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

Book Review: In the Land of Broken Time

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

Synopsis:

This book is about the adventures of the boy named Christopher, the girl named Sophia and retriever Duke. By chance they found themselves in a balloon, that took them into a fairyland, where mysterious events happen.
Children wanted to find the way home. The heroes had to solve a lot of mysteries.They learned interesting ways of time measuring and found a time machine.

My First Thoughts:

There’s always a special joy I feel when an author from another country asks me to review their work. There’s also the excitement of reading outside of what you would consider normal. After reading books that have saddened and/or infuriated me, I look forward to reading children’s books because they’re normally much simpler and fun. So I was more than happy to read this book as we drive through South Dakota on a long cross country trip!

Rating:

3/5

I was pleasantly surprised by In the Land of Broken Time. It’s definitely not the next Magic Treehouse, but it was interesting enough with subtle learning concepts that would make it a fun read for children and parents alike. The story concept was really interesting, the characters were fun, and the world building was quite imaginative.

Time was a big theme in this story. The authors build the world around time, going so far as using time related names for some of the characters and places. Throughout the story the readers get to learn about various different ways of telling time, such as using a sundial, hourglass, water clocks, and aromatic clocks. I honestly can’t name a book that talks about similar things, so I found it interesting to see how children may be introduced to suck clocks. There were times where it felt a little forced, especially the few times when the kids were explaining the more complicated mechanics of some of these things. It was a little unbelievable that these kids would know how an aromatic clock would work, even if they were only describing what they were witnessing.

Another big theme was friendship, and the authors draw two main messages from this theme. One, don’t judge a person by their outward appearance; you never know if a rough individual on the outside will be a great ally later. The second is that you should never let the rumors about a stranger shape your opinion of them before you lay eyes on them. These messages deal with one of the minor characters that ends up having a big role in driving the plot forward.

The characters were interesting enough. The children became fast friends due to circumstance, but their friendship also read genuinely enough too. Not much can be said about them because there wasn’t enough story to really delve into their personalities. In fact, I think the minor characters were given more depth and personality than Duke and the kids. This doesn’t really bother me, mostly because it’s hard to flesh out children characters and the authors needed to show why we would trust certain minor characters and not others.

Overall the story was pretty interesting and well written. There were times in which the language was a little advance for Christopher and Sophia to realistically say for their age. There’s some debate as to if some of the words used in the story would be too advanced for the target audience, but honestly I think a few challenging words would be good for young readers to encounter. The story itself is pretty simple; there are no complex reasons as to why events take place or why certain actions are made. If this story were for an older audience, I may take issue with the construction of the story, but I don’t know of many young readers that would sit there and poke holes in a fantasy story. Parents reading this story to their kids may see the plot holes or the utter leaps the story takes to get from one scene to another, but listening children will just go along for the ride.

The illustrations in the book are pretty nice. I especially love the color and detail that went into the cover; it’s one of my favorite covers! The illustrations in the story were cute and provided a nice break in the story on occasion; however, I just wish there were more of them in the story. The pictures were few and so sparsely laid out that at times I forgot there were any illustrations!

All in all, In the Land of Broken Time is an interesting and simple story about time and friendship. The ending is a bit abrupt, but the story has a nice overall flow that will keep children interested until the end. I highly recommend it to any young reader looking for a fantasy to read or for any parent-kid duo looking for another bedtime story! I can’t wait to read more from Mark and Maria Evan.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Details:

Title: In the Land of Broken Time: The Incredible Journey

Author: Max Evan and Maria Evan

Illustrator: Maria Evan

Publisher: self published

Release Date: August 3rd, 2016

Genre: Middle Reader, Fantasy, Action/Adventure

Pages: 52 (eBook)

Book Review: On Their Way

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

Details:

Title: On Their Way

Author: A.D. Green

Publisher: self published

Release Date: June 3rd, 2016

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic

Pages: 275 (eBook)

Synopsis:

On Their Way centers on the ordinary, but confusing modern-day lives of two close friends in their mid-twenties who find themselves on an unexpected journey to Spain.
Meet Ella – she is perceptive, creative, cerebral, loyal, opinionated, full of dilemmas, and torn between decisions, people, places and life trajectories. Meet Will – he is stubborn, free-spirited, witty, sarcastic, and a writer. The novel offers a glimpse into their lives before, during and after their trip.
As the story unfolds we follow how they change, what they resolve, and how they handle the consequences of their choices. It is a story about friendship, finding meanings, self discovery and moving on. The characters search for understanding, take new chances and realize that you cannot await happiness but have to step into the unknown.

My First Thoughts:

I haven’t run into many New Adult books that I’ve liked, and the ones I did enjoy were actually mislabeled. So when the author presented me this book and called it New Adult, I got rather excited. I don’t normally go for many contemporary romances, but it sounded like a coming of age story and so I gave it a try.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

It took me months to finish this book and by the end it was a bit of a chore to finish. Yes, that’s a harsh thing to say but this book frustrated me to no end the more I read it.

The beginning was hard to get into. I understand that it’s supposed to be just-another-day sort of feeling, but if I wasn’t asked to read this book then I would’ve put it down before the end of the first chapter. Nothing interesting happens during the first few chapters, or better yet there should’ve been drama but it felt hollow because I didn’t understand why or what was going on.

We’re introduced to Ella first, who already has her masters in Criminology and is checking her email for job/interview acceptance (mostly rejection) messages. She complains about roommates you never meet and don’t seem to actually exist within the story before she’s scared by a previous lover, who magically entered the house without her knowing. She’s angry to see him there and they keep referencing something that happened between them years ago, but the author doesn’t tell us what it is until much later. This kind of writing pisses me off, to be frank, because I spent more than two-thirds of the book wanting to know what happened to them not out of interest for the story but to understand Ella’s hostility. When I do find out what happened between Victor and Ella it was so underwhelming that I almost gave up on the book right there. The author spends so much plot time referencing this one thing only to reveal it too late in the game for me to really care anymore and the impact was barely a tap. But for Ella this one thing shaped her for all of her college years, blah-blah-blah, and she couldn’t move past it. I get that she’s supposed to be sympathetic, but her character was the least likable for me and I felt nothing for her and her plights.

In fact, none of the characters were likable. Victor, who was a minor character, was a controlling and lifeless individual. Will, her best friend, is some pompous guy that has a thing against authors and self-help books. There’s this whole arc that deals with his failures and stuff, but I felt no compassion for him and not enough time was spent on it to make me care. Ella was also rather pompous, and when I say this I mean that their dialogue between them and others made me imagine their noses high in the air, and her actions made absolutely no sense what’s so ever. Out of all the characters, I liked Will the most because he was less of a jerk.

The dialogue in On Their Way felt so unnatural that it was almost robotic, but set to modern old English. All the characters, except Victor, took so long to say something so simple that I almost forgot that they’re supposed to be closer to my age than older adults. The conversations were also really dry, at times almost completely unnecessary, as if the author didn’t know how else to get to the next scene. Most of the time the dialogue was the only thing that propelled the plot, which weakens the story all together. I learned the most about what was going on from the dialogue and not Ella’s inner thoughts that she kept sharing. The big reveal/decision that she makes at the end came up suddenly in dialogue instead of gradually coming to that decision in her thoughts. The author told me that Ella thought long and hard on her decision and the plans she made, but I didn’t read a single word of that progression. Instead, I got useless ramblings that amounted to nothing. I was told more than shown what was going on, which is what led to much of my anger with this book and what killed any enjoyment I had reading it.

The other thing the angered me was the unrealistic nature of this book. I labeled it as realistic fiction, but I was half tempted to mark it as a science-fiction story instead because the author had no concept of time. The author kept switching back and forth about how many days had passed and how many more days Ella had. Hours passed in a blink of an eye even though nothing really happened during that passage of time.

The author also used this story to bash authors and airport security, all through the boring conversations between Will and Ella. According to the characters, anyone can be an author but few can be writers, which made me laugh because I believe the exact opposite. Will also takes way too much time spitting on authors of self-help books and the whole genre as a whole. Why? No. Idea. Then when they go through security to go to Barcelona, Ella takes the time to criticize airport security because they took her laptop aside and checked it. This actually happened to me before, it was no big deal and it may be possible for electronics to be made into explosives. Normally I don’t care what the author wants to speak out against in their novels, but this was all the action in the beginning-exciting, right?

The romance was the worst thing that I’ve ever read and it lead to my dislike of Ella. The reason I hated it was because in any other scenario, Ella’s actions would’ve lead to another Taken movie with Liam Neeson. She sparks an interest in a hotel bartender, okay that’s fine. She doesn’t ask for his name, they don’t even introduce each other before the first several dates, and she made it into some sort of game…Sorry, what? That can be hella dangerous not knowing anything about a person, not even a phone number, before going out a not one but several dates. She doesn’t even tell Will, her best friend and only known person in a foreign country, that she’s going out or with whom. Her actions in this romance were nonsensical and ill-advised, again in rea life she would be in serious danger of being kidnapped and sold into the slave trade.

Finally, the relationship between Ella and Will was barely there. They have all these memories and inside jokes, but they don’t act like friends. They spend hardly any time together on their trip, which was a gift for their birthdays, and when they do they’re jerks to each other. Will willing leaves Ella by herself in a foreign country, even brought her to a small town only to ditch her. Ella lets Will run off and be alone during some critical moments for him, when he’s in a pretty dark place. Overall, reading their interactions lead me to think that they were best friends at one point but are more like acquaintances now.

Rating:

1/5

Honestly, I have nothing good to say about this book. I’ve tried so hard to come up with something positive to say, but I haven’t found a single thing. The dialogue was a chore to read and propelled the story forward. The action wasn’t really there, the characters just floated in space for most of the story. None of the characters were interesting or relatable, so I couldn’t bring myself to invest in them or feel for them. The romance was infuriating, boring, and dangerous. Ella’s inner monologues were trivial. The tone and language of the story drew me out of the plot more times than in. There wasn’t a whole lot of imagery are descriptive passages. Overall the story was boring and frustrating, with the author spending all their time tell me what was happening instead of showing.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Graphic Novel Review: Thor: The Goddess of Thunder

Synopsis:

Who is the Goddess of Thunder?

The secrets of Original Sin have laid low one of Marvel’s greatest heroes. The God of Thunder is unworthy, and Mjolnir lies on the moon, unable to be lifted! But when Frost Giants invade Earth, a new hand will grasp the hammer–and a mysterious woman will take up the mantle of the mighty Thor! Her identity is secret to even Odin, but she may be Earth’s only hope against the Frost Giants. Get ready for a Thor like you’ve never seen before as this all-new heroine takes Midgard by storm! Plus: The Odinson clearly doesn’t like that someone else is holding his hammer–it’s Thor vs. Thor! And Odin, desperate to see Mjolnir returned, will call on some very dangerous, very unexpected allies. It’s a bold new chapter in the storied history of Thor!

First Thought:

I’ve been a fan of the movies for a while and I have read a few Marvel comics so far. I’ve yet to be disappointed, but I had been a little leery about reading any of their more popular or bigger name comics. Until recently, I hadn’t felt like I was ‘ready’ enough to full appreciate the more popular Marvel comics, looking back that might’ve been a stupid outlook. Long story short, I got angry after reading about the most recent misunderstanding that has thrown the company under the bus and decided to read one of their most popular titles at the moment. I read a lot of good things about Thor: The Goddess of Thunder and I thought, why not give it a try!

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

Most of my experience with Thor comes from the movies, tv shows, and video games that he’s been in. I’ve read a few comics that feature him as a side character, but I have yet to read one with him as a main character. My knowledge of his character in the comics is limited, but I felt that this volume did a wonderful job of introducing this Thor, Odinson now, and the new Thor.

Thor, now Odinson in this line, had always appeared to be too overpowered for my liking. I enjoy his character in the things I’ve seen him in, but I always wondered what he would be without his power, without his hammer. The Goddess of Thunder introduces us to a broken, defeated Thor who can’t wield his magical hammer and who has to learn who he is without it. I rather enjoyed seeing that character development, seeing how attached he was to his hammer, how hard he would fight to prove himself worthy-to get it back, and ultimately give it up to someone else. I also enjoyed seeing him depicted as something other than an overpowered meat-head, true he’s still rather powerful but he’s more than that. You see recognition of past mistakes and transgressions, admitting that he was wrong or what he did wrong to those he hurt. Sure he still doesn’t quite get it sometimes, but he’s learning. You also get to see him adapt and welcome change, even defending it against powerful beings like his father, Odin.

I can see why some people might not like seeing a beloved hero lose his power and his name to another character. Why not call this Goddess of Thunder a feminine form of Thor or something else entirely? Why not give her a completely new hero identity and let Thor be Thor? Personally, I like this route. It allows a new character to try out the role that the original Thor held, and it allows Odinson the chance to be someone new, and maybe someone more like himself than the God of Thunder. I always enjoy seeing what happens when you mix a story up, so I’m interested to learn who Odinson will be without his hammer. So far I’m not disappointed in who he’s turning out to be or who this new lady Thor is!

The Goddess of Thunder doesn’t waste time in explaining who the new Thor is or how she came to wield the magical hammer, Mjolnir. Instead, it throws you straight into an action packed story with Ice Giants, an evil human company, and a powerful dark elf. Mayhem ensues as Thor tries to figure out her new abilities while saving Midgard from an army of Frost Giants. I enjoyed the little comments made by Thor as she figures out how to use the hammer. She has a fast learning curve, but she still experiences self-doubt as she fights Ice Giants and at times she wonders just who she is with and without the hammer.

Not a whole lot is shown about her personality, but I’m enjoying it so far. She’s strong and independent, but she’s not a shrew either. I’ve ranted about this before, but in the past a lot of strong independent women have been depicted with the same or equally unpleasant personalities. These strong women behave like the brutish military generals that are depicted all the time in media, which is also a horrible representation as well, and if they didn’t have these personalities then they weren’t considered ‘strong’. However, nowadays that characterization is becoming less and less popular and we’re getting strong female characters like the new Thor, who is strong but also full of self-doubt and compassion toward other characters. I also like that she considers herself a feminist, but isn’t some man-hating, bleeding, shouting feminist.

Ratings:

Art: 5

The art was fantastic! The character designs weren’t outrageous and seemed to really fit the characters well. I was pleased that Thor’s outfit wasn’t overly sexualized or revealing, her costume was conservative and practical, reminding me of the various Norse media that I’ve seen or read before. I would’ve been happier with a different chest plate, one that didn’t have actually breast cups, because I believe that it would be too uncomfortable and unpractical to have such cups. I also enjoyed the character designs for Odin and Freyja, they were ornate and powerful looking but still reasonable. Also, the various body types were great. Except for one character, and his was more comedic than anything, the body types were very realistic.

Story: 4

The story was pretty good, nothing amazing though. There was a lot of action and the story never really slows down much from start to finish. There’s nothing wrong with a lot of action, but it kept a lot of the questions from being answered. I understand keeping some questions for the next volume, but I felt there were too many. Some of the questions, I felt, could’ve been answered without breaking up the action and flow of the story too much. But I’m looking forward to reading the next volume of this story and discovering who this new Thor is!

Overall: 4.5

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading this comic and I can’t wait to pick up the next volume!

Details:

Title: Thor: The Goddess of Thunder

Book: 1

Issue(s): 1-5

Publisher: Marvel

Creator(s): Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby

Writer(s): Jason Aaron

Illustrator: Russell Dauterman (1-4) and Jorge Molina (5)

Colors: Matthew Wilson (1-4) and Jorge Molina (5)

Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino

Released Date: April 15, 2015

Pages: 136

Genre(s): Super hero, Fantasy, Action

Guest Review: FCBD Legion of Dope-itude

Another guest review by Ethan!

Synopsis:

Tying into an episode of the Fresh Off The Boat television series airing in May, this Free Comic Book Day special reveals the characters created by Eddie and Emery for a comic book contest on the television show!

What I first Thought:

I’ve never seen an episode of Fresh Off The Boat before, so I’m not familiar with that aspect of this story.  However, I loved writer Gene Luen Yang’s Shadow Hero graphic novel, so I was really interested in reading more from him.  The Jack Kirby-esque cover of the issue also didn’t hurt.

Ratings:

Art: 5/5

With TV tie-ins, there’s always a debate about how to handle the likenesses of real people.  Jorge Corona opts to go the cartoony route for this issue, which I feel was the right way to go given the overall comedic tone of the story.  His page compositions are pretty solid, and he does a nice job of making each character look suitably unique, while still keeping enough common traits between the characters to remind you that they’re a family.  The art is very clean, and super easy to follow, and all of the characters are fluid in their motion.  There’s a lot going on in each panel, but the art is laid out in such a way as to draw the viewers eye to the proper focus every time, showing great care in the construction of the craft.

Story: 4/5

It’s possible I might have gotten a little more out of this issue if I’d seen any of the show.  There seem to be some bits that are picking up on prior material, and the characters are sort of just thrown into the story without a whole ton of introduction.  That being said, it’s a family that get’s super powers, and they generally follow the basic sitcom family tropes.  Not super hard to follow or connect with them.  The story is clearly crafted to follow up on the show’s episode “Pie vs. Cake,” as explained by the first page of the comic.  Eddie Huang (who is nominally the comic’s main character) informs us of his brother Emery’s comic, which re-invisions the family as a team of super heroes.  Shortly thereafter, the real life Huangs discover they have powers just like their comic-counterparts.  We then get a few of their exploits as heroes, and discover the (more than a little tongue-in-cheek) origin of their powers, all wrapping up in a big, goofy comic-book battle with a giant monster.  Most of the family members gets a moment of focus to showcase their abilities, which range from standard issue (The Persuader’s hypnotism) to rather unique (Lazy Boy’s “channel changing”). The only one left out is Evan/Blazer Boy, who doesn’t seem to really have any abilities of his own, and mostly just hangs around his mother.  Once again, I’m not sure if this is a show thing or what.  It struck me as slightly odd, but not enough to ruin the issue.  The dialogue is generally pretty solidly crafted; they talk more or less like real people would, and many of the characters have their own tics and gags.  I was particularly amused by the lampshading of a few of the stereotypes that Asian comic characters are frequently saddled with.  The issue ends in a rather open-ended fashion, which could potentially lead to additional stories, and I wouldn’t be opposed to such a prospect.

Overall:  4.5

Details:

Title: Fresh Off The Boat Presents: Legion of Dope-Itude Featuring Lazy Boy

Issue: Free Comic Book Day

Publisher: Boom! Studios

Writer: Gene Luen Yang

Art:  Jorge Corona

Colors: Jeremy Lawson

Letters: Jim Campbell

Release Date: May 6, 2017

Pages:  28

Genre: Super Heroes, Action-Adventure, Comedy, Television

Guest Review: FCBD Secret Empire–Spider Man

This is a guest review done by my wonderful boyfriend and the mind behind The Figure in Question! He went with me to Free Comic Book Day and he’ll be reviewing the books he picked up.

Synopsis:

The Marvel Universe is under siege from the greatest threat it has ever known! Everything has been leading to this as Nick Spencer and Andrea Sorrentino bring the entire Marvel Universe together for the highly-anticipated SECRET EMPIRE series! UNITED THEY STAND against a common foe, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Defenders, the Champions, the Inhumans, Spider-Man and more must hold together as an unwavering front! Yet even their combined might may not be enough to withstand the awesome power of Hydra! Then, after his globetrotting adventures Spider-Man has returned to his friendly neighborhood as Chip Zdarsky and Paulo Siqueira present a sneak peek at PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER MAN! A new companion series to the best-selling Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker is back in the Big Apple he’s brought the Ol’ Parker Luck with him! Don’t miss your first taste of this back-to-basics and high-flying ongoing series!

What I first Thought:

This was the only FCBD pick-up that I knew about prior to arriving at our local store.  I’ve been following the events of Nick Spencer’s Steve Rogers: Captain America series, which is a direct lead-in to this.  Since it’s a continuation of a story I’m already reading, I obviously wasn’t planning to just skip it.  The general public’s not too hot on the whole Hydra Cap thing, but I’ve been enjoying seeing where it’s been going, even the Steve Rogers presented here isn’t “my Steve Rogers.”  I had no real opinions one way or another on the second feature, which is a Spider-Man story, unrelated to the main story.  I like Chip Zdarsky’s work as a writer, though, so I’m intrigued.

Ratings:

Since there are two unrelated stories here, I’ll be examining them separately.  I’ll note Secret Empire with an “SE” and Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man with an “SM.”

Art: 3/5 (SE), 5/5 (SM)

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Andrea Sorrentino’s work, if I’m totally honest.  I mean, he’s got an interesting style, and he can layout a page well enough, but his work is always kind of murky and washed out.  Not my ideal choice for anything having to do with super heroes.  I personally would have preferred the interiors had been more consistent with Mark Brooks’s cover, which I feel is more on par with Marvel’s usual style.  With Sorrentino’s interiors, at times, it’s a little difficult to figure out what’s going on in any given panel, and I had some real trouble making out which characters were which.  On the plus side, as I noted before, the layouts are pretty strong and he’s clearly having fun working the Cap and Hydra iconography into the shapes of the panels.  He seems to get a bit more comfortable as the story progresses, and the final splash page is a good deal stronger than the first few pages.

On the flip side, Paulo Siqueira’s work on the Spider-Man story really appeals to me.  The work is really clean and easy to follow.  The characters are all very lively, and sport some of the best expression work I’ve see from any artist that’s not Kevin McGuire.  The line work is bold and easy to follow, and the panel layouts do a really nice job of conveying movement as Spider-Man and Vulture sweep through the skies of New York.  Siqueira delivers a very iconic take on Spider-Man, in the vein of John Romita, Sr. and Gil Kane, who are two of my favorite Spidey artists.

Story: 4/5 (SE), 5/5 (SM)

The SE story is pretty decent for what it is, but there’s a big caveat on “what it is.”  It’s not a whole story, nor is it a beginning or an end.  It’s right smack dab in the middle of everything; it’s the rising conflict that’s leading to the main climax that will be the Secret Empire mini-series.  There’s a quick, broad strokes recap of Civil War II and a little of Steve Rogers: Captain America, before kicking things off with Hawkeye being ambushed by some Hydra goons.  He’s rescued by Black Widow, who informs his “gonna miss the war.”  The rest of the story depicts the major Marvel heroes battling Hydra’s forces, climaxing with the arrival of the Hydra corrupted Steve Rogers.  The final splash page shows our heroes defeated, Cap standing over them, wielding a certain thunder god’s magical hammer, while the narration proclaims of Hydra “They were stronger.  They were more powerful.  In that moment—They were worthy.”  This final shot has been the cause of some contention amongst fans, who say it preaches an uncomfortable message of “might makes right.”  I personally see that uncomfortable message as an indicator that something’s off here.  Cap’s turn to Hydra was the result of the Cosmic Cube rewriting reality.  Recent story developments have amended that it was actually setting reality back on the correct path.  However, if Mjolnir is allowing Steve to wield it, perhaps this shows that Steve is supposed to be worthy enough to wield it, deep down, perhaps indicating that his true nature really is what we’ve been seeing all along.

Zdarsky’s Spider-Man story is a more complete tale.  There’s still a bit of a cliff-hanger (leading in to June’s Issue #1 of the series), but we get a fairly standalone little battle between Spidey and Vulture, as well as a quick lead-in conversation between Peter and MJ to help catch readers up to speed on where those two are.  The choice of Vulture as the primary antagonist is no doubt inspired by his presence in the upcoming movie, but it was still nice to see him sort of return to his routes, while still not completely backtracking.  We also see the introduction of the new Trapster, who I assume will be getting a larger role in the series proper.  Above all, I found Zdarsky’s dialogue to be very strong.  He’s got a good handle on Spidey’s quips and I even found myself laughing out loud once or twice.  I’ll definitely be grabbing the first issue of the main series when it hits.

Overall: 3.5 (SE), 5 (SM)

Details:

Title:  Secret Empire / Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man

Issue:  Free Comic Book Day

Publisher:  Marvel

Writer:  Nick Spencer (SE), Chip Zdarsky (SM)

Pencils:  Andrea Sorrentino (SE), Paulo Siqueira (SM)

Inks:  Andrea Sorrentino (SE), Walden Wong, Cam Smith, Jay Leisten, & Paulo Siqueira (SM)

Colors:  Andrea Sorrentino (SE),

Letters:  VC’s Travis Lanham

Release Date:  May 6, 2017

Pages:  28

Genre:  Super Hero, Action-Adventure, Marvel