Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle

“Bright, colorful, and whimsical—yet charmingly familiar—Stranger Planet is out-of-this-world fun.”

One of my major habits as a reader is balance – I always need to balance out the heavy with the light, the sweet with the salty. It’s how I stay sane, ESPECIALLY when the sweet, light books are like Strange Planet and Stranger Planet by Nathan W. Pyle. There’s nothing like a book of comics as a palate cleanser, and there’s nothing like Pyle’s comics, period.

Stranger Planet is the second book of Pyle’s comics (originally shared on social media) and a worthy successor to the first. In both cases, it’s a pared-down world of bright pinks, blues, greens, and purples, where genderless aliens navigate a strangely familiar world of “cohesion” (marriage), “mild poison” (alcohol), “offspring” (kids), “elastic breath traps” (balloons), and much more.

These comics are charming for me because I love the quirky, gentle humor of examining everyday activities through a fresh perspective. I’m also a huge sucker for wordplay, which doesn’t hurt. Basically, if you’re looking for a quick break or to rediscover a sense of wonder about the world, I definitely recommend you check out Stranger Planet by Nathan Pyle.

Ink In Water: An Illustrated Memoir (Or, How I Kicked Anorexia’s Ass and Embraced Body Positivity)

Anyone who has struggled with addiction or compulsion will likely  appreciate Ink In Water and find it inspiring. Davis, described as a “young punk artist” by Library Journal, tells an autobiographical story about incredibly painful life experiences revolving around disordered eating, recovery, loss, and finally–helping others overcome similar disorders. Now a personal trainer, coach, author, and “body image advocate”, Davis’s memoir reveals how she first developed an eating disorder and got ensnared in the negative feedback loop that accompanies the psychology of self-harm.

The illustrations depicting Davis at the height (or really, rock-bottom) of her disorder show an emaciated, isolated individual who was starving herself to death. But by the end of the memoir, illustrations show a woman who has learned to cut herself some slack. In contrast, the woman in the final pages of the memoir is strong, determined, and no longer fears taking up space. To the contrary, Davis is interested in building herself up, through the practice of weight-lifting and strength training. Rather than shrinking and trying to make herself smaller, she embarks on a lifelong journey of recovery by focusing her mental and physical energy on becoming stronger.

While this graphic novel is largely about learning to love yourself, it also did a wonderful job of showing what a loving, supportive relationship can look like. I got a little teary when reading about how Davis’s partner essentially doubled-down on being loving and supportive through the hard times (rather than turning away from her when she was at her worst). When Davis experiences a particularly devastating loss of one of her best friends, mentors, and sponsors, her partner plans a trip to New York City to help her get out of her head.  Their relationship beautifully demonstrates how loving partnerships allow for being openly vulnerable and loved and supported in spite of individual faults or shortcomings.

Check it out. I didn’t really even start regularly reading graphic novels until I picked up a work of graphic medicine. As someone who genuinely enjoys non-fiction (I know — crazy!), graphic memoirs have been a really nice change of pace. This book reminds me of how resilient we are, and that we can get better and come back even stronger after being in the grips of something that threatens to destroy us.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Volume 1: The Coulson Protocols

If you have watched any of the Avengers movies(or any recent superhero movie), then you’re probably familiar with S.H.I.E.L.D, aka  Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. In Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Volume 1: The Coulson Protocols, Agent Coulson leads Melinda May, Agents Fitz and Simmons, Mockingbird, Quake, and Deathlok, as they battle someone in an Iron Man suit(who is not Iron Man!), multiple people who want to take over the world, and, of course, the evil Hydra organization. Coulson’s old love interest, Lola – not to be confused with his car who just happens to have the same name, has come to the team’s attention after her name is found to be affiliated with the tech that the person in the Iron Man suit blew up the Pentagon to steal. As a result, Coulson goes to meet her to find out what she knows. It turns out that Lola manipulated their previous relationship in order to steal precious superhero information from Coulson. She’s a psychic and can read his mind!

Coulson, being the giant superhero geek that he is, created scenarios in his head about how to take down any of the Avengers and also any of the other superheroes/agents that he knows. Lola then read his mind and stole that information. Those scenarios are now called the Coulson Protocols and fake Iron Man stole them from the Pentagon. That information is now up for auction to the highest bidder and the team must do everything and anything in their power to get that highly sensitive intel back. They battle a massive Iron Man army, throw down with some Hydra bad guys, rub shoulders with Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine, and Tony Stark, and find themselves in a massive standoff with the New Avengers, all while trying to find the Coulson Protocols. Allegiances are tested and backstories are revealed as Coulson and his team work to save the world from a possible leak of this sensitive information.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Volume 1: The Coulson Protocols does a fairly good job introducing readers to who the agents are and how S.H.I.E.L.D. works. (I didn’t come into this graphic novel as a complete newbie, having watched the first season of the S.H.I.E.L.D. tv show many, many months ago, BUT I remember almost none of it, so don’t be afraid of reading this if you’re totally unfamiliar with any of the characters. You’ll be just fine.). Guggenheim also adds the characters’ names next to each throughout most of the comic, so you won’t have to flip back to the beginning to remember who’s who (That’s fantastic, btw, and way more graphic novel writers should take note). I thoroughly enjoyed this new graphic novel and can’t wait for the next volume to be released. In the mean time, I’ll have to settle for watching the two seasons of Marvel’s Agents of Shield that the library owns. Read this comic/watch the shows and let me know what you think!


Check out the television show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (season 1 and season 2), to learn more about the characters and see more Agent Coulson. Click on the pictures below to

Jughead: Volume One

I love Archie comics. Every time I went to the grocery store with my mom, I begged for the newest Archie comic and would begin reading it as soon as I got in the car. Archie was my first graphic novel crush and the whole gang at Riverdale High did things that I expected to do in high school. (When I reached high school and it wasn’t anything like Riverdale, I was more than a little disappointed.)

When I realized that Jughead was going to be given his very own comic, I was ecstatic and knew I had to read it. Jughead: Volume 1 gives Jughead the attention he always deserved in the classic Archie comics. Zdarsky and Henderson expand upon the current Archie volume to give Jughead his own up-to-date background.

In Jughead: Volume One, we meet Forsythe Pendleton Jones III, aka Jughead. He plays videogames, tries to keep Archie out of trouble, skates by in school by just following the rules, and spends his afternoons at Pop’s diner inhaling burgers and milkshakes. Everything is happening like normal until Riverdale High gets a new principal. This new principal institutes new changes on all levels: in the classrooms, in athletics, and, most concerning to Jughead, in the cafeteria. Once he gets rid of all the good food in the cafeteria, Jughead loses his cool and seeks vengeance. This graphic novel is full of gags and antics by Jughead and his friends as they try to oust the new conniving principal from his current position and, in the end, discover his dastardly plot to take over the school for nefarious reasons! This graphic novel had me laughing throughout and was a fantastic trip down memory lane to the classic Archie comics.

Black Science Vol. 1: How to Fall Forever by Rick Remender, Matteo Scalera & Dean White

BlackScience_vol1-1Across an alien landscape, two people in space suits race for safety. At each turn, they are thwarted. The woman is killed, but the man runs on, clutching a container, cursing himself for his mistakes, his obsessions, that have brought him – and his family – here. A race against time, it seems, to reach the Pillar before it is too late.

This breathless scene opens Rick Remender’s Black Science. Grant McKay, our narrator, does make it back to the Pillar, moments before it jumps. Along with Grant are is two children, teenaged Pia and younger Nathan, his five (now four)-person team of scientists and the man who bankrolled the project. We learn that Grant and his team have done the impossible – punched through the barriers between the multiverses’ dimensions, allowing humans to travel to new dimensions not only to explore, but also to exploit, possibly finding the keys to preserving our species. The method is called black science, and the Pillar is the tool. But the tool has been sabotaged, and now it and its passengers have no control over when or to where they will jump.

Grant laments his hubris and his recklessness for taking his children and his team with him on the first manned jump throughout the story. Each new dimension is as strange as the next, dumping the team into war and circumstance that are truly alien. There appears to be no way of repairing the Pillar, and now that the multiverse has been breached, nothing is certain, especially survival.

Remander’s (Uncanny Avengers, Fear Agent) novel moves at a frenetic pace, the art is both stark and riotously vivid. It harkens back to the era of pulp science fiction with non-stop action and lurid details. With three more volumes already published, this is a great choice for anyone looking for a true science fiction adventure. Fans of “The Venture Bros.,” will enjoy this considerable darker series (and the close similarity Grant McKay bears to a certain winged super-villain).

 

I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young

i hate fairylandI Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young is a twist on the classic fairytale. This volume begins by introducing readers to Gertrude, aka Gert, a six year old who wishes she could go to a magical world full of fun and magic and laughter. Her wishes are granted and she is sucked down into Fairyland. Once there, Gertrude wishes she could go home. Queen Cloudia gives Gert a map of all of Fairyland that she has to follow in order to find a key that will open up a door back to her world. This whole process should only take her about a day and she’ll be back home with her parents.

Flash forward 27 years and Gert is still stuck in Fairyland. Scooting around Fairyland with her guardian, she’s stuck here and she hated it. Gert is trapped in her six-year-old body, but her mind has aged and felt every minute she’s been trapped in Fairyland. Using violence to get what she wants, Gert is leaving a bloody trail across this world and still hasn’t found her key. Queen Cloudia is sick of Gert and just wants her dead. Because of the fact that Gert is a visitor though, her safety is guaranteed(at least from Cloudia). Assassins track down Gert, forcing her to use whatever means necessary in order to survive.

This graphic novel is a twist between Alice in Wonderland and Deadpool with quirky and fantastical drawings with a large amount of battle-axe wielding and blood soaked gore. Gert’s journey to leave Fairyland is fantastic and leads viewers on a trippy adventure of mayhem.

Cyborg, Volume 1: Unplugged

cyborgWhat is a superhero? Is it someone with a lot of money who makes costumes and weapons for himself? Is it someone living a normal life who then has powers mysteriously thrust upon him? Is it a god or creature from another world? Is it someone who has a near-death experience and is given superhuman qualities in order to save their life? A number of different qualities can factor into the origin story of a superhero, something that I wanted to expand my knowledge base and learn more about. My first stop: Cyborg.

Cyborg, Volume 1: Unplugged introduces readers to the life of Victor Stone. Victor has lived through a large number of near-death experiences, something that his scientist father has seemingly used to his own advantage by saving Victor’s life and implanting cybernetics into his body. As a result of having these cybernetic enhancements thrust upon him, Victor has become a cyber-enhanced superhero called Cyborg, a mantle that rests heavily on his shoulders. After traveling the universe and visiting other worlds to fight with other superheroes, his most recent brush with death, one that has changed and messed with his cybernetics, Victor soon finds himself heading back to his father’s laboratory looking for answers.

Victor and his father, as well as the other scientists in his lab, have a strained relationship, to put it nicely. His father only seems to see Victor’s enhancements, ignoring the man underneath. Exploring the newest changes to Victor’s cybernetics shows that his powers are changing and no one has the slightest clue why. Victor’s new tech seems to be communicating with other worlds, specifically with a group called the Technosapiens. This group wants to possess Victor’s new technology and they are determined to do so by any means necessary. As is par for the course of any superhero graphic novel, Victor finds help in the most unlikely of places: the Tekbreakers, a group of warriors from another world who have a plan to fight the Technosapiens. Victor just has to decide if he can truly trust them, considering they did try to kill him earlier… This graphic novel is a fantastic addition to the DC line and gives readers just enough back story to be able to follow along, while also drawing them in with vivid artwork and connections to other main DC storylines. Check it out!

The Midas Flesh: Volume One by Ryan North

midas flesh The Midas Flesh: Volume One is an entertaining journey into the future, where a space crew finds themselves within the orbit of a gold gilded Earth. Flashback to how this whole shindig got started. Do you know the story of King Midas? The Midas Touch? That’s basically the gist of this book with some high-tech space flight and dinosaurs in space suits involved.

In The Midas Flesh: Volume One, one night King Midas got drunk and decided that if he had only one wish, it would be to have everything that he touched turn to gold. Low and behold a thunderbolt slashes out of the heavens and his wish is granted. Flash forward quite a bit and the entire planet Midas was inhabiting has turned to gold, BUT the kicker is that it does not show up on ANY of the space maps nor is it in any of the galaxy records. The Federation has covered up the entire existence of this planet and to prevent others from stealing anything from said planet, they have effectively covered its entire close orbit with satellites, ships, weaponry, etc. to alert them if someone stumbles and finds this place.

Somehow  Joey and her space crew, Fatima and Cooper, have managed to find this planet and are desperately trying to figure out why everything on it is made of gold. They are struggling to do so before the Federation realzies they have found the planet and before a bounty can be placed on their heads for being able to take something off the surface of the planet. Joey’s ultimate goal is to be able to harvest the weapon on this gold planet and somehow reconfigure it to be used against the evil Federation, the group who is tracking them down and the same group who was taking over planets and destroying whole civilizations. This first volume gives readers a good introduction into the Midas legend and also to the forces the crewmembers find themselves up against. If you’re not a fan of graphic novels, and even if you are, I recommend this book as there are few flash backs, the artwork is not overwhelming, and the overall story reads like a linear piece of fiction, but the graphic novel as a whole is still widely appealing. Check it out.

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee and Peter David and Colleen Doran

amazing fantastic incredibleIf you think of Marvel, chances are the first name you think of is Stan Lee. He has become the face and name most closely affiliated with Marvel and rightfully so. Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir is Stan Lee’s memoir and it’s not like your traditional memoir. This book is a fabulously illustrated graphic memoir done in full color that gives you a birth until present glimpse into the life of Stan Lee.

With Marvel just recently celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary, the release of this graphic novel comes at a high point when Marvel is once again at the center of awareness. Stan Lee is the most legendary name in the history of comic books and this graphic memoir will answer questions about his life and work history that anyone from comic newbie to comic guru may have.

Following Lee’s life from a small boy in an apartment to his current venture of traveling and speaking in venues around the world, this book gives readers a glimpse into the life of the comic legend and co-creator of Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, and many, many other superheroes. Stan Lee changed the superhero game by insisting his superheroes/villains/other characters were complex characters, dealt with personal issues and used wit in order to give readers more relatable superheroes. He read other characters as flat portrayals of the age-old story of good vs. evil and wanted to bring out the human qualities of these superhuman heroes. This graphic memoir illustrates the life and times as Stan Lee as he first broke into the comic industry and effectively changed comics as the world knows them today.

This book is chock full of advice for writers, readers, illustrators, and anyone else who has a dream that they want to follow, despite what other people may be saying to them. Believing in yourself and not giving up are two of the main themes that are consistent throughout this memoir, reminding readers this through speeches and also through the stories of the superheroes that he created and was able to successfully launch into the mainstream public. Whether you’re a comic fan, love Marvel, or are wanting to learn more, I highly recommend this graphic novel as a look into Stan Lee’s past and the overall history of both Marvel and the cast of superheroes that he created.

 

The Flash: The Complete First Season

the flashI’ve been on a superhero kick lately, as evidenced by all of my recent blog posts featuring superhero graphic novels. I decided to branch out on my last library check-out and snagged the first season of The Flash.

The Flash is a television series that began in 2014 and is currently running its second season on the CW. This show is based on the DC Comics run of the Flash and is actually of spinoff of Arrow, another show that is running its 4th season on the CW right now (the library has the first three seasons!). Don’t worry! It’s not necessary to watch all of Arrow in order to understand the story of The Flash. When the characters cross over, they do a good job of explaining their back stories.

In The Flash, Barry Allen is a crime scene investigator for the Central City police department. He’s an incredibly smart young man, one who is endearingly awkward and geekishly handsome. Barry moved in with his best friend, Iris, and her father, Joe, after his mother was murdered and his father was sent to jail for having killed her. Despite having to grow up with only Joe has a parental figure, Barry chose a career path that would help him learn all he can about the science behind his mother’s murder, something that would help him free his father from prison, and find the mysterious “man in yellow,” the man Barry believes to have killed his mother. After an explosion at Star Labs, Barry wakes up and realizes that he has become the fastest man alive. Every superhero has to have partners in crime and Barry found his in a group of scientists operating out of Star Labs since it was shut down. Realizing that he has an opportunity to help people, Barry and friends help to fine tune his abilities and he uses his new power to race through the streets of Central City to fight crime. Check out this first season to watch Barry test the limits of his speed, figure out ways to fight the other metahumans(what they call the people who were also affected by the explosion at Star Labs), and cheer for Barry as he struggles to find a way to free his father from prison.