Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #37: Bone #2 – The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith

Bone The Great Cow Race scThe second installment of the Bone series finds all of the Bones, Thorn, Gran’ma Ben, and Lucius back in town to get ready for the titular Great Cow Race. Fone Bone is incredibly happy that he gets time with Thorn, until she says she’s in the market for honey…and a cute boy. It’s heartbreaking to see Fone Bone’s cartoon heart bubble actually break and therein is part of the magic of Jeff Smith’s characters, drawing, and writing. I just love these characters, even the ones love to hate, like Phoney Bone…

…Who is up to his usual tricks in this book, trying to fix the results of the Great Cow Race so he can walk off with all the winnings. He works pretty damn hard to get the townspeople to think that Gran’ma Ben is past her prime so people won’t bet on her but instead on the mysterious mystery cow (PSmiley Bone in a comically terrible cow costume). This way, when HE bets on her, he gets all the winnings. He wants Lucius to get in on the action by betting his bar so Phoney can win that, too, but the joke is on him when Lucius gets wind of what’s going on but does bet his bar…on Gran’ma Ben. (Phoney’s jaw hitting the counter of his makeshift bet booth is fantastic!)

Meanwhile, we’re learning more about Thorn’s dreams and that they’re more than likely based on the past. Also, that when she was a little girl, she drew the map the Bones found. With one of my favorite lines in the series so far (“Hello, small mammal.”), the rat creatures find Fone Bone writing “poetries” to Thorn and move to capture him. Fone Bone runs, and in the process, more rat creatures join in the chase and eventually the cows and the rats make one huge mammal melange of chaos. Through all the adversity, guess who wins the race? Gran’ma Ben, bitches!

All in all, it was an enjoyable installment in the Bone series and I heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a solid story, excellent art, and a good dose of humor throughout. Well, you know, anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #36: Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Adapted & Illustrated by P. Craig Russell

coraline_graphic_novelI’m not sure if it’s a credit or detraction to Mr. Russell, the adaptor and illustrator of this graphic novel, that I came away from reading it thinking, “I need to read more Neil Gaiman.” I suppose it could be considered both, but to be honest, it mostly stemmed from the fact that I liked the novel better and was reminded from that feeling that I need to read more Gaiman.

It’s not that this graphic novel is bad. It follows the same story of a bored girl who is looking for someone to play with, something intriguing, and also, people to respect her enough to call her by her real name instead of what they think it is (Caroline). She finds a mysterious door in her family’s new house and then finds a key to the door and goes through it. There she finds the Other world, which is a mirror image of her house, family, and neighbors, but…off. Other Mother has black button eyes, long spindly fingers with razor sharp nails, and just wants to love and adore Coraline and give her lots of rich foods and play with her. At first, this seems mostly cool to Coraline, who’s been looking for this kind of attention, but she soon realizes that getting what you think you want isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But when she tries to go home, she can’t find her parents. Turns out, her Other Mother has stolen and hidden them. The rest of the story is spent with Coraline trying to free them and get her real parents, a black helper cat, and herself back home.

The illustrations are quite creepy of the Other Mother and the Other side, in general, but I found that the way Gaiman described things left me more unsettled than the actual illustrations. The initial charm and subsequent oddness and ultimate fear all kind of blended to me. Seeing how jarring the Other Mother looked right off the bat was something that I think was a little too much for me.

The one thing I did really like was the intricacies in Coraline’s facial expressions. I think Russell did a great job with bringing her to life throughout the book, which is a definite plus since she’s, y’know, the main character. I think my lack of appreciation for the illustrations may just come down to personal preference. But I came away with it wanting to read more Gaiman, and really, that’s never a bad thing.

Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #34: Bone #1 – Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith

bone-out-from-boneville-jeff-smithI read this graphic novel years ago and remember enjoying it, but I never finished the whole series. Since I still have a dozen or so books to read and review for this year’s Cannonball Read, I think this is the perfect time to read the series!

Starting with number 1, Out From Boneville, this series is so approachable for both kids and adults. The art style is beautifully playful and the writing is charming, funny, and believable. Well, believable for a world that has rat creatures that eat quiche, an aloof dragon, and an old woman who races cows (meaning she runs on foot in a race with the cows)…and wins. Oh, and these cute little bulby guys of the Bone species. They’re kind of like humans, but require fewer clothes to stay proper.

In the first book, we learn that Fone Bone and his cousins, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone were run out of Boneville (literally) because Phoney Bone very much lives up to his first name and swindled most if not all of their town. An angry mob ensued, leaving the three bones lost in the forest. Fone Bone gets separated from his cousins and then gets hit by a freak unilateral layer of snow. This keeps him in the forest longer than he’d hoped, but since he’s an adorable little scamp of a Bone, he’s made friends with the possums and her babies and a leaf bug. The leaf bug Ted tells Fone he needs to find Thorn because she’s smart and can help him. He eventually does find Thorn (and falls in adorable interspecies love with her) but she’s riding some seriously repressed memories and doesn’t believe in things like dragons. Even though she was kinda raised by them. Partly.

Anyway, Thorn realizes she can’t help Fone on her own and suggests that maybe her Grandma Rose can help, as soon as she gets back from town. (Which happens to be where Smiley.) Phoney Bone gets led to Thorn’s house, too, and Fone and Phoney have a semi reunion, but realize they need to figure out how to get home. And they need to find Smiley to do that. Grandma suggests a trip into town, and besides, she’s got a cow race to run!

Meanwhile, the rat creatures and their grand hooded evil dude/tte are after Phoney but I (and he) have no clue why. They try to ambush Grandma Rose and Thorn’s house but Grandma Rose kicks some serious rat creature ass. The dragon’s involved in all of this, so is a map to somewhere mysterious, and a bunch of unanswered questions. Since there are 8 other books in the series, I have a feeling I might not get the answer all that soon. That’s okay; totally enjoyable read with a few laugh-out-loud moments. Can’t wait to get to the next one!

Baxlala’s #CBR5 Review #24 and #25: FABLES Volumes 1 & 2

It seems only right, as it’s been announced that FABLES will be ending at issue #150, that I should finally start my review of the series. Nothing like waiting til the last minute, yes? I’ve been meaning to review FABLES since my last go round of Cannonball and, in fact, did manage to at least review one collection last year, a Bigby-centric collection called Werewolves of the Heartland.

I wish I’d loved that collection more. I’m surprised I didn’t because, as I mentioned, it was Bigby-centric, but I suppose they can’t all be winners. Luckily, the first two FABLES collections, Legends in Exile and Animal Farm, are absolutely:

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Can’t stop thinking about DOCTOR WHO: blame the 50th Anniversary.

I came to comics late in life, thinking (wrongly, like so many people) that they were all superheroes and big-boobed-spandex-clad ladies. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I started reading comics and FABLES was one of the first.

FABLES hits all the marks for me. There’s an ongoing mystery, a smart-as-a-whip-takes-no-nonsense heroine, a tortured hero, still haunted by things he’s done in the past, an unlikely romance that sparks in the first collection and heats up throughout the rest. And, best of all, fairy tale characters, just, ALL OVER THE PLACE.

When ABC announced that Once Upon a Time was going to be a thing, I was of two minds. Part of me thought, “awesome, I love stuff about fairy tales, how cool!” but the other part of me, the larger, angrier part, just think-shouted, “WHAT THE FUCK WHY ISN’T IT FABLES?”

I did try Once Upon a Time for about half a season but it just didn’t hold the appeal for me that FABLES did. Probably because, the entire time I was watching it, I was just wishing it was FABLES. Oh well. Moving on, I guess.

Slight spoilers, ahoy.

Fables vol 1Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile

Our story takes place in a part of New York called Fabletown, where a bunch of fairy tale characters took refuge when their Homelands were invaded by the Adversary and his forces. The Fables have disguised themselves as normal New Yorkers, so the Mundys of the world can’t detect that there are immortal beings in their midst.

We’re introduced to some important Fables, namely Snow White, Fabletown’s deputy mayor, and Bigby (formerly the Big Bad Wolf), the town’s sheriff, when Rose Red (Snow White’s sister) is allegedly murdered. Bigby and Snow team up to find Rose Red’s killer. Prime suspects include Jack (of beanstalk fame), Rose Red’s longtime boyfriend, and Bluebeard, her secret fiance.

We also learn that Bigby has been nursing some hardcore unrequited love for the beautiful Snow White so, you know, YAY SHIPPING.

Fables vol 2

Fables, Vol. 2: Animal Farm

So last issue, we met the human Fables but you just know there are non-human ones, right? RIGHT? Well. There are. FYI. The three little pigs. The three bears. Three blind mice. Chicken Little. Yada yada. While the human Fables get to enjoy the conveniences of big city life, the non-human Fables have to live on The Farm, so as not to arouse suspicion in the Mundy world when someone sees a talking pig wandering around. The Farm seems nice enough, really, but some of the non-human Fables bristle at being told they HAVE to stay there.

Enter the revolution, which Snow White and Rose Red stumble right into. Shit gets real, you guys. Shit gets SUPER TOTALLY REAL.

Anyway, it’s hard to review these without giving too much away. You should probably just read them, OK? OK. Good talk.

Sara Habein’s #CBR5 Review #31: Simon’s Cat vs. The World by Simon Tofield

Simon's Cat vs. The WorldWe’re going to do something a little different this time because, well, to be honest, the idea amuses me. While I am certainly a great lover of cats and comics/cartoons,Simon’s Cat vs. The World struck me as something my six-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter would also enjoy. Anyone who knows my son knows he operates in his own amusing, creative universe, and my daughter is a voracious reader who can’t believe I’m not blowing through the Harry Potter series just once while she’s gone through it three times. (I’m about to start Book 4, at her insistence. Yes, I’m late to the party, as usual.)

So while I can tell you that Simon Tofield’s kitty creation is both very funny and full of detail, I wanted to know what my kids had to say.

Jack: “I like the part with the couch because he’s like AAAHHH!! with his paw. And the bird box is funny because the bird pops out and the birds are just like Yeah! I like the sticker with the arrow pointing into cat’s mouth because it’s like the cat is saying,Feed me.”

Grace: “I like the drawing lessons in the back because I like drawing a lot and I like cats. The book is really funny. The Godzilla part was my favorite.”

Jack: “And how could you conquer the Godzilla?”

Grace: “I don’t know, it was the shadow of the Godzilla toy. And Simon looked fiercer the dinosaur toy’s shadow.”

Jack: “Well, I don’t really see how that’s conquering it.”

(I think the cat’s ongoing war with the hedgehogs is my favorite.)

The included stickers and drawing lessons are also a great inclusion with the full color illustrations. The way Tofield explains his relatively simple way of drawing different animals is something even a semi-inept artist such as myself could handle. My daughter, on the other hand, could practically do it in her sleep. The kids got right to work on their own Simon the Cat artwork.

(Click on through to Glorified Love Letters for both their artwork and the rest of my review.)

Polyphonist’s #CBR5 Review #33: Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me – a graphic memoir by Ellen Forney

marbles-ellen-forney
With a subtitle like Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me, you know this isn’t going to be your typical graphic novel. But then again, if you’ve read any of Ellen Forney’s other work, you’d know she’s not your typical graphic novelist/cartoonist. She’s also a teacher, cartoonist, columnist, and all around artist of life. She also is incredibly sex and body positive; early on in the book, she talks about the project she felt she was universally given: to help the women of the world to see themselves as beautiful and sexy, complete with adorable/sexy/awesome cartoon versions of the photo shoots she staged to help her with these projects.

Her work, as is the work and lives of other creative people throughout history who’ve dealt with mental illness in some way, is the focal point of this brilliant, personal, sometimes hard-to-take book. And while it was sometimes hard to take, I’m glad she created this book and I’m also grateful to have read it, since I’m also a creative person who’s had personal experience with various forms of mental illness. However, I’ve never been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, I do have friends who have been, so the insight into that was enlightening. Forney meticulously charts her life from diagnosis to trying to figure out various treatments and medications to a place where she’s fairly stable and the illness is controlled.

Sometimes, the severe highs and lows she documents can be a bit too much just from reading so I can only imagine what she felt actually living through them, but overall, it was incredibly inspiring and educational. The research she does into the lives of prominent artists, writers, directors and other creative famous people is staggering and the questions she asks related to her findings are things that I still find myself curious about. For example, there are a few pages about Van Gogh, since, as she said, he “was truly the ultimate crazy tortured genius artist.” He dealt with hallucinations, suicide attempts, voices, mental hospitals, sever anxiety, seizures, violent rages, euphoria, depression. She included quotes from him such as “I have forsaken my pencil in discouragement,” “I shall always be cracked,” “Ideas come to me in swarms….I go on a painting, like a steam engine.”

And Forney wonders:

What would his art have been like if he hadn’t been “cracked”? Was it his demons that gave his art so much life? Or did he work in spite of them? What if he’s been stabilized on meds? Who knows?

In the last four years of his life, in and out of mental institutions, Van Gogh painted more than forty self-portraits. Was he trying to pin down the confusing swirls inside his head, to bring them outside?

Painting his self-portraits, did he find a sense of calm? Focus? Relief? …like I did? I like to think so. I hope so.

This wasn’t just a novel about one person’s struggle with mental illness, it was also a record of how it affected her family, friends, and work, how she fought to find meaning and art in it and relate to others from the past who maybe tried to do the same thing dealing with similar issues. It was educational about limits of power medical professionals have, but how much they can help if you find a good one. And even then, how slow the help can be as you adjust to the medication, the different types of therapy, or as you unwittingly sabotage your own recovery with poor choices and fear. It’s also a feast of Forney’s various art styles, including her take on famous pieces by other great artistis like Van Gogh, Munch, Alfred Stieglitz, and O’Keeffe, which is fitting because I think this subject especially can get dry, one note, terrifying, and easily misunderstood if you’re only ready words. The visual element helped bring home the vast highs and horrific lows in a way that words can’t always do.