If I were more organized, I’d have written a graphic novel retrospective at the one-year anniversary. But I’m not, and I didn’t, so here it is now: reflections on nearly a year and a half of graphic novel reviewing for AAR.
Since starting graphic novel reviews in March 2014, I have reviewed fourteen, and Melanie has reviewed one further. (It was Library Wars, a series which I’ve also read, and would also have given an A to.) Our overall total is 6 A or A- DIK grades, 5 in the B range, 3 in the C range, and one D.
Why so many high scores, including nearly 50% DIKs? Graphic novels in general tend not to be terrible, because they are so much more expensive to make. The authors and artists have to have proven backgrounds. But the main reason is that I’m not just reviewing new releases. Only two DIKs were books I read for review. The other four were series I had started before beginning graphic novel reviewing and wanted to share because I was passionate about them.
Now that I’ve worked my way through my own backlist, I’m running smack up against the challenge I started reviewing in order to address: it is so, SO hard to find romance graphic novels! If a graphic novel is classified as “romance,” all that means is “core relationship story” rather than the HEA definition we are used to in our genre. I have tried books off of “best romance graphic novel” web lists in which the characters ended up separate or even dead. One irritating example is Blankets by Craig Thompson. Widely lauded as a romance, it not only lacks a happy ending, but it features an incredibly irritating heroine whom I can only describe as “the sort of woman written by men in MFA programs.” If you don’t know what that kind of female character is, then you’re lucky. Since Blankets isn’t actually a romance, I didn’t even bother to write it up for review.
This problem has, however, made me feel even more strongly that I want to review graphic novels here. I’m trying to create the list I keep looking for (and by the way, if any of you know a good list, please send it my way!) I was delighted to get some message board comments from readers who had discovered, in particular, Tramps Like Us and the Story of Life on the Golden Fields via AAR reviews. That is an awesome feeling for a reviewer.
Another challenge has been formatting these books for the database. I think it’s good to have them sorted as graphic novels, but that means that when you search for, for instance, classic fiction, the graphic novels of Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre won’t turn up. I also struggle with assigning authors, since works are produced by teams. We put Fever Moon into the database under Karen Marie Moning, who wrote the story and the series, but that leaves out David Lawrence, who converted it to a graphic novel script, and Al Rio and Cliff Richards, who did the art. Even when there is only one main author/artist, it’s hard to talk about them, because we have no English word for that job (the Japanese is “mangaka”).
What’s ahead for graphic novels here? I don’t know for sure what I’ll get to, or what other reviewers will try, but my goals are:
- a Harlequin manga translation
- an LGBTQ romance graphic novel
- the next Manga Classics romance releases, scheduled to include Sense andSensibility and, to my total delight, Jane Eyre. After Emma earned a DIK from me, my hopes are high!
- a different book called Emma, this one a manga by Kaoru Mori.
- a science fiction romance. I have my eye on Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, about which I’ve heard great things. I just hope it has actual romance, and not a Blankets version.
As readers, how do you feel about the graphic novel reviewing so far? Have you tried any of the books we reviewed, and did you like them? Do you have any graphic novels to recommend?