BooksOfTheMoon

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

Blackwood

By Hannah Eaton

Rating: 3 stars

This is a story of everyday folk horror. While it obviously takes inspiration from the likes of The Wicker Man (a film I must confess that I’ve never seen), it never goes to such extreme lengths as that does. In fact, with its focus on village life and domestic affairs, it very much feels like the epitome of the banality of evil (I could believe that it’s the Mirror Universe’s version of Ambridge). In a rural England only slightly sideways from our own, there’s been a murder, one that closely parallels a similar murder from 65 years ago. But the villagers aren’t exactly keen to co-operate with the authorities.

Interleaving events in both timelines, it’s a compelling, if somewhat grim, read. While the overt racism of the historical timeline has been suppressed by the present one, it’s been turned into the genteel, very English kind, combined with NIMBY-ism and an inward-looking outlook that fears difference.

The scene of the village council (the “ealders”) meeting in a home living room is possibly one of the most chilling in the book, as they talk usual village council stuff and then casually mention (and joke) about evicting a tenant who’s behind on her rent.

There’s hope in the next generation, as we see the youngest members of our PoV family interested in the outside world and trying their best to effect change, but being hampered by age and powerlessness.

The author spends a lot of time with the police investigation in the past, focussing on their credulousness and willingness to believe the first explanation that comes to mind, so that they can get home to their tea. The modern investigation gets almost no screen time at all, and we don’t really spend any time with them.

The art is all pencil work, with no pens to sharpen it. It’s an odd style, one that I’ve not seen before in a professional work, but it does seem to fit the folk horror style.

Giving a score to a book like this is difficult. I can very much see the artistic merit in it, looking at bigotry in all its mundane forms. It’s got important things to say and is just as relevant in 2021 as it might have been in 1950. But, as a non-white, liberal city-dweller, it left me uncomfortable and depressed. Yes, it made me feel things, but I didn’t necessarily enjoy it.

Book details

ISBN: 9781908434
Publisher: Myriad Editions
Year of publication: 2020

Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Book Six

By Bill Willingham

Rating: 4 stars

The sixth hardback collection of Fables collects three story arcs (maybe four, but the middle two are linked). The first takes us into the occupied Homelands, and tells the story of two of Geppetto’s wooden people who fall in love and petition him to make them flesh, and the price that is extracted from them. This is interesting as it’s the first time we’ve had a story from the point of view of the occupying forces of the Homelands. It’s nominally tangential to everything else that’s going on, but the end suggests that plans are being laid.

The second story sees Mowgli’s search for Bigby through Asia and North America, and his eventual return to Fabletown, where Prince Charming makes him an offer he can’t refuse. The third story starts out with Bigby’s mission (and the trip to the cloud kingdoms is really fun) and ends with him and Snow White finally getting their Happily Ever After.

The final story is a really fun adventure with Cinderella as she tries to sign a treaty with the cloud kingdoms to get their cooperation against the Adversary. It shows her in full badass mode, chewing gum and prodding buttock. I don’t think we’ve got to see much of Cinderella thus far, and showing her spy skills and getting to do cool action stuff is really good fun.

I enjoyed this volume a lot. With the Bigby/Snow White plot winding down, it feels like a good place to pause the series. Regular artist Mark Buckingham shares duties with guest artists for the first and last arcs. All the artists are excellent at their work and make reading the book a pleasure. Now, I just need a bit more of Flycatcher and Red Riding Hood…

Book details

ISBN: 9781401237240
Publisher: Vertigo
Year of publication: 2013

Rivers of London Volume 8: The Fey and the Furious

By Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 stars

Alongside the excellent pun in the title, this is probably one of the better recent Peter Grant graphic novels, as the Folly is called to investigate a drowned boy racer with a boot full of very unusual cargo. Once again, Peter finds himself entangled with the fey, reliant only on his wits to help him through.

Moreso than even usual, this graphic novel was Grant-heavy, with minimal appearances from Nightingale and Guleed (and none whatsoever from Molly, boo). There was an incident with Guleed that I think would have been interesting to expand upon, although with space restrictions, they made do with what they could, and the visual medium does help here, with facial expressions and body language.

The artist has changed again for this story. They’re good, and handle the fast action of the car racing well, but I still miss Lee Sullivan.

The story is very plot-heavy, with little character development, and possibly the most interesting snippet in that area comes right at the end, with some internal captions from Beverley musing on her relationship with Peter which is both sweet and kind of ominous.

Like the last volume, there’s some articles at the end discussing the historical background to some of the story elements, including street racing and fairy myth. These are interesting, but I’d have preferred it if the text were in straight columns rather than at an angle. It might look cool, but it does make it a bit harder to read.

All in all, a fun, standalone story. Not essential, but a good read for fans of Peter Grant and his world.

Book details

ISBN: 9781785865862

The Wicked + the Divine Deluxe Edition: Year Four

By Kieron Gillen

Rating: 5 stars

The final volume of the excellent The Wicked + The Divine brings the series to a close with a bang. This collects the final two volumes of the main story, as well as a set of historical specials that help contextualise it. We learn Baal’s big secret, find out about the Great Darkness and have several fist-pumping moments of pure comic book joy, as well as reveals that break the heart and a surprisingly tender coda that left me in tears.

Jamie McKelvie continues to draw the main story, with guest artists for the specials, which fit just before the last chunk of main story and look back at previous Pantheons including the Roman era, the middle ages and the 1923 one we saw right at the start of the story. That one is a mixed comic/prose story that works really well.

Can I take a moment to talk about the edition itself? All the Deluxe Editions are absolutely gorgeous, but this final year of the story was so big that they needed an extra volume to fit it in. The core of the story fits into one volume (which is, itself, bigger than the previous Deluxe WicDivs), and the supplementary material that normally goes at the end — the alt covers, the makings of and, of course, the writer’s notes, as well as a couple of additional specials that aren’t essential to the story — is in a whole separate volume.

The two remaining specials are the “Christmas annual”, which tells some side stories that were hinted at previously but are now made explicit (and include a lot of the cast getting it on with each other), and the “funnies”, little stories written and drawn by people that the creators invite, often poking fun at Gillen and McKelvie themselves. My favourite of these was The Wicked + The Canine, which imagines all the gods as dogs, and my goodness are they adorable (the alt cover with dog-Amaterasu is the best thing ever).

We finally get Ananke’s story here, as her history and that of the gods finally spills out. We see some of that history (in fact, we see something out of each recurrence), and because the internet is sometimes amazing, someone out there has written a set of blog posts that give you the real world history of the time and place of each recurrence (warning, there are spoilers here if you’ve not read the book yet).

Gillen also gets to heavily troll the readers in one issue with 90 panels, across 10 pages that are just black. This made me laugh out loud at his audacity, but it definitely fits with some of the playfulness of WicDiv, in amongst the grief and pain.

This has been an epic journey, which ended on a much more hopeful note that I expected, and it’ll definitely be an experience to go back and read the whole story again at some point, with the full knowledge of the characters and events.

Book details

ISBN: 9781534313583

The Wicked + the Divine Deluxe Edition: Year Three

By Kieron Gillen

Rating: 4 stars

I have a tendency to race through graphic novels at breakneck speed (well, that’s true of most novels, but especially so of comics). Hence I really like the writer’s commentary at the end that lets me re-read it, more slowly, a few pages at a time, paying attention to things that I never noticed first time round, and generally decompressing a bit. This was especially helpful here, in issue 27 where I had been reading so quickly that I didn’t even notice that I was reading panels out of order (this is a neat section with multiple stories being told on the same page, in differing layouts, with panel borders linking stories). I got the gist of it, which was all I wanted at the time, but it was good to go back and read it the way it was intended.

But, my goodness, WicDiv repays a close reading and then some. This third year covers the whole of what Gillen calls the Imperial Phase, following Ananke’s death, how the remaining gods turn things up to eleven and how that goes very, very wrong, culminating in two huge twists (or “reveals”, as Gillen prefers) at the end of the book.

WicDiv has always been a story of excess, whether that’s hedonism, sex or love, and all the gods give in to that excess in the Imperial Phase. There are tough themes covered in the story, from the co-dependence of the goth kids to Sekhmet’s nihilism and Persephone’s fatalism. some are shocking and some are just heartbreaking.

While there’s a lot covered here, and we finally get a glimpse of the Great Darkness that Ananke had talked about before, we don’t really get much idea of what it is or what the gods are doing about it (although I suspect that may be coming in the final year). I can’t wait to find out – even if I’m sure it’s going to be mostly heartbreak and misery for the cast.

Book details

ISBN: 9781534308572
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2018

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