Book Review: Nimona – Noelle Stevenson

nimona-noelle-stevensonTitle: Nimona
Author: Noelle Stevenson
ISBN: 9780062278227
Pages: 272
Release Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary:

On the surface, Nimona is just a little girl. A little girl who happens to have teamed up with Lord Ballister Blackheart, the most evil supervillain that their kingdom’s ever faced. But there may be more to Nimona than meets the eye. Who is she really, and what does she want?

Review:

If you don’t follow the comics world, you may not have heard of Noelle Stevenson. She’s a tour-de-force, writing great comics that are both well-loved and critically acclaimed. Nimona was originally a webcomic, but it’s been collected into a gorgeous paperback volume to tell this adorable and fun story.

Though the story might make Nimona sound like a comic for kids, it’s anything but. I absolutely loved diving into this book. It’s whimsical and has laugh-out-loud moments (there’s a character name Sir Goldenloin. Seriously.) It’s witty and sharp, and you can read it over and over, finding something new within its pages each time you go through it. But more than being funny, this is a book that has a soul, and Stevenson isn’t afraid to mine the depths of it for this page. It’s so great and heartwrenching, fun but also will move you to tears.

If you haven’t read a comic, or don’t know where to start, Nimona is perfect for that. It’s a self-contained story, not a series, so everything you need to read it is in this one book. The story is accessible and entertaining, with humor but also heart, and it also provides a great jumping off point, should you choose this as an entry point into comics. I absolutely loved the rich colors on each page of this comic; it adds to the sumptuous feeling reading this book provides. Suffice it to say: whether you love comics or are brand new to them, this is something you should absolutely read.

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Book Review: The Sculptor – Scott McCloud

sculptor-scott-mccloudTitle: The Sculptor
Author: Scott McCloud
ISBN: 9781596435735
Pages: 496
Release Date: February 3, 2015
Publisher: First Second
Genre: Comics, Contemporary Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

David Smith is a sculptor, but he hasn’t been able to catch a break and he feels like his chance is slipping away. He makes a deal with Death: He will have the chance to acquire all the fame and fortune he’s ever desired, to be remembered forever, but he only has 200 days to do it. After that, he dies. What David doesn’t realize is that the eternal fame might not be what he truly wants out of life.

Review:

The Sculptor is a graphic novel that comics fans have been waiting for for a very long time, and it absolutely lives up to all the hopes, dreams, and expectations everyone had for it. Scott McCloud is a giant of the comics world, and this book is an excellent example of all of his promise.

McCloud manages to capture David in all his misery in The Sculptor, showing the reader just how down on his luck that David is. The reader can understand his depression, though it seems self-indulgent at times. David isn’t the most mature person, as evidenced by the deal he makes with Death. He’s ready and willing to trade his future for the glory of the moment. He can’t imagine doing anything else besides his art; it’s his soul and his reason for being. What David doesn’t expect is, that, in his 200 remaining days, he might find something to live for besides his art. It’s a heartbreaking turn of events that David faces. He forgets that there’s more to life than just fame and fortune. It’s the little moments of joy and happiness that make life worth living.

What’s remarkable about The Sculptor is that this is a story that couldn’t have been told any other way. Through his panels, McCloud really captures David’s anguish, his frustration, his total lack of self-awareness. We see his misery, and his immaturity; we feel his pain. David is a truly flawed character, and McCloud flaunts those on every panel. He doesn’t try to hide them, and they somehow make David more endearing. The reader wants David to find a reason to live other than his art, to make a human connection, but at the same time, is it too late for David? I can’t describe how the art tells the story; its moody colors set the emotional tone and McCloud’s genius is spread across each and every page.

I don’t want to give away too much of The Sculptor‘s story because the joy and gut-wrenching heartbreak of the book lie within its unfolding story. Learning about the journey that David is on and seeing him grow and change are so rewarding, and yet there’s always the fear that it’s already too late for David. This novel is incredibly well done; if you’re someone new to comics and looking to dive in, don’t let the length of this novel stop you. You’ll find yourself so immersed in it that the pages fly by as you are intent on discovering the ending to David’s story.

Other books by Scott McCloud:

Understanding Comics

Affiliate Links:
Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Book Review: Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal – G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona

ms marvel coverTitle: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal
Author: G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona
ISBN: 9780785190219
Pages: 120
Release Date: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Genre: Comics, Cultural Fiction (South Asian)
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 out of 5

Summary:

Kamala Khan is a normal South Asian American teen, except for one thing: she’s been given the powers of Ms. Marvel, a superhero. Now, she must balance her hidden life with her duties as a daughter of protective Muslim parents.

Snapshot Review:

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal is a quirky and honest depiction of South Asian life today. Fifteen-year-old Kamala Khan struggles with her Muslim versus American identity, all while trying to do the right thing as Marvel’s newest superhero.

Full Review:

As I’ve been getting into comics, I’ve been saddened (but not surprised) to see that they have similar diversity issues that exist within traditional publishing, especially within the “Big Two” (Marvel and DC). Marvel, particularly, has been making strides to correct this diversity imbalance, and one of the ways they did that was by introducing a brand new Ms. Marvel: Kamala Khan. Now, if you don’t understand the way superheroes work, well, there’s the title and then there’s the person’s name. Most of us who only know superheroes through the movies think of Tony Stark as Iron Man or Bruce Wayne as Batman, but the fact is, others can rise in their places and become Iron Man or Batman (which indeed has happened in the comics world). Carol Danvers shed her Ms. Marvel name, graduating to Captain Marvel, and so a new Ms. Marvel was made: Kamala.

With that explanation out of the way, let’s talk about Kamala Khan. She’s a 15-year-old Pakistani American, and a Muslim, living in Jersey City. She loves the Avengers and is trying to balance between being a kid raised in America and living under her parents’ strict rules. She’s smart, funny, and a good person. I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to see someone that looks like me in the pages of a comic; if this had happened when I was a kid, I would have likely been all about the superheroes. I love seeing aspects of Kamala’s home life as a South Asian teen conflict with her duties as a superhero. For example:

20141106_133338000_iOS

Not only that, but this comic is well written, funny, and engaging. The first volume (which includes the first 5 collected issues) sets up the character and her primary opponent. It’s more about getting to know Kamala and the world she lives in—yes, her superhero world where she’s coming to terms with her powers, but also being in a situation where, for the first time, she can’t turn to her parents for help. She has to learn to navigate her issues on her own; as a superhero, that’s what’s expected of her, not only to deal with her own problems, but to fight for justice on behalf of others. But Kamala’s also just a 15 year old with identity issues, torn between the world she sees at school and the more conservative Muslim world at home.

If I haven’t convinced you to read Ms. Marvel yet, well, I’m not done. The art in this comic really plays an important role. The colors are bright, but not stark. Alphona really knows how to draw teenagers; Kamala’s facial expressions are priceless and really underline her whimsical, quirky qualities. You can tell that, while she’s conflicted in some ways, Kamala is having a BLAST with this whole superhero thing.

Bottom line: If you aren’t into comics, but are interested, this is a good place to start. If you aren’t into comics, but are curious about the depiction of South Asians, well, you’ve seen it for yourself: Kamala’s fighting bad guys, doing her superhero duties, and gets a call from her mother yelling about how she’s late for her cousin’s mehndi. And if your are into comics, but the Marvel Universe intimidates you, Ms. Marvel is an easy entry into the universe, focusing on the character and easing you in. You really can’t get any better than that.

Also, here’s me dressed up as Ms. Marvel for Halloween.

Ms Marvel

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

BookTube: 5 Comic Reviews (Sweet Tooth, Drama, Runaways, Seconds, Laika)

Today on BookTube, I review five comics that I’ve read recently.

Shelving Books

Sweet Tooth – Jeff Lemire (Vertigo, May 18, 2010; Powell’s, Amazon.com, Indiebound)
Drama – Raina Telgemeier (Graphix, July 29, 2014; Powell’sAmazon.comIndiebound)
Runaways, Vol. 1 – Brian K. Vaughn & Adrian Alphona (Marvel, December 12, 2012; Amazon.com)
Seconds – Bryan Lee O’Malley (Ballantine Books, July 15, 2014; Powell’sAmazon.comIndiebound)
Laika – Nick Abadzis (Square Fish, September 30, 2014; Powell’sAmazon.comIndiebound)

Book Review: Saga, Vols. 1-3 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

saga cover

Title: Saga, Volumes 1–3 Author: Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples ISBN: 9781607066019 / 9781607066927 / 9781607069317 Pages: 160 / 144 / 144 Release Date: October 10, 2012 / July 2, 2013 / March 25, 2014 Publisher: Image Comics Genre:  Comics, Science Fiction Source: Personal Copy Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Summary: Alana and Marko are on opposite sides of a brutal war. […]

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