Comic Books

REVIEW: They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott and Harmony Becker

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard. They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalised racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

It sounds cliché to say reading They Called Us Enemy was a rollercoaster of emotions, but it was. It was infuriating to hear about some of the politicians and lawyers who set in motion the anti-Japanese sentiment have gone onto having very successful careers. It was sad to see what George’s parents went through and how they struggled to keep their family together and to do the best thing for them all. And it was wonderful to see that hope can survive in even the most terrible of circumstances, and how there are people who will help others even though they themselves may get hurt. I felt myself tear up multiple times reading They Called Us Enemy. Some tears were due to sadness and frustration that people were treated like this (and are still being treated like this) while other tears were of the joy of seeing George Takei meet with Gene Roddenberry and how Star Trek really had such a positive impact on George and the world.

They Called Us Enemy does a great job of showing both how a child would deal with having to leave their home and live in confined spaces with strict rules, and how adults would be scared because they have a better understanding over what is happening to them. There’s the childlike innocence about a lot of George’s experience, at least to begin with in some camps where they were obviously not pleasant but not as harsh as their later experiences.

I learnt so much about the internment of Japanese Americans from this book. I first heard about this event in history through following George Takei on Twitter, he said something about it that got me googling and I learnt about something I’d never heard of before when I was in my early twenties. A lot of quotes and moments in They Called Us Enemy will stick with me, but one that really stood out was: “That remains part of the problem – that we don’t know the unpleasant aspects of American history and therefore we don’t learn the lesson those chapters have to teach us. So we repeat them over and over again.”

I suppose I have the “excuse” of being British and growing up in the UK that I didn’t learn bout this part of American history in school, in fact in History class we barely touched on the attack on Pearl Harbour and it’s just the catalyst for America joining the war. Naturally all our history is UK-focused. But still, as George Takei says, it’s important to know our history – both the good and the bad – so we don’t make the same mistakes again.

They Called Us Enemy is an important and impactful book but it’s also a compelling story with wonderful art that perfectly captures the innocence of childhood. They Called Us Enemy is definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone, whether they were a fan of George Takei or not. His childhood is, unfortunately, the childhood of tens of thousands Japanese Americans and it’s a story of 120,000 people that must be heard. 5/5.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Favourite Books I Read in 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. And so another year comes to an end so it’s time to look back at the books I read this year and figure out what were my favourites. Without further ado, in no real particular order, here’s my favourite books of 2019 and I’ve linked back to my reviews (if I reviewed them that is!).

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
The Exact Opposite of Okay was one of the first books I read this year and it has stuck with me since then. I thought it handled the subject of revenge porn so well while still having a main character that was sarcastic and strong while still hurting. Think this (and its sequel which is also great) will be all-time favourites.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
I’m probably one of the last people to read this book but I definitely got why Children of Blood and Bone received so much hype. It was a gripping magical adventure and though I didn’t like the romance at all, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Safe as Houses by Simone van der Vlugt
This was a creepy thriller and one where it was so tense and that all hope seemed to be lost for so long that I wasn’t even sure if everything would turn out OK in the end.

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Considering I found The Shadow of the Wind tough to get through (enjoyable but slow-going) I found The Angel’s Game to be so readable. I loved the mystery, the setting and how it linked to The Shadow of the Wind.

The Runaway Jury by John Grisham
I’d not read a John Grisham book before but this one was great. It was gripping and intriguing and I was never really sure how the central court case would end up.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
This is the kind of book that makes me want to read more science-fiction. The characters, the setting, the writing; it was all so good. I want to read the next books in this sort-of series but as I’m so bad at reading series we will see how soon that happens!

Internment by Samira Ahmed
This book was tough to get through at times because it unfortunately felt so close to our reality. It was a gripping book though with characters you couldn’t help but root for.

Roger Federer & Rafael Nadal: The Lives and Careers of Two Tennis Legends by Sebastián Fest
I went to the Laver Cup in Geneva and had such an amazing time watching tennis legends Federer and Nadal play. Before I went, I read this book and found it a fascinating insight into the two of them and their legacies.

Old Man Hawkeye Volumes 1 and 2 by Ethan Sacks, Marco Checchetto, Andres Mossa, Francesco Mobili and Ibraim Roberson
I didn’t read a lot of graphic novels or comics this year, but I did read all of the Old Man Hawkeye series. It’s a prequel to Old Man Logan (which I also really liked) and I thought it did a great job at connecting to story while adding new things. Plus, it focussed on Hawkeye, an older-version of Hawkeye but one that still is Clint Barton deep down.

What are some of your favourite books you read this year?

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Winter TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week it’s what books we plan to read this winter. I’m not particularly a seasonal mood reader but here are a mixture of books I’d like to read before 2019 finishes and books I want to get to early in the New Year.

The Good Muslim by Tahmima Anam
I really want to hit 100 books read for my Read the World Project by the end of 2019 and I’m really close (I’ve read 98 books/countries) and The Good Muslim is a book that’s recently come into my life and it will cross off Bangladesh from my TBR. The Good Muslim is about two siblings who have been scarred by war and how they attempt to reconnect.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I’ve had this book on my TBR for years, probably since it was first released and got all of its praise. I recently got the audiobook cheap so I’m hoping that’ll give me the push to finally read it.

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott and Harmony Becker
Graphic novels are always a good way to get more books read before the year is out. I’m sure this will be a tough one though as it’s based on George Takei’s childhood experiences in a internment camp.

Night, Again edited by Linh Dinh
This is a short story collection from different Vietnamese writers so theoretically it should be a relatively quick read.

How To Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis
I received this through TBTBSanta a few years ago and I still really want to read it. It’s an essay collection about the roles of literary heroines in our lives and how their stories can impact us.

Only God Can Make a Tree by Bertram Roach
Another one for my Read the World Project this book is by an author form Saint Kitts and Nevis and it’s a pretty short book at less than 150 pages.

Black Panther: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 by Christopher Priest, Mark Texeria, Vince Evans, Joe Jusko, Mike Manley, Mark Bright and Sal Velluto
I got this graphic novel collection for my birthday a few months ago and it’d be good to read it soon. Plus, T’Challa is one of my favourite Marvel characters so I would like to learn more about his history.

The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne
Contemporary YA, even hard-hitting YA, is often very easy and quick for me to read so maybe I’ll get through this one before the end of the year.

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies) curated by Scarlett Curtis
I do like reading essay collections as they can be something you can dip in and out of, I think that’s how I’ll read this book over the next few months.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
I got this book in a subscription box years ago and I did try to read it then, but I couldn’t really get into it. Since then I’ve heard more and more good things about this series, so I want to give it another go.

What books do you want to read this winter?

MINI COMIC REVIEWS: Jessica Jones Vol. 1, Tales of Suspense: Hawkeye & the Winter Soldier and FABLES: Cubs in Toyland

Jessica Jones Vol. 1: Uncaged! by Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Gaydos and Matt Hollingsworth

Newly released from prison, Jessica Jones has got a lot of problems. Her latest client wants her to investigate her husband, who thinks he’s from another universe, and Jessica’s own husband, Luke Cage, wants to know where their daughter is. Jessica’s got a lot on her plate when a new threat appears, one that wants to destroy all heroes.

I liked how this book managed to keep Jessica Jones and her story relatively grounded, while still having cameos from other superheroes like Jessica Drew aka Spider-Woman and Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. It made Jessica and her PI business a part of the wider superhero world, but it also shows how Jessica is constantly fighting against the title of “hero” and being a part of that world.

Jessica and Luke’s relationship is strained, but I did enjoy seeing it and I hope they can work things out. Jessica has given a lot up to do what she thinks is the right thing, and it’s meant keeping a lot of secrets from the few people she cares about.

The main story in Jessica Jones Vol. 1 was interesting but I wasn’t that scared or intrigued by the main villain as I couldn’t really get their motives. This might have been something

I liked the art style in Jessica Jones, and I loved the monotone colours, it really set the tone of the story. While I didn’t love this comic, it does enough to make me want to continue the series to see how Jessica can possibly sort her life out. 3/5.

Tales of Suspense: Hawkeye & the Winter Soldier by Matthew Rosenburg, Travel Foreman and Rachelle Rosenburg

The Black Widow is dead, but someone is killing her old enemies one by one. With a broke heart and a bloody trail to follow, Clint Barton aka Hawkeye is looking for answers. The only place he might get them is from another of Natasha’s ex-boyfriends, Bucky Barnes aka the Winter Solider. Will Clint and Bucky be able to trust each other enough to get to the truth, or is the truth deadly and out to get them?

I really enjoyed this. It’s a sequel to everything that happened with Secret Wars, Captain America apparently being an agent for Hydra and a lot of bad stuff happening, but you really didn’t need to know any of that to read and enjoy this comic. I only knew the concept of Secret Wars and haven’t read any myself, but this book does enough to give you all you need to then enjoy these characters and their interactions.

I’m a big Clint Barton fan and I really enjoyed how he and Bucky interacted. It was great how in the fist issue it’s told from Clint’s point of view and then the second issue is from Bucky’s, giving you an insight into both of their minds. They both don’t like each other but they have a common goal in finding out what’s going on with Natasha’s past. They have some really funny moments, and Clint is his idiot but capable self which I loved.

I liked the art style and the colours too for the most part, though some facial expressions were a bit overexaggerated for my taste. Tales of Suspense: Hawkeye & the Winter Soldier is a really fun, character-driven mystery and I’d love to read more about Clint and Bucky’s reluctant partnership. 4/5.

FABLES: Cubs in Toyland by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha and Gene Ha

Theresa has a lousy toy boat that she doesn’t really like but it talks to her, encouraging her to run away to a land that she can be Queen of. Theresa travels to Toyland, where broken-down playthings dwell. Wooden, metal, plastic or stuffed, they’re all looking for a queen to fix their bodies and their realm. But these toys are broken in more ways than one. As Theresa’s family search for her, including her wild brother Dare, what will become of her when she discovers the truth about Toyland? And what will staying in that realm cost?

This graphic novel has been sitting on my shelves for years. A friend bought it for me for Christmas one year, but I had never gotten around to reading it as it’s Volume 18 in the Fables series and thought I wouldn’t be able to follow the story without reading the previous 17 volumes. Recently I did some googling and as everyone seemed to say this was a standalone volume I gave it a go.

I do agree it’s a standalone. I could follow the story and the various characters and their relationships easily enough, though there were the few odd moments that seemed to be tied to the larger story that I was unaware of.

The magic system and how all the characters are versions of the classic fairy tales is interesting. Cubs in Toyland was surprisingly sinister and dark at times – these weren’t the fluffy Disney-versions of the fairytales we all know. There were some bloody and violent moments too, which were even more disturbing as they featured young children.

Maybe it’s because I didn’t have as much of a connection to the characters as I hadn’t read the previous volumes, or maybe just the story wasn’t for me, but I did find Cubs in Toyland a bit of a slog to get through, especially the last 40 pages or so. I just didn’t really care to find out how the story would end or if Theresa would be OK. 2/5.

READ THE WORLD – Peru: City of Clowns by Daniel Alarcón and Sheila Alvarado

Oscar “Chino” Uribe is a young Peruvian journalist and after the death of his philandering father, he must confront the idea of his father’s other family. While deals with his grief Chico’s latest assignment is to chronicle the life of the street clowns who populate the vibrant and violent city streets of Lima and while doing so he becomes drawn into their haunting yet fantastical world.

City of Clowns was originally a short story by Alarcón and the he and Alvarado collaborated to turn it into a short graphic novel with striking black and white illustrations. How the illustrations and the text is set out on the pages, with it not being afraid to leave a lot of negative space, really puts across how Chico is feeling. There’s black pages and isolated figures when it comes to Chico, but with the clowns it’s often a mixture of lively figures with melancholy faces.

After his father dies he and his mother are suddenly introduced to his father’s mistress Carmela and their sons, Chico’s half-brothers. His mother takes everything in her stride and the relationship she appears to form with Carmela is incomprehensible to Chico, further isolating him as he refuses to acknowledge his emotions.

City of Clowns is a interesting look at grief, emotions and identity. As Chico learns more about the clowns, he admires the way they are hiding behind a mask, that people pay them little attention and they can be whoever they want to be when they perform.

City of Clowns is a quick read but a memorable one. The writing is simple yet eloquent while the illustrations convey so much emotion. 4/5.

MINI COMIC REVIEWS: Fun Home, Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 1 and Filmish

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

This is a graphic novel memoir from Alison Bechdel (yes, she’s the woman who the Bechdel test is named after) about her childhood and adolescence living in her family’s Victorian home with her rather eccentric family. The memoir is mostly about Bechdel and her relationship with her father, which was both very distant and unusual, neither of them understanding one another until she came out as a lesbian, and learning from her mother that her father was a closeted homosexual.

Fun Home isn’t a linear story, with scenes being revisited when you have been given new information. It’s also both funny and farcical at types when Bechdel recounts her dysfunctional family life. I liked the moments when Bechdel looked back on different events with hindsight, you got to see what the teenage her thought at the time and her own ideas of what really happened now she’s older.

Fun Home features a lot of themes including sexuality, gender roles (Alison preferred to wear “men’s clothes” from a young age) suicide and emotional abuse. It’s an interesting and quick read but I never really felled compelled to keep reading. 3/5.

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Get Graphic Readathon TBR

Guess what? There’s another readathon I’m going to try and take part in! This one is the Get Graphic Readathon and it’s a weekend-long readathon that’s focused on reading things like comics, graphic novels and manga – basically anything that’s illustrated. The readathon is the brainchild of BOOKadoodles, Whatskappening and PerpetualPages on YouTube and you can follow all the fun of the readathon on the #GetGraphic Twitter account. The Get Graphic Readathon starts Friday 6th October at 5pm wherever you are in the world and ends at midnight on Sunday 8th October in your time zone.

Like many a readathon there’s some challenges you can try and complete while you read as many illustrated books as possible.

Challenges:
1. Read from a new-to-you series
2. Read two instalments of the same series
3. Read a work over 300 pages
4. Read a work with black and white art
5. Read a work picked out by a friend
6. Read at least 5 works

I always base my TBR on the challenges so here we go.

For a new-to-me series I’ve chosen Power Man and Iron Fist Vol. 1: The Boys are Back in Town by David Walker and Sanford Greene. After binge-watching The Defenders the day it was released, I fell in love with the dynamic between Luke Cage and Danny Rand and its got so much potential in the Netflix series. So, I went to Twitter and asked where I should start reading when it comes to the comics and this is what was recommended to me – I’m looking forward to learning more about these characters.

The two instalments of the same series will be Runaways The Complete Collection Volume Three and Four by Brian K. Vaughn and many, many others. These will also work for the work over 300 pages as they are both around 400-500 pages. If I think I’m only going to read one of The Runaways volumes during the weekend, I’ve also got Saga Volume Six and Seven by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples for the read two instalments of the same series challenge.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel will be my read for the “work with black and white art” challenge and I’m currently running a Twitter poll to decide what I’ll read for the “work picked out by a friend” challenge so feel free to go and vote on that.

Potentially I could complete all six challenges and read at least five works, will it happen though? Who knows! On Saturday I am busy, travelling up to London and back to see a couple of films at the London Film Festival, but Sunday I could spend a lot of time reading.

Are you going to take part in the Get Graphic readathon? I think it’s a great way to get some books off my TBR and I haven’t read my comics for a while.