Tag Archives: Graphic Novel

L: Review of Noelle Stevenson’s “Nimona”

If I many be so bold, I’d like to commend myself for taking great strides towards being a more versatile, well-rounded reader within the last 6 months. If you take a quick trip down memory lane, back to some of my earliest posts, you’ll see that I found a number of ways to clearly indicate that my preferences leaned exclusively towards hard-copy versions of the classics. Nowadays, however, at least half (if not more) of my recreational literary conquests are YA, as well as the relatively unfamiliar (to me) genre of graphic novels, including my latest completion, Noelle Stevenson’s 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.

Nimona is considered to be a YA text, and I think it fits into that genre perfectly. The main character, Nimona’s, age is never specified, but her personality and behavior in situations of villainy make it easy to assume she is a young adult. Nimona’s character is complex, immature, consistently laugh-out-loud funny, and mysterious. Like many teens (and full-blown adults, like myself), Nimona uses humor and sarcasm to navigate serious situations and mask her feelings. Nimona is a product of her past and, although that past is a mystery to readers for most of the novel, her penchant for violence echos throughout her actions, calling into question her motivations for pairing up with Lord Ballister Blackheart, the kingdom villain.

Stevenson’s characters are complex, having hidden agendas, suppressed feelings, longstanding conflicts, and rich backstories. No character is defined by his/her title and, in fact, those titles (hero, villain, sidekick, etc.) are often called into question by his/her actions. Although readers get significantly fewer words with graphic novels, the pictures help to fill in the blanks and (literally) illustrate aspects of the characters and situations that take twice as much time to convey with standard novels. Also, the images were imaginative, descriptive, and utterly adorable. Just look at the emotion and attitude in her panels, as well as the humor (look at the little shark boobies! So unexpected and funny!). In those ways, I loved it!

However, I’m not sure that I got the chance to connect with these characters. Reading a graphic novel, for me, is like watching a TV show; I’m just a spectator. I get fewer asides, monologues, and inner thoughts. I see things at face value, exactly as the author intended, so there is little room for creative interpretation or personalization. Also, I finished Nimona in one afternoon, and a busy afternoon at that. It was an effortlessly quick read, meaning that I didn’t linger with these characters for days at a time. We met, we faced trials, we resolved those trials, and now they’re gone and I don’t miss them. Why would I? I hardly knew them. I wonder if I would think differently had it been a standard novel? I wonder if this concern has occurred to others, or if I’m alone in my distance?

Like I said before, with the exception of the Maus books, I’m extremely new to graphic novels. However, my experience with them has proven them to be delightful deviations from the standard novel format. I see many advantages to the graphic novels format, as well as disadvantages. Regardless, putting this book into the right students’ hands could give fresh insight into really current and relevant problems. It was a fun and meaningful read!

SIDEBAR: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is coming! I pre-ordered my copy and July cannot get here soon enough!

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L: Review of Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” and “Maus II”

Click here for IMDB

Click here for IMDB

I watched a movie the other night called “People, Places, Things” mostly because Jemaine Clement starred in it and I will follow him to the ends of this Earth. I was pleasantly surprised, however, when Jemaine’s character drew comics and taught a class on the ways graphic stories can convey important messages to readers. He also argued the importance of adding graphic novels to the texts discussed in college-level Literature classes and that the genre’s absence from Literature classes keeps its stories from being perceived as a legitimate form of literature. The presence of these elements of what I assumed would be a typical romantic comedy took me by surprise since just last week I read my first graphic novel and immediately saw the value of adding it to a classroom setting.

Click here for Goodreads

Click here for Goodreads

Every person learns differently. Every person has different interests and skills that can affect the way that they intake information, or fail to do so. I, for one, am a very visual learner. I can hear something all day long and I’ll absorb it as well as possible, but when I see something, not visualize but physically see it, my ability to retain that information is increased tenfold. Herein lies arguably the most valuable feature of the graphic novel. Not only am I reading the author’s words, but I’m unmistakably seeing what (s)he intended for me to see. Now, some may argue that this removes the reader’s ability to use their imagination to formulate the images, but I say poo-poo to that argument. Sometimes, the author needs to convey messages that may be beyond the reader’s imagination, or at least outside of what readers may be comfortable picturing. Such was the case with Art Spiegelman’s graphic novels, Maus and Maus II.

Click here for Goodreads

Click here for Goodreads

The stories are told from the perspective of Art who is telling the story of his father, Vladek Spiegelman’s, experiences during World War II and the Holocaust. Understanding the horrific magnitude of Vladek’s memories would be visceral and disturbing enough if told in a standard, narrative novel format, but the use of images to support the story and offer visual perspective elevates the level of understanding and thereby disbelief at the atrocities recounted in the stories. Through my reading experience, I repeatedly noted that in order for these novels to be incorporated into a high school classroom, I would have to ensure that my students were mature enough to digest the information appropriately, or simply limit their exposure to the most graphic parts by only reading excerpts instead of the whole. However, I don’t wish to do that in my classroom. The fact that these things are hard to read does not in any way mean that they should not be read, and we do not reverse the course of history by veiling the truth. The truth deserves to be told, and I wouldn’t hesitate to incorporate these graphic novels into a WWII or Holocaust-focused lesson.

These novels have a story to tell and, if one can only set aside any preconceived ideas about the maturity or age level of “comics,” you could truly learn something from them. I highly recommend them.

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Filed under Book Review, Lindsay