Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 12-09-2016

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-8-37-19-amDelilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling
Tony Cliff
First Second
9781626721555
March 2016

Delilah Dirk has traveled all across the world-Japan, Indonesia, France, even the New World! But now she and her loyal friend Selim are travelling together to see England! Selim has never been before and since Delilah is from there it’s only fitting she showed him around. Especially after their last adventures. But they have to be careful because the English are at war with the French! And before you can count to three they’ve both been accused of being spies against the British Crown! They must clear their names and only Delilah Dirk can do so, using all of her wits, sword fighting, and wearing…pretty dresses and having a cup of tea with her mother? Hrm. Well none the less, drinking proper tea and sword fighting will win the day!

One of the great things for me about this graphic novel is that we have a strong female character and a strong male character. Delilah is a well rounded character that acts like a real person! Imagine that! A female character that doesn’t have to have a man save her. Shocking I know. Seriously though, Delilah is kinda of a female Indiana Jones. She goes around the world, has adventures, and while she may like company she doesn’t need it. Selim on the other hand is the exact opposite, at least when we first meet him. He’d rather enjoy the simple things in life, like a good cup of tea, and just do his job. But together these two characters have great adventures and both are the better for it. And get this…they don’t have a romance! Tony Cliff goes against all “normal” stereotypes to create a fantastic story, with memorable characters. Yes by the end they kinda start looking at each other with googly eyes at some points, but…eh its less romance and more that they genuinely care for each other. And it’s built up over the course of two novels. Both characters stand alone and can and do succeed on their own, but they do better with each other together.

One of the things I really like in this story arc is that we get to see a bit more about where Delilah comes from. We saw some of her upbringing in the first novel in that she lived with her dad and travelled the world, but in this one we see more about her mom. That yeah she’s more of the typical “mom” during this time period, but that doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have her own strengths to her. And she dearly loves her daughter and will fight to protect her in her own way. I also really like the opposing forces in this story. While the main villain is an over the top representation at times, the rest of them are very human. You get a good sense that they do what they do because they must or out of love for their families. Sure they might be misguided, but they don’t have all of the details to make better decisions. The main villain is an over the top cliche, but…eh it works well here.

Tony’s artwork is flat out gorgeous. I’m not sure what Tony uses to create his artwork, but it’s lush, detailed, and beautiful. I mean each and every page feels like something that could be hung up on the wall as art and you wouldn’t get tired of looking at it. The colors are beautiful and the expressive faces just bring the characters to life. The action sequences are some of my favorites in the book, particularly the last battle at the end of the book. Oh. My. Word. Breathtaking is how I’d put it. I really kinda wish the book was bigger so that we can get more detail out of the scenes. It’s that good.

This is a great book and I’d recommend it for teen readers and up. I can’t wait to see if we get more of Delilah and Selim (one can hope.) I give the book 5 out of 5 stars.

ARC provided by Gina at FirstSecond

Apollo: The Brilliant One (Olympians)

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 12-09-2016

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-8-33-23-amApollo: The Brilliant One (Olympians)
George O’Connor
First Second
9781626720152
January 2016

Apollo. The Brilliant one. Son of Zeus and Leto. Enemy of Hera. Silent and powerful. Brighter and bigger than the sun. Not one being alone can tell his tale. All nine muses stand forth and offer their tales upon the light bringer. The slayer of snakes. Diviner of truth and prophecy. And more. Watch and listen as each muse tells their tale of the greatest of Zeus’s children to live.

OK I’ve been a fan of O’Connor’s storytelling about the pantheon since the beginning and each one has gotten better and better. This one? This one though? Is my favorite so far (although the one about Apollo’s sister Artemis just might beat it. Although that’s a review for another day.) The thing I love about this is that with previous gods they all kinda of stood for one thing. Zeus ruler of the heavens. Hera his Queen. Poseidon, Hades, Aphrodite, Ares, etc. They weren’t simple characters by any means, but their stories were easier to understand. Apollo though? Apollo has stood for so many different things and been presented so many different ways. Being the sun god he can often be confused as being a bit of an ass (see how he’s presented in the Percy Jackson series for example.) I mean, he means well, but he’s never really presented as someone you would take seriously. O’Connor though chooses to present all of his different aspects in a way that any reader can understand. And one of the ways he does this is uniting the character throughout the tale. Even though its from different viewpoints, presumably because its from different authors, O’Connor presents them as one person. The personalities we see in each different story continue over the other and overlap.

The second way he does this is his art style. Some creators would choose this as a chance to showcase different styles representing different characteristics. But not O’Connor. Instead he uses this as again to show its the same character throughout. Each representation of Apollo looks like the previous ones, so that we understand that it’s all one person, just with different aspects. Much like Aphrodite, its the way Apollo carries himself that shows his different aspects. His movements, voice, etc. and the way O’Connor draws him, really highlight that this is the same character just with a wide array of powers. I particularly love the expressions on the faces of the characters throughout the book. It takes a skilled artist to be able to pull that off and O’Connor is able to capture it in the nuances of the characters expressions with a raised eyebrow and a slight tilt to the head. It really helps make the characters come to life.

One of the great features of this series, is at the end O’Connor has a section that talks about the different characters, who they are, and other details to help learn more about the Greek world. This is the perfect companion for people that have been enjoying the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan and want to know more about the Greek/Roman gods and how they work. It would be ok for elementary school age (3rd and above) but they would probably need to read it with a parent. But this would be an excellent book for a middle or high schooler (or even adult) that wants to learn more about the world of Greek mythology.

ARC provided by Gina at First Second

Exquisite Corpse

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 12-09-2016

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-8-29-21-amExquisite Corpse
Pénélope Bagieu
First Second
9781626720824
May 2015

Zoe isn’t exactly someone you would call intellectual. In fact, she doesn’t really like to read all that much, and well…she wouldn’t know JK Rowling from Stephen King. But she soon gets drawn into the literary world when she stumbles into the apartment of Thomas Rocher, long thought dead, but really hiding in plain sight to boost the sales of his books. But now he’s stuck on completing his next book. Until Zoe stumbles into his life. She’s different. She’s unique. She’s his muse! But they come from two different worlds! How will they make it when he gets wrapped up in his work? And what happens afterwards?

Flipping through the book you’ll get a decidedly, well European style coming from the book. And that’s not surprising given that the author, Penelope Bagieu, is a Parisian artist/writer. It’s got that sort of tongue in cheek sense of humor that the French are known for and that may at times be a bit off putting or feel hard to swallow for American audiences. By that I mean, well the climax of the book is something that seems to suddenly spring out of nowhere. I know, I know it sounds like I’m saying its a sudden twist ending…but it’s really not. Not if you go back and read through the book and look for the hidden visual cues. Because that’s more in the European style of tongue in cheek.

OK let’s see if I can describe this in a slightly different manner. Think of the classic Peter Seller’s Pink Panther movies. You know the good ones before…casting other people in the titular role. Anyway each character in those movies plays a specific role and they aren’t necessarily fully fleshed out people, nor do they have to be. You just have to connect with the part that they’re playing and that’s what Bagieu does well here. You connect to the parts being played and what’s going to happen next is always a bit of a mystery in a sense which makes it fun to read.

Bagieu also has a rather simple drawing style, with bare essence of the character being hinted at, much like the classic Pink Panther cartoons. We don’t need a lot of details, just the basic needs and we can fill see where they’re coming from. She also works from a rather limited color palette, again like the cartoons, that fill in the shapes and give us something to look at. While she uses different shades and values of a color to hint at physical form, it’s always in a block shape style so that the simpleness of the character remains.

Again, this may be something some American audiences have trouble with and it isn’t going to be for everyone. And that’s ok, it’s not what the novel is shooting for. Instead it’s shooting for the type of readers that enjoy the Pink Panther cartoons and sense of humor. The ones that are going to laugh at the weird quirks that show up and the eccentricness of the characters. If that describes you, then you’ll enjoy this book.

ARC provided by Gina at First Second

The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 11-09-2016

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-4-09-43-pmThe Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo
Drew Weing
First Second
9781626723399
September 2016

Charles has just moved to Echo City and of course he’s upset! I mean who wouldn’t be? Moved away from his best friends, moved into this weird creepy hotel that his dad is fixing up, and the neighbors are just well…weird! They sneak into his room at night. Steal his toys. Hide from his parents. Cause trouble all over. And oh right…they’re monsters. Because they can’t be normal after all. Luckily…maybe, Echo City has Margo Maloo, monster mediator for hire. No matter who or what is causing trouble Margoo knows how to fix it. And it’s a good thing too, because all of the monster’s have one thing in common. They don’t really like Charles.

So what’s the best part of this book? The wonderfully creepy, but relatable art? Or the story that keeps things moving and makes you want to know what happens next? Or maybe its how everything works together? I mean…that’s the sign of a good graphic novel after all isn’t it? Art and story working together to make something that is fun and amazing to read. And that’s what we get with Margo Maloo.

Drew’s been running Margo as a webcomic for a couple of years now and I’ve heard about it off and on since it started, but I only really started reading it right about the time “The Ogre’s Baby” started and man. What the heck was wrong with me for waiting this freaking long to read the comic? I was instantly hooked because Drew created a world that has elements of Encyclopedia Brown in it crossed with monsters. I mean come on, how can you not be hooked by that premise? Drew’s writing creates well rounded characters that you feel like you could actually meet outside. Sure they all have some little quirk, like the kid that’s trying to get into the Guinness Book of World Records, Charles who’s a reporter, and of course Margo who talks to monsters, but they all are written as real people. The way they react to each other and the world around them are the ways any of us would react to something. This is in part due to the fact that Drew spent a good bit of time setting up the world. The first stories set up Charles and his family and that there’s something weird going on. And it’s only then that we start really exploring the world of Margo and the monsters.

I think the best part about this book though is Margo. She’s down to earth (well as down to earth as a monster hunter can be) and kicks butt. She isn’t afraid to tell Charles to back off and stay out of the way. The fact that she’s a non-white female kid just makes it even more awesome. It never plays a part in the story, it’s just part of who she is, so a young reader can just go “Hey! She’s like me. Cool!” and they don’t have to worry about going “Oh she’s rich.” Or “Oh. She’s had special training.” Nope. Margo is just herself.

The second best part of this book for me, at least far as the writing goes, are the monsters themselves. And that’s because the monsters aren’t written as…well monsters. I mean sure they’re trolls and ogres and goblins and ghosts and act like it sometimes. But they have very human traits to them as well. They have cities, they look after their children, they protect their communities from humans. They basically just want to live. We see this from the very beginning where in the very first story (minor spoiler) the monster that we encounter actually collects the same figures from a game as Charles does. It makes it much easier for the reader to realize the monsters aren’t quite monsters, at least in the traditional sense. What also makes this awesome is that this is a good book to give to kids to talk about monsters. You can show them, maybe the monster in the closet is real but just wants to play Pokemon with them.

And the illustrations. Oh. My. Goddess. Drew’s art style works so well with the story. The thick brushy lines that create the characters give them a sense of 70’s/80’s style horror comics (think Swamp Thing as illustrated by Steve Bissette) that just have so much umph and life to them. And then the colors on top mimic that brushy look, never quite filling in all of the shapes, but giving us enough that we get a sense of what everything looks like. Together it creates the slightly spooky atmosphere that we would expect from something about monsters. Drew also hides plenty of great details into the story, like with “The Ogre’s Child.” After you read it, go back and reread it looking for…well let’s say the shadows and you’ll have a good surprise.

The last thing that I want to mention is the book design itself. Since Drew has been running this as a webcomic he’s formatted it as such…or well most like classic Sunday strips with the two tiers and multiple panels. So think about that…how would you fit it into the typical shape of a graphic novel? Well other publishers might have rearranged the squares or put two to a page or I’ve seen even worse things. First Second does something different though, which makes them a great publisher, they designed the book around that concept. They kept it at one strip per page and left it at the size we typically see on a computer screen. Which means that we’re able to read it as Drew designed it, keeping with the original atmosphere, intent, and beats in the strip. It’s a bit smaller than most books, but it works well with this one.

After all of that, what else can I say? This is such a fun creepy delight and if this review doesn’t at least make you want to check it out I don’t know what will. This is great for all ages, young, old, monster, and in between.

ARC provided by Gina at First Second

Sweaterweather: & Other Short Stories

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 11-09-2016

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-3-35-12-pmSweaterweather: & Other Short Stories
Sara Varon
First Second
9781626721180
February 2016

Long ago, in a world far, far away, before Odd Duck, Robot Dreams, and Bake Sale were ever glimmers in the eyes of the world, Sara Varon created Sweaterweather. A collection of short comics that Sara created to showcase some of the works she had created over the years for various projects. But…sadly it was lost to time. Or at least to being out of print for many years. But thankfully First Second has brought it back to life, with additional content, new cover, and introductions to each of the works. And so Sweaterweather once again lives!

What I like about Sara Varon, other than being an extremely nice person who forgave me for misspelling her last name in a different review, is that she has the ability to tell a good story with relatively simple illustrations. And I say relatively simple, only because she has simplified her line to the bare necessities to make the characters recognizable and enjoyable. A simple brush line creates each character giving them a fluid shape and structure that allows them to move in any direction that they need. Modern readers might think of characters from Adventure Time, but really it harkens back to early Disney Cartoons, where the characters often had no recognizable joints or hard angles, and could stretch out their arms and legs to any proportions they wanted. While Sara doesn’t take it to quite that length, it allows for characters to move freely with each other. More than that though, it will remind younger readers of themselves. Because when we’re younger we do seem to be able to flop about in strange positions that make it look like we have no joints and that we can stretch out our arms and legs as long as we like. So it allows readers to see something of themselves in the characters.

The other thing that I like about Sara’s illustrations in this book, is that she sticks to one or two colors. While for other artists this could prove limiting trying to display depth and emotion, Sara uses it to her advantage to make it feel like we can walk into the scene with the characters. That we can take a part in their play because the action is right in front of us. In addition, only having one or two colors lets us imagine the world being anything we want it to look like. The sky can be green, dogs can be orange. We can make ourselves be a part of the world in any fashion that we choose.

The other nice aspect of this collection, is that Sara tells us how each story came to be. Allowing us to get insight into her creative process and see how she grows and changes over time as a creator. Readers, both young and old, will enjoy seeing this thought process, as it allows them to see how the creative process can change over time. Which is often something that other creators have trouble allowing a reader to see.

This book belongs on the shelf of anyone that is a creator or enjoys creating to learn how the process can change over time. It also deserves a spot on the shelf of anyone that is just a fan of quirky fun stories. You won’t regret it at all.

ARC provided by Gina at First Second

Dragons Beware! (The Chronicles of Claudette)

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 11-09-2016

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-8-24-44-amDragons Beware! (The Chronicles of Claudette)
Jorge Aguirre (Author), Rafael Rosado (Illustrator)
First Second
9781596438781
May 2015

Claudette is back for more adventuring and fighting evil again. And this time it’s personal! An evil wizard is back and the only thing that can stop him is Augustine’s magic sword…which is the belly of a dragon. So Claudette, Marie, and Gaston head out to find the sword and stop the evil wizard once and for all! But Augustine and Zubair head off on their own and forbid the children from following. And what do they do? Why follow of course! There’s no telling what trouble will be caused when these three are on the loose or what tables are overturned.

The first volume, Giants Beware!, broke all kinds of rules and boundaries–a young girl that was a warrior like her dad, a brother that was an excellent baker, and the daughter of the nobles that cared not a wit for princes, but cherished making intelligent decisions. And in this second book, they continue the trend of having a dragon that isn’t as evil as people think, a sword that isn’t what anyone thinks!, and a wizard that will blow your mind with who and what he is. It’s a great bit of writing and I enjoy watching the characters interact with each other and the world around them. They come to find out not only more about themselves, but their past as well, and how they’re going to let it influence them. We also got to find out some of the secrets that the town holds and I can’t wait to see the series continue.

I really like the artwork in this book, especially in the opening sequence. It’s a bit different than the rest of the book as it uses more muted colors and shadows, but it’s really well done.The rest of the book is done in brighter colors, still very well drawn, and perfect for a young reader. In fact the style reminds me a lot of Jeff Smith’s Bone, especially in the way the background and older characters are depicted. They have a lot more detail to them, more age lines on their faces, while the three main characters are almost less defined. It’s as if the artist is giving readers a chance to put themselves in the main characters places, making it easier for the reader to identify with them My absolute favorite character designs are Zubair and Claudette’s father, Augustine. I love the way they move while on their journey and the grizzle looks on their faces.

One thing that does bother me a bit about the writing in this book is that sometimes the words chosen don’t fit the age range of the book. I see the book as being for the elementary school range, but they use words like odoriferous or the discussion on politics at the beginning that just don’t fit that. While it would let the child come and ask their parents questions about what it means it just seems to be a bit of a deterrent to me for a young reader to really enjoy the book.

I’d highly recommend this book to any elementary school/middle school reader, especially young girls that are looking for a story where the girl isn’t a princess. I give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

ARC provided by Gina at First Second

The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 11-09-2016

screen-shot-2016-09-11-at-8-20-41-amThe Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet
Ian Lendler (Author), Zack Giallongo (Illustrator)
First Second
9781596439160
September 2015

The Zoo has once more closed for the evening and all have left the park. Except for the animals of course. And once again the Midnight Revue Payers have gathered to perform a play of epic proportions, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, for all to see. Romeo, the brave but cocky rooster, and Juliet the brave and adorable bear have met and long to be together. But they are from opposite worlds, as Romeo is from a petting zoo. Safe and protected. And Juliet is from the wild, where they must fend for themselves. Their communities try to keep them apart, but the two heroes will not be deterred!

OK the opening two pages of this book are a study in how to keep the start to a good story simple. We see a single panel of the a keeper locking up and leaving for the evening. And on the next page a giraffe steals her keys. And that’s it. We get to take it from our imaginations with what happens next. And yes this is the second volume in a series and the writer and artist are assuming that we already know a bit about the Stratford Zoo but…it doesn’t matter. At all. Because these two scenes allow us to imagine everything we want about the story and that’s the best part of things. We can imagine that the giraffe gives the keys to say the monkeys who go around freeing everyone. Which then allows us to imagine that animals can put on a play! And we’re instantly sucked in. Which is fantastic!

One of the things that I struggled the most with in school was reading plays. Any play, but Shakespearean plays were always the worst. I had trouble figuring out which character was speaking, how scenes fit together, and words always got jumbled in my head. And it also didn’t help that we’re talking about different cultures and worlds that have changed since the original plays were written. Some things, like MacBeth, kinda of stand the test of time. But others, like Romeo and Juliet, about warring families start to lose something in the translation. Not that there aren’t warring families or rival gangs, but its becoming harder and hard for young people to relate to that type of comparison (which honestly is a good thing. So in this adaptation explores a different route to give us the same meaning. He could have gone the route of hibernation vs non hibernators or carnivores vs herbivores, but instead he gives us safe zoo vs the unsafe wild. Which honestly is a bold and refreshing choice, because it gives readers something that they can understand. The original play’s class distinctions make less sense these days and other adaptations that feature class or race can be tricky in today’s world. But by talking about farm vs wild it allows readers to focus on what really matters, that the two characters come for different environments and that these two environments don’t get along. They don’t have to have a history lesson is warring families or rival gangs, but can instead instantly understand the difference. The other change that he makes that I like, is that the main characters don’t take poison together. Instead, it’s hibernation. Something that a zoo animal (and a roster certainly ever) does. By using something that kids are already semi-familiar with, it puts things into a different light. They’re able to understand the sacrifices and choices that have to be made and they get to see the pain that it’s going to cause the families. They also get to imagine, what happens now? Do they hibernate for years? Do they wake up to find the world changed? It’s something that the reader gets to imagine and maybe, make the changes that they want to see in the world. While Ian does tone down some of the darker aspects of the play, given that the book is for younger readers, he captures its essence and message perfectly.

As an additional bonus in the story, Ian adds an overarching story that is taking place in the audience, between two…friends? A young lamb and a young monkey. They argue throughout the play about nothing in particular, just that type of argument you have when you’re young that you aren’t going to be friends with someone anymore because they did something that you can’t remember but you know you didn’t like. And as they watch the play, they start to understand that maybe there’s something about differences that in the end…don’t matter. And maybe they can learn from each other. It’s not a romantic thing at all, just two friends learning what the play does teach.

I’ve been a huge fan of Zack Giallongo’s art since his previous First Second book, Broxo, and his illustrations in this book made me fall even more in love with his art. While Ian crafts the perfect words for his characters, Zack brings them to life, capturing their expressions and movements perfectly. Given that the two main characters are a rooster and a bear, there could have been….well issues with how the roster is drawn. I mean seriously. A rooster. It’s not exactly the most majestic creature on the planet is it? But look at the way Zack draws him on the front cover. Bam. That’s something special right there…even with the cheesy hearts above his head. He looks like a rooster, but is expressive. Is able to wear clothes (which are part of the play) and not look goofy as all getout. Zack should also be commended for making the more violent acts of the play into something a bit more cartoony with well placed animals blocking the view when needed.

Also, I don’t know if it was Zack or Ian, but I love the two old vultures in the audience. They remind me of Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets. They get to watch the play, but have some fun with their conversation between each other about growing old and being…well vultures. It’s just a great little side gag that make you giggle everytime you see them.

If you’re looking for a literary analysis or think that Shakespeare has no humor, please look elsewhere. On the other hand if you’re looking for something fun to introduce Shakespeare to younger readers, 5th grade and up, forge ahead! Older readers will enjoy the humor and new look at Macbeth as well. In fact, I think this book would work perfectly in a high school setting, helping students understand that Shakespeare does have humor to it, and that it can be fun and enjoyable to read. I give the book five out of five stars and I can’t wait to read the next volume in the series.

ARC provided by Gina at First Second

Little Robot

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 10-09-2016

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-3-04-35-pmLittle Robot
Ben Hatke
First Second
9781626720800
September 2015

There was once a little box that contained a little robot that fell off a little truck into a little stream where a little girl discovers it. The little girl likes robots and mechanical things and the two quickly become fast friends. Meanwhile, the robot is discovered to be missing from a factory! And another robot is sent to bring it back. The little girl and the little robot soon learn that friendship is not as easy as it seems, just as the other robot finds them! Can the little girl and the little robot learn to be good friends and defeat the other robot together? Or will this be the end?

So…where to start with this book? The cute story? The cute illustrations? Or the fact that the author, Ben Hatke, is one of my favorites? Yeah…let’s get that last part out of the way first. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll notice that Ben Hatke comes up…well everytime he has a new book come out. Why is that? Because Ben has consistently written compelling stories and crafting gorgeous illustrations. I first found him because of the Flight series where he was first showcasing the little girl that became Zita. But sometime shortly after that he vanished. Why? Well no one really knows, but I’d hazard a guess that space aliens, like that you see in Zita, and robots whisked him away to advance his training to the level it reappeared at a few years later. Since then he’s turned out hit after hit after hit that are just…well gorgeous. Ben knows how to tell a story and create beautiful illustrations that go along with it. And he doesn’t just and do the same thing time after time. Since finishing Zita he’s done a couple of children’s books, Little Robot, and the just released Mighty Jack (more on that in another review.) And while they have some overlap in story types, each of them stands on their own. And that’s what I love about Ben’s work.

In this book Ben really pushes himself with the story in that it’s mostly wordless. The first 20ish pages have no words and after that they’re fairly sparse. To the average person writing a wordless story looks easy. “No words, pfft that’s easy! Just put these two here and then….um…they er. Hrm.” It’s not quite as easy as we think it is. Because with a wordless story the pictures have to tell everything. Every little movement. Every little expression. Every color choice tells the reader what’s going on and it’s incredibly difficult to do. But that’s something that Ben actually excels at with his art. He has the practice and patience to even make us believe that a robot can express things with the way his arms droop or the slight lift of his eyes. And he’s always excelled at drawing young girls that really are some of the most expressive forces in nature. And that’s how he tells the story in this book. Blending a few written words and the art together. The characters “speak” in sound effects. Small changes in font size and punctuation are how they communicate with each other. And it works well here because Ben knows how to tell this type of story.

Ben’s artwork as always is gorgeous, but the one thing that is different that I have to point out is that the young girl is darker skinned. In this case the young girl comes from a poorer family, which is why she dresses as she does and is able to fix things the way she is, because she’s used to fending for herself. Why do I point this out? Well because it is something to be aware of when recommending/looking at the book. I’m fairly confident Ben isn’t making any type of social commentary here, because I have met him and I’ve read interviews he’s done, but other people haven’t and they might take this the wrong way. But they shouldn’t. Really what he’s doing is showing that little girls of any race can be heroes and accomplish things and that they can kick butt. Does it detract from the book at all? No and that’s why you should read this book. Because the character is a strong female character that Ben writes so well and is one that gives his hopes for the future.

This is one of those books that everyone can sit down and enjoy, because it has strong characters and an excellent story of just being strong and standing up for what you believe in. If this book doesn’t capture your attention…I’m not sure what will.

ARC provided from Gina at First Second

The Nameless City

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 10-09-2016

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-10-06-16-amThe Nameless City
Faith Erin Hicks
First Second
9781626721562
April 2016

The City has endured for ages. It has been, and always will be, the Nameless City. For even though every nation that invades it gives it a new name, it never lasts. And all who come from elsewhere are outsiders. Kai(du), a Dao born and bred member of the latest occupiers, is one such outsider. He’s glad to finally meet his father, who has been stationed in the City since before he was born, but is unsure of his place in this new world. Is he like his father? Is he a new born soldier? Or is he something more? He explores the city like no other before him and meets Rat, a young girl that is a native of the city who can teach Kai about more than fighting. And maybe together they might just save the city.

OK let’s go ahead and get the obvious out of the way, yes this book is clearly influenced by Avatar the Last Airbender. From the color choices, to the way the city is laid out, to even the costumes. Does this mean that Faith is ripping off Avatar? No, not at all. Is she paying homage to it? Sure. Along with a dozen other series that preceded Avatar. And there are influes of Hayao Miyazaki in here as well. But this story is all Faith’s. The way the characters are written, the way they move, the way they interact with each other. In Faith’s world it’s all about Rat and Kai and their relationship. The city, the wars, the politics, everything else is secondary to these two, because we’re watching them grow and change each other. And that’s the power of Faith’s writing. The one issue I have, is that this volume feels really rushed by the time we get to the end. I really wanted there to be a bit more development than there was, but maybe we’ll see it in the future volumes.

As always, I find that Faith’s art carries the book. That’s not to say that the writing isn’t good, but the artwork is what pushes the story into the next level for me. Faith is great at drawing teenage characters, capturing their expressions, the way they move, the way they hold their heads. All of it just picture perfect.  They have a lot of depth to their expressions so that even without the words of the story you can tell what’s going on. Faith also has a way of capturing the feelings and movements of being young. That sense of being crowded and all alone at the same time.  And that sense of relief at finding someplace to be yourself. That. That is something that I find in all of Faith’s works and enjoy greatly.

This is the first time I’ve seen Faith use color in a full graphic novel and…eh? It doesn’t hurt the story at all, but it doesn’t really enhance it either for me. It’s a very muted palette that I think at times hides a lot of nice little details that Faith has in her work and I think that’s an adjustment that they’ll have to make. Either use a more varied palette, or put less little details in so the two mediums aren’t competing with each other. Something like…well the Adventures of Superhero Girl, another one of Faith’s works, where color has been added. The blend of Faith’s line work and color works better here, because the line work isn’t as detailed. And I know, I know the two works are completely different in tone, but the less complicated style is what’s needed if color is going to be added. It allows the color to enhance the line work instead of mute it. Also something that has some bright colors would be nice. Again, I know this work is meant to have a more somber tone to it, but there are moments, like where the city is alight at night, where the colors could really help it shine and make it more magical.

Overall, it’s a good story and really plays to Faith’s strengths as a storyteller, especially with the teenage protagonists. I’m glad that this is a series and another book is on the way, because I really look forward to seeing how the characters progress.
ARC provided by Gina at First Second

Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride

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Posted by Andrew | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 10-09-2016

screen-shot-2016-09-10-at-9-54-12-am Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride
Lucy Knisley
First Second
9781626722491
May 2016

In 2010, Lucy Knisley and her boyfriend John broke up. They knew it was coming, as they both wanted different things in their lives, but they still saw each other. Still loved each other. And three years later John proposed. And while their relationship is mixed in as part of their story, it isn’t THE story. Instead it’s the planning of the wedding. You see Lucy didn’t want the big extravagant weddings that you often see. And given that she’s an artist and so many of her friends and family are, she figured what better way to have a wedding than to have friends help make it happen (all either as gifts or paid for of course!) And that is this story.

Like many people, I was first introduced to Lucy Knisley through her travelogue French Milk and I was quickly enthralled.  Her simple, yet evocative, line drawings created an entertaining story that made me feel like I was sitting with a good friend, sharing a meal, and listening to their adventures.  Since that time I’ve followed her webcomic, supported her Kickstarter for “Here at Hogwarts”, and all of the travelogues and books that she’s written. And each time something new comes out, I find new reasons to love her work.

Like in her previous books, Lucy has no problems taking a close look at her life and sharing intimate parts of it that most people wouldn’t, such as her past relationships and her journey back together with John. And to some people that means that she lives a storybook life. She gets to travel for her job on occasion, she had a fairly privileged upbringing with both parents being fairly well off, and here she gets the guy that she always wanted to be with! Well how dare she! I mean clearly she didn’t work for the jobs where she traveled out of the country and got to participate in adventures that other photographers and reporters did, she just sat there right? Or she has storybook magic romance where they break up and then get back together and that whole relationship thing? Pfff…it didn’t take any work at all to maintain right? Just perfect right out of the box. I mean how dare things work out for her! It’s not like storybook romances are ever based on reality right?

And you get my point right? And why do I address this? Because that’s the beauty of Lucy’s stories. One of the reasons I think people feel so jealous about Lucy’s work is that they can almost see themselves in her life.  She’s not a supermodel, she’s not a wealthy heiress or anything like that. Nope, she’s just a down to earth young woman from middle class parents. So it’s a bit easier to feel jealous of someone that you could be. And it’s because Lucy doesn’t try to hide those unflattering moments that so many of us wish we could hide, such as being a brat and rebellious towards are parents.  Lucy instead embraces it and share it with us in such a way that we can relate to it and remember our own experiences growing up.  And I stress that point because some authors seemingly want nothing more than pity or take such a hard look at themselves they no longer seem human.  Lucy’s writing puts us on her level and makes it easy to relate to her and feel like we’re talking with a good friend, which to me is the sign of a great writer.  

While the story is fantastic, Lucy’s artwork is even better. The illustrations in this tome (and it is a tome at 300 pages worth of illustrations) give us a real sense of who Lucy and John are. Sure we see some snapshots of them scattered throughout the book, but the illustrations make them come alive. My favorite section is when Lucy is dress shopping and the looks on her face as she tries on dress after dress after dress of ones that aren’t right for her. And when she finally finds the right one, what’s one of the things that gives her the greatest amount of joy about it? IT HAS POCKETS! And the joy is evident in the illustration and makes us glad that she found the dress. I could say more, but why give unnecessary detail?  Go check out her work and you’ll be impressed as well.

As you can tell I really enjoy Lucy’s work and I think a y’all will as well.  I highly recommend this book.  The story is simple, easy to follow, and flows naturally and the artwork is beautiful.  And I can’t give it any higher praise than that. I’m really looking forward to her two upcoming works, one on bullying during growing up and the other on giving birth.

ARC provided by Gina at FirstSecond