My week in graphic novels

Last week, after finishing a couple of heftier and long-awaited novels, I made my own personal proclamation: It’s Graphic Novel Week!

Seven days and seven books later, here’s what I read and what I thought:

First up was Soulless: The Manga, Volume 2 by Gail Carriger (author) and Rem (artist). This manga version of Changeless, the 2nd book in the wonderful Parasol Protectorate series of novels, is a rather delightful affair, even for someone like me who doesn’t typically care for manga-style illustration. While I occasionally found the artwork a bit too cartoon-y, there are moments and scenes that are just wonderfully conveyed, including the Scottish settings, the steampunk gadgets and gewgaws, the fashion (and rather atrocious hats), and some of the interplay between main characters. I would never recommend the manga version as a sole introduction to Gail Carriger’s work, but for anyone who’s read and enjoyed the series, these manga volumes are a nice, amusing side dish.

Next was the continuing stories spun off from my beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. As anyone who was a fan knows, the TV series ended after seven seasons, but Buffy lives on! Under the auspices of creator Joss Whedon, Buffy’s story continued in comic form through season 8, which wrapped up in 2011, and in the newer (and ongoing) season 9. This past week, I had the pleasure of reading the 2nd volume in season 9, On Your Own, as well as the 2nd volume in the spin-off Angel & Faith series, Daddy Issues. Reading these comic series are like visiting with old friends. The gang (or most of the gang) is back! We get to hang out with Buffy, Willow, Spike, Xander, Dawn, and more. The series remains true to the characters as they existed in the TV series, but with a natural growth and progression through the ensuing action. While the season 8 plotline was a bit more convoluted than was truly necessary for good storytelling, the season 9 plot so far is engrossing, surprising, and yes, even touching. Meanwhile, I’m finding myself much more interested in the Angel and Faith spin-off than I thought I’d be, as the two team up to atone for past sins, right some wrongs, deal with visits from important figures from their pasts, and put some bad guys in their places. Both of these volumes were quick but engaging reads, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

After that, I moved on to the world of Fables by Bill Willingham. While the Fables series has been around since 2002, I was not introduced to Fables until earlier this year — at which point I fell madly in love and gobbled up the entire series as quickly as I could. Which left me completely bereft once I realized I was all caught up and had to simply sit and wait for the next volume to be released. (Side note: Fables, Volume 18: Cubs in Toyland is due out in January 2013!). Luckily for me, two new side projects were released in fairest-1November: Werewolves of the Heartland, a stand-alone volume centered on Bigby Wolf — only my very favorite character from the Fables ‘verse! — and volume one of a new ongoing series, Fairest, which focuses on some of the female Fables. Both of these, while enjoyable, were more or less filler for me. Werewolves of the Heartland follows Bigby on an adventure alluded to in the main Fables series, in which Bigby sets off in search of a new safe location for the Fables in exile. I won’t get into too much of the plot, but it’s nice to see Bigby in action again — although for the most part, it just left me hungry to return to the main series. (January, hurry up!) Fairest was fun, but I’ll have to see where the series goes as a whole. Volume 1 focuses on Briar Rose (aka Sleeping Beauty), Ali Baba, and the Ice Queen. Interesting and entertaining, but again, it mostly just whets my appetite for the main body of the series. Still, for a Fables fan, these are good choices for the in-between months.

wrinkle-graphicA Wrinkle In Time (or more accurately, according to the book jacket, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time: The Graphic Novel by Hope Larson) was my next choice. This was such an interesting reading experience. It’s been many years since I’ve read the original novel, yet it made such an indelible impression upon me that I approached the graphic novel with some misgivings, wondering how on earth it could succeed in capturing the essence of Madeleine L’Engle’s masterpiece. Fortunately, the graphic novel does a wonderful job of conveying the spirit of the novel, with simple but expressive illustrations that portray the characters’ emotions and struggles quite well. Meg in particular comes across in a manner so true to the novel — full of doubts and insecurities, driven by love for her family, confronting her anger and frustrations on a daily basis, and trying to become her own person while caring for those she loves. My only hesitation about this edition is that, in a way, it moves too fast. The journey to find Meg’s father and all the events surrounding it happen quickly, and I wonder whether a person reading the graphic novel without having read the original would get the same level of emotional impact. I enjoyed it a great deal, but it’s no replacement for the “real thing”.

Finally — and I’m still recovering from this one — I read the latest volume in the Locke & Key series by Joe Hill. Volume 5, Clockworks, continues right where the previous volume left off, with the Locke children in terrible danger and with no adults available or able to help. In volume 5, we get two very important pieces of Key House history — the origin of the keys in 1775, and the fateful events of 1988 involving the children’s father and his friends at the end of their senior year of high school. Both historical pieces are powerful and disturbing, and finally answer some questions that are essential to understanding the mystery and terror of the story. Locke & Key is scary, suspenseful, creepy, tragic, and un-put-down-able. This series just blows me away. Joe Hill is a master storyteller, and the illustrations are crisp, frightening, gory, and just generally wonderful. Highly, highly recommended.

And there you have it! Seven days, seven graphic novels, one very satisfied reader! Let’s do this again soon, shall we? Meanwhile, back to reading books without pictures… sigh.

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