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!

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Always Raining Here

Rating: ⭐
Authors: Bell + Hazel
Genres: Young Adult, LGBTQIA+, Graphic Novel
Pub Date: Mar. 2016 (read Sep. 2018)

Note: This is a review of Volumes 1 & 2

Okay, I keep seeing this graphic novel at my local chapters because it’s set in the lower mainland and I was intrigued, so when the mood struck me I read both volumes of the original webcomic online.

It’s a short series about two gay high schoolers, Carter and Adrian. Carter is super horny when he first meets Adrian and decides to pursue him since he’s one of the only other gay guys in his school. Adrian is still getting over his relationship with David and wants nothing to do with Carter. But eventually the two have an awkward interaction at a party and become friends.

I really didn’t like the first volume. Carter was way too creepy and persistent in chasing after Adrian. Adrian keeps telling him to back-off and leave him alone and Carter just keeps hitting on him. The creepy non-consensual come ons are never okay. Not in straight relationship, not in same sex relationships. Never.

Carter finally gets his shit together though and interrupts two sexual harassment scenes at a party that looked like they were about to turn into rape and Carter takes several punches to the face to protect the victims. After this, Carter and Adrian finally become friends for real.

I liked Volume Two. The characters had very little depth in Volume 1 and not a whole lot happened. Volume 2 was almost twice as long and had a much stronger story. Honestly, I don’t even think Volume 1 is needed, especially with all the creepy shit that went down. Carter and Adrian actually seemed more like real teenagers in the second volume.

Adrian is stressed out about doing well in school and at the same time trying to focus on his role in the school’s musical theatre production. Carter on the other hand, is a bit of a drop out who just doesn’t care about school. He stops hitting on Adrian and the two actually start to develop a real friendship. What I liked about this volume was the way that it flipped the story. Carter seems like the messed up one in the friendship, but it’s actually Adrian who starts losing it with all the pressure he’s under and takes advantage of Carter.

Teenagers are put under a surprising amount of stress in high school, between being expected to do well in classes, participate in extra-curriculars, and still maintain a social life. I thought this was portrayed well in Always Raining Here and that it provided some good insight into why teenagers tend to act out. Both boys were under a lot of pressure from their parents, while also trying to navigate the confusing world of teenage hormones.

The artwork was pretty decent, but inconsistent. I read this as the webcomic though, not the published graphic novel, so I’m not really sure what changes were made in the published version. Sometimes things were a little confusing, but I think that’s due to the nature of the comic and that the two creators were working on this while being in school full time. Overall I’d give it 3 stars because I quite liked Volume 2, but I really didn’t like Volume 1.

Saga, Volume 8

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐
Author: Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples
Genres: Comics, Graphic Novel, Sci-fi
Read: Feb. 2018

I love Saga so much. It doesn’t take very long to read one of these volumes, but they are so reliably fun and enjoyable.

Since I’m 8 volumes in and I haven’t written a review for Saga, I’ll give a brief summary. Saga is a graphic novel set in space that starts off with a bit of a Romeo and Juliet premise. Alana and Marko are from two feuding planets (well one’s a moon), Landfall and Wreath. Alana is from Landfall and has wings, while Marko is from Wreath and has horns. The two fall in love, become pregnant, and are basically chased across the galaxy by other planets and people that don’t want any evidence of their traitorous relationship.

I am just in love with Alana, Marko, and their daughter Hazel. I wasn’t totally into the idea of reading about two soldiers and their tag-a-long baby, but this is a truly fantastic series about love and family and throughout the series Vaughan tackles a lot of different socials issues. It is bit of a bizarre series and definitely NSFW (there’s a fair bit of sex and nudity throughout the series), but Fiona Staples artwork is gorgeous and I love how creative Vaughan is with his characters and storyline. His characters do some pretty bad things and make bad decisions, but he’s still able to make you love them. Each character has their own morality line about what is and isn’t acceptable and it’s interesting to watch them try and stay on the safe side of their line while still trying to protect the people that they care about.

Each volume consists of 6 issues and they’ve recently released 2 books containing 3 volumes a piece. But I’d recommend hitting up your local library for this series. 8 volumes can seem pretty daunting, but they are quick reads and I would highly recommend!

Herding Cats

 

Rating: 
Author: Sarah Andersen
Genres: Graphic Novel, Comics
Read: Dec. 2017 (Pub date Mar. 27, 2018)

 

Thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

That’s right!! I finally got a free ARC from NetGalley (plus I have 2 more in the queue)!! So I’m super stoked to review Herding Cats. If you’re on the internet chances are you’ve seen some of Sarah Andersen’s work. She creates really short, but funny and meaningful, comic strips that show up everywhere as memes. She has two short collections, Adulthood is a Myth, and Big Mushy Happy Lump. I’ve read both of them and my main criticism would be that they’re just too short! I understand why they’re this length, Sarah mostly creates one page comics and with every page covering a different topic, they’re not going to be that long. And then there’s the whole thing where she actually has to draw all the artwork.

I always enjoy these. My favourite is still her first collection because I think it really showcases some of her best work and most popular comics. She’s tried a new type of storytelling in the last two books though where she has added some text followed by comics to tell and bit more of a story and address larger issues. Sadly I’m not really into this format as much, I like her stories, I’d just be more interested to see them told solely through comics, but I think Sarah might struggle a little bit with longer story telling through comics and I prefer her shorter comics. I think her shorter comics provide a really good social commentary on a huge variety of issues and how we interact in the world in the internet age.

So I didn’t love this book as much as the first, but there was still a few really great comics in here. She had two comics in this one that were directly about feminism and I really enjoyed them  both, so I’d love to see more comics on social issues as I think this is a really good medium to share ideas and highlight how ridiculous some social norms really are. I will still continue to read whatever Sarah puts out, because they’re such a quick read and they always give me a laugh.