Tsutsumi, et al. – Out of Picture

Out of Picture Volume 1: Art from the Outside Looking In by Daisuke Tsutsumi, Vincent Nguyen, et al.

Date read: 30 October 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Tsutsumi, et al. - Out of Picture, volume 1

Oversized paperback, 159 pages
Published 2007 by Villard (originally published by Editions Paquet 2006)
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic novel OUT OF PICTURE]

This is a random book I grabbed off the shelves of my local public library two weeks ago that caught my eye. It is a collection of 11 non-connected stories by the creative staff of Blue Sky Studios. It also includes a foreword by the director of Blue Sky, a development gallery [sketches], artist biographies and acknowledgments.

“”Out of picture” is a film term we use whenever something is cut from a movie—or we say “it’s OOPed.” While it can be frustrating to have to let go of one’s ideas, it’s the pursuit and exploration of those ideas that can be the most fulfilling. We wanted to share some of our personal ideas outside of our film work with you—out of picture ….” (9)

I quite enjoyed this. Some of the stories resonated more with me than others but I did enjoy them all. It seems there is at least one more volume of these out of picture stories by this group. Oooh. The public library has it—just requested.

Recommended. I imagine most anyone can find at least one of these stories that resonates with them. For me, the most resonant was “Newsbreak” by Michael Knapp. It is quite timely but was even moreso for the time it was written; one I remember quite well with my son’s military deployments. Terrifying yet speaks to the power of love and connection to an/other.

This is the 48th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups


Ellis, et al. – Trees, vol. 1: In shadow

Trees, vol. 1: In shadow by Warren Ellis (writer), Jason Howard (artist), Fonografiks (lettering & design)

Date read: 11 October 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of Trees, vol. 1: In shadow by Warren Ellis, Jason Howard, Fonografiks

Paperback, 1 volume unpaged
Published 2015 by Image Comics
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel ELLIS WARREN] Collects issues #1-8.

My wife brought this home several days ago since it had been recommended to her a few times.

I did not like the opening as it was confused and confusing. The reader eventually sorts out what is going on but it takes work and time, which seems to be a recurring trend in Ellis’ storytelling, in my opinion.

To be more accurate, he drops you immediately into some chaotic scene where you can clearly see what’s going on but simply cannot fathom why. Then within a handful or two of pages you radically shift focus to something that (probably) seems like it is not at all connected. Usually by the third or fourth temporal/locational/perspectival (or all three) jump you begin figuring it out. This one wasn’t quite that hard but it had the (in my mind) patented Ellis move of dropping you into something initially disconcerting.

I have read quite a bit of his stuff and that is how his style mostly strikes me. The wife mentioned that she loves his frequent perspectival switches, which I agreed with. There is just something disconcerting for me about the way he dumps you into one of his stories.

It appears that Trees, Vol. 2: Two Forests is also out, collecting issues #9-14. But how many more are there to come and how long will we wait? I am tempted to just skip the rest but this could be excellent in the long run.

Description from back cover/Goodreads:

“Ten years after they landed. All over the world. And they did nothing, standing on the surface of the Earth like trees, exerting their silent pressure on the world, as if there were no-one here and nothing under foot. Ten years since we learned that there is intelligent life in the universe, but that they did not recognize us as intelligent or alive.

Trees looks at a near-future world where life goes on in the shadows of the Trees: in China, where a young painter arrives in the “special cultural zone” of a city under a Tree; in Italy, where a young woman under the menacing protection of a fascist gang meets an old man who wants to teach her terrible skills; and in Svalbard, where a research team is discovering, by accident, that the Trees may not be dormant after all, and the awful threat they truly represent.”

The story moves around the world, and back several times, to some of the sites where the “Trees” landed. They have induced radical changes simply by their presence but now stranger things are beginning to happen.

Again, this could be great after all but I am not yet convinced. Highly recommended if you are a fan of Ellis’ work; otherwise, it is on you to decide. Sorry.

This is the 47th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups


Samanci – Dare to disappoint

Dare to disappoint: growing up in Turkey by Özge Samanci

Date read: 03 October 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc, 2016nfc

Cover image of Dare to disappoint: growing up in Turkey by Özge Samanci

Paperback, 190 pages
Published 2015 by Margaret Ferguson (Farrar Straus Giroux)
Source: Deschutes Public Library (via Jefferson County Library District) [YG Samanci]

This is a memoir and graphic novel of self-discovery, along with being a (very) quick) overview of (recent) Turkish history and society. I quite enjoyed it and learned a good bit.

Summary: “Growing up on the Aegean Coast, Ozge loved the sea and imagined a life of adventure while her parents and society demanded predictability. Her dad expected Ozge, like her sister, to become an engineer. She tried to hear her own voice over his and the religious and militaristic tensions of Turkey and the conflicts between secularism and fundamentalism. Could she be a scuba diver like Jacques Cousteau? A stage actress? Would it be possible to please everyone including herself?

In her unpredictable and funny graphic memoir, Ozge recounts her story using inventive collages, weaving together images of the sea, politics, science, and friendship.”


  1. The Other Side
  2. First-Grade Teacher
  3. Ataturk
  4. To Die For
  5. Pink Ruler
  6. Single Channel
  7. Istanbul
  8. Zero
  9. Approval
  10. Broken Radio
  11. Hunting Ground
  12. Potato
  13. Sun Behind the Clouds
  14. In Between
  15. Beginning

The author, who is also the illustrator, uses several different techniques, sometimes mixing them in the same panel, to get the story across. I liked that; gave it a bit of the homemade feel, and also like it was a child/young woman telling the tale.

Recommended for young adults and above.

The author blogs a daily image at http://www.ordinarycomics.com/

This is the 46th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 23rd book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader

McCoola & Carroll – Baba Yaga’s Assistant

Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola; illustrated by Emily Carroll

Date read: 23 September 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of McCoola & Carroll's graphic novel Baba Yaga's Assistant

Hardcover, 132 pages
Published 2015 by Candlewick Press
Source: Deschutes Public Library [J Graphic Novel MCCOOLA MARIKA]

Baba Yaga eats children. She is deceitful and wicked. Her sentient house strides around the countryside on giant chicken legs. Stories like these have been told for a long time [based on Slavic folk literature].

There’s always another side to the story.

Our story begins with a help wanted ad:


Must have skills in hauling, obeying orders, cooking and cleaning. Magical talent a bonus. Must be good with heights. Enter Baba Yaga’s house to apply.

Well, that’s reasonably straightforward as these things go. But this is Baba Yaga. Deceit is the rule.

Masha’s circumstances are dire and she has some family history so off she goes. Are the stories accurate, can she remember them, what exactly are these tests? Can Masha outwit Baba Yaga as her grandmother did?

Find out in this great adaptation of Baba Yaga. The artwork is wonderful and exceedingly colorful, especially for being in many ways a dark story.

How can a story with a sentient house that moves around on two giant chicken legs not be intriguing? The enigmatic witch is just a bonus. Highly recommended.

I heard about this from Unshelved back in April.

This is the 45th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Orchard – Bera the One-Headed Troll

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard

Date read: 27 August 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image from Eric Orchard's Bera the One-Headed Troll graphic novel

Hardback, 126 pages
Published 2016 by First Second
Source: Deschutes Public Library [J Graphic Novel ORCHARD ERIC]

“Bera doesn’t ask for much in life. She’s a solitary, humble troll, tending her island pumpkin patch in cheerful isolation. She isn’t looking for any trouble.

But when trouble comes to find her, it comes in spades. A human baby has arrived in the realm of the trolls, and nobody knows where it came from, but Bera seems to be the only person who doesn’t want it dead. There’s nothing to it but to return the adorable little thing to its parents.

Like it or not, Bera’s gone and found herself a quest.” – Inside front jacket flap.

A story of heroes, both renowned and unknown, friendship, responsibility, and cross-species caring. Things do not end up exactly as the blurb above alludes but then that is often the case.

If you are looking for intelligent books for children then you ought look at First Second’s line. Actually, they have great books for all ages. I actually follow First Second in Goodreads and although they effectively recommend many of their own books by reviewing them I do not mind as I believe I have enjoyed every last one, from Feynman to Bera the One-Headed Troll.

Taking a quick look through their line made me make a note to look a lot closer and add some interesting looking things to my to read list.

Highly recommended.

This is the 44th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Ottaviani & Wicks – Primates

Primates: The fearless science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviano and Maris Wicks

Date read: 26 August 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc 2016nfc

Cover image from Primates: The fearless science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Gladikas by Jim Ottaviano and Maris Wicks

Hardback, 140 pages
Published 2013 by First Second
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Teen Graphic Novel OTTAVIANI JIM]

I really enjoyed this book, as I have the previous two Ottaviano books I have read: Feynman and The Imitation Game [Sorry, no actual review of Feynman.]  I have pretty much all other of his books on my to read list now.

This book tells the story of three fearless women: Jane Goodall and her chimpanzee research, Dian Fossey and her research into mountain gorillas, and of Biruté Galdikas and her research on orangutans. The book has four sections, in that order, with the fourth being on the three of them together. [All links in this paragraph to Wikipedia.]

All three women were protégés of Louis Leakey and they all became preeminent ethologists although they all started with little in the way of formal academic “qualifications.” In fact, all three made discoveries—repeated, recorded observations really [which is what much “discovery” consists of]—that radically changed how we think of ourselves and some of our closest relatives, much less the behavior and intelligence—tool use, anyone?—of animals in general.

The book is considered a young adult book but I fail to see why that is the case. Anyone older can certainly learn a great deal from this book and also appreciate it at the same time. But I guess it alerts us to the fact that it is appropriate for that age group and that is cool.

An afterword from the author discusses the fact versus fictionalized narrative issues, while the book ends with a picture of all three renowned scientists together, a bibliography and a colophon.

The artwork is in one sense fairly simplified but it is also extremely effective at relating the story. What I mean is that facial and body expression is used more prominently than over-detailed extraneous visual details. Thus, much of the rest is as minimal as needed to effectively help move the narrative along. I think the artwork is exceptionally done overall!

Highly recommended! For every one.

This is the 43rd book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

This is the 21st book in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader


Abel – La Perdida

La Perdida by Jessica Abel

Date read: 20-24 August 2016
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image from Jessica Abel's graphic novel La Perdida

Hardback, ix, 275 pages
Published 2006 by Pantheon Books
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel ABEL JESSICA]

The description from Goodreads:

“From the Harvey and Lulu award–winning creator of Artbabecomes this riveting story of a young woman’s misadventures in Mexico City. Carla, an American estranged from her Mexican father, heads to Mexico City to “find herself.” She crashes with a former fling, Harry, who has been drinking his way through the capital in the great tradition of his heroes, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. Harry is good—humored about Carla’s reappearance on his doorstep—until he realizes that Carla, who spends her days soaking in the city, exploring Frida Kahlo’s house, and learning Spanish, has no intention of leaving.

When Harry and Carla’s relationship of mutual tolerance reaches its inevitable end, she rejects his world of Anglo expats for her own set of friends: pretty-boy Oscar, who sells pot and dreams of being a DJ, and charismatic Memo, a left-wing, pseudo–intellectual ladies’ man. Determined to experience the real Mexico, Carla turns a blind eye to her new friends’ inconsistencies. But then she catches the eye of a drug don, el Gordo, and from that moment on her life gets a lot more complicated, and she is forced to confront the irreparable consequences of her willful innocence.

Jessica Abel’s evocative black–and–white drawings and creative mix of English and Spanish bring Mexico City’s past and present to life, unfurling Carla’s dark history against the legacies of Burroughs and Kahlo. A story about the youthful desire to live an authentic life and the consequences of trusting easy answers,La Perdida–at once grounded in the particulars of life in Mexico and resonantly universal–is a story about finding oneself by getting lost.”

This title won the 2002 Harvey Award for Best New Series per the inside back flap of the book cover. Verified at Wikipedia.

I thought it was alright, a bit too self-indulgent perhaps. No idea how I was supposed to think of Carla by the end, just another stupid American who lost her ideals, was changed in the process, and lost her self.

All of the other Americans in Mexico City kept together and were generally asses, while none of the many named Mexican characters had any real redeeming qualities either. Only the unnamed masses were held up as innocents, if you will.

Just not sure what I’m supposed to take away from it and I can’t find a lot of depth other than perhaps “people and life are messy,” and that isn’t very deep and has been told much better a thousand different ways before.

By the by, La Perdida translates to “the loss.”

This is the 42nd book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups


Martin, et al – Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, volumes three and four

A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, volumes three and four by Daniel Abraham (adaptor), Tommy Patterson (art), Ivan Nunes (colors), Marshall Dillon (lettering); based on the novels by George R.R. Martin

Date read: 09 August 2016 and 09-10 August 2016
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover mage of A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, volume three by Daniel Abraham , et al. Cover mage of A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, volume four by Daniel Abraham , et al.

Hardbacks, 1 volume ea. (unpaged)
Published 2014 by Bantam and 2015 by Bantam
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel GAME OF THRONES V.3 & V.4]
Volume Three contains Issues 13-18 plus “The Making of A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume 3”
Volume Four contains Issues 19-24 plus “The Making of A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume 4”

Abstract v3

“In King’s Landing, Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell, the Hand of King Robert Baratheon, is surrounded by enemies. Some are openly declared, such as Ser Jaime Lannister and his sister, Queen Cersei. Others are hidden in the shadows. Still others wear the smiling mask of friends. But all are deadly, as Eddard is about to discover. Nor is the enmity between Eddard and the Lannister siblings the sole source of friction between these powerful noble families. For Tyrion Lannister, the Imp, whose stunted, twisted body houses the mind of a genius, has but lately won his freedom from Lady Catelyn Stark, Eddard’s wife, who had accused him of attempting to murder her youngest son, Brandon. Now he seeks out his father, his restless thoughts bent on revenge. Far to the north, the bastard Jon Snow, newly sworn to the Night’s Watch, takes the first faltering steps toward a destiny stranger than he could ever dream, a destiny that will bring him face-to-face with unspeakable horrors from beyond the edge of the world. While across the Narrow Sea, Daenerys Targaryen, wed to the great Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo, and pregnant with his child, a son prophesied to conquer the world, will see her own destiny take an unforeseen turn.”

Abstract v4

“The kingdom of the Stark family faces its ultimate challenge in the onset of a generation-long winter, the poisonous plots of the rival Lannisters, the emergence of the Neverborn demons, and the arrival of barbarian hordes.”

I find the different lengths of these abstracts/summaries from the WorldCat records hilarious. Volume one and two were the same but reversed; one was real short and two was lengthy like three above [see My review of the first two volumes is here.]

I enjoyed these also and am considering trying the TV series. No way in hell I’m reading all those thousands of pages in the novels though, especially since the dang story isn’t even finished. Had to do a lot of Wikipedia/library catalog poking to suss out what part of the full story, if you will, this was. It seems to be the first book, A Game of Thrones, of the series A Song of Ice and Fire.

I imagine these four volumes are a much more condensed adaptation than the TV show with its seven seasons or whatever. Oh, so only the first season covered the same material. Well then. That might be a good way to get more of the story without committing to all those pages. If I can take the graphic violence.

By the by, I am in no way against thousands of pages for a story, fiction or otherwise, but I am extremely selective, and extremely narrowly so, in choosing anything of that length to deal with. Too many other interests and diversions out there.

Recommended. If you are a fan of the novels and/or the show then have a look to see another take on adapting the same story and, if like me, you are not familiar with either then this provides a great entry.

This is the 39th and 40th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

McCool & Guevara – Nevsky: A Hero of the People

Nevsky: A Hero of the People : written by Ben McCool; drawn by Mario Guevara; colored by David Baron with Allen Passalaqua & Peter Pantazis; lettering by Shawn Lee. Based on the film Alexander Nevsky written & directed by Sergei Eisenstein.

Date read: 10 August 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of McCool & Guevara - Nevsky: A Hero of the People

Hardback, 117 pages
Published 2012 by IDW
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel MCCOL BEN]


“Alexander Nevsky is a medieval Russian hero-prince and saint, and passionate warrior; he is proud and honored to fight for his home nation of Russia. When the Teutonic Knights of the Holy Roman Empire attack his beloved homeland, he assembles the Novgorod people (Russian people) for battle, and faces the invading forces to save his people from tyranny and oppression. Against the odds– and against the nobility of Russia, who wanted to appease the invaders– Alexander Nevsky and his people’s army fight the evil Teutonic Knights in a famous epic battle on the ice”–Excerpt from back of dust jacket.

I quite enjoyed this and have requested the DVD of the movie it is adapted from, Sergei M. Eisenstein’s 1938 Alexander Nevsky with score by Sergei Prokofiev. So much film history here that I know I’m missing 80% of it and that’s OK.

I can’t find anything that recommends it for mature audiences but it does have a fair bit of violence and gore, and a definite anti-religious—particularly anti-Catholic—theme to be aware of.

I thought the artwork was particularly effective, in all settings from cities to huge citadels to snow-covered expanses of  wilderness. I thought the story told was a powerful and important one in its own right, but I greatly appreciated the four pages of context at the end, “The Life and Death Drama Behind Alexander Nevsky,” which situated the story in a pre-WWII context, and the two page interview with film historian and Eisenstein specialist, Naum Kleiman, on Eisenstein’s place in film history.

Highly recommended!

This is the 38th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups

Arcudi, et al – A god Somewhere

A god Somewhere by John Arcudi (writer), Peter Snejbjerg (artist), Bjarne Hansen (colorist), Wes Abbot (letterer)

Date read: 10 August 2016
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Challenges: 2016gnc

Cover image of A god Somewhere by John Arcudi (writer), et al.

Trade paperback, 193 pages
Published 2010 by WildStorm Productions
Source: Deschutes Public Library [Graphic Novel ARCUDI JOHN]
“Suggested for mature readers”—back cover.

“A mysterious disaster. Four lives torn apart. A world changed forever. This original graphic novel charts the arc of one man’s evolution from human to hero to—something else, as seen through the eyes of his family and his best friend.”—Back of cover.

I quite enjoyed this. The artwork was almost always effective and helped tell the story and move it along. The “mature reader” suggestion is well-earned as it is brutal at times, nor does it ever flinch from the things humans do.

Eric survives a freak accident but manifests powers and helps with the rescue and continues to be a hero. But then he isn’t so careful of collateral damage while doing good; then he’s not at all good and believing he’s a god. He becomes a god-like force of joyful destruction and then ….

Redemption? Maybe; maybe not.

Highly recommended. All of the main characters develop complex motivations and change dramatically over the course of the story.

This is the 37th book in my 2016 9th Annual Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge Sign-Ups