Robopony

One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale. Amulet Books, 2017. 9781419721281.

I’m trying to read more ebooks, especially review copies. I’m out of space. To keep a book I need to get rid of one (or more if it’s thick). And that’s not counting the piles and boxes and books I have hidden in corners.

But when I see physical advanced reader copies of graphic novels at library conferences, I always pick them up. Hale’s new one is a perfect example of why. The finished book is going to be two color throughout, a combination of yellows and black ink washes. (There’s a page of finished art in the front of the book as an example.) Most of the rest of the ARC is finished line art for the book. I know it might not be as popular with young readers, but it makes Hale’s excellent line art, and in particular his old school textures, stand out. The real treat though are the incredibly loose sketch pages. Hale’s primitive, unfinished drawings border on scribbles, yet they show faces, emotions, and posture. Despite how unfinished they are, they’re genius. And together with the other parts of the book they really show the stages of putting a graphic novel together. Grab an ARC from your librarian friend who went to ALA Midwinter in Atlanta.

And just so I’m not remiss, the story is pretty cool, too. In a dystopian future, weird aliens hunt for the world’s technology and metal. When the find it they blow “bubbles” around it that carry off the resources and turn any humans in the way to dust. There’s a caravan of motorized vehicles whose human inhabitants stay on the move, avoiding zones full of aliens as they hunt for technology and information to preserve. But after three young people from the caravan discover a huge cache of hidden robots, including the robotic horse on the cover, the aliens swarm, the teens are separated from their people, and the horse (and a feral human they meet along the way) may be their only hope of staying ahead of the alien horde.

If Hale’s name is familiar to you, you’ve probably read some of his history comics or, like me, you loved Rapunzel’s Revenge.

Sometimes A Fantasy Is All You Need

Fantasy Sports No. 1 by Sam Bosma. Nobrow, 2015. 9781907704802. 56pp.

Fantasy Sports No. 2: The Bandit of Barbel Bay by Sam Bosma. Nobrow, 2016. 9781910620106. 56pp.

In short: large format, sports-themed, supernatural, all-ages graphic novels that show a heavy manga influence, and which belong in middle schools, some high schools, and all public libraries.

In No. 1, Wiz, an intern with The United and Ancient Order of Mages who wants a reassignment, as does her partner, the gigantic and muscular Mug. Mug says she’s not built for treasure hunting and complains that Mug knows nothing about magic and just breaks things. The archmage sends them out to work together again and to prove themselves by acquiring magical artifacts. First up, after solving a temple’s puzzle, they face the mummy of He of the Giant Steps in his tomb.The contest he chooses: basketball.

In No 2, after a baseball flashback showing how powerful Wiz is, her spell lands her and Mug on an island ruined by the Order of Mages (they rained down fire and took the treasure). The pair are robbed, but have a chance to reclaim their treasure (and more!) by winning Yahm’s Tournament, where they must ultimately face the town’s supernatural, completely synchronized champions at two on two beach volleyball.

These books are great. They’re oversized hardcovers that are great to hold. Bosma’s art reminds me of Osamu Tezuka’s best. And the violence is both cartoony and slightly over-the-top — in the first volume Mug rips an adversary in half, but in a way that’s kid friendly. (Now that I’ve said that will you ever trust me again?) In the second there’s a more cartoonily explosive over-the-net block that levels the beach.

Late note: I just read an advanced copy of Fantasy Sports No. 3: The Green King, which comes out in July 2017. Wiz must win a crazy round of putt putt golf to save Mug and avoid getting eaten, plus there’s a great flashback to a pro wrestling match Mug saw as a kid and even more evidence that The United and Ancient Order of Mages is up to no good. Best volume yet, but read the other two first.

Cover to Cover

Both of these books have amazing covers.

Spurt by Chris Miles. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. 9781481479721.

This tween novel is about a late bloomer (Jack) who fakes puberty. That’s all I know, and it’s enough!

Above the elastic underwear band where the book’s title is printed are three dots: one tan (a belly button), two pink (nipples), and the single hair Scotch taped between them. The cover’s genius is the spot gloss on the tape, which makes it feel like tape.

 

 

Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery by David Gordon. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2016. 9781416924418.

The cover promises more heavy machinery than the interior delivers, though there is massive sandcastle construction, destruction, and even some welding. Still, this is number one for picture book cover and title of the year so far. And don’t worry, the same image is printed on the hardcover book  so kids can still enjoy it after tearing the dust jacket to pieces.

An Alien in American

Superman: American Alien by Max Landis. Artists: Nick Dragotta, Tommy Lee Edwards, Joëlle Jones, Jae Lee, Francis Manapul, Jonathan Case, Jock. DC Comics, 2016. 9781401262563. Collects Superman: American Alien #1 – #7.

Superman stories are often kinda boring. He’s invulnerable. He’s powerful. He’s immortal. (Remember when he died?) And, cynically, he’s going to win not just for these reasons but because if he died all the Superman merchandise would die with him. A lot of superhero comics suffer from these same issues.

But this book had me from the opening page where a terrified young Clark Kent is rising into the sky, screaming at his terrified mother, clinging to his leg, to not let him go. He’s an alien boy who just wants to be normal. His father tells him weird is better, and, in an amazing chapter, helps him learn to fly.

There are seven chapters here in all, each drawn by a different artist, each with a different tone, each a different moment in Clark / Superman’s life. (Landis’ original series pitch in the back of the book clarifies the idea.) In the second chapter, a teenage Clark uses his powers to help a family held at gunpoint. It’s horrific — he doesn’t have the level of control he needs to keep people safe from his own powers. What’s brilliant is he’s not that powerful (yet). Plus it’s clear that the sheriff and everyone else around him knows he’s different and how he’s different, because how could they not notice something like that in a small Kansas town?

The chapter drawn by Joëlle Jones is my favorite, with Clark accidentally impersonating Bruce Wayne at a raging party in Wayne’s honor on a yacht. Clark hilariously foils an assassination attempt, and he gets the girl, at least for the moment. It sets up Clark’s not-so-epic first meeting with Batman in Metropolis years later, and a bit of Batman-related madness that follows.

No more details because I don’t want to ruin it. I’d say 1 in 20 Superman collections is worth reading, and this is right at the top of the pile with Loeb and Sale’s beautiful Superman: For All Seasons and Morrison / Quietly’s utterly amazing All-Star Superman.

Strong is Beautiful

Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves by Kate T. Parker. Workman, 2017. 9780761189138. 256pp.

strong-is-the-new-prettyGene: It’s the ultimate coffee table book. Photos of girls, a lot of them doing sports – it’s a celebration of how strong and tough girls are. It’s not quite against the idea of dolling yourself up, but it makes it clear you don’t have to to be strong and pretty.
Sarah: So a wider variety of pretty than you’d see in a lot of books.
G: Right. The photographer, Kate Parker, said she was shooting pictures of her daughters and their friends and the ones that resonated were the photos where they are 100% themselves. They’re celebrations of who the girls are. (Reading) “I wanted my girls to know that being themselves is beautiful, and that being beautiful is about being strong.” There’s a quote from each girl next to her picture, with her age and her first name. Continue reading “Strong is Beautiful”

Turn On Your Witchlight

Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky. Czap, 2016.

witchlightContains material originally published in Witchlight #1 – #4 plus new material.

Sanja is visiting the market with her father and brothers when she accidentally confronts a witch, Lelek, who is dealing with an unhappy customer. Sanja awakens to find herself tied up in Lelek’s camp, though she doesn’t seem too concerned. Lelek wants Sanja to teach her to fight with a sword. Sanja agrees provided Lelek stops cheating people in different towns. They’re soon on the road together with Lelek challenging other witches to fights wherever they go for a share of the spectator’s fees.

The beginning of the story (the kidnapping) is a bit odd and abrupt, but the budding friendship (and perhaps more) between the two young women makes it very enjoyable, as does Zabarsky’s cheerful black and white (and somewhere in between) art.

I’ve picked up a few Czap books at small comics shows over the last few years (Seattle’s Short Run, and maybe SPX), and I was happy to be able to pledge to their Kickstarter.

Our First Guest Review

Gene: Our first guest review is from Murphy’sMom, who used to review with Sarah and I for the Unshelved Book Club. (Let us know if you’re feeling the itch to review a book or two, too.)

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart. Delacorte Books for Young Readers , 2016. 9780553536744.

lily-and-dunkinTimothy McGrother knows she is really a girl named Lily. She has long, blonde hair and looks great when she dresses up in her mother’s sundresses, high heels, and makeup. In fact, she wishes Tim didn’t exist. Lily does not understand why her dad and other kids in her class see only a little, freaky weirdo named Timothy. That is so not her! Lily is starting eighth grade and puberty so she really, really needs her dad to give her permission for the hormone blockers.

Norbert and his mom just moved from New Jersey to Florida. He is pissed at his mom because she left his dad and wants a fresh start. Norbert wants to reinvent himself because in Jersey he was a big, clumsy oaf. (It’s a good thing the jocks don’t see that when the basketball coach adds him to the team as a walk-on.)

Neither Norbert nor Tim are comfortable with their true identities. Tim wants so badly to be Lily, and Norbert hates his name and lumbering physique. When the two become friends before school starts, they are able to confide in one another and recreate themselves as Lily and Dunkin.

This is a great YA novel that has a tremendous amount of compassion and sympathy for the underdogs.