Heroes & Villains: ‘No Ivy League’ and ‘Spencer and Locke 2’ Reviewed

I’m taking a break from watching the Sony/Marvel Studios custody battle to rap at you about some legit comics that aren’t part of a monolithic media company (yet?). As regular readers well know, I love my superhero books but cheering on which corporation gets to be the richest is pretty gross. The temptation to turn this into a full-blown treatise is almost more than I can endure so I better get to the good stuff now.

No Ivy LeagueNo Ivy League
Hazel Newlevant (W/A)
Lion Forge/ Oni Press

I’m not sure if I’ve covered any of the stuff that the Oni Press imprint Lion Forge has been up to recently but it’s all been pretty awesome.  No Ivy League is no exception.

Homeschooling. There’s probably some pop culture shorthand of a punchline that materialized in your mind upon reading that word and that’s understandable. The company line for decades has been that public school is AWESOME, private school is for the wealthy elite, and homeschooling was for that one kid who wasn’t allowed sugar and only watched PBS. 

No Ivy League blows that well out of the water in its first few pages by depicting the most realistic take on the subject that I’ve ever encountered. Obviously, since this book is a memoir, Newlevant is drawing from their own experiences having been homeschooled but the book still presents a wider view of the subject than I had anticipated.

On the subject of wider views, that’s the core message of the book. We’ve all (hopefully) had that one experience that blew open our perceptions and gave us a wider view of the world and No Ivy League tackles that head-on. The 17-year-old Newlevant is essentially thrown into the deep end and forced to realize and address their privilege when they take a summer job outside of their normal peer group. 

It’s a place we’ve all (again, HOPEFULLY) been at some point in our lives. No Ivy League is one of those great books that are not just about growing up but it’s about growing as a person. For me, I’d put it in the same league as Craig Thompson’s  Blankets for graphic novels that I’ve loved and I’d even go as far as to declare it required reading. I could easily see this book being used as a jumping-off point for classroom discussions for race and privilege. 

Unsurprisingly, this book was way better than the summer of my 17th year in which I saw Batman & Robin multiple times. 

No Ivy League is in comic shops TODAY and in bookstores on September 3rd.

If You Missed It:

Spencer and LockeSpencer & Locke 2
David Pepose (W)
Jorge Santiago Jr. (A)
Action Lab: Danger Zone

Out last week was the second Spencer & Locke collection which I was pleasantly surprised by. The comic which follows a hard-boiled police detective and his imaginary partner who’s a talking panther but IN REALITY is just a stuffed animal is something that somehow grows beyond parody and homage. The book is certainly its own thing and that’s what makes it great.

Drawing more than a little inspiration from Calvin & Hobbes, the book immediately raised my suspicions. You see, Calvin & Hobbes is one of my SACRED TEXTS as a piece of what I consider to be perfect art. Hardly an original thought, I know, but I probably gazed upon this book with a more critical eye because of it…and it passed with flying colours.

There’s an obvious love of the source material in what Pepose and Santiago are doing and the book never comes off as a cheap ripoff which I appreciated. The crime noir genre is something that is ridiculously easy to parody (just look at Sin City) and I’m sure this concept would have fallen apart in lesser hands.

It’s a fine line this book walks and after reading the first collection I was curious to see if they were able to do it again…and they did! The collected editions are not overly long so they’re quick and accessible reads if you’re looking for more Tracer Bullet style adventures with a decidedly adult twist to them check these books out.

You can read Biff Bam Pop!’s interview with Spencer & Locke writer David Pepose here.

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