I’m attempting to get caught up on overdue reviews (some of which date back into last year). I always find it difficult to write about comics and graphic novels. To satisfy both conditions, I present a roundup of unconscionably brief reviews of comics/graphic novels that I’ve read in the recent to near-recent past.
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
I picked up Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword based almost entirely on the tag-line at the top – “Yet another troll-fighting 11-year old Orthodox Jewish girl.” It seemed like the sort of thing that my daughter would be very into. Mirka is certain that she’s destined to be a hero. She argues constantly with her step-mother, Ferma, and gets into all sorts of trouble. Along the way she learns lessons about tradition and how to be a strong woman and a hero. My daughter loved it. (Check out more about Hereville at the author’s website.)
The Martian Chronicles
I hadn’t read Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles since I was a kid. I remembered enjoying it, but I couldn’t recall much about the stories. When Dennis Calero’s graphic novel adaptation popped up in my mailbox, I had to check it out. The stories mostly read as a space version of The Twilight Zone. These tales, in its original or graphic novel form, definitely would appeal to the fabled reluctant young male readers. For me, it was like traveling back in time.
Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story
I’ve read a novel novel by Mat Johnson that I completely enjoyed. I’m from New Orleans. This one jumped into my cart without a second thought. Dark Rain is a robbery/caper story that just happens to take place in New Orleans. During Hurricane Katrina. It could really have been set anywhere, but the flood and the historical weight of the moment certainly add tension and seriousness to the story. I dug it. Here are some sample pages.
Feynman is a graphic biography of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. I read about this one somewhere or other and decided to check it out. I didn’t know much about Feynman, but the tagline If this is the world’s smartest man, God help us all” is certainly a memorable one. What struck me about the book was Feynman’s insatiable curiosity about the world and his humility about the limits of what physicists actually understand about their own work. This is a great read, and it was easily my favorite of the books in this roundup. Read more about it and check out some samples of the artwork in this article from American Scientist.
The Influencing Machine
Brooke Gladstone’s On the Media is a staple on NPR stations around the country (just not Atlanta’s WABE). Her graphic novel The Influencing Machine is a great crash course for those of us who can’t tune in regularly. The take home messages for me – the media has been vilified as long as it has existed (i.e., it’s not a new phenomenon) and as screwed up and imperfect as it is, a free news media is essential to democracy. That may sound obvious, but the historical perspective presented in the book really helped me to appreciate the truth of those statements. Check out the animated book trailer.
I bought and read Shaun Tan’s The Arrival yesterday. I’ve read glowing reviews for years and always meant to get around to checking it out. It finally jumped into my basket. The Arrival is a brilliantly conceived and executed story of immigration and assimilation. Our nameless protagonist leaves his young family behind to set sail for a new country and a chance at a better life. There is no dialogue in the story, but the drawings are ripe with metaphor and depth. It’s a fantastic story, and I am looking forward to reading and discussing with my daughter soon. For more on the story and some examples of the beautiful art work, visit the author’s website.