Graphic Novel Review: Black Squadron (Star Wars: Poe Dameron vol.1)

Synopsis:

Poe Dameron, former Republic flyer turned Resistance fighter, is the best pilot in the galaxy. Hand-picked for the resistance by General Leia Organa to lead a squadron on a top-secret and vital mission, Poe sets off to investigate sites of historical importance to the Force — revealing backstory leading directly into The Force Awakens! Follow Poe and his X-Wing squadron on covert missions against the First Order, brought to you by writer Charles Soule (STAR WARS: LANDO, DAREDEVIL) and artist Phil Noto (STAR WARS: CHEWBACCA, BLACK WIDOW)!

Collecting issues 1–6 from the ongoing series

First Thought:

In the last two movies I have absolutely loved Poe Dameron! I have found his character to be quite charming and hilarious—I wanted to learn more about this rough, roguish flyboy. But, I was a little afraid to jump into his comic series when it first came out. At the time I was just getting into comics and I was 100% sold on the character, not enough to warrant buying into the series. However, after The Last Jedi and the whole General Hugs scene I decided it was about time to get into the comic series, and thank goodness my partner has been keeping up with the series because I just borrowed his!

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

I haven’t read very many Star Wars stories yet, and I certainly haven’t read any of the work done by either the artist or the writer, but I felt like this story was pretty entertaining. I start off by saying this because I read a handful of the reviews for the first part of this series and they’re not that stellar. Most of them are rather unexplained bouts of “Soule can’t write to save his life” and “this was boring”, while a few were long diatribes that pretty much said the same thing. In this case I’d have to disagree. I’ve read enough comics, in general, now to understand for myself what is and isn’t good writing. I’m not saying that Soule is the greatest of all time, but I noticed that his writing style for this series is a bit soft-spoken. When I read Doctor Aphra the story telling was very flashy and exciting, always going for the big BOOM! But Poe Dameron seems to be taking a different approach, some of the key plot points in this story were revealed in off-handed remarks that some readers might miss. Not everything is on display for the whole world to pick up in one glance, some things are hidden in plain sight and can be found through thorough reading.

I actually found this story to be quite interesting and entertaining. Since seeing The Force Awakens, I was curious about the old man in the village on Jakku that I now know as Lor San Tekka. Now I may be able to learn more about the old explorer, how he came upon the location of Luke, and how Poe and BB8 got involved. By the looks of this first trade, the journey to finding Tekka is going to be a long bumpy ride full of encounters with the First Order. I’m not sure how I feel about the villain, Agent Terex, he seems to be a surviving soul of the Empire who made himself useful to the First Order, but isn’t completely sold on the First Order agenda. But, the story doesn’t revolve around the villain. Instead, Terex is just the necessary evil that Poe needs to create urgency for his quest to find Tekka, I just hope the agent gets more depth than that as the story continues!

I really enjoyed reading about Poe’s Black Squadron. So far they seem like an interesting group of individuals that are really loyal to Poe, and it’s neat to see some familiar faces from the movies, like Jessika and Snap. I’m also a huge fan of meeting the astromechs behind the piolets, because it makes BB8 less of an oddity and more normal. The astromechs were also an interesting way to add humor to otherwise hair-raising situations, and I rather enjoyed how the writer was able to communicate what they were saying without using actual words. It was a nice team-up between writer and artist to make those characters easy to understand.

Ratings:

Art: 4

The art isn’t the greatest that I’ve ever seen, but I still appreciated it. Noto did a fantastic job of sticking to what we knew of the movies in terms of various character, alien, and ship designs. I enjoyed spotting the aliens that I recognized from the previous movies and the ones that I’d never seen before, like an interesting game of Where’s Waldo. My one complaint was that at first it appeared that Noto was putting too much emphases on the faces, giving them details that while accurate didn’t really seem to translate well for me on the page. It seemed like he withdrew some from that in the later chapters, but for a little while there seemed to be an imbalance of detail in the characters’ faces—some hade more than others. But I actually really enjoyed most of his design work, especially when it was used subtly to throw in some symbolism. The coloring was also very pleasing, a nice mix between light and dark tones matching the moods and the action of the sequences. The shading work was also fantastic, I have a problem with most hard shadows because they just look off-putting, but the shadows in this are very gradual and match the lighting quite beautifully. They also do a wonderful job using the shadows to add depth to the characters’ designs.

Story: 3

Soule’s writing style appears to me to be very subtle, maybe a little too subtle for some people. Read carefully when you read Poe Dameron, because some important information is either mentioned briefly or as a forethought. Their writing isn’t very flashy, so the action scenes may come off a bit dull for some people, but honestly I found them to be quite enjoyable. I really only have two major complaints about his writing so far. One, in the first chapter they make reference to another Poe Dameron story from one of the media-tie in novels, which is fine but I feel like a great writer can loosely relay the important information to the reader without forcing them to go elsewhere for the information. Two, I felt like Poe’s personality from the movies is a bit watered down in this story so far.  I understand that this is a prequel story to The Force Awakens and that there is plenty of time to see that Poe develop. However, I had to laugh when Jessika made mention that Poe could charm the pants off a Hutt because I had yet to really see that charming Poe yet, but there’s still hope!

Overall: 3.5

It’s a nice read that I would recommend to anyone who is a big Poe fan and needs something to tie themselves over until Episode IX. It also provides some good development for his team, the members of which don’t get a whole lot of dialogue let alone screen time! And overall, it looks like a fun action/adventure race against time sort of space quest that should provide some entertainment. I know it made my morning rather fun!

Details:

Title: Black Squadron (Star Wars: Poe Dameron)

Volume: 1

Issue(s): 1-6

Publisher: Marvel

Writer(s): Charles Soule

Illustrator: Phil Noto

Colors: Phil Noto

Letters: VC’s Joe Caramgna

Released Date: December 13, 2016

Pages: 144

Genre(s): Space Opera, Science-Fiction, Young Adult, Action/Adventure

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Book Review: Queek’s Race in Space

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

Details:

Title: Queek’s Race in Outer Space

Author: Carrie Mortleman

Publisher: Createspace

Release Date: April 26th, 2017

Genre: Children’s Book, Illustrated, Science Fiction

Pages: 32

Synopsis:

Queek the scrumptious sugar mouse teams up with his best friend Hellie the Hovercraft Elephant for a very important race against the aliens of Mars!

Their journey takes them past fluffy clouds and the Milky Wat, where they stop to gather yummy white chocolate stars.

Will Queek and Hellie make friends with the aliens?

Can they win the race and take home the treasure snacks?

My First Thoughts:

I’ve read Hellie the Hovercraft Elephant by the same author and so I was very open to reading the next book in her Hellie & Queek series. I have really enjoyed reading Ms. Mortleman’s work so far and so I was quite excited to get her next book in the mail!

Rating:

4/5

Queek’s Race in Outer Space was a lot of fun to read and did not disappoint me! The storytelling, while strong in the last book, has improved in the last year and made the story easy to follow from the get-go. The author sets up the story so that you don’t have to read the previous story to understand the characters and their relationship. Within the first few pages and a few rhyming lines the readers are introduced to the characters, their relationship, and the journey they want to take! As in the last book, the rhyme scheme is very simple and easy to follow. There were a few times in which I felt there was a bit of a stretch to get a few lines to rhyme, but it didn’t impact the overall story and I doubt many kids would notice it too. I’ve always been a fan of the illustration work in Mortleman’s children’s books because it’s so different, it easily introduces different textures and colors in a way that I believe would help stimulate a child’s imagination. Overall, I believe that this book would be a fantastic tool for any parent or teacher to help children widen their vocabulary; the easy use of long complicated words followed by easy context clues should make it simple for parents to help their kids learn new vocabulary. And if they don’t pick it up right away, the harder vocabulary doesn’t take away from the story either and doesn’t hinder the younger reader’s ability to understand and enjoy the story. This fun, unique, and exciting book about mars aliens and treats will make a wonderful gift for any child and a fantastic tool for education!

Graphic Novel Review: Star Wars Doctor Aphra vol.1

Synopsis:

Following her time in the clutches of Darth Vader, Doctor Aphra has barely escaped with her life. If he ever learns of her survival, he’ll hunt her to the ends of the galaxy. But for now, it’s time for a return to what she does best. With the droids 0-0-0 and BT-1 in tow, she’s off in search of rare artifacts from the galactic center to the Outer Rim and everywhere in between. Aphra’s got debts to pay after all. Just as long as she can stay one step ahead of the Empire, some Bounty Hunters and just about everyone else in the galaxy!

First Thought:

After watching the last three Star Wars movies my love for the franchise has reawakened, so of course one of the first things I did was hit the shelves. While I like the idea of the force and the whole Jedi/Sith dynamic, I actually really wanted to read stories that were centered around non-force users. It may seem strange, but I find that non-force using main characters have cooler stories than Jedi and Sith. Anyways, so I found this trade a while back when the comic book store was doing a big sale, so I decided to grab it because who doesn’t like morally grey characters with questionable allies?

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

I don’t know what it is about killer droids that make them so interesting to me. I think it started back when I was younger and playing Knights of the Old Republic, one of your companions in an assassin droid called HK-47 and he was one of my favorite characters in that game. In Aphra I thought her droid companions were going to be like R2-D2 and C3PO, and I thought they were going to be a little campy. Oh I was wrong—I fell in love with them the moment they started talking about torture. Weird, right? In reality, if a robot started talking torture to me I would flip table, but for some reason when Star Wars droids talk about it I think they’re super adorable. I think my favorite scene with the droids has to be when 0-0-0, a rather dark protocol droid, gets permission to torture someone and he has some sort of torture device in every figure that’s different from the last that he whips out of nowhere!

Anyways, while I already hoped this story would turn out fantastically it did more than just that! The art was alright, there were some minor discrepancies that I’ll discuss later. But the story was fantastic! Set sometime after A New Hope, the story makes references to the events of Rogue One and Episode 4 that quickly allows readers to orient themselves in the timeline. We also get to see new aliens and some that have made brief appearances in Rogue One.

The story is not your typical father-daughter adventure. Instead, they’re forced to ork together to chase after ghosts and legends—something that all archeologists should love to do, right? Wrong! Because of her debts, Aphra has to take on the emotionally charged adventure with her father and killer companions in toe. While I haven’t read her introduction in the Darth Vader Marvel comic, I felt like it wasn’t necessary. Maybe, if I have the money, I’ll buy the trades that she’s featured in and learn how she acquired her killer droids and her companionship with a Wookie Gladiator. But for now, I’m content with what I have because the author did a fantastic job writing the story so that you could pick it up without any prior knowledge to the characters. You could even read this comic without ever watching Rogue One or A New Hope, because the author doesn’t rely on you knowing that information, instead they give it to you in necessary pieces that don’t clutter up the main story with backstory.

Ratings:

Art: 4

My biggest problem with the art was some of the detailing—it was too much at times. I love it when artists can make characters come to live with detailing, but sometimes there’s a thing called too much. Like I don’t need to see every hair on a stubbly chin, with the right use of shadows and a few lines you can accomplish a similar look that’s less cluttered. I also so like a lot of unnecessary lines on people’s faces, especially if the picture looks almost the same without the lines there. It’s too distracting for me when there are weird lines on the face that aren’t part of the actual design, I know it’s a styling choice but it’s one I don’t care for. Other than those, the art was pretty good! I liked the mix of colors and that it wasn’t all one tone. The character designs were pretty cool, in fact it looks like the artist had a lot of fun drawing some of the concepts!

Story: 4

Overall the story was fantastic! The author did well to introduce Aphra and her companions, along with their relationships, in a timely manner that didn’t leave me feeling confused. Obviously, if people want to know more about her work with Vader they can easily find the trades she is in, but they don’t have to be read to understand this story—which is nice. My one complaint about the storytelling is that in some of the action sequences it jumped from one event to the next so quickly that I had to go back and read what had happened again. But the action sequences were pretty cool, I liked how they handled and didn’t take up to much of the storytelling like in other comics I’ve read.

Overall: 4

I definitely can’t wait for the next trade in this series to come out! I’m curious as to where Dr. Aphra’s character is going and what adventures will come her way. And as weird as it is, I’m excited to read more about a pair of psychotic astromech and protocol droids.

Details:

Title: Aphra (Star Wars: Doctor Aphra)

Volume: 1

Issue(s): 1-6l

Publisher: Marvel

Writer(s): Kieron Gillen

Illustrator: Kev Walker & Marc Deering

Colors: Antonio Fabela

Letters: VC’s Joe Caramgna

Released Date: July 3rd, 2017

Pages: 144

Genre(s): Space Opera, Science-Fiction, Young Adult, Action/Adventure

Manga Review: Yona of the Dawn (vol.7)

 

Synopsis:
Princess Yona lives an ideal life as the only princess of her kingdom. Doted on by her father, the king, and protected by her faithful guard Hak, she cherishes the time spent with the man she loves, Su-won. But everything changes on her 16th birthday when tragedy strikes her family!

In order to free the port town of Awa from an evil tyrant, Yona and her friends team up with Jaeha, the Green Dragon, and his fellow pirates. While Hak and the others are fighting on other ships, Yona and Yun infiltrate a human-trafficking operation! When the enemy closes in and things look dire, what will Yona do?

Rating:

5/5

With volume 7 comes the end of the Awa/Green Dragon arc, and by does it end with a bang! The final battle is a nice mix between fighting and story development. There aren’t any huge fight scenes with dramatic action sequences that take several panels to complete. The action is confined to a few panels at a time as the story hops between the various groups of people that are running around. Some people might not like that kind of narrative, but I’ve never been one for drawn out action scenes that take up several pages. If there’re well done, fine, but most of the time they’re nothing special and they don’t interest me as much. In this volume, the action is there, you know the fight is happening, but it isn’t the main focus of the story, instead it’s an instrument used for development of story and characters.

Speaking of character development. If you haven’t been convinced by Yona, this volume may be the one to win you over. I absolutely loved her in this one, not that I didn’t before but this one definitely made her one of my favorite heroines yet. She isn’t the same girl you met in the first few chapters. No, she’s something different and I love it! And Yun gets some development in this volume too that just made me want to scream. I liked it from the beginning, but the handsome boy genius has definitely grown a lot on me in this volume and actually deserves the self-given title!

The thing that I loved most about this volume, though, is that the mangaka hasn’t forgotten about Yona’s trauma. What happened to her should stay with her forever and unlike other mangas that I’ve read the writer knows that too. In this volume you see that trauma come back, you see how it haunts her, and most importantly you see it physically manifest itself. It doesn’t make her weak. Instead it’s another instance that shows how far she’s come and it makes me so happy to see it. I’ve read/watched too many stories that have characters with traumas that just drop them when the story doesn’t need it anymore and it’s never done naturally; they just wake up one day and are 100% okay. So it really makes me happy to see that the mangaka hasn’t forgotten about Yona’s suffering and instead weaves it into the story as part f the main design and not just some accent.

Details:

Title: Yona of the Dawn (Vol. 7)

Chapters: 36-41

Written by: Mizuho Kusanagi

Artist:  Mizuho Kusanagi

Translation/Adaptation: JN Produtions / Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane

Publisher:  VIZ Media LLC

Published:  August 1st, 2017

Pages: 192

Genre: Manga, Shojo, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Romance

Comic Review: Star Wars Forces of Destiny: Leia

Synopsis:

(From Goodreads):

Celebrate the inspiring stories of Princess Leia, Rey, Padme, Ahsoka, and more in this exciting graphic novel that covers every corner of the Star Wars universe!

Plus, an all-new story featuring soon-to-be favorites from The Last Jedi, Rose and Paige! These stories are presented by a wide array of talent from across Star Wars novels, comics, and animation including Delilah S. Dawson, Elsa Charretier, Beth Revis, and Jody Houser!

What I First Thought:

I’ve been a fan of the Forces of Destiny line since they started making action figures. It started out as a web series on YouTube, I believe, and has expanded into toys, books, and now comics. I didn’t actually pick this comic up myself, it was another one that my super sweet boyfriend got for me when he went to our local comic book store after work. He knows how much I support the line and he thought I would really to read the comics too!

Ratings:

Art: 5/5

The art in this story isn’t a masterpiece, it’s simple and bright but still interesting to look at. I really enjoyed the variety of color, it didn’t take away from the story and made each page more interesting to look at. The character designs are simple and cartoony, but still realistic, which I think will appease most audiences. Overall, the art and coloring is simple but still pleasing to the eye, using light details to add to the story without cluttering the page.

Story: 5/5

As far as I can tell this story takes place right before Episode V, at first I was a little confused on the timeline but it was cleared up by the end. This was a nice story to read to break up the monotony of some of the other things that I’m currently reading. It’s a self-contained story, meaning that it begins and ends with this issue, so there are no worries of lacking any important information to help understand the story. Even if you’re not super familiar with the Star Wars Universe, it’s still a simple story of growth and learning—which is something I really appreciated about this. You get to read one of the stories that ultimately makes Leia a great leader. She has her flaws in this story, but together she overcomes some of them by the end and it makes for a nice light read.

Overall: 5

“It’s okay to feel tired. It’s okay to feel weak. It’s okay to fall. Because in the end, people won’t remember all the times we fell but they’ll share the tale of that last time we got back up and stood. For good.” ~Leia

This is only one of a good handful of good quotes from this issue. I absolutely love it! It’s a quick read that is sure to make you smile, even when you’re stressed or having a rough time. It’s a fantastic story of the Leia we all know and it helps make her seem a little less perfect but all the more admirable! I recommend this story to people of all ages, and for boys and girls a like! It’s fun, simple, and witty.

Details:

Title: Star Wars Forces of Destiny: Leia

Issue: 1

Publisher: Idea & Design Works

Writer: Elsa Charretier & Pierrick Colinet

Illustrator: Elsa Charretier

Colors: Sarah Stern

Letters: Tom B. Long

Released Date: January 3rd, 2017

Pages: 32

Genre: Space Opera, Action/Adventure

Manga Review: Yona of the Dawn vol. 6

 

Synopsis:
Princess Yona lives an ideal life as the only princess of her kingdom. Doted on by her father, the king, and protected by her faithful guard Hak, she cherishes the time spent with the man she loves, Su-won. But everything changes on her 16th birthday when tragedy strikes her family!

Yona finally meets Jaeha, the Green Dragon. Unfortunately, Jaeha has no desire to follow her on her quest! Yona offers to help Jaeha and his fellow pirates, so Captain Gi-Gan challenges her with a perilous quest to test her courage. Will Yona be able to pick the Senju Herbs from the steep cliff face of the Misty Cape?
Rating:

5/5

First, the cover for this volume is absolutely adorable and is so far one of my favorites.

Second, I think this is one of my favorite volumes of the series so far. Don’t get me wrong, I really like all of them as of now, but I think this one is definitely up there. I really like how Jaeha fights his urge to join Yona and the gang, it’s different. Gija joined the group because he’s been waiting for this opportunity his whole life and feels like it’s his absolutely duty. Sinha joined the group because Yona gave him the opportunity to see the world and make friends, something he never thought he’d ever be able to do. So the fact that Jaeha is fighting the urge to join Yona because he feels like it would violate his want for freedom is very interesting and will definitely set up some cool character development down the road. In fact, during the perilous quest you get to see Jaeha think of Yona for herself and not as his destined master, they’ll have a neat relationship I’m sure of it!

Speaking of Yona’s perilous quest, I think that is one of my favorite chapters in the story so far. She’s so realistic and brave. She’s scared, she cries, she freezes, but it’s all so real. I love strong heroines, but I’ve always felt that the strongest ones are the ones who push forward even when they’re scared, crying, and knees shaking—and that’s what you see Yona do. So if you’re not sold on Yona on a character ye, just read this volume because I’m sure she’ll start to change your mind in a big way. In fact, I’d bet my lunch money that by the end of the Awa/Green Dragon Arc she’ll be a much stronger character and will really start to be the leader to change the hearts of the people.

Anyways, overall this volume was fantastic and I can’t wait to read the next one!

Details:

Title: Yona of the Dawn (Vol. 6)

Chapters: 30-35

Written by: Mizuho Kusanagi

Artist:  Mizuho Kusanagi

Translation/Adaptation: JN Produtions / Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane

Publisher:  VIZ Media LLC

Published:  June 6th, 2017

Pages: 192

Genre: Manga, Shojo, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Romance

Manga Review: Yona of the Dawn vol.5

Synopsis:
Princess Yona lives an ideal life as the only princess of her kingdom. Doted on by her father, the king, and protected by her faithful guard Hak, she cherishes the time spent with the man she loves, Su-won. But everything changes on her 16th birthday when tragedy strikes her family!

An earthquake suddenly hits the Village of the Blue Dragon, and Yona and her friends are trapped! Yona manages to escape safely with the help of the Blue Dragon, and she asks him to join her. Meanwhile, Gija senses the presence of the Green Dragon!

Rating:

4/5

I really enjoyed reading this volume because it finishes the Blue Dragon arc. Of all the dragons, the blue one is my favorite just because he’s so adorably awkward. At the climax of this arc we get to see the true personality of the blue dragon and how he reacts to the people of his village who hate him. And by the end, he says goodbye to his past and starts on his new path towards more character growth! Anyways, in that arc we got to see more into Hak’s feelings towards Yona, which made me squeal, and we got to see more of Yona’s personality take shape. She’s still not a take charge leader, but her development is nice and slow, making her transformation as believable as possible.

The back half of this volume starts what looks to be an interesting and longer arc. At the beginning, we travel to a port town in the Earth Tribe where we’ll meet the Green Dragon.  I have a feeling that this arc will span a few volumes, but by the end of this one you can kinda see where the mangaka is planning on taking the story. So far, I think this arc will bring more out of Yona’s strong personality and help solidify her as the leader of the four dragons, while also starting some character growth for Gija and the Green Dragon. I totally recommend picking up this volume because it looks like the next arc will be fantastic, and not just for the character and story developments, but because it appears that there will be an interesting cast of new side characters!

PS: Look at that cover! *que internal squealing*

Details:

Title: Yona of the Dawn (Vol. 5)

Chapters: 24-29

Written by: Mizuho Kusanagi

Artist:  Mizuho Kusanagi

Translation/Adaptation: JN Produtions / Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane

Publisher:  VIZ Media LLC

Published:  April 4th, 2017

Pages: 192

Genre: Manga, Shojo, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Romance