Graphic Novel Review – March: Book Two

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Graphic Novel Review: MARCH: Book One

Collecting: March: Book Two (original graphic novel)

Original Release Date: 2015

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

Characters: John Lewis, Dr. Martin Luthor King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael, SNCC

Writer: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin

Artist: Nate Powell

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 8
Art – 8
Captivity and Length – 7
Identity – 10
Use of Medium – 9
Depth – 8
Fluidity – 8
Intrigue/Originality – 8
The Little Things – 8
Overall awesomeness – 8

Inspired by the use of comic books to send across messages that couldn’t be transcribed in the written or oral form of communication, John Lewis, with the help of Top Shelf Productions, created March: Book One, an autobiography and first-person perspective of other Civil Rights stories. After laying down much of the framework of who John Lewis was, where he came from and what he believed in, we are thrown right into the deep end as this volume takes us through the evolution of the Movement, and journeys through the history of the Freedom Riders.

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Book Two is a noticeable improvement over the first book, where all three creators really got their feet yet. Whether it has to do with Lewis’ personal growth or the nature of the Civil Rights Movement at the time of the events, there is a much more adult tone taken in Book Two. It wasn’t just the increasingly violent reactions from policemen and citizens towards the Freedom Riders, well-meaning white citizens who came to their defense, and dozens of black children.  No, there was a constant looming threat of defamation, imprisonment and often times death that each of them had to be constantly aware for. It was a movement so formidable that even Dr. Martin Luthor King, Jr. was hesitant to go on it – or so the book implies. These accounts are directly from John Lewis’ memory of first-hands, and I’ll be damned if I’m the one to tell him that he got it wrong.

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Where the books excels is that it isn’t just a collection of stories from Senator John Lewis’ mouth. No, this is a calculated story with purpose. Scenes from the book are not only pieced together to form another successful chapter in his life, and that of the Civil Rights Movement. They are done so with not just the rationalization of a fiery young man, but the clarity of a wise man reflecting on his years as a freedom fighter. It’s refreshing to arrive at the conclusion that even though the courage that it took to actually follow through as a Freedom Rider was monumental, the entire movement was sparked by the simple yet fierce desire to make the situation better.

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Technically-speaking, there are several improvements to this volume over the first installment. While the art was satisfactory in Book One, Nate Powell’s pencils are eye-catching and often shockingly-vivid. There were several scenes that convey the brutality and injustice that Lewis saw first-hand. There were other improvements, too, notably how well Powell and co-writer Aydin took advantage of the freedom granted in creating a graphic novel, really using unique ways to display onomatopoeic words and show the tone of a phrase by lettering it in a specific way. It’s a quite interesting way to communicate with readers – one I hope will catch on with other creators.

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March: Book Two expertly brings the book to a close by chronicling Lewis’ attendance at Barack Obama’s inauguration in DC, the same city at which Lewis (and several other keynotes, like MLK) marched on Washington DC to give some of the most memorable speeches of the whole Movement. This scene illustrates that while progress towards equality and civil liberty has been astronomical, there is still plenty of work to do. That is why the Denver Freedom Riders have formed. The merging of goals between the generations is something that John Lewis speaks specifically about when describing his time working with senior activists. The capabilities of social media have made us all activists, but nothing really gets done unless the movement starts at the ground floor. I spoke with Hush writer Jumoke about the movement that’s gaining momentum in the Mile High City.

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The legacy that connects our generations is a simple one; a group of people of diverse background looked up at something going in the nation and decided that it wasn’t enough for them to simply stay at home. Some of us went as individuals (Anthony [Grimes] and myself), many of us went in later groups, but most of the core group went down to Ferguson during the height of the unrest. As we came back, we realized that there was some work that needed to be done and continued right here from Denver.

“We believe in the inherent dignity of human life. We believe no one is more aware of that inherent worth than those that society has attempted to dehumanize, marginalize and oppress.”

Those two sentences, the first two in the Denver Freedom Rider’s mission statement, could be included in almost every social justice movement creed of the last 100 years. The same fights for human dignity are being waged – only the actors and battlefields have changed. For some, that may be disheartening, but, for me, that actually gives me strength and courage. Although it seems there will always be injustice, oppression, and battles to fight, I take heart in the fact that there will also always be those who ride for freedom. 

– Jumoke Emery, community organizer and Denver Freedom Rider

For those looking to get involved in the community through the Denver Freedom Riders, here is a link to their Facebook page with more details.

I hope you enjoyed the review. I’d just like to point out that none of the pictures in this work are mine, and should all be credited to the good folks at Top Shelf Productions. You can find March: Book Two on their website, here.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

“Respect My Craft” – James O’Barr

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

 

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Click on the link to take you to all of our Denver Comic Con 2014 “Respect My Craft” articles

  

Name: James O’Barr

Profession: Writer, Painter

Notable Work: The Crow, and minor series for almost every comic publisher

“It’s not death if you refuse it… It is if you accept it.”– James O’Barr –The Crow

 

James O’Barr may not be the most heard of name, and he is a rather reserved individual to boot. However, in seeing him in interviews or if you meet him at this year’s Denver Comic Con, you would not expect him to be the creator of one of the most iconic characters in comics and cinema of The Crow. Although there have been multiple comics, films and even a television show based on The Crow, James O’Barr was only involved in the first and by far the best film starring Brandon Lee.

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James went through some pretty traumatic events to be able to create what most would call his masterpiece. He lost his fiance due to a drunk driver, which frustrated him as it would anyone. James went and joined the Marines to try and add structure to his life after this happened and, while in service, he started drawing the character of Eric Draven, who would become The Crow in an attempt to let out some of his emotions and he felt a character that symbolized that love could transcend death and carry a soul to a place where injustice could be justified.

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The Crow remained unpublished for years until Caliber Comics published it almost ten years after the initial creation. The delay was due to the fact that O’Barr did odd jobs once he returned home from the military, including detailing cars and making t-shirts, all while perfecting his writing and art style for The Crow. O’Barr actually did extensive studying of the human form which helped make his characters look like normal human beings and not the usual spandex-wearing muscle-bound heroes we see in comics. The Crow was, and continues to be, the best-selling independent graphic novel of all time, which is quite the achievement when you think of the many other independent comic book characters that we have seen become international sensations. Because of the success with the initial printing, The Crow was turned into a film starring Brandon Lee with multiple sequels (sadly, not starring Brandon Lee) and a television show that remains internationally syndicated. IDW had recently begun running a series for The Crow and there is a reboot of the film in the works for which James is a consultant.

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Other than The Crow‘s initial run at Caliber and the recent Pestilence series at IDW, O’Barr has been the author of two other Crow series at IDW – Curare and Skinning the Wolves, but he is not just a one-trick Crow; he has worked on minor projects for such publishers as Anubis, Dark Horse, Image, and Marvel. One of which that gained some attraction is a short story he wrote for Dark Horse Comics series Dark Horse Presents which was titled Frame 137. As with his other writing and design, it was very gothic in nature and was loosely based off of the Wizard of Oz but in a dreary, post-apocalyptic setting. O’Barr originally wanted this to be a series of graphic novels, but during his planning, he had to go out and do some press for The Crow which made him too busy to continue the pursuit of a full graphic novel series and so he settled for release through Dark Horse Presents. This story caught the attention of the Australian filmmaker Judd Tilyard, who decided to turn it into a short film. O’Barr joined in and even created new artwork for an animated sequence in the film.

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The biggest project he has worked on besides The Crow though is a motion comic through Motionworks comics that he has been working on for years titled Sundown.  This project has been around since 2010, but not made much headway as far as a release. This series is a Western comic, which is definitely out there, as it includes a talking horse, is about three vampires in the old west, and it is likely the first gothic western comic of any kind. The vampires are not your typical vampires though, as he has given them actual diseases one of which is a blood disease and the other a skin disease that causes them to be allergic to the sun. These three characters travel around looking for a cure all the while the Civil War is happening all around them. O’Barr wanted to try and redefine the western by doing this book as well as redefining his writing and creativity. This story will definitely be one that any fan of The Crow will enjoy as nobody does gothic creepiness and beauty like James O’Barr. Only recently was the first issue released but as of right now it is only available on iPad but is going to be coming to iPhone and Android soon. So keep your eyes out for that as it will definitely be a series you will not want to miss.

None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties (Caliber, IDW, Motionworks Comics and the photographer, Luigi Novi). Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con with Chew creator, John Layman.

Graphic Novel Review – Persepolis

Graphic Novel Review – Persepolis

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Collecting: Persepolis Original Graphic Novel

Original Release Date: 2000

Publisher: Pantheon Books

Character: Marjane Satrapi, her family and friends

Writer: Marjane Satrapi

Art: Marjane Satrapi

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 7
Art – 7
Captivity and Length – 6
Identity – 7
Use of Medium – 7
Depth – 7
Fluidity – 7
Intrigue/Originality – 9
The Little Things – 9
Overall awesomeness – 7

Chances are, unless you or your family were personally affected by the Islamic Revolution in the late 1970s, those of us under thirty probably don’t know more about it than what we saw in Ben Affleck’s Argo. The revolution to get the Shah out of power was a difficult one, but it was one of the people. It was a fiery revolution by a people that had been oppressed, culminating in Black Friday, which ended up with nearly 100 dead. The revolution ended with the Shah being outed, and it also gave Marjane Satrapi the ammunition for writing Persepolis.

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Persepolis, which I believe is named for the city where the 2,500th Persian Empire anniversary took place in (an extravagant celebration held by the government in a local city where people were visibly starving), is about the Islamic Revolution – and the fallout from it. The whole story is told through the eyes and ears of a young Marji. The losses that she and her family suffered bleed through the pages and you feel genuinely shocked that things like this could have happened. These were the days before YouTube, Facebook and camera phones (a la Arab Spring), so its horrors were able to be kept under much tighter wraps.

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Satrapi’s character is brazen and unashamedly flawed. From “playing” revolution with her friends to realizing that her family was actually in danger when Iraqi scud missiles begin hitting her surrounding neighborhoods, Marji is always growing. She stays retable throughout the whole book, acting out like a pre-teen girl does, sharing relationships and reacting the way a girl does. Sometimes, almost to a point of awkwardness, Satrapi shares the most intimate details of her story.

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The transitions also fall a little flat. On one side of the coin, I can see how skipping around from subject to subject without much pause reflects not only her state of mind, but also the state of life they lived in. On the other side, though, that style can’t bode well for a 150+ page graphic novel. Numerous characters I can’t even remember the names of were introduced, just to be executed, imprisoned or tortured panels later. There are at least two characters who definitely impact Marji’s growth. Mrs. and Mr. Satrapi are held in such esteem by their daughter. The upper-class Marxist intellectuals are Marji’s rock. They are fair, and take the time to explain the ways of the world to her, and subsequently us. Ultimately, the violence in Iran forces her parents to take drastic action that sets up the second book.

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The sarcastic tone of the book and hilarious coming-of-age adventures carry it through the murder and mayhem. It’s refreshing, because it demonstrates that women all over the world aren’t too different. Satrapi might not be a war hero or a martyr like her uncle, but she’s a hero to more people all over the world for her honest portrayal of revolution, tyranny, love and loss.

All media credited to Pantheon Books

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

 

“Respect My Craft” – Gwendolyn Willow Wilson

In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of comic books, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.

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Name: G. Willow Wilson

Profession: Writer

Notable WorkCairo, AirVixen (mini-series), Ms. Marvel (right meow!)

“You need to have integrity, even when you’re writing fiction. If you tell a story that gives a false or misleading impression about a real person or a group of people, you’re accountable for that, just as you would be if you were writing a nonfictional story. Fiction is not a license to lie.” – Gwendolyn Willow Wilson

You may recognize the name as the writer of the new Marvel series, Ms. Marvel, but G. Willow Wilson has been dropping knowledge for over a decade. Her path to Ms. Marvel was a unique one, as where she ended up is nothing compared to the journey that got her there. We may be a little biased because Wilson hails from Boulder, Colorado. Through all her worldly travels, she still considers Boulder home, although she lives between Cairo and Seattle now. “Like Frodo at the end of The Lord of the Rings, I can’t quite go back to living in the Shire, much as I might want to. I’ve seen too much of the rest of the world, and living in a small town involves a lot of pretending that the rest of the world does not exist.” If Boulder is the Shire, then Cairo must be Mordor itself. After graduating from Boston University, where Wilson got her first gig in the industry as an intern at Komikwerks (a defunct online comics publisher), she moved to Cairo to teach English.

In Egypt, Wilson took up various journalism jobs, writing for The New York Post MagazineThe Atlantic Post and the Egyptian anti-government publication Cairo Magazine that frequently challenged the Murbarak regime, years before the Arab Spring. However, GWW’s passion wasn’t always in journalism; She is a self-claimed fangirl and has been an avid comic book reader since she was a young girl. Thus, within a day of landing in Egypt, G. Willow Wilson was writing her first graphic novel, CairoCairo is the fantastical journey of six individuals and how a stolen hookah containing a Jinn (genie) leads them to a path of enlightenment. A lot of elements in the book were borrowed from her own life, which added to the honesty of it. There is a noticeable religious undertone in Cairo, but it feels neither forced nor preachy. Wilson should be applauded for her ability to share culture with readers, as opposed to making us showing it off. From Fortieth Day to Jinn mythology to dialect, G. Willow Wilson’s Cairo is educational for some, and warmly familiar for others – the embodiment of how graphic novels should be used to explore cultural diversity.

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What makes her perspective so unique in the comic book world is that she is not a typical American, nor is she a typical Muslim. At first glance, she is not automatically accepted as either identity. As an Egyptian-American, this resonated with me. Growing up “too American” for my Egyptian peers and “too Arab” for the guys on the basketball courts, I gravitated towards books like Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. Wilson’s style seems much of the same. You are who make yourself, and in a male-run industry with so few Muslim contributors, G. Willow Wilson’s success is a huge motivator for other outliers like myself trying to break out in the industry.

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Cairo opened the door for Wilson to write Air in 2008, a peculiar series about a flight attendant named Blythe who finds herself traveling through time and space. It was a “very, very weird” book, as Wilson puts it. It garnered enough acclaim to become nominated for an Eisner Award, but flat sales led to its cancellation after 24 issues. Now, this wasn’t to say that DC wasn’t impressed with her writing skills, as she wrote several one-shots and mini-series for DC over the next several years. After writing Air for Vertigo, Wilson had several runs with varying mini-series, notably the five-issue run of Vixen. G. Willow Wilson described the run as Dan Didio’s attempt to “do a DCU story set in Africa that didn’t involve armed, talking gorillas. It seemed like a worthy goal.” Vixen plays the familiar part of an outsider among her own people. It’s fascinating how universal of a feeling alienation can be, even with people of the same ethnicity, beliefs and economic background. Overcoming those feelings is the reason that we read comic books in the first place.

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Wilson has also written two novels: The Butterfly Mosque and Alif the UnseenThe Butterfly Mosque is a memoir that chronicles when she converted to Islam, fell in love with a Cairene man, and other findings during her time in Egypt. Alif the Unseen follows an Arab “hacktivist” trying to spark a digital revolution in an Arab police state. The latter was a book that was released during the Arab Spring, which has seen Egypt in political and social turmoil after the revolution that finally saw Mubarak, and subsequently the Muslim Brotherhood..

Another challenge in the transition for Wilson was writing somebody else’s character instead of her own, and it’s an especially interesting one because most writers who start out in the industry go the opposite direction – writing somebody else’s character so they may create their own work some day. However, when GWW writes a character, you know that she wrote it; her blend of down-to-earth hilarious quips is somewhat of a trademark of hers.

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G. Willow Wilson has already lived such a wondrous life, and thankfully has chosen to share it with us. She’s written a post-9/11 story about a nation drenched in ignorant fear. In Egypt, she contributed to a magazine that was a cog in the revolutionary wheel and wrote two novels that share the beauty of Islam and Egypt in a way that makes readers learn, have fun and want to come back for more. Just one issue into Ms. Marvel, and I already like I relate more to Kamala than I do to Batman (and that’s saying something).

Checked out her bibliography and still want more? Check this out:

G. Willow Wilson is strong on the Twitter scene, and her blog is full of social commentary about race and gender in comic books. Wilson frequently interacts with her fans on an individual level.

Staying involved in the community is important to Wilson, as she frequents comic book conventions and other geo-political conventions. We will be visiting her in just a short couple of weeks for Emerald City Comic Con.

I wanted to point out that none of this art is mine; it is all credited to the original publishers (Marvel and DC/Vertigo Comics) . Thanks for all the love and support for You Nerd Like A Girl. Look to us next week for more “Respect My Craft!,” featuring the industries most talented contributors.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Graphc Novel Review – March: Book One

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Graphic Novel Review: MARCH: Book One

Collecting: March: Book One (original graphic novel)

Original Release Date: 2013

Publisher: Top Shelf Productions

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Characters: John Lewis, Dr. Martin Luthor King, Jr.

Writer: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin

Artist: Nate Powell

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 8
Art – 7
Captivity and Length – 6
Identity – 8
Use of Medium – 8
Depth – 7
Fluidity – 8
Intrigue/Originality – 7
The Little Things – 9
Overall awesomeness – 7

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A lot of people may not recognize it, but the graphic novel medium, when used correctly, can become a form of literature more descriptive than a novel or moving than the art. In March: Book One, the first of a trilogy leading up the March on Washington in 1963, we are fortunate enough to get that experience. What impressed me so much about March is that it was written by comic book novices. And who would have thought that one of the most powerful comic books (graphic novel, technically, but you get the jist) in 2013 was written by a United Stated Congressman?

Of course, John Lewis may be a comic book novice, but he’s no stranger to the Civil Rights Movement. Making up one of the “Big Six” in the Movement (a list that consisted of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and four others that each contributed to the Movement), John Lewis is the only one living. He is the Democratic Representative of Georgia and has quite the colorful tale to tell in this black and white autobiography.

So where do we start on our march to freedom? Well, we start at the chicken farm. Lewis begins his story of non-violence and racial tension by explaining his love for chickens. It came off as odd and unexpected, but ultimately won me over as an honest sentiment that foreshadows his love for all livings things – as well as offering some very adorable panels. The way he wanted to save all the chickens, make sure they all got fair treatment, named them and even tried to baptize them was a true ode to childish innocence and naivety.

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March reads more like a memoir, taking breaks to revisit the current time to move the story along. It’s a method that works for the first few chapters, but ultimately becomes a little too much like a cliché television special for my taste. However, the way the story is presented, you can’t help but get sucked into the time. One of my favorite anecdotes in March is when he snuck off in the morning to run and catch the bus to go to school. The way he deliberately disobeys his father to go to school instead of help at home was a choice made with a gravity that a lot of younger readers can’t really grasp. Lewis’ trip up North with his uncle Otis was also eye-opening to just how different the two regions were in the 1950s.

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Much of the visualization can be credited to the fine art of Nate Powell who captures the essence of the moment fittingly for each scene. The shading is perfect, and there is incredible detail when warranted. Even the way that onomatopoetic words are displayed and lettered add to the ambience of the moment.

The story really starts to kick into high gear when Lewis goes to college, and joins a Non-Violence group preparing themselves for marches and sit-ins by testing each others’ tolerance levels. It’s an amazing part of the Movement that I had never even considered previous to reading MarchIf you’ve studied African-American History, you know that sit-ins were an integral part of the Civil Rights Movement – but these people, most of which were courageous young adults, literally took turns berating and humiliating each other to see if their resolve for non-violence was strong enough. It’s unreal to imagine college kids banding together to do something like that today, and makes me appreciate every liberty I have.

Overall, March bridges a gap in perspective of the Civil Rights Movement that has formed between writing and film, with great recounts from Lewis that is complemented by the beautiful simplicity of Powell’s art. It falls a bit short in the sense that it doesn’t exactly have a clear direction, and the partitioning can seem a bit choppy with a lack of transitions. Luckily, Lewis’ story is so captivating and earnest that it pretty much writes itself. In the grand scheme of the book, those shortcomings are more like rough edges around an otherwise great read. It’s the best (albeit maybe the only) graphic novel portraying Black History I’ve read, and would recommend it to anybody who would like a different perspective of the Movement.

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I hope you enjoyed the review. I’d just like to point out that none of the pictures in this work are mine, and should all be credited to the good folks at Top Shelf Productions.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

Graphic Novel Review – Justice League Volume One: Origin (New 52)

Graphic Novel Review: Justice League Volume One: Origins

CollectingJustice League (New 52) #1-6

Original Release Date: 2011-2012

Publisher: DC Comics

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Characters: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Cyborg, Aquaman, Darkseid

Writer: Geoff Johns (Blackest NightBrightest DayFlashpoint)

Artist: Jim Lee (Batman: HushX-Men: Mutant Genesis, Superman: For Tomorrow)

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 8

Art – 10

Captivity and Length – 9

Identity – 7

Use of Medium – 9

Depth – 7

Fluidity – 9

Intrigue/Originality – 8

The Little Things – 9

Overall awesomeness – 8

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With the way that DC Comics is rolling out exciting stories with strong, developed characters, it’s easy to forget that less than three years ago, DC relaunched its entire catalog in a brazen attempt to gain more readers. The New 52 term was named after the fifty-two (no, seriously) new series that were launched in September of 2011. The first released and most heavily promoted book in the relaunch was Justice League, and it had a creative team comprised of the two biggest ballers in the entire corporation: Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns and Co-Publisher Jim Lee. DC really rolled out the red carpet for our flagship characters in this first volume, Origins.

Have they got a name? Of course they do, you can call them the SUPER SEVEN!!! This is still very early in the Justice League’s career, so early in fact, that only Flash and Green Lantern have actually met before and people actually believe Batman is still a myth. While the story starts off with a bang, it is very mild compared to the type of major events one would think would have to take place to bring seven of the DC Universe’s greatest heroes together. That is actually a point of contention with me because I would have really liked to see Green Arrow in the league to begin with. While he was at least mentioned by the very end along with Zatanna, one of the most important intial members is completely left out of the picture. Martian Manhunter is nowhere to be seen or heard from in these first six issues, although he does make his debut in Justice League of America as a weaponized response to Superman. I get that they try to have one of each hero archetype involved from the start is more than enough, ignoring an original is a bit ridiculous, especially considering they included Shazam! in the animated adaptation.

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Where the book does get it right, however, is in the way they slowly yet awesomely introduce characters one at a time. Each character feels like they were treated fairly with equal time which is no small task considering how few issues they had to work with and the ambitiousness of this particular story. The art by Jim Lee – which really needs no further explanation, but just in case you didn’t already know – is absolutely stunning in every detail. Every page is drawn and colored beautifully; many pages left me staring well after I had read the dialogue. The attention to detail is that immaculate. My only complaint about the art is that Aquaman seems to be the only character that doesn’t match his New 52 reboot design. If people wonder why Aquaman is always getting made fun of, they only need to look at the costume he was given here. It is very hard to take him serious when he has mutton chops and a pearl necklace (like Gangstalicious said, “it’s all about pearl necklaces”) with his trident chained to him with a ridiculously long chain. He basically looks like a frat-boy looking for an S&M party at Red Lobster.

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Its not only the art that got this kind of detail either, there are little nods throughout that make it something special for longtime fans of these characters. A little girl calling them the Super Friends or the ever so slight nod towards the Legion of Doom, along with the humor that almost comes effortlessly between the characters. Even though they are meeting for the first time in this book, it feels like they have been fighting evil together for a lifetime.

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All this isn’t to say that the book didn’t have its faults, though. While there was an overall cohesiveness that worked really well for the story, it felt at times like there was almost too much going on at once. Since this story was self-contained and didn’t bleed over into any of the main characters solo storys, it felt like a missed opportunity to further explore pieces of the story that were otherwise left out. My main gripe with the story was how we as readers were just thrown directly into the middle of a story with the first panel and never really given much explanation other than Darkseid was coming. Leading up to and even after his arrival, more time is spent on introducing the characters and making sure they get their just due, when it would have been nice to extend the story a few more books and give a more fleshed out story to the reader. The end makes it seem like this is something that may be revisited, but not anytime soon.

Outside of the initial reveals for the characters, there wasn’t very much in the way of character progression. This can be forgiven in this particular instance because it goes along with the major reboot of all the series (which is where most of the character development should go), it just felt like the writers could have used the opportunity as more of a bonding experience then they actually did. I expect from this point forward for the series to build these relationships further and make them a more cohesive unit (We already know Wonder Woman and Supes get busy 😉 ). One of the biggest changes in the characters’ personality is Superman’s disregard for authority. Blue Boy Scout no more, Superman has readily embodied the ethos of the current generation, and a nice touch that has defined his character in the New 52.

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Overall, this is an experience that can’t be missed. Even with the minor story and character hiccups, the potential this book has going forward is amazing. With the hint at the Legion of Doom being on the horizon there is the potential to have all sorts of encounters, because not only is this a fresh start for the Justice League, it is also a reboot of their greatest foes. There is also a great opportunity to cultivate relationships that can also be worked into the characters main books as well (Superman/Wonder Woman and Batman/Superman being prime examples but let’s branch out!!). Going forward, I would suggest grabbing Volume Two: The Villain’s Journey, if not for the story, at least for the amazing Jim Lee art. Any fan, casual or long-time will be able to appreciate Origin.

General Reception: It may not have been the reinvention that the Justice League merited, but fans definitely bought into it. While the Geoff Johns/Jim Lee arcs only spanned two volumes, it gave readers like us a whole new universe to go off of. Jim Lee’s art and Alex Sinclair’s coloring are top notch, and you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who didn’t have nice things to say about this book. It’s a great representation of what the relaunch was supposed to be.

Related Books: Flashpoint offers the same familiar feelings with a new origin twist, albeit much more drastic alterations are made. The new Justice League series is still going strong, as well. The current Forever Evil storyline shows the Justice League putting up with the Crime Syndicate. Final Crisis, also written by Geoff Johns, is a great DC epic with Darkseid as the main villain.

More by the writer: Geoff Johns has had quite the run in the past ten years. Notably, his work on Green Lantern books, everything from The Sinestro Wars leading up to Blackest Night and going all the way to Trinity War, Johns has had the rare pleasure of creating a saga. Before the New 52 reboot, Johns also wrote The Flash’s Rebirth (the return of Barry Allen) and Flashpoint. Recently, he had just left the New 52 Aquaman series after building up some credibility for the character. He is also still writing Justice League as it enters the thick of the Forever Evil arc.

More by the artist: Wanna know more about Jim Lee? Check out our new “Respect My Craft!” article, spotlighting the iconic artist, debuting tomorrow!

*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app. Credit to DC Comics for the images.

Written by Robert Michael

Graphic Novel Review – Fables Volume One: Legends in Exile

Graphic Novel Review: Fables: Legends in Exile

CollectingFables #1-5

Original Release Date: 2002-2003

Publisher: Vertigo (an imprint of DC Comics that has published works such as Sandman100 Bullets and V for Vendetta)

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Characters: Bigby Wolf, Snow White, Prince Charming, Beauty & the Beast, lots more!

Writer: Bill Willingham (Fables #1-present, Angel: After the Fall, Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure)

Artist: Lan Medina (Silver Surfer, District XVenom)

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 8

Art – 8

Captivity and Length – 8

Identity – 9

Use of Medium – 7

Depth – 7

Fluidity – 8

Intrigue/Originality – 10

The Little Things – 7

Overall awesomeness – 9

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It’s been awhile since I’ve read Fables. Looking at my home library I’ve noticed I was missing my first volume along with others I’ve seem to have lost over the years. It was fun to pick it up after all this time. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. In many ways, it’s what I wish Once Upon a Time would be. All the characters are familiar, as they’ve existed in fairy-tales, children’s books and Disney movies over and over again. The concept of using characters that are now public domain (no copyright claims can be made on them) with an original story and a modern twist is something that had never been done before in the comic book world.

Fables follows the stories of characters from fairy tales and fables who have been exiled to the “mundane” realm of New York City. They were pushed out from their many lands by a villain only referred to as the “advisory” and must now coexist in secret from the “mundy” humans of New York City. Characters who cannot pass as human live on a farm on the outskirts of New York. If you think this story sounds a bit familiar, you would be correct. Writer Bill Willingham has blatantly expressed that his story, while not politically directed, is social commentary on the current Israeli-Palestinian state of affairs.

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What’s fun about Fables is that it plays with several different genres. In this volume, we observe a murder/mystery. We are first introduced to Snow, the Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, who’s having to deal with marital problems between Beauty and the Beast. Her course reverts when the two experience martial conflict. After all, it’s hard to maintain the magic of a marriage when you’ve been married for the past thousand years.

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At the same time Jack, rushes in to tell Snow that her her sister, Red, has had something horrible happen to her. He found her apartment in disarray and her blood soaking everything. Bigby (the big bad wolf) runs around New York trying to piece together the mystery while at the same time introducing the readers to the world of Fabletown and the characters who inhabit it. I find the way Willingham constructs the story both interesting and clever, and left me with quite a few chuckles. Even the panels have a few eggs that if you pay attention closely can make you laugh. Who doesn’t love a hairy man in a banana hammock?

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While enjoyed Legends in Exiles, I also found the dialogue to be a bit strained and hard to believe. I also felt Snow’s reaction were a bit all over the place (OUAT much) and the cheese were at times grating. As for the art, I felt it was well drawn comic for the most part, but, for a murder mystery, I thought it lacked the visual clues necessary for the reader to try and puzzle it together. I actually took me until the reveal of the plot, which carries on for an entire issue, that I was supposed to be playing detective along with Bigby, as a reader. Had I known the ride I was in for, I may have been more perceptive to the subtleties instead of just laughing along with the punch-lines. As a reader, you can now be prepared to be prepared with your pipe and monocles for a fantastical, quasi-interactive murder/mystery.

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Overall, I highly recommend reading Fables for anyone Jonesing for a spot of fantasy and who loves a good twist on their fairy tales.

General Reception: Fables is a highly acclaimed book, both critically and among casual readers. There has been an rise in stock for the series, as the series has been awarded fourteen (and counting) Eisner Awards. Talks of a television show have all but died (and then reincarnated in the spirit of Once Upon A Time), but a movie adaptation is currently in the works! Fans love Fables so much that Rochester, Minnesota held the first ever FablesCon in March 2013. In addition, a videogame has been developed by TellTale Games, the same geniuses behind the story-driven The Walking Dead series, and is called The Wolf Among Us, which I will buy as soon as this article is published!

Related Books: If you somehow manage to catch up to the 136th issue that hit shelves on New Year’s Eve, then you still have a plethora of spin-offs and side-stories to explore. And as an added bonus for those willing to purchase the collected versions (graphic novels) of Fables, there are almost always bonus short stories (with words!) explaining a bit of the Fables mythos to hungry readers. Legends in Exile included “Wolf in the Fold” which is of the Wolf’s time when he was fighting the Advisory. I enjoyed the short story and it adds nice origin story for Fabletown.

More by the writer: Bill Willingham is an interesting man. Most of his catalog consists of Fables, as he has impressively written the entirety of the Fables stories (minus a couple here and there). He has just recently came out with a series, published by Dynamite Entertainment, called Legenderry: A Steampunk Adventure, which I can only assume is as hilarious and fantastical as his work on Fables. He’s also done an adult fantasy (image LARPing naked) book called Ironwood, as well as work on the earlier Angel comics for IDW. He’s nerdy in the best ways.

More by the artist: Rolando “Lan” Medina has been a quiet presence in the comic book industry, making his mark on everything from Cable & Deadpool to Punisher: MAX to Storm, the last of which Medina won a Glyph Comic Award in 2007 for, along with his Eisner Award for Best Serialized Story for Legends in Exile in 2003. His style is simplistic, but portrays the story well enough without distracting from it. Starting in April, you can find his art in DC’s new series, Aquaman & the Others.

*Screenshots taken directly from comic book using Comixology app. Credit to Vertigo Comics for the images.

Written by Jené Conrad