Kate’s Review: “DC Bombshells (Vol.5): The Death of Illusion”

34690764Book: “DC Bombshells (Vol.5): The Death of Illusion” by Marguerite Bennett, Marguerite Sauvage (Ill.), Laura Braga (Ill.), Mirka Andolfo (Ill.).

Publishing Info: DC Comics, October 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 Bombshells battle new enemies showing up out of the woodwork… and a Bombshell we haven’t seen since the Battle of Berlin shows up to help!
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. 5. Collects #26-29 and the DC COMICS: BOMBSHELLS ANNUAL #1.

Review: Ever since I discovered the “DC Bombshells” series, I’ve kind of been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Far too often do I find a comic series that I love, and inevitably have to have that moment of ‘oh, that was kind of lame’. It happens for most series and it’s by no means a bad thing! Sometimes there will be volumes that feel out of step with the others, and I’ve come to expect it and by no means hold it against the series as a whole. But for five volumes running, “DC Bombshells” hasn’t lost it’s step or it’s groove, and now we are at “The Death of Illusion” and I am STILL thrilled with almost everything about it as a whole.

We are now at the point where we can’t cover all of the characters in each volume, as there are too many and the cast is ever expanding. So while Batwoman, Wonder Woman, Renee Montoya, and the Gotham Batgirls sat this one out for the most part (more on that in a bit), we refocussed on a few familiar faces who had been away, some for a long time. Most importantly to me, we see the returns of Ivy and Harley, who are now an established lesbian power couple and leaving Atlantis to try and stop a famine in Russia, as Ivy plans to grow food for them. I already have to gush and geek out about this. I LOVE that in these stories, there is just as much creation as there is destruction. The women in this series are not only fighting to save the world, they are also trying to nurture the world back to life. It’s lovely and positive and a testament to the power of ladyfriends! With this plot line we get to see the less talked about ravages of war, specifically the starvation in Leningrad.

We also get the return of Supergirl, which was both excellent and bittersweet. Kara is still very much in mourning over her sister Stargirl, and she and Steve Trevor find themselves in the clutches of Doctor Hugo Strange. Supergirl teams up with Lois Lane, who has her own reasons for wanting to take revenge on Strange, and they both have to face their pasts and those that they are mourning if they hope to defeat this madman who has violated them both in various ways. I liked that Kara’s trauma regarding Kortni dying is still very present, as it shows that she is very much human as well as Kryptonian. With war comes loss and with loss comes grief, and I love that Bennett is showing that these costs take great tolls, even on the strongest of us all. And along with this plotline comes the first of the two debuts that made me freak out. I don’t really want to spoil it here, because it was a gasp worthy reveal, but…… OKAY FINE,

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(source)

SUPERMAN IS HERE, GUYS!! SUPERMAN IS HERE!!! But worry not, because while he has made his debut, much like Arthur Curry he does not step on any toes while doing so. While I’m sure it’s tempting to make him the focus, as he is, after all, the iconic Superman, this is still very much more Kara’s story than his, and he is staying in his lane as of right now.

Our universe expands again in this volume, as we go back to see Amanda Waller, who is one of the leaders of the Bombshells. She is tracking down a reclusive figure, a French woman who was a flying ace during WWI, but then disappeared into the swamps of Louisiana after her lover Luc vanished and was presumed dead. She hires Frankie Charles to go and find this strange woman. And who, is this strange woman?

Guys. Batgirl has arrived.

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I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR THIS MOMENT!! (source)

And not only is she here, but her storyline opens up a whole new set of possibilities involving her, Waller, Frankie, and The Suicide Squad. That’s right, WE ARE GETTING THE SUICIDE SQUAD!!!!!! I was admittedly hoping a bit for Secret Six (if Scandal Savage ended up in these pages I would absolutely DIE), but this is also excellent.

So yes, the shoe has not dropped yet and “DC Bombshells (Vol.5): The Death Illusion” has only upped the stakes when it comes to this series. It’s flying so high, and while I’m still terrified that it’s going to come crashing down, it has yet to do so. It oozes positivity and girl power, and it continues to be one of the most empowering and fun comics out there.

Rating 9: With the returns of Supergirl, Ivy, and Harley, along with the debuts of some familiar faces, “DC Bombshells (Vol.5): The Death of Illusion” continues the streak of excellence.

Reader’s Advisory:

“DC Bombshells (Vol.5): The Death of Illusion” is fairly newish and isn’t on many Goodreads lists as of yet, but I think that it would be good on “Graphic Novels Featuring LGBTQ Themes”, and “Girls Read Comics”.

Find “DC Bombshells (Vol.5): The Death of Illusion” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously reviewed:

Kate’s Review: “Outcast (Vol.4): Under Devil’s Wing”

31808199Book: “Outcast (Vol.4): Under Devil’s Wing” by Robert Kirkman & Paul Azaceta (Ill.)

Publishing Info: Image Comics, Februaru 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Answers are given and secrets are revealed as Kyle Barnes and Sidney have a conversation that will change EVERYTHING. Kyle has never been in more danger. 
THE WALKING DEAD creator ROBERT KIRKMAN’S latest horror hit is now a Cinemax TV show. Collects OUTCAST BY KIRKMAN & AZACETA #19-24.

Review: It’s been awhile since I picked up the “Outcast” series. Almost exactly a year, as a matter of fact, and though it was awhile from the past volume I had high hopes that I would easily fall back into it. Especially since I had overall really quite enjoyed the previous collections, and like the variety and creativity that Kirkman has brought to what could have been a typical possession story. So after reminding myself where we left off in the last volume, I came back to Kyle, Anderson, and Sidney ready for more. But unfortunately, the bloom has kind of come off the rose for me when it comes to “Outcast”.

I am fully willing to admit that perhaps I let too much time pass between readings. A year is a very long time to leave a storyline hanging, especially one that moves at a slow and meticulous pace such as this one. But as I was reading through with the promise of ‘answers given’ and ‘secrets revealed’, I felt like I was once again just kind of waiting for an explanation that didn’t really come to fruition. One of the biggest complaints that people seem to have with this comic is the steadily parsed out pace that it takes, and up until now that hadn’t really bothered me. But I think that when it does move slow like this, you really do need to start giving people more to keep coming back for, be it answers, or explanations. We’re getting a lot more questions thrown at us instead. And implications of a conspiracy that seems to be far more in depth than we as readers could have ever imagined, but I was more frustrated by this revelation than compelled by it.

I will say that I did enjoy getting background on Sidney, our resident ‘demon’ and main antagonist. By getting this background, we did get a little insight into who these possessions can affect their hosts, sometimes in more positive ways than we may think. Sidney is by no means a good person, but we find out that before he started housing his ‘companion’ he was leading a very violent and destructive life. Once he was ‘possessed’ (if one can even call it that. We’re definitely moving away from Biblical thoughts of demonic possession), some of those more violent urges were, according to him, quelled. It definitely twists the thought that demonic possessions can only make a person worse; and it definitely makes the readers start to wonder just what is going on, and what kind of role ‘outcasts’ play in this world. There is a particular scene between him and Anderson that might be a hint as to what exactly Kyle is dealing with here, but it’s still wrapped in vagueness and secrecy.

The other significant storyline in this was that now Amber, Kyle’s daughter, may be in some sort of danger from the group that Sidney has formed. Now that we are past the ‘Kyle tried to kill her’ storyline, as Allison knows the truth of all that, I’m hoping that we’ll get a bit more from Kyle’s daughter, and that perhaps there are some shared abilities between him and her. I still contend that this series needs to give the women a bit more to do, so if we could give Amber and Allison more than just be held on a pedestal for Kyle to worry about, that would be great.

Also, not enough Megan and Mark. I wanted more than just a few pages of them, as I sitll find them to be some of the more compelling characters in this series.

My plan for “Outcast” going forward is to pick up the next volume ASAP and see if it can jumpstart my interest. As of now, I could see myself letting it fall to the wayside again because of how slow it continues to move, but my hope is that given where some things ended up in this volume, the next one will have some major moments in it.

Rating 5: I feel like my interest in this series is waning. We are still being tantalized with the promise of explanations, and yet have little to show for it. While it was cool seeing a Sidney centered arc, I’m losing patience in how slow this slow burn is.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Outcast (Vol.4): Under Devil’s Wing” is not on many relevant Goodreads lists, but I think that it would fit in on “Angels and Demons”, and “Cancel Your Plans… Hellz a Poppin’!”

Find “Outcast (Vol.4): Under Devil’s Wing” at your library using WorldCat!

Previously Reviewed:

 

Kate’s Review: “The Tea Dragon Society”

34895950Book: “The Tea Dragon Society” by Kate O’Neill

Publishing Info: Oni Press, October 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons. 

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

Review: Now see here, I may be the resident horror/thriller/true crime/all things macabre blogger, but I, too, am sometimes in need of a break from those things. While I do love me all the dark, dank, and creepy of the world, every once in awhile I yearn for a serious palate cleanser to take me down from a self made anxiety tower where I find myself perched all too often. So while at the desk at work the other day, my dear friend Tami (who is also the children’s librarian at my library) handed me this book and said “You are going to love this.” Boy oh boy, was she right, and was “The Tea Dragon Society” everything I needed in that moment!!! Hell, the cover alone gave me a vocal and physical reaction the moment I saw it.

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Specifically this with a loud “AWWWWWW!!!” (source)

“The Tea Dragon Society” is a calming and quiet graphic novel for kids, though I would argue that it’s suitable for all ages of youth AND adult as well. It takes place in an unspecified fantasy world, where there are dragons and goblins and animal creatures, and while none of it is really explained in depth, it really doesn’t have to be. This is just the world the story takes place in and it needs to explanation. We follow Greta, the daughter of a blacksmith who finds that her passion in life may actually be centered on Tea Dragon rearing. Tea dragons are dragons who grow tea leaves on their horns. Different kinds of dragons produce different kinds of tea. From Jasmine Dragons to Rooibos Dragons to Ginger Dragons, these creatures need love and attention to make the best leaves. IS THIS NOT THE CUTEST THING YOU’VE EVER HEARD? Maybe I’m biased, as I love love LOVE dragons, but the creativity and the gentle sweetness of it just hits me right in the feels.

And let’s talk about those who blacksmith and those who raise tea dragons, and what that means for gender roles in this world. Right off the bat we are introduced to Greta’s mother, who is teaching Greta how to blacksmith. Greta’s mother is implied to be one of the best blacksmiths around, and it is Greta’s father who is the artist within the family. It was so refreshing to see a mother teaching her daughter a craft that is often associated with masculinity, and teaching her the family business. While Greta has some reservations about blacksmithing and her personal devotion to it, it’s never because of her gender. Along with that, the people who raise the tea dragons are two men, Hesekiel and Erik (though Heseikiel is some kind of animalesque being, kind of looking like a llama?). Erik used to be an adventurer, but after an accident those days are behind him. However, he is never shown as being weakened or at a disadvantage because he lost this previous life. On the contrary, he’s settled into a new life of dragon rearing and gardening as well as maintaining the home that he and his partner Hesekiel share.

We also get some really good diversity in this book, as Greta and her family are darker skinned, as is Erik. Along with that, Erik is in a wheelchair because of an accident in his past. As mentioned before, Erik and Hesekiel are romantic as well as business partners, and their relationship is so lovely and shows years of devotion and caring. Minette, Erik and Hesekiel’s ward, is also representative of a different ability set, and while I don’t really want to spoil it here, I will say that she also shows that with these inherent disadvantages she can still do what she loves. In the picture of the previous Tea Dragon Society there was also diversity, showing that just about anyone could take on this life and be successful at it. While I do think that explicit discussions of why diversity matters, and being explicit about these differences in these stories are important, I also like seeing normalized diversity such as in this world. Especially since fantasy and sci-fi does have a diversity problem within the stories that are told. This goes to show that it can be done and that it should be done.

And yes, we need to talk about the dragons. Because holy crap are they just the cutest things ever.

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OMG!!!! (source)
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SCREEEEECH! (source)

There are so many designs for these different kinds of dragons, and O’Neill made it so that they do kind of represent the various teas that their horns produce. The Chamomile Dragon (the yellow one above) always looks a little relaxed and sleepy. The Rooibos Dragon (the red one above) looks spiky and rambunctious. The Earl Grey Dragon looks dignified and regal. And so on. To make these dragons so varied and yet still similar amongst themselves is such a great design, and it goes to show that dragons don’t always have to be big and daunting and fearsome. Though hey, I’m never going to complain about those kinds of dragons either.

“The Tea Dragon Society” was the right bit of fluff I needed in my life to give me an overdose on cuteness while building a lovely fantasy world. I can’t recommend it enough to not only children and parents, but also to people who like fantasy. Or those like me who really just need a relaxing read once in awhile. While O’Neill says that the story has concluded, I would be so pleased if someday she decides to revisit these characters and the lovely world that they live within.

Rating 9: TOO CUTE FOR WORDS!!!!! Along with that, we have a diverse cast of characters and an interesting examination of gender norms.

Reader’s Advisory

“The Tea Dragon Society” is on the Goodreads lists “Comics & Graphic Novels by Women”, and “2017 YA Books with LGBT Themes” (though this book is definitely appropriate for all ages).

Find “The Tea Dragon Society” at your library using WorldCat!

Here is the website for the original webcomic for “The Tea Dragon Society”.

Kate’s Review: “Batwoman (Vol.1): The Many Arms of Death”

34657854Book: “Batwoman (Vol.1): The Many Arms of Death” by Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, Steve Epting (Ill.), Ben Oliver (Ill.)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, November 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

Book Description: Batwoman returns with her own series in BATWOMAN VOL. 1, as a part of DC Rebirth!

The newest chapter of Batwoman’s life begins here! Monster Venom is the hottest new bioweapon on the market…and to break up the syndicate spreading it around the world, Batwoman’s going to have to return to the place where she spent some of her darkest hours! 

With writing from Marguerite Bennett (DC BOMBSHELLS) and James Tynion IV (DETECTIVE COMICS), as well as spectacular art from Steve Epting (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER) and Ben Oliver (THE MULTIVERSITY), this new series spins directly out of the smash hit DETECTIVE COMICS series! 

BATWOMAN VOL. 1 collects issues #1-6 and the one-shot special BATWOMAN: REBIRTH #1.

Review: I want to extend a special thank you to DC Comics and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of this book!

This should have been a slam dunk on paper, guys. When I read that DC’s “Rebirth” series was going to jump start Batwoman (after cancelling her during the “New 52” run), I was happy. When I found out that it was going to be written by Marguerite Bennett of “DC Bombshells” fame, I was ELATED!! Not only do I love the “DC Bombshells” series, as you all know, I really love what has been done with Batwoman/Kate Kane within it. Kate Kane is a super great and super important superhero, as she is tough as nails and also an out and proud lesbian, and seeing her get a series again is great. I love Kate Kane and I love that she is getting page time.

But sadly, I don’t love how her story has picked up in “Rebirth”. In fact, I was pretty underwhelmed by it. AND I DO NOT UNDERSTAND IT BECAUSE IT IS BATWOMAN AND IT IS MARGUERITE BENNETT!

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Help me understand. (source)

I think that my mistake was thinking that since Bennett was taking the lead that it would have a similar tone to “Bombshells”. It decidedly does not. In fact, this is some pretty dark and gritty stuff going on on these pages. I’m vaguely resentful because I gave up on “Batwoman” during her “New 52” run because it was so bleak, dark, and scattered, and I hoped that it would bring focus back to Kate, Bette, and Maggie Sawyer. But, alas, Bette and Maggie are mentioned only in passing, and Kate is on the hunt for traffickers of Monster Venom, which has spiked in usage and is causing a lot of trouble. The group is called the Many Arms of Death, and Kate is on the case! This, however, brings us to a spike in Kate’s own past, as she returns to an island that she spent some time on with Safiyah, the leader of a rowdy band of outlaws, during her search. Safiyah and Kate were lovers during Kate’s stint (captivity?) on this island, and now Safiyah has disappeared… Though some old faces remain, and are determined to cause trouble for Kate, just as a looming corporation has plans for the island. I mean, fine, okay, but I kind of liked it when Batwoman was doing her own thing in Gotham, and wasn’t being told what to do by Bruce Wayne. International drug traffickers and corrupt executives doesn’t really get my goat in my comics, and I couldn’t really bring myself to get invested in this entire storyline. I did like seeing Julia Pennyworth, Alfred’s daughter, acting as Batwoman’s sidekick. She provides some very fun humor and snark to go along with the brooding angst that Kate brings us (there’s a rather funny joke she has regarding ‘creepy twin bingo’ and a square that says ‘weird incest vibes’). But it was a small solace in a storyline that just had me more bored than anything else.

AND THEN, after we got through that bit (for now) and finally made our way BACK to Gotham, we jumped ahead to some kind of strange dystopian future where Batwoman is helping fight against some new, corrupt Batman (who is not Bruce Wayne). I’m sure that this will all play out and make sense as time goes on, but I’m not so sure that I’m at all interested in THAT kind of storyline either.

I do want to reiterate that I love Kate Kane. I love that she has been changed from an inept and shallow love interest to Batman to a strong, driven warrior in her own right. I also like seeing her woo and court and kiss and flirt with so many ladies, as that’s the perfect mirror to the original ‘Bruce Wayne As Playboy’ trope that she initially was written to fall for back in the day. I want to love these new stories for her because I want Batwoman to succeed and live up to her awesomeness. But the way it’s happening here outside of “Bombshells” just isn’t meeting the wants and needs I have for an entertaining comic, and I’m very sad about that.

I should mention, however, that some of the art in this is absolutely beautiful. Stephanie Hans did this issue in the collection, and I just love the dreamlike quality to it.

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I’m sorry to say that the new “Batwoman” arc in “Rebirth” just may not be for me. I have some time before the next trade comes out to ruminate on whether or not I’m going to continue, but as of right now I may just need to stick with “DC Bombshells” for my Kate Kane fix. I wish her all the best and all the success that she deserves, though.

Rating 4: Though I love that Kate Kane/Batwoman is back in the “Rebirth” run for DC, the ever gritty and dark tone to her new series is just not doing it for me.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Batwoman (Vol.1): The Many Arms of Death” is on the Goodreads lists “Queen Women Kicking Butt”, and “If You Like Agent Carter Try…”.

Find “Batwoman (Vol.1): The Many Arms of Death” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Vol.1)”

29069374Book: “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Vol.1)” by Emil Ferris

Publishing Info: Fantagraphics, February 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: Set against the tumultuous political backdrop of late ’60s Chicago, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the fictional graphic diary of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, filled with B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines iconography. Karen Reyes tries to solve the murder of her enigmatic upstairs neighbor, Anka Silverberg, a holocaust survivor, while the interconnected stories of those around her unfold. When Karen’s investigation takes us back to Anka’s life in Nazi Germany, the reader discovers how the personal, the political, the past, and the present converge. Full-color illustrations throughout.

Review: I remember the moment that I first laid eyes on the book “My Favorite Thing is Monsters (Vol.1)”. I was unloading boxes of new books at work, and I literally gasped when I saw it. I mean, my GOD. Just look at this cover. THAT IS ALL BALLPOINT PEN, GUYS. And plus, it has ‘monsters’ in the title. My boss said she was surprised that the request wasn’t for me, and I admitted that I hadn’t even heard of it. So I said that I was going to request it…. And then I didn’t. It entered in and out of my mind for the next few months, until I was at a staff training and it was on the shelf. So… I grabbed it. I wish that I had grabbed it sooner. Because “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters” was just amazing.

I mean, I just need to talk about the art. Like I said, this is all done in pen, and it just pops off the page. It’s seriously astounding. The detail and the coloring, as I kept turning page after page in this book I just kept saying ‘wow’ as I would see a new image that took my breath away. Ferris really dives into her artwork, and the painstaking detail is so evident up close, while seeming to be a la Robert Crumb from a further distance. It’s a style that I really enjoy, and while it seems to be a little surrealistic in some ways, in other ways it was so human and so real. There are images of people, images of monsters, and images of urban landscapes that all take their own lives through her style. She also draws classic artwork through this lens, when Karen and her brother Deeze go to the art museum in Chicago, and seeing these works recreated in this style was also incredible. I loved the use of colors as well, as sometimes she would draw characters certain shades to describe different feelings. The premise is that these are the drawings of our ten year old narrator within her lined journal, and even that is consistent and well laid out.

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I mean, it’s just gorgeous, right? (source)

The story itself if both a charming and bittersweet coming of age story, and a gut punch and tense mystery. Karen, or narrator, is a ten year old girl who is quite precocious in a lot of ways, and fancies herself as a Wolfman-esque monster who takes on the role of detective. I gotta say, the images of this little Wolf-creature in a trench coat is precious and funny, Seeing her try to piece together the possible murder of her upstairs neighbor, Anka, is classic bildungsroman in it’s premise, but in it’s execution it feels fresh. Karen is delightful, as her imagination sparks on the pages and her personality shines as she starts to learn more about those around her and learn more about herself. You also get to see late 1960s Chicago and all of it’s political turmoil through her eyes, which gives it a unique, and even more heart wrenching, perspective (I’m thinking of one specific scene where she is very nearly sexually assaulted by some bullies in her neighborhood, and she just writes about it matter of factly and as if it’s just something that could happen, but didn’t, so life goes on. It’s rough.). Karen loves monsters, and is starting to learn that monsters are very real, but not in the way that she would like them to be. We hear of an see violence and racism around her, and we see her reaction (and the reaction of her friend Franklin, an African American boy) to the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. Her family life isn’t easy by any means, as Dad is out of the picture, her older brother Deeze is loving but reckless, and their mother is kind and gentle but has some problems Karen isn’t quite privy to, though the reader is. We also see the struggles of being a lower class family of multiracial descent, as the fact that Karen and her brother Deeze are part Latino and part Native is thrown at them by the white people around them from time to time. Struggles and all, I loved this family, and it’s tenuousness made me love them even more, and ache for them as well.

The mystery of Anka’s death is one of the main themes of this book, and we see some of her own childhood mirrored in Karen’s through diary entries. Anka came of age in Weimar Germany, and as a young woman was taken to a concentration camp because she was Jewish. This story is another example of monsters in this world, and the rumors of a potential Nazi in town is one of the threads in the mystery that Karen is hoping to solve. But to tell you the truth, even though this mystery is ongoing (as there is another volume of this coming out next summer!), I’m more interested in the journey getting there and Karen learning things about Anka and the world around her then actually finding out who killed her.

There is one storyline that I’m not quite feeling as of right now, and that involves Karen and her friend Sandy, a malnourished little girl who may actually be a ghost. But hey, I suppose in a book about monsters it doesn’t hurt to have something of the supernatural there to shake things up.

Rating 9: A sumptuous and beautiful book with a gripping mystery, “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Vol.1)” is a great book and a huge achievement. The art is gorgeous, the story is bittersweet and haunting, and I can’t wait for the next book to come out.

Reader’s Advisory:

“My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Vol.1)” is included on the Goodreads lists “Best Comic Books and Graphic Novels of 2017”, and “NPR’s 100 Favorite Graphic Novels and Comics”.

Find “My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Vol.1)” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “New Super-man: Made in China”

33232743Book: “New Super-man (Vol.1): Made in China” by Gene Luen Yang, Viktor Bogdanovich (Ill.)

Publishing Info: DC Comics, June 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: #1 New York Times best-selling author and National Book Award nominee Gene Luen Yang continues his work at DC with New Super-Man, Volume 1, a part of DC Universe: Rebirth!

An impulsive act of heroism thrusts an arrogant young man into the limelight of Shanghai as China begins to form its own Justice League of powerful heroes. As the government creates their own Superman, will they live to regret the person they’ve chosen? Rising from the ashes of Superman: The Final Days of Superman and the death of the Man of Steel, will this New Super-Man step up to the challenge, or be crushed under the weight of his hubris and inexperience? 

Award-winning writer Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Superman) and on-the-rise art star Viktor Bogdanovic (Batman: Arkham Knight) introduce readers to Kong Kenan, an all-new superhero who could change the world…or be the end of it, in New Super-Man, Volume 1.

Review: For those of you keeping track, one of the best moments that I had at the ALA Annual Conference this year was getting to hear Gene Luen Yang speak about his career and his “Reading Without Walls” Initiative. Yang has written some of the best graphic novels I’ve read, and I was thrilled to hear that he not only really likes Superman, but writes Superman stories for DC. He focuses on the idea of Superman as an immigrant, and when he was writing Superman stories before this new endeavor the question of identity was a huge theme in those arcs. But now with Rebirth, Yang is doing something different: He’s writing a new Superman story, with whole new characters. Was I skeptical? I mean, kinda? After all, isn’t Clark Kent Superman? But I also knew that Yang is super awesome, so skepticism aside, I was all over getting my Superman loving mitts all over it.

One of the things that “New Super-Man” does right is the origin story. Instead of giving Clark Kent a completely new origin, or getting rid of Kent to make room for a new person to take over the Superman mantle, Yang goes in another direction. Kong Kenan is a regular teenage boy in Shanghai, China whose random and out of character act of heroism gets the attention of Dr. Omen, a scientist for the Chinese Government. China has decided that it wants to have a group of superheroes not unlike America’s Justice League, and Kenan is recruited to be Super-Man. One super science experiment later, and he is given super human powers. Sometimes I have a hard time swallowing it when old secret identities are swept aside for new ones, but when they’re done right I think they can be great. Yang does it so right. It not only avoids a new character being shoe horned into a role that’s already been well defined, but it also gives the familiar role, i.e. Superman, a new mythology that is more about expanding mythos instead of changing it.

Kong Kenan himself is a very complex and interesting character. When we think of Superman we tend to think of earnest and loyal and dutiful Clark Kent, an all American hero and Boy Scout. With Kenan, well, it’s a little different. He’s not a bad person at all, but he is definitely flawed. He’s kind of a bully, as we meet him bullying a classmate (whose father is the CEO of an airline, the airline that Kenan’s Mom was on when her plane went down), and then acting like a bravado filled narcissist for the TV cameras. But he is also desperate to impress his father, who is an outspoken critic of the Chinese Government who has been emotionally shut off ever since his wife died. It isn’t exactly the environment of Ma and Pa Kent, but it does give Kenan some difficult emotional issues to work through. His Super-Man powers are freeing for him, which is kind of a fascinating dichotomy when compared to Clark, who has always had an underlying sense of Otherness because of them. But I also really liked that we didn’t just get Super-Man, but we also get Bat-Man and Wonder-Woman, as China wants their powers too. Wang Baixi is a chubby tech nerd who has taken on the Bat-Man cowl, and I love his dry with and quiet seriousness. But Wonder-Woman is the most fascinating, as Peng Deilan is very determined and willing to call Kenan out on his nonsense as well as being a moral center in a lot of ways. She feels like the true leader of the team, and I want more more MORE of her in later issues. And yes, there is a Lois Lane equivalent, which is definitely important! Her name is Laney Lan, and she’s very adorable. And it’s refreshing that she actually doesn’t seem to hold any torch for Super-Man, at least not yet. Don’t get me wrong, they should probably absolutely be together, but she’s very focused on getting the story and not the superhero.

I also greatly enjoy the art in this series. I’m so used to Yang’s own artwork, but it wouldn’t really fit for the superhero/DC aesthetic. Viktor Bogdanovich’s artwork definitely feels more comic book-y, and I love the vibrant splashes of color and the vibrancy. I love the greens and reds and blues, and love how the characters tread the line of realism and pure comic pop.

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I am so excited to see where Yang takes his characters in this take on Superman! I knew that I didn’t have to worry, but it’s still great knowing that he’s really doing the original story all the justice in deserves.

Rating 8: An action packed and fun filled ride, “New Super-Man (Vol.1): Made in China” is a creative and splendid new take on the Superman story.

Reader’s Advisory:

“New Super-Man (Vol.1): Made in China” isn’t on any relevant Goodreads lists at the moment. But I think that it would fit in on “Diverse Heroes in Comics/Graphic Novels”, and “Comic Creators of Color”.

Find “New Super-man (Vol.1): Made in China” at your library using WorldCat!

Kate’s Review: “The Lost Boys (Vol.1)”

33252331Book: “The Lost Boys (Vol.1)” by Tim Seeley, Scott Godlewski

Publishing Info: Vertigo, August 2017

Where Did I Get This Book: The library!

Book Description: In this follow-up to the 1987 cult classic film, horror masters Tim Seeley and Scott Godlewski wade into the bloody, badass world of California vampires for an all-new tale of thrills, chills, and good old-fashioned heart-staking action in THE LOST BOYS VOL. 1!

Welcome to scenic Santa Carla, California. Great beaches. Colorful characters. Killer nightlife. And, of course, all the damn vampires.

The Emerson brothers (Sam and Michael) and the Frog brothers (Edgar and Alan) learned that last part the hard way–these underage slayers took on the vampire master Max and his pack of punked-out minions, and drove a stake right through their plans to suck Santa Carla dry. After scraping the undead goo off their shoes, they figured everything was back to normal.

But now there are new vamps in town.

A coven of female undead called the Blood Belles has moved in, and they’ve targeted Sam, Michael, the Frog Brothers, and every other vampire hunter in Santa Carla for bloody vengeance.

It’ll take every trick in the brothers’ monster-killing book to stop these bloodsuckers from unleashing an entire army of the damned. And they’ll need help from an unexpected source–a certain shirtless sax-playing savior known only as the Believer!

Do you still believe? Collects #1-6.

Review: Everyone who knows me knows that “The Lost Boys” is one of my very favorite movies of all time. OF ALL TIME. It’s a tongue in cheek, earnest as hell, and in some ways a legitimately creepy vampire movie. I love it so much that this past year my friend Laura (of our “It” video review fame) and I went to a Fantasy/Sci Fi convention cosplaying as Edgar and Allan Frog, the sibling vampire hunters played by Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander.

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Destroy All Vampires.

So of course when I found out about the comic series that Vertigo created to work as a canonical sequel to that movie after two not so great film ones (though I have to say I kind of love “Lost Boys: The Thirst” because it’s basically just Corey Feldman acting exasperated the whole time), I was over the moon! A continuation of one of my favorite vampire tales, all in comic form? Hell yes! I started it in comic form but then just decided to wait for the trade collection, and when it finally came in at the library I snatched it up and dove right in.

One thing that struck me right away is that Tim Seeley and Scott Godlewski struck the proper tone that the movie had. It continues to have the earnestness and charm that the original had, and all of the characters feel in character and true to how they should be. It gives a good balance to the man characters, and gives a little more focus to the Frog Brothers, which is a-okay by me. Sam and Michael are still centered as the protagonists, but the spotlight is more equally distributed between the players. It also gives a little more gender equity to this universe, as there are actual honest to goodness female vampires in this called The Blood Belles. Unlike Star (more on that in a bit), the girl vampire from the movie, The Blood Belles are aggressive and formidable villains, with their own motivations and personalities that give ladies more to do this time around. They are a gang that lives up to the previous vampire villains, which was a true relief not only as a fan of the movie, but as someone who resents the fact that Star and Lucy Emerson are so passive in the original story. I also appreciated that this comic is partially steeped in pure, unadulterated fan service. Not only do we have The Frog Brothers becoming actual vampire hunters (under the tutelage of Michael and Sam’s Grandpa), there are also some other character returns that I never thought that we’d see. For one, David is back (which is kind of a spoiler, but it happens very early so I’m not going to feel THAT bad about it), and he’s brought back in a feasible way even after being impaled. He also doesn’t shove aside the Blood Belles with his presence, which I was quite worried about. Worry not. These chicks know how to take care of themselves. But the fan favorite return that I was the MOST excited about wasn’t David, or the Frogs, or even the adorable Laddie (more on him later). Nope. It was most definitely the triumphant return of The Saxophone Man.

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I STILL BELIEVE!!!! (source)

And not only is he back, he’s also a rogue vampire killer who calls himself, wait for it…. THE BELIEVER. I screamed my goddamn head off when all of this was revealed. This one off scene of a random band on the boardwalk has given us a treasure of a plot point.

But now I have to address the issues I had with this comic, because issues abound. The first involves the continuity problems. The biggest one was the fact that the little boy and former half vampire Laddie is now living with Sam and Michael now, in spite of the fact there was a milk carton with his face on it in the movie. Someone is looking for Laddie, guys!! You can’t just keep him! So either the Emersons and just prolonging his abduction, or that has been thrown out the window in interest of keeping Laddie there for plot purposes. But the bigger issue I had was with Star. Star is a character that I both love and kind of resent. She’s beautiful and charming, and Jami Gertz plays her so well, but she is so passive and just there to be a vaguely moral center. She’s another half vampire, but doesn’t even get to vamp out once! I had higher hopes that she would have more to do in this one, and at first it seemed like she did (and the reasons I say this I won’t spoil)….. But then she really just ended up being passive and unwilling or unable to act at times she could. AGAIN. They had the chance to redeem Star, or at least give her the credit that was never afforded her, but they still  relegated her to the sidelines again.

The artwork is a fun style, kind of reminding me of “Locke and Key” in the way the people are drawn. The colors pop off the page, and while the characters don’t really look like their inspirations, it kind of gives them a new chance to become their own characters that can evolve beyond the film.

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While I had my qualms, for the most part I had a blast reading “The Lost Boys (Vol.1)”. It feels like a worthy follow up to the classic vampire film, and I really hope that it goes for awhile. I need the Emersons, The Frog Brothers, and all their vampire foes in my life.

Rating 7: A fun follow up to one of my favorite movies. While there were continuity issues and I was frustrated with Star STILL having little to do, as a “The Lost Boys” fan I was pretty pleased with it overall.

Reader’s Advisory:

“The Lost Boys (Vol.1)” is fairly new and not included on any Goodreads lists as of now, but I think that it would fit in on “Vampire Books That Don’t Suck”, and “Supernatural (not Superhero) Comics”.

Find “The Lost Boys (Vol.1)” at your library using WorldCat!