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Graphic Novelty²

Black Canary (New 52; Vol. 2): New Killer Star

Dinah’s left Black Canary in the hands of Bo Maeve, their new lead singer, and gone to find out the truth about her mother. She falls in with a ninja death cult, who may have had a hand in her mother’s disappearance, at the persuasion of her Aunt Rena. She manages to escape and returns to Gotham to enlist the help of her friend, Barbara. The leader of the cult, however, follows her… and will stop at nothing until Dinah shows her a move called “the Five Heavens Palm.” Dinah’s mother apparently knew it, and it’s assumed she showed Dinah how to do it. But how can Dinah show her a move she doesn’t even know? And when she gets wind that Black Canary is in trouble, will Dinah help her friends, or continue her quest to find her family?

The art in this run is phenomenal. The characters, dressed in dark clothes, look almost cut and pasted against the neon backgrounds. It’s flat but not at all boring: lots of different angles are used to portray the same scene so that there’s depth. Dinah is a woman pulled in multiple different directions as she tries to understand her past to move forward with her future. There was also a preview of Rebirth Birds of Prey in the back! I can’t wait to get to it… after I eventually finish Simone’s run 8D;;

– Kathleen

Fletcher, Brenden, Sandy Jarrell, and Annie Wu. Black Canary (New 52, Vol. 2): New Killer Star. 2016.

Love is Love

Love is Love is a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orlando Pulse shooting. Published by IDW, in conjunction with DC, writers and illustrators came together to honor those killed in the Pulse nightclub on June 12th, 2016. All the proceeds from the book will go to the charity Equality Florida to benefit the victims, survivors and their families.

As with any anthology (no matter if poems, short stories or comics), this collection was uneven. Written with the best of intentions, these one-shot stories that are only a page or two vary in tone and authenticity. Some of the comics were powerful and made me tear up, or even better, made me think about the issues beyond that page. Others were trite and lacked depth.

Winners:

Thoughts & Prayers– Lenson & Lopez: Shows how easy it is to be shocked and dismayed by something, but to let opportunities slip by and do nothing about it. Just saying “my thoughts and prayers are with you” can be meaningless. Do something to help!

Hand Me Down– Beals & LaFuente: Two different parenting styles equal two different outcomes. Our children ARE listening.

Phone Call*– DeFilippis, Weir & Vieceli: Supportive parents are the best!

Shelter Pet Adoptions*– Lope & Sadowski: Two dates- 4/3/2009 & 6/15/2016 bookened this heartbreaking tale about an owner and his dog.

Pride– Tynion & Ostertag: A highschool boy worries about wearing a rainbow bracelet to school, but does it anyway, to be true to himself.

Mother & Son *– Lindelof & Yu: A beautiful tribute to Brenda Lee Marquez McCool and her son Isaiah. Brenda died at Pulse, but told her son to run and he lived because of her encouragement. This one picture conveys so much.

*There were no titles on these comics, I made them up.

Misses:

A Swan Song– Zeus is portrayed here as a great lover of both men and woman through the ages, and a supporter of the LGBTQ community. Sorry, this guy is a rapist, if you really read the myths about him closely. Not buying this story of him as a good guy.

Basically all the DC superhero stories. I totally think these stories should have representation in them, but these one shots felt like overkill. Lets make sure we continue the equality into the mainline comics, ok?

I have to applaud this book, for these artists did not just sit back and send their best – no, they did their best and donated their time and talent to help a hurting community. The stories open lines of communication, and I hope more artists with #ownvoices can add in to the dialogue. While not a perfect book, the right intent is there, and purchases will benefit those in need.

-Nancy

The Source

And now for something completely different: a review of a music CD!

And I just gotta talk about it okay plZ BEAR WITH ME

The Source is the latest progressive metal album by Ayreon, aka Arjen Anthony Lucassen, a project of his in which he writes metal operas. He writes and plays most of the music for his albums, but invites vocalists from different (mostly metal) bands to sing the parts. Many of his albums follow a science fictional story. This album, The Source, reveals the origins of The Forever, the alien race that is at the center of the story.

Alpha, the planet The Forever originally inhabited, is dying. It’s being shut down by the Frame, the computer system that controls the entire planet. It thinks that in order to solve the ecological and political problems of the planet, it has to wipe out the entire race. Ten of the Forever manage to escape in a spaceship called the Starblade. They head for an ocean planet near the Star of Sirrah. In order to adapt to their new aquatic environment, they take a drug they call “the Source” or “Liquid Eternity” to change their bodies and minds. They alternately mourn for their fallen race, worry that they will forget their origins and repeat their past mistakes, and rejoice in their new world, the new start they have for their future. But… deep in the depths of the ocean, there is one robot who stayed faithful to their masters thus far… whom the Forever have forgotten.

The cast of vocalists is incredible: Tommy Karevick of Kamelot, Russell Allen of Symphony X, Simone Simons of Epica, Hansi Kursch of Blind Guardian (both of these bands my boyfriend and I have seen in concert), Floor Jansen of Nightwish, and many more. They all sing together at multiple points in the album, and have lots of duets together, making it feel more like an opera than previous Ayreon albums. All the vocalists do an amazing job of conveying the emotions of their characters. Each song flows seamlessly from one track to the next, so that the music and the story are uninterrupted. There is a serious lack of continuity listening to the playlist of the album on YouTube vs. listening to the album on iTunes. Even the few seconds it takes for the next video to load is too long, too jarring.

There are parts that are epic, parts that are pure headbanging metal, parts that are tragic, parts that are funky with an amazing bass, parts that are creepy. It adds up to a sweeping, awe-inspiring whole. For previous fans of Ayreon, there are multiple references to past albums, both in the lyrics and within the music. For new fans, I am so sorry you have to listen to this one first, because no other Ayreon album will come close to this for you. I was completely blown away by it and it’s been on repeat since it dropped. This has permanently replaced my favorite album, 01011001… and my favorites are incredibly hard to replace!

Thank you for being patient with this late Wednesday post… and listening to me rant about metal, no less!

– Kathleen

Briggs Land: State of Grace

Briggs Land is an absolutely riveting new series about “an American family under siege” by both the government and their own hand. Set in rural upstate New York, Briggs Land is a hundred square mile oasis for people who want to live off the grid. Established in the Civil War era, the Briggs family would give sanctuary to those who wanted to live a simple life, but this anti-government colony has taken a dark turn in recent times. The village that grew within it’s fences has morphed into a breeding ground for white supremacy, domestic terrorism and money laundering.

Patriarch Jim Briggs, who is currently serving a life sentence for attempting to assassinate the president, has been leading the sect and still making orders with the assistance of his wife Grace, who visits him weekly in jail. Dismayed by his corruption, Grace decides to make a power play for leadership in the community, despite her three adult sons being valid potential leaders themselves.  Eldest son Caleb is a businessman and white extremist who feels he is being passed over, Noah is the muscle of the family with a reckless intensity and Isaac is the recently returned soldier who may prove to be a wild card.

Grace proves to be a worthy adversary in this patriarchal society, and literally survives a power coup by those that resent a woman taking the lead of Briggs Land. She has a steely resolve, but shows a love for her family and compassion for those in need. However, although she seems to want to rehabilitate the compound and honor the original intent of this secessionist group, she is also willing to manipulate others, including the FBI agents that are investigating the family. Don’t assume anything about Grace.

The artwork by Mack Chater is spot on for the gritty story and establishes the atmosphere of a trashy military compound. Sketchy with an earth toned color palette, the layout reminds me of storyboards, which is apropos as the series is being developed for TV on the AMC network. The Briggs family and the village as a whole are drawn realistically, with varied looks for these armed right wingers.  The only misstep is an oddly colored front cover to the graphic novel in which Grace is colored in blue with other family members in red. Lately I’ve seen the cover for the first issue used more often (picture with this post) which is more appropriate for the mood and frankly, just more attractive.

The world building in this story is superb, with this thinly fictionalized narrative being quite plausible in our current polarized world. There was also a short one-shot story in the back of the Avatar issue from Free Comic Book Day which adds another real world issue of meth dealership to the compound. Both stories make me anxious to find out what Grace and her complex family’s next moves will be in this fascinating crime saga.  Highly recommended!

-Nancy

Thor (Vol 2.): Who Holds the Hammer?

That, my friends, is on the question of everyone’s lips. Who is the new Thor? Why is she worthy to wield Mjolnir while the Odinson is not? The All-Father wants the answer to those questions, and to take Mjolnir back for the Asgardians… whatever the cost. Meanwhile, Malekith and Dario Agger have made a pact: Roxxon and Svartalfheim have joined forces and are now allies. Thor seems very eager to stop them… very eager indeed…

I won’t spoil the big reveal, but it was surprising and heartbreaking at once. The art here was as beautiful as in the last album: dynamic, fluid, and electric. There are a few bonuses in the back that are as long as the main story: Thor Annual #1, which tells a tale for each the Thor of the future, present, and past. The present Thor’s story was drawn by Marguerite Sauvage, one of my favorites! They also include a story from the ’70s that parallels the events of the present-day Thor. I’ll have to look for more adventures from Lady Thor!

– Kathleen

Aaron, Jason, Russell Dauterman, and Jorge Melina. Thor (Vol. 2): Who Holds the Hammer? 2015.

You’re Fired Ex-Men!

Pete Holmes is a wickedly funny comedian, and he had some spot-on videos about the weaknesses of the X-Men team.  For his now defunct late night show, Holmes did a series of skits on the failings of many of the X-Men heroes, and how their vulnerabilities made them a threat to the team. He portrayed Professor X in eleven hilarious but vulgar video clips. I previously featured Wolverine’s firing, but plan to highlight others in future posts.  Warning- they are for mature audiences only!

Nightcrawler: Our favorite blue guy gets insulted and told not only is he creepy but he smells when he teleports! Poor guy- what is he going to do now? It’s not like he can pass into society as he has a very distinct look!

Gambit: I love me some Gambit, and wouldn’t mind spending some time with this sexy Cajun, but his skills are weak, I have to admit. What if he runs out of cards? Then what????

Jubilee: What can Jubilee actually do? Although an appealing teen, with her trademark yellow jacket and sunglasses, she doesn’t seem to add much to the X-men team. I would actually have to agree- you’re fired!

There’s more gems like these for another day!

-Nancy

One Lovely Blog Award²

We were nominated for our second lovely award by two bloggers- My Side of the Laundry Room (a fun blog about pop and nerd culture)and Cheeky Booky (a book review blog with some cheek). Be sure to check out both wonderful sites before you go any farther!

Before we get into the actual tag here are a few rules to follow:

Thank the person who nominated you and link their blog
•Add the One Lovely Blog Award to your post
•Share seven things about yourself
•Pass this on to as many people as you like (max 15)
•Include this set of rules
•Inform your nominees

Amazing Facts About Us:

Nancy: I am still addicted to Pokémon GO. I wrote a post last summer about how I’m a Pokémom, and I am proud/ashamed to admit I am now at Level 27. I started out playing with my three kids, but they have all quit, yet I am still playing. I am the only Mom out there who wants her kids to play, and was sad when they stopped. At least the teens at the library still challenge me to defend the library’s gym.

So close to level 28!

Kathleen: ^ Going off that, I seem to be collecting Pokémon plushies… my boyfriend just won’t stop sending them to me! My dogs love them as much as I do. Our 5 year old, Rose, likes to cuddle them when she thinks I’m not looking. The puppy, Weber, just wants to play with them… and not too nicely, either. He rips everything apart!   (Aside from Nancy- when Kathleen & I met for dinner so she could help me through a very hard school project, we compared Pokémon captures! We both wanted a Rapidash bad)

Nancy: I am going to take a class on Graphic Novels this summer for my graduate degree. How awesome is that!

Kathleen: “01011001” used to be my favorite Ayreon album, until “The Source” came out a few weeks ago… and I CAN’T STOP LISTENING IT’S SO GOOD. I’m even more hyped to go to Europe with my boyfriend to see it live ❤

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Nancy: Our family vacation this summer will be to Florida. We will be on the Gulf side and then head to the Everglades. I will bring along my NPS passport to get it stamped 😉

Kathleen: My guilty pleasure TV show is Birds of Prey.

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Nancy: I’m a Star Trek nerd. I watch an awesome web series called Star Trek Continues (that recreates the TOS cast and continues on the original five year journey) and I am eagerly awaiting Star Trek Discovery that should be on CBS this fall.

Kathleen: I really like doing yoga! I’m not much of a runner (I will if the mood strikes, but I can never commit!), and there’s no way I’d ever set foot in a gym. It’s something I can do at home, in privacy, and where the dogs can crawl all over me and lick my face =P

Nancy: Although I share all things geek on my blog, I truly have other interests! My family enjoys hiking, and my husband and I completed the 52 Hike Challenge last fall. I take pictures of our hikes and post them on Instagram. Three pictures from my site nancyandnature have been selected and featured on the site Only in Illinois. Check out both sites!

Top L- Starved Rock, Top R- Kishwaukee River, Bottom- Waterfall Glen

Kathleen: I’m an artist, and I’m currently painting a drum head as a commission for a client – my first time doing so!

Nancy: I used to think Twitter was lame, but now I love it! There are some people on Twitter that I interact with regularly, and they have become friends that make me laugh on an almost daily basis.

Kathleen: Since I’ve developed a nut allergy, I’ve gotten the opportunity to put more thought into what I eat. I now make more meals for myself for lunch throughout the week, and cut up fruit to freeze for smoothies. It’s gotten me to try new things in my cooking and expand my culinary horizons.

Nancy: I love Goodreads. You can find me there writing shorter reviews on other genres that I read.

Kathleen: The first special edition of any video game I ever bought was Arkham City, and having this figurine in my dorm room is actually how my boyfriend and I met. I’ve since lost it and it broke my heart. The working theory is that the basement ate it and that it’ll turn up when I move out of my mom’s house, so there’s still hope!

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We decided to nominate a few of the awesome bloggers who have commented on some recent posts, for we think your feedback is lovely! They are:

Blogging for Dopamine

Perspective of a Writer

924 Collective

Sci-Fi Jubilee

The Critical Optimist

Thank you again to My Side of the Laundry Room and Cheeky Booky for this nomination! xo

-Nancy & Kathleen

Batman (Rebirth) Vol. 1: I Am Gotham

A plane is going down in Gotham. Batman launches himself from the Batmobile onto literally the top of the plane to steer it into the river. He knows the impact may very well kill him. But at the last second, just before the point of impact, the plane is lifted and set gently on the water, and he is saved. By a boy and a girl in blue masks, introducing themselves as Gotham and Gotham Girl. Who are they? Why do they have Superman-like powers? Are they really out to save Gotham, or are they its’ destroyers in disguise?

I didn’t read the back before reading it, so by the time I got to the inevitable downfall of Gotham and Gotham Girl, I rolled my eyes super hard. Like we haven’t seen Batman go up against Superman or Supergirl or someone ELSE with Kryptonian powers who’s gone SUUUUPER BAAAD a million times before. Just because they’re new kids doesn’t make the trope any less tired or annoying. They even LOOK like Clark and Kara, and the costumes are very similar. How they got their powers and turned bad was very creepy, so points for that. There are a few moments of true compassion between Bruce and others, but my favorite part turned out to be Alfred. Snark was on point. Can we get an Alfred comic already???

– Kathleen

King, Tom and David Finch. Batman (Rebirth) Vol. 1: I Am Gotham. 2017.

Free Comic Book Day 2017

 

The library I work at has hosted Free Comic Book Day the last three years (thanks to me!!!) so I was excited to get a sneak peek at the comics before the public did. There were four that I zeroed in on. Quick recaps follow.

I had most been anticipating this comic, as Skottie Young released the cover awhile back and I loved the mash up of Image characters with Gertrude the foul mouthed sociopath from I Hate Fairyland. She encounters and brutally attacks members from The Walking Dead, Saga, Southern Bastards, Black Science, Paper Girls, Invincible, Chew, Revival and The Wicked +The Divine. The ending with the Image partners was a fun shout-out. This comic was definitely a winner for it’s sick humor.

The Next Generation crew is looking pretty bad-ass here. This prequel to an upcoming comic series features Captain Picard, Troi, Data, and Tasha Yar on the Starship I.S.S. Stargazer in a alternate universe in which the Klingon/Cardassians alliance is powerful.  Low ranking crewman Barkley gets a chance to shine in this issue, and reestablishes equilibrium of one person’s fate no matter what universe they belong in. An after note by the authors whets my appetite for further story lines in this Mirror Broken universe.

An appealing prequel to the upcoming movie, this comic gives us a duel narrative of Diana on the island of Themyscira and Steve Trevor in military training. Although both arcs show them with good friends, both seem dissatisfied and yearning for more. My only small criticism is that if this was a prequel to the movie, I was surprised the characters weren’t drawn more similar to the actors that will be portraying them on the screen.

I was most leery of this title, as Marvel has had uneven success with their events, and I’m of very mixed feelings if I want to invest time in the Secret Empire, after being so dissatisfied with Civil War II. Captain America comes out as a secret agent of Hydra, and his former friends and heroes fall in battle against him. This very short introduction to the upcoming series has me torn. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t sucked in either. Time will tell if I want to continue. The last half of the comic was a fun Spiderman vs The Vulture story. It had some snappy dialogue between the two about “you’re so old that…” and had a tease for future story lines.

All in all, all four of my choices were solid. I plan on continuing with most of the story lines, and isn’t that the intent of the event, to make us want to buy future issues?

-Nancy

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