Paper Girls, Volumes 1-6

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Genres: Graphic Novel, Sci-fi
Pub. Date: Apr. 2016 (read Mar. 2022)

I don’t usually write reviews for comics, but I read the entire 6 volume series over 3 days, so I wanted to say a little something about the series as a whole. Paper Girls isn’t new, it’s been around long enough that the series was finished before I ever started reading it. It seems like a lot of people have read it because of Saga’s fame, but it doesn’t have as good reviews as Saga, so I was sitting on reading it for a long time. Ultimately, I decided to give it a go because I found the entire series at my local library and I’ve always thought the artwork for the series looked gorgeous!

I heard it was a bit confusing to read, but I didn’t find it that bad. Saga’s always been a bit confusing and jumped around from character to character, so while I didn’t know exactly what was happening in Paper Girls, it wasn’t as difficult to follow as I thought. Plus it was made easier by the fact that I really liked the 4 main characters. 

Paper Girls is about 4 girls from the 1980’s who accidentally get catapulted into a different year when time travellers infiltrate their town on Halloween. They’re sent to the future and spend the next 6 volumes hopping around through time trying to get back to their reality. They meet people from other worlds and even get to meet future versions of themselves. The only thing I didn’t quite grasp was how the whole time travel thing gets initiated in the first place, but it was a fun romp through space and time, so I was able to overlook it.
 
The characters are all around 12 years old I believe, which I thought was a bit young, but it has really strong stranger things vibes and I really liked the artwork and time period. I didn’t like the homophobic slurs that are written into the text, I know the authors were trying to make it indicative of the time period, but I don’t think it was necessary, nor did I really think if fit the character of the paper girls. 

My favourite volume was Volume 3 because I really liked Wari. There are a lot of other side characters that come and go throughout the series, but I wish there had been more consistency between some of these characters. For example, I liked that Wari returned and that we got several versions of Erin and Tiffany, I thought they were really strong. But then some of the other characters seem to only be there briefly and I’m not sure they added a lot to the text. I’m struggling to remember all their names now, but thinking of the old woman (Charlotte?), the Prioress, and the other character on the front of Volume 5 (is it implied that this character is a future version of Mac? because that was never clear to me, but would make her inclusion more important). Otherwise I didn’t think any of these characters really added much.

Anyways, it’s a weird series of course, but I did like it. It’s not a long read and worth it is you want something fun!

Bloodlust & Bonnets

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Emily McGovern
Genres: Graphic Novel, LGBTQIA+
Pub. date: Sep. 2019 (read Jan. 2020)

I’m a little bit delayed with this review, but I picked up Bloodlust & Bonnets at a bookstore in New Zealand because I liked the colourful artwork and thought it looked like the story might have a Nimona-style brand of humour. I was correct on both fronts!

Bloodlust & Bonnets is set in Victorian times and tells the story of Lucy, Byron, and Sham, a bunch of “queer misfits” looking for an adventure in the form of destroying Lady Travesty, the leader of a vampire cult. Their adventures take them all over Britain, with each character struggling with their own personal hang-ups while they all try and get used to being part of a team.

It’s the kind of hilarious, feel good, nonsense that despite all its shenanigans, still has a ton of relevant social commentary buried in it about gender norms, identity, and equality. It made me laugh out loud, but I also loved it for its portrayal of kick-ass female heroines, suave male poets that also like to wear fancy dresses, and gender non-conforming vampire hunters that just need to learn to trust other people. It’s a romping good time!

Fence

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad
Genres: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Fiction
Pub date: July 2018 (read Nov. 2018)

Disclaimer: This is a review for the first 3 volumes. However, I’ve kept it spoiler free so read on!

Why is this so good?!?! I really don’t understand, it’s just a comic about a couple of pretentious boys trying to make their high school’s fencing team, and yet I got so into it! Usually I just wait for the volumes to be released, but after reading the first volume, I had to go in search of the individual issues because it was just so good! (and I knew I would forget who all the boys were) I just finished issue #12, which encompasses the first 3 volumes, I’m just going to review them all here.

Fence is ultimately about two freshman fencers, Nicholas and Seiji, but it features an extended cast of secondary characters. Nicholas is new on the fencing scene and just really wants to be a fencer like his estranged father was. Nicholas is lacking in technique because of his lack of training, but he is very fast and has natural instinct. In contrast, Seiji has been fencing his whole life and is very technically skilled. He’s ranked 2nd nationally to fencing all-star Jesse.

Everyone expected Seiji to go to Exton, an elite fencing academy, but at the start of term, he shows up at Kings Row, expecting to win one of the 3 coveted spots on the fencing team, even though he’s only a freshman. Nicholas has won a fencing scholarship to Kings Row, but he’s only allowed to stay if he makes the team. In a surprise twist of fate, Nicholas and Seiji are roommates and quickly become rivals.

The entire first 3 volumes are just about the tryouts to make the fencing team. The boys compete in 24 matches and the top 3 ranked fencers make the school team to compete against Exton. It shouldn’t be so interesting to read 12 issues about high school fencers competing to make a school fencing team (like who actually cares about fencing these days?), but it is extremely readable and enthralling. Fence has a great extended cast that explores the rivalries and relationships that exist between all the fencers, what it means to be a good fencer, and a good sport, and how our familial relationships and support affects our abilities and psyche. There’s lots of drama between the fencers, but there’s also camaraderie. You come to like each and every one of the fencers (and the coach) and we start getting the back stories of some of the fencers.

My assumption is that after the team is established in the first 3 volumes, Pacat will expand the series to include Jesse (the #1 ranked fencer) and the rivalries between Exton and Kings Row. The first 3 volumes were fantastic and I can’t wait to see where this series goes in the future!

Saga, Volume 9

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Genres: Graphic Novel, Science Fiction
Pub date: Oct. 2018 (read Nov. 2018)

So I can’t stop talking about Saga this year. For some reason Volume 8 affected me more than any other volume and I found it incredibly meaningful. So I was really looking forward to Volume 9, but apparently Vaughan decided that this will be the volume in which he kills us all.

This volume was brutal. I loved it in the way I’ve loved every issue of Saga, in that it’s very original and fun, but it also destroyed me and left me feeling a little concerned for the series. Vaughan took some risks in the plot and I’m interested to see where it goes, but also a little worried! I’m trusting him to bring this story back from the brink, but losing it over the fact that Vaughan and Staples appear to be taking a bit of a hiatus after this volume!

 

MAJOR SPOILERS BELOW – Read no further unless you’ve read Volume 9!

.
.
.
.
.
.
If you’ve read this volume, then you of course know that I’m talking about the high death count in it. Killing off characters can be a great device to move your story forward, test your characters, and inspire your readers. But I fear 3 MC’s in one volume is a bit too much. Honestly, I can totally get over the deaths of the journalist and the robot guy (I’m seriously the worst with names), but you cannot kill off Marko!! This series has a ton of supporting characters, but let’s be real, we’ll all here for Marko, Alana, and Hazel. I’m hoping Marko comes back somehow in the next issue because I seriously don’t think I can do this series without him. Their family unit is the backbone of this series and is what makes it so special!

Check, Please!: #Hockey, Volume 1

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Ngozi Ukazu
Genres: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, LGBTQIA+
Pub date: Sep. 2018 (read Oct. 2018)

Okay, this was very sweet. It’s not quite what I was expecting, but I liked it nonetheless. Check, Please! is a graphic novel about young hockey player, Eric Bittle. “Bitty”, as he’s christened by his teammates, is just starting University. He’s a former figure skater, internet vlogger, and baker extraordinaire, who has been offered a spot on the Samwell University hockey team. Bitty quickly fits in with his teammates, buttering them up with his delicious pies, and fortunately they are all very accepting of him when he comes out to the team. But Bitty harbours a deep fear of being checked while playing hockey and seems to have started off on the wrong foot with the team captain, Jack.

I struggle to say further what this story is about. It’s not really a plot driven story, but a character driven one. The first volume is a compilation of Bitty’s first two years in University and I believe the second volume will cover his final two years. This book is about post-secondary education – the friendships and relationships you build in these formative years, the pressures to succeed, and the jealousy and insecurity that sometimes develops from that pressure. There are so few books that are set in University and those “new adult” years, so I really appreciate any literature featuring characters in their 20’s. Most of all though, I appreciated that this was a lot of fun!

A Nigerian immigrant from Texas is definitely not someone I would peg to write a book about boys and hockey, but this book never takes itself too seriously, so it just works. I feel like it could have had a little more depth. Ukazu explores the themes I discussed above, but it is fairly surface level, so I excited to see where she takes it in the next volume. But it was a very enjoyable book to read and the artwork is super cute!