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Cool Reads: March 2022

Dearest Reader,

Did you think this author simply forgot about this self imposed commitment known as a blog? Well, despite the many distractions that life throws in this author's path, I have not abandoned my challenge. In fact, one must agree that there is nothing quite like the sweet smell of books, especially those unread. Filled with the promise of new adventures for the mind...

Ah, April Fools...I'm no Lady Whistledown...but the character is so much fun, don't you agree?

This month's Cool Reads theme is Women - March is Women's History Month and holds International Women's Day, after all.

There are SO MANY women who contribute to the fan culture and comics culture industries that this month's cool reads is just a sampling of what we should be celebrating with. In fact, we should be celebrating women in comics and fandom year round, not just once a year! Trust me, you'll be seeing more women artists featured every month in the Comics In My Life blog.

As always if you see a title that captures your interest be sure to visit Your Local Comic Book Store or Your Local Book Store

Be sure to comment and tell me what you've been reading this month or if you've read one of these titles! I would love to know!

Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story

Creative Team: Lilliam Rivera, Steph C., Gabriella Downie

From the back cover: "Jessica Cruz has done everything right. She’s a dedicated student, popular among her classmates, and has a loving family that has done everything they can to give her a better life in the United States. While Jessica is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, allowing her to go to school and live in the US, her parents are undocumented. Jessica usually worries for her parents, but her fears and anxiety escalate as a mayoral candidate with a strong anti-immigration stance runs for office.

As the xenophobia in Coast City increases, Jessica begins to debate whether it’s worth renewing her status to stay in the US, or whether her family would be safer and better off moving back to Mexico. And despite her attempts to lean on her friends and family, she finds herself constantly visited by visions of Aztec gods, one pulling her toward hope and the other toward anger.

But when her father is detained by I.C.E., Jessica finds herself being pulled into an abyss of fear. Despite feeling helpless with her father gone, Jessica must find her way out of her fears and ultimately become a voice for her community.

Discovered at: Blackbird Comics & Coffeehouse, Maitland, FL

Post Read Reflections: Absolutely STUNNING artwork combined with a simple yet fresh take on the Green Lantern mythos. I was not familiar with Jessica Cruz prior to reading this and I have to say, I want more. I want to know how she continues through her struggles and how she grows as a character.

Becoming RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Journey to Justice

Creative Team: Debbie Levy, Whitney Gardner

From the back cover: "Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a modern feminism icon - a leader in the fight for equal treatment of girls and women in society and the workplace. She blazed trails to the peaks of the male-centric worlds of education and law, where women rarely had risen before.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has often said that true and lasting change in society and law is accomplished slowly one step at a time. That is how she has evolved too. Step by step, the shy little girl became a child who questioned unfairness, who became a student who persisted despite obstacles, who became an advocate who resisted injustice, who became a judge who revered the rule of law, who became...RBG.

Post Read Reflections: While this graphic novel was written prior to Justice Ginsburg's passing, its still strikes all the right chords and themes of her legacy. While targeted to a younger reader, it does not pander and would be helpful to educators who are looking for a way to introduce students to history or even encourage continued engagement with history.

We Served the People: My Mother's Stories

Author and Audio Reader: Nathalia Holt

From the back cover: From Snow White to Moana, from Pinocchio to Frozen, the animated films of Walt Disney Studios have moved and entertained millions. But few fans know that behind these groundbreaking features was an incredibly influential group of women who fought for respect in an often ruthless male-dominated industry and who have slipped under the radar for decades.

In The Queens of Animation, bestselling author Nathalia Holt tells their dramatic stories for the first time, showing how these women infiltrated the boys' club of Disney's story and animation departments and used early technologies to create the rich artwork and unforgettable narratives that have become part of the American canon. As the influence of Walt Disney Studios grew -- and while battling sexism, domestic abuse, and workplace intimidation -- these women also fought to transform the way female characters are depicted to young audiences.

With gripping storytelling, and based on extensive interviews and exclusive access to archival and personal documents, The Queens of Animation reveals the vital contributions these women made to Disney's Golden Age and their continued impact on animated filmmaking, culminating in the record-shattering Frozen, Disney's first female-directed full-length feature film.

Post Read Reflections: I am so glad that I chose to 'read' this as an audio book. I've always been fascinated by the subject matter but Nathalia Holt's throughout research and historical timelining truly come to life as she reads with passion and unique use of 'theatre of the mind' audio techniques, particularly when reading media excerpts or reviews. I know for certain that any future trips to any of the Disney resorts or re-watching of discussed films from the book will result in seeing the women behind the magic everywhere I look.

I am Princess X

Creative Team: Cherie Priest, Kali Ciesemier

From the back cover: "Once upon a time two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the comics, may wrote the stories, and Princess X fought monsters, ghosts and other assorted creepazoids from her haunted house high on a hill.

Once upon a few years later Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across a bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.

Once upon a now May is sixteen and lonely when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window - a figure in a gold crown, pink dress, red Chucks, and a long katana sword...

Princess X? Suddenly, May sees the princess everywhere: stickers, patches, graffiti - an entire underground world built around a webcomic at The more May explores the comic, the more shocking connections she finds between Libby's death and Princess X's adventures. And that means only one person could have started this phenomenon -her best friend, Libby, who lives.

Illustrated throughout with the Princess X web comic, I Am Princess X is a mystery, wrapped in a friendship story, bound up with a cyberthriller...and all-around awesome."

Post Read Reflections: While targeted for a middle to high school age reader, this book is a fun read for any age. The weaving of the graphic novel components into the novel story works very well and helps create the world of Princess X as well as temper some of the stronger themes of the book (kidnapping, grief, loss of agency, etc).

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World

Creator: Penelope Bagieu

From the inside cover: "Throughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit. Against overwhelming adversity, these remarkable women raised their voices and changed history.

Wither her one-of-a-kind wit and dazzling drawings, Penelope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world-famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, their stories are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies."

Post Read Reflections: This graphic novel should be in every library, personal and public. Educators - use this graphic novel if you want to inspire your students to connect with history. The essence of each woman and their experiences is captured in brilliant, playful yet respectful manner. Each story left me wanting to know more or at least dig deeper into each woman's history.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force: Ballot Box Collection

Creative Team: "Featuring more creators than there are payments left on your students loans!"

From the back cover: Collecting the hit anthology comics featuring America's favorite progressive upstart electorate: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force: New Party, Who Dis?, Squad Special, and Talk Bernie to Me: Ther Bernie Sanders Special and AOC Surprise.

Printed on recycled unpaid medical bills** (Not Really)

*No politicians are officially associated with this book.

Post Read Reflections: This is truly a collection of political comics, drawn and written to stimulate the reader to think about the current political environment, from both a broad and personal stand point. I rarely pick up political comics but I found this one intriguing and would read more given the opportunity.

We Served the People: My Mother's Stories

Creative Team: Emei Burell

From the back cover: In China, an entire generation’s most formative years took place in remote rural areas when city-kids were sent to the countryside to become rusticated youth and partake in Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

Eisner-nominated cartoonist Emei Burell breathes new life into the stories her mother shared of growing up during mid-1960s Communist China. In an inspiring tale, her mother recounts how she ended up as one of the few truck-driving women during the Up to the Mountains and Down to the Countryside Movement, which sought to increase agricultural outreach and spur social and ideological change amongst youth.

Burell’s stunning illustrations honor her mother’s courage, strength and determination during a decade of tremendous political upheaval, where millions of lives were lost, and introduces us to a young Burell in a new era of self-discovery.

Post Read Reflections: This book is so much more than a graphic novel, it is a history lesson, wrapped in a memory capsule and topped with personal reflection bow. I really didn't know much about the Countryside Movement or Communist China in the 1960s but once I finished reading, I felt as though I was walking away with more than just knowledge - this book invites you in and reminds you that not everything is simply good or bad, there's a lot of room in between to live.

Lady Castle

Creative Team: Delilah S. Dawson, Ashley A. Woods, Becca Farrow

From the back cover: When King Mancastle and his mighty vassals ride off on crusade, the women left behind are not at all put out - that's a lot less armor polishing for them to do. Of course, when the men get themselves eaten by a dragon and leave a curse that attracts monsters to the castle... Well, the women take umbrage with that. Now the blacksmith's wife, Merinor, is King, Princess Aeve is the Captain, and the only remaining (and least capable) knight, Sir Riddick, is tasked with teaching the ladies of the castle how to fight, defend, build and do all manner of noisy things the men had been doing while the women assumed they were just drunk.

Post Read Reflections: This graphic novel simultaneously draws on Medieval tropes and then turns them on their head - with fun results. Not sure where things will end up for these women but I hope we get to find out in future issues.

Lily Renee: Escape Artist

Creative Team: Trina Robbins, Anne Timmons and Mo Oh

From the back cover: In 1938, Lily Renee Wilheim is a 14 year old Jewish girl living in Vienna. Her days are filled with art and ballet. Then the Nazis march into Austria, and Lily's life is shattered overnight. Suddenly, her own country is no longer safe for her or her family. To survive, Lily leaves her parents behind and travels alone to England.

Escaping the Nazis is only the start of Lily's journey. She must escape many more times - from servitude, hardship, and danger. Will she find a way to have her own sort of revenge on the Nazis? Follow the story of a brave girl who becomes an artist of heroes and a true pioneer in comic books.When King Mancastle and his mighty vassals ride off on crusade, the women left behind are not at all put out - that's a lot less armor polishing for them to do. Of course, when the men get themselves eaten by a dragon and leave a curse that attracts monsters to the castle... Well, the women take umbrage with that. Now the blacksmith's wife, Merinor, is King, Princess Aeve is the Captain, and the only remaining (and least capable) knight, Sir Riddick, is tasked with teaching the ladies of the castle how to fight, defend, build and do all manner of noisy things the men had been doing while the women assumed they were just drunk.

Post Read Reflections: I had the pleasure of meeting Trina Robbins at a comic convention in San Diego in 2019, among other pioneer female comic book artists, and instantly wanted to read some of Trina's work. This graphic novel not only tells a unique historical story, but also uses the artistic style of the period it speaks to, which makes it feel more authentic and assists the story telling itself. Most of us are used to hearing about Anne Frank, having read about her in school, but this story allows readers to see a different side of WWII and its ramifications. This book would be a good choice for educators who have students interested in the comics medium and/or in need of a different historical text choice.

Ironheart: Riri Williams

Creative Team: Bendis, Caselli, Gracia

From the back cover: From the streets of Chicago, an armored hero rises! Clad in her own high-tech suit, Riri Williams is ready to show the world what she can do as the self-made hero of tomorrow. But is she ready for all the problems that come with stepping into Iron Man's boots? Like her first big Marvel villain! The laundry list of criminals looking to destroy Tony Stark's legacy! And that other guy also running around as Iron Man! As Riri's adventures go viral, she soon claims her own alter ego: Ironheart! But her idealism is put to the test by a world she doesn't yet understand -- and a headstrong Tony Stark A.I. who thinks he knows best! How far will Riri go to do what she knows is right?

Post Read Reflections: I am all for finding ways to have more female superheroes and strong female characters in general in comics (and beyond). When characters who have been traditionally male are 'being changed' to be female, I have...concerns. How would the transition happen? Why not just created new characters so that women can stand in their own light and not the shadow of someone else's character? The cynic in me says that the reason why this 'switch' has been happening in recent years is very likely because of one or more of the following:

(1) the existing characters themselves are known entities, have popular followings and are therefore a 'sure thing'

(2) it is risky to launch a new character so while it may initially upset past readers, it's easier to change the gender of a known character than to create a new one and financial risk is less

(3) executives are FINNALLY starting to notice that women read comics too and now want to reach this demographic by catering characters to them

As we all know though, there is a fine line between catering to a demographic and pandering to them. So what's going on here really? Oh to be a fly on the corporate comic wall...until then I can only comment on what I read.

Truthfully, I enjoy Riri Williams as Ironheart - she is smart, funny and interesting. She's surrounded by strong female characters throughout her story and they are not just window dressing. For what this collection is - an origin story - it's not bad...but it's also not 100% great. Riri is living in the shadow of - and the post mortem crossfire - of Iron Man. She is also very young - which begs the question: why is she being drawn like a super model? Could it be because the artistic team is used to drawing from the male gaze? Perhaps. I'm also not reverse body shaming, I'm just asking: Why could she not look like a regular teenager? There is a LOT that can be done with this character...and I can't wait to see it be done. It just would have been amazing to see her be her own character and not fall under the Iron Man shadow from the get-go.

America: The Life and Times of America Chavez

Creative Team: Rivera, Quinones, Villalobos

From the back cover: Everyone's favorite no-nonsense powerhouse, America Chavez, gets her own series!

Critically acclaimed young-adult novelist Gabby Rivera (Juliet Takes A Breath) shines a solo spotlight on America's high-octane and hard-hitting adventures! She was a Young Avenger. She leads the Ultimates. And now she's going to college! Her first assignment: a field trip to the front lines of World War II - with Captain America as her wingman! But when another jump goes wrong, America Chavez ends up stuck in the past! Can that era's Storm and the X-Men help her find her way home, or are they too busy protecting a world that hates and fears them? And who is the mysterious figure behind these time-travel mishaps? Plus: America and her Young Avengers gal pal Hawkeye are reunited at last, as they team up to take on a new threat in Las Vegas!

Collecting issues of America #1-6.

Post Read Reflections: Aside from the concerns I mentioned in my Ironheart semi-soap box moment, if you are looking for an introduction to America Chavez - this is not it. Those can be found in her earlier appearances in Vengance #1 and Young Avengers series. I did not know that when I purchased it but I went ahead with reading this graphic novel anyway. This collection thrusts you into America's life and you get to know her at a time when things are kinda heavy. Juggling different team responsibilities (The Ultimates), relationship issues (she's Marvel's first Latin-American LGBTQ+ character), starting college and family revelations - America has a lot going on. What confuses me is that here is a character that has an amazing backstory, speaks to the actual realities of contemporary life, has amazing powers and yet her independent series was canceled in 2018. HOWEVER, she will be a character portrayed on screen (by Xochitl Gomez) in the upcoming Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness film. I read that the character was going to be in the film and therefore I wanted to know more about the character prior to seeing the film. I truly hope that the film helps boost interest in the character so that we can see more of her in the comics. What do you think - can films help comics or will they be the destruction of comics?

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