Paramount Pictures has released two new looks at the forthcoming Snake Eyes film, which opens July 23 and already has co-creator Larry Hama’s seal of approval.
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins stars Henry Golding as Snake Eyes, a tenacious loner who is welcomed into an ancient Japanese clan called the Arashikage after saving the life of their heir apparent. Upon arrival in Japan, the Arashikage teach Snake Eyes the ways of the ninja warrior while also providing something he’s been longing for: a home. But, when secrets from his past are revealed, Snake Eyes’ honor and allegiance will be tested – even if that means losing the trust of those closest to him. Based on the iconic G.I. Joe character, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins also stars Andrew Koji as Storm Shadow, Úrsula Corberó as Baroness, Samara Weaving as Scarlett, Haruka Abe as Akiko, Tahehiro Hira as Kenta and Iko Uwais as Hard Master.
EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY
David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Jeff G. Waxman, Greg Mooradian
Brian Goldner, Erik Howsam, p.g.a., Lorenzo di Bonaventura, p.g.a.
Hasbro’s G.I. JOE® Characters
Evan Spiliotopoulos and Anna Waterhouse & Joe Shrapnel
Austin, TX – July 9, 2021 – Mondo Music, in conjunction with Hollywood Records, is proud to present the premiere vinyl pressing of Lorne Balfe’s score to the highly anticipated MARVEL STUDIOS’ BLACK WIDOW, available for pre-order at MondoShop.com on Friday, July 9.
Lorne Balfe’s first MCU score is a force to be reckoned with. He’s no stranger to crafting propulsive music for espionage epics (just listen to his masterful score to “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”) and his take on “Black Widow” is no exception. Balfe blends Russian choirs and soloists, with delicate and haunting piano and acoustic guitar; swirling strings with his trademark layered percussion. Balfe is incredibly elastic, delivering a beautiful score for this long-awaited chapter in Natasha Romanov’s story.
Pressed on 2x 180 Gram colored vinyl (this butterfly, splatter effect is exclusive to the Mondo Record Shop) and housed in a gatefold sleeve, kick-start Phase Four with the latest in our ongoing celebration of the music of the MCU.
MARVEL STUDIOS’ BLACK WIDOW – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack 2XLP
Music by Lorne Balfe
Package designed by Mo Shafeek
Featuring Liner Notes by Director Cate Shortland and composer Lorne Balfe
Pressed on 2x 180 Gram Colored Vinyl
Also available on 2x 180 Gram Black Vinyl
Pre-Order begins 7/9
$35 Fans can also continue to build their collection of Marvel enamel pins with Mondo’s new Black Widow and Taskmaster enamel pins by artist Tom Whalen, and the Red Guardian enamel pin by artist Matt Taylor, all available on pre-order beginning Friday, July 9.
Black Widow Enamel Pin
Artwork by Tom Whalen
1.43″ x 1.17″ soft enamel pin on shiny silver nickel, single post with butterfly clutch backing
Available as pre-order from July 9 until July 31
Taskmaster Enamel Pin
Artwork by Tom Whalen
1.4″ x 1.2″ soft enamel pin on shiny silver nickel
Batman brings out the best – and sometimes worst – reactions from everyone he encounters in Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two. Warner Bros. Animation released four examples of those differing reactions in all new images from the film.
Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, the feature-length animated Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two will be distributed by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital starting July 27 and on Blu-ray beginning August 10.
I tagged this as “non-fiction” and “memoir,” but it’s isn’t, exactly. This is the story of Marguerite, a twenty-seven-year-old French woman who gets diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. It’s written by Julie Dachez, who is now thirty-six and who was diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2012.
So the reader’s assumption is that Marguerite has been constructed to be somewhat different from the real Dachez. Some details are not what actually happened to Dachez, for whatever reason, and those changes were large enough that she changed the name of the central character, while still presenting it all as “my story” (though “my” here tends to attach to Marguerite).
That’s Invisible Differences, a graphic novel published in 2016 in France and translated by Edward Gauvin for a 2020 English-language publication. Well, actually, I’m still simplifying. I originally thought Mademoiselle Caroline was purely the artist, but the book itself makes it clear that she also adapted Dachez’s script – maybe it wasn’t quite in comics-panel form to begin with, maybe it was but Caroline made changes for better panel flow and readability, maybe some other complicated working relationship to end up with these finished pages.
So it was written by Dachez and Caroline, to some degree. It’s the story of Dachez, to some degree. It’s accurate and realistic, but maybe not “true” in the purest sense of that word.
I know that people on the autism spectrum are often concerned with little details like that, which is one reason I go into such detail here. (The other is that I am concerned with those details, and fascinated by them, even though I’m not on that spectrum.)
Since I’m American, I’m used to seeing the competing “America is better than anyone in the world at X!” and “America is totally horrible at Y, unlike these other countries!” arguments. Invisible Differences is partially the same sort of thing applied to France. As Dachez and Caroline present it, Freudian psychotherapy still rules mental health in France, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is underdiagnosed and undertreated, particularly in women. There’s an extensive section of notes at the end about what Autism is and how it’s treated in France, which could be helpful to people newly diagnosed and their families and friends.
I’m happy to note that my own son (diagnosed as various things on the spectrum in his first decade-and-a-half before the ASM-5 consolidated it all into ASD in 2013) had good support and care; it’s rare to see some health-care thing that the USA actually does better than an EU country. This is more a book for people getting this diagnosis in adulthood, or maybe adolescence, than the typical US timing of early childhood.
There isn’t a whole lot of “story” here; it’s about who Marguerite is, how she learns there’s a label and an explanation for some parts of her life that have caused her friction and anxiety, and how she transforms her life to align with what she learns and what she decides she wants to do with her new knowledge. It’s a profound journey for her: she was unhappy in really central ways that she doesn’t seem to have even thought were able to be changed until her diagnosis.
I’m going to see if my on-the-spectrum son is interested in this book; if he does read it and tells me anything, I may add notes here or later. But, for now, and speaking purely as someone who knows a person on the spectrum, this is a thoughtful, honest book that I think will be great for ASD-diagnosed people, particularly those coming to the diagnosis later in life.
The answer to the question was at the center of X-Men Gold Vol 2, #9 , “Kitty Goes to Washington” Part 1. (By way of a quick digression, that title is derived from the classic Frank Capra movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which is not a bad little movie as opposed to its remake Billy Jack Goes to Washington, which most definitely is.) (By way of another quick digression, this story was called Part 1, even though it doesn’t end in a cliffhanger and the very next issue was Part 1 of a completely different story. Proving that Marvel finds X-Men continuity as confusing as I do.)
Why did Kitty Pride, leader of the X-Men at the time of this story, go to Washington? To appear before a Congressional committee to speak against a proposed Mutant Deportation Act. What was the Mutant Deportation Act? The story didn’t say and researching on the online Marvel Database didn’t help. It’s entry on the bill said, and I quote, “The Mutant Deportation Bill was a bill voted on by Congress.” Even Captain Obvious found that answer to be a little bit on the nose. As I don’t want to spend the rest of this column speculating on what the act said, I will assume it said the United States could deport all mutants.
Is there a problem with a law that allows for the deportation of all mutants simply because they’re mutants? Did Carter have little liver pills? (No, really, did it? The pills in question weren’t shaped like livers and didn’t do anything for the liver. So did Carter have little liver pills?)
To address the problem we must first determine: what is deportation? No, it’s not one of ESPN’s foreign-language channels. According to the Supreme Court, “Deportation is the removal of an alien out of the country, simply because his presence is deemed inconsistent with the public welfare,” Fong Yue Ting v. United States, 149 U.S. 698 (1893).
If Congress were to decide that the presence of mutants in America was “inconsistent with the public welfare,” that wouldn’t be very nice. It would be singling out a class for unequal treatment simply because of how they were born; as if Congress chose to deport people based on whether their skin was the wrong color, their eyes were the wrong shape, or that they couldn’t throw a wicked slider. But let’s face facts, mutants in the Marvel Universe have had their own line of comics and cross-overs for decades. Mutants couldn’t rack up all those sales if they didn’t attract trouble, mayhem, and more property damage than an 8.7 earthquake during an F5 tornado. Yes, mutants attract trouble the way a “Wet Paint” sign attracts fingerprints. So there is a case that could be made that their “presence is inconsistent with the public welfare.”
I’m not saying that I agree that mutants should be deported simply because they’re mutants. In point of fact, I don’t think anyone should be deported because of their genetic make-up. But I also don’t have any say in the matter. I’m not in the Marvel Universe Congress. Hell, I’m not even one of its constituents. Last time I looked there weren’t any mutants, cosmic-radiated beings, or Fin Fang Fooms running around my backyard.
However, even if Congress thought it had the constitutional authority and the voter mandate to deport all mutants, it still couldn’t pass a law deporting all mutants simply because they were mutants. Sure Wolverine or Storm or Colossus could be deported. But not Kitty Pride or Cyclops or Iceman or Jean Grey. (Depending on whether Jean Grey is alive or dead now, I can never remember.) See, Kitty and the original X-Men are natural-born US citizens. You can’t deport a citizen, only an alien or a foreign national.
Congressman Baker told Kitty that it could deport all mutants, including US citizens, because mutants aren’t humans, so the protections of the Constitution didn’t apply to them. I say that argument has more bunk than an Army barracks. If you are writing a law that calls for someone to be deported that someone must be a person for a very simple reason; only people are deported.
You don’t hear of dogs being deported. Or horses. Not even murder hornets. No, you can ship sheep. Or ferry ferrets. And even pack pack mules. But you don’t deport them. Not even sentient creatures like whales or porpoises are deported. They freed Willy, they didn’t deport him.
, if Congress wants to deport mutants, it must first agree that mutants are humans. Are people. Just people who happen to be different from the people in power. Which is why the people in power want to deport them in the first place; they’re different.
And that brings us back to our original question, when is a person not a person? The answer isn’t when they’re ajar. But the answer is definitely jarring.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) brings two highly anticipated releases to Comic-Con@Home 2021 with intriguing panel discussions of Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two on Friday, July 23 at 3:00pm PT and Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms on Saturday, July 24 at 4:00pm PT.
Links to view the panels will be available when Comic-Con International announces its full weekend schedule in early July. For more information about Comic-Con, visit www.comic-con.org.
On Friday, July 23 at 3:00pm PT, WBHE will present a star-studded panel discussion of the most anticipated animated Super Hero release of the year – Batman: the Long Halloween, Part Two! Inspired by the iconic mid-1990s DC story from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two completes the two-film journey as theHoliday Killer is still at large and, with Bruce Wayne under the spell of the venomous Poison Ivy, Batman is nowhere to be found. Liberated by an unlikely ally, Bruce quickly uncovers the real culprit: Poison Ivy’s employer Carmine Falcone. The Roman, his ranks decimated by Holiday and his business spinning out of control, has been forced to bring on less desirable partners – Gotham City’s rogues’ gallery. In the meantime, Harvey Dent is confronting battles on two fronts: attempting to end the mob war while also dealing with a strained marriage. And, after an attack that leaves Harvey hideously disfigured, the District Attorney unleashes the duality of his psyche that he’s strived his entire life to suppress. Now, as Two-Face, Dent decides to take the law into his own hands and deliver judgment to those who’ve wronged him, his family and all of Gotham. Ultimately, the Dark Knight must put together the tragic pieces that converged to create Two-Face, the Holiday Killer, Batman and Gotham City itself. Watch the fun as panelists discuss the thrilling conclusion to this epic tale, including Jensen Ackles (Supernatural, Batman: Under the Red Hood) as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Katee Sackhoff (The Mandalorian, Battlestar Galactica, Batman: Year One) as Poison Ivy, Julie Nathanson (Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay) as Gilda Dent, Troy Baker (The Last of Us, Batman: Arkham Knight) as The Joker and screenwriter Tim Sheridan (Reign of the Supermen, Superman: Man of Tomorrow). Actress/host Tiffany Smith (He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, DC Daily) moderates the festivities. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, DC and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the feature-length animated film – which will be accompanied by the latest DC Showcase animated short, Blue Beetle –arrives July 27, 2021 on Digital and August 10, 2021 on Blu-ray.
On Saturday, July 24 at 4:00pm PT, WBHE celebrates the exhilarating sequel to the 2020 hit Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge with an equally thrilling (and hilarious) panel featuring the stars and filmmakers of Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms. Based on one of the most popular videogame franchises in history, Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms finds our team of heroes besieged by the enemy forces of Shao Kahn – forcing Raiden and his group of warriors into a deal to compete in a final Mortal Kombat that will determine the fate of the realms. Now our heroes must travel to Outworld in order to defend Earthrealm and
, simultaneously, Scorpion must find the ancient Kamidogu before it’s used to resurrect the One Being – which would mean certain destruction of all things in the universe. Time is short and the stakes are high in this action-packed continuation of the Mortal Kombat journey. Joel McHale (Community, Stargirl), the voice of Hollywood star-turned-fighter Johnny Cage, headlines a panel that includes Jordan Rodrigues (Lady Bird, The Fosters) as Liu Kang; Dave B. Mitchell (Mortal Kombat 11, Call of Duty franchise) as Raiden, Kintaro & Sektor; screenwriter Jeremy Adams (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II); producer Rick Morales (Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, Batman vs. Two-Face); and game co-creator Ed Boon (NetherRealm Studios), who serves the films as the Creative Consultant. Joshua Gray, producer and host of Mortal Kombat Events & Professional Tournaments since 2015, moderates the panel. Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, an all-new, feature-length film produced by Warner Bros. Animation in coordination with NetherRealm Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The film arrives from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment on Digital, Blu-ray, and 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack on August 31, 2021.
BURBANK, CA – With more than 11.4M Total Weekly Viewers in its fourth season, Young Sheldon remains the number one comedy series on network television. Laugh along with the iconic Sheldon Cooper as he begins his college career as Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releases Young Sheldon: The Complete Fourth Season on DVD September 7, 2021 for $24.98 SRP.
For young Sheldon Cooper, being a once-in-a-generation mind capable of advanced mathematics and science isn’t always helpful in East Texas. And while the vulnerable, gifted and somewhat naïve Sheldon deals with the world, his very normal family must find a way to deal with him. Now as Sheldon graduates high school and embarks on his college career, a whole new chapter begins. For over a decade, The Big Bang Theory audiences came to know the iconic, eccentric and extraordinary Sheldon Cooper. Now, with the release of Young Sheldon: The Complete Fourth Season, meets him as he sets forth on his innocent, awkward journey toward the man he will become.
Created and executive produced by Chuck Lorre and Steven Molaro, executive producers of the hit TV series The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon is also executive produced and narrated by Jim Parsons, who played Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory. Steve Holland and Todd Spiewak also executive produce. The star cast features Iain Armitage (Big Little Lies), Zoe Perry (The Family, Private Practice), Lance Barber (The Comeback), Montana Jordan (The Legacy of a Whitetail Deer Hunter), Raegan Revord (Modern Family), and Matt Hobby (Hart of Dixie, Boardwalk Empire) with Annie Potts (Designing Women, Love & War) and Jim Parsons. The series is produced by Chuck Lorre Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television.
Young Sheldon: The Complete Fourth Season includes 18 half-hour episodes:
A Docent, a Little Lady and a Bouncer Named Dalton
Training Wheels and an Unleashed Chicken
Bible Camp and a Chariot of Love
A Musty Crypt and a Stick to Pee On
Freshman Orientation and the Inventor of the Zipper
A Philosophy Class and Worms That Can Chase You
An Existential Crisis and a Bear That Makes Bubbles
Crappy Frozen Ice Cream and an Organ Grinder’s Monkey
Cowboy Aerobics and 473 Grease-Free Bolts
A Pager, a Club and a Cranky Bag of Wrinkles
A Box of Treasure and the Meemaw of Science
The Geezer Bus and a New Model for Education
Mitch’s Son and the Unconditional Approval of a Government Agency
A Virus, Heartbreak and a World of Possibilities
A Second Prodigy and the Hottest Tips for Pouty Lips
Self-publishing can strip out a lot of the standard bullshit of publishing. If this book had been published by a Fantagraphics or Dark Horse, it would be called something like Prairie Moons and Night Drives, or maybe True Stories and Other Lies.
But, since Rick Geary assembled it himself out of his archives and published it himself, it can be exactly what it is: Stories from the ’90s. Simple, clear, true.
Geary has been assembling his shorter stories into various books for a few years now; I think this is the most recent one, but I hope there’s at least one book’s worth left of newer work. Already available are Early Stories (pretty self-explanatory)
, The Lampoon Years: 1977-1988 (mostly single-pagers from National Lampoon in its declining years, though Geary’s work was excellent), and Rick Geary’s Book of Murder (stories about murder, more and more straightforwardly as his career went on, over a roughly thirty-year span). Older Geary fans may remember At Home with Rick Geary (from 1985) and Housebound with Rick Geary (1997); I think most of those pieces have been collected in these four books now, along with a lot of other material.
Stories from the ’90s is even bigger than the previous books – they all landed in the 80-90 page range, while this one tops out at 120. (And is slightly more expensive, though slightly cheaper than his more recent individual Kickstarted books – as usual, pricing is complicated and based on multiple factors.)
And, of course, the whole point is that its full of oddball Geary stories. There are some long ones, like “Prairie Moon” and “Tragedy in Orbit” and “Mr. Nickelodeon” and “Our Illustrious Visitor of 1959,” but that’s only “long” in context: there are a passel of three-pagers and a half-dozen longer than that, but most of the work here is in single-page form. Geary was always deeply quirky in his short comics, full of strange transformations, matter-of-fact narration of bizarre events, random juxtapositions, and a sprightly, conversational tone no matter the style or matter of a story. This book has one Mask story – yes, the same character the movies were about; it was a comic first, with work by a whole lot of different people – a couple of Geary-esque retelling of unlikely historical events, and a whole bunch of one-pagers on topics like “Desperate Clergy,” “Secret Places of My Shameful Past,” “Transgression Hotline,” and “Yes, It Happened.”
Geary’s art is mostly softly rounded here, full of people pulling faces during their madcap antics. His lettering is precise and lovely, either in bigger stories or framing those tiny little boxes of enigmatic objects he did a lot early in his career.
This is one of the most Rick Geary books possible, and it is wonderful. The only way I know of to get it is directly from the author, but don’t let that stop you: he uses one of the major amalgamators for merch (Storenvy), and it all works well. Hornswoggler says check it out.
, and Ormston does that pseudo-horror look that is nearly a Dark Horse house style (or maybe just rules the Mignolaverse). But I was expecting something quirkier. (Note that Black Hammer is four years old. I had plenty of time to get more details; I just didn’t bother.)
It’s not clear if this was really a team. No name for the group is given in this first collection. But a half-dozen of the superheroes who used to defend Spiral City have been stuck on a farm somewhere in the middle of nowhere for ten years, after a battle with Darkseid “the Anti-God”. They saved the world, and ended up here. The creators don’t tell us how or why in this story – I’m sure it becomes clear later.
None of them are Black Hammer. Black Hammer isn’t the name of the group either. Black Hammer was another guy, the one who died as part of the whole saving-the-world thing. (Or maybe afterward, discovering that they really can’t get out of this small bit of farm landscape with one small town.) The actual hammer he used – this is a superhero comic, so obviously “Black Hammer” is a large Black man who carries a hammer to hit things with until evil is vanquished, because superhero comics are still written for the particularly stupid children of 1938 – is lying on the ground in a field, as if to shame Chekhov into thinking a gun on a mantlepiece could ever be sufficiently obvious.
Black Hammer, the series, is not exactly a pastiche – it’s not “doing the favorite superhero stories of my youth, only as if written by a functional adult” like Astro City has generally aimed for, or “I want to tell stories of these existing characters, but the IP owners haven’t hired me to do so, so decipher this really transparent code” like a dozen others. The characters are pastiches, though — most of them very obviously so:
Golden Gail is Mary Marvel, with the serial numbers crudely altered
Abraham Slam is the standard WW II strong guy, powered by gumption rather than magic or superscience
Barbalien, Warlord from Mars is J’onn J’onz lightly run through a Edgar-Rice-Burroughs-inator
Madame Dragonfly is Madame Xanadu with details changed, your standard ’70s horror host with weird and mysterious powers (and a tragic backstory involving accidentally creating a muck-monster boyfriend and eventually losing him)
Col. Weird is an ’80s-style reimagining of Adam Strange, transformed by his journeys through the Anti-Zone into a distracted, ghostly, transitory presence
Talky-Walky is Weird’s robot sidekick, more or less an equal member of the group on the farm
Black Hammer: Secret Origins collects the first six issues of the main Black Hammer series, beginning when those six have been living on “The Farm” for ten years. Some of them may have been aging, such as Abraham (though this is unclear: we don’t know when this story takes place and he’s been around since 1939 without any powers to keep him young), while Gail has definitely not been aging, which is a plot point.
Speaking of the unclear timeline: Gail and Abe are clearly WWII heroes, with forty or fiftyish years of history behind them. That puts us in the ’80s or ’90s. Weird and Barbalien are ’50s characters with some history as well, Weird specifically a ’50s character with a later (’70s or ’80s) spin put on him. Dragonfly was probably the “newest” character if we think of them as being part of an established universe. But all of them probably had at least a decade’s worth of adventures behind them, and most of them multiple decades.
This is a combination “introducing the team” arc – they each get an extended flashback to show their origins and life back in Spiral City – and examination of how well they’re all getting along here on the farm. Abe is doing best: he’s making time with a local age-appropriate waitress (ex-wife of the unpleasant local sheriff) and finally gets into her pants during this story. Gail is doing worst: she’s stuck in the superhero body of her nine-year-old self and has been repeating the same grade in a crappy rural school every year. Barbalien might be becoming a churchgoer. Dragonfly is mystical and detached, and clearly has Deep Secrets that readers will need to wait to learn. Weird is barely sane at the best of times, fading in and out of reality. Talky is just keepin’ on keepin’ on.
Near the end, there is a Shocking Event from Outside, and everyone who has ever read a superhero comic will immediately see the next three or four plotlines coming out of that. (Most obviously: Black Hammer II! The sensational character find of whatever-the-hell-year-this-is!)
I’m being pretty dismissive here, because this is all very deeply derivative stuff. Lemire makes that clear in the sketches and other materials collected after the story: there are even ’80s DC Universe-style character sheets for all of the major characters (and several who didn’t make it in). The derivative-ness is the point. This is a story for people who want more stories about superheroes like these, written by someone who understands how actual human beings talk and drawn by someone who has experienced actual cast shadows, studied the ways clothing actually drapes, and experienced the touch of actual human women.
That is not my particular jam, but I’ve started this, so I think I’m going to try to read it far enough at least to see how they get back to Spiral City. (And how long Black Hammer I stays dead: my bet is not all that long.) But know that this is very much a “wouldn’t it be cool if Jeff Lemire could write without those suits at DC screwing it all up?” book.
Hey! Remember when I said that I thought Kristen Gudsnuk’s middle-grade graphic novel Making Friends was a lot of fun, but that I missed the random background goofiness in the world that Gudsnuk brought to her previous book (for adults, as much as any book about superheroes is) Henchgirl
? Sure you do!
Well, Gudsnuk had a sequel to Making Friends a couple of years ago – I just found out about it recently, since I guess I don’t spend as much time keeping track of comics for middle-graders as I should – and I’m happy to report that Making Friends: Back to the Drawing Board shoves the Weird Stuff meter way over into the red zone before it’s done, in a very integrated and fun way. So I do hope to keep using Gudsnukian as an adjective and looking forward to the day when everyone does.
Making Friends followed seventh-grade motormouth Dany – seriously, she’s one of those people (I was intermittently one of them at a slightly later age) who cannot shut up to save their lives even though she knows she’s saying things the wrong way – as she adjusted to life in middle school, where her old friends had a completely different schedule. She thought her life would be perfect if she just had one really good best friend, so, when a magic sketchbook fell into her life from her deceased Great-Aunt Elma, she made herself the perfect friend, Madison Fontaine.
(See my post on the first book for more on where it went from there.)
It’s now a little later in the school year: there’s still a gaping hole in the gym ceiling from , and Dany has been using her reality-warping powers in lots of ways, none of which could ever backfire on her…as far as she’s ever foreseen. But Madison is now even better friends with Cara McCoy
, another cheerleader, and Cara is not Dany’s biggest fan. Cara isn’t a “mean girl,” though she does get mean in the ways middle-schoolers do. Honestly, it’s pretty clear than Dany can be annoying regularly, and is exhausting nearly all the time.
So Dany thinks: I just need to use the notebook again, to make things better. I’m too busy and too lazy to get everything done – what if there were two of me? So she uses the notebook to create “Cloney,” a version of herself with a ponytail who lives in a “Pikkiball.” And it actually seems to go OK at first: the two Danys get along with each other, Cloney is happy to take original Dany’s place at school, and nobody is an evil twin or from the dimension of death.
But there’s other stuff going on in the background. Dany’s parents have mysteriously won the lottery. Her mother has lost a lot of weight suddenly. Some other relatives, we see later, have had equally surprising life changes. All soon after Great-Aunt Elma passed and her stuff was bequeathed to her family – interesting!
Gudsnuk doesn’t underline that; the reader has to pick up on it. Or maybe it’s that Dany doesn’t pay much attention to it, since she’s self-absorbed in the ways only a twelve-year-old can be, and the book is from her point of view.
But Back to the Drawing Board is a book where things get even nuttier than in the first book. It builds slowly at first, but the back half of this one is full of all kinds of weird magical powers and events: it is (he said approvingly) deeply Gudsnukian and lots of fun. There is an even bigger magical conflict at the end of this book, and, this time, it’s not all Dany’s fault – though she and her friends do need to be the ones to make everything right.
Gudsnuck has a slightly looser line here than in the previous book, as if she’s drawing at white-hot speed and trying to get to all of the good stuff in her head. I found it a bit too loose here and there, but it works almost all the time. And her people are energetic to a fault: she’s particularly good at a cartoony open-mouth pose when they run into yet something else bizarre and unexpected.
Obviously, the core audience for this book is middle-school girls. But I’m about as far from that demo as you can get, and I’m looking forward to Book Three later this summer, so take that as a recommendation. If you’re an adult, I’d still start Gudsnuk with Henchgirl, but, if you like that, you’ll get a hoot out of these books, too.