Top 5 graphic novels that I read in 2012

I feel as though in the very instant Time moved beyond the last second that marked 2011’s end, I transformed into a mad person. A person hellbent on reading everything — everything and anything that contained words and consisted of plot and coherence. I wanted not just to consume, but devour literature like I do that velvet cake. My sleep schedule became less and less of a schedule as it diminished — courtesy of late-night reads and the general type of insomnia I wouldn’t mind doing time for murdering (if it were an entity) — and sleep became “that thing I sometimes do in twenty-minute intervals the instant I get home with a 1 to 2 hour ‘nap’ before a caffeine spazz.” 2012 marks the year that I let my hobby to get the best of me. I am responsible for letting my life grow into a much scarier giant of chaos than it should have been.

Essentially: I am responsible for not being responsible.

All things considered, however, I think I’m doing fairly well. Not to forget that I appear to have a sharper handle on this “book problem,” so I welcome 2013 with a saner mind frame. Yet, even with all the poor choices I made  — choices that caused me to huff and puff, to kick and scream, and at myself — I faced both ugly and brilliant literary works. In the worst of times, when I felt too tired or apathetic to care, and I felt my book love pouring out, I sought out illustrative works. When I see a page washed entirely in words and react by scooting away from it, I discovered solace in picture books and graphic novels.

I am not a stranger to graphic novels, but I craved more as I grew friendlier with various styles and genres. If anything, I grew to appreciate the power some graphic novels have and blow off any previous judgments I’d constructed. Because guess what? Graphic novels can stimulate the mind just as much as they can dazzle the eye, so here are my personal top 5 graphic novels read in 2012:

1. Batman, Vol. 1: The Court of OwlsBatman, Vol. 1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Greg Capullo & Jonathan Glapion
The Court of Owls, New 52 style! A graphic novel in which Snyder has teamed up with illustrators Capulla and Glapion, creating a new reinterpretation of Batman that packs a mighty punch. If you think the cover is a looker, wait until you crack the spine and move to the flow of this plot. You will witness my jaw unhinge if you dare tell me the grand duo of illustration and writing aren’t so grand. By the volume’s end, I saw how brilliant a story can be when art and words clash into one and create a gorgeous being. The Court of Owls is filled with mystery upheld by an eery sense of power that can only level out to be a commendable Batman foe.

2.IKG I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly, illustrated by J.M. Ken Niimura
Unlike some readers profess, I cannot say that this Kelly and Niimura collaboration resulted in me blotting a tissue to my face. Regardless, I did feel rather touched by Barbara’s struggle to face reality. Her imagination is almost — almost! — an untameable creature, larger than life that viciously consumes. The art left me astounded in such a way that I crave just to peek at it. I admire the writing as well, as each character truly has a personality all their own, and the moment imagination and the “real world” smack together and blur the line is something I can’t forget. Barbara is a relatable character for anyone who has opposed life’s negatives, but the story itself is one to remember for all the giants we stand against.

3. PersepolisThe Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Looking back on my education, pre-college, I always find that I feel immensely disappointed by it. In particular, I am sad and nearly appalled by the limited topics and narrow perspectives in which lessons were taught. It is for this reason that I value books like Satrapi’s Persepolis. As a graphic novel memoir, Marjane Satrapi recounts her experiences growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution — and later: an adolescent adventures in Vienna and a return to home — in honesty. The narrative seeps no sugarcoating, but manages delightful humor that blends with horrors of war and that awkward stage called Growing Up.

4. Hell BabyHell Baby by Hideshi Hino
I’m a showcase of goosebumps! No, wait. That is cold air making an entrance. The one thing classic gore can deliver is a very bored or disgusted expression to my face. Gore has never been something I fear, which I suspected Hell Baby to be: gore and nothing more. But let me clarify: that judgement is incorrect. There is gore to be had (and lots of it), but with a fat side dish of entirely different kinds of fear: rejection, abandonment, belonging, and love. What unfolds throughout these pages is a story that takes a sudden emotional leap. I was defenseless against my own feelings, because I had grown to understand and yes, care for, the main character. She is a cannabilist, but I love her… and I cried for her.

5. The Last MusketeerThe Last Musketeer by Jason
Although “quirky” and “unique” fit the label, I puzzle over how else to describe The Last Musketeer. By far, Jason provided me the most fun experience I had with a book this year. Not once does the humor peel from the pages to show off its conceited self, gasping, See how funny I am? The subtle delivery of wit and odd or silly lines is all that is required. Jason displays talent with tact, neatly bundled in this fun, enjoyable book about The Last Musketeer who saves Earth from Mars’ diabolical ruler.

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WWW Wednesdays #2

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Anyone can participate — just answer the questions!

What are you currently reading?
I started Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood last night and expect to finish it soon. As a ‘graphic memoir,’ Satrapi recounts her growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution — a poignant story glossed in the lightness of humor and a child’s perspective, yet balanced and emotionally compelling.

To add, I’m also busy reading Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett. I hope to finish it tonight and kindly chuck it inside the library drop box on campus — the book is well overdue! But Mort is patiently waiting for me to open up its cover, and I hate returning unfinished library books. By comparison, I find that Equal Rites feels more enjoyable than the first two Discworld novels, and I’m loving the character set.

Lastly: Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. This book sat and sat (and sat) on my shelf for so long that I can only tell you it’s been (maybe five) years. I’m not sure where I picked it up from — Where did I buy it? Was it a gift? — and the cover displayed on my blog is not the edition I own. My copy, published in 1996, seems to enjoy hiding its face. It’s too early in the story to formulate a proper opinion, but the text is more readable than I thought it would be.

(I have an ugly bias against some classics. I assume they hold dry, stuffy text, and then I feel delighted to learn there’s a rich story worthy of consuming.)

What did you recently finish reading?
The last book I finished was Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. Quality artwork is, of course, a plus, but I enjoyed the believability above all. Maggie’s relationship with her family (brothers, dad, and the mom who bailed) feels realistic without coming across as sentimental or exaggerating ‘typical’ family roles. First-day jitters and high school cliques brought back memories of my own, but the paranormal aspect struck me as out-of-place. Is the ghost’s presence necessary? Because the widow seemed more like a loose end that could have been easily snipped. I’m reminded of Anya’s Ghost, although Brosgol made Emily’s character an essential, very grounded part of the plot.

Other books I finished:

  • The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. Oh, I don’t think this one truly counts as ‘finished’ since I skimmed through the last 150 pages. All libraries throughout the county shelf Scott’s Flamel series as “TEEN,” but this reads more like poor children’s fantasy. I wanted to like the story and I wanted to love  the characters (and hate — there’s always some character to hate!), but I couldn’t look past Scott’s writing style (which I simply hate). While I love fantasy, I spend the majority of my reading time plunged into YA ‘realistic’ fiction (like How to Say Goodbye in Robot) or dystopian… as of late, anyway. Still, I expect to see fluid writing, details adorning the story (but not superfluous), and developed ideas. Michael Scott’s creation of Josh and Sophie — the new world they discover — felt marred by poor writing and overall lackluster. Last Wednesday I indicated that I would carry on with the rest of the series, but I’m not sure I will.
  • The Sound of Colors by Jimmy Liao shows one reason I still enjoy children’s picture books. Compared to others, like The Seeing Stick and Lucy Dove, I don’t find the artwork particularly impressive but it’s nonetheless engaging and fun. At the heart, though, is a story: a young woman, blind, begins her journey home at the subway where her mind also wanders (and wonders). A tight combination of fragility and wistfulness come together and pack a soft but impressive punch.

    “I push my way onto a train full of people. Do they have someone waiting for them at the other end?”
    — Jimmy Liao

  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan is wordless graphic novel I suggest everyone of all ages read. I checked this out from the library, but it quickly earned a spot on my favorites list and I now consider it a must-own. In his beautifully crafted story of an immigrant, Tan’s work took my breath and captured my imagination. I am a puddle of mush, entirely enchanted and absorbed by The Arrival‘s cinematic quality — what a blast of freshness and artistry.

What do you think you’ll read next?
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. It’s about time, too, and no library due dates will get in my way this time. Nothing will get in my way. I will start it this week, I will read it, and I will enjoy it.

Enough said (for now).