Book Reviews: More Graphic Novels Edition

Marthe Trolycurtin
Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.

Malice in Ovenland, Vol. 1
Schoolgirl in NYC has to stay home and do chores over vacation while all her friends go do fun stuff. As if that wasn’t bad enough, she has to put up with her mom’s organic food—even has to trek to water the garden—and then her mom goes away; is it legal to leave a kid that young alone? But she perseveres and does as told, getting everything done until the last item: clean the oven. A creature steals her earring and it’s all Alice in Wonderland, greasy style, from there.
There are some great lines in here, like “Now I know how a French fry feels.” There’s a poem called “The Day the Grease Stopped Flowing.” I knew organic food was bad for you! The Ovenland crest has crossed spatulas under a plate of bacon. . . I want one.
“Ahem!” Never seen a ghost beg for attention.
The protagonist talks out loud rather than thinking it—that’s a bit annoying, but thankfully corrected midway. The “Lily Ma’am” thing pops out every once in a while and it always makes me chuckle. She somehow manages to turn a giant roach into a puppy. There’s even a reference to Pizza Rat.
Don’t really buy the ending; maybe she likes the food now, but the chores?
6 pages of bonus art, including a cover that would have been better than the one they used. Never thought I would say this sentence, but there’s a cover of Lily “riding the roach,” and no, that’s not a euphemism.
All in all, fun enough for kids, though maybe too gross for the younger ones.

Black Jack Ketchum
After a historical lesson about the central figure, who was indeed a real-life person, things turn weird—yeah, the thing with the snow—and science-fictionly, part Brisco County and part Sledge Hammer.
I love how the guy at the poker table is completely blasé with shots being fired all around him. Even more I love his sidekick, even if she doesn’t talk; taciturn plays well here. There’s one panel that squicked me out much more than I could have ever imagined, when he was cleaning the gun.
When the stoic poker table guy finally gives his name, it explains a lot of things; particularly enjoyed the inclusion of that famous story. So we add Twilight Zone to the reference mix, and possibly Twin Peaks.
Each chapter, or issue, starts off with more of the historical stuff until we find out his fate in real life, so there’s a lot of shifting. Even then there’s still the fantasy to play out. Things go sideways—first literally, then storywise; the metaphysics of it all hurt my head. There’s a musical interlude, for no reason other to show bad lyrics. Then there’s the ultimate in dual realities, leading to a deus ex machina from the last shoutout, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
If you search for photo of the real Black Jack, you’ll find this version is drawn true to life. There’s a gorgeous also-true-to-life panel of Monument Valley which alone is worth the expenditure.
At the end there’s 10 pages of bonus materials in the form of sketches, with the finished product sometimes intertwined.
This can be intriguing, as long as you don’t take it as seriously as it takes itself. But who was the girl? Why was she there?

Alice in Wonderland: Special Collector’s Manga
Only a month ago I read a complete Wonderland/Looking Glass graphic novel done as faithfully as can possibly be expected. This one didn’t figure to be at all the same, not with Tim Burton’s name on it. If you’ve seen the Burton movie, you know this already, but for others, no matter what the title, this is not the same story; it’s more of a direct sequel than Looking Glass.
I’m reading this in digital form, but there’s a warning right at the beginning that tells the reader you’re doing it wrong. Since it’s manga, it’s done in Japanese writing style; in other words, it starts at what most of us call the end. The funny thing is it jokes not to start here: “You don’t want to spoil the fun and start with the end, do you?” It’s Alice in Wonderland, what spoilers are left?
But I went to the back and found a lot of prologue, with an older teenage Alice being married off to a boring lord. It takes almost 20 pages for the real story to start, which it does with a bang; for once the fall, or rather the landing, hurts. Again, if you’ve seen the movie all this isn’t a surprise, but if you haven’t, it’s a completely new story, which will either fascinate or enrage you.
She’s awfully calm next to the giant cat, but then she keeps telling herself it’s just a dream; good luck with that.
The book ends before the story’s over, but by then I was okay with it. Didn’t really like the story, but that’s the fault of those who wrote the movie. . . not because it’s so different, it’s just not as interesting as the original. The artwork is black and white, sketchlike, and at times difficult to make out; similar with some of the lettering, especially in the Jabberwocky flashback.

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy
*This is from the reboot universe, as you can tell from the faces*
This starts with Spock breaking up with Uhura; I still don’t get them being together, but whatever. She tries to get through it by unscrambling a faint signal from out-there-somewheres, but then it moves to three years later, where there’s a new Vulcan female, who looks quite fetching in the short skirt and knee-high black boots that appears to be the uniform at the Academy. And she has green eyes.
The tacked-on plot that moves the action along is the Centennial Games, celebrating 100 years of the Academy. It’s mostly a scavenger hunt against teams from other worlds, like New Vulcan. (You remember in the movie old Vulcan was destroyed, right?) One of T’laan’s teammates is an Andorian, who is much more of a jerk than the Tellurite. Rounding out the team is an alien Captain Obvious—“I am scared for the simulated away team”—and a bubbly Latina redhead who had to be my favorite character. “Bye bye, ship.” Grace definitely grew on me. T’laan is also quite likeable—eventually—especially for a Vulcan.
At first I thought the Centennial Games went on for years! It is definitely NOT made clear that the storylines take place at different times. “Time quicksand” is a fascinating concept, at least to a non-physicist. Possibly the best line is, “Vel smells pie!” And it really is too bad the Vulcan didn’t join the guys on their “road trip to the southern metropolis of Los Angeles.”
As for the art, you’ll have to quickly get used to the bright colors. Uhura is drawn perfectly, but though I recognize Kirk he’s got kind of a token white guy look.
This is easily the best Star Trek graphic novel I’ve seen.



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