Transcendent storytelling meets dark and detailed illustration, all folded up into a Canadian suburban landscape. Skim captures the awkwardness, the i...moreTranscendent storytelling meets dark and detailed illustration, all folded up into a Canadian suburban landscape. Skim captures the awkwardness, the isolation, and the crush of new feeling connected to adolescence and spins it into graphica gold. Written from Kimberly Keiko Cameron's perspective, readers are invited into the internal space of the character known as "Skim" through her cutting journal entries and her often strained interaction with parents, her best friend, Lisa, and the enigmatic English teacher, Ms. Archer. She is a beautiful mess of teenaged angst and anxieties and offers a stunning portrait of a young girl negotiating the complex network of first love, depression, friendship, and alienation.
Readers new to graphic novels will find an absolute gem with Skim, one that will form the (unfair) basis of comparison for all other works produced in this medium. Serious, it will take a stunning duo to overwhelm the story contained in these pages. It's the graphic novel I wish I wrote.
Ideal for: fans of coming-of-age narratives; newbies to the graphic novel universe; readers who love confessional, intimate prose from their first-person characters; kids who came of age in the 90s in Canada.(less)
Scott Pilgrims's Precious Little Life is a clever, surreal, entirely Canadian creation ideal for twenty-something gamers and Toronto-based musicians w...moreScott Pilgrims's Precious Little Life is a clever, surreal, entirely Canadian creation ideal for twenty-something gamers and Toronto-based musicians who like their novels "graphic." Bryan Lee O'Malley's first volume of the now beloved series introduces readers to the lovable slacker known as Scott Pilgrim, a listless twenty-three-year-old who plays bass in a shitty band and finds himself dating a naive high schooler. His life is wrung out around him after he meets Ramona Flowers, his literal dream girl, and learns he must defeat her seven evil exes to get close to her.
Extra points go to an obscure Nana reference (as I could not share my enthusiasm with anyone else I know, lest I admit how otaku-ish I am) and to O'Malley's dedicated rendering of The Rockit in Toronto, accurately described as "a toilet."
Ideal for: Post-modernism junkies; Musicians well-versed in Toronto's club scene; Canadian kids who love to see themselves and their language rendered in a much cooler format; Meta-comic nerds.(less)
Epic in scope though intimate in its details, A Drifting Life offers an impressive and immersive experience of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's formative years, de...moreEpic in scope though intimate in its details, A Drifting Life offers an impressive and immersive experience of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's formative years, depicting that elusive time before he revolutionized the world of manga with his gritty, cinematic style. Clocking in at a staggering 800+ pages, this illustrated memoir introduces readers to the initial inspiration of the young mangaka in post-WWII Japan and documents his initial success as a grade school artist and his first experiments with manga. We see the young man transform his initial passion into a paid profession and witness his creation of a new school of manga known as Gekiga.
Throughout the piece, Tatsumi takes great effort with his cultural and historical context, often striking new scenes with a tour of Japan's development at the time and locating his personal growth within the greater evolution of his home nation. This is necessary reading for all fans of manga as an expressive medium and offers a nod to the great talent surrounding Tatsumi and his close friends/fellow mangakas in the 1940s and onward.
Ideal for: Manga-obsessed readers who need an education on the roots of this medium; Readers who gravitate toward memoirs; Individuals with an eye toward Japan and its mid-20th-century cultural revolutions.(less)
Maggie McKay hardly knows what to do with herself. After a lovely childhood of homeschool lessons with her m...moreFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Maggie McKay hardly knows what to do with herself. After a lovely childhood of homeschool lessons with her mother and roughhousing with her three older brothers, Maggie's facing her toughest trial yet—her first year in public high school.
Behind this new, uncertain social terrain hides an unsettled domestic scene that distracts Maggie from her first September abroad. Her mother abandoned the family at the start of the summer for unknown reasons. Daniel, her eldest brother, has invested his free time in the school's drama club and has started the inevitable flight from home. Zander and Lloyd, her twin brothers, are fighting with unprecedented viciousness and are struggling to establish their identities apart from one another. Even Maggie's father is changing—after earning a promotion with the local police department, he's been told to cut his trademark long hair to fit his new station.
And, to make matters worse, Maggie's haunted.
By a ghost.
What is a girl to do?
Faith Erin Hicks takes those dreaded first-day jitters and adds an intriguing paranormal twist to the mix. Hicks establishes the tensions within the McKay clan from the start with a subtle hand—before Maggie reaches the front doors of her new school, readers know what's at stake for the young girl and understand the ways in which her familial bonds are splintering. Also, I quite liked the playful aspects of Hicks's artwork—it reminded me of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series, though her dialogue is far more endearing and her characters are charming to boot. Overall, an excellent read from a rising star in Canadian comics. Hicks captures the wonderful, awkward moments of youth and creates a coming-of-age narrative fit for both girl and ghost.
Ideal for: Kids prepping for their first year in high school; Graphic novel fans who'd like to explore the best of Canadian comics; Artsy kids who loved Bryan Lee O'Malley's style but weren't as keen on his characterization; Readers in need of more Halifax in their fiction.(less)
Evan Munday adds new weight to the dreaded quarter-life crisis. Harper and Aaron Yung face staggering odds after the end of the world—the two brothers...moreEvan Munday adds new weight to the dreaded quarter-life crisis. Harper and Aaron Yung face staggering odds after the end of the world—the two brothers live in the rundown box over the former OCAD, and both men spend their time scavenging copper in Toronto's shattered downtown core. An unknown apocalypse annihilated all people twenty-five years or older, and the few survivors have splintered into warring gangs fighting to stay alive; however, the Yungs are intercepted (and saved) by two loners much like themselves, and the gents must decided whether to fight for their new friends, or to eke out a meagre existence in the shadows.
Quarter-Life Crisis: Only the Good Die Yung offers an excellent re-imaging of the Toronto landscape, complete with Bay Street thugs on mopeds, archaic androids quoting Keats, and a thriving scene in Koreatown (the last of which exists even in pre-apocalyptic Toronto). Readers will find the comforting snark of current twenty-somethings set against the burnt-out shell of Canada's largest ubran landscape. As a reader standing on the precipice of her twenty-fifth birthday, Munday's work invites a new nervousness over the quarter-life benchmark.
Ideal for: Apocalypse junkies with a sound survival plan; Toronto enthusiasts who don't mind seeing their city shattered; graphic novelists and artists interested in completing their own projects; my friend who is the doppelgänger of Harper Yung—I am quite serious.(less)
Once again, Castle Waiting's doors are thrown wide to the loveable outcasts and old friends of Linda Medley'...moreFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Once again, Castle Waiting's doors are thrown wide to the loveable outcasts and old friends of Linda Medley's core characters in this unforgettable fairytale realm. As the collection opens, Rackham—the castle steward—takes Jain and baby Pindar on a tour of Castle Waiting's labyrinthine tower so the duo can select their new rooms. Meanwhile, unexpected visitors arrive at the front gates, which leads to the discovery and exploration of secret passageways throughout the castle proper—not to mention a rousing bowling tournament.
Readers gain further insights on Lady Jain's childhood and the enigmatic, unsettled Dr. Fell through a series of flashbacks illuminating their backstories. And, of course, one cannot forget the quest for lady's underpants, the further education of Simon, the unruly rationale of a wily goat, and more adventures that comprise Castle Waiting, Vol. 2
While I was enamoured with Medley's episodic narrative and her colourful cast in the first Castle Waiting volume, I found the second collection didn't captivate me in the same sense. Granted, I loved exploring the secret (and haunted?) tunnels and the endless rooms of the Castle with Jain and Rackham, and I found Dr. Fell's background as a plague doctor was as fascinating as it was frightening, particularly when stories of his isolation on a plague-ridden island were revealed, But I found the stories themselves were slower-paced this time around, and I found the plot lines followed a more linear progression when compared to the first volume.
After finishing the second collection, I would advise fellow readers to wait for the third installment to hit the presses and then read each volume in quick succession so as to A) remember the character's names and their personal connections, and B) avoid the cliffhanger syndrome I am currently experiencing. I know I'll check out Castle Waiting Vol. 3 once it's printed, but oh, the wait will be a difficult one.
Ideal for: Fairytale junkies and fans of mythical times/places; Readers who like an equal dose of humour and darkness in their fairytales; Folks who enjoyed volume one and need a further fix of their favourite characters (so long as you read vol. 2 right after vol. 1)(less)
In this second installment of the Scott Pilgrim epic, our titular hero takes on the second evil ex standing between a sweet life with his lady love, R...moreIn this second installment of the Scott Pilgrim epic, our titular hero takes on the second evil ex standing between a sweet life with his lady love, Ramona Flowers. I mean, Lucas Lee is some square-jawed, muscular, could-tear-Scott-in-two skater-turned-Hollywood-sellout, am I right? He wouldn't risk his fame and fortune at Casa Loma..... right?
I offer five complete stars for the epic showdown between Scott's recent ex, Knives Chau, and Ms. Ramona herself -- I thought I loved the Toronto Reference Library before, but seeing it as the central fighting ground for two badass chicks makes it that much more amazing.
Oh, Bryan Lee O'Malley -- thank you for picking up a pen.
Ideal for: Nerds who like their graphic novels well-blended with Canadian context; Torontonians who like their city vindicated; kids who are both lovers and fighters.(less)
The Complete Persepolis presents a candid, stark, and emotionally overwhelming account of a young girl's comi...moreOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
The Complete Persepolis presents a candid, stark, and emotionally overwhelming account of a young girl's coming of age during Iran's Islamic Revolution in the late twentieth-century. As a young girl attending a secular French school prior to the revolution, Marjane Satrapi offers a chilling account of her sudden switch to a state-occupied education system, and showcases her family's efforts to teach the young girl to question her educators while still taking utter pleasure in attaining knowledge and guarding her dignity as a human being. As an adolescent, Satrapi was then sent to Vienna in a bid to gain a secularized education unavailable to her in Iran; however, once there, her devotion to her homeland is tested in the face of racism and outsiders who would deny her experiences of war. In the end, Satrapi returns to Iran only to find she must exile herself in order to attain the life she desires.
Satrapi's use of black and white inking was an excellent decision on her part—I often found the stark contrast between the two heightened the tension of certain moments, in particular the scenes depicting the most violent moments in her childhood (e.g. representations of massacre, the bombings of her home town, images of young boys sent to die with plastic "keys" to the afterlife, etc.) Also, I found Satrapi's paired-down language and blunt sentences were perfect throughout Persepolis. I was surprised how often a simple phrase could prick the tears from my eyes—I'm not one to cry over books, but I was nearly set over the edge a few times there. For instance, in the first part of Persepolis, the dual presentation of Uncle Anoosh's "bread swan" (literally, a swan fashioned from a piece of bread) gift to Marjane is heartbreaking: first, upon his release from prison, and once again as a memento given before his execution (70). Never have the words "star of my life" brought me so close to the waterworks… Definitely, Persepolis is a remarkable work with haunting moments that are bound to sit with readers for a long time coming.
Ideal for: Readers with a penchant for memoir-ish graphic novels and real life comic works; Scholars with a background in Middle Eastern studies who need a fresh perspective on Iran's Islamic Revolution; Fans of book-to-film adaptations; Teens in need of an eye-opening on the world out there.(less)
Castle Waiting explores a series of interconnected stories revolving around the inhabitants of an abandoned,...moreFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Castle Waiting explores a series of interconnected stories revolving around the inhabitants of an abandoned, isolated castle, and describes their lives before and after finding sanctuary within those walls. After a princess and her attendants awake from a one-hundred year slumber, the young woman abandons her former life to live with her new prince. In the aftermath, her three handmaidens—Patience, Prudence, and Plenty—transform the castle into a refuge for travellers in need. In the following tales, readers are introduced to a pregnant woman fleeing her abusive husband, the half-horse knight Sir Chess who rests at the castle between adventures, the bearded nun named Sister Peace, and a host of memorable characters that are both cheeky and charming throughout.
Though Castle Waiting takes place in a medieval and magical world, Linda Medley fuses modern elements into her storytelling and her artwork, which offer a great twist to the fairytale standards we learned as children. Her pacing and her panel layout borrow from cinematic conventions and she uses modern fantasy literature to add context for her stories. Her artwork is both remarkably detailed and lighthearted, and she enhances the expressiveness of her characters in her crisp, energetic dialogue.
As a side note, I loved the Poltersprites who occupied the castle as well—adorable little shit disturbers, the lot of them. Who wouldn't want a slew of house lutins, duende, brownies, tomtras, hobgoblins, servans, and piskies playing pranks in her home? Also, Old Man River—how one manages to balance creepiness and charisma is beyond me, but he does it with style.
If you're in the mood to explore a forgotten fairytale realm, and even if you're not, Castle Waiting is bound to charm the socks clean from your feet.
Ideal for: Readers who happily refuse to grow up; Fairytale junkies and fans of mythical times/places; Newbies to the graphic novel scene; Readers who like a dash a feminism and a whole lot of humour to their fantasy.(less)