Book Club Reads for May
May brought showers, flowers, and here in Southern California, the usual “May Grey” … but our Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs fought away the dreariness with another stellar set of reads! Plus, the new Comic-Con Museum Book Club branch held its first-ever informational meeting! They’ll be reading Pride of Baghdad for their first discussion in June (more on that book below, as the Downtown group read it this month).
Mister Miracle, by Tom King and illustrated by Mitch Gerads was Balboa Park’s May selection. Moderated by Josh, the Eisner Award-winning collaboration was well received by the group, with its art and distinctive visual style of rigid 9-panel pages being the subject of much discussion. The group spoke extensively about the depth of the work and its extensively layered content, with some finding the book to be somewhat challenging without broader context from the DC universe. For the members of the group who had more exposure to DC, appreciation was voiced for the way in which Tom King made the characters his own, as well as the Easter eggs (like references to the New Gods, and even a veiled Stan Lee cameo!) spread throughout the book. The group, having read King’s The Vision last year, also spoke about the contrast between the two works, and how Mister Miracle seemed to place the audience in a more intimate relationship with the characters instead of being on the outside looking in. Perhaps most interestingly to members of the group, Josh used the word “Bigly” un-ironically at 7:01 PM.
In June, the Balboa Park club will read Hawkeye, Volume 1 (My Life as a Weapon, by Matt Fraction and David Aja.
What if the biggest popular popstars in the world were actually gods? That’s the premise of The Wicked + The Divine, Chula Vista’s graphic novel choice for May. Written by Kieron Gillen and drawn by Jamie McKelvie, Wicked is set in present-day London and the story begins with Lora, a young adult attending a concert by Amaterasu, a popstar who happens to be a god. Lora than immerses herself in a world of gods, idolatry, and murder.
The group generally liked the story and members praised the witty dialogue and clean artwork. The use of imagery, like the portrayal of the Underground/Tube, fight scenes, and character design were very much appreciated. Some were able to relate to Lora, others found the god Luci to be fun and even though she was Lucifer, she wasn’t that evil (more chaotic neutral). Jenna enjoyed the mixing of mythology and popstars. Eric and others were hoping to see more of the gods’ individual specialties and powers. This led to a deeper discussion of answering the question of “What is the point of being a god?” Yasmine noted that the gods didn’t try to help solve the mystery, even if they could. The gods weren’t very redemptive; they lived to be worshipped and were very self-centered. They acted, as a member wryly noted, like teenagers.
June’s book: X-Men: Grand Design by Ed Piskor.
For the month of May the Downtown Club picked Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon. Sam helmed the conversation surrounding this thought-provoking book, which led to the sharing of personal stories and reflections on both past and current conflicts in the world.
The group has read, and largely loved, many “BKV” books over the years (Y The Last Man, Saga, Paper Girls). While different from his typically lengthy and fantastical tales, many commented on the consistent success Vaughan has in writing character-driven stories that organically build a larger world for the reader to explore. In this case, Vaughan constructed a brief but immersive view of our real world, as the journey of the pride is inspired by the true story of lions escaping the Baghdad Zoo during the bombing of the city during the Iraq War.
The artwork and color by Niko Henrichon was agreed to be absolutely beautiful, particularly the dappled light effect. Not only was the style noted as well-suited to the story, it provided clarity and a tone that is not easily accomplished. It was also mentioned that the lettering by Todd Klein is a great asset to the book, making this a highly successful collaboration of creators.
Completed in 2003, this still relevant tale prompted the group to spend a good portion of time time discussing the far reaching consequences of war and the lasting impact it has had on our member’s families and the planet. While the story can be a difficult and emotional read at times, the majority of the club was glad to have read it and to be able to explore the discussion it prompted. The most interesting part of our talk was the different aspects each reader focused on. Some saw this as a story about the atrocities of war, others about environmentalism, and some as the opportunity to have a close-up view of a lion pride. We enjoyed seeing the book again through each others’ understanding and found there are layers to this story that satisfy a diverse readership. While there was some hesitation by members who simply don’t enjoy anthropomorphic tales, the Downtown Club found this to be an important read and recommends you pick up Pride of Baghdad.
In June, the Downtown group will read Ice Cream Man, Vol. 1 by W. Maxwell Prince and Martin Morazzo.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl vol. 1 by Ryan North and Erica Henderson introduces readers to Doreen Green on her first day of college. Doreen is what you’d expect of your typical college freshman: She’s excited to dive into her studies of computer science, explore what student clubs she can join, and build a lifelong friendship with her roommate. She also can talk to squirrels, tussle with a variety of supervillains, and even stand up to cosmic threats like Galactus. Okay, so perhaps Doreen isn’t so typical after all, and that’s what makes her so likeable as a character. With its bright, vibrant art and hits-the-mark comedy, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl has something for everyone, and it gives a different take on the Marvel Universe than other books members of the group have previously read. The Encinitas Book Club loved Squirrel Girl, mainly because the titular character is so funny and likeable. In particular, Book Club members noted that Squirrel Girl will often solve problems without resorting to violence, which is refreshing and clever. At first glance the book seems simple, but there are many pieces that come together to build a larger experience, such as the running commentary on the bottom of each page. One Book Club member suggested that while you can read through The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl without paying attending to all of the additional elements, going back and rereading it while incorporating the other details is akin to watching a movie the second time with a Director’s Commentary. Many members of the group are planning to continue reading the series, and one member noted that it only gets better after this first volume.
Next month the Encinitas Book Club will be going in a completely different direction and discussing The Black Monday Murders Vol. 1 by Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker.
At May’s meeting, the Escondido Public Library group discussed Lady Killer, written by Jamie S. Rich, drawn by Jöelle Jones and colored by Laura Allred. Nostalgic ‘60s era styling really rings true in this title. As a group we all felt that this story was amazing. We discussed the art and how accurate it was in terms of fashion and home décor. We talked about how the artist studied ‘60s era wallpaper and furniture and how much it paid off in the stunning visuals. Another point that was talked about were the chapter title pages and how they looked like old movies posters, which encouraged many to visit the artist’s website in hopes of purchasing prints. We then spoke about the way women where referenced in this title (in relation to the year/era) and compared it to modern times, asking the question was Josie Schuller scrutinized more than her male subordinates for having a family she loved. Finally the probability of this ever happening was brought up … to which the conclusions where made that the believability of this story wasn’t important because we liked the story, characters, and artwork as they were presented. As a package it was received really well everyone agree that artist Jöelle Jones captured the character’s essence.
We also discussed Saga Vol. 5, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Recap would be a great way to describe our conversation, with parts being filled in by everyone at different instances. We talked about the beginning and how we thought it would shape the story, and our obviously wrong conclusions that lead us to predict where we thought the story would end up going (keeping in mind the error of our past assumptions). The group is really enamored with this story and nothing but admiration was spoken about this series.
In June, the group will read Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee.
Escondido 2 read Saga Vol.1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. The group really enjoyed the book. Favorite characters included Lying Cat, Prince Robot IV, and Izabel. It was interesting that Hazel is an unreliable narrator in the story that she is telling. What Hazel says are spoilers, but the narrative twists them in another direction than readers aren’t expecting. This was a pleasant surprise for book club members. During the discussion of Saga, the group made many unexpected puns related to the book. Saga is a relatable story because of the forbidden love story between Alana and Marko. Several book club members liked the melding of plant and modern technology in the spaceship that the characters come across. Many are looking forward to reading more of Saga and seeing where the story is goes.
The group will read Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Time Sale in June.
For May La Jolla read The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Vol. 1 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Jack Morelli and The Flintstones Vol. 2 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh. The group really liked Sabrina. They enjoyed the watercolor effects and the artwork added to the dark themes of the story. We had a great discussion about the book compared to the new TV show as well as the old show from the ‘90s, and its tie-in to Afterlife with Archie. We all were shocked with the cliffhanger ending and can’t wait to continue with Vol. 2 once it’s released.
The group also had a great discussion on The Flintstones Vol. 2. We all agreed the art was great and the coloring on-point from the original TV show. It brought us all back to watching the show and the discussion was lively and fun, throwing out thoughts and memories. We discussed how intriguing it is that pets like Dino cannot talk but yet all the other “appliance animals” can.
Next month the group will be reading The Boys Vol. 1 by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson and Y the Last Man Vol 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra.
For May, the Mission Valley group read Watersnakes by three-time Eisner Award nominee, writer/artist Tony Sandoval. Teenage Mila makes a new friend on her normally boring summer vacation: Agnes. But Agnes isn’t your typical girl; she’s the ghost of an ancient fallen king with the added benefit of having a mouth full of teeth that just happen to be the king’s guardian warriors.
While the story had bizarre and surreal elements, all of the attendees enjoyed the book a lot, especially the beautiful and unique artwork. One member remarked that she stared at a particular page for a good ten minutes as she thought it was so beautiful. We discussed how the main character's age added to the impact of the story as it was able to capture the uncertainty and emotions of being a teenager dealing with boredom, friendship, fantasy and a first crush. The battle near the end of the book claimed many lives, some in graphic and violent ways, yet it made the story all the more powerful. While the book is a standalone graphic novel and not part of a series, there was just enough mystery and wonder for potential additional storytelling.
Next month, the Mission Valley group will read Coyote Doggirl by Lisa Hanawalt.
North Park read and discussed Blankets for the month of May, with Yvonne leading the conversation. Written and drawn by cartoonist Craig Thompson, Blankets is a coming-of-age memoir of Craig’s life from his early childhood in an Evangelical Christian family, to the first love of his life, until the end of high school and his disillusionment with organized religion.
Everyone in the group appreciated Thompson’s focus on his early life, tackling the bullying he experienced at school, sexual abuse, and his feelings towards Christianity. It was a complex and layered story, which several members appreciated more upon reading for the second or even third time. The group also enjoyed Thompson’s art style. His clean line art didn’t sacrifice his ability to express emotion with his characters, especially facial expressions, and they loved when his art broke out of the usual comic panels which mirrored the emotionally important moments of the story.
In June, North Park will be reading X-Men: Grand Design by Ed Piskor.