Bad Island - Doug TenNapel

I actually read some of his work before, and I think I have the same problems with this one, and that is the characters are only developed on the superficial level. To make matters worse, I feel that this superficiality could easily be rectified with maybe just a couple of additional pages. Anyway, the main storyline is about a family on vacation that gets shipwrecked on an island and they must come together as a family in order to survive the strange and mysterious forces that haunt the island. No, this is not an episode of Lost, although with the jumps in time it might as well be. The art is cute and the story is not necessarily bad, but there's not enough here to move me. bad island

Blue is the Warmest Color - Julie Maroh

So much for open-minded French society. The store is about Clementine, a young French girl who finds herself attracted to a woman, and the struggles she, and they, go through. This comic is beautifully drawn; I love how Maroh uses one of the only colors, blue, to accentuate certain points (did she have to make the two main characters so perfect looking? It seems unnecessary), and it is told quite poignantly and lovingly. I will point out a few unfortunate things, such as if the story was about a man and a woman it would not be a romance but a tale of statutory rape (consider that when you're judging the close minded people in this story); I always take issue with coming of age/sexually awakening stories wherein the main character has a friend they can turn to for advice and help, when so many people deal with such difficulties alone, so that it seems the authors are missing a valuable opportunity to tap in to that fear and demographic; and when you get towards the end of the story, certain key points are incredibly rushed over making you feel like you've been left out or that the story has been cut short undermining some of the impact. Still, very good. blue

Anya's Ghost - Vera Brosgol

This is a strong work that seems to have autobiographical elements (a girl originally born in Russia trying to fit into America), but it really is about a somewhat awkward teen who, falling into a hole, meets and befriends a hundred year old ghost. I really liked the story and art, finding it to be a good portrayal of a young girl just trying to deal with life. One of the plot lines does not work at all (namely Sean and Elizabeth) and another only sort of does (i.e., Dima), and Neil Gaiman is incorrect as this is not "a masterpiece!" (I long to be famous enough to have my blurbs be that important), but is highly enjoyable and recommended. anya's ghost

Hugo

I saw this movie version of the book years after reading the original, which was a good thing as I was able to view it with less expectation and more chance of surprise. The tale is of an orphaned boy working as the clock repairman of a Paris train station, his quest to repair a mysterious automaton, the power and history of film, and the people he meets. There are some very enjoyable portrayals in the movie and it is definitely fun. Despite my earlier statement, there must remain some vague memory of the book as I felt it didn't have the same impact of the unique original telling. Still, check them both out and you won't be disappointed.

To This Day: For the Bullied and Beautiful - Shane Koyczan

Anything that will help lessen the amount of bullying that takes place, tormenting so many children's lives, sounds good to me, but having a spoken word poem, illustrated by far too many artists, put into comic book form may not have the same impact as the original. I'm very glad that the poem has moved so many, I just don't really see who this book is for. I suppose it might give inspiration and hope to those that are bullied or enlighten parents and educators, but will it be read by and effect those doing the bullying? I'm not convinced those people will seek out this book. I suppose I just have to hope for the best. To this day

Nathan Hale's Hazadous Tales: The Underground Abductor - Nathan Hale

I greatly enjoy these tales ostensibly told by America's first spy, who shares the name of the author, who, just prior to his execution, is able to recount tales throughout American history. And recount them he does, mainly geared towards a young adult audience but I like them just fine. This one is about the escaped slave Harriet Tubman (as she would name herself) and her amazingly adventurous life shuttling slaves to freedom. Plenty of stuff I never learned in school, this is perhaps one of my favorite in the series so far. underground abductor

In Real Life - Cory Doctorow

Anda, a somewhat average, nerdy, girl joins an online gaming group, but the sword and sorcery adventures quickly change as she's confronted by realities she did not see or foresee. Doctorow brings us a comic that tries to open us up to a world where economics and gaming go hand-in-hand, remind us of the political life we are used to is very different just about everywhere else, and everywhere else is exactly where the Internet links us. There is a lot to like about this comic, as it can make us very aware of realities that most people would never imagine. My problems with it are that too much is trying to be done in very broad superficial strokes. Issues like female empowerment, female body issues, workers rights, child labor, bullying, the dangers of the online world, and school clicks (even gamers have hierarchies), are all touched on but not often developed. It is a good young adult book with very cute art by Jen Wang. In Real Life

All The Wrong Questions: "Who Could That Be At This Hour?" - Lemony Snicket

Snicket attempts to follow his successful A Series of Unfortunate Events (which I did some reviews for but, unfortunately, did not create a series of) by taking his author/narrator character and making him the center piece. So maybe the correct question is: Why isn't this story nearly as good as the last series? Well, the cast of characters are not as defined, there are less clever references to literature and language, the villain is obfuscated--a word here that means unclear and thus uninteresting--and the plot doesn't have the same drive for completion: There is nothing here to keep me on edge and hoping for success. The tale gives the early years of Snicket and how he became involved in a bizarre world of crime and deceit and how his cleverness gets him through it. He is teamed with an incompetent adult to recover a stolen statue for its rightful owner, except that it isn't stolen and the rightful is up to debate. Seth's art is always fun, but it is rare, with his main picture being of events not depicted in the story. Sadly, there is no reason for me to continue with the series.

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch – Joseph Delaney

Book one of a series of who knows how many young adult tales about 13-year-old Tom, a boy who, like his mother, has supernatural gifts, such as being able to hear and see the restless dead. Being the seventh son of the seventh son in classic fairy tale lore, makes him a fine choice to be sent off to be trained by a Spook, a person whose job it is to deal with ghosts, witches, and other supernatural problems. The story itself is fine enough, decently written with interesting characters, drama, suspense, and enough problems and actions to keep you interested. Can I say that I'm intrigued enough to want to continue reading the series? I haven't decided that. 

The Plain Janes - Cecil Castellucci

I loved this comic! Well, until it just randomly stopped. It's a great story about a girl that is moved out of the city after a bombing which puts a boy into a coma. She reinvents herself and joins up with a group of outcast girls, all named Jane, and forms a group dedicated to spreading random acts of art: PLAIN-People Loving Art In Neighborhoods (a group I would love to serve if it only could exist). Lots of interesting characters and solid writing. However, the comic just comes to an end, perhaps with the idea of another or continuing issues, but I realize that Minx comics is an imprint of DC, apparently trying to cash in on the girl market that they have shunned for so long, so I guess it is as dead as all the other titles I read from Minx. Pity, the world is small for it.

Skim - Mariko & Jillian Tamaki

The magic of libraries is that you can find a book serendipitously and use their catalogue to order other books by the same people. That's how a got this one after reading This One Summer, which I liked more, probably due to more experience in writing and art, as well as a more specific focus. In any event, this was still a good read and nicely drawn. It is about an Asian (at least part), 16-year old girl, "Skim", and takes place over a period of time in her Catholic school in Canada. I don't want to give too much away, which means I can't say much of anything, but let me just write that it deals with much of what anyone faces growing up: finding out who you are personally and sexually, the fleeting nature of friendship, death, love, family--really just about everything, and that is all the more impressive in such a short comic. 

Will & Whit - Laura Lee Gulledge

I thought the art was great and loved the idea that the art goes to gray scale once a blackout occurs due to a storm half way through the comic. The trouble is I can't really tell you what the story is about. Yes, there are several teenage characters, many who have nice quirkiness to them, that are all dealing with their own concerns during a summer break (Will, the female protagonist, has an actual "real" problems), yet there is no true plot that drives the story--sorry, unrequited love and the existence of carnival don't count, and while dealing with loss could, it isn't made into a plot. Neither does the fear of shadows, nor the fact that the characters have their own talents count as plot, although these things could also be turned into story lines. It is this lack of story that drove me away from truly enjoying the work, and while the author is attempting to turn the work into a stage piece I think she is going to have zero luck without a major rewrite. 

This One Summer - Jillian & Mariko Tamaki

What should be just another summer vacation for Rose and her friend, Windy, at Awago beach turns out to be dark and confusing. It feels like I have to read five comics to come across one that is any good, but this story should count as double. Beautifully drawn, elegantly paced, simply colored with blue ink, spartanly written, this YA tale is powerful and fun, if a heavy inducer of melancholy. It involves two summer vacation friends: two young girls, somewhat dissimilar with just enough of an age difference to cause some problems. Together they become by-standards to grown-up (sort of) intrigues that they don't quite fully understand. It is a story about friends, family, growing up, and the fleeting nature of life. I greatly enjoyed it. 

Paul has a Summer Job - Michel Rabagliati

No, this isn't about our own HTH (he never has a job). Paul has just dropped out of school and is working at a summer camp. Sounds pretty dull, and yet this simply drawn (and often imperfect) comic was really a delightful coming of age story, sweet and funny, and--for us old folk--poignant. Apparently, there are various other Paul titles and I will try to check them out, as should you. 

Gunnerkrigg Court vol 4: Materia – Thomas Siddell

Finally get to add to my prior post on Gunnerkrigg Court with this fourth collection to an amazing web comic series. I explained the premise behind this wonderful comic in the original post, so I don't want to rehash here, and only wish to say that the story is still coming along nicely and I feel more confident that there is a complete story being worked on--which was my only real concern. I will say that there is a lot of sexual activity that is hinted at in this volume which might make it a bit much for some of the really young readers (in other words, I no longer feel comfortable promoting the title to my nieces), and I am concerned that too many characters are falling in love with their soul mates and pairing up into couple that will be together forever, which, if memory serves, is EXACTLY how high-school works (and let's face it, it's really a tale about high-schoolers, and the generation's prior high-schoolers (perhaps one of my most hated plot devices, because we all went to high school with the children of people who went to that high school, and who also coupled up, really!?)). If Siddell get's back to the main story by cutting down on this romance element some, I think all will be well. 

Divergent - Veronica Roth

I accidentally published this when I was considering reviewing the entire series so here you go: Divergent, the first in the titular series introduces us a futuristic Chicago wherein society is broken down into 6 castes: The selfless Abnegation who run the government due to their incorruptible giving nature, the peaceful Amity farmers, the truth dedicated Candor, the scholarly Erudite, and those obsessed with overcoming fear who make up the Dauntless, and then there are the outcaste faction-less; while you are allowed to pick your caste (which are called factions) upon adulthood, and a few change from birth faction--and some do not survive initiation. Beatrice is an Abnegation who joins the Dauntless and struggles to find the inner strength necessary to overcome her fears, but all that is secondary to the terrifying discoveries she starts to find. I wasn't too thrilled with this one and often thought about giving up on it. Too much dedicated to stupidity fronting as bravery (jumping from a moving train is not brave (what about the old, very young, handicapped, etc etc are they simply not brave?! Oh, wait, they simply don't exist in this book.) and neither is getting a tattoo or belly ring (apparently being a trendy looser is brave and I'm convinced Roth has no tattoos or she would have taken the opportunity to have her characters talk about the pain of the needle but being glad they went through with it etc, but then again I'm expecting halfway decent writing.)) and little beyond cliched romance. Still, the last few dozen pages did provide some excitement if not depth so I'm tempted to keep going and see if my old age is keeping me from "getting it."   

 

We Can Fix It! A Time Travel Memoir - Jess Fink

This is a cute comic that starts off giving a completely different message as to what it is actually about. A woman travels back in time to meet her younger, awkward self and promptly starts to make out with herself (so is this incest, homosexuality, pedophilia, masterbation, or some combo?). I almost stopped reading at this point (not that I'm against comics wherein woman are making out!) because I just didn't think there would be much to the work. I'm glad I continued as it turned into a charming tale about the futility of regret and foolishness of wishing you could change the past--"if only I knew then what I know now" type of thing. Of course all such tales are based on the idea that your life turns out ok despite the problems; no one ever seems to write about the crap lives. Then again, who would read those? In any event, consider getting the book here.

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

A baby wanders into a graveyard and winds up being raised by the ghosts within who seek to protect him from dangers much scarier than the dead.  I was extremely unhappy with the last Gaiman work I read so I was glad to have him redeemed with this fun tail filled with mystery, intrigue, and pathos. It does borrow too heavily and not super successfully from Lovecraft and the World of Darkness, although I can let it slide as I could hardly put it down.

Fragile - Neil Gaiman

I imagine one of the greatest things about being a famous writer is the ability to put any piece of crap on a napkin and getting to publish it. Some of these stories even won awards, but I give less and less regard to awards every day. Mainly they are ideas that should have been either developed or chucked, but not published as it. Every story I asked myself "why am I still reading this?" and in the end I was actually glad I did, but only because of the final story, which is a short continuation of American Gods (a work I greatly enjoyed) and I feel there was actual effort that went into this story (even if it wasn't perfect). Read only the last story, "The Monarch of the Glen," and only if you liked American Gods.

Looking For Alaska - John Green

Apparently, this was the big YA book being read by all the cool kids (for their high school english class that is). It got a Printz Award and was on the NYTimes best seller list, but, in the end, doesn't deserve either. The story is about a bright, friendless, anorexicly thin kid who goes off to boarding school to seek, well, something, and he finds that and more. I'm not going to go into details (no spoilers for you) or even put up a picture of it since, why bother. The book attempts to give a realistic account of some kids' lives in high school and the triumphs and tragedies they endure, yet it fails in that. The writing isn't anything stellar, and the kids just don't seem like kids to me, but to make matters worse--with one exceptions--there never are any really important/interesting stakes involved, and for a book trying to get away from YA genre lit and be realistic, it simply isn't (yeah, the gangly, nerdy, loser kid aways finds exciting friends and gets hot girls, sure, you might as well throw a boy wizard in there too). Skip it.