I don’t think the plotting of Stage Dreams entirely works, and I tend to want to see the Civil War addressed more seriously and the “Wild West” unpacked quite a bit, but that’s really not the point. The point is that Stage Dreams offers a rollicking Wild West adventure starring queer and trans characters, and it’s light-hearted and fun and really sweet. There’s a stagecoach heist and a Confederate party that needs to be crashed and some important documents that must be stolen and a love story straight from the movies (as in people only fall in love that fast and in those circumstances in the movies). It’s a book I think that readers need and deserve, and I want to read many more just like it. The color palette is gorgeous, and I enjoyed Gillman’s art once again. (Her earlier graphic novel, As the Crow Flies, is a must-read).
I’ll be honest: I’ve completely forgotten the story of Hicotea already and I only read it two days ago. I thought the GoodReads description would jog my memory, but it’s mostly just added another layer of confusion. Wait, is THAT what the story was about? So the development of the story isn’t the strength here. You read Hicotea for Lorena Alvarez’s eye-popping art. The spreads are so enchanting and magical that I found myself pouring over the illustrations and forgetting that there were any words to be read. (Which is surely another reason why I can’t remember the plot or characters at all.)
I don’t think the title and cover of This Place: 150 Years Retold begin to do the book justice (though the cover is growing on me). This book is exactly why I wanted to be a Cybils judge in the first place. I wouldn’t necessarily have picked this book up on my own: it’s really big, for one, and it’s a collection of stories, which I don’t tend to enjoy as much as one longer narrative, and the art style changes from chapter to chapter, which I find disorienting. But pick it up I did, and I found myself entirely enthralled and now eager to get this book into the hands of every reader I know. It starts from a powerful premise–that Indigenous peoples have been living in post-apocalyptic times since their first contact with European colonizers. Each chapter is written and illustrated by different Indigenous writers and artists and retells pieces of the past 150 years of Indigenous history and experiences in Canada. Some of the stories are strictly historical; others have a fantastical or magic realism element. The art style varies as well with some stories looking like more traditional comics and others really pushing the boundaries of the form.
I love LOVE Don Brown’s graphic novels, and I wanted to love this fully, but I only love it partly. It’s a slim little volume of history–the story of the flu that spread around the world in 1918 and killed an astounding 50 million people. As always, Brown manages to tell a huge, complex story without very many words. My struggle with this book is the way that it largely erases people of color. Sure, there are a few included here and there. But for the most part, the images and the story are very white, which serves to erase from history the experiences and contributions of people of color.
Stay tuned later this week for a Cybils Round-up Review post of all the REST of the graphic novels I’ve read over the past couple of weeks!
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