March 29, 2009

Good Neighbors - Holly Black

Kin, book 1 of Good Neighbors is a graphic novel in black and white, which is my biggest strike against it, it seems I like color in my graphic novels. I think color would have been a little distracting in this story, but still I prefer it.

Rue’s life is going through some changes and she’s trying not to be worried. Worry doesn’t do anything but give you wrinkles or stress rashes. What do you do when your mother has mysteriously gone away, your father hasn’t moved from the couch and accused of murder and your seeing strange creatures. Rue has some good friends and they’re trying to help but are not sure if they believe the whole faery thing, but Rue’s not sure she does either.

Rue’s not sure if she’s going crazy or if her father really is guilty or if her mother is a faery but she does know she’s got to figure out something or she’ll worry herself into a tizzy.

March 28, 2009

Fables: Legends in Exile - Willingham

Living amongst the Mundanes of New York City are the fables of Fabletown. Those fables that escaped the Adversary banded together and put aside old grudges to live in a safe place and hope that some day they can return to the old country. Various familiar fables are there - Big Bad Wolf, who is now a detective, Snow White (without Prince Charming) second in command, as well as Jack (the Beanstalk) Bluebeard, Rose Red and others. When it looks like one of them has been brutally murdered, Wolf needs to solve the case and make sure it’s not the Adversary who left the message - “No more happily ever after”.

It was a fun look at the old fables and how they have adapted to living amongst the mundanes. Some have had to use witchcraft to create glamours so they look human, and those that can’t, Three Little Pigs, the Ogres, live Upstate on the Farm. Each character has kept the essential part of themselves but have also adapted to this new life (Beauty of Beauty & the Beast) works in a bookstore, Rose Red parties, Jack is a schemer and Cinderella is taking fencing lessons from Bluebeard.

I think I might have enjoyed the old fables more if I could have read them this way, but then you need to be a little familiar with them to enjoy the interactions and the changes. The good part is that this was the first and there are many more graphic novels in the series, the bad part is that there are many more in the series.

March 22, 2009

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Scott Pilgrim returns in this second installment of his quirky, action-packed romance graphic novel series, and his troubles are far from over. The story opens with a flashback to Scott's high school days, when he was new to school and became friends with Kim, the current drummer of their band, Sex-Bob-omb. He rescues her from some psychopathic bullies, and they began dating.

Cut to the present, as Scott's roommate Wallace threatens that if Scott doesn't break up with Knives, his high-school girlfriend he was seeing when he fell in love with Ramona in the last book, Wallace is going to tell Ramona about her. Scott genuinely likes Knives, and he is a non-confrontational sort of guy. But he really, really doesn't want Ramona to know about her, and in a hilarious but pathos-filled scene, Scott finally tells Knives they can't be together anymore.

Knives turns out not to be the timid, compliant girl she appears to be, and her fury and bitterness at the end of the relationship spur her to take some drastic measures, particularly when she sees Scott with Ramona and realizes what has happened. My favorite scene of the entire book is when Knives stages a surprise ninja attack on Ramona in the Toronto Reference Library. Meanwhile, the second of Ramona's evil ex-boyfriends whom Scott must defeat arrives in town. He turns out to be a famous actor and former pro skater, a formidable opponent - but to compound Scott's troubles, his ex-girlfriend calls. She needs an opening band to replace once that canceled, and she's wondering if Sex Bob-omb would like to play. It is clear that Scott has yet to recover from that relationship, but until we see him huddled and trembling on the floor in the wake of her phone call, it becomes evident that he has a ways to go before he can put the relationship behind him.

I find it difficult to articulate what it is about this series that has me hooked. I love the quirky quality - you never know just where it's going to go, and it's fresh and surprising. The relationships among the characters are portrayed so well, through the bold, energetic illustrations as well as the dialogue, and there is an emotional resonance present that is not typical of many graphic novels. The social commentary is there, but it's clever and understated, and the humor is often sneaky and surprising. Readers who are looking for something different, something that will make them think and laugh, will be sure to enjoy this series.

Books in the Scott Pilgrim series:
1. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
3. Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness
4. Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (#2 in the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series) by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni Press, 2005)

Also reviewed at:
A Book a Week: "The art is simple, attractive, and easy to follow. It's set in Toronto and spends a surprising amount of time in recognizable Toronto libraries, so I would love it for that alone. But the story and the characters don't need any help. They've got me hooked."
Painted Smiles; Written Words: "The characters really are nothing short of adorable, but that doesn’t stop the series from having some fantastically dynamic action shots. And it’s a mixture of detailed and stylized backgrounds and surroundings that moves the story from the real world, surreal in varying degrees, to what feels like an epic video game."

This is cross-posted at my blog, Books and Other Thoughts.

March 19, 2009

Mr. Wonderful by Daniel Clowes

Oops, forgot to cross-post this here on Tuesday. Sorry about that!

Ah ha, success! I have FINALLY read a graphic novel from my list! No need for applause, gentle reader. I’m merely performing the bare minimum required of me. Given that I took up the lofty mantle of Major level participation (twelve books), I’m not doing a very good job in this challenge.

I blame society.

Anyway! The first graphic novel to get crossed off is Mister Wonderful by Daniel Clowes. I’ve read a lot of his work and when I found this FREE online graphic novel, I was happy to add it to the list. Not only is it a quick read, but it’s awesome, just like all of Clowes’ print books.

Clowes’ writes and draws the mundane in a delightfully weird fashion. From the snobby outsider Enid Coleslaw in Ghost World to the thoughtful pick-up artist David Boring, Clowes’ characters are unique in that they don’t strive to be anything more than regular people.

In Mister Wonderful we meet Marshall, a middle-aged divorced guy waiting for his blind date in a café. The graphic novel runs twenty chapters long and spans the course of his date with Natalie and the morning after.

See? Clowes writes the mundane, but manages to make it interesting! The dialogue is snappy and modern and the pictures are typical Clowes—colourful crosshatched image of regular people. The difference is that onscreen they are vibrant. The colours really pop. While I’m not a fan of reading regular books on the computer, Mister Wonderful is easy on the eyes.

Clowes is also a master at making the image fit with the words. For instance, when Natalie discloses to Marshall that her last relationship fell apart after she told her boyfriend she wanted a baby. Her boyfriend’s reaction was a derisive laugh. Clowes draws this laugh, filling Natalie’s apartment with the big block letters HAHA. The laughter haunts her.

Great graphic novel by a stellar writer and artist. I highly recommend Mister Wonderful. It doesn’t take long to read, and it’s a great introduction to Clowes’ work if you’ve never read anything else by him. One thing to note if you plan on reading this, the New York Times posted the conclusion first for some odd reason. Skip the first link and go straight to chapter one. Unfortunately, I read the conclusion first so I had a sense of where the story was going.

Rating: Four stars

Spider-Man, Sins Past

Sins Past by J. Michael Straczynski
The Amazing Spider-Man, Vol. 8

Pages: unpaginated
Finished: Mar. 13, 2009
First Published: 2005 (compilation of comics #509-514)
Genre: graphic novel, superheroes
Rating: 5/5

Reason for Reading: Next in the series.

First sentence:

"...and I said to him, I said why are you touching me like that?"

Comments: Volume 8, collecting issues #509-514, has an intense plot with one main story arc running throughout. Spider-man has always been haunted by the death of Gwen Stacy, his former "love of his life". Now that day has come back to haunt him in the present as two people arrive determined to kill both Peter Parker and Spider-man for their respective parts in Gwen's death. The events of the past, his relationship with Gwen, are relived as Peter discovers the connection between that relationship and the two would-be assassins. There comes a time when the fateful day of Gwen's demise is relived in the present as Peter determines not to let the same thing happen twice.

This volume was absolutely riveting. The one continuous plot of the book makes for a fast, page-turning read. With this volume Peter's character, and Spider-man's, becomes much more real and multi-layered. Spider-man is a man with issues but one who will never give up on choosing to do the right thing, no matter what the risk to himself.

My only complaint is that the volume has a different illustrator and while the characters have kept the same basic components; there was no attempt to make them identically the same as previously drawn. It was a weird feeling at first as I didn't immediately recognise some of the characters and it took some adjusting to get used to the new renditions. It felt like watching your favourite TV show to find that all the actors have been replaced with similar looking, but obviously different, actors. We'll see if the next volume keeps this new look or if the old illustrator comes back.

Despite the illustration, this is a fabulous entry in the series that will be one of my favourites, if not the top favourite, of the whole canon.

March 13, 2009

Emiko Superstar (Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston)

This is the second Tamaki book I've read, the first being Skim, which I liked but didn't love. Emiko and Skim both portray teen girls trying to figure out who they are. What makes Emiko shine brighter, in my opinion, is its focus. Skim brushed the surface of so many subplots (Wicca, suicide, a friendship cooling off, a teacher crush) and never let the reader dive in to any of them. In Emiko, all the threads tie together into a neat little slice-of-life bundle: girl goes from wallflower to performance artist--what's not to love?

And the characters--even the minor ones--are fully rounded out, partly thanks to Steve Rolston's artwork. My son Evan, for his part, has determined a kindred spirit in Rolston, because of the incredible detail in his vehicle illustrations. "What else has this guy done?" he wants to know. We'll be checking into these for age-eight suitability.

The soundtrack: On Worducopia I choose a song for almost every book I review. I love it when authors make it easy on me--here's a quote from the book: "My first police raid. Set to Kaiser Chief's I Predict a Riot. Although I could swear I also heard some Ramones in the background." Click on the playlist in the sidebar of Worducopia (or click here) to hear the Kaiser Chiefs sing "I Predict a Riot."

March 12, 2009

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life

This one is entirely Kiirsten's fault. Her excellent review of the first two volumes in this graphic novel series completely won me over. She described the books as possessing that quirky combination of humor and oddness and compelling characters that never fails to entice me. And she was absolutely right.

Scott Pilgrim is an unprepossessing kind of guy. He's twenty-three years old, is dating a high school girl (in an odd kind of platonic way), plays in a bad band, is unemployed, and even though he seems like a total slacker loser, comes off as sweet and funny and manages to grab the reader's sympathy in spite of himself. He shares an apartment with Wallace, who is gay and boy crazy and always has a funny, caustic remark at the ready.

When Scott has vivid dreams about a pretty Rollerblading girl, and then actually runs into her in real life at a party, he becomes obsessed with her. He learns that her name is Ramona Flowers, she is American, and she works as a delivery girl for Amazon in Toronto, where the story is set. Scott's initial encounter with her doesn't go too well, since he's still reeling about the fact that he's seen her in his dreams. He hatches a plan to see her again (a plan that involves ordering merchandise from Amazon and paying for it with Wallace's credit card), and this time things go a bit better. She admits that she's been using Scott's head as a shortcut when delivering packages: "It's just, like, this really convenient subspace highway happens to go through your head, it's like three miles in fifteen seconds," Ramona tells him. Of course he falls in love with her, but little does he know that Ramona happens to come with a some to speak.

This was such a fun story. I found the characters to be quirky and engaging, and the dialogue rang true and kept me laughing as I read. The characters' relationships were believable and realistically portrayed, as with, for example, Scott and his little sister Stacey. She calls him up in the middle of the night after Wallace tells her about Scott dating the teenager. Their phone conversation perfectly captures the mixture of bafflement, affection and concern a little sister would feel towards a beloved but exasperating brother in such a situation.

I won't reveal any surprises, but let me say that the final scenes of the story are unexpected and hilarious. This is a delightful, intelligent, refreshing read, and I am very much looking forward to the continuation of Scott's story in the next volume of this series. The book classifies itself as "T" for teen, ages 13 and up. My library shelves these in the adult section, though, probably because while (at least in this volume) there is no graphic sexual imagery, there are some fairly adult themes. To date there are five volumes, the most recent of which was released just last month, and there is also a film in the works, which should apparently be released some time in 2009.

Books in the Scott Pilgrim series:
1. Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
3. Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness
4. Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together
5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (#1 in the Scott Pilgrim series) by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni Press, 2004)

Spider-Man & Fables

With these two GN's, I've earned my Masters and am ready to take the dive into receiving my Doctorate!

The Book of Ezekiel by J. Michael Straczynski.
The Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 7

This series is really getting better as it goes along. This is a brilliant volume. We start off with a story arc continued from the last book. Seems that when Spider-Man came back from The Void an evil goddess came back with him. She has now taken over the body of a human and the god Loki comes to help Spidey fight this villainess. Then we move on to the series about Ezekiel. So far he has appeared off and on and we are not sure whether he is a bad or good character. Now we find out his true colours and fights a vicious battle of souls and true character. Very gripping plot and a quick read as it's certainly a page-turner. 4/5

Storybook Love by Bill Willingham
Fables, Volume 3

Wow, in volume three this series really picks up with a bang! First we are presented with a few tales of Jack during the Civil War and how he often beats Death. Thus, giving the reader a bit knowledge of Jack's trickster personality. Then we follow a two issue caper involving a journalist who has been watching the fables for many years and keeping files and pictures. He comes to Bigby with the news that he will be publishing a story shortly and is giving Bigby the opportunity to respond. The journal has figured them all (or so he thinks) out and is going to expose them to the world. Another issue takes us back to the story of Goldilocks and we find out what the fugitive is up to now. The Lilliputians enter the story here as major characters and we learn their story. And finally we get to the series mentioned in the title, Storybook Love. This continues for the rest of the volume and I really don't want to give away any of the plot. It was riveting to say the least.

This is a big scale issue with lots of violence, thus lots of blood, a bit of s*x, and not a few deaths. I was surprised at the blood but must say found the story arcs very compelling reading. If the first two volumes haven't convinced you this is adult reading material this third volume will settle that for you. This is my favourite volume to date. It is amazing how deep the characterization and intricate the plot can be in a graphic novel. Willingham certainly shows the rest of us how this medium can be used to utmost advantage over plain text. If you are one of the few people on earth (ok, in the online book community) who hasn't read this series yet, I'm asking you: "What the heck are you waiting for?" Highly recommended. Can't wait to read the next book!

March 10, 2009

Beth's Wrap Up Post

Yesterday I officially finished this challenge! I committed to the Major level, which was 12 books. I am so glad Laza and Alea talked me into joining this challenge. I have been introduced to a whole new world of books. I am totally amazed at the scope of genres and artistic styles available in GN books.

I will be keeping up with the reviews posted here. This blog is shaping up to be an awesome resource for graphic novels. And I am now definitely a GN fan.

To see my complete wrap-up post, including the list of books I read, click here.

Rutu Modan: Exit Wounds

Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan marks my sixth and final book for the Graphic Novel Challenge. My reading list consisted of:

1. It's A Good Life If You Don't Weaken- Seth
2. Absolute Sandman, Vol. 1- Neil Gaiman
3. Louis Riel: A Comic Biography by Chester Brown
4. Persepolis- Marjane Satrapi
5. Epileptic- David B
6. Exit Wounds- Rutu Modan

I'd like to say I ended the Graphic Novel Challenge on a higher note, but unfortunately Exit Wounds was my least favourite of the lot.

I'll start with the art work since most of my opinions in that area come down to personal preference. Though Modan uses red from time to time (as on the cover), the book is heavy on pastels. I don't like pastels. I feel like I should state some macho reason for this like "no self-respecting male likes pastels" but I assure you that's not it. They're just not dramatic enough. Even black and white seems bolder. Plus, while occasionally Modan plays with the lighting to indicate the time of day and so on, it's completely void of shading and shadows. Everything comes across as flat. The explosion on the cover is very misleading. The pastels, the uniform colouring, and the Tintin influenced simplicity, were not a good combination. It reminded me of the illustrations found on airplane emergency instructions.

But if the artwork was underwhelming at least it matched the story. Set in modern day Tel Aviv, it is the story of Koby Franco who sets out with a woman named Numi to learn whether or not an identified body, a suicide bombing victim, is really his estranged father. Sounds exciting, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's as anti-climactic as they come.

Looking at the graphic novels above, I was a little perplexed why I'd like Seth's book and not this one, when it too could be described as anti-climactic. The only thing I could come up with was that Seth didn't promise as much. I knew from the get go that it wasn't going to be heavy in the plot department, so I settled into it all nice and cozy like. With Modan's talk of suicide bombings and explosions on the cover, I felt like I'd been promised more than she ever delivered.

March 9, 2009

Review: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith

Crown of Horns is the final volume in the Bone series. Both the summary and the review assume you've read the other volumes. At this point it's almost impossible not to reveal something about the earlier books, so you might want to jump to my final thoughts.

My Summary. All the action and plots culminate at the gates of Atheia. Everyone and every creature, good and bad, meet in the battle of the age. Meanwhile, Thorn, Fone, and Bartleby head off to find the Crown of Horns that Thorn has so often dreamed about. Will they find it in time, and will it save the day?

My Thoughts. Crown of Horns is about twice as long as the other books in the series. The pace is quick, and we finally learn the answers to many of the mysteries and find out which legends were true and which were not. Although the characters and their personalities are unique, the plotting was reminiscent of the last chapters of Lord of the Rings. From the battle at the city gates to the way in which the enemy is finally defeated, the parallels to Tolkien are clear.

Final Thoughts about the Series. I loved the Bone books, and I highly recommend the series for anyone who likes humor, graphic novels, fantasy, and/or fun characters. I was caught up in the story from beginning to end, but I think I would have been happier to have read the entire series in either a much shorter or a much longer time period. Reading and reviewing the 9 books in the series within 6 weeks was a bit wearying.

The books are rated for a fairly young audience (9 to 12 years old), but I think the humor, the larger themes of good and evil, and the motivation behind some of the characters' behavior would be lost on the younger kids. Even some of the drawings are better suited to the 14 and up crowd.

The artwork and colorization were outstanding. The faces and postures of the characters clearly conveyed the emotions and thoughts of the individuals. The scenery, from forest to desert and from village to city was arresting.

This review was cross-posted to my blog Beth Fish Reads.

Published by Scholastic, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780439706322
Rating: B

March 6, 2009


I had not heard of this graphic novel series until reading The Book Zombie's review last month. Her description of the story's combination of humor, horror and the fantastical hooked me immediately, and when I got my own copy, I was not disappointed.

The book opens as Michael Paris, a young man who's just inherited some property from his grandfather, is driving out to the country to finalize the details of its sale. It isn't until he arrives that he discovers that the property is actually a graveyard, and the townspeople are up in arms because they claim that it is an evil place and must be destroyed. The mayor is the most passionate advocate of its destruction and urges Paris to sign the papers immediately.

But Paris is not the sort of guy to jump to conclusions - luckily for the odd denizens of the graveyard. Paris discovers a whole host of creepy but evidently harmless creatures living there, residents who will be displaced should the graveyard be razed as the mayor insists. Paris maintains that each side should have its say, and then he'll decide what to do. The situation becomes a kind of political campaign, with each side overtly courting his favor. Poor Paris doesn't know if he should be more frightened of the (admittedly sexy) vampire, the werewolf, the swamp monster - or the matronly ladies, each bearing a freshly baked pie, he discovers in his hotel room when he comes out of the shower wearing only a towel.

It quickly becomes apparent that there is more to the situation than meets the eye, and that not everything is as it seems in the town of Raven's Hollow. I enjoyed the quirky characters and original premise of this first book in the series, which is a compilation of the first four issues of the comic. The dialogue is fabulous, and there is something on every page to make readers smile or laugh out loud. The images included in the Book Zombie's review were in color; my library's copy, alas, is entirely in black and white. Even so, the images are a perfect complement to the tone of the story. The book has a satisfying conclusion, yet leaves an impression that there is much more in store for our young hero and the boneyard characters. I'm very much looking forward to the next book in this very funny series.

Boneyard, Volume 1
by Richard Moore (NBM Publishing, 2002)

Spider-Man and Serenity

Better Days by Joss Whedon (Serenity, Vol.2) - This graphic novel takes place sometime during the regular time frame of Firefly. The crew finally have themselves a heist that ends up in uncovering a huge amount of cash. As they daydream what they will do with all the money, someone is chasing them down coming to kill Malcolm Reynolds, but little does he know that it is in fact another member of the crew who he wants. Fun romp with the wonderful Firefly/Serenity characters. Nothing too special but a bit of fun to read. The artwork is fun and an introduction by Adam Baldwin (Jayne) is an added bonus. 3/5

Happy Birthday by J. Michael Straczynski (The Amazing Spider-Man, Volume 6) - This is my favourite volume so far. While engaged in a battle, Spidey (with the help of many other superheroes, including the Fantastic Four) finds himself called by Doc Strange. Seems they've made a big mistake and the world is now about to end. As Doc fights the ultimate bad guy Spider-man steps in to help and finds himself warped into the Void with the Dr. The Dr. can send him home but he must follow the trail from the beginning of his life to just before his current present so he can fix things. Lots of action and superheroes/villains abound in this volume as Spidey relives his life fighting all the bad guys of his past: Sandman, Green Goblin, Doc Oc, Electro, Hulk and many more. 4/5

March 5, 2009

David B: Epileptic

"When oh when will somebody give us a novel about epileptics?"
- Mordecai Richler (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz)

I just happened to be reading Richler's The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and David B's Epileptic at the same time. Imagine my surprise to find an epileptic character in both books. I love coincidences like that. Recently I got Maya Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. The same day, I'm reading along in Anthony De Sa's Barnacle Love and lo and behold, there's a quote from Angelou's book. It's some sort of whacked out conspiracy, man!

That's all a side note to David B's Epileptic, a graphic novel that was recommended to me by Dale and Olga back in December.

Epileptic is David B's memoir about growing up in a family affected by his brother's epilepsy. "Affected" is to put it mildly. His brother Jean-Christophe may be the one with the seizures, but everyone suffers with helpless, embarrassment, guilt, confusion, and, and, and,

At times the story became tedious and repetitive. In fruitless efforts to cure Jean-Christophe, the family tries various medicines, psychology, diets (most notably a macrobiotic diet), religion and just about every esoteric practice known to man. It's the esotericism that started to get to me: Swedenborgism, voodoo, alchemy, and so on. This aspect started out really interesting but then I just found myself cringing everytime the family sought out a new guru. I get it, they were desperate. Enough already.

If it was a regular novel, it wouldn't have worked.

Fortunately, it's not a regular novel. The story is saved a hundred times over with David B's art. Not that I've read many graphic novels, but it's the best I've seen so far. The way he interprets and represents specific scenes and characters is beautiful and creative. Sometimes it's as simple as always drawing a particular character with a cat's face because as a child he thought the man resembled a cat. In one scene, onlookers are shown with grotesquely oversized eyes as they stare at Jean-Christophe while he seizures in the street. And one of my favourite techniques is the use of a dragonesque monster that eventually almost never leaves Jean-Christophe's side, representing the epilepsy, of course.

(Cross-posted at The Book Mine Set)

March 3, 2009

Review: Treasure Hunters by Jeff Smith

Treasure Hunters is the eighth book in the Bone series by Smith. The summary assumes you've read the other books in the series. At this point, even my thoughts may contain minor spoilers. It's almost impossible not to reveal something of the plot.

My Summary. Lucius and Gran'ma are lucky to have Ted the bug, who can act both as liaison, carrying messages between two, and as spy, keeping an eye on the enemy. To lead the valley people safely to the Atheia, Lucius must find a path through the ghost circles; unfortunately, the citizens of Barrelhaven no longer fully trust him. Briar, who is regaining her strength, musters the rat creature army and hopes to attack the city.

The Bones, Thorn, and Gran'ma learn that Atheia is being governed by corrupt Veni Yan. The only hope our heroes have of protecting the valley and its inhabitants is to stay hidden while finding allies. Meanwhile, Phoney is convinced that there is golden treasure to be found, and he risks everything in an attempt to uncover it.

The guards have been warned of the possibility of Thorn's arrival. The warlord of the city wants the girl captured and then burned at the stake, thereby gaining unopposed power over the valley. Thorn, however, is impulsive and headstrong and may not be as careful as she should be. As the various factions prepare for the final confrontation, even Gran'ma Ben begins to lose hope.

My Thoughts. Treasure Hunters is the penultimate book in the series, and in it the different story lines begin to converge to what promises to be a dramatic end. The Bone cousins are all true to their characters. For example, when Gran'ma Ben asks Fone to keep Phoney out of trouble, Fone responds by saying "Why do I always get the hardest jobs?"

Although the plots are advanced in this novel, the book acts as a pause between the intense action of previous volumes and the anticipated larger battle at the gates of Atheia. The tension is well maintained, and the reader is left with the feeling that there are still surprises to come.

Because the valley was overrun by the rat creatures, most of its inhabitants have gathered at the city. Smith has peopled his world with many types of creatures, from gnomes to lizards to giant bees. The panels showing the city's marketplace are full of detail, and we get hints of each creature's and person's personality and socioeconomic status. The city is fortified and contains ancient ruins, holy places, rooftop patios, and deep dungeons.

Cross-posted at my blog Beth Fish Reads.

Published by Scholastic, 2008
ISBN-13: 9780439706339
Rating B+

March 1, 2009

Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics

This second collected volume of Courtney Crumrin (graphic novel) tales sees Courtney beginning to settle into her new life. If she hasn't made friends at her new school, at least she's figured out how to get along without making too many waves. She and her uncle have formed a friendship - and he's even teaching her from his many books of magic.

Then her teacher reveals a few surprises, leaving Courtney feeling rather bewildered and resentful. Courtney also discovers mysterious events afoot that her uncle seems determined to prevent her from learning about. Of course, Courtney being Courtney, she ignores him and investigates on her own, discovering a truly horrific being that has all the other wizards in town cowering in fear. The monster, she learns, has an easily understandable, straightforward sort of evil nature; this does not prove to be the case with some of the so-called "normal" humans around her, unfortunately. This volume also sees her venturing forth on a nighttime adventure in cat form in a delightful chapter that reminded me a bit of Charles de Lint's compelling tale, A Circle of Cats. I loved her cute cat shape!
This volume in the series is a bit darker than the first, but it maintains the same quirky humor and evocative artwork. Life is not easy for Courtney. She has tough decisions to make, and things don't always turn out right; sometimes they're downright heartbreaking. But not to worry - Courtney is a tough, determined little girl, and she is unafraid to take justice into her own hands, which leaves the reader to ponder the moral ambiguity of her actions. This is a delightful, thought-provoking series, and I'm very much looking forward to spending more time with Courtney in future installments.

Courtney Crumrin and the Coven of Mystics (#2 in the Courtney Crumrin series) by Ted Naifeh (Oni Press, 2003)

This post is cross-posted to my blog, Books and Other Thoughts.

Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe

Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe edited by Tom Pomplun
Graphic Classics Volume 1

Pages: 144
First Published: 2006
Genre: graphic novel, short stories, poetry
Rating: 3.5/5

First sentence:

True I have been nervous ... very nervous.

Comments: An anthology of graphic adaptations of some of Edgar Allan Poe's works, both short stories and poems. Each story is written/illustrated by a different person such as Rick Geary, Matt Howarth, Lisa K. Weber and many more. Most of Poe's works collected here are his most famous but there are a few lesser known ones as well. A wide variety of styles are present, mostly the familiar cartoon bubble but also frames with narrative written beneath and even simply illustrated. For example "Hop-Frog" is presented in the original Poe text along with profuse illustrations by Lisa K. Weber.

My favourites were Rick Geary's retelling of "The Tell-Tale Heart" as I am fond of his work. I also enjoyed "The Imp of the Perverse" by Tom Pomplum and Lance Tooks which I had never heard of before. I also enjoyed Pedro Lopez' rendition of "The Cask of Amontillado" as that is one of my favourite Poe stories and the adaptation was well done.

Ultimately, an enjoyable and well done book. A great way to sample Poe's work before going on to read the real thing and also a new and different way for Poe's fans to enjoy his work in this modern format. I'll be looking into other books in the series.