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The Reading Pile – March 28

Zombies, a robot dinosaur, cowboys, an amoeba—the Good Comics for Kids bloggers have been reading a varied stack of comics and graphic novels this week. Feel free to play along by telling us what’s on your reading stack in the comments!

Kate Dacey: I’m not big on zombies, so when The Walking Dead first garnered good notices back in 2003, I didn’t pay much attention. Last year’s wildly successful television adaptation finally convinced me to give the series a try. I wasn’t disappointed. Though the story covers familiar ground, the brisk pace, sympathetic characters, and snappy dialogue are more than enough to carry the reader past borrowings and cliche moments. The series is too graphic for kids and tweens, but I think it’s fine for older teens, especially since the series focuses more on how people cope with extreme catastrophe than on how zombies kill people (or vice-versa).

Also on my reading list this week are digital editions of two Seven Seas manga: Blade for Barter and Hollow Fields. I read both books when they were initially published back in 2007, but I was curious to see what the Kindle versions looked like. (N.B. I’m using the Kindle app for the iPad, not a Kindle device.) My verdict: both books looked better than I expected, offering a reasonable approximation of the print edition. My only complaint is that the panel flow seemed a little awkward. Seven Seas’ global manga use the same orientation as manga published in Japan, but the Kindle version uses a standard Western orientation, with readers turning the page from the right-hand side. The layout sometimes runs contrary to the page turns, making it difficult to remember whether to read left-to-right or right-to-left. Once I realized why I was reading the panels in the wrong order, however, I was fine.

Eva Volin: Speaking of Robert Kirkman, I’m moderating a panel at next weekend’s WonderCon and one of the perks is getting to take a quick look at Super Dinosaur, Kirkman’s new comic for kids. Image only sent the first twelve or so pages of the book, which is both good and bad. On page one, Derek Dynamo, our hero, tells us right off the top that he’s AWESOME. And Derek’s not kidding around, he’s a genius! Just ask him! Then the Exposition Fairy appears and explains everything that has come before. Somewhat surprisingly, this is all good. The narration is funny and very reminiscent of how Saturday morning cartoons (or superhero comics for that matter) used to work: any viewer/reader could drop into a series at any point and be able to figure out what is going on. I don’t mind a lot of exposition if it serves a purpose. The preview did its job; my appetite has been whetted. The bad part is that I don’t know if it’s all supposed to be funny or if there is more exposition to come. Sure, one of the dinosaur villains is named Tricerachops, which bodes well for the humor-on-purpose option, but the Exposition Fairy is on the scene for a really long time, which makes me afraid of how much world building this series might require. I’m pick up a copy of issue 1 when it is released next week. I’m looking forward to seeing how issue 1 ends.

Esther Keller: I’ve been reading Archie: Goodbye Forever in the Archie New Look Series. When Archie’s dad gets a long awaited promotion at work it comes with strings attached—a move to a new city. The family agrees it’s worth it, though secretly no one wants to leave Riverdale. The ending is predictable; I knew that the Andrews would never leave Riverdale. After all, it would end the series. But I was wondering the whole time how it would happen, and the story kept me interested. What threw me off entirely was the new look. What was wrong with the old look? I couldn’t wrap my head around it, and I’m not a fan of the new artwork.

Brigid Alverson: I took the train to Chicago for C2E2 last week, and one of the reasons I like traveling that way is I have plenty of time to read. One of the books in my bag was Western Classics, from the Graphic Classics, which is perfect train reading—very atmospheric and very absorbing. The miles flew by as I read the straightforward adaptation Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage, a more cartoony adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s “Knife River Prodigal,” and the sinister “The Right Eye of the Commander,” based on a story by Bret Harte. The one that really touched me, though, was “The Last Thundersong,” a strange tale written in 1926 about changing times among Native Americans. It’s a great collection, and it kept me going to the end.

At the show, I picked up an advance copy of the first volume of Squish: Super Amoeba, a new series by Babymouse creators Jennifer and Matthew Holm. It’s very similar, a super-cute school story about an average kid, but with a green color scheme instead of pink. I was a little disappointed in the message, though: When a bully threatens to eat his paramecium friend if Squish won’t let him copy from his paper, Squish goes ahead and cheats. He gets caught, but I’m still bothered that the message wasn’t reinforced that it’s simply wrong to cheat, whether you get caught or not. The adults are never much help in these books, either. Aside from that, it’s an enjoyable read, and I’m sure young kids will like the goofy humor.

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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