What I’ve Been Reading, July 2019

Ah summer break is here at last, the summer break that will never end because I’ve graduated now, Forever Summer—and I’ve been reading a ton of books!

Kid Gloves by Lucy Knisley — Kid Gloves is the latest graphic novel memoir from Knisley, describing her experience of pregnancy, and everything leading up to it. What’s great is that, in addition to the conception-to-birth pregnancy narrative that we’re all fairly familiar with, Knisley also describes the process of trying to get pregnant, of having miscarriages, and, crucially, her internal state through all of this. Kid Gloves is a very vulnerable, honest book, which spends a great deal of time getting across how Lucy feels about the pregnancy at various stages. Just viewed externally, pregnancy is a pretty dramatic process, but (as Knisley discusses in the book) the experience of the person actually carrying the child is often sidelined in mainstream pregnancy narratives. Not so here.

In addition to her own narrative, Knisley adds in interstitial bits of pregnancy research, trying to debunk some of the misconceptions around pregnancy, and shed light on some lesser known truths. Sometimes this research feels very integral to the personal narrative (the section focusing on miscarriage myths, for instance, spends a lot of time trying to assuage the irrational guilt women who have miscarried often feel), while other sections of research feel kind of inconsequential. Like, pregnancy superstitions or the medicalization of labor might be interesting, but they seem disconnected from the rest of the book in places. Something New had sections like that too, but overall the tone of that book was a lot lighter, so it all felt of a piece.Read More »

Review: Island Book by Evan Dahm

island book cover
Cover courtesy of First Second

How have I not talked about Evan Dahm before? Evan Dahm is one of those creators I just can’t get enough of. I’ve read all his graphic novels at least twice, and that includes this, his latest completed graphic novel, Island Book.

Island Book tells the story of Sola, a girl living on an island in a vast, unexplored ocean. Many inhabitants of the island believe she is cursed, because of her strange connection to a giant creature simply called “the monster” which lives in the ocean, and which devastated the island when it attacked years ago. So one night Sola steals a boat and sets off into the ocean, hoping to discover the mystery of the monster, and why it seems drawn to her, for herself. She soon learns that there are other islands out there, populated by different peoples, some of whom join her in her quest to find the monster.

By different “peoples,” I mean different fantasy races. If you’re familiar with Evan Dahm’s work, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I believe he refers to them as “kinds” rather than species or races. Basically there’s no humans or elves or dwarves (though Sola’s island’s islanders are fairly close to human.) The character/kind design is an outgrowth of the island they live on—or maybe it’s the other way around. Anyway, this means all the islands are incredibly uh guess what insular, on a design level. Motifs of shape and color are repeated in the look of the land, the island’s ships, and the islanders themselves. For instance, “Fortress Island” is inhabited by these big, hulking turtle people, with ships that look like ironclads. Likewise, the cultures of the islands harmonize with their iconography, and the whole color palette of the book changes from island to island.Read More »

Review: Chernobyl

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Promotional image courtesy of HBO.

Lately, I’ve found myself very attracted to stories about massive mobilization to prevent some existential threat (mostly sci-fi stories about sci-fi threats.) Organizations, especially governments, doing what needs to be done, surviving by the skin of their teeth, saving the world from crisis through collective, concerted action. (Gee I fucking wonder why that would be so appealing to me anyway its hot out here.) So yeah, I liked Chernobyl a lot.

Chernobyl is an HBO miniseries created by Craig Mazin and starring Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård, and Emma Watson, about the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and the effort to contain the catastrophe. So it’s not really a story about stopping a catastrophe, but rather stopping a catastrophe from becoming a thousand times worse. Before watching this show, I had no idea how bad the Chernobyl incident was, much less how bad it threatened to become, but holy shit. Essentially, the show has built-in escalating stakes. First they have to just stop the fire, but once they’ve done that they’ve got to keep the meltdown from setting off a thermonuclear explosion, then they’ve got to keep it from reaching the groundwater that millions of Ukrainians drink from—there’s always another crisis around the corner, each problem causes its own problems, and so does each solution. An unending parade of “no, and” and “yes, but.”Read More »

Last Year Comic Chronicle 34: Afterword

This is the last one! More info on what’s next for the blog below!

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Transcript

This is the last Last Year Comic Chronicle comic. I really can’t outdo the thematic weight of L.Y.C.C. 32 and 33 here, so I won’t try. I have no big concluding revelation for you.
All I can say is, first, I think L.Y.C.C. has been successful. Everything important from this past year of my life, from college in general, has made it in here somehow. Wait.
Okay there, now its all in here.
And second, thank you for reading! This is the most transparently personal work I’ve ever published, and I’ve cherished all the support and enthusiasm you’ve shown me.
So let the last words of the Last Year Comic Chronicle be, yay!, thanks!, and The End.

Blog housekeeping: Whew! That was a lot, huh! I may end up releasing an ebook version of LYCC with some extra stuff, or this may be its final form. Regardless, what’s online now will always be available for free, and I will hopefully do more sequential art stuff sometime in the future. That could mean a year from now, or five, but it’s definitely something I’ve enjoyed, so yeah. This isn’t the last of my comicking! I may also post sort of doodley little one-off autobio comics and drawings on twitter from time to time? so maybe follow me there? And in case you missed it, I posted the proto-version of LYCC up there a couple months ago, so you can check that out if you want a little more autobio comic content right now.
As for the blog itself, it will be on hiatus for the next couple months, and will return August 2nd with the project we’ve all been waiting for: the second half of The War of Paraguay! A heads up, finishing TWOP is the last major series I have planned for this blog, after which weekly updates will stop and new posts will only show up sporadically for the indefinite future. So yeah, that’s what’s coming down the pipeline. Thanks again for reading, and stay tuned for some 19th century Rio de la Plata war and diplomacy content!

Last Year Comic Chronicle 26: Zeno’s Paradox

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Transcript

TEXT: Dichotomy Paradox: If something is to move 1 meter, it must first reach 1/2 a meter, then 3/4, then 7/8, then 15/16, and so on.
That’s how I feel about the end of college.
After 17 years in school, I’m finally leaving. And I keep thinking, damn, it’s really almost over, and yet it’s still not over. I keep reaching new halfway points, and it feels like the end will never arrive, and I’ll go floating through this parade of ever more awkward fractions forever.

TEXT: But Zeno’s paradox is solved. And though I don’t understand the solution, I know how to walk 1 meter.
I don’t understand the solution to reaching graduation. I have trouble imagining myself as a 30-year-old, a 25-year-old, a 22-year-old. And yet, I know, with factual certainty, that that’s where I’m going.

TEXT: I made it to the start of junior year, to the start of senior year, the 2nd semester, and now to Spring Break, which I’m guessing will be followed by a rapid drumroll of weeks I can hardly get a handle on until graduation.

TEXT: Last year last year last year.

TEXT: I don’t even know how to end this comic see how bad at endings I am hahahahaha.
Heh.