Graphic Novels I Read in 2021: Santa Claus, Norse Myths, the Palestinian Conflict, an Indian Robin Hood & More

I am not a big reader of graphic novels but I do read half a dozen or so each year.  Rather than review each one individually, because I don’t have a lot to say, I thought I would collect them in one post.  I thought they were all interesting reads for different reasons. Some from authors/creators I am familiar with, some that just caught my eye at the library.

Klaus by Grant Morrison, Dan Mora (Illustrations)

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He’s a myth. He’s a legend. He’s loved worldwide by children and adults alike . . . but does anyone truly know the origins of Santa Claus? Set in a dark fantastic past of myth and magic, Klaus tells the origin story of Santa Claus. It’s the tale of one man and his wolf against a totalitarian state and the ancient evil that sustains it.

Award-winning author Grant Morrison (All-Star Superman, The Multiversity) and artist Dan Mora (Hexed) revamp, reinvent, and re-imagine a classic superhero for the 21st century, drawing on Santa’s roots in Viking lore and Siberian shamanism, and taking in the creepier side of Christmas with characters like the sinister Krampus. Klaus finally answers the burning question: what does Santa Claus do on the other 364 days a year?

My take:

Picked this up on a whim while picking up another book at the library. I frequently enjoy reading a graphic novel as a sort of palette cleanser or if I am struggling to get into the pile of books I am supposed to be reading. I enjoyed this mythical tale of the “real” Santa Klaus. Dark but not too dark, a sort of blend of medieval fairy tale and comic book hero. Quick and unique but enjoyable Yule time read.

Norse Mythology, Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman

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#1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman and Eisner Award-winning comics legend P. Craig Russell breathe new life into the ancient Norse stories in this comic-book adaptation of the hit novel Norse Mythology .

Gaiman and Russell team with a legendary collection of artists to take readers through a series of Norse myths, including the creation of the Nine Worlds, the loss of Odin’s eye and source of his knowledge, the crafting of Thor’s hammer and the gods’ most valuable treasures, the origin of poetry, and Loki’s part in the end of all things–Ragnarök.

My Take:

I have read Norse Myths by Neil Gaiman in hardback, listened to the audiobook and now read the comic. And I have enjoyed each format. I know the stories quite well by now but it was still fun to read them in comic form and see how the artists brought the characters and stories to life. Great for fans of norse mythology and Neil Gaiman.

Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman

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In Marvel 1602, award-winning writer Neil Gaiman presents a unique vision of the Marvel Universe set four hundred years in the past. Classic Marvel icons such as the X-Men, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Daredevil appear in this intriguing world of 17th-century science and sorcery, instantly familiar to readers, yet subtly different in this new time. Marvel 1602 combines classic Marvel action and adventure with the historically accurate setting of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign to create a unique series unlike any other published by Marvel Comics.

My Take:

I am not really a comic person despite reading half a dozen graphic novels a year but having read Gaiman’s Norse Myths in this format I figured I would pick up 1602 which my daughter requested for Christmas. It was entertaining and interesting; again despite not really being a comic of Marvel person. As a history student I was trying to pull whatever knowledge I had stored about 1602 to mind when following the plot. Turned out, not all that much.

I can see how one might enjoy getting to know characters this way and seeing how plots connect over a longer series. Will probably stick with text based books for now though… ;-)

The Attack by Loïc Dauvillier, Glen Chapron, Yasmina Khadra

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The Attack opens with Amin Jaafari, an Israeli surgeon of Palestinian origin, trying to save the casualties of a suicide bombing. A day after the deadly attack, an Israeli police officer informs Jaafari that the suicide bomber was his wife, Sihem. Believing her to be on an overnight trip, he completely refuses to accept the accusation. They were leading an ideal life in Tel Aviv, moving among both Arab and Israeli society with ease, or so Jaafari thought. But then he receives a posthumous message from Sihem confirming the worst. Desperate to understand how he missed even the slightest clue, Jaafari leaves the relative security of Israel and enters the Palestinian territories to find the fanatics who recruited her. In search of the truth, he confronts a reality that he had refused to see.

My Take:

A tough book in that it is tough to read at times given the subject matter and tough to review because that would require sorting through plot. art, subject, bias, etc. It is thought provoking and enlightening in the sense that it gives different perspectives and forces you to think about being in the other person’s shoes/circumstances. I found it interesting mostly in the various relationships and how they are impacted by events. Not a big fan of the ending. Biggest take away for me was just a brutal reminder that this is a depiction of the lives of actual people and a thankfulness for the blessings I have received.

Phoolan Devi, Rebel Queen by Claire Fauvel, Montana Kane (Translator)

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She rebelled against the ancient tribal rules of India, her country, resulting in her becoming a Robin Hood type bandit. Essentially sold at the age of 11 to become a wife for a much older man, she ran away when he raped her. From that point on, there were few choices for her but to join a roaming gang of bandits, her ambition and thirst for revenge leading her to become their rebel chief. Ultimately, society caught up with her and she even became a strong voice for change, women, and social justice as a representative in the Indian parliament. A story of courage and unbending determination in front of centuries of established inequities in the classic Indian caste system.

My Take:

Struggled a bit on how to rate this one. It is a compelling story but full of violence and depravity. It is a history that should be told and a graphic novel like this is a unique way to do so. There is an element of survival, and of love and friendship, in the most extreme circumstances but there is also a reminder of just how cruel and ugly humans can be and how much suffering remains in the world. I am glad I know more about Phoolan but not sure this is a story one “enjoys.”

Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand by Jim Henson, Jerry Juhl, Ramón Pérez (Illustrator), Chris Robinson, Stephen Christy

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Join us as we explore this missing piece of Jim Henson”s career in a celebration of his creative process. Discovered in the Archives of the The Jim Henson Company, A Tale of Sand is an original graphic novel adaptation of an unproduced, feature-length screenplay written by Jim Henson and his frequent writing partner, Jerry Juhl. A Tale of Sand follows scruffy everyman, Mac, who wakes up in an unfamiliar town, and is chased across the desert of the American Southwest by all manners of man and beast of unimaginable proportions. Produced with the complete blessing of Lisa Henson, A Tale of Sand will allow Henson fans to recognize some of the inspirations and set pieces that appeared in later Henson Company productions.

My Take:

A surreal and yet comic visual feast. You can see how this would be a screenplay but it works remarkably well as a graphic novel. It is something that bears re-reading and studying as there is so much to take in.

 

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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