Month: December 2016

The Vision

4839761-the_vision_1_cover-669x1028The first collection in an on-going series. I don’t usually read superhero comics–it’s other ones that interest me, but this is recommended by Gene Luen Yang , whose work everyone should read.

This is a familiar suburban story of a new family moving into a house on Hickory Branch Lane, Arlington, VA.  A suburb where they are not really welcome. The family are different–they are synthbots.  The Vision, his wife, Virginia, and their children Viv and Vin. They are trying to live a good life here, but nothing really works out. The Vision is off–he’s one of the Avengers– tackling super-villains especially Ultron.  Viv is attacked by the Grim Reaper, and during her recovery, Vin gets suspended from school for fighting with another boy.

Neighbours graffiti their house.  Another tries to blackmail them. Vin is isolated in high school.  The plan is not working. The family don’t always go in the same direction.

We are told early on that two neighbours, who bring cookies to the newcomers, will die because “one of the Visions will set George and Nora’s house on fire.”  It doesn’t happen in this book. The story continues.  The Vision has his doubts about whether he should continue saving humanity. “He would fix what had been broken.  He would hide what could not be fixed…He who longed to be human..recognized that it was a human decision that every day all men and women make this same choice, to go on even though they could not possibly go on.” It ends with him trying to do everything to bring happiness to his family.  The synthbots are as human as the humans.



American Widow by Alissa Torres

51jtw9rfnvl-_sy344_bo1204203200_What was it like for the widows of people who died in the World Trade Center in 2001. Alissa Torres writes about her experience in this graphic memoir  with art by Sungyoon Choi.

At the end of the book, on the first anniversary of 9/11, Allissa goes to Hawaii–away from it all. A relief from the shock and the struggle to rebuild her life and to get the relief from organizations like the Red Cross that had raised so much money to support the families of the victims.  All the lofty rhetoric was empty, as rhetoric so often is , and this book takes the reader to the ground and step step you enter the daily life of those truly affected by the tragedy.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

26372Anything Neil Gaiman publishes these days deserves and grabs attention. This is deserved not least for his role as writer of the one of the most important graphic sequences The Sandman . This short story —original text is available on Gaiman’s website–will be a film directed by John Cameron Mitchell, in 2017.  This version is illustrated by graphic artists Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba.

Don’t look to Gaiman for the advice suggested in the title.  It seems to boil down to “You just have to talk to them.” as Vic–the confident one–says to Enn–his shy friend. The two are trying to find a party without the full details, and instead gatecrash a different party that seems to be a mostly female gathering of exchange students.  Where they are from is a mystery. Vic quickly finds a way to get Stella upstairs. After talking to a couple of girls–Enn finally meets Triolet (a poem of eight lines, typically of eight syllables each, rhyming abaaabab and so structured that the first line recurs as the fourth and seventh and the second as the eighth.).  This story is a poem–the drawings add imagery that sparkles and takes you right to the heart of the solar system if not beyond. Triolet is more spirit than person. “She began to whisper something in my ear. It’s the strangest thing about poetry. You can tell it’s poetry even if you don’t speak the language.” Enn and Vic leave the party in a hurry after Stella seems to turn on Vic.  They have touched a world outside of our own, but return to the everyday streets of an English town.

Gaiman, Moon and Bar have taken a simple story of two boys on the pull and turned it into a graphic poem.  I am not sure what the film will do– it will have to make too many decisions, but I will see it anyway.

The original story won the  Locus Award

Dare to Disappoint: Growing up in Turkey

Meet Özge with her messy orange hair and striped shirt. She has a sister, Pelin. Mum and Dad. They live in Izmir, Turkey. Özge often follows her impulses. She challenges life.  The book is laid out like an artist’s journal.  Drawings scattered across the page. Some sketches some coloured or washed as though Samanci is piecing together short scenes from her life while developing the narrative of her life.  Whole sections of the book are the history of Turkey and what it was like to grow up there in the 1980s.  One TV channel.  Only a few choices of items at the store. Ataturk talks to young Özge from his portrait.

This is an apparent memoir about heading off in the wrong direction.  Not the direction your father, your teachers, your college professors and even your friends see for you.  In fact,  Özge disappoints herself, until finally she comes to where she is able to tell the story.  Now she is the graphic novelist we are reading.  But she began as a maths major, to be at as good a university as she can be at.  But she struggles. Although her mother supports her she doesn’t help her find what she really wants to do in a world where everyone else providing at best resistance.

I don’t want to use that reviewer cliche that even if it dares to disappoint, it doesn’t.   This is full of energetic drawing, use of colour and photos to liven up the mainly line drawn characters and scenes that are never boxed in by frames.  A colour wash or less defines each cell of the story.

Learn about a culture where Christian and Moslem, devout and secular interact on a daily basis, not comfortably or easily, but nonetheless they coexist. You will learn something of Turkish history often through Özge’s admiration for Ataturk. Of how she and her family lived with one TV station–where Dallas was a viewing highlight.

Özge’s mother and sister, but a father who “liked hard work, order and discipline.  These were the tools that helped him survive go to college, and become a teacher.” Özge asks her mother, “Why does he yell so much, doesn’t he love me?” Her mother answers her, “Your dad loves you. He never had a family.  He is learning how to be a dad without having had one.”

The book ends, “I had to do what I loved to do even if it’s against the expectations of the people I love.” Özge says, “Come, let’s swim against the tide” and the multicoloured fish replies, “Do you dare to disappoint.”