The Avant-Guards Volume 1 – Carly Usdin

Illustrations – Noah Hayes

I’ve been hovering between ‘will I or won’t I?’ since I first saw this graphic novel listed on NetGalley. I loved the blurb but sports and I don’t mix so well, unless movie marathons or TV series hurdles somehow became Olympic events while I was busy binge watching.

I saw some early reviews of this Volume that told me I didn’t have to adore basketball to fall in love with this story so I finally decided to give it a go and, great news! Those reviewers were right! You don’t need to know anything about basketball to appreciate this graphic novel.

This is Charlie.

She has recently transferred to Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics and is not interested in playing basketball, not even after meeting the rest of the potential team: Liv,

Ashley, Tiffany,

Nicole, and Jay.

Liv is persistent though. She and the rest of the Avant-Guards wear Charlie down and she finally agrees to join the team, just in time for their first game.

This story has great diversity, with POC, LGBTQIAP+ and mental health all represented, which I appreciated. Although basketball brings the characters together, the focus is on friendship and having fun.

I loved Noah Hayes’ illustrations. They brought the personalities of each of the characters to life and drew me into the story. I don’t usually mention the colours used in graphic novels separately but I wanted to acknowledge Rebecca Nalty, who coloured this graphic novel, as it was the colours on this cover that initially caught my eye and made me want to read the blurb.

I really like the entire team and want to get to know them all better. While it was Liv’s enthusiasm that hooked me initially, the positivity, diversity and snippets of banter between the friends were what made me want to join their team. I’ll definitely be continuing to read this series. I’m even looking forward to the potential romance, despite being a fairly staunch romantiphobe.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and BOOM! Box, an imprint of BOOM! Studios, for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs … in the school’s (terrible) basketball team.

As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind … until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

From Carly Usdin (Heavy Vinyl) and artist Noah Hayes (Wet Hot American Summer, Goldie Vance) comes an ensemble comedy series that understands that it’s the person you are off the court that matters most.

Abbott – Saladin Ahmed

Illustrations – Sami Kivelä

Colours – Jason Wordie

Spoilers Ahead!

Abbott is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Graphic Story category.

I’m not sure how to talk about this graphic novel without providing some information about the plot, so … Warning: potential spoilers ahead!

This is Elena Abbott.

She’s a reporter for the Detroit Daily and as a black woman in 1972, she’s practically surrounded by racist and misogynistic white men. The newspaper board members and most of the police force aren’t exactly thrilled about her reporting the truth, particularly when it involves police brutality.

Having barely begun her new investigation into some eerily similar and grisly murders, Abbott discovers the perpetrators aren’t the usual suspects (hint: the police force’s usual suspects aren’t white). Instead, Abbott is soon face to face with a supernatural blast from the past.

Abbott tries to tell James, both a police sergeant and her ex-husband, about the shadows she sees on the second body.

They’re the same shadows that she saw on her husband, Samir, when he died. He called them the Umbra. Abbott seeks help from Sebastian, who tells her to stop running from her calling.

“Whether you accept it or not, Elena Abbott, you were born to wield the light. But there are those born to wield the shadow. Where your paths cross, blood will spill.”

Abbott is a chain smoker who enjoys her daily two glasses of brandy and drives a 1966 V8 Mustang. I got the feeling she’s not typically a huge believer in the whole ‘calling’ thing.

Later, Abbott has a conversation with Amelia, who has a message of her own. One that involves a gun. Amelia also happens to be romantically involved with Abbott but Abbott’s keeping this under wraps right now.

I was hit with so much information in the beginning of this graphic novel. I didn’t know how it would all fit together and I wasn’t sure I would care when it did. Then I met my first shadow monster and it was all over for me from that moment on; I needed to keep reading.

Much like Saga, which I’ve recently binged for my Hugo readathon, it seems like it’s not a good idea to become emotionally involved with any of the characters in Abbott. My two favourite characters didn’t survive this graphic novel but, although I’m preparing to harden my heart as we speak, I hadn’t grown to love them yet.

I’m giving this graphic novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ instead of ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for two reasons: it took a while for the story to get its hooks into me and I don’t desperately need a sequel, even though I’m left with some unanswered questions and loose ends. Overall though, this was a very entertaining read.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

While investigating police brutality and corruption in 1970s Detroit, journalist Elena Abbott uncovers supernatural forces being controlled by a secret society of the city’s elite.

In the uncertain social and political climate of 1972 Detroit, hard-nosed, chain-smoking tabloid reporter Elena Abbott investigates a series of grisly crimes that the police have ignored. Crimes she knows to be the work of dark occult forces. Forces that took her husband from her. Forces she has sworn to destroy.

Hugo Award-nominated novelist Saladin Ahmed (Star Wars: Canto Bight, Black Bolt) and artist Sami Kivelä (Beautiful Canvas) present one woman’s search for the truth that destroyed her family amidst an exploration of the systemic societal constructs that haunt our country to this day.

Collects Abbott 1-5.

The Magicians: Alice’s Story – Lilah Sturges

Creator – Lev Grossman

Illustrations – Pius Bak

One thing you learn about magic is that just when you think you know what it’s all about … it finds a way to surprise you.

I’m a tad obsessed with Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. The only problem is that the best intentions in the world have so far only extended far enough to buying the trilogy, not actually reading it. It’s been on my ‘I must remedy this egregious error immediately’ list for too long already but at least I’ve binge watched the TV series so I haven’t missed out entirely.

This graphic novel is based on the first book in the trilogy and it’s told from the perspective of one of my favourite characters, Alice. I loved Alice’s arc in the TV series and hope to get to know her even better once I’ve read the trilogy.

If you’re a fan of the trilogy, the TV series or both, then I’m almost positive you’ll love this graphic novel. If this is your introduction to Brakebills and Fillory then it may pique your interest but you may not connect with some of the magicians, including Janet, Josh or Eliot, as their personalities don’t have much of a chance to shine in this format.

While I didn’t learn much about Alice or her magical friends that I didn’t already know I did love the glimpses into her childhood, particularly the brief interaction between her and her older brother, Charlie, before he left home to attend Brakebills.

I would have liked the opportunity to get to know Charlie better though. I still love Alice, although in saying that, she’s socially awkward and nerdy, so I see myself in her a lot. Except for the whole magician thing. I wish!

I loved visiting Brakebills

and learning how to become a magician vicariously through Alice and co., at least until I met this guy.

I did wait in vain for some information I learned about the Beast’s backstory from the TV series to be revealed in the graphic novel. I’m guessing when I read the trilogy I’ll find the information I thought was missing was a result of creative license for the TV series rather than anything actually being missing from the books.

I enjoyed getting to know Alice, Penny and Quentin all over again, although I missed Julia’s presence, who I fell in love with during the TV series but was MIA for the majority of the graphic novel.

Since we were all probably making comparisons anyway I really appreciated Alice’s observation of a difference between herself and those who attend Hogwarts. I love it when a series can poke fun at itself.

Besides attending Brakebills, I also travelled to Fillory, which is the magical land that our magicians thought only existed in their favourite books.

My Fillory equivalent would be suddenly learning that Eleanor West from Seanan McGuire’s imagination really does have a home for wayward children, one that I can attend while I wait for my doorway to reappear. Although I would definitely tag along with Alice to Fillory if I had the chance too.

If ever there was a book series within a book series I need to read it’s Fillory and Further.

Alice was a great choice for telling the overall story of Brakebills and Fillory. Hers is a story of love, loss, determination, hard work and courage. She begins the story an outsider, wracked by social anxiety and anxiety in general

and then she grows throughout the story in ways that you have to read to believe. And believe I did. I love this character and I can’t get enough of this world Lev Grossman has created.

I’d happily sign up for any future Magicians graphic novels (I’ve already read this one twice) but I would absolutely love to see a companion graphic novel showing Julia’s experiences; her path is so different to anyone else’s that we meet in this series.

Content warnings include sexual content and violence.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Archaia, an imprint of BOOM! Studios, for granting my wish to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Magicians: Alice’s Story is an all new chapter set in the world of The Magicians trilogy of novels by New York Times bestselling author Lev Grossman that retells the events of the first novel through fan-favourite character Alice Quinn.

Alice Quinn is manifestly brilliant, and she’s always known that magic is real. During her years at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, she rises to the top of her class, falls in love with Quentin Coldwater, and witnesses a horrifically magical creature invade their dimension.

It’s not soon after graduation when Alice, Quentin, and their friends set their sights on the idyllic setting of Fillory – a place thought to only live in the pages of their favorite children’s books – where magic flows like rivers … But in this magical realm nothing is what it seems and something darker lies behind the spellbinding facade. It is in the darkness where Alice will discover her true calling and her life, and those friends, forever changed.

Acclaimed novelist Lev Grossman joins New York Times bestselling writer Lilah Sturges (Jack of Fables), and breakout artist Pius Bak for a new chapter in the smash hit trilogy The Magicians.

Hotel Dare – Terry Blas

Illustrations – Claudia Aguirre

Portals! Space pirates! Wizards! Woohoo!

After my initial read I gave this graphic novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. I enjoyed it more when I reread it yesterday and got even more out of the story during today’s third read. It has mystery, adventure and heart, plus there’s a badass granny!

Charlotte is the newest member of the Dare family. She goes with Darwin, who has a female rat called Donut, and Olive, who identifies as queer and loves organising, to Mamá Lupe’s hotel in Mexico for the summer.

Mamá Lupe has warned them to stay out of her office but these are three kids spending their summer cleaning rooms in a hotel; naturally the allure of the forbidden is too interesting to ignore. Soon they learn that this isn’t an ordinary hotel and Mamá Lupe is not your typical granny.

There are hidden worlds to explore and between them, these adopted siblings meet wizards, space pirates and cuddlemuffins. I adored Sunny the Cuddlemuffin! Along the way Charlotte learns about belonging and family, and what home really means.

I loved how Claudia Aguirre brought Terry Blas’ story to life, with plenty of detail and vibrant colours. The Land of the Dead was always going to be my favourite portal destination but I enjoyed them all. I did Google some Spanish to figure out some small sections of dialogue but I would have still known what was happening if I hadn’t.

I could easily keep rereading this story and I would happily visit other portals with these kids if there was a sequel. Thank you so much to NetGalley and KaBOOM!, an imprint of BOOM! Studios, for granting my wish to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s not your typical family vacation when Olive, and her adopted siblings Darwin and Charlotte find themselves falling into other worlds as they explore Grandma Lupé’s strange hotel.


Olive and her adopted siblings Charlotte and Darwin are spending the summer with their estranged grandma at her creepy hotel and it’s all work and no play. They’re stuck inside doing boring chores but they soon stumble upon an incredible secret … Behind each room door of the hotel lies a portal to a different strange and mysterious place. The simple turn of a knob transports them to a distant magical world filled with space pirates. Behind the next door are bearded wizards. Down the hall is a doorway to a cotton-candied kingdom. But once the doors are opened, worlds start colliding, and only one family can save them before they tear themselves apart. 

Written by Terry Blas (The Amazing World of Gumball) and illustrated by the talented Claudia Aguirre (Kim & Kim), this world-hopping fantasy tale breaks down the door to imagination and dares you to embrace the idea that family is everything.