Tuesday 17 November 2015

Graphic Novel Round-Up (4): Nimona, Saga: Volume 5 and The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Nimona, Noelle Stevenson
Harper Teen|18th June 2015|purchased

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realises that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

I actually didn’t really know what Nimona was about until I started reading it. I picked it up purely on the praise on Twitter and Goodreads!

Nimona is a brilliant heroine. She’s bolshy and clever and consistently underestimated. Nimona is particularly skilled at villainy and when she teams up with supervillain Lord Blackheart, who’s a surprisingly moral supervillain, they get a little out of control. And yet Nimona is still underestimated as ‘a little girl’. There’s a lot of mystery around Nimona – where she's from? Who she is? What is she capable of? I really can't answer any of these questions without major spoilers so I’ll just say that Nimona is a story of feminism, stereotypes, heroes and villains that is funny, sharp and gorgeously illustrated. Go and read it.

Saga: Volume 5, Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Image Comics|15th September 2015|purchased

While Gwendolyn and Lying Cat risk everything to find a cure for The Will, Marko makes an uneasy alliance with Prince Robot IV to find their missing children, who are trapped on a strange world with terrifying new enemies.

Every new trade of this series is an event for me and the long awaited Volume 5 was no exception.

There is a lot of focus on war and parenthood in the issues that comprise this volume. Alana, Marko and Hazel have been separated, Prince IV’s son has been kidnapped and Sophie, The Brand and Gwendolyn are searching for the – rather disgusting – cure for The Will. Everyone is fighting for the people they love in this instalment and there are some incredibly poignant moments about loss, sacrifice and love during war. There are also a few surprising panels on the effect on women, and I say surprising because this isn’t what I'd really call a feminist comic – though it does have some incredibly, badass protagonists.

Because of all of the searching, there wasn’t as much plot-wise as there was in the previous instalments. It was all action and reflection and some important flashbacks into Marko’s past. I was really surprised at some of the things revealed about his past and it only went to develop his character in the same way that Alana’s experiences developed her in the previous volume. It doesn’t seem to matter what terrible things these characters do or have done, I love them endlessly. 

Volume 5 wasn’t quite as mind-blowing as the previous trades, but it was still a thoroughly brilliant addition to a wonderful series. I want more already.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Russell Brand
Canongate|1st October 2015|review copy

They say cometh the hour
Cometh the man

That means wen a situation demands it, the right person – it could be a woman, despite what Sexist Dave would tell you – will appear. This was the hour and in this case the man was a Piper. A Pied Piper.

Welcome to Russel Brand’s Hamelin, where revolution is afoot…

I was really disappointed by everything about this apart from Chris Riddell’s illustrations.

This is a strange combination of graphic novel and children’s book and I honestly don’t know which it is more. It has an obvious, in-your-face political agenda; uses words kids won't understand and then explains them in the narrative; and the characters the story focuses are the adults, even though it’s clearly meant to be the kids. I was hoping for something witty and satirical and clever and it just wasn’t.

But Chris Riddell knocked it out of the park as ever. His illustrations were cute, gruesome, funny and full of life – they were the only thing I kept reading for and he earned this book the two stars I gave it on Goodreads! It should have been a straight up, no text picture book. It would have shone.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin just didn’t work for me. It tried too hard to be something it wasn’t and maybe I would have enjoyed it more if Russell Brand had let it come together organically instead of forcing an audience and agenda.

Thanks to Canongate for the review copy of this.


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