2020 Reads: June

1. Wonder Woman: The Circle by Gail Simone

Gail Simone is a fan favorite. We need more women writing Wonder Woman! We need more female writers and illustrators in comics in general. The Circle was published in 2008. For me, its highlight was Diana leading an army of genetically enhanced apes to fight Nazi's in Themyscira. I mean, what more could you want? It also explores Wonder Woman's origin in greater detail, examining how her creation affected the other childless Amazon's. I loved how this story blended adventure and drama. Diana Prince is a warrior and a diplomat, this is something Gail Simone understood and respected. She balanced these two aspects of the character perfectly.

2. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

This was probably the book I was most excited about this month, and don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed it. I just wasn’t sure what to make of it or its characters for a substantial portion of the journey. But I was intrigued and engaged every step of the way. We are so used to loving and routing for our main protagonists, and this isn’t that kind of story. The story takes place during the 10th annual Hunger Games, and it centers on eighteen-year-old, Coriolanus Snow. We know Snow from the original trilogy as the despicable dictatorial president of Panem. However, the Snow we meet at the beginning of this book is a far cry from that man. It’s interesting witnessing his viewpoints change in response to the nightmarish environment and politics around him. I like that the character is morally ambiguous and cutthroat ambitious from the start. I don’t think this novel simply aims to make readers sympathize with the villain. Instead, it examines what has fostered his creation, without trying to excuse his behavior in any way. I found the characters, Lucy Gray Baird and Sejanus Plinth, equally fascinating. At points, I wished the story had been told from Sejanus's POV, probably because he represented the more morally sound and courageous lead, we are accustomed to. It's certainly an interesting way to return to this world, and it made me realize how late into the mythology the original trilogy took place. The history Suzanne Collins has created for Panem is astonishing. Worldbuilding at its finest.

3. Wonder Woman Rebirth, Volume 1: The Lies by Greg Rucka

"You are many to many. Peacemaker and Warfighter. Supplicant, aspirant, penitent. The true friend and the boon companion, the trusted soul and the truthspeaker... and you have been deceived." - Greg Rucka. I finally started Wonder Woman Rebirth, and I'm loving it so far. Greg Rucka is one of my fave Wonder Woman writers. His return to the character had many fans excited, and he delivered. In Volume One: The Lies, Diana Prince undergoes an identity crisis of epic proportions. Not only is she struggling to remember who she is, she can't find her way back to Themyscira! In her quest for truth she gains an unlikely ally, longtime nemesis, Cheetah. The story is instantly intriguing, and the artwork is gorgeous. Next please! Volume two, here I come.

4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

“He hurt me. I’m stuck in a nightmare; I keep falling, but never hit the floor. It’s getting harder to talk. But… I said no. I said no.” – Laurie Halse Anderson. Before 13 Reasons Why, there was Speak. This is undoubtedly one of the most powerful graphic novels I’ve ever read. Speak was originally published as a novel in the 90s. It was also adapted into a movie in 2004 starring Kristen Stuart. Emily Carroll’s moving illustrations bring a new dimension to this honest and raw story. It’s a story about losing your voice and finding the strength to reclaim it. The author explores sexual assault, anxiety, and depression from personal experience. This brought a painful yet inspiring truth to the story.

5. Wonder Woman Rebirth, Volume 2: Year One by Greg Rucka

Year One is a retelling of Diana Prince’s origin story and her first days on man’s world as Wonder Woman. The story goes through the usual beats with a few modern twists. It also begins to explore the origins of Ares, Cheetah, Steve Trevor, Etta Candy and more. The artwork by Nicola Scott is stunning and I love that they’ve went with the gladiator vibe Gal Gadot sports in the movies. It’s much more befitting of a warrior princess. I like the direction this iteration is taking. I’m particularly invested in the Cheetah storyline. Bring on Volume 3! And Bring on WW84! I can’t wait to see a live-action Cheetah. If you want a comic to tide you over and get you even more pumped for WW84, grab this one!

6. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

"True belonging doesn't require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are." - Brené Brown. This book was exactly what I needed this month. Every time I read Brené Brown or listen to one of her talks, I feel so much lighter, and find myself standing a little straighter in self-assurance. In Braving the Wilderness, she examines true belonging. Through research and personal accounts, she encourages practices and thought processes that help us to be kinder to ourselves and to others. Turning on the news or even just scrolling through social media can be quite overwhelming at the moment. If like me, you're feeling bogged down by all the divisive debate and political rhetoric, this book is for you. It will give you the courage to brave the wilderness, and the tools to understand those around you better, creating stronger connections. This book inspired me to write about my own experiences with belonging, feel free to check that out in my latest posts or the 'My Life's Junk Drawer' section.

7. Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed by Laurie Halse Anderson

Coincidentally, right after I finished reading Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, I went to my local comic store and found this beauty. I had to do a double take; I had no idea she'd written a Wonder Woman graphic novel... my two latest obsessions had joined forces! I was so stoked. A real-life wonder woman writing Diana Prince! It was a match made in heaven. Tempest Tossed is a standalone elseworlds story. You don't have to have read any Wonder Woman comics to enjoy it. Anderson reimagines the character as a teenage activist. She retells her origin, giving it a timely and refreshing update. She very cleverly relates Diana's story to the refugee experience. It's a story about growing up, finding your place in the world, and learning how to use your power to fight injustice and make real change. It's a powerful story and the artwork and colors are gorgeous. Just look at that cover. *Side-note* I saw some dude-bros lose their shit online because the author changed the character of Steve Trevor. Basically, Anderson split the character into two separate people, Steve and Trevor, an adorable interracial gay couple. I for one, loved this! Guess what bros? It's an elseworlds story, changing things up is the whole point! It's the literal premise. It doesn't affect continuity. You aren't the demographic, so move along! Not everything is about you. I say this with love and humility. Mostly.

Pick of the Month: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson & Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown (We have our first tie. I simply couldn't choose. I found both books empowering in totally different ways.)