Johnny Hiro Half Asian, All Hero by Fred Chao

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by billba tagged graphic novel

Unshelved comic strip for 10/18/2013

Why I picked it up: I am resistant to black and white comic art, so it sat on my overburdened books-to-review shelf for a couple of years. Then my 12-year-old son Theo convinced me it was awesome.

Why I finished it: My main criteria for enjoying a book is whether it surprises me. This one did often. Johnny is an unlikely hero, wonderfully philosophical in the face of danger, his thoughts often drifting to memories of past events.

It's perfect for: Ang, who daydreams hard about moving to Brooklyn one day. This book will correctly teach her to expect walk-ons by both celebrities and giant radioactive monsters.

@bookblrb: Busboy Johnny Hiro fights monsters, knife-wielding waiters, and samurai businessmen.

Game On! (Squish #5) by Jennifer Holm, Matthew Holm

Link to this review by billba tagged graphic novelhumor

Squish the amoeba gets addicted to a video game called Mitosis.

Why I picked it up: Although my house is littered with volumes of the sublime Babymouse, I hadn't yet tried this green-hued companion series which takes place at a school for single-celled organisms. That ended when sibling creators Jenni and Matt put an ARC into my hand at TXLA.

Why I finished it: It's relentlessly pro-comics, opening with Squish reading the latest Super Amoeba in his local comic shop, and shows the eternal tension between comics and games. (And yes, in his world, as in ours, those are the only two choices.) Squish's teacher hilariously turns out to be a closet Super Amoeba fan. Sue me, I'm a cartoonist. I enjoy being pandered to as much as the next guy.

It's perfect for: Braden, a young homeschooler who is following my son's footsteps into gaming. This book recognizes that video games are awesome fun -- it celebrates such simple joys as KITTEN EFFECT! and ENERGY STAR! -- but it also contains an important lesson about how much time they suck up for no real gain. We need to get kids reading comics instead.

Diabetes and Me An Essential Guide for Kids and Parents by Kim Chaloner, illustrated by Nick Bertozzi

An upbeat, empathetic, and essential resource for young people with diabetes

Erin is a twelve-year-old figure skater who loves the Jonas Brothers. Dave is a quiet fourteen-year-old living in the shadow of an athletic brother. Eight-year-old Marco dreams of becoming a professional soccer player. Veronica, sixteen, is going through a rebellious phase. Typical in most respects, they have all just received the same life-changing news: They have diabetes. Now they must learn how to live with this incurable disease.

Enter Kim, the graphic avatar of the author Kim Chaloner, who was diagnosed with diabetes when she was a teenager. In Diabetes and Me: An Essential Guide for Kids and Parents, Kim walks the kids—and the reader—through the basics of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, covering the latest technologies for monitoring blood sugar, strategies for nutrition and exercise, how to explain diabetes to friends and family members, and much more. Drawing on her own experiences, Kim reminds us how a life-changing disease can unite us—in fact, the person who brings Kim and the kids to life is none other than Chaloner’s husband, the award-winning graphic artist Nick Bertozzi.

Informative and empowering, Diabetes and Me is the perfect resource for parents, teachers, and young adults who need to know more about one of the most common diseases today.

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Odds Off or, L’amour Foutu by Matt Madden

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novel

Morgan is not quite ready to settle down. He’s studying French via a ridiculously repetitive cable access TV show. His girlfriend Shirin is studying for the MCAT while working a nightmare office job. Lance is in lust with Morgan and trying to write.

Why I picked it up: For years I’ve been flipping through Jessica Abel’s and Matt Madden’s great texbooks on how to make comics, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures and Mastering Comics, so when I saw this on the shelf at a local bookstore I had to read it.

Why I finished it: The French lessons were hilarious. They reminded me not only of the most boring aspect of teaching English overseas (low level classes where no one could express themselves), but also of the worst parts of the French textbook I studied last quarter. Shirin really carried me through the book. She’s the only non-Christian in her office, as everyone is constantly reminding her. She takes up smoking to get away from her coworkers because the habit seems to come with extra breaks.

It's perfect for: Tim. He’d love it when Lance goes to the doctor because his writing feels itchy, and he has a burning sensation when he conjugates. The diagnosis: word lice.

Critical Survey of Graphic Novels: Manga by Bart H. Beaty & Stephen Weiner (editors)

A "first" in the field, this brand new Critical Survey series focuses on all aspects of the graphic novels format, aiming to establish it as an important academic discipline and research topic in libraries. Designed for academic institutions, high schools, and public libraries, the series provides unique insight into the stories and themes expressed in historic and current landscape of the graphic novel medium.

The third set in this series, Critical Survey of Graphic Novels: Manga, provides in-depth insight for over 55 of the most popular and studied manga graphic novels, ranging from metaseries to stand-alone books. A recent influx of translated Japanese manga into the American market has sparked a greater interest in foreign-language traditions and long-form comics storytelling. This single-volume subset focuses on translated works that have been particularly influential in the development of the manga tradition.

Often defined by characteristics such as stylized line work, cultural-specific narratives and compelling storytelling that often stand in contrast to the character-centric framework of American comics, manga nonetheless encompasses a broad range of genres and subgenres. Researchers will gain a better understanding of the latter, which, in the manga tradition, is represented by a wide spectrum that includes josei manga, which targets a mature female audience; shoujo-ai manga, which focuses on the spiritual, sexual, or emotional aspects of relationships; shonen-ai, manga created by female authors that focuses on homoerotic or homoromantic male relationships; and kodomo manga, created exclusively for a young audience.

Each essay, presented in critical format by leading writers in the field of study, will look beyond the archetypal and consumerist aspects of the medium to show the wide range of literary themes and dynamic artistic styles inherent in the manga format.

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Wonder Woman Odyssey Volume 1 by J. Michael Straczynski, Phil Hester, Eduardo Pansica
Wonder Woman Odyssey Volume 2 by J. Michael Straczynski, Phil Hester, Eduardo Pansica

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged fantasygraphic novelsuperhero

After the gods abandoned the Amazons, they were exposed and vulnerable. Men came to their island with weapons that could kill even the strongest warriors. Many Amazons fled into the world. Queen Hippolyta sent her daughter, Diana, away, though the Queen wasn’t lucky enough to escape.

Hiding in New York with other Amazons, Diana trains to avenge (and possibly restore) her home. But she’s being hunted by both the man who killed her mother and the Morrigan, a triune of goddesses who feed on the horrors of war.

Volume 1 contains Wonder Woman #600 - 606. Volume 2 contains Wonder Woman #607 - 614.

Why I picked it up: I’m a huge fan of J. Michael Straczynski because of his book on screenwriting, Babylon 5, and his comics.

Why I finished it: There was a lot to like in this short-lived reinvention of Wonder Woman, but the press I saw about the book was mostly about her new costume. For me the fun was in seeing the reinvention of Giganta and Cheetah, two Wonder Woman villains I remember from watching Superfriends when I was a kid. (Here they’re deadly, brainwashed Amazons given powers by the gods, and they’re much more menacing because they’re not products of the standard super villain mold.) Another long-term villain, Dr. Psycho, helps Diana because he wants things to go back to the way they were. (This is all part of a meta conversation about comics that runs throughout the book. We all know this incarnation of Wonder Woman can’t last. It’s all a result of the gods' (publishers'?) meddling. It’s happened before and it will happen again.)

It's perfect for: Cindy, whose favorite character would be the 2000-year-old priestess Galenthias, who lives in the body of a cat and has taken up napping as a result.

Critical Survey of Graphic Novels: History, Theme, and Technique by Bart H. Beaty & Stephen Weiner (editors)

A "first" in the field, this brand new Critical Survey series focuses on all aspects of the graphic novels format, aiming to establish it as an important academic discipline and research topic in libraries. Designed for academic institutions, high schools, and public libraries, the series provides unique insight into the stories and themes expressed in historic and current landscape of the graphic novel medium.

The fourth set in this series, Critical Survey of Graphic Novels: History, Theme, and Technique, provides in-depth insight for over 65 themes and topics related to graphic novels. This single-volume subset contains both historical and social overviews-from the medium's beginnings in ancient times to the latest graphic novels that form today's "canon" for both coursework and library collections-as well as contextual topics such as anthropomorphism, the influence of film, and the genre of "Bible" in graphic novels. A wide spectrum of other genres is also presented in critical format, ranging from the nationalistic, such as Japanese manga and African graphic novels, to the traditional, such as Westerns, science fiction, and the archetypal superhero genre and mythos.

This set also provides insight into various aspects of the industry, from craftsmanship such as lettering, inking, and illustration styles, to the production and distribution of graphic novels and the significance and history of comic book conventions. This diverse and varied scope also delves into issues of readership and literacy, library collection development, and censorship.

As with earlier sets in this series, each essay will take a scholarly approach to the thematic constructs of the medium and look beyond the "pop culture" aspects of graphic novels to focus on theory, form, and function. In highlighting specific gravel novel traditions and complexities, readers and researchers alike will gain a deeper understanding of the medium and its growing presence in composition studies, curricula, and academic or vetted bibliotheca.

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Bad Houses by Sara Ryan, Carla Speed McNeil

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged coming of agegraphic novel

In the tiny Oregon town of Failin, the lumber company has closed and things are getting grim. Lewis lives with his mom, helping her run estate sales for room and board.  He is stuck in a rut and run down by her criticism, but can’t imagine a better life for himself. Anne is still in school, trapped with her mom in an increasingly claustrophobic home. When Anne goes to her first estate sale she discovers a life sadder than her own, and becomes addicted to others’ abandoned photo albums. Soon she is going to estate sales every weekend, nurturing a mutual crush with Lewis, and indulging in her compulsion to shoplift.

Why I picked it up: In addition to being the awesome author of Empress of the World and a kick-ass librarian, Sara is one of my favorite people. When she said she had a new graphic novel coming out, I was pleased. When she said it was about our favorite hobby, going to estate sales, I was intrigued. When she said it was being illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil, who did the amazing Finder series, I got downright excited. 

Why I finished it: I've always thought that I could never live in a small town because I couldn't stand everyone knowing my business. But I loved how this story unfolded to show that Failin had plenty of secrets. Each estate sale hints at a richer, more storied life than the family ever revealed to its neighbors. Then the contents of an abandoned storage unit reveal that Lewis's absent father is the missing piece from several of those stories, and it’s up to Anne to make the connections.

It's perfect for: My friend Susan, who found herself executor to the estate of a hoarder, and would really love how this book explores the fine line between collecting and compulsion.

The Last of Us: American Dreams by Faith Erin Hicks & Neil Druckmann

Nineteen years ago, a parasitic fungal outbreak killed the majority of the world’s population, forcing survivors into a handful of quarantine zones. Thirteen-year-old Ellie has grown up in this violent, postpandemic world, and her disrespect for the military authority running her boarding school earns her new enemies, a new friend in fellow rebel Riley, and her first trip into the outside world.

  • The official lead-in to the game from Faith Erin Hicks (The Adventures of Superhero Girl) and Naughty Dog’s Neil Druckmann!

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Jerusalem A Family Portrait by Boaz Yakin, Nick Bertozzi

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged graphic novelhistorical fiction

After Britain announced its plans to pull out of Palestine and the United Nations voted to authorize the creation of Israel, chaos ensued. The Halaby family was caught up in the tumult. The oldest sons had different political ideologies -- one was a communist, the other a zionist -- the mother was shrill and demanding, and the younger men in the family wanted to be useful to the war effort.

Based on interviews with writer Boaz Yakin’s father about the time period, he and illustrator Nick Bertozzi have created a graphic novel about the nascent Israel that is brutally honest about how families and countries alike were wrenched apart during the struggle to grab as much land as possible. (After the fighting ceased, the land that was controlled by each side would likely remain in those hands, so each tried to get as much land as possible.)

Why I picked it up: Bertozzi was the illustrator of two other non-fiction graphic novels that I thoroughly enjoyed, Houdini: The Handcuff King, and Lewis and Clark, so picking up this graphic novel was an easy choice.

Why I finished it: I didn’t know that the British were resented, hated, and attacked as occupiers, much like Americans were in Afghanistan and Iraq. Also, holocaust survivors, fresh from Europe, fought full-on battles against Palestinians who had also taken up arms to defend their land.

It's perfect for: Steve, who would be moved by the savage, un-romanticized illustrations of bodies ripped apart by explosions. The graphic novel format really helps convey the heartbreak and suffering on both sides of this conflict.

Ariol Volume 1 Just a Donkey Like You and Me by Emmanuel Guibert, Marc Boutavant
Ariol Volume 2 Thunder Horse by Emmanuel Guibert, Marc Boutavant

Link to this review by snow tagged graphic novelhumor

Ariol (a donkey) and his best friend Ramono (a pig) deal with their annoying classmates, silly teachers, clueless parents, and hopeless crushes. Whether they're reading about the exciting adventures of the superheroic Thunder Horse, trying to sleep in on a school day, or going on a field trip, every day is an adventure.

Why I picked it up: I liked Guibert's Sardine in Outer Space series.

Why I finished it: Ariol's delightfully skewed view of the world was charming and silly. He is undaunted when he fails to win the affections of the snobby Petunia or lands on top of his gym teacher when he tries to do a high jump. Guibert is known for being able to capture a child's point of view. I remember when I was a little girl having to fess up to breaking my mom's china doll, and I flashed right back to that experience when I read "Hide-and-Break," where Ariol and Ramono cause mini-disasters after Ariol's mom steps out of the house for a bit. There are many other “real” moments, from planting fake vomit to collecting stickers to pretending to be superheroes.

It's perfect for: Sherri at Park Road Books will love that Mr. Begossian, Ariol’s local bookseller, is such a nice guy, and be appalled when she laughs at what happens to him.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Volume One Change is Constant by Kevin Eastman, Dan Duncan

Link to this review by danritchie tagged graphic novelscience fictionsuperhero

Three years ago a rat named Splinter and four baby turtles were specimens in a top secret research project at Stockgen to create mutant reptiles as super ninja soldiers. Psychotropic drugs supplied by a General Krang were to be used to splinter the animals’ instinctual behaviors into a human-like cognition and mutate them into ninjas.

Named by a lab intern, the four turtles -- Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo -- were stolen by a gang headed by Old Hob, a mutated cat. Splinter foiled the theft by gouging out one of Old Hob's eyes and dragging the turtles into a sewer.  There, stunned by their fall, Raphael was whisked away by an alley cat, and the sudden shock of the fall caused the experiments to take their full effect.

Now with the ability to move and think like humans, Splinter and the three remaining turtles commit to refining their ninja skills and finding their brother.

Why I picked it up: I was aware of the popularity of the original series and thought it would be fun to see how this new version compared, and I am always looking to expand my exposure to the graphic novel genre.

Why I finished it: The seamless flow of the events three years ago with the present day and the turtles’ quest to find Raphael was a compelling, fun read. Splinter is their leader and father figure, and provides the calm and rationality the young ninjas need to succeed in their quest.

It's perfect for: My nephew, Adam, who will appreciate the understated simplicity of the illustrations. (He really hates busy, splashy manga.)

My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt

Link to this review by dawnrutherford tagged artcomic stripsgraphic novel

Somewhere in Lisa Hanawalt's hometown, her high school art teacher is telling his favorite oddball student that if they just stick to their dreams and create what they love, they can someday be a successful artist like Lisa. Even if those dreams are full of crazy stories about animals with human feet and bodies (better to wear funky clothes and weird shoes), long rambling reactions to movies with nutty illustrations (like James Franco with a banana tied to his head), and insane, made up rumors about celebrities (such as Anna Wintour playing practical jokes by making models dress up in giant flip-flops and pant-less gladiator costumes). Despite these proclivities, or perhaps because of her fearless indulging in them, Lisa is now a successful illustrator for newspapers, magazines, and websites, and an award-winning mini-comic book creator.  My Dirty Dumb Eyes collects some of the best of her work, tied together with eyeball-searingly colorful psychedelic spreads of lizards, dogs, and whatever other trippy thing she felt like drawing.

Why I picked it up: My friend Douglas recommended it, so I decided to give it a chance, despite it looking like the sort of "edgy" adult comics that have started giving me a headache lately.

Why I finished it: I don't remember the last time I laughed out loud so many times reading a book. Right off the bat there is a series of illustrations called “What Do Dogs Want??” that just had me rolling. I don't think you have to be a dog owner to appreciate how much they would love to "chase pigeons with hotdogs in their beaks" or to snort "the dried, powdered urine of other dogs."  Also, equally funny, though ultimately incredibly silly: Fashion Week - Animals in Hats!

It's perfect for: J, because I don't know anyone else who would so sincerely delight in some of the more messed up parts of this book like “Sex Fantasies Inspired by Movies” and the lizard made out of a cut-off penis, the latter of which reminded me of J’s bearded dragon named Kublai Dongs.

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