DC Super Hero Girls: Search for Atlantis by Shea Fontana, illustrated by Yancey Labat

Source: DC Entertainment
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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DC Super Hero Girls: Search for Atlantis by Shea Fontana, illustrated by Yancey Labat, is an original graphic novel about teamwork and learning to see how differences in personalities can not only be complementary to our own but also an asset to a team. Mera, a resident of Atlantis, tries to fit in at Super Hero High and finds a friend in Wonder Woman. This causes conflict with Wonder Woman’s friend Bumblebee who views Mera as someone taking her friend away, even though this is not the case. When the super heroes find that Atlantis has vanished during a school field trip about weaponry, the heroes must learn to work together to save the underwater city.

The pages of the graphic novel are just what you’d expect to find in the comics, but on glossy paper and in a bound format, the super hero girls really come to life. Not only does each hero have his/her own powers that make them unique, but they also have different personalities that provide a new set of challenges.

Each part of the story is broken up into chapters, allowing younger readers to take breaks in between each segment. These breaks also enable young readers to absorb what has been happening between the characters and how far the mission has moved forward with its objectives. DC Super Hero Girls: Search for Atlantis by Shea Fontana, illustrated by Yancey Labat, introduces some familiar characters from the comic book world and perfectly dovetails with some of the social issues found on the cartoon.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Shea Fontana is a screenwriter for film and television, as well as a comic book writer. Her work includes the original graphic novels in the DC Super Hero Girls line, as well as TV shows The 7D, Doc McStuffins, Whisker Haven Tales with The Palace Pets and more.

Stranger Than Life 1970-2013 Cartoons and Comics by M.K. Brown

Source: Gift
Paperback, 248 pgs.
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Stranger Than Life 1970-2013 Cartoons and Comics by M.K. Brown begins with an introduction checklist of what makes a good cartoonist from Bill Griffith and a note from M.K. Brown. She says that there must be a spirit of “drawing without fear,” and when looking through this coffee table must-have, you can see fear plays no role in her cartoons or comics. Beginning in the 1970s, we see how Brown’s drawings (black-and-white, mostly) began and there is a bit of truth in these: that table you keep tripping over (Tripping Table) to the “Egg Solid Sandwich.” The ordinary people in her cartoons bring to life the squabbles of married couples, even those just starting out. From “housepeople” to people at work, it is clear that she has a keen sense of humor.

I love that Brown also provides some insight into what she was thinking when she created certain cartoons or comics, like listening to the Bee Gees or providing water to a thirsty grasshopper rescued from the drapes inside the house on a summer day. Even her inspirations are whimsical and funny. Imagine taking a grasshopper outside and giving it water when it fails to stand up on a succulent leaf. It takes a great deal of observation skills deduce the needs of a grasshopper, as it does to create witty cartoons about science and technology, particularly when a lot of the new stuff is hard to understand. Some of my favorites stem from those interminable waits on customer service lines.

Brown even takes some of the oldest gags and makes them sharp, like “you remind me of my mother” or those obvious questions you hear at cocktail hours, like “what do you do for a living?” Stranger Than Life 1970-2013 Cartoons and Comics by M.K. Brown has a bit of everything in it for those looking for well told, humorous stories of romance to those who just love a good pun. Highly recommended for a good laugh.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

M.K. Brown grew up in Darien, Connecticut and New Brunswick, Canada. Her cartoons have been in all sorts of publications, above- and under-ground. She is naturally a bit selfish, maybe a little self-conscious, and self-centered, yet has an enlightened self-interest and a healthy curiosity about any new technology which happens to coincide with her trajectory at the time. She lives in northern California and her cartoons are about that process.

New Authors Reading Challenge 2017

The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 240 pgs.
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The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman, which was our October book club selection, contains eight comics that were issued once per month. Gaiman admits that the writing is not as good upon reading them long after they were issued, and on this readers might agree. The dialogue is often choppy and the comics feel as though they do not have a focus or story arc. In many ways they are vignettes.

“There was a definite effort on my part, in the stories in this volume, to explore genres available: “The Sleep of the Just” was intended to be a classical English horror story; “Imperfect Hosts” plays with some of the conventions of the old DC and E.C. horror comics (and the hosts thereof); “Dream a Little Dream of Me” is slightly more contemporary British horror story … ” (From Gaiman’s Afterword)

Having read other graphic novels by Gaiman, this seems like a freshman effort at comics. The drawings themselves are dark and haphazard at times, making it hard for readers to follow the story in a cohesive way. I had to re-read a few pages to fully capture what was happening. Even after doing so, it seemed as though I was missing some backstory and even some explanation as to why this “order” would trap Sandman if he was not the one they wanted in the first place. However, I did like Sandman’s cloak…the flames were a nice touch.

Even once that episode is done and Sandman is free, the attempts to take back his “tools” are so easily accomplished that they fell flat. It was more of a detective story in that way — follow the clues and obtain the objects. Even the major battle with the demon was only mildly entertaining, and forget the battle with Dr. Dee. Overall, The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman fell a little flat for me in terms of substance, even the interactions between Sandman and Death were less than stellar.

RATING: Couplet

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, and is the recipient of numerous literary honors. Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on Facebook, tumblr, and his blog.

Displacement by Lucy Knisley

Source: Public Library
Paperback, 161 pgs.
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Displacement by Lucy Knisley is part travelogue, part memoir, part comic, and it does an excellent job of illustrating the fears of younger generations when it comes to caring for elderly parents or grandparents.  Lucy volunteers to take her elderly grandparents on a cruise with their senior housing community, and while she loves her grandparents, she, like many grandchildren, still see them as capable and active adults, even though their health has declined.  Traveling with aging grandparents through a series of connecting flights and the boarding of a cruise ship is difficult, especially as Knisley’s grandmother is losing her memory and her grandfather has bladder control issues.  Readers are likely to giggle about some comedic moments, but what makes this book shine is the compassion, angst, and love that shines through in every page.

Knisley ponders what it means to be a good person and what her own motivations are for coming on the trip, as well as why her own family has a hard time expressing love for one another — with the closest to an “I love you” being “we’re so proud of your academic achievements.”  Although her grandparents have lost some of their memories, Knisley is lucky to have her grandfather’s memoir about his WWII experiences.  She discovers while reading this memoir in preparation for the cruise that her grandfather often threw caution to the wind, like not wearing a parachute while flying because it was uncomfortable.

Displacement by Lucy Knisley is not just about mortality and how many young people do not want to face it.  It is also about having compassion and love for your own roots, so much so that you set aside your own discomfort to make sure elderly relations enjoy their own time on vacation or just with family.  It also sheds light on the incredibly hard job it is to be a caregiver for the elderly, particularly when you’re not related to them.  Knisley gives readers a new respect for those working in nursing homes and elderly communities.

A definite contender for the year-end best list.

***Thanks to Bermudaonion for reviewing this one and calling my attention to it.***

Other reviews:

About the Author:

Beginning with an love for Archie comics and Calvin and Hobbes, Lucy Knisley (pronounced “nigh-zlee”) has always thought of cartooning as the only profession she is suited for. A New York City kid raised by a family of foodies, Lucy is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago currently pursuing an MFA at the Center for Cartoon Studies. While completing her BFA at the School of the Art Institute, she was comics editor for the award-winning student publication F News Magazine.

Lucy currently resides in New York City where she makes comics. She likes books, sewing, bicycles, food you can eat with a spoon, manatees, nice pens, costumes, baking and Oscar Wilde. She occasionally has been known to wear amazing hats.

Hitrecord on TV! Season One by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Source: Dey Street Books
Video, 8 episodes
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HitRecord on TV Season One by Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a collaborative effort like the books, The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Volume 1, 2, and 3, but these collaborations come to life on stage and in video.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the host of the show, but really he’s his own variety show in that he can act, dance, do tricks, play several instruments, sing, and coordinate all of these projects with hundreds of collaborators.  While this box set includes full-color, stylized booklets for each episode, its the downloaded episodes that will have people riveted.  This show is addictive.  It is not American Idol or The Voice, or any other competitive show about who is the best.  This is a creative engine that is generating a life of its own beyond the screen and the books to create its own artistic community of collaborators and re-mixers.  It is addictive to watch, and I’ve had the song, Freakin’ On My Front Lawn stuck in my head for days!

Each episode is chock full of facts, stories, and fun, JGL takes his role as collaborator and host seriously and he’s all about honest production and fun.  There is audience interaction at the live reveals and each piece begins with the germ of an idea.  Rather than focus on our actual trash production, the episode on trash spoke with John Waters to talk about what it means to make or be trash.  These interviews with the famous and famous in their own industry add even more flavor to the show.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt clearly loves these projects from beginning to end, and audiences will be infected with this sense of joy and inspiration from the moment they begin watching.

With only eight downloadable episodes, the season seems too short, but there are additional downloads from 17 songs/soundtracks to bonus content.  Do not forget about the books!  These slim volumes include so much in such a small space that they are little powerhouses unto themselves.  HitRecord on TV Season One by Joseph Gordon-Levitt would make the perfect gift for the artists in the family, but also for those looking for a fresh show the likes of Ed Sullivan.  The only drawback is these are downloads and not DVDs, and for some of us not quite versed in streaming from computers to televisions, etc., it makes it a little harder.  But it is well worth the effort.

About the Artist:

HitRECord founder and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s acting career has managed to garner a massive popular appeal while maintaining a widely respected artistic integrity. He recently starred in Christopher Nolan’s Academy Award-nominated Inception and received Golden Globe, Independent Spirit and People’s Choice award nominations for his performance in (500) Days of Summer. Currently earning rave reviews for his performance in 50/50, also starring Seth Rogen, his upcoming films include David Koepp actioner Premium Rush and Rian Johnson’s sci-fi thriller Looper, with Bruce Willis. He is currently in production on The Dark Knight Rises, the third installment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and will next begin work opposite Daniel Day Lewis in Steven Spielberg’s Abraham Lincoln biopic, Lincoln.

Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman

Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman is an exploration into the Wayne legacy and its role in Gotham’s early days and its current influence on the city as Bruce Wayne dons a cape and cowl and chases criminals as Batman.  Through a series of flashbacks to the 1950s, Bruce and the reader learn about his father, Dr. Thomas Wayne, and the family secrets.  Bruce is clearly not the only Wayne who has kept big secrets from the rest of the family and the outside world.

The parallels Hickman draws between Bruce and his grandfather, Patrick, are intriguing as both men tend toward the aggressive nature of their personalities and are not afraid to meet violence with violence.  Thomas, on the other hand, wants no part of that violent world, even though his father believes he should be able to defend himself.  However, in Hickman’s novel Bruce Wayne is middle-aged and feeling the impact of his year’s saving Gotham from criminals as Batman, and his reliance on technological advances in his suits and cars tells a far greater tale of this aging hero.

“The garden was dead.  The roses had gone wild and died during the succession of winters without care.  Their gnarled limbs reached up like claws from the edges of the footpaths, which were covered in dead leaves decomposing into dirt.  The prize lilacs his mother had been so proud of now reached up menacingly over the walls.  The garden had gone native, weeds choking and obscuring the careful planning that now lay buried ad barely recognizable.”  (Page 35)

What’s interesting about Hickman’s take on the comic character and his family is that Batman uncovers a past that is not as rosy as he expects about his father.  Dr. Thomas Wayne and his work with Dr. Richter are more than his son can digest in one sitting, but Batman is hardly given the chance to do so as he’s being drawn deeper and deeper into a spider’s trap as ghosts from the past seek to right the wrongs of the past.  Through a series of surprising turns connected to the German Nazis, eugenics, and more, Batman is confronted with a father who is not as perfect as he thought and he must reconcile what he has learned with what he thought he knew about the man.

The criminal mastermind here is slightly obvious from early on, but that is not as bothersome as the incessant talk early on about Batman’s vehicles and gadgets, which don’t necessarily add to the plot especially when the narration focuses on the evolution of the Batmobile from its early incarnations to the present.  However, that’s a minor drawback that fades away once the novel gets going.  Hickman has clearly done his research into several incarnations of the Batman myth, but the plot movement with the entrance of criminals, like The Joker, is abrupt on occasion as their motivations are unclear and the catalyst of their involvement is murky until the end.

Wayne of Gotham by Tracy Hickman is a satisfying read for those interested in the past of the Wayne family and its role in the rise and potentially the degradation of Gotham City.  Warring within each of these men is the duty to do good and the desire to just be free and follow their passions.  The relationship between Thomas Wayne and his father is clear from the beginning, but the relationship between Thomas and his son Bruce is less clear as Bruce himself is unsure how to view his father in light of the secrets revealed.  In many ways, this novel may have worked better as a graphic novel, but Hickman does a good job sticking to the origins of the character and bringing in unique story lines to fill out the ancestry of Wayne family.  By the end of the novel, it would also seem that more needs to be said and uncovered, especially when the second son of Thomas and Martha Wayne is alluded to, but not seen.

About the Author:

Tracy Hickman is a best-selling fantasy author, best known for his work on Dragonlance as a game designer and co-author with Margaret Weis, while he worked for TSR. He married Laura Curtis in 1977, and together they have four children.

This is my 59th book for the New Authors Reading Challenge 2012.

Female Force by Neal Bailey, Ryan Howe, and Joshua LaBello

Bluewater ProductionsFemale Force by Neal Bailey, Ryan Howe, and Joshua LaBello is a compilation of stories about some of the strongest women in politics — Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and Caroline Kennedy.  The comic book is well drawn, with very realistic images of these figures.

The book starts off with Michelle Obama unveiling her childhood, her determination to do well in school, and her success in becoming a mother and attorney, long before meeting her future husband, Barack Obama.  It was interesting to learn that she put off marrying Barack for a long while, even after her brother gave her his blessing.  But the story doesn’t end there; it continues through the campaign trail in Chicago and for the presidency.

Hillary Clinton’s story also begins wither her past, beginning with her childhood in Chicago and moving through the presidential campaign.  This pattern is followed with Sarah Palin as well.

These comics will help young readers and older readers get a better grasp on these women and the role they play in politics today.  The illustrations are vivid and detailed, resembling each political figure accurately.  Readers interested in a bit of sarcasm and another point of view of politics will enjoy these stories, and young women can look to them for inspiration.

This is my 19th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

FTC Disclosure: Thanks to Bluewater Productions for providing me a free copy of Female Force for review.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

© 2010, Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Savvy Verse & Wit or Serena’s Feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

Bo Obama: The White House Tails by Paul Salamof and Keith Tucker

Bo Obama:  The White House Tails is written by Paul J. Salamoff and drawn by Emmy Award-winning Disney and Warner Brothers artist Keith Tucker for Bluewater Productions‘ line of graphic novels for young readers.  The 40-page graphic novel reads more like a comic book, with Bo Obama taking kids back in time to visit previous White House pets and to witness some of the history of the presidential residence.

Bo is a Portuguese Water Dog, who is the perfect dog for those with allergies.  Not only does Bo know a lot about himself and his breed, but he also knows a great deal about the White House’s former residents.  The illustrations of Bo are clear and vivid, making the Obama’s dog leap to life in this graphic novel.

“People in Portugal speak Portuguese, but I can only bark in English.” (Page 10)
From elephants in the White House to the origin of the presidential residence’s name, Bo takes readers on a journey through the present and the past.  Kids, probably between ages 8 and 12, will enjoy this book the most because the words will be easier for them to grasp with little help from parents.  In some instances, readers may want to learn more about the animals or historical figures they meet.  Learning history through the eyes of a dog has never been more entertaining. Bo Obama:  The White House Tails is moderately priced at $6.99.

This book is my 16th book for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.

FTC Disclosure: Thanks to Bluewater Productions for sending me a free copy for review.  Clicking on title and image links will lead you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary, though appreciated.

© 2010, Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Savvy Verse & Wit or Serena’s Feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.