Tag Archives: outsiders

Review: The Little Mermaid

Title: Little Mermaid
Author: Metaphrog
Illustrator: ‎Metaphrog
Publisher: Papercutz
Publication Date: July 11, 2017

Plot Synopses (provided by publisher):The Little Mermaid is Hans Christian Andersen’s most celebrated tale and is beautifully adapted here as a graphic novel by the Eisner award nominated duo Metaphrog (Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers), winners of the Sunday Herald Scottish Culture Awards Best Visual Artist 2016, and authors of the acclaimed The Red Shoes and Other Tales.

The Little Mermaid lives deep under the ocean and longs to see the world above. When at last she is allowed to rise to the surface at age fifteen, she falls in love with a young prince. In order to become a human and to be with him, she makes a dangerous pact with the Sea Witch.

Overall rating: 4/5

Spoilers below

Overall: Because there isn’t a lot of text, this book feels very short, but it really does capture the entire story and all of its accompanying emotions very handily. I’ll get into it below, but the art is amazing. The story is a classic for a reason – everyone can relate to unrequited love and the idea of being completely overlooked. I also like that they didn’t age up the main character. She’s 15 and acts 15, and her choices would never be made if she were 5 years older.

Main themes/tropes: outsiders, sacrifice, unhappy endings, unrequited love

Plot: The classic plot, completely unDisneyfied. Hans Christian Andersen really wrote some fucked up shit. The story is laid out in the most barebones way possible, letting the art tell the story instead of the words.

Characters: Besides the Little Mermaid (who is never given a name), all of the characters are two-dimensional and barely in the story. The prince is particularly flat, and I can’t tell if it’s deliberate (making him a cipher) or not. It makes her choices regarding him seem particularly stupid, which may be the point, or if the point is more that her choices are her choices, and he’s part of it but not the biggest part.

Art: The art is amazing, rich and colorful. It’s done mostly in cool colors to reflect the melancholy of the story. The pages are black, so there’s an added depth to the color. The faces are expressive and unique.

Review: Thornhill

Title: Thornhill
Author: Pam Smy
Illustrator: Pam Smy
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Plot Synopses (provided by publisher): Parallel stories set in different times, one told in prose and one in pictures, converge as a girl unravels the mystery of the abandoned Thornhill Institute next door.

1982: Mary is a lonely orphan at the Thornhill Institute for Children at the very moment that it’s shutting its doors. When her few friends are all adopted or re-homed and she’s left to face a volatile bully alone, her revenge will have a lasting effect on the bully, on Mary, and on Thornhill itself.

2017: Ella has just moved to a new town where she knows no one. From her room on the top floor of her new home, she has a perfect view of the dilapidated, abandoned Thornhill Institute across the way, where she glimpses a girl in the window. Determined to befriend the girl and solidify the link between them, Ella resolves to unravel Thornhill’s shadowy past.

Told in alternating, interwoven plotlines―Mary’s through intimate diary entries and Ella’s in bold, striking art―Pam Smy’s Thornhill is a haunting exploration of human connection, filled with suspense.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Spoilers below

Main themes/tropes: outsiders, hauntings, lonely girls, creepy old house

Plot: Excellent building tension with enough ambiguity so that it could go almost any way right up until the very end, and the end is satisfying. One thing I appreciated was at no point was there any coyness about Mary being a ghost – that particular “twist” (can you even call it a twist anymore?) has truly been beaten into the ground at this point.

Mary’s bullying feels very visceral and true to life, and her slowly deteriorating mental health recalls Eleanor in The Haunting of Hill House (also a book about someone who dies rather than leave a place) and her voice is clear.

The Mary sections are the most suspenseful, but the Ella sections, sans dialogue/interaction with anyone else as they are, really show how isolated and lonely she is. While the ending is unexpected, it does make sense, given her circumstances.

Characters: Mary is the character we get to know and understand. Ella is more of a blank – we never know what she thinks or feels about anything, so the audience is left to project motivations onto her until the very end of the book, and even then we’re not sure if she knew she would die when she went to Thornhill or if Mary lured her to her death without explanation.

Mary’s tormentor is obviously one of the villains of the book, but most of my ire was focused on the adult caregivers in Mary’s life that are completely oblivious to what’s going on right under their noses.

Art: The art is black and white, reflecting the disturbing vibe of the text. It’s gorgeous and full of trees and plants, contrasting to the dolls and doll parts that look very creepy.

Five Reasons to Read This:
1. Rising tension that resolves awesomely
2. Atmospheric art
3. Dark story about girl bullying
4. A story that will stick with you long after you’ve put the book down
5. The ending opens the door to more deaths, and the reader is left to decide how that would develop

Review: Backstagers volume 1

Title: Backstagers vol 1
Author: James Tynion IV
Illustrator: Rian Sygh
Publisher: BOOM!
Publication Date: July 19, 2017

Plot Synopses (from publisher): James Tynion IV (Detective Comics, The Woods) teams up with artist Rian Sygh (Munchkin, Stolen Forest) for an incredibly earnest story that explores what it means to find a place to fit in when you’re kinda an outcast. When Jory transfers to an all-boys private high school, he’s taken in by the lowly stage crew known as the Backstagers. Hunter, Aziz, Sasha, and Beckett become his new best friends and introduce him to an entire magical world that lives beyond the curtain that the rest of the school doesn’t know about, filled with strange creatures, changing hallways, and a decades-old legend of a backstage crew that went missing and was never found. Collects the first four issues. “With heart and chutzpah to spare, [The Backstagers] soars as a sincere love letter to the unsung heroes of the theater world.” – Newsarama

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Spoilers below

Main themes/tropes: outsiders, new on the scene, found family

Plot: As someone who did a lot of backstage work in high school, I’ve been looking forward to reading this for a while. At first I was disappointed when I realized it wouldn’t even try to incorporate realism, but the weirdness definitely grew on me. The hook into the second volume is interesting enough to keep readers going straight to that volume (it came out recently!)

Characters: Jory’s adorable and an excellent choice for the introductory character/audience stand-in. All of the characters are well-formed enough that by the end of the volume was able to 1) remember their names, and 2) know something about them, except for Aziz, whi seemed to be left behind in all the major plot points. I struggled with Sasha a lot, because that kind of infantile character always drives me up the wall (see also: Lumberjanes) but the group is cohesive enough that by the end of it I had not quite come around, but was convinced the group would be less compelling without him.

Spiders, though. Why does it always have to be giant spiders?

Art: The art is vibrant and interesting, with each character (besides the McQueens, of course) having a very different look. The panels are full but not overcrowded.

5 Reasons to read it:

  • Jory is adorable. Seriously.
  • Low-key fantasy elements and weirdness, but the real focus is on the characters.
  • The technical elements of working backstage on a production are simplified but still really present – if you have an interest in such thing, you’d appreciate this
  • The tunnels are legitimately creepy
  • The found family theme is particularly strong.