Fantasy Sports Series


In Sam Bosma’s debut graphic novel, a young explorer and her musclebound friend go treasure hunting in a mummy’s tomb—but if they want to get rich, they’re going to have to best the mummy in a game of hoops! Can they trust their bandaged adversary to play by the rules? Or will they be stuck in the tomb… forever?

(Publisher Description)


The Fantasy Sports Series
By Sam Bosma
ISBN: 9781907704802
Nobrow, 2015
NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)


Our Review

Fantasy Sports, Vol 1


Related Reviews

Fantasy Sports, vol 2: The Bandit of Barbel Bay

Fantasy Sports


In Sam Bosma's debut graphic novel, a young explorer and her musclebound friend go treasure hunting in a mummy's tomb—but if they want to get rich, they're going to have to best the mummy in a game of hoops! Can they trust their bandaged adversary to play by the rules? Or will they be stuck in the tomb… forever?

(Publisher Description)


Fantasy Sports
By Sam Bosma

ISBN: 9781907704802
Nobrow, 2015
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)


Our Review

https://noflyingnotights.com/blog/2016/02/01/fantasy-sports-vol-1/


Related Reviews

https://noflyingnotights.com/blog/2017/03/16/bandit-barbel-bay/

In Waves

The graphic memoir has become an increasingly important genre for the comics medium. With his graphic memoir In Waves, A.J. Dungo is joining the likes of Art Spiegelman, Alison Bechdel, and Tom Hart. It’s heady company to be in, especially considering that Maus, Fun Home, and Rosalie Lightning are all different kinds of survivors’ stories. Dungo’s first-person narrative—when it is a first-person narrative—tells of his survival even as Kristen, the love of his life, slowly succumbed to cancer. Combined with tales from the history of Hawaii and the history of surfing, it’s an odd story, but that’s okay. Comics is an odd medium, and some of its best work is done in the service of strange tales, strangely told.

In Waves is Dungo’s first book and began as an art school project focused on two major figures in the history of surfing: native Hawaiian Olympic swimmer Duke Kahanamoku and surfboard innovator Tom Blake. The project’s ambitions expanded naturally when he decided to incorporate his partner Kristen’s story into the existing narrative. The results are eccentric, but overall quite moving. It’s a slow-paced story whose moments seem to come and go like tides. From the beginning, the reader knows that Kristen will not survive this story, but that does not lessen our attachment to her, nor does it reduce her significance. And while his inclusion of Blake and Kahanamoku’s stories in a book about a loved one is an unusual choice, it adds a pleasing ebb and flow to the narrative. Dungo and Kristen were both surfers, so learning about the sport’s royal Hawaiian origins and its many developments fits into their story more naturally than one might expect. There’s a sorrow to both of these men’s triumphs, and to surfing itself, and a kind of parity in the way that these great surfers used their boards to escape their worldly problems. Using this same technique, surfing is everything to Kristen and “her boys” as well, and the narratives flow unexpectedly naturally between the past and present. The result is an emotional portrait of different times, flowing together into one. Adding in the visual influence of Hokusai—the Japanese artist most famous for The Wave—this book is an elemental experience rather than a plot-driven one.

In Waves has its limitations. Dungo sketches his historical figures carefully from photographs, but his contemporary characters have sparse facial features. He sometimes seems aware of this problem, as he often draws the backs of his characters’ heads. This can limit their emotions as well as make it easy for readers to confuse different characters, and it minimizes the impact of the fact that his primary characters are largely Asian American. Even so, his art is patient and directed, with monochromatic pages skillfully dictating mood and pacing through color, panel structure, and design. His words are largely dispassionate, but somehow a passionate mood infuses everything his characters say and do. As a result, this book transcends both its apparent limitations and ambitions. In its words, pictures, and silences it has much to say. It is a book that one person could read many times, and never quite get the same meanings from twice.

Death is a part of life and history, and every library—public, school, or otherwise—serves people of all ages who have lost loved ones. This is a very valuable book for any collection because it speaks honestly and accessibly about loss but not just about loss. Dungo is describing loss as part of a living tapestry. It isn’t the end, but it can’t be discarded. This book is a significant graphic memoir and is highly recommended for all libraries and is unusually accessible for such an artistically-rendered story. That said, In Waves is most appropriate for libraries with teen and young adult comics collections, though it wouldn’t look out of place in an adult collection. Other than the fact that it is a book about a loved one’s death, there are no content warnings attached to this book.

In Waves
By AJ Dungo
ISBN: 9781910620632
Nobrow, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: Teen+

Browse for more like this title
Character Traits: Characters with Disability Japanese, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
Creator Highlights: Own Voices, BIPOC Creator

DeadEndia: The Watcher’s Test

DeadEndia: The Watcher’s Test by Hamish Steele is the kind of graphic novel we need. Featuring a diverse cast of smart, quippy characters, DeadEndia takes the readers on a supernatural adventure while taking care to address the issues many young twenty-somethings have to deal with: unfulfilling jobs, confusing relationships, and the sudden apocalypse brought on by a demon with weird hair. Catering to an audience of both teens and people in their early twenties, DeadEndia is a colorful comic journey that promotes friendship, love, and acceptance.

Norma works as a tour guide at the Dead End haunted house in a Dollywood-esque theme park, Pollywood. She gets her friend, Barney, a job at the theme park as a janitor. Unbeknownst to her, Barney and his dog, Pugsley are now living at Dead End because Barney is currently homeless. Unbeknownst to Barney, Dead End is a portal to the demon world manned by Courtney, a 912 -year- old demon. The gang is rounded out by two other Pollywood employees: Logan, the log flume operator, and Badyah, the Deathslide operator. Each chapter is a new adventure for the team. They experience demonic possessions, battle community center demon cults, deal with random appearances by ninjas who want to kill them, and ponder a pop star who may or may not be the possessed remains of a desiccated corpse, And then everyone dies.

But wait! Take it back now ya’ll. Norma, Barney, and Pugsley find themselves as ghosts 10,000 years into the future. They have been brought back by a mysterious being who calls themselves The Watcher. It turns out the trio died in the great demonic apocalypse and The Watcher is trying to prevent it from happening by bottling the ghosts of those who died during it and then sending them back to fight. The random ninjas weren’t so random after all! After a bit of confusing Back to the Future-ing in which the gang ends up dying all over again, The Watcher is revealed to be none other than Pugsley…from the future…or past…but really the demon that initially possessed Pugsley. Possessed past Pugsley figures out that the only way to prevent the apocalypse is to kill the demon inside. In order to save the ones that he loves and prevent himself from turning into The Watcher, Pugsley must destroy himself. It is a powerful ending to an action-packed tale.

The writing style of DeadEndia is cool, intelligent, and downright funny. The author exudes care in creating believable and relatable characters even if the story itself is mired in the supernatural. At the beginning of each chapter there is a clever introduction to each of the main characters. Similar to a dating profile, the characters are introduced along with some fun facts about them, including their preferred pronouns, their likes and dislikes, and their family situation. It allows the characters’ personalities to shine through.

The writing compliments the artwork very well. The bright colors bounce off the page but don’t do anything to deter from the story. Spend some time on each panel and really soak up the details. It is refreshing to see that attention to detail in particular when it came to the personality of the characters and especially in Barney’s transition. Flashback scenes reveal just how much Barney has changed, both physically and emotionally. Both the external and the internal transition come through with the artwork.

DeadEndia is an important graphic novel for the current cultural and political climate. There are few graphic novels with trans characters and fewer still that delve deeper into that character’s background and history. This graphic novel has an incredibly diverse cast of characters and is a perfect example of the kind of comic that promotes kindness, patience, and understanding. DeadEndia: The Watcher’s Test is appropriate for ages 12 and up. There is some violence but it is not gratuitous. Those that enjoy DeadEndia would also enjoy Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, Giant Days by John Allison, and The Backstagers by James Tynion IV. Each of these comics have queer and diverse characters and focus on growing up and friendship.

The world is a tough place without friends and acceptance. Young adults are looking for their tribe and can find it in DeadEndia. This graphic novel is a ray of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day.

DeadEndia, vol. 1: The Watcher’s Test
by Hamish Steele
ISBN: 9781910620472
Nobrow, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 12+

101 Movies to Watch Before You Die

In his introduction to this work, Ricardo Cavolo describes 101 Movies to Watch Before You Die as “a love story told in 101 installments,” a personal journey through the cinematic experiences that have helped in small and large ways to shape the author’s life and work. Part personal reflection, part memoir, and part film critique and history, 101 Movies is an exploration of world cinema through the eyes of a creative artist and film lover eager to share with the world his enthusiasms for the many worlds of film magic.

The book is presented almost as a visual diary or sketchbook; it presents in an intimate style, one that values honesty over polish, as if the author has merely shared with us his own private thoughts and notes without pausing to refine them for publication. Beginning with the 1902 Le Voyage Dans la Lune and ending with the 2015 The Revenant, Cavolo takes us on a chronological journey through key moments in movie-making and his own emerging understanding as a fan and as artist. Some of the films discussed are acknowledged cinematic masterpieces like Spartacus, Citizen Kane, and The Godfather, others cult fan favorites like Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and still others are examples of world cinema which may be unknown to American readers, like Amarcord (Italy), Time of the Gypsies (Yugoslavia), and La Haine (France). As I read, I found myself agreeing with some choices, perplexed by others, and often making notes of movies that I apparently really need to watch. Cavolo’s love for his subjects is clear, and his analyses are both personal and insightful (and frequently hilarious); even when I disagreed with his choices, I respected his opinion on a film.

Each film receives a two-page entry within the book; the first page is a short text description with surrounding illustrations, while the second page is a full-page, movie poster-like illustration. The font seems intended to mimic the author’s handwriting, adding to the personal notebook presentation of the world. Some pages even include scribbled out words, as if Cavolo changed his mind as he wrote.

The art here is unique and intriguing, quite different from anything I’ve previously encountered. Certainly readers accustomed to the art of mainstream American comics or graphic novels might find Cavolo’s style unusual. Each illustration captures key characters, scenes, or images from the film, completely recognizable, yet wholly original. The colors are more matte-like, lacking the vibrance and glossiness that are more common in American comics. The most striking element, though, is the eyes; each character has at least four eyes. Some have more. Eyes also peek out from inanimate objects and landscapes This could be unsettling for some readers, particularly the juxtaposition of the very familiar (such as the characters from Toy Story) with the unexpected addition of the very unfamiliar physical representations.

While there is nothing in 101 Movies that would make it inappropriate for a teen collection, it seems more suited to adult collections. While there are, I’m sure, teen cinephiles who will enjoy this book, readers of a certain age who, like Cavolo, remember coming of age in 80s and early 90s, will particularly, I think, share his appreciation for the films of his youth and perhaps his memories of sharing classic films with his parents.

101 Movies to Watch Before You Die
by Ricardo Cavolo
ISBN: 9781910620250
Nobrow, 2017

Dalston Monsterzz

On the first page of Dalston Monsterzz, we see a white-collar man running for his life as he is hunted by an unknown monster in a structure called The Zag, all for the viewing pleasure of more powerful men. In one page, we learn not only that monsters are real in this place, but that the humans are as beastly as the monsters they use for sport. Dalston, an area of East London, is being developed and subjected to gentrification like many other areas like it. As developers break ground on new luxury developments, the monsters who have been underground all along begin to surface. Local gangs form and use the monsters to defend their territory.

However, Roshan is not one of these monster riders. Recently released from a youth detention center, Roshan has to enter a world where monsters roam, his family worries he won’t be able to get back on his feet, and his friend Kay has filled his life with other people, particularly a girl who goes by Lolly. The mysteries of the first page become part of Roshan’s journey when Kay is kidnapped and Lolly goes to Roshan for help.

Dilraj Mann’s illustrations are colorful and exciting, and his panel structure adds to the movement and energy of the setting. The cast looks, quite simply, cool as heck, and features different ethnic backgrounds, including a protagonist of South Asian descent. Each gang and monster has a distinct look and theme that comes across clearly. At 12 inches high, it’s a book I enjoy looking at and holding, but it won’t fit upright on your average shelf. So while its bright yellow spine compliments Mann’s style well and is eye-catching, it might not get the full attention of a scanning patron since it won’t be shelved the same way as standard-sized books.

The art drew me in, but I found I didn’t initially connect to the story as much as I was expecting. Roshan has missed so much while he was detained that I found myself wondering why Lolly takes the time to tell Roshan about Kay’s kidnapping? In fact, Lolly is really good at punching folks—thanks to a connection to her own monster—and is a self-identified “bad bitch”; why not go on the rescue mission on her own? So while Roshan and Lolly’s rescue mission is exciting, especially in the final act, it lacks some depth. Some background on Roshan and Kay’s friendship can be inferred from the artwork on the end papers, but additional character development would have been beneficial here. The book is only 76 pages long; just a few more pages to help the reader invest more in the friendships and how those friendships are changing could have gone a long way.

A strong part of Mann’s story is in its look at the development and gentrification of East London and how the rest of the city views the area and its residents. We learn that Roshan’s initial arrest and conviction are overkill and politically motivated, occurring in a time when riots were happening across the neighborhood. The rich men building new luxury flats are connected to the horrific events that occur in The Zag. No doubt due to classist prejudice and skeptical news reports, the rest of London doesn’t seem to believe that the residents of Dalston are living with monsters. The more Mann delved into the socioeconomic issues connected to the book’s events, the more invested I became.

Dalston Monsterzz could appeal to readers who enjoy stories along the lines of Scott Pilgrim, Attack the Block, or the slick edits and look of an Edgar Wright film. Overall, it’s piqued my interest enough to keep an eye on Mann’s future projects, and the look and aesthetics are really where the book’s strength lies.

Dalston Monsterzz
by Dilraj Mann
ISBN: 9781910620359
Nobrow, 2018

Nightlights

Nightlights is a book about possibilities. When a child wields a pencil and a blank sheet of paper, the possibilities abound.

Readers follow Sandy from the inner sanctum of her sketchbook and her dreamscape to the soul-crushing classrooms of her Madeleine-esque Catholic school. One day at recess, while lost among her drawings, she meets Morfie, a slight, purplish-haired pupil. Morfie takes an interest in Sandy’s artwork, but it soon becomes clear to Sandy that Morfie isn’t a student at the school.

If you’re focused on trying to figure out what kind of imaginary species Morfie is, or what internal logic and magical physics she abides by, you’ll miss the magic of the story. Alvarez leaves the genesis and motives of Morfie somewhat open-ended, and that gives readers an opportunity to think about how we want to shoehorn the characters we meet in stories into archetypes the same way the nuns want the children at school to memorize digits of pi.

Alvarez’s artwork contrasts pure white with darker tones to provide some tension between fantasy and reality. The beginning and end of the story are flooded with white, giving us a visual framing device that makes readers wonder whether the entire story is generated from Sandy’s drawings, while the exposition is a combination of full spreads and frameless panels. Both Sandy’s dreamscapes and daily life are depicted sumptuously. In the dreamscapes, we see Sandy float among a reef of round-faced creatures, and in real life, the dapples of the sky and the blades among the grass are drawn and colored with care. This book shows the beauty of the small things, like how a slightly miscolored floor tile at school could be a source of inspiration for a dreamer like Sandy.

Visually inspirational, this book represents a high water mark in comics for young children. While it is probably too conceptual to become a favorite among young readers, it shows off the possibilities of sequential art.

Nightlights
by Lorena Alvarez
ISBN: 9781910620137
Nobrow, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

Fantasy Sports, vol 2: The Bandit of Barbel Bay

The barbarian Mug and magical Wiz, having been reluctantly paired together in their first adventure of Fantasy Sports, are back. In the first volume they finally worked together—Wiz’s magical skill and knowledge of sports and Mug’s endurance and strength—to win their basketball game and secure the treasure for the council of mages. However, an unfortunate magical accident has left them stranded in Barbel Bay, where the fish-like inhabitants don’t appreciate mages at all. Wiz is troubled by the destroyed town, the angry inhabitants, and the general air of tragedy and ruin, but Mug just wants his leg fixed and to get their treasure back to the council. But when their treasure is stolen, the two must work together to join in a sacred ritual of the inhabitants—a volleyball game! The story ends on a cliffhanger as the two set off for another adventure, another challenge, and another game.

The story opens with a flashback to Wiz’s past, as her magical ability is revealed in a baseball game. The orange and yellow tones show the intense emotions of the game and her family as they realize they are losing their daughter, as well as Wiz’s starry eyes at the adventure that lies ahead. Abruptly, the scenes switch to the blue, gray, and green hues of the ocean town Wiz and Mug wash up in. Defeated and impoverished by the mages, the scenery has a derelict air. When the volleyball game begins, the fish people’s champions glow with a rich purple and blue, showing the prosperity that once reigned in the village. The village inhabitants have a slimy, damp look, while Wiz and Mug shine a bright, war-like red.

What started out as a sports-infused adventure in the first volume, deepens into a more complex story in the second installment. While Mug claims to still be an unfeeling, physical fighter, even he occasionally admits to softer feelings and is learning to work together with Wiz. The young wizard is losing her naivety as she sees more of the world and begins to suspect the Mages’ Guild has more secrets and a dark side she hasn’t yet seen. The unexpected ending of the game stays away from saccharine sentiment as both Wiz and Mug develop a little more in their characters and set out, determined to find the truth.

Fans of the first volume will be excited to read the continuing story. Recommend this exciting fantasy with sporting elements to sports fans who don’t think they like fantasy and fantasy fans who don’t think they like sports. Readers interested in the unique art showcased in Nobrow’s works will also enjoy the detailed, colorful pictures that convey the emotions, excitement, and secrets of the fantastic world slowly being unfolded.

Fantasy Sports, vol 2: The Bandit of Barbel Bay 
by Sam Bosma
ISBN: 9781910620106
Nobrow, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: 6 and up

Fantasy Sports, Vol 1

fantasy sportsSomehow, I’d gotten the impression that Fantasy Sports would painlessly teach me about sports, specifically basketball. Well, I didn’t learn much about basketball (except that you’re not supposed to put your foot over the line), but I had a lot of fun reading this and can’t wait to see which sport Bosma tackles next (also, there was no pain—for me, at least).

In a port city, within a strange pyramid, is The United and Ancient Order of Mages. The archmage is dealing with some unhappy members. Diminutive mage intern Wiz and barbarian raider Mug are sure they’re the worst possible pairing ever. Mug doesn’t want to “babysit” tiny Wiz, and Wiz is tired of cleaning up after bull-headed Mug, who prefers to smash things rather than use magic, but the archmage insists they stay together and do their job—acquiring magical artifacts. Soon, they’re entering a dangerous temple, and Wiz is losing patience with the slower Mug as they bypass the skeletons and puzzles. When they finally manage to make it in to the occupant of the temple, which is actually a tomb, the current occupant has no intention of following ancient laws and giving up his treasure to the mages. Unless, that is, they’d like to compromise and play a little game…

Bosma has a very distinctive art style, with thick, bold lines and larger-than-life characters. The color scheme is mostly reds and yellows, especially as Mug sometimes literally breathes fire and glows red-hot in rage and impatience. Once Mug and Wiz make it to the heart of the tomb, however, things fade out to skeletal grays and whites, with ghostly blue and green hues. As the story progresses and the two find a little common ground, Wiz takes on some of Mug’s coloring, as well as his passion and fiery temperament.

The layout of the book is unique to the publisher, which favors over-sized volumes. It’s a great layout for the art and text, especially in the basketball scenes, since it’s able to show elongated shots of the characters and playing court, but it is a little larger and slimmer than the average graphic novel. The book is more than a foot tall and comes in at less than 40 pages. The cloth spine feels a little fragile and may not stand up to frequent use.

As far as audience, that’s a little tricky. This is published for the adult market, but, in my library at least, only the most mainstream of comics circulate in the adult section (The Walking Dead, Big 2 superheroes, etc.). For something a little offbeat like this title, which will appeal to sports and fantasy fans, it would seem more likely to circulate in teen or even juvenile. However, a particularly gruesome scene at the end definitely makes it inappropriate for children. Whether or not it’s okay in teen will depend on your audience and library; it’s less gruesome than, say Attack on Titan or Death Note, for comparison. In addition, there are a lot of skeletons in various stages of destruction, and the jokes are for an audience that will appreciate slightly more sophisticated humor.

Fantasy Sports isn’t your average graphic novel, but it’s a fun story, interesting artwork, and an intriguing premise that will keep readers looking for the next installment.

Fantasy Sports, Vol 1
by Sam Bosma
ISBN: 9781907704802
Nobrow, 2015

Golemchik

golemchikThere are lots of stories and, surprisingly, a number of comics predicated on the golem mythology, which is perhaps best described as a predecessor to Frankenstein’s monster. There’s are even a small handful of poorly differentiated Marvel characters called the Golem, and, more recently, titles like James’ Sturm The Golem’s Mighty Swing, and Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem, by Dave Wachter, come to mind. The golem began as a Jewish folk story of a hulking human-like creature created, usually by a rabbi, out of clay or similar matter to do a task: building something, performing hard labor,or protecting and defending a group of people. Like Frankenstein’s monster, the story is often as much about the risks of playing God as it is about the monster itself. So, there’s a lot of great source material and meaning to draw on for Will Exley’s Golemchik.

Though Golemchik is a great looking and promising short story, it draws surprisingly little from the rich mythology hinted at in its title, and that’s a shame. It’s the story of a young boy named Kevin who’s left to play alone in the woods when his friends head off to summer camp. Left to his own devices, he has all the time in the world to make a new friend. As per the title, he creates—unwittingly—a golem out of sylvan stuff and his departed friends’ castoff clothing. Kevin and the golem get to work building wonderous things, exploring the underbrush, and observing (and terrorizing!) the flora and fauna. But the golem quickly gets a bit out of control, as brainless automatons are want to do. Kevin’s attempts to stop him and his new friend’s eventual, inevitable demise are told with a narrative uncertainty that is off-putting and hard to follow. It’s too bad, because the bones of a great tale—a golem in the woods and the summer idylls of a lonely kid—are here, but they don’t come together in a satisfying way.

Golemchik’s illustrations are probably a bigger draw: the sun-baked pastels of nature in the summertime, the minutiae of a young boy’s explorations in the woods, and the golem’s cycle of construction and destruction are framed with picture-perfect precision. However, Exley’s narrative is stilted and the drawings don’t have a great panel-to-panel flow to alleviate that feeling. Rather, individual panels are lovely, but the whole book feels more like snapshots than a complete story.

Perhaps I’m too intrigued by the greater golem mythology, but this story begs those little philosophical questions such as, what really brought this golem to life?, to whom does he answer?, and why must he meet his demise, in an existential sense? For a 26-page comic, I may be taking this a bit too seriously—it’s a quick romp that could be silly and sweet for a young reader. However, I truly feel that Will Exley has a lot of promise as both a storyteller and an illustrator (what an eye for detail!), but needs to build a story with greater focus and purpose, and this, unfortunately, is not that tale.

Golemchik
by Will Exley
ISBN: 9781907704796
Nobrow, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: 12-18 years