Category Archives: Comics and Graphic Novels

Read 174 of 2021: The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

Title: The Magic Fish
Author: Trung Le Nguyen
Publisher: Random House Graphic
ISBN: 978-0593125298
Genre: Graphic Novels, LGBTQIA, Coming of Age, 
Pages: 256 
Source: Publisher 
Rating: 5/5 

I wish someone had written this book for me when I was growing up. When I was dealing with my sexuality and didn’t know any better. I wish I knew how to tell my parents and family I was gay using words that would break their hard exterior and touch their heart and soul, which of course didn’t happen. I just came out and that was that. The Magic Fish however is a book that seems to know what to say and how and is more beautiful for it.

Tiến loves his family and friends. His parents hail from Vietnam and he is keeping a secret from them – about himself, about who he is, about how he cannot tell them that he is gay because there is no equivalent for it in Vietnamese. It is also about his love for a friend, and him struggling with his identity.

At the same time, Nguyen takes us on a whirlwind of providing comfort to yourself through fairy tales. Tiến and his mother read fairy tales to each other, every night, and in those tales, each of them is trying to find and know more about their lives – the past, present, and perhaps the future.

I love how Nguyen takes the concept of a fairy tale and throws it on its head and gives his readers something so refreshing to introspect about. The Magic Fish is a book that refreshingly looks at fairy tales keeping modern lives in mind. It doesn’t shy away from breaking norms and stereotypes, which is the need of the hour and the times we live in. Trung’s art is stunning and you need to spend some time on every page to soak it all in. In short, The Magic Fish is a read meant for all, to make people understand that people lead different lives and it is all about perspective and empathy.

 

Garage Band by Gipi. Translated from the Italian by Spectrum

Garage Band by Gipi

Title: Garage Band
Author: Gipi
Translated from the Italian by Spectrum Publisher: First Second
ISBN: 978-1596432062
Genre: Graphic Novels
Pages: 114
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I just finished reading this very heartwarming graphic novel about four teenage boys, their band, and a garage in which they practice. More than anything it is about these four lives, their individual strife and struggles, their dreams and ambitions, and their relationships with people around them – friends and family.

Garage Band is the kind of graphic novel that doesn’t make any point. It doesn’t want to. It is that slice-of-life graphic novel that lets you soak in the moment, the characters, the simple story of them just wanting to create music, their sometimes-misplaced ideology, and what growing-up or on the road to growing-up is all about.

Garage Band is just a bittersweet meditation on teenage life and how whether it is Italy, America, or India, adolescence is just the same. Giuliano’s father kindness leads to the band getting his garage as practice space. That’s where the story begins. They are extremely passionate about their music and are deeply connected to each other.

Gipi’s characters fit in any landscape. The country doesn’t matter. The story does. We get to know the boys and before you know it, the book is over at about 114 pages. The watercolours are restrained but extremely engaging and it all comes alive in contrasting panels. At some point I thought more could have been fleshed out, but I was wrong as I read further. It wasn’t needed at all. Garage Band says a lot and hides a lot. There is telling and showing and in good measure. It is one of those graphic novels that will most certainly stay with me for long and I will reread it very soon.

Chhotu: A Tale of Partition and Love by Varud Gupta and Ayushi Rastogi

Chhotu - A Tale of Partition and Love by Varud Gupta and Ayushi Rastogi Title: Chhotu: A Tale of Partition and Love
Author: Varud Gupta and Ayushi Rastogi
Publisher: Penguin eBury Press
ISBN: 978-0143446149
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

There are times when you somehow expect so much from a book that even if it disappoints you a little, you tend to take it personally. I understand that sentiment, but do not go by that alone. Look at the book in its totality. Chhotu for sure didn’t live up to my expectations but I loved the premise of it being set in the time of Partition and added to that the angle of love, and more than anything else, taking a page of Maus and reimagining characters as animals. Full points on also Indianizing it.

The book is set in Chandni Chowk and that to a very large extent got me all excited about it, just that I couldn’t empathise or relate to any character. I could see where the story was going. I know most of it. We have heard the same story from our grandparents and what they had to go through during the Partition in one way or the other – of strife, of loss, of not knowing what is going to happen next to them in a country now divided. I saw all of this coming and yet I somehow couldn’t empathise with what was going on.

I was expecting a lot. I wanted more to happen but it didn’t. I liked how the book was structured with famous Hindi song titles as the chapter names and that worked given what was happening in the chapter. The concept is good and would definitely recommend it to people who want to start reading about the Partition. A very good place to start from.

Comics For A Strange World: A Book of Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza Farazmand

Comics for A Strange World - A Book of Poorly Drawn Lines by Reza Farazmand Title: Comics For A Strange World: A Book of Poorly Drawn Lines
Author: Reza Farazmand
Publisher: Plume Books, Penguin Random House USA
ISBN: 9780735219885
Genre: Comics
Pages: 197
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 stars

First read of June 2019. Yes it’s a book of comic strips and yes it counts. I’ve been following Poorly Drawn Lines since some time now and love what Reza does with not only his seemingly simple art, but also so profound when it comes to the writing of the comics.

Comics for a Strange World is the kind of book that worries and also strangely comforts as well. It is the kind of comic that upsets you, because what Reza has laid out – some of it might actually come true. Global warming is a reality. So is our dependency on technology. There are alternative realities, taking us through space and time, and some really bizarre scenarios.

The entire book is a parody of human life, much like the account here on Instagram. Follow him if you aren’t. Also, the book mocks modern age like no other. It’s a testimony to our troubled times and honestly nothing is too weird. The book is divided into 5 sections: The Human Experience, Social Creatures, Changes, A Strange World, and Thoughts on Things. Each is superbly funny and outlandish. Read it.

Book Love by Debbie Tung

booklovebydebbietung Title: Book Love
Author: Debbie Tung
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
ISBN: 978-1449494285
Genre: Comics, Humour
Pages: 144
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

What better moment for readers than to see themselves in a book? To relate to it so hard and strong that with every turn of the page, you know every situation because you have been in that or multiple situations more than once.

Book Love by Debbie Tung is that kind of a book. It is a book about loving books (as evident by the title), but more than that it is about readers and how we function around books and our relationship to them. Book Love is the much-needed warm blanket on a winter’s night. It is the cup of tea that hits the right notes and lingers long after you’ve drunk it.

booklove1

Being a book lover, I just didn’t want the book to finish. It is a book of comic strips depicting our collective love of books and reading. This transcends everything – colour, race, skin, creed, caste – just about it all. Because when it comes to reading, you and I, and all of us, are the same people. We are the tribe of readers and Tung has a way of putting that beautifully through her comics. The words and images combine to present a beautiful gift to the reader. I know I am getting all sappy, but hey this is a book about books and I shall get this way.

booklove2Debbie Tung’s concept is not new, but the execution is brilliant and well-done. The book captures it all: book lovers in bookshops, in libraries, in their favourite reading spots, how readers feel when a good book ends, and how we pack for a vacation. With every turn of the page, all I did was nod my head in agreement, because there was nothing else to do. Most readers are guilty of what Tung expresses and only more happy for that.

booklove4

Tung knows how readers are and that can only come to you if you are a reader and feel the same. Tung’s illustrations always manage to hit home and that’s the beauty of a book such as this one. Where essays could be written about every situation (and that is also quite delightful to read), simple drawings depicting who readers are does the trick and more. Book Love makes you want to reach out to your favourite books and hug them for being a part of your life. A must-read for all lovers of books and reading, and also for ones who are just starting out.