Bruce’s Reading Round-Up: The Quirky Graphic Novel Edition…

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Saddle up readerinoes, and let’s round up a herd of graphic novels!  Today I have three quirky little numbers that differ in art style, content and tone but share all the elements of some memorable reading.  I received all three from their publishers via Netgalley.

Oddly Normal: Book 1 (Otis Frampton)

Two Sentence Synopsis:   oddly normal

Oddly Normal is a half-witch who doesn’t fit in at school (the pointy ears might have something to do with it) and can’t make her parents understand what her life is really like.  After accidentally wishing her parents away, Oddly is transported to Fignation, an imaginary world, by her witchy aunt and must figure out what vile magic caused her current predicament.

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is a light, fun read that will appeal to a middle grade audience looking for a break from the general chapter-book format.  The story is of the standard “misfit gets bullied and must find a way to rise up” plot variety, but the artwork and colouring is quite stunning for its cartoony style.  Certainly this book has great visual appeal and enough text to make the story feel quite filled out – by the end, even though it’s a quick read as most graphic novels are – I felt like I’d read something reasonably substantial, and the story ends on a cliff-hanger, so there’s scope for new twists and turns in the next volume.

Brand it with:

pointy-eared oddities, fun with cartoons, embarrassing relatives, villains and anti-heroes

I’m submitting this tome for my Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge under category one – books with an odd title – as the word odd is right there on the cover.  If you’d like to find out more about the challenge (and join in!), just click on this button:

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Hinges: Book 1 Clockwork City (Meredith McClaren)

Two Sentence Synopsis:hinges

Orio awakes in the Clockwork City and meets Alluet, her guide, who helps her find an appropriate occupation.  Orio’s odd (sort of like a familiar, or companion creature) Bauble seems to have ideas of his own and embarks on a campaign to manoeuvre the citizens of the Clockwork City in the direction he wants.

Muster up the motivation because…

…this is a very intriguing plot for a graphic novel, with nothing spelled out.  The onus is on the reader to make sense of what’s going on for the strangely silent Orio and the curious world of the Clockwork City, which I found trying at times, particularly during long stretches of artwork with no text.  Overall though, I enjoyed the originality of the tale but found the dark blue and grey tones of the manga artwork to be a bit tricky to distinguish on my iPad screen – this would possibly work better in print, even though it started life as a webcomic.

Brand it with:

unfamiliar familiars, machinations aplenty, mend and make do, strange new worlds

 

 

A Glance Backward (Pierre Pacquet & Tony Sandoval)

Two Sentence Synopsis: a glance backward

Eleven-year-old Pepe buys some illicit fireworks for a bit of fun and finds himself inexplicably pulled inside the walls of his home and into a bizarre, unsettling world where no one is who they seem and answers are hard to come by.  On his journey to find his way home, Pepe discovers hidden powers, makes some mistakes (some with grievous and violent consequences) and ultimately makes it out the other side with a new perspective.

Muster up the motivation because…

… this is one of the most original and thought-provoking takes on a coming-of-age tale that I have encountered.  The art is striking, arresting and all the more mesmeric for sometimes being shocking and unpleasant.  This is certainly a book for young adults and grown-ups as there is quite a lot of graphic violence towards the end, but a couple of twists at the end of the book really pack a punch in making this a hugely memorable tale that will stick with you for its relatable pathos as well as for its incredible imagery.

Brand it with:

the lonely path to adulthood, shifting perspectives, metaphorically speaking, the inner world

Progress toward Oddity Odyssey Reading Challenge goal: 6/16

Until next time,

Bruce

 

ARC Haiku Review: Emily and the Strangers (The Battle of the Bands)

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The goodest of evenings to you word-lovers! It’s Mad Martha with you for another haiku review.  Today’s offering is a graphic novel featuring that odd yet loveable teen roguette, Emily Strange in Emily and the Strangers: The Battle of the Bands by Rob Reger, Mariah Huehner and Emily Ivie.  I received a digital edition of this graphic novel (though I wish it had been print!) from Dark Horse Comics via Netgalley – thanks!

Now, having admired Emily from afar for a good long while (on account of us having a similarly strange outlook on life) I eventually took the plunge and read all of the novels in which she features.  This, however, is my first foray into her adventures in graphic novel form, and I gotta tell ya – I’ve been missing out.

In Emily and the Strangers (Volume One), the lady of the strange enters a song contest to win the guitar of the late, great Professor Kraken.  In order to claim full possession of the prize though, Emily must form a band and compete in a Battle of the Bands contest.  Can the ultimate mistress of going it alone manage to  …*shudder*…play well with others…and win the object of her heart’s desire? Or will her cats wind themselves around her feet at the last moment, tripping up any dreams of rock goddess greatness?

emily and the strangers cover

Krakenish Guru

wields tentacular guitar

Can Strange measure up?

One thing that is almost synonymous with Emily Strange is awesome and complicated artwork.  I really think I’ve been missing out in just reading the Emily novels because while there is a lot of incidental artwork in those books, the graphic novel is really where it’s at for this character and her adventures.  Really, the art is eye-poppingly good.  Have a look at an example from inside:

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Check out the complexity! Appreciate the ingenius design! Notice the wallpaperish background! It’s just fantastic.  I’ve often found while browsing graphic novels that sometimes I have to stop because there’s too much visual information on the page.  I found the same with this one, but it was a good feeling.  After reading the story, I went back and spent some time really appreciating the art because it is so worth having a second look at.  Another great feature is the collection of initial concept designs at the back of the novel that give the reader an idea about how the artistic decisions progressed over the course of the novel’s production.  There are also some alternative poster designs for the Emily and the Strangers band.

As usual with graphic novels, I wished the story was longer, but that’s just the format.  Unlike most of my forays into graphic novels, I actually felt pretty satisfied with the amount of story that was presented here.  I was also reminded how accessible and relevant to the target age bracket the stories are.  One wouldn’t necessarily think it to look at the character, but while there’s always some edgy stuff going down, there’s nothing here that’s really shocking or violent or unpleasant, so it does make for a fun and quirky quick read.  And even the swearing is psuedo-swearing (and therefore particularly amusing and repeatable – you zorking flabberfarks!).  I’d highly recommend sharing this with any young folk of your acquaintance who are happy to have a go at reading in a different format, who enjoy a strong, smart and strange female protagonist and who love a nice bit of eyeball stimulating artwork – you (and your young person) will not be disappointed!

I will certainly be adding Volume 2 to my TBR list. Emily and the Strangers: The Battle of the Bands is due for publication on May 27th.

Cheerio my fellow oddbods!

Mad Martha

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