Tag Archives: gothic

Personal Demons

Authors: Tom & Nimue Brownpersonal-demons

Illustrator: Tom Brown

Hopeless, Maine, vol. 1

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Hopeless . . . both a place and a state of being on this cursed island off the coast of Maine. It is a place where the sun never shines, a place that invites demons–both metaphorical and actual. Salamandra is found alone (apart from the creepies) in a huge gothic house. Not a place to leave a child, so she is brought to an orphanage where she fits in not one bit. In her friendless state, she is approached by a smiling girl . . . whom no one else can see.

Personal Demons is not your typical graphic novel, that’s for sure. It’s more atmospheric rather than action oriented. And the atmosphere is done brilliantly. The whole setting is this eerie, dark gothic island inhabited not just by people but by all sorts of oddities that appear inspired by Hieronymus Bosch himself. The art is beautiful but atypical. (I believe this started as a webcomic, and there’s the freedom and individuality of style to this graphic novel that you would expect in a high-quality webcomic.) It’s done almost entirely in a dark monochromatic palette, barring a few flashes of brilliant color to emphasize the presence of magic (and yes, there’s definitely magic in this story). For the art, the concept, and the actualization of the concept I would have to give this book a 5 out of 5 rating. Where it fell flat for me, personally, was in the story itself. I didn’t fall in love with the characters, and the plot was not particularly original . . . thus the 3.5 instead of 5 stars. Still, Personal Demons is definitely an interesting graphic novel if only for the originality of the concept and the art–well worth giving it a try.

 

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Emily the Strange: the Lost Days

Authors: Rob Reger & Jessica Gruneremily the strange the lost days

Illustrators: Rob Reger & Buzz Parker

Emily the Strange, vol. 1

My rating: 5 of 5

Emily Strange is definitely Emily Strange, even when she doesn’t know it. Which is a good thing when she finds herself alone in the tiny town of Blackrock without a clue what she’s doing there–or what her name is or how she got there or anything else about herself! This is where a genius mind, a maniacal dedication to writing down everything, and a cunning ability to win over cats and local cafe girls comes in very handy. Especially when it becomes clear that she’s in town for some purpose . . . if she could only figure it out!

I might have mentioned this before, but I love the Emily the Strange books. I admit, I’ve read them all out of order, but in this case, I almost prefer it that way. The way this (the first) volume is set up, you come into the journal right with Emily–having no idea who she is or anything about her. Granted, her character shines through even in those circumstances, and yes, it would be fun to get to know her that way . . . but I liked knowing a bit about what was going on. I think it let me focus more on what on earth’s going on (?!), you know? I really, really enjoyed the development of the story through the journalistic form–I mean, I always enjoy that in Emily’s stories, but it suits this particular volume especially well. The plot is one that would only work with a crazy, amazing girl like Emily, but here it’s absolutely brilliant. And the lists–this book is absolutely chock full of top-thirteen lists, and it’s great! And of course, the stunning, imaginative black-and-red sketches scattered throughout, here supplemented with photographic snapshots–a perfect complement to the story and writing style. Seriously, these books are underrated and I would highly recommend them, whether you start with Emily the Strange: the Lost Days or one of the later volumes in the series.

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Emily the Strange: Stranger & Stranger

Authors: Rob Reger & Jessica GrunerStranger and Stranger

Illustrators: Rob Reger & Buzz Parker

Emily the Strange, vol. 2

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Emily and her feline companions are not thrilled to be moving yet again. Never mind that they’re a large part (okay, the whole part) of why the family has to move so frequently, what with Emily’s pranks, midnight prowls, unusual golem, and general, well, strangeness. Life in their new town of Silifordville doesn’t seem like it will be all bad though, and Emily quickly settles in to work on her most recent scientific experiment, a Duplicator. Things get very interesting when she gets a bit too reckless with said experiment and . . . duplicates herself. The possibilities are endless! But is this other Emily a new BFF and co-prankster/scientist/crazy cat-lover, or will she turn out to be a dangerous evil twin possessing a genius equal to the original?

I really, really enjoy the Emily the Strange series. They are not your average “always do the right thing, empathize with others, etc.” sort of story, for sure. What they are is quirky, funny, smart, dark, and full of self-confident girl power. Not right for everyone, I’m sure, but loads of fun in my opinion. The entire story is told in journal entries, and Emily’s unusual (extremely brainy and non-at-all socially inclined) personality shines through brilliantly throughout. This was sort of weird, but effective, in Stranger & Stranger because of some of the weirdness that occurred with the Duplicator. If you pay attention, you can definitely see differences in Emily’s personality throughout . . . very interesting indeed. I also love all the mad/brilliant science, art, rock, and feline love that permeates the story throughout. And don’t get me started on how cool all the actual art in the book is: sketches (many in red) of the most bizarre nature, diagrams, mock-photographs, etc. Plus, this particular volume has a fun band-names motif going throughout. I guess what I’m trying to say is that for those who enjoy a fun, darkly humorous, and definitely strange story with excellent art and a strong female lead (at only 13, no less!), Stranger & Stranger is definitely for you–so check it out!

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Emily the Strange: The Rock Issue

Authors/Illustrators: Rob Reger, Jessica Gruner, & Buzz Parker

Whether it’s inviting her ghost friends for tea, surviving an excruciating afternoon in traffic school, or cooking up a batch of rock soup (not necessarily intended for human consumption), Emily Strange is ready to rock. Actually in this, the fourth volume of the Emily the Strange comic book set, Emily is set to explore all things rock. As with the first volume of the comics, it’s both cool and somewhat weird to see Emily in graphic novel format. Emily the Strange: The Rock Issue is a huge mishmash of short comics, pictures, advertisements, etc. My personal favorites were the rock soup short and the two-page spread showing Emily’s cats demonstrating various rock styles. There were plenty of other interesting features, although on the whole this volume didn’t appeal to me as much as the first volume did. That’s my own fault though–I like rock, but I like a lot of other stuff just as well if not better. (Actually, as I’m writing this, I’m listening to Vocaloid–mostly Kagamines.)  So, while it will probably never be my favorite, I did find Emily the Strange: The Rock Issue to be an interesting graphic novel and one which does suit the main Emily Strange series, although in a weirder than normal way.

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Emily the Strange: Chairman of the Bored

Authors/Illustrators: Rob Reger, Brian Brooks, & Jessica Gruner

You think you’re bored? Well, Emily Strange is BORED! Fortunately, she has lots of experience with boredom and knows exactly what to do. Whether it’s distribute Strange Sauce at the school cafeteria and watch the grisly results, think up an unlucky (but perfect for a  Dark Girl) number of alternative uses for a wire hanger, or create macabre mixed taxidermy, Emily’s sure to find something to relieve her boredom. The question is, is the rest of the world ready for what she dreams up? . . . I think not.

Chairman of the Bored was an interesting outtake on the Emily Strange books, in my opinion. It’s the first of a set of loosely-termed “graphic novels” featuring our favorite antisocial Dark Girl heroine(?). I say “loosely-termed” because there’s nothing like a dominating storyline at all. Rather, the entire volume is a collection of short comics, diagrams, poems, and mock-advertisements–all featuring Emily’s boredom and methods of mitigating such. While the collection was really random, I felt like it stuck with the spirit of the Emily Strange novels, and it did have some quite interesting content. Emily the Strange: Chairman of the Bored is a “graphic novel” that I would recommend for current fans of the other Emily Strange books–particularly if you’re bored.

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Emily the Strange: Piece of Mind

Authors: Rob Reger & Jessica Gruner

Illustrators: Rob Reger & Buzz Parker

Busy, busy, BUSY! As if completing final projects for homeschool, retuning her golem, keeping her cats in line, and working on her newest line of inventions weren’t enough, Emily Strange receives a letter from her dear dead ancestors (don’t ask how that works; it’s a Dark Girl thing) telling her to take a trip to Seasidetown. Supposedly, when Emily gets there, her own Dark Girl powers–and related supply of the oh-so-useful black rock–will awaken. Unfortunately, there’s no sign of her black rock when she gets to Seasidetown. Even more unfortunately, there are wanted posters everywhere–with HER face on them!

I really enjoyed geeking out over Piece of Mind. Emily’s personality and style are supremely interesting, and the catchy journalistic writing is great fun to read. The plot is well crafted and ties together with the previous volumes enough to make if fun for someone who’s read them, but not so much as to lose someone starting out with this volume (the fourth of the set). I love the attitude, love the cats, love the random, slightly freaky scribbles. Basically, I loved Piece of Mind. Read it . . . if you’re strange enough to.

Note: Super random, but I love the haiku dedication.

 

 

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Emily the Strange: Dark Times

Authors: Rob Reger & Jessica Gruner

Illustrator: Rob Reger

Another new town, another year of school to get herself excused from. All in a day’s work for Emily Strange. Well, maybe this year she’ll actually give school a chance–and homeschool herself! Courses will include: fingerpainting, particle physics, Krav Maga martial arts, and History of the Strange Family 101 (among others). As Emily studies her family history, it becomes apparent that she will have to travel back to 1790 to save one of her ancestors. Back in 1790, things become a bit touch-and-go, especially as Emily has run out of fuel for her Time-Out Machine. Still, being a competent Dark Girl, Emily’s bound to think up a plan . . . and earn loads of extra credit while she’s at it.

I love it! The entire story is told as a journal, complete with pictures, photographs, lists, and notes to self. The tone is very conversational, and the characterization is amazing. Emily is brilliantly revealed through her journal, and she is quite the . . . well, strange character. She is nocturnal, scarily intelligent, sassy, cat-loving, shy, and mostly prepared–and she’s only been to school 13 days in her thirteen years of life! The illustrations capture the tone wonderfully, being presented as drawings (and fingerpaintings) Emily makes or photographs she pasted into the journal. Good stuff . . . but mostly recommended for those with a more hipster sort of taste.

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