Monstress: Awakening. Writing by Marjorie Liu and art by Sana Takeda. ★★★★
Monstress is a darkly enchanting story told in comic book format. I read a bound version that collected the first six issues into something more akin to a graphic novel. I’m not generally much of a comic book reader (although I’ve picked up a bit of Ms. Marvel), but I just kept hearing such wonderful things about Monstress. And once I read it, I knew it was something I needed to review.
Monstress is a fantasy story, set in a world divided between two principal groups: the humans and the Arcanics. The Arcanics are the half human children of the immortal ancients, grown so numerous in number that they make up their own distinct group, gifted with some of the powers of their parents. Humans have no magic and are under the sway of the Cumaea, a group of priestesses who preach the purity of the human race and cannibalize Arcanics for the magic in their bones. Before the start of Monstress, the humans and Arcanics were at war, but now a tenuous peace exists.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg. ★★★★★
In The One Hundred Nights of Hero, Isabel Greenberg returns to the fantastical universe she created in her first graphic novel, The Encyclopedia of Early Earth. However, The One Hundred Nights of Hero involves all new characters and stands completely alone. The two graphic novels can be read in any order.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero opens with a bet between two men. One complains that he can never find a woman who meets his criteria, the most important of which is that she will be chaste and loyal. His friend disagrees. He knows exactly such a woman – his wife Cherry. And so the bet is formed. The husband will leave for one hundred nights, giving his friend the opportunity to try and seduce Cherry. And if seduction fails, he may very well turn to more brutal methods.
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua. ★★★★★
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is an absolutely delightful graphic novel that contains a wealth of historical information regarding Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and the history of computing while at the same time being relentlessly entertaining.
The book begins with a brief history of Ada Lovelace, Charles Babbage, and their work on the invention of the computer and computer programming. However, both died before any of the machines Babbage planned were ever invented. And so Padua imagines an alternate ending – a world where their Analytical Engine reached completion and adventures ensue.
Fun Home is a memoir told in the form of a graphic novel. When Alison Bechdel was twenty, her father died, four months after Alison came out as a lesbian and shortly thereafter found out that her father had affairs with men.
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg. ★★★★★
The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is a graphic novel about the power and beauty of storytelling. The book opens with a man from the Nords (the North Pole) falling in love with a woman from the South Pole. Due to fantastical magnetic reasons, they cannot touch each other, yet they chose to spend their lives together anyway. During that time, the man tells stories of his life and how he came to arrive at the South Pole.
Through the Woods is a hauntingly beautiful collection of five short stories told through Emily Carroll’s stunning artwork. I borrowed a copy from a friend, but this is the sort of book that I desperately want to go out and get my own copy of so that I can cherish it and spend hours pouring over the artwork.
The stories call to mind fairy tales of the darkest sort – blood, death, and the creeping shadows of the mysterious woods. The first story, “Our Neighbor’s House,” is about three girls who’s father tells them that if he is not back by sunset of the third day, they should immediately trek across the snow to the neighbors. “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold” is reminiscent of the “Bluebeard” fairy tale. “His Face All Red” is about a man who killed his brother in the woods. In “My Friend Janna,” a young woman pretends to speak to ghosts but becomes haunted herself. “The Nesting Place” is a horror story of a girl who goes to stay with her brother’s fiancee.
Nimona is a very cute YA graphic novel that exists somewhere between the boundaries between science fiction and fantasy.
From the blurb: “Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.