"The Left Bank Gang" by Jason is a Comic Noir Graphic Novel for Lovers of Paris in the 1920s

Imagine Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, James Joyce and other in the 1920s literary scene in Paris personified as cats and dogs who are all cartoonists. The concept is great fun and works on many levels. Jason’s stiff drawing style and earth colors lend a heaviness to the narrative and accentuates the less glamorous reality of the writers and friends working and struggling together in that place at that time.

The conversations mirror many that have been famously recorded in books and in film. Hemingway ponders if he could do anything but make comics, awakens from nightmares of the war and seeks a monogamy from his wife which he refuses to return to her. Fitzgerald struggles to sell his work and keep his infamously fickle wife, Zelda interested in him and the town that he loves.

Where the story gets a bit off the rails is in the third section. Although it is a whimsical segment it is weaker than the other sections of the book. I refrain from going in to much detail in an attempt to avoid spoilers. Overall this is a fulfilling read and will be especially appreciated by fans of the writers and culture of 1920s Paris





[Painting of Death as a spectral nanny taking a child and infant away from their bereaved family.  A detail shows the family’s house number is 1918.]

I never realized this until seeing the detail, but this painting is most likely about the flu pandemic.

it’s really interesting seeing death portrayed as a woman 

Especially a a nurturer rather than a destroyer

"I’ll Give You the Sun" is One of the Most Fulfilling Reads of 2014

In “I’ll Give You the Sun" Jandy Nelson successfully embodies the inner workings of not one, but two teenagers. The twin brother and sister have dramatically different voices and none of the pandering, unnatural or out-dated references that have clogged the narrative of many “twin” books. Not only has Nelson realistically voiced two teens,she has also realistically given her readers an up front view of the thoughts, challenges and pains of a boy allowing himself to fully embrace his homosexuality. Perhaps her greatest triumph is that she has managed to write a strong story about life that is not about homosexuality, it simply has a character who is gay.

The story begins from the perspective a Noah, a 13 year old boy who sees the world as paintings and drawings awaiting interpretation. hyperbole helps readers imagine the way that the world looks to him, for example, when he describes his sister Jude and her luminous hair he says,

“I use up all of my yellows drawing it. It’s hundreds of miles long and everyone in Northern California has to worry about getting tangled up in it, especially little kids and poodles and now asshat surfers”

Each alternating chapter is told by Jude. She is also highly artistic but in a more practical and pragmatic way. She’s not driven to sketch often and her skills lie in sculpture, first in sand and found materials with the ultimate goal being to create a stone sculpture. Jude is very social and longs to be a part of the group, not understanding the lone wolf side of Noah and his ease and comfort in being solitary.

After a tragedy strikes the family, Jude wanders off into a strange swirl of religious fastidiousness. She keeps her beloved grandma’s bible at her side but she also interprets the words to slant her purpose. She begins writing her own “proverbs” in the gutters of the pages and she lives by them. If she carries an onion in her pocket it will keep danger away. If she puts love poem in her betrothed’s pocket he will think of her always.

The addition of two men to the family’s inner circle change every relationship and we experience Jude and Noah dive through the chaos, glory and myriad emotions and experiences caused by the men.

The story uses some convenient coincidences, for example, important people have connections that are mandatory to project the narrative in the manner that it does. Nelson finds a way to make the coincidences genuine, they are the connections that exist in small communities such as fine art. Paths often do cross, even those that we hope to never see again.

The author doesn’t shy away from referencing fine art which may be foreign to her primary reader base, but the bold choice enriches the reading experience for readers with an art background. Mentions of Brancusi, Cy Twombly, Jackson Pollock and Wassily Kandinsy help give the reader a perspective on the level of education that the kids are receiving and the era of art that their study is focused on.

I’ll Give You the Sun is about betrayal, familial relationships, sexual discovery and acceptance, friendship, mortality, drive, spirituality and more. There are so many threads of story subtly woven through the novel that it can easily be read multiple times and analyzed upon each of it’s threads. These are not your every day love-able teens. Every person in the book is flawed ranging to diabolical. There is not a character within who doesn’t commit at least one egregious act. From cheating, lying, theft, denial, physical harm and emotional distance. 

The rights to turn this title into a movie sold before the publication date of the novel. If done correctly this could become a contemporary teen classic. Perhaps put this on your reading list before that time comes as the more likely and painful truth is that it will be nearly impossible for any film-maker to replicate the depth, truth, diversity and beauty of these troubled characters.  

A Book to Wrap Up With to Celebrate National Comic Book Day & Banned Books Week

Oh most sacred of days, Thursday September 25, 2014, when both National Comic Book Day and Banned Books Week collide. To celebrate both, might I suggest reading the incredible comic, Blankets. Read rebelliously, some of the best stuff is enclosed in covers that prickly folks would prefer you never open…

Blankets by Craig Thompson

Blankets is the semi autobiographical story of Thompson’s upbringing in a religious family, his first love, and how he came to terms with his religious beliefs. The primary narrative in the book describes main character Craig’s relationship with Raina, a young woman he meets at a Christian youth camp. We get glimpses into Craig’s childhood and his relationship with his younger brother through flashbacks, as he wrestles with his views of religion and his relationship with God.

Louise Mills, a resident of Marshall, MO, filed a request with the Marshall Public Library Board of Trustees to have Blankets removed from the shelves because of the allegedly obscene illustrations. She likened the illustrations to pornography and was concerned that the comic art would attract children who would subsequently see the images she alleged were pornographic. Mills also feared that the library would be frequented by the same people who go to porn shops.

Blankets,which was published in 2004, won 2 Eisner Awards, 3 Harvey Awards and 2 Ignatz Awards. 

For more information visit: CBLDF.org

Daniel Clowe’s Classic Graphic Novel “Ice Haven” was a Banned Book

In 2008 a high-school teacher in Connecticut was forced to quit his job after a parent complained to the principal and filed a complaint with the police department because a student in his class choose a book off of his classroom bookshelf: Ice Haven by Daniel Clowes.

Ice Haven is composed of a series of vignettes that describe the life of the small town and its citizens after the disappearance of a local boy.  Recommended for Grade 10 and up by School Library Journal, the book explores the emotional lives of a large cast, including a schoolyard bully, a love-struck teenager, an emotionally troubled child, a frustrated poet and the classmates of the missing boy.  Clowes employs a variety of cartooning styles to render the sensibilities of his different characters, creating a rich, blackly humorous tapestry about the alienation, loneliness, guilt and desire. (Source: CBLDF.com)

The teacher approved the choice as fulfillment for the student’s summer reading requirement and warned the student that the book contains some mature themes and language and the student choose to read it anyway. It is said that the book contains themes and an intensity similar to numerous books that were options agreed upon by the school board for summer reading.

Clowes is a multiple award winning author, recently had a one man show at the Contemporary Art Museum of Chicago, and is considered one of the most important living graphic novel authors/artists alive today. 

The Harlem Hellfighters is a fictionalized telling of the real experience of the 369th Infantry, an African American regiment who fought under the French flag in World War I. Author, Brooks, masterfully puts the reader behind the line of fire with the soldiers and doesn’t shy away from the racism and blight suffered by the men. 

Historical facts are peppered throughout the pages: “A whole town gone, every day, for four years,” and we are introduced to the origin of historical phrases: “Colored man is no slacker.” (on a poster recruiting soldiers for a regiment called “The Black Rattlers”.Once training begins, it is obvious that race makes a difference in the equipment and supplies awarded. White troops are issued new guns while the black troops train using broomsticks. 

Beautifully interwoven through the story are references too and samples from the poems of Alan Seeger. Seeger was an American poet who fought and died in WWI while serving in the French Foreign Legion. For those who are leery of a war graphic novel which includes poetry, be unafraid, there is plenty of brutality and gore. From rats grinding through the trenches, to lice covering the men’s bodies, to bayonets making impact in soldiers faces and bombs dismembering soldiers, no detail is shied away from. 

Perhaps the most noble quality that Max Brooks brings to the story-telling is a sense of humor. To survive such grievous conditions one must have survival tools and humor seems a realistic one for soldiers to latch on to. 

The illustrations of Caanan White are perfectly matched to Brook’s writing. I am writing my review based on a black and white preview copy and therefore can’t comment on color and the quality of reproductions on the final print. 

This title is an excellent tool for students who struggle with being introduced to new material. Once a reluctant reader sees this perspective of war they will likely be more open to reading more traditional material. This would make a fabulous tool to include in discussing America’s history of race issues and it serves as a meaningful and fulfilling read for any fans of the graphic novels. 

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Pub Date: April 2014
ISBN: 978-0-307-46497-2
Page Count: 256 pages
Publisher: Broadway Books

* Thank you Broadway Books for providing this review copy in exchange for my honest review.

David Shafer’s Debut Novel: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” Could’ve Used More of All Three

This book stirs a flurry of thoughts and emotions without directing them, which is both refreshing and maddening. There are three main characters: Leo: a failed bookstore owner, Mark: former room-mate of Leo and now successful self-help author and Leila: working for a NGO in Myanmar when she sees something that she’s not supposed to.

The strongest moments in the book are when any combination of the characters are woven together. These scenes read naturally and give us an understanding of their personalities and lifestyles. The chapters are each written from the perspective of one of the three and allow the reader intimate takes on each. Things get a bit messy with the underlying plot.

The Committee is an international cabal of industrialists and media barons on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary is an idealistic online Underground which attempts to block the takeover with radical spying, interception techniques and political attacks. Leila, Mark and Leo all come into contact with both groups.

This book is the odd example of when the strengths in the story-telling are also the weaknesses. Shafer uses unexpected word combinations and often chooses words which are not a part of most reader’s usual vocabulary. His use of imagery is stunning: “The points he made were like lily pads on the surface of a lake- the monstrous lily pads he had seen once in a Florida swamp, you wouldn’t want to get too comfortable on those, but you could alight on one briefly, take a breath and move on to the next.”

The biggest disappointment in the novel comes in the last quarter of the book. While hundred’s of pages are spent revealing the story, it rushes to a very unsatisfying conclusion.

My Rating: 3 stars
Publication Date: Aaugust 2014
ISBN: 978-0-316-25263-8
Page Count: 432 pages
Publisher: Mulholland Books

*Thank you NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.*


‘Where Are They Now?’, A Short Animated Film About the Current Lives of Old Cartoon Characters

Ever wonder what happened to Jessica & Roger Rabbit and lots of other cartoon characters from the 1980’s?


This week’s giveaway is some nail art from the very awesome ESPIONAGE COSMETICS! They are running a Kickstarter right now, don’t forget to check it out and share it around if you’d like to support them!
These are some awesome “Critical Hit” nails, perfect for tabletop gamers.
For different ways to enter (including reblogging on Tumblr), check here:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Also, please note that this giveaway only applies to residents of US & Canada. This is because it’s a physical item that we have to mail out— sorry! We will have lots of digital giveaways for international recipients coming soon.


This week’s giveaway is some nail art from the very awesome ESPIONAGE COSMETICS! They are running a Kickstarter right now, don’t forget to check it out and share it around if you’d like to support them!

These are some awesome “Critical Hit” nails, perfect for tabletop gamers.

For different ways to enter (including reblogging on Tumblr), check here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, please note that this giveaway only applies to residents of US & Canada. This is because it’s a physical item that we have to mail out— sorry! We will have lots of digital giveaways for international recipients coming soon.

"Alex + Ada" is a Slow Brewed, Modern Day, Sci-Fi Graphic Novel with Addictive Wiles

Alex is a successful single man living with a tech driven lifestyle in Sunnyvale, California. His brain is connected to Prime Wave, a system that allows him to control the things around him by thought and voice commands. (ie: he can make phone messages play, or television programs go on and off).

His grandma lives with a much younger, handsome android, an X5, that is so human-like it’s required to show a branding on it’s wrist. She encourages Alex to order one for himself. He’s offended by the proposition, still hoping to find love the organic way. He comes home to find that she has gifted him a X5 and his opinion on the matter soon changes. 

Alex finds that he enjoys the android’s company but wishes that she could have independent thought and free will. The magic of this book comes not only in the slowly unfurling and beautifully paced narrative by Sarah Vaughn, but also in the questions that it offers to readers. Would you want someone (or something), to partner with that would love you unconditionally if it wasn’t genuine love? Should you be connected to a Prime Wave system for your convenience if it might be at the expense of your privacy? What would you risk to give independence to an android. 

The book is also speckled with humor as Alex’s friends react to his new housemate and the number of calories that the androids must consume (although they look gloriously fit), far exceeds what Alex and other humans can eat to stay healthy. 

The illustrations by Jonathan Luna are nothing short of radiant. The plasticity perfection of the androids is well mated with the slightly foppish hair of the humans. the color palette is expansive and yet somehow muted to appealing tones which broaden the scope of the illustrations. 

This is a slowly unwinding story but this first volume is an incredible platform to build a series which will keep readers waiting for their next Alex + Ada fix.

My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Pub Date: July 16, 2014

ISBN: 1632150069

Page Count: 128 Pages

Publisher: Image Comics

*Thank you NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.