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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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: 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

 

Graphic Novel Review: Joyride (vol.1)

Synopsis:

Earth sucks. Steal a spaceship.

Earth sucks. The stars have been blocked out for so long that people have forgotten there was anything else besides the World Government Alliance watching over them. Uma Akkolyte is a girl who shoots first, leaps before she looks, and is desperate for any means to leave her planet behind. And so she does. When Uma jacks an alien spaceship and punches through the stratosphere she sets forth on an adventure with an unlikely crew who are totally not ready for all the good, bad, and weird the universe will throw at them.

From writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly (Batman and Robin Eternal, Grayson) and artist Marcus To (Nightwing, New Avengers), Joyride is a rebellious love letter to the sci-fi genre, exploring what happens when nothing stands between a group of teens and their freedom amongst the stars.

First Thought:

I was at a comic book store last weekend killing some time when I found Joyride. It looked like a fun little space adventure story and I wanted a little change in pace.

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

The art is fantastic…the story not so much.

I had no expectations going into this comic but I still felt disappointed. First off, I hate it when people throw around words/names like “Nazis”, “Hitler”, and “fascist” for no real reason. I hate it; I absolutely hate it with a burning passion because it desensitizes people to the meaning of those words and it weakens those words altogether. It’s fine if someone deserves those insults thrown at them, but in the case of Joyride they’re just thrown around like cheap liquor after payday−and it was beyond annoying, to the point of being aggravating. I don’t mean to preach and I understand the real significance to those words. I hear them used every day to the point where my brain just automatically tunes them out, which is devastating, and that’s why it aggravated me that they were used so meaninglessly in this volume. This is supposed to be in our future, why are our successors still using those terms?

In fact, why does Earth suck so much? The writers barely get into why the characters want to leave. Well Earth sucks and you can’t see the stars…aaannnd? Nothing, that’s it. The main character, Uma, keeps calling Earth fascist, but there aren’t any clear examples to back her up on that. There’s hardly any background at all in this volume, which can make readers more curious or it can make them more lost than they already are. There’s not even an outline of the current setup of Earth, there’s nothing on any governments or status, just veiled terms they throw around without explaining. There’s one incident that gets barely mentioned, but it’s so vague as to what happens that I couldn’t feel the same level of emotion as the other characters, which really takes you out of a story! I don’t want entire pages full of text boxes full of backstory and history, but seriously give me some reason to believe why Earth sucks so much other than being xenophobic, but for aliens.

Usually, stories have some sort of plot driving them or each issue is a story within itself with a start and a finish. Joyride has neither a coherent driving plotline, other than Uma wants to be anywhere but Earth, and each chapter isn’t a story within itself. The only plotline is that Uma wants to explore the galaxy while some of her companions are being chased by another character to be brought back to Earth. Why? No one knows! Why does Uma want to travel through space? Because Earth sucks. Does she have a plan/destination in mind? No. Is she smart about her space travelling? No, actually she has no care for herself or her companions. Is there anything that is driving her other than immature curiosity? Nope, she just wants to see everything just because. There’s no rhyme or reason, just wild adrenaline filled curiosity fit for a teenager but it gets old after a while.

Speaking of Uma, I actually really hate her character. At first I thought she was a pretty cool rebel girl, but as the story went that’s as far as she went. She’s a rebel with no cause, no rally cry. She’s stupidly dangerous and has little to no concern for her friends. She’s apparently smart enough to make contact with aliens, even though Earth made it impossible, and has a lot of “street smart” dealing with cops all her life yet she can’t keep herself out of trouble. She’s reckless, explosive, and self-centered and currently has no redeeming qualities to me. For how much I dislike her character, I love the others in Joyride. I think Dewydd is my favorite because he feels the most natural and realistic to me. His reason for leaving was because he was done heling Luna kill people and he just wanted to be free, and because he might have a huge crush on Uma (poor guy). Catrin is alright, though her motivations are unclear and they seemed to change at the drop of a hat. All the supporting characters are really cool and interesting, and honestly I wish I got more of them or at least Dewydd than I did of Uma.

Ratings:

Art: 5

I really enjoyed the artwork in Joyride! The character and alien designs were amazing and well balanced between simple and intricate. I’m a stickler for clothing, oddly enough, and the detailing on the clothes was just perfect. There were enough creases and folds to give suggestions of movement or stretching without looking over done and drawing the eye away from the rest of the panel. The coloring was fantastic and possibly my favorite part of the comic. Kniivila did a wonderful job using both light and dark colors to bring life and emotion to the pages. I loved it when she used both lights and darks together, it really added to the panels, making them more serious and dramatic. Overall, fantastic art and coloring that made this comic very pleasing to look at−even if the story was less than stellar.

Story: 2

I felt like the story crafting in this volume was just lazy. The writers just throw their readers into this futuristic story, saying it’s terrible without giving real reason for it except that our main characters say so. I hate stories that don’t spend the time making readers believe, or at least understand, what the main characters do. Most of the characters have no clear motivations for their actions. Honestly, they felt like teenagers who were written by writers who can’t remember what it was like to be a young adult, let alone a teenager! The space adventuring seemed cool enough. I always love weird space exploring, but it felt too random like it was space weirdness for the sake of space weirdness. I thought this story might have been a collection of isolated space adventures, but instead it read like it should’ve had an overarching plot, except it’s so overarching that it got lost in space before it could come back down. And don’t get me start on the science. This is not a science fiction, it’s a space opera because the laws of science went right out the airlock before the first chapter even ended. You cannot, I repeat, cannot survive in space without oxygen for longer than a handful of seconds before dying. You can definitely not speak in open space without an oxygen mask, it’s impossible even if you wouldn’t die from trying!

Overall: 3.5

Even though this story was extremely flawed, I think I’m still going to give the next chapter a try to see if there’s any sort of character growth and to see where the characters I do like go. I really hope that the writing improves, but I really doubt it. This isn’t a sci-fi adventure that I’d recommend to too many people, especially those who really like science fiction, though I would recommend this to those who like crazy space operas.

Details:

Title: Joyride

Volume: 1

Issue(s): 1-4

Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Creator(s): Marcus To, Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly

Writer(s): Jackson Lanzing & Collin Kelly

Illustrator: Marcus To

Colors: Irma Kniivila

Letters: Jim Campbell

Released Date: September 27th, 2016

Pages: 112

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

Graphic Novel Review: Thor vol.2 Who Holds the Hammer?

Synopsis:

The Odinson pops the question: Who is the new Thor?

The Odinson wants Mjolnir back−and that means uncovering the identity of the new heroine holding the hammer! As he narrows down the list of suspects, tensions continue to flare between the All-Mother and All-Father. As Malekith the Dark Elf forges his most dangerous pact yet, the new Thor prepares to face her greatest challenge: the unstoppable machine of death and destruction that is…the Destroyer! While the battle for Mjolnir rages on an unexpected character makes a shocking return−and the new Thor’s identity is revealed at last! Plus: Young Thor enters a drinking competition! The new Thor takes on a surprising foe! In the future, King Thor’s granddaughters quest to find him the perfect birthday gift! And more!

First Thought:

After reading the last volume in this series I immediately rushed to purchase this one. I really wanted to find out who the new Thor is and if my suspicions are true! And after the fantastic job that was the previous volume, I’m more than excited to continue reading.

Overall Thoughts and Opinions:

This one wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The main story is just three action packed issues, while the rest appear to be three short stories and a release of an issue from the 70s. Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to rate this one so bear with me on this review!

I really enjoyed the main story; there was a lot of action, plot advancements, and character development. In just three issues you get a really cool action-packed fight scene with the Destroyer. Normally I hate it when an action sequence is spread out too long, it reminds me of Dragon Ball Z and similar works with impossibly long battles that drag on forever. However, this one didn’t bug me because it was a really interesting battle. You get to see more of Thor’s personality as she fights the Destroyer, you see her get her lights knocked out and dragged through the dirt. You get to see what drives her to be Thor, why she won’t just give up. And in this fight you get to see other characters come into play as they help her defeat the Destroyer. It’s not because she’s a woman that they help her, but they want to see just what this new Thor is made of and to figure out just what kind of hero she’ll be. Aside from the main fight, we also get to see more of what the future story will hold as Malekith continues with his deadly plan!

The short stories from Thor Annual #1 were mostly interesting. The King Thor story was a bit depressing for me because it’s set in a really grim time in the future and there seems to be very little hope. The story is also a bit strange because it doesn’t give any hints as to what happened to make the future thus and the characters are rather lack lustered. The art for that story is really dark and a bit bland, fitting the mood of the tale, I guess. I really enjoyed the short story of the new Thor and the Warriors Three. It’s a quick read full of shenanigans, bonding, and discovery. The last in the Annual is just a simple comedic story of Thor’s legendary drinking skill. It’s set before Thor is a great, mighty hero and he has to prove his worth to Mjolnir, so he does various tasks to prove he is worthy. This short story involved a drinking contest with the devil and high-jinx ensues. It’s a cute little story, though the art while comedic was a little off putting. Overall, the King Thor story was my least favorite of the three while new Thor had the best story and art.

The last story in this volume is a What If from 1977, where the Watcher shows readers what the world would be like if {blank} happened. In issue 10, it’s what if Jane Foster found the hammer and became Thordis. It’s a weird story and I was a bit lost at times because I’m not very familiar with the early history of Thor. I also found some of the dialogue to be boring or just plain repetitive as the characters sometimes spoke a loud what they were doing as it happened. The art was fine, and I really enjoyed the coloring. Overall, it was alright and I understand why they included it in this volume but you can totally skip it if you don’t have a strong interest to read a ‘what if ’story.

Ratings:

Note: Since this volume includes work outside of the actually series I’m only rating issues 6-8, while making mentions of the extra content. This time the extra content will hold no sway over the ratings.

Art: 5

Nothing has really changed, I really love the art work in this story! Those an attention to detail that doesn’t draw you away from the story and is affected by the practicality of it in each scene. For instance, like in real life the further you are from the subject the less detailed it is. Another example is the added details that lend to the magical quality of a particular scene over another. Though I wish there was a little less detail in some of the gorier scenes. There were times when I shock in disgust and had to skim over the panel because it was too much. The coloring was also really nice and well balanced. The brightness of the colors really lent to the mood of the scenes, or helped in contrast to bring attention to certain details. It’s nice to see foreshadowing being displayed through shadow and color. I think my favorite part of the art in this volume are the facial expressions. They were so expressive and conveyed so much detail that didn’t need dialogue, and that’s fantastic in my books! Also, some Odinson’s expressions were just priceless.

Story: 5

I feel like the story in this volume is much improved than the last. Normally I don’t like battles that last more than one issue, but I feel like this one was done quite well. There’s a lot of character development in the fight scene and it opens up possible side adventures with other characters. The battle really does a lot to flesh out Thor and it also helps draw a line with some of the other characters in this story, especially where they stand on larger issues. There are a few places in the story that needed a bit more background and some of them note previous Thor issues (that I don’t have access to), but most don’t. So if you’re up to date with everything then you’ll be fine, if you’re just starting to read Thor after the switch you might get a little lost. Finally, the big question is answered as Thor’s identity is revealed at the end, but it may not be who you think it is. I’m actually quite happy with the choice and it’s extremely plausible, giving more depth and humility to the character of Thor.

Overall: 4.5

This volume really helps to set up the tone for the rest of the story, when or wherever they decide to continue it. The artwork is fantastic, the character development is wonderful, and for once I really enjoyed a stretched out fight scene. The one weakness to this volume are the extra stories. While some of them are really good, they may throw a lot of people off or confuse some readers. Honestly, I only enjoyed two of the four and only one of them I loved all around. I still high recommend this volume of Thor, but maybe skim the Annual and the What if.

Details:

Title: Thor: Who Holds the Hammer?

Volume: 2

Issue(s): 6-8, Thor Annual #1, What if? (1977) #10

Publisher: Marvel

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

Writer(s): Jason Aaron

Illustrator: Russell Dauterman

Colors: Matthew Wilson

Letters: VC’s Joe Sabino

Released Date: July 21st, 2015

Pages: 136

Genre(s): Super hero, Fantasy, Action

 

Graphic Novel Review: Monstress (volume 1)

Synopsis:

Set in an alternate world of art deco beauty and steampunk horror, MONSTRESS tells the epic story of Maika Halfwolf, a teenage survivor of a cataclysmic war between humans and heir hated enemies, the Arcanics. In the face of oppression and terrible danger, Maika is both hunter and hunted, searching for answers about her mysterious past as those who seek to use her remain just one step behind…and all the while, the monster within begins to awaken…

First Thought:

I first found this volume when I started getting into comics, and it was actually one of the first that I picked and bought on my own. Before then, I just read whatever my boyfriend and his family suggested. I think what drew me the most to Montress was the art; it was vastly different than the other things I had been reading at the time and I wanted to know the story that went with it.

Overall Opinions:

I absolutely loved Monstress! It was beautiful, magical, and slightly terrifying. There’s so much I can say and I’m not quite sure where to begin! Maybe I’ll start with the few things I liked the least about the story? Yea, that sounds good enough.

I’ve never been much for gore, at times it necessary in a story, but I prefer to hear it and the reactions of others and allow my own mind to come up with the image. It’s part of the reason I stay away from most horror films because they seem to use gore for the sake of gore, not to add any real favoring to the story. Anyways, while this story doesn’t quite use gore for the sake of gore, there’s still a lot of it. In fact, I believe it’s a little muted compared to some of the other comics I’ve read, which have made my stomach sour at the detailing.

I do really enjoy fantasies, but my least favorite thing about them is all the backstory related to the tale. Don’t get me wrong, I love backstory as much as the next person, but at the beginning of a fantasy a lot of the needed information is missing because it’s nestled in the backstory that won’t be revealed until later. Fortunately for this story, most of the major plot points don’t reference or involve past events from the backstory. Sure, there’s a ton of mystery behind Maika that might make parts of the story make a little bit more sense, but she’s a mystery to herself so that’s okay. It’s not like the backstory isn’t being revealed. In fact, it’s slowly coming together at breaks in the story in an interesting way. Instead of relying on awkward dialogue between main characters to talk about past events, you read the information from another character separate from the story as they teach their class about history. Some people might find that annoying and will skip over it, since it has no effect on the immediate story, but I found those segments clever and fascinating. The one bit of backstory that really irked me though was this battle that greatly affected the world. So many characters make reference to it, but not all their information is the same and anything said is only in bits and pieces. Even towards the end the battle is assumed to begin to be explained, but only in mixed up fragments. I get it’s part of the story to figure out what happened at that battle, and normally it wouldn’t frustrate me so, but it’s referenced so much that while I know it should be important, the magnitude is lost on me.

Other than those two things, the gore and constipated backstory, the rest of the story is fantastic! The characters are fantastic, even the villains are interesting follow. Maika is a strong female lead that starts her monumental journey not because someone told her she was destined for greatness, that she’ll save the world, etc. but because she wants to find herself and let the world be damned! She’s so hard, but not quite in a bitchy sort of way, she’s a survivor that still has some softness to her that rarely shows. Then there’s Kippa who is probably my favorite because she plays the important roles of grounding Maika and comic relief. She’s a complicated character in her own right and I can’t wait to see how she develops!

The world is absolutely breathtaking, it’s so complicated and intricate, like something from the mind of Guillermo del Toro but with an art deco Asian twist. Dead gods, humanoid-animal ancient beings, half-breeds, witches, talking cats, and demons there’s so much this fantasy world has to offer. There’s a mixture of old and new that’s so fascinating. Great steampunk themed labs and facilities built on ancient ruins. Swords and steampunk inspired muskets and pistols. Winged warriors and airships. Everything just clashes in a beautiful chaotic masterpiece!

Ratings:

Art: 5

The art is phenomenal, a combination of simple and intricate details that added depth to this fantasy world. A lot of the more detailed work went into the designs in the backgrounds, clothing, and weaponry, but only when needed. The extremely comprehensive designs on the clothing allowed more important characters to stand out from others, or show their power (physically, monetarily, magically, etc.). But most of the characters are rather basic in design, excluding their clothing and coloring. Any character that had a lot of detailing, specifically in the face, where to reveal their harsh ugly personality or utter terror in death. The detailing in the background depended on the importance or power of the scenery as well, adding unspoken information to the story for readers to choose to glean. The coloring in the story is wonderful as well, giving it an old feel like someone retelling an old tale. The colors match the mood of the story well, bright when calm or happy, dark when terrifying, and muted when recalling. Overall, the art is darker than I normally like, but it matches with the story so well that I wouldn’t want it any other way!

Story: 4

For the most part, I really enjoyed the story and had a time putting it down. It’s a beautifully written fantasy with a concept I haven’t read in a long time, which was refreshing. The characters are different than I expected, but extremely enjoyable to read about. The backstory is still a little lacking, making some scenes a little hard to follow due to the information gaps, but that’ll clear up with each installment. Though I feel like some of the bigger wholes from the backstory weakened the magnitude of parts of the story. The story is full of action and intrigue, pulling at readers’ curiosity as the mysteries start to unfold! The horror isn’t too much, at least not yet, and it chilled me in a delightful sort of way. The gore wasn’t too terrible, but I wouldn’t suggest showing it to children. The dialogue is rather witty, and it fits each character well, allowing their personalities to show through.

Overall: 4.5

Altogether, this was a fantastic first installment to what I believe will be a thrilling adventure! I would recommend it to any horror or fantasy fan, or anyone who loves the work of Neil Gaiman or Guillermo del Toro. I wouldn’t recommend this to any young readers for it contains beheading, gore, mutilation, and explicate death scenes. If any of the before listed things frighten or disturb you please don’t read Monstress or do so at your own risk.

Details:

Title:  Monstress: Awakening

Volume: 1

Issue(s): 1-6

Publisher: Image Comics

Writer(s): Majorie Liu

Illustrator: Sana Takeda

Colors: Rus Wooton

Letters: Rus Wooton

Released Date: July 19th 2016

Pages: 202

Genre(s): Young Adult, Fantasy, Horror, Steampunk

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

Synopsis:

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

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

First Thought:

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

Overall Opinions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ratings:

Art: 3

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

Story: 3

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

Overall: 3

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

Details:

Title:  Zodiac Starforce: By the Power of Astra

Volume: 1

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

Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Writer(s): Kevin Panetta

Illustrator: Paulina Ganucheau

Colors: Paulina Ganucheau

Letters: Paulina Ganucheau

Released Date: March 9th, 2016

Pages: 136

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