BOOK: I Am Not Okay With This (2018)

I Am Not Okay With This Year: 2018 Author: Charles Forsman Length: 160 pages I'm open to a lot of visual styles for graphic novels. It can be what elevates a mediocre story to something profound, but it can also tonally clash with the message and leave a muddled mess. Storytelling in this format is a challenge to pull off and few have been able to do so successfully. I Am Not Okay With This unfortunately falls into the other camp here. Even if this were just a novel without the "graphic" part, there's not much to recommend it. Filled with cliches about what it's like to be a teenage girl, I Am Not Okay With This suffers from the "men writing women" trope. None of the interactions felt believable or realistic. Instead, they seemed forced through what a man thought these interactions should be based on minimal or merely pop culture research. None of it had the feel of anyone who has lived as...
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BOOK: Bone, Vol. 1 – Out from Boneville (2005)

Bone, Vol. 1: Out from Boneville Year: 2005 Author: Jeff Smith Length: 138 pages Bone is one of those comics I’ve always been aware of but haven’t gotten around to reading until now. It’s interesting how the visual style of the titular characters evokes an older style of comics, while the other characters in the world feel more modern. The storytelling runs at a pretty fast pace that kept me turning the pages to see what happens next. There’s some pretty good humor here, as well as tense situations to keep it from becoming too silly. I can definitely see the appeal and why it’s been a notable comic since its origins in the early 1990s. My only qualm with this book has to do with the main characters. The three “Bones” feel out of place in the fantasy realm, let alone our world. It also took me a while to distinguish visually between Fone Bone and Phoney Bone, which was only aided because this...
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BOOK: Nimona (2015)

Nimona Year: 2015 Author: N.D. Stevenson Length: 266 pages It's a rare treat to find a graphic novel with well-rounded characters, an interesting story, and an art style that has range. Even if it started as a webcomic, Nimona shows a surprising amount of depth for the medium. Sure, some of the early parts were clearly encapsulated in a serial format, but they were a quick way to introduce the characters and setting. When the story has some room to grow, it gets even better. It's definitely a page-turner, and I devoured it as fast as I could. The heart of Nimona is its characters. Flipping the hero's journey on its head and focusing on the villain's perspective was a fun touch. Nimona's chaotic nature was a fun contrast to Lord Ballister Blackheart, who just wanted to do his villainous revenge alone. Perhaps the biggest surprise was how naturally the book handles LGBTQ+ themes. None of it felt forced or odd, even in a science...
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BOOK: Solutions and Other Problems (2020)

Solutions and Other Problems Year: 2020 Author: Allie Brosh Length: 519 pages My first introduction to Allie Brosh's work—as I'm sure is the case for many—was the "all the things" meme. For those looking for more depth from these drawings, look no further than the humorous illustrated memoir, Solutions and Other Problems. I have never quite read a book like this. When I picked it up off the shelf, I was expecting a graphic novel, only to be surprised with big chunks of text between illustrations. Clearly, the best of both worlds here. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll be glad you read this book. While it might be easy to discount the simple drawing style at first glance, many illustrations in this book prove to be quite exquisite. The stories themselves, which are not all silly or humorous, aid this distinction. Solutions and Other Problems subverted my expectations by being both hilarious and deeply profound. I've never read a book that had both a story...
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BOOK: Snowpiercer – The Prequel Part 2 – Apocalypse (2020)

Snowpiercer - The Prequel Part 2: Apocalypse Year: 2020 Author: Matz & Jean-Marc Rochette Length: 104 pages After the somewhat disappointing Part 1 prequel to Snowpiercer, Part 2 was only slightly better. While the previous book in this prequel series was fairly generic with its apocalyptic scenarios, the Apocalypse portion of this trilogy gave personality to the story. Now that there are characters the reader is following, it's easier to relate to the plight of humanity. This still doesn't negate the fact that I know how things will eventually end up since I've already seen the Snowpiercer (2013) movie. What makes this volume more interesting than its predecessor is that we get to see how humanity would really act in an Apocalypse situation. Once the end of the world finally comes, all bets are off. For the "doomsday cult," their plan hinges on unhinged individuals. For the Snowpiercer project, it's not so easy to control tickets when everyone wants to board. And for humanity, we...
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BOOK: Snowpiercer – The Prequel Part 1 – Extinction (2019)

Snowpiercer - The Prequel Part 1: Extinction Year: 2019 Author: Matz & Jean-Marc Rochette Length: 90 pages One of the best original sci-fi movies to come out in the last decade, in my opinion, was Snowpiercer (2013). The story originated as a 1982 French graphic novel under the name of Le Transperceneige. While I haven't read the original source material, I decided that a prequel graphic novel was probably pretty safe to read. I figured the events leading up to the world ending and a perpetual train being launched wouldn't spoil anything for me (I also haven't seen the TV show either). While it's only a scant 90 pages, part 1 of this prequel trilogy, Extinction, had nothing I didn't already know in it. Most of the plotlines in this book were fairly generic end-of-the-world-type stories. Each one obviously would lead to the last of humanity boarding this infinitely running train, which was no surprise. It probably didn't help that there weren't that many distinct...
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BOOK: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl – Squirrels Just Want to Have Fun (2021)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrels Just Want to Have FunYear: 2021Author: Ryan NorthLength: 224 pages After reading the second collection of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, I was a little worried that this third collection would be more of the same. Comedic situations involving a variety of Marvel heroes and villains punctuated by some silly squirrel-based shenanigans. And while The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrels Just Want to Have Fun has these things, there was also a fair amount of character growth for the titular superhero. I appreciated that this volume included some of the lore surrounding Squirrel Girl, especially since we've only seen her in modern settings in most of these issues. Knowing what it was like growing up as Squirrel Girl helped ground the character a little more and make her relatable. The arc where she teamed up with Ant-Man was also entertaining because of the change of scenery (everything is in New York, give Canada a chance!). Still, these comics were...
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BOOK: Hellboy – Weird Tales (2014)

Hellboy: Weird Tales Year: 2014 Author: Mike Mignola Length: 261 pages I have rarely read comics or graphic novels prior to seeing their movie adaptations, and Hellboy is no exception. I enjoyed the 2004 movie and its 2008 sequel but only just now picked up this anthology collection of Hellboy comics. It's difficult to know where to start with any western comic series, so Hellboy: Weird Tales was actually a perfect injection point for me since nothing from these comics is necessarily canon. Instead, I was able to enjoy other artists' take on this demon-fighting character's adventures. As with any anthology collection, not everything in Weird Tales is great. Still, there were a few comics that I enjoyed over the others. I appreciated the parody of comic books in the "Lobster Johnson" section and the manga-like "Hot" that also felt appropriate given the Japanese setting. The art style and punchline of "Haunted" were both entertaining. "Flight Risk" was bold and action-filled. "Family Story" and "The...
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BOOK: The End of the World (2013)

The End of the World Year: 2013 Author: Don Hertzfeldt Length: 224 pages I was first introduced to the works of Don Hertzfeldt via his Oscar-nominated short film, Rejected. The bizarre humor immediately struck a chord with me but the simplistic animation style (with a 4th-wall-breaking ending) made this short a classic that I still quote to this day. Since then, I have still mostly kept up with the little animation projects Hertzfeldt has done over the years. As a graphic novel, The End of the World seems like a logical step for the animator, and it works, but only in a few spots. Despite Rejected being mostly silly, his other works (which retain his signature stick-figure style) are silly but with a profound message that seems out-of-place coming from someone who animated a character screaming of the woes brought on by a bleeding anus. The End of the World has a lot of one-off jokes that don't quite land, but the longer narrative bits...
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BOOK: City Monster (2020)

City Monster Year: 2020 Author: Reza Farazmand Length: 112 pages I'm not sure when I started reading Reza Farazmand's Poorly Drawn Lines webcomic, but I have enjoyed his simple art style and humor for quite a while. City Monster is a graphic novel in this same, simple style with a plot that's quite a bit longer than the handful of panels he uses to tell a joke in his webcomic.  With all-new characters that don't regularly appear in the webcomic, it was nice to see something different than just another adventure with bird, mouse, turtle, and maybe Kevin. Even at 112 pages long, it's a quick read, and the ending is satisfying. Still, City Monster has a few minor flaws. Again, I love Reza's simple drawing style. However, there's a danger in making something look simple because some might think this book is appropriate for children. The occasional strong language might put some people off, mainly because it feels a little out of character and is...
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BOOK: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Big Squirrels Don’t Cry (2020)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Big Squirrels Don't Cry Year: 2020 Author: Ryan North Length: 288 pages In this second collection of Squirrel Girl comics, you'll once again find Doreen Green trying to balance her life as Squirrel Girl and as a computer science student at Empire State University. This can be quite the balancing act, especially when you have a huge fluffy tail that you have to hide when you're in your civilian persona. While other superheroes have origin stories that explain their tremendous powers, Squirrel Girl is...Squirrel Girl. Doreen's "unbeatable" title continues to be tested as she uses both her skills as a squirrel person who can communicate with and control squirrels and as a computer science major to defeat villains who terrorize New York City. The fact that she's a superhero who can talk to and control squirrels is just amusing enough that fans of the first collection will likely enjoy this one. However, I wasn't prepared to read a Howard the Duck...
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BOOK: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl – Powers of a Squirrel (2019)

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Powers of a Squirrel Year: 2019 Author: Ryan North Length: 184 pages I was first made aware of this somewhat obscure Marvel superhero because I am a regular reader of Ryan North's Dinosaur Comics webcomic series. While I sat on the knowledge of Squirrel Girl's existence for some time, I finally broke down and bought the two-volume collection of North's imagining of the hero. In this first volume, Powers of a Squirrel, we get to know Doreen Green (aka Squirrel Girl), a computer scientist student studying at Empire State University. As a much more comedic superhero compared to the likes of Iron Man or Captain America, Squirrel Girl's claim to fame is the fact that she is "Unbeatable." This includes defeating some of Marvel's most fearsome and powerful villains in unique ways that don't involve violence. Sure, sometimes Squirrel Girl has to get her paws dirty, but the more amusing storylines are the ones where she saves the day using unconventional...
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BOOK: The Ghost Script (2018)

The Ghost Script Year: 2018 Author: Jules Feiffer Length: 160 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** When I received this book in the mail, I opened it up and was suddenly surprised. First, I suppose I didn’t realize this was the third book in a series. Second, I thought the rough sketching of the cover was an aesthetic choice, but it seemed to permeate the entirety of this graphic novel. Since these first impressions took me for a loop, I had to warm up to the idea of this book before I sat down to read it. Even despite my initial misgivings, The Ghost Script is an enjoyable and quick read with a visual style that somehow works, even despite its “rough” characteristics. Part of me almost wished the book was a little longer, but I suppose if I read all three pieces together, I’d get the length of a book I usually look for in a graphic novel. As it was, I...
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