Tag Archives: graphic narrative

Making “WAVE”s or Going with the Flow? – Pinay Thoughts on Marvel’s new Filipina superhero

I posted my first reaction a few days ago upon seeing the first look poster of the very first Filipina Superhero from Marvel.  Since then, some discussion went down over on my Facebook Timeline.  Somewhat heated debate between me and a white Facebook friend (not RL friend) trying to parse out our understanding of the data: that Tagalog is both a Language and a group of people; that people with Spanish heritages are less than 1% of the population; that the artist, although Filipino, displays largely western, marvel influenced comic book art styles, etc.  I definitely outright challenged this white friend’s recollection and knowledge — and also pointed out that her 4-year living in the Philippines as a white person does not give her the same lived experiences as Filipina or Filipina Americans.

In the end, what matters here is not how this one white friend responded, but what my two Pinay educator friends had to say.  In the spirit of being called in (since I’m not Pinay) and calling others in, I’m reposting their salient comments here.  I’d really like to encourage Marvel and the creators of the new diverse superheroes to be courageous: this is uncharted water, but you have the resources to make large waves: do your due diligence and stay true to the cultures you’re representing even if they could be unfamiliar to western eyes.  Create something fresh and unlike all the previous superhero stories!  Don’t just do the same-old, same-old with merely changes of skin tones and costumes! (And please no resorting solely to “oriental mysticism”!)

Maria is an elementary school librarian who also produces and hosts a Theatre Review Show on YouTube to highlight work primarily by women and POC playwrights, actors, directors, etc. :

Maria Paz Alegre Hey all  Pinay here. I’m Kampangan and Tagalog – though little known outside our country, Tagalog is indeed both a language and a people! Props to Roxanne for shining light on that little known fact. TBH my fam usually refer to ourselves as Manilenyos first, a nod to our capital city. I believe Tagalog can be compared to the word “English” – both a language and a people. The idea that we are strangers to our own land, coming from Spain and Polynesia to conquer is false. We’ve ALWAYS been there. Been there long before King Philip and long before Christ. Source: myself, and if experts are needed, my father Edilberto N.Alegre- an award winning scholar and PhD of Filipino Cultural Anthropology. His books are often required reading at the University of the Philippines where he taught for several decades, but feel free to google him if you like.

I’m also the one who made the spray tan comment. I stand by it and it appears I may need to explain.

I was ELATED AF to find out that Marvel made a Filipina superhero, only to feel a kick to my gut when I saw her. If you know my country, then you know all about the systemic bigotry derived directly from white colonialism. The bleaching cream, the rhinoplasty, the upper eyelid surgery, you name it… I cannot stress the havoc that this western standard of beauty has wrought on my people, especially on indigenous tribes like the Ati.

Are there mixed Filipinos with western features? Sure! But they often make up the 1% and are almost always the rich and elite. They do not look like the vast majority of my country people. My stepmother (Joycie Dorado Alegre) has been the Commissioner of the National Commission in Culture and the Arts to the Visayas and Mindanao and she personally worked on campaigns to encourage that “Black is Beautiful. Brown is Beautiful. You are Beautiful.” It’s been a very rewarding but very uphill battle.

So yes, to see the first representative of my race in Marvel with Eurocentric features? It sucks and it hurts.

Spain wins again. America wins again. The Filipinos must take a hit and live to fight another day, again. And while a Pinay character may be a step in the right direction to you, it greatly disappoints me and many others that she doesn’t look like like one. They could have done better.

Justine is a Health and Wellness educator whose Decolonizing Beauty Standards workshop at the People of Color Conference (for educators in Independent Schools) was the highlight for many attendees two years ago:

Justine AF Yo! Pinay here too and glad this convo is happening so thanks Roxanne Feldman for your allyship. I’m feeling like all I need to do though is clap and bow down because Maria Paz Alegre just crushed it with her eloquence. But since I rarely can keep quiet, I’ll add my 5 pesos here:

1. Yay that Marvel is naming a character an identity that matches one of mine.

2. Boo that she looks like the beauty ideal I’ve been told to emulate for most of my childhood. Unless Wave has that nose because her Tita was right about clothes-pinning it and she obeyed, she is the 1%

3. Interesting that the Cebuano artist drew a Pinay that had the more expensive body alterations done when they could’ve just drew the cheaper and more common one by applying Eskinol lotion to lighten herself up.

4. Decolonizing the beauty ideal is not dunking your face in Hawaiian Tropics oil. We’re more than a skin tone.

5. There better be some real Pilipinx words and cultural practices that aren’t all Spanish and American influenced in this screenplay to make up for this. Just saying.


And a week later, our differences in opinions did not get reconciled.  Instead of seeing what my Pinay friends expressed, that it would have been wonderful to see a more representational Pinay character, she posted this picture and claims that the woman on the right most “has basically the same shape face and brows of the comic character.”

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 11.25.17 AM

Perhaps this the case of seeing what you want to see and refuse to see what you don’t want.

Screen Shot 2019-03-22 at 2.12.40 AM Screen Shot 2019-03-21 at 3.55.15 PM

I alwo wonder why instead of seeing how most of these women do not look like the artist’s imagining of Wave, this Facebook friend decides to hone in on the one that, to her, makes the point.





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Marvel’s New Filipina Hero – WAVE (First Reaction)

(Reposting from my Facebook)

Good and Bad News at the same time?

YAY – Marvel is debuting a Filipina superhero — WAVE;
HUH? – Why does she look like a Euro-White lady with tan skin?

And the artist is Filipino…

Reported as having “identifiable Filipino “morena” skin” …. my Filipino friends — what are your thoughts?


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Last Day of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

It is the last day of the 2016 APA Heritage Month — but it will not be the last time I write about media representation of Asian Americans or about the importance of respect, integrity, diligence, compassion, empathy, knowledge, open-mindedness, inclusion, and collaboration in regards to improving accurate and nuanced representations.

Smoke_and_Shadow_hardcoverToday, I want play an upbeat note and share my adoration to the wonderful Avatar: The Last Airbender series penned by Gene Luen Yang. Currently there are four completed stories, each told in three paperback volumes and also collected in a library binding oversize single volume.  They are: The Promise, The Search, The Rift, and Smoke and Shadow.  Of course, for fans of the Nickelodeon TV show like me, these stories are like lush oases in the parched void left by the ending of the original series.  We get to see Aang and his gang grow up a bit, deal with more complex issues, and find out answers to some questions left unresolved by the show!

avatarthepromiseHowever, I have also observed many young readers encounter these as stand alone series and thoroughly enjoy the adventures, character relationships, humor, and the conflicts.  This is a series that could easily err on the side of “appropriation” because it definitely mimicked the Japanese anime style and the several nations’ customs and philosophies or even “national traits” are loosely and (one might argue) stereotypically based on certain Asian cultures — another potentially incendiary aspect of the show.

avatar___the_search_hard_cover_by_antomori-d6pbo7vInstead, it is accepted and even embraced as appreciation and celebration by viewers from all racial backgrounds, including many Asian Americans — one of the super fans is Gene Luen Yang.

Many factors contributed to why the show worked in building and not destroying positive representations: characters are deftly portrayed as individuals, whether they’re from a specific culture or not, the show creators are always careful when cultural details are represented — all Chinese characters and sentences are correctly written out and composed, and the relationships between characters and nations are complex and nuanced.  Not to mention the artistic rendering of the images and the exciting plot progression through the 61 episodes!

The_Rift_hardcoverThe book series written (not illustrated) by Gene Yang, published by Dark Horse, are equally, if not more, complex, thrilling, and satisfying! Please read them, share them with people in your life, young or not so young, and celebrate everything that works well in these volumes!

For those interested, there are some great questions and answers about the creation of the TV show and the outcry against the casting of the 2009 life action movie based on the show at racebending.com.

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Here by Richard McGuire

hereHere by Richard McGuire

I really love the premise: taking one fixed spot on earth, examining the many years of lives (from prehistoric to contemporary) and living by visually presenting the slices in time: one might see a Native American couple making love and a modern American, white family squabbling on the same or adjacent or consecutive pages, all “cut up” and scrambled, seemingly not following rhyme or reason.  But, of course, there are certain patterns and events clustered by the nature of the happening (holiday celebrations, fighting, loss, new births, etc.)  However, aside from admiring the beautiful and pristine, almost too clinical, artwork and having some moments of revelation (finding out on what ground the current house was built, for example,) I was left not all that impressed or emotionally affected which I definitely was hoping for!


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The Absolute Sandman Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman

absolutesandman1Artwork by Dave McKean, Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, and more.

I decided to use a large cover image here because this hardcover, full-color, glossy heavy pages tome absolutely deserves this “in your face” treatment.

I read the first twenty installments (24 pages each) of Gaiman’s game changing graphic novel series (from 1989 to 1991) in sequence and absolutely loved every page and moment of it! Dark, haunting, gruesome, poetic, enigmatic and yet lucid all at the same time, wrapped in such a handsome package.

Even if so much within is extremely disturbing, Gaiman’s stories and the art and layout design make reading this volume a blissful experience.

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Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search by Gene Luen Yang

avatarsearch1avatarsearch2Avatar, The Last Airbender: The Search by Gene Luen Yang (Vols 1-3)
Artwork by Gurihiru
Lettering by Michael Heisler

avatarsearch3My gosh, Gene Yang really is a super fan of the show and the Avatar universe because he totally understands what the fans want. He gives us a satisfying storyline, complete with a cohesive theme of sibling and parent-child relationships, to a long unsolved mystery from the 2005-2008 TV show of one of the beloved characters.  (What am I saying, ALL the main characters are beloved!  The show was that amazing.)  And he gives us new magical beings and great world elements: the Mother of Faces is such a cool creation. Her backstory, tied with Zuko’s mom’s personal history, fits into the Avatar universe seamlessly!

Mother of Faces

Whenever I watch the show, I am always impressed by how well the show creators did their homework.  Every time Chinese writing appears on screen, it is accurate, legible, and usually in perfect and artistic calligraphic form. Dark Horse (the publisher for the GN extensions) did the same: the letter that Zuko’s mom wrote and that we get to read on the background art is in the formal, literary style befitting the imagined time period (China/Asia a few hundred years ago?)  And now I am reading the third extended story: Avatar, the Last Airbender: The Rift.  It’s all about Toph Beifong (my personal favorite character in the show…) and will apparently bridge her story from the 2005 show to the recent Legend of Korra.  Two more volumes to go and another post to follow.

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Marvels by Brian Selznick

marvelsThe Marvels by Brian Selznick

In this third installment of a loosely connected (by form, by theme, and by narrative progression) literary trilogy, following the previous two marvelous titles: The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick once again pours his artist’s soul and a writer’s heart into the tome and brings readers a moving tale. Much like the other two picture-novels, The Marvels features instant and fast friendship among two young characters, a cross-generational relationship that grows from suspicion and uneasiness to faithful loyalty, and the deep and palpable connection a person can have with history.

I had a grand time looking through the pictures and reading the story and was unbelievably moved (to a whole lot of tears) as the truth of the story of the Marvels family was revealed. And also by the fact that Brian’s portrayal of the gay characters is without additional fanfare: subtle and yet you can’t misinterpret.

I imagine the book an instant hit with all my students when it’s published on September 15! Can’t wait to hear their reactions!

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Chew (Series) by John Layman & Rob Guillory

Taster's Choice (Chew, Vol. 1)

Chew by John Layman, artwork by Rob Guillory

Not for the faint of heart or queasy of tummy. There are laugh-out-loud scenes and almost-puke-my-guts-out scenes. Definitely cannot read this and have a meal at the same time.

Since 2009, the series creative duo, Layman & Guillory, have brought us 50 installments and 10 collective volumes (August 2015) of this bizarre tale of a Chinese American FDA detective Tony Chu with a superhuman ability: Tony can bite into any once living organism and have vivid “recollection” of the scenes in that living organism’s life, including the circumstances surrounding its death.  So, when he arrived on a murder scene, he is required to take a bite out of the corpse…   But, wait, others also have strange abilities like, a food critic able to write reviews that make the readers actually “taste” the meal (including the terrible ones), a chocolate sculptor who can recreate any landmark in 100% accurate details, etc.

And then you have the U.S. Government’s top secret weapon, Poyo, a rooster with nuclear weapon power, other political conspiracies involving NASA and the aliens they deal with, and enough family and love drama to satisfy any soap opera aficionado. Yup.  A crazy smorgasbord of gross but hilarious scenarios.  I absolutely adore this series and can’t wait to read the rest of the collected volumes (planned 12, by mid-2016.)

One of the main reasons that I love Chew is my fondness of Guillory’s artistic style.  And now I think of it, the series definitely fits #weneeddiversebooks movement very well — for older teens.

Meet the artist, Rob Guillory:


And Meet Tony Chu:

meettonyAnd see some of the unusual scenes for yourself:

chewspecial chewcovers chewweirdwedding

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Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

funhomeby Alison  Bechdel

I savored every page, every sentence, every word of this graphic-narrative memoir. Still didn’t pay enough attention to the details of each panel and will hopefully go back to the book one day to closely examine all the illustrations as well. The tenderness and unflinching truth=telling of Bechdel’s own painful life events touch me deeply. A sense of vicarious catharsis presented itself every time I opened the book in the past few days. I want to “study” this literary masterpiece in an English class so badly — to engrave every overt and covert meaning onto my mind!

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This One Summer

thisonesummer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Love the art in this bock, especially the skillful and creative ways many emotions are conveyed through imagery and hinted via lines and swirls. This is a quiet graphic story that eloquently showcases the interior life of a precocious prepubescent mind. Many of the double spreads are breathtaking and heartbreaking. It feels like a privilege to be allowed to peek into the minds of Rose and those around her.


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The CYBILS Awards results are out http www…

The CYBILS Awards results are out! http://www.cybils.com/2014/02/the-2013-cybils-awards.html I served on the panel for the Graphic Novels (both MG and YA) short lists and am SO pleased to see that Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite Barry Deutsch and Templar by Jordan Mechner won in their respective categories. The other titles in the graphic novels shortlists are also really strong. 2013 was a great year for GNs and it felt like the Children’s and Young Adults’ GN field has finally matured!

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February 21, 2014 · 12:34 pm

Saga Volume 2


by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples

Every bit as entertaining and thrilling as the first volume.  This one contains chapter 7 to chapter 12 — with beautifully rendered bloody and sexually explicit scenes.  What I reacted most strongly and favorably to are the cast of characters.  I hesitate to call them endearing (except for perhaps Marko and the Lying Cat) since many of them are so severely flawed and I probably will not want to deal with them in real life, but they definitely have sharply defined forms and the plot moves plausibly in accordance with their individual personalities.

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Saga, Vol. 1

saga by Brian K. Vaughan; artwork by Fiona Staples

The first six installments (chapters) of a supposed Space Opera definitely grabbed my attention and my heart. The world is ingeniously built, with interesting and outlandish “races” — I adore the reddish ghost girl who has only top half her body…. not quite sure how I feel about the computer monitor headed royalties… I hope the story unfolds with a lot of creativity and depth. My strong and enamored reaction to this book came largely from Fiona Staples’ lush artwork. I don’t feel like calling her just “the illustrator” because I feel that she did more than mere illustrating what’s given to her — but expanded and enhanced this fictional world and its inhabitants with grace. I look forward to the next volume!

Ah.. this is really not meant for children — even though I know quite a few of my younger teens have read this (on their own, not by my recommendation.)

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My Favorite 2013 Graphic Narratives

These are just a few of my favorite graphic narratives of 2013 (and a couple from 2012) — from those for fairly young readers to those only for adults.


I already wrote about Boxers and Saints (the two volume set that really must be read together… and I recommend to read Boxers first, Saints second.) And I also greatly enjoyed Avatar: The Promise and look forward to the second storyline The Search (2013).  V Is for Vendetta is a GN classic and richly deserving.  Also almost caught up with the Chew series — read #4, #5, and just finished #6 last week. These new story lines just get more and more incredibly “unappetizing” in a most deliciously gross way by these two twisted and talented minds!  Panel after panel of shocking new developments and gory images — definitely not for those whose minds crave redemption and hope…

Now.. onto those that I loved but didn’t have time to write about in 2013:

nathanhaleNathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party
by Nathan Hale

What I love most about this detailed historical account of the somewhat gruesome chapter of the American westward expansion history is Hale’s mindfulness of his young readers and their potential emotional reactions to some of the events along the way.  The executioner’s extreme sensitivity toward harmed animals and the surprising nonchalance toward human cannibalism added not only humor but relief.

mousebirdMouse Bird Snake Wolf
by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean

This is in between a picture book and a graphic narrative — it’s a poetic allegory, addressing our inner selves. Since I am a huge fan of Dave McKean’s, it’s not surprising that I adore this book!

by Jordan Mechner, illustrated by LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland

I had the pleasure and the privilege to read, advocate for, and annotate this powerful tome as a finalist on the CYBILS YA Graphic Novels slate.  It’s historical fiction at its finest: Mechner was compelled to tell an emotionally charged hidden tale of the every day people unrecorded in history texts (in this case, low-ranking Templar Knights).  Readers are treated to an ensemble of well drawn (both in words and illustrations) characters set against a sweeping historical landscape and a bitter-sweet story of loyalty, romance, and the tragic futility against the powers that be.

by Matt Phelan

The tone of the text, gentle, nostalgic, reverent to a time and an art form from the past, is perfectly matched by Phelan’s pastoral paintings that capture both the setting of bygone days and the many emotions experienced by our narrator, expressed by aptly drawn facial features and gestures.  Definitely a gem.

by Lucy Knisley

This is an energetic, often humorous, and delicious memoir of a new adult — and I do think it is for new or older adults — with a “looking back” and learning something from past experiences quality.  Not saying that I don’t think some teens will find the topics (food and cooking and making art and growing up/college life) quite attractive!  It is highly enjoyable and leaves a lasting impression.

delilahdirkDelilah Dirk and the Turkish Gentleman
by Tony Cliff

I fell instantly in love with this book!  The art is exquisite in a very traditional, high-end graphic novel fashion, the storyline is exciting and entertaining, and the two delightful main characters Delilah and Selim have great chemistry as pals in a series of misadventures.  There is a bit of a gender-stereotype reversal here: Delilah is the dare-devil, with martial arts training and an appetite for dangers while Selim is the solemn gentleman who is courteous and practical but couldn’t help following Delilah on all the risky businesses. I just adored it!

lostboyLost Boy
by Greg Ruth

The art is stronger in this strange fantasy/horror tale than the actual storyline which could have been developed neater with more convincing turns of events or final resolutions.  However, the black and white artwork is so gorgeous and breathtaking to behold that I was just happy to witness scene after scene visually. I do think there will be many young readers appreciating the slightly nightmarish but ultimately fun and safe tale.

warbrothersWar Brothers: The Graphic Novel
by Sharon E. McKay, illustrated by Daniel LaFrance

The harrowing, extremely hard to swallow story based on true events involving the terrorist group led by war criminal Joseph Kony that continues to plague young boys in Uganda is important to share with any teen reader!  It does not hurt that the artwork for this graphic narrative edition of McKay’s realistic fiction absolutely captures the range of emotions and the lush and dangerous backdrop.

monsteronthehillMonster on the Hill
by Rob Harrell

This is a story to be shared in families with children from ages 4 to 7!  The scenarios are just outlandish enough to tickle everyone’s funny bones — while townspeople from village to village are proud to have their own effective Monsters, one village sorely misses the time when they had a scary monster!  So the quest is on to cure the Monster on the Hill of its lack of terrorizing abilities or desires!  Adorable (yes, adorable) monsters, a befuddled scientist/doctor, and a wiser than his age little boy are indeed wonderful ingredients for this romp.  Oh, and the cartoony but detailed artwork definitely works to enhance the reading experience.

hereville2Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite
by Barry Deutsch

I was so thrilled to find that this second installment of Mirka’s story is even more enjoyable than the first one.  I wrote the annotation for CYBILS:

Mirka– the 11-year-old, troll fighting, singularly charming Orthodox Jewish girl–appears in her second, even more daring adventure in How Mirka Met a Meteorite, where she has to face a much more dangerous adversary: her own dark side, which manifests as a duplicate of herself. This “copy” is better groomed, more talented, and self-assured, and it means to stay on and obliterate Mirka’s existence. Deutsch and team deliver a humorous and action-packed tale with theatrical facial expressions, effective uses of varied panel designs, and bold strokes and skilled shading techniques.

And there are more stellar aspects to mention: this is a book with a great message that is delivered in such a way that does not feel forced or dryly didactic.  Mirka’s experiences will speak to many young readers and give them strengths to be the perhaps “less than perfect” but “full of individual flavors” selves!

mameshibaMameshiba: Enchanted
by James Turner, illustrated by Jorge Monlongo

I have to admit that I was very skeptical when I received the review copy of this slim volume — it definitely has a supermarket-cheap-impulse-buy-at-the-check-out counter look.  But since I loved all the short videos imported from Japan of these weird “beandogs,” I decided to give it a try.  And boy were the stories FUN!  None of the three stories is really all that original: the Kitchen is Haunted, a Mameshiba is punished for being too self-centered and has to learn a lesson to in humility and compassion, and the magic of stories sucks a host of beandogs into the storybook for them to battle the monsters.  But the cute creatures and the often silly remarks just make me smile (or laugh out loud.)  So glad it didn’t disappoint!

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CYBILS Finalists Announced

Happy New Year and I’m excited to share with you the two lists that I have had the pleasure of working on for the past few months: The finalists for the 2013 CYBILS Middle Grade and Young Adult Graphic Novels.

The finalists are:

MG Graphic Novels:

Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton
Matt Phelan

Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite
Barry Deutsch

March: Book 1
John Lewis

Monster on the Hill
Rob Harrell

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party
Nathan Hale

Squish #5: Game On!
Jennifer L. Holm

The Lost Boy
Greg Ruth

YA Graphic Novels:

Bad Machinery
John Allison

Boxers & Saints Boxed Set
Gene Luen Yang

Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight
Kelly Sue Deconnick

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant
Tony Cliff

Jordan Mechner

Uzumaki Deluxe Edition
Junji Ito

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel
Sharon McKay

All the finalists and annotations can be found here: http://www.cybils.com/2014/01/the-2013-finalists.html.

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Thinking Graphics

I’ve been reading more graphic novels of late, due to my responsibility as the first round selection judge on the CYBILS Graphic Novels (both MG and YA) panel.  And my mind swirls — especially after reading many reviews of graphic novels: both from educators/librarians and from GN fan sites.  What glares back at me review after review is how most people spend at least 85%, if not more, of the review addressing plot, character, setting, writing style, etc. and only one or two sentences on the artwork.  Often these sentences are general, broad, and feel like an after-thought.

Very few reviewers get into the actual artistic aspects of the books — how the artist uses lines (effectively or excessively?); how the facial expressions are captured (or not); do the background/foreground receive the same details (should they or should they not, depending on the style and the demand of the narrative); are there effectively varied perspectives; are depths of perception employed (in a good way or unnecessarily?); what TYPES of artistic styles or media are employed: cartoony? impressionistic? modern? realistic? pen-and-ink? watercolor?; how about tonal discussion: humorous? harsh? gentle? intense? and how did the artist achieve these tones?  And so so many more things that should be addressed in any review of a graphic novel — including the colorist’s achievement, the letterer’s choice and accomplishment (yes, many people use computer fonts instead of hand lettering now, but the CHOICE of font is still important), the panel layouts, the employment of comic books conventional elements such as gutters, speech bubble placements/usages, narrative boxes, etc.

I am no art critic and have only a limited vocabulary when it comes to discussing artwork and layout designs but I intend to improve upon that and hopefully in the future, when I write about graphic novels, I will include a good balance between discussion of the text and examination of the artwork.


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Avatar The Last Airbender: The Promise – (3 Volumes)

avatar(originally posted on 9/20/2013 on just vol. 1 — updated to include all three)

The story of two “nations” occupying the same land where one is now being demanded to remove itself mirrors eerily contemporary conditions in our current world. I’m delighted that almost all the important characters make their appearances here and their personalities consistent with the show. The artwork is definitely true to the show as well — for the most part.  Of course, the fight scenes are slightly less epic or thrilling presented in still frames and not movements, but fans of the show can probably fill in the sounds and sequences. I know I read it with the actors’ voices in my head!

The story arc is convincing and the ending is satisfying.  My biggest complaint might be that Zuko (the new Fire Kingdom King) is not quite what he looked like on the show — his features in the books are less defined and with less angsty charm that I so enjoyed from the show.

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CYBILS 2013 Announced its panels of blogger judges!

Yup.. it is official.  And I am on the Graphics judging panel for Round 1.

I served on the first CYBILS (Children and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) Fantasy and Science Fiction final round panel and we picked Jonathan Stroud’s Ptolomy’s Gate as the winner for the year.  A highly entertaining and deserving conclusion to an ever-intriguing and powerful trilogy.

Can’t wait to see all the suggestions/nominations for this year’s Graphic Narratives and generate that long list for future judges!  Excited!

This is the panelists for the Graphics sections:


and the full list of blogger judges can be found on the current Cybils front page.


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Boxers / Saints (Boxset)

boxersandsaintsby Gene Luen Yang

As I said in my notes earlier, my reactions to this two-book graphic novel set are complex and still unresolved even after several days’ reflection.  Partly because that I found so much of it outstanding, so I did not want to be nitpicking about certain details and I don’t want to color anyone’s reaction to this historical fiction based on my largely emotional reactions as a Chinese American reader who wants everyone to know THE WHOLE STORY!!  I also don’t want anyone to think that I KNOW the WHOLE STORY.  In fact, I had to do some research as I read the book since my textbook history knowledge of this rebellion was also mixed with folklore and stories I saw on tv when I was little.

I am quite aware that Yang did not set out to write a historical treatment of the entire movement, but to personalize individual experiences so that he, and the readers, can explore the impacts of these events.  He couldn’t have been more successful in reaching his goal.  I greatly appreciate how there are never easy answers in Gene Luen Yang’s stories — the readers are left to wonder whether to be angry or sympathetic toward the characters; to admire or abhor what they do; and to be enlightened or perplexed by their reasons for their actions.

I’m glad that Yang included a list of the books he used to create this narrative since the origin of the Boxers and their practices are much debated topics amongst Chinese historians.  The references to the boxers’ being spiritually possessed by powerful deities based on folk beliefs are in agreement with most historians’ findings and there was a real leader of the movement named Red Lantern Chu.  I wish, however, that some sources translated from Chinese scholars were consulted and that the main sources have more balanced views from both sides.

I wish that I could have been convinced of Bao’s ignorance of Qin Shi Huang who is one of the most famous personalities in Chinese history — even if he might not have featured greatly in the opera — but was glad that the First Emperor is portrayed with a complexity of his own.

I wish that I had not cringed so much by Yang’s referencing/highlighting the more exotic but less significant aspect of the rebellion: how some boxers believed that foreign forces’ success was due to their utilizing the “yin power” (usually refers to the female spiritual power) which is evil and undesirable (drinking menstrual blood, flags woven from women’s pubic hair, etc.)  Even if these were documented facts (as Diana Preston claims in her The Boxer Rebellion,) I simply couldn’t help feeling ashamed and hoping fervently that young readers won’t mistake such “foreign” notions as typical of my fellow countrymen in the 21st century. (Does the inclusion of such claims enhance the storytelling and the power of this book?  I am too shaken by it emotionally to see it… perhaps someone else could convince me otherwise!?)

I wish that the slogan on the war banner had been written out in traditional Chinese characters because the events happened way before the simplification of the characters.

The above are all pretty much about Boxers — and I didn’t really get a chance to talk about Saints — which, for some odd reason, I found thoroughly convincing and more intense, although it is only half the length of Boxers.  I found the timeline crisscrossing of the two books very effective and the two pages (282 in Boxers and 158 in Saints) depicting compassionate deities (Guan Yin and Christ) with the same visual design absolutely breathtaking.

These two books can generate so much discussion and are so thought provoking that I have to tag them Highly Recommended even if I had some personal reservations…


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The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume One

leagueofextraordinarygentlemenby Allen Moore, Kevin O’Neill, Ben Dimagmaliw and Bill Oakley

The concept of bringing a lot of 19th century literary characters together to solve a mystery is definitely a fun one — although not unique, at least, not any more in an age of mash-up stories. I enjoyed spotting literary allusions and also learning more about characters or original stories that I was not familiar with. The art is superb. The section with all the Chinese dialog is actually fairly accurate. Kudos! I think I’ll go over all the panels more than once just to enjoy the artists’ talents. Another aspect that’s extraordinarily fun is how the whole thing is done in an 1898 serial publication style. All in all, worth my time!

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