Saga, Vol. 11 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

I learned about the comic/graphic novel series Saga many years ago. Every time a new volume in the series is released, I immediately put it a request for it at my local library. Not too long ago, my request for volume 11 came in. Quick warning, minor spoilers ahead for the action that took place prior to volume 11.

Volume 11 picks up after Marko has been murdered and Alana and Hazel (their daughter) are stranded when their spaceship is destroyed. They continue to be hunted by both sides of a war because Marko and Alana, representing a union of adversaries, and their daughter are perceived as a threat to the ongoing conflict that others are ideologically or financially committed to. This volume continues the stellar artwork and storytelling of the previous volumes.

If you haven’t yet read any of Saga, I highly recommend it. Just be aware that its themes and artwork are very much aimed at adults and therefore definitely not safe for work (NSFW).

My rating: 4/5

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Book One by Emil Ferris

I am a big Cory Doctorow fan, of both his fiction and his technology and privacy advocacy. I follow and read his blog. On that blog, he will occasionally recommend a book to read. Recently, one of those books as My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Book Two. It is the sequel, naturally, to My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Book One by Emil Ferris. After reading Doctorow’s glowing review of Book Two, I immediately requested Book One from my library and took it with my on a recent vacation.

The book is a graphic novel about and told by a young girl who wants to be a monster. She is picked on at school and feels like an outsider. Her logic is that if she was undead, she could get back at those who pick on her or her family. One day, a neighbor woman who was always kind to the author is found dead in her bed. She was apparently shot in her living room but found in her bed. And the apartment was locked from the inside. The police call it a suicide and close the case. But the author isn’t so sure and begins to try to figure out what happened.

The art in this book is beautiful. Each “chapter” opens with the cover of an old horror magazine. In fact the whole book has that feel of something dark and ominous that the art communicates masterfully. The murdered woman was a holocaust survivor and much of the book is learning of her experience. Another focal point is the author’s relationship with her brother who is much older that she is. They were close once but he has become more distant recently. The book ends on a cliff hanger that leaves the reader reaching for the sequel. I am so lucky that it is available now from my local library. This book was originally published in 2017 but the sequel didn’t come out until this year. I can’t image having to wait so long to find out what happens next!

My rating: 4/5

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

Before the recent Academy Awards ceremony, the nominated short documentary The ABCs of Book Banning was available to watch in its entirety (you can watch the trailer here). The premise of the short film was to give banned books to school kids to get their thoughts on why they might be banned. It is well worth watching and is available on Paramount+. Gender Queer was one of those banned books, so I decided to read it myself.

The book is a memoir in graphic novel form. In it the author tells eir story of growing up with gender dysphoria and coming to understand that e was nonbinary and asexual. I have to admit that the whole transgender and nonbinary controversy is a little challenging for me. As a cishet man, I honestly don’t understand it. That’s part of why I read this book. But I don’t need to understand it in order to allow others to be themselves.

This book was exactly what I was looking for. It gave me a glimpse at the life of one real person who lived through the confusion of dealing with gender dysphoria and how e came to understand who e was. It was both educational and transformative for me. I now feel I have a better understanding of what this issue means and how it can be addressed with compassion and understanding. I still don’t completely get it, but this book was an excellent start on my growth in this area.

My rating: 4/5

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by Katie Beaton

This is one of the most unusual books I have ever read. That’s what drew me to it, and why I ultimately read it. It is a memoir told in comic form, sort of a non-fiction, biographical graphic novel. Sounds a bit absurd, but it really works.

The author is from the maritime provinces of Canada. She finishes college with a lot of debt. In order to liquidate that debt and start her life debt-free, she takes a lucrative job in the oil sands of western Canada. It is a desolate place dominated by men. Her experience is lonely and psychologically damaging. The book explores the intersection of this harsh world and someone driven to force her way through it due to crushing debt.

The author uses the format to great effect. It really communicates the feeling of being where she was and gives an inkling of what she experienced. Beaton describes the atmosphere as isolated and oppressive while also being understanding that not everyone was responsible for those feelings. It is a fantastic example of how good and bad can, and regularly do, exist at the same time in the same place and one person’s attempt to reconcile that contradiction.

My rating: 4/5

A Graphic Novel as a TV Series

Paper Girls, The Complete Story book cover

Originally posted at myreadinglife.com.

Recently I learned that Amazon Prime came out with a new series that some are comparing to Netflix’s Stranger Things. Both are about teenagers in the ‘eighties. But that is where the similarities end. Paper Girls is the story of four girls who are delivering papers one morning when they suddenly find themselves time traveling. They spend the rest of the story tangled up in a time war while they try to get home.

The Amazon Original series is based on the comic of the same name by Brian K. Vaughn, best know for another comic called Saga. Interested in the series, I wanted to read the full comic series before watching. I found Paper Girls: The Complete Story at my library. I took it on a recent business trip and finished it in no time.

The story telling that I loved so much in Saga is also present in Paper Girls. And below the surface is a story of the girls coming of age and learning the value of friendship. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. I haven’t watched the TV series yet, but if it is anything like the graphic novel, I am looking forward to watching.