I dedicate this blog to comics in all forms, manga, autobio, superhero, art books, etc. And of course, since I need a challenge, I've decided that I'll read and write (short) reviews for 365 comics during 2015.
I've been reading Above the Dreamless Dead for about two weeks, I'll read a couple adaptations at a time, because there is a lot to think about, and the topic of the trenches during WWI is not light reading.
It was interesting re-visiting some of the poetry I read in college by most notably, Siegfried Sassoon, Thomas Hardy and Wilfred Owen, on whom I wrote a research paper during my 3rd year at college. Having the poems paired with these amazing, terrifying and sometimes beautiful visuals brought out a different understanding. I wish this had existed back then, I think I maybe would have come away with a bit more to say than I did at the time.
I would recommend this graphic novel to anyone who knows a service member, especially for the end of the book which focuses on the after effects of war, the memorials we put up, but do not remember, the fact that though soldiers are told they fight to provide a peaceful future for their children, children will grow up to face yet another war, and esp. pg. 125 which speaks of Siegfried Sassoon's life and the evolution of PTSD.
I also read Gaijin: American Prisoner of War, which is a fictional story based on a true history. It is about Koji, whose mother met his father in Japan and who has grown up in San Francisco. Despite the fact that he knows no Japanese, his hair is blonde and eyes blue, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor he gets a letter saying he must report to a relocation center. At school he is beaten and discriminated against for being a "Jap," but once at Alameda Downs, a former horse racing track converted into prison camp, he finds himself ostrasized for his American heritage instead, bullied and called "Gaijin" by a group of boys.
The story follows Koji as he struggles with thoughts of his Japanese father, trying to fit in with both sides of his heritage and trying to understand what is happening around him, with help from his mother and a kindly neighbor who takes him under his wing.
Unlike the book on WWI, this one is a children's graphic novel, with vibrant color illustrations, that focuses on what happens to immigrants when their adopted country goes to war with their birth country or that of one of their parents, as in Koji's case.
I would recommend this to Children, as it focuses on the common theme of growing up, fitting in and doing the right thing. It would be good for fans of Lauren Tarshis' "I Survived" series.
Next I read about a fictional war in "All You Need Is Kill" which is based off a Japanese light novel of the same title. This one was a bit...not great. Art was ok, the plot could have used a little bit more work and the way the graphic novel paced left me feeling bored. It starts out with a Deja Vu feeling by the main character, he's dying in the same battle over and over again.
The enemy is a creature formed of a mass of cells which mimic whatever they first encounter, which for us turned out to be starfish and frogs. That's my first "uh" moment. Why wouldn't have been two things that lived closer together in the environment, like starfish and sharks or frogs and dragonflies or something?
Anyway, whatever, maybe it just chose those two things because it liked the look of them. So next is the time travel/vortex/dream world bit. How did that make any form of sense at all? Just baffled me.
All in all, maybe try the book instead, wouldn't bother with this one.
Finally, and perhaps my favorite of the lot, Eleanor Davis' How to Be Happy.
The graphic novel is a collection of shorter and longer pieces, all done in vibrant and beautiful watercolors that span Sci-fi elements to realistic almost biographical stories.
The first story, "In Our Eden" was wonderful, hilarious and just plain interesting. I also loved the plain black and white inked "Make Yourself Strong." And then the fable or parable like "Seven Sacks," there is so much to love in this graphic, especially the artwork.
Davis has a keen eye for detail and a witty, dry sense of humor comes through the pages as she takes a look at the world of medication, meditation, gluten free diets and the like. My cuppa tea.