Kate’s Reviews: “Everything Is Teeth”

26109143Book: “Everything Is Teeth” by Evie Wyle and Joe Sumner (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Johnathan Cape, August 2015

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: From the award-winning author of All The Birds, Singing, a deeply moving graphic memoir about family, love, loss, and the irresistible forces that, like sharks, course through life unseen, ready to emerge at any moment.

Ever since she was a little girl, passing her summers in the brutal heat of coastal New South Wales, Evie Wyld has been captivated by sharks—by their innate ruthlessness, stealth, and immeasurable power. Young Evie would listen intently as farmers and fishermen told stories about being alone on the water at dusk; she would lose herself in books about legendary shark attacks, mesmerized by the photos of the victims. And even though she returned to London at the end of each summer, Australia’s sharks never released their hold on her imagination. Now, in this quietly penetrating narrative of personal memories, beautifully rendered by illustrator Joe Sumner, Evie Wyld lends her exceptional voice to the telling of a story all her own.

Review: When I was four years old, I discovered sharks. We were on a family trip out to California to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousin. They lived in San Jose, but we would take many family trips to the ocean up and down the coastline between San Francisco and Monterey. This meant that there was a lot of driving to be had, and ya gotta find ways to spend the time. My parents bought my cousin, who is a few years older than me, a cassette tape and accompanying book about sharks. It was short and informational, but it did have some kind of creepy music to go with it. Because “Jaws”, probably. Turns out, it was too much for my cousin, who thought that it was way too scary to listen to. My parents, not wanting to waste the thing, gave it to me, four year old Kate, thinking that maybe I’d be able to handle it. And I guess I pulled a full Raffi on them, insisting they play it over, and over, and OVER again the entire trip… And then more when we got back home to Minnesota. And thus, my lifelong love of sharks was born.

giphy11
Actual image of my Dad having to listen to that tape for the 63rd time. (source)

So the graphic memoir “Everything is Teeth” by Evie Wyld is so incredibly relatable for me that it was kind of uncanny. Evie Wyld grew up in England and spent family trips in Australia, and she first found her love for sharks when her older brother was given a set of shark jaws for the holidays. She then started reading books about sharks, and shark attacks, her first celebrity crush being Rodney Fox, famed shark attack survivor and conservationist (another thing I can relate to, because I TOO loved Rodney Fox during my most fevered obsession time). But this memoir is a bit different from other graphic memoirs that I’ve read in the past, as instead of having a full linear narrative it’s more a collection of snapshots into her childhood, framed through the shark obsession. But the shark obsession and the anxieties that go with it, of course, speak to deeper childhood fears and worries, from isolation to familial loss. The irrational fear of sharks served as a tangible fear to stand in for the ones that Wyld couldn’t quite articulate at the time, and as a child who was also riddled with anxieties about just about everything, this, too, was a familiar thing to me as I read it.

You don’t get the events in her childhood spoon-fed to you, you have to surmise what is going on. During a viewing of “Jaws”, she recounts how her loving yet somewhat detached father drank glass after glass of wine. After being unable to sleep one Australian night, she and her mother go for a night swim in the pool, as her mother was dealing with one of her regular bouts of insomnia. When her older brother would come home from school bloodied and beaten up, he would come to Evie and ask her to tell him shark stories. We learn about Evie’s family and their pretty common issues, but always with the context of the love of, and fear of, sharks. It’s a quiet story that ultimately unwinds to show how these intangible fears ultimately become tangible as time goes on, and that a fear of sharks disguises a fear of loss that eventually most everyone will experience in their life. It is ultimately a sweet, and sad, story about a girl who comes of age like many do, and her childhood interest in sharks that shapes her along the way, and I found it just as powerful as some of the graphic memoirs I’ve read that deal with childhood trauma or tragedy. There is no specific trauma or tragedy here; it’s just bits of her life, some parts sad, some parts not, all parts incredibly real.

I also liked that even the bits that were sad or upsetting were still muted, letting the reader figure out why. There is a scene where Evie’s Dad takes her to a shark attack museum, thinking that she will enjoy it. What they find is a spectacle, with graphic photos of shark attack victims with no context (just showing Rodney Fox’s wounds, not his calm demeanor or how he persevered), broad brush strokes painting sharks as mindless man eaters, and a stuffed and shabby white pointer, which is Australian terminology for great white, that is decaying on it’s platform. Child Evie is awash with nausea and discomfort, and while it’s never explained why, the reader is as well. Wyld never has to tell you it’s wrong; you just know that it is.

Joe Sumner did the illustrations for this graphic novel, and I really loved his style. He has a huge range from the flat out cartoonish (Evie and her family members), to the more realistic (stills from “Jaws” and pictures of shark attack survivors in the aftermath), to the hyperrealistic that I could have sworn were photographs (almost all the sharks in this book).

eit20interior201-thumb-500x632-457444
(source)

I was completely struck by this art style and how effective it was.

“Everything Is Teeth” is a very subdued read, but it’s one that struck a chord with me. If you are looking for a graphic memoir that isn’t necessarily steeped in tragedy and trauma, but still packs an emotional punch, it may be the one for you.

Rating 9: A quiet, resonant, and somewhat haunting graphic memoir about growing up, loss, and sharks. The illustrations are great and the story is compelling and relatable.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Everything Is Teeth” is included on the Goodreads lists “Women Creators in Comics”, and “Comics for Teen Girls (That Are Not Japanese Manga)”.  Side note: I’m hoping that this list isn’t intended to diss manga, because there’s nothing wrong with it.

Find “Everything is Teeth” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Transmetropolitan (Vol.6): Gouge Away”

22422Book: “Transmetropolitan (Vol.6): Gouge Away” by Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson (Ill.), & Rodney Ramos (Ill.).

Publishing Info: Vertigo, February 2002

Where Did I Get This Book: I own it.

Book Description: Despite — or perhaps with the aid of — drugs, drinking, and paranoia, Spider Jerusalem and his filthy assistants are hot on the trail of the horrifying truth behind the newly-elected President’s campaign. Features three stand-alone stories: “Nobody Loves me, “The Walk” and “Dancing in the Here and Now,” and also includes the three-part “Gouge Away” storyline.

Review: I bet some of you were wondering if I had just given up on “Transmetropolitan”. Well guess what? NOPE!! I just took a break from it because, as much as I love it and have really enjoyed re-reading it, it’s both a bit manic and a bit too real for me at the moment, a theme I’ve noted a few times during my re-read. So I just needed some space from Spider, his Filthy Assistants Channon and Yelena, and the ugly world that they live in.

But I have achieved that space and I decided that I was ready to tackle it again. When we left off, Spider had just found out that his story and voice had been squashed thanks to White House interference, and a story about police brutality got swept under the rug. When we join him, Channon, and Yelena again, we see that Spider is still without a voice, and has become something of a joke to the world thanks to propaganda run thanks to The Smiler and the Administration. But is that the kind of thing that’s going to keep a good journalist down? Hell no. So Spider starts to figure out how to get his voice heard again, and starts to hop from source to source and scumbag to scumbag to try and get another strike at The Smiler and the White House. If the last collection left us with despair and fear, “Gouge Away” comes back with a whole lot of hope and tenacity that acts as a catharsis to the nonsense going down in the world today. I liked that we went back and revisited a number of characters that we’ve seen previously, and that they managed to come together and make a pretty satisfying counterstrike that Spider could use in the fight for truth and journalism. I had mentioned that a couple of the previous issues felt like “The Empire Strikes Back”, and this one kind of feels like “Return of the Jedi” at the end. It could have been final. It could have been the end of the series altogether. I don’t know how I feel about how final it felt, knowing that it’s going to go on. But, that said, there are still stories to tell, and maybe there isn’t room for ambiguity in Spider’s world.

But along with the main storyline that we got, I felt that the best part of this collection was the story that was devoted to Channon and Yelena, Spider’s assistants. I think that it could be tempting to give Spider two lady assistants, one of whom he is sleeping with and the other of whom is a walking sex pot, and to just leave them as unexplored characters. But Ellis gives Channon and Yelena their own thing to do that isn’t only about Spider (even if they realize, to their dismay, they ran away from him for a spree but are now talking mostly about him). I love that the two of them have a friendship that exists outside of Spider, and that they play off of each other while acting as each others’ confidants. And really, a girls night with them that involves running away in a taxi, a shopping spree, a gun range, and then stopping a government agent from following them via force, now THAT is the kind of thing I like to see in comic books when it comes to the ladies.

transmetgirls
Source: Vertigo Comics

It’s also welcome and/or upsetting to see The Smiler back on the pages of this story, in his full sociopathic glory. We are given reminders throughout this collection of what he has done in the past, not only to his enemies, but also to his supposed allies. We are reminded of Vita, who was a spin doctor for The Smiler, and was murdered by his campaign just to give him higher approval ratings in the wake of tragedy. Her folk saint status has almost completely exploded with a full on permanent shrine in her memory, and honestly, seeing it made me smile, albeit sadly. Vita is still one of the few people in this series who Spider had a complete reverence for, and it’s very satisfying seeing him slowly but surely take revenge on the man and the campaign who murdered her for votes.

I know that with four more issues there are still parts to be played and conflicts to happen, even if I don’t remember all of them. But it was really nice seeing Spider finally declare all out war against The Smiler, via journalism, integrity, and being a psychotic pain in the ass. Ya can’t help but cheer for him. I am thinking that I may not wait four months to pick up the next collection of “Transmetropolitan”, because I missed it so much.

Rating 8: Though it’s sometimes exhausting to read this series, “Transmetropolitan: Gouge Away” continues a strong and incredibly relevant meditation on the freedom of the press and the signs of fascism in a corrupt system.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Transmetropolitan (Vol.6): Gouge Away” is included on the Goodreads lists “Bibles for the Revolution”, and “Best Graphic Novels and Comic Books”.

Find “Transmetropolitan (Vol.6): Gouge Away” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed:“Transmetropolitan (Vol.1): Back on the Street”“Transmetropolitan (Vol.2): Lust for Life”“Transmetropolitan (Vol.3): Year of the Bastard”“Transmetropolitan (Vol.4): The New Scum”. and “Transmetropolitan (Vol.5): Lonely City”.

Kate’s Review: “DC Bombshells (Vol.3): Uprising”

31624824Book: “DC Bombshells (Vol.3): Uprising” by Marguerite Bennett, Mirka Andolfo (Ill.), and Laura Braga (Ill.)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, March 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Based on the hit DC Collectibles product line! As World War II rages across Europe, the Allied forces issue a call to arms for the greatest heroines the world has ever known! With an old villain arising from beyond the grave, Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Kara Starikov, Kortni Duginova and Mera must aid the Allied forces while at home, a brave group of Batgirls must defend the homeland!
The incredibly popular DC Collectibles line is brought to life in these stories that reimagine the course of history! From writer Marguerite Bennett (BATGIRL, EARTH 2: WORLD’S END) and featuring artists including Marguerite Sauvage (HINTERKIND), Laura Braga (Witchblade) and Mirka Andolfo (Chaos) comes DC COMICS: BOMBSHELLS VOL. 3.

Review: With the way that the last “DC Bombshells” collection ended (if you’ll remember, it was devastating), I was wondering if we were going to get into more pathos in which we’d have to potentially say goodbye to another of our beloved heroines. I suppose that I should have steeled myself for that possibility from the get go, as this is WWII and with war comes death. And given that our ladies are spread out across various fronts, battling not only Nazis, but also Nazi Zombies, the stakes are pretty high. And we jumped right back into it.

But first, we went back to the home front to check in with the Bat Girls! They’re continuing there time of taking up the mantle for Batwoman while she is overseas, and this time they have a new ally to go along with Maggie Sawyer.

LOIS LAAAAAAAANE!!!!

teri2bhatcher2blois2bomg
It’s her time at the table, folks, so buckle up! (source)

Seeing Lois introduced (and giving her a very interesting backstory that gently but deftly touches on the immigrant experience) was a serious treat for this Lois Lane fangirl. It was also great seeing her jump in without having to worry about needing help from Superman (still nowhere in sight), and helping the Bat Girls break up a crime ring (involving the Penguin!), though they find themselves wanted in the process. Seeing this and a non-Two Face-d version of Harvey Dent going on and on as a political candidate with an “America First” platform made this story feel pretty close to home.

But meanwhile, in Europe, we catch up with our Bombshells on the front lines. We don’t get to see Wonder Woman, Supergirl, or the aftermath of Stargirl’s death this time, but that’s okay by me. I’m not ready to see the fallout from that. But that isn’t to say that we have a lack of stories this time around, as we are juggling a number of story lines. We have Batwoman, leaving Wonder Woman and Stargirl to try and get back to the front lines, who meets up with an old flame, Renee Montoya (aka The Question). They first met during the Spanish Civil War, and fought on the rebel side against the fascists. Now they are teaming up again, in spite of bad memories of losing a young protege and friend named Jacon (YES AS IN JASON TODD I AM SCREAMING) and the end of their love. You have Zatanna, who has been sent to a ghetto because of her Jewish and Romani heritage, and is being tormented by Joker’s Daughter, who has taken away her powers. You have Mera, who has washed up in Ireland without her powers, banished from Atlantis and her rightful throne. And we finally come back to Harley and Ivy, who have become freedom fighters for the resistance, and have found love with each other as they try to make their way to Berlin to take down the Nazis from their home base. And I haven’t even mentioned Huntress, Miri Marvel, Joker, Catwoman, Raven, and Aquaman, who all make appearances as well.

It’s definitely a lot to balance. But Bennett does a really good job of slowly but surely weaving all of these stories together. It was SO lovely to see my girls Harley and Ivy again, and to see how they play into this whole thing. I was wondering how it was all going to fit together, but it does. I was also really relieved that even though we did get a bit more romance with some of the heavy hitting men of the Universe (Aquaman and Constantine, specifically), it didn’t bring down Mera or Zatanna. Even though Mera has found lighthouse keeper Arthur, there is no sign of him having powers that are going to outdo hers as of yet. Their romance is just another part of her as a person, but Mera remains Mera and isn’t distracted from her goal of getting her powers and Atlantis back. The same can be said for Constantine, who is in the ghetto with Zatanna. He is there to support her, but his presence doesn’t weaken her or make her seem like he is her only strength in a horrific situation.

I loved seeing all of these women come together to fight against Joker’s Daughter and the Nazis, and that a number of these women in this story are Jewish or of Jewish descent, as Batwoman, Zatanna, Miri, and Harley all make mention of their heritage while they are inside the ghetto during a shabbat dinner. There was great beauty in this entire moment, as it wasn’t solely a ‘savior’ moment, as these women are also targets because of their heritage. The symbolism was bittersweet, and I really appreciated it. It was also good seeing the concept of abusive and controlling relationships being addressed, and not just in romantic ways. There was a small moment with Harley and Joker as she tells Ivy about her past, but there is also the relationship between Joker’s Daughter and Zatanna, and the relationship between Mera and her former beau. There is also poor Raven, who has only known Joker’s Mother as her mother figure, and is so damaged in her need to please her but also her need to escape. These are things that women in real life have to grapple with, and I so appreciate that this series dares to bring up the toxicity of relationships like these, and contrast them with healthy relationships. Harley finds Ivy. Zatanna finds Constantine. Raven finds a new group of women to mother her. Mera finds Arthur. And they all find more self respect. It’s just so positive!!! I can’t gush about it enough!!

giphy18
(source)

There is just so much to love in this series. It continues to be super feminist, it continues to strive for diversity, and it continues to have some awesome action sequences that are just as good as any other superhero comic out there. I am once again sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the next one in the series (out this fall I think!). While I’m worried that some characters are done, I am excited to see who else could show up.

Rating 10: Once again “DC Bombshells” knocks me off my seat and excites and thrills me until I turn the final page. These ladies continue to kick serious ass!!!

Reader’s Advisory:

“DC Bombshells (Vol.3): Uprising” isn’t on any Goodreads lists as of yet, but given the lists it’s predecessors are on it would fit right in on “#fempowerathon”, and “Amazons, Female Warriors, and Wonder Women”.

Find “DC Bombshells (Vol.3): Uprising” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed: “DC Bombshells (Vol 1): Enlisted!”, and “DC Bombshells (Vol 2): Allies”.

Kate’s Review: “Batgirl (Vol.2): Family Business”

26067583Book: “Batgirl (Vol.2): Family Business” by Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher (Ill.), and Babs Tarr (Ill.).

Publishing Info: DC Comics, February 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Like daughter, like father.

Over the past few months, Barbara Gordon has made some big changes to her Batgirl alter ego. She has a new look, new support team and new home base in Burnside, Gotham’s trendiest neighborhood. But just when she’s hitting her stride, her fahter drops a bombshell–Babs isn’t the only masked crime-fighter in the family anymore. Jim Gordon is the new Batman.

After the original Batman fell fighting the Joker, the former police commissioner was given a high-tech super-suit and asked to take up the mantle. With a team of GCPD officers watching his every move, Jim Gordon’s new law-and-order Batman has zero tolerance for vigilantism. He’s been ordered to arrest any unsanctioned superhero in Gotham–and Batgirl is next!

Review: Barbara Gordon, as we all know, has a very special place in my heart. Because of that, I was very excited that I liked the new “Batgirl” storyline that Cameron Stewart brought to the world, but also kind of nervous. What if I liked it, and then it collapsed under it’s own weight? After all, that’s what happened to “Black Canary” in my reading experience. So while I was very eager to pick up “Batgirl (Vol.2): Family Business”, part of me was anxious. I finally sat down and read it, and I’m pleased to say that it did not disappoint.

I like how Barbara is progressing. While I was a bit lost regarding her father (ex) Chief Gordon taking up the Batman mantle (I haven’t read any New 52 Batman stories), I liked that we got an interesting shift in power dynamic, with Barbara knowing his secret identity without him knowing hers. Seeing her interact with her father in his Batman form (in a giant robotic suit, no less) was both a little bittersweet, and also a confirmation of both of their personalities; she being stubborn and fervent, and him being willing to bend the rules when deep in his heart he knows he should. This wasn’t the only crossover we got in this book, as Barbara also ran afoul Maps and Olive at Gotham Academy. I’m glad that they didn’t spend too much time there, though, because while it was good for a taste I tend to get a bit weary of crossovers. I do keep up with “Gotham Academy” as best I can, but I don’t think that I should necessarily have to read multiple storylines in the DC Universe to keep up with one title.

We also got a glimpse of Dick Grayson and whatever he is up to right now in the DC Universe. This was probably my least favorite of the crossover storylines, because it was just Dick trying to maintain the facade that he is dead, and hiding from Barbara… Until he decided to jump back into her life on his own terms and expected her to jump back into his arms, no questions asked.

giphy15
Grayson, please. (source)

I was happy to see that Barbara didn’t take any of that lying down, and called him out on it and how it’s not romantic, but incredibly hurtful…. But that said, as a person who deeply, deeply ships Batgirl and Nightwing, I was upset to see it go down the way it did. Not only was it sad for them, it just felt shoehorned in, and it distracted from a much happier (and lighter) storyline, which was Alysia and her girlfriend Jo getting married!!! True, the storyline leading up to it was a bit silly (involving tigers mauling people), but the end game was very pleasant. Nice to see that Barbara can still be there for her friends in spite of her life of daring do.

I am also happy to report that it seems that I’m going to be getting my Oracle fix in the very near future!! While Barbara herself won’t be taking this role, there have been hints that Frankie, Barbara’s coder roommate, is going to team up with her and serve as this role. Even if Barbara is reluctant to let her take it on just yet, because of worries to Frankie’s safety. The tension that this brings is a good way to remind us that Barbara, while well meaning, hasn’t quite reconciled that she does, in fact, need help. I think that giving this role to Frankie is perfect, because she’s incredibly technologically adept, and she is there to be a voice of reason to Barbara as well as someone she can confide in. And THIS, I feel, is how to reinvent a character in a comic setting. The transition wasn’t forced and the adjustment felt natural and completely plausible, nor did Barbara have to be humiliated or character assassinated to make it work. If Frankie is, indeed, on her way to becoming the new Oracle, I welcome it with open arms and hope that she gets a lot of cool, research-y things to do.

Overall, a couple of bumps notwithstanding, I was pleased with how the “Batgirl” storyline has been progressing. “Family Business” was a fun and bubbly read. Barbara is still charming and complex, and her adventures will keep me coming back for more.

Rating 8: The re-emergence of a new Oracle and some more fun action and thrills with Barbara made a fun second installment in the new “Batgirl” iteration!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Batgirl (Vol.2): Family Business” is included on the Goodreads lists “Best of Batgirl”, and “Girls Read Comics”.

Find “Batgirl (Vol.2): Family Business” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed: “Batgirl (Vol.1): The Batgirl of Burnside”.

Kate’s Review: “Black Canary (Vol.2): New Killer Star”

29633017Book: “Black Canary (Vol.2): New Killer Star” by Brendan Fletcher, Annie Wu (Ill.) and Sandy Jarrell (Ill.).

Publishing Info: DC Comics, November 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: The Black Canary world tour begins here! But instead of playing sold out areas, the band is scouring the globe in search of their missing lead singer, Black Canary herself.

Following the rockin’ conclusion of Black Canary, Volume 1: Kicking & Screaming, Dinah Lance has disappeared and now she finds herself in the clutches of a mysterious white ninja who might have more in common with the Canary than anyone expected. In this continent-spanning adventure, secrets from Dinah’s past are revealed, questions about the future of the Black Canary band are answered and faces are melted with epic rock ‘n’ roll and action brought to you by a comics supergroup including writer Brenden Fletcher (Batgirl) and artists Annie Wu (Hawkeye) and Sandy Jarrell (Meteor Men).

Review: As I’m sure you all remember, I am a big Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary, fan. There’s something about her carefree and badass attitude that I really enjoy, and I was excited to find that she had her own “New 52” arc in the DC Comics world. While I love her in the supergroup Birds of Prey, it was nice seeing her get some time to shine all for herself in “Kicking and Screaming”, the first in the “Black Canary New 52” series. We also got to see a new group of awesome kick butt women in the form of her band: Paloma, Lord Byron, Ditto, and Bo Maeve. So when I finally grabbed “New Killer Star”, I was thinking that I would get more adventures of this group of awesome ladies.

But….. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

We pick up with our poor Dinah Lance being held captive in a strange prison-like setting. Her bandmates don’t know where she is, and the fate of the band hangs in the balance. It was a little hard seeing the group separated, as I feel like they only make each other stronger. I was also a bit frustrated that we kind of found ourselves in a situation that I wasn’t totally on board with, as Dinah being held in a strange prison by strange demon cultists perhaps because of who her mother was seems so old hat to me. I appreciated seeing a bit of the mother/daughter drama and baggage regarding Dinah, but it kind of felt like it came out of nowhere, as I don’t THINK that there was all that much in “Kicking and Screaming” (I could be wrong, I just don’t remember any)? By the time Dinah and her bandmates were reunited for a final showdown with the demon cult, we get taken into a completely DIFFERENT direction with a speculative arc that takes Black Canary into a potential future-scape of her life. And when the story does eventually get wrapped up, we still have a couple of side stories that have nothing to do with the original story arc, some of which aren’t even “Black Canary” titles. It felt like a bit of a mess, to be honest, which was such a disappointment because I so enjoyed “Kicking and Screaming”. I’ve looked around and it looks like one of the problems is that the DC “Rebirth” event happened, in which the titles in DC were rebooted yet again. So of course this was going to interrupt this fairly new series. The wrap up came fast and it was hard to swallow.

But there were things that I did like in “New Killer Star”. We got a fun side story in the “Gotham Academy” storyline involving the band’s tour manager Heathcliff, who was a former student at that boarding school. So we did get to see the band in action in that story, as well as my favorites from “Gotham Academy” like Maps and Olive. It turns out that he and Pomeline may have had a thing!!! I’m super down for all that, so that was a fun little crossover story. There is a stand alone story with just the Band that doesn’t involve aliens or demon cults, which gave me the girl power camaraderie that I felt the actual arc didn’t have. We also got a nice little insight into the new “Birds of Prey” arc, which brings Batgirl and Black Canary together again, as well as bringing back Huntress to round out the group. I highly enjoy “Birds of Prey”, and while it was a bit disappointing to see that yes, indeed, Oracle is a thing of the distant past, it was also good to see her recognized not just as something negative. But my praise for these things ultimately goes to show that the actual final arc for Dinah in her main comic series was a bit too weak to stand on it’s own two feet.

So while the stand alone stories were good fun and everything I was looking for, the actual finale to the “Black Canary New 52” arc fell kind of flat. And it worries me that some of the “New 52” series I’ve been following will end just as abruptly. All that said, I will look back fondly on “Black Canary” and her band as a whole, because when it was strong it was super fun. It will be interesting to see where “Rebirth” takes all of these characters. But for now I bid adieu to my girl Dinah, and hope that when we meet again she’ll be everything she was in this.

Rating 5: A weaker end to a promising start, “Black Canary (Vol.2): New Killer Star” wasn’t as fun as I hoped it would be. The standalone stories are pretty good fun, but that only emphasizes my disappointment with how the main arc ended before “Rebirth” happened.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Black Canary (Vol.2): New Killer Star” is not on any Goodreads lists (oddly enough), but I think it would fit in on “Ladies in Capes”, and “Girls Read Comics”.

Find “Black Canary (Vol.2): New Killer Star” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed: “Black Canary (Vol.1): Kicking and Screaming”.

Kate’s Review: “Batgirl (Vol.1): The Batgirl of Burnside”

23164970Book: “Batgirl (Vol.1): The Batgirl of Burnside” by Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr (Ill.)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, May 2015

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Barbara Gordon is no stranger to dusting herself off when disaster strikes, so when a fire destroys everything she owns, she spots the opportunity for a new lease on life – and seizes it! Following the rest of Gotham City’s young adults to the hip border district of Burnside, Barbara sets about building an all-new Batgirl…and discovers new threats preying on her peers! As the new hero of Burnside, Batgirl gets started by facing twin sister assassins on motorcycles!

Review: As the world of comics tries to keep up with the changing times and tries to keep rebooting itself, it can, admittedly, get a little confusing. I think that a really good example of this is that of DC’s Batgirl. When DC launched their “New 52” reboot series, giving many of their characters brand new origin stories, one of the new iterations was Batgirl. Gail Simone took the helm, and while there was criticism about erasing Batgirl’s disability (she’s no longer wheelchair bound, and therefore no longer Oracle), it’s pretty agreed that she did justice to Barbara Gordon. Her time with Batgirl ended, showing Barbara’s future years and years down the line. It was pretty dark stuff (no spoilers here though). But then….. Batgirl was rebooted again, even if DC claims that it wasn’t really a reboot. Now the “Batgirl” title is DC’s answer to Marvel’s “Ms. Marvel”: a bit more aimed towards teen girls, with a quirky and flawed, but endearing protagonist who has very real life problems along with the Superhero ones. I mean, just look at the cover of this book: Batgirl is taking a selfie in a hipster club bathroom.

Admittedly, when I first saw this I was like

giphy2
(source)

BUT, I decided to give it a chance because I love Barbara Gordon, and I do recognize that comics appeal to a wide array of audiences now. And I’m glad that I did decide to give it a try, because while I find “Ms. Marvel” fine and important but a but a tad precious, I think that this new Batgirl is just the right balance of aware and action-y.

Barbara has been updated to fit the modern sensibilities of a brainy girl who likes to code and do STEM things. While I’m still a bit bitter that she hasn’t quite taken on the librarian mantle (though I think she eventually does go to get her MLIS!), I love seeing her tackle computer science and code writing, and I LOVE seeing it treated as just something that she does because why wouldn’t she? Not only is Barbara a badass lady coder, so is her roommate Frankie. I really liked the introduction of Frankie (though I wish that Alysia Yeoh could have been another roommate, because I love her to death), as she added a new voice of reason along with adding some much needed diversity to the DC Universe. In fact, a lot of the new faces in “Batgirl” add quite a bit of diversity, not unlike that which you WOULD see in Brooklyn these says (as Burnside is the Brooklyn to Gotham’s Manhattan). So not only do we have an empowered and positive role model of a young woman who is adept at science, she surrounds herself with people from all different backgrounds and experiences. Every character feels real and grounded and not just thrown in for the sake of having a token Muslim, or trans woman, or African American, or etcetera.

Even the villains and the danger scenarios feel like they fit a modern aesthetic without seeming overwrought. One of the first people Batgirl goes up against is an Internet wizard who has been giving out his digital blackmail services to people, willing to ruin lives for a price and a profit. Given how revenge porn is certainly a problem that society hasn’t quite figured out how to wrap it’s head around in many ways, this felt like a pretty relevant threat. Sure, Babs may not be fighting crazed supervillains like the Joker, but villains based in real life awfulness are a-okay with me. And it’s done in such a way that it never feels like it’s being spoon fed to the reader. You don’t need a known and super big bad guy like Joker or Penguin to be behind these realistic maladies, because that just doesn’t feel genuine. Along with the villains, one of the biggest obstacles Barbara has to face is the trauma she is still feeling from when Joker attacked her. You see flashbacks of when she was in recovery, and how dark and damaged her mind went, focused on the past and revenge instead of healing and the future. While I am a staunch defender of the original story of her becoming wheelchair bound, as Oracle became arguably the MOST powerful member within the Bat Family and her wheelchair provided representation to a group that is overlooked, I think that this series has done a good job of addressing the long term mental affects of it all. It’s a shame that they’ve erased that side of Barbara, but now they are tackling the story of a woman who is living with PTSD. I won’t say tit for tat, but I will say that it’s not nothing.

And there are familiar faces as well! My girl Dinah Lance is involved in this first arc, there to provide a needed level of snark, but also to remind Batgirl of her duties and not to let things get out of her control. I am pretty sure this was the predecessor to the “Black Canary” comic that I liked so much (note to self…. get your hands on the next one), and her angst and rough edges are on display in their full glory. She is also there to make sure that Babs, while the selfie and social media culture is fine and part of our lives now, doesn’t lose her endgame all because she loves the likes and tweets. The old school mentality of comics and superheroes in the context of Batgirl still has relevancy, and her reboot is blending well with her origins.

And the art is really fun in this one. It’s very colorful, not as dark and dour as the Gail Simone story that preceded it.

batgirl_38
(source)

I am very pleased with the new life that Batgirl has been given with “Batgirl (Vol.1): The Batgirl of Burnside”. Barbara has been given a new lease on life and I am very happy with where she’s going with it!

Rating 8: A fun reboot of the Batgirl series, with a strong and varied cast of characters and a good hold on how to write Barbara Gordon for today’s world.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Batgirl (Vol.1): The Batgirl of Burnside” is included on the Goodreads lists “Ladies of DC”, and “Ladies in Capes”.

Find “Batgirl (Vol.1): The Batgirl of Burnside” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “The Best We Could Do”

29936927Book: “The Best We Could Do” by Thi Bui

Publishing Info: Abrams Books, March 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.
 
At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.
 
In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.

Review: Stories of refugees and immigration are incredibly relevant these days. Between certain world leaders trying to impose travel bans, to the threats of building a wall all along a border, to the devastating refugee crisis being seen due to instability in Syria, the very thought of people finding a safe place to live, while leaving their home behind, has become incredibly politicized. When I first heard about “The Best We Could Do”, I knew that I needed to immediately get it on my request list so that I could read it as soon as it was available to me. It’s heartening to see that graphic novels are becoming more and more used to tell personal stories, and a story as personal as this one was only bolstered by the imagery that we found on the page. Oh boy was this a wonderful book.

And a very sad book as well. Thi Bui was born in Vietnam, just around the time that the Vietnam War was starting to wind down. Her family history is intwined within the stark differences in the Vietnamese society up to and during the war, as her mother was from the bourgeois class and her father was decidedly less well off. But this story isn’t just about a family trying to escape a violent and unsafe situation; it is also about a family that is forever affected by society around it, and a family trying to fit in in a new place that is completely new and different to them. By giving the context of her mother’s background, her father’s background, and the culture and society of Vietnam during their childhoods and her childhood as well, we get a story that is tragic, hopeful, devastating, and important all at once. She also does a very good job of showing how Western Imperialism and Colonialism, of course, had a large effect on how Vietnam dealt with a cultural conflict of the North versus the South. I really appreciated that she pointed out that for people in America during the war (those fighting it aside), it was more of a concept and something to support or speak out against. But for the Vietnamese, it was the life they were living every day, and that somehow kind of got lost in the narrative.

I also really liked the stories of her family, as imperfect and in some ways dysfunctional as it was. She has a very conflicted opinion of both her parents. Her father wasn’t a very good parent to her, and he wasn’t a very good husband to her mother either. But seeing his childhood that was filled with turmoil, poverty, instability, and broken family ties, we can completely understand why he turned into the man he became. We also see that her mother was in many ways a remarkable person who had ambitions and dreams, but then found herself in a marriage she wasn’t completely invested in, and with a family that, as cherished as they were, put an end to her ambitions, ambitions that absolutely could have been backed up by talent and know how. Bui contrasts her own journey into motherhood against the story of her own mother, and it is incredibly effective and bittersweet.

I think that what I found most effective about this story is that it has a powerful message, but it is wrapped in a family memoir. I was expecting far more about the fall of South Vietnam, and the journey out under cloak of darkness. But while that certainly does play a part, it’s really a story about a family, and how having to move from one life to another, whole new life in a whole new place caused damage that never quite repaired. Trauma, war, and displacement isn’t something that is forgotten just because you move to a new place and start a new life, and sometimes adapting to that new life can be a challenge in and of itself.

The art in this book is absolutely gorgeous. It is fairly simple at first glance, but images pop out and really take the reader’s gaze into them. I loved the colors and I loved how detailed it was, even though it looks like it’s fairly straight forward.

bestwecoulddo_p030-031_734a3facdf080b764c8fc9de660144ac-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000
(source)

I really cannot recommend “The Best We Could Do” enough. In a time where I think empathy and understanding are sorely needed when it comes to trying to understand the refugee experience, Thi Bui’s memoir will engage readers and show them how much is lost and how much is sacrificed just to stay alive. This is an incredibly important book.

Rating 9: A personal and powerful memoir with gorgeous illustrations, “The Best We Could Do” is an important book with a relevant message to the issues of immigration and the refugee crisis we are seeing today.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Best We Could Do” is included on the following Goodreads lists: “Required Reading: Graphic Novels”, and “Vietnamese-American Novels and Memoirs”.

Find “The Best We Could Do” at your library using WorldCat!