Graphic Novels/Manga

Book Review: Monstress: Volume 1, Awakening

Author
Liu, Marjorie M., Sana Takeda, and Rus Wooton
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Monstress follows Maika Halfwolf, a hybrid human/monster called an "Arcanic", as she tries to free fellow Arcanics from human cruelty and avenge her mother's death at the hands of a powerful group of human witches. Oh yeah, and Maika herself keeps turning (at least partially) into an old-world style monster that kills almost everything in its sight, regardless of whether they are friend and foe. As we follow Maika in her quest for revenge, we get flashbacks that inform us of her motivations and murky past.

This was definitely one of my favorite graphic novels of the year.

Maika is a layered anti-hero with a disability (she's missing an arm). I liked her more and more the more I learned about her. She's not shy about killing people, though, hence the anti-hero label. In fact, she's probably more of a villain than an anti-hero, but that really only added to the story for me. I mean, this title earns its "M" rating. It's very very bloody. Maika does not do nice things to her enemies.

The art was GORGEOUS. SO PRETTY. I'm fairly new to graphic novels, but this just might be the best art that I've seen. The cover is actually relatively simple compared to the insanely intricate steampunk/art deco panels on the inside. Art lovers, check this book out for the artwork alone (but be prepared for a rather gory experience).

So even though I very obviously loved this title, it was not perfect. Like in many graphic novels, there is little by way of introduction to the characters, and you are just thrown right into the story with background info being filled in later. Because the world-building was so complex, I found myself having to read certain parts several times (or having to revisit prior pages/storylines). This could just be a me thing because I have this problem in a lot of graphic novels, but I also found some of the action scenes to be incomprehensible.

I can't believe I almost forgot this amazing detail, but there are talking cats. You know what makes almost every story better? A talking cat.

This was definitely an excellent read. Graphic novel fantasy lovers, you would be remiss to not check this book out (but stay away if you don't like blood). 4 stars.

Reviewer's Name
Britt

Book Review: Bizenghast, Volume 2

Author
LeGrow, M. Alice
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

For my Review I read the second book in the Benzenghast by Alice LeGrow. This book was just as good as the first one, maybe even better. In this on Dinah and Vincent are still trying to free all the ghosts with the help of Edaniel the tower god. During this time Vincent falls ill. What I liked most about this book was that it shows you what it is like when someone keeps blaming themselves for something that is not their fault.

Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name
Paige C.

Book Review: Dragonbreath

Author
Vernon, Ursula
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

This enjoyable story about Danny Dragonbreath is a good read. Danny has to deal with bullying, but he makes it through. His trusty friend Wendell is a classic. You will enjoy the pirate ship, the amphibians and the deep sea creatures. I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
Reviewer Grade: 7

Reviewer's Name
Thomas C.

Book Review: Superman, Volume 1: Before Truth

Author
Yang, Gene Luen
Rating
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review

In this Superman comic written by Gene Yang, Superman is being blackmailed by a mysterious agency (or person) called HORDR. He's also got a new ability (solar flare) that destroys everything in his immediate vicinity, but that leaves him human/vulnerable for the 24 hours immediately following the flare's use.

Even though this is labeled "Volume I", the issues in it are marked as 40-46. As such, the first issue was super confusing. It took me a hot minute to figure out what was happening, but basically, the Justice League was testing Superman's new power: solar flares. Honestly, you could skip it and be fine.

Anyway, so after that bizarre first issue, we enter the main story. I think it's my fav Supes story (I mean, it's the first one I've read, but I've seen *some* of the movies), just because in my opinion, Superman is usually a little over powered (OP), which makes him a lot less interesting as a character. It was nice to see him being a human, and we get a few cute moments as a result (hangover!). The story has a nice, easy to follow progression, the characters (for the most part) act in ways that make sense, and the last issue leaves the door WIDE open for future issues. If you have no knowledge of Superman, it would be really hard to follow. Movie watchers will be fine, but if you are totally new to Superman, start elsewhere.

This might be really stupid, but I hated Superman's costume update. The jeans just looked silly. Like, go full tights/ridiculous superhero costume, man, or just do nothing at all. Also, like, shave or don't shave, don't walk around with that spiky stubble all the time, it's distracting.

Somehow worse costume aside, I liked this Superman story, and I'll likely check out the next volume. 3 stars - it was pretty good.

Reviewer's Name
Britt

Book Review: Stitches

Author
Small, David
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

This is an autobiographical graphic novel of the author, David Small. The book focuses on his early childhood to early adulthood. It shows the progression of his relationship with his father, a doctor, and his mother, a homemaker in a very reserved and controlling dysfunctional household. As a young man, he ends up with a tumor on his neck that is removed but damages his vocal cords, and doctors say he won't speak again. Along the way, he discovers who his family and himself are and finds out more than he bargained for.

This book is very dark and the color scheme is perfect for the tone of this book as well, using black, white, and shades of gray primarily. The art is contemporary in its quality and color scheme but has a more retro feel to its style of art as well, especially in the faces, which gives it the feel of the era the book was set in. This book is the type of book you would be able to, and due to its page turn-ability you likely will, finish in one sitting. It's easy to get invested and feel all the emotions and heartbreak of the author along the way. It can be a bit hard to read since it is darker in its focus and has a realistic feel. It also has a few twists and turns along the way which help keep you even more entranced by the book. I really enjoyed reading it as a change of pace for myself since I typically deal in a bit lighter fair in terms of topics. It addresses issues of mental illness and controlling behavior well without being preachy or self pitying. I might not read this book again but I certainly won't forget it either. If you like dark, realistic graphic novels, this just might be your next favorite book!

Reviewer's Name
Will

Book Review: Spy vs Spy Danger! Intrigue! Stupidity!

Author
Prohias, Antonio
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

This is a republished work from The All New Mad Secret File On Spy vs Spy. Prohias' compendium of the popular comic strip Spy vs Spy, which appears in MAD Magazine, does not disappoint the Spy vs Spy fandom. Done with great detail and care, each story takes an unexpected turn and you never REALLY know which of the two spies, black or white, will actually be the victor of that particular strip. They all end creatively, typically humorously, and you'll never know how the story will develop.

Prohias is originally a refugee from Cuba and after receiving death threats from Fidel Castro moved to the USA. While it's easy to be caught up in the simplicity of this wordless story, it also is an allegory for the struggle and fruitlessness of the Cold War in the opinion of the author. I love both its simplicity and complexity contained within just a few drawings. Both those who are looking for an easy laugh and those looking for more than that should be satisfied by this collection.

The panels have been blown up so you can really soak in all the detail and hard work Prohias has put into each strip. This can either be interpreted as a good or bad thing. Individuals who are familiar with the strip might enjoy it more since you can really see all the details and take your time examining each panel, taking in all the details that MAD Magazine is famous for. That said, since each page takes up a whole panel what originally took up an eighth of a page can now last five or six full pages of the book. I could see how this could be frustrating for those who are used to graphic novels/comics that are jammed packed. Again, the beauty is in the seeming simplicity of this strip with the underlying complexity, whether it be the story or the art itself. I'd recommend fully for those who are familiar with the strip, while, if you are a Spy vs Spy novice, I might suggest something a bit denser to get a better feel for the comic. Four Stars.

Reviewer's Name
Will

Book Review: The Nameless City

Author
Hicks, Faith Erin
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

Kaidu is new to the Nameless City. This is a city so frequently conquered that no name, despite thousands, sticks. He's trying to become a warrior, make friends, and know his father but all three tasks seem unlikely for the shy boy. Then he meets Rat, a street-smart girl who has the ability to think on her feet and run quickly. They form a friendship and manage to save their city from an upcoming threat that could change who runs the city. Fans of Avatar the Last Airbender comics or TV show would adore this series. It's new, it's refreshing, and follows an interesting and still developing story arch. I couldn't put it down as I turned page after page of beautiful illustration and compelling story. There are many cultures at war with one another in the still, albeit temporarily, peaceful city. The first in the series, I look forward to watching the story take shape and tackle complex issues about identity, war, friendship, and trust. It was really enjoyable and I highly recommend it!

Reviewer's Name
Meagan H.

Book Review: Bizenghast

Author
LeGrow, M. Alice
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

The book I read for my review was the book Bizenghast by M. Alice LeGrow. This book is about a young girl and boy who stumble across a mysterious graveyard. The girl accidentally signed a contract that made it so she sold her soul to the graveyard. The only way to free her soul from the contract is to free all the ghosts stuck on earth. This book is amazing and one of the best manga I have read so far.
Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name
Paige C.

Book Review: Psyren Vol. 1

Author
Iwashiro, Toshiaki
Rating
4 stars = Really Good
Review

For my review I read the book Psyren by Toshiaki Iwashiro. Psyren is about a young high schooler who finds a mysterious phone card. This card makes it so you are part of the Psyren game, and you must find the gate to get back to your world. In the beginning of this book I did not like it. I found it boring, but in the end I fell in love with it. I like that the main character is really nice and will actually help anyone in need.
Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name
Paige C.

Book Review: Shinobi Life. Vol. 1

Author
Conami, Shoko
Rating
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review

For my review I read the book Shinobi Life by Shoko Conami. This book is about a young girl who wants to die, but a boy her age saves her and she changes her mind. This boy is a ninja from the past who stumbles into the future. The girl falls for him, but he cannot fall for her. I really loved how funny and serious this book is.
Reviewer Grade:8

Reviewer's Name
Paige C.