Five Reasons Why You Should Read Ms Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why

Ms Marvel and Bat GirlA few years ago, I was invited to volunteer at Trunk or Treat with an old high school buddy of mine. The theme was “Superheroes”, so the gymnasium of her church was crawling with DC and Marvel characters. She was Batgirl, I was Ms Marvel, and there was even a special appearance by Superbaby. But, I have to admit, I felt like a fraud because I hadn’t actually read a Ms Marvel comic. Ever.

I ended up purchasing and reading a copy of Ms Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson, and I was in total awe. She was this nerdy, Pakistani-American teenager grappling not only with her identity as an American and a person of color but also with her newly discovered super power. It was a more powerful story than I could have expected, and I so terribly wanted to read on in this comic series.

Continue reading Five Reasons Why You Should Read Ms Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why

This graphic novel failed a saving throw | Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl

I’m wouldn’t call myself a passionate fan of Batman, but ever since Jon introduced me to some of his favorite graphic novels of the Caped Crusader, I’ve been hooked. I’ve only read five Batman graphic novels so far, but that number is ever-growing, so when, I discovered my library had the first volume of Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl, I couldn’t resist it.

There were two really great things about Gotham Academy:

  1. The artwork. Yet again I’ve discovered a graphic novel with beautiful art, scenery rich with detail, and characters that were incredibly stylish.
  2. Maps Mizoguchi. She’s the Dungeons and Dragons-loving, kid sister of Olive’s (our main character) ex-boyfriend. She’s chipper and vibrant and she has all the best nerdy lines referencing her favorite table top game.

Continue reading This graphic novel failed a saving throw | Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl

Earl Grey Lavender Tea is a Fickle Fellow

During college, I had a waxing interest in the Steampunk subculture– not to the point where I wore Steampunk-inspired garb– but I did have a handful of Steampunk bands loaded onto my iPod. Abney Park was my favorite. I also frequented Steampunk blogs, and it was through them that I discovered a webcomic called Wondermark by David Malki !. The comic wasn’t really Steampunk, although it did make the occasional reference:

Continue reading Earl Grey Lavender Tea is a Fickle Fellow

Halt You Villains! Unhand That Review! Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Released: October 2014
Publisher: Marvel
Age Group: Young Adult
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★★★★
Synopsis: Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

My Thoughts

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson is one of those books that makes me questions my rating scale. I’ve been thinking all week about how fun this book was, how I wish I could trick Jon into reading it, how the artwork was fun and quirky, and how the characters in this book turn our hero/villain archetypes on their heads. It almost appears to be a book that has the qualities of a five-star read, yet…it’s not? What then is it lacking that prevents it from five-star status on this blog? Is it something that I cannot quantify in words? I mean, I can hardly think of a flaw! In fact, here is a list of why you should read Nimona:

  1.  Nimona’s got zest, she’s got spunk, she’s fearless, and I loved reading about a female protagonist (or is she an antagonist?) that embodied those characteristics. Nimona is such a force that she drove the plot forward instead of circumstance.
  2. Noelle Stevenson plays with the hero/villain archetype in her graphic novel, which was fun although it was a little predictable. This of course doesn’t diminish my hatred of the Institution for what they did to Nimona and Blackheart and Goldenloin.
  3. Nimona is a shapeshifter AND SOMETIMES SHE TURNS INTO AN ADORABLE CAT. I mean, isn’t that enough?
  4. Something about the artwork and the banter between the characters combined makes this book laugh out loud funny. I lost track of how many times this book made me gigglesnort.
  5. This graphic novel is a blend of fantasy and science fiction, which fascinates me. Weapons of choice are either big plasma guns or trusty swords. I don’t know how this works, it just does.

The only downfall of Nimona is despite the origin stories and despite the scientific research about Nimona, I still don’t understand how she gained her shape-shifting powers or how they really work. Of course reasons 1-5 make up for this, but I still wanted to be able to close the book and be able to say, “Ooooh, so that’s how it happened”.

In the end, Nimona was an excellent read– fast-paced, funny, and a rip-roaring adventure. It also convinced me I need more Noelle Stevenson in my life; during my next library visit, I’ll be searching for the Lumberjane graphic novels, another series Noelle Stevenson wrote/co-wrote.

Have you read anything written by Noelle Stevenson? What did you think of it? Did you know that she illustrated the cover of Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl? Awesooooome!

This is Another Five Star Review: Ms Marvel, Vol 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona

Ms Marvel, Vol 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona

Released: October 2014
Publisher: Marvel
Age Group: Young Adult
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★★★★★
Synopsis: Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she’s suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she’s comin’ for you, Jersey!

 My Thoughts

Ms Marvel is the first graphic novel I’ve ever purchased, and the reason I pulled it from the shelf is entirely superficial– the cover. I mean, look at it! It’s intense and powerful. If that was any indication of the story inside, how could I resist? And I definitely wasn’t disappointed. First, the artwork was stunning and the colors were bold;  I’ve only read a handful of graphic novels, but the artwork of Adrian Alphona is my favorite yet. Second, Kamala Khan is a powerhouse. I mean, obviously– she is Ms Marvel. But even when she’s not a super hero, she’s still strong. She’s insistent on experiencing teenage-hood despite over-protective parents and the fact that teenage-hood is an absolutely terrifying time. Also, while she seems shy and awkward, she is also unapologetically her own person (and unapologetically geeky!) even though sometimes she’s still trying figure out who that is. Finally, Ms Marvel: No Normal is a thought-provoking story because it challenges a lot of our social norms– what is considered beautiful, who can be considered a hero, what it means to be American. Kamala Khan may start out transforming into a Carol Danvers look-a-like, but soon she realizes Ms Marvel doesn’t have to be a blonde-haired, white woman as she becomes more confident in herself and her identity.

If you pick up one graphic novel to read this year, it definitely needs to be this one. I’m still trying to get my hands on Vol 2: Generation Why but my local bookstores never seem to have it in stock!

Have you read any of the Ms Marvel comics featuring Kamala Khan? What did you think of them?

Fairy Tales and Girl Powa!

Fables Vol. 1 & 2 by Bill Willingham

Released: October 2009 (Fables originally released 2002)
Publisher: Vertigo | DC Comics
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★★★★☆

Synopsis: When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters created their own secret society-within an exclusive luxury apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side-called Fabletown. But when Snow White’s party-girl sister, Rose Red, is apparently murdered, it is up to Bigby, Fabletown’s sheriff, and a reformed and pardoned Big Bad Wolf, to determine if the culprit is Bluebeard, Rose’s ex-lover and notorious wife killer, or Jack, her current live-in boyfriend and former beanstalk-climber.

My Thoughts

Aside from the occasional manga I read back in middle school and the handful of Batman comics I’ve read since I’ve been dating Jon, I haven’t read too many graphic novels. But, that doesn’t mean they’ve never been on my radar throughout the years– granted, my wish list has grown significantly longer over the past couple of months as more and more bloggers seem to be featuring graphic novels. The series that has been on my wish list the longest though is Fables by Bill Willingham. I stumbled upon it about ten years ago, and it took me that long before I finally purchased myself the first two books. I was a little reluctant to start reading Fables. First, it’s such a popular series, and how disappointed would I be if I didn’t like it? Second, I had been building it up for nearly ten years, so even if I just thought it was mediocre, Fables would still have a long way to fall. I am happy to report though that what I’ve read of Fables has met my expectations. Whatta relief!

Fables takes all of our favorite fairy tales and turns them in to reality. Kind of like the Sisters Grimm or the TV show, Once Upon a Time, but seedy because it takes place in New York City, and it’s meant for mature readers. Beware, there is violence, foul language, and sexual situations amongst the pages. Vol. 1, Legends in Exile, is a twisting, turning whodunnit story complete with a parlor room scene that took me by surprise, and Vol. 2, Animal Farm, is a suspenseful tale of revolution. The cover artwork is stunning, but the artwork frame-to-frame is just good (and that’s absolutely just a personal aesthetic  taste). And sure, the banter between characters is a little silly at times, but that doesn’t detract from how fun and magical the story is. Perhaps most satisfying of all is (so far) women take charge in this series. Snow White is a Director of Operations of Fabletown. Goldilocks is a radical revolutionary leader. Cinderella goes toe-to-toe with Bluebeard in a fencing match. Girl power!

As a graphic novel newbie, there was a lot to take in while reading Fables. The artwork is rich with detail, the world is wonderfully complex, and a diverse cast of characters have their own unique story arcs. It was a rewarding read, and I look forward to picking up Vol. 3, Storybook Love.

Batman: the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

Batman: the Dark Knight Returns graphic novel coverBatman: the Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson (illustrator), Lynn Varley (illustrator)
Released:
November 2002 (first published 1986)
Publisher:
DC Comics
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★★★☆☆
Synopsis: Crime runs rampant in the streets, and the man who was Batman is still tortured by the memories of his parents’ murders. As civil society crumbles around him, Bruce Wayne’s long-suppressed vigilante side finally breaks free of its self-imposed shackles.
The Dark Knight returns in a blaze of fury, taking on a whole new generation of criminals and matching their level of violence. He is soon joined by this generation’s Robin — a girl named Carrie Kelley, who proves to be just as invaluable as her predecessors.
But can Batman and Robin deal with the threat posed by their deadliest enemies, after years of incarceration have made them into perfect psychopaths? And more important, can anyone survive the coming fallout of an undeclared war between the superpowers – or a clash of what were once the world’s greatest superheroes?

My Thoughts

Batman tv series (1966-1968)
Batman tv series (1966-1968)

I should preface this by saying, I rarely read graphic novels, and when I do read them, I certainly do not read superhero graphic novels (unless you count Sailor Moon manga). So as I read Batman: the Dark Knight Rises by Frank Miller, I was simultaneously underwhelmed and overwhelmed. This comic is lauded as one of the most (if not the most) influential Batman comic of all time. It was the comic that breathed life into characters that the 1960s nearly killed off with its campy shenanigans.  Once the comics returned to its gritty and pulp-inspired origins, popularity for the Batman series soared. Yet, just as the 1960s seemed cheesy to fans in the 1980s, the 1980s may seem slightly cheesy to fans today. Whenever I read the slang of the gang of Mutants, I couldn’t help but cringe. It would almost seem nit-picky if it didn’t occupy so many speech bubbles. “I’m a slicer-dicer, spud. A real slicer-dicer”. It’s supposed to be edgy and intimidating, but to me it just seemed silly– like, why are they calling people potatoes?

robin

I feel conflicted about the artwork. I can get over the obvious 1980’s influenced accessories and hairstyles, but I found myself disappointed by the inking. I was craving bold lines and vibrant colors, but most of the time I found soft and muted watercolors. That’s not to say that I disliked the artwork entirely. No. There are a number of images ingrained in my mind. Batman looming over a pig of a man, who is dangling upside-down off a Gotham City high-rise. The Joker laying limply in the Love Canal at a carnival, battarang lodged in his eye and slack-jawed. Superman’s body wasting away during the nuclear explosion. I stared at the grotesque images with grim fascination. These few images, juxtaposed against the soft water colors on the previous page, captured something far more sinister than I expected.

Then there was the plot, which was a little hit-and-miss for me as well, but I think this is one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” instances. I know very little about superheroes and the DC Universe, so I spent a lot of time on Wikipedia or asking my boyfriend a bunch of questions, and this sometimes distracted me from enjoying the comic. I was on board for the first half of the graphic novel, where Bruce Wayne becomes Batman again and fights crime. It was fast-paced and filled with villains I’m familiar with. It was simple enough for a Batman-newb like myself. But I found myself getting disoriented during the second half of the graphic novel. Like, why did the Police force dislike the Batman so much? And why is Superman trying to kill Batman– don’t they basically fight for the same team? Any why is Robin a girl? I mean, I loved it, but I thought Robin was a consistent character– I was wrong.

Batman Graphic Novels

Overall, I enjoyed Batman: the Dark Knight Returns. It was successful in making me more curious about the Batman series; I suppose it’s become a gateway. I mentioned in a recent Weekend Review that I have a tall stack of Batman comics to read, and I’ve already began working my way through. I recently finished Venom, and I just started Haunted Knight. I’ve even began perusing the graphic novel shelves at the book store, which was a section I generally stayed away from because really, I had no idea what to even pick up.

Read Batman: the Dark Knight Returns if you’re a fan of Batman comics– it’s a classic after all. If you’re a newcomer, you might want to start somewhere else because this graphic novel does seem dated, and it requires you to already have some knowledge about Batman and the DC Universe.

If you’ve read Batman: the Dark Knight Returns, what did you think of it? If you’re a fan of Batman comics, are there any titles you think I ought to check out?