May 25, 2009

Persepolis-Marjane Satrapi


Shop Indie Bookstores

This was my second foray into graphic novels, and I think I'm becoming a fan.  While completely different than American Born Chinese, this graphic novel still held my attention.  I feel like "recent" history isn't taught or talked about enough, so reading about the revolution in Iran was extremely interesting and informative.  I liked that though the book deals with serious issues there was still a bit of humor intertwined in the story.  I think this could be used easily in a high school English class, or in a world history course.  I'd be interested in hearing how teachers have used it, as I know many have.  


2004 ALA Alex Award  

YALSA Best Books for Young Adults 

Booklist Editor's Choice for Young Adults 

New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age  

School Library Journal Adult Books for Young Adults 

A New York Times Notable Book 

A Time Magazine "Best Comix of the Year" 

A San Francisco Chronicle and Los Angeles Times Best-seller 

Originally posted at:


May 24, 2009

20th Century Boy Volume 1

Title: 20th Century Boys
Volume #: 1
Series Length: 22 volumes (complete)
Manga-ka: Naoki Urasawa
English Publisher/Year: Viz/2009
Genre: Seinen, mystery, life, science fiction
Link: Amazon
Review Originally Published at: Poisoned Rationality

--of series: Kenji and his friends start to notice a series of odd occurences related to their childhood. A mysterious cult-leader named "friend" is out to destroy the world, and it has something to do with Kenji's childhood memories.
--of volume:
Failed rock musician Kenji's memories of his past come rushing back when one of his childhood friends mysteriously commits suicide. Could this new death be related to the rise of a bizarre new cult that's been implicated in several other murders and disappearances?

Determined to dig deeper, Kenji reunites with some of his old buddies in the hope of learning the truth behind it all. Humanity, having faced extinction at the end of the 20th century, would not have entered the new millennium if it weren't for them. In 1969, during their youth, they created a symbol. In 1997, as the coming disaster slowly starts to unfold, that symbol returns. This is the story of a gang of boys who try to save the world.

Review: I'll be up-front, 20th Century Boys is not my normal manga reading taste. I've read it before, in scanlations (I stress I read it before I knew it was licensed in America), well most of it anyhow, and enjoyed it throughly then. The art style is reminiscent of simpler manga. Its not in way shape or form 'simple', but the heavy detail work is reserved for background scenary, while everything else relies very little on shading and tone. Urasawa draws very expressive people, their faces and their bodies are always in use to convey their words.

The first volume sets the stage so to speak. The story begins at the beginning of the 21st Century as a very important man introduces the group of people who 'saved' humanity from a terrible incident. Well I should say the story begins with someone, in 1973, hijacking the school's PA System to play rock and roll over the airwaves, then goes to the important and his speech. The volume itself jumps between 1997 (the 'present' so to speak) and the years of 1968-1979 as Kenji, our protagonist, moves through his daily life.

Often Kenji will remember a certain event, or string of events, from his childhood that he will fondly recall. The formation of his friends' secret club. Hanging out with 'Donkey'. Getting his first guiter. Those sorts of things. As the story progresses from one friend's wedding to the news of another's friend's apparent suicide, things begin to look darker. How is their friend's suicide tied to the missing Professor and his family? Why did he send Kenji a letter days before his death, saying he'd explain everything? Why is a symbol from their childhood appearing all over again?

Interspersed with the lives of Kenji and Co are short digressions into what can only be called cult gatherings. Hundreds (if not more) of people are gathered to witness 'The Friend' 's instructive speeches about how they can all be more tranquil when one with him and how the world will burn, but they will be safe as his 'friends'. The group's symbol is the same symbol from Kenji's childhood as are the 'teachings' of the mysterious 'Friend'.

While I'm interested in finding out more about this 'Friend' I was drawn more to the lives of Kenji and his friends and how they've changed since they were children. The end of the volume, when Kenji thinks about what their child selves would think of their adult selves rings very true I think. If you were to go back and ask your ten year old self how they think of your 30 year old self--do you think they'd be happy? Sad? Laugh at you?

Viz does a splendid job presenting the book. Its larger then many of their current series (closer in size to the old GN's from the 90's), but it works well for the formatting. The print is clear, with minimal amounts of translator notes (in fact there were only four in the entire volume) placed safely to the side to explain topical references (such as a reference to an old radio program, an old manga series, etc). The end of the volume has a couple pages more of explanatory notes--about the honorifics used as well as more detailed information about a few cultural things. I like the fact the book has jacket flaps in the back and front (the book reads right to left, standard manga format) it made the few times I had to hold a place for some reason easier then folding down a corner or just leaving it open. The binding is tight, but flexible enough so that you don't have to crack the spine to open the book enough to read the edges.

As I mention above the series is complete at 22 volumes in Japan, but there is a shorter 2 volume 'sequel' series called '21st Century Boys', also licensed by Viz. Additionally there is a trio of live action adaptation movies--the first two are already out in Japan with the third due out in the fall 2009 and recently the first part of the triology was made available in the UK on DVD.

Incidentally the manga takes its name from the classic rock song '20th Century Boy' by a band called T. Rex (I have no other knowledge beyond this, being not a rock fan, sorry!).

May 12, 2009


In this Superman story from the DC Elseworlds series, Kal-El isn’t found by the Kents, but is instead run over by a traveling salesman. Finding the baby unharmed, the man leaves the child at the doorstep of the police department in Pleasantville, Kansas. The child is sent to an orphanage and is adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Suderman and is given the name Dale. Dale’s father dies and not long after Dale discovers he has abilities that are quite spectacular. However, a tragic accident causes Dale to regress. He remains socially isolated and withdrawn. Then as a teenager he engages in a game a basketball and becomes a sports sensation. Dale “Superman” Suderman becomes the world’s greatest athlete, gaining fortune, power, and fame along the way. Eventually Dale “Superman” Suderman becomes a media and corporate conglomerate so powerful that he threatens to ruin the financial empire of Lex Luthor. Luthor won’t have that and sets out to find a way to bring about Superman’s downfall. Along the way, Dale grows a conscious through the interactions of his close friend and advisor.

Action-wise, SUPERMAIN INC. 1999 ANNUAL REPORT is fairly tame. However, the story is a very character-driven piece exploring and examining the ethical, moral, and psychological elements of Superman’s character in a way that comics don’t always do. Therefore, despite the lack of action, the story is good and I enjoyed it. The illustrations in the book are rather slick and refined, reflecting the corporate identity that Dale “Superman” Suderman takes on.

The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes

Hi folks, it's been awhile! I'm Olga from Get Thee to a Punnery!

I'm not really sure why, but it's taken me years to finally read a book by Neil Gaiman. Yes, I've heard lots of things about him, and they've all been good things. He sounds like he would be right up my alley: dark, brooding stories about mysterious people in interesting and (sometimes) made-up lands.

Part of the problem is that Neil Gaiman has a huge bibliography and I didn't know anyone who could point me in the right direction. This is the same problem I have with Terry Pratchett. I would love to read Pratchett, but I don't know where to begin. If anyone would like to recommend me a Pratchett book to start reading, I would be thrilled.

Anyway, back to Gaiman. I have finally broken through the bibliography and started where I probably should have years ago: The Sandman, Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes.

Preludes and Nocturnes introduces us to the Sandman, the king of the Dreamworld. When we first meet him, he is captured by an ambitious magician, stripped of his clothing, his helmet, his magic sandbag and his red jewel. Naked and powerless, he is imprisoned in the basement of the magician's estate for decades inside a magical sphere. Years go by and the magician dies of old age, feeble and no closer to the Sandman's power than before he had captured the demi-god.

The magician's son, frightened by the Sandman's power, is too afraid to set the king of dreams free after so many years of imprisonment. Finally, when the son is nearing his own death, the Sandman is able to break through his prison and wrecks revenge on the cowardly magician's son.

Meanwhile, the Dreamworld is in a shambles. While the Sandman is imprisoned, chaos reigns through the dreams. Some people simply stop sleeping, while others fall asleep and never wake up again—until the Sandman escapes.

While he finally has his freedom, the Sandman must now find his stolen possessions, no easy feat now that they have been scattered. The Sandman travels through hell to challenge a demon for his helmet, finds his sand in the possession of a former lover of John Constantine, and his red jewel in the hands of a crazed man who has turned it into a weapon powerful enough to bring down society.

To say that this introduction to the Sandman is fast-paced and rivetting is not giving the book justice. I can see why people rave about the series. Gaiman is a masterful storyteller. Part comic book hero, part fairy tale, it's unlike any comic book I've read in awhile.

Rating: 4/5

May 11, 2009

American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

First Second, New York, 2006

This is a beautifully rendered and well written book that braids together three story lines. The book open with a tale about the Monkey King, a famous Chinese trickster character, who crashes a party in heaven and wrecks havoc. Then we are introduced to Jin Wang, who has moved from San Fransisco to suburbia and entered a very white elementary school. Finally we meet Danny and his cousin Chin-Kee, a perfect representative of the stereotypical Chinese "coolie". Gene Yang does a wonderful job leading the reader in different directions until the final surprising resolution. This may be a bit confusing for some but it pays off in the end.

These stories are funny, poignant and combine to create a tale of race, identity, exclusion and self acceptance . This book has been awarded several prizes including the Printz Prize in 2007 and a National Book Award nomination. Like Laika, American Born Chinese would be a great introduction to the graphic novel genre.

May 6, 2009

Ethel & Ernest by Raymond Briggs

Ethel & Ernest is a true story of Briggs' parents, from their first encounter to their deaths. It's a story of two ordinary people, who experience the changing of the world around them: Second World War, the arrival of television, people landing on the moon, as they brought up their only son. It's really nice for a change to read a book about ordinary lives. No abuse, violence, extreme poverty, and all the things that make the world dark and gloomy. This time, it's intimate insight into life of a simple working class couple, who have simple wants and dreams, who are happy and sad for things that are important to them (not necessary to the world of course).

Read my complete review here...

This is my first post for this blog. The other graphic novels that I've read for this challenge:
  1. The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot (finished 02/09, rating 4/5)
  2. The Sandman Vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman (finished 03/09, rating 3.5/5)
  3. The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman (finished 03/09, rating 5/5)
  4. Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham (finished 03/09, rating 4.5/5)
  5. Burnout by Rebecca Donner (finished 04/09, rating 3.5/5)
  6. Fables Vol 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham (finished 04/09, rating 4/5)
  7. Clockwork Girl by Sean O’Reilly and Kevin Hanna (finished 04/09, rating 3.5/5)
I was going for Minor, but I'm now aiming for Major :)

May 2, 2009

Laika by Nick Abadzis

Laika By Nick Abadzis

First Second, New York, 2007

Nick Abadzis has written a chronicle of the early Soviet space program and the little dog sent up in a satellite, never to return to earth. It is a combination of fact and fiction, describing Laika's early life and the different characters involved with her. It tells of the political pressure to get a living being into space, the conflicts within the space program and the tender influence Laika had on those around her.

The story of her death was initially ignored by the European and U.S. press in favor of the "space race" and the cold war dilemma of Russian dominance in space. The question of animals sacrificed in the name of science was not one discussed at the time. Laika's death created an opening for this discussion to begin, perhaps paving the way for the demand to end to mistreatment of animals, the idea of animal rights and the creation of animal havens.

The sadness of the story is balanced by the beautifully drawn and colored graphics depicting the frigid wastes of Siberia, the street of Russian cities, the research laboratories and Laika's dreams of flying and "seeing everything from here." It would be a wonderfully introduction to the graphic novel genre but be forworned, I was in tears by the end of the book.