What I Read Last Month | Graphic Novels and Manga

Man, there are a lot of seriously good graphic novels and manga out there! I'd been reading a lot of pretty dense novels so I wanted to give myself a break and get back into some graphic novels. Once I started I didn't stop. I picked pretty well, there was only one series I didn't like so much. Without further ado, let's get into the wrap-up!



Image Comics

What's it about?

Saga is incredible. It's an epic space fantasy created by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. It follows Alana and Marko, two parents from extraterrestrial races embroiled in a vicious, long intergalactic war. The couple found love and created life against all odds but unfortunately for them, authorities on both sides want them silenced. Permanently. The series is a little bit of a cat and mouse game with Marko and Alana hopping from planet to planet trying to protect the family they just built with some help from some friends along the way.

What I liked
There is so much packed into this series, so many different characters, life forms, and the world-building is excellent. Each character adds something unique and interesting to the story, and each has their own unique story to add. There's violence there's sex and there's diversity. All the characters have great depth and are multilayered. The story is witty, raunchy, the characters each have and has loads of laugh out loud moments and even more WTF ones.



What's it about?
Vagabond is a fictionalized account of legendary Samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, who is a powerful fixture in Japanese folklore and considered the best swordsman in Japanese history. It's written and illustrated by the extremely talented Takehiko Inoue.

It's a Seinen manga (which means it's meant to be targeted to young adult men) that's been going since 1998.

17-year-old Shinmen Takezo finds himself on the run as a fugitive survivor on the losing side of the battle of Sekigahara after having abandoned his village with his childhood friend Honiden Matahachi, one of the only two people that truly like him. Takez┼Ź is quite a troubled kid who is shunned by his village and branded a demon child and a beast, a title he comes to love. He suffers from abandonment issues and as a result, is harbouring a lot of anger. He is incredibly strong and managed to kill a full grown man when he was only 13. He has this insatiable desire to become  'invincible under the sun' and to make a name for himself by living by the sword and defeating and challenging powerful opponents and conquering kendo schools. This book is all about what he learns and how he grows along the way.

The plot is ultimately about what it means to be the best. It brings up questions like what does it mean to be strong? What happens when you eventually become the strongest? Is the point in it? It's as much about physical growth as mental growth.

What I liked
The art is gorgeous. It'll take you twice as long to read this book because you'll spend a lot of time just admiring the beautiful artwork. If you're muser, you'll love this book. It leans from Buddhist teachings and gives you lots of ideas to ponder.

The characters are fleshed out really well, and each one brings something really strong and special to the manga. This is a very bloody story, which personally I like. It's realistic, it's calculated, it's strategic. You'll have to make your own conclusion about what it means and take from it what you will. I can't wait to read the rest of the volumes.

Paper Girls

Image Comics

What's it about
This series sees Saga writer Brian K. Vaughan and Wonder Woman artist Cliff Chiang. In 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls discover something pretty horrifying in the early hours following Halloween. It's not hard to draw similarities with Stranger things in this suburban time-hopping drama. It's like Stand By Me, but with aliens and time travel.

What I liked (and didn't)
This was my least favourite comic of the month. While the artwork is beautiful, I found the story lacking. I was expecting a lot from Brian K. Vaughn but this didn't deliver for me. It's a cute little story but it wasn't compelling enough for me to stick it out past volume 4.

Alex + Ada

Image Comics

What's it about?
Alex + Ada is an American comic book series created by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn. Turns out there are a lot of Vaughns in the comic book world.

It's a sci-fi drama set in the future very close to our own world. This very Black Mirror-esque story follows Alex who is struggling to cope after a breakup. After his super-rich grandmother drops a brand new customised X5, ( a very realistic android), on his doorstep the first thing he wants to do it send it right back. But after meeting her for the first time, Alex's whole life changes as he finds out what it means to be alive. Alex becomes quite unsettled by how, I guess, robot Ada is. He believes there could be so much more to her if she had the chance to reach her full potential.
This all happens at a time where there's been a rise in sentient androids and a few instances of robots attacking humans. As a result, there's a lot of hostility towards androids and it's a little bit of McCarthyist vibe going on with innocent android ending up attacked because of the growing fear and unrest.

What I liked (and didn't)
If you like Black Mirror you'll love this. I really enjoyed the story and I thought the plot advanced quite nicely. Alex is quite a bland character, he doesn't have much of a personality and I didn't really connect with him all that much.

The story raises a lot of questions about what artificial intelligence means and whether robots should have rights. Should robots be given the right to have free will if they have the ability to achieve it? While I didn't quite like the artwork, I found the black panels interesting. The did a great job of making the artwork look quite cinematic.

Check it out here.

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