For the longest time I kept wondering whether or not I should count graphic novels towards my Goodreads reading challenge. Now, I am a firm believer that it is a purely personal choice, and if somebody wants to include them into their challenge, then by all means – do it. Some people argue that graphic novels are too quick and easy to go through, which in turn might be unfair to somebody who reads only traditional literature. But you can also apply the same argument to a case where one person decides to read the entire bibliography of Dostoyevsky and the other chooses to stick to contemporary romance novels. There really isn’t a clear guideline that “elite” readers should consult to select a perfect challenge reading list. I think the challenge is all about your personal goals. If you want to see if you can handle a hundred graphic novels in a year, that is great. If you want to push yourself for three Chinese classic epics, nobody can call you unworthy contestant. This is about you expending your horizons, and not about trying to outdo everybody else.
That being said, I deleted the three graphic novels from my own challenge last week, because that was my choice. I kept going back and forth on the thing, but in the end I rationalized my decision by looking at what I really wanted to achieve with it. My original goal was to dedicate more time to reading books that I’ve always wanted to get to. I wanted to expand my vocabulary, with English being my second language, and learn to express my thoughts more fluidly and, dare I say, naturally. I believe that reading many well-written books might help me out with that. I’ve had experience with quite a few graphic novels in my early teens and, while many of them were wonderfully done in plot and character, they never required much effort from me. A short afternoon was all I needed to finish the chunkiest of them all. Right now, where I am in life, I want to put more effort into reading. I want it to be challenging. And that is why I ended up crossing all graphic novels out from my list. But…
I am still going to be reading an occasional series or two, because I am so out of the genre, I now have no clue what’s out there beyond Batman. Like I said, I haven’t opened a graphic novel since my early teens (which was an alarmingly large number of years ago), so I am naturally curious about all these famous books floating around on Goodreads and blogosphere. To begin my adventurous journey I plunged into my childhood favorites and one very famous series. Because I don’t really want to dedicate an individual post for each and every one of them, I will just leave my brief notes here.
Card Captor Sakura Omnibus (Vol 1-3): Oh yes, I remember little Sakura and her adventures among Clow cards very well. I loved watching the show back in the day, so when I accidentally stumbled on the three-volume compilation in the library, my nostalgic endorphins naturally convinced my brain to check out the original. This was a fun little (or should I say “big”) book and just as charming as I remember it. The story revolves around Sakura, who by mistake had managed to release magic Clow cards and now must capture them all, hence the title. The story is not complicated (yet) and the art is cute and girly, but CCS has many mature themes that youngsters might miss. For example, I never paused to think about all the complicated relationships between the characters. The books touches upon male and female homosexual love, romance between people of drastically different age groups, or difference between neutral attraction and sexual desire. I was also happy to see the familiar beauty of CLAMP’s art, since reading their “X” series long time ago. Overall, the gorgeous illustrations and interesting sub-plots made this one worthwhile to revisit.
Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (Reissue 1): Did you know that there is going to be reboot of the famous show launched this winter? I didn’t, until I decided to look up information on the first re-issue volume of the graphic novel and to check it out from the library. Who of my generation did NOT grow up on Sailor Moon? Raise your hands, because I don’t believe you exist. This pretty much defined my childhood. I watched the show for the first time when I was nine and once again when I turned thirteen. I remember waking up during summer vocation at 7am to watch and record favorite episodes on VHS, only to watch it again during the afternoon rerun. Immediately after the show, my best friend would give me a call and we would gush about every little detail for minimum two hours while twirling the spiral telephone cord in our fingers. That was one awesome childhood, I miss it. I miss the childish, innocent obsession with something – that passionate dedication to a favorite show, band, line of toys, whatever. After reading the first volume, I have to say I still prefer the TV-series. The novel just seems a bit too rushed, too underdeveloped. It only barely scratches the surface of important issues, instead focusing on its primary purpose of entertainment. Maybe I just want too much.
Fables, Volume 1: Legends in Exile: I’ve been recommended this one on multiple occasions as a good introduction to adult graphic novels. Fables borrows characters from famous fairytales and gives them new lives in contemporary settings. This particular book deals with a murder of Rose Red, investigated by a Fabletown’s own sheriff Bigby Wolf, with assistance from the victim’s sister Snow White of course. While I found the main mystery a little dull, I loved the side-stories, including that of Snow’s cheating ex-husband Prince Charming and an unforgettable rant from Pinocchio about being a real boy. The art style had this classic comic book feel to it, which was pleasing to the eye. Characters turned out to be fresh and convincing, despite not being original. There was a lot of snappy humor and smart references to classic tales – something I always appreciate. I will gladly borrow the next volume in the series, just to see what Willingham team is up to.