Sunday, December 09, 2018

Reader's Diary #1980- Wilfrid Lupano (writer), Gregory Panaccione (artist): A Sea of Love

Like Mel Tregonning's Small Things which I read just a month back, Wilfrid Lupano and Gregory Panaccione's A Sea of Love is another gorgeous wordless graphic novel.

This one is about a man separated from his wife from being lost at sea. It's more mature than Small Things but not risque or inappropriate by any means. It's amusing, has adventure, and there's a sweet love story to boot. The married couple seem a bit stereotypical in their gender roles at first, though the wife has a bit of an adventure of her own and seems to overcome her domestic, doting role somewhat. (She reminded me a little of Lady Jane Franklin, actually.)

But where the books shines is the art. The characters are exaggerated caricatures that reminded me of old French animation, while the backdrops are immaculately rendered in heavy, atmospheric water colours. Maybe these two styles should clash, but they wind up balancing out the story.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Reader's Diary #1979- Cherie Priest (writer), Tara O'Connor (illustrator): Agony House

Just recently marked the 26th Literary Review's Bad Writing in Sex Award and as always these were a real treat to behold. So bad they're at the very least entertaining. But of course, it doesn't have to take a sex scene to come on a piece so spectacularly bad that it haunts you. There are plenty of books that I didn't enjoy this year but none had the distinction of having a memorably bad passage... until now.

He wasn't paying a lick of attention. He was too wrapped up in the chase, following his nose like a cartoon bird on a cereal box.

It's meant, I suppose, to be a funny simile, but man, is it ever corny and awkward. And it's particularly so since she seems to go out of her way to avoid referencing the actual character or the cereal. Yet elsewhere she name drops McDonald's and Wendy's. Would mentioning Toucan Sam and Froot Loops been that difficult? Not that it would have been a great sentence even with it, but it's just laughably bad this way.

To be fair though, the rest of the book isn't terrible to this extreme. I did find friendships rushed to the point of implausibility and the book's plot could have used some work (the worst for me was that it took a character the entire book to read a comic that, had she read it at any normal speed, could have probably solved the whole predictable mystery remarkably fast). But there were some aspects I liked; the comic parts themselves were well done and I enjoyed how they connected to the textual story, I enjoyed the New Orleans setting, and there were hints at least of weightier themes (gentrification, police racism, and so on).

Friday, December 07, 2018

Reader's Diary #1978- Sergio Ruzzier: Fox + Chick The Party and Other Stories

Sergio Ruzzier's Fox + Chick: The Party is an odd collection of 3 comics concerning a pair of friends known simply as Fox and Chick. The entire book is just 45 pages and formatted more to look like a traditional picture book, though it has panels and speech balloons.

What makes it odd though is the stiff dialogue and stories that just feel a little... off. In the first one for instance, Chick asks to use Fox's bathroom and doesn't come back out. When Fox checks on him, it turns out that Chick has invited his friends in through the bathroom window for a party.

The whole thing, the art and dialogue, feels old fashioned in a way. I wonder of some of this is cultural as Ruzzier originally hails from Italy.

Quirkiness aside, it was cute and amusing.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Reader's Diary #1977- Shea Fontana (writer), Yancey Labat (artist): DC Super Hero Girls Date With Disaster

I'm glad there are female lead superhero titles and I'm glad that there are some more child-friendly superhero comics, but Shea Fontana and Yancey Labat's DC Super Hero Girls: Date With Disaster isn't exactly memorable.

The story is fine and fun, though some of the girls on the team seem to be poor fits as superheros for those familiar with their more complex mature story lines. Still, I guess some of their personalities and attributes are kept in tact (Harley Quinn's accent for example) and I was exposed to some characters that I'd not come across before (such as the Wasp knock-off, Bumble Bee).

The art, though bright, was also not my cup of tea. All the characters looked like Bratz Dolls (especially off-putting for Commissioner Gordon), and looked done by a computer; which is not a problem per se just not my own personal preference.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Reader's Diary #1976- Ian Boothby (writer), Nina Matsumoto (artist): Sparks!

A couple of times in the first chapter of Sparks! a graphic novel by Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto about a couple of cat superheros whose disguise is a single dog costume, I laughed at loud. It's a kids comic, so I immediately felt embarrassed for laughing so hard at it. Then I noted that Boothby had written Simpsons and Futurama comics as well and felt a little better.

Too bad though that it didn't remain as funny. It was still good, amusing and entertaining overall, but the villain baby was decidedly less so and it's such an overdone trope.

The cartooning by Matsumoto fun; fluid with a manga influence, and like most Scholastic comics, brightly coloured.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Reader's Diary #1975- Aminder Dhaliwal: Woman World

On the last page of Aminder Dhaliwal's graphic novel Woman World, there's a screenshot of a text conversation where she shares her idea for Womanworld in which men have gone extinct. She acknowledges that "something exactly like this probably already exists" and many of us would immediately respond, yes, it's a quite popular series called Y, The Last Man and it's by Brian K. Vaughan.

But like a good cover song, if you can bring something new to something that's already been done, it's perfectly fine. And Aminder Dhaliwal's Woman World is perfectly great. One (big?) difference is that there is no last man. It's focused entirely on women. But also, whereas Vaughan's take is more sci-fi with occasional humour, Dhaliwal's is more humour with occasional sci-fi. (Not sci-fi in the robots and space or time travel sense but in the new disease wipes outs half of humankind sense.)

Vaughan wasn't the only writer I found myself thinking of while reading world, but each other comparison was to someone else whose work I also admired and each time Dhaliwal spun it differently enough to make something truly her own.

The humour, for instance, was quite similar to Kate Beaton's. Kate Beaton usually has intelligent, hilarious satire, but is not afraid to get silly. And so does Dhaliwal. But whereas Beaton usually does so in short vignettes, there's a longer narrative running through Woman World, only stopping here or there for unconnected gags.

And Woman World also reminded me of Baroness Von Sketch Show, quite possibly the funniest show on TV right now. Just as that cast simultaneously celebrates and pokes fun at women, recognizes the spectrum of female personalities, and skewers the patriarchy without allowing that to take over the focus, so does Dhaliwal.

The art is very Beaton-esque as well, but my favourite scenes were the opening and closing ones which were the only ones to have colour. These had a cool vintage look.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Reader's Diary #1974- Henry Lawson: The Ghosts of Many Christmases

I didn't exactly get what I anticipated with Henry Lawson's "The Ghosts of Many Christmases;" there were no ghosts and it wasn't exactly a short story.

"Ghosts" in this case, are memories, and it's exactly that, a collection of Christmas memories, with no unifying plot. Still, it was fascinating to me to learn about Christmases in the olden days of Australia. There's a comfortable tone to the piece, like hearing your grandpa reminisce.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Reader's Diary #1973- Jacqueline Jules (writer), Dave Roman (illustrator): Pluto is Peeved!

I remember in my first few years teaching being informed by a student that there was no longer a dinosaur referred to as a brontosaurus. Somehow what I'd learned as a kid had changed and it completely slipped by me. Fortunately I was paying attention when the designation of Pluto had changed and it was no longer considered a planet. Many people, however, never understood why or have forgotten the rationale. Jacqueline Jules and Dave Roman answer this question and more in a child friendly comic book approach that shows how science evolves over time as new discoveries are made. While Pluto is the anthropomorphic star of the book, the brontosaurus I mentioned above also makes an appearance.

The artwork is simple and eye-catching with nice bright colours.

One small bone of contention is that the answer to the question as to why Pluto is no longer considered a planet is not fully explained until the textual notes at the back of the book. In the comic book portion, it is explained that as a conference in 2006 some astronomers developed new criteria for what constitutes a planet, but they skip over which criteria Pluto failed to meet until the end notes which may be skipped over by lots of readers.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Reader's Diary #1972- Liz Prince (writer), Amanda Kirk (illustrator): Coady and the Creepies

What a fun ride Liz Prince and Amanda Kirk's graphic novel Coady and the Creepies turned out to be after beginning with a car accident that left one character a paraplegic and another dead.

Coady and the Creepies deals with a a punk rock band of triplets who are touring around the country, having supernatural adventures along the way. The characters are well-defined, each with unique and enjoyable personalities. As a fan of punk music, I enjoyed that angle, even though I thought some things could have been handled a little better. Fake rock song lyrics are always cringe-worthy in comic books and they're no exception here. Also, there's a bit about an old punk rocker upset that Coady and the Creepies are girls and that they don't know punk music history. While I do think knowing music history is a good thing, I suppose there is something very punk-attitude about not caring. But there were a lot of classic punk rock bands and singers in real life (X-Ray Spex, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Patti Smith...) so I don't know that it's fair to pretend that females in punk is a new idea.

Small complaints though as I really did enjoy the book. Amanda Kirk's jagged line work had a real punk-vibe and the gorgeous colours and thick black lines reminded me of Ted Harrison's art. Ted Harrison isn't, of course, the most punk of artists, but I've always enjoyed him.