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

Advertisements

Graphic Novel Review: In Real Life

Synopsis:

Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends.

But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer–a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.

From acclaimed teen author (Little BrotherFor the Win) and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow and Koko Be Good creator Jen Wang, In Real Life is a perceptive and high-stakes look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture clash

First Thought:

I remember grabbing this book at a comic book store near the beach a few years back; I believe I read it then but I’m not 100% sure on that. I do remember what caught my eye though, girls and gaming. I’ve played video games since I was seven years old and my older brother wanted someone to play Halo with him. While I’ve never been personally ostracized for being a girl gamer, I’ve had friends who were made fun of and criticized for it so I was interested in the content of In Real Life and I wanted to see what it was about.

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

I think this story was trying to bite off more than it could chew. In the descriptor it talks about tackling adolescence, gaming, poverty, and clashing cultures but it only does one of those really successfully and the others in declining order. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the story for the most part but I have to recognize that it was flawed and in some ways that really hurt the storytelling.

So the one thing that I really liked about the story was one of the focuses of female empowerment in gaming. Like I’ve said before, I personally have always been treated respectfully as a female gamer and have never been made to ‘prove my worth’. However, I do know that people are criticized for being female gamers. Hell, I’ve even witnessed male gamers be made to feel worthless by their peers for doing what they love. In Real Life’s first message is to show that girls can feel empowered by being themselves in both the real and virtual world. We see this through Anda’s development through the story. At first she appears to be this meek girl that enjoys making games and playing D&D with her friends, but by the end we see a more confident individual that even tries to make friends with someone from the ‘popular’ crowd. They even drive home the message further with the physical change to Anda’s appearance, giving her the opportunity to make herself look more like the virtual character she created, showing that her virtual and real selves were becoming the same. I also enjoyed some of the little things they did as well with this message, including dialogue showing that the other female characters weren’t sticking with Anda for her gender but because of her skill and reputation in the game. I’m all for girls sticking together, but I find it more organic if it’s out of respect and not shared genitals, just my personal experience.

I liked a lot of what they did with the gaming element of the story, in a way it kind of reminded me of Sword Art Online but more modern day than futuristic. I haven’t actually participated in a lot of MMOs, in fact, that’s not really my gaming of choice because internet connections have always been too terrible for me to try, so I’m not sure how well In Real Life portrays it. From what I understand of that style of gaming, the graphic novel does a fine job showing the positives and negatives. However, I felt like it could’ve done a better job at explaining gold farming and why it’s so bad for gaming, because in my gaming experience farming has a different meaning—and not just that it means to grow/raise plants and livestock. I also felt like it could’ve explained more about guilds and why they’re important for community building and such, but this didn’t really impact the story like the gold farming does.

I’m not sure how this story tackles poverty, other than the whole lack of health care for the Chinese characters. I mean this story does bring to light the fact that a lot of Chinese workers don’t get paid very much so they have to work long hours to make things livable. But I don’t feel like that was a main focus in the story, it was mostly about Anda trying to help a stranger from another country and learning that not every place is like the U.S. With that said, I really don’t think she had a hard enough lesson because the author sacrificed a more realistic ending to make it a happy one. Her ‘punishment’ for interfering in affairs that are beyond her comprehension are laughable and non-existent, she doesn’t really learn anything. She complains about how unfair reality is, but then gets an unrealistic happy ending that is supposed to help her feel good about herself. I get that the biggest point the author was trying to make is that through unity, which we can accomplish more of and on a grander scale now that the internet makes communication easier, we can bring positive change to the world. However, I felt that with the storyline the author was going with the greater lesson would’ve been shown through failure. Yes, not every place is like America, but not every place can become like the U.S. especially not using the means we can to get what we want. The better lesson would’ve been taught through failure because it would’ve shown that the best communication comes through understanding both sides, not by injecting your own values into everything.

Ratings:

Art: 4

I really enjoyed Jen Wang’s art! The character designs are great, each one is unique and really helps make each character notable. There wasn’t a single time in which I confused one character for another, except when it was important to the story. I loved the coloring job as well, everything is so bright and soft—like it was done using water colors! The most detailing was done on the characters, not so much the story sets. The backgrounds for the characters were fine, there’s enough detail to know that they’re not just floating in place. Personally, I like to have more details in the backgrounds especially if it’s a setting like in a video game because I LOVE scene setups in video games. But I understand that the main focus was the characters, so they got the most detailing. The one thing that did bother me was that occasionally the panels looked a little blurry, I don’t know if that’s an art style and done on purpose, but it really stuck out to me in a bad way. Otherwise, the art is fantastic and one of my favorites!

Story: 3

I felt like the author bit off more than they could chew with this one. I can enjoy social commentaries, but this one tried to tackle girls in gaming and social issues in China. When I put it like that it doesn’t really fit, right? Yea, it really doesn’t. The first half was great because it focused on girls being girls in gaming, that if you be yourself in a virtual world you can better embrace yourself in reality. That’s all fine and dandy, and hey it brought some positive light to gaming, that it could be used in a way to build community with others and to build one’s self-esteem. The second half was kind of a mess, and mostly because the ending just didn’t fit. Some people might find the second half to be offensive because Anda deals with characters from outside the US, specifically China, and she tries to help them better their lives by using American means. Her intensions, while pure and misguided, lead to terrible consequences that get her and others in a lot of trouble. However, the author sacrificed good writing and character development to give the story an unrealistic happy ending, and to applaud Anda for her screw-up so she doesn’t really learn from the consequences of her actions—just how to fix them. I also didn’t really care for some of the character development, especially Anda’s mother who was so against online gaming in the beginning and then did a 180 by the end for no real reason.

Overall: 3

While the art was fantastic the story didn’t live up to it. The author wanted to comment on too many issues at once and I felt like it burdened and weakened the story as a whole. The story is still an okay read if you’re looking for an empowering story about a girl trying to come to terms with herself through gaming. But if you don’t want to read about social issues in other countries, especially when an American tries to get involved by themselves, then I would suggest you skip this one. Overall, I find this graphic novel to be quite polarizing. On the one hand I really like the beginning and all the bits in between that doesn’t deal with poverty and just sticks to gaming; on the other hand all the parts dealing with poverty and culture-clash is just poorly written and disappointing to read.

Details:

Title: In Real Life

Publisher: First Second

Writer(s): Cory Doctorow

Illustrator: Jen Wang

Released Date: October 14, 2014

Pages: 175

Genre(s): Young Adult, Contemporary, Virtual Reality

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

Comic Review: Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Fairies (1/4)

Synopsis:

Matt Smith (Lake of Fire, Barbarian Lord) reimagines the ‘The Elf Queen and the Shepherd,’ a tale of elven fairies in Iceland. When a Fairy Princess is cursed to the human realm and cursed to bring death with her, Grettir the Strong must discover the source of the trouble and break her curse.

What I First Thought:

So I wasn’t the one to pick this comic out. Actually, my sweet and loving boyfriend bought it for me when he went to the comic book store. I couldn’t go because I wasn’t feeling up to it, so he surprised me by bringing this one home with him. He said that he thought that I might like it and that I should give it a try, so I did!

Ratings:

Art: 5/5

I really enjoyed the art for this issue because it really went well with the story and the region it hails from. The coloring in this story is what I think I liked the best. The shades and hues matched the various moods of the story was it was told. The human lands where a bit dull and muted for the most part, while the faerie lands had more variety of color and richness. Basically, the coloring really helped to create the mood, feel, and magic for the story as it was told.

Story: 5/5

For a story being told in a single issue, I feel like Matt Smith did a wonderful job of shaping his characters in so few pages. Each character was unique in design and personality, so even if you had a hard time with the names you wouldn’t mix them up anyways! The narration was fantastic; it had a personality that really helped with getting acquainted with the storyteller without taking away from the tale. The ending is a little open, but not as much as other stories that I’ve read. By the end, you know how each of the characters fair without feeling cheated, at least I didn’t.

Overall: 5

If you’re a fan of retold stories from around the world you might really enjoy this one, especially if you have a love of faeries! I can’t wait to see what other stories will be told in the coming issues.

Details:

Title: Jim Henson’s The Storyteller: Fairies

Issue: 1

Publisher: Archaia

Creator: Jim Henson

Writer: Matt Smith

Illustrator: Matt Smith

Colors: Dan Jackson

Letters: Jim Campbell

Released Date: December 20th, 2017

Pages: 28

Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale retelling

Comic Review: Sword of Ages (1/5)

Synopsis:

A young woman will become the first wielder of the most famous sacred weapon of all time to champion for her world’s survival, inspiring a legion of heroes to join her struggle against a merciless alien force. The line between science fiction and magic might get fuzzy, but the line between heroes and villains will be drawn in blood.

What I First Thought:

I picked this one up from my local comic book store on a whim. By the cover alone, it looked like it would be some sort of sci-fi fantasy set on a desolate planet. I don’t see very many sci-fi fantasies that actually interest me anymore, but after skimming through the pages and seeing all sorts of Arthurian references pop up I decided to give it a go.

Ratings:

Art: 5/5

I won’t spend long on the art, but Sword of Ages was a very nice comic to look at. The artist has a very clean drawing style that is very detailed without going over the top with the line work. The colors are very bright, fitting in with the lighting of the environment of the story very well. There also seems to be a realistic variety of color that help to make certain characters pop without making them look out of place. And speaking of characters, I really enjoyed the character designs for this story. The heroine isn’t overly pretty, she’s gruff and well-built based on how she lived, and the male characters aren’t over the top either. But each character is unique enough to be distinguished from any other.

Story: 4/5

I felt that the beginning of the story was a little rough because it just throws the reader in with no information and then time speeds up. The time skip felt a little weird to me, mostly because it left a lot of questions that the story may never have time to answer. It also took away from some of the emotional impact in one scene before the journey actually begins, mostly because there wasn’t enough time to really show some of the relationships between the characters. There were times when it got a little confusing as to who spoke, but by the end of the page it would clear itself up.

Overall: 4

So far I’m intrigued by this story and want to see how it will end. At first appearance it looks like a combination of magic, aliens, Mad Max, and Planet of the Apes, especially with rogue biker looking Merlin and Ape slavers! Not sure how much of the Arthurian legends the author will use in this story, but I’m curious to see what they’ll do with it.

Details:

Title: Sword of Ages

Issue: 1

Publisher: IDW

Creator: Gabriel Rodrguez

Writer: Gabriel Rodrguez

Illustrator: Gabriel Rodrguez

Colors: Lovern Kindzierski

Letters: Robbie Robbins

Released Date: November 29th, 2017

Pages: 32

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Action/Adventure

Comic Review: Moonstruck (1.1)

Synopsis:

A NEW ONGOING SERIES from Lumberjanes creator GRACE ELLIS and talented newcomer SHAE BEAGLE that tells a story of monsters, romance, and magical hijinks! The first arc also includes an additional short story with artist KATE LETH!

Fantasy creatures are living typical, unremarkable lives alongside humans, and barista Julie strives to be the most unremarkable of all. Normal job, normal almost-girlfriend, normal…werewolf transformations that happen when she gets upset? Yikes!

But all bets are off when she and her centaur best friend Chet find themselves in the middle of a magical conspiracy. Will Julie and Chet be able to save their friends? Is Julie’s dogged determination to be normal a lost cause? Who’s going to watch the coffee shop while our heroes are out saving the world?? These questions and more will be answered in MOONSTRUCK!

What I First Thought:

I picked this issue up on a whim. Some of the stuff that I’ve been reading has been either a little lack-luster or super intense, and this story looked like it would be more laid back than the others. I also love reading stories that use mythological creatures in a more everyday setting, it really adds a special kinda life to the story.

Ratings:

Art: 5/5

The art is very soft, from the colors to the line work, and I love it! I’ve noticed that a lot of comics seem to have very hard defining colors, a lot of them make for beautiful scenes but they seem to always want to POP! out of the page. For this series, I really doubt that art style would fit the overall tone so I’m really happy that the overall look of the panels are very soft, but still bright and eye-catching. I also love the character designs; they’re each so unique in style and shape. Not only do we have all sorts of fantastical creatures but also varying body types for the more human looking characters and realistic models for the more supernatural-looking characters! It’s weird to fixate on body types, but I like to read stories sometimes that can show me all kinds of different people and make them all seem normal—even though in this case none of the characters are what we would consider ‘normal’.

Story: 5/5

Like most first issues, this one has the main focus on setting up the characters and the world they live in. So this issue is full of cute, or not so cute, moments between the characters that give you a quick summation of the characters. Each character appears to be different, and not just in style but in personality as well.

Overall: 5

I’m really excited that I bought the next issue when I picked up this one, because I can’t wait to see where this story goes. If you want more diverse characters and love, then look no further because you’ll find it here! There is diversity in body type (not just oooo! he has hooves or he’s part bull), race, and sexual orientation. So far there is a confirmed lesbian relationship, for those of you interested in some cute, awkward F/F love that isn’t just a side note but the main attraction!

 

Details:

Title: Moonstruck

Issue: 1

Publisher:

Writer: Grace Ellis

Illustrator: Shae Beagle

Colors: Caitlin Quirk/Shae Beagle

Letters: Clayton Cowles

Released Date: July 19th, 2017

Pages: 31

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Romance, LGBT+

Graphic Novel Review: Princeless – Raven: The Pirate Princess (vol.1)

Synopsis:

SET SAIL FOR REVENGE!

Fresh off her adventures in the pages of Princeless, Raven is ready to set out on her quest for revenge against her brothers. They’ve stolen everything that should be hers and now she’s going to get it back. But first, she needs a crew. Share the laughs, action, and adventure as Raven assembles the fearless crew of awesome ladies who will help her get her revenge.

First Thought:

The other week was the biggest sale of the year at our local comic book store, so along with grabbing our comics I decided to pick up a trade too. I had seen the Princeless series before but never from the beginning, and I’m quite lazy about tracking down trades. But I saw this one in the story and noticed that it was a first volume, so I thought that this was as good as anywhere too start. I like pirates and I like girl empowering comics, so what’s there to lose?

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

I wasn’t expecting much from this volume, I try going into something new with little expectations, but I still felt disappointed by Raven the Pirate Princess. They advertised that this was going to be a funny action-packed adventure, but all the jokes fell flat or weren’t funny to begin with and the action jut ended up being little blips on the radar.

The characters felt artificial, like the author had a check list on their desk as they wrote the story. “Big” butch girl who dresses like a man, check. Punk chick with a face full of metal and a half shaved head, check. Father who is trying to raise his daughter right but in all the wrong ways and throws in weird sexist remarks that don’t fit his overall character, check. Young black girl how has to be stubborn and doesn’t care for before mentioned father, check. Tough Asian girl that has to do everything for herself, check. A bunch of women who generally hate men, check. A bunch of men that have no respect for women and don’t view them as equals, check. Check. Oh bloody check! Like it’s fine to have those characters, but I’ve that list or something similar in a lot of other stories at the moment and it gets so boring to read. The characters in Raven the Pirate Princess barely have personalities outside of their labels. I understand that this is just the first volume, but only one of those characters really grabbed me and the others just felt like old lukewarm water. The majority of the characters didn’t make me feel like I wanted to continue reading about their stories.

There actually wasn’t much in this volume that made me want to continue reading. The premise sounded pretty promising but nothing really happened in this volume. The most action is in the first chapter, the second chapter has an unnecessary bar fight, and the last chapter has a tense scene that gets solved with a stupid plan that just showed that all men are stupid. Really that was just the whole idea of this story, that men are all sexist and racist and total screw-ups and only women can do things right, which as a woman I found to be terribly boring and toxic to read. All my life the majority of the people who told me that I wasn’t pretty enough, that I was fat or needed to lose weight, or that I wasn’t smart enough to go into math and science were women. My father has always supported me and my education and has cheered me on from the beginning, making sure that I got my hands on anything that could help me learn more. My partner has gotten into arguments with women who have told me that I wasn’t good enough, he even defends me against myself from the internalized abuse that I learned from an early age. So I get defensive when books, comic, and other media portray all men to be careless, sexist, abusive jerks that can’t get anything right when it’s been older women and girls my own age who have been all those things to me. I think it’s great to get more stories out there about take charge women in generally male dominated roles, or stories in general that empower women. I draw the line when they start bashing men and create male characters from overblown stereotypes. It would’ve been fine if they had a few male characters like that, but almost every male character that was given dialogue was some sort of offensive caricature, and the few who weren’t still had some out of place dialogue that was sexist in some way. The characters they were portraying were just strawmen, and I have a hard time believing that out of an entire town there is only one good male character—come on! End Rant.

While reading this I also wasn’t sure who their audience was. Sure there’s media out there that can be enjoyed by all age groups, but that’s because it contains content that entertains all ages. This story is marketed to 9 year olds and up. Sure, what 9 year old wouldn’t like to read about an all-girl pirate crew? However, almost all of the “bold” statements made in this volume would go right over a kid’s head or they would misinterpret the messages. Yes, there are things like positive body image and it’s okay to be into classically ‘geeky/nerdy’ things, but all the heavy handed comments are things older people will understand and this volume is soaked in them. There’s no even balance, and there’s not even enough action to hold a lot of kids’ interests—I mean I had a hard time staying motivated till the end and it’s only three chapters.

Last thing, this story is marketed as a fantasy but I feel like it just barely made it into this category because it’s lower than the average low fantasy story. For instance, all the characters speak as if they belonged to our present day and about current ‘issues’. Now, in other fantasies these issues would be changed in a way to fit the setting so that they can be seen as similar to us but still not a direct parallel. In Raven the Pirate Princess, they don’t even bother making anything different in the slightest bit. Even some of the clothes and mannerisms are things we’d see in our everyday lives, like a few of the characters have distinctly plastic looking glasses that you can get from Walmart and one character looks exactly like a mother that would ask for a manager. I know that’s very nitpicky, but it’s also very distracting and makes the story and art look sloppy. And the only fantasy things mentioned in the story are a goofy dragon that we never meet and a character that claims to be half-elf, “I got all the good parts—height, speed, the looks—just without the pointy ears” *cough*Mary-Sue*cough-cough*. And overall the world building is just lazy. The story takes a lot of common day things for us, like board games, third-wave feminism, LARP, and D&D, and place it in a non-descript setting with a few kings somewhere that all lock their daughters in towers to be saved. Maybe it’s because I never found and read the first series, but the world in this story is lazily crafted and full of cardboard cut-outs.

Ratings:

Art: 3

The art was okay. It wasn’t the best but it was far from the worst. The characters and detailing are very simplistic in design, though at times there were some issues with continuity. I didn’t like some of the character designs because they looked too modern or really out of place for no reason. The detailing is very simple, showing only the idea of patterns and the like. Sometimes I felt like the settings were too bland and unimpressive, but that might just be for my taste. The coloring was okay, nothing gorgeous. A lot of the panels have a very red pallet, which didn’t always make sense because it didn’t match with the lighting and I felt like it washed out some of the characters at times. There are a few places were the coloring gets really sloppy with noticeable areas with color outside of the lines or distinct white areas that don’t belong. I will say that each character design is very unique, too bad they just couldn’t translate that into their personalities.

Story: 2

I did not care for this storyline and I have no real interest to read further. The premise of the story sounded promising, but after all the heavy-handed comments and the blatant man bashing I just can’t. I felt disgusted by a lot of the comments that were made, by both the male and female characters, but mostly I hated how the female characters acted. The dialogue was terrible; there were times that the characters didn’t need to speak and other times when it just sounded too campy and fake. There was one character that I liked above all the others, but I doubt she’ll get much panel time in this story. The humor fell flat for me, I don’t even think that I laughed once, and the action was just boring and full of unnecessary dialogue.

Overall: 2

I’d recommend this story to anyone who likes the more recent waves of feminism or who want a story that has a sprinkling of fantasy. I would also recommend this to anyone who wants a diverse cast, the diversity here is pretty good though completely one-sided. Some kids may enjoy Raven the Pirate Princess, but I think the bigger fan base will be of the high school-college ages. If you’re a fan of fantasy don’t pick this up, you’ll be disappointed. As for me, if I find the next volume at a tremendous discounted price I might pick it up, otherwise this wasn’t worth my money.

Details:

Title: Princeless-Raven: The Pirate Princess

Volume: 1- Captain Raven and the All-Girl Pirate Crew

Issue(s): 1-3

Publisher: Action Lab Entertainment

Writer(s): Jeremy Whitley

Illustrator: Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt

Colors Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt

Letters: Rosy Higgins and Ted Brandt

Released Date: January 26th, 2016

Pages: 128

Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy (loosely), Comedy, Action/Adventure