Tag Archives: graphic novel

Reading Rec: My Solo Diary Exchange Vol. 1

Since June is LGBT+ Pride Month, I decided that I would review books by and about LGBT+ people. Today’s recommendation will be another graphic novel, but unlike The Prince and the Dressmaker, My Solo Diary Exchange Vol. 1 by Nagata Kabi is autobiographical.

my solo

If you follow me on Goodreads, you may have seen my review on the preceding volume, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness. My Solo Diary Exchange picks up pretty much where that book left off. We find Nagata Kabi struggling to become a functional adult– at least to society’s standards. Despite the seemingly sexual/sensual nature of the cover, this volume focuses less on the queer aspect of her life and more with the vulnerabilities and trials she faces in owning her mistakes and growing from them.

What I love about Nagata Kabi’s work is how she never shies away from painful or messy topics. Numerous shades of depression and anxiety are explored in her work, and we get to see the progress she has made since her first book. Unlike many other mental illness-focused autobiographies, we aren’t presented with a nice tidy life by the end of the book. Nagata Kabi draws herself as disheveled, tired, depressed, and frankly, a hot mess. She is unforgiving in her characterization. That styles carries through into her art style, which mimics the mental chaos with fast, scratchy strokes that obscure her sparse forms. Counterbalancing the darkness are flashes of pink, which lighten the tone and remind the reader that she is a woman and this work centers around a woman who loves women.

Her work is poignant and incredibly relatable (especially to many Millenials, myself included) as she struggles to assert her independence from her parents while working through something akin to separation anxiety, depression, and coming to terms with the fact that love isn’t always unconditional or reciprocated.

If this review piqued your interest, grab a copy on Amazon.

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Reading Rec: The Prince and the Dressmaker

It’s June, which means it’s LGBT+ Pride Month. I decided that my June reviews will focus on LGBT+ fiction I’ve read lately. This really isn’t a stretch for me since 75% of what I read has queer characters and was probably written by a queer author.

My first recommendation is a wonderful graphic novel I picked up at Bookcon last Sunday called The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang.

princedressmaker

The story centers around Frances, a young dressmaker hoping to one day become an independent designer, and Sebastian, the prince of Belgium who is harboring a secret: he likes to wear dresses. After Frances creates a daring ensemble for a noblewoman’s daughter (much to the chagrin of society), Sebastian sends his valet to hire Frances to be his personal designer. Unfortunately, Sebastian isn’t quite out about his penchant for dresses because he fears his family (and his country’s) disapproval. Instead, he dons his new wardrobe and goes out on the town as Lady Crystallia, who soon turns into a fashion icon.

This book is absolutely adorable. Frances and Sebastian are warm and sweet and fragile. They remind the reader of that time when many of us weren’t sure where we fit into the grand spectrum of life and gender/sexuality. It’s written in such a way that the story and themes are easy enough for middle grade readers to understand without being patronizing or dull for adult readers. Honestly, I gobbled this book up in about two hours and couldn’t put it down even though I should have turned in for the night. This was due to the sensitivity with which this story was written while at the same time crushing the characters with doses of reality.

What really sells the book though is the artwork. Every page is beautifully rendered in detail and full color. The clothing is lush and textured and the backdrops scream of a Moulin Rouge era Paris. The art style is somewhat akin to what’s seen on Steven Universe but more realistic. The story itself is purposely anachronistic yet retains the historical charms of the early twentieth century.

If you like the daring costumes of RuPaul’s Drag Race and Lady Gaga, queer historical-fantasy, and beautifully rendered graphic novels, then The Prince and the Dressmaker is for you.

Grab a copy on Amazon on your way out.

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Book Review: Corpus

corpus

Title: Corpus by K. M. Claude

Genre: Gothic fantasy/Graphic novel

Rating: 4 stars

TL;DR: Corpus is a short comic loaded with deliciously dark and sensuous imagery that explores one of the most memorable characters from Ninety Nine Righteous Men.


It’s really hard to review a short episodic comic that acts as a companion to a larger work, so this will probably be a fairly short review (also because I don’t want to spoil Ninety Nine Righteous Men)

Corpus tells the story of Caleb, the young man in Ninety Nine Righteous Men who becomes possessed by a demon in exchange for the love of a certain priest. In this companion comic, we become more acquainted with the demon who lives in Caleb’s skin and how he ended up turning to darker forces.

The art style is absolutely gorgeous. As with Claude’s previous work, every panel is rich with detail. While the Catholic imagery isn’t as strong in Corpus as it was in Ninety Nine Righteous Men, the contrast is just as apparent between the sensuous demon and his naive victim. Throughout the story, there are details that pay homage to Eastern art. The styling of the demon reminded me greatly of Japanese horror and erotic scenes from 17th and 18th century paintings. This can be seen in the repetitive organic patterns surrounding erotic moments and even with the shape of the demons features, which reminded me greatly of the facial features seen in Edo Period figures.

What took a star off for Corpus is that I wanted more. Claude teases the reader with a little background info on the demon’s previous incarnation as a boy in the sultan’s harem but goes no further, which is maddening because it feels like that boy’s life could have been like Caleb’s and I think it could have made an interesting story. Besides that, I would have maybe like to have seen a little more of Caleb’s backstory. Just a little bit because even after Corpus, it still feels like a lot has gone unsaid.

Overall, Corpus is a fantastic addition to the story of Ninety Nine Righteous Men with imagery as rich and luscious as the origin story, and I look forward to reading more by K. M. Claude in the future.

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Book Review: Monstress

Monstress

Title: Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda

Genre: Fantasy/Graphic novel

Rating: 4.5 stars

TL;DR: Monstress was fantastic. A dark and gritty story offset by absolutely gorgeous artwork.


Monstress follows the story of Maika Halfwolf, a woman who is half-human and half-monster with powers lurking inside her beyond compare. For this, she is hunted mercilessly because to possess her is to possess a power that could rebuild or destroy the world.
At first glance, Monstress might appear to be a traditional anime/manga style human-monster hybrid, but it’s so much more complex than that. The world is rich with detail, and the asides at the end of each chapter help to fill-in the gaps that the authors couldn’t cram into the storyline, which frees them up to focus on the action, world-building, and characters.
We meet Maika, who is, to put it simply, very pissed. Her memory is spotty, everyone is trying to kill her, and there’s a monster inside her threatening to take over. I’d be pissed too, but Maika is more than the usual tsundere type. She’s strong physically, but what future books will focus on her emotional growth. To balance Maika’s blind rage, we have a bubbly, naively optimistic fox-child and a calculating cat who keeps them together.
What I love about Monstress involves more than just the main characters. I am in love with the world. There’s a richness to it, a complexity beyond the surface not often seen in graphic novels. This richness arises from the political and historical background that informs the actions of the characters in Monstress and carries through in the art style. Sana Takeda’s art is beautiful. It is a mixture of art nouveau, art deco, and Japanese mechanica all interwoven with a thread of the traditional manga aesthetic. After reading the book, I know I will go back and examine every picture for details I missed. There’s also an added layer of diversity in the story. I don’t think I’ve seen so many female characters in roles of power, and in this story, it works without seeming odd or forced. Witches and monstresses have been part of literature and mythology for centuries, and they are usually worse than their male counterparts. Monstress is no different. You’ll also find that characters are diverse in terms of ethnicity, species, and sexuality.
I can’t wait to read volume 2 when it comes out. If you like graphic novels that are not only beautiful but stuffed with action, then Monstress is for you.

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Book Review: Ninety-Nine Righteous Men

99 righteous men

Title: Ninety-Nine Righteous Men by K. M. Claude

Genre: Horror, graphic novel

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ +0.5

Tl;DR: Ninety-Nine Righteous Men perfectly blends the tragedy of unrequited love with Gothic horror into a beautifully illustrated graphic novel that can only be described as a Catholic’s nightmare.


You know a book is good when you dock half a star for not being long enough.

K. M. Claude’s graphic novel begins with two somewhat unlikely heroes, priests Daniel and Adam, who have a rather tumultuous and complicated past together, as they are drawn into the web of a demon possessing one of the parishioners. What transpires is a tale of tormented souls united by lust’s cruel embrace.

The art style for Ninety-Nine Righteous Men is gorgeous. It’s a style reminiscent of both Eastern and Western comics by utilizing a more Western anatomical style with a more manga-like action style. What Claude creates is some impressive juxtapositions with the rigid piousness of Catholic imagery alongside the pliant sensuality of the demon. At times, I’m hesitant to read graphic novels because I typically hate the style of traditional Western comics (mainly the gritty, rather sloppy style of super hero comics), but Claude’s art style is clean, precise, and deliciously detailed.

One of the things I greatly appreciated was the balance between sensuality, sexuality, and the quiet moments of action and dialogue. When I first began reading, I worried the entire graphic novel would be reminiscent of the game Catherine, but Claude deftly balances all aspects of the work until it comes to a head at the climax (puns intended).

As an ex-Catholic, I felt comfortable in the discomfort of Adam and Daniel’s wholly Catholic world. Often what disturbs them, disturbs me, and Claude highlights the rather gruesome aspects of Catholicism that tend to disturb small children with wandering eyes. While what’s discussed in the book might anger some more devout Catholics, we must all remember that priests are humans and should be treated as such. If you’re a fan of Anne Rice’s style of sensual Southern Gothic with Catholic guilt, you’ll probably enjoy Ninety-Nine Righteous Men.

My biggest complaint with the book is a good one. I wanted more. I didn’t want the book to end. I wanted more on Daniel and Adam’s backstories, their lives before the priesthood, their encounters together, and even Caleb’s life before the story takes place. While the characters are well fleshed-out, I think they could have been explored more.

Ninety-Nine Righteous Men is a unique tale of lust, love, and sacrifice through the lens of the Gothic, and I look forward to reading more by K. M. Claude in the future.

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