BooksOfTheMoon

Hilda and the Black Hound

By Luke Pearson

Rating: 5 stars

In another delightful slice of whimsy, this time Hilda befriends Tontu, a house spirit who’s down on his luck and she has to find out what’s causing havoc in the town of Trolberg and if it’s related to the sightings of the mysterious creature stalking the streets.

This volume does have David and Frida from the animated TV series in it, but more in passing than as characters in their own right, which is a bit of a shame, but that does allow the spotlight to remain on our favourite blue-haired adventurer herself. With her trademark sense of adventure, and moral compass pointing firmly at ‘kindness’, Hilda is a wonderful character and Pearson tells a delightful and heart-warming tale. Sure to delight children of all ages (including this forty-something).

Book details

ISBN: 9781911171072
Publisher: Flying Eye Books
Year of publication: 2017

Hilda and the Bird Parade

By Luke Pearson

Rating: 4 stars

The third volume of Hilda’s adventures sees her and her mother move from the wilderness to the city of Trolberg, where her mother freaks out a bit and keeps her from the outdoor explorations and freedom that she’s used to. She does get out, with kids from her new school, but doesn’t find their games to her taste. So she befriends a talking raven, runs away from a rat king and gets lost.

This is just as sweet and fun as the previous volumes with some great visual gags. Recommended for all ages (along with the Netflix animated TV series of the same name).

Book details

ISBN: 9781911171027
Publisher: Flying Eye Books
Year of publication: 2016

Monday, Monday

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

It took a while to figure out what this clever little graphic novel was doing, and once I did realise, I had to go back and re-read it as soon as I’d finished it. Each of its four chapters (issues) tells the story of the same day in the life of the Metropolitan Police, from four different points of view. First we see series regular DI Stephanopoulos’ day, as she takes over an active operation from an injured colleague, finding it not working as smoothly as it should, and worrying about corruption.

The second chapter is interesting because it not only has Nightingale’s perspective in the present, as he leads a short course for officers on detecting vestigia and when to call in the Folly, but we get flashbacks to his youth, both in his school days, and his service in the second world war. Which reminds me – we know that Nightingale fought in WW2, but this flashback suggests that his true youth was in the early part of the twentieth century and he may have had a hand in the Great War too, despite the best intentions of his headmaster. There’s also a lovely sequence to contrast this, as Nightingale looks after Peter’s new children during a childcare crisis – a side to him that we’ve not seen before.

The third chapter starts with Peter dealing with new parenthood (twins, no less!) and then shows how he fits into Stephanopoulos’ investigation. There’s a lovely little section near the start with Peter at home with the twins where he gets out a measuring tape and tries to analyse at what point they start to cry when separated from each other. It’s as pure Peter Grant as you can get and a lovely little aside that had me grinning to myself. The military foxes also make a return, as they are now providing protection for the twins from, amongst others, unauthorised personnel, ne’er do wells, intruders and, of course, cats.

The final chapter ties it all together, as it follows Abigail and Foxglove in their own little adventure, and discover how it intersects with what the others have been doing. While much of whole graphic novel is wordless, it’s much more evident in this last one, as it leans heavily on the art to tell the story, quite successfully, too.

It’s a nice storytelling idea and rewards re-reads. Random little asides and what had seemed to be artistic non sequiturs that make sense in context of what we find out later on as we integrate them into a fuller picture. And, of course, I’m always keen to find out more about Nightingale’s past.

The artist has changed again for this volume, bringing it more closely in style to the earlier work, which I enjoyed more, so this felt more familiar and comfortable to me than the last few volumes.

A fun story here, and one that ties into the wider mythos of Aaronovitch’s world. The comics are good, but, as always, I look forward to the next novel in the series.

Book details

ISBN: 9781787736269
Publisher: Titan Comics
Year of publication: 2021

Sparks and Monsters (Girl Genius, #6)

By Kaja Foglio

Rating: 4 stars

The latest volume of Agatha Heterodyne’s adventures see her fighting sparks, monsters, and sparks who either create monsters or try to pull them out of another dimension. Agatha had hoped to be able to spend time in Britain actually working, but the world has other ideas. It’s not easy being a mad scientist trying to free your town from being stopped in time.

This was a lot of fun, with lots of machinations, plots and counter-plots. We get to see some of the history of Albia and the time of the Queens and lots of setup for future action. We even get a reasonable amount of J├Ąger action.

As much as I enjoy reading Girl Genius on the web, page at a time, reading whole volumes like this is so much more satisfying. Roll on the next one!

Book details

ISBN: 9781890856717

Drive: Act 3

By Dave Kellett

Rating: 4 stars

Act three of the very fun Drive webcomic is right back into the thick of it. The Second Spanish Empire is now at war with two alien species: the Continuum of Makers and the Vinn. And it’s losing both. The scout ship Machito is tasked with finding more of of Skeeter’s alien species – he’s able to navigate a spaceship like nobody else – but they’re running out of clues, and Humanity is running out of time.

I actually had to go back and read the whole previous volume to bring me back up to speed before I started into this one. The characters are still as immensely fun as before – Nosh, in particular, is so loveable. The plot is pretty twisty, as different factions have different agendas, most of which aren’t compatible with each other. The Fillipods are a brilliant species – very intelligent, but more concerned with turning that intelligence to poetry slams than weapons or technology. And the Astronomer Royal in particular is brilliant, in his inability to sensibly compliment the emperor.

It’s not a long volume, the main story is only about 160 pages long, but it is very pretty. The comic pages are well-produced with lots of detail. There are also a number of short stories set in the universe at the end, although given that these aren’t written by Kellett, it’s not clear how canonical they are. But notwithstanding that, the story Motherbear by Beth Reidmiller is marvellous, and quite heart-breaking.

I don’t know how many acts the story as a whole is envisaged to cover, but it feels like we must be past the mid-point now. We’ve had many revelations about the universe, and we’ve finally found out who Skitter’s people are. It sort of feels like it should start to wind up a bit fairly soon. Although mind you, at the pace that the webcomic is released, that could still take several years to come to completion.

Book details

ISBN: 9781733126632
Publisher: Small Fish Studios
Year of publication: 2021

Hilda and the Midnight Giant

By Luke Pearson

Rating: 4 stars

The second Hilda comic (it’s really too short to be called a graphic novel) sees Hilda encounter the Elves that live around her home in the wilderness (once she signs the paperwork, at least) and a giant giant who’s waiting for someone.

Beautifully drawn, in a simple but engaging style, and very sweet, this is an adorable comic. Suitable for children of all ages, including ones in their forties.

Book details

ISBN: 9781909263796
Publisher: Flying Eye Books
Year of publication: 2016

Queens and Pirates (Girl Genius The Second Journey of Agatha Heterodyne #5)

By Phil Foglio

Rating: 4 stars

The battle for Paris is over – the old Master is dead but his daughter has broken through and stepped into his place. Almost her first action is to exile Agatha and the others who recently came to her city, while she rebuilds its fortifications. Agatha finally accepts an invitation to come to England to try and study and discover what she can about the temporal stasis field that holds her own city in its grasp.

Although I read Girl Genius online, I often struggle to keep the story straight in my head, since we’re only getting three pages a week. Here, we have nearly a year’s output in one place, and I can read it in an afternoon, making it much easier to keep track.

In the Foglios’ imagination, England is a wondrous, sunken island (is it even still an island if it’s under water?), ruled by an incredibly powerful, undying god-queen, who has had her own reasons for forging England into an empire that almost rivals that of the Wulfenbachs (although from a parochial point of view, I wonder what happened to Scotland and Ireland).

As the title nods to, this volume focusses on the queens (Albia and her mostly lost equals) and pirates. Most prominent amongst the latter is the always-wonderful Bangladesh Dupree. Here she gets to face off against an uber-assassin and help kidnap her own boss. She’s nearly as much fun as the Jagermonsters – high praise indeed.

Even after 18 volumes, the story is fresh and engaging. Agatha and her entourage are so much fun, and it’s funny enough that I was laughing out loud on multiple occasions. Roll on the next one.

Book details

ISBN: 9781890856694

Gunnerkrigg Court Volume 8: Catalysis

By Thomas Siddell

Rating: 5 stars

Gunnerkrigg Court continues to be, as far as I’m concerned, the best comic on the web. Volume 8 of the collected series collects chapters 69 to 77 and deals with Annie’s return from the forest after her meeting with Loup, only to be confronted with, well herself. It covers the two Annies having to get to grips with each other and their relationship with others around them, as well as Kat’s ongoing work (the robots and their growing religion, with Kat the centre of it continues to be intriguing and not a little creepy).

Reading Anthony’s interactions with Forest-Annie after her return is so much more poignant in light of current events in the comic. I hated Anthony so much when he first came back into Annie’s life, but we’ve had windows into his soul since then and now I pity him more than anything.

I love the characters in this series, and I love the way that the two Annies start to have their own distinct personalities and how they work out the problems between themselves and become stronger. And Kat, dear Katerina, bending time itself to her will to save her friend, but not able to talk to Annie about her own doubts and fears. The characterisation is so good, but Siddell keeps the balance between plot, character and humour perfect, sometimes using no more than a glance or a single panel to convey so much.

Also, wow, showing the Tick-Tock birds, right back in volume one, and then dealing with the resolution of that seventy-odd chapters — and fourteen years — later! That’s some impressive planning going on there.

So yeah, a great ongoing story, loveable characters (gossipy Cvet is my favourite new character in this volume) and constantly maturing art. Absolute brilliance.

Book details

ISBN: 9781684156658
Publisher: Archaia
Year of publication: 2021

Hilda and the Troll

By Luke Pearson

Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed the Netflix TV show of the same name that is based on this comic series, so went looking for the original material. This first volume is very short and introduces us to the irrepressible Hilda and her adorable deerfox, Twig, as they encounter a troll in the wilderness where they live. The story is pretty simple but does a good job of introducing the characters and the world they live in. The art is very close the animation style of the TV show, which isn’t unexpected since the creator of the comics was very closely involved with the animated series too.

It’s a lovely little comic and well-suited to younger readers, with plenty of (gentle) action and lots of humour, and very quick to read for not-so-young readers.

Book details

ISBN: 9781909263789
Publisher: Flying Eye Books
Year of publication: 2015

Lumberjanes: To the Max Edition, Vol. 6

By Shannon Watters

Rating: 4 stars

The sixth volume of the rather marvellous Lumberjanes starts with Molly feeling like she wants the summer to last longer. So much so that she makes a deal with a mysterious voice in a waterfall. Inevitably, it goes horribly wrong and the Roanoke girls end up in the thick of it, ably assisted by councillor Jen and the usual supporting cast. Although is nobody going to say anything about what happened when Rosie got magically aged up?

I feel really sorry for Molly, she seems so happy at camp, but her home life is obviously difficult. I expect we’ll be seeing more of that, as well as whatever seems to live in the waterfall and has it in for the Lumberjanes.

The second arc in the book consists of the Roanoke girls in a bit of a funk after their last adventure and Jen leading them on a search for the mythical jackalope. They encounter a traveller with her own set of fantastic beasts, and learn about her her history. Emmy seems like a fun character and I hope we meet her again. The final story in the volume is a single issue story of Zodiac cabin starting up a camp newsletter and the trouble caused by people reading their horoscopes. It’s a light, fun little story to round off the volume.

I think this is a well-balanced volume, with the quieter, more character-focused back half balancing out the action-heavy first arc. I love all the characters by now and I look forward to see where the story goes. At some point, I’m going to need to binge-read the story-so-far in order to remind myself of the wider goings-on though.

Book details

ISBN: 9781684154944

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