Fiction: Graphic Novel

Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Just in time for the movie! Although now I know how it ends… But still!

I don’t want to give away anything in case any of you are going to see the movie – I know I am – so this is going to be a fairly short and vague review! When we last left Scott, he had hit a pretty low point. There was really nowhere to go but up! And even though things may or may not (I’m not giving it away!) work out for Scott and his friends, it’s a surprisingly thoughtful and insightful ending – I mean, look past the fights and surreal dream travel and trust me, it’s there!

I was sad to see it end, but I’m really looking forward to the film now (as long as they don’t screw it up, of course)!

My rating: A-

Fiction: Graphic Novels

Scott Pilgrim, Vols. 1-5 by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Your annoying friend strikes again! Scott Pilgrim keeps coming up in recommendations for graphic novels (p.s. – if you have any, feel free to leave me a comment or an e-mail with them!) and when I saw that it was going to be a movie starring Michael Cera and directed by Edgar Wright (of Space, Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz fame), I couldn’t resist any longer. Not that I was resisting, I just hadn’t gotten around to it yet…

I bought the first one just to see how I liked it. Mistake! They take about an hour to read and then I was left longing to know what happened next for an entire night! I bought and mainlined the remaining five (the final, sixth volume will be released July 20) the next day.

So awesome! Scott Pilgrim, despite actually being kind of a jerk (as Kim Pine points out), is really likable and so are all his friends who are super-cool – the kind of cool where you really would love to hang out with them, but you’re probably not cool enough, but somehow that makes you want to hang out with them even more. And it has a touch of the surreal about it, but everyone in the book just accepts it as the norm which I really like.

If you’re a twenty-something indie slacker who’s in a band and destined to fight your girlfriend’s seven evil exes, this is the book for you! And even if you’re not, it’s still the book for you.

My rating: A

IR Fiction/Graphic Novel

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

I literally spent the entire last weekend reading. As you’ll gradually see over the course of the week. First up was this one which I’ve been meaning to read for absolute ages! What finally spurred me into action? A friend of mine mentioned that Hotson Jude Law was going to be appearing in Martin Scorsese’s adaption of this book. Well, if you know me at all, you know that I like to read the book before the movie comes out – for no reason other than to be that annoying friend you all have who says ‘Have you read the book?’ when you start discussing the merits of the movie.

I don’t think the movie’s even started filming, but I was also procrastinating reading a book that I have to read before Claire leaves, so I thought I’d dive right in.

And Oh. My. God. It’s brilliant. You’ll notice that I classified this as both fiction and a graphic novel (not that graphic novels aren’t fiction, but you get the distinction, I’m sure). There is text, but there are also large sections that are only illustrations – at one point, there’s a chase scene and I swear I’ve never turned pages so fast! Selznick’s style is very pencilly and cross-hatchy – I would liken him to Shaun Tan’s Arrival and Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris K. Burdick (two of my absolute favorites, by the way – if you haven’t read them, I don’t think I can be your friend [also, forget The Polar Express, Harris is Van Allsburg’s masterpiece]).

Oh, yeah, and the plot is quite good, too, but mostly I think this book is about the visuals and it’s a stunning example of a blending of illustrations and text. It totally made me cry at the end.

But in a good way. You should definitely read it.

My rating: A

Fiction: Comic Book?

Graphic novel? I’m not sure what the right term is for this, but I’m going to go with comic book since it’s like an issue instead of an entire book.

Whatever it is, I really liked it! What is it, you say?

Chloe Noonan: Monster Hunter, parts 1 and 2 by Marc Ellerby

I don’t have very much to say because they are quite short – only about 15 pages or so apiece (and that’s my only complaint – that I wanted to read an entire graphic novel of Chloe Noonan and her adventures), but they’re very clever and Chloe is sort of an ironic, post-modern monster hunter (Don’t compare her to Buffy – that does not make her happy!) armed with a bus pass and bombs (She just likes them, okay?!), trying to balance her monster hunting duties with school and playing keyboard in a band that, except for Chloe, is unaware of their pretentiousness (their bassist wears an eye patch and they’re called the Freudian Repercussions).

That may be the longest sentence that has ever existed, but don’t let that put you off. I think the only place to get it is from Marc Ellerby’s website. I highly recommend it and am anxiously awaiting more Chloe Noonan!

Another book to add to my list…

Well, it’s May and even though it’s technically still spring, you know what it means! The start of the Summer Blockbusters! I was going to wait until next weekend (okay, how lame is it that we have to wait while practically the rest of the world got to see it this weekend?!) and kick things off with Iron Man 2, but my boredom got the better of me and I saw…

By now probably everyone is aware that it’s not the goofy, teenage superhero movie that its previews originally made it out to be (though, admittedly, its red-band trailer did a pretty good job of dispelling that myth). What it is, instead, is a really good movie!

I’m having a bit of blogger’s ennui at the moment, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet. You should go see it. Keep in mind that it IS pretty violent, but that’s not really all it’s about.

IT BEGINS! Summer blockbuster tally = 1-0-0

Graphic Novel/Memoir

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

I couldn’t sleep this morning and once the sun started to come up and the birds started to chirp (and for once were not drowned out by the wind tunnel that is our condo here), I gave in and got up. It’s already a beautiful day, so I decided to sit on the balcony and finish French Milk.

If I hadn’t already been a fan of her art and her writing from reading her blog (I’ll have to cone back and add links when I get home – I don’t know how to do it in Edward’s WordPress app), her book would have convinced me from the very beginning. She has a very intimate way of writing – I felt like she was just telling me (italicize that) about her month and a half in Paris. And her sketches (and occasional photograph) of her and her mom and the things they see (I want to go to Paris again now), the things they eat (so hungry), the things they bought (I long for the coat she found at Marche aux Puces), and the things she was thinking (she was just finishing her studies at the Art Institute and about to face the real world) all add to the cinnection she creates with the reader.

And it’s also a charming love note to Paris. I know I’m in Hawaii now, but I wish I were in Paris all of a sudden! She’s reminded me if all the things I still need to see there.

So, yeah, a great book – I hope to see another from her soon!

My rating: A

Off to climb Diamond Head – not feeling so dizzy as yesterday, so I don’t think I’ll fall off after all. Hopefully.

Well, it’s not summer, but…

…I’m adding this to my ‘blockbuster’ tag anyway. I know it’s not tomorrow (when I said I’d be updating about the film), but I’m still at my parents’ house while the kitchen floor is being sorted out (soon!) and, seriously, I wish they had dial-up. So it’s taken me this long to post about it. I really liked it. So did my movie-going companion (and he hadn’t read the book). Now, of course, I had just finished the book the night before, so I can’t really group myself in with others who have ‘read the book’ (translation: people who have the book memorised and have been psyched to see and/or hate this movie since it was announced they were going to make it), but I will say that they did a good job of including the information that had to be included and alluding to things that make the book what it is, but aren’t necessary to move the plot forward.

There were quite a few shots that were exactly from the book which I thought was really cool. Rorschach is suitably awesome, the Silk Spectre is even cooler (i.e., more ass-kicking), and I thought the ending was actually better (made more sense, anyway). Somehow they managed to find someone who looked exactly like the Nite Owl (more like Nerd Owl – look, I was as sad about that as you were [and was secretly hoping they’d change that part of the ending], but you don’t see me screaming ‘Noooooo!’ in an overly dramatic fashion, now do you?) in the book. And so did Rorschach, for that matter. Almost creepily so (and speaking of creepy – I loved that they made the blots on his mask shift around)!

Also, the opening credits are outstanding – managing to cram a ton of backstory into a neat two minutes or so and is also a great use of a great song. I can’t find one to embed here, so go see for yourself!

And then read the book. And then go see the movie. Or whichever order appeals to you…

My rating: I think you’ll like it.

ETA: Looks like online clips of the opening credits sequence are being taken down left and right, so if the ones I’ve linked to are gone by the time you get here, give it a Google – I’m sure it’s still up somewhere. I mean, come on, it’s the internet for crying outloud…

Fiction: Graphic Novels

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Holy cow. I’d picked this up numerous times because everyone (i.e., the internet) says that it’s amazing, but always found a reason to put it back. Until I realised on Saturday that the movie was coming out this Friday (i.e., tomorrow!), so I stopped at the bookshop on Monday after work and finally bought a copy.

And it was amazing. I have to say, I was still expecting lots of ‘Blammo!’, ‘Biff!’, and ‘Kapow!’. But instead it’s complicated and interesting and full of plot development and character development and layers and fascinating narrative structure and moral conflict and probably so many other things that I’m missing because I had to read it so fast, but, yes. AMAZING.

Read it, read it, read it.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the movie tomorrow, just to see how in the world the filmmakers could possibly capture everything and put it on the big screen. Probably they can’t, but it’ll be interesting to see them try. Plus I just want to see more Rorschach! He’s seriously awesome. And super-creepy. Like SUPER-creepy. Halfway through, I suddenly sat back and thought ‘Why in the world do I love him so much?’ and it finally occured to me. They’ve dressed him just like Skulduggery Pleasant, who is actually SUPER-AWESOME (I mean, come on, he’s a living skeleton with magical powers who wears a purple pinstripe suit with a white scarf and a fedora-style hat – he tops my fictional crush list, man) and not at all creepy. (Okay, to be fair, they’ve dressed Skulduggery Pleasant like Rorschach, but still…) But it’s too late. To me, Rorschach = best ever.

Without giving too much away, the ending is…unsettling. And not entirely satisfying. And I thought it came along a little too quickly, but still, even though I could see that things were coming together, I kept turning the pages, hoping something different and not inevitable would happen.

My rating: A

p.s. – I’ll report back on the movie tomorrow!

Fiction: Graphic Novels

Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim by Tom Corwin (writer) and Craig Frazier (illustrator)

I can’t quite decide what I thought of this book. It takes about five minutes to read, so you could just do it at the library or the local bookshop, but, at least for me, I think it’s going to take a deal of pondering before I can make up my mind about it. I want to like it. It’s lyrical and quirky and has charming, slightly surreal, cross-hatched, sepia illustrations.

But what I can’t decide is if I think it’s trying too hard to be lyrical and quirky and so on. Its charms don’t feel effortless or honest and the whole thing conjures up comparisons with Shaun Tans amazing Arrival and, one of my all-time favorites, Chris Van Allsburg’s The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. And, unfortunately, when compared with those two, it falls a bit short.

I guess what I’m saying is, have a quick look through Mr. Fooster at the library or bookshop, but then head to the children’s section and take home the other two.

My rating:

Art: A-

Story: B-

Fiction

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon

I am really enjoying these wordless graphic novels lately. This one is completely the opposite of The Arrival but just as lovely. If the drawings look familiar, it’s because her picture book (I don’t remember what it’s called, but it’s about a chicken and…a cat? Or a duck?) shares the same style and creatures.

Here’s the basic story: A dog builds himself a robot friend. They go to the beach where the robot, sadly, rusts and the dog has to leave him behind. That’s basically it. The rest of the book is about the dog trying to help his new friend and, when he’s unable to, trying to find a new friend. The robot, meanwhile, dreams of different ways to leave the beach and find his way back to his friend, the dog.

The illustrations are full of an innocence, probably because of their simple lines and expressive faces. The story is definitely on the bitter side of sweet, but it all turns out well enough in the end.

My rating:

Art: A

Story: A

Fiction

The Arrival by Shaun Tan

This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever seen. It’s already starting to win awards in Australia and it’s not hard to see why. It’s the wordless story of an immigrant’s journey, his experiences, the people he meets, and the stories they share. Really, I suppose that’s it, but it’s so much more when you see it.

Shaun Tan’s illustrations are breathtaking. Seriously, it made me cry, that’s how gorgeous they are. There are some that are more the typical size of panels in a graphic novel, others are smaller, and some are two-page spreads. Here are a few examples, just so you can see:

The two-page spreads are obviously the most impressive ones, but even the simple things are drawn beautifully.

The other impressive thing about this book is the care that was obviously put into the design of it. The cover looks like an old photo album that you would find in an old trunk tucked away in the corner of an attic somewhere. Some of the pages have creases or water spots drawn onto them which all mesh seamlessly with Tan’s sepia drawings.

It’s just absolutely gorgeous.

My rating:

Art: A+

Story: A+

Fiction

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen

Hmm, at this rate, I may have to make a separate ‘Graphic novels’ tag. Anyway. This one has sort of the same hang-up I found with The Professor’s Daughter. Namely, really interesting art, less interesting plot. Fans of Redwall will like it – more anthropomorphic rodentia – I just thought they were really cute. Really, there’s not a whole lot to say, especially plotwise, it’s pretty standard fare, but it’s worth leafing through at the bookshop to see the pictures. I’ll probably end up picking up the next one when it comes out…

My rating:

Art = A

Story = B

Fiction

The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert

So, like I said. Graphic novels. Not, like, Spiderman or X-Men or anything (not that there’s anything wrong with those), more like Bone. That sort of thing.

This one…is a little odd. I love the premise (a mummy and the curator’s daughter are in love in Victorian London) and I adore the artwork – so gorgeous (how do you make a bandaged mummy handsome? I have no idea, but they pulled it off!), but the actual plot is a little…odd.  It’s a very slim book, so things happen very quickly and there are some not quite believable actions taken. But. The artwork is definitely, definitely worth it, as is most of the plot. It’s more moments where you’ll be a little confused as to why someone thought that was the best way to solve a particular situation, but it’s really not too big of a deal. Not when there’s a charming, debonair mummy to be had!

My rating:

Art = A+

Story = B

You can figure out the average on your own based on what’s more important to you. 😉