Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Comics Review | Single Issue Awards: January & February 2017

January & February 2017 Stats
Total Comics Read:19
New Series Started: 4
Series Continued:3
Series Abandoned:0

The Bronze Award Goes To: 
Seven to Eternity #1 (September 2016) 
By Rick Remender & Jerome Opena

Seven to Eternity #1 sets up a gruesome fantasy world in which The God of Whispers has spread his lies across the murky land of Zhal.

Some have been brainwashed into serving as minions, while others will take the role based on fear of the alternative alone.

Our male protagonist Adam does not have long to live and a big family to protect.  He finds himself in the position of having to chose between joining some rebels in a suicide mission or taking a chance on a deal he promised he would never make.

Up until this point, Adam has lived his life with very different values, but the choices he has left look very different now that the stakes are higher.

I'm actually not a huge fan of Rick Remender's stories but the way he explores the very ordinary theme of compromise in this fantastic setting is totally working for me.  Adams not a bright eye'd hero out to save the world.

The art is good, but I think it shines more on the creatures and enemies than it does the humans.

The Silver Award Goes To:
Monstress #9 (December 2016) 
By Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda

Lately I feel like more and more people have been reading and praising Monstress and I couldn't be happier.

I feel like this series is one which might bring more readers into the world of comics.

The plot in this issue had me wondering if we would finally get answers in the next issue.  Maika's character has really been made to wait for the answers she seeks for the bulk of this series & now that she seems to have a firm grasp on her predicament I think its time for the answers.

The flashbacks to Maika's childhood with her mother have added a whole new layer to this story, and to Maika, and I am interested in how it will play into whatever the ultimate end of this series will be.

Our little fox got quite a bit of character development and even the Monstrum within seems to have a solid personality now.

The change in setting from land to open ocean in issues #8 and #9 has allowed for some great changes in the art and color, but issue nine included a few flashbacks & scenes of elsewhere that were particularly eye catching.

I even posted a shot of the opening page on my Instagram because the colors were just--woah!

The members of the crew seem to be the most tangible of side characters in the series thus far, and have been a good addition to the story.

As always I am extremely impressed with Takeda's ability to make these characters look beautiful and formidable at the same time.  I, as the reader, take them seriously and believe that they exist in this world without any other convincing.  Seeing the Siren actually made my skin crawl.

The Gold Award Goes To:
Ether #2 (December 2016)
By Matt Kindt & David Rubin 

I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked up the first two issues of Ether, but I am glad I took a chance on it.

I want to praise the plot and the writing, but part of its excellence is the way in which information is revealed to the reader, so I will keep it vague.

Boone Dias ventures regularly to a 'magical world' with the purpose of proving it is not magical at all. Even though he is a man of science and a typical nay-sayer the beings of this world have come to like him.

Our story opens up with a murder mystery within this magical realm. Boone along with his friend/sidekick, an oversized ape named Glum who guards the gate to the realm, will be the ones to solve it. And you better bet they will banter as they go.

I was extremely impressed with the writing. World building, plot, and characterization were all established within the first few pages of issue one, so when it hits you with that first plot twist the impact is fully felt.

As I already mentioned on my Instagram post, I find the tone of this comic to be intriguing. And the best way that I can describe it is as a "between space". The magical realm is established enough to be believable, but it does not seem solid enough to truly exist. Boone thinks it can be explained scientifically, which does not seem necessary. The murder seems like it would have profound consequences, yet nothing much has resulted from it.  As the reader you can't help but wonder, "Is this really happening?"

This tone of a "between space" is then echoed in the art style which is somehow, somewhere, between grotesque and cute, the plot is between wholly unique and feeling familiar, and the dialogue is between mature and childish.

Even if you don't love it, I am certain you would find it interesting, and therefore, I highly recommend this comic.  Even to non-comic readers. I get this sense that if you enjoy Adventure Time this would be worth your time.

Initially, when I finished issue #1 I thought for sure it would win my gold award, but then issue #2 so greatly expanded on it that it stole the gold.  I'm excited to see what this series does next.

Until next month!

Thanks for reading!

To see all the comics I read this month, and every month, check out my Goodreads 'comics shelf' here:

Thursday, March 2, 2017

February Manga Challenge 2017 | Week 4

The challenge put out by YouTubers @YuriInRealLife is super simple:
1. Read one volume of manga (or the equivalent) every day for the month of February. 
2. No skipping days. 

Check out their full video here: YuriInRealLife's February Manga Challenge

So here is my last post for the February Manga Challenge 2017, and while I did not successfully complete the challenge, I did read the most manga I have ever read in one month.  I also made a significant dent in my TBR pile.

Here's what I read in Week Four:

Monday 2/27/17

Natsume's Book of Friends, Vol.1
Yuki Midorikawa

Rating: 5/5

I have had a nonsensical phobia of starting long running manga or anime series for the longest time. I feared that if I was investing my time into long running series, I would have less time to try out many different series.  And therefore, even if I thought I would enjoy them, I'd put them off.  

But, I'm over that now >.<

I've gotten burned one too many times while 'exploring' different manga series, and now I just want to go after some quality reads.

Natsume's Book of Friends is first up on that list.  I wanted to read the manga before watching the anime, and I'm glad I did.  This manga is engaging, funny, and really well paced.  The storytelling is episodic, but because the plot is so strong it does not feel choppy or purposeless.  By the end of this first volume I had a very strong sense of who our main characters were and what the theme of the series will be.

Natsume is a protagonist with great empathy, and you can tell from this initial set up that he's going to be self sacrificing in his quest to return names to the yokai bound by the book.  I'm certain that throughout this series the life experiences of each yokai will bring new perspectives to Natsume and fill up his once lonely life with new meaning. 

The magaka has an art style which sometimes looks sketchy or incomplete.  Lines are lighter and finer than what I am accustomed to seeing in manga, but rather than detracting from this, I was drawn to it.  I thought it added wonderfully to the atmosphere which encompasses an other worldliness.

The stories in this first volume had me tear up--twice.  I'm so happy I enjoyed this manga as much as I had hoped I would.

Alice 19th, Vol.1
Yu Watase

Rating: 3/5

I found this manga series complete at a used bookstore and took it home with me.  Previously I did not have an interest in any works by this mangaka because, truthfully, I find her art style to be quite jarring.  However, my friend Amara loves Fushigi Yuugi with a passion brighter than the sun, so I must give it a try.

As for Alice 19th, I liked volume one.  I thought the story and characters were solid.  The supernatural element is interesting, and I'm a sucker for anything with an Alice in Wonderland motif.

Alice's struggle with being too kind, and too forgiving, to the point of her own detriment is a great backstory for a female shoujo protagonist because it gives her something to overcome beyond just getting the guy.  Her struggle with her sister is also refreshing because even the resentment and frustration is grounded in love.

As for the art, I am acclimating to it, and will hopefully come to appreciate this style. 

I'm still not certain what a Lotus Master is, or what they do.  I'm giving this first volume a lukewarm rating because I do not feel confident that it accurately set up the series to come, but I am happy to find out in volume two.

Tuesday 2/28/17

20th Century Boys, Vol.1
Naoki Urasawa


I enjoyed this way more than I initially expected to.  I assumed that it was going to be masterfully crafted and that the characters would be fully fleshed out, but I did not think the subject matter was going to work for me.

And I was partially right.  Certain aspects of this story remind me of The Goonies (1985), The Sandlot (1993), and Stand By Me (1986).  All of those movies have a very similar aesthetic and tone of boys just being boys on an adventure together...and I don't like any of those movies.  They bore me.

However, what I did not realize was that in this manga that childhood story would be told in flashbacks, and that the present day situation would include a cult conspiracy and possible robot invasion.  Bodies are being drained of blood, the police are unable to locate missing persons, and people everywhere are acting strange all because of "their friend".

I don't know when I'll get my hands on volume 2, but I definitely want to see what happens next.

Alice 19th, Vol.2
Yu Watase

Rating: 3/5

We get much more explanation of what a Lotus Master is in this second volume, along with a whole bunch of typical shoujo silliness.

The addition of a new male character was unexpected, but pretty funny.  He seems like he will be a foil to Kyo's character.

This series is reminding me of Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicles because of its characters and tone, and also QQ Sweeper because of its plot.

Well, that's a wrap!

I'd be willing to give this challenge another go in the future.  Besides lowering my TBR pile, it also gave me an excuse to write some manga first impression reviews.

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February Manga Challenge 2017 | Week 3

The challenge put out by YouTubers @YuriInRealLife is super simple:
1. Read one volume of manga (or the equivalent) every day for the month of February. 
2. No skipping days. 

Check out their full video here: YuriInRealLife's February Manga Challenge

I completely underestimated just how disruptive having both my mother's and my own birthday during the manga challenge would be.  I spent quite a few evenings with family and friends, and did not read every day.  Womp womp.

Oh and then there was that day where I devoured all five volumes of Tsubaki Chou Lonely Planet in an epic re-read.

Here's what I read in Week Three:


Monday 2/20/17

Kokoro Connect, Vol.1
Sadanatsu Anda

Rating: 1/5

This manga did nothing for me.  I did not care for the art.  I did not care for the characters.  And the plot bored me enough that I put it down half way and then had to convince myself to finish it later.

The plot is very simple.  A school club of misfits randomly start body swapping and try to figure out the mystery of what is causing it and how to control it.  It's a character driven story, but the characters and their relationships to each other were not strong enough to carry the story for me.  You've got the detached smart girl, the insecure flirt, the tough tiny kawaii girl, the doofy lazy guy, and the wresting otaku...really?  Why not give them all random obsessions, that might have been more entertaining.

The plot is supposed to become an "everything is more complicated than it seems" type of mystery, but alas, I do not care to find out more.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Seven Seas published this manga because Yamada Kun and the Seven Witches was such a success, but this is no Yamada Kun.

Tuesday 2/21/17

Princess Jellyfish, Tome 2
Akiko Higashimura

Rating: 5/5

Princess Jellyfish continues to be a great josei manga title.  Both Tsukimi and Kuranosuke have a similar family trauma which plagues them into adulthood.  I love how they are both motivated by very similar desires.  It really demonstrates how much they have in common, even though they come from 'different worlds'.

I am also really enjoying Kuranosuke's internal struggle.  He is changing up his world view and learning more about himself in the process.  I love the growth he is undergoing and the way he deals with each new realization.

And then there's that one scene where he is the knight in shining armor--err I mean shining blonde wig.

There is a bit of a cliff hanger at the end of this volume that really had me thankful that I had the next one ready to read.

Wednesday 2/22/17 

Princess Jellyfish, Tome 3
Akiko Higashimura

Rating: 5/5

In this tome, which includes volumes 5 and 6, the rest of the Amars really came to life.  I felt so much more connected to the entire cast as we got more individualized personality, and backstory of the other gals.

I love the way Tsukimi is going back and forth between retreating into and bursting out of her comfort zone.  Its feels very true to her character.

This volume had great pacing as it bounced back and forth between the Amars and Shoko Inari, the real estate developer.  They are polar opposites, and yet, are all undergoing change. 

I still love the direction in which the story is going.

Saturday 2/25/17

That Wolf-Boy is Mine, Vol.2
Youko Nogiri

Rating: 4/5

Well, here comes the love triangle.  I did not think there would be a love triangle in this series, but that was rather naive of me seeing as shoujo manga nearly always includes a love triangle.

I don't hate it.  It makes sense and I see where the attraction is coming from, but I had hoped for something new from this story. 

I worry that this series is steering away from the elements which were making it feel very magical to me towards something much more typical.

That Wolf-Boy is Mine, Vol.3
Youko Nogiri

Rating: 4/5

Alright, well the direction of the story has certainly gone differently from what I had initially hoped for, but I'm still on board because the characters are all very sweet and I would like to see what happens to them.

A mystery has revealed itself along with a possible puppet master, and now I fear that I can already predict the outcome.  Hopefully it will surprise me.

I would really like to see more of Maruyama mountain and learn about the forces which allow certain animals to transform into humans.

Thanks for reading!
See you soon for Week Four!