GN Review: Friends with Boys


GN Review: Friends with BoysFriends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
Release Date: Feb 2012
Publisher: First Second
Pages: 224
Source: NetGalley

Maggie McKay is starting her first day of high school. Normally this fact would cause anyone stress, but for Maggie it’s even worse because up until now she has been homeschooled. With only minimum help from her three older brothers, Maggie slowly learns to navigate the halls of her high school, including finding the 9th grade bathrooms, the best lunch spots, and where people make out.

Of course, high school isn’t the only thing that Maggie has to deal with. Her mother has also left the family within the last year. A fact that Maggie blames herself for happening. She believes if she had been just more “girly” and done more things with her mother she would still be around. Throw in a ghost that has haunted her since she was a child and Maggie has more on her plate than most people. It’s no wonder she hesitant to all the changes that are rapidly happening. However, with some help from her new friends, Lucy and Alastair, and even her brothers she’ll realize that change isn’t so bad.

Friends with Boys is a great coming-of-age story. Maggie’s emotions were so raw and real that I could relate to her every step of the way. Although, Maggie isn’t the only one dealing with high school “stuff”. From the bully to those being bullied, Hicks shows how peer-pressure and popularity can affect anyone. I loved how she weaved in Alastair, Lucy, and Daniel’s story flawlessly. It never felt forced, but something that slowly came out as she learned about her new friends. I also loved than a year later, Alastair is still struggling with the guilt and remorse for the things he said and did. Yes, he has come a long way, but he still has miles to go.

While I’m on the subject of characters, I have to talk a little more about Lucy. Hands down she is my favorite character of the bunch. She got this quirky cuteness to her that makes me want to hug her to death or pinch her cheeks or maybe both. On the outside she blasts her uniqueness to everyone with her multiple piercings and funky hair, but it was her personality that won me over. From her excitement about ghosts, to her habit of sticking her foot in her mouth, and her love for her brother she easily took the slot as favorite character. Not to mention the way she waved and sat with Maggie so she wouldn’t be alone in a new school. This girl seriously has so much heart it isn’t even funny.

While I loved the majority of Friends with Boys, there are a couple of small issues I have with it. The big one is the ghost. There is so many questions surrounding her it’s not even funny. Why can Maggie see her? What does she want? Why does she follow her around? Will she ever go away? Not to mention how the graphic novel ends with the ghost looking pitifully sad and floating down a path. Does this mean she’s leaving? I’ve gone through it twice now and I still have no clue. My only hope is that Hicks plans to make this a series and that the answer will become clear in the next issues. However, if this is to be a stand-alone, the ending will bother me for some time.

The other thing that bothered me was really very small and I think it was more of a personal interest. I wanted to know why her mom left. Was it a separation? A divorce? Or did she just up and leave them? Is she still close where they can see her or talk to her? Or has there been no communication at all since she left? The flashbacks made her seem quite loving and I don’t know if I quite buy into the “she sacrificed so much she needed to do something for herself” excuse. Again, I’m really hoping this isn’t a stand-alone and that it’ll be addressed as the story progresses.

The last thing I want to touch on is the art. I really like Hicks style. It’s simplistic most of the time. She doesn’t overload it with meaningless detail that just clutter up panels. The way that emotions travel through the characters is just…wow. I could have ignored the words completely and gotten the jest of the story just through their expressions and movements. There are some panels, ones that deal mainly with setting, that have a lot of detail, but I really enjoy her simplistic style more. Without a doubt I will be keeping my eye on new creations as well as checking out old works by Hicks in the future.

GN Review: Possessions: The Better House Trap


GN Review: Possessions: The Better House TrapPossessions: The Better House Trap by Ray Fawkes
Series: Possessions #3
Release Date: Feb 2012
Publisher: Oni Press
Pages: 90
Source: Publisher

Enough is enough. Gurgazon the Pit Demon has been welcomed, nurtured, fed, and complimented. Gurgazon can tolerate no more! The time has come, once and for all, for escape! The Lewellyn-Vane house has been mapped. The plans are laid out. The ghosts are ready. The only thing that still stands in their way is... The butler. But is Gurgazon prepared for him this time? Can he really be defeated? POSSESSIONS BOOK 3: THE BETTER HOUSE TRAP is the third in the YALSA award-winning slapstick series by Ray Fawkes

Gurgazon is back up to her old tricks in Possessions volume 3. Her newest scheme for escape includes getting Mr. Thorne out of the manor. With a little help from an old friend and a lie, Thorne leaves on a hunt for a new house member. Of course, he doesn’t know that it’s a trap that will end in his disposal. While he is out the spirits begin their plan for escape and breaking one trap after another. It looks like freedom may just be in their reach… I won’t ruin the ending, but I will say I was surprised and screaming at the huge cliffhanger. I’m not sure I can wait a year to see what happens next!

This latest installment was no disappointment from the rest. There weren’t as many laughing out loud moments, but the scheming and hi-jinks were there 100%. I like that we’re learning more about Thorne without really learning anything about him. Fawkes is slipping in tiny hints here and there and I can’t wait until it’s fully revealed. I’m not quite sure myself what Thorne is, but I’m leaning on the side of a wizard. It would explain his slow aging and smelling of magic. I’m sure I’m totally wrong, but it’s still fun to guess!

Fawke’s simplistic style continues on with the third volume. This style works very well for the series. The panels are usually filled with the characters and sparse detail for the background. Considering how one-track minded Gurgazon is the panels work to keep you focus on her plans. This time around the panels were done in pink accent. If my theory is correct this is because the Pale Lady’s back story was introduced this time; boy, is she all about girly stuff such as dresses and shoes, which is one of the reasons she is now dead. I’ll be interested to see if the accent color/character continues in the next volume. There should only be two more back stories left (maybe 3 if you count Mr. Thorne) so it’ll be interesting to see what colors come into play. Of course, my theory could be wrong and merely coincidental. I suppose volume 4 is where the truth where be found.

If you haven’t picked up the Possessions series yet, I highly recommend it. If you have, be sure to leave me a comment telling me what you think!

 

Valentines Day = Cybils Love

First, Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Second, if you haven’t already heard the Cybils winners were announced today. Working on the GN panel was an honor and I’m extremely happy who won! We had some really great titles, a few I was even really torn on, but ultimately two stood above the rest. If you haven’t seen yet,  our winners were


Zita the Spacegirl
by Ben Hatke (MG)

Zita the Spacegirl’s appealing combination of humor and sci-fi adventure already has kids begging their librarians for the sequel. It’s got everything: aliens, robots, critters from the cute to the weird to the scary, and a smart, self-sufficient heroine who’s unfailingly loyal to her friends whether they happen to be human, robot or giant mouse. The visual storytelling is just as appealing—the drawing style is loose and open, and the fun character design and sound effects add liveliness and humor. There’s enough action, novelty, and color to keep younger readers interested, and enough thoughtfulness to satisfy more sophisticated readers, making this a terrific choice for a wide range of ages.


Anya’s Ghost
by Vera Brosgol (YA)

Ghost story—check. Snarky but fully rounded protagonist—check. Believable teen characters and behavior—check. Humor—yep.Anya’s Ghost has the perfect blend of story elements and it deftly layers several classic teen literature topics in a relatively short space. The themes of fitting in at school and in life, avoiding toxic friends both earthly and unearthly, and learning to come to terms with who you are, are nicely underscored by the fact that Anya is an immigrant. At the same time, Anya’s interactions with the ghost add suspense and the perfect amount of creepiness. The art style is simple, engaging and funny, and works well with a monochromatic format. A fast-paced read that doesn’t skimp on story.

If you haven’t read either one, I would highly, HIGHLY recommend grabbing a copy. They’re great GNs and well worthy of winning.

GN Review: Possessions (Bk 1 & 2)


GN Review: Possessions (Bk 1 & 2)Possessions: Unclean Getaway (bk 1) & The Ghost Table (bk 2) by Ray Fawkes
Series: Possessions #1
Release Date: March 2010 & 2011
Publisher: Oni Press
Pages: 91

Meet Gurgazon the Unclean, the cuddliest little pit demon ever trapped in the Llewellyn-Vane House for Captured Spirits and Ghostly Curiosities! This pit demon may look just like a cute little 5-year old girl, but it isn't interested in playing checkers with other ghosts. The Gurgazon is determined to escape! Will the house contain it? Or will the world of peace and friendly bunnies come to an end as the Gurgazon exacts its revenge?

Being the newest member of the Llewellyn-Vane House, Gurgazon isn’t so…shall we say whipped? The other four paranormal entities have been in the household for years and have had their spirits essentially broken. The hundreds, perhaps thousands, of failed attempts don’t stop Gurgazon though. She (he?) is determined to make an escape happen. Gurgazon spends hours brainstorming ideas and getting the others to bend to her will. However, Mr. Thorne (their sort-of butler/babysitter) is always one step ahead, which is why escape attempts usually fail. Although, I’m pretty sure that Gurgazon’s motto is “if first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. She may be accepting friendship (and ice cream) by then end of book one, but you know that Gurgazon has several more tricks up her sleeve.

In book two, we get to meet the Specter Collectors Society aka little old women who collect spirits. That’s right. They’re all little old women who ooh and aah over spirits as if they were babies. I’m pretty sure they’ve all got a couple of screws loose. While the plan plot doesn’t surround Gurgazon trying to escape, you can still see her plotting during the dinner party (and after). Book two is more about how these old biddies treat the entities as if they were pets, rating them on their scariness/what kind of “show” they put on. We get to meet some other “collections” who are basically all stuck up. You would think that because they were all trapped by this Society they’d be working together, but they would rather belittle and compete against one another. It was fun to see the Llewellyn-Vane House gang team together to put the other spirits in their place. They’re such oddball spirits, but I can’t help but root for them. I have a feeling that if they continue to work as a team, they may just figure out a way to escape.

As a whole, I’m completely enjoying the Possessions series. Gurgazon is one of those in-your-face demons that either has you cringing or laughing. I love how she’s all like GURGAZON IS THE GREATEST BOW BEFORE ME while the others just sort of shrug and ignore her tantrums. Seriously, the pit-demon truly acts like a 5 year old most of the time. Though, in a way that’s part of the problem since, you know, 5 years old aren’t all that terrifying most of the time.

The other spirits are fun as well. I like that Fawkes is slowly weaving in their back-stories into the novels. Each little tidbit he offers fleshes them out more and more. I still feel as if there is a lot we don’t know yet, especially about Mr. Thorne. I have so many questions about him it’s not even funny. Like who he is and why des he “babysits” these spirits. Not only that, but I’m interested in how and why the Specter Collectors Society got started. How do you simply decide one day that’s it’s a fabulous idea to start collecting poltergeists and demons? I’m interested in the paranormal as much as the next person, but this seems like an extreme.

As far as the artwork goes, Fawkes style is simplistic. Most of the panels lack a lot of detail and focus mainly on the characters. That’s not to say simplistic is bad, in fact, I think it works quite well for this series. The Possessions Series is more about what hi-jinks Gurgazon is getting into, which makes it fitting that the panels focus mainly on her. I do like the many faces of Gurgazon, even though she is stuck in terrifying mode half the time. (No one else really has a face beyond Mr. Thorne) The coloring for the panels are done in black & white with an accent color. I do like how the accent colors change from book to book and that they seem to correspond with whose back-story is introduced. So book one is green for Gurgazon and book two is blue for the Ice Field Lights. I’ll be interested to see if this theme continues as the series progresses.

If you haven’t read the Possessions series yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a fast paced series that will have you laughing at all the mischief. I think tweens/teens will highly enjoy these GNs and I plan on adding them to my collection ASAP. Be sure to let me know if you have read the series, I’d love to hear what others think!

 

GN Review: Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things


GN Review: Courtney Crumrin and the Night ThingsCourtney Crumrin and the Night Things Series: Courtney Crumrin #1
Release Date: May 2003 (rereleased March 2012)
Pages: 128
Source: NetGalley

Meet Courtney Crumrin. Uprooted from her home in the city, her parents have relocated them to a well-to-do suburb to live with their ailing & creepy Great Uncle Aloysius. Only he may not be as sickly as he claims to be. Courtney quickly learns there is more than meets the eye in her uncle home including things that go bump in the night. Told in four different chapters, Courtney slowly learns about the otherworldly things living around her such as goblins, changelings, and talking cats. (

I’m rather sad that it took me so long to discover this graphic novel series. I fell in instant love with this volume and quickly devoured the rest of the series. Courtney’s world is a great look into the darker, grimmer side of magic. The creatures/otherworldly things are not cute and cuddly in the least. While some play nice with Courtney and Uncle Aloysius, the majority have no sympathy or kindness towards the human race. Even Courtney finds herself in several sticky situations that would have led to disastrous results if not for her uncle.

Courtney, while a loner, is an overall likable character. Yes, she’s mouthy and messes around with stuff she shouldn’t, but can you really blame her? If I discovered magical books and beings, I’m pretty sure I would be seeking out more information as well. She is, however, a tad bit reckless. She has a tendency to leap without looking, something that will get her in trouble as the series progresses. Aloysius is also a great character. There’s still a lot of mystery surrounding him, but it’s obvious he cares about Courtney in his own gruff way, especially since he is always quick to come to her rescue. The only reoccurring characters I don’t like are her parents. Seriously, I wish I could stuff them in a bag and throw them in out for the trash man. They only care about themselves, money, and social standing. They way they treat Courtney is sometimes infuriating (more so as the series continues then in this first volume).

As for the artwork, Naifeh does not disappoint. I love the level of depth in the panels and could spend hours just soaking in all the little details. He not only establishes the characters, but the world around them as well. While I am a huge fan of the simplistic style, I do love how Naifeh made me feel like I was in the world. The version I read had the first part in full color done by colorist Warren Wucinich. I’ve always felt like full color brings graphic novels to a whole new level and Courtney Crumrin is no exception. While the black and white panels work fine, the color ones pop off the page for me. I will be excited to see the first volume in full color come March.

If you haven’t given the Courtney Crumrin series yet, I highly recommend it. The four volumes are fast-paced and enjoyable from start to finish. Of course, if you have be sure to leave me a comment letting me know what you thought!