Graphic Novels Galore Part Trois

My final installment of Graphic Novel reviews for the month of June. :)

Title: Shortcomings
Author/Ill: Adrian Tomine
Pub Date: April 2009
Pages: 104
Couple dissatisfied in relationship; race issues.
Meet Ben, a movie theatre manager in California who has very little ambition except maybe to have a white girlfriend. Meet his girlfriend Miko, a proud Asian American advocate who is trying to bring more Asian culture to their California town by hosting a film festival. Meet Alice, Ben's only friend, who is a scene stealer. She is an Asian American lesbian who has not come out to her parents yet. Oh yeah, and she's quite the playa. Ben and Miko find themselves in quite the predicament. Miko, obviously, is proud of her culture; Ben is rather nonchalant and appears that he would rather overlook his culture. Miko eventually leaves California under the guise of a scholarship for a film college. She explains that interning is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it might do their relationship some good if they take a break. Ben is at first saddened by this news, but then decides to pursue the blond teenage college student working at his theater. The novel explores how two people with two different views of their culture can influence their relationship, but more than that, it explores what it means to be faithful, honest, and in love.
This was a quick read and I can't really tell if I liked it or not. And by not liking it, I don't really mean as in not-not liking it, but more so being on the fence. The artwork was pleasant and simple and the relationship struggles were formed precisely how I would envision a relationship to dwindle...but to be truthful, what held my attention was Alice. Alice was wonderful. She was such a bachelor, in the love 'em and leave 'em sorta way. Powerful in her community but nerve-wrecked around her family. I heart Alice!
Title: American Born Chinese
Author/Ill: Gene Luen Yang
Pub Date: December 2008
Pages: 240
Three stories woven together; one moral.
American Born Chinese is more than one plot, rather it's three separate stories that unexpectedly come together as one. In one story we are introduced to the Monkey King, which I am going to assume is a traditional character in Chinese folklore. The second story centers around Jin Wang an Asian American kid trying to fit in with his classmates and get the attention of his middle school crush. The final story is of a popular athlete, Danny, who has an over-the-top stereotyped Chinese cousin, Chin-Kee, come visit and (in Danny's eyes) ruin his high school years. The overall moral of the stories is to not be anyone else other than yourself. How Yang constructed it was fairly literary and enjoyable, but I still couldn't help that I was bored through out the whole story.
I know that this isn't a surprise since I already indicated in the Sunday Salon post that American Born Chinese was not favored by me. I struggled with this because I really did want to like it especially because I thought the execution was rather clever. Unfortunately, the characters did not incite any feelings. I could careless what happened to the Monkey King; I couldn't empathize with Jin Wang, and well, Danny just irritated me to no end. I always said that I was a character-driven kind of gal, and this novel only reinforces that.

Title: In the Small
Author: Michael Hague
Pub Date: May 2008
Pages: 128

Post-apocalyptic world; humans 6 inches.
Picture it. You're at your house emptying the dishwasher, or at school taking notes, or even at work running a fax through, talking to your boss, just being normal. Then. Bam. There's a flash and you stand up, because you've noticed that you've fallen. You brush your knee - wait! You have no clothes on. You are swimming in cloth. Quickly, you inspect your body for broken bones, trying to figure out what just happened. Then, you look around and notice that everything is so much bigger than you. How is that possible? That is the sole premise of In the Small. Humans have shrunk while everything - and I mean everything, snakes, cats, bugs, buildings, food - has remained the same size. Essentially, all hell has broken loose. Mouse and Beat are two young teenagers who become the leaders on those who survived the blue flash. Brother and sister, miles apart bring community to the masses in the hopes of reuniting the survivors and recreating a new way to live.
I picked it up because the cover looked so spooky. I didn't know it would be a post-apocalyptic book and had I, I probably wouldn't have picked it up. Overall, the book was rather dissatisfying. At times I felt the conversations between the characters forced. Also, once again, I just didn't feel anything for Mouse and Beat. I knew that they were both behaving bravely but I didn't buy into it. I don't read end-of-the-world tales frequently because not many authors measure up to my expectations. I want to be submerged into a microcosm of chaos. Show me the best and worst side of humanity. Make me believe. This one didn't. A final note: In the Small "the movie" is suppose to come out in 2010; I hate saying this, but I almost feel as though Hollywood and it's sensationalism it could do a far better job showing excitement. Either way, I doubt I'll see it.
Title: Swallow Me Whole
Author: Nate Powell
Pub Date: October 2008
Pages: 216

Will peace ever come if crazy?
Meet Ruth. She's a high school student who has peculiar habits. For example, she steals jarred bugs from the science department and keeps them organized in her closet. It's actually rather ritualistic. Her goal is to find the perfect pattern. Then maybe she can rest. Oh, and she's rather attuned to the needs and conversations of bugs in general. Sometimes, well, who are we kidding, it becomes problematic when she's trying to walk on grass. Ruth doesn't want to crush the bugs. Now meet Ruth's step brother, Perry. Perry is a loner, much like Ruth. His only relationship is really with Ruth. Oh and this wizard that comes around only to tell him he must create all of these illustrations for a master plan. Swallow Me Whole is the story of both Ruth and Perry and how they cope with their mental illness.
Generally speaking, I enjoyed this novel. I felt that it was one of the first that strongly read as a "Graphic Novel" for me, in the sense that the illustrations did more than add to the story, they told the story within themselves. The writing at times would scrawl across the paper. The words were inconsequential; it was merely important that the visual struck a nerve. There were a couple of things that I found a bit too difficult to suspend my disbelief. Mainly the fact that Ruth & Perry end up as step siblings and both have such extreme mental illnesses. I've never been much of a math person, but even I think that probability is a bit shady. Also, the ending. Damn, the ending just didn't make sense to me at all. There were so many different ways to look at it. I did some research on the net shortly after finishing the book to see how others viewed the ending. Surprisingly I wasn't the only one who still had questions (I figure when I don't get something that seems like it should be obvious I'm just being dense). Swallow Me Whole quickly became one of my favorite graphic novels overall.


  1. Sorry to hear American Born Chinese didn't work for you :( I really loved it myself. Also, I quite like the sound of Swallow Me Whole!

  2. Oh I hope you check out Swallow Me Whole. It really was a great (and unique) read! :))

  3. My friend and I were recently discussing about the ubiquitousness of technology in our daily lives. Reading this post makes me think back to that debate we had, and just how inseparable from electronics we have all become.

    I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Societal concerns aside... I just hope that as technology further advances, the possibility of transferring our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's a fantasy that I daydream about all the time.

    (Posted on Nintendo DS running [url=http://cryst4lxbands.blog.com/2010/01/31/will-the-r4-or-r4i-work/]R4[/url] DS scPost)


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