Posts Tagged ‘graphic novel’

Ramshackle: A Yellowknife Story

January 5th, 2016 | Print | 0 Comments


Every time I visit my hometown of Toronto, there are a couple shops I make sure to visit. One of those is The Beguiling, a now-legendary comics shop located near Bathurst and Bloor, perhaps most famous for being the one-time working location of Scott Pilgrim author Bryan Lee O’Malley. I stopped by last week to see if any of the really independent stuff on the first floor (second floor is more mainstream stuff e.g. Marvel, D.C., Manga, etc.), might catch my eye. Alison McCreesh‘s Ramshackle: A Yellowknife Story immediately caught my attention.

I’m not sure how it happened, but somehow last year I became really interested in the arctic. I read Robert McGhee‘s beautiful book on arctic history The Last Imaginary Place. I watched stuff on YouTube about the arctic. I began dreaming of a road trip visit to Dawson City in the Yukon Territories. An old high school friend of mine lives there now. She posts about it on Facebook a lot. A book about life in Yellowknife sounded great. I knew basically nothing about the capital city of the Northwest Territories.


McCreesh writes about how she and her boyfriend Pat finished university and, after some road trips and random jobs around Canada, decided on a lark to move up to Yellowknife for a while. Once there, living out of their van, they struggled to adapt to the unique circumstances arctic life, including limited water and ‘unorthodox’ methods of dealing with human waste. They made friends with normal people, artists, bohemian types, etc. And learned about the history of the city.

McCreesh details all this beautifully in the graphic novel. She also takes time to explain the history of city and its current the social, cultural details, in order to provide everything with the proper context. As a result, Ramshackle is a wonderful, adorable, and educational little graphic novel. It made me miss the adventure of the open road, and the kind of life on the edge that led McCreesh and Pat to make Yellowknife their permanent home.


June 25th, 2015 | Print | 0 Comments


Working a legal internship in Washington, D.C. is an interesting experience. Every day you meet congressmen and senators and people that you read about or see on Bill Maher. You watch democracy in action, bureaucratic as it may be. Sometimes it’s frustrating, and sometimes it’s inspiring.

My first week here, I was invited (sort of in relation to my internship) to attend a book signing. I was told the man signing books was John Lewis, but I didn’t know who that was. As I soon learned, not only is he a congressman, he was also one of the big six leaders of the American civil rights movement, and the only one of the six still alive. The book being signed was a graphic novel, or really, two volumes of a graphic novel trilogy called March. So far I’ve only read the first book which came out last year, and the third book hasn’t been released yet, but basically March is a graphic novel about John Lewis‘s life and his involvement in the American civil rights movement.

Lewis grew up on a farm in a rural little corner of Alabama, preaching to his family’s chickens and running to catch the bus to school against his dad’s wishes (he was needed for farm work). As a young man he went to Fisk University in Nashville and got involved with a rabble rouser there named Martin Luther King, Jr. Lewis, King, and the other young idealists they were involved with tried to emulate the non-violent protest methods of Gandhi to further their goal of breaking down the racial barriers then in-place in America. March allows one an insider perspective on their activities, as they organize sit-ins and other interesting protests to push against segregation’s limitations, making slow but steady progress over time, with the movement continuously gaining in strength and numbers.

March One

Thankfully, the authors and illustrator of March do justice to the importance of the subject matter. The book is beautifully written, especially in the intimate chapters detailing Lewis’s humble beginnings. Later in time (though early on in the story), a female visitor’s awe at being able to meet Lewis and introduce her two young sons to him ably illustrates the gravity of his and the civil rights movement’s accomplishments. Self-aggrandizing? Maybe a little. But with a story like Lewis’, to avoid self-aggrandizing would require significant effort and even be kind of disingenuous.

At the book signing, someone said that most American kids know nine words about the civil rights movement: Martin Luther King, “I have a dream”, Rosa Parks. Something like that. I can’t speak for Americans, but as a Canadian, I know my education didn’t consist of much more than that (and the underground railroad). When I saw Selma I was blown away by how much those activists went through. Seriously. Those guys were hardcore.

March can be thought of as a companion piece to Selma. It tells the film’s story from a different perspective, starting earlier and ending well after the events portrayed in the film. And really, I always thought I knew enough about all this American civil rights movement stuff, but the fact that what I’m learning now blows my mind so much says otherwise. This is an important story for everyone to learn, study, know. The story of the American civil rights movement is not just about Americans or black people, but about humanity. It’s about how we can sometimes be so stupid and ridiculous and horrible, but also about how a small number of people with a little hope and a lot of determination can make a huge difference.

Isa (Father)

December 6th, 2014 | Print | 0 Comments


I was just looking for a coffee shop in Brooklyn where I could chill and do some of my law school reading. Of course, something cool is always going on in Brooklyn, so I ended up at the Comic Arts Brooklyn fair.

There were a lot of vendors with really interesting stuff, but I’m just a law student and only have so much cash to spare. Still, when I saw Hanneriina Moisseinen‘s beautiful, mysterious graphic novel Isa (Father) at a Finnish company’s table, I decided to shell out the $15 it cost. You don’t come across strange Finnish graphic novels every day.

Apparently autobiographic, Isa is the story of how Hanneriina’s father Seppo simply disappeared one day while on a company camping trip and how she and her family coped with his disappearance. Hanneriina was just a child. Her family, apparently, never discovered what happened to him, nor was his body ever found.


What makes Isa particularly interesting, however, is that in telling her story, Hanneriina delves into childhood fantasies and quasi-mystical forest imagery. One of the most recurrent images, a shadowy bear figure – apparently the imaginary version of her teddybear Teddykins – is particularly haunting and touching. Images of illustrated towels separate chapters and manage a similar effect at times. They’re meant to connect with the idea that Hanneriina’s dad’s towels would now be used by others.

The imagery and format of the work make reading Isa feel like sinking into a dream, or swimming into memories too painful to explore without cloaking them in fantasy. I’m not sure where you’ll find it now, at least with English translation, but if you’re interested, this is the publisher’s website (which is in Finnish).


October 19th, 2014 | Print | 0 Comments


Bryan Lee O’Malley follows his now-classic Scott Pilgrim series with the whimsical Seconds, a graphic novel about a woman whose life becomes a little complicated after finding some mushrooms and a notepad that allow her to alter the her recent past.

Katie is 29 years old and works as a chef at a popular restaurant called Seconds. She recently acquired a property and is working on turning it into her own new restaurant to be called Katie’s. She encounters a mysterious hipster-y looking girl in her room one day and then finds a little box in a drawer with a mushroom, a notepad, and instructions to eat the mushroom and rewrite the past in the notepad the way she would have liked it to be. She starts doing this innocently, changing little things, but as she continues, the changes and the new worlds she creates with each revision become a bit much for her to handle. Not to mention that creepy hipster house spirit adding to her difficulties…

I bought Seconds, like most people probably did, because I truly, truly loved the Scott Pilgrim series (as well as the movie) and was anxious to see what its creator would come up with next. Seconds, however, is not the book for people like this, i.e. those looking for something resembling Scott Pilgrim.  It does feature the same basic art and a similar writing style and sense of humour, but it’s a completely different kind of book, with none of the geeky reference points and unabashed romance that made Scott Pilgrim resonate with so many readers, myself included.

Seconds is cute. It’s a well-written and composed story with a kind of ‘meh’ premise and likeable but not particularly interesting characters. Perhaps it was simply the cute, little story O’Malley wanted to tell, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But, unfortunately, Seconds is nothing particularly special.

The Massive

October 14th, 2014 | Print | 0 Comments


I had wanted to read Brian Wood‘s The Massive for a long time, and I finally managed to grab the first graphic novel volume of it at New York Comic Con this weekend.

Set after a massive ecological catastrophe called ‘the crash’ that essentially messed up the entire planet, the story centres on environmental group Ninth Wave aboard their ship The Kapital as they try and locate their other ship, The Massive, which went missing some time ago.

The crew aboard The Kapital is an interesting mix of ex-mercenaries, environmentalists, engineers, etc. trying to keep things together in the wake of ‘the crash’. They debate just how pacifist they should remain, as the world has gotten a whole lot rougher what with the scarcity of water and other vital supplies. They try to get along and understand each other despite their radically different backgrounds. Sometimes things get difficult.


Though it started off a little slow, towards the end I started getting into the comic and relating to the characters more. Wood’s imagining of the vast and incredible the changes that occur to the Earth in ‘the ‘crash’ is also exciting and terrifying. Additionally, the artwork by Kristian Donaldson and Garry Brown manages a great job of capturing the grittiness of the comic’s brave new post-‘crash’ world.

I look forward to picking up the next volume soon.

p.s. for those who don’t know Brian Wood, his first work, Channel Zero, is also really, really cool and political.