Welcome to another week of Graphic Novel Weekly! So excited you joined me! The last couple weeks have been pretty busy here at the Forney household, so today’s edition of GNW is going to look a little more streamlined than usual. Like the simpler layout? Miss the longer reviews? Let me know, and I’ll adapt accordingly!
This week, I’ll be reviewing:
- Hotel Dare (Amazon)
- Dept. H, Volume 1: Pressure (Amazon)
- The Whispering Dark (Amazon)
- Death Orb (Amazon)
- Gender Queer: A Memoir (Amazon)
- Outer Darkness, Volume 1: Each Other’s Throats (Amazon)
Coming Next Week!
Next week, I’m planning to run reviews of:
- Aliens: Dead Orbit
- City of Others: Tenth Anniversary Edition
- Queen of the Sea
- B-Squad, Mission 1: Conspiracy in Cambodia
- Outpost Zero, Volume 2: Follow It Down
- Grand Abyss Hotel
Keep your eye peeled on this space for more exciting features coming soon. And, as always, check out all of the Graphic Novel Weekly columns right here!
Now let’s get to those new books!
Hotel Dare is exactly the sort of story I would have gobbled up when I was in grade school. As regular readers have no doubt heard far too many times by now, I’m always on the lookout for younger reader-friendly titles that I could share with my stepdaughter, and I found that here. Hotel Dare features three kids who are grappling with who they are, and how aspects of their identity (queerness, anxiety, adopted family dynamics) inter-relate with each other. This serves to enrich the wonderful plot, set in a run-down hotel that also happens to have portals to other universes. The story is fast-paced, exciting, and fun, while never losing the wonderful character dynamics and the gorgeous art. Hotel Dare is wonderfully fun, and I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy and young adult adventure.
Dept. H, Volume 1: Pressure
Dark Horse is getting ready to release omnibus versions of Dept. H, and I was curious to learn more about the series. This first volume gives a pretty good sense of the series. Dept. H begins as a murder mystery at a deep-sea research base, but begins to become much more as the deep ocean begins to take on a role beyond just setting. Matt Kindt’s strengths as a writer are quite clear here, with building tension and complex characters. The art is at times a little obtuse, but generally creates a thematic atmosphere that fits the story fantastically. I found Dept. H to be a bit slow, so I’m not sure if I will follow along with the rest of the series, but it will likely appeal to offbeat mystery fans.
The Whispering Dark
The Whispering Dark was another early read for me over at Comic Book Corner. The first issue drew me in, and I knew I wanted to see how it all worked out. What I found was that The Whispering Dark is a solid story that falls short of greatness through a lack of consistent identity. The story starts with a pretty heavy sense of soldiers having to go to dark places to survive a near-future conflict, and eventually the story shifts to demons in the last quarter or so of the collection. While the writing was solid, the arcane evil that became a part of the plot felt like an unnecessary addition that detracted from the plot. The revelations about the characters playing differently roles than originally surmised was much more satisfying, to me, than the supernatural horror element. The Whispering Dark does a great job of showing the horrors of war, and didn’t need to include demons to make its point.
I read the first issue of Death Orb for Comic Book Corner way back when, and I was excited to see the collection release. While I wasn’t fully sold on the concept after the first issue, I was intrigued enough that I wanted to see how it all went down, which is a validation of its own sort. Death Orb as a whole contains many of the same strengths and weaknesses as the first issue. The plot isn’t particularly strong, nor does the setting feel super strong beyond a general crummy, run-down future with deserted areas and mega-cities. However, Death Orb does stylized action beautifully, both in its scripting and its dynamic art. The influence of action manga on Death Orb is pretty clear, and it is a blast in that regard. Readers’ mileage will vary with this book. Those looking for a complex plot will probably find themselves disappointed, but I recommend this book for fans of fast-paced, graphic action.
Gender Queer: A Memoir
I don’t read memoirs very often. I really appreciate a narrative arc, and I find in memoirs that far too often either there is no narrative arc or a false narrative arc has been forced upon the writer’s life, as an ongoing life rarely has a neat beginning, middle, and end point before it has reached its final conclusion. However, I found myself drawn to Gender Queer. I’ve always been interested in learning more about non-cis gender identity, and while I have plenty of experience reading about it in impersonal, distanced writings, and I have only limited experience with personal stories of exploring gender identity, whether those be people I have known in my life or via texts such as Gender Queer. In this, Gender Queer was an absolute success. Kobabe’s story of the journey e made examining em life is one that is fully of uncertainty, confusion, and multiple attempts to navigate what gender and sexuality actually means to em. It was so refreshing to see not just the end result, but the journey, and to find the person behind the experience. I have to imagine putting em life on display like this was a pretty scary and vulnerable endeavor for Kobabe, but I believe it is wonderfully powerful, both for people examining their own gender, as well as those looking to better understand and build empathy. I fully recommend this book.
Outer Darkness, Volume 1: Each Other’s Throats
I’m always open to new space opera, so I jumped at the chance to read the first volume of Outer Darkness. It was absolutely bonkers. The story plays around with ideas on gods of ancient cultures, a physical afterlife, and epic adventure. This is a fun title that pushes boundaries without sacrificing the joy that is a space adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed this title, and can’t wait for the second volume.