Tag: graphic novels

Review – Road of Bones

Posted February 2, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Road of Bones

Road of Bones

by Rich Douek, Alex Cormack, Justin Birch

Genres: Graphic Novels, Horror
Pages: 128
Rating: three-stars

Horror, history, and Russian folklore collide in this brutal survival tale, where the worst prison in the world is merely the gateway to even darker terrors.

In 1953, the Siberian Gulag of Kolyma is hell on Earth--which is why Roman Morozov leaps at the chance to escape it. But even if they make it out, Roman and his fellow escapees still have hundreds of miles of frozen tundra between them and freedom. With the help of a mysterious being straight out of his childhood fairy tale stories, Roman just might make it--or is the being simply a manifestation of the brutal circumstances driving him insane?

Rich Douek’s Road of Bones is horrifying, and it’s one of those stories that is horrifying more because of the humans in it than anything else. The art is heavy, dark, in a way that’s appropriate but erases the individuality of people: there’s only the brutality of the Gulag and the brutality it breeds in everyone. It doesn’t always make it easy to follow exactly who is talking and to whom, though, and sometimes that’s important.

It ends up being a very gory story, and a harsh message; in the end, it almost feels like a cop-out that there’s a supernatural element here, given the real history and the real ways humans can be absolutely terrible. It just feels a little too obvious. It’s not shying from the brutality, but it risks giving it an excuse. A reason other than “humans are flawed, especially under pressure”.

I can’t say it was enjoyable, given the topic, but it was fascinating.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – The Panic

Posted January 26, 2024 by Nicky in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Review – The Panic

The Panic

by Neil Kleid, Andrea Mutti

Genres: Graphic Novels, Science Fiction
Pages: 124
Rating: one-star

Ten strangers, trapped beneath the Hudson River, are forced to depend on their fellow commuters in order to survive an apocalyptic event. Those left must fight their way through more than rubble to make it to safety. But the darkness is closing in, and with it their own individual fears and paranoia. It’ll be a long road to the end of the tunnel…that is, if they don’t kill each other before they get there.

Neil Kleid’s The Panic follows ten characters who are thrown together by chance after a train crash. They’ve all been going about their normal lives, heading into New York for their own reasons, like heading to a protest. One guy’s wearing a MAGA hat, others are heading to a Black Lives Matter protest, etc. This is basically the conflict of the story: every five minutes they all stop to argue, as they are fundamentally incompatible and apparently incapable of putting that aside in a greater cause.

I found it all really difficult to follow, given the multiple interrupting speech bubbles — it felt sometimes like every page had one interruption. On the one hand, it’s a great way of representing the total Babel of people all talking at once at cross-purposes, but it hurt the story’s ability to feel coherent.

Overall, it just didn’t hang together well for me, and didn’t bring anything new to the genre of “sudden apocalyptic events throws a bunch of people together and it goes badly”.

Rating: 1/5

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Review – Heartstopper Volume Five

Posted January 23, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Review – Heartstopper Volume Five

Heartstopper vol. 5

by Alice Oseman

Genres: Graphic Novels, Romance
Pages: 336
Series: Heartstopper #5
Rating: four-stars

Nick and Charlie are in love. They’ve finally said those three little words, and Charlie has almost persuaded his mum to let him sleep over at Nick’s. He wants to take their relationship to the next level ... but can he find the confidence he needs?

And with Nick going off to uni next year, is everything about to change?

Volume 4 of Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper proved a bit too heavy for me, but that’s largely not the focus of volume 5 (fortunately). Not that it was a bad story, or a topic that was handled badly, or anything like that, but it just wasn’t what I needed at the time. Volume 5 starts the healing process, and features plenty of Nick and Charlie just getting to be teenagers, and do normal teenage things — including have sex.

It also features a bit of development for Charlie’s sister, which I think is referencing Solitaire? I know nothing about that novel, so seeing how Tori gets on isn’t something I’m super invested in, but on the other hand, it’s nice sometimes to see Nick and Charlie separate, especially given the next step that’s coming for them: long distance, as Nick goes to university…

As ever the art is cute, and the relationship between Nick and Charlie is adorable.

It’s worth noting that though this installment doesn’t go heavily into Charlie’s eating disorder issues, but that hasn’t been forgotten and at times it shadows how Charlie reacts to things and how he manages.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – The One Hundred Nights of Hero

Posted November 23, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – The One Hundred Nights of Hero

One Hundred Nights of Hero

by Isabel Greenberg

Pages: 224
Rating: four-stars

In the tradition of The Arabian Nights, a beautifully illustrated tapestry of folk tales and myths about the secret legacy of female storytellers in an imagined medieval world.

In the Empire of Migdal Bavel, Cherry is married to Jerome, a wicked man who makes a diabolical wager with his friend Manfred: if Manfred can seduce Cherry in one hundred nights, he can have his castle -- and Cherry.

But what Jerome doesn't know is that Cherry is in love with her maid Hero. The two women hatch a plan: Hero, a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers, will distract Manfred by regaling him with a mesmerizing tale each night for 100 nights, keeping him at bay. Those tales are beautifully depicted here, touching on themes of love and betrayal and loyalty and madness.

The One Hundred Nights of Hero is a fun take on the Scheherazade-type story, in graphic novel form. I quite enjoyed the art, though a few of the female characters who were mentioned very briefly aren’t very distinguishable from other female characters who are mentioned briefly (which is really kind of ironic, given the strong feminist bent of the story — though I’m not very good with noticing small details, so this is probably partly on me).

It’s not terribly original, but it works, and I enjoyed reading it. I did find the lettering and colouring a little distracting at times: it’s all very deliberately quirky and stylised, and sometimes it’s difficult for me then to know where I’m supposed to be following the panels, or to make out the text.

This feels like I’m damning it with faint praise, but I enjoyed myself reading it, and I’d happily give it as a gift or recommend it to people. It just didn’t completely blow me away the way it did some others.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Heartstopper Volume 3

Posted February 16, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Heartstopper volume 3 by Alice OsemanHeartstopper vol. 3, Alice Oseman

This series is just so more-ish and adorable. I can’t help but love both Charlie and Nick and their relationship. It’s not always perfectly fluffy and happy — bullying is a theme, and there are several instances of homophobia; in this volume, there’s also disordered eating and references to self-harm. But the two of them are great to each other, even as they’re feeling their way through a serious relationship for the first time, and navigating issues with parents, siblings, school friends and teachers.

This particular volume also features more development from some of their friends, including Tao and Elle… and also a cute little snippet of another potential love story between two of the teachers. None of the characters are perfect; they make mistakes and do stupid things… but they’re good, they show up for each other and they think over their issues and they learn. Even when they get things wrong (as Tao does in this volume, and arguably as Charlie does in trying to handle several situations), they’re not monsters… and even the worst characters have the potential to learn. It has such heart.

It’s also kind of nice to read something British, because the experience is close in some ways to what I had. Not all — I went to a tiny private school, and had no particular friends there… but still, there are things in common that are… not nostalgic, for all kinds of reasons — if I say everything I thought about my old school they’d probably want to sue me — but sort of like that. Study leave! School trip to France!

Rating: 5/5

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Review – Signal to Noise

Posted December 18, 2013 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Signal to Noise, by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKeanSignal to Noise, Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean

I got Signal to Noise from Netgalley, presumably for whatever release is current or about to happen. It’s not great, reading it on screen: the resolution wasn’t great, and I think it probably looks better as a bunch of two-page spreads.

Nonetheless, it tells a powerful story, and it’s a very thoughtful one: this isn’t a graphic novel in the sense of comics with superheroes and over-powered fight scenes, bulging muscles, etc. This is a meditation on art and death, and consequently life. I’m not the greatest fan of Dave McKean’s art here, but it worked for this particular story.

Not super-exciting, but more made for slow reflection.

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Review – Avengers: The Children’s Crusade

Posted November 19, 2013 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Avengers: The Children's Crusade, a Marvel comicAvengers: The Children’s Crusade, Allan Heinberg, Jim Cheung, Olivier Coipel, Alan Davis

Children’s Crusade is pretty awesome. It’s not exactly a pure Young Avengers comic — it’s definitely a crossover comic — but it does feature quite a lot of Billy being awesome, supported by the other Young Avengers, and a fair bit of Teddy being awesome. It also features their first (I think) on-page kiss, and is generally more blatant about their relationship than the other comics so far. There’s some awesome dialogue, and some lovely funny geeky bits about Billy and Teddy.

It also pulls in the X-Men, the Avengers, backlash from House of M, and features quite a few characters we know and love (or hate).

It’s also not without consequences, as even the Young Avengers lose people from their line-up.

On the other hand, I can see some other people’s problems with it: it seems to go back on some previous Marvel events and erase their consequences, and it really is one gigantic squabble between various superhero groups, with the teenage Young Avengers coming out as maybe the most mature.

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Review – Fun Home

Posted November 15, 2013 by Nicky in Reviews / 3 Comments

Cover of Fun Home, a graphic novel by Alison BechdelFun Home, Alison Bechdel

I first heard of Alison Bechdel through fandom and the Bechdel test. This is a simple way of evaluating the gender bias of a film:

1. It has to have at least two women in it,
2. who talk to each other,
3. about something besides a man.

Because it’s simple, it’s not always true. (Do Natasha Romanov, Pepper Potts and Maria Hill talk to each other in Avengers? No. Are they all female characters worth watching and identifying with? Yes.) But quite often, it is. (Sorry, Supernatural, but really. Really.)

I actually came round to reading anything of Alison Bechdel’s — beyond that simple strip that gave us those rules — through my comics and graphic novels course. I was only very vaguely aware that Alison Bechdel identifies as a lesbian, and not at all aware of her family story. Fun Home is essentially a memoir in comic form, though.

I enjoyed the literary allusions quite a lot, and I liked the art style as well. It’s not immensely ornate or anything like that, but it has feeling and personality. To say it has warmth is a bit of a stretch when you’re talking something that deals with such heavy topics and which has such an emotionally distant family at its heart, but you can feel for the characters. Fun Home feels like it was a catharsis for Bechdel, putting into words and images things she’d always felt and not voiced, making parallels that were helpful for her, figuring out links — even engaging in a bit of wishful thinking.

It’s interesting how, in my experience of reading this book, there were three levels of acceptance of gay people: not at all (Bruce Bechdel), as part of the women’s movement (Alison Bechdel) and as part of life (me). It opens a little window on what might have been my life. Not everything that Bruce Bechdel did could be excused, and I don’t want to assume too much about Alison Bechdel’s feelings, but I do feel lucky not to be trapped like Bruce and even Alison.

My coming out experiences with my parents…

ME: Mum, I’m bisexual and I’m dating Lisa.
MUM: Don’t cut your hair! You know sexuality is a continuum, right? I don’t want you to label yourself just because of something you’re feeling right now.

[Some years later]

ME: Dad, if you haven’t noticed that me and Lisa are dating, you’re possibly a bit stupid.
DAD: I didn’t.
ME: Oh. Well, we are.
DAD: Okay.

I do still needle my mum about the stereotyping behind “don’t cut your hair” (it was my pride and joy at the time, waist length and thick and a little bit curly — and I’ve since cut my hair pretty short, and she likes it), but… thank goodness for my family and the fact that there was no one walking in front of a bread truck.

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What Are You Reading Wednesday

Posted October 30, 2013 by Nicky in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Reza Aslan’s Zealot was the last thing I finished, and before that it was Fables vol. 3: Storybook Love, by Bill Willingham et al. I’m really ambivalent about the Fables series, somehow: I’m interested and I want to see where it goes, but when I read other people’s criticism, I can’t help but agree. It uses some tired old tropes, and the stories often feel banal. Still, there’s something in the sheer interest of watching characters from fables navigate the “real” world, and in recognising them and guessing ahead how their unique properties will affect the story.

What are you currently reading?
I’m mostly trying to work on ARCs that I still owe reviews for, so I’m currently reading David Hoffman’s Seven Markets. The structure is a little awkward, but it remains to be seen whether that ends up working for the story or not. I still have my “book prescription” to read, too, Christine Ingham’s Panic Attacks; I think I’ve barely started it. There’s a lot of other books I’m technically partway through… Oh, I did start The Unexpected Mrs Pollifax, by Dorothy Gilman, which is fun enough but not really keeping my attention.

What do you think you’ll read next?
I think I’ll be trying to finish Seven Forges (James A. Moore), from my ARCs list. Although I just got a couple of new ones, and I’m very tempted by Strange Chemistry’s The Almost Girl (Amalie Howard)…

Books acquired:
I think it might be none. I got the latest issue of Young Avengers in the last week, I’m sure, but other than that, I really think it might be none. My most recent ARCs were The Almost Girl, The Cormorant (Chuck Wendig), Iron Wolves (Andy Remic), and Shadowplay (Laura Lam).

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