The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay
Dark Horse Books, Milwaukie, OR, 2011
Borrowed from my local library.
A fantasy in graphic novel form by one of my favorite authors. I have been a fan of Jane Yolen for many years, ever since I read Sister Light, Sister Dark. She has written so many books I haven’t been able to keep up. I stumbled upon The Last Dragon while looking through the graphic/comic shelf at my local library and had to bring it home.
This is a dark and wonderful tale of an herbalist’s daughter, Tansy, who finds out that dragons did not, in fact, die out two hundred years ago. One has risen from the earth and is terrorizing her village. With the help of a reluctant hero, she manages to find and slay this last dragon and save her town.
The artwork by Rebecca Guay is stunning, pen and ink drawings with rich, deep water color. This book is worth looking at for the art alone but the story, woven with herbal lore and a bit of romance, is lovely.
Radioactive: A Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss
Harper Collins, New York, 2010
From my library hold list. I have Vasilly to thank for this one. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
From the epigraph:
With apologies to Marie Curie, who said,
“There is no connection between my scientific work and facts of private life.”
A biography told through words and pictures. A history of the discovery of radioactivity and the development of the atomic bomb. The story of a woman, her loves and her scientific curiosity.
I love it when an author truly admires her subject. Lauren Redniss has created a work of art that is also a wonderful biography of Marie and Pierre Curie, and of Marie after her husband’s death. Much of the text comes from the Curie archives, from scientific papers and from the press.
Mixed in with this biography are pieces on the impact the discovery of radioactivity has had on culture, science, medicine and politics. It is a book about what scientists thought they knew, on how that knowledge can affect society in ways that are creative and destructive. And Redniss’s art reflects this.
Colors bloom out of darkness with a strange glow. Tall ghostly figures are interspersed with maps of contaminated landscape. Redniss as created a science book unlike any I have ever read. Even if you have no love for the graphic genre I suggest you read it.
The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
D.C. Comics, New York, 1995
Borrowed from my library. I have the first 30 issues of this series tucked away in my basement.
I decided I had to review something in graphic format for R.I.P. VI. What better than The Sandman? I first discovered Neil Gaiman’s work when someone gave me a copy of Black Orchid. I was hooked.
Gaiman started The Sandman project as a monthly comic in 1989. The original idea of the Sandman character coming from a 1976-1978 DC series, Gaiman made it his own. The Vertigo imprint as released the series in trade paperbacks that group individual comics into complete novels.
With the help of many artist and inkers, The Sandman series grew from an awkward beginning into a complex classic tale of horror, myth and magic. Preludes and Nocturnes introduces the Dream King, Morpheus, held captive for nearly a century. During his icarseration many humans have suffered horrible continuing nightmares. Finally free and seeking revenge along with his stolen magical tools, Dream finds himself weakened, almost dead. To regain his power he must visit a ghastly hell filled with demons and flesh-eating monsters, a combination of Dante’s Inferno and The Garden of Earthly Delights. There are several scenes in Arkham Asylum, a madhouse orginally appearing in Batman comics. I imagine Arkham is based on Bethlam Royal Hospital.
My love of The Sandman is based on the mix of horror, magic, and ancient stories to tell tales of very human dilemmas. Dream and his siblings, including Death and Delirium, are wonderful characters. Neil Gaiman and all of the artist and others involved in this series have created a classic. The Sandman is perfect for reading on dark, stormy nights.
R.I.P. VI is organized by Carl V. of Stainless Steel Droppings. Visit the review site is here. I made full use of Wikipedia for some of the background on this series.
Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson
Dark Horse Comics, Milwaukie, OR 2010
Borrowed from the library.
I love animals. I love graphic novels. What is not to like about Beasts of Burden?
The stories take place in Burden Hill, a peaceful place with lovely homes, picket fences and a group of dogs (and one cat) who are best buddies. Then strange things begin to happen. Frogs fall from the sky, evil kitties abound and Jack and Rex discover zombie roadkill. The crew call on the Wise Dog to help them and eventually become a team of paranormal detectives.
Sometimes bloody, often beautiful, these are horror stories filled with good guys and bad guys, ghosts and witches. Atmospheric artwork and animals with distinct personalities and quirky friendships that remind us of ourselves make this a dark and often humorous read. Dark Horse offers some of the Beast of Burden stories on their website. You are welcome to check them out.
Mercury by Hope Larson
Antheneum Books, New York, 2010
Borrowed from the library.
An interesting mix of fantasy, history and contemporary fiction, this is a graphic novel about two young women in a small town in Nova Scotia. Switching between the 1850’s and 2009, we find that Josey and Tara are connected through family and that each as been given a strange locket, a locket that seems to be attracted to gold.
Both girls struggle with familiar issues that include familial tensions, relationships and the struggle for independence.
Larson, an Eisner Award winner, has inked Mercury in black on white and white on black. It is a book dense and rich in story and artwork.
Buried In Print
Stuff As Dreams Are Made On
The Boston Bibliophile
Local by Brian Wood.
Art by Ryan Kelly
Oni Press, Portland, 2008
From the library. This one is for high school and up.
Megan McKeenan is stuck in a very bad relationship. Her boyfriend has her trying to pass off stolen scripts at local pharmacies and she knows she is going to get caught. Taking matters into her own hands she decides to leave Portland and hit the road. Thus begins a journey of inter-linked stories through 12 North American cities. from Portland to Minniapolis, Richmond, Virgina to Halifax, Nova Scotia. The drawings are in black and white, highly detailed and the artwork and stories fit together beautifully. This is an intense road trip.
Ghostopolis By Doug Tennapel
Graphix, Scholastic Publishing, New York 2010
From the library. Perfect for middle school readers.
Garth Hale has been diagnised with a fatele disease. Imagine his confusion when he is suddenly transported into the spirit world and finds he has powers that even ghosts do not have. Chased by an evil ruler who wants to use Garth’s powers all seems lost until Garth meets up with Cecil, his grandfather’s ghost and they solve this spooky problem together. There is a great mix of monsters including a lovely skeletal horse and some “mad” scientist who travel in and out of Ghostopolis. Beautiful art and a lovely story. I want to read more of Doug Tennapel’s work.
Trickster: Native American Tales A Graphic Collection
Edited by Matt Dembicki
Fulcrum Publishing, Golden CO, 2010
Borrowed from the library.
Trickster is a character that shows up in mythologies and folklore all over the planet. The Monkey-King in China, Reynard in France and, of course, Raven in the Pacific Northwest. This anthropomorphic animal plays tricks, disobeys rules and goes against conventional behavior. We find him or her everywhere.
This beautiful collection of Native Americans tales pairs native story-tellers with graphic artist in a book that celebrates North American indigenous cultures. There is history, moral dilemmas and wonderful teaching in these stories. The various voices and artistic styles bring great variety to these pages and some of my favorite graphic artists are represented, including Micah Farritor and editor Matt Dembicki.