Reviews of several graphic novels

My recent run-in with "100 Greatest Graphic Novels" has led to a borrowing spree from my library. Here are some of the results.

by Grant Morrison (writer) and Frank Quitely (artist)
2005 - Vertigo

Go out and read this now. Be warned though: it's pretty dark. I was surprised when it arrived - it's very thin. But it carries a LOT of weight in those 100 pages.

"We3" are three animals, a rabbit, a cat, and a dog, that have been modified and weaponized. Now that the program is being shut down, their creator decides that they deserve freedom (and that she herself deserves death for what she's done to them). They rocket out of the lab ... and bypass her. And now we have three fantastically heavily armed semi-sentient beings on the loose and approaching a large city.

What makes this utterly heart-breaking and so successful is a superb combination of writing (the animals don't understand what's been done to them, but we do) and the art (it's not just good - the choices of tiny squares of information all the way up to single frame two page spreads are used to spectacular effect). You'll weep for these poor animals as they rip hundreds of people to shreds, because you won't even think of it that way. It's an amazing piece of work that I cannot recommend enough.

by Noelle Stevenson
2015 - HarperTeen (HarperCollins)

The quirkiest of all the graphic novels I've read, and also among the most entertaining. The artwork is, umm, middle-school. It actually goes well with the bizarre content, but it's not the reason you might read this. You might read it because it's funny as hell, and as it progresses it becomes more and more thought provoking. "Nimona" (the character) shows up one day at the house of Ballister Blackheart, wanting only to be his sidekick. He refuses, until he discovers she's a shapeshifter. Ballister is the evil nemesis of Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin, the champion of the kingdom. He's not actually all that evil, his relationship with Goldenloin isn't quite what it seems, and Nimona is more important than any of them know ... Highly recommended: the laughs fade as the pages go by, but by then she's built a lot of momentum on a really interesting story.

Ms. Marvel: No Normal
by G. Willow Wilson (writer) and Adrian Alphona (artist)
2014 - Marvel

I'm not sure what to say about this one: "pretty good for Marvel Comics" is incredibly dismissive and a bit unfair.

Our main character is Kamala Khan, a teen in Jersey City with a restrictive Muslim family. She gets her powers from Ms. Marvel, and voila - we have an origin story. Origin stories are often the best part of a character's story arc: the idea is fresh and new, not old and worn. Kamala's story is good, but her "origin" is not: there's a weird fog over Jersey, Ms. Marvel appears to her and says "you want to be a hero? Give it a try." And Kamala has powers. Seriously? That's the best you could manage? Aside from that, Kamala and her friends are well constructed characters, and the story is both irreverent and current. The art is up to Marvel's standards, but nothing to write home about. I'm going to read the second in the series (also recommended by 100 Greatest Graphic Novels) but I expect I'll stop after that.

Invincible: Family Matters (Volume One)
by Robert Kirkman (writer) and Cory Walker (artist)
2015 - Image

This one has a fawning, ass-kissing introduction by Kurt Busiek (another comic author) that I didn't manage to finish reading - it was just that sick-making. And seriously overblown for the content: he's claiming this is incredibly awesome, just overwhelmingly fantastic ... and yet, reading this first book, you'll probably react as I did: this is utterly bog-standard superhero fare, a little witty, but nothing to write home about. The art is good, but not great - just colourful, traditional superhero stuff. I'll continue with the series as friends have told me it's good and I think he's headed somewhere with it, but it hasn't really grabbed me yet.