The webcomics blog about webcomics

It Appears To Be A Day Off In Webcomicsland

Holiday weekend for some. Short day at work for others. Last day before weekend EMT duty for me. Let’s do this.

  • Advance notice: John Allison has a holiday week coming up, and might like to feature the work of talented, less-known webcomickers at Bad Machinëry. Send him an offer (but please, no finished artwork) via the electronical mail addressing system designated john at the domain scary go round, which is a dot-com, with the subject line “strong>Better Than The Breeze Through The Twigs.
  • Short notice: Super Art Fight, like the doom-proclaiming supervillain in a capes-and-punching comic, returns once more to wreak havoc. Those of you in Charm City can drop by The Ottobar (aka the villain’s secret volcano lair) tonight to get in on all the shenanigans. Doors at 9:00pm, show at 9:30, twelve bucks to get in and enjoy the mayhem.
  • I spent some time yesterday telling you at length why Anya’s Ghost is the best comic of 2011. What I didn’t tell you is that the good folks at :01 were also kind enough to drop me an advanced copy of Level Up by Gene Luen Yang (words) and Thien Pham (pictures). Spoilers ahead, y’all.

    Appropriately enough for a book that concerns the education of its protagonist at length, both Pham and Yang teach high school when not making comics. Also in the amazing coincidences department, Yang and Pham dedicated Level Up to their brothers, both of whom work in medicine and thus fulfill the role of “good Asian sons”.

    And that’s what the book is really about — expectations placed on Dennis Ouyang from a young age to be a good son, to “eat bitterness” and become the doctor he is expected to be. Expectations that stand in stark contrast to his entirely ordinary kid desires to play Nintendo, desires he puts to the sides as he is expected to, until his father dies of the same disease that felled his own father. Dennis discards the expectations and falls into the videogames he denied himself and doesn’t surface for another three years.

    That’s when things get weird. Having discarded one life for another, Dennis careens back and forth between the extremes of games and medicine, each time he rejects one for the other he loses one of his lives in the metaphorical videogame that is his life. It’s only when he runs out of lives and opts to Play Again? that he realizes you can’t live your life solely for yourself, nor solely to the expectations of others. The realization comes after a reveal as to the true nature of the (rather bossy and obnoxious) angels that have been herding him towards his destiny, angels that might be a psychological manifestation of guilt, but might be real.

    Much like Yang’s American Born Chinese, Level Up is all about the experience of growing up Asian in America, but this time it’s less about the expectations of society and the struggle to fit in around the casual (and not-so-casual racism) found there, and almost entirely about family and the expectations that originate within the walls of home. It’s thoughtful, it’s revealing, and it’s got a lesson that every YA reader should take to heart. Also, it’s got the rarest of all things — an extended, non-gratuitous poop gag. Kids are gonna love it, and adults will see things that escape the younger readers. Level Up releases on 7 June, is a quick-reading 160 pages, and comes highly recommended.

[…] question are Thien Pham and Gene Luen Yang, creators of Level Up, a YA graphic novel that got the Fleen Seal of Approval? Yang and Pham will be appearing at Cartoon Art Museum on 25 June (that’s a Saturday) from […]

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