The Refrigerator Monologues

The Refrigerator Monologues, by Catherynne M. Valente, was published in 2017 by Saga Press. 
5 star

The Refrigerator Monologues does not present a solution – it rages about the problem. It’s a book about getting mad, getting sad, or getting embarrassed for the stories in the comic world. It’s about making a point and making it absolutely irrefutable so we can fix the problem and fix it now.

Refrigerator Monologues

In the series of connected stories in The Refrigerator Monologues, characters based on famous comic book women tell their stories from the afterlife. These are women who have been killed not as part of their own stories, but to progress the narratives of the men around them. One woman becomes so powerful that her male colleagues grow jealous and “need” to shut her down. Another is teased with love and affection until she gives up a key piece of intel. Of course the ultimate story is based on the original fridging, which inspired the title of the book.

So yes, The Refrigerator Monologues is more about illustrating a problem than solving that problem. Nevertheless, I love it.

I love Valente’s style – her character’s stories reads like dialogue or like stream of consciousness. They work really well as comic book stories in prose form.

I love this book’s world – for a set of short stories, there is a surprising amount of world-building, and that world-building is good.

Most of all, I love the characters. Valente has taken classic comic book women, distilled them, and created new, fleshed out, wholly sympathetic (even when they’re bad) characters from the basic pieces of the originals.

Ultimately, I finished The Refrigerator Monologues more educated than when I started the book. In fact, the book even led to a TV Tropes binge – that’s one way to know it’s good! I think any feminist comic fan who reads this book will finish it feeling both enraged and inspired – and ready for more feminist comics in the world.

Princeless, Vol. 1: Save Yourself (Princeless #1)

Princeless, Vol. 1: Save Yourself, written by Jeremy Whitley and drawn by Mia Goodwin, was published in 2012 by Action Lab. 

4 star

Adrienne may be a princess, but she refuses to be a damsel in distress. She’s tricked into her tower, guarded by a dragon with nothing to do but wait for her “prince charming”. But instead of languishing, Adrienne befriends the dragon and set out to rescue the rest of her sisters, who are neglected in towers of their own.

Princeless vol 1
“Princess in a tower? More like queen on a cat tree!”

Princless, Vol. 1: Save Yourself is intended for middle grade, and it does show. The feminist points are blatant – which sometimes lead to very funny situations (Adrienne, who is black, challenging a prince’s claim that she’s a “fair maiden”) and sometimes lead to awkward, ham-handed ones (a young woman who has secretly made a line of bikini armor “just for women” realizes the error of her ways in a short two pages). There’s no real subtlety in this book, but it works – particularly since flagrant girl power messages make sense in the context of a middle grade book.

The main story progresses slowly – Adrienne seems to be still assembling her team – but I’m willing to wait it out for more snarky, feminist, lovable Princess Adrienne.

 

 

Captain America: Sam Wilson, Volume 1: Not My Captain America

Captain America: Sam Wilson, Volume 1: Not My Captain America, written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Paul Renaud, was published in 2016 by Marvel. 

3 star

Captain America: Sam Wilson, Volume 1: Not My Captain America features the origin story of Joaquin, the new Falcon. And it is a great origin – short and simple, but with some great backstory and characterization. I love that Joaquin and Sam are different in a ton of ways (most notably temperament – Joaquin is definitely a young, immature superhero), but are both, ultimately, fighting for the same thing.

Captain America Sam Wilson vol 1

I also loved seeing more of Misty Knight in this book – she was one of my favorite parts of my Civil War II project.

The whole Cap-Wolf thing was weird. Sam gets experimented on and ends up with a wolf head, and no one is concerned. It’s pretty much a huge excuse for other characters to make fun of him. But other than some silly dialogue and artwork it doesn’t affect the story, and the book remains strong despite the weirdness.

 

Captain America: Sam Wilson, Volume 2: Standoff

Captain America: Sam Wilson, Volume 2: Standoff, written by Nick Spencer and drawn by Paul Renaud and Angel Unzueta, was published in 2017 by Marvel. 

4 star

I just love a comic book that contains an entire story! Especially one with three wonderful main characters – old man Steve Rogers, Bucky, and Sam Wilson. I know that others have bemoaned Steve Rogers’ return to youthfulness as a deus ex machina, but for something as inevitable as Steve’s return, I felt like it was handled in a fairly logical and natural way.

Captain America Sam Wilson vol 2 Standoff

Sentient cube Kobik is a really stand-out character, and I look forward to learning more about her – I’m excited to hear that she’s joined a superhero team of her own!

Sam Wilson’s run as Captain America continues to amaze me; Captain America: Sam Wilson, Volume 2: Standoff is no exception.

Captain America: Sam Wilson, Volume 4: #TakeBackTheShield

Captain America: Sam Wilson, Volume 4: #TakeBackTheShield, written by Nick Spencer and Angel Unzueta and Paul Renaud, was published in 2017 by Marvel.

2 star

Sam Wilson’s fifth volume (but it’s volume 4! Thanks, Marvel!) as Captain America has a whole lot more of what makes the first books in his story great. In Captain America: Sam Wilson: #TakeBackTheShield, Nick Spencer has added some liberal villains to provide a contrast to all of the conservative ones he’s had in the last volume.

The first liberal villain makes for a great read – Flag-Smasher is as realistic as any super-villain can be, and it’s easy to imagine him as a real life person, resorting to terrorism when he feels like his voice isn’t being heard. I love the way Sam Wilson reacts to him – Sam is truly trying to do what he thinks is best while still respecting the huge mantle he’s currently carrying.

Captain America Sam Wilson vol 4 #takebacktheshield

I did think that the second liberal villain, a team of social justice warriors called The Bombshells, took the political commentary into ridiculousness. Spencer has made these characters into SJW stereotypes, featuring a “can’t even” and misuse of the trigger warning and ally concepts. I totally get what Spencer is going for here – and I know I’m part of what’s being poked at – but I don’t think any of the other villains in this series (liberal or conservative) were treated quite this disrespectfully. The Bombshells would have been more realistic and impactful if they had been toned down.

NewsPrints

NewsPrints, written and illustrated by Ru Xu, was published in 2017 by Graphix/Scholastic.

3 star NewsPrints is very very cute. The main character is cute, the animal sidekicks are cute, the relationships are cute, the artwork is really freaking cute. I will read the next book just to get more cute.

NewsPrints
“Real birds much more interesting than book birds.”

NewsPrints is also more than cute, of course – but not quite as much as I was hoping. There are elements of feminism, hints of transexuality, and little teases of a much larger story, but in the end this is a simple story with very cute artwork. Although I love that Xu is hinting at broader and deeper themes, I hope she takes more of a leap in the next volume.

Mighty Jack (Mighty Jack #1)

Mighty Jack, written and illustrated by Ben Hatke, was published in 2016 by First Second. 

4 star
Mighty Jack is a bit light on plot – I felt like it ended right as it got going – but its beautiful, simple artwork, tantalizing world-building, and delightful characters and relationships do a great job of making up for it.

Mighty Jack vol 1
“Not posing, I need pets!”

I don’t love this one quite as much as Zita the Spacegirl, but where Zita is more fantastic, Mighty Jack remains grounded in real life. I think Hatke deserves a whole lot of credit for dealing with some really sensitive topics in a middle grade book.