This edition of Lightning Reviews features two very different graphic novels–one nonfiction and one LGBT fantasy romance. We also have nonfiction about crows! Quite the trio this week.
Gifts of the Crow
author: John Marzluff
After reading The Ravenmaster, I decided to make corvids (ravens, crows, jays, magpies, and some others) my new animal obsession. Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans is a great introduction to the behaviors of crows and ravens, specifically. It’s approachable, easy to read, and comes with lovely illustrations. It also has a lot of scientific content and it discusses the difference between anecdote and scientific observation.
In the course of the book, we discover that crows and ravens are clever, social, resourceful, and frankly kind of assholes. My favorite anecdote comes from a pair of kayakers who packed a picnic lunch complete with a pie, which was stolen by ravens (the whole pie, complete with pan). The next day the ravens returned with the now empty pan and dropped it on the same kayakers. Were they saying thanks? Asking for seconds? Rubbing it in?
Crows and ravens are both experts at face recognition among each other, humans, dogs, and cats and they seem to understand recipocrity and both gratitude and grudge-holding. They seem to mourn their dead and care for their wounded. They are able to use tools and plan ahead, and talk in crow and in human. They can reliably count up to six.
This is the kind of science book that I tend to enjoy the most. There is some good brain anatomy and chemistry, and then a lot of breakdown of different kinds of perception and intelligence. It’s very well organized and easy to read, and has sources should you wish to go deeper. If you are looking for a quick, easy, interesting read about these fascinating birds, this should do it for you!
– Carrie S
I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation
author: Natalie Nourigat
I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation is exactly what it says it is – a graphic memoir in which comics illustrator Natalie Nourigat describes moving from Portland, Oregon, where she did freelance work, to Los Angeles, California, where she currently works as a storyboard artist. It’s a vibrant and personal description of how to apply for a job in animation, what the job itself is like, and how to live in L.A. on an animator’s budget.
This book combines blocks of text with playful art in shades of pink and blue. At the end, there are interviews with other animators which helps round out the perspectives. Nourigat talks about the pros and cons of living in L.A., and how much she loves being part of the animation community and having a regular paycheck. But she also talks about missing the artistic freedom and control of working on her own projects.
For anyone who may be considering careers in animation or who have some other strong interest in the field, I’d recommend this book as an ideal read. In terms of general appeal, it’s more of a guide than a memoir, and it certainly isn’t the kind of memoir that crosses genre or topic lines to appeal to everyone. For me, as someone who is curious but not interested in switching careers, it’s a B+. However, I do think it’s an excellent resource for people considering such a career, as well as a fun behind the scenes peek for animation fans.
– Carrie S
Moonstruck, Vol 1.
author: Grace Ellis
Moonstruck Vol. 1 is a cute but incoherent comic about a werewolf barista named Julie who lives in a world in which magical creatures abound. Julie is about to go on her second date with Selena. For reasons I failed to comprehend, Julie asks her centaur friend, Chet, to accompany her and Selena on the second date. They go to a magic show at which the magician makes Chet human and promptly disappears. The rest of the story involves the assorted characters trying to foil the magician and restore Chet’s horsey behind.
I LOVE that this comic has broad representation including two curvy heroines of color. The art is luscious and playful and the concept (mundane and magical combined with life in a coffeeshop) irresistible.
However, I did not understand what was going on most of the time. Julie seems to want to conceal the fact that she’s a werewolf (her change is triggered by strong emotions, not the moon). But since she’s walking around with a centaur and her customers include a vampire who turns into a bat, I didn’t see what the big deal was. There’s a subplot about a band that made no sense at all. Characters come up with elaborate schemes that are not explained and don’t work. I never understood why characters were behaving the way they were or what they were trying to accomplish.
I will happily keep an eye out for other things by this author (Grace Ellis, from Lumberjanes) and artist Shae Beagle, but Moonstruck gets a sad pass from me. I’m giving it a C for the art but can’t go higher due to my constant confusion with the plot and the characters.
– Carrie S
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