February Book Club Highlights!
Yep, it gets cold in February in California—even San Diego—so it’s a good time to hunker down and read a great graphic novel. Our 6 groups did just that, while our newest branch—the Balboa Park one—held their first information-packed meeting!
The Downtown Club brought down the hammer with Black Hammer, Vol 1 by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston. The story of superheroes mysteriously trapped in a small town for a decade working through their dysfunctional relationships was generally positively received by the group. All agreed that the book was well-executed and matched by high quality artwork. Most thought Lemire expertly landed his signature emotional punches via well-crafted characters and dialogue. The juxtaposition of the dramatic realism of the contemporary panels and the innocence of the “Golden Age” ones was considered by the group to be particularly effective. However, a few members had misgivings about the concept of once again recycling, and even at times possibly plagiarizing, classic superheroes to buoy this familiar “post-superhero” narrative. This lead the group to a fascinating philosophical discussion about whether lines should be drawn (no pun intended) when doing these kinds of superhero-meets-reality stories. Next month the group goes mythic in Ancient Egypt with Pantheon: The True Story of the Egyptian Deities by Hamish Steele.
The Encinitas group has jumped on board the Black Panther train and read the first two collections of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ take on the series. Even though the two volumes represent a reboot for Black Panther, some members found it difficult to jump in without doing some research to better understand the history of the series. Additionally, Coates’ background as an essayist is apparent, as Black Panther is very dense and text-heavy. Thankfully, almost every Book Club member felt that once they dug deeper into the story, it was much easier to grasp. The story tackles many contemporary issues that resonated with the group. The concept of the main protagonist being something of a disconnected, reluctant leader is also an interesting take that some members were not expecting from a superhero comic. Everyone in the Book Club was in agreement that Black Panther’s artwork is enthralling, with a favorite amongst the group being the use of silhouettes. Despite Black Panther being a more challenging read than expected, the comic made for great discussion and everyone is curious to see how Coates continues to develop as a comic book author. Next month the group will be reading Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds.
The Escondido club read Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven. Dan moderated the discussion. All club members had read some form of the dystopian future genre but surprisingly the overwhelming majority was in manga. The group felt that Logan’s family was an interesting plot device and—easily predicted—used to make Logan become the Wolverine once more. The Easter eggs, call-backs, twists on characters, and background details really added to and enhanced the story. Hawkeye was the group’s overall favorite and stayed the most true to his character. Wolverine unleashing his primal self was a favorite moment for all and a long discussed topic. The group compared the book to the film Logan that was released in 2017. Many originally liked the film, but having read Old Man Logan, members said they liked the graphic novel much more. Everyone loved the gorgeous and varied artwork and panel spreads that artist McNiven created. The EPL group will read Locke & Key by Joe Hill in March, and Saga by Brian K. Vaughan in April.
The La Jolla Book Club was feeling nostalgic as we read two ‘80s inspired teen-action adventure series. During our meeting, the first book covered was the mini-series 4 Kids Walk into a Bank written by Matthew Rosenberg, with art by Tyler Boss. As Gary moderated the discussion, the group was all intrigued by the concept and idea of the story, however some felt there could be improvement in the execution, particularly the ending. One standout from the comic was the lettering. We enjoyed the creative use of onomatopoeia and the shift to smaller font when socially awkward and shy Walter spoke. It was also fun to discover all the pop culture references included throughout from nods and homages to movies and comic Easter eggs. Both factors contributed to the overall playful tone of the series.
The second book we examined was Paper Girls Volume 3, written by Brian K. Vaughan, with art by Cliff Chiang, and colors by Matt Wilson. We enjoyed this installment and found it easy to follow the storyline. It still maintained the top-notch art and great writing we expect from these creators, however some were hoping there would be more continuity to the first two volumes. There is still enough interest in the unanswered mysteries that most in the group would continue with the series. Just for fun, we speculated how the casts of each book would fare if they switched series and we agreed that the lead character in 4 Kids, Paige, would fit right in with all the Paper Girls.
In March, La Jolla will explore another Brian K. Vaughan series, Y: The Last Man Volume 1 with art by Pia Guerra and Letter 44 Volume 5 from Charles Soule and Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque.
“Little one, you are unlike anyone who has ever existed, and that makes you exactly like everyone who has ever existed.” Petrichor in Saga, Volume 8 says this to little Hazel. This quote encapsulates a great deal of what was discussed at the February meeting of the Mission Valley Book Club. Continuing our devotion to Saga, Mission Valley read volumes 6 through 8, having previously read the first five volumes. One of the great things about this series is that it makes all the weird and fantastical aspects of this science fiction world seem normal and at the same time, flips upside down all the things we usually are exposed to. In Saga, everyone may be so different from us, yet they are so the same. Once again everyone was enamored with Brian K. Vaughan’s writing and Fiona Staples’s art. From the origins of half-centaurs, to what we would do for a child, we discussed it all and were left with an eternal question, that hopefully one day Vaughan and Staples will answer: Can there be a happy ending when the journey has been so cruel? Appropriately, Mission Valley will read volumes 2 and 3 of the MARCH Trilogy, by Rep. John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.
North Park welcomed (and in a couple of cases welcomed back) some new members to the club with a shot of ‘90s testosterone in the form of Preacher: Book 1, by Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, Matt Hollingsworth, and Clem Robins. This edition collects the first three story arcs chronicling Jesse Custer, a reluctant preacher with the power to compel anyone to follow his commands, his failed hitman ex-girlfriend Tulip, and an Irish vampire named Cassidy as they canvas America in search of a God who has abandoned the world.
Almost everyone in the group loved the story and pace, contrasting it with the methodical pace of our current long read, Sandman. Some stories and ideas that may have taken entire trades to explore from other creators are introduced and concluded in only a few issues of Preacher. Everyone in the group also enjoyed Dillon’s art and Hollingsworth’s colors, commenting that the art style reflected the period and tone of the story and resembled some of the art in Sandman.
The North Park Club voted for their next four months of selections after Sandman’s conclusion in March and decided on The Unwritten, Volume 1, East of West Volumes 1 & 2, Phonogram: The Singles Club, and The Beauty, Volume 1.
The brand-new Balboa Park group met for the very first time on the site of the future Comic-Con Center for Popular Culture. The fledgling club fielded 20 new members out of the gate, all of which showed up! After an information-filled meeting on how we do this book club thing, the March book—their first for discussion—was revealed: We Stand on Guard by Brian K. Vaughan* and Steve Skroce. More next month!
(*We’re big on Mr. Vaughan here in the book clubs, evidently.)
Want to come read graphic novels with us?
A few of our clubs are accepting new members: Downtown, La Jolla, Encinitas, and Escondido are currently accepting new members. You must be 18 years of age or older, live in the greater San Diego area, have a Comic-Con Member ID, and submit the application form to be considered. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Space is limited in each club.