Friday, September 30, 2016

Graphic Novel Round Up by Ambrea

Recently, I’ve been on a reading jag involving comic books.  I don’t know why, but I’ve been on a comic book binge like never before—and, honestly, I couldn’t be happier.  I love comic books and graphic novels.  I read them when I was younger, but I fell out of step with them during high school and college.  I rediscovered them thanks to a local establishment (Mountain Empire Comics, in case you were curious) and a very special series named Spider-Gwen.  The rest, as they say, is history.

Here’s a glimpse at some of the comics I’ve been reading up on:

Lumberjanes is a delightful adventure series featuring five very talented young women:  Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley.  At Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types, these friends spend their summer solving mysteries, exploring secret caves, fighting three-eyed foxes and, in general, uncovering the mysterious creatures lurking in the woods around camp.  The first volume, Beware the Kitten Holy, is a hilarious debut for the series that captures all the humor and vitality of these characters possess while simultaneously creating a story that’s both fun and compelling.  Yes, it does border on absurd, but I enjoyed every minute.

In particular, I enjoyed getting to know the characters.  Jo is highly intelligent, specializing in mathematics and puzzles, and she’s absolutely fearless; April is dramatic and witty, and she has more than a few surprises up her sleeves; Molly is an incredible archer (which does come in handy during their various misadventures), and she has an unexpected companion I was more than happy to meet in later issues; Mal is cautious, but she’s incredibly detail-oriented and highly skilled at crafting plans, even on the fly; and Ripley, while naïve and childish, is a ball of energy willing to take on any task—even if it means riding like a rodeo cowboy on the back of a raptor.  They’re great characters to meet, and I enjoyed following them as they took on the supernatural creatures around camp and discovered how far they’re willing to go to preserve their friendship.
The new Thor, which features a masked heroine taking the place of the god of thunder, is pretty fantastic.  Starting with Thor:  Goddess of Thunder, the series explores the political and social relationships between the different realms of Asgard and Midgard—and, of course, features a kick-butt heroine wielding Mjolnir.  It picks up where Original Sin left off and, while it doesn’t go into a lot of detail about previous events, it manages to give readers enough detail that they can continue unimpeded.  Although some of the Norse mythology woven into the story can get a bit complex, it’s a decent place to start the series and it’s a great stepping stone into the world of Asgard.

On the whole, I enjoyed reading about the new Thor.  She’s much the same as her predecessor:  serious, snappish, slightly egotistical; however, she has a better sense of humor, which I found I appreciated, and she has a closer connection to the human world.  Moreover, I loved listening to her internal narration.  Although her voice is modified by the magic of Mjolnir, readers have the opportunity to hear her own unique, internal voice that’s more easily accessible and relatable.  She speaks as a human being would, a quality that helps to mark her apart as a hero and a god but also a mortal.  She’s something special, something vastly different from the other gods and goddesses of Asgard—and I’m intrigued to see where her story will lead.
I actually liked reading the new Archie series; in fact, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected.  I’ve never been a big fan of Archie, rather I have always been and will always be an ardent admirer of superheroes—like Batman, Spider-Gwen, Ms. Marvel, Superman, Daredevil, and Squirrel Girl.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by The New Riverdale and I was pleased to know Archie was in the hands of Mark Waid.  This latest incarnation of Archie is both humorous and fun, paying homage to the original series while creating a brand new world with intricate relationships and infinite new complexities.  It’s actually pretty great, and I enjoyed my time spent in Riverdale.

I also enjoyed reading Afterlife with Archie, a spinoff series that features Riverdale in a post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested world.  Riverdale is ground zero thanks to a well-intentioned spell by Sabrina, and Archie’s life will never be the same.  Not only does the volume offer an intriguing blend of horror and reality, it gives you a new perspective on the characters everyone knows and loves.  Seriously, you’ll never look at Jughead the same way again.  It’s absolutely gut-wrenching to see the gradual collapse of Riverdale and it tore at my heart to see the safe, calm serenity of Archie’s world turned upside- down, but it was so good.  The story is solid and stands on its own, which I appreciated since I have zero experience with Archie and his friends.
For centuries, the residents of Fabletown have lived in secrecy, living below the radar after the Adversary chased them from their mythical kingdoms.  Snow White, along with King Cole, keep Fabletown running smoothly—until Rose Red, Snow’s sister, winds up dead.  Between Fabletown and the Farm, Snow will be kept on her toes and, along with Bigby (who is otherwise known as the Big Bad Wolf), she’ll have to solve a heinous murder…and hope she can keep the peace in the process.  Or she might just die trying.  Altogether, Fables is a fascinating series full of all the characters, fairy tales, myths and legends that everyone knows and loves.

Sometimes fun, sometimes explicit, Fables offers a new twist on old favorites and creates a unique world with quirky character and strange villains, all mixed together with a dash of political intrigue.  It was always interesting to watch their lives unfold, to see how their relationships would further develop, since everyone literally knows or knows of everyone else.  All the denizens of Fabletown have a history with one another:  Everyone fears Bigby, because he was once the Big Bad Wolf who gobbled up unsuspecting travelers in the forests, and yet he’s Fabletown’s enforcer; Bluebeard is a homicidal maniac who has managed to ingratiate himself into the political and social scenes of Fabletown; Snow White is sister to flighty Rose Read, first wife to a promiscuous Prince Charming, and right hand to King Cole, mayor of Fabletown; Little Boy Blue is an assistant to Snow, helping to keep Fabletown running smoothly; Jack (of “Jack and the Beanstalk” fame) is a con-artist and computer hacker with a less-than-stellar record.  And that’s just the tip of the ice berg!
Batwoman begins with a little prequel called Elegy, which details Batwoman’s origin story and her most recent tang with the dark side of Gotham; however, I picked it up with the first volume, Hydrology.  In Hydrology, Batwoman is confronted by a sinister spirit known as La Llorona, or the “Weeping Woman,” which haunts the barrio, kidnapping children, murdering parents, and sowing fear and discord among the survivors.  But there’s something darker going on in the background, a mysterious force under the control of Medusa that’s set to unleash the Mother of All Monsters—and turn Gotham into ground zero for the end of the world.

I fell in love with Batwoman.  Admittedly, it took me some time to sink into the story and, moreover, get used to the confusing art direction, but, overall, I’ve enjoyed reading about Kate Kane and her surprisingly gifted “family” of superheroes.  Filled with beautiful art and complex character stories, which wind through the DC Universe with abandon, Batwoman is a singularly incredible series that struck just the right notes—all at once macabre, beautiful, and compelling.  Although I took to liking some of the later volumes more (see:  This Blood is Thick and Webs), I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the Batwoman comics available at my library.

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