Double Review – The Unwritten 8: Orpheus in the Underworlds and Locke and Key 6: Alpha and Omega

The following two reviews are going to be short because I find it hard to write about books that I really enjoy. Instead of giving people a fair and accurate description of the good and the bad, I just want to run around in delight, babbling about all the things that I liked. To prevent my review from becoming just a series of animated gifs, I’m going to challenge myself to be brief and concise in my attempts to encourage people to read the latest volumes of both The Unwritten and Locke and Key!

Also, since both books are new or soon-to-be-released entries in popular series, let me be clear that there are at least some SPOILERS AHOY!!!!

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RRRs: Graphic Novels – Part 2

Continuing on yesterday’s thread of RRRs for graphic novels, here is part two!

1.       The Unwritten: Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice – Mike Carey

Cover - The Unwritten Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice

Star Rating: * * * * *

The Unwritten is one of my favourite graphic novels series, and this standalone prequel did not disappoint. Tommy Taylor and the Ship that Sank Twice gives readers a deeper glimpse into the mind of Tommy’s father. At the same time, a huge chunk of the Tommy Taylor story is revealed. Themes and plots that were hinted at in the main series are shown in detail, and this background helps readers make sense of what is happening to adult Tommy. I also really enjoyed seeing how the Tommy Taylor story was an amalgamation of so many different stories. A definite recommend for fans of the series!

2.       Blacksad – Juan Diaz Canales, Juanjo Guarnido

Cover - Blacksad

Star Rating: * * * * *

Have you ever wanted to read a set of noir mysteries about anthropomorphic animals? Well, you should because Blacksad is amazing. Canales and Guarnido capture the feel of the genre perfectly, and the art is absolutely stunning. I was amazed at just how detailed and carefully composed this volume is, and the mysteries themselves were enjoyable and touched on important themes including racism and political corruption. This incredible book is vying for a spot on my top graphic novels of all-time list.

Who could say no to this amazing art?

Blacksad Art Example

 3.       Uglies: Cutters – Scott Westerfeld, Devin Grayson, and Steven Cummings (Illustrator)

Cover - Cutters

Star Rating: * *

The Uglies is a four book series by Scott Westerfeld that dealt with a dystopia where everyone was made pretty, but brain damaged in order to maintain social order. The books starred Tally Youngblood, a girl who tried to protest the system, but kept finding herself used by those in power. It was an interesting and fun series, but I always thought that Tally’s friend Shay was far more interesting than Tally herself. This graphic novel series, therefore, was made for me. Grayson and Cummings retell the Uglies story through the eyes of Shay, a character that is actually quite a bit more active in her choices than Tally, and they do so in the form of a manga.

Cutters is the second volume of the Shay series, and while I enjoyed the first retelling, this one was not quite as enjoyable. The problem with a retelling is managing to keep the story interesting without repeating everything that went on in the original work. Unfortunately, Cutters loses this balance, and the story is choppy and feels incomplete. These narrative choices make it difficult to follow what is going on, even if you’ve read the original series. I also found the art to be a detriment to the story. In this volume, Tally and Shay are pretties, young adults who have undergone extensive plastic surgery to become aesthetically perfect. However, the manga style that this story is drawn in makes it hard to distinguish pretties from uglies! I would recommend this book for fans of the series, but I hope that volume three addresses some of these problems.

4.       Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand – Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl, and Ramon K Perez

Cover - Tale of Sand

Star Rating: * *

If I was rating this book solely on the art, it would have received a five star rating. The illustrations are gorgeous in their fluidity and delicateness. The story, however, is lacking. A dude is trying to make it across the desert and a bunch of weird stuff happens to him (including some racist caricatures). It’s not really a story so much as a collection of emotional vignettes, but since I felt no connection to the characters, it was hard for me to engage with these feelings. I’m glad this was a library read rather than something that I purchased since I am unlikely to reread it again.

5.       Habibi – Craig Thompson

Cover - Habibi

Star Rating: *

Craig Thompson is one of the super stars of modern graphic novels, and Habibi is widely seen as an absolutely stunning piece of work. I, on the other hand, loathed it and couldn’t even bring myself to finish. While the art is beautiful and detailed, showing that that the author spent a lot of time researching his subject, it’s also sexually exploitive, and the themes that the novel brings up make me very uncomfortable.

The story centers on the tale of Dodola and Zam, two refugee slave children who are attempting to survive on their own. Dodola is a highly sexualised character, often portrayed naked and in sensuous poses. However, she is raped multiple times, and engages in sex work to ensure that she can feed Zam and herself. Zam falls in love with her, and I had to stop reading around the point where he begins to fantasise himself as the one who is assaulting Dodola. It is rare that I don’t finish novels that I start, but flipping through the rest of this behemoth of a book showed me that Dodola was going to undergo more exploitation, and the way that it was presented made my stomach churn as her naked body was portrayed in a sexualised manner that did little to showcase the violence of what was happening to her. I was also very uncomfortable with the racist implications of much of the novel. All in all, this is one of my least favourite graphic novels, and I can’t in good conscience recommend it.