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Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside

Bad-Machinery-5Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison

Oni Press, 2016.  978-62010-297-8

Synopsis: Love seems to be in the air for Mildred and Sonny. He’s fallen for a girl that seems to have literally stepped out of the ocean and she’s developed a crush on a boy she met in Saturday detention. On the other side of the equation, Linton and Jack want to do is play video games with their mate while Lottie and Shauna are offering Mildred different opinions about what to do and say to Lee. And who exactly is the wild man in a fur cloak and what does he want with Sonny’s dream girl?

Why I picked it up: I’m totally, utterly, and completely addicted to this series.

Why I finished it: I’ve noticed that the last few volumes that Allison has been branching out and featuring different members of the mystery-solving sextet, this one shining a spotlight on cousins Mildred and Sonny. What was most amusing to me was the difference in the family dynamics in the Haversham/Craven households versus that of the Wickle, Finch, and Grote homes. Mildred’s parents are activists that seem to buy into just about every sort of ‘necessary’ lifestyle change (Mildred isn’t allowed to play video games, she needs to observe a strict vegan/vegetarian diet) and sheltering their daughter from the world around her. Sonny’s parents appear to be more laiez-faire in their parenting style, allowing their son to spend an afternoon at a local swim park with his friends by themselves. And though all teens think their parents are on the weird side, it’s easy to see that their motives are driven by love. This volume is perhaps more angst-y in its portrayal of teenage love exuding a sort of Romeo and Juliet motif – it’s not tragic, per se, but both Mildred and Sonny’s relationships do seem to have some element of fate attached to them, particularly in relation to Ellen (Sonny’s mystery girl) and Lee’s sort-of ex-girlfriend Sasha. Allison also adds a mythical element to the story by playing on the legend of the Selkie, a creature most commonly found in Scottish folklore. As an American reader, the Selkie legend was somewhat foreign to me, but fortunately it’s easy to grasp (unlike trying to figure out the family trees of Greek and Roman gods – that’s a mental work out….) and Allison does a superb job of intertwining the tragedy of the Selkie legend with that of the exploration of teenage love.  Those readers who are already fans of the series will likely eat up this novel as eagerly as the previous four; it’s a quick-witted, fun, fantastical, and sometimes dark look at how we are shaped by the world around us.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

 

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Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One Review

Bad-Machinery-4Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison

Oni Press, 2015. 978-1620102121

Synopsis: A new school year brings a new classmate to Griswald’s Grammar School! But he’s a bit strange, and he really, really likes onions. When the whole school suddenly becomes best friends with him, Shauna seems to be the only one left out. It’s up to her to peel back the mystery, one onion layer at a time. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I was giddy when I found it on the shelf of my local library, since this has totally become one of my favorite comics.

Why I finished it: I don’t know if it’s really right to play favorites with these characters, but Shauna’s been my girl since volume 1 so I was excited to see her get fleshed out a little bit more and have to work something out on her own. It’s also a little strange to see a character working more or less independently on a case, but it presented itself also as an opportunity to introduce secondary characters so that the town of Tackleford fills out a little bit more as well. For example, the reader learns more about the farms on the outer limits of the town and that Tackleford apparently has some pretty swanky mansions in the midst of the other middle class neighborhoods. I was also amused to see Shauna impressing the role players with her unexpectedly nerdy prowess and the way she is able to get them to help her after most of the school has turned into onion-loving zombies. Between new teachers and new students, the reader has a lot to follow in this latest installment. It continues to show the characters trying to balance school and home life, recreation and homework with a little bit more of the slice-of-life-in-a-small-town along with a kooky science fiction element.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

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Bad Machinery Vol. 3: The Case of the Simple Soul Review

bad-machinery-3Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison

Oni Press, 2014. 978-1620101933

Synopsis: The Tackleford gang is back with a new case that demands solving! When Tackleford’s derelict barns begin going up in flames, Linton and Sonny are on the case with a moderately mysterious new friend. Paths cross, however, when Lottie and Mildred meet a terrifying yet misunderstood creature living beneath a bridge! Throw in an overly enthusiastic Fire Brigade, a transforming skate ramp, and a new French teacher and you’ve got the kind of charming genius that can only be found in John Allison’s BAD MACHINERY. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: This was a splurge purchase at a book sale after trying (and failing) to remember the name of the comic.

Why I finished it: I was hard pressed to find the actual mystery in this installment of the series. The mysterious barn fires start out as a prevalent plot point, but it sort of fades into the background behind the other plotlines. Granted, the case does get solved in the end, but it doesn’t seem like our sleuths really have much interest in solving the case that they seem to have happened upon. Mildred, Charlotte, Linton, and Sonny all spend a significant amount of time trying to fill the void left in their groups by Shauna and Jack, who are now dating (and they are totally my OTP of this series). So in that aspect, Simple Soul is more about transitions than it is about finding an arsonist. Allison has found a different rhythm for his characters this time around, showcasing their struggles with the end of the year at a new school, changing friendships, new romances, and the general angst that comes from being an almost teenager. Yet, the comedic timing and the offbeat humor continue to shine through which is what makes the comic so likable. The volume also includes another edition of Charlotte’s explanations of British Idioms and a collection of hand-drawn husbands by Charlotte and Mildred. Overall, it’s a great, fun read that continues to see our characters growing up and learning more about life – which, it turns out may or may not be hazardous to your health.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

 

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Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy Review

bad-machinery-2Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison

Oni Press, 2014. 978-1620101148

Synopsis: Toddlers are going missing all over Tackleford and witnesses report they are being carted off by a mysterious beast. Meanwhile, another mystery beast appears in Mildred’s backyard – but at least this one appears to be friendly…and polite…and able to drink tea from a cup? Is it in any way related to the ‘dogs’ the girls drew with Mildred’s supposed magic pencil? Can Jack and the boys find the beast before Jack gets too beat up by the school bully? Will Shauna and Jack ever have a date?

Why I picked it up: I loved the first volume and was eager to read more about Shauna, Mildred, Charlotte, Linton, Jack, and Sonny’s mystery-solving exploits

Why I finished it: Allison has created a wonderfully diverse world filled with marvelously fleshed out characters whose interactions remind us of our own adventures and misadventures. Shauna, Mildred, Charlotte, Jack, Sonny, and Linton could all very well be people we know, and the reader is instantly drawn into the group, looking for clues about what currently plagues their small town. There’s somewhat less interaction between the girls and the boys in this volume, since each of them seems to have stumbled upon their own separate mysteries. The bit with Jack being bullied is poignant without detracting from the main plot. Bullying is a big deal no matter your age group, and Allison addresses the issue in a way that seems to spark something in the reader. We can get called out on the fact that we’re in trouble, but it’s often hard to admit that we need help, that we can’t handle it ourselves. I also appreciated that the adults are just as snarky as the teens, walking a fine line between being a disciplinarian and being an advocate. It gives us a different look at our own lives and our own world without detracting from the fun and quirky nature of the comic itself. And again, there’s a helpful glossary in the back of the book to help readers with the idioms of British English.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

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Bone, Volume 9: Crown of Horns Review

bone_9Bone, Volume 9: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith

Graphix, 2009. 978-0439706315

Synopsis: It’s full-fledged war as Briar, the rat creatures, and the Pawan army storm the city of Atheia. The Bone cousins, Thorn, and Gran’ma Ben are all there to defend the Valley and stop the return of the Lord of the Locusts. When Thorn goes inside a ghost circle, she hears a voice urging her to seek the Crown of Horns. What follows is another dangerous journey for Thorn and loyal Fone Bone as they race to the sacred grounds of the dragons, searching for the one thing that may save them all. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: EPIC CONCLUSION TIME!

Why I finished it: I think the descriptor “epic” gets thrown around quite a bit when we’re talking about finales, but I think Smith actually pulls it off. The reader has officially peeled all the layers back from the story and gotten to the core. Action, drama, and humor take center stage as we follow our heroes through the final battles and an emotional homecoming. It’s hard to talk about this last volume without giving too much away, but needless to say that Smith has wrapped everything up nicely. There’s a bittersweet feel to the conclusion, but really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Like any series, it’s hard to say goodbye to the characters we love. We feel like we’ve gone through everything with these characters and we don’t want them to leave, but we have to trust that they can look after themselves without the reader peeking in at their lives. This series more than deserves every award and accolade it’s received. I’ve said before that this book has more than earned its place on my shelf, and it’s a series I will happily recommend to readers of all ages.

Other related materials: Bone, Volume 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 2: The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 3: Eyes of the Storm by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 4: The Dragonslayer by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 5: Rock Jaw: Master of the Eastern Border by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 6: Old Man’s Cave by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 7: Ghost Circles by Jeff Smith; Bone, Volume 8: Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith; Bone, Prequel: Rose by Jeff Smith; Bone: Tall Tales by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Bone: Quest for the Spark Books 1 & 2 by Jeff Smith and Tom Sniegoski; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; The Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Knights of the Lunch Table books by Frank Cammuso; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; Nnewts books by Doug TenNapel; Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

 

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Gaijin: American Prisoner of War Review

gaijin_american_prisoner_of_warGaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner

Disney-Hyperion, 2014. 978-1423137351

Winner of the 2014 Asian/Pacific American Award for Young Adult Literature

Synopsis: Koji, the son of a Japanese father and an American mother, suddenly finds his world turned upside down when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Because he is of Japanese descent, he and other Japanese Americans must be taken away from their homes and sequestered like criminals. Accompanied by his mother, Koji learns quickly that the camps are not what they seem, and that being different may cause him more harm than good.

Why I picked it up: A library colleague turned me on to this book a few years ago and it’s been sitting on my shelf waiting for the opportune moment for me to rediscover it.

Why I finished it: It’s necessary to read about ugliness in this world so that we can remember the mistakes of the past and take steps to never repeat them. Faulker’s graphic novel about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II is both gritty and powerful, and on the 75th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombings, it is a reminder of one of many dark times in American History. My own grandfather has spoken of a young man who was sent to an internment camp that he has often wondered about since the end of the war. Faulkner notes multiple times throughout the book that the majority of those that were sent to these camps were children, something I don’t know that I thought very much about until I read this story. At its heart, this is the story of a family trying to make sense of the senseless actions that seem to be transpiring around them. They don’t fully grasp the prejudices that have become suddenly more apparent with their friends and neighbors. In a country that prides itself on giving its citizens a voice, they suddenly have none. Even thought Koji’s mother is trying to make the best of things, Koji is still angry and confused. The reader witnesses him lashing out in ways that feel like they make sense to the teenager, but we also slowly see an understanding dawning as the story moves on. It’s as if he has realized that there is something else to fight for, that he has every right to be angry, but that his anger needs to be fueled into doing good rather than creating havoc. Faulkner’s unspoken commentary about the experiences of Japanese-Americans speaks volumes and the invisible voices of those who were interred give power to the narrative. The art is a cross between a classic WWII-era newspaper strip and a kaiga (Japanese painting), mixing the art of East and West to add another layer of symbolism to the novel. Koji’s dreams seem to take on mostly red hues, which Eastern cultures associate with luck and power; the rest of the book is drawn in browns, blacks, and sepias, emphasizing a sort of depression and darkness that overtook the country as a result of the internment. It’s a powerful graphic novel that bears its teeth and screams with a rage that will have readers remembering it even after they have closed the book.

Other related materials: Take What You Can Carry by Kevin C. Pyle; The Moved-Outers by Florence Crannell Means; Farwell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston; Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim; Remembering Manzanar: Life in a Japanese Relocation Camp by Michael L. Cooper; The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559, Mirror Lake Internment Camp (My Name is America series) by Barry Denenberg; Early Sunday Morning: The Pearl Harbor Diary of Amber Billows, Hawaii 1941 (Dear America series) by Barry Denenberg; Journey to Topaz: A Story of the Japanese-American Evacuation by Yoshiko Ushida, illustrated by Donald Carrick; Journey Home by Yoshiko Ushida, illustrated by Charles Robinson; The Invisible Thread by Yoshiko Uchida; Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban; A Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn Fitzmaurice; Mystery at Manzanar: A WWII Internment Camp Story by Eric Fein, illustrated by Kurt Hartman; A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee-Tai, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino

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Razzle Dazzle Unicorn Review

razzle_dazzle_unicornRazzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1-4494-77912

Synopsis: When your best friend is a unicorn, there’s never a dull moment. Whether it’s competing with the Christmas tree as to who is sparklier, bonding with a goblin who likes to steal socks, or making friends with a lake monster, Phoebe and Marigold make the most of every day.

Why I picked it up: I love how funny and fun this series is!

Why I finished it: Unicorns are creatures that require lots of attention and care, as the reader has learned thus far. But once you prioritize the fact that your best friend is a unicorn, everything sort of falls into place. We start off with some holiday stories (that remind us that the holiday season is (perpetually) just around the corner) and move through the latter half of the year until we once again find ourselves at Camp Wolfgang. Simpson’s humor and art are what really make this series shine (literally and figuratively) and the multi-generational jokes are well-timed throughout this collection. This volume sees Marigold interacting a little more with Phoebe’s parents – the unicorn develops sparkle fever and has to stay home from taking Phoebe to school, during which time Phoebe’s mom must entertain the beautiful creature while she recovers. We also learn the difference between a common orn and a unique orn (Marigold obviously falls into the latter category), and that it is important not to confuse the two. It’s a smart, funny series that will have you laughing out loud and enjoyed by unicorn lovers of all ages.

Other related materials: Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson; Unicorn on a Roll: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure by Dana Simpson; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Alien Invasion in my Backyard: An EMU Club Adventure by Ruben Bolling; The Ghostly Thief of Time by Ruben Bolling; Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; Hamster Princess books by Ursula Vernon; Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack; The Princess in Black series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; Lunch Lady books by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Stinky Cecil books by Paige Braddock

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