Graphic Novel Review: Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra

Synopsis:

They’re an elite group of teenage girls with magical powers who have sworn to protect our planet against dark creatures . . . as long as they can get out of class! Known as the Zodiac Starforce, these high-school girls aren’t just combating math tests. They’re also battling monsters–not your typical afterschool activity! But when an evil force from another dimension infects team leader Emma, she must work with her team of magically powered friends to save herself–and the world–from the evil Diana and her mean-girl minions!

From Kevin Panetta (Bravest Warriors) and Paulina Ganucheau (TMNT: New Animated Adventures, Bravest Warriors), this super-fun and heartfelt story of growing up and friendship–with plenty of magical-girl fighting action–delivers the most exciting new ensemble cast in comics!

First Thought:

I saw this the other day in a small local comic book store in Bethany Beach, Delaware. I like to support local businesses wherever I go and this one caught my eye. I always like a good magical girl story and this one caught my eye. So I decided to give it a try!

Overall Opinions:

I wasn’t very impressed. I’ve read and watched quite a few magical girl stories, it’s an interesting troupe that not everyone likes or can get right. Zodiac Starforce was just full of troupes from the genre and there wasn’t really anything new. Let’s check off the troupes, shall we?

The leader of the group has some sort of pink color pallet, either for her hair or outfit? Check. Leader is really nice and seen as flawless, or when MIA the team freaks out and thinks they’ll fail? Check. The thing that is different with Emma is that she is a woman of color, which was pretty cool. Also she obviously had some sort of PTSD thing going on in the story, but that was never really explored or touched on. She just was reluctant to get back into the swing of things with her friends and the whole Magical Girl Crusade, which you don’t see as often in the popular stories of the genre.

Next up, the girl with the pixie cut has reddish-brown hair and has water related powers? Check. Her outfit is arguably a blue or blueish-green? Check. She’s one of the smaller girls, height wise and has terrible luck with men? Check. Could she possibly be gay? Check. Savi was an okay character, but her boyfriend was used as a plot point and I didn’t feel like her romantic relationship with one of the other characters was really there. I thought it was cool that there was a gay relationship in the story, but it felt a little tacked on and I didn’t think it was handled correctly. Also, bonus, the modern planet for Pisces is Neptune, and in Sailor Moon Neptune was one of the lesbian sailor scouts.

Next! Can the one mostly red magical girl be seen as Asian or slightly so? Check. Does this character of long black hair? Check. This character really good at some sport and possibly had a falling out of some kind with the leader in the past? Check. Molly was one of my more favorite characters of the group just because she had some personality. Also, for whatever reason, she had the ability to open portals and banish the monsters which is normally an ability given to the leader, so that was something. Bonus: Aries’s ruling planet is Mars.

I think the one character that broke most of the troupes of the magical girl genre was Kim. She’s a punk-rock kind of chick that just wants to get the team back together and to keep her friends safe. Her relationship with her boyfriend is subtle at first and really adorable. She’s depicted as a butch woman but acts like a sweet dork. Kim is my favorite character because she was unique and straight forward.

Some of the other troupes include a group of clickish bullies who happen to be the villains in the end. Another was a magical girl gone rogue, trying to kill all other magical girls. A magical being is the one to give them their powers for no particular reason other than there are monsters about and an evil opposing force. Said magical being doesn’t really help them when needed and doesn’t play any real role in the story. Also magical girls are in high school, and started their careers at the beginning of high school.

Zodiac Starforce has a lot of troupes that aren’t used in a satirical or comedic way, which made the story seem unoriginal to me. For people who don’t read a lot of magical girl stories or only watched Sailor Moon as a kid would probably really enjoy seeing all these things and reading the story. Honestly, I think the story would have been better if it had started from the beginning and showed the building of their friendship and then the battle that put them into retirement. I spent so much time wanting to know what happened to Emma to make her feel so broken up about being a Magical Girl. You find out that she lost her mother, but how did she lose her mother? And why did the group break apart and not talk to each other until Emma was in trouble? There were so many questions that were left unanswered and the characters made so many references to things that I had no knowledge of. There was clearly a history between all the characters but it was never shown or talked about, which just weakened the overall story.

Ratings:

Art: 3

The artwork was okay. The character designs were pretty cool, especially Kim’s, but I wasn’t too impressed with their magical girl uniforms. I also wasn’t real impressed with the monster designs because they reminded me of the monsters in Steven Universe, they even had the gems that were related to corruption. The background wasn’t as developed and detailed as the main characters, even a lot of the unnamed or background characters were very nondescript and forgettable. Also there were details in the uniforms that didn’t stay consistent from panel to panel. The colors for this novel were various shades of pastel and red. Everything was either pastels or reds, which really overpowered some of the other colors. For instance, it took me a while to realize that Emma’s hair is blonde when she’s not transformed, but it was hard for me to tell because everything was so red or pink around her. Anyways, this wasn’t my favorite color scheme.

Story: 3

The story left something to be desired. First chapter you’re thrown right in two years after the girls gained their powers and saved the world. All you know is that they disbanded, people died, and they banished an evil goddess (Also where were the minions of that goddess then, hm???). Emma is very reluctant to get the team back together, possibly showing signs of PTSD, but not much is explained and you’re left wondering what exactly happened. You also start with some drama between some of the girls, but that is suddenly dropped and never touched upon again in chapter two. A lot of the story relied on coincidence to move the plot forward, which lead to unexplained entrances, characters, and events. The dialogue at times came off as too immature or Hollywood high school, so it didn’t sound natural coming from a group of girls that risked their lives to save the world and fought monsters on the daily. Most of the characters were extremely underdeveloped. The story was weak and was nothing to write home about.

Overall: 3

If you’re into Magical Girls and comics this might be a good read for you. It has strong leading women of color, an interracial gay couple, and a diverse line-up of characters. I’d be interested in reading the next volume, but I won’t go out of my way to buy it. I’ll read it if I happen to find it in a local comic book store.

Details:

Title:  Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra

Volume: 1

Issue(s): 1-4 (plus bonus material)

Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Writer(s): Kevin Panetta

Illustrator: Paulina Ganucheau

Colors: Paulina Ganucheau

Letters: Paulina Ganucheau

Released Date: March 9th, 2016

Pages: 136

Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy, Magical Girl

Graphic Novel Review: Giant Days vol.1

Synopsis:

Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of handwringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery-mold, nu-chauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive. Going off to university is always a time of change and growth, but for Esther, Susan, and Daisy, things are about to get a little weird.

First Thought:

I found Giant Days in a hole in the wall comic book store near Asheville North Carolina. I enjoy supporting small businesses and this brightly colored book grabbed my attention. So I decided to pick it up because it was about normal girls going to college, no superheroes or monsters, just the normal stressors of life and school. Some say it sounds boring, but I wanted to give it a try!

Overall Opinions:

It took me a little while to figure out that this story isn’t set in the US. I had a sneaking suspicion that this story took place somewhere in Europe, my leading guess being England, until it was confirmed by the mention of currency (£). Once I realized that the story was set in England, then the humor started to make more sense.

This story tries to explore the friendship between unlikely friends their freshman year of college by using humor. To a portion of Americans the humor in this story might go completely over their heads or they might not think it so funny if they’re unfamiliar with British comedy. As for myself, I thought the humor was very light hearted, nothing to cynical. However, there were some jokes that revolved around references that I wasn’t aware of and therefore didn’t understand the joke or what was going on. For the most part though, the humor was very light and fun to read. Nothing that busted my gut due to uncontrollable laughter, but good humor that made my day better.

I enjoyed exploring the friendship between Susan, Esther, and Daisy. These girls were an unlikely trio (a sheltered girl, a goth, and a tomboy) of loyal friends and their relationship was shown very well within the story. I would have preferred to see how they became friends, I think that would have been wonderful character development and background, but I understand that the story had to start somewhere more exciting first. There is a little background of the girls, but it’s so brief for Daisy and Esther that you don’t get much of their story. Instead, you get more into the background of Susan, and specifically her relationship with McGraw, which is full of tension.

Romanced is also explored in this volume. Esther is oblivious to the guy that likes her, they’re great friends but she doesn’t know his true feelings for her. I wanted to see more between Esther and Ed, he’s a cute dork of a guy and it would’ve been interesting to see where their friendship went. However, Ed plays a bit of a background role in this volume and helps to move the plot forward, but not toward Esther. The relationship that is more explored is between Daisy and Nadia. Daisy is a bit new to love, she doesn’t know what her preferences are and she’s never tried to figure it out until she meets her more adventurous new friend Nadia. The new girl is into partying and taking drugs to have a good time, nothing too hardcore (yet), and she takes Daisy on some of her adventures. Susan and Esther are cautious about Nadia, but they give Daisy advice when asked and they try to watch out for her. The relationship between Nadia and Daisy isn’t heavily explored, but I’m sure there will be more to them in a later volume.

Last thing, I really enjoyed how Giant Days portrays college. College is such a cluster of different personalities and youths trying to explore who they are. It’s also full of nasty people and terrible obstacles that no one should have to jump over anymore. Giant Days explores the insensitivity of some guys who use the internet for their own gain at the expense of others. It also shows how archaic some of the higher-ups are when it comes to sexual harassment and the internet, while illustrating more creative ways at getting revenge without breaking the law or making things worse. I also enjoyed how feminism can suddenly become a rabid beast and hurt those who actually want to stand behind and empower women. I’m all for feminism, but current feminism makes me sick and I see it attack the men in my life who have been my biggest supports (some even bigger supporters than the women in my life). In Giant Days a joke is taken too far and a real gentleman is attacked and hated because young girls target him under the name of feminism; he wasn’t even aware of the joke played on him and the girl who played it didn’t think it would get that out of hand. Anyways, I saw that little bit of the story as a way of showing that feminism, while a good thing, can be turned against those who don’t actually oppose it and want to support it instead.

Ratings:

Art: 4

The art style reminds me of other stories by BOOM!, like Steven Universe and Lumberjanes. Overall, I really enjoyed the art but there were some things that just didn’t thrill me. For one, there were a lot of extra lines in various places. For whatever reason extra lines would appear below the characters’ eyes when they were surprised, embarrassed, angry, tired, sick, etc. I could understand the latter two, because it gave the characters a very badgered look that fit their mood. But what happened to showing a character blushing when they’re embarrassed? All the extra lines made the art look a little sloppy and rushed, drawing me out of the story at times. The background also wasn’t very consistent, sure the general idea stayed the same but the texturing changed from barely there to hyper detailed between single pictures. Other than that, I really enjoyed the character designs of main, secondary and background characters; it really reminded me of college and the wild people I see there. The colors were pretty good too, mostly bright but subdued colors that looked very natural.

Story: 4

The story was well written and the characters were interesting to follow. Allison did a good job of introducing the characters quickly. Within the first few pages you got a good feeling of who each of the girls were and their friendship. I would’ve liked to have had more background into each character and how the girls met and became friends, but this was a pretty good start as well! Some of the comedy either went over my head or just didn’t sound all that funny to me, but that’s something everyone will determine for themselves. Overall the story had a nice flow and made for a nice relaxing read after a rough day.

Overall: 4

I would highly recommend this story to anyone in college or entering college soon. There are some mature subjects mentioned in this story, but honestly it’s probably nothing an average American high school student wouldn’t know. But for those a little squeamish talking about sex and sexuality, this book might not be for you just yet. Honestly, I wish I was able to read this my first year of college!

Details:

Title: Giant Days

Volume: 1

Issue(s): 1-4

Publisher: BOOM! Box

Writer(s): John Allison

Illustrator: Lissa Treiman

Colors: Whiteny Cogar

Letters: Jim Campbell

Released Date: November 24th 2015

Pages: 128

Genre(s): Slice of Life, New Adult

Book Review: Carve the Mark

imageDetails:
Title: Carve the Mark
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Release Date: January 17, 2017
Genre: Science Fiction
Pages: 438

Synopsis:

In a galaxy powered by the current, everyone has a gift.

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand, she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Aks is desperate to get this brother out alive—no matter what the cost. Then Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?

Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s stunning portrayal of the power of friendship—and love—in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts.

My First Thoughts:

I was really excited to hear that Veronica Roth had written a new book, because I absolutely loved the Divergent series. However, I’ve been hearing awful things about the book, not about the plot, but about the characters and racial relations. I walked into this series trying to have an open mind, but also trying to be aware of the criticisms that I had heard.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

I’m unsure about those criticisms that I heard… I find it hard to whitewash or portray a negative bias toward characters whose physical descriptions consist of “can see his veins through his skin,” and “has dark shadows crisscrossing over her body,” or “large and lean,” and “small and fast.” Also, everything in this book takes places on a planet that is not Earth, they aren’t even referred to as humans at any point, so I feel like that is also a point against the criticisms that I had been hurting.
That’s not to say that racism and classism are not heavily explored themes in the book. There are two primary races featured in the book, the Thuvhe and the Shotet.

The Thuvhe are a race that exists on a frozen planet and believes in peace and love and the power of the the current, while the Shotet are a race looked down upon by the entire space system as violent scavengers due to their traditions and practices. Much of the book is spent with the main characters, Cyra and Akos, learning the truth about each other’s culture and seeing the beauty in the cultures that are not their own.

This book was a little more on the “Space Opera” side of science fiction than hard science fiction that has a lot of scientific explanation, which is awesome because that is more of what I am interested in and enjoy. I don’t need to know how it works in too much detail, I just need to understand that it does. I was drawn in by the characters of the series, captivated by the elements of the world, and I never felt stunted by the plot of the book. This book is 438 pages and has a standard sized font and I finished it in just a couple days.

Final Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was a cool story, I thought the cultures were diverse and fleshed out, there was no point where I felt anyone was one-dimensional, and I never felt like I was being told everything going on. It was a cool story that pulled at my heart strings several times and kept me engaged throughout.

Rating(s):

4/5

I really did enjoy this book. I would recommend it to anyone who has a budding interest in science fiction, or simply is interested in a “where two worlds collide” type of story. I am excited to read the next installation of this story.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

 

Book Review: Binti

 

Synopsis:

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

My First Thoughts:

I’ve been meaning to find and read this book for a while and I can’t remember exactly how I was introduced to it. I haven’t found a whole lot of afrofuturism in literature and I wanted to read more about the genre and to broaden not only myself but my library. So when I saw this book the other day I snatched it up and tried reading it as soon as possible.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

This story was very interesting to read and it presented some topics and ideas that will take me some time to fully digest and absorb. Binti was not quite what I had expected when I first discovered it.

The beginning of the story was definitely the strongest part of the novella. This is when you are not only introduced to Binti, but you’re also introduced to her people and her culture. You learn that the Himba are the best at creating futuristic astrolabes and that they’re taken advantage of and mistreated by the Khoush. This narrative, to me, seemed to be a commentary on possibly the history or relationship between African and European people. The Himba and the Khoush aren’t at war with each other, but they’re not necessarily on good terms either.

As the story progresses the story begins to lose its strength. Major events happen to progress the story forward, events that should’ve had a devastating effect on the readers and Binti. However, one of the major events seemed to fall emotionally short. I understand that with a novella that you have limited time to convey a story, but I felt that not enough time was given to developing emotional attachments between the readers and the characters and the other characters to Binti. If done correctly, emotionally important scenes could’ve been told in just a few sentences or even a single paragraph that would’ve added so much to the pathos of the story.

This was an interesting coming of age story because it tackles the question of who is Binti. From the beginning she questions her decisions and what kind of person would they make her. As she continues on her journey she wonders who she is without her people, who she is as a Himba and not. Then by the end she still doesn’t quite know who she is but she accepts that she is more than just her people’s traditions. This was an interesting journey because of the added element of her people. The Himba are very traditional, something that I haven’t seen in a lot of coming of age fiction, so the traditions and the conflicts associated with them made the story more unique.

Rating:

3/5

This story was very unique and interesting to read. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read soft sci-fi literature, afrofuturism, or just wants to read something different. Overall, Binti was entertaining and thought provoking. I really enjoyed the concept of the Meduse, which were pretty much Space Jellyfish, but I also felt that they weren’t really developed. In the story they’re seen as ruthless killers and then suddenly they’re described as honorable with no real reason, at least not a memorable one. The science in Binti is very limited, not much is really explained and you just have to accept that it’s real, which makes this a soft or lukewarm sci-fi. I think this story would have been stronger if it were longer, and not considerably longer either. A lot of emotion was lost that could have been saved with a few well-placed sentences. Other than that, the coming of age story was unique because of the added traditional background of the Himba, making Binti’s journey different from similar stories. I’m curious what happens in the rest of the series, so I’ll be looking forward to reading more about Binti’s journey.

Details:

Title: Binti

Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Publisher: Tor.com

Release Date: September 22, 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Science fiction, Afrofuturism, Coming of Age

Pages: 90

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Graphic Novel Review: Lady Mechanika vol 1

Synopsis:

Discover a beautifully illustrated steampunk world of airships, monsters, and one courageous but haunted heroine…

The tabloids dubbed her “Lady Mechanika,” the sole survivor of a mad scientist’s horrific experiments which left her with mechanical limbs. Having no memory of her captivity or her former life, Lady Mechanika eventually built a new life for herself as an adventurer and private investigator, using her unique abilities to solve cases the proper authorities couldn’t or wouldn’t handle. But she never stopped searching for the answers to her own past.

Set in a fictionalized steampunk Victorian England, a time when magic and superstition clashed with new scientific discoveries and inventions, Lady Mechanika chronicles a young woman’s obsessive search for her identity as she investigates other mysteries involving science and the supernatural.

This volume collects the entire first Lady Mechanika mini-series The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse, including its prequel chapter The Demon of Satan’s Alley, plus a complete cover art gallery.

First Thought:

I’ve been aiming to read this series for a while, but it was always hard to find any of the individual issues. Then I found the Free Comic Book Day issue and after reading it I was determined to read the entire series. That issue intrigued me enough to hunt down the first volume, hopefully the story ends as it started.

Ratings:

Art: 5

I thoroughly enjoyed the artwork in this volume. I rather like the design of Lady Mechanika, she was elegant and attractive but she was normally portrayed in rather logical and conservative clothing. Based on some of the alternative covers and various artwork in the back of the volume, I was afraid that Lady Mechanika would end up in sexy and revealing costumes. However, her various outfits remained rather conservative and practical throughout the story. The other characters were rather interesting as well, their designs unique and easily distinguishable. My favorite character design-wise was Arliquinn, who was pretty much a pink Harliquinn ballerina. The various outfits for all the characters were well thought out and vary detailed, even down to the stitched patterns on corsets. The colors were well down as well. Most of the story was told in dark settings, but at times the light and dark colors contrasted very well. In fact, towards the end Arliquinn was used to add bright color to otherwise very darkly lit scenes.

Story: 3

This volume not only contained the first story but the prologue as well. The prologue was rather interesting as it introduces Lady Mechanika’s want to find her creator and her origin; it also serves to introduce one of the villains in the first story. I wish there was a little bit more to the prologue and that it served more of a purpose in the main story. The prologue only has a passing mention in the main story and Mechanika’s main mission, to find her creator, is mentioned within the main story near the beginning so the prologue really doesn’t serve a purpose but to introduce some of the villains.

The story of the first volume is pretty engaging. Lady Mechanika is trying to solve the mystery to a possible murder that may or may not have any connections to her past. It was interesting to read as she figured out the mystery, though I wish that there was more problem solving and more build up to the solving of the mystery. It felt like the plot advanced more because of conveniences than actual planning, I understand that graphic novels are a bit limited in time but that doesn’t excuse the fact the story was hindered by lack of proper development. There were also many scenes in which there was too much dialogue and it not only messed up with the flow but also cluttered up the panels.

Overall: 4

Volume 1 was very beautiful to look at and it has an interesting story, though I felt like it was held back by extremely long and wordy conversations between hero and villain. The art is very detailed and I spent a lot of time just looking at all of the various designs both scenic and character. If you enjoy steampunk and/or mysteries this story will be time well spent!

Details:

Title: Lady Mechanika vol. 1: The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse

Book: 1

Issue(s): 0-5

Publisher: Benitez Productions

Writer(s): Joe Bentez

Illustrator: Joe Bentez

Colors: Peter Steigerwald

Letters: Josh Reed

Released Date: November 18th 2015

Pages: 160

Genre(s): Steampunk, Mystery, Action

Book Review: Scent of Death

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

 

Synopsis:

James Goodwin uses his olfactory equivalent of perfect pitch to sniff out people’s emotions, from love to malice. He earns a handy living by uncovering corporate cheats, but he’s growing bored. When billionaire Garth Cotton asks him to cook up the world’s first love potion, James first smells a grand challenge, and accepts. But once on the high seas in Cotton’s mega-yacht, James smells treachery. He sniffs out secrets that land him and Cotton’s dazzling assistant, Samantha Heartgrave, on a timeline to death. To save himself and Samantha, James must exercise his gift of smell in ways he never dreamed possible.

My First Thoughts:

I’ve read another book by Mr. Ross, The Jubilee’s Daughter, and I thought that I would give this one a try too. At first, I was a little leery about the concept of a hero with a super sense of smell making a love potion, but I thought to give it a try anyways.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

This story was hard to get through and honestly, it just wasn’t for me. I could suspend my disbelief of someone with an overpowered sense of smell, but there were just other things in the story that I couldn’t get behind.

I can imagine that writing a character like James would be hard, and I applaud Ross with this attempt. Writing any kind of character with a special gift that no one has heard of or that not many have written about is hard. There’s a lot of creating that the author has to do, in this case Ross had to figure out just how to describe emotions using different smells. After figuring out what smell went with each emotion he had to find a way to easily describe how James came to identify those smell and emotion combinations, trying to make it as believable as possible to the readers. I think that Ross did a commendable job trying to figure out this special gift and write it in well enough for readers to understand and enjoy, it really did add in an extra layer to the story that you wouldn’t normally encounter. My only complaint is that the smells were too specific. Instead of saying something like ‘a sweet flowery smell’ for a certain emotion he specifically identified lilac. Instead of describing a scent as strong or putrid, he used oil and rotten meat. I found it a little hard to believe that emotions would be that specific and that everyone exhibiting that emotion would smell exactly the same. Humans and nature in general, follow basic guidelines but within those guidelines individuals vary—hardly anything is the exact same every single time. Also, not every reader is going to know what lilacs, raw oil, or sandalwood smell like. It would be hard to come up different ways of describing the various smells without giving them a specific label, but I think in the end it would have made the story a little bit stronger.

Ross’s writing has improved from the previous book that I’ve read. He has gotten better at mixing description with dialogue and inner character monologging. However, I felt like the flow of the story was a bit off. I believe that Ross spent too much time building everything up before the breaking point, the start of the climax, and it made the second half of his story seemed too rushed and underdone compared to the first. The introduction to the characters and the situation was fine and well done, but there were scenes during the experiments that could’ve been left out. I felt there was a lot of over explaining of the experiments done for the ‘love potion’, almost like trying to describe it to a child and not adults. Some of the scenes in the beginning need less time than they got and definitely less dialogue. If more time was spent on the latter half, maybe adding in longer scenes or longer sections of just descriptive information, and the first half was trimmed down a bit then the story would’ve been better balanced.

Unfortunately, I could not relate to any of the characters. I liked James for a while but I just couldn’t agree with his morality, I’m not saying he was a bad person, but his reasoning for not liking the love potion just didn’t sit well with me. He also felt a little too nonchalant about the whole business with the love potion until it was too late, even though throughout the whole story there were reasons to find it all very dangerous. Not once did I like Samantha, she was uninspiring and just down right flat as a character. There was no rhyme or reason for her personality or actions. One minute she’s a demeaning, bossy individual and then several chapters later she shows this nice ‘sensitive’ side. Her character just didn’t feel natural to me and I just didn’t care for her or her dilemma. The other main characters were even more unnatural and off-balanced as she was. The villains lacked complexity or drive, they just did horrible things and nothing more. I get that there are people out there that are just rotten to the core and most of it came from how they were raised or something, but I’m tired of villains that are just the caricatures of evil—they’re just boring. My favorite characters were the side characters that didn’t show up much in the story, but they still played important roles which was nice.

Not only did I have some issues with the characters in general, but I had issues with character interactions as well. Specifically, I had trouble seeing the chemistry between James and Samantha. When you meet Samantha she is a Grade A b***h to James and she stays that way for most of the book, except for a few pockets of breaking character in the middle and her ‘change’ towards the end. I get it, extreme situations can change someone for the better but it just felt wrong for her character. James spends most of the book telling himself and the reader that he’s not interested in Samantha, a few times saying he had a girlfriend already who was so much better. However, by the end they’re in love and the girlfriend (who was given a name but you never meet) magically drops off the radar with no further comment. I couldn’t see this all it takes is one week to love kind of romance, and I even had a hard time labelling it as a romance too. All around the romance felt like a last minute addition that was slapped onto the book before publishing. There was little chemistry between the two characters and the romance was plagued with in consistencies from both James and Samantha. The faceless girlfriend was also another thing that bugged me about James because he would only think of her when Samantha tempted him, no other time and then was just discarded without any sort of mention or reason. Yea, great job there James.

The last thing that bugged me about this book was the characterization of the animals mentioned. For the experiment they used lab mice to test out the love potion, which is fine I guess? I’m not sure when it comes to various forms of experimentation which set of animals is best used to simulate what for humans, so I can’t critique that. But I can critique the fact that the experiment relied on the anthropomorphizing of lab mice and their behavior. Animals don’t act like people and in science we often have to remind ourselves and others that any action you see that is human-like isn’t actually real. So in this case the experiment relied on the lab mice to show very human-like displaces of love and affection. Why would this bug me? Because there is no proof that mice show affection toward each other, there are some rodents that do but there is a very clear evolutionary reason as to why and they’re the odd man out. If the experiment was done using prairie voles, which do mate with the same female more than once and might show affection toward each other, then it would be a bit more believable and less flawed. Another thing about testing for human emotions is that we know what it looks like in humans, but we can’t accurately record or gauge them in other animals because they can’t actually tell us if we’re right or wrong in our observations. The other animals mentioned were sharks, which were never identified and to my knowledge and that of my shark enthusiast friend don’t actually exist. The closest I could find was the smallest shark known to man, the dwarf lantern shark which can be as small as 8 inches. However, they are found within deep dark waters and therefore can’t be kept in an ordinary tank, especially not one where you can throw a severed arm into. Also, the description of the sharks in the book don’t match those of the dwarf lantern shark. Instead, they’re described as being 6 inch versions of the shark from Jaws, and they pretty much act like it too. That characterization of sharks annoys and angers me because it’s not a true description of their normal behavior and it only adds to human hysteria and blood thirst. Sharks are not ruthless killing machines always trying to eat everything, especially humans. Ross would have had a better time selling it if he replaced the sharks with very starved piranhas, but they would have to be extremely starved to act the way the sharks did in the book. And I wouldn’t make such a big deal if they didn’t play a big role in the story, but they did so I am.

Rating:

2/5

Overall the story wasn’t my cup of tea. The characters weren’t very likable or relatable and there was no real character development or depth to most of them. The flow of the story was messed up by an overdeveloped beginning and an underdone ending. There were elements of romance, but it felt cheap and slapped on. And the characterizations of the animals used in the story were just too incorrect to keep me rooted to the story, many times actually angering me. However, Ross’s writing has improved from his previous books and I found that he handled this overpowered sense of smell rather well. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants an easy read or loves suspenseful stories.

Related Reviews/Books:

Details:

Title: The Scent of Death

Author: Jonathan Ross

Publisher: Amazon

Release Date: June 15, 2017

Genre: Adult, Action, Suspense, Romance (???)

Pages: 194

Graphic Novel Review: Ms. Marvel vol 1

Synopsis:

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!

It’s history in the making from acclaimed writer G. Willow Wilson (Air, Cairo) and beloved artist Adrian Alphona (RUNAWAYS)! Collecting MS. MARVEL (2014) #1-5 and material from ALL-NEW MARVEL NOW! POINT ONE #1.

First Thought:

My boyfriend has been reading this comic series for a while now and really enjoys it. At the time he started reading I had no interest in comics, but when he bought an action figure of the Kamala it peaked my interest. It wasn’t until after Marvel got thrown under the bus that I decided to read more of them, especially after I enjoyed reading the new Thor run!

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

I really enjoyed this start to a new hero! I connected instantly with Kamala, more so than I have with a character in a long while. I related to her because of her relationship with her parents and how they treat her. In high school, my parents set hard expectations for me. They wanted me to get straight A’s and be better than what my brother had become, and at the same time they wanted me to be my own person and come up with my own ideas. However, whenever my ideas and thoughts didn’t agree with theirs that’s when they became disappointed in me and claimed I had changed or I wasn’t thinking clearly. So when I read the same thing happening to Kamala I instantly connected with her, especially when it was her mother who was giving her most of the grief and her father still showed her at least some support. And that’s what I like about Ms. Marvel and Kamala, there’s literally something for everyone to connect to the character with.

I really enjoyed seeing the steps that Kamala took to becoming Ms. Marvel. At first she tried emulating an established superhero because she didn’t feel like she could be a hero on her own. Then she starts to figure out that she could be a hero and you watch her try to figure out her new abilities and to control them. I loved the trial and error, and how Kamala actively works at improving herself.

Ratings:

Art: 4

I liked what Alphona did with the art. The characters weren’t super realistic, but they for the most part were well drawn and not overly sexual. In fact, all of the characters look either conservative or like normal high schoolers. Some of the bystanders and background characters look a little wonky, and by that I mean by that is they look a little too caricature-ish for me but not in a demeaning way. So occasionally I would be drawn out of the story but a background character because they stood out too much for no real reason. Herring did a wonderful job with the coloring though, I loved the bright softness to every page with no real hard shadows.

Story: 4

The story was pretty fun and entertaining. While there was some need for urgency at the end, overall the story was still pretty well balanced between comedy and action. The flow of the story was pretty smooth too, with a nice rising and falling action. I want to know how Kamala got her powers and what her strange encounter was in the first issue, but that reveal won’t be until later. Actually, with all that was going on with the story I didn’t spend much time wondering how it happened, I just wanted to see what was next.

Overall: 4

The story is pretty solid with an interesting mix of characters, relationships, and action. I can’t wait to see what the story holds and how the art will evolve!

Details:

Title: Ms. Marvel: No Normal

Book: 1

Issue(s): 1-5

Publisher: Marvel

Writer(s): Willow G. Wilson

Illustrator: Adrian Alphona

Colors: Ian Herring

Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Released Date: October 30, 2014

Pages: 120

Genre(s): Super hero, Fantasy, Action