Graphic Novels/Manga

Bone: Out of Boneville

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Bone
Author
Smith, Jeff
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Bone is one of those comics I’ve always been aware of but haven’t gotten around to reading until now. It’s interesting how the visual style of the titular characters evokes an older style of comics, while the other characters in the world feel more modern. The storytelling runs at a pretty fast pace that kept me turning the pages to see what happens next. There’s some pretty good humor here, as well as tense situations to keep it from becoming too silly. I can definitely see the appeal and why it’s been a notable comic since its origins in the early 1990s.

My only qualm with this book has to do with the main characters. The three “Bones” feel out of place in the fantasy realm, let alone our world. It also took me a while to distinguish visually between Fone Bone and Phoney Bone, which was only aided because this book mostly follows Fone. These characters are quite expressive for their simple design, which helps. I understand their simple white design would make producing the (originally black and white) comic easier, but they’re so jarring when everything else is so detailed.

It's funny how the Japanese isekai genre has picked up in recent years, only to have been solidly pre-dated by Bone. The concept of a group of people being transported/lost in an unfamiliar fantasy world is a huge genre today. The fantasy world-building Jeff Smith does in this first volume definitely holds to a lot of fantasy tropes while also taking humorous turns that make the world unique. I’m glad I picked up the colorized version of this first volume and I’ll definitely be reading the next volume when I get the chance.

A bold take on the isekai genre in an American style, I give Bone, Vol. 1 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Nimona

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Nimona
Author
Stevenson, Noelle
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

It's a rare treat to find a graphic novel with well-rounded characters, an interesting story, and an art style that has range. Even if it started as a webcomic, Nimona shows a surprising amount of depth for the medium. Sure, some of the early parts were clearly encapsulated in a serial format, but they were a quick way to introduce the characters and setting. When the story has some room to grow, it gets even better. It's definitely a page-turner, and I devoured it as fast as I could.

The heart of Nimona is its characters. Flipping the hero's journey on its head and focusing on the villain's perspective was a fun touch. Nimona's chaotic nature was a fun contrast to Lord Ballister Blackheart, who just wanted to do his villainous revenge alone. Perhaps the biggest surprise was how naturally the book handles LGBTQ+ themes. None of it felt forced or odd, even in a science fantasy setting. It was just there, with no winking nods or awkward attention brought to it. Then again, it was also a fantastic adaptation of the "enemies to lovers" trope—or would it be "lovers to enemies"?

As someone who likes to write science fantasy stories, I absolutely loved the science fantasy setting. It has all the trappings of a medieval time, just with video chats, laser guns, and dragons co-existing in a way that makes perfect sense. This is the kind of thing I can completely get behind. If anything, I hope this book inspires more writers to jump into this genre, as I desperately want to read more books like this. It's like the best parts of sci-fi and fantasy brought together in an awesome (but also deeply moving) story.

A science fantasy graphic novel with excellent characters, story, and art, I give Nimona 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Solutions and Other Problems

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Solutions And Other Problems
Author
Brosh, Allie
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

My first introduction to Allie Brosh's work—as I'm sure is the case for many—was the "all the things" meme. For those looking for more depth from these drawings, look no further than the humorous illustrated memoir, Solutions and Other Problems. I have never quite read a book like this. When I picked it up off the shelf, I was expecting a graphic novel, only to be surprised with big chunks of text between illustrations. Clearly, the best of both worlds here. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll be glad you read this book.

While it might be easy to discount the simple drawing style at first glance, many illustrations in this book prove to be quite exquisite. The stories themselves, which are not all silly or humorous, aid this distinction. Solutions and Other Problems subverted my expectations by being both hilarious and deeply profound. I've never read a book that had both a story about an obsessed kid stealing things from a neighbor's house and an examination of loss and depression. And yet, they both work in this context.

As these essays are deeply personal, I can say I don't particularly agree with some of the choices presented here. And that's fine. Everyone is different, and these are definitely the stories the author wanted to convey. I just don't want to endorse this book without providing the caveat that I probably wouldn't do things the way the author did them. Still, if you're going through some tough times, then perhaps this book will help break through to you with its humor while also comforting you with the idea that your feelings are valid and shared by other people.

The best half-graphic novel/half-memoir I've ever read, I give Solutions and Other Problems 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Squirrels Just Wanna Have Fun

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Squirrels Just Wanna Have Fun
Author
North, Ryan
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

After reading the second collection of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, I was a little worried that this third collection would be more of the same. Comedic situations involving a variety of Marvel heroes and villains punctuated by some silly squirrel-based shenanigans. And while The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrels Just Want to Have Fun has these things, there was also a fair amount of character growth for the titular superhero.

I appreciated that this volume included some of the lore surrounding Squirrel Girl, especially since we've only seen her in modern settings in most of these issues. Knowing what it was like growing up as Squirrel Girl helped ground the character a little more and make her relatable. The arc where she teamed up with Ant-Man was also entertaining because of the change of scenery (everything is in New York, give Canada a chance!). Still, these comics were a bit "samey" to the rest of the ones in the previous two volumes.

What really struck me in this collection was the "flying squirrel" arc. Being unbeatable can become a bore after a while, so giving an antagonist that was clever enough to push Squirrel Girl to grow as a hero was a refreshing change. Perhaps my exposure to shonen-type mangas where the characters power up and grow stronger in each arc is what drew me to this story. Because while having the powers of and over squirrels is a neat trick, being able to fly is a significant upgrade to this superhero's arsenal of abilities. Plus, flying squirrels are inherently cool creatures anyway.

More Squirrel Girl adventures with good character growth added in, I give The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrels Just Want to Have Fun 4.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Snowpiercer - The Prequel Part 1: Extinction

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Snowpiercer - The Prequel: Part 1: Extinction
Author
Matz
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

One of the best original sci-fi movies to come out in the last decade, in my opinion, was Snowpiercer (2013). The story originated as a 1982 French graphic novel under the name of Le Transperceneige. While I haven't read the original source material, I decided that a prequel graphic novel was probably pretty safe to read. I figured the events leading up to the world ending and a perpetual train being launched wouldn't spoil anything for me (I also haven't seen the TV show either).

While it's only a scant 90 pages, part 1 of this prequel trilogy, Extinction, had nothing I didn't already know in it. Most of the plotlines in this book were fairly generic end-of-the-world-type stories. Each one obviously would lead to the last of humanity boarding this infinitely running train, which was no surprise. It probably didn't help that there weren't that many distinct characters to latch onto in this book to make it more relatable. I understand that it's laying the groundwork for the next two books, but it almost felt that this part of the prequel series was unnecessary.

Perhaps I'm more inclined to cleaner art in graphic novels I like to read. This book had a rough, almost sketch-like style I found to be unpolished. Maybe that was the feeling the illustrator was going for, but some scenes were hard to parse visually because of how dark and thick the lines were. Granted, I still want to go back and read the original graphic novel to see if the style fits better for the actual post-apocalyptic story. However, for this "real world" setting, the art style feels too heavy even for a pre-apocalypse story.

A somewhat unnecessary story with a heavy visual style, I give Snowpiercer - The Prequel Part 1: Extinction 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name
Benjamin W.

Book Review: The Magic Fish

Author
Trung Le Nguyen
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

This graphic novel has a really interesting way of storytelling- it has multiple stories running simultaneously that add depth to one another. The author uses fairy tales, like the Magic Fish, to represent the actual characters in the main story. It follows a young boy who struggles to tell his mother he is gay and he experiences a crush on one of his close friends. It touches on some sensitive topics but ends really sweetly. Another bonus is the gorgeous artwork and use of color in the different storylines. Despite being a quick read, it was meaningful and a good story.

Reviewer's Name
Lauren

Book Review: Less

Author
Greer, Andrew Sean
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The book Less follows a middle-aged, gay author named Arthur Less, and recounts his loves and losses from a third person point of view. His lover of many years, Freddy, leaves him for a more serious relationship, he goes on a trip around the world partly to avoid Freddy's wedding and his upcoming 50th birthday. The book explores themes such as love, heartbreak, self-doubt, fear of aging, and sexuality. In Less's journey, he discovers that he can't run from his fears by traveling across oceans, he must face them. A Pulitzer prize winner, the language in the book is mature and riddled with literary references spanning throughout history. The author uses many intricate metaphors to describe Less's situation, and then book ends with an incredible twist that will make your jaw drop. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes contemporary literature and wants a meaningful, yet entertaining read.

Reviewer's Name
Lauren

Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird

Author
Lee, Harper
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee explores themes of race, justice, and morality through the eyes of a young girl in a small Southern town. Set in the 1930s, the novel follows Scout Finch as she grows up and navigates the complex social and political landscape of Maycomb, Alabama. The plot of To Kill a Mockingbird is both compelling and emotionally resonant. Lee’s exploration of racism and prejudice is nuanced and insightful, offering a powerful critique of the social and political systems that perpetuate injustice. The trial of Tom Robinson, which forms the center of the novel, is both tense and heartbreaking, with Lee masterfully building tension and suspense as the case unfolds. This novel is very heavy in symbolism and encapsulates the perspective and voice of a young, naive girl very successfully. I enjoyed the wide variety of characters, bits of humor, and overall depth of meaning and thought that To Kill a Mockingbird provides. Overall, it was a very thought-provoking and deep read, perfect for classic lovers and those who enjoy realistic fiction.
Reviewer Grade: 11.

Reviewer's Name
Addison

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars

Author
Green, John
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

I love this book! The fault in our stars is a book that really tugs at the reader’s heart strings. The book starts off with a 16 year old named Hazel Grace meets a cancer survivor, Augustus Waters. Hazel and Augustus begin to fall in love, but they don’t want to share their feelings with one another. Throughout the novel, Hazel and Augustus share many similarities (an example being their favorite book and favorite author). This romance story is on another level. It’s heartbreaking and astonishing at the same time. Every time I turned the page, I did not want the story to end. The entire story is so well composed and the writing is absolutely breathtaking. John Green did such and amazing job writing this beautiful tale, you really feel like you’re in the story. The challenges and hardships Hazel and Augustus face lead them to new and better horizons. The Fault in Our Stars is an incredible romance novel that everyone should read one day. From the storyline to the imagery, this story is the best romance novel in my book.

Reviewer's Name
Abigail

Book Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Author
Kinney, Jeff
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

I absolutely love this book series. I started reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid when I was in elementary school when it got recommended to me by a friend. I have no regrets. Even today I still love reading these books. The art in them is exceptional and unique as well as the stories and writing. I have read everyone of these books in the series, but I still think that the first one is a classic.
Greg Heffley is an extremely unique character within the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. The author of this book gives Greg an almost “cartoony” personality. At first, I didn’t like Greg, but he definitely grew to become my favorite character in the book. The first book in this series introduces Greg and all of the characters and hardships they face. I would 100% recommend this series. If you want to start the series, read this one!
Reviewer Grade: 8

Reviewer's Name
Abigail