Two Minute Reviews: Graphic Novel Edition

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Back so soon? After my last mini-review round up, I realized I've been on another major comics tear. I reread the volume ones for The Wicked & The Divine and Bitch Planet, I continued on a few of my regular series, and gave some highly rated ones a try. But what you really want to know is, "are 90s DC comics as racist as I remember?" Read on my loves!

Princeless Vol. 5: Make Yourself by Jeremy Whitley - ★★★★★

Another excellent addition to the expanding Princeless Universe. As I'd mentioned in Vol. 3, I was a bit disappointed to see the book being shelved as LGBT for one side character. Raven's fantastic and her standalone - love - but I was hoping for something in the actual text. This volume introduces us to a pair of canonically lesbian dwarf warriors, including a glorious flashback to their first meeting. They have a daughter. I love them. (It's becoming pretty clear that Adrienne is also not het, but since that's not cannon yet, I'm still a little wary of shelving this as LGBT.) The volume also includes a really great mini story on "good" hair in the black community and Adrienne's struggle with not feeling as beautiful as Angelica, but the highlight of the book is when Bedelia is reunited with her "Groggy" and is forced to confront her fears of her grandfather's sexism.

Robin Vol. 1: Reborn by - ★★☆☆☆

Jesus christ, I can't believe DC re-released this in 2015 without so much as an editor's note. This book is racist. Comprised of three arcs, not one of them isn't horribly problematic. This wasn't ok in the 90s; it's inexcusable today.

Tim Drake's introduction as an antithesis to the previous Robins is good. He hearkens back to Batman's own origins as an actual detective. He has no fight training and on the heels of Jason's death, Bruce struggles with letting anyone, much less an untrained kid, take up the mantle. Rewrite that part, abandon literally everything about the drug trade and Haitian slaves and hoodoo. Obeah Man. Good lord. Not that it's much better when Robin travels to Paris to learn a lost form of martial arts from a monk and ends up in a Chinese gang war with Lady Shiva. As with all Batman stories, Robin is a complete mess until the last 10 pages where he saves Batman with his teenager-ness and Bruce gives a grudging acknowledgement. Skip this.

Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan - ★★★

Brian K. Vaughan follows his award winning space opera, Saga with a story he calls "Stand By Me" meets "War of the Worlds". The story starts with Erin, a 12-year-old newspaper delivery girl in an idylic little town outside Cleveland in 1988. She meets up with three other paper girls, Mac, Kaje, and Tiffany after some post-Halloween troublemakers hassle her on her rounds. Soon everyone in town, less the girls and a few stragglers have disappeared. The Rapture? Aliens? Time travel war between adults and teenagers? One of those, yes.

Problems with Paper Girls: the girls are not 12. They don't look 12. They don't act 12. I have a 12-year-old niece. First, I would literally murder her if she acted like Mac. Second, these girls smoke, curse, drive cars, and fire guns. If you want them to be 16, just make them be 16. Even 14 I could buy. 12. Please. 

Second problem: the "f" slur is used. AIDs is used as an insult. Homosexuals are called perverts. It's all condemned by Mac's peers and the future couple shrug it off as "you guys are from an effed-up time", but I Don't Care. Especially when you then kill the gays. I expect better from Vaughan. I liked the book, it ends on a neat cliff-hanger, I'll read the next one, but now I have to look askance at an author I thought was better.

Archie, Vol. 1: The New Riverdale by Mark Waid- ★★★☆☆

A strange thing has happened in the last five years. Archie Comics, long known for being the g-rated books in the comic store, has quietly stepped into the progressive sphere, sparking controversy and boycotts for it's openly gay characters and messages on gun control. The company is enjoying a popularity surge not seen since the 1960s, including now a new CW show.

I decided to seek out the 2015 Archie reboot after seeing some panels from "the lipstick incident" on Tumblr. It's a powerful scene, where the typically tomboyish Betty dresses up for a date. Rather than admire her effort, Archie scoffs at her, decrying "this isn't you".

Unfortunately, these four panels are where the great ends. The set-up to this incident is a group of Archie's fans(?) giving Betty a makeover because they got caught talking shit about her. Betty shows no interest in it, which makes the eventual confrontation less about Betty's choice to change. Same with her getting done up for her birthday party - it's not Betty's idea and only something she does with reluctance. So then why aren't Betty and Archie dating? He was an ass, but this isn't Betty. The event that drove them apart doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

I don't hate the collection, but I don't enjoy it either. Maybe it's because I didn't read Archie comics growing up, so I lack the nostalgia factor, but the story lines are retreads we've seen in a hundred other teen books, shows, and movies and the characters aren't interesting. I'm particularly confused by Jughead who seems apathetic and boring. He's not a good friend. I know people are upset about the erasure of his sexuality in the tv series, but I thought the "asexuals only like food" stereotype was one we were trying to get away from and as that is literally his only defining personality trait... In Veronica, the book wants to have its cake and eat it too. She's a snob and a bully and she's using Archie, but she's sad and confused by being the new kid and really likes him. It doesn't make her feel nuanced, just narratively confused.

Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick - ★★★

I love Kelly Sue DeConnick. I would read the back of a cereal box if her twitter said she wrote it. So even though I'm not generally one of westerns, it was a foregone conclusion I would pick up Pretty Deadly.

I haven't the faintest idea what I just read.

From part one, when the world building is delivered via a song within a story within the story, this is not an easy novel. The character connections are confusing and though the art is beautiful, the fight scenes are cluttered and ambiguous. It's also a pretty hard R with a lot of blood and gore as well as nudity.

Sissy, the girl in the vulture cloak, and Fox, an old blind man, travel the west telling the story of Ginny, daughter of Death. Before the end of the first comic, it's clear that this isn't just a song. Ginny's left her father's realm and is pursued by Big Alice, another supernatural gunslinger. They're pursuing Sissy for an item she picked off Johnny, a seemingly human scoundrel, though his connection to a talking crow leaves me questioning that. The last act, which reveals the connections between everyone, felt absurdly rushed, especially compared to the previous parts.

I didn't like the book very much, but I am intrigued. I'll give the second book a try, but if the plotting doesn't smooth out, I won't be trying a third.


  1. Ehhh, yeah I'll have to skip Robin. That doesn't sound like I would enjoy it either. I haven't read any graphic novels in a long time, but I've been getting the itch again. I was thinking about picking up the new one by Marissa Meyer, Wires & Nerve.

  2. Love this! I don't often review graphic novels but little mini reviews really help me decide which I need to grab and which I need to avoid. I've had my eye on Pretty Deadly for quite some time but this one definitely sounds out there. Not sure I'll be giving it a whirl.


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