graphic novel

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.

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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.

TOP 5 WEDNESDAY: Favourite Non-Written Novels

Top 5 Wednesday is a great feature created by GingerReadsLainey and hosted by ThoughtsonTomes. To find out more about Top 5 Wednesday and the upcoming topics, check out its Goodreads page. This week it’s all about your favourite non-traditional written books, so graphic novels, comics, manga, audiobooks and so on and so forth. So, this week I’m writing about my favourite graphic novels/trade paper backs (because I don’t live near a comic store so it’s easier to read the volumes) and by pure chance they are all from different publishers. In no particular order they are…

march-book-oneMarch by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
This graphic novel trilogy was pretty much the first thing I read this year and it’s my new favourite thing ever. It’s all about the Civil Rights Movement in America and it’s told through John Lewis’s eyes, what protests he was involved in, who he knew and all the hardships and successes. It is such a powerful and important graphic novel series, the sort of thing everyone should read.

 

 

fiveghosts vol1Five Ghosts by Frank J. Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham
Five Ghosts has a very Indiana Jones feel, especially as the main character is an archaeologist who searches for weird mystical artefacts. Oh, and he also happens to have a stone stuck in his chest that gives him the power of five different ghosts. The thing about Five Ghosts I really love is the art style, it’s like those old pulp fiction stories and it can be creepy and dynamic, especially when the ghosts make an appearance.

 

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READ THE WORLD – USA: March Trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

march-trilogy-john-lewisMarch is a graphic novel memoir trilogy about the American Civil Rights Movement told from the perspective of John Lewis, a civil rights leader then and now a US Congressman. It charters his early life, the Nashville sit-in movement, the fight for desegregation and actual voting rights and the Selma to Montgomery marches. It follows the successes and the failures and shows the behind the scenes moments of many big events you might have only seen photos of or read about in school.

March is an incredible graphic novel series. It’s bookended by President Obama’s inauguration on 20th January 2009 and has flashbacks to that day throughout the trilogy – it truly highlights how far the Civil Rights Movement has come, but also how much there’s left to improve. It’s something I wasn’t expecting but it was a really lovely touch.

John Lewis tells his story and his experiences in the Civil Rights movement with a lot of honesty. He says what he thinks about people like Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, JFK, Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson as well as many other people that may not be as well-known names. He says the good and the bad and doesn’t lie if he had opposing views to someone else, even if it was another of the “Big Six” Civil Rights Leaders. The thing that got me about Lewis was, he never seems to give up hope in people and that they have the capacity to change their views. He sees it happen and is nearly always positive that the protests he, and so many other people, are a part of will bring a better future. It’s truly admirable.

I found March tough to read some times. The first two books I read in the same day but the third one took me longer. I’d often get frustrated with how people were so blind and ignorant and what black people in America had to go through in the sixties so I’d have to put it down for a while before carrying on reading. Also, each book was longer than the one before it which probably contributed to how long it took me to read them. That being said, the series benefits when you read each book one after the other as they are all a part of a bigger and wider story.

The art in March is great because it’s all black and white which really helps add to the emotion of some of the situations, especially when there’s a single page or a double page of artwork. I think this memoir of the Civil Rights Movement works so well in graphic novel form because you can see people’s reactions to things or you can see someone get hit by the police and it makes it more real and tangible.

March is an important and brilliant read. The art works so well with the story and it’s the kind of story that everyone one can read, no matter their age. If you have an interest in African-American history, or just American history in general, then I highly recommend March5/5.

REVIEW: The Trouble with Women by Jacky Fleming

trouble-with-womenThe Trouble with Women is a graphic novel looking at women’s role in history – or lack thereof. It questions why we only ever learnt about three women at school and whether or not women can be geniuses.

The Trouble with Women is really funny. Thanks to the observational drawings and the sharp wit, it’s a very smart and different take on women in history. There are so many great lines like, “In the Olden Days there were no women which is why you don’t come across them in history lessons at school” and “For a long time there were no black women.” It’s kind of brutally honest as it looks at the terrible attitude men had towards women and their intelligence. It is sad that the stereotypes that if women become too smart and educated they’ll become unattractive to men are still prevalent today in some shape and form.

The Trouble with Women features many women from different fields – many of which I hadn’t heard of before. There’s women like Marie Currie, Annie Oakley and Jane Austin who are obviously very well-known but it also talks about women like Phillis Wheatley, Elisa Grier and Emmy Noether who I had never heard of before. I’ve made a note of all the women featured who I know very little or nothing about so I can read up on them later. All the women featured were scorned or dismissed by men with them often being surprised by the women’s skill or attention to detail.

The Trouble with Women makes you think about women’s role in history and how they were seen by society and how it was very difficult to progress in any field without being judged by men and society as a whole. It’s unfortunate that some still believe women are incapable of making any achievements whether in science or the arts, but there’s still hope. A line that I absolute love and can’t reiterate how important it is, is “Women have been retrieving each other from the Dustbin of History for several thousand years now.” Women in history are being rediscovered by women of today and women helping other women, in whatever way, is a very important thing indeed.

The Trouble with Women is a short original book that looks at history in a different way. I wish it was longer and I’ll definitely be looking into Jacky Fleming’s other comics and writing. 4/5.

READ THE WORLD – Iran: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis ElenaSquareEyesSatrapi was the intelligent yet outspoken child of radical Marxists and the great-granddaughter of Iran’s last emperor and her childhood was always entwined with Iran’s history. As a graphic novel memoir, Persepolis follows Satrapi’s childhood in Iran during the revolution of 1979 and the Iran-Iraq War, to her adolescence in Europe and how she copes being so far from her family and her home.

There’s so much about Iran’s history and politics that I don’t know – I don’t have a very good understanding of what’s been happening in Iran recently, never mind what was happening in the country just under 50 years ago – but Persepolis did such a good job of shedding light on what growing up in Iran during a revolution and a war was like. The young Satrapi is constantly learning because the rules of her country are constantly changing. Persepolis is almost a crash course in Iran’s recent history and it’s a great introduction as you learn so much about what happened from someone who lived it. That being said, there’s still many elements that could be explored more but as it focuses on Satrapi’s experience rather than an expensive history, it’s understandable why there’s some gaps to what was happening between countries like Iraq and Iran, and Iraq and Kuwait and how countries like the USA and Britain were really involved.

Besides growing up in Iran, Satrapi also moves to Austria when she is a young teenager. She moves there alone, with no family and a limited grasp on French. In some ways Satrapi enjoys the freedom that Austria offers her compared to Iran but in others, she doesn’t feel like she understands how society in the West functions or if she fits in.

That’s what Persepolis is about really. It’s about a young girl who becomes a young woman and how she slowly discovers through trial and error who she really is and where she feels like she belongs. She may make different friends along the way and even have boyfriends but the one constant in her life, even when she was miles away from them, was her family. The relationship between Satrapi and her parents and grandmother is a wonderful element of the book and seeing how they all influenced her and helped her grow was really interesting and lovely.

The art style in Persepolis is relatively simple but effective. It’s all black and white and most of each panel is often made up of a speech bubble. The art style works because while it’s about difficult and complex topics, the language is also simple. This is because most of the book is from the perspective of someone who is twelve or a young teenager who may think she knows everything but really doesn’t.

Persepolis is a fascinating read about the difficulties of growing up in a war torn country and finding where you truly belong. It’s sometimes funny and often sad but it’s always enlightening. 4/5.