Graphic Novel Galore Part Deux

I tend to be the type of person that, if I stumble upon something I like, I immerse myself into it. I've done this all through out life - with crafts, with music, with instruments. Naturally, I blame it on being a Gemini, interested in everything but hardly focused enough to become specialized. Therefore it comes to no surprise that I have spent a good portion of June reading Graphic Novels.

I've come across some that I've absolutely adored and others that were just eh. I've satiated my Graphic Novel curiosity for the time being. It's not say that I won't pick up anymore in the future, just that I'm ready to move onto another medium.

Now onto the mini-reviews:

Title: Plain Janes*
Author/Ill.: Cecil Castellucci & Jim Rugg
Pub Date: 2007
Pages: 176
Art as a medium to heal.

We first meet Jane after a bomb explodes in the city. As expected, her life takes a drastic change. Questioning her purpose and desiring to be something "more", she physically transforms by hacking off her long locks and dying them black. Her interests change and it puts strain on her friendships. Jane's parents react a bit differently; especially her mother. They whisk Jane out of the city and move into some suburb which ultimately gives them the illusion of safety. I don't think that Jane would have minded the move so much, as it did give her a chance to recreate herself, but it also separated her from John Doe, a man fallen from the bomb who still laid unconscious in the hospital. Jane had built a special relationship with this man and would visit him often. As time passes and amidst her existential crisis, Jane and her fellow Jane friends (because there are four of them!) use the town as their medium and create art. The art is random, like pyramids being built and meaningful, like leaving messages in bottles hanging from the tree. It inevitably gives many of the high school students something to believe in.
I really liked the idea of all of this art being created in every day situations. It sorta reminded me of culture jamming from back in the late 90's early 2000's. The YA GN could potentially be a meaningful and inspiring read for many adolescence. I know a part of me wanted to start leaving drawings in all of my library books!
Title: Good As Lily*
Author/Ill: Derek Kirk Kim & Jesse Hamm
Pub Date: August 2007
Pages: 176
Three "yous" come into your life.
Grace Kwon has just turned 18 years old. She is preparing to go to college, has a crush on her English/Drama teacher, and adores her friends. Grace is a bit dissatisfied with her life, in fact she compares herself to some Greats and their accomplishments by the age of eighteen and feels quite sullen. Overall, a pretty normal overachieving high school student. I can relate. I had a five - ten - fifteen - year plan growing up, and would grow fidgety when I realized that I wasn't measuring up to this image in my head. But less about me and more about Grace *smile*. An old ice cream lady sells her a pinata on her birthday, but lo' and behold, when she finally breaks open the pig, it's empty. Feeling even more disgruntled she goes back home. Realizing that she left one of her birthday presents in the park, Grace scurries out of the house to seek it out. But, instead of finding the treasured shirt, she stumbles upon an 8 year old, a 29 year old, and a 70 year old. All claiming to be her! The rest of the novel revolves around Grace's relationship with her younger and older selves, their role in her current life, and really, how she can get rid of them.
I wasn't terribly impressed with Good As Lily. The concept was pretty cool, even now I'd get a kick out of having my elementary self, mid-life crisis self, and geriatric self all meet up for a chat. (OK, after the initial freak out would I think it was cool!). I just felt that toward the middle, the purpose of the selves was pretty contrived. You know, I've been down that road again. Same story different characters, setting, dialogue. Overall, this was one of the GNs that I found to be "eh".

Title: Roadstrips: A Graphic Journey Across America
Edited: Pete Friedrich
Pub Date: September 2005
Pages: 128

What does American mean to you?
This is SUCH A COOL book. It all started because the editor, Friedrich, began thinking about America and being American. It occurred to him that everyone has a different version of America. Even though we are apart of the same country, many of our traditions are unique to our own family or culture, or even, as reading this book proves, our own location within the States. Friedrich began asking his illustrating buddies the moment that they knew they were American, and asked them to sketch out that defining Aha realization. What he ends up with are two dozen illustrated stories. The strips are separated by geography: South, Midwest, East Coast, West Coast, and Pacific Northwest. As an introduction to each region, there is a short although thorough page that shares how comic strips came to be in that selected region. Some of the stories were touching while others had me giggling.
Outside of the stories, I really enjoyed being introduced to the different illustrators. There's a handful that I want to look up and see what else they've produced: Peter Kuper, Keith Knight, Phoebe Gloeckner, and Richard Sala to name a few.
Title: The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard
Author/Ill: Eddie Campbell & Dan Best
Pub Date: August 2008
Pages: 128
Circus lives, both fun and weary.
The side flap opens with, "Jules Leotard was the toast of Europe, the original man on the flying trapeze. But he dies on page 12, and this book is about his much less impressive but more likable nephew, who travels the world in a series of improbable and captivating adventures". Upon dying Jules gives Etienne a blessing, that nothing might occur in his life. Little does this blessing help as Etienne finds himself time and time again in misadventure, mayhem, love, and loss. Etienne figures that he can continue using Jules name in Europe. He creates a unique circus with a tattooed woman, who he falls in love with, and his best friend, the jolly midget who isn't really all that happy. This book is about nothing and everything all at the same time. The humor is quick and unexpected and the tragedies are bittersweet. But perhaps, what stands out the most about this graphic novel is the artwork. The artwork appears to be in water colors. (I say appear because I haven't actually researched it, and I know little about illustrations to make that assumption fact). It's blurry and vivid, and leaks on the page with life, love, and sorrow. It swirls and blurs and is at times down right ugly. I loved it.
I was rather surprised about this one. I'm not a big circus fan, and other than the cover being unique, I couldn't tell you what caused me to pick it up and add it to my stack. But I'm glad I did. This was one of the more favored novels that I read and would recommend it to anyone. I really don't see how someone would not enjoy it.

Title: The Eternals
Author/Ill: Neil Gaiman & John Romita Jr.
Pub Date: July 2008
Pages: 256

Never to die; fights to protect.
When I ordered this from my library, I did so only because it was written by Neil Gaiman. I had no idea that it was going to be a Super Hero comic. I mean, I guess that was pretty naive of me based from the cover, but you know, I never read Marvel or DC Comics (and in fact can never get them straight, which one does Superman again?!?) Needless to say, when it was placed in my hand I was more than just a bit hesitant reading it. It actually crossed my mind to just return it to the library right away. You might notice that I'm somewhat stalling in telling a quick synopsis. I'm not going to lie. You caught me! But it's because I'm not really quite sure how to go about doing so. It's about a man, Mark, who doesn't realize that he is an Eternal and gets a rude awakening when a friend from his past makes it evident. It's about a child actor named Sprite who really was an Eternal going against the laws of their kind, found away to beat the system and become human. It's about how that decision by the hundreds and thousands year old 11 year old Sprite caused a shift in the dynamics putting the fate of the Earth at risk. Its about Super Heros coming together to fight the good fight, and other Super Heros being on reality television shows?!
I was a bit frustrated because the book just ended, total cliffhanger as I guess most comic books do? (And from what I'm gathering Manga as well). That bummed me out because I didn't get into it enough to want to pick up the continuation. As a matter of fact, there were times when I was pretty damn confused with the events of the story. It seemed too much for such a small amount of space. Maybe this wasn't the first one that Gaiman did and I jumped the gun? Maybe I'm not a Super Hero comic book reader after all. (This would not surprise me). I suppose if you already enjoyed comics then you would really enjoy this one. I liked the idea that the Eternals didn't really die. That took a nice little spin on it. And oooh, I really liked one of the Eternals strength (you know, instead of speed or turning objects into something else?) This Eternal had the power of illusion. They could make someone believe or not believe anything. Now that's pretty neat and something that I would never have thought of as a super human trait!


  1. I see you did get to like graphic novels, I haven't read any since PERSEPOLIS but will definitely read others. I have my eye on MAUS 1 & 2 and BLANKETS

  2. I'm putting Road Strips and the circus one on my TBR list!

  3. I loved The Plain Janes! I've heard Good As Lily is really good from a friend of mine, but there was an excerpt in the back of my Plain Janes copy and it just didn't interest me.

  4. Madeleine - Your eyes have focused in on three awesome graphic novels. I really REALLY enjoyed Blankets. It unraveled at such a beautiful and slow pace.

    Eva - Enjoy! Can't wait to hear what you think about them.

    Amanda - I was really disappointed in Good as Lily. I also had picked up the Re-Grifters, but didn't get as far as three pages before I lost interest. Plain Janes still rocked though!


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