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Top Tier Graphic Novel - Seconds

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Looks like it finally happened, I found something so well crafted, structured and executed that I had to make a new rating category. Swallow Me Whole came pretty close, but Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds is truly a masterwork of the graphic novel genre. It doesn’t add anything revolutionary to the idiom itself, but there is a stroke of genius in just how well the story is fleshed out in a format that has pretty strict limits on the complexity and length of narrative due to page space being spent on images rather than compact lines of prose. It also has a little to add to the metanarrative. O’Malley worked on the book for three years, the other people who worked on it were Jason Fischer (Drawing Assistant), Dustin Harbin (Lettering), and Nathan Fairbairn (Color). The publisher is Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House.

Summary: Katie Clay, is 29, an accomplished cook, a prospective restaurant owner, and occasionally haunted by a girl on top of her dresser. To add to this, she lives above and needlessly lords over the restaurant Seconds, a restaurant that was built around her cooking and featured her as head chef before she decided to move onto owning her own joint. As is typical, progress sours on the building renovation for her new restaurant location, and during a workplace accident that she had a hand in causing; one of the Seconds waitresses named Hazel is badly burned. That night, she digs in her drawer to find a notebook and a mushroom with instructions telling her to write down one mistake, ingest one mushroom, sleep and wake up. She does so, and the accident never happened. Once Katie finds more mushrooms, she starts fixing more of her mistakes, with both mundane and dire consequences, although Hazel stays consistent between all life revisions. As is typical, this has implications that she didn’t initial predict.

Visuals: Bryan Lee O’Malley shows a bit more diversity with his character designs in comparison to say, the style from the last Scott Pilgrim volume. The cast has more racial diversity in opposition to the parade of white people that the Scott Pilgrim series featured, and characters have more diverse body types as well, in contrast to the extremely limited male and female template that was used for much of Scott Pilgrim. The clearest difference is that all the characters have distinct eyeball shapes. As would be expected of the guy who came up with Ramona Flowers, there’s some creative hair to admire, although I do think that the semiotics involved in the character design has more to do with common signifiers for standard character roles rather than the specific characters. For example, Katie has bright red, spikey hair, which is usually a trope used to signify the lead character in manga styled media, but there isn’t much focus on why or how she has such a unique cut. seconds

Themes: The masterful mix of the mundane and the magical goes a long way toward making this book both relatable and interesting on a more creative level. Many of the graphic novels that I’ve liked lately have taken this approach, but I’d say that this one gets the seamless mixture just right. There are three main focuses for the narrative: regret, hubris, and morality being tainted by magic.

Katie’s regrets are the catalyst for her dependence on the mystic forces that she gets introduced to. Her ability to directly alter these events contributes to her hubris as the novel progresses, because her life changes drastically as a result of the revisions, but she never gets to personally experience the change as it happens, so the rewards that she gets as a result are ultimately hollow to her on an emotional level, and she can no longer understand who the closest people to her are, because she’s changed them so many times while she’s stayed stagnant. This sets up the truism that being rewarded without having to experience the hardship, advancement or maturity in a growing relationship is a meaningless gift.

This ties in well into an old as balls concept in fiction; that using a supernatural ability to get around the moral and ethical hardships of life can corrupt you. For example, in The Hobbit, Bilbo uses the invisibility ring to help his friends and save his life when he first starts using it, but as time progresses, he uses it to avoid obligations and to hide away from the Battle of Five Armies. This was showing that when people can take the easy way out, they are more prone to making unethical decisions. It was certainly more compelling than the reveal that it was the Ring of Power and it just corrupts people because it’s evil. Katie’s journey with the consequence-erasing mushrooms is a more effective way to tell this kind of parable, as it clearly outlines what Katie is missing out on by engaging in these life revisions, but it also gives her a constant chance to change things for the better, which fuels her desire to indulge in the path of least resistance even further.

Overall: What an enjoyable book. It weighs in at 320+ pages, so it is lengthy by graphic novel standards. Some little tidbits I’ll add are that O’Malley throws in a ton of references to the Scott Pilgrim series for those who are paying attention. Fortunately, the dialogue makes more sense than it does in Scott Pilgrim. I didn’t get into some of the mythological elements of the story because of spoilers, but it is quaintly internally consistent and the information is doled out in a slow pace that keeps the mystery interesting. I more than highly suggest it, and welcome it as the first book in my Top Tier rating. (Watchmen also fits this Top Tier standard, but I’m never going to review it)

Seconds On Amazon

Seconds: A Graphic Novel

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My own Graphic Novel Series, Druid City, Two Volumes Out

Written essays on my website.

1st Scott Pilgrim Essay: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Diegesis

2nd Essay: Scott Pilgrim VS The World: Panel Composition and Transitions

3rd: Examining Plot Structure in Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness

4th: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together: Subspace as Metaphor

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Why the 77% median gender wage gap is relevant.

Little passion project I worked on this week.  It’s me explaining the details of the wage gap to people who deem it a myth or exaggeration. Aimed mostly at conservatives, libertarians, and anti-feminists, as well as the strange uprising of atheists and skeptics who question the stats. Feel free to engage or rebut, but I will be getting rid of comments that antagonize others or offer nothing but unfunny accusations of suckitude. (Funny ones can pass)

evans-alec:

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This is such unadulterated bullshit.

evans-alec:

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This is such unadulterated bullshit.

Delays

Been working on a video about the gender wage gap, but once I get the audio done I’ll be reading Seconds. 

For today

Going to be getting into Seconds after work and posting the video review for Doug TenNapel’s Cardboard.

700 followers

The 700th is you.

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(Source: thespacegoat)

Highly Suggested Graphic Novels - Cardboard

Well, it didn’t take me as long as I would have thought to find one of Doug TenNapel’s numerous graphic novels that is actually unique and memorable.  Cardboard is the latest book written and illustrated by Doug TenNapel and published by GRAPHIX, as its release date was in 2012.  It was colored by Der-Shing Helmer, who is well known as a biologist and for work on the webcomic, The Meek.

Summary:

The story starts with an underemployed man named Mike failing to find a quick odd job so he can pay for a birthday present for his son, Cam.  He runs into a vendor who looks like vaguely Uncle Ruckus and purchases a cardboard box from him for 78 cents, all he could afford.  Mike and Cam use the cardboard to construct a model of a boxer, who comes to life in the morning.  Marcus, one of the neighborhood kids, aspires to have this magic cardboard for himself and steals from Cam in order to create more cardboard creatures.  The sentient pulp dolls soon overthrow Marcus. Cam, Mike and the cardboard boxer have to team up with Marcus to put an end to the rise of the cardboard cretins.

Visuals:

Doug TenNapel’s style has changed a lot since Earthworm Jim, but this is the book that most reflects his old style from that series, mainly in the eyeballs.  The book also has a lot of creatures and that’s TenNapel’s specialty, so he can show off a little in this book.  The design of a few of the adults irked me, namely how their eye frame was larger than their jaw line in many cases.  Marcus’s design is stereotypical, but stands out in contrast to the other human character’s from TenNapel’s books.

Themes:

This book digs into childish creativity rather well, and has some relatable moments on that front.  My brother and I have literally done the exact same thing that Marcus and his lackey do in one scene, namely, creating a cardboard factory where you insert drawings of what you want in order to make something.  Unfortunately we didn’t have magic on our side, or even much knowledge of structural integrity.  Since TenNapel’s books are meant for young audiences, it’s nice to see one that actually has some insight into how then act

Overall:

The thematic elements and more characteristic visual style, plus the better coloring job provided by Helmer, are improvements on TenNapel’s previous works.  The story occasionally has some undertones of criticism of stereotypical American liberal values, which was annoying for me, but it isn’t a prominent feature of the book and really just made like the Marcus character more.  Other than that, I can’t say many bad things about this book, and I’m glad this one passes the bar of mediocrity and stepped into quality storytelling for young folks.  

Cardboard on Amazon:

Cardboard

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My own Graphic Novel Series, Druid City, Two Volumes Out

Written essays on my website.

1st Scott Pilgrim Essay: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Diegesis

2nd Essay: Scott Pilgrim VS The World: Panel Composition and Transitions

3rd: Examining Plot Structure in Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness

4th: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together: Subspace as Metaphor

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It's here! Seconds is finally here!

kumathetyrant:

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It’s here! The moment I have been building up for seven weeks is here! Bryan Lee O’Malley’s newest Graphic Novel “Seconds” dropped yesterday and I picked it up first things and read it immediately. I want to thank you guys for reading these reviews and giving me the time of day, it really…

Err…Bad Graphic Novel – A Bag of Marbles

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A Bag of Marbles is a graphic novel adaption of Jeff Joffo’s memoir of the same name.  It was released in 2013 by Graphic Universe, the story was adapted by someone named Kris, and it was illustrated by Vincent Bailey.

Summary:

Considering this is a memoir, Jeff Joffo, in theory, is the main character.  The other prominent characters are the members of his family.  The six members of the Joffo family get thrown all around France in pairs as they avoid the Nazi SS.  The plot doesn’t have a great deal of structure, as it is based on real life events.  I’ve read a few accounts of Jewish experience as oppressed by the Nazi regime, so perhaps I should read the original book to understand the unabridged version of events, but as they are presented in the graphic novel, they’re rather disjointed and don’t lead to a conclusion.

Visuals:

Everything is done in watercolors and very thin ink (perhaps done with a small pen) and that adds a lot to the unique look of the book.  This is one of the few things that the book has going for it, each panel is rather detailed and unique.  I can give the overall visuals a nod, but the rest of the book doesn’t back it up.

Why It Sucks:

To be honest, there really aren’t thematic elements.  Considering that this is a true story, it doesn’t have to, but I would have much rather read the unabridged book by Joffo than this stripped down version.  Pretty much all of the proactive actions taken by characters are done off screen or are done by characters who are not our protagonist. Most of the characters deal with this over reaching and horrifying Nazi regime with relative simplicity. The book simply isn’t interesting and doesn’t even show a particularly bleak outlook on the situation. 

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My own Graphic Novel Series, Druid City, Two Volumes Out

Written essays on my website.

1st Scott Pilgrim Essay: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Diegesis

2nd Essay: Scott Pilgrim VS The World: Panel Composition and Transitions

3rd: Examining Plot Structure in Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness

4th: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together: Subspace as Metaphor

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Highly Suggested Graphic Novels – Mercury

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Mercury is a graphic novel released in 2010 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.  It was written and drawn by Hope Larson, who has six graphic novels to her name and is a 2007 Eisner Award winner in the Special Recognition category.

Summary:

The story focuses on two distant relatives in separate time periods, but in the same location.  The book takes place in French Hill, Nova Scotia, Canada.  One story is centered on Tara, in present day, and the other features Josephine, her ancestor, in 1859.  Josephine lives on the family farm and one day a stranger comes to town, named Asa, who is a gold prospector and mystic.  He strikes a deal with the family to dig for gold on their land, and he also begins to seduce Josephine.  In the present, the family farmhouse has burned down and Tara visits the location on occasion.  Soon after starting public school again, she receives the same mystic pendant that was in Asa’s possession in 1859.  Both stories run concurrently in the structure of the graphic novel, and every few pages the story will switch from one time line to the other.

Visuals:

The visual style is hard to praise on many of the levels that I normally criticize art on, but given the story that’s being told here, I have to remove some of my usual complaints.  When it comes to distinguishing characters from each other, it’s a rather difficult task.  Several of the characters look the exact same, and in many cases this is purposeful.  The strong visual resemblance between family members Tara and Josephine is obvious from the start, but the uncanny sameness of other characters that are analogous to each other in either time is also strong.  For example, Josephine and Tara’s sister and cousin respectively have the exact same look.  

So the character designs can get confusing from time to time, considering that most characters have the same body type and what makes them unique are facial qualities, some of which are very subtle or absent, causing many characters to look the same even if they aren’t meant to be analogous to one another.  But I will say that they are endearing in ways that many of the other graphic novels that I’ve been reading lately haven’t been.  I think I have to accept that if I’m not engaged with the story at all, then the character design is going to fall flat with me, and there will have to be some exceptional artwork to convince me otherwise. 

Themes:

The structure of the story and the familiar quality that it has for me given my own literary history is what allowed me to really enjoy the book, even though I found the visual qualities to have flaws.  The story with Josephine harkens back to qualities that are typical of American Southern Gothic literature (think Flannery O’ Conner) and I found it funny that this kind of story takes place in the great white north, rather than the deep dirty south. The story also has touches of mysticism that are mostly left up to reader interpretation, and some of them are brought up without any pay off, which adds some flavor to the mystery of it all.  I must also say that it takes a great deal of knowledge of plot structure and literary sophistication to pull off a book where two stories are running at the same time in the manner that it does in this novel, and I can praise that to death.

Overall:

This book was a mixed bag for me, but oddly enough I couldn’t give it a middle of the road rating.  Larson goes big with her narrative delivery and scope, and she weaves a subtle magical realism into it, which I wasn’t expecting.  For it’s imagination, economy of statement, and reproducing a style of literature that comes from around the location where Hope Larson grew up, I’m giving it a Highly Suggested rating. 

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My own Graphic Novel Series, Druid City, Two Volumes Out

Written essays on my website.

1st Scott Pilgrim Essay: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Diegesis

2nd Essay: Scott Pilgrim VS The World: Panel Composition and Transitions

3rd: Examining Plot Structure in Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness

4th: Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together: Subspace as Metaphor

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Final Outline and liner notes done for Druid City Volume 3

Going to start getting into the meat of Druid City Volume 3 once September rolls around.

usedbandaid:

It’s a throw pillow now. I get two whole dollars from every purchase!  

usedbandaid:

It’s a throw pillow now. I get two whole dollars from every purchase!  

apolojizzing:

bargainers:

fuck bowser

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but also fuck bowser

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…amirite?

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(Source: meditite)

I think I’ve found it.  The dumbest fucking video on the internet.