Category Archives: Graphic Novels

Comic Scene

Tony from Comic Scene kindly sent me copies of the first six months of this new magazine to have a look at, and I asked if he’d like to do an introductory post for the blog. Not only has he written a blurb about the fascinating range of articles, as well as reviews and original comic strips, he has also very generously included a special offer and prize draw for librarians who would like to encourage wider reading of comics and graphic novels, see below!

ComicScene Magazine is a new magazine which guides librarians, adults and children to what classic and contemporary comics to try, and what graphic novels from U.K., US and European publishers people should be reading.  It also introduces you to the exciting and eclectic work of independent and small press comics.  For those who love superhero movies and TV shows they go back to the original comic source of the films and TV.  Many of the original comics inspiring films, such as the Avengers, are over 30 to 40 years old, so a rich source of material to explore.  Did you also know publishers like Rebellion are publishing new Roy of the Rovers comics and bringing back girls comics like Tammy, Jinty & Misty? Comic Fans love the magazine – but the main aim of the title is to help those parents/carers who casually read boys and girls comics when they were younger to revist old friends or recommend comics to their children and grandchildren.   From the current issue they have also introduced some of the best comic strips being produced today with plans for a dedicated pull out comic section for adults to give to their children to encourage reading and improve literacy.  It’s the only monthly magazine dedicated to comics and comic culture being published today in the U.K. and Ireland and we’d recommend it as your guide. The magazine is available to buy in selected WHSmiths, McColls and Easons in Ireland, and it can be ordered in any newsagent or comic shop.  Just pop your postcode into the shop finder to check what local stores stock the magazine. Libraries can also subscribe monthly to the magazine or subscribe in print or digital from £2.50 a copy digital or £5.50 in print (with free digital copy).

On the ComicScene shop they have just added the first six months of the magazine in a £30 pack and if a library purchases a pack and/or subscribes before the end of July they will be put in a draw to get their subscription back for the year PLUS £100 of free Graphic Novels (email comicsceneuk@gmail.com when you have made your order).

With sales of graphic novels for children on the rise and University courses now available to study producing comics and comic history who knows – you could be inspiring the next comic writer or artist by introducing the magazine to your library!

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea!

The first two Narwhal books by Ben Clanton

These graphic novels are a brilliant introduction to the medium for young readers, written and drawn by Canadian Ben Clanton they are short and simple but wonderfully silly, about the adventures of best friends Narwhal and Jelly. The first two books are out in the UK now!

Narwhal and Jelly meet for the first time in the first story

I literally laughed out loud at the banter, the stories are just joyful and so much is said in very few words. I can’t imagine anyone of any age, from 5+, not loving this series (book 3 is due in September). They tackle friendship, embracing difference, and all sorts of emotions, and they’re totally adorable and really funny. For information lovers, there are pages of facts about creatures mentioned in the stories.

Yes, that is a narwhal and a jellyfish enjoying waffles on the other page!

When Egmont asked if I’d like review copies for the blog I jumped at them (thankyou for sending them to me), because the glimpse of the comic strip on the press release immediately brought to mind another underwater character that I love, who could really do with a Narwhal and Jelly in her life: Lucy the Octopus by Richy K. Chandler. He’s visited two of my schools to do comics workshops and all of the students have had a great time with him, I highly recommend getting him in. When he visited my current school a couple of years ago he gave us a couple of printed volumes of the webcomic (still available to buy), but there is now a hardback graphic novel you can buy for your library to bring cheer to the lives of all your anxious (& possibly bullied) faves (recommended to age 9+)

Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist


Joe Quinn tells everyone about the poltergeist in his house, but no one believes him. No one that is, except for Davie. He’s felt the inexplicable presence in the rooms, he’s seen random objects fly through the air. And there’s something else … a memory of his beloved sister, and a feeling deep down that somehow it might be possible for ghosts to exist.


David Almond is one of the most interesting writers for children in the UK, creating unique, thought provoking, and curious stories and characters (including the much loved ‘Skellig’). ‘Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist’ is one that is heavily influenced by his childhood near Newcastle, growing up in a Catholic family living in a council estate (until he was 13). The introduction tells us a bit about this background, his loss of a sister when he was aged 7, and his love of reading and libraries. The story itself is not so much a ghost story as a story of a boy hoping for something, coming to terms with grief, and realising that life goes on even while you work out what you believe.

I had already read ‘Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist’, as it is one of the short stories in his collection ‘Half a Creature from the Sea‘, published by Walker in 2014, but reading it again with Dave McKean‘s illustrations was a whole new experience. When judging the Kate Greenaway nominations, you need to consider how much the illustrations are an integral part of the story, whether it would be the same or lesser without them, and this is one where I would easily say that it leaves a lasting impression far enhancing that of the words on their own. The pacing of the text and placement in and around the illustrations flows beautifully, the pages are so evocative while the faces of the characters show so much emotion, and I fully expect to see this on the 2020 Greenaway longlist.

Thankyou so much to Walker books for sending me a copy of ‘Joe Quinn’s Poltergeist‘ to review. Their site suggests it is for readers aged 9+, I’d put a heavy emphasis on the ‘+’ because it is one of those that can be skimmed or read deeply and speaks on many levels.

This is the fourth of Almond’s books that McKean has illustrated, Slog’s Dad and The Savage are a similar format and of a similar brilliance, ‘Mouse Bird Snake Wolf’ is suitable from a slightly younger age. I suggest if you’ve not seen them already you seek them out too!

The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship by Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham

Today, the 18th May 2017 marks the 156th anniversary of the ship that became known as the Mary Celeste, the ship that achieved notoriety when it was discovered adrift and deserted in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Azores Islands, on December 5, 1872.


Another mystery ship is the Mary Alice – the ghostly ship whose crew travels the seven seas unbound by time first set sale in the first issue of the sadly scuppered weekly comic The DFC, then, as now it was penned by the inimitable Philip Pullman. The original artist was the phenomenal John Aggs; when it took to the high seas in the pages of The Phoenix it was redrawn by the equally talented (but new to me) Fred Fordham. The Pullman/Fordham collaboration is now available as a graphic novel, produced by David Fickling Books and the Phoenix Comic.

I grew up of tales of ghostly ships and spectral schooners, living as I did on the coast with a father who was an ex-navy man and The Mystery of The Ghost Ship reawakened that part of me that thrilled to nautical tales of hair-raising mystery and derring-do. With a no-nonsense heroine teamed up with a mysterious boy and a whole crew of time-displaced sailors all trying to get back to their timelines and survive an all-powerful foe determined to destroy them for reasons of his own.

This book is a thing of beauty, a hardback with a beautiful full-colour dust jacket that hides a gorgeous navy blue cover emblazoned with a mysterious, glowing Macguffin. Speaking as a somewhat obsessive book collector – the outward appearance of items that I choose to keep on my shelves is incredibly important – almost as important as the art and story contained on the pages within and believe me when I say the reread potential in this tome is incredibly high – the story works just as well huddled up in bed under the duvet at midnight with a torch (my favourite reading location) as it does on a bright summer day at the seaside!

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia Butler, John Jennings and Damian Duffy

I’m black, I’m solitary, I’ve always been an outsider!
~ Octavia E. Butler

Octavia Butler has been described as the greatest science fiction writer of her generation, not the greatest female science fiction writer or the greatest African-American science fiction writer, she is simply put, one of the greatest! Her words cut across class, race and gender and have found a home in the collections of millions of readers the world over!

She was awarded two Hugo Awards, two Nebula Awards and the PEN Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also the first science fiction writer to win a MacArthur “Genius” fellowship.

Kindred is one of her best-known novels; the tale of Dana, a modern young woman swept back in time to an earlier period in history, in this case the antebellum South, a time of cotillions, southern gallantry and all very romantic unless, like Dana, you happen to be black…

Kindred is a story of contrasts, of kindness, humanity and cruelty, of a modern world (in this case 1970’s California) where people are free to live their life and marry whomever they please and a time where people are treated as chattel, bought, sold an abused as they are considered less than human.

This graphic novel version of Kindred, adapted by Damian Duffy and John Jennings with the agreement of the estate of Octavia E. Butler is a beautiful hardcover, with an eye-catching dust jacket that looks as perfect on a shelf with novels as it does with other works of graphic art.

Damian Duffy has pared back Octavia’s text, preserving the essential story but making it flow perfectly for this graphic adaptation; John Jennings brings the text to life with his amazing artwork, imbuing the characters with movement on the page without glossing over the bloody and brutal mistreatment of humans by their fellow man. He has captured the cold cruelty of the slave owners in contrast with the pain and damaged humanity of the slaves. This is not a pretty story, no matter the beautiful artwork that adorns the pages; indeed it is shocking to modern liberal sensibilities and makes uncomfortable reading to be confronted by callous indifference to human suffering, but is necessary to remind ourselves how easy it is for us to dehumanise others and although we have come far, there is still a distance to go before we treat each other equally.

Kindred is rightly considered a classic of the science fiction & literary genres. Duffy & Jennings’ version is a perfect gateway for readers to encounter Octavia’s work.

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia Butler, illustrated by John Jennings and adapted by Damian Duffy. Published by Abrams ComicArts (£15.99)

HiLo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick

I have had a copy of Hilo written and drawn by Judd Winick since December – it is a comic book that I loved and have been meaning to write a review of since I read it. However I have been dragging my feet with this and I have no idea why.

Last night I had a dream, and in that dream I wrote a Hilo review and compared it to The Iron Man by Ted Hughes – this is better known internationally as The Iron Giant thanks to the fantastic Warner Bros. animated movie. When I woke up I was confused as on the surface they two beings appeared to be completely different; on deeper reflection I realised that the stories had a number of similarities, my brain also threw about Osamu Tezuka’s Astroboy and Frank Miller and Geof Darrow’s The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot into the mix as well as the parallels to Judd’s early work The Adventures of Barry Ween Boy Genius (the book that made me a Winick fan-boy)

Judd – if you do read this can you *please* let me know if Barry Ween will ever come back – thank you!

ANYWAY! Hilo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth is funny, sweet and contains some surprisingly hidden depths to the surface story of a mysterious boy who falls to Earth and the children that become his best friends.

There is a lot of screaming and running away from alien monsters and pathos in the form of familial relationships and the feeling of not fitting in with both Hilo and D.J. filling the role of outsider Hilo on earth and D.J. within his family.

JW has always been championed diversity in his works and HiLo is no exception, a Caucasian from another dimension with a Hispanic and African American as best friends who get equal development within the story.

HiLo is a fast-paced, enjoyable romp for all ages and there are two other books in the series that are also available so there will be no long waiting for more once you have finished it!
If I could sum up HiLo The boy Who Crashed to Earth in one word then it is:
OUTSTANDING!

HiLo The Boy Who Crashed to Earth is published in the UK by Puffin

A Thing of Beauty: Arthur and the Golden Rope

arthur rope
Imagine a vault so cavernous that it could contain the world’s greatest treasures, from mummified remains of ancient monarchs to glistening swords brandished by legendary warriors. How did Professor Brownstone come into possession of such a collection?

Hear the tale of the very first Brownstone and his quest for the golden rope as we travel back to the land of the Vikings. A place filled with magical objects, powerful gods and legendary beasts to be conquered!

I am a bit of a fan-boy when it comes to Flying Eye Books and Nobrow and not just for the amazing stories they are publishing but for the frankly amazing care and attention to detail they put into creating books that are beautiful to look at as well as read.

Arthur and the Golden Rope continues in that vein, the cover is one that I spent several minutes admiring before opening it, the golden highlights of the title and on the strands of the rope glinted in the sun distracting me from the beast fading into the shadows of the background, it’s slavering jaws lit up by a burning brand held by the small figure, looking back at the reader as if unsure of what they were doing there.

Opening the book revealed still more treasures – maps on the endpapers, the first of Iceland showing Arthur’s town and the second showing Yggdrasil – the World Tree connecting Valhalla with Midgard and Helheim. The Æsir: Thor, Baldr, Freyja and Odin appear in the map corners of the front and the giant monsters Nidhoggr, Fenrir, Jotnar and Jormungandr appearing on the back.

The true treasure is the story itself, tied in with the wonderfully intricate illustrations with each page rewarding the reader that closely examines each wonderful work of art.

As you may have guessed this story is steeped in Norse lore and focuses on Arthur Brownstone the first adventurer of the famed and legendary Brownstone family and his quest to save his village.

Arthur is not your typical adventurer, looking like he would be more at home with his nose stuck in the pages of a book he is nevertheless an ardent explorer and brave beyond his years and size, living in a world replete with gods and monsters.

Professor Brownstone’s Mythical Collection would give Hogwarts a run for its money, brimming as it is with gods, monsters and all manner of marvellous artifacts.

Written and illustrated by the sickeningly talented Joe Todd-Stanton, Arthur and the Golden Rope straddles the line between picture book and graphic novel comfortably and will appeal to readers of all ages.

Arthur and the Golden Rope, the first book in Brownstone’s Mythical Collection is available from good book shops everywhere from September.

SP4RX by Wren McDonald

Are you on the hunt for a grimy, tech-noir thriller?

If the answer is yes then SP4RX is definitely the graphic novel for you!

It has been years since I last delved into the Cyberpunk realm and SP4RX was a brilliant reintroduction to the genre that did not disappoint!

Written and drawn by Wren McDonald, SP4RX reads as the love-child between William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

Epic in scope yet incredibly personal in nature, the story focuses of Sp4rx, a hacker hired to steal a macguffin from a corporation and ends up as a rather less than willing recruit in a battle to save humanity from their evil corporate overlords.
sp4rxslide-768x432
With echoes of (the original) Robocop using periodic news updates to provide necessary background information without resorting to infodumps and underscoring the humanity of artificial intelligence reminiscent of CHAPPiE, SP4RX is a brilliant graphic novel aimed at older readers.

Nobrow has been consistently publishing excellent graphic novels and with SP4RX this run continues!

SP4RX-cover

Geis: a Matter of Life & Death

The chief matriarch is dying. Drawing her last breath, she declares a contest: let fate decide the one worthy to rule. Fifty souls are summoned in the night; fifty souls bound to the same fate. But this is no ordinary trial… And so begins the first task.

The first thing I learned was how to pronounce Geis – it is ‘Gesh’ in case you couldn’t wait to pick up the book!

It is a Gaelic word for taboo or curse (that I knew). When a geis is placed upon you, it is like a spell that cannot be broken and certain rules must be obeyed. you might be prohibited form calling upon the aid of wolves, for example, or breaking into someone’s kitchen. If you ignore or break a geis, the consequences are dire.

But a geis is always broken.

As soon as it is spoken or written, your fate is set.

The first thing I realised when I opened the book was that I already know Alexis Deacon’s work, he was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal for his illustration of Jim’s Lion and he wrote the award-winning picture book I am Henry Finch.

I was not sure what to expect when I picked it up, possibly an enjoyable fantasy romp through a fantasy world based on Celtic myth.

I was right about the fantasy world – but my God, this story is dark – beautifully illustrated, but utterly merciless! The protagonist is the Kite Lord’s daughter, a young girl who finds herself out of place amongst the high lords and ladies of the chieftain’s court, who are summoned and scattered to find a suitable soul to replace the chief. The desires and humanity of the characters are laid bare as they face the temptation of ultimate power, and as was once said – no good deed goes unpunished!

It is the first part of an epic trilogy – get this book now, trust me I am a librarian!

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How to Survive in the North

A brilliant graphic novel written and illustrated by Luke Healy:

Weaving together the true life historical expeditions of Ada Blackjack and Robert Bartlett with a contemporary fictional story. How to Survive in the North is a unique and visual narrative journey that shows the strength it takes to survive in even the harshest conditions – whether that be struggling for survival in the Arctic in the 1900s or surviving a mid-life crisis in the present day.

I finished this book with the impression that Vilhjalmur Stefansson was at best criminally inept and worst culpable for the death of the men he abandoned on two expeditions in the Arctic Circle.

Simply and beautifully illustrated it contains a wealth of history that made me research the histories of the characters once I had finished it. I love Luke Healey’s artwork and the changing colours to denote the different expeditions and the contemporary story is an excellent idea! The isolation of each of the characters throughout the book is the thread that binds the narratives together and the choices they make to survive and stay sane in the face of fraying relationships and loneliness makes the stories as gripping as they are tragic!

As with other Nobrow titles, How to Survive in the North is beautifully crafted and makes a bookshelf look better just by being on it!

HowToSurviveInTheNorth_cover