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The Northerner

Book Connection goes graphic

Brandon Barb

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Entering college is a chance for someone to completely reinvent oneself. The shy, awkward person he or she was in high school can finally emerge and begin to bloom.


That is what college, and ultimately life, is all about: choices. To decide whether or not to pursue a dream, to act upon a talent or keep it locked away from sight — every day, freshmen and students all over the world face choices. “Kabuki: The Alchemy” addresses these choices such as changing one’s lifestyle or establishing a new identity.


“The Alchemy” was chosen for Northern Kentucky University’s “Book Connection” because of the fact that Kabuki, the main character in the graphic novel, is going through what freshmen go through.

For the first time, the Book Connection selection is a graphic novel. “Kabuki: The Alchemy” is the seventh volume in the Kabuki series created by NKU alumus David Mack.

“We felt it was an exciting book for students,” said Director of First-Year Programs Mei Mei Burr. “It was just very different from any book we’ve selected. It’s just a very new and exciting genre for our students to be exposed to.”

There are six other volumes to the “Kabuki” series, which Mack started when he was still a student at NKU with the first volume Circle of Blood. Before Mack graduated his career was taking off.

“I think it inspires freshmen. It’s a great example of somebody coming to this university, taking a variety of classes … all those classes you take account for something,” Assistant Director of First-Year Programs Rich Shivener said.

Shivener was referring to the wide variety of classes that David Mack took. His classes ranged from graphic design to Japanese to anatomy to numerous art classes.

“The Alchemy” is a graphic novel, but it strays away from the traditional panel format. The majority of the book is done with symbols that everyone is familiar with — such as the women’s bathroom symbol and the cross in the form of a six-sided cube.

Starting with the seventh volume of a work could be confusing in most cases; however, “The Alchemy,” can be a starting point because Kabuki goes back into her past through out the book.

Though “The Alchemy” is mainly for freshmen, other students on campus are reading and enjoying the graphic novel.


“I’m only on part three, but I’m enjoying it greatly,” sophomore media informatics major Ashley Seibert said. “I’m really into the Asian culture, and the opening pages really capture that art.”

“The Alchemy” is beautiful and stunning, but it has confused NKU students and professors alike. Mack made a campus visit over the summer to aid in a teaching workshop, then he helped create teacher guides.

“The response has been mixed. We did a survey during orientation and found that about 40 percent of students are familiar with graphic novels,” Shivener said.

“Kabuki: The Alchemy” is many things: a work of art, a new take on graphic novels and an inspirational tool. In the back of “The Alchemy,” Mack included letters he has accumulated while working on the “Kabuki” series. Each letter has its own story of inspiration or how “Kabuki” has touched its writer’s life. A novel that connects with so many people is rare, let alone a graphic novel.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Book Connection goes graphic