The Comic-Con International Graphic Novel Book Club held its monthly meetings last week at both the downtown San Diego Central Library and the Mission Valley branch of the San Diego Public Library. These meetings were the first actual book discussions for each club.
The downtown group talked about their first book choice, Hawkeye, Volume 1: My Life as a Weapon, by Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido, and Matt Hollingsworth. This book club is made up of a cross section of readers of all ages; some are veterans of comic book reading, a few are newbies, and a few are new to the superhero genre. Hawkeye is an interesting choice, since it takes a popular, well-known hero (even to those that don’t read comics, but have seen Marvel’s The Avengers) and puts him in a different light: What does he do when he’s not an Avenger? The group agreed on a number of things about this book. They loved David Aja’s art, particularly his covers, and some of the readers pointed out their personal highlights: Aja’s way of slowing down time in issue #2, when Kate Bishop talks to Hawkeye while he practices with his bow, and the way both Fraction and Aja manipulate time and use similar panel images to change scenes and locations. Hopping around in time was confusing for a few of the readers at first, but with re-reading they caught onto the trick and actually enjoyed it. One reader confessed she was ready to stop reading the book when Clint Barton (Hawkeye) kicked his wheelchair into traffic in issue #1, but he redeemed himself by rescuing the dog later that issue and helping the neighbors in his building. Everyone felt the overriding theme of the book was Hawkeye’s quest for a family; the people in the building—and Kate Bishop—became his family outside of the Avengers. Some wondered if Hawkeye’s messy personal life (one reader called it his “quest for chaos”) was because his life as a superhero was so controlled and rigid. Everyone agreed that Matt Hollingsworth’s coloring added immensely to the appeal of this book, especially when he was paired with Aja’s art. And everyone—even the lone dissenting reader who raised her hand and said she didn’t like the book at first—agreed they want to read more Hawkeye comics.
The Mission Valley club tackled the first volume of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man. With so much rich material, the group quickly delved into a great discussion about feminism, gender politics and art. The group was a mix of those who had never read a comic or graphic novel before, to those who had read the entire Y: The Last Man series. Everyone was quick to yell, “No spoilers!” and some people were very deliberate in what they did and did not add to the discussion so as not to ruin the book’s epic finale. Since the first comic was released in 2002, the group questioned whether this book would still be the same if written today. Most agreed that it would, but that women have made significant strides since then. One point that came up many times was what it means to be a feminist both in the story and in society. Through discussion, the group learned that what being a feminist means to one person might not be the same to another. On a more specific front, many theories were bandied about as to what Yorick’s girlfriend Beth was about to tell him before disaster struck. “No spoilers!” was once again shouted as people who knew what happened attempted to keep stone-faced during this part. One thing everyone could agree on was that they enjoyed Y: The Last Man: Unmanned wholeheartedly and hoped to continue the series through all ten volumes. For some readers new to comics, they admitted they are so happy to have found a series they can continue reading and all agreed that if you don’t know anyone else who reads comics, it can be hard to get good recommendations for what to read next. With that in mind, everyone took the upcoming book selections very carefully and opted to do some research before the next meeting.
In April, the clubs are reading The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf) for Downtown and Fashion Beast by Alan Moore, Anthony Johnston and Facundo Percio (Avatar Press) for Mission Valley. We’ll report back in a month or so with their takes on both books!