Kate’s Review: “DC Bombshells (Vol.3): Uprising”

31624824Book: “DC Bombshells (Vol.3): Uprising” by Marguerite Bennett, Mirka Andolfo (Ill.), and Laura Braga (Ill.)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, March 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Based on the hit DC Collectibles product line! As World War II rages across Europe, the Allied forces issue a call to arms for the greatest heroines the world has ever known! With an old villain arising from beyond the grave, Wonder Woman, Batwoman, Kara Starikov, Kortni Duginova and Mera must aid the Allied forces while at home, a brave group of Batgirls must defend the homeland!
The incredibly popular DC Collectibles line is brought to life in these stories that reimagine the course of history! From writer Marguerite Bennett (BATGIRL, EARTH 2: WORLD’S END) and featuring artists including Marguerite Sauvage (HINTERKIND), Laura Braga (Witchblade) and Mirka Andolfo (Chaos) comes DC COMICS: BOMBSHELLS VOL. 3.

Review: With the way that the last “DC Bombshells” collection ended (if you’ll remember, it was devastating), I was wondering if we were going to get into more pathos in which we’d have to potentially say goodbye to another of our beloved heroines. I suppose that I should have steeled myself for that possibility from the get go, as this is WWII and with war comes death. And given that our ladies are spread out across various fronts, battling not only Nazis, but also Nazi Zombies, the stakes are pretty high. And we jumped right back into it.

But first, we went back to the home front to check in with the Bat Girls! They’re continuing there time of taking up the mantle for Batwoman while she is overseas, and this time they have a new ally to go along with Maggie Sawyer.

LOIS LAAAAAAAANE!!!!

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It’s her time at the table, folks, so buckle up! (source)

Seeing Lois introduced (and giving her a very interesting backstory that gently but deftly touches on the immigrant experience) was a serious treat for this Lois Lane fangirl. It was also great seeing her jump in without having to worry about needing help from Superman (still nowhere in sight), and helping the Bat Girls break up a crime ring (involving the Penguin!), though they find themselves wanted in the process. Seeing this and a non-Two Face-d version of Harvey Dent going on and on as a political candidate with an “America First” platform made this story feel pretty close to home.

But meanwhile, in Europe, we catch up with our Bombshells on the front lines. We don’t get to see Wonder Woman, Supergirl, or the aftermath of Stargirl’s death this time, but that’s okay by me. I’m not ready to see the fallout from that. But that isn’t to say that we have a lack of stories this time around, as we are juggling a number of story lines. We have Batwoman, leaving Wonder Woman and Stargirl to try and get back to the front lines, who meets up with an old flame, Renee Montoya (aka The Question). They first met during the Spanish Civil War, and fought on the rebel side against the fascists. Now they are teaming up again, in spite of bad memories of losing a young protege and friend named Jacon (YES AS IN JASON TODD I AM SCREAMING) and the end of their love. You have Zatanna, who has been sent to a ghetto because of her Jewish and Romani heritage, and is being tormented by Joker’s Daughter, who has taken away her powers. You have Mera, who has washed up in Ireland without her powers, banished from Atlantis and her rightful throne. And we finally come back to Harley and Ivy, who have become freedom fighters for the resistance, and have found love with each other as they try to make their way to Berlin to take down the Nazis from their home base. And I haven’t even mentioned Huntress, Miri Marvel, Joker, Catwoman, Raven, and Aquaman, who all make appearances as well.

It’s definitely a lot to balance. But Bennett does a really good job of slowly but surely weaving all of these stories together. It was SO lovely to see my girls Harley and Ivy again, and to see how they play into this whole thing. I was wondering how it was all going to fit together, but it does. I was also really relieved that even though we did get a bit more romance with some of the heavy hitting men of the Universe (Aquaman and Constantine, specifically), it didn’t bring down Mera or Zatanna. Even though Mera has found lighthouse keeper Arthur, there is no sign of him having powers that are going to outdo hers as of yet. Their romance is just another part of her as a person, but Mera remains Mera and isn’t distracted from her goal of getting her powers and Atlantis back. The same can be said for Constantine, who is in the ghetto with Zatanna. He is there to support her, but his presence doesn’t weaken her or make her seem like he is her only strength in a horrific situation.

I loved seeing all of these women come together to fight against Joker’s Daughter and the Nazis, and that a number of these women in this story are Jewish or of Jewish descent, as Batwoman, Zatanna, Miri, and Harley all make mention of their heritage while they are inside the ghetto during a shabbat dinner. There was great beauty in this entire moment, as it wasn’t solely a ‘savior’ moment, as these women are also targets because of their heritage. The symbolism was bittersweet, and I really appreciated it. It was also good seeing the concept of abusive and controlling relationships being addressed, and not just in romantic ways. There was a small moment with Harley and Joker as she tells Ivy about her past, but there is also the relationship between Joker’s Daughter and Zatanna, and the relationship between Mera and her former beau. There is also poor Raven, who has only known Joker’s Mother as her mother figure, and is so damaged in her need to please her but also her need to escape. These are things that women in real life have to grapple with, and I so appreciate that this series dares to bring up the toxicity of relationships like these, and contrast them with healthy relationships. Harley finds Ivy. Zatanna finds Constantine. Raven finds a new group of women to mother her. Mera finds Arthur. And they all find more self respect. It’s just so positive!!! I can’t gush about it enough!!

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There is just so much to love in this series. It continues to be super feminist, it continues to strive for diversity, and it continues to have some awesome action sequences that are just as good as any other superhero comic out there. I am once again sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for the next one in the series (out this fall I think!). While I’m worried that some characters are done, I am excited to see who else could show up.

Rating 10: Once again “DC Bombshells” knocks me off my seat and excites and thrills me until I turn the final page. These ladies continue to kick serious ass!!!

Reader’s Advisory:

“DC Bombshells (Vol.3): Uprising” isn’t on any Goodreads lists as of yet, but given the lists it’s predecessors are on it would fit right in on “#fempowerathon”, and “Amazons, Female Warriors, and Wonder Women”.

Find “DC Bombshells (Vol.3): Uprising” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed: “DC Bombshells (Vol 1): Enlisted!”, and “DC Bombshells (Vol 2): Allies”.

Kate’s Review: “Batgirl (Vol.2): Family Business”

26067583Book: “Batgirl (Vol.2): Family Business” by Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher (Ill.), and Babs Tarr (Ill.).

Publishing Info: DC Comics, February 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Like daughter, like father.

Over the past few months, Barbara Gordon has made some big changes to her Batgirl alter ego. She has a new look, new support team and new home base in Burnside, Gotham’s trendiest neighborhood. But just when she’s hitting her stride, her fahter drops a bombshell–Babs isn’t the only masked crime-fighter in the family anymore. Jim Gordon is the new Batman.

After the original Batman fell fighting the Joker, the former police commissioner was given a high-tech super-suit and asked to take up the mantle. With a team of GCPD officers watching his every move, Jim Gordon’s new law-and-order Batman has zero tolerance for vigilantism. He’s been ordered to arrest any unsanctioned superhero in Gotham–and Batgirl is next!

Review: Barbara Gordon, as we all know, has a very special place in my heart. Because of that, I was very excited that I liked the new “Batgirl” storyline that Cameron Stewart brought to the world, but also kind of nervous. What if I liked it, and then it collapsed under it’s own weight? After all, that’s what happened to “Black Canary” in my reading experience. So while I was very eager to pick up “Batgirl (Vol.2): Family Business”, part of me was anxious. I finally sat down and read it, and I’m pleased to say that it did not disappoint.

I like how Barbara is progressing. While I was a bit lost regarding her father (ex) Chief Gordon taking up the Batman mantle (I haven’t read any New 52 Batman stories), I liked that we got an interesting shift in power dynamic, with Barbara knowing his secret identity without him knowing hers. Seeing her interact with her father in his Batman form (in a giant robotic suit, no less) was both a little bittersweet, and also a confirmation of both of their personalities; she being stubborn and fervent, and him being willing to bend the rules when deep in his heart he knows he should. This wasn’t the only crossover we got in this book, as Barbara also ran afoul Maps and Olive at Gotham Academy. I’m glad that they didn’t spend too much time there, though, because while it was good for a taste I tend to get a bit weary of crossovers. I do keep up with “Gotham Academy” as best I can, but I don’t think that I should necessarily have to read multiple storylines in the DC Universe to keep up with one title.

We also got a glimpse of Dick Grayson and whatever he is up to right now in the DC Universe. This was probably my least favorite of the crossover storylines, because it was just Dick trying to maintain the facade that he is dead, and hiding from Barbara… Until he decided to jump back into her life on his own terms and expected her to jump back into his arms, no questions asked.

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Grayson, please. (source)

I was happy to see that Barbara didn’t take any of that lying down, and called him out on it and how it’s not romantic, but incredibly hurtful…. But that said, as a person who deeply, deeply ships Batgirl and Nightwing, I was upset to see it go down the way it did. Not only was it sad for them, it just felt shoehorned in, and it distracted from a much happier (and lighter) storyline, which was Alysia and her girlfriend Jo getting married!!! True, the storyline leading up to it was a bit silly (involving tigers mauling people), but the end game was very pleasant. Nice to see that Barbara can still be there for her friends in spite of her life of daring do.

I am also happy to report that it seems that I’m going to be getting my Oracle fix in the very near future!! While Barbara herself won’t be taking this role, there have been hints that Frankie, Barbara’s coder roommate, is going to team up with her and serve as this role. Even if Barbara is reluctant to let her take it on just yet, because of worries to Frankie’s safety. The tension that this brings is a good way to remind us that Barbara, while well meaning, hasn’t quite reconciled that she does, in fact, need help. I think that giving this role to Frankie is perfect, because she’s incredibly technologically adept, and she is there to be a voice of reason to Barbara as well as someone she can confide in. And THIS, I feel, is how to reinvent a character in a comic setting. The transition wasn’t forced and the adjustment felt natural and completely plausible, nor did Barbara have to be humiliated or character assassinated to make it work. If Frankie is, indeed, on her way to becoming the new Oracle, I welcome it with open arms and hope that she gets a lot of cool, research-y things to do.

Overall, a couple of bumps notwithstanding, I was pleased with how the “Batgirl” storyline has been progressing. “Family Business” was a fun and bubbly read. Barbara is still charming and complex, and her adventures will keep me coming back for more.

Rating 8: The re-emergence of a new Oracle and some more fun action and thrills with Barbara made a fun second installment in the new “Batgirl” iteration!

Reader’s Advisory:

“Batgirl (Vol.2): Family Business” is included on the Goodreads lists “Best of Batgirl”, and “Girls Read Comics”.

Find “Batgirl (Vol.2): Family Business” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed: “Batgirl (Vol.1): The Batgirl of Burnside”.

Kate’s Review: “Black Canary (Vol.2): New Killer Star”

29633017Book: “Black Canary (Vol.2): New Killer Star” by Brendan Fletcher, Annie Wu (Ill.) and Sandy Jarrell (Ill.).

Publishing Info: DC Comics, November 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: The Black Canary world tour begins here! But instead of playing sold out areas, the band is scouring the globe in search of their missing lead singer, Black Canary herself.

Following the rockin’ conclusion of Black Canary, Volume 1: Kicking & Screaming, Dinah Lance has disappeared and now she finds herself in the clutches of a mysterious white ninja who might have more in common with the Canary than anyone expected. In this continent-spanning adventure, secrets from Dinah’s past are revealed, questions about the future of the Black Canary band are answered and faces are melted with epic rock ‘n’ roll and action brought to you by a comics supergroup including writer Brenden Fletcher (Batgirl) and artists Annie Wu (Hawkeye) and Sandy Jarrell (Meteor Men).

Review: As I’m sure you all remember, I am a big Dinah Lance, aka Black Canary, fan. There’s something about her carefree and badass attitude that I really enjoy, and I was excited to find that she had her own “New 52” arc in the DC Comics world. While I love her in the supergroup Birds of Prey, it was nice seeing her get some time to shine all for herself in “Kicking and Screaming”, the first in the “Black Canary New 52” series. We also got to see a new group of awesome kick butt women in the form of her band: Paloma, Lord Byron, Ditto, and Bo Maeve. So when I finally grabbed “New Killer Star”, I was thinking that I would get more adventures of this group of awesome ladies.

But….. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

We pick up with our poor Dinah Lance being held captive in a strange prison-like setting. Her bandmates don’t know where she is, and the fate of the band hangs in the balance. It was a little hard seeing the group separated, as I feel like they only make each other stronger. I was also a bit frustrated that we kind of found ourselves in a situation that I wasn’t totally on board with, as Dinah being held in a strange prison by strange demon cultists perhaps because of who her mother was seems so old hat to me. I appreciated seeing a bit of the mother/daughter drama and baggage regarding Dinah, but it kind of felt like it came out of nowhere, as I don’t THINK that there was all that much in “Kicking and Screaming” (I could be wrong, I just don’t remember any)? By the time Dinah and her bandmates were reunited for a final showdown with the demon cult, we get taken into a completely DIFFERENT direction with a speculative arc that takes Black Canary into a potential future-scape of her life. And when the story does eventually get wrapped up, we still have a couple of side stories that have nothing to do with the original story arc, some of which aren’t even “Black Canary” titles. It felt like a bit of a mess, to be honest, which was such a disappointment because I so enjoyed “Kicking and Screaming”. I’ve looked around and it looks like one of the problems is that the DC “Rebirth” event happened, in which the titles in DC were rebooted yet again. So of course this was going to interrupt this fairly new series. The wrap up came fast and it was hard to swallow.

But there were things that I did like in “New Killer Star”. We got a fun side story in the “Gotham Academy” storyline involving the band’s tour manager Heathcliff, who was a former student at that boarding school. So we did get to see the band in action in that story, as well as my favorites from “Gotham Academy” like Maps and Olive. It turns out that he and Pomeline may have had a thing!!! I’m super down for all that, so that was a fun little crossover story. There is a stand alone story with just the Band that doesn’t involve aliens or demon cults, which gave me the girl power camaraderie that I felt the actual arc didn’t have. We also got a nice little insight into the new “Birds of Prey” arc, which brings Batgirl and Black Canary together again, as well as bringing back Huntress to round out the group. I highly enjoy “Birds of Prey”, and while it was a bit disappointing to see that yes, indeed, Oracle is a thing of the distant past, it was also good to see her recognized not just as something negative. But my praise for these things ultimately goes to show that the actual final arc for Dinah in her main comic series was a bit too weak to stand on it’s own two feet.

So while the stand alone stories were good fun and everything I was looking for, the actual finale to the “Black Canary New 52” arc fell kind of flat. And it worries me that some of the “New 52” series I’ve been following will end just as abruptly. All that said, I will look back fondly on “Black Canary” and her band as a whole, because when it was strong it was super fun. It will be interesting to see where “Rebirth” takes all of these characters. But for now I bid adieu to my girl Dinah, and hope that when we meet again she’ll be everything she was in this.

Rating 5: A weaker end to a promising start, “Black Canary (Vol.2): New Killer Star” wasn’t as fun as I hoped it would be. The standalone stories are pretty good fun, but that only emphasizes my disappointment with how the main arc ended before “Rebirth” happened.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Black Canary (Vol.2): New Killer Star” is not on any Goodreads lists (oddly enough), but I think it would fit in on “Ladies in Capes”, and “Girls Read Comics”.

Find “Black Canary (Vol.2): New Killer Star” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed: “Black Canary (Vol.1): Kicking and Screaming”.

Kate’s Review: “Batgirl (Vol.1): The Batgirl of Burnside”

23164970Book: “Batgirl (Vol.1): The Batgirl of Burnside” by Cameron Stewart, Babs Tarr (Ill.)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, May 2015

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Barbara Gordon is no stranger to dusting herself off when disaster strikes, so when a fire destroys everything she owns, she spots the opportunity for a new lease on life – and seizes it! Following the rest of Gotham City’s young adults to the hip border district of Burnside, Barbara sets about building an all-new Batgirl…and discovers new threats preying on her peers! As the new hero of Burnside, Batgirl gets started by facing twin sister assassins on motorcycles!

Review: As the world of comics tries to keep up with the changing times and tries to keep rebooting itself, it can, admittedly, get a little confusing. I think that a really good example of this is that of DC’s Batgirl. When DC launched their “New 52” reboot series, giving many of their characters brand new origin stories, one of the new iterations was Batgirl. Gail Simone took the helm, and while there was criticism about erasing Batgirl’s disability (she’s no longer wheelchair bound, and therefore no longer Oracle), it’s pretty agreed that she did justice to Barbara Gordon. Her time with Batgirl ended, showing Barbara’s future years and years down the line. It was pretty dark stuff (no spoilers here though). But then….. Batgirl was rebooted again, even if DC claims that it wasn’t really a reboot. Now the “Batgirl” title is DC’s answer to Marvel’s “Ms. Marvel”: a bit more aimed towards teen girls, with a quirky and flawed, but endearing protagonist who has very real life problems along with the Superhero ones. I mean, just look at the cover of this book: Batgirl is taking a selfie in a hipster club bathroom.

Admittedly, when I first saw this I was like

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BUT, I decided to give it a chance because I love Barbara Gordon, and I do recognize that comics appeal to a wide array of audiences now. And I’m glad that I did decide to give it a try, because while I find “Ms. Marvel” fine and important but a but a tad precious, I think that this new Batgirl is just the right balance of aware and action-y.

Barbara has been updated to fit the modern sensibilities of a brainy girl who likes to code and do STEM things. While I’m still a bit bitter that she hasn’t quite taken on the librarian mantle (though I think she eventually does go to get her MLIS!), I love seeing her tackle computer science and code writing, and I LOVE seeing it treated as just something that she does because why wouldn’t she? Not only is Barbara a badass lady coder, so is her roommate Frankie. I really liked the introduction of Frankie (though I wish that Alysia Yeoh could have been another roommate, because I love her to death), as she added a new voice of reason along with adding some much needed diversity to the DC Universe. In fact, a lot of the new faces in “Batgirl” add quite a bit of diversity, not unlike that which you WOULD see in Brooklyn these says (as Burnside is the Brooklyn to Gotham’s Manhattan). So not only do we have an empowered and positive role model of a young woman who is adept at science, she surrounds herself with people from all different backgrounds and experiences. Every character feels real and grounded and not just thrown in for the sake of having a token Muslim, or trans woman, or African American, or etcetera.

Even the villains and the danger scenarios feel like they fit a modern aesthetic without seeming overwrought. One of the first people Batgirl goes up against is an Internet wizard who has been giving out his digital blackmail services to people, willing to ruin lives for a price and a profit. Given how revenge porn is certainly a problem that society hasn’t quite figured out how to wrap it’s head around in many ways, this felt like a pretty relevant threat. Sure, Babs may not be fighting crazed supervillains like the Joker, but villains based in real life awfulness are a-okay with me. And it’s done in such a way that it never feels like it’s being spoon fed to the reader. You don’t need a known and super big bad guy like Joker or Penguin to be behind these realistic maladies, because that just doesn’t feel genuine. Along with the villains, one of the biggest obstacles Barbara has to face is the trauma she is still feeling from when Joker attacked her. You see flashbacks of when she was in recovery, and how dark and damaged her mind went, focused on the past and revenge instead of healing and the future. While I am a staunch defender of the original story of her becoming wheelchair bound, as Oracle became arguably the MOST powerful member within the Bat Family and her wheelchair provided representation to a group that is overlooked, I think that this series has done a good job of addressing the long term mental affects of it all. It’s a shame that they’ve erased that side of Barbara, but now they are tackling the story of a woman who is living with PTSD. I won’t say tit for tat, but I will say that it’s not nothing.

And there are familiar faces as well! My girl Dinah Lance is involved in this first arc, there to provide a needed level of snark, but also to remind Batgirl of her duties and not to let things get out of her control. I am pretty sure this was the predecessor to the “Black Canary” comic that I liked so much (note to self…. get your hands on the next one), and her angst and rough edges are on display in their full glory. She is also there to make sure that Babs, while the selfie and social media culture is fine and part of our lives now, doesn’t lose her endgame all because she loves the likes and tweets. The old school mentality of comics and superheroes in the context of Batgirl still has relevancy, and her reboot is blending well with her origins.

And the art is really fun in this one. It’s very colorful, not as dark and dour as the Gail Simone story that preceded it.

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I am very pleased with the new life that Batgirl has been given with “Batgirl (Vol.1): The Batgirl of Burnside”. Barbara has been given a new lease on life and I am very happy with where she’s going with it!

Rating 8: A fun reboot of the Batgirl series, with a strong and varied cast of characters and a good hold on how to write Barbara Gordon for today’s world.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Batgirl (Vol.1): The Batgirl of Burnside” is included on the Goodreads lists “Ladies of DC”, and “Ladies in Capes”.

Find “Batgirl (Vol.1): The Batgirl of Burnside” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “The Best We Could Do”

29936927Book: “The Best We Could Do” by Thi Bui

Publishing Info: Abrams Books, March 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.
 
At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.
 
In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.

Review: Stories of refugees and immigration are incredibly relevant these days. Between certain world leaders trying to impose travel bans, to the threats of building a wall all along a border, to the devastating refugee crisis being seen due to instability in Syria, the very thought of people finding a safe place to live, while leaving their home behind, has become incredibly politicized. When I first heard about “The Best We Could Do”, I knew that I needed to immediately get it on my request list so that I could read it as soon as it was available to me. It’s heartening to see that graphic novels are becoming more and more used to tell personal stories, and a story as personal as this one was only bolstered by the imagery that we found on the page. Oh boy was this a wonderful book.

And a very sad book as well. Thi Bui was born in Vietnam, just around the time that the Vietnam War was starting to wind down. Her family history is intwined within the stark differences in the Vietnamese society up to and during the war, as her mother was from the bourgeois class and her father was decidedly less well off. But this story isn’t just about a family trying to escape a violent and unsafe situation; it is also about a family that is forever affected by society around it, and a family trying to fit in in a new place that is completely new and different to them. By giving the context of her mother’s background, her father’s background, and the culture and society of Vietnam during their childhoods and her childhood as well, we get a story that is tragic, hopeful, devastating, and important all at once. She also does a very good job of showing how Western Imperialism and Colonialism, of course, had a large effect on how Vietnam dealt with a cultural conflict of the North versus the South. I really appreciated that she pointed out that for people in America during the war (those fighting it aside), it was more of a concept and something to support or speak out against. But for the Vietnamese, it was the life they were living every day, and that somehow kind of got lost in the narrative.

I also really liked the stories of her family, as imperfect and in some ways dysfunctional as it was. She has a very conflicted opinion of both her parents. Her father wasn’t a very good parent to her, and he wasn’t a very good husband to her mother either. But seeing his childhood that was filled with turmoil, poverty, instability, and broken family ties, we can completely understand why he turned into the man he became. We also see that her mother was in many ways a remarkable person who had ambitions and dreams, but then found herself in a marriage she wasn’t completely invested in, and with a family that, as cherished as they were, put an end to her ambitions, ambitions that absolutely could have been backed up by talent and know how. Bui contrasts her own journey into motherhood against the story of her own mother, and it is incredibly effective and bittersweet.

I think that what I found most effective about this story is that it has a powerful message, but it is wrapped in a family memoir. I was expecting far more about the fall of South Vietnam, and the journey out under cloak of darkness. But while that certainly does play a part, it’s really a story about a family, and how having to move from one life to another, whole new life in a whole new place caused damage that never quite repaired. Trauma, war, and displacement isn’t something that is forgotten just because you move to a new place and start a new life, and sometimes adapting to that new life can be a challenge in and of itself.

The art in this book is absolutely gorgeous. It is fairly simple at first glance, but images pop out and really take the reader’s gaze into them. I loved the colors and I loved how detailed it was, even though it looks like it’s fairly straight forward.

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I really cannot recommend “The Best We Could Do” enough. In a time where I think empathy and understanding are sorely needed when it comes to trying to understand the refugee experience, Thi Bui’s memoir will engage readers and show them how much is lost and how much is sacrificed just to stay alive. This is an incredibly important book.

Rating 9: A personal and powerful memoir with gorgeous illustrations, “The Best We Could Do” is an important book with a relevant message to the issues of immigration and the refugee crisis we are seeing today.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Best We Could Do” is included on the following Goodreads lists: “Required Reading: Graphic Novels”, and “Vietnamese-American Novels and Memoirs”.

Find “The Best We Could Do” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Survivors’ Club”

29429582Book: “Survivors’ Club” by Lauren Beukes, Dale Halverson, Ryan Kelly (Ill.), and Inaki Miranda (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Vertigo, September 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: One was possessed by a poltergeist. Another was trapped in a haunted house. A third had a killer doll. Ever wonder what happened to these children of the 1980s? Find out in Survivors’ Club, a new series co-written by renowned horror novelist Lauren Beukes and award-winning cover designer and illustrator Dale Halverson, with art by Ryan Kelly (Northlanders).
Having found each other over the internet, six grown-up survivors are drawn together by the horrors they experienced in 1987 when a rash of occult events occurred around the world–with fatal results. Now, there are indications that it may be happening all over again. Is it possible that these six aren’t just survivors–but were chosen for their fates?

Review: The 1980s were a very solid time for the horror movie genre. I mean, you had the release of “Friday the 13th”, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “Poltergeist”, “The Shining”, “The Evil Dead” (1 and 2!), and “The Thing”. That’s just to name a few. There were many, many more. It comes as a surprise to no one that I am a HUGE horror movie buff, and I have a special place in my heart for a lot of the films from that era. I am also a fan of the book “The Shining Girls” by Lauren Beukes, the story of a time traveling serial killer who targets women with special gifts. So when I heard that she has helped write a comic series that plays homage to the horror tropes of 1980s scary movies? Well….

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(source)

I do think that for the most part, Beukes and Halverson do a good job of deconstructing and dissecting some of the best tropes from horror movies. The haunted house, the evil doll, the vengeance ghost, all of these are pretty well word territory these days. But it’s hard to deny that in a lot of these movies we are there more for the monster, and less for the victims of the monster. “Survivors’ Club” makes us focus on the victims, and how these traumatic events can irreversibly mess up their and change their lives. Deconstructing the horror genre has kind of become a popular past time in pop culture as of late, with movies such as “Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon”, “The Final Girls”, and “Tucker and Dale VS Evil” taking apart the tropes and making them into something funny as well as sinister. But while “Survivors’ Club” does do that to an extent, it is far darker and quite a bit less tongue in cheek about it. It definitely asksthe questions about the actual consequences of such things, and while it was assuredly enjoyable and a cool take on it, damn was it bleak at times.

Beukes has always done a good job of creating characters that have many sides and facets, with three dimensions and flaws and strengths. My favorites in this story were Chenzira, Kiri, and Simon. Chenzira grew up as a black girl in Apartheid Era South Africa, whose activist mother was murdered for her politics. In 1987, Chenzira was playing a video game at a local arcade that eventually became malevolent and nearly destroyed everything around it. Chenzira is haunted by this incident, but is also constantly followed by the spectre of her mother. Kiri is a process server who grew up in Japan. While in school her best friend was brutally murdered…. an that is where Auntie comes in. Auntie is the vengeance ghost that has been following Kiri ever since, and Kiri feeds bad people to. She is scared of Auntie, but can’t bear to part with her. And then there’s Simon, by far the most interesting character to me. When he was a boy he lived in a famous haunted house, and he has been cruising on that fame for years, especially since he was possessed inside that house…. But there are questions as to how much of that is true. Simon is the most outwardly brash and arrogant, but he also shows the most vulnerability when it comes to his insecurities and his own personal, non demonic demons. I liked seeing the real world relevance, the interest in a monster’s humanity, and the empathy shown towards damaged souls.

However, I was disappointed by a few things in this story. The first is that while we do have some very well rounded characters, others were not as well thought out. I think the one that I was most disappointed in was Alice, the prototypical British “Bad Seed” kind of character who has a killer doll doppelgänger. She didn’t really do much in terms of growth or character development, and as one of the characters who is supposed to be more ‘grey’ in terms of her morality, I didn’t find her very interesting or intriguing, and was most frustrated with her out of all of the Survivors’ Club. I also had a hard time with how it all wrapped up. I should preface this, though: originally this comic was supposed to have twentysome issues, enough to draw out a pretty complex and fulfilling story while remaining a limited series. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after only nine issues. So I would imagine that this meant, if they were given warning, that they needed wrap things up pretty quickly. And because of this, the story ends not only with some unresolved hints of a future plotline that never came to fruition, but also a quick and haphazard end that just left me feeling a bit hollow. While I don’t think there are any plans as of now for this series to be revisited, I hope that eventually something like that comes to fruition. Because as it stands now, “Survivors’ Club” is glaring in what pieces it’s missing, and how much story is left to be told.

The artwork in this book is perfect for the story at hand. The colors are both vibrant and evocative, but can also be muted and shadowy when the tone calls for it. And the detail put into the various villainous beings, especially the vengeful Auntie, is completely stunning and eye catching.

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Forgive the blatant picture from a comic. The page is creasing, I know… (source: vertigo comics)

I’m pleased I was finally able to get my hands on “Survivors’ Club”. While it didn’t quite live up to all my expectations, it was still a ball to read. Fans of 1980s horror really need to do themselves a favor and check this comic out. Though it’s sort of incomplete, it’s still a hoot and a pretty freaky read.

Rating 7: A pretty unique and fun story for horror movie fans, but it is wrapped up far too quickly and haphazardly.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Survivors’ Club” isn’t on any Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “Best Retro YA Horror Books”, and “Slasher Horror” (given the time period their torments happened).

Find “Survivors’ Club” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (Vol.1): BFF”

27415869Book: “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (Vol.1): BFF” by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare (Ill.), and Natacha Bustos (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Marvel Comics, July 2016

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: LUNELLA LAFAYETTE IS AN INHUMAN PRETEEN GENIUS WHO WANTS TO CHANGE THE WORLD!

That job would be a lot easier if she wasn’t living in mortal fear of her latent Inhuman gene. There’s no telling what she’ll turn into – but Luna’s got a plan. All she needs is an Omni-Wave Projector. Easy, right? That is, until a red-scaled beast is teleported from the prehistoric past to a far-flung future we call…today! Together they’re the most Marvelous Team-Up of all – the Inhuman Moon Girl and time-tossed Devil Dinosaur! But will they be BFFs forever, or just until DD’s dinner time? And Lunella soon learns that there are other problems with a having a titanic T. Rex as a pet in the modern-day Marvel Universe. School, for one. Monster hunters are another – especially when they’re the Totally Awesome Hulk! Then there’s the fact that everyone’s favorite dino didn’t journey through time alone. Beware the prehistoric savages known as the Killer-Folk – New York City’s deadliest tourists! Can Lunella handle all this turmoil… and keep herself from transforming into an Inhuman monster?

Review: So it’s been since, oh, last July since I’ve picked up and reviewed a Marvel Comic collection, which means I’m probably about due to do so. As you all know, Marvel isn’t really my scene, though I don’t begrudge people who like it (sure wish that some people would extend me the same courtesy when I say I’m a DC Fan, but oh well, no matter…). But I do have to say that I applaud Marvel in it’s quest to be more inclusive in it’s stories, even if a number of those stories don’t quite gel with me. However, I couldn’t pass up “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur” when I laid my eyes on it at work recently. I had heard of it in passing, but kind of forgot about it… Until “Vol 2” was on our new Teen display. I of course had to grab “Vol.1” in that moment. Because hey, a story about a genius, African American little girl who teams up with a friggin’ DINOSAUR has got to be something special!!

And for the most part it was! It’s a pretty genius idea to take an old title like “Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur” and reframe it in a way that can introduce a new character like Lunella, a character that adds a new and needed perspective and representation. Lunella is clever and precocious, and while sometimes it teeters towards a little on the twee side she is supremely charming and very three dimensional. It was refreshing to see a character who doesn’t strive to be special when it comes to supernatural super powers, and in fact shies away from them. Lunella knows that she has the potential to transform into something inhuman because of her genetics should the Terrigen Cloud (that has transformed others) come in contact with her. And unlike some of those others, she does not want that, so she is trying her best to stop it. So I liked that she is super great and smart and clever, and in this story that’s considered enough for the reader to look up to. Which isn’t to say she doesn’t have her troubles. She is isolated from her peers, isn’t stimulated enough at school, and has frustrations that no one takes her seriously because she’s a little girl, even though she is quite possibly the most intelligent character in the Marvel Universe. So seeing her try and prove herself was one of the main cruxes of this story, and definitely had a lot of emotion to it.

And then there’s Devil Dinosaur, a character from Marvel’s past that makes a ROARING COMEBACK. GET IT? In spite of the fact that this guy is an honest to God dinosaur, and has no spoken dialogue outside of noises, the illustrators did a really good job of portraying exactly what he’s feeling in any given moment through his facial expressions and body language. I LOVE me some dinosaurs, and Devil Dinosaur is absolutely delightful, and surprisingly nuanced as well. Well, sometimes. One of the appeals of this book was seeing a cute little girl interact with a giant theropod, and seeing them build a genuine affection for each other. While I think there’s still some room to grow for them in their friendship (boy is Lunetta impatient with him much of the time), you can tell it’s the start of something that is going to be very adorable and filled with a lot of heart.

Not totally certain about how I felt about The Hulk (I guess the Amadeus Cho version? I didn’t know, I had to do some research) showing up and beating up on Devil Dinosaur, even if it was to further the plot along. I know that Marvel really likes to keep their characters integrated and constantly making appearances in each others stories as of late, but that doesn’t sit well with me. I’m not here for the nods to other characters in the Marvel franchise, and hey, maybe I’ve figured out one of my problems with Marvel in this moment as I type this out. Bottom line, let Lunella and Devil Dinosaur shine on their own!

The art is also pretty cute, as the colors jump off the page and both Lunella and Devil Dinosaur are totally adorable.

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BFF carved in a tree! (source)

So I’m fairly certain that I will probably keep going in this series, because it’s pretty adorable and a fun read. And it ends on something of a cliffhanger for Lunella and Devil Dinosaur. Enough so that I want to know what happens next. Lunella and Devil Dinosaur have charmed me completely! I just hope that the next one doesn’t have any pesky cameos.

Rating 7: A pretty cute comic series that brings back an old cult favorite and introduces a cute and compelling new character. But the Marvel habit of cameos does not work for me.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (Vol.1): BFF” is included on the Goodreads lists “Ladies of Marvel”, and “Kickass Women in Superhero Comics”.

Find “Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (Vol.1): BFF” at your library using WorldCat!