 by First Second
  • Original Title The Prince and the Dressmaker
  • ISBN162672363X (ISBN13: 9781626723634)
  • Edition Language English

Awards

  • Harvey Awards for Best Children or Young Adult Book AND nominated for Book of the Year (2018)
  •  Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Graphic Novels & Comics (2018)

About

From the publisher, “Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart”

My Thoughts

This book follows the story of two main characters, The Prince Sebastian as he comes to terms with who he is and what he enjoys doing. Sebastian enjoys dressing up in beautiful woman’s clothing. Francis is a talented dressmaker and Sebastian’s best friend that creates works of art for him to wear. Together they explore friendship and navigate what it means to love someone unconditionally.

I fervently wish that books like this existed when I was a preteen/teenager. I think that if I have had access to literature of this quality and subject content, maybe the world would have not seemed so strange and foreign when I left my protective bubble as a child and became an adult. Not only is this book well written and beautifully executed, but it is also an important subject because people are people, no matter how small… how they want to dress, or how they see themselves.

“My whole life is other people deciding what’s acceptable. When I put on a dress, I get to decide what’s silly.” 

This book primarily deals with being different and how people will love you an except you given half the chance. The prince is a crossdresser, he likes big and beautiful dresses, specifically those of a seamstress that he has befriended. Together they form a partnership based on friendship and eventually love. This story is the perfect blend of sweetness, authenticity, joy, sadness and ultimately love overlayed with Jen Wang’s gorgeous illustrations.

Even though this book is marketed to teenagers and young adults, I whole heartedly recommend this book to anyone. It is beautifully done, and a short read. You won’t be disappointed in it’s content.