Freiheit! The White Rose Graphic Novel by Andrea Grosso Ciponte

Cover of "Freiheit! The White Rose Graphic Novel." Three people (left to right, Sophie School, Alexander Schmorell and Hans Scholl) sand in front of a Nazi insignia that has a white paint smear through it. Sophia is holding books, Alexander has a paint brush in his lapel and Hans is holding a paint can. In front of them is crouched another man, Christoph Probst, who is holding a pamphlet.
In the bottom left corner of the cover there is a note in red stating that this is an uncorrected proof and not for sale.

I was really excited when I first heard about “Freiheit! The White Rose Graphic Novel,” in part because it’s a part of World War II history that I’ve been interested in, but haven’t had the opportunity to read much about. I’d previously read several short articles about Sophie Scholl—one of the book’s lead protagonists—but they had been sparse with the details about her involvement with a larger group, making her seem like a lone martyr figure. I hadn’t even heard the name “White Rose” until I picked up this graphic novel, which, I think, makes the book all the more important and timely given the importance of history in resisting fascism.

Two panels. One partially obscured, shows a formal portrait of Sophie Scholl and her name in her passport. The next panel shows Sophie sitting crosslegged in a train car, saying "I'm a student at the university." 

The Snapchat caption says "In all the stuff I've read about Sophie Scholl, I'd never actually seen much about the resistance group she was part of."

The book is very engaging and pulls you into the story immediately right in the middle of the action with Sophie and her brother Hans dropping a stack of leaflets down from the top floor a building into the main hall, before jumping back to a flashback that shows you how everything began, how a small group of friends (Sophie and Hans Scholl, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell and Willi Graf) eventually became the White Rose. 

The story then moves quickly, following Sophie, into her discovery of her brother’s and their other friends involvements with the White Rose, and how they continue that through their military service, until they are eventually caught. Despite how quickly things move, it doesn’t feel in anyway rushed. The book has a very artistic flow to it, there’s no real background exposition to speak of, drawing your focus to the art, dialogue and the limited quotations the serve as background for various scenes. 

My particular favorite quotation used is the English translation of the song “Die Gedaken sind frei,” (“Thoughts are Free”), that is overlaid on a scene of Sophie working in an ammunitions factory.

Full page spread of Sophie working in a munitions factory, she is holding a shell and there are more laid out in front of her. 

There is no dialogue, but the text overlay is partial English lyrics of the song "Die Gedanken sind frei." They read, "No person can know them/No hunter can shoot them/ With powder and lead/Thoughts are free.*"

The asterisk points to a footnote that reads "'Die Gedanken sind frei' traditional revolutionary song, forbidden during Nazism."

The Snapchat caption reads, "I learned this song at a German summer camp and had no clue about the history behind it."

I will say I was a touch confused by that scene as I wasn’t entirely sure of what I was supposed to take away from it. It’s a lovely scene and gorgeously illustrated, as is the whole book, but it wasn’t clear to me if it was meant to imply that Sophie was doing sabotage work. There is discussion earlier in about encouraging sabotage in their leaflets alongside passive resistance, so I had wondered if this was tying into that, but I can’t say I know for sure since there’s no background exposition to explain the scene. I think some added points of additional exposition would have been nice, but as a narrative the story does hold up just fine without them. 

Something that I’ve always found true when it comes to World War II studies is how angry and upset and heartbroken I feel when presented with personal narratives, be they biographical or autobiographical. That emotional pull is something that “Freiheit!” does incredibly effectively. There is an incredible amount of characterization for such a short book, we see Sophie living her life as a regular student, we see Christoph with his wife and children, we see the Scholl family’s response to their father being arrested, and you know through all of it how it’s going to end. Arrest and execution. 

But the book doesn’t leave you on a sad note, it ends on a hopeful one, with the fact that the British took the final pamphlet produced by the White Rose and used airplanes to drop 5 million copies across German cities. This drives home that what the White Rose did mattered and, especially in todays day and age, that activism matters. Not everyone can make the sort of sacrifices that the White Rose did, but what they preached, passive resistance against a terrible “norm” is something anyone can do.

A panel showing the shadow of an airplane in the sky dropping leaflets. The adjacent text reads "In July 1943 the British dropped five million fliers quoting from the sixth White Rose leaflet on cities across Germany."

The snapchat caption reads: "Words live on."

“Freiheit! The White Rose Graphic Novel” is being published through Plough and will be released in February 2021. 

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X-Men: Marvel’s Snapshots, “And The Rest Will Follow” written by Jay Edidin

Two copies of Marvels Snapshots: X-Men propped up against a laptop screen. The copy in the front has the alternate cover, with a classic comics look a young Scott Summers is surrounded by the shadowed figures of the Fantastic Four, Spiderman and Iron Man. The tagline reads "It's an age of marvels and monsters, Scott Summers! Time to decide, which are you?!"
The one to the back is the standard cover, with an adult Scott Summers portrayed from the shoulders up firing his eye beams down at a diagonal across the cover. 
The snapchat subtitle reads, "Time for X-Men."

So I went into this excited because I’ve love Jay’s work already and I also trust Jay as someone with good opinions and thoughts on the Summers brothers. 

Now I’ve read one-shots/minis series’ of Scott Summers’ origin story before, the two that come immediately to mind are “X-Men: Children of the Atom” and “X-Men Origins: Cyclops,” but “Snapshots” rapidly outpaced them as my favorite. It’s not the most comprehensive look at Scott’s backstory, it doesn’t even begin to touch on Mr. Sinister, but what it does do is create a tangible look at how Scott’s past has impacted his present, in particular his past prior to Professor X and the X-Men. 

The story is focused on Scott during his time at the orphanage where he lived after the plane crash that “killed” his parents prior to and immediately after his mutation manifesting, and the main plot is Scott trying to figure out where he fits in the world and struggling with a slew of mental health issues after the plane crash. 

At the same time superheroes emerge on the world stage, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, etc. and we get to see Scott view superheroes through the eyes of a civilian. Not Cyclops, not even knowing he’s got powers of his own yet. One line I particularly loved was, “They talk like the Fantastic Four are movie characters, but they’re real people,” which I think is just a fantastic thing to think about considering the kind of public perception Scott himself attains as an adult. 

The main thread that the story follows is Scott hyper-fixating on superheroes and the idea of superheroes being born from tragic circumstances, but helping people. The experiences of the Fantastic Four gaining their powers through a freak accident is paralleled with Scott’s plane crash: “Four people climb into a cockpit. Strap in. Take off. Something goes horribly, horribly, wrong.”  

Comic panel. A young Scott Summers sitss as a table writing, there are magazines and books about superheroes surrounding him.
Scott's narration reads "I obsess about things. Get fixated and I can't let go. I know that. But all of this feels important, like something I should recognize--maybe something that got lost with everything else."
The snapchat caption reads "That's hyper-fixation bay-be" in all capital letters.

This leads to Scott going to see Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic speak, where he winds up involved in his first superhero/super villain fight as a bystander. This leads to Scott’s budding interest in tactical planning and then his mutation goes off.

Comic panel. A young Scott Summers is shown in the foreground to the right side of the panel reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War. In the center background there are some menacing looking bully types and to the left there is a young child running and the edge of a swing set. 
Scott's narration reads: "I know I'm obsessing again. But it makes sense like almost nothing else ever has. I want things to be as simple as Sun Tzu makes them sound." 
The Snapchat caption reads: "Why am I not surprised that Scott would get special interest invested in The Art of War."

The flashback section concludes with Scott struggling once again with who he is. Is he a monster that the Fantastic Four would fight? Or is he like them, can he help? And, because this is Scott Summers the answer is the latter. Something else I really loved about this scene was that Scott came to that realization on his own, he didn’t need Professor X to validate his worth.

Four comic panels.
Panel 1: A close up of an air conditioning unit being help up on a crane, the cables holding it up are breaking.
Panel 2. Close up of the faces of several white men, frightened and trapped underneath what appears to be fallen scaffolding
Panel 3: Close up of Scott's face his eyes are squeezed shut and his hand is shaking as he lowers his ruby quartz glasses. 
Panel 4: Close up of the cable holding the air conditioning unit breaking with a snap.
Scott's narration, which runs over all four panels: "If I do that-- if anyone sees-- there has to be something else. But there isn't. Those men probably have families. Kids. I'm not a monster. I'm not. Well, Summers, you wanted to make a difference. To do something." 
Snapchat caption: "You can do it Scott!!!"

Which brings us to the very final scene: in the nebulous “present” Scott is giving orders for what appears to be a mission to rescue three of the Fantastic Four, and we see Scott as Cyclops taking to Reed Richards and he quotes to Reed something that Reed had said during a TV interview while Scott was at the orphanage. That, for me, brought everything together absolutely perfectly. In one speech bubble, we understand the importance of the entire rest of the story and how foundational these early experiences were for Scott. It’s also just a great ending from a storytelling perspective too, it’s a beautifully wrapped one-shot that doesn’t leave you wanting for anything. 

One more thing of note, if you are neurodivergent like myself, you may have noticed my use of the word “hyper-fixation” which is a term used in describing certain behaviors characteristic of autism and ADHD. Scott reads incredibly neurodivergent and not just in a throw away sense and it’s very easy to pick up if you are familiar with those kinds of neurodivergencies. Furthermore, this is intentional, Jay has stated himself that he was writing Scott as autistic. Of course, Word of God only means so much, but in my opinion, the proof is more than there. 

While this issue came out several weeks ago, you may still be able to find it by reaching out to your local comic book shop — I got mine through Books with Pictures — and you can get it in digital through comiXology.

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The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal, by Clint, Griffin, Justin and Travis McElroy and illustrated by Carey Pietsch

Cover for The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal. From left to right, Merle, Taako and Magnus are leaning against the front of a battlewagon. Merle is holding the adamant spanner, Taako has the umbra staff and is twirling a ring of keys and Magnus is tossing a D20. In the top left corner, Griffin McElroy in a gaming headset waves a checkered starting flag. 
The snapchat caption reads: "Hell yeah, here we go."

I really adore the Adventure Zone graphic novels. They’re a really fun supplement to the Balance Arc of the podcast. Though it’s hardly required to listen to the podcast to read the graphic novels. There’s no additional information to be found in the graphic novels save for changes made due to the adaptation process. 

For example, Wizards of the Coast LLC, the company behind the game Dungeons & Dragons, has copyright on things like place and spell names in the game. So in the graphic novels the town of Neverwinter has become Eversummer, and other things like that. For me the biggest tragedy was losing the name Klarg. However, some of the other changes, in my opinion, improve the story.

If you aren’t familiar with the Balance Arc of The Adventure Zone, the three main chucklefucks, Merle, Taako and Magnus, are recruited by the Bureau of Balance to retrieve seven dangerous artifacts to save the world, but there are other secret goings on too. “Petals to the Metal” is the third act of the story, and our heroes converge on the town of Goldcliff looking to retrieve the Gaia Sash. 

I really love the art for these books, it’s expressive and stylized in a way that is really fitting for each character. Since The Adventure Zone started out in an audio only medium, the fandom surrounding his has an absolutely huge range of ways that each character is drawn, so cementing one look for the graphic novel had to have been a challenge, and I really appreciate that they’ve included other art in the back of the book that shows different takes on the characters. 

In the panel Magnus slams open the door to the Director's office declaring "I want to  report that one of your vendors is selling tainted unicorn dick!" 
The Director has a rather shocked and exasperated expression the introduction card for her reads: "The Director; Race: Human; Class: Director; Proficiencies: managing clandestine organizations, keeping secrets, being patient with pains-in-the-ass (pain-in-the-asses?)"
The snapchat caption reads: "I have a lot of feelings about how expressive the art is for both comedic and serious scenarios."

In this book, I was particularly struck by how Captain Captain Bane was drawn. I don’t think I’d ever imagined him particularly clearly, but it was definitely nowhere near the tender eyed beefy o’ burley we got. I’m definitely not complaining though, I really love what was done with Captain Bane in the graphic novel. Because podcast as a medium doesn’t really allow for concurrent storytelling and interactions between NPCs in D&D can get weird, because it’s just the DM talking to themself, we didn’t initially get a huge amount of relationship development between Captain Bane and Lieutenant Hurley, and it was really nice to see more of Captain Bane throughout, especially considering how his character ends the book/act.

Two comic panels.
The first is a shot of an empty finish line, there are some vaguely drawn characters in the bleachers. 
The second panel is a close of up three figures in the bleachers, the two characters in the background are leaning forward eyes wide in anticipation. The character in the foreground in Captain Captain Bane, a man with a large square jaw and chin, bushy brown mustache and swept back collar length brown hair. He is looking through binoculars and appears very concerned. His speech bubble reads: "C'mon Hurley..." 
The snapchat caption reads:  "I love how much more we get of the Hurley and Bane friendship in this."

Lastly, I do want to talk about Hurley and Sloane, our tragic antagonist. They were a lesbian couple from the moment they were introduced, however, in the podcast it was predominantly subtext. In the timeline of things I think this was where Griffin, the DM, was beginning to sort through adding queer characters into the show. The book makes it explicit, they were girlfriends before Sloane was corrupted by the Gaia Sash. 

Furthermore, as I mentioned before this was written at the beginning of the gay character learning curve for the boys. So in the podcast Hurley and Sloane fall pray to the Bury Your Gays trope. Hurley is mortally wounded and Sloane turns them both into a tree. Learning from his mistakes, Griffin brought back Hurley and Sloane as dryads in the Balance arc finale “The Day of Story and Song.” The graphic novel takes that one step further and makes explicit that it is Sloane’s intent to turn them into a dryads in order to save Hurley’s life. By the end of the book, while Tres Horny Boys don’t know that Hurley and Sloane are alive, we the audience get to see Hurley and Sloane as the dryad protectors of Goldcliff. All in all I think it’s a really beautiful fix to what was initially the ignorant usage of a bad trope. 

Full page, Hurley and Sloane standing next to each other, smiling and blushing in the first panel, and looking determined in the second. Hurley is the halfling on the left with short light pink hair (with tufts on the tops of her feet) and Sloane is a half elf with long black hair. Their skin is brown and lined to look like wood, they both have flowers in their hair. 
The snapchat caption is in rainbow bubble letters and reads: "Resurrect your gays."

One, uh, “warning.” There are three pages of Merle (played by the McElroy father, Clint) seducing some vines. It’s not NSFW or anything, but it’s an experience I think one might want to be prepared for is all, especially if  you’re coming in having not listened to the podcast. In conclusion:

Merle, a dwarf with brown skin and white hair and beard, stands in a pool of water while yelling at the Gaia Sash, a grey sash that appears to be woven together from vines. His speech bubble reads: "I don't need your help to fuck an onion!"
In the background, Taako, Magnus, Captain Bane, and other members of the Goldcliff militia stand around watching the scene in confusion.

“Petals to the Metal” as well as the previous two books, can be found here.

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Rainbow Reflections: Body Image Comics for Queer Men edited by Phillip Joy, Stephanie Gauvin and Matthew Lee

Rainbow Reflections:  Body Image Comics for Queer Men
Co-editors: Phillip Joy, Stephanie Gauvin and Matthew Lee
Caption: I am super looking forward to this

I’ve struggled with body image all my life, a combination of weight anxiety and dysphoria. The dysphoria is mostly managed these days, the weight anxiety, not so much, particularly as I’ve been gaining weight in a more sedentary life style now that I have an office job and don’t walk everywhere anymore. Resources for men struggling with body image can be hard to come by, I remember vividly a body workshop my university put on that was supposedly geared toward everyone, but heavily advertised for women only. The flyers were covered in silhouettes of a variety body types… but they were all clearly supposed to be women. 

This is why resources like “Rainbow Reflections: Body Image Comics for Queer Men” are so important and delightful to find. Through discussions of experiences and tips and advice to help sort through feelings and anxieties, the book is compelling and genuinely helpful.

And it’s not just weight that the book covers either. This is made clear just from the cover, where you see people of various race, ability and weight. The anthology includes both fiction and nonfiction comics that cover a vast array of masculine body types and issues. It really feels like a book that has something for everyone. 

Choosing favorite stories to narrow in on was really hard, there are so many wonderful stories, but I’ll talk about the three I felt the most impacted by: 

“Masc Man” by Ollie Rollins deals with the pressure on trans men to “look like a masculine man,” even when you may be happiest in more feminine/androgynous clothing, which is something I’ve struggled a lot with over the years. This can often be compounded by working jobs where you’re only safe if you’re stealth or have a specific dress code that doesn’t allow that kind of freedom. 

Comics panels: Panel 1 (partial) reads "I even saw others like me."

Full panel 2: "Your body is a man's body, no matter how it looks. It belongs to you."

“The Grass is Always Greener” by Corey Morgan is a comic that deals in how we compare ourselves to other people. The first man looks in the mirror and thinks he’s ugly, the second man see’s the first man is taller than him and feels bad about being short, the third man see’s the second man’s muscles and feels bad about being weak. I found this particularly compelling as a trans person, because especially when the desire is to be read as a man, you can often find yourself in a loop of endless comparing your self to cis men. 

Lastly, I want to mention “Fitting In” by Loch Arambula which is about the trials of being a short trans  man with odd proportions. I felt particularly called out by the panels about trying to get pants. I’ve never met men’s pants that fit me in any comfortable way. If they fit my waist they’re too tight in my hips, if they fit my hips  they’re huge around my waist and far too long. (I recommend getting pants at Costco, they have women’s pants that are pretty non-gendered, the pockets might be smaller but they have a better leg/waist ratio I’ve found).

Panel of two men standing next to each other in the same shorts, one short and one tall. On the tall man the  shorts come to mid thigh on the short man they come to the knee. 
Text: Most clothes comes with the constant reminder that I don't look like the average man. (Same shorts).
Caption: I've never been able to find men's pants that fit me.

Note: This book does have nudity and sexual themes as there is a section on sexual health.

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Wayward Sisters: An Anthology of Monstrous Women edited by Allison O’Toole

"Wayward Sisters: An Anthology of Monstrous Women" Forward by Faith Erin Hicks.

Caption: Ya'll read for monster ladies?

“Wayward Sisters” is an incredible anthology that contains a wide variety of monster women stories (almost typed wife variety and that’s true too). 

Quote: "Sadly for me, Marvel writers didn't have much use for Marrow, and eventually, she was depowered and prettified. I have chosen to ignore that part of the story.  Nothing in comics is permanent."

Caption: Ain't that the biggest Marvel mood.

I knew I was going to love this anthology from the moment I opened it, because in the forward, before I even got the comics because there was a wonderful drag of Marvel for being shitty to your unloved favorites. If that was the set up vibe for the book, I could only be in for a treat and I was right. 

The book opens on a rather dark story,  “Love and Fury” by Aimee Lim and Sam Beck. Three demon sisters who punish the wicked, sometimes by request, sometimes because it needs to be done and how sometimes it’s hard to punish the wicked when it’s family. 

Something I really loved about the stories in the anthology was just how much the female characters were allowed to be morally ambiguous and vicious and make mistakes, and not be shamed for it. You side with the little witch in Mandy James’ “The Purrrfect Solution” when she turns the townsfolk into cats, because even though her ‘help’ wasn’t the most helpful, this is her story and she gets her happy ending. Another example would be “White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant” by BC Holmes, Dee Williams and Meaghan Carter,  which is about a, you guessed it, WASP couple, who lure men into being surrogates for their offspring.

There is very much a theme throughout the book of, do what is best for you, regardless of what others think. And that’s something a lot of people need to hear, a lot of women need to hear. This is wonderfully illustrated in the story “The Wife’s Shadow” by Janice Liu, where a young wife has been struggling to sleep because of noises in the night and she eventually finds her escape from her married life by becoming a bat creature. 

There are many other wonderful stories and I wish I had time to talk about them all, but also just briefly mention a few of my absolute favorites. 

“Leon’s Return” by Zoe Maeve is about a lion from a medieval manuscript returning home a very different creature than they left and in return their home is very different as well. It’s a very fun and silly story, but also manages to tell an incredibly moving story about change. Also goofy looking medieval manuscript animals is like iconic. 

Two page spread of "Leon's Return"

Caption: Medieval animal shenanigans!!!

“Ugly Cinderwench and the Very Angry Ghost” by Xavière Daumarie is another one with a pretty funny bent, but this one ends with justice for a wronged ghost when a shaman attempt to summon a demon to get rid of the ghost, and summons the wrong kind of demon. Her mood isn’t helped by the fact that she was summoned in the middle of her bath.

Lastly, I want to mention “Date Night” by Alison Bannister, Ronnie Ritchie, Meaghan Carter and Nikki Powers. It’s about a human man who takes a T-Rex lady out on a date, except he doesn’t really pay much attention to her and then ghosts her when she steps out for a second to save the town from a rampaging robot. The cute lady T-Rex does get a happy end when the waitress asks her out.

In conclusion, go buy this book now and also don’t ditch your amazing superhero T-Rex girlfriend.

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Journey Into Mystery written by Clint, Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy

Journey Into Mystery issues 1 and 2

So, full disclosure, aside from Miles Morales (Spider-man) and Kate Bishop (Hawkeye) I had no mcfucking clue who anyone else on this cast was. I mean I knew who Balder was, but only because I really, really liked the Norse story about Baldur’s death as a kid. 

That said, if you’re like me and only coming to this story because of the McElroys, issue one gives enough of an introduction to the characters that you don’t feel lost reading a story about them. 

The team is as follows:

Balder: Norse god, brother of Thor.

Miles Morales: Spider-man, the main protagonist of Into the Spider-verse (the spider-verse is actually referenced in issue one)

Kate Bishop: Hawkeye, not girl Hawkeye, just Hawkeye. She did spend time training with Clint Barton though. 

Rebecca Ryker: Death Locket, teen girl Deathlock (who I also know nothing about)

Sebastian Druid: part monster, has magic powers, a coat of holding and a nanny license

Simon Williams: Wonder Man, retired superhero and pacifist

Thori: Thor’s dog, really likes to fight NOT a babysitter

Now, the baby. The baby is Thor and Baldur’s babiest sister and the plot is basically: Baldur recruits a team to keep the baby safe from the big bad which leads to chase/roadtrip, which is a good and entertaining plot.

Baldur, like any child of any parent, is horrified by the idea of Odin and Frigga boning. It’s very Griffin McElroy “I’m in Hell!” every time Clint makes a dirty joke in the Adventure Zone. 

On that note, if you enjoyed the writing of the Adventure Zone graphic novel you’re definitely going to enjoy the writing in Journey to Mystery. 

Other moments, I found highly enjoyable:

  • The background gays. Like any good McElroy content, it’s flush with background gays. You’ve got the cosplayer boyfriends in issue one and the very obviously butch lesbian trucker in issue two. 
  • The cosplayer goof is actually good. It’s not comic book writer mocks the fans, which happens an unfortunate amount. 
  • Thor’s dog is named Thori and also everything about Thori.
  • The baby just effortlessly charms a bunch of Skrulls

I’m frankly super pumped for the next issue and…… cowboy ghosts? 

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Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi: A Ten Year Retrospective

Volume One Cover Feat. Gon Freecs
Hisoka the clown

Roughly ten years ago I read Hunter x Hunter (circa 2009). I was 14/15 at the time and just a bit too young and naive to enjoy the manga/anime to it’s fullest. I loved it, that’s for sure, but did I get the nuance, the queercoding? Unclear. I did latch on to the queer coded antagonist, but it would be years before I even heard of queercoding much less figure out how to look for it. All I knew at the time was that my favorite character was the very flamboyant clown who was horny for bloodlust. 

Recently, I flew headfirst back into Hunter x Hunter. It’s really great and it’s really even better than I remember. I can’t say you can call this a traditional book review as I’m mostly just going to talk about what I love about the manga.

Kurapika
  1. It’s basically Naruto with a smaller, more fleshed out cast, on speed run. And also better, more self-contained arcs. The plot actually moves forward at a decent pace without sacrificing character development Within 13 volumes, you get through three entire arcs. If you enjoyed Naruto initially, but got annoyed with/tired of it quickly you might enjoy HxH. 
  2. It’s really funny, but also really emotional and it can definitely get heavy too. The humor doesn’t feel out of place against the heaviness though. 
  3. The entirety of Kurapika’s character. I did not appreciate this boy enough when I read HxH the first time around. Kurapika is drawn in a way that tends to reserved for female characters, with big eyes, what looks like eyeliner and a small mouth. His clothing is also very androgynous, he’s even mistaken for a girl at points, but the narrative is very clear that he’s a guy.  Adding to this further, in the anime he even has a female voice actor. This has led to some Choice™ trans headcanons by fans.
  4. There may or may not be a canon trans character? I’m not actually far enough along in the manga to have met this character, but apparently there is some gender incongruity with Killua’s sister Alluka. The fandom as I’ve seen it seems to have taken it as canon and running with it, but I can’t weigh in on it myself just yet. I am definitely looking forward to getting there though. 

There are some things that people might want to be wary of getting into HxH. It’s definitely not for everyone. 

  1. Earlier I compared HxH to Naruto. The violence in HxH is much more graphic that anything I can remember from Naruto.
  2. Hisoka’s horniness for violence is explicit, there are allusions to erections. It’s not subtle. 
  3. In relation to point two,  Hisoka expresses interest in seeing how Gon, the 11/12 year old protagonist, develops his fighting prowess throughout the series. This is NOT an inherently sexual interest, but certain areas of the fandom see nothing wrong with shipping an 11 year old with someone who’s an adult at worst and an older teenager at best. 

Dates: An Anthology of Queer Historical Fiction Stories edited by Zora Gilbert & Cat Parra

Dates Volumes I and II, featuring one (1) good cat butt.

As a queer historian and fiction lover, the Dates anthologies are basically literary catnip for me. The art and writing in these volumes is absolutely exceptional. It is clear that the authors and editors put an immense amount of love and care into producing the works in these books. 

While the stories in these two volumes hardly shy away from the difficulties that present themselves in queer life, the stories are first and foremost, uplifting. These are not stories about the sadness and tragedy of being queer, they are here to bring happiness. More than just that, in a world where we are inundated with tragedy porn from cisgender heterosexual creators, happy queer stories by queer creators is incredibly important.

Volume one runs into some of the standard issues that a first volume can have. It’s a little rough around the edges, but it makes up for those rough edges time after time with the content it provides. Starting out with a comic set in prehistoric times, volume one of Dates really does have something for just about everyone, there are women who love women and men who love men, trans people of all sorts, asexuality, everything.

Volume two takes this even further, the few rough edges that I found in volume one are not present in volume two at all. It’s a longer book, which means it has room to fit even more than the first volume did. This is particularly noticeable in two stories. “The Ibex Tattoo” and “Intersexions.” 

“Intersextions,” you might be able to intuit, is a comic about an intersex person. Having admittedly read the two volumes a couple months a part, I do believe this was the first instance of a story featuring an intersex person in Dates. The importance of “The Ibex Tattoo,” comes from a different place. The point of view character suffers from some sort of chronic pain. It is as much a story about the place of disability in a relationship and a community as it is about the lesbian relationship this character is part of.

Before I wrap this up I want to talk briefly about themes. There aren’t super explicit overarching themes in each of the Dates volumes. There’s no subheader saying “Love” or “Acceptance” or anything like that, but as I read through the second volume and reflected on my reading of the first a few things popped into my head. The first volume, in my reading, seemed to hold stories that were particularly involved in seeking acceptance, either self-acceptance or acceptance from others and the second volume seemed to deal more in stories of transformation, of making choices, of change. Now this is by no way concrete, as I learned when trying to sort my own writing into categories, queer stories, by definition, tend to defy the ability to be categorized, but it’s something to consider if you’re trying to figure out which of the two volumes you might prefer, if you’re only looking to get one of the two.

You can find both volumes in both print and ebook form here.

ALSO: The Kickstarter for Volume 3 is live! So support it for more top tier queer content!!!

No snaps this time.

Pantheon by Hamish Steele

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[Edit: Originally published October 29, 2018]

With page after page of jokes that will have you rolling with laughter, Pantheon has to be one of the best retellings of the Egyptian Osiris myth that I have ever seen. Featuring such events as, masturbating the universe into existence, giving birth to someone that already existed and Set being a notorious cock, if you enjoy the buckwild nature of ancient mythologies, then Pantheon is right up your alley.

For those unfamiliar with the Osiris myth, it tells the story of Egypt’s creation prominently featuring Osiris, his wife Isis, his brother Set and his son Horus. After Set steals the throne of Egypt from and attempts to murder Osiris (see “notorious cock”), first by trapping him in a box and sending him down the Nile and then by cutting him up into pieces and scattering him across Egypt, Isis endeavors to have their son Horus reclaim the throne. Seems straightforward, what could go wrong? The answer, of course, is everything.

On top of the hilarious story, the art is incredible. The way that Set is drawn in particular is utterly delightful, and it does an amazing job at portraying Set’s personality through his movements and appearance. Set isn’t the only character this is true for, the body language for all the characters is wonderfully vivid. The art plays off the comedic text, and visa versa, perfectly. It wouldn’t be the same book if it was done as just text instead of as a graphic novel. Between the images and the text there isn’t a single joke in the book that falls flat. There are so many good goofs that it’s almost impossible to pick a favorite.

I am going to wrap this up with a few words of warning. This is not a safe for work book, there is on page sex and no shortage of nudity. There is also a not insignificant amount of gore, see Sehkmet’s rampages and Osiris’s dismemberment, however, the cartoony art style does do some work to mitigate the effect of the gore. There are cartoony intestines though, I will say that. There are also numerous points throughout the book where incest is brought up, as many of the major players in the Egyptian pantheon are related, all being children of Nut and Geb. Isis and Osiris are siblings, for example.

If you are interested in going on a wild ride through Egyptian mythology Pantheon can be found here.

Related Reviews: The Song of Achilles

Snaps are under a cut for NSFW: 

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Banquet by A. Szabla

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[Edit: Originally posted September 29,  2018]

Do you like eldritch horrors? Do you like the accidental child acquisition trope? Do you like gay shit? If you answered yes to all three then Banquet is the comic for you.

From the earth above, a child has fallen through a mysterious portal, which we know leads into Hell. While his parents and the entire human world believe him dead, but he survives only to be found by Hadrien Galerius Vespatian, fourth crowned king of the Bottomless Pit. Utterly amused by and curious about this little human, King Hadrien, decides against the council of his advisor/bodyguard/boyfriend, the hellhound Bernard, and the anger of some of the other noble houses, to adopt this human child and raise him as a son.

The comic is wonderfully paced and plotted, and the panels manage to be simple yet full of detail without feeling cramped or cluttered or losing any of the story. A. Szabla does an amazing job of conveying facial expression on both the human characters and the monstrous ones. And when the monstrous characters take on human forms, it’s delightful to see how the human form fit and reflect the monstrous character.

While Banquet is humerous at times, it is not just a silly story. It has all the fixings of plot just getting underway. It’s just enough to get you hook and leave you wanting more and anxiously awaiting every new update. And for a new comic that’s a good place to be in.

I will say for those, like myself, who might be concerned about the treatment of a gay couple in the media they consume. The only disapproval of Bernard and Hadrien’s relationship comes from the fact that certain nobles believe that it is not fitting for a king to be carrying on a relationship with someone low born. So fantasy classist, but not fantasy homophobic.

All and all it’s an incredibly fun read and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing Banquet continue.

While I have a hard copy of the first book of Banquet, I do not rightly know where you can get a hard copy outside of FlameCon, where I got mine. You can, however, read the entire comic for free, online at www.banquetcomic.com. Since it’s always nice when a content creator makes their content available for free if you enjoy Banquet you should consider supporting A. Szabla’s patreon.

Snaps:

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