Tag Archives: graphic novel

Monsters Exist

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“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”- Stephen King

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.” –Primo Levi

“We who have come back, by the aid of many lucky chances or miracles – whatever one may choose to call them – we know: the best of us did not return.” Viktor Frankl

I hope you can tell by the abundance of quotes I’ve already used that this book got to me. I will also be very transparent and say the use of Stephen King, Primo Levi, and Viktor Frankl quotes was not an accident. This book tackles: death (a lot of it), the Holocaust, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, murder, sexual orientation, guilt, survival, family, secrets, past/present, and the symbolism found in dreams. There were monsters both imaginary and real. There was love. A lot of sex. There was not a lot of happiness.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to mention in this review the whole dramatic story of how this book came to be, because I’m afraid that story will take away from this story, but both stories are so surreal, maybe they belong together. So: Emil Ferris, the author, contracted West Nile Virus(!) and she almost died, but while she was battling the raging fever of the illness she had a dream. Maybe a lot of dreams, or maybe just one, I can’t remember. Anyway, she had a dream about this book, so when she made it through the virus, but couldn’t walk, or use her hands, she had to reteach herself how to draw. She went back to school, in a wheelchair, sat in a room with kids that were a lot younger than her, and she retaught herself. Now, If you’ve seen this book in a bookstore, you may notice that it’s thick as shit. Yeah, apparently she had a lot of drawings for this book, and the book was huge, so the book is split into two volumes. I have volume one now; volume two will be out sometime this year. So, with the use of a hand that was crippled by a terrible disease, Emil Ferris created a masterpiece. An absolute, one hundred present masterpiece. Oh, read it please.

This book is about Karen, a young girl living in uptown Chicago in the sixties. The whole book is supposed to be her journal and is drawn on lined paper. A bit like Lynda Barry’s yellow legal pad drawings. But, this is beyond Lynda Barry. This is beyond Art Spiegleman. This is something born out of a fever dream that I can only assume came from the gods. So, Karen is 11(?) 12(?) and an amazing artist. She lives with her single mother and much older brother Deeze. She worships her brother, and he has taught her about art. He’s also a ladies man, and has a big secret that Karen is not supposed to know about. The story centers on a murder that happens in Karen’s apartment building. A beautiful woman named Anka is shot through the heart, and the police rule her death a suicide, even though the gun was found in the other room, and really- who shoots themselves in the heart? Anka is from Germany, and a little bit unhinged, but she looks out for Karen, and Karen is really affected by her death. Karen, a bit like Harriet the Spy (this is way darker though folks, for real: not kid approved!) decides to look into Anka’s death. And from there, the secrets she uncovers is like nothing you’ve ever heard are read about in a Holocaust story. It’s ridiculous (and I mean that in the best possible way). I would like to give a quick disclaimer: I’m very sensitive to child abuse, especially sexual abuse, and often put books down if I feel like that’s the direction a book’s going- this book went there, but it was so compelling, so horrifying, there’s no way you could just look away and let it be.

The fever dreams: this book was born from a dream, and the dream sequence at the end was breathtakingly gorgeous. The illustrations in this book were like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Emil Ferris is blessed.

Now, on monsters: I started this review with two quotes, and I did that on purpose, because I thought about them both as I read this gorgeous, beauty of a book. First, Stephen King, the horror master himself, and the monster that exist inside us. Every character in this book possessed a monster. Karen, are darling protagonist, draws herself as a little adorable werewolf. Only once does she draw a true image of her reflection. She feels like a monster, is treated like a monster at school, so she embraces the idea of escaping life into an undead creature. We all have escapes like Karen though, right? Obsessions, or interests that take us away from real life. That’s Karen’s monster obsession, and her drawing; a way to escape the horror around her. Karen’s monster is adorable, but the adults around her, their monsters… not so much. Second, Primo Levi, Auschwitz survivor, and the dismissal of monsters, because the true horror are the people that stand back and allow terrible things to happen. Were monsters not created to reflect the degradation of the world? Count Dracula was a fictional character based on real life Vlad the Impaler. Men were afraid of powerful women so they burned them at the stake as witches.

Fictional monsters have nothing on our real life monsters.

Also the whole past repeating itself… shoot. This has gotten away from me!

Reasons to read this book: everything I’ve already said, the artwork, and the writing. It’s hard to be an amazing artist, and an amazing writer, but Emil Ferris- are you a witch? Because you’ve cast a spell on me…

The World is Blue… for now

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Okay this book felt like it thought it had to be a graphic novel so that kids would be entertained, but the scarce illustrations were not going to do much to make this information dense book more accessible to young readers. I mean, what’s their targeted age group? This would be like showing the new Bill Nye to kids: there’s quirks, but most of the science, and climate talk goes over their heads.

Now, I do believe we need to start at a very young age educating our kids about climate change, because this will be a BIG problem for them. It’s a big problem for us, it’ll be an even bigger problem for them, BUT don’t bore them to tears because then they won’t care.

I warn you, if you bore me, I shall take my revenge.

I also didn’t agree with the author. He had me at the beginning when: “Most of the fish we commonly eat, most of the fish we know, could be gone in the next fifty years.”

That’s stunning and gripping. I mean, oh my God, right? I need to stop eating fish now! Everyone stop fishing! This is a catastrophe…But, not so fast, because Mark Kurlansky doesn’t want to hurt the fishing communities that rely on these hugely irresponsible, fish hauls. Let the fisherMEN fish, don’t regulate them, they will take care of the problem, says Kurlansky. But to me, this is like saying: let the coal miners mine, or let the oil drillers drill. If it is hurting the earth we have to STOP IT NOW! How can you wait for the fisherMEN to figure it out? They’re the ones over fishing! All the fish will be dead and consumed by the time the problem is figured out.

I’m sorry if you fish. I really don’t have anything against your profession, but I find this climate change debacle terrifying and really fucking frustrating.

If you want to really KNOW about the ocean, and you care about the ocean and its future check out The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One. Sylvia Earle is amazing. Also there’s a documentary on Netflix called Mission Blue, mostly about Earle, but it’s also a platform for her to implore the viewers to CARE. (Earle doesn’t eat fish btw…)

This book was a big OKAY. Its concerns were real and important. Its message was sincere, but its plan to solve the problem… Flawed.

Hurricane Katrina for all ages

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Hurricane Katrina,

Drowned City

By: Don Brown

 

I was ashamed while reading Drowned City.

It’s a graphic novel for kids about Hurricane Katrina. In my humble opinion, it was very powerful, because I didn’t know…

I didn’t know about the convention center (isn’t that awful). I didn’t know about the toxic water. I didn’t know about people drowning in their attics. I didn’t know about the 5,000 children that went missing (later reunited with parents). I didn’t know about the animals that were separated from their desperate owners. I didn’t know about the hospitals losing generators, and people who shouldn’t have had to die, dying because there was no life support. I didn’t know, and I have never tried to know. Most of the people that died were elderly; people that didn’t want to leave their homes.

A lot of people died in their attics… can you imagine: water gushing into your home, you try to get as high as you can, but even up at the top of your house you find that you’ve just cornered yourself into a watery grave, and you slowly drown. One couple cut out a hole in their roof to escape. The elderly had no choice.

I did know about our shoddy government. I knew about FEMA. I knew about the gangs. I knew about President Bush flying over the city. I knew about the Mayor. I knew about the Super Dome. I knew about the looting.

What was more important though? After a tragedy the magnitude of Katrina, everyone starts yelling at one another. It’s you fault! No, it’s yours! Well, at this point who cares, just get your butts in there and help these people!

This was a really great graphic novel, and it’s published for kids! Kids should read it. It’s tough, but it’s important for the next generation to learn about these mistakes. To see the humanity in these disasters, and work to create a future where we do not have to worry about another Katrina.

I don’t know if this was supposed to be as powerful as I felt it was, but I had goose bumps reading this book. Maybe that was due to my ignorance of the whole situation in New Orleans, but I loved this book. Read it as soon as possible.

You knew more than me and crave more in depth “adult” books about Hurricane Katrina? Try these (they’re all fiction I’m afraid, but the nonfiction titles were unfamiliar so I was hesitant to include them):

Zeitoun– Dave Eggers

Salvage the Bones– Jesmyn Ward

The Tin Roof Blowdown– James Lee Burke

 

Nimona

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Nimona

By: Noelle Stevenson

The story is told in panels, so here’s my review in panels (enjoy, try not to squint too hard):

EPSON MFP image

**I used Institute throughout, but it’s actually the Institution**

I really enjoyed this graphic novel.

But, I need to explain my dislike for Goldenloin:

  1. His hair: buddy, you’re a hero! You can’t fight well when your hair’s in your face. That’s probably why Nimona is constantly kicking your ass.
  2. Sorry, but you had a lame excuse for cutting off Blackheart’s arm- and what’s with…
  3. Trying so hard to kill Nimona? Like you never did some bad stuff, right?!
  4. I did hate the relationship between Goldenloin and … I didn’t see the connection. (…) could do so much better, like with someone who didn’t have blonde Barbie hair hanging in their face, or want to kill the cool, interesting shapeshifter girl.

Any-who, This is entertaining and it kind of reminded me of Vicious by V.E. Schwab. SO if you don’t mind reading comics, and you want to be entertained, give this book a chance, or check out the webcomic!

Also check- out Lumberjanes, Noelle Stevenson and others, write this comic- I’ve read it, I’ve enjoyed it, but I can’t remember what happened! So find out for yourself.