Kim’s Review of The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon, Illustrated by Hoang Nguyen

theexileSo 2013 has turned into the year of the Outlander series for me.  I’ve made it through three of the main novels (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amberand Voyagerand am moving on to Gabaldon’s Lord John spin-off series before starting book four in the series, Drums of Autumn.  With all that being said, imagine my surprise when Todd and I went into our local Barnes & Noble and found an Outlander graphic novel in the bargain bin!! For $4 I got to be the lucky new parent of The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel.  Never has a person been more excited about a bargain than this one right here. 

The Exile is the first 1/3 of Outlander but told from Jamie’s perspective.  I won’t regurgitate the plot of Outlander myself, I’ll let Goodreads do it for me!

After too long an absence, Jamie Fraser is coming home to Scotland—but not without great trepidation. Though his beloved godfather, Murtagh, promised Jamie’s late parents he’d watch over their brash son, making good on that vow will be no easy task. There’s already a fat bounty on the young exile’s head, courtesy of Captain Black Jack Randall, the sadistic British officer who’s crossed paths—and swords—with Jamie in the past. And in the court of the mighty MacKenzie clan, Jamie is a pawn in the power struggle between his uncles: aging chieftain Colum, who demands his nephew’s loyalty—or his life—and Dougal, war chieftain of Clan MacKenzie, who’d sooner see Jamie put to the sword than anointed Colum’s heir.

And then there is Claire Randall—mysterious, beautiful, and strong-willed, who appears in Jamie’s life to stir his  compassion . . . and arouse his desire. 
But even as Jamie’s heart draws him to Claire, Murtagh is certain she’s been sent by the Old Ones, and Captain Randall accuses her of being a spy. Claire clearly has something to hide, though Jamie can’t believe she could pose him any danger. Still, he knows she is torn between two choices—a life with him, and whatever it is that draws her thoughts so often elsewhere. 

So I knew going into this that I would already love the story Gabaldon was telling.  Jamie and Claire’s story is truly one of my favorites…..ever. Like Darcy and Elizabeth level love.  Therefore I was incredibly surprised to see how weakly their story translated over into a graphic novel.  As I sit here writing this I’m not sure where the graphic novel fell short.  The illustrations I thought were perfectly suited for the story.  Nguyen is a wonderful artist and captured the imagery of the story magnificently.  It’s possible that because the Outlander book is so detailed and long and the graphic novel so much shorter, that description and story embellishment went missing.  The eBook of Outlander I read was 800+ pages while this graphic novel was 224.  That’s a small amount of pages/illustrations to translate nearly 300 pages of text to.

While it’s not sharing anything new to us plot-wise as readers, it was fun to get inside Jamie’s head for a short period of time.  To get his perspective on the speed and depth in which he fell in love with Claire adds a new dimension to their love.   I’ll admit, it was also great to see how far Murtagh was willing to go with his fierce loyalty to Jamie.  I think fans of the Outlander series will ultimately have the same response that I’ve had to this graphic novel: it’s ok.

3 out of 5 stars

This is my eleventh completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge.

The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel by Diana Gabaldon, Illustrated by Hoang Nguyen
Random House (2010)
Hardcover: 224 pages
ISBN: 9780345505385

#98 A Review of Emma (Graphic Novel) by Nancy Butler, Illustrated by Janet Lee

What do you get when you combine one of Jane Austen’s classic works with the minds behind Marvel Comics?  Why, a graphic novel series of course.  Nancy Butler has turned three of Austen’s works into graphic novel format thus far: Sense and Sensibility (which I’ve reviewed here), Pride and Prejudice, and now Emma.  As the newest release, Emma intrigued me because I’ve already enjoyed one of Butler’s works, and figured that combining two of my great literary interests (Austen and to a lesser extent, graphic novels) would be a lot of fun.  Butler tells the tale of Emma, Knightly, Jane Fairfax, and all of Austen’s other beloved characters with as much enthusiasm and truth as the original work.  Adding a new dimension with the incorporation of the graphic novel format, Butler relays the tale of Emma and her belief that she is always correct in all things despite her limited worldview.  It is not until the proposal of Mr. Knightly that brings her back to reality that she realizes how wrong she has been the entire time.

Being a graphic novel, obviously the most important part of keeping and capturing your audience would be the illustrations.  With that being said, each of the three Austen graphic novels I’ve read have had a different illustrator so far.  The illustrations in Pride and Prejudice led to very “porn-like” characters and didn’t match the original descriptions of the characters at all.  Sense and Sensibility was much better, with tasteful illustrations that matched the time period.  Emma, on the other hand, had very child-like illustrations that seemed out-of-place.  It became difficult at times to discern characters due to similar illustrations.  What I found interesting was the attention to detail spent on the wallpapers, designs on women’s dresses, and scenery, while so little was spent on making sure each character was distinguishable.  Every character seemed to have similar facial structures and hair.  On the other hand, the adaptation of the text was done quite well.  Butler has done a great job making sure that the bulk of the story is told, and the important bits of dialogue make it over to the graphic novel adaptation.  I’m sure a lot of people would think that Austen’s work would be diminished by being imported into a graphic novel format, but I think the illustrations can actually aid in telling the story.  People that don’t have the time to pick up Austen’s novels and read them may find it easier to get that Austen “fix” by reading these graphic novel formats.  In all, I enjoyed Butler’s adaptation of this timeless classic, as well at her other works in this format so far.  Although the illustrations needed definite work, certain parts were done quite well.  I can’t wait to see what’s next in this series!

3 out of 5 Stars

Emma by Jane Austen, Nancy Butler, and Janet Lee
Marvel Enterprises (2012)
Paperback: 120 pages
ISBN: 9780785156864

#93 A Review of The Walking Dead (Hardcover Book Five) by Robert Kirkman

Todd and I want to apologize for the major gap that has occurred between our Walking Dead reviews!  If you need a refresher, here are our reviews of books one, two, three, and four.  To continue with the tradition, we’re doing a joint review of book five!

Book five of the series begins after the horrible battle at the prison and subsequent loss of many characters from the previous books in the series.  We’re reunited with Rick and Carl, who are on their own and separated from any other possible survivors of the massacre.  There is a particularly poignant scene where Rick comes down with a sudden infection and is rendered unconscious.  Carl asserts his independence and tells his dad (who is passed out) that he doesn’t need his help and that he’d be fine alone.  Soon thereafter, Carl realizes that he isn’t nearly as brave as he thought, and in a moment of panic almost shoots Rick as Rick slowly (and in a zombie-like manner) comes to.  After he recovers, Rick and Carl reunite with Michonne, and the three of them travel together until they stumble upon the remaining survivors of the prison attack.  After a brief moment of actual happiness in the post-apocalyptic doom, they then meet a group of three survivors who are traveling to Washington, DC: Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita.  Abraham, an army Sargent, challenges Rick as the head of the group, and is the focal point for the remainder of the novel.  What happens next though, catches everyone off guard, and puts all of their lives in immediate danger…

Kim: So I truly love the underlying social commentary themes that are woven into these books.  I like how in book five we focus a lot on the children who have survived to this point.  When we finished reading the book, Todd and I started discussing our thoughts and I said the following: I think that as adults we have the ability to adapt for survival faster than children do.  As adults we understand what we need to survive.  It’s an inherent trait in ourselves to adapt for our survival.  In the case of children, they are taken care of by adults.  A child does not inherently understand survival at the level an adult would.  In book five we begin to see the effects that this “zombie apocalypse” has had on them.  Sophia is looking at any of the females caring for her as her actual mother.  When Carl asks her about her birth mother Sophia acts like she has no idea who he’s talking about.  The trauma of her mother’s suicide, coupled with the rest of the events of the books have taken such a toll on her, that her mind has blacked out the traumatic events.  Consequently, Carl has a scare when Rick become so sick that he passes out for several days.  Carl acts like everything is fine and that he can take care of himself, but the reality soon sets in that he is a child and shouldn’t have to fend for himself.  It’s these transformations (and others) that makes these books the “must reads” I think they are.  They are so much more than just zombie novels.  They are true experimental evaluations of the human condition!

Todd: I definitely agree.  I think it’s interesting that Carl has to mature (physically and emotionally) in this world while all of the adults are obviously much older and have a greater frame of reference for a time that wasn’t infested with walking corpses.  Of course it accelerates Carl’s maturity, but in other aspects it makes him even more messed up, with little to no stability in his life to rely on.  Fortunately, Rick tries his best to be a good father figure, and for the most part it works, but the ever-mounting flood of death and destruction takes its toll, especially when Carl tells his father that he wanted to help him kill the man who almost molested him.  When he tells Rick that he is scared of the violence of his thoughts sometimes, it offers us a window into how his mind is adjusting to the new surroundings.  Rick perhaps puts it best: “We’re doing whatever it takes to survive… The people without the switch– those who weren’t able to go from law-abiding citizens to stone-cold killers… those are the ones shambling around out there– trying to eat us.”

Kim: Speaking of Rick’s mental state, it’s fascinating to see how the events at the end of book four have completely transformed him into a “mental patient”.  The conversations with his dead wife and his serious lack of confidence in himself and his decision-making skills showcase a Rick that we have never glimpsed before.  Kirkman’s ability to highlight a transforming psychological climate for all of these characters is truly what makes this series stand out, and why he’s still publishing new issues of this series monthly.

Todd: I think it’s interesting you bring up Rick’s mental state, because although this book wasn’t nearly as big on action as the previous one, I think it’s actually scarier.  To see what the continued toll of dealing with what has happened to them has on all the characters is really frightening.  We’ve always had Rick as the pillar of the group, right or wrong, and to see him in such a diminished state makes me nervous for what will happen in the future.  I hope the remaining survivors can pull it together!

Make sure you keep a lookout for the next review of book six in this series.  Although we haven’t read it yet, if the speed in which we read this book is any indication, you won’t need to wait long!

Todd’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Kim’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Image Comics (2010)
Hardcover 304 pages
ISBN: 9781607061717

#43 A Review of The Canterbury Tales (Graphic Novel) by Geoffrey Chaucer and Seymour Chwast

If I remember correctly, the first time I was introduced to The Canterbury Tales was in high school.  I remember instantly falling in love with Chaucer’s tongue-in-cheek humor and how he infused that humor with parables that left one with a lesson learned.  When I was at the bookstore and found that a graphic novel version existed, I of course needed to buy it and see how creative Seymour Chwast was in his interpretation of Chaucer’s great work.

For those of you not familiar with The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer writes the tale of 30 pilgrims that are making their way to the Canterbury Cathedral.  Chaucer originally intended for each pilgrim to tell a tale to and from the Cathedral, for a total of 60 works.  Unfortunately, he died after completing 24 tales, of which we will never know the true order in which they are meant to be told.  What is complete, however, are the funny, serious, intriguing, intelligent, and overall entertaining tales of these pilgrims.  From the shockingly raunchy and funny tale of the Wife of Bath to the pious tale of the Prioress, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales cover the whole emotional spectrum and evoke both laughter and sorrow from the reader.

One thing that I think makes people frightened to read The Canterbury Tales or any other Medieval literature is the language barrier.  When I first read the tales it was when I was still in school, and was therefore being taught how to translate the text.  Once I was able to understand fully what each tale was about, why certain themes were important, and what made them funny, I developed a love of them.  What’s great about the graphic novel version is that it’s written not in its original text but a hip, modernized version of today’s English language.  Even the illustrations got in the “modern game”, depicting the pilgrims riding motorcycles instead of horses.  In doing this Chwast has opened up The Canterbury Tales to  not only a new generation of readers, but also a whole new audience in general.

My only critique of the graphic novel is that some of the tales’ adaptations weren’t written cohesively.  The Canterbury Tales is a huge undertaking in its normal format, so to squeeze all of that into 144 pages of text and illustrations is definitely not a simple job.  I felt that some of the stories could have used a little more tender loving care in their adaptation.  Despite this, the humor and morality of the tales still shone through well enough for any newcomers to the tales.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my twelfth completed review for the Around The Stack In How Many Ways Challenge

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and Seymour Chwast
Bloomsbury USA (2011)
Hardcovers: 144 pages
ISBN: 9781608194872

#35 A Review of Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi

My senior year in college I was introduced to a graphic novel memoir by Art Spiegelman entitled Maus.  Spiegelman re-told his father’s Holocaust experience in a way that a) indebted me to graphic novels forever and b) made me search out other memoirs told in this unusual format.  That search produced another graphic novel entitled Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  Satrapi told of her experiences growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  I was enamored by her stories and the way her drawings helped illustrate the feelings she had about herself and those around her.  Since reading Persepolis I’ve been introduced to some of her illustrated novellas, Embroideries being one of them.

When one first thinks of the conservative Islamic regime one does not associate it with any type of sexual openness.  Therefore, Satrapi’s Embroideries becomes that much more eye-opening when one discovers that it covers just that: the sex lives of a few Iranian women.  Told from the point of view of an informal get together that includes Satrapi’s grandmother, mother, aunt, and a few neighbors and friends, Embroideries touches on major problems and observations that are common to all of these women.  Ranging from how to seduce a man to how to escape an arranged marriage, Satrapi’s relatives and friends share their stories and insights from a unique and deeply personal point of view.

Persepolis was my first literary introduction to Iranian culture.  In Persepolis we see a culture where women were treated in a vastly different manner than men.  We’re not introduced to a liberal culture where women go to bars on Friday nights and pick up men in the vein of Sex and the City.  Knowing all this, the synopsis for  Embroideries intrigued me greatly in the basis that it afforded me an opportunity to see the female Iranian culture behind closed doors.  I was not expecting to read such liberal discussions of their sex lives.  I was absolutely fascinated with their gossipy personalities and how comfortable they felt at poking fun at the men in their lives.  I have to say that it actually made me happy in part to know that women the world over (no matter how repressive of a country they live in) still found time to be normal women.  I sometimes feel guilty about being an American woman.  I have the freedom to be what I want to be, say what I want to say, and love who I want to love.  After reading this graphic novel it gives me hope for those that don’t enjoy the public freedoms that I do.  Knowing that they can be who they want to be behind closed doors with like-minded women increases my hope for a world where women are respected as equally as men are.  In all, Satrapi’s work is a refreshing and intriguing read that will leave you thinking about your own views on the female side of Iranian culture.  I highly recommend it!

5 out of 5 Stars

Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi
Knopf Doubleday Publishing (2005)
Hardcover: 144 pages
ISBN:  9780375423055

Charlie’s Review of This Haunted World #2 by Mark Powers, Rahmat Handoko, and Chris Lie

From the publisher: In This Haunted World readers see a world awash in conflict and suffering.  Some believe the Biblical End Times have arrived; others believe a civilization too often driven by greed has simply begun the inevitable process of devouring itself.  Amid the fear and chaos walks a shadow.  He is in the war-torn hills of Afghanistan, in the tragedy wracked hills of Hiroshima.  He is called by many names in many places – and where he walks, he brings death.  Two men – one whose ivory tower has been shattered by scandal, the other sprawled on life’s rock bottom – unknowingly hold mankind’s only hope for survival.  For a war unlike any other is about to be declared – one in which 10,000 years worth of sins and pain come back to haunt us…

The second issue of This Haunted World picks up sort of where we left off in issue one.  (My review of issue one is here)  Its main focus is on Daniel and his wealthy “friend” Tom, who obviously have some issues with each other.  In reading a flashback sequence, we learn that they were both part of a study group during their school days which researched “the other side”.  Unfortunately, as happens too often in life, they went their separate ways and grew apart.  They are now embarking on a new journey together which will hopefully bring them back to together.

Besides the continuous character development of Daniel we are also introduced to a new character, Samantha.  She just so happens to be part of the same group as Daniel and Tom.  Things don’t look too bright for her however, as on a normal day at work (she works in a bookstore) disaster hits, which the group initially thinks is a tornado hitting their area.  I however think it is something more supernatural if you get my drift!  She is later hunted down by a CIA agent, who says her presence is being requested by the nation’s capital.

Meanwhile, Daniel and Tom are on their way to Hiroshima to investigate the destruction that took place in the first issue of This Haunted World.  Daniel’s past, particularly his parent’s passing, is why I believe he is so invested in this.  There is continuous destruction going on when they get there, and they aren’t looked too kindly upon by the local military.  Although Daniel and Tom don’t seem to be welcomed, they insist on searching for what they came for.  The action definitely increases as they come under attack from ghosts and creatures from the sky.  Will they escape with their lives?

There are a few other minor things that went down in this issue, but for the most part that is the gist of the main plot/sub plots.  Something big is obviously being set up in this series, as it seems like it is one big massive story that is being slowly revealed.  Unlike the first issue, which I felt was crammed, this issue progressed really slow.  It was way too broad as well as jumbled at the same time.  A lot of what I really enjoyed about the first issue seemed to be missing the second time around.  Additionally, I also felt the illustrations, while drawn well, didn’t catch my eye as much as they did before.  I still hope that in the upcoming issues they try to incorporate sexual themes into the story, but I am not sure if that is on the horizon.  Maybe with the introduction of Samantha we will get something, but who knows?  Like I have said earlier, sex always makes a story better, especially in the horror genre.

All in all, this issue didn’t really give me enough information to be curious about what is going to happen next.  The premise no longer gives me that hook feeling that I once had.  I feel like this graphic novel is struggling with its identity.  Hopefully they find the proper pace in the upcoming issues that allow the reader to get emotionally invested in the characters and story.

2 out of 5 Stars

Special thanks to Sea Lion Books for sending me my review copy!

Adam’s Review of Carnal: Pride of the Lions by John Connell

What if we lived in a world where animals ruled the world and the human race became all but obsolete?  What if rather than humans evolving into superior beings, animals such as lions and hyenas fought for control of the world’s power?  All of these what if’s are discussed and explored in John Connell’s graphic novel Carnal: Pride of the Lions.

Taking place in Africa after humans have become all but wiped out, Connell’s work begins with an introduction stating that due to man’s arrogance and some sorcery, animals developed human traits and eventually evolved into human-like beings who ruled the planet.  Lions, buffaloes, and hyenas became the most powerful, with such species as leopards being killed off in a constant battle of survival of the fittest.  After a war between the lions and the hyenas, in which the lions were victorious, the hyenas were banished to living underground.  The real story thus begins with Long Eyes, the oldest lion in his tribe.  He is waiting for his son Oron to arrive back after a mission to spy on the hyenas and hunt for food.  Unfortunately Oron doesn’t return and instead another lion named Short Day comes back, telling Long Eyes that he and Oron were captured by the hyenas.  Short Day was able to escape however, leaving Oron still in captivity.  With the help of the other lion prides, Long Eyes sets out to rescue his son.  Will Long Eyes be able to rescue his son or will the hyenas be able to gain control that they feel is rightfully theirs?

This was definitely the most unique graphic novel I’ve ever read.  I am so used to reading them in a comic book format (with multiple strips) that seeing the format of paragraphs with pictures at the end of the page was refreshing.  I think having the book written in the graphic novel format helped me, because the pictures helped enhance the wealth of text provided.  The illustrations made reading the text more interesting allowing the reader to be able to imagine what it would be like to live in a world like this.  Having Long Eyes’ sad blue eyes staring at me made me sympathize with this old lion, and seeing the evil in the hyena’s eyes made the story jump off the page.  The illustrations were breathtaking and seemed like watercolor paintings thrown into the book.  More times than I’d like to admit I didn’t want to leave a particular page because the illustrations drew me in.

Connell was able to create a world that was very real and alive, despite the fact that it was fictitious.  The idea of giving animals human abilities and making them the stronger species was intriguing, and even a little scary.  The reason I say scary is because in the introduction the author writes that mankind’s arrogance was our downfall, and I can definitely see that being true.  I’m not saying lions will someday rule the world, but it is an interesting concept to think about.  Will there ever be a day where we are taken over by something or someone we underestimate?

All and all I would definitely recommend Connell’s work.  I think the unique premise will draw you in, and the context and the drawings will keep you wanting to come back for more.  As a funny aside, for some reason while reading this I kept picturing an R rated version of the Lion King, without the cheesy ending and the music.  I hope you enjoy it!

4 out of 5 Stars

Carnal by John Connell
Sea Lion Books (2012)
Hardcover 120 pages
ISBN: 9780983613169
Special thanks to Sea Lion Books for sending over my review copy!

#7 A Review of The Walking Dead (Hardcovers Book 4) by Robert Kirkman

Todd and Kim here! Back to review the next book in The Walking Dead series. (If you’ve missed our prior reviews you can find them here: Book One, Book Two, Book Three) This series has quickly become one of our favorites to read and watch on TV.  (The show is quite different then the books, so we enjoy the fact that we still get to be surprised week after week!)

We’ve now followed Rick and the other survivors through hell and back, as they’ve inhabited an abandoned prison and taken up residence.  Unfortunately for them, they’re not alone (and their company is more than zombies).  The Governor and his cronies, irritated by Rick, Michonne, and Glenn’s escape from their compound only weeks before, suddenly discover their location after the survivors blow up a National Guard fuel depot near the prison.  Now that they are discovered, Rick and his fellow survivors must fend off a massive attack by The Governor (who has somehow survived the attack by Michonne) and all of his followers.  Will they be able to make it past this seemingly insurmountable roadblock?  What will happen to Rick and his family?

Todd:  I definitely think this is the most depressing book so far.  Although it is bleak, it is a necessary step in the evolution of the series.  Every story has its low points, and this book contains some of the lowest.  This is not to say that it isn’t a great work (as Kirkman usually turns out amazing stuff), but I’ve never seen this type of dark and moody writing from him before.  Although some might say that this turns the entire focus of the series to a dark and depressing tone, I think it is necessary to do so in order to advance the plot and further the storyline.  As much as we don’t like to see Rick and his fellow survivors in trouble, it is a realistic outcome, and we have to deal with it accordingly.

Kim: I’m still in complete shock from finishing this graphic novel.  NO ONE is safe here, proving the point that in this new society you shouldn’t be too comfortable.  Many of the characters talk about how they’ve forgotten how dangerous it is outside the prison walls.  This was an interesting development in my opinion because I really can’t imagine ever forgetting the horrors that they witnessed in the first 3 books.  Their struggle for survival, their family and friends dying or becoming zombies…I don’t know how they could essentially play house.  Granted the feeling of safety probably does wonders to calm a person’s psyche, but not remaining vigilant in that world has its consequences, which Kirkman clearly expresses in book four.

Todd: I agree that it’s definitely difficult to imagine that these people could be lulled into a false sense of security considering what has happened in the past, but I think Kirkman has done a great job sticking to his original intent when he first began writing these novels.  The true horror here is not what the undead do to the living, but what the living do to those who are still living.  The unspeakable horrors of the Governor and those who harbor his terrible values are not finished.  Although I, like Kim, imagined that certain characters could not be harmed, I was sadly mistaken.  I believe that Kirkman wrote the novel in this way to show the reader the true horrors inherent to the situation.  No one is safe, and it is the actions of other humans that bring this about, as sad as that seems.  I applaud Kirkman for this unflinching portrait of the human experience, and I can’t wait to see what else he has in store.

Kim: Todd, I 100% agree that true intent of the novels is to show what horrors the living inflict on their fellow living.  It makes you take a step back and question what goes on in our own society, and gives suggestions as to and how we can try to help curb the hatred that flows.  It’s been fascinating to see the changing themes over the course of the story thus far.  Kirkman has touched upon just about everything in a society, with the largest themes including social customs, laws/ruling bodies, and now war.  There are glimpses of our society in each of these books, which makes me wonder: is the zombie apocalypse storyline really just a front to delve into discussion and observation about our own society?

Overall, Kirkman has yet again worked his magic to make a hell of a novel.  Even though the material of this book is much darker and sinister, it had to be done in order to move the plot along.  Many accolades to Kirkman for a job well done, and both of us are eager to find out what is in store for the fifth book and beyond!

Todd’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Kim’s Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Image Comics (2008)
Hardcover 304 pages
ISBN: 9781607060000

Adam’s Review of The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

Today I will be reviewing the novel that got me interested in graphic novels and really introduced me to this underrated genre of books, The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman. With the source material coming directly from conversations Art had with his father Vladek over a period of time, Art converted this story to a graphic novel where every Jewish person is a mouse and every other ethnicity is portrayed by a different animal (Germans are cats, Poles are pigs, etc). The story paints a vivid and true picture of what it means to survive under any circumstances, and how we often don’t know the real version of our parents’ history until we hear it from them firsthand. Telling his father’s story of the events leading up to the Holocaust and how he survived his time in Auschwitz, this graphic novel somehow makes the events of the Holocaust more real than any textbook could. Maybe it’s because it’s a real story and not just a jumble of different facts and figures, but this novel really hit me in a way that other Holocaust literature hasn’t before.

As I previously stated, Maus tells the story of the author’s father and his journey during the Holocaust. Now in his 70’s, Vladek is in poor health after surviving two heart attacks. Art wants to get the full story of what actually occurred with his father and mother (who committed suicide 10 years prior to Art starting to collect his notes). The retelling of the events begin with Vladek meeting Art’s mother Anja, and details how they got married and the life they had prior to the Holocaust. Told as if we were a fly on the wall during the conversations Art had with his father, we mainly listen to Art having multiple conversations with his father, including some side notes and historical information to fill the reader in. This allows for a full experience, as you somehow feel more part of the story than if it was written in a third person narrative. Maybe it was the pictures that accompanied the dialogue, but reading this was a much more fulfilling experience for me. We can never imagine what life was like for the Jewish people and those others who were sent to concentration camps, but this book gives an accurate tale of what it was like for one person, and the pictures really help to bring that message home. The illustrations were amazing and really vivid. My favorite part of the novel’s illustrations was when the mice were hiding or were pretending to not be Jewish. Rather than drawing them as a different animal, Art put a mask on them depicting the animal they were trying to impersonate. It was an extremely creative solution to illustrating this portion of Vladek’s story

One of the most amazing parts that I was really surprised to see in the book was Art’s own thoughts about the Holocaust. Art was born after the Holocaust in Sweden and grew up in Queens, New York, but it was interesting to see that he had a lot of guilt regarding the Holocaust. His older brother, Richeu, was sent to live with an aunt when the Germans began rounding up Jews and putting them in ghettos.  (Her ghetto was deemed safer than the one Vladek and Anja lived in) As the ghettos began to be liquidated, Art’s aunt poisoned Richeu, her niece, her daughter, and herself as not to be sent to the concentration camps. It pains Art because he feels as if he isn’t as deserving to be alive because he didn’t experience it. In the beginning of the second volume, he visits with his therapist and he brings this up, which was interesting to read/see. It made me think, can we have guilt for something we don’t have any control over? We don’t have any control over what happened before we were born, but is it possible to still feel bad for it? It made me also made me wonder if any of the survivors of the Holocaust or any other tragic historical events have survivor’s guilt.

All in all, I think Maus is a great way to learn about the Holocaust. It is extremely informative, but also has a heart in the middle of this terrible story. It allows the reader to laugh at the flashbacks of Art’s conversations with his father, and really get emotional learning first hand what it was like. Art was great at drawing the reader in. Whether it was the dialogue or the illustrations, I could not put this book down. Even when the story got deeper and a lot sadder I was enthralled by it and couldn’t sleep until I was done. If you are just starting to learn about the Holocaust, know a lot about the Holocaust and are looking for another source to read, or are just in the mood to read an excellent graphic novel, I would recommend this work 1000%. Definitely a must read for anyone over the age of 14. (Note: some of the material regarding the death camps is very heavy and may not be appropriate for younger readers)

5 out of 5 Stars

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
Pantheon (1993)
ISBN: 9780679748403

#5 A Review of Twilight The Graphic Novel Vol 2 by Young Kim and Stephenie Meyer

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 2As most of you know I’m quite the fan of graphic novels.  Their uniqueness and ability to depict more than just the words written on the page really piques my interest.  Therefore, although Twilight by Stephanie Meyer always seems to catch a lot of flak, I was determined to read it in graphic novel form and see if it matched my views on the novel and its movie adaptation.  It has been split into two volumes, the first volume having been published in 2010.  I read the first volume a while ago and enjoyed the illustrations immensely, so I excitedly dove into to the second volume and waited to see what Young Kim’s second adaptation had in store.

I won’t go into a huge summary, I think everyone is familiar enough with the basic storyline of Twilight to know it’s about Bella, a teenager who falls in love with Edward Cullen, a vampire.  The second volume picks up with Edward and Bella in the infamous meadow scene that Meyer credits for being the inspiration behind the novel.

I know that Twilight gets a bad rap for poor writing/ridiculous storylines, but there is something about this adaptation that gives it its (pardon the expression) sparkle back.  The scenes and dialogue that were chosen to grace the pages of volume two were very well done.  Kim’s illustrations were well worth the wait between the publishing dates of volume one & two, and bring new light to the series.  I enjoy the fact that even though the Twilight film was already out when these volumes were being drawn, Kim chose to draw them not to reflect the actors, but to reflect the characters.  In doing so, I thought it gave the work some of its integrity back.  The first film was sorta lackluster for me, so it was a treat to be able to see illustrations that matched what Meyer actually had in mind when writing. (i.e The meadow, the Cullen house, Rosalie and Alice’s prom gowns)

I also wanted to quickly note how awesome the covers for these two volumes are.  When placed together they are a mural of Edward and Bella in the meadow.  (Very cool touch)  Overall, although I already knew what to expect from this work according to how I felt with the first novel, it was still a great read that gave me new insight into an old storyline.  Meyer’s writing, coupled with Kim’s amazing illustrations made a great marriage that was highly entertaining.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my third completed review for the Around The Stack In How Many Ways Challenge

Twilight The Graphic Novel Vol 2 by Young Kim and Stephenie Meyer
Hachette Book Group (2011)
Hardcover 240 pages
ISBN: 9780316133197