Stuff and Nonsense: comics and graphic novels

Showing posts with label comics and graphic novels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comics and graphic novels. Show all posts


My Brother's Husband, Volume 1

My Brother's Husband is a sweet, tender manga about family, parenthood, love, and loss. Brothers Yaichi and Ryoji had grown apart as adults, with Ryoji eventually emigrating to Canada and marrying Mike. Some time later, Ryoji dies and big, burly, bearish Mike travels to Japan to visit Yaichi and his daughter.

Initially Yaichi's homophobia causes him to struggle with fulfilling his host and familial obligations to Mike, but gradually -- as he sees how warmly and kindly everyone else responds to Mike, how much his daughter Kana loves her new Canadian uncle, and how much Mike is clearly grieving for his husband -- Yaichi's heart opens and he becomes less prejudiced. His transformation is not flawless, but deeply human.

So there's all that heavy-sounding plot going on and yet it is lightly and gently told. There's a great deal to empathize with, as well as some amusing light-hearted moments, cross-cultural teasing, and a sweet domesticity to the whole thing. I greatly enjoyed My Brother's Husband, Volume 1 and I look forward to reading the Volume 2. I only wish there was a Volume 3 ...

My Brother's Husband, Volume 1 written by Gengorah Tagame w/ trans. by Anne Ishii. Pantheon Books, 2017.


Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Volume 1: Aphra

Doctor Aphra has been scavenging ("recovering") artifacts from the Outer Rim and using her Archaeological Association accreditation to verify them (a kind of ethical whitewashing, it would seem) in order to sell them legally. Aphra's latest find could make her very rich except her father turns up, blackmailing her into going on a wacky adventure to find the Ordu Aspectu -- a Jedi splinter group thought to have been wiped out by the good/orthodox/winning Jedi waaay long time ago. Dads, amirite?

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Volume 1: Aphra collects issues 1-6 and appears to be set sometime between the films A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. This is Aphra's first standalone -- I understand she had been significant character in the Star Wars: Darth Vader series. I can certainly see why Aphra now has her own series -- she's saucy, space-faring Indiana Jones who shines too brightly to be anyone's sidekick. Less of a womanizer than Jones, true, but with even more unethical behavior. And Aphra has sarcastic murder-y droids. And a sexy space ship. And a Wookie copilot. Volume 1 was a rollicking adventure and I'm looking forward to Volume 2 ... in which, I hope, we will meet Captain Tolvan again! Phoawr.

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Volume 1: Aphra by Kieron Gillen, Kev Walker, et al. Marvel, 2017.


Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel

Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel is a classic dark-and-stormy night kind of Gothic horror, but ... you know ... also very Star Wars. It's weird and delightful. Lots of witty banter, double and triple-crossing, lavish Bram Stoker's Dracula-esque clothes, symbiotes, snarky droids, and a possessed Wookies.

Skywalker, desperate to become the Jedi Knight he needs to be to beat Vader, teams up with the rogue archaeologist (and general bad 'un) Doctor Aphra. Aphra has an ancient Jedi crystal thingamajig in her possession that she cannot unlock, but she knows a very old, very bored alien queen who will ... if she's introduced to the right bit of interesting organic life. Skywalker's willing to be that bit (not at all understanding what it will cost him) to get the ancient Jedi crystal thingamajig unlocked. It's a win-win for everyone, right? Well, no. Not at all.

Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel is five-issue crossover between the main Star Wars and Star Wars: Doctor Aphra comic book series. Chronologically, it appears to be set sometime between the films A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Do you need to have read the Doctor Aphra series for The Screaming Citadel to make sense? I don't think so. Your level of enjoyment may be increased, but enough of Aphra's backstory is provided by Skywalker & Co. that you get the gist of it. But maybe don't listen to me as I'm off to read Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, Volume One.

Star Wars: The Screaming Citadel by Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron, et al. Marvel, 2017.


Milkyway Hitchhiking, Vol 1

A beautiful cat with a pattern of stars across her back travels across space and time in this mostly unconnected collection of short stories. Sirial's art is simply exquisite with bright, soft colors, and loose, fluid lines that catch and hold the eye. Indeed, I wish some of the pages could be purchased as prints -- I would love to frame them and hang them on my walls.

Unfortunately, the stories leave something to be desired. They're often quite whimsical, yes, but I found many of the human characters so very annoying, and Milkyway's felinized language ("meowster" for "master," "meowy" for "my," etc) is just a little too precious.

Overall, Milkyway Hitchhiking was an attractive and quick read, but I probably won't pick up Volume 2.

Milkyway Hitchhiking, Volume 1 by Sirial (Yen Press, 2014)


Space Battle Lunchtime, Volume 1: Lights, Camera, Snacktion!

I love cooking shows like The Great British Bake-Off and Iron Chef as well as anime like Food Wars, so when I heard about Space Battle Lunchtime, I knew I had to have it. Apparently, so did everyone else as the wait for a library copy was too looong for an impatient reader such as myself. Eventually, though, Space Battle Lunchtime, Volume 1 arrived on my desk and I devoured it.

Peony is young, but very competent human baker who finds herself as a last minute replacement entrant on the intergalactic cooking show Space Battle Lunchtime. All of the ingredients and equipment are, unsurprisingly, quite alien to Peony but she strives to do her best and win against her alien competitors over four rounds of cooking. And, if it were just about cooking, Peony might be okay, but her competition is very cut-throat and there is sabotage and underhandedness afoot. Also there's some question as to how the chef she replaced ended up on the rival cooking show, "Cannibal Coliseum," where competitors cook and eat each other.

Like one of Peony's pastries, Space Battle Lunchtime is scrumptious and sweet. The illustrations are very expressive and colorful and I really enjoyed the amount of detail Riess packs into each scene. In a book with a large cast, every character still remains individual and interesting. I'm really rooting for Peony and Neptunia to become besties (or more) and I hope someone gives Melonhead a good kicking. The bonus material at the back of the book -- chef biographies, sketches, and examples of spacefood -- are just so much delicious icing on an already tasty cake. I can't wait to read the second volume, A Recipe for Disaster, out in July.

(The Husband also really enjoyed Space Battle Lunchtime -- especially the snafu with the salt).

Space Battle Lunchtime, Volume 1: Lights, Camera, Snacktion! by Natalie Riess (Oni Press, 2016)


Wayward, Volume 1: String Theory

Irish-Japanese teenager Rori Lane has left Ireland to start over with her mother in Japan and, from the moment she arrives, she begins to experience a whole lot of weirdness. Turns out Rori possesses some kind of secret cosmic powers that the Japanese supernatural world is very interested in! Quelle surprise!

Rori quickly runs into trouble, but is saved by the intervention of a mysterious cat-girl. The she runs into more trouble with a spirit-eating boy ... but then they become besties. And, wouldn't you know it, Rori keeps getting into trouble (she is a girl-shaped Trouble Magnet) and, coincidentally, running into other powered kids ... and even becomes their leader! All while having unsurprising adjustment issues at her new school. Oh, and mom is ever the absent parent. And Rori likes to cut herself to cope.

I don't really know what to say about Wayward, Volume 1: String Theory. It's certainly very attractive to look at -- Cummings' illustrations are vibrant and rich with detail -- but the story itself is just kind-of mediocre. It's the first volume, though, so there's hope it will improve over the next three (or more) volumes. And the end was surprising.

Despite my mixed feelings, I have added the second volume tp my library hold list and am actually looking forward to reading it. I know, I know ... I am so wiffle-waffle.

Wayward, Volume 1: String Theory written by Jim Zub w/ illus by Steven Cummings et al. (Image Comics, 2015)


Lady Mechanika, Volume 1: The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse

Alt-Victorian steampunk with an intimidating  and uncompromising female "cyborg" protagonist. What more could I want? Aside from fewer boob cutouts? Fewer trying-too-hard-to-sound-Victorian long-winded exposition dumps that had me skimming ahead? It's unfortunate, because the illustrations are gorgeous -- the detail and coloring of each panel is just WOW -- and the premise is quite compelling.

Lady Mechanika doesn't remember who created her or where she came from, just that she woke up in a basement surrounded by dead bodies. She now spends her time searching out other mechanical entities who might be able to provide information about her past while also rescuing mechanicals being hunted by various anti-tech (destroy) and pro-tech (dismember and study) human organizations and, generally, trying to be a Good Person.

The story can get quite complicated -- hence the exposition dumps, I guess -- as there are many secondary characters and they all have their own stories/plots that need to be told. It's definitely compelling stuff, but felt it would have been better told spread out over more pages as some of story felt a bit rushed. The story and illustrations flirt with a darker, grimmer steampunk alt-Victorian England than I am used to seeing and that was quite refreshing. This isn't a sparkling, clean, optimistic steampunk England, but as dirty, grim, and terrible as the real one could be. I think, if you enjoy TV series like Penny Dreadful or read steampunk horror, you may enjoy Lady Mechanika.

Lady Mechanika, Volume 1 Joe Benitez & Peter Steigerwald ( Benitez Productions, 2015)


Phoebe & Her Unicorn

About a month ago, I stumbled across Phoebe & Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle in Children's, screamed at the sheer sparkly cleverness of it, and brought it home.

Where I devoured it.

So I acquired the second book, Unicorn On A Roll: Another Phoebe & Her Unicorn Adventure. And devoured that.

And then ... what??? My library did not own the third book, Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe & Her Unicorn Adventure! So sad. So I had to wait for another library to send their copy along. And, eventually, they did and I devoured that ... but maybe a little more slowly, because I thought it would the last volume for me.

But, lo, the Children's librarians had ordered the fourth book, Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe & Her Unicorn Adventure, (still no third book) and there it was on the shelf earlier this week ... sparkling at me, tempting me with snarky unicorn whispers to take it home. And I did.

And then I finally came to my senses and subscribed to the daily update at GoComics. Because, you see, Phoebe & Her Unicorn is a webcomic created by Dana Simpson and I could have been reading it a leisurely pace since 2012. Rather than gobbling it down like so much delicious leftover Halloween candy. But then, you know, I'd have missed all the fun forwards by PETER "I WROTE THE SEMINAL UNICORN NOVEL" BEAGLE, Corey Doctorow, Lauren Faust, and the author herself. Also, the books come with activities, recipes, and vocabulary lists ...

Clever, cute, and laugh-out-loud funny (seriously, I don't recommend these as quiet, waiting room reading) Phoebe & Her Unicorn is reminiscent of Calvin & Hobbes and, indeed, I believe anyone who adored C&H will adore this comic. Also strongly recommend it to socially-awkward nerd girls with too big vocabularies.

The illustrations are well done -- simple but very expressive and I love that Marigold is a proper unicorn with cloven hooves and a tail more reminiscent of a lion's than a mare's. Also, she's very swoopy and curvy -- like a swan or a delicately carved carousel horse.

Yes, I'm quite enamored with Phoebe & Her Unicorn and can't wait for the fifth compilation to come out next year.

Simpson, Dana. Phoebe & Her Unicorn: A Heavenly Nostrils Chronicle. Andrews McMeel, 2014.

Simpson, Dana. Unicorn On A Roll: Another Phoebe & Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel, 2015.

Simpson, Dana. Unicorn vs. Goblins: Another Phoebe & Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel, 2016.

Simpson, Dana. Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe & Her Unicorn Adventure. Andrews McMeel, 2016.


Graphic Novel Round-Up

Quick round-up of trade collections I've read recently:

Ei8ht: Outcast written by Mike Johnson & Rafael Albuquerque & illus. by Rafael Albuquerque (Dark Horse Comics, 2015)
Man who is desperate to save his wife from the ravages of disease agrees to travel across space/time to The Meld, but when he gets there, he doesn't remember anything from before. And then he meets a girl and his memories start coming back. Does he know her? Will he know her? Oh, the timey-wimey of it all. Alas, the protagonist never developed for me -- found him consistently flat and uninteresting -- and much of the story felt like an unimaginative pastiche of science fiction elements. I guess I would best describe Ei8ht as a The Time Machine meets John Carter meets Mad Max mash-up with mad science, an intra-dimensional time-traveling Nazi, and dinosaurs. Looks like the next volume might have a Planet of the Apes vibe, too. Ehhh.

Groot written by Jeff Loveness & illus. by Brian Kesinger (Marvel Comics, 2016)
I know nothing about Groot except what I saw in Guardians of the Galaxy so I did not know what to expect from this trade but ... it is so astonishingly sweet and fun. I actually had tears in my eyes at the end. And all this caused by a hero whose only spoken line is "I am Groot." There's lots of references to other Marvel comics, many of which flew right over my head, but that didn't detract from the story at all! Essentially, a fun all-ages comic with colorful and frequently adorable illustrations and a strong "moral" story about friendship and being true to yourself.

Kaptara, Volume 1: Fear Not, Tiny Alien written by Chip Zdarsky & illus. by Kagan Mcleod (Image Comics, 2015
A space ship, on its way to Mars, encounters a strange anomaly which destroys the ship and manages, somehow, to deposit the crew's escape pods on the unknown planet, Kaptara. A planet that is a weird, frequently unfunny mash-up of Masters of the Universe, ThunderCats, and the Smurfs. The characters are largely one-dimensional and Keith, our protagonist, is a whiny git. The illustrative style is fun though, in an 80s-cartoons-on-acid way, and I enjoyed the look of the comic even if the story did nothing for me.

Rivers of London: Body Work by Ben Aaronovitch et al (Titan Comics, 2015)
Have been meaning to read Aaronovitch's PC Peter Grant (Rivers of London, etc) series for a few years now, so was happy to grab what I thought was a graphic adaptation ... but it isn't. Body Work slots in between the novels Broken Homes and Foxglove Summer and, I suspect, is most enjoyable if you've read the preceding novels. The story seemed very disjointed and I never developed a "feel" for any of the characters. Also the whole "possessed-car" schtick just seemed silly. Regardless, Body Work showed promise and I will read Rivers of London. One day.


Top 10 Tuesday: Ten Webcomics I Love

It’s been a rather long time since I participated in Top Ten Tuesday, but this week’s topic -- “Ten Websites I Love That Aren't About Books” -- caught my eye. I’ve gone with web comics I love and want you to love, too. Where possible I’ve noted how long the webcomic has been running to make it easier for you to guesstimate how much time you might need to to set aside to do a weekend blitzread.

Agents of the Realm by Mildred Louis. “Shortly after starting their first year at Silvermount University, five young women discover they've each been chosen to protect our world and its newly discovered sister dimension. Volume 1 begins at the start of their first year of college as they learn about this new responsibility and try to find out exactly what’s going on.” Running since March 2014. Louis ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for Agents of the Realm, Volume 1 earlier this year.

Ava’s Demon by Michelle Czajkowski. Set on distant planets far into the future, Ava’s Demon follows the adventures of a 15 year old girl named Ava Ire who has the misfortune of being haunted by a demon who takes great joy in making Ava's life as miserable as possible. Running since May 2012.

Bad Machinery by John Allison. “Bad Machinery consists of cases running around 100 pages, where six child, then teen, detectives solve mysteries. Each case takes place over a school term. The kids were 11 when the comic started, and are now nearly 16 - the tenor of comic seems to change a little with each passing term.” Bad Machinery has run since 2009, but is currently on hiatus. John Allison is also the author of the popular new(ish) print comic, Giant Days.

Blindsprings by Kadi Fedoruk. “A lost princess named Tamaura survives a revolution by making a deal with the Spirits of the forest. Pledged to them for three hundred years, the princess is about to fulfill her pact when a young man finds her and decides for himself that she is meant to be saved, whether she likes it or not. His ‘rescue’ pulls Tamaura out of her timeless sanctuary and into a world that advanced hundreds of years without her...where a civil war is brewing over the same magic that flows through her veins.” Running since October 2013. Fedoruk just completed an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign for Blindsprings: Volume 1.

Cut Time by Judy. “Cut Time is a fantasy adventure comic about Rel, a tiny nomadic protagonist who carries a bird on her head. The comic will span her journey past and present, including her relationships with her friends and enemies. It focuses on the character interactions to tell the overarching plot, but there’s going to be action, too!” Running since October 2013.

Daughter of the Lilies by Meg Syverud. “What happens when a man who kills monsters falls in love with a girl who thinks she is one? Brent, a brutish, freelancing adventurer, realizes that he's fallen for his coworker, Thistle: a shy, talented Mage who considers herself a monster, and who is relentlessly pursued by a tyrannical dictator.” Running since October 2013.

Far to the North by Allison Gregory. “Check back every Sunday and Wednesday to see Kelu run, see Kelu jump, and see Kelu save her captive family (with maybe a little help from a scaly, fire-breathing neighbor or two.)” Running since February 2015.

Love Not Found by Gina Biggs. “Love Not Found is a story about a young woman living in a time where touching has become outdated. She has recently moved to a new planet and finds that touching might not be such a bad idea. Now she is on a quest to find someone who wants to do things the old fashioned way!” Running since June 2014.

Oglaf by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne. “This comic started as an attempt to make pornography. It degenerated into sex comedy pretty much immediately. Even so, there are some things depicted that are best kept away from children and work.” NSFW.

Oh Joy Sex Toy by Erika Moen. “From toys to workshops to birth control and much more, no stone will be left unturned, no vibrator left unused, no nipple left unpinched. With the aid of guest reviewers, this comic will cover products for ALL the different anatomies people possess, from vulvas to penises and beyond. OJST strives to be relevant to all different genders, body types, and sexualities.” NSFW. Running since April 2013. Moen is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the publication of Oh Joy Sex Toy, Volume 3. Hooray.


I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After

I Hate Fairyland is a horrifically, hilariously violent take on the usual “ordinary child has marvelous adventures in fairy land” story. Gert may begin her quest a sweet, innocent girl, but twenty-seven years trapped in Fairyland -- growing up mentally, but never physically -- searching for a muffin huggin' key that will open a muffin huggin' door and get her home, have warped her into something monstrous. And very, very funny -- in a dark, twisted, inappropriate-for-younger-readers way. If you get a kick out of darkly cute things like Chibi Deadpool, you’ll probably appreciate I Hate Fairyland.

Young’s wonderfully distinct illustrative style, which I fell in love with while reading Eric Shanower’s Oz adaptations, sings with an almost manic energy here. His Fairyland is an absolutely wild, darkly cartoonish mirror 'verse Disney. So appealing, really, that there are a few scenes I wouldn’t mind owning framed prints of ... although where I could appropriately display them, I don’t know!

I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young (Image Comics, 2016).


Visiting The Comic Store in Nashua, NH

Up in northern Massachusetts/southern New Hampshire last week on a one-day mini-break in which I hoped to eat some good ice cream, acquire bargain-priced quality flannel shirts, and maybe get some new comics. Unfortunately, I over-planned my day (what can I say? The L.L. Bean outlet was a huge time sink) and only made it to one comic book shop -- The Comic Store in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Happily, it was a good choice. A big shop pretty evenly split between comics and tabletop gaming materials. It has a very large and broad assortment of trades, which thrilled me because I am not a fan of single issues. Also a decent amount of shojo and yuri manga mixed in amongst the usual shonen stuff. Staff person I encountered was super-friendly without being unctuous and left me alone once I made it clear I was having a perfectly fine time browsing.

  • Girl Friends: The Complete Collection, Volume 2 by Milk Morinaga. Absolutely scrummy yuri manga about the continuing adventures of two sweet high school girls in love set against a backdrop of the usual friendship and school dramas.
  • I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young. Promises to be a horrifically and hilariously violent take on the usual "seemingly ordinary child wishes herself to fairyland and has marvelous adventures before returning home."
  • The Ancient Magus' Bride, Volume 1 by Kore Yamazaki. Fantasy shojo manga about an orphaned 15-year-old Japanese girl with strange gifts who sells herself into slavery and comes to be owned by (and affianced to) by an inhuman magician. I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic about this manga – the child slavery and the probable May-December pairing worry me a bit.

I could have bought more, but I was feeling a bit guilty about all the graphics I already own and haven’t read! What can I say? I have a terrible book-collecting habit.


Prez, Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief

When I picked up Prez, I half expected to find Neil Gaiman’s name on it because I had only ever previously encountered the character, Prez, in Sandman so thought Prez (and Boss Smiley) were just characters Gaiman had dreamed up. But, no, it turns out that Prez has been around, in different iterations, since 1973.

And I was like ... ehhhh. Because a lot of not-very-good stories came out of the seventies, you know. And the Wikipedia entry for Prez certainly didn’t make the original run sound like anything I wanted to read.

But the cover. The absolutely hysterical cover. Teenage girl president confidently posed in what is clearly a recasting of Washington Crossing the Delaware with what can only be described as an odd crew. Well, maybe no odder maybe than a teenage girl president who was elected almost accidentally thanks to viral media, voter apathy, and a ridiculous amount of self-serving power plays within the existing government? A president, it turns out, who wants to be the best president she can be and do good. With the help of a carefully chosen Cabinet, robotic bodyguard, and the questionable interest of Anonymous (recognized by the UN as a nation state).

Anyway, turns out this Prez is good. A sharp, wickedly funny political satire, Prez seems eerily prescient in its handling of political corruption, reality television, viral media, economic stratification, the "personhood" of corporations, remote warfare, and modern plagues. Reading it .. it felt as if Prez is what we'll get in twenty years after a series of Trump-type presidencies. Except we probably won't get "saved" by anyone as cool as Beth "Corndog Girl" Ross. It's funny, yes, with lots of amusing one-liners and puns, but it's also dark and biting.

I can't wait for the next volume. What is Anonymous' agenda? Will Ross topple Boss Smiley and his shadowy corporate government? Will Tina, Christian ex-war machine bodyguard, find peace and happiness? And what about the kitties?

Prez, Vol. 1: Corndog in Chief written by Mark Russell w/ art by Ben Caldwell, et al (DC Comics, 2016)


Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 1

SQUEEEEEEE. Seriously.

Haruhi is a new scholarship student at the prestigious Ouran Academy. Looking for a quiet place to study, she wanders into the Third Music Room … and encounters the fabulous (and ridiculous!) Ouran Academy Host Club (a club where six handsome male students skillfully tend to the romantic needs of their impressionable female peers). After accidentally breaking a valuable vase, Haruhi finds herself essentially indentured to the club until she pays the vase’s value back. Oh, and everyone in the club initially thinks Haruhi is a boy and she lets them go along thinking that because … SPOILERS ... but also, what’s the big deal? Boy Haruhi? Girl Haruhi? Why does it matter?

I’ve long adored the anime, Ouran High School Host Club, so much so that I went on a bit of a bender in February and re-watched the entire series. And then, of course, I wanted more but there is no more. So I turned to the live-action TV series, but that was just too weird for me (frankly, the character's seemed more creepy than cute) so I turned to the manga ...

Volume 1 and Episode 1 are almost identical, so the story was sweetly familiar ... but the book’s black and white illustrations are not, sadly, on par with the animation. However, in the (sweet! funny! adorable!) character biographies at the back of the book, Hatori does write that she intends to tone down Haruhi’s (and, hopefully, Honey’s), giant eyes in later stories and has become more confident drawing the characters (particularly Hikaru and Kaoru) so it’s reasonable to expect improved illustrations in later volumes.

Ouran High School Host Club, Volume 1 w/ story & illus. by Bisco Hatori (Viz Media, 2002)


The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power

Sometimes I pick up a book and it’s just pure, unmitigated fun from beginning to end. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is exactly like that. Although Doreen is quite earnestly out to do good, she is not a Serious Hero with a Dark, Tragic History. No, Doreen is a confident, happy-go-lucky college girl with a more "average" body and face than, really, I’d ever expect to find on a Marvel hero. Her story is light and fast-paced with lots of silly, tongue-in-cheek humor. The artwork is in perfect keeping with the story’s tone, being very cartoony and bright. It looks like a cartoon I’d want to watch ... why isn’t there a cartoon, anyway?

I totally loved that Doreen, while she really seems to crave the respect and accolades of the Avengers, is set on forging her own unique identity as a person and as a superhero. This doesn’t mean she dons a mask and stalks the city by night, in search of injustice. No. Doreen’s plan is actually quite sensible -- enroll in a computer science course at Empire State U (women in STEM, hooray), master her own unique squirrel-based superhero skillset, and create a memorable theme song, among other things. She’s set on becoming the best self she can be and it’s so fun and uplifting to watch her go about it.

When I started reading, I was so focused on the story and art that I missed the first few footnotes. You don’t want to miss the footnotes as they are very amusing! As are the letters columns. And “Deadpool's Guide to Super Villains” trading cards. And Nancy’s knitting posters (I’d buy them if Marvel sold ‘em). Oh, Nancy herself is just all sorts of marvelous, too! In a nutshell, pretty much everything in The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is marvelous fun and I look forward to Volume 2.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 1: Squirrel Power written by Ryan North w/ illus. by Erica Henderson (Marvel, 2015)


Rat Queens, Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery

I'd been hearing about Rat Queens for yonks and it was quite near the top of my tbr list, but it was rapidly becoming one of those titles of which I'd heard so much praise that I was beginning to get a little turned off. (Yes, poor shallow fool that I am). Then The Husband gave me a copy of Volume One, saying that he was sure I wouldn't read it just like I never read any of the books he gives me ... and so I, seeing the challenge, read the darn book.

And it blew my socks off. Rat Queens was just great fun to read -- full of dark humor, witty dialogue, so much swearing, drugs, candy, splashy violence, and sexytimes. The comic's heroines are all amazing badasses in their own highly individual ways -- full of sass and sorcery, indeed. I don't know who I adored more -- Violet, the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, or Betty, the Hippy Lesbian Smidgen Thief. Or Orc Dave and his bluebird beard. Oh, that beard!

As fascinating and fun as the characters are, the story is a little underdeveloped. Obviously, this is a series and the greater plot is going to play out over the course of it. But, still. While the book is rich in killin' and thievin' and drinkin' and canoodling, it's not the story that carries it along. No, it's the dialogue. The damned witty, can't-stop-grinning-my-way-through-the-book dialogue. Seriously, I can't wait to read more!

Rat Queens, Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe & Roc Upchurch (Image, 2014)


The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Volume 1

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is light-hearted slice-of-life-style romantic comedy about a first-year high school student who is so sweetly shy/earnest/awkward/nerdy that it's impossible not to root for her whether she's trying to save the literature club or coming to grips with her feelings toward her classmate and fellow club member, Kyon.

In this volume there's a lot of emotional silliness involving Kyon, although he seems pretty obliviousness to it. Which is either because he really is a clueless high school student or because he's been written as flat as cardboard. The only time Kyon seems particularly dynamic is when their mutual friend Ryouko is in the mix, deliberately trying to wind-up Yuki by "flirting" with Kyon. (While I really empathize with Yuki, I simply adore Ryouko. She's so ... bossy ... and fun. And I never doubted for a minute that she didn't always act with Yuki's best interests at heart. She's a true best friend).

In many ways, The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan is a completely ordinary story. But. There is a little bit of weirdness between Yuki-chan and a Santa Claus-obsessed girl from another school which could be completely innocent but could turn out to be something else altogether (and I'm not talking nascent lesbianism here). It's hard to tell right now whether I'm not supposed to "get it" because that girl is an evolving plot point or because she's part of the another, unread, series.

Yes, that's right. The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Volume 1 is apparently a spin-off of the manga series The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. I have not read that series, but Yuki-chan seems to stand up well enough on its own -- despite Santa Claus girl! There are eight volumes in the Yuki-chan series, so I'm guessing it comes to be a complete universe in its own right, anyway.

The Disappearance of Nagato Yuki-chan, Volume 1 by Nagaru Tanigawa with illus. by Puyo (First Yen Press, 2012)


Lizzie Newton: Victorian Mysteries, Volume 1

1864 London. Lizzie Newton is a young woman of good breeding who pens mystery novels using the nom de plume "Logica Docens." She doesn't really fit the Lizzie-shaped hole society has made for her and is a bit of an odd duck, but those closet to her seem to love her as she is and she gets along. And then there's a murder. A proper locked-room manor house murder, at that. And, of course, the police (those bunglers!) can't be trusted to investigate it themselves. No, Lizzie must investigate. Using the super-awesome crime analysis lab she built in her basement and the skills of her fiancé, the once-famous-barrister-turned-family butler. If only everyone would stop being short-sighted, sexist fools and let her get on with things.

There's kind-of a lot going on in Lizzie Newton: Victorian Mysteries which I'm not surprised by, it being the first volume in a six volume series (of which only three are available in the US??). I appreciate the author set the novel in 1864 London, enabling a delightfully Victorian setting while still putting the story far enough back that Sherlock Holmes and Lizzie aren't bumping into each other at crime scenes! The illustrations are well done -- the characters look like they belong in the 1860s (the hats!) and I didn't notice any glaring anachronisms set-wise. Lizzie is a bit too SHOUTY and modern for a young lady of her age, but as a crime-solving manga heroine she seems pretty average. There's a certain repetitiveness to her interaction with certain characters -- especially her fiancé -- which I hope will be smoothed away as the series finds its feet.

But again, only the first two (of six!) volumes available in the US, so is it even worth picking up the second volume? Ugh. This is why, as a completist, it is so important to research series before purchasing them or picking them up from the library.

Lizzie Newton: Victorian Mysteries, Volume 1 written by Hey-jin Jeon w/ illus. by Ki-ha Lee (Seven Seas, 2011)


What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 1

What Did You Eat Yesterday? is about two regular middle-age guys with regular jobs -- one's a lawyer and the other's a hairdresser -- doing all the usual, repetitious grown-up things, like balancing the household budget and making supper. Ohhhh, the suppers! There's a new supper in every chapter and they are just utterly crave-worthy. Every step is lovingly illustrated and described in great detail -- so much so that you could use the manga as a cookbook. Each chapter also ends with a "proper" typeset recipe or cooking tip, just to drive home the culinary nature of What Did You Eat Yesterday?.

Rather like with Yoshinaga's Antique Bakery the food isn't merely window dressing but serves as kind-of a framing story around which the characters spin the daily stories of their lives. While it's not clear how long Shiro and Kenji have been together -- possibly three years -- they seem to have the relaxed, easy relationship that suggest long-term partnership. There's a lot of intimacy between them, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of romance left. Or, to put it bluntly, there are no shenanigans in Volume 1. Not even a smoocheroo.

Shiro and Kenji are gay, obviously, and while Shiro claims to be totally cool about it, it's Kenji who is most out and most likely to casually talk about it. While I found Shiro's unwillingness to be open about his sexuality a little frustrating I also completely get why he's so reticent. I can only hope that, as the story progresses over the next ten or so volumes, he becomes more comfortable and more open. (And less cheap! But if he weren't so thrifty, then how would he have befriended Watermelon Woman?)

I can see where some readers might find What Did You Eat Yesterday? a bit boring -- as it's real slice-of-life stuff -- but that's what makes me love it. I've read very little manga about middle-aged people doing real life things, so was thoroughly charmed by What Did You Eat Yesterday? and have already added the next two volumes to my Amazon cart.

What Did You Eat Yesterday? Volume 1 by Fumi Yoshinaga (Vertical, 2014)


Buying all the Things at Hammergirl Anime

We've been in Rochester this week for work (The Husband) and leisure (me). I definitely got the better deal what with all the nice green spaces, delicious foods, and fun museums I've enjoyed. To keep the Husband from getting too jealous, I've arranged little after work excursions, one of which took us to Hammergirl Anime.

From the outside, sandwiched as it is between a storefront church and an Indian restaurant in yet another strip mall, the store doesn't look like much. But inside ... oh, inside! It is a manga-lovin' girl's paradise. Many of the comic book shops I visit have a token manga shelf or two, but (other than at The Comix Zone in North Syracuse, New York) I've never seen so much manga in one place before. Seriously, so much manga. So. Many. Kinds. And so much anime! And so much related merch with which to decorate your person or home. It was reallyreallyREALLY hard not to just hand over my wallet at the door and ask for one of everything.

I tried to be "good" and picked up only the first volumes of a bunch of new to me series like What Did You Eat Yesterday? (gays + cooking = AWESOMESAUCE), Lizzie Newton: Victorian Mysteries ("a spot of Jane Austen with a dash of Agatha Christie") and Milkyway Hitchhiking (about a cat who travels through time and space). I also bought the standalone Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova, she of the fantastic Dramacon and Nightschool. The Husband bought an individually-wrapped Japanese cheesecake, which was soft as cotton and just melted in our mouths. Yummm.

I can really only hope The Husband has a conference in Rochester next year, too!