24 Panels – Comics Anthology

On June 2017, the Grenfell fire killed 72 people in a 24-story tower block in West London.

24 PANELS is an anthology comic to support the PTSD needs of the survivors. Curated by KIERON GILLEN (THE WICKED + THE DIVINE), it features 24 stories, each no longer than 24 panels. Half drawn from professional creators who volunteered their time and half drawn from open submissions, 24 PANELS is about community, hope, and (most of all) raising as much money as possible…

As I was personally offered this comic anthology for review, I was very honoured and excited to take part due to the reason this comic was put together.  What a creative way to show solidarity and support in times of adversity…

This anthology has very impressive art work and short storylines – with some stories I wish they were a bit longer than it was, but they were great nonetheless.. It was difficult to choose a favourite but I really liked Bagan Burma 2040, a culturally infused Burmese comic, I also enjoyed Dream Job which was a choose your own adventure type comic and They Say which is an important story that demonstrates how everyone has their own story half the time things that are said about you may not be true as people really don’t truly know what happens behind the scenes – everyone is dealing with their own battles you don’t know about..

A great collection of comics, great illustrations, story lines – recommended to graphic novel and comics fans and it is available for purchase online – proceeds go to supporting those affected by the Grenfell fire in 2017.

Special thanks to co-author of Above the Grave Mitchell Hall for having me on board to read and review this wonderful comics anthology..

-Annie

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Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

“But even in difficult situations, especially in difficult situations, you can’t lose hope. Things change”

FANTASTIC BOOK!!! A story that had me hooked from the first page and I read it in a day..

Life is pretty ordinary for Amal and her village in Pakistan.. Amal is one of the select few girls who can read and write and has a love for poetry and she is busy pursuing her dream to be a teacher however her dreams are momentarily crushed when she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings as it is her duty as the eldest daughter. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope then the unthinkable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Although written for a middle grade audience, I thoroughly enjoyed this as an adult and believe other readers who dive into YA or MG would enjoy it just the same. With themes that cover gender equality, education and social justice, I truly believe this to be an important book for all readers. I love and adore our protagonist Amal and there were times I wished I could just hug her and commend her courage and strength. I really felt her pain and realised my own problems were so small compared to girls/women like Amal. Amal’s character, her journey and her story was so real, raw and honest. I felt her emotion, her confusion, her outrage even her tears whether happy or sad, she’s a character I really love. What resonated with me was the book’s underlying message – to never give up hope..

Honestly, this author Aisha is a true inspiration to me and I intend to continue to follow this path: “We don’t have to make headlines to help change the world for the better. Everything we do in our communities and beyond to impart good is important and matters.”

Special thanks to Text Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book – definitely one of my 2018 favourites!!
-Annie

Warcross by Marie Lu

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life….

OK.. this book was epic!! Loved it from beginning to end!! I loved our protagonist: Emika (Emi) Chen… a teenage hacker who worked as a bounty hunter to track down Warcross players who bet on the game illegally… Warcross was an online, virtual reality game that took over the world and became a way of life.

I enjoyed Emi’s story – what her life was before she got to where she is now and particularly in the beginning, there was a lot of frustration she was feeling with her struggles. As a reader, you could feel her emotion and you were really with her when she was on her own trying to meet ends meet, plunging further and further into debt then her life suddenly changed… Being a bounty hunter was a competitive business, so in Emi’s desperate attempt to make quick money to pay immediate debts, she took a major risk by hacking into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships – the risk turned out to be life changing due to a glitch that exposed her to the world. As she was convinced this will result in incarceration, Emi was shocked to find that Warcross creator, Hideo Tanaka calls her with a job proposition rather than an arrest warrant. From The U.S to Tokyo, overnight, Emi’s life will never be the same..

This book was such a page turner, I loved it from beginning to end. I loved Emi’s journey, her connection with Hideo Tanaka and the focus on the world building – imagine if VR/online gaming ruled the world? How far away are we from it now? What I also found very interesting was how this world that was owned by Henka Games and the elusive creator Hideo Tanaka even had legislation governing it!!! How it was unlawful to gamble on Warcross and bounty hunters are hired to detain hackers and illegal gamblers. I’m not much of a gamer myself but I really enjoyed this story and how it whisked me into such a unique world!!! The intricate details of virtual reality and gaming kept me hooked to the very end. I especially took a liking to Hideo Tanaka – what an intelligent her mysterious individual he is.. I was wrapped in this fast paced action packed story – and woah.. that twist towards the end!! [not saying any more] I’m going to get into the sequel, Wildcard sooner rather than later!!

Special thanks to Penguin Random House Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

Above the Grave (Graphic Novel) + Exclusive Blog Q&A with the artists/authors Mitchell Hall and Andrew de Zilva

Rick Mastertine is having a bad first day on the job. He’s getting grief from his “customers”, staff and boss. His place of employment? He’s the new chief warden of Mako, the world’s super villain prison, located deep in the Namibian desert and converted from an old diamond mine.

Can Rick uncover the true secret of Mako, while preventing an ingenious jailbreak by the likes of the shape-shifting Mister Twister, luck manipulating Russian Roulette, sentient tree Davine and brilliant crocodile-man hybrid Crocitis?

Image from: Above the Grave

Blog Q&A Exclusive with artists/authors – Mitchell Hall and Andrew de Zilva…

When did you both decide to co-write your comic book “Above the Grave” and how did you come to this decision?

M: I mentioned it to Andrew and at that stage had it as an issued comic mini-series. Andrew liked the idea of the story and expanded out the story and wrote it out in a Screenplay format.

A: This would have started about ten years ago. Mitchell has oodles of story ideas but there was something about this concept that really grabbed me, plus I thought the characters were fun and distinctive. It goes deeper than that though, as Mitchell established some themes that resonated with me. For example, at the time I was a supervisor and on one level Rick, as the warden, is a middle manager so I could identify with his issues working at Mako! The tone was also right up my alley, it’s really a big, brash action-comedy. I stayed true to those aspects while expanding the story with among other things Rick’s redemption arc and I introduced a few more characters to drive the expanded plot.

How do you structure the content, for example, does one write while the other illustrates and do you go through several drafts of writing and illustrations before you get to your finished product?

A: With the story, there was a baton passing from Mitchell to myself. Once I took the baton, I ensured I kept Mitchell’s authorial voice throughout the many subsequent drafts. Only once I thought the story was nailed down did I begin drawing because I knew it would be a lot of effort to redraw pages. However, I ended up redrawing about 40% of the panels anyway because this was the first comic I ever drew and I learned many lessons about comic storytelling as I went along! This, by the way, was only possible because I drew it digitally.

It looks like a lot of work went into “Above the Grave” was this a long journey just to put content together for publication?

M: Oh it was a LONG Journey. From concept to writing and Andrew learning on the job and drawing it at the same time took many years.

A: To be honest, at first I was too scared to want to draw it myself. I had always liked drawing but to bring this story to fruition, I was only too aware it meant I would have to draw many things I had never drawn before and the volume of drawings needed was going to be huge, something in the order of 500 panels. But thanks to Mitchell’s encouragement (and prodding), I took the plunge. It was really intimidating sitting with that first blank page in front of me on the drawing table knowing I had 136 pages to do. In fact, I might have even said to myself I’ll just do the first 20 then we’ll get someone else to do the rest. But you know what they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

After I finished drawing there was still the lettering to do! Not a glamorous part of creating comics, I can tell you.

Now that’s it’s done, we couldn’t be prouder.

What was the inspiration for the characters you use and the storyline in “Above the Grave”?

M: Inspiration came from seeing a prison line up of Villains in a Spiderman cartoon and hearing a radio news broadcast many years ago about the South African Government considering building an underground prison.

A: I’ve always liked reading the news and I know Mitchell is an avid book reader. Mitchell came up with some really bold concepts for characters and I filled in their back stories from things that floated around in my head. The references to Russia and North Korea for example. But they’re from years ago, it’s just that those countries have stayed topical. It’s true afterall that the more things change the more things stay the same. As for the character designs, that was nothing but hard work, lots of google picture searches and constant iteration. Especially Da Vine, I swear I will never draw another plant/human hybrid for the rest of my life!

What else do you have in the pipeline that us comic geeks can keep an eye out for? Is this a series by any chance?
M: While we have ideas for upcoming projects the focus right now is just letting people know about Above The Grave from conventions to getting the book into stores.

A: I’m going to work on some fan art of other popular properties to try to attract attention at cons. It’s hard trying to sell an original story.

Some illustrators really don’t enjoy drawing – especially as scenes can get repetitive, did you really enjoy writing/illustrating this comic book?

A: This is what I would say to people who are thinking of drawing a comic: If you do 100-odd pages you will find out just how much you really like drawing! Seriously, drawing a comic is nothing like drawing a pin-up or even other kinds of picture books. It’s fun but it is certainly repetitive and there are times when it feels like a horrible grind. The only thing that keeps you going is that promise of the finished product and getting your story out there. The other process I adhered to that made it easier for me to reach the finish line is that I made sure to keep up momentum and do all the pages, even if the art was terrible to begin with. Then I went back and improved them A LOT. Working that way, I knew I could have quit at any time and still had at least something in hand. As it turned out, I never quit because I saw constant improvement in myself that drove me to cut no corners and do every page to a high standard. I see no reason to be modest about this lol.

If you stumbled into writer’s block (or illustrator’s block) how did you overcome it?

M: For myself and very luckily never had an issue with writer’s block. Just going forward and focus on the next part of the story without getting too far ahead.

A: Luckily that was not an issue with this project. It was a miracle how it came together. Sometimes your brain’s neurons just work!

For those who are thinking to branch out into publishing comic books, what would your best piece of advice be?

M: It’s a hard journey, break things into small areas that you have to complete. I know for myself that it would of been such a harder journey if it didn’t find such a great collaborative partner. If i don’t cross paths with Andrew. Above the Grave doesn’t happen. PERIOD.

A: I would definitely advise any aspiring creators not to do 136 pages! The most important thing is to FINISH. If you just finish you will be ahead of 99.9% of other people. We all know about the proverbial screenplay sitting in a drawer. So choose a manageable story!

Getting to know you….

When you’re not writing/illustrating, what would you be doing?
M: Plotting ideas, playing guitar, game and watching television.

A: I was illustrating in most of my spare time for the duration of this project so I listened to a lot of podcasts. When I had forced breaks because I needed to recharge my drawing tablet I spent the time reading stories about all kinds of things online. Because the internet is random! You never know what will give you an idea later on down the line.

Who are your role models when it comes to your writing/illustrating journey?
M: Paul Hogan, John Cornell, Matthew Reilly and Kevin Smith.

A: Jim Lee for drawing. His longevity in the comics industry is astounding as well.

What are your favourite comic books? (graphic novels or manga included in this question)
M: Watchmen, Superman: Red Son, Guardian Devil (Daredevil)

A: For me it all began with Asterix and Tintin. (I actually homage the artist of Asterix, Albert Uderzo, with a character named after him in ATG.) Then in high school I loved the X-Men. Y: The Last Man opened my eyes to what’s possible in the medium as it’s not a humour or superhero story. I like Red Son as well.

Besides comic books, what is your favourite genre to read?
M: Music Biographies, True Crime, Horror, Self Help.

A: I don’t read many books these day but I like to read long-form journalism and sites like io9 for nerds. I used to read action adventure novels like James Bond and Jurassic Park. But I read more fact than fiction overall.

Where is your ultimate holiday destination?
M: San Diego during Comic con.

A: Disney World when the Star Wars hotel is completed in 2021!

If you had the power to adapt “Above the Grave” to a TV show, Stage Show or Movie, which would you choose and why?
M: …. Let’s go the movie! Let’s go HUGE! Lol

A: …. $200 million major motion picture! Actually, ATG began as a comic, then it was written as a screenplay for a reason that I forget, then it became a comic again. That’s why it’s 136 pages, it’s very cinematic for a comic.

Special thanks to Mitchell and Andrew for taking the time for our Blog Q&A and for also attending as our special guests for the Read3r’z Re-Vu Comics Day Exclusive… It’s so exciting to meet friends with hidden talents and amazing achievements!!! Hope to see more from you both in the future!!!

-Q&A and content compiled by Annie

The Three Secret Cities by Matthew Reilly

BOOK 5 IN THE JACK WEST JR SERIES…

HELL HATH NO FURY LIKE FOUR KINGDOMS SCORNED.
THE HUNT FOR JACK WEST JR HAS BEGUN.

A SHADOW WORLD BEHIND THE REAL WORLD

A WORLD WITH ITS OWN HISTORY, RULES AND PRISONS

THAT IS REACHING INTO OUR WORLD … EXPLOSIVELY

We are nearing the end of Matthew Reilly’s amazing septology, we have searched for and found the Seven ancient wonders and the Six sacred stones, discovered the identity of the Five  greatest warriors and fought the battle of all battles during the games of the four legendary kingdoms.

Now, having just arrived home in Australia’s vast outback, battle weary and scarred, all Jack West wants to do is rest and see his wife Zoe and spend time with his friends and family.

But merely three days later, Jack is woken by Zoe.
His new mate from the underworld- Hades, needs his help with the news that ” the world has gone to shit. ”
And so, the adventure and search for the Three secret cities and the three immortal weapons begins.
But Jack and his team are not the only ones searching..as, within the cities are the means for empowering the three weapons used to prevent the Omega event and prevent the worlds complete destruction. And, it is said, he who holds them all, rules the world.

Jack must find them first and prevent life on earth from being completely destroyed in the most unimaginable way.
So together, Jack and his team and his new mates, Hades and Iolanthe from the underworld race around the world in a desperate search for clues to the locations of the three secret cities whilst being terrorised by those who are fueled by greed. Already knowing the whereabouts of one weapon, their first stop is New York city.
For fans of Jack West – buckle up, grab a pillow to punch and some tissues…there will be destruction, there will be casualties – much loved characters will die.

Matthew Reilly doesn’t disappoint with this fast paced, action packed adventure- the fifth of his adventure septology. Loved it and if you haven’t already become addicted to Jack West’s adventures, do yourselves a favour and get reading. I couldn’t put much else without spoiling the plot for readers.  And MR fans hate spoilers…

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for sending me an Advanced Review Copy of this book.
-Kay

Mirage by Somaiya Daud

The crown of Dihya had been stripped from me, my face changed, my body broken.
But I was not a slave and I was not a spare.
I was my mother’s daughter, and I would survive and endure. I would find my way back home.

This is another book I will be adding to my shelf of “2018 book loves” although a book shelved in the Young Adult section, this is a book that can be thoroughly enjoyed by adults and teens alike. I call this a culturally infused, intergalactic adventure that captivated me from page one right to the very end leaving me yearning for the next installment (whenever that is, as this was just released!)

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon. But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects as Amani is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place. As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death

I fell in love with the world it was set in, the map of all the planets that’s included in this book and I just loved the concept of a village girl being kidnapped to be a stand in body double for a cruel throne. The plot was really fast paced and exhilarating, I found I read this book in just a couple of days. The characters in this book are amazing. Interestingly, the emotional confusion some of the characters felt made me as a reader question how I felt about certain characters too. The cultural references and metaphors used throughout the story was something I was able to relate to and understand which was pretty cool. The twists throughout the book made me gasp, even cringe.

This is a 10/10 debut novel. I definitely recommend this to readers who love fantasy fiction or intergalactic adventure – cultural infusion is an added bonus.

Brilliant.. Unique.. and so many other awesome things I have run out of adjectives for.. please read this!!

Special thanks to Date a Book YA – Hachette Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

Kidz Korner Round Up of Recommendations for the Younger Read3rz!!!

It’s been a great haul with some wonderful recommendations for our younger readers.. enjoy!!!

The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and The Bears by Alastair Chisholm, Illustrated by Jez Tuya

A bed time story between father and son. A story that keeps getting interrupted by question after question. But the questions are patiently answered by the father.

Even though the father finishes the story to his son, he gets asked another question about the… and the father replies that we find out them tomorrow night. I really want to know.

The witch and her best friend are my favourite characters.

Many thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Meredith

 

The Boy who grew Dragons by Andy Shepard, illustrated by Sara Ogilivie

When Tomas discovers a strange old tree at the bottom of his grandad’s garden, he doesn’t think much of it. But he takes the funny fruit from the tree back into the house – and gets the shock and delight of his life when a tiny dragon hatches! The tree is a dragonfruit tree, and Tomas has got his very own dragon, Flicker.. Tomas soon finds out that life with Flicker is great fun, but also very … unpredictable. Yes, dragons are wonderful, but they also set fire to your toothbrush and leave your pants hanging from the TV aerial. Tomas has to learn how to look after Flicker – and quickly. And then something extraordinary happens – more dragonfruits appear on the tree. Tomas is officially growing dragons – very adventurous and a lot of fun!!!
-Annie

 

Sad, The Dog by Sandy Fussell, Illustrated by Tull Suwannakit

A clever little dog christens himself “Sad” when his humans fail to give him a name. Although they feed him and wash him, they don’t appreciate his many gifts, like his love of singing. When the people move away and leave Sad behind, Sad is heartbroken. But then a new family with a young boy arrives at Sad’s house in a big truck.

A beautiful written story where the illustrations bring the words to life.

I would love to have this puppy as part of the family. Who wouldn’t?

Special thanks to Walker Books Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Meredith

 

The Story Orchestra: The Sleeping Beauty  by Jessica Courtney Tickle

A stunning retelling of the classic ballet story brought to life by music! On each page you press the music button and the sound of Tchaikovsky’s original music plays in the background as you read this beautiful ballet story which features the King and Queen as they throw a party for their new baby, Princess Aurora. But when a terrible guest arrives and places a curse on princess, the kingdom must find the one special person who can defeat it… We have it on good authority that it captivates readers as young as 2 years old!!! It’s such a stunning gift book, special thanks to Allen & Unwin Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

 

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra

It’s homework time for the little red chicken, who has just learned about something every good story should have: an elephant of surprise. Or could it be an element of surprise!! As they dive in to story after story, looking for the part that makes a reader say “Whoa! I didn’t know that was going to happen,” Elephant or element, something unexpected awaits Papa in every story, but a surprise may be in store for the little red chicken as well.

A sweet tale of a child who misheard/misunderstood the saying ‘element of surprise’.

An entertaining read for anyone who has ever tried to explain a saying to a young child.

Special thanks to Walker Books for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Meredith

 

Old Hat by Emily Gravett

Harbet likes his comfy knitted hat, but the others keep jeering at him – OLD HAT! OLD HAT! No matter what headwear he buys – be it a towering fruit platter hat, an old-boot-on-the-head hat or a brightly lit traffic cone hat, Harbet cannot keep up with the latest fashions. As soon as he gets a brand new hat it is already an . . . OLD HAT! It seems that Harbet will never fit in. But when one day he decides to go his own way, Harbet discovers just how much more fun it is to stop following others and think for yourself

A fun read for anyone. Where Harbet tries to keep up with the latest hat trends, but always seems to be one step behind.

It takes a little while for Harbet to come into his own. And it’s fun to see his friends trying to match him.

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Meredith

 

Such a great haul- watch this space, more for recommendations for our junior readers coming soon!!!