Recent Oni Graphic Novels: Play Ball, Courtney Crumrin, Avalon Chronicles

Play Ball

written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir
art by Jackie Lewis
$19.99, due out April 25

I heartily applaud the plot of this graphic novel, about a talented girl who struggles to get the right to play on her new high school’s baseball team (not softball), but I wish the execution was as strong as the concept.

The characters are two-dimensional. Dashiell is a grumpy tomboy. Her sister is boy-crazy and wants Dashiell to try harder to fit in and not rock the boat, but comes through for her in the end. Mom has left Dad because he’s a deadbeat, and he promises to show up for the kids but never does. There’s another school loner, Adam, who befriends and guides her through the new school structure. There’s a good boy on the team, who supports Dashiell based on her talent, and a bad one, who hazes her because she’s a girl. We’ve seen all this before, and the cast voices are flat and interchangeable, often speaking in exposition.

This is Jackie Lewis’ first major work in print, and while she has potential, her style reads as young. Some panels are great; others feel a little unfinished or too predictable (mostly the talking heads). Color or shading or toning would have helped give the work more sense of depth, especially in the many panels with no backgrounds. Her expressions are good, though, and I’d read another book by her.

Among its audience, the unexciting use of the comic medium won’t matter, since plenty of young women will enjoy reading about Dashiell’s challenges and how they play out over the baseball season. In fact, the straightforward structure might be a plus for the reader attracted by the subject matter but new to comics. A real love of the game comes through. There are a bunch of preview pages available at that interview link.

Courtney Crumrin Volume 1: The Night Things

by Ted Naifeh, $19.99

Speaking of color, the upgraded hardcover re-release of the first volume of Ted Naifeh’s series looks terrific. Great timing, too, since I was curious to reread these stories after the launch of the new ongoing series.

The color, by Warren Wucinich, is nicely shaded and moody. It’s not garish, but it makes this magical word seem more plausible, with plenty of purples and shadows. The hardcover binding, with its silver trim and bound-in ribbon bookmark, also suits the material well. It feels like a much older volume than it is, which plays along with the story about discovering spellbooks in a haunted old mansion.

Courtney has moved in with her creepy uncle, and she struggles to survive a world full of monsters. The woods have goblins, and her school has rich, spoiled social climbers. Now, rereading years later, I still admire Courtney’s reserve, her determination, her bravery, and her intelligence. She’s got a rough sense of justice and a special intensity.

I was also pleased to be reminded of Courtney’s experience with popularity spells and a visit to Goblin Town, both elements that reappear in the first issue of the new series. The stories stand on their own, but together, they make up a richer world tapestry. I’m looking forward to the second volume, The Coven of Mystics, due in August.

The Avalon Chronicles Volume 1: Once in a Blue Moon

written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir
art by Emma Vieceli
$19.99

Similar as was done with Weir and DeFilippis’ Past Lies, this book is being re-released years after its original debut to re-launch the series. Only this time, the art is all-new.

Once In A Blue Moon was first released in 2004, drawn by Jennifer Quick (who as Jen Lee Quick wrote and drew Off*Beat). Now, The Avalon Chronicles has been redrawn by Emma Vieceli. The writers explain the background of the situation at their blog.

The plot is one many fantasy fans have dreamed of. When she was a girl, Aeslin’s parents read to hear from a book called “The Avalon Chronicles”. It’s all about how a prince and a beautiful dragon knight have adventures and save the kingdom. Now, she’s a teen, and her mother has given up fantasy. But then Aeslin finds a shop that wasn’t there yesterday, and she winds up sucked into the world of Avalon to find her destiny.

Vieceli does a great job, especially with the teen girls, both in the “real world” and fantasy land settings. If you ever wanted to be part of your favorite book, especially if it was about riding dragons, you’ll enjoy this escapism, even if it spends a little more time on the mechanics (how the book works) than it does battle in this first installment. It may be a better choice to pick this up once the second book is available, since much of this volume is introduction, and there is plenty more quest to come.

Recommended, especially for young women who want examples of how fantasy women can be more than princesses. (The publisher provided digital review copies.)


2 Responses to “Recent Oni Graphic Novels: Play Ball, Courtney Crumrin, Avalon Chronicles”

  1. Good Comics Out April 25: Sailing, Sailing, With Popeye and Teen Boat » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] out this week is Oni Press’ Play Ball, which I’ve already reviewed. That’s another teen-friendly [...]

  2. Courtney Crumrin #2 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] took revenge on in the past. We may have been rooting for what she did, especially if we read previous stories, but we weren’t previously encouraged to think about what their lives would be like now and [...]

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