Graphic Novel Round Up, Part 1

Recently I’ve read several graphic novels.  I’m not great at writing full-length, in depth reviews for them as I do for novels, so I thought I would do a compilation post, despite there being no real theme between them.  Here it goes:

Rapunzels RevengeRapunzel’s Revenge
by Shannon and Dean Hale
Illustrated by Nathan Hale (no relation)

A girl-power retelling of Rapunzel.  Rapunzel lives inside the walls of a beautiful, lush castle but cannot help but be curious about what lies beyond her gilded cage.  Going against the wishes of the only mother she’s ever known, Rapunzel scales the castle walls and gets a peak at the other side.  Outside the wall is a vast wasteland of people treated like insects and worked to the bone in the mines.  It is there that she meets her real mother, a woman she remembers to be kind and loving, a woman who is now one of Mother Gothel’s slaves.  Back inside the castle, Rapunzel confronts Mother Gothel with the truth and gets taken to the far reaches of the land and locked in a room atop a very tall tree.  Rapunzel’s story has only just begun.  When she escapes her treetop prison, she is determined to make it back to the castle to save her mother and the slaves.  She meets a handsome thief along the way and they decide to team up, but Rapunzel has a thing or two to teach him about the difference between right and wrong and helping other people.  Will they be able to make it to the castle without getting caught?  Will they be able to make a difference once they get to the castle?

A great graphic retelling of Rapunzel.  I enjoyed Rapunzel’s strength and goodness, and enjoyed when some of the traditional elements of fairy tales were upended.  For example, after saving herself from her treetop prison, she meets a self-proclaimed hero who tells her he is going to go rescue the girl trapped in the tower…well, not actually rescue her because he doesn’t want to incur Mother Gothel’s wrath but he’ll just tell her he’s going to rescue her and she’ll be too dumb to know otherwise.  Rapunzel happily points him to her now vacant tower and tells him to yell really loud since the girl in the tower is hard of hearing.  Full of humor, parts of other fairy tales thrown in (such as Jack and the Bean Stalk), and pretty color illustrations, it is a fun read for fairy tale lovers.

Black BirdBlack Bird, volume 1
by Kanoko Sakurakoji

Misao sees things that others can’t, spirits who constantly trip her or mesmerize her making her a bit of an oddity at school.  The only person she’s ever known who could also see the spirits was her childhood friend Kyo.  He was a bit older than her but she still has very fond, if not vague, memories of him.  He left ten years ago and told her he would be back for her.  While she really wants a boyfriend, no one can stand up to her memories of Kyo.  Now Kyo is back but he is not exactly what Misao remembered; he is a demon.  It turns out that Misao is the bride of prophecy.  Demons who drink her blood are granted a long life, those who eat her flesh gain eternal youth, and those who marry her will ensure prosperity for their people.  Misao just turned sixteen and that is the age the prophecy takes effect.  Now demons will be after her to injure her or kill her just to gain power.  Kyo is a demon and he wants to marry Misao.  Though she has feelings for him she can’t stand the thought that he only wants to be with her because of the power she could give him.  But as he continually saves her from other spirits and demons, even putting his own life at risk, she begins to wonder if he really is only doing it for power, if maybe he feels something else.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the first volume in the series.  My two main issues were: 1. I thought the translation seemed a bit choppy at parts making for unrealistic sounding dialogue and 2. Kyo’s obsession with getting Misao to sleep with him came up at the most awkward times.  The first got better the more I read.  The second continued to jar me out of the story.  I get that he’s trying to persuade her to marry him and the power that both the marriage and their coupling could give him would be great, but he comes across as pretty suave and then all of the sudden he’ll be like “OK, time for sex”.  There were better ways, it seemed, to introduce that topic.  I can definitely see why this one was rated T+.  Overall, though, I got sucked into the story and am looking forward to the release of the next couple of volumes. Go Misao and Kyo!

Kin (The Good Neighbors)

by Holly Black and Ted Naifeh

Kin is the first in a new graphic novel series written by Holly and illustrated by Ted.  Here is the series description, which I found on both Amazon and Holly Black’s website:

Rue Silver’s mother has disappeared . . . and her father has been arrested, suspected of killing her. But it’s not as straightforward as that. Because Rue is a faerie, like her mother was. And her father didn’t kill her mother — instead, he broke a promise to Rue’s faerie king grandfather, which caused Rue’s mother to be flung back to the faerie world. Now Rue must go to save her — and must also defeat a dark faerie that threatens our very mortal world.

Book one is about Rue finding out about her parents’ past and her own future.  Her mother has already disappeared and her father spends most of his time loafing around the house in a trance.  She tries to pretend like nothing is wrong; she still hangs out with her friends and her boyfriend at the local coffee shop and goes to her boyfriend’s concerts and breaks into abandoned buildings for the fun of it, but soon she will not be able to ignore the changes happening in her life.  First of all, she is beginning to see creatures that no one else can see.  She’s not sure but she believes these creatures are fairies.  But why does she have the ability to see them?  Then her father is arrested for the murder of a female co-ed who was last seen talking to him, her professor, after class.  The student’s murder and Rue’s mother’s disappearance makes Rue’s father look very guilty.  Rue’s not sure that her father is innocent, especially considering the fight he and her mother had the night of her mother’s disappearance, but she’s determined to find the answer to his innocence or guilt to matter what.  Rue begins to find out some very scary and puzzling things about her mother and father, their relationship, and what all of it means for Rue who is paying the price for her parents’ actions.

Reaction: While I have not read the Spiderwick Chronicles, I have read Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside and loved them, so it is not surprising that I really enjoyed the storyline for The Good Neighbors.  I found Rue very sympathetic and likeable.  She’s tough and independent, no doubt about that, but she really does need the support of her good friends.  I feel for her because her upbringing was not exactly easy with her mother being so different from everyone else.

One of my favorite characters is Tam and I am excited to hear more about him in the upcoming volumes.  Tam is a fairy who is under the control of an evil master.  He really wants to help Rue and I think he admires her but there is little he can do to help her.  What I like about Tam is that he takes risks to do what he can to warn and protect Rue.  The ending is definitely a cliffhanger and I’m sad because I can’t seem to find any info on when the next volume will be coming out.

My only (very slight) negative would be with the artwork.  Some of the frames were brilliant while others I didn’t like so much.  I’m not exaclty sure what it was.  I think it had to do with the facial features and the facial structures.  The images weren’t as consistant as I would have liked between frames.  I was also surprised that the illustrations weren’t in color.  I don’t mind black and white but most of the American graphic novels I’ve read have been in color and the cover art was very lush I guess I just had hopes for beautifully colored illustrations.  These are definitely not deal-breakers and I would still hightly recommend this title.

100 Girls

by Adam Gallardo and Todd Demong

First, what are the odds that I would read two book with the number 100 in the title back to back?  Not very likely, I would say, but it has happened.

Sylvia knows she’s very different from other girls at school.  First, she’s super smart and has been bumped up two grades.  Second, she’s super strong and super agile.  What she doesn’t know is why she’s different; this can’t just be puberty, can it?  Then a group of men try to snag her and take her in an unmarked white van but she’s saved by a feisty chick who looks eerily like her.  This chick, Regina, tells her that they’re sisters and there are more of them out there, all with super powers.  Sylvia and Regina set out to reunite with their long lost siblings.  Meanwhile, the men in the unmarked white van are staking out the other sisters while still trying to capture Sylvia and Regina.  These men are sent to find the girls by a mad scientist named Dr. Tabitha Carver who is in charge of a weird government program that is growing super-powered girls in tubes.  Turns out, Sylvia, Regina, and a few other “sisters” were stolen from the program and adopted into families in mainstream society and now Dr. Carver wants them all returned in time for their maturation.  Can Sylvia save her test tube sisters or will Dr. Carver capture Sylvia and use Sylvia for her own evil purposes?

Thoughts: 1. Weird.  2. Gorey.  3. Weird. 4. Intriguing.  So I am definitely interested in the story line and I want to see what is going to happen to Sylvia (this is supposedly only book one) but it had some crazy elements.  For one, there was A LOT of death and blood.  And not death by weapon but death by the hand of a 13-year-old girl.  Sylvia kills a lot of people with her bare hands.  Kinda creepy.  Second, there was some weird suggestive sexual stuff between Dr. Carver and Peter, who is some hunter of some sort — I’m not really sure what he was.  Then there is all this political stuff going on between Dr. Carver/Peter, Dr. Carver’s boss, and some unknown dude.  Anyway, it was definitely action-packed and based on an interesting (if not creepy) concept that I don’t want to delve into too much for fear of spoilers but be forewarned about the gore and adult themes.

What I hated: The cover.  I don’t know why but I really, really dislike the cover.  I think it’s the color — teal, I guess — coupled with the yellow and red of the numbering.  Second, I’m not a huge fan of the weird girls in the middle of the zeros in the number 100.  Plus, I really wish it had more illustrations and was much less monochromatic.  I mean, the illustrations are great inside and completely jump off the pages.  I disliked the cover so much I wasn’t even going to give this book the time of day until I read this review from Reading Rants!  I know, I know…never judge a book by its cover but, really, the cover is marketing and this one didn’t say “Read me!” to me.