Stephen Graham Jones, a renowned horror writer with novels like Mongrels and My Heart is a Chainsaw under his belt, recently tried his hand at writing a comic book. The result was Earthdivers. This story begins in a world torn apart by climate change and features an indigenous man using a magic cave to travel back in time to assassinate Christopher Columbus before he discovers the new world (and the story itself is just as bonkers as the premise). However, the second volume of Earthdivers titled Ice Age and illustrated by Riccardo Burchielli, goes further back into the past while also focusing on different characters.
The protagonist in this tale is Tawny, an indigenous woman who found her way into the magic cave as she and her husband search for their lost children. Instead of 1492, however, Tawny is sent to prehistoric Florida, circa 20,000 BC. Not only must she navigate a world full of megafauna and prehistoric beasts, she is also trapped in a war brewing between the native Paleo-indians that inhabit the area and invaders coming from what is today Europe. All this mother wants is to find her children, but Tawny’s spear is sharp and she’s ready to do whatever it takes to find them.
One thing reviewers can’t say about Stephen Graham Jones is that he’s unwilling to experiment. Much in the way his fiction uses indigenous myths and metafiction, this second volume of Earthdivers mostly chucks the story from volume 1 and begins a totally new one featuring a minor character. It’s a risk that might alienate those that want a continuation of volume 1’s story, but Tawny’s quest for her children is a well-told tale in its own right, showing off a survival narrative that lays bare Tawny’s psyche as she searches seemingly in vain for her children. Dropped into a time where survival is dependent on if you’re willing to kill, she faces down both creatures and humans who get in her way.
Bringing to life this prehistoric world where killing is necessary are Burchielli’s illustrations. Mountains are jagged and foreboding. Whirling snowstorms blow mercilessly against Tawny as she struggles to stay upright. The animals here look large and strong enough to tear Tawny in half. Even the way he depicts the humans who survive in this world, with their animal-inspired clothing, make them seem otherworldly but still tangible, at least tangible enough to stab someone.
It was a big risk for Jones to start a new story in this volume, but that risk pays off. It helps that this is a well-crafted story about a mother’s love and what kind of violence a mother can commit when the possibility of finding her children is at stake. Jones also adds some moments that connect this story to the previous tale and perhaps to the overall narrative. It’s a risk to commit to a multivolume work where the story’s payoff might let readers down, but Jones has the tools that will lure readers into the magic cave for many volumes.
Earthdivers: Ice Age; Vol. 2 By Stephen Graham Jones Art by Riccardo Burchielli IDW, 2024 ISBN: 9798887240688
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Those that know the name Steve Niles are likely familiar with his seminal work, 30 Days of Night, which had vampires run amok in an Alaska town where the nights, as the title says and to the vampires’ delight, last around 30 days. Horror fans were also delighted with the story, which led to subsequent sequels and a feature film starring Josh Hartnett. Helping to popularize horror comic books in the early 2000’s, Niles has been steadily working on horror comics and more mainstream superhero titles. That said, his latest comic, a supernatural story called Brynmore, doesn’t live up to Niles’s reputation.
Forgoing vampires, the terror in this tale comes from a multigenerational curse. Walking into that curse is Mark Turner, a recently divorced and recently sober man who returns to his hometown of Turner Island to try and find his emotional footing, even though Mark’s family name is as welcomed by the locals as a beached whale carcass at low tide. That’s because Mark’s ancestors brought a curse to the island, one that Mark accidentally releases when he releases Brynmore. Now Mark must avoid the supernatural terror closing around the island but he must also escape the anger of the townspeople.
The structure of Brynmore is so evident, Niles could have plugged the elements in on a flow chart: man comes back to hometown where he’s not wanted, Mark accidentally unleashes ancient evil, and Mark and others (including the zombie/monster/superhero Brynmore) are the only ones who can stop it. There seems to be an overall lack of details that would flesh out the characters, explain their motivations, or move the plot along in a logical fashion. Story elements merely happen and the readers are whiplashed from one plot point to the next. This is rather disappointing, considering how strongly the first issue opens. That first issue does a thorough job leaving the proper breadcrumbs of a mystery that will draw readers, and the subsequent issues squander that potential.
If anything can draw readers away from Niles’s barely there story, it’s the artwork by Damien Worm, who adds a distinct and measured aesthetic to Turner’s Island. All of the backgrounds are rendered in the somber colors of a Southern Gothic novel. Porches and docks look ready to creak once someone steps on them and shadows pool around everything once the sun goes down. The titular Brynmore, looking less something from Southern Gothic and more like a centerpiece of a supernatural superhero comic, draws the eye with a look that is somehow both handsome and dour, like the stone statue atop a crypt that has come to life.
Though the book has some delightfully dark eye candy, the story within makes me hesitant to recommend it, especially since there’s so much better examples of Niles’ work, whether its 30 Days of Night and its spinoffs or his other forays into horror like “Remains,” where it’s zombies in Las Vegas. The slow pace of Brynmore doesn’t help Niles. His best work involves people pushed against the wall by a terror that’s relentlessly coming for them.
Brynmore By Steve Niles Art by Damien Worm IDW, 2024 ISBN: 9798887240640
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Horror readers might be familiar with the name Stephen Graham Jones. A writer of indigenous fiction that features slashers, werewolves, and vengeful spirits, Jones is steadily becoming a household name in horror. Having already won major horror and science fiction awards like the Stoker from the Horror Writers Association and the Locus Award from Locus magazine, Jones and his fiction has appeared on the New York Times best seller list. However, he’s not a writer who just rests on his laurels. Like many writers who’ve been in the writing game for a while, he isn’t just sticking to just one medium; he’s also broken into comics. His most recent foray into storytelling through words and pictures is Earthdivers Vol. 1: Kill Columbus. Illustrated by Davide Gianfelice, Earthdivers is a time travel epic about the dangers of trying to unravel history and how bloody such undertakings can be.
The book begins in a post-apocalyptic future, where much of humanity has retreated from a broken and dying earth. The story follows a group of indigenous survivors who discover a cave that allows those who enter to travel through time. These survivors decide that the only way to save the world is traveling back in time, killing Christopher Columbus, and preventing the creation of America. However, the man they send to accomplish this task, a linguist named Tad, might not have the skills or the mentality necessary to kill Columbus before he and his ships reach the New World. Not to mention that messing with any timeline is bound to create some truly horrifying consequences.
Though most of this story is head-spinning time travel science fiction, Jones’ signature style is obvious, not only in the subject matter as it deals with the plight of Indigenous peoples from different moments in time, but in how the story moves. Jones is foremost an efficient writer, never letting flowery language or unnecessary explanations slow down the plot. With the time travel narrative wreaking havoc on the order of events, readers will have to pay attention or lose track of what’s happening. That simply makes Jones’ story a roller coaster ride where readers will enjoy the story even if they feel like they’re gripping the safety bar with white knuckles. Sticking with Jones’ story will reward readers with a wild tale full of horror with occasional snatches of humor and heart.
And speaking of horror, Davide Gianfelice proves he is the right artist for Jones’ story. This story does get bloody and Gianfelice shows he has the chops to depict the red stuff flowing out of the body in a variety of ways while the supernatural elements (or whatever fever dream hallucinations Tad is seeing) can raise a reader’s hackles. He also shows a penchant for detailing more mundane details that help immerse readers. He depicts various characters, from the slightly futuristic-looking survivors to the surly sailors in the 15th century, in a way that grounds the story in reality before those characters’ bodies and minds are put through various traumas.
Writers often experiment with different mediums with varying levels of success. They might alienate fans of their earlier work or even show that are ill-equipped to create in the new medium. It is fortunate that Jones does not have that problem. This is a great choice for graphic novel selectors who want a robust horror section and is an excellent choice if the selector serves patrons who are fans of Stephen Graham Jones.
Earthdivers, Vol. 1: Kill Columbus By Stephen Graham Jones Art by Davide Gianfelice IDW, 2023 ISBN: 9798887240459
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a franchise that has many different meanings depending on your generation. For some, it was a dark comedy, parodying the sudden obsession with ninjas that infused comic book culture in the 1980s. For others, it was a silly syndicated cartoon, with a lot of awesome action figures.
There was a host of animated series, live-action movies and more comics which followed. All different timelines, but with generally the same characters. No matter what incarnation of TMNT you follow, Leonardo leads, Donatello builds machines, Raphael is cool but rude, and Michaelangelo is a party dude.
I had heard that IDW’s new TMNT comics were a fair attempt to put a more mature spin on the concept. Yet I had not read any of the recent series until Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game – Opening Moves. Having read it, I can say that what I heard was true, but this may be the most awkward entry point into the series I could have possibly chosen.
The Armageddon Game – Opening Moves is an anthology collecting six different stories from across IDW’s TMNT series. The only common link between them is that they all connect to the character of the Rat King. Rather than being some sewer-dweller with the power to control rats, this Rat King is a chaos god and part of a pantheon of deities who have played games with humanity since the dawn of time.
With his siblings growing tired of the game, the Rat King has decided to kick things up a notch by manipulating various players into bringing about the end of the world. Hence the title “Armageddon Game”. This is a solid set up for a fantasy story. Unfortunately, this explanation does not come until the book is nearly half over!
Before that, we get a prelude showing Rat King reveling in a destroyed New York City, a reprint of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #84 (where the turtles show up to rescue some kidnapped children from Rat King) and the 2020 TMNT Annual. This story features Rat King taunting a recently resurrected and redeemed Shredder, who is determined to live a life of honor after somehow escaping Hell. This sets up the final two chapters, collectively known as “Opening Moves”, in which Shredder and his lover, the goddess Kitsune, explore the dreams of Rat King’s followers.
To describe this as convoluted would be putting it mildly. While I believe this anthology prints its chapters in order of release, the prelude feels like a non-sequitur. The story with the Turtles is good, but only serves to confuse things when it ends with Baxter Stockman deciding to run for Mayor and the next chapter opening with a description of how his reign has made life harder for Mutants in Manhattan. The writing isn’t bad, but it would save the reader a lot of trouble if it opened with the 2021 Annual story where Rat King introduces himself and the cast to the readers.
The artwork is similarly conflicted. There is a different art team on each chapter of this book. All of them are good artists, but there’s no real sense of visual unity to the story. This is often the case with anthology collections, but it is more vexing here where the book seems to be trying to relate a history, only to wind up jumping around in time.
IDW does not rate their comics, but I believe this volume to be on par with a T for 13 and up audience. There is plentiful action and adventure anf a few curse words, but no nudity or sexual content. The larger problems is that TMNT fans looking for a fun story will be more confused than amused by The Armageddon Game.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Armageddon Game – Opening Moves By Tom Waltz, Bobby Curnow, Kevin Eastman, Art by Pablo Tunica, Dave Watcher, Adam Gorham, Casey Maloney IDW, 2023 ISBN: 9781684059737
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
In the first book of this series, Canto: If I Only Had a Heart, we learn Canto’s people are enslaved and their hearts are removed and replaced with clocks. They are not allowed to have names or love one another, but Canto has a name and he was given it by a girl who loved him. She tries to step between Canto and their slavers who beat her near death. Canto tries to offer his clock heart to save her, but the elder of their people cannot save her. The elder finally relents and tells Canto that the only way to save her is to trust a legend that says if her heart can be recovered it will replace the clock and she’ll live again. Canto’s story begins in earnest at this point and he sets out on an adventure the likes of which his people have never seen.
His people aren’t the only ones who have been subjugated in this world and Canto finds himself face to face with the person who controls all, the Shrouded Man. His plan is to free everyone from the shackles of hope and dreams. His story once ended in heartbreak and he won’t allow that to happen to the rest of the world. This is his twisted plan and Canto refuses to believe this is their fate. In the next two books, The Hollow Men and Lionhearted, Canto will make new friends, fight new enemies, face dangers untold and keep searching for a way to truly free his people. He’ll learn how closely his own life and fate are tied to the Shrouded Man and discover how truly large the world around them is.
Canto: Tales of the Unnamed World collects the stories Canto & the City of Giants and Canto: Tales of the Unnamed World and fills in the gaps between Canto II: The Hollow Men and Canto III: Lionhearted. The stories contained in this volume are great additions to the larger world Canto and his friends inhabit, but it needs to be noted that this is more a waypoint than another chapter. In this volume, Canto and his good friends Ritka and Falco find themselves heading towards the city of giants, Dis, to enlist their help fighting the Shrouded Man. The have captured a Misturian Witch and, like so many things in this world, she is more than they understand. In the second part of the book we see Canto, Ritka, and Falco on their way home to New Arcana when they find a mysterious bridge that wasn’t there on their way to Dis. Their way is blocked by the Bard, a Cheshire cat in motley, who demands from each of them a story he has never heard before. Canto eventually realizes this is Ragno, the trickster who had a run in with the Shrouded Man when he was merely a boy. The stories they tell him are written or illustrated by guest creators and while it’s a break from the main plot it is a fun and intriguing way to further fill out their world and lore.
The influence of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz can be felt throughout these books and movies like The Dark Crystal or The Neverending Story have also left an impression here. These stories are hopeful, fantastical, and at times hint at darkness. It’s not always easy or light, but the heroes push forward and have goodness at their core. For tiny tin knights, they have big personality and—pun intended—plenty of heart.
The art by Drew Zucker and guest artists also reflects these influences, as well as books like Elf Quest and Wynd. It isn’t overtly realistic, as it’s a very stylized world, but it will feel familiar. There are beasts of unusual anatomy, elves and giants aplenty, and an actual yellow brick road they travel. The color palette shifts with location to help give a sense of environment, at times dark and foreboding, at others bright and hopeful. It remains accessible to the intended audience while also presenting more challenging and dynamic layout than some comics for younger readers achieve. This helps drive the story forward and keeps the reader turning pages as the action escalates. The overall approach to the art really does present a good step-up for readers just getting into teen comics and getting ready for complex graphic storytelling.
For libraries looking for teen fantasy stories, these are well written and the world is fully realized. I would argue that advanced middle grade readers would enjoy these as a first step in what is categorized as Teen reading. I think the context and vocabulary of these stories are more preventative for younger readers than the content. There is no bad language here and, as it’s a fantasy world, the violence is usually in the name of self-defense and towards magical or fantastical/clockwork beasts. In terms of audience appeal, I haven’t read many graphic novels that leave the door as wide open for so many ages and interests. I realize this endorsement is asking you to buy four books altogether, but it is a great series that I think will find a lot of fans if given the chance.
Canto, vol 1: If I Only Had a Heart By David M. Booher Art by Drew Zucker IDW, 2020 ISBN: 9781684056217
Canto, vol 2: The Hollow Men By David M. Booher Art by Drew Zucker IDW, 2021 ISBN: 9781684058006
Canto: Tales of the Unnamed World By David M. Booher Art by Drew Zucker, Sebastian Piriz IDW, 2023 ISBN: 9781684059362
Canto, vol 3: Lionhearted By David M. Booher Art by Drew Zucker IDW, 2022 ISBN: 9781684058983
Publisher Age Rating: Teen NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
It’s the end of one world and the start of a new one—and what do you know? The rich are still exploiting people.
In Arca from IDW Publishing, climate change and calamity have driven the remnant of humanity from Earth. Aboard a ship known as the Arca, the survivors have set sail across the universe for a planet they call Eden where they will begin again. On the ship, humanity exists in three classes. Citizens are the rich and famous who enjoy lives of luxury. Helpers are the security personnel who ensure that life continues without disruption. And finally, we have the settlers. All settlers are under 18 years of age, a lower class who offer their lives to the day-to-day work of keeping the Arca running. They live in gratitude to the citizens who provide them with all they have and look forward to graduating at the age of 18 when they will leave behind their lives of service and relocate to a different part of the ship in anticipation of the eventual paradise they will discover on Eden.
Is it any surprise that not all is as it seems? When Effie, a young woman approaching her graduation, begins to ask questions, it sets off a chain reaction that will upset life on the Arca forever. Where are all those who have graduated in the past? How long has the Arca been traveling and when do they expect to arrive. Why does it feel as though every citizen is keeping secrets from Effie and her friends? Effie knows that there is something out there to be discovered, but even she cannot fathom just how much has been hidden from her—or how much it may cost to uncover the truth.
I’ll be honest, I was excited to read this one because I love a good sci-fi dystopian adventure. In the end, what I found in Arca was all very familiar. Writer Van Jensen takes on the always ambitious goal of creating an entire futuristic world in a matter of pages. Unfortunately, what we end up with as readers is a cast of very familiar characters who largely follow the archetypes we expect to see. From the sinister leader of the Arca to the brutish security guards, from the sympathetic citizen who takes Effie under his wing to Effie herself, we know these roles, and we know how this story is going to play out. Class conflict and exploitation are topics ripe for exploration, but in the end Arca feels rushed and underdeveloped as it skims over its own logical flaws and doesn’t attempt to put a particularly new spin on a familiar premise.
Accompanied by art from Jesse Lonergan, the art (at least in the advanced copy I read) transitions partway through the volume from full color to black and white with color accents. Straddling the line between realism and stylized cartoon imagery, the art progresses with a level of simplicity that nevertheless balances the current timeline with flashbacks, conveying the complexities of a sci-fi setting while keeping the reader grounded in the story at hand. With an eye for paneling and some moments of effective visuals, Lonergan’s art keeps the story moving forward from initial world building to dramatic finale.
IDW doesn’t appear to assign an age rating to Arca, but with occasional strong language and some violence, it feels geared toward older teens and adults. Additionally, there are a couple moments where some somewhat shocking mature themes appear in the story only to return to the background. This subject matter is not given a great deal of space in the story which keeps it limited on the page while also leaving open some complex questions that might have been better served with deeper analysis. Altogether, it’s a story that will be appreciated more by an older audience able to spend some time with the implications of the story beyond what is covered between the pages.
In the end, Arca might have some appeal to older readers who haven’t encountered this sort of story before or readers desperate for any piece of dystopian sci-fi media they can get their hands on. Beyond that, the comic is largely composed of underdeveloped echoes of other creators who have already told this story in more complex and entertaining ways. It wouldn’t be a bad addition to a genre comics collection, but there are better offerings available for those who are interested in this sort of story.
Arca By Van Jensen Art by Jesse Lonergan IDW, 2023 ISBN: 9781684059980
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Celebrity endorsements and a pandemic that forced many to stay indoors has helped the tabletop roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons (or D&D) achieve a kind of resurgence. While enduring in an age of Xboxes and Playstations, its current popularity boost has created a smorgasbord of D&D tie-in media, even whole universes that exist under the D&D umbrella. One such universe doesn’t even use a dragon. The Ravenloft universe of D&D has its players typically fight vampires and werewolves rather than fire-breathing dragons, but this world does provide a lot of storytelling opportunities, as demonstrated in the book D&D: Ravenloft: Orphan of Agony Isle, written by Casey Gilly and illustrated by Bailey Underwood.
The opening of this story might be very familiar to some: a dark, foreboding castle; flashes of lightning, and a creation that has just awakened. However, it is not Dr. Frankenstein who has brought his creation to life. The doctor in question is Viktra Mordenheim and what has awakened has no memory of who she was before. She chooses the name Miranda, and she mostly obeys Dr. Mordenheim’s rules, particularly that she should stay on the castle grounds and never venture outside, but Miranda is desperate to learn more about her past, even if it could cost her the new life she was given.
This book could initially be dismissed as heavily plagiarizing Frankenstein. However, the dynamic of Miranda and Viktra is just the wraparound story, and the majority of this collection features stories about other Ravenloft inhabitants encountering ghosts, sea monsters, and other creatures that stalk the night. These stories might vary in quality from one to another, but they all involve characters meeting gruesome ends, which brings to mind horror anthology films that also keep their individual terrifying tales tied together with a wraparound story.
The artwork itself is restrained, using a more spooky atmosphere rather than relying on visceral, full-on horror. The designs of the various characters even show a slight manga influence, which signals that the target audience of this book are young adults who are familiar with the world of Ravenloft and of D&D. There are characters that appear to resemble elves and halflings (or Hobbits, a term familiar with Lord of the Rings fans), meaning that Gilly and Underwood expect their audience to have at least a basic familiarity with the universe their characters occupy.
This book is definitely for a specific audience, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a niche one. There are plenty of people that, if they’re not currently playing D&D, then they remember playing the game and having fun, and there are still those who have fond memories of or wish to learn more about the Ravenloft setting. To see if this would be a good purchase for your library’s collection, look for signs in your own library. Does it have a Dungeons & Dragons group? Do you have the rulebooks and adventures for the game, and if so, how often do they check out? This book is a solid collection of creepy stories, but the entryway into them requires knowing something about the book’s dark and dreadful universe.
Dungeons & Dragons: Ravenloft: Orphan of Agony Isle By Casey Gilly Art by Bayleigh Underwood IDW, 2022 ISBN: 9781684059560
Related media: Game to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
The Girl and the Glim is a part-cute and part-grisly graphic novel about a young anxiety-ridden girl saving a small town from hidden monsters. In the first volume of this new series, the author and illustrator, India Swift, creates a world that both captures the awkward and nerve-wracking realities of starting a new middle school juxtaposed against other-worldly monsters.
The cover is a perfect description of the contents within. A cartoon illustration of a cute girl illustrated with purple highlights as she embraces a pale fluff, while a menacing tower of black spidery monsters hovers above her, ready to attack. The comic opens with Bridgette, a young girl with large eyes and a head full of hair, laying on a broken floor as a cloud of torn pictures swirls around her. Bridgette is scared about living in a new town and a new school away from her friends. She has daydreams of a strong confident girl who impresses all the other students at school, when in reality she stumbles, is awkward, and is laughed at by her classmates. Swift has created a very real character in Bridgette. Her emotions and ways of coping (or avoiding) will ring true with many readers.
The story continues in a typical new town/new school story, including moving boxes, busy parents, an empty house, and cringe-worthy encounters with other children at school. There is even an awkward meet-cute with a potential new friend in the neighborhood. Then the story begins to diverge into the paranormal.
It is a heartwarming coming of age story, about a young girl overcoming nervous anxiety in a new home with new people. However, those anxieties are manifested as monsters, and her newfound confidence comes as she fights back.
The illustrations are rich in color with strong lines and a level of detail that is common among middle-grade graphic novels and the cartoons those readers love. But this illustration style shifts when Bridgette falls down a steep hill behind the school. The color leaves the pages, and the illustrations become more chaotic, with much sharper angles and harsh black lines. A monster looms above her, well, not one monster, but a mountain of monstrous spiders with sharp teeth and spindly legs. These pages are filled with black and moments of angry red.
The power in comics comes from the marriage of illustration and text. The dynamic shift in tone through illustrations builds tension in a way that would be lost in another format. I found it to be beautifully executed in a way that adds just the right amount of horror for the young audience.
The book ends with some unanswered questions, and I am happily looking forward to the rest of the series to find out what happens. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I am confident it will be popular with upper elementary and middle school readers. Those readers navigating their own coming-of-age stories will find humor, comfort, and a thrilling story with The Girl and the Glim.
The book was originally self-published in 2017 and has been updated with additional pages in the current publication.
The Girl and the Glim, Vol. 1 By India Swift IDW, 2022 ISBN: 9781684057412
Publisher Age Rating: 9-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
There are three separate stories where monsters and humans collide in Godzilla: World of Monsters. The first story, “Gangsters & Goliaths,” written by John Leyman, follows a detective chased by the Yakuza. He was framed for killing his partner and fled to Monster Island. There he seeks the assistance of Mothra. This story is my least favorite of the bunch. I found the Detective’s motives and actions perplexing. Most of the human characters, no matter what their age, have wrinkly skin. The scenes on Monster Island are vibrant, featuring greens and orange colors. However, the sequences back in the city are in grays and browns, conveying that it’s under siege by gangsters and monsters.
I felt the complete opposite about the next story, “Cataclysm,” by Cullen Bunn. It opens up in red as if this is a city on fire and signifying the monster’s fury. This world is where the monsters have come and destroyed the world. The surviving humans believe that this is due to human sin and the monsters are punishment for it. They believe the only way to atone for their actions is to offer a human sacrifice. The human world is shown in yellow with scenes of destruction and decay. What I liked was the character development surrounding the grandfather character. He is given a back story, and we learn what “sin” the humans committed to bring about this cataclysm. The grandfather is bald on top with wisps of gray hair. In his eyes, you can see a person who wears the weariness and pain of the world on his face. This story has a satisfying ending and characters you care about. This story made the collection worth reading.
The final story, “Oblivion,” by Joshua Fialkov, tells the tale of time travelers from a parallel world who accidentally bring a monster back with them. They decide the only way to save their world is to find another monster to battle it and they may end up regretting that decision as the two monsters destroy everything in sight. The human characters wear colors like black or white, while the monsters are featured in colorful yellows and reds. The human characters aren’t drawn very realistically and look more cartoonish. There is more emphasis on the military and scientists than on everyday people. This story is very close to being one of my least favorites, as I didn’t find any of the human characters compelling. The one redeeming quality this story has is its ending, which will leave you feeling haunted about the decisions made to save humanity.
One thing across all three stories that I appreciated was the artwork and design of the monsters. As a Kaiju fan, I think they captured these creatures’ epicness, size, and scale. Their color hues make them stand out, and you can see the little details like their scales and spikes. Despite the monster artwork, the stories contained within the graphic novel are not as compelling. The stories assume that you are familiar with the monster verse and rarely name some of the classic monsters from the series. All of them make an appearance in these stories, and unless you have seen the 20 plus Godzilla films out there, you won’t know who’s who in this universe’s rogues gallery. Adults who grew up on the movies will enjoy this title. Those unfamiliar will find this a challenging read.
Godzilla: World of Monsters By John Layman, Cullen Bunn, Joshua Fialkov Art by Alberto Ponticelli, Dave Wachter, Brian Churilla IDW, 2021 ISBN: 9781684058303 Publisher Age Rating: T
Those that consider graphic novels as a medium strictly for the young cite the fact that it relies greatly on pictures as well as words to tell a story, but those people might not be aware of the multiple examples of graphic novels tackling adult themes. These examples use a combination of pictures and words to convey a multitude of stories from a variety of viewpoints, including those adults who are responsible for the care and feeding of one or multiple smaller humans. One story that explores the POV of parents in the Irish paranormal mystery Scarenthood written and drawn by Nick Roche.
The story features four parents in Ireland who meet because their kids go to the same preschool, but who end up bonding because of a supernatural mystery. The cast of this book features Cormac, the main protagonist who the reader watches slowly fall apart. There’s also Jen, whose husband spends months working away from home and who is on Jen’s nerves when he is home. Rounding out the foursome is acerbic Siobhan and conspiracy theorist Flynno, who has a significant connection to the supernatural disturbances at their kids’ school. What begins as a diversion for the three parents from their lives of carting children and packing lunches becomes a threat to their lives and the lives of their children.
As a parent myself, I found myself heavily involved in Roche’s story, particularly Cormac’s, the character that gets the most attention. The supernatural entity that he’d unwittingly released has latched onto this single dad, affecting not only his sanity but his ability to raise his daughter Scooper. Cormac’s descent into self-doubt is sure to garner a lot of sympathy from parents who might feel they are not being the best caregiver. Cormac’s slippage is, however, closely followed by his new friends and it is initially through their eyes that we see Cormac struggle. When they come together to help him, it is a moment that showcases and further solidifies their bond. Roche does an excellent job of fleshing out the secondary parental characters, particularly Jen and Flynno. When at home, Jen shows signs of stress at always having her well-intentioned husband underfoot when it comes to raising their daughter. Flynno could have come across as a boisterous, unlikable know-it-all but Roche avoids this by diving into his backstory and giving him moments that let his heart shine.
The artwork hits the perfect balance for this kind of story. The characters do not look hyper-realistic; in some instances, they look like they could be part of a daily or monthly comic strip. In a story that is equal parts supernatural horror and comedy focusing on the mundane and mind-numbing aspects of parenting, the art style is a perfect fit. Indeed, the art and story, much like other great graphic novels, both work in harmony to tell a story with sympathetic characters facing down a mystical threat from Irish folklore that is worse than forgetting to pick up your child’s favorite cereal.
Scarenthood would be a great choice for libraries looking to fill their collection of horror graphic novels with something different, but this would also be a great choice for a library that has parents who wear t-shirts emblazoned with pictures of Frankenstein or The Lost Boys as they drop their little one off for storytime. Much like how parents are asked to maintain a delicate balance of being there for their small children while trying to carve out a life for themselves, Scarenthood maintains a balance of fun supernatural mystery and comedic look at the real-life funny-yet-frightening aspects of parenting.
Scarenthood By Nick Roche IDW, 2021 ISBN: 9781684058310
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Irish Character Representation: Irish