Tuesday 14 July 2015

Graphic Novel Round-Up (2): Blue is the Warmest Color, The Wicked and the Divine [1]: The Faust Act and Trees [1]: In Shadow

Blue is the Warmest Color, Julie Maroh
Arsenal Pulp Press|19th August 2013

Clementine is a junior in high school who seems “normal” enough: she has friends, her family, and even a boyfriend. But she can’t reciprocate his feelings toward her, so she breaks up with him. When her openly gay best friend takes her to a gay bar, she becomes captivated by Emma, a punkish, confident girl with blue hair, and event that leads Clementine to discover new aspects of her herself, both passionate and tragic...

This is a beautiful graphic novel. The art varies from shades of white and grey to white and grey and blue to full, muted colours; it’s a visual feast. It compliments Clem and Emma’s story so wonderfully. The graduation of the colour shows the blossoming of their friendship into love, Clem’s discovery of her sexuality and the new life that is opening up to her. But it wasn’t all love and roses for them.

Emma is telling us of her relationship with Clem through Clem’s teenage diaries of the 90s, chronicling Clem’s struggles to accept herself and her feelings for Emma as well as the reactions of those around her to her being gay. It was sometimes shocking, sometimes deeply emotional, but always powerful. I don’t want to say much more about Blue is the Warmest Color because I want you to experience the beauty and the tragedy yourselves, but know that it’s beyond incredible. One of the best reading hours I’ve had in a long time.

I finished Blue is the Warmest Color with tears in my eyes and an ardent hope that one day I might get to have a love like Clem and Emma’s.

The Wicked and the Divine [1]: The Faust Act, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson and Clayton Cowles
Image Comics|25th November 2014

Every ninety years twelve gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. It’s happening now. It’s happening again.

Holy moly, this was a good’un!

There was a lot of hype about this so although I bought it, I left it on my shelf for a good while and when I finally picked it up I went in with some trepidation. The hype had it right this time – I loved it. Set in London, The Faust Act introduces us to Laura and how her life became entangled with the gods. The gods of mythology from all over the world – Greek, Egyptian, Japanese, Canaanite – are alive and well. They’re hot, dangerous and compelling, but they won’t be around for long. I love mythology and stories that bring it into the modern world so I sold practically straight away!   

But even without the fascinating characters and full-throttle plot, the art in The Faust Act would have been enough to keep me hooked. It’s bold and bright and vibrant and I was completely captured by it. It felt like the perfect way to capture gods: blindingly bright and showy, explosive in their short time on Earth and impossible to look away from – so gorgeous.

I adored the first instalment of The Wicked and the Divine and I think this would be a fab place to start for those wanting to explore graphic novels a little. I, for one, am extremely glad the second volume is out on Thursday!

Trees [1]: In Shadow, Warren Ellis and Jason Howard
Image Comics|24th February 2015

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 recognise us as intelligent or alive.

Trees, a new science fiction graphic novel by Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan, Red) and Jason Howard (Super Dinosaur, Astounding Wolf-Man) looks at a near-future world where life goes on in the shadows of 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.

I have to admit that I was hugely disappointed with Trees. It has a fascinating premise and wonderfully muted, scratchy art, but I just couldn’t get involved. Flicking between the three points of view and I felt like it was a little disjointed. I liked that we saw the effects of the Trees on different parts of the world and how people had adapted in diverse ways, I never felt I got enough time with any of them to get to know them or make a connection – I couldn’t even tell you a single character’s name! I’m not 100% on what happened because it didn’t really feel like much happened at all.

The one thing about Trees that did stick with me was the diversity. With the international settings, we had characters of different races and a broad scope across the LGBT spectrum. Asexuality, being transgender, gay ad gender fluid were all discussed with confidence and comfort; it really promoted a free and happy environment to be who you are without judgement or fear. I’ve seen this so much in graphic novels, much more so than in YA and I continue to work on it until it becomes so openly present as it is in graphic novels.

Even with beautiful, sweeping art and a fantastically diverse cast, Trees didn’t have enough substance, enough of a hook to make me come back for Volume Two. Very disappointed.  


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