Thursday, December 31, 2015

Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Volume 2

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Volume 2 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus, Volume 2 by Scott Lobdell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I definitely enjoyed this volume as well as the first one. In particular, I appreciated the stronger presence of diverse female characters, such as the slayer Kendra and the formidable sisters Lilith and Lamia. I think Volume 1 could be read and appreciated by people who have not watched the TV show. Since this collection does not flow quite as linearly, it would help for people to have seen the first 3 seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For me, this volume filled in important gaps of Buffy's story, such as her parents' divorce, her sister Dawn, and what happened during Spike and Dru's trip to Europe. The artwork is beautiful, and the book is a fun and engaging read. Also, the female characters are drawn realistically, which I appreciate.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: Gender Trouble

Gender Trouble Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fascinating read! It was dense and took me a long time, but it was worth going on the journey with Judith Butler. I learned a lot about feminism, poststructuralism, and queer theory. Many of the feminist theorists who influenced Butler were ones who I read in Theoretical Frameworks this past semester, so I enjoyed revisiting them. This was one of the most helpful books I have read in a long time, and it is worthwhile for scholars interested in gender issues and feminism.

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Review: Niobe: She Is Life #1

Niobe: She Is Life #1 Niobe: She Is Life #1 by Sebastian A. Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I quite enjoyed this comic and look forward to giving it a second read. It is a fantasy story with some nontraditional twists and a strong female protagonist, and the art work is beautiful.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus, Vol. 1

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus, Vol. 1 Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Omnibus, Vol. 1 by Joss Whedon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was perfect for getting me through the busy "end of the semester" period in December and for keeping me entertained on a long flight to the Caribbean. And to top it all off, I finished it on the beach today! Many of my favorite Buffy characters showed up in this book. I got to learn more about Rupert Giles, Spike, and Angel, all of whom I loved! It was fun to see how Buffy and Pike's relationship moved forward (and then, well, didn't) after the movie that I watched way back in the day with one of my babysitters. The artwork in this book is amazing, and the artists really bring the TV show characters to life. Also, I learned more of the back story of Buffy's family and the school fire incident that the show often referred to. I am nearing the end of Season 4 in terms of watching the TV show, so I can't wait to learn more about Giles's dark and twisted past. I'll have to get the Season 8 and Season 9 Buffy comics when I am done watching the show. I can't wait for Buffy Omnibus Volume 2, and eventually for the Angel Omnibus comics! Buffy paved the way for some of the currently emerging female superheroes, in my opinion, so I love reading about her past. :)

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Review: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love this series so much! I have written about it before and will continue to do so. This has been my favorite volume so far, in part because of the character development, in part because I tend to love "end of days," apocalyptic stories. It's the speculative fiction nerd in me! The dialogue in this volume is compelling, and I love how Captain Marvel and Spiderman both make appearances, and they're two other superhero favorites of mine. Kamala's relationships take important turns in this book, so read it ASAP! You won't be sorry. :)

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Comics Outside the Canon: Recommendations for Adolescents and Pre-Service Teachers

     Since my colleagues know that I am interested in comics and graphic novels, I frequently get asked to recommend graphica/comic books for classroom use and for adolescents to read for interest. Recently, I have been thinking in particular about comic volumes and graphic novels that have not yet been canonized the way such books as Art Spiegelman’s The Complete Maus and Marjane Satrapi’s The Complete Persepolis have. These important graphic novels paved the way for the exploration of comics and graphic novels in classroom settings. However, I am learning about so many other options out there! At some of the NCTE panels and roundtables related to Young Adult Literature and courses for pre-service teachers, I was reminded of how important it is for educators to learn about high interest readings for adolescents, so they can form a literary connection with their students. Therefore, here are a few fresh selections of the comics/graphica form:

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee, Peter David, and Colleen Doran: This graphic memoir tells the story of Stan Lee’s life, from his early days in New York City growing up with a Romanian Jewish immigrant family who struggled during the Great Depression to getting his own star on the walk of fame in Hollywood, California. Lee’s story is a true “rags to riches” tale of a person who lived the American Dream and who read a lot and worked hard to make his own way in life. It would be an inspiration to many students, particularly those who are not feeling motivated in school and who do not have a lot of financial opportunities. Additionally, Lee’s story is a testament to the power of the immigrant narrative, creativity, imagination, and determination.

      Super Black: American Pop Culture and Black Superheroes by Adilifu Nama: Currently, there are not a lot of books devoted to the scholarship of African-American characters in comic books, but this is a very well-written one. As a current reader, I am finding it accessible and also informative. In particular, I am intrigued to learn about the Black Panther comics, the emergence of Storm, and the Cloak and Dagger series. I am learning about fascinating comics with important history that I would not have learned about before, and how comics and pop culture truly tell the narrative of American history. Many comics and films Nama discusses would make for intriguing and critical class discussions.

      The Midas Flesh Volumes One and Two, by Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb: This two-volume comic is a fascinating mix of science fiction and mythology. In an imagined universe, King Midas turned the planet Earth entirely into gold, and beings from other planets are dealing with the aftermath. This book is a gripping adventure stories with strong female characters who defy gender norms and who want to fight for the greater good, even if they do not always agree on the courses of action. I loved the different representations of race and creed of the characters, and it does not tell a single narrative. The pacing is perfect, and the conclusion at the end raises important questions about materialism versus knowledge. Adolescent and college students alike will love these books. 

        Buffy the Vampire Slayer Omnibus Volume One: This book will particularly resonate with fans of the film and the television show, but even those who do not have a past background in Buffy’s story will enjoy this and other volumes of this series. Volume 1 tells more of Buffy’s back-story, and we learn more about her life between the film and the start of the television show. In addition, readers learn more about the history of key characters Spike and Drusilla. Since Buffy helped pave the way for other female superheroes, this book would be interesting to study for cultural implications, in addition to being enjoyable to read.

      Saga Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: I am super excited about this series and plan to continue reading it! I think it makes for a great class discussion about sociocultural issues and racial relations. It’s about two soldiers who are on opposite sides of an intergalactic war and who fall in love and, against all odds, bring a new baby into a warring world. I think it’ll be fun to compare it to Joss Whedon’s Serenity comics. It’s a cool blend between science fiction and fantasy, although I now tend to use the term speculative fiction because I think the lines between sci-fi and fantasy often blur, which will be fun to write about in one of my comps essays! My undergraduate students who have read this book love it. It is labeled "M" for mature and is probably more appropriate for older high school students than young teenagers due to some of the language and content. 

Lee, S., David, P., & Doran, C. (2015). Amazing fantastic incredible: A marvelous
memoir. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Nama, A. (2011). Super black: American pop culture and black superheroes. Austin,
TX: University of Texas Press.
North, R., Paroline, S., & Lamb, B. (2014). The midas flesh volume one. Los Angeles,
CA: Boom! Studios.
North, R., Paroline, S., & Lamb, B. (2014). The midas flesh volume two. Los Angeles,
CA: Boom! Studios.
Satrapi, M. (2007).  The complete persepolis.  New York: Pantheon Books
Spiegelman, A. (1996). The complete maus. New York: Pantheon.   
Vaughan, B. & Staples, F. Saga volume one. Berkeley, CA: Image Comics.
Whedon, J., Bennett, J., Brereton, D., Golden, C., Gomez, H. Lee, P., …Richards, C.
(2007). Buffy the vampire slayer omnibus volume 1. Milwaukie, OR: Dark
Horse Books.

Review: Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was super fun to read, especially since I love Marvel Comics and wanted to learn more about Stan Lee's life. In particular, I wanted to learn more about what he was thinking while he created the X-Men and Spiderman, and I did. He also gives some great tips for writers of any genre. His story is a great "rags to riches" tale, as he was from a family of Jewish Romanian immigrants who struggled during the Great Depression. Yet he read a lot and excelled in school, and he started off as an editorial assistant for a comics company. He did not have a fancy education, but he read and wrote a lot and worked hard and managed to succeed. I definitely plan to write in my blog about why I would recommend this book for teaching. This is such a good read and beneficial to teachers and comics scholars alike. It was the perfect choice for my graphic novels/comics book club at Avid Bookshop in Athens. :)

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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Review: Carry On

Carry On Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a combination of Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so OF COURSE I loved it! If I could, I would give it 4.5 instead of 5 stars only because I got a little bit confused at the beginning trying to keep the characters straight. But then once I got into characters, the book was totally worth it. My dear book club buddy Caleb Z. Huett is a wise man and gave me good advice on this book: think of their Harry Potter counterparts, and it makes the beginning of the book much easier to follow. (Simon Snow = Harry, Baz = Draco, Penelope = Hermione, Agatha = Ginny, the Madge = a variation of Dumbledore). Of course, they are not exactly like their counterparts, but thinking of it that way made the beginning chapters easier to follow. I loved how Simon Snow was a broken chosen one, Baz was a vampire with a soul (very much like Angel in Buffy), Penelope was a strong woman of color and a great best friend, and Agatha ends up awesome and in one of my favorite places in the world by the end...that's all I can say without spoiling it. I didn't really like Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter books, but I liked Agatha by the end of this one, so it was nice to see the Chosen One's former girlfriend become cool by the end. As usual, Rainbow Rowell's characters are well developed, and the world is a fun place to be, especially in light of recent sad world events. It's a long book, but it goes fast, and I sometimes felt like I was watching an entertaining movie. Also, it brings up many good questions about gender and sexuality as being fluid and on a spectrum rather than fixed. How funny, I read this book in part because I wanted to read something not pertaining to my comprehensive exam essays, but now, I look at the world through a socialist feminist and poststructural feminist lenses. I love it, but it is becoming hard for me to separate work from leisure these days, partly because I love what I do for my work. I suppose it's a good problem to have. Friends, read this book, it will make you feel warm and fuzzy inside and like you've had a nice cup of hot chocolate.

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