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Staff Book Reviews by Genre: Graphic Novels/Manga

Faith Vol. 1: Hollywood & Vine
Houser, Jody
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Faith and the Renegades have just saved the world from a supervillain - but that fight didn't come without a price. The Renegades have now split up and are doing their own thing. Faith's ex, for example, is now starring in his very own reality tv show! Faith herself is posing as a Buzzfeed (ok, Zipline) writer by day whilst saving Los Angeles as a hero named Zephyr by night. Can she juggle a job and saving the city all by her lonesome?

I came into this comic without having read anything at all about the Renegades, and that was fine - you definitely didn't need prior knowledge of the Renegades to enjoy this comic. Faith was extremely likable; I think most readers, especially those of the lady-type variety, would see something of themselves in Faith. The real draw here, for me at least, was that Faith was not just a woman superhero, but a fat woman superhero which, needless to say, is something of a rarity. I really liked the way her body size was treated in the book. Faith is comfortable in her own skin and unapologetic about that to the point where her body size wasn't even really a thing. Which, in this reader's opinion, is how it should be.

The story itself was your standard superhero fare. After an initial mission of SAVING PUPPIES, Faith finds herself looking for other, possibly powered children that have been disappearing from the city. The artwork was really good, though I found it to be quite similar to that of other hero focused graphic novels. Faith has these amazing fantasy/dream sequences, and I preferred the art in those sequences to the main art as it was a bit more whimsical and different. I preferred the cover artist (look at that cover - so cute!) to both.

This would be a great intro to the superhero comic world for those that are interested but haven't given it a try. Otherwise, it was nothing special, but if the superhero genre is your thing, I don't think you'll be disappointed. 3 stars - I liked it!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
The Wicked + the Divine, Vol. 1: The Faust Act
Gillen, Kieron
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

This series is really a must-read for fans of modern fantasy, mythology and pop culture. The Wicked + the Divine takes place in a world where a phenomenon called the Recurrence occurs every 90 years, causing a Pantheon of twelve deities from across human cultures to awaken within the bodies of young adults, granting them tremendous superhuman abilities. They will be loved, they will be hated, but two years after awakening, they will all be dead. The year is 2014 and the Recurrence has come again, and this new crop of gods blurs the line between the way deities were worshipped in ancient times and the way humankind worships its popular icons in the modern day. Though they are reincarnations of figures from antiquity- Lucifer, Woden, and Minerva, for example- their personas and appearances invoke modern musical icons like Daft Punk, David Bowie and Prince, and their worshippers stalk their instagram feeds and attend sold-out concert-like performances of their miracles.

However, all is not divine within the ranks of the Pantheon. Skeptics dismiss their claims of "godhood" and "miracles" as delusions, hallucinations or special effects, and point to the last Recurrence - which took place during the 1920s - as the product of the same sort of hoax as those performed under the umbrella of Spiritualism during that era. And, these new gods have all the hormones, the petty selfishness and the capriciousness of the teenagers and young adults they used to be, only now they have superhuman powers at their fingertips, and the weight of the knowledge that for all their strength they will all die before two years have passed. The mysterious goddess Ananke, who exists outside the cycle of the Pantheon, is the only being who seems to understand the forces at work behind the Recurrence, and she acts as something of a guiding light for the gods, though a cryptic and guarded one, at best. Into this tumultuous mix enters Laura, our narrator, a god-obsessed superfan who idolizes the Pantheon to the point of distraction. Though Laura wants nothing more in this life than to be a god herself, she settles for attending their tours, buying their merchandise and following them obsessively on social media, getting as close to them as she possibly can. That is, until she unexpectedly befriends the young Lucifer at a concert and finds herself suddenly drawn into the beautiful, deadly and miraculous world of intrigue that surrounds the members of the Pantheon.

This comic is incredible, both in terms of its writing and worldbuilding, and its art, which is both stunning and incredibly consistent. It is also a wonderful example of diversity and inclusiveness in what is, essentially, a superhero comic - Laura is part of a loving biracial family, Lucifer is a polyamorous, genderfluid woman who is a dead ringer for Bowie, and representation of queer characters, women and people of color abound. I collect this comic religiously (hah!) in both its individual issues and its trades, and I really cannot recommend it enough. However, when our rating says M/Mature, we MEAN it. While there isn't much in the way of graphic sexual content, there is some gore, frequent adult language, and a whole lot of adult situations.

Reviewer's Name: Matt H.
Awards:
Swamp Thing: Volume 1, Raise Them Bones
Snyder, Scott
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Swamp Thing: Volume One, Raise Them Bones" is the beginning of Scott Snyder (author) and Yanick Paquette (illustrator)’s visceral, mythic run on the comic, which I recommend heartily to fans of horror/grotesque gothic stories.

Detailing the eternal conflict between the Green (plant life), the Red (animal life) and the Rot that would consume and twist everything, Snyder’s interpretation of Swamp Thing is full of haunting imagery and interesting worldbuilding. Later on, the comic run is taken over by Charles Soule, who does a lovely (albeit very different) job carrying on the story.

For now, though – renowned botanist Alec Holland has been chosen by the Green to shed his humanity and become their knight. Will he go willingly? And what will become of him now that he’s been claimed, whatever he chooses to do?

Warnings:

-- This book is suited for older audiences, in my opinion, and definitely not children. The illustrations are often what one might call “graphic.” Be warned. It is something of a horror comic.
-- If you like this first volume and keep on with the series, just know that during the Rotworld arc, "Swamp Thing" crosses over with Jeff Lemire’s "Animal Man." It may behoove readers to pick up "Animal Man: Volume Three, Rotworld," at least, in order to get a complete look at the story. :)

Reviewer's Name: Kate
Wonder Woman: Volume 1, Blood
Azzarello, Brian
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Real Rating: 4.5, rounded up. 6 stars for the Olympians!! Not so many stars for Orion and some of the other creative choices here regarding Diana's origins (that's personal, though -- you may disagree with me.) BUT THE OLYMPIANS, THOUGH.

Brian Azzarello’s work isn’t always my cup of tea, but I have to say I really appreciate a lot about his recent run on Wonder Woman, beginning with “Wonder Woman Volume One: Blood.” A lot of my appreciation for this comic stems from its creative portrayals of the Greek gods – Dionysus can twist the world as a proper god of madness, Apollo is made out of sizzling magma-ish sun stuff, with an obsidian skin hardened over his fiery insides, and Artemis is literally shaped out of fluid moonlight. It’s gorgeous, and a ton of fun. If you love Greek folklore but have always wanted to see Poseidon represented as a barnacle-crusted sea monster, this may be the perfect series for you. Cliff Chiang's art is also very modern and playful, which fits the optimistic tone of the book perfectly. Diana is fierce and loyal, here, a heroine truly worthy of the name “Wonder Woman.” Some of the characters didn't mesh with me so well (>:( I'm looking at you, Orion!!! Augh!!) but despite that I eagerly awaited every volume of this series as I was reading it, so… Consider it hereby recommended for the fun-factor alone. Watch Hera try ice cream for the first time! Watch Artemis run rampant through a tube station! ALL IN DC COMICS CANON! Yes!

Reviewer's Name: Kate
Awards:
Grayson: Volume 1, Agents of Spyral
Seeley, Tim
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

"Grayson Volume One: Agents of Spyral" (by Tom King and Tim Seeley, illustrated by Mikel Janin), gifts readers with a remarkable glimpse into Richard Grayson's head. Formerly Robin, formerly Nightwing but CURRENTLY (as of this comic :P) infiltrating a super-secret web of spies at Batman's behest, Grayson of the acrobatics and charming banter has been tossed into an unfamiliar world of misdirection and the coldest of cold scheming. Here, the agency's morally twisted Hypnos implants allow spies to sneak memories and emotions into unsuspecting human minds, as well as alter their own appearances at will. Here, the former Boy Wonder plays at a dangerous balancing act, pretending to be a loyal to his new director -- a man who always technologically blurs out his own face -- even while living by the codes and ideals he learned from Batman on the rooftops of Gotham. At least in Gotham, the rot and criminal horror of things is plastered right there on the surface, and Richard has a decent enough idea who he can trust... And who he, himself, actually is.

I cannot recommend King and Seeley's Grayson run highly enough, to be honest. It's playful and funny one minute, and then genuinely heart-wrenching the next. It might be in part my affection for dear Mr. Grayson as a character, but... Coming from someone who doesn't usually enjoy spy stories, this series is EXCELLENT. I know it won't be everybody's cup of tea, but if you're interested at all in Robin/Nightwing/the guy who can be both sometimes, when it's needed, you might really get into this series.

Reviewer's Name: Kate
Through the Woods
Carroll, Emily
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

“Through the Woods” by Emily Carroll is a comic book collection of whimsically morbid fairy-tales, each mostly self-contained but serving what I would call an important, human theme: the uncanny waits, and surrounds, especially where you wouldn’t expect it. I love the stark yet evocative art throughout this book, and some of the stories did manage to surprise me. I personally love testaments to the monsters under our beds, particularly those intended for adults, and if you do, too, you may carry something interesting away from this collection. At any rate, the art is gorgeous, feeling “classic” even as it’s so unique.

Reviewer's Name: Kate
Batman Volume One: The Court of Owls
Snyder, Scott
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo are each AMAZING in DC's just-ended Batman run, starting with "Batman Volume One: The Court of Owls." Seriously, amazing. These books are morbid and playful, working with Batman's psyche and the twisted fairy-tale that is Gotham in a way I think works really, really well. Bruce Wayne feels fully-realized and complicated, as a character, and a great many of the Bat Family get a chance to shine. I personally love Snyder's take on Batman's ensemble of villains, from the Joker (don't worry, he'll show up soon) to the infamous Crazy Quilt (yes, I'm serious.) The "Court of Owls" introduced in this first volume adds yet another layer of rot to this already twisted city, wonderfully developing both the Wayne family history and Gotham as a symbol. I'll leave you with a nursery rhyme repeated throughout the Court of Owls arc, to give you a feel for what sort of story is waiting for you here: "Beware the Court of Owls, that watches all the time, Ruling Gotham from a shadowed perch, behind granite and lime. They watch you at your hearth, they watch you in your bed. Speak not a whispered word of them, or they'll send the Talon for your head." Come on! If that isn't a recipe for fun Batman shenanigans, I don't know what is. :)

Reviewer's Name: Kate
Awards:
The Vision Vol. 1, Little Worse than a Man
King, Tom
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

Writer Tom King and illustrator Gabriel Hernandez Walta come together to make something really unique and thought-provoking in "The Vision Volume One: Little Worse than a Man." Here, Vision of the Avengers is trying to make a human family for himself, tucked into an unsuspecting suburb in Virginia. He used Wanda Maximoff's brainwaves to build himself a wife (because THAT can't possibly go badly, right?) and has combined their code to form two children, Vin and Viv, who will be learning what it is to be an artificial life even while having to attend public school. Despite this potentially sitcom-esque set up, the Vision family presents readers with a very dark, pensive future indeed, full of melancholic narration that borders on poetry. This series is about identity, and good intentions gone horribly awry, and what it is to be human... More, what it is to crave humanity from the outside, crave it so desperately that you will do monstrous things for its sake. (I know that theme might feel a tad overdone, given how often it appears in stories about robots, but I think this comic handles it in a refreshing way. :D)

Anyhow, some of my friends who don't even like comic books waited eagerly for the monthlies on this series as it was coming out... It's definitely atmospheric, and stirring, and sad, though it also features a cheerful robotic puppy and some tongue in cheek dark humor. It's not a HAPPY comic, but it's a valuable one.

Reviewer's Name: Kate
Tokyo on Foot: Travels in the City's Most Colorful Neighborhoods
Chavouet, Florent
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I read this book twice! I made a one-month trip to Japan, and this book had come up when I was looking for guidebooks about Tokyo. Once I started reading, I could read through it in several hours. The author is from France and lived in Tokyo for half a year. He describes what he experienced in colorful illustrations with animated characters. His observations were very keen in details, and location spots marked by the major train routes and police stations will let you know that Tokyo would be a fun and safe (and curious) place to visit. After my trip I checked it out again to assimilate my experiences. It was great to review my memories there. Thank you, author!

Reviewer's Name: Chi I.
Monstress: Volume 1, Awakening
Liu, Marjorie M., Sana Takeda, and Rus Wooton
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Monstress follows Maika Halfwolf, a hybrid human/monster called an "Arcanic", as she tries to free fellow Arcanics from human cruelty and avenge her mother's death at the hands of a powerful group of human witches. Oh yeah, and Maika herself keeps turning (at least partially) into an old-world style monster that kills almost everything in its sight, regardless of whether they are friend and foe. As we follow Maika in her quest for revenge, we get flashbacks that inform us of her motivations and murky past.

This was definitely one of my favorite graphic novels of the year.

Maika is a layered anti-hero with a disability (she's missing an arm). I liked her more and more the more I learned about her. She's not shy about killing people, though, hence the anti-hero label. In fact, she's probably more of a villain than an anti-hero, but that really only added to the story for me. I mean, this title earns its "M" rating. It's very very bloody. Maika does not do nice things to her enemies.

The art was GORGEOUS. SO PRETTY. I'm fairly new to graphic novels, but this just might be the best art that I've seen. The cover is actually relatively simple compared to the insanely intricate steampunk/art deco panels on the inside. Art lovers, check this book out for the artwork alone (but be prepared for a rather gory experience).

So even though I very obviously loved this title, it was not perfect. Like in many graphic novels, there is little by way of introduction to the characters, and you are just thrown right into the story with background info being filled in later. Because the world-building was so complex, I found myself having to read certain parts several times (or having to revisit prior pages/storylines). This could just be a me thing because I have this problem in a lot of graphic novels, but I also found some of the action scenes to be incomprehensible.

I can't believe I almost forgot this amazing detail, but there are talking cats. You know what makes almost every story better? A talking cat.

This was definitely an excellent read. Graphic novel fantasy lovers, you would be remiss to not check this book out (but stay away if you don't like blood). 4 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
 Superman, Volume 1: Before Truth
Yang, Gene Luen
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

In this Superman comic written by Gene Yang, Superman is being blackmailed by a mysterious agency (or person) called HORDR. He's also got a new ability (solar flare) that destroys everything in his immediate vicinity, but that leaves him human/vulnerable for the 24 hours immediately following the flare's use.

Even though this is labeled "Volume I", the issues in it are marked as 40-46. As such, the first issue was super confusing. It took me a hot minute to figure out what was happening, but basically, the Justice League was testing Superman's new power: solar flares. Honestly, you could skip it and be fine.

Anyway, so after that bizarre first issue, we enter the main story. I think it's my fav Supes story (I mean, it's the first one I've read, but I've seen *some* of the movies), just because in my opinion, Superman is usually a little over powered (OP), which makes him a lot less interesting as a character. It was nice to see him being a human, and we get a few cute moments as a result (hangover!). The story has a nice, easy to follow progression, the characters (for the most part) act in ways that make sense, and the last issue leaves the door WIDE open for future issues. If you have no knowledge of Superman, it would be really hard to follow. Movie watchers will be fine, but if you are totally new to Superman, start elsewhere.

This might be really stupid, but I hated Superman's costume update. The jeans just looked silly. Like, go full tights/ridiculous superhero costume, man, or just do nothing at all. Also, like, shave or don't shave, don't walk around with that spiky stubble all the time, it's distracting.

Somehow worse costume aside, I liked this Superman story, and I'll likely check out the next volume. 3 stars - it was pretty good.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Stitches
Small, David
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is an autobiographical graphic novel of the author, David Small. The book focuses on his early childhood to early adulthood. It shows the progression of his relationship with his father, a doctor, and his mother, a homemaker in a very reserved and controlling dysfunctional household. As a young man, he ends up with a tumor on his neck that is removed but damages his vocal cords, and doctors say he won't speak again. Along the way, he discovers who his family and himself are and finds out more than he bargained for.

This book is very dark and the color scheme is perfect for the tone of this book as well, using black, white, and shades of gray primarily. The art is contemporary in its quality and color scheme but has a more retro feel to its style of art as well, especially in the faces, which gives it the feel of the era the book was set in. This book is the type of book you would be able to, and due to its page turn-ability you likely will, finish in one sitting. It's easy to get invested and feel all the emotions and heartbreak of the author along the way. It can be a bit hard to read since it is darker in its focus and has a realistic feel. It also has a few twists and turns along the way which help keep you even more entranced by the book. I really enjoyed reading it as a change of pace for myself since I typically deal in a bit lighter fair in terms of topics. It addresses issues of mental illness and controlling behavior well without being preachy or self pitying. I might not read this book again but I certainly won't forget it either. If you like dark, realistic graphic novels, this just might be your next favorite book!

Reviewer's Name: Will
Spy vs Spy Danger! Intrigue! Stupidity!
Prohias, Antonio
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

This is a republished work from The All New Mad Secret File On Spy vs Spy. Prohias' compendium of the popular comic strip Spy vs Spy, which appears in MAD Magazine, does not disappoint the Spy vs Spy fandom. Done with great detail and care, each story takes an unexpected turn and you never REALLY know which of the two spies, black or white, will actually be the victor of that particular strip. They all end creatively, typically humorously, and you'll never know how the story will develop.

Prohias is originally a refugee from Cuba and after receiving death threats from Fidel Castro moved to the USA. While it's easy to be caught up in the simplicity of this wordless story, it also is an allegory for the struggle and fruitlessness of the Cold War in the opinion of the author. I love both its simplicity and complexity contained within just a few drawings. Both those who are looking for an easy laugh and those looking for more than that should be satisfied by this collection.

The panels have been blown up so you can really soak in all the detail and hard work Prohias has put into each strip. This can either be interpreted as a good or bad thing. Individuals who are familiar with the strip might enjoy it more since you can really see all the details and take your time examining each panel, taking in all the details that MAD Magazine is famous for. That said, since each page takes up a whole panel what originally took up an eighth of a page can now last five or six full pages of the book. I could see how this could be frustrating for those who are used to graphic novels/comics that are jammed packed. Again, the beauty is in the seeming simplicity of this strip with the underlying complexity, whether it be the story or the art itself. I'd recommend fully for those who are familiar with the strip, while, if you are a Spy vs Spy novice, I might suggest something a bit denser to get a better feel for the comic. Four Stars.

Reviewer's Name: Will
The Nameless City
Hicks, Faith Erin
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Kaidu is new to the Nameless City. This is a city so frequently conquered that no name, despite thousands, sticks. He's trying to become a warrior, make friends, and know his father but all three tasks seem unlikely for the shy boy. Then he meets Rat, a street-smart girl who has the ability to think on her feet and run quickly. They form a friendship and manage to save their city from an upcoming threat that could change who runs the city. Fans of Avatar the Last Airbender comics or TV show would adore this series. It's new, it's refreshing, and follows an interesting and still developing story arch. I couldn't put it down as I turned page after page of beautiful illustration and compelling story. There are many cultures at war with one another in the still, albeit temporarily, peaceful city. The first in the series, I look forward to watching the story take shape and tackle complex issues about identity, war, friendship, and trust. It was really enjoyable and I highly recommend it!

Reviewer's Name: Meagan H.
Rivers of London: Body Work
Aaronovitch, Ben
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Peter Grant is part of the Special Assessment Unit, a police group in London that is called in to investigate the weirder cases. And the first case is pretty weird - it seems like there are a few cars in London that have developed a murderous bent. Grant and crew do their best to figure out what is going on...before someone else finds themself dead at the hands of their car.
This was really fun! The mystery was different from anything I've ever read, the world building happened quickly but thoroughly, and the characters were likable. While not spectacular, the art was pretty and made the story easy to follow. Oh, and major bonus, the characters were diverse! I liked this one enough that I just put the regular novel Peter Grant books on hold, and I'll definitely be checking out all future graphic novel installments. Harry Dresden fans, check this series out ASAP!

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Green River Killer: A True Detective Story
Jensen, Jeff
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

This graphic novel follows Tom Jensen, the author's father, as he hunts the Green River Killer. The story oscillates between the story of catching the Green River Killer (mostly set in the 80s in Seattle) and the post-catching pre-trial interviews with Gary Ridgway. Needless to say, it's a fascinating perspective.

I tend to prefer graphic novels with color, but I thought the artwork in this was great. The artist manages to capture the expressions of the different (real) characters, which led to some very chilling panels. However, the story jumped around in such a way that was confusing - it would often take me a few panels to realize that there was a time jump or perspective switch or whatever.

Overall, this was a pretty gripping read. I'd recommend it to fans of true crime novels.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More
DeConnick, Kelly Sue
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review:

I don't always like the first volume of a graphic novel series as the world-building can be confusing - but I really enjoyed this one! Volume 1 tells a nice story with a beginning, middle and end, and it's a great intro to the Captain Marvel story. Captain Marvel's origin story was rather hilariously told by Kit, a child, in 4 panels at the end of the first issue, and it just sounds nuts. But even with almost no previous exposure to the character, I was immediately hooked and was able to fall in line with Carol Danvers and and her crew with minimum confusion. Also, Danvers has a cat (or possible ferkin). Named Chewie. Be still my heart.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Awards:
Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy
Cloonan, Becky
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review:

Olive Silverlock is back at Gotham Academy after a summer off - a summer that she barely remembers. With the help of her ex-boyfriend's little sister "Maps", Olive and crew are trying to oust a mysterious ghost before the ghost makes Gotham Academy uninhabitable for the living.

I wanted to like this title more than I actually ended up liking it. It started out with a bang - I found the first issue to be delightful - and then stumbled a bit after that. Even though I enjoyed the art, premise and
characters, I found the story itself to be wanting. Lots of potential here, and hopefully it will be more fully realized in future volumes.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Jessica Jones: Alias Vol. 1
Bendis, Brian Michael
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

I read the book because I loved the Netflix series, and while I'm not sure that I loved the graphic novel series, I'm totally enjoying it so far. It's similar to the Netflix series in character, though pretty different in plot. Matt Murdock and Luke Cage show up, as does Captain America (Steve Rogers flavor). Sadly, there's no Patsy so far. Carol Danvers (AKA Captain Marvel) seems to be fulfilling that role for the time being. Overall, I found it to be an enjoyable noir graphic novel series with a strong female protagonist.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
Cliff, Tony
4 stars = Really Good
Review:

Delilah Dirk. Globetrotting troublemaker. If that doesn't grab you, move on.

This is a really fun adventure story. Set in the early 1800s in Turkey, the book begins with Delilah Dirk springing herself from a Turkish prison, recruiting her prisoner as an adventurer, and then heading off (on a flying ship, no less) to get vengeance on an evil pirate overlord.

I rated it 4 stars because I couldn't always follow the action sequences, but overall, the art is gorgeous and the characters well-developed. If you haven't tried a graphic novel before, this could be a great one with which to start!

Reviewer's Name: Britt

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