Help Us! Great Warrior
by Madéleine Flores
2016 • 160 pages • BOOM! Box
How great is Great Warrior? SO GREAT.
I love Madéleine Flores’ little femme warrior green nugget, probably because she’s cut from the same cloth as one Usagi Tsukino: ferocious, childish, good-hearted, and always up for pizza, cute boys, and fancy clothes. Great Warrior catsits for cosmic deities. She slices sea monsters in half just to get her chips back. She eats an entire “cursed” pizza to save her village. (So brave.) All of Flores’ Great Warrior comics are funny little one-off gags featuring Great Warrior going about her unique lifestyle, with occasional recurring characters like Great Warrior’s other little green nugget buddies and cute warrior girl Leo.
So for Great Warrior’s print comics debut for BOOM! Box, BOOM!’s “gleeful” imprint, it was time to tell an ongoing story with Great Warrior and her buddies. So enter Hadiyah, the High Chancellor, who tasks Great Warrior with dealing with the sudden influx of demons in their world. Unfortunately, Great Warrior does not want to go a demon-hunting, especially when there’s a party in her village. But eventually, Hadiyah convinces (or just straight up tricks) Great Warrior and her best warrior buddy Leo to help. Which is how they discover a big secret about Great Warrior…
by Noelle Stevenson
2015 (originally published 2012 to 2014) • 272 pages • HarperTeen
When last I reviewed a web comic turned graphic novel (Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half), I brooded upon the fact that blogs are living things while books are fixed. In that situation, I had the benefit of having followed Hyperbole and a Half for quite some time beforehand. I had experience with it as both a web comic and a graphic novel.
Not so in the case of Nimona, Noelle Stevenson’s senior thesis turned complete comic. I knew about it when it debuted, having, alongside with most of fandom, fallen in love with Stevenson’s witty and thoughtful sketches on her tumblr. By the time I decided that I did want to read the web comic, I knew it was going to be published by HarperCollins, so I decided to wait.
And I think I’m the poorer for it.
Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Promise: Part 2
by Gene Luen Yang and Studio Gurihiru
2012 • 76 pages • Dark Horse Books
Of all the magnificently drawn characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender, I might like Toph Bei Fong and Sokka of the Southern Water Tribe the most. I have a soft spot for nearly all of them, but Toph and Sokka face particular challenges that make them stand out. Toph is a girl whose blindness and status has made people refuse to see her as a whole human being, keeping her from achieving her full potential as the greatest earthbender the world has ever seen. Sokka, besides being a glorious nerd with a penchant for shopping, is the only member of the Gaang who isn’t a bender and occasionally feels ignored, set aside, or just lesser because of it. The series doesn’t go too far down that path, but it’s present enough to form the foundation for the first series of Legend of Korra.
(Which I still haven’t finished. Yes, I know, bad fandom queer, bad!)
Avatar: The Last Airbender — The Promise: Part 2 (punctuation is taking quite a bruising today here on the blog), obviously, furthers the A plot of the comic—the psychological torment of Fire Lord Zuko as he tries to determine what’s best for the Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom and Aang circling the question of keeping his promise to kill Zuko should the Fire Lord begin behaving like his tyrannical father. Unfortunately, the only way Zuko can get any information about his presumedly deceased mother is by visiting his imprisoned father daily, and his father’s theories about morality (namely, that those in power get to determine what is and isn’t moral) are seeping into his unconsciousness. Aang tries to run interference with the Earth King, but the Earth King’s previous blindness to the Fire Nation’s invasion of the Earth Kingdom has made him determined to fight fire with fire. (Pun entirely intended.)
The Promise: Part One
by Gene Luen Yang and Studio Gurihiru
2012 • 80 pages • Dark Horse Books
Was there ever a dreamier team better suited to writing and illustrating Avatar: The Last Airbender comics as Gene Luen Yang and Studio Gurihiru? Yang, the amazing Chinese-American comics writer, has written eloquently in support of boycotting the heinously whitewashed The Last Airbender movie and in glowing praise of the original show drawing on actual Asian history in a respectful way for its stories in the same comic. And Studio Gurihiru (composed of Japanese artists Chifuyu Sasaki and Naoko Kawano) is known for its endearing, lyrical, and slightly cartoonish art style, making it the perfect choice to translate the stunning gorgeous and dynamic animation of the original cartoon series. Fittingly, the two have remained joined at the hip throughout the run of Avatar: The Last Airbender comics, from “The Promise” to “The Search.”
The Promise: Part One picks up where Avatar: The Last Airbender leaves off—with the Fire Nation safely out of the hands of the tyrannical Lord Ozai and in the hands of his son, Lord Zuko. Terrified that he’ll repeat the mistakes his father did, Zuko makes Avatar Aang promise to kill him if he shows signs of repeating the past. Aang promises, of course. A year later, Aang, the Earth King, and Zuko are working towards the peaceful repatriation of the Fire Nation colonies in the Earth Kingdom. But repairing the damage the Fire Nation’s century long war against the rest of the world has caused is more complex than any of them thought.
Stuck Rubber Baby
by Howard Cruse
2010 (originally published 1995) • 210 pages • Vertigo
The backlash against Selma has taken many forms—witness those irate thinkpieces (gag) and the whitest Oscar race in decades (double gag). All for a film daring to not only ignore the White Savior complex, but actively reject it by focusing on the work of a black community. As if there’s such a difference in the liberties taken with countless period films featuring white casts! I can’t comment further, as I haven’t seen Selma. I want to, obviously. As the New England winter digs its claws in before March, it’s harder and harder to get me out of the apartment and into a movie theater.
As a rejection of the White Savior complex, Stuck Rubber Baby is, of course, no Selma—its protagonist is the young, closeted, and white Toland Polk living in a Birmingham, Alabama analogue called Clayfield during the sixties. Through his determined-to-be-straight involvement with Ginger, a progressive college student, he gets swept up into the civil rights movement. But the always hesitant Toland is hardly a hero: his involvement is scattered, although dedicated. In fact, there’s no real heroes here—people who do more than others, certainly, but mostly just people, trying to do the best they can. (It’s got that slice of life approach in common with Alison Bechdel’s work. Bechdel provides the introduction here.)
by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross
1994 • 248 pages • Marvel
After my brother went off to college, his room, despite still having all of his stuff in it, was up for grabs. My dad seized upon it as an office without telling anyone or even taking the bed out, while I was finally able to rifle through my brother’s books to my heart’s content. (Madame McBride did not participate in this land grab.) Without my brother to kick me out or stop me from getting my grubby preteen paws on his lovingly curated collection of French comics (direct from the motherland!), I was unstoppable.
And that’s how I, at around the age of nine or ten, discovered the difference between Marvel and DC. I’d only been familiar with DC before, having watched Batman: The Animated Series and the odd episode of The Adventures of Lois and Clark, but I had only the vaguest idea that Spider-Man existed. In my brother’s library, there were two graphic novels from each company, alone among the Asterixes, Tintin, and Largo Winch. DC was represented by Kingdom Come, an epic and fairly dark Elseworlds end game story featuring roughly everyone in the DC universe. Ross was inspired to pitch Kingdom Come to DC because he was just coming off illustrating the only Marvel book in my brother’s collection—Marvels.
X-Men: Season One
by Dennis Hopeless and Jamie McKelvie
2012 • 136 pages • Marvel Comics
Why aren’t you listening to Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men right now?
I haven’t been this excited for a podcast… well, ever. Being led gently through the saga of the X-Men by a pair of awesome, feminist-minded comic professionals who know their stuff and have great banter is one of the highlights of my week. After those forty-five minutes are up, I’m brimming with recommendations, a greater appreciation for Chris Claremont, and my love for Dazzler.
(Well, my love for Dazzler is eternal, but you get the idea. Lupita Nyong’o for Dazzler 2016!)
Superman: Birthright by Mark Waid and Leinil Francis Yu
To me, one of the most important elements of the Superman mythos is that Clark Kent is a journalist. It may not shock you to learn that I came to Superman through The Adventures of Lois and Clark, which focused heavily on its newsroom setting, but it’s more than just allegiance to the series that cemented my view of Big Blue. (Make all the Dean Cain jokes you want, he’s still “OH MY GOD IT’S SUPERMAN!” to me.) Rather, it’s an indicator of who Clark is at his core. Supposedly, Marvel’s heroes are the relatable ones and DC’s heroes are the aspirational ones (or used to be, before DC fell down Grimdark Canyon and came back wrong), but Clark’s interest in journalism means that, even if he didn’t have unimaginable power, he would still be out there, fighting for the greater good. Because that’s his greatest superpower: empathy for all humanity.
I have been disappointed again and again as of late when it comes to this integral part of Clark’s character for me: see Man of Steel (or It Came From Grimdark Canyon) and the new 52’s Superman/Wonder Woman (or Mortals Aren’t Good Enough). So opening up Superman: Birthright was a welcome relief, and not just because it was actually and willfully colorful.
A Flight of Angels by Holly Black, Rebecca Guay, Louise Hawes, Alisa Kwitney, Todd Mitchell, and Bill Willingham
Remember when angels were supposed to be the next big thing in young adult paranormal romance, on par with vampires? Instead, the trend has largely kept itself contained to Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments and Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series. Angels aren’t much of a presence in the former, although their descendants are; and Hush, Hush is a shining example of rape culture. On top of that, vampires and werewolves come pre-loaded, as it were, with teenage sexual angst—first blood, uncontrollable body hair, and strange urges. Angels, on the other hand, have grander concepts tied up with them, especially the fallen variety—knowledge, agency, and power.
Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero by Travis Beacham
Despite the stunning success of Gravity this past Sunday at the Oscars (it got to the point that my fellow party-goers and I began predicting Gravity would win for categories it wasn’t even nominated in) and Her’s win for Best Original Screenplay, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences remains pretty skittish about awarding sf films the big awards. (Unless, of course, it’s February 26th, 2004, otherwise known as the greatest night of my preteen life.) Instead, they tend to get the technical awards. But Oscar did not even glance at one of the biggest film achievements of 2013: Pacific Rim.