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

 

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Manga Review: That Wolf-Boy is Mine! (vol.3)

 

Synopsis:

JUST FRIENDS

After Rin shares some profound insights with Komgi about her crush, she learns it’s easier to bottle up her feelings for the wolf-boy, Yū. As Komugi gets to really know Rin the fox, his cold exterior slowly melts away−and Yū can’t help but be concerned. In order to let someone new into his heart, Yū struggles to confront his emotional trauma from the past. But by the time Yū realizes his true emotions, something unthinkable has happened to Komugi…

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

Oh my Lord, in heaven! That cliffhanger was really mean, like if I didn’t have the fourth volume already I would be screaming like a mad woman to the closest bookstore to buy it. If you can’t tell, the drama has really shot up in this volume and particularly near the end of it when a lot more of the plot is revealed. And the drama is getting so intense, but not in an uncomfortable way. Instead, I feel more like I’m about to fall out of my seat from sitting to close to the edge. I don’t normally like love triangles, mostly because they’re never done properly, but I really like how the love triangle is being used in this story. Unfortunately, I think the couple that I prefer isn’t going to happen….sigh, oh well!

Anyways, I feel like Komugi has come more to life in this volume but I still don’t think of her as a very present character. It’s really weird, I like her but I feel she’s still a bit watered down compared to the other characters in the story. Sometimes I feel like her two best friends have more of a presence than she does, but I digress.

The comedy, like before was good for a few chuckles in between some really heavy drama. Aoshi, the tanuki, is probably my favorite character because he’s the comic relief and such an instigator of a lot of the drama. Well, if you’d please excuse me, I have to devour the next volume before I die from that cliffhanger. Seriously, though if you haven’t read this volume yet buy it with volume four or you will regret it!!!

Details:

Title: That Wolf-Boy is Mine! (Vol. 3)

Chapters: 9-13

Written by: Yoko Nogiri

Artist:  Yoko Nogiri

Translation/Adaptation: Alethea and Athena Nibley

Publisher:  Kodansha Comics

Published:  January 10th, 2017

Pages: 176

Genre: Manga, Shojo, Supernatural, Comedy, Romance

Manga Review: That Wolf-Boy is Mine! (vol.2)

 

Synopsis:

OUTFOXED

Komugi, the new girl at school, has sworn to protect the secret of Yū’s lupine identity. But in the midst of their growing friendship, she blurts out a startling confession−one that could upset her relationship with Yū, his crew, and even the delicate balance between humans and spirits. Meanwhile, Yū’s sharp, sly friend Rin takes matters into his own hands and tries to speak some sense into Komugi. It’s not long before he realize that this strange human girl just might be growing on him too!

 

 

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

So what I thought would be a cute and funny little story might be getting a lot deeper than I ever expected. The plot thickens as a new ‘forbidden love’ theme gets added to the story, but so far this theme may play out a little differently than in other stories. A new character shows up that answers some questions while asking a really important one that gets both Komugi and the readers thinking!

Lord, I feel like the drama in this story is going to kill me−but in a good way. The drama isn’t insane or soap opera level, it’s a nice healthy dose that you can find in just about anyone’s life from time to time. I’m a little disappointed that there seems to be some hefty time leaps, like a leap of a few weeks at a time, because I feel like you miss some of the little bonding moments between some of the characters. That’s not to say that the bonding moments in this volume aren’t fantastic, I love them a lot, I’m just used to longer mangas I guess that love to fill the pages with little moments. The comedy in this one is nothing profound, just cute little moments that make you chuckle for a moment. The drama isn’t too terrible, making this story still a bit lighthearted and easy to read. I can’t wait to read the next volume and see what happens next!

Details:

Title: That Wolf-Boy is Mine! (Vol. 2)

Chapters: 5-8

Written by: Yoko Nogiri

Artist:  Yoko Nogiri

Translation/Adaptation: Alethea and Athena Nibley

Publisher:  Kodansha Comics

Published:  November 1st, 2016

Pages: 160

Genre: Manga, Shojo, Supernatural, Comedy, Romance

Manga Review: That Wolf-Boy is Mine! (vol.1)

Details:

Title: That Wolf-Boy is Mine! (Vol. 1)

Chapters: 1-4

Written by: Yoko Nogiri

Artist:  Yoko Nogiri

Translation/Adaptation: Alethea and Athena Nibley

Publisher:  Kodansha Comics

Published:  August 16, 2016

Pages: 160

Genre: Manga, Shojo, Supernatural, Comedy, Romance

Synopsis:

MONSTER MISCHIEF

After some traumatic experiences, Komugi Kusunoki transferred from the city to start a new life in rural Hokkaido. But on her first day of school, the school heartthrob Yū Ōgami blurts out, “You smell good!” Despite the hijinks, Komugi tries to adjust to her new school, but it’s not long before she stumbles across Yū dozing off under a tree. When she attempts to wake him up, he transformed…into a wolf?! It turns out that Yū is one of many other eccentric boys in her class year–and she’s the only one who knows their secret!

What I First Thought:

The other day I went to Barnes and Noble to kill time before a movie. I perused the manga section looking for more volumes of some of my other series that I haven’t finished yet when this one caught my eye. To my knowledge, there aren’t a lot of werewolf-esque stories in manga so I picked it up. The premise of the story seemed interesting and cute enough that I decided to buy it, especially since I needed something a bit light hearted to help cure my current mood.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

I normally don’t buy into a new series without doing a little bit of research into it first, so I rarely buy manga on a whim. I’m glad that I didn’t wait to buy this one because it was exactly what I needed! It’s a cute little story about a new city-girl who goes to live with her dad in the country while her mom is away. At the new school, she stumbles upon the secret of some of her classmates and it becomes a story of said students becoming friends with the girl to keep her quiet. It’s a cute little story with sprinklings of lore that I’m sure will become more prominent as the story continues. There were some comedic elements thrown in that made me giggle, but nothing gut splitting yet. The romance so far is a bit light, though I feel like some of it was forced or a little unnatural by the end of this volume, which messed up the flow of the story for me. The characters are pretty likable at the start, though I feel like Komugi is a little weak at the moment but I hope her character improves once we see more of her past so I can better understand her fears. Really, my only complaint was the ending because it felt weird to me, too rushed and unnatural, but oh well! I’m really glad that I bought all four volumes, because I really want to read what happens next!

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

Graphic Novel Review: Fantastic Four Ultimate Collection (book 1)

Synopsis:

Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo take the reins of Fantastic Four and deliver some of the most daring and humorous adventures these heroes have ever seen! Giant bugs! Living equations! Johnny Storm, CEO! Exploding unstable molecules! The secret behind the Yancy Street Gang! And witness the antics between the Thing and the Human Torch heat up like never before! Prepare to laugh and cheer at once!

First Thought:

Recently, my boyfriend and I were playing Lego Marvel Super Hero ©. While playing, I told him that I didn’t really care for the Fantastic Four characters because I was unimpressed by them in their movies. He agreed that their movie were terrible representations of them and decided to lend me a couple of his favorite storylines for the characters. Opening myself to change, I decided to give this book a read to see what this family was really about!

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

My original impressions of the characters were wrong, at least within this storyline by Mark Waid. I haven’t read very much of Marvel, but I was really impressed with this story. It was all about family, focusing on the group as a whole and the relationships between various characters.

I enjoyed seeing Reed and Sue as parents. They aren’t the perfect parents, they mess up from time to time it was great to see that, it was real and heartfelt. I smiled seeing Reed interacting with his new daughter, it reminded me of my relationship with my own father. It was nice to see how the young boy of super heroes messes up, royally so, and learns from the experience.

I enjoyed the relationship between Sue and Johnny. She did everything she could to help him, to raise him, to make him into a better man, and Johnny was able to realize that. I loved seeing the arc of their relationship, and I can’t wait to see more from them!

Lastly, I really enjoyed seeing the interactions between each of the before mentioned characters and The Thing. He played a different role for each of his team members and it was nice. Before reading this, the thing (eh, get it? Okay, I’ll stop…) I remembered the most about his character was the childish relationship between him and Johnny and not much else. After reading this novel, I see him as a dear friend to each of the other members and that they actually care for him too.

Ratings:

Art: 4

The art changed for the last two issues in this novel. Both art styles were nice to look at and didn’t make me cringe, but I really enjoyed the first art style more. Overall, I appreciated that the artists made the characters a bit cartoonier to fit the overall mood of the story. I also loved the colors in this story; everything was so bright and colorful!

Story: 4

I found the stories to be fun and light, but serious when need be and I believe Waid did a wonderful job balancing the moods. I enjoyed seeing the Fantastic Four not as super heroes first, but friends, family, adventures, and pioneers before anything else. I believe the first issue did a wonderful job of setting up Waid’s vision for this story and I can’t wait to read more!

Overall: 4

Details:

Title: Fantastic Four Ultimate Collection

Book: 1

Issue(s): 60-66

Publisher: Marvel

Creator(s): Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

Writer(s): Mark Waid

Illustrator: Mike Wieringo & Mark Buckingham

Colors: Paul Mounts, Avalon Studios’ Mark Milla & John Kalisz with Malibu

Letters: Bill Oakley and Richard Starkings & Comicraft’s Albert Deschesne

Released Date: June 29th 2011

Pages: 208

Manga Review: Nichijou (vol.1)

Details:

Title: Nichijou: my ordinary life (Vol. 1)

Chapters: 1-18

Written by: Keiichi Arawi 

Artist:  Keiichi Arawi

Translation/Adaptation: Jenny McKeon

Publisher:  Vertical Comics

Published:  March 29th 2016

Pages: 178

Genre: Manga, Comedy, Slice of Life, Surreal humor

Synopsis:

(as read on my copy)

Define “ordinary”

In this just-surreal-enough take on the “school genre” of manga, a group of friends (which includes a robot built by a child professor) grapple with all sorts of unexpected situations in their daily lives as high schoolers.

The gags, jokes, puns, and haiku keep this series off-kilter even as the characters grow and change. Check out this new take on a storied genre and meet the new ordinary.

What I First Thought:

            I picked up this manga because of the reaction a friend of mine had to seeing it on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. This friend of mine is an exchange student from Japan and is an absolute sweetheart! Anyways, she was so excited to see it that I decided to give it a read.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

This manga was nothing like I expected! My friend warned me that it was going to be bizarre, but I didn’t think to take her too seriously. I’ve never read a manga like this and I’m glad that I have. The comedy was a lot of dry humor and outlandish events. Something things didn’t really make sense to me, which I believe may be because of error in translation or the joke doesn’t translate as well into English.

Overall though the volume was great! Each chapter or couple of chapters contained individual stories, so at the moment there doesn’t appear to be any overarching plot line. The chapters are headed by different characters or sets of characters, so you never get too cozy before you’re following someone else. The main characters are cute and a little stereotypical, up to a point, and the drawing style really matches the cutesy but surreal feel of the manga. What I loved most about this volume was that every chapter is different, either the cast members were different or the overall writing style was different. One chapter none of the characters said a single word, but the artist really captured the mood and what they were trying to express in each panel. Another chapter one of the main characters just kept coming up with different haikus and played a bystander, and later she kept getting distracted by accidentally making up different poems. Each chapter kept me on my toes and where the humor didn’t quite hit the mark for me the story made up for it; I definitely can’t wait to read the next volume!