Review: Pumpkinheads

PumpkinheadsRainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks, Pumpkinheads

Deja and Josiah are high school seniors who have worked at the local pumpkin patch every fall for the past three years. They don’t interact much in winter, spring, or summer, but when they’re working together at the Succotash Hut, they’re firm friends. This year, introspective Josiah is contemplating the bittersweet fact that tonight is his last night at the patch; in response, outgoing Deja declares that they need to make the most of it by having an adventure. She encourages Josiah to finally approach his longtime crush, the girl who works at the Fudge Shoppe, but Josiah will only do it if Deja comes along for moral support. Their mission takes them all over the pumpkin patch, from the various food vendors to the bumper cars to the corn maze. Along the way, they reminisce about how they first met and about how much they’ve enjoyed their time at the patch. When Josiah finally catches up with the Fudge Shoppe girl, he realizes that he needs to accomplish one more mission before leaving the pumpkin patch behind.

I’m a big Rainbow Rowell fan, so I was predisposed to like this book even though I don’t normally read graphic novels. And I will say that, while Faith Erin Hicks’s art is very cute and charming, it didn’t add very much to the story for me. But I think I’m just not a very visual person, so your mileage may vary! Anyway, I very much enjoyed the story, which perfectly encapsulates that bittersweet feeling of nostalgia that comes with the end of an era. I also loved the contrast between Josiah and Deja in their attitude toward change: Josiah is a melancholy, head-in-the-clouds type, whereas Deja is more pragmatic and confident. She gives him the kick in the pants he needs to get out of his own head, while his gentleness and sincerity disarm her. I completely bought their friendship and enjoyed watching it develop as the story unfolded. The plot is not particularly suspenseful, but there were times when I genuinely didn’t know how everything would turn out. (I had certain hopes, but I wasn’t sure until a fair way into the book.) Overall, this is a lightweight but very enjoyable story, and I’d love to see it as a movie!

Review: Nimona

NimonaNoelle Stevenson, Nimona

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 realizes 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. (Summary from Amazon.com.)

I don’t read a lot of graphic novels but had heard great things about Nimona, so I decided to give it a try. Overall, I really enjoyed it! The artwork is very appealing, and because Nimona is a shapeshifter, it makes sense that the story would be told in this format. I also personally loved the character of Ballister Blackheart, supposed supervillain, who actually has a conscience and some well-founded suspicions about the Institution. The turns of the plot are rather predictable, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially with this type of story. I also found Nimona to be an interesting and complex character; she does some truly awful things in the course of the story, but she’s given enough depth and humanity that she remains sympathetic. Overall, I would definitely recommend this for graphic novel fans or for people who are interested in exploring the genre.

Review: Saga, Volumes 3-4

Saga Volume 3Saga Volume 4

Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples, Saga: Volume Three and Saga: Volume Four

Volumes 3 and 4 of this saga (see what I did there?) continue the story of star-crossed lovers Marko and Alana and their daughter, Hazel, who is now a toddler. Fleeing their many pursuers, the family first takes shelter with Alana’s favorite author, D. Oswald Heist, whose romance novels have a surprisingly political subtext. But they’re unable to stay there for long, since a variety of people (and other entities) are hot on their trail. These pursuers include: The Will, a bounty hunter who’s still grieving for his dead paramour; Marko’s ex-fiancée Gwendolyn, who has a score to settle; a robot prince who’s following orders, even though he’d rather be at home with his wife and son; and two tabloid reporters named Upsher and Doff. Now, in addition to the many dangers that Marko and Alana will face if they’re caught, they also begin to face troubles within their marriage. Alana gets a job that introduces her to a dangerous drug, while Marko is tempted by a young mother he meets while at the playground with Hazel.

I enjoyed the first two volumes of this series, and I’m pleased that these two volumes continue to be entertaining, with a nice blend of dark humor and pathos. I remember being a little bit confused in the earlier installments because of the plethora of characters, but I think I’m clearer now about what’s going on. I was particularly happy to get a little more background on the robot kingdom, so I can see now how they fit into the bigger picture. I’m genuinely concerned about Hazel and her little family, and I hope they will be able to stick together going forward! I also have a soft spot for The Will and am interested to see what happens to him next. I definitely think that fans of graphic novels and/or science fiction should check out this series. Unfortunately, I believe only four volumes have been published as of now, but I’ll definitely look for Volume 5 when it comes out!

Review: Saga, Volumes 1-2

Saga Volume 1Saga Volume 2

Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples, Saga: Volume One and Saga: Volume Two

This graphic novel tells the story of one family’s struggle to survive in the midst of a brutal interplanetary war. Alana is from Landfall, the largest planet in the galaxy. Marko is from Wreath, its satellite. When they meet, they fall in love almost immediately; but unfortunately for them, Landfall and Wreath have been at war for as long as anyone can remember. Since both Alana’s and Marko’s people disapprove of their marriage, the star-crossed lovers have no choice but to flee. They end up on the remote backwater planet of Cleave, where their daughter Hazel is born. The story is narrated by Hazel as she describes her parents’ escape from the forces seeking to tear them apart. But various parties from both Landfall and Cleave are pursuing this family, and it will take all their courage and ingenuity to survive.

After seeing some positive reviews of Saga, I decided to give the series a try, even though I generally don’t read graphic novels. (I have nothing against them, but I’m not a very visual person, so I generally find the artwork more distracting than helpful for the story.) I’m very glad I gave this series a chance, since I ended up enjoying it quite a bit. The story is very compelling and spans several genres, from romance to survival adventure to space opera. I loved the banter between Alana and Marko, who clearly care a lot about each other and express their love through teasing. I also found Hazel’s voice to be very compelling, and I look forward to seeing how she grows as the series progresses. There’s some colorful language and a few graphic (ha ha) images, so be warned if that bothers you. Overall, I definitely plan to continue with the series, and I already have Volumes 3 and 4 from the library!