Book: FTL, Y’all! Tales from the Age of the $200 Warp Drive, edited by C. Spike Trotman and Amanda LaFrenais

FTL, Y’all! Tales from the Age of the $200 Warp Drive
edited by C. Spike Trotman and Amanda LaFrenais
published by Iron Circus Comics
2018

I love sci-fi, and so this anthology of what people would do if faster-than-light travel was possible, cheap, and open to anyone who could assemble some off-the-shelf parts was irresistible.

I think I actually said, “OH NO” out loud in the shop, because my first thought was, yes, some people would make their parents’ old Camaro into a FTL travel device, and go into space with NO PREPARATION AT ALL. I would like to thank the editors for assuring me that I’m not the only one who would fear this…

This anthology has it all: people who are competent with interstellar travel! People who are not! People who prepare! Cool ships! Quiet disasters! People on the run from the authorities! Other forms of life! The absence of other forms of life! Social media! Pop culture references to famous sci-fi movies! A wide range of illustration styles in a wide range of stories… I really enjoyed this hefty, speculative collection of adventures from a collection of talented artists.

Book: What If We Were… by Axelle Lenoir

Beyond adorable

What If We Were…
by Axelle Lenoir
published by Penguin Random House
2020

This is an extremely adorable graphic novel about two best friends, whose hobbies include coming up with wild, hypothetical adventures as scientists (inventing spaceships, exploring the universe, forgetting earth?), parents, mythical beings, more adult versions of themselves, giant robots…

The way the dear friends riff on each other’s ideas is like the best possible versions of improv, but for their own enjoyment rather than an audience’s. Meanwhile, they go to school and navigate being teens with all that entails, supporting and encouraging each other in the ways that best friends can.

I was almost able to resist buying this graphic novel (due to its younger target audience), but the characters each have journal entries in the volume, and they are hilarious – I starting giggling while skimming through them – and suddenly, I was at the cashier with an armful of books!

Axelle Lenoir does a lovely, charming, fun job of showing off a fun friendship, and making the characters’ bond feel healthy, happy, and real. I recommend it – if you need an excuse, buy it for a young person in your life, but make sure you get a chance to enjoy it first!

Book: William Gibson’s Archangel by William Gibson, et al.

The hard-to-find hardcover compilation of the comics

William Gibson’s Archangel
by William Gibson, Michael St. John Smith, Butch Guice, and others
published by Idea and Design Works LLC (aka IDW)
2017

This World War II spy thriller incorporates William Gibson’s recent theme of branching alternative futures in an action-packed, dark comic book.

A brief synopsis: a despotic American leader on a toxic earth goes back to 1945 to create a new branch reality in which he has even more power. A small resistance force plans to interfere…

The story is fast-paced, and the action is dense. The compositions are dynamic, with lots of diagonals, fists, kicks, and planes flying at steep angles. The panels are sepia-tinted and dark, with deep colors and deeper shadows. The characters have a lot of texture, shading, wrinkles, coarse fabrics, and the sort of surface definition that comes with harsh lighting. (Or orthochromatic film, which played such a big part in the noir look of movies of past eras.) The faces are expressive and stern. (Characters’ faces sometimes look unfamiliar, which is a minor distraction in a solid series like this). The drawings set a really remarkable mood, and I’m especially impressed that I’m even THINKING about the coarse look of fabrics!

The individual issue cover art by Tula Lotay (tulalotay.com) is more vivid, with a different palette (remarkable greens and purples), and slightly different interpretations of the characters. These look fantastic.

This is a well produced, action packed, very William-Gibson story, but with WWII noir and timeline-splinters that started far back in time, which distinguish it from his other works. There are additional cover art panels and sketches of each of the characters the appendix, to round out your appreciation of the effort that went into this great book. I’m so glad I found the compilation!

Unexpectedly, IDW has very little promotional content on their website about this comic, but did produce a lightly animated preview!

Book: Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal

Cover of Woman World

Woman World
by Aminder Dhaliwal
published by Drawn + Quarterly
2018

This graphic novel is ADORABLE and funny!

Set here on earth, Woman World tells the story of how a mysterious biological problem in humans means that all new babies are born female. Natural disasters destroy much of so-called civilization; years pass, and we find ourselves in a village where the children have never seen a human man, and the women are dreaming, falling in love, managing anxiety, being baffled by male-centric artifacts from the past, and making a new community under a Beyonce-loving banner.

It is also laid out very beautifully. The full pages are thoughtfully done; the spreads are used for optimal effect. A lot of thought went into the design, and the more I think about it, the more I am impressed at how each layout is used for best effect.

Did I mention adorable? ADORABLE. And witty. I laughed out loud repeatedly, and it brought joy to my heart.