Category Archives: 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.

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg

Title: Glass Town
Author: Isabel Greenberg
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House
ISBN: 978-1787330832
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Glass Town is a fictitious world created by the Brontë siblings, first appearing in December 1827. Glass Town was first created by Charlotte and Branwëll Brontë, followed by Emily and Anne to build the creation of an imaginary world in which their stories flourished. However, from about 1831, Emily and Anne distanced themselves from Glass Town and created their own world called Gondal, which then started to feature in many of their poems.

Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg is a stunning graphic novel of the world created by these siblings, their lives, the lives of their characters, and above all the power of art and imagination. It is a book about bringing fictional worlds to life and how writers immerse themselves in it. This then enables readers to see their works in a whole new light – fantastical and extraordinary. To a large extent, I also thought that Ms. Greenberg felt that way too about the works of the Brontës, which of course led to the creation of this book.

There is the “real” world in the book, and the “fictional” world. The world that meant so much to the Brontë siblings and what it did to them once it was all gone and over with. Greenberg merges the fictional with the factual most exactingly – to the point that you want to believe it all. Glass Town is also a graphic that has seemingly simple illustrations, but they are quite complex if looked closely. Glass Town is the kind of graphic novel that will make you want to know more about the Brontë family, their origins, their lives, their loves and feuds, and how they wrote those books they did. More than anything else, it is a book that will make you want to read their works, if you haven’t already.

I Am Young by M. Dean

i am young 3Title: I Am Young
Author: M. Dean
Publisher: Fantagraphics Books
ISBN: 978-1683961390
Genre: Comics, Graphic Novels
Pages: 108
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

Graphic novels that are intertwined with music are a big bonus. I Am Young by M. Dean is about two teenagers who meet and fall in love after a Beatles concert in 1964. It is so much more and the Beatles are everywhere in this character-driven book of stories, interspersed with music all along by the very talented M. Dean.

i am young 1I Am Young is the kind of book that you must take to bed on a day when nothing has gone right and it all seems futile. It is the kind of book that will cheer you and will also make you sad as their relationship soars, doesn’t, falls, sustains, and then is on the rocks as the decade ends. What remains though is the shared love of the one night in 1964, when they saw Beatles perform.

i am young 2

I Am Young is what dreams are made of. M. Dean’s art is stunning (for lack of a better word really). It is the graphic novel that eases you in to the story of teenagers, of their love, against the backdrop of several years, with one of course being the most important to them. You just get taken into the story of Miriam and George and nothing else will then matter, but how their lives progress over the next hundred-odd pages or so. The impact of culture is a strong basis of this book, with how relationships function and grow over time.

M. Dean’s storytelling capability is extremely sensitive and shows brilliantly in her art and plot. And mind you it isn’t easy drawing about music with a whole lot of charm – it comes across so trippy (had to use it, forgive me) throughout the book. The 60s and 70s had their own thrill and M. Dean does a brilliant job of pulling the reader into that world.

March:​ Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Art by Nate Powell

March Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell Title: March:​ Book One
Authors: John Lewis and Andrew Aydin
Art by Nate Powell
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
ISBN: 978-1603093002
Genre: Graphic Novels, Biographies and History Graphic Novels, African-American and Black
Pages: 128
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

History is shameful. Events occurred that shouldn’t have. Things happened that shouldn’t have in a million years. People lost lives. History for the most part is cruel and perhaps (for sure I think) we need constant reminders of what it was like, so we do not make the same mistakes. And, yet we continue to make them, as though they never happened, or we never learned from them. Part of this is the unjust trials and tribulations forced upon Black Americans by White Americans in a time not so long ago. “March: Book One” is a graphic memoir of United States Congressmen John Lewis. It also goes beyond being just a memoir. It becomes an account of “The United States Civil Rights Movement” as seen through the lens of John Lewis.

“March: Book One” is the first part of a trilogy of the events that unfolded in the life of John Lewis – who was born in Alabama, from childhood to facing segregation every step of life, to his very humble family beginnings to how he so desperately wanted to study, and he did to eventually his fight for basic human rights not given to Blacks due to racial discrimination. He is of course in the present-time, a Congressman, but the journey to there hasn’t been easy and “March” documents that through three volumes intermingling it very closely with racial biases and American History.

I also think that “March” isn’t just about America or one man. It is about what is going on around the world – in terms of collective injustice and discrimination. Because this is the truth – John’s story that is, you somehow feel anger and empathy hundred times over. His interactions with Dr. Martin Luther King were to me the highlight of the graphic memoir. Powell’s illustrations therefore are enchanting – taking us through every interaction, idea, indicating the tension filled atmosphere with some brilliant brushstrokes, when it comes to marches and travelling between past and present. Also, for those who haven’t read ant graphic memoir before, this is a perfect entry into that genre.

“March: Book One” should be read by all – irrespective of what race, caste or colour you are bracketed under. The attempt is to document injustices, and lives of people who lived through those times and to ensure that the mistakes made as I said earlier, should not be made again and this to my mind fits for every country in the world.

P.S: I cannot wait to pick up the second and third volumes.

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