Tag Archive | non-US artist

MPH, by Mark Millar (book review) – street drug faster than speed

book cover of MPH by Mark Millar, art by Duncan Fegredo, published by Image ComicsTrapped in Detroit slum,
finding a magic pharmaceutical way out,
with a ticking clock to fuel their Robin Hood ways.

One bottle of MPH lets Roscoe, Rosa, Chevy, and Baseball run and rob faster than the human eye can see. Those 31 little pills help them ransack the banks that made millions by sending jobs overseas, give money to the downtrodden, and get the whole FBI on their trail.

Positive visualizations, a taste for the finer things of life, and a sense of duty to do some good for others while the MPH lasts – not your everyday thievery with these young folks who know their fast-running time is limited and that adding anything to this amazing drug could end it faster.

Phenomenal artwork, use of color, and panel placements (there’s this one I’m remembering – epic!) make MPH a must-read graphic novel; check out the alternate covers, too.

If you could slip between raindrops without getting wet, where would you go?


Book info: MPH / Mark Millar; art by Duncan Fegredo. Image Comics, 2015.  [author site]   [illustrator site]   [publisher site]   Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher, via NetGalley.

My book talk: A mysterious drug gives super-speed powers to four friends who leave behind the drugs and guns of their Detroit neighborhood to rob big banks, give money to the needy, and grab the good stuff before that tiny bottle of MPH is gone – but where did it come from?

Learning that his boss set him up for a drug bust to get his girlfriend, Roscoe is finally desperate enough to take a pill from the prison pusher, a pill that freezes time so that the young man can escape and run miles before the next second ticks.

The young man easily convinces Rosa, her brother Baseball, and longtime pal Chevy that MPH will let them take what they want, share with those who need it, and still be richer than Roscoe’s vision board ever promised – as long as they can do it before those 31 pills are gone.

Robin Hoods on a nationwide robbery spree, the four are chased by the FBI who have an unlikely ally in a man who’s spent 30 years in solitary confinement.

No warning labels on this bottle, so adding drugs, alcohol, or jealousy could be deadly….  Graphic novel greatness.


Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter (book review) – adultery, shaming & revenge!

book cover of Manga Classics  The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, adapted by Crystal S. Chan, script by Stacy King, art by SunNeko Lee. Published by Udon/ MorpheusA husband missing at sea ,
a forbidden relationship,
one parent punished, the other unknown…

As an error in judgment leads to years of being outcast, Hester must wear the scarlet A for adultery, yet refuses to unmask the father of her child.

Ask at your local library or independent bookstore for this clear retelling of the Hawthorne classic, whether you’re returning to a favorite tale or reading it for the first time.  And if The Scarlet Letter is a school assignment, read the complete original text here for free – getting the story and characters firmly in mind with this manga will make things much easier!

Yes, this book is in true manga format, like Manga Classics: Pride and Prejudice,  so start at the back (helpful refresher on format-reading there) and dive into this Puritan-era conflict between passion and society’s expectations.

How long can revenge brew without burning the soul?

Book info: Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter /  Nathaniel Hawthorne; adapted by Crystal S. Chan, English script by Stacy King; art by SunNeko Lee. Udon Entertainment/Morpheus, 2015.  [publisher site]  [series Facebook page] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: The red A for adultery blazes upon Hester Prynne’s dark clothes, but another has a burning coal in his chest as the unwed mother bears her shame in the Puritan village alone… for now.

Hester wasn’t in love with the older scholar she married at her parents’ insistence, but after his disappearance at sea, she found happiness with another man. Pregnant and judged as a sinner, she is scorned and shunned, especially when she won’t say who Pearl’s father is.

A learned man arrives in the New England village and begins keeping company with their inspiring young pastor. As Rev. Dimmesdale becomes ill, mysterious Dr. Chillingsworth seeks secrets.

Praised for her needlework through the years, Hester is still shunned.
Growing into a lovely and rambunctious child, Pearl is thought to be evil.
Is there any escape for the repentant?

With SunNeko’s art to enhance the carefully adapted text, this true manga (read from back to front) brings new life to Hawthorne’s classic tale of love, passion, and revenge.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

So many stories

Looking through oval window into gallery at Rembrandt's house in AmsterdamGaze out?
Peer inward?
Focus on something unseen?

Art, music, and books can help us do all these things.

But please don’t let preference for favorites keep you from trying new genres and types of books!

Grab a graphic novel like Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks and Canaan White to go into WWI trenches with underappreciated African American heroes – these aren’t “just comic books” for sure.

Read books aimed at younger readers that can bring important issues and hard truths to light. Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath gives voice to victims of the Armenian Holocaust.

If you think all novels about death are depressing, reconsider with funny yet realistic Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark.

So, about my photo here: I visited Rembrandthuis to see how the great artist lived and worked, others were there for his paintings up close, a few were obviously dragged there by art-loving companions.

Standing in his recreated studio was decidedly worth climbing all the narrow, twisting stairways. But I was most pleased by seeing how the same etching looked when printed on different papers – the same story, with a slightly changed look.

How have you experienced different stories lately?

Staying off the tourist track in Amsterdam and meeting booklovers from all over (hi, Izzie and Mom and Dad!),

League of Regrettable Superheroes, by Jon Morris (book review) – 100 also-rans from real comics!

book cover of The League of Regrettable Superheroes by Jon Morris published by Quirk BooksKid Eternity for justice!
Moon Girl fighting crime!
3-D Man against bad guys!

Jon Morris has spent years locating and verifying these not-very-super characters on his Gone and Forgotten blog – now, he’s collected them into a book filled with pages of rare comics, from the Golden Age to now.

Just published yesterday, this encyclopedic array of one hundred has-beens is a must-have for comic fans. Ask for it at your local library or independent bookstore.

If you were inventing a new not-so-superhero, what powers would s/he have?

Book info: The League of Regrettable Superheroes / Jon Morris. Quirk Books, 2015.  [author blog]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: For every blockbuster action superhero, there are scores of not-so-super characters who tried and failed to make an impact in comics – a veritable League of Regrettable Superheroes, in fact.

This colorful compendium of so-so superheroes is divided into chronological sections: the Golden Age of Comics (1938-1949) with a propensity for Nazi-hunting during World War II, the Silver Age (1950-1969) with gimmicks galore, and the Modern Age (1970-present) with grim and gritty storylines.

The 100 regrettable superheroes are arranged alphabetically in each age, with full-color comic pages, date of first appearance, and more.

Meet Captain Tootsie, Kangaroo Man, Speed Centaur, and early female superbeing Fantomah of the Golden Age. Puzzle over the mindset of the creators of Congorilla and Pow-Girl of the Silver Age, as well as Brother Voodoo, Squirrel Girl, and Thunderbunny in the Modern Age.

There were also groundbreaking superheroes who never got the recognition they deserved, like Nelvana of the Northern Lights (a Canadian pre-Wonder Woman superhero). Many of the early characters in this book are now in the public domain, so revivals of Nelvana, DollMan, and others may appear in new incarnations.

A must for any comic fan and an interesting look at the concerns of mainstream society during each age, The League of Regrettable Superheroes captures fleeting pages from America’s collective youth.

G is Garage Band, graphic novel by Gipi (book review) – guys+music=rock band?

book cover of Garage Band by Gipi, translated by Spectrum, published by First Second Books One borrowed garage, four teen guys,
four instruments, four opinions,
their own garage band!

The new band’s problems, from equipment problems to practice schedules, mix with Gipi’s gritty sketch-plus-watercolor art to show just how far four working-class Italian teens will go to make their music.

This 2007 graphic novel is still in print, definitely worth your time to read.

Have you ever given it your all striving for a goal?

Book info: Garage Band / Gipi; translation by Spectrum. First Second Books, 2007.  [artist/author info – English]  [artist/author blog – Italian]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When a blown amplifier short-circuits their band’s big audition, four Italian teens must decide whether their integrity or their potential rock music future is more important in this graphic novel by Gipi.

If he’ll stay out of trouble, Giuliano can use his dad’s old garage – perfect place for the band to practice! Also a refuge from the not-so-wonderful family lives of the four guys in the band: Giuliano (obsessed with his music even more than with his girlfriend), Stephano (obsessed with dread diseases after his brother died), Alex (obsessed with all things Nazi after his father fled), and Alberto (obsessed with his father’s precarious health).

Stefano’s dad gets the guys a chance to have a record company listen to their demo songs, so that means lots of practice.

Then their old amp shorts out and can’t be fixed – now what?
“Borrowing” some equipment, that’ll work!
But who they borrow it from…

Italian graphic novelist Gipi’s edgy line art and earth-based watercolors convey all the grit of working class kids trying to make music and make sense of the world on their own terms. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Sketch! by France Belleville-Van Stone (book review) – draw what you see, no lessons required

book cover of Sketch! by France Belleville-Van Stone published by Watson GuptillYou truly want to draw,
but haven’t had art lessons.
News flash – you don’t need lessons at all!

This author-artist transplanted from France to the USA didn’t have art classes available in school after junior high, doodled designs during high school, then decided that she really wanted to draw after her university days and just did – over and over.

The subtitle highlights what’s important about this book: inspiration (an idea alphabet fills the last third of the book), technique (not how you must draw, but the many ways that you can draw), and drawing daily life (from photos, on the go, while you wait).

So grab some paper and pencil (or sketchbook and pen, or tablet and stylus), open your eyes to the shapes around you, and just Sketch!

Book info: Sketch!: the Non-Artist’s Guide to Inspiration, Technique, and Drawing Daily Life / France Belleville-Van Stone. Watson Guptill, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher, through Blogging For Books.

My book talk: Yes, you can draw what you see around you without formal art lessons or being an artistic genius – practice, trying new tools and techniques, and more practice are what non-artist and avid sketcher Belleville-Van Stone demonstrates in Sketch!

No step-by-step boring lessons, no assignments to draw shapes before attempting real things – just encouragement and technique ideas and reviews of drawing tools, papers, and technology. Get loosened up with contour drawings, try a different paper or app on your tablet for 10 minute drawing, take your sketching tools with you everywhere, and draw whenever you have a moment.

Drawing is a process and a state of mind, the author-artist believes, so giving up the idea of a perfect product and enjoying the act of drawing can be liberating and also lead to clearer perceptions of the objects and people around you.

Start sketching now (the waiting room, your shoe), keep drawing what you see (a banana isn’t just a yellow crescent), and celebrate your improvement over time as your hands, your favorite tools and techniques, and your artistic eye are freed to just Sketch!  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Manga Classics: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, adapted by Stacy King, art by Po Tse (book review)

book cover of Manga Classics Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen adapted by Stacy King published by Udon EntertainmentLove, misunderstanding,
ambition, social constraints,
Jane Austen told the story so well…

And Stacy King uses Austen’s own text along with Po Tse’s stylish illustrations to bring Pride and Prejudice  to lovers of classic lit, love stories, and manga in the newest of Udon’s Manga Classics series.

Which classic work would you like to see in manga style?

Book info: Manga Classics: Pride and Prejudice / Jane Austen; adapted by Stacy King; art by Po Tse. Udon Entertainment, 2014.  [series Facebook page]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Yes, a true manga version of Jane Austen’s classic tale of sisters, ambitions, misunderstandings, and love gone awry!

As you read it from back to front, enjoy Po Tse’s visual interpretations and Stacy King’s well-chosen selections from the original Austen text.

Mrs. Bennet is all a-flutter as the frenetic, social-climbing mother striving to marry her five daughters into higher social status. The aristocratic young men are portrayed as elegant and slim in their well-tailored attire, and the young ladies are most properly frocked, befrilled and doe-eyed (as manga style decrees).

This clever and enjoyable journey from countryside to country estate, from bad first impressions to proclamations of love and eternal devotion is one of the Manga Classics series by Udon Entertainment. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Friends With Boys, by Faith Erin Hicks (book review) – one ghost too many

book cover of Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks published by First Second BooksFirst day of public school jitters,
a ghost overstaying her welcome,
Mom gone away suddenly,
everything was so much easier in homeschool!

Canadian artist Faith Erin Hicks melded Nova Scotia’s long seagoing history and her personal experience of being homeschooled with 3 brothers to create this coming-of-age story with a ghostly twist.

Alas, she never saw a ghost in her house like Maggie does…


Book info: Friends With Boys / Faith Erin Hicks. First Second Books, 2012.  [author site]  [publisher site]  [fan-created book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: The ghost lady may be Maggie’s smallest worry now, as being homeschooled with her three big brothers hasn’t prepared her for the people-part of attending high school.

Mags liked Mom as her teacher, but wanted to play with her brothers instead of do girly stuff with her – maybe that’s why Mom left their small coastal town in the Maritimes.

Her twin brothers fight constantly (as usual), but don’t hang out together (not usual), her oldest brother likes theater, but distrusts Maggie’s new friend Alistair, mohawked senior Alistair decided that not being a jerk to his sister Lucy was more important than being a volleyball jock, so now the team hates him, and Lucy is fascinated by ghosts and their town’s history, which all leads to a teeny-little museum caper… by the way, Dad is the police chief now.

This graphic novel follows Maggie as she tries to find her place in the high school hierarchy and make the ghost go back to the cemetery – is that really so much to ask?  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

The Thickety: A Path Begins, by J.A. White (book review) – magic & danger, chance of control?

book cover of The Thickety: A Path Begins by JA White published by Katherine Tegen Books“Work hard,
want for nothing,
stay vigilant”

Dreaming and wishing are forbidden to the Children of the Fold, as are doing magic or entering the dark mystical woods of The Thickety which tries to overrun their island home.

Yet Kara does all these things. After years of being spat upon and punished as “witch’s child,” what does she have to lose?

Except her little brother, distraught father, and her very soul…

Read the first pages of The Thickety  here, then follow Kara’s dangerous, desperate search for answers, if you dare. This will be a trilogy; can we wait until 2015 to read book 2?


Book info: The Thickety: A Path Begins / J.A. White; illustrated by Andrea Offermann. [author site]  [illustrator site]   [publisher site]   [book trailer] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: When a strange bird leads Kara to her mother’s hidden grimoire within the forbidden forest, the teen learns her family’s magic secrets, risking a death sentence… or worse.

As a child, Kara was forced to witness her mother’s execution for witchcraft. She’s spent years enduring the community’s scorn, avoiding The Thickety’s eerie woodlands, trying to hold together her family and their decaying farm.

Compelled by strange dreams, Kara follows a raven with 3 eyes into The Thickety and unearths her mother’s grimoire, a conduit of great magical power – a chance for her to heal her brother and save their land, or a way that will lead the Children of the Fold’s strict leader to kill them all?

How can the leader’s daughter Grace feel the grimoire’s pull?
For using Thickety magic, will evil Sordyr demand a price that Kara cannot pay?

First book of a trilogy set on an island where The Thickety grows daily closer to the village whose religious settlers separated themselves from the world centuries before, banning all dreams, wishes, storybooks, and magic forever. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, by Tony Cliff (book review) – swashbuckling adventuress of 1807!

book cover of Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff published by First Second Like Indiana Jones in the 1800s!
Except she’s a noblewoman,
and an expert swordfighter,
and has a much more “flexible” sense of honor.

Should this be your first meeting with Delilah Dirk, prepare yourself for miraculous escapes, gymnastic evasive maneuvers, and well-timed explosions.

Alas, the Agha of Constantinople did not believe the intelligence reports about her skills… but circumlocutious Lt. Selim still has his head to prove it’s all true.

Just published yesterday as a full-color graphic novel, this swashbuckling webcomic translates so well to the printed page – I had as much fun re-reading it to write this recommendation as I did the first go-round! Read 12 pages of Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant here and you’ll be hooked, too.

Here’s hoping that Delilah will have many more adventures for Canadian artist/author Tony Cliff to share with us (and that Lt. Selim can stand all the excitement).

Book info: Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant / story and art by Tony Cliff. First Second Books, 2013. [Delilah site]  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: The Agha’s court of Constantinople in 1807 is hardly the place for a genteel young lady, but then again, adventuress Delilah Dirk is clever, skillful at fighting, and not at all genteel. Just ask Lt. Selim after she rescues him from execution and launches the tea-master into dangerous adventures with her.

Yes, Delilah is related to half the royal families in Europe. Yes, she has trained in weaponry and personal fighting skills her whole life. No, Selim is not fond of flying in the air (how does her ship do that?) or riding horseback for days on end (sorry, bad pun) or being nearly killed by Zakul’s minions repeatedly after Delilah steals her uncle’s treasure back from the pirate warlord.

Delilah insists that she can accomplish this task without Selim – he’s seen her swordwork and knows she’s right. But since Selim owes her his life, he tries to be helpful on her headstrong mission, while brewing the best teas on the entire Aegean Peninsula or Greece or wherever else they land.

Can they ‘liberate’ the treasure?
Will Selim survive the attempt?
What else does Delilah have up her sleeveless flight gown?

This uproarious, mile-a-minute graphic novel adventure features stellar use of color to invoke moods, fantastic drawing that brings emotions and motion to life, and sound effects (GRABB! DODGE’D!) that put an original spin on classic-comics traditions.   (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)