Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Short notes on graphic novels 8

Another selection of recent graphic novels and comic compilations I have been reading. Most of these, I have borrowed from my local public library branch unless otherwise noted.

Fies, Brian. Mom's Cancer. New York: Abrams Image, 2006. ISBN: 0-8109-5840-6

This is a short but powerful novel. The author looks at how his family and him coped and supported his mother as she fought metastatic lung cancer. We are taken from diagnostic through treatment in a story with moments of humor and hope along the way. The work is an Eisner Award winner. I cannot recommend this one highly enough. This one I borrowed from my workplace.

Trudeau, G.B. The Long Road Home: One Step at a Time. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2005. ISBN: 0-7407-5385-1.

This is a compilation of a Doonesbury series that depicted one of the strip's characters, B.D., as he was wounded while serving in Iraq and embarks on the road to healing and recuperation. We go from the battlefield to the Army hospitals to therapy. The author presents B.D.'s struggle with a blend of humor and compassion that is simply admirable and moving. I have to admit that at times I felt a bit guilty laughing, but the humor is there, and it is there to make you laugh as well as think. The topic of our military's wounded is not something often covered in the media, and this book brings it to life. This is an excellent work. This edition features a foreword by Senator John McCain. There is a sequel, which I will be seeking out. Among the best things I have read this year. This one I also borrowed from my workplace.

Hirano, Kohta. Hellsing, vol. 1. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2003. ISBN: 159307056X

This is an English translation of the popular Japanese manga. Hellsing is a secret organization of vampire hunters sworn to protect the British Queen and the Protestant Church, and their top agent is a specially bred vampire, Alucard. This is the first volume in the series. It is a fun romp with a good measure of violence and gore, so this is not for children. I have already put in my requests at my local library for other volumes in the series.

Loeb, Jeph and Tim Sale. Superman For All Seasons. New York: DC Comics, 1999. ISBN: 1563895293.

The more I read of Loeb and Sale's work, the more I become a fan of their stories and art. So far, every graphic novel produced by this team has been a pleasant reading experience. I highly recommend anything these two produce, and this one is no exception. This Superman story has, what I can only describe as a "Norman Rockwell" feeling to it. In a way, the art and story is what you would get if Superman was a Rockwell painting. The art has that quality of Americana borrowing from the comics of the 1940s. The novel is a series of four comics, one for each season, with the story told from a different character's point of view from Superman's early days to his present day.

Loeb, Jeph and Tim Sale. Batman: Dark Victory. New York: DC Comics, 2001. ISBN: 1563898683.

This story follows after the events in the graphic novel Batman: The Long Halloween. These are still Batman's early days. By now, James Gordon has been named as Commissioner of Police. There is a new D.A. who dislikes Batman, and a new serial killer known as Hangman is killing police officers. Overall, this is another excellent story from the Loeb and Sale team. Personally, in the DC universe, Batman is one of my favorite heroes, in large part due to his darkness. Loeb and Sale have done great work exploring and expanding Batman's stories. For those interested in trivia and small details, look for the little references to The Godfather.

Waid Mark, JLA: Tower of Babel. New York: DC Comics, 2001. ISBN:1563898683.

Mark Waid is another good writer when it comes to comics and graphic novels. His work can also been seen in works like Ultimate X-Men. In this JLA series, Ra's Al Ghul, Batman's nemesis, manages to get a hold of Batman's countermeasures for the other JLA members and implements them in order to carry out his extreme enviromental plan. Batman is not the most trusting of souls, and the fact he had taken precautions against the other members of the Justice League makes the others feel betrayed. A good story overall that may make readers wonder about the value of friendship and trust. Was Batman right in keeping tabs on his allies in case he had to fight them later? Was it really betrayal? It's up to readers to decide.

Englehart, Steve. Batman: Dark Detective. New York: DC Comics, 2002. ISBN: 1401208983

Steve Englehart, with artist Marshall Rogers, worked on Batman during the 1970s. This team returns to Batman in a story where the Joker is running for governor of the state. The Joker's slogan: "Vote for Me, or I'll Kill You." Meanwhile, a girlfriend from Bruce Wayne's past returns, but where do her allegiances lie. The comic is drawn in the 1970s style, but the setting is modern; readers can look for a little reference to certain electoral debacle in Florida. The Scarecrow and Two-Face also make appearances.

Loeb, Jeph and Tim Sale. Batman: Haunted Knight. New York: DC Comics, 1995. ISBN: 1563892731.

I was hoping to read this one close to Halloween, but the request for it from another branch took a while to get here. Still, it was a very good read. This volume collects three Halloween specials. The first story features The Scarecrow. The second story, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, features the Mad Hatter. The third story is inspired by A Christmas Carol, with the Joker making what I shall describe as an interesting appearance in the role of one of the spirits. Another good work.

Johns, Geoff. Teen Titans: Family Lost. DC Comics, 2004. ISBN: 1401202381.

This story comes after the volume Teen Titans: A Kid's Game. Raven makes her return after a long absence, but she is pursued by a cult that worships her demon father. The cult leader is hoping to unleash Raven's powers for his world conquest. Meanwhile, Deathstroke the mercenary assassin also returns, and this time, he brings his daughter along as the new Ravager. They want Raven dead. A a fast paced story, with an ending that may be disturbing to some, which I particularly liked. The story does give a few angles on what it means to be a family, and maybe even on the influence of fathers on their children.

Lane, Mills. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (graphic novel). Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2005. ISBN: 1593073097.

This is the graphic novel adaptation of the film by the same title. Considering that the movie is so expansive in visual terms, the graphic novel does pretty well in adapting the story to this format.


CW said...

I've recently discovered Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and Maus by Art Spiegelman, and want to read Mom's Cancer, too. We've also borrowed a couple of Batman and Daredevil compilations from a friend. I can't think why I've overlooked graphic novels all this time!

Angel, librarian and educator said...

I read Maus a little while back, and I think I have a note in my blog about it. I have been meaning to read Persepolis, but it stays on my perpetual list of things to read. I think you will like _Mom's Cancer_. It's moving, poignant, and without any artificial sentimentality. For me, in a way, the comics graphic novels (things like Batman and Daredevil) are like going back to my childhood, not that I read that many back then. However, with all the good works being done in graphic format, some of them daring, it is a genre well worth looking into. Best, and keep on blogging.