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Graphic Novelty²

Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 5): Heart of the Amazon

After travelling the world, working with the military, bringing peace to all, Wonder Woman could use a little down time. The perfect opportunity arrives when Etta’s brother is getting married, and Etta could use a plus one. When a bomb is uncovered at the reception, however, it looks like business as usual. There are some who think that Diana’s blood – her Amazon DNA – could make them strong, make them a hero. There are others who think that her blood could cure countless diseases. And still others want her blood to make an army. Whoever they are, they used Diana’s friends to get to her – and Diana is out for blood herself.

This is the first volume that Shea Fontana wrote. I didn’t find it quite up to par with Vols. 1-4, which Greg Rucka wrote. Those are undoubtedly some hard shoes to fill, but I just didn’t find the same emotional resonance in this volume as in Rucka’s work. This volume is a lot more action-oriented. I found myself struggling with the DNA plot point – Diana’s powers are blessed upon her by the patrons, not as a result of any superhuman gene. It doesn’t make sense for anyone to WANT her DNA. I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief for this one. The artists varied from issue to issue – which is really just a personal nitpick as the art was all great =P My absolute favorite continues to be Jenny Frisson’s variant covers. They’re! Just!! So!!! GREAT!!!! I LOVE THEM!!!!!

Also included in this volume are stories from Wonder Woman: Steve Trevor and Wonder Woman Annual #1, which features this gem:

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Yes. Diana, Princess of Themyscira, playing fetch with a Godzilla-type creature. My heart can’t take it 😭

– Kathleen

Fontana, Shea, Mirka Andolfo, and David Messina. Wonder Woman (Rebirth, Vol. 5): Heart of the Amazon. 2018.

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I’m (still) a Pokémom!

Two years ago (has it been that long?!) I wrote my first post about playing Pokémon Go as an adult. At the time I justified it, for all three of my children played it as did many of youth at the library I work for.  But my children 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.

For 2+ years I have consistently played this game- which is quite shocking even to me- as I have never been much of a game player. I played some Pac-Man in my youth, and I’d play Mario Cart or Wii games with my kids, but I never saw the appeal in video or handheld games. Until now. I seriously can not stop. Once they introduced the incentive of earning extra points if you played consecutive days, I knew I was hooked. The game amuses me to no end, like when I find a gym that players have filled with all of one type of creatures- just for fun. This one was filled with all flyers.

A point of pride for me is that I have never spent a dime on this game. You can buy “coins” that let you purchase more tools to help you in the game, or even to buy your avatar more clothing. Since I’m embarrassed to even be playing this game at my age, I’m certainly not going to spend money on it. I like to pat myself on the back and tell myself my game play is more authentic that way.

I have been planning on writing this post for awhile, but I set a goal for myself to catch the elusive Mew first. I did so through “A Mythical Discovery” that had gamers compete eight multi step challenges to earn the right to catch the legendary Mew. One step took me forever to complete. Kathleen who also plays sent me a funny message with a screen shot she took of a glitch in the system that showed me catching a creature that at that time I had not captured yet.

During my recent family vacation, I finally completed that last excellent throw and captured the little bugger. I actually squealed and shouted out to my family about my success. They were not as impressed as they should have been.  All this effort for a pink little cat/mouse hybrid thingy.

I have no plans to quit and am quite excited that next week a new quest is being released that will set me on a new journey to nab the new legendary Celebi.  It just goes to show- that you never know what game (or book) will appeal to a person. So, I gotta GO, and catch me some more Pokémon!

-Nancy

Header picture is from the website Game Replays.

Rose (Vol. 1)

In a world where all magic disappeared with the Guardians and their Khats, a young girl starts to exhibit the old signs. Not many people remember, but her mother remembers the stories. The Queen Drucilla remembers: she’s the one who killed them all. She is rooting out anyone who, like Rose, starts to show signs of magic, and she’s not discriminatory about who else she kills. Rose’s entire village is eradicated, leaving her devastated, angry, and out for revenge. Once she meets her Khat, marking her as a Guardian of the realm – all bets are off.

I found the story pretty generic. It’s that classic high fantasy coming-of-age story, with the typical characters to match. The thing that bothered me the most was the Queen herself: all evil, no questions asked, with stereotypical dark skin. The art made the writing bearable, though. It was lush and detailed, like the prose of my favorite fantasy novels. It’s an okay addition to the fantasy graphic novel genre, but those who prefer more finesse in their writing might want to look elsewhere.

– Kathleen

Finch, Meredith, and Ig Guara. Rose (Vol. 1). 2017.

Other People

Other People is two beautifully told stories about family and community relationships, with spot on character studies.

The first story, Days of the Bagnold Summer, is an in depth look of a summer between a mother and her teenage son after his plans to visit his father in Florida fall through. Set in a small British town, Sue and Daniel uneasily move through their days, with Sue trying to connect with her metal-head teenager. Daniel skulks around home, not truly upset about not making the annual trip to visit his father and stepmother, but not wanting to admit it to his mother.  Six weeks pass, with Daniel slowly gaining some insight and empathy towards his mother, who does her damndest in trying to prod him lovingly in the right direction. Their interactions were so true to life, and the conclusion with the two of them heading to a family wedding was sweet.

I connected with this story at many levels, as Sue is shown at the library she works at, and as a librarian myself, I laughed at some of the observations she made about patrons there. But it was a mother trying to relate to her teen that was the most poignant for me. Actually I am a mother to three teens- and believe me, there are days that are hard with them. I had so much compassion for the character of Sue and I wanted to shake clueless Daniel, although at heart he wasn’t a bad son. I look forward to the movie they are going to make of this story.

 

The longer second story, Driving Short Distances, was another character study, this time between Sam and his boss Keith. Sam is  27 and at a crossroads in life, as he failed out of university and had a breakdown; so Keith, who is a distant relative of the family, takes him on as a sort of an apprentice in his distribution and delivery business. That Sam truly never figures out what Keith does on his endless errands is a running gag. Keith’s false boasting and foibles become evident as Sam is stuck in the car with him for hours a day, but Sam becomes more confident as the story progresses and he knows he has to stop being carried about in the current and grapple with making himself a new life. The story is a sort of love letter to small town life, as Keith and Sam interact with the same residents day in and out, and I laughed out loud several times. By the end, you are aching for both men, as this tender story shows how toxic masculinity can prevent men from really connecting with one another.

Image result for driving short distances

Author Joff Winterhart really captures the frailties, oddities and connections between people especially in small communities where people have known each other and their families for generations.  His sketchwork captures the essence of people, warts and all, drawn in black and white with excellent shading. His blue overwash in the second story hints towards the depression that both men exhibit, showcasing that Winterhart’s deceptively simple looking artwork is quite effective. I am thankful to NetGalley for bringing to my attention this graphic novel and it’s charming stories.

-Nancy

Blogging Friends Tribute!

I’m back from my family vacation! My family traveled to Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, and wrapped up our trip in Washington DC. We enjoyed nature, history and culture- but an added bonus when I was traveling was meeting some of my blogging friends in real life!

My family and I met Michael of My Comic Relief and Kalie of Just Dread-Full , who are romantic partners, for lunch as we traveled between Cuyahoga Valley and Gettysburg. They traveled close to two hours to meet us!

Kathleen, my writing partner, wanted to meet them too- but a photo of her would have to suffice.

As we arrived at the restaurant first, my daughter asked what would happen if they didn’t show. Was I going to be catfished? But they were there soon afterwards and there was no awkwardness and our conversations flowed as they do on-line.  I had been so nervous about meeting them- they both are so funny and write so intelligently, would I be super lame in comparison? But both were authentic to their blog voices and Michael was as verbose as I had expected (and hoped) he’d be. Two hours zipped by, and my entire family enjoyed meeting Michael and Kalie, but eventually we had to finish our drive to Gettysburg.

After we spent a few days in Gettysburg, my family headed to Washington DC. On our first day there we visited Mount Vernon and Arlington Cemetery. Between those two locations, we planned to meet Jeffrey from The Imperial Talker, who lives in the area. He was also accommodating to my family’s schedule, and modified his day to meet us.  He and his wife Jen met us for lunch, and he too was as awesome in real life as he is on his blog. Jeff and Michael are best friends in real life, so it was neat to be able to talk about one another, now that we all had met. We even planned for a possible meet up next year in Chicago if something we are working on is approved (hint- it has something to do with Star Wars).

Kathleen didn’t photo bomb this picture, instead our spouses did!

One of my favorite parts of blogging is the on-line friendships that I have established. Until I started to blog myself, I had doubted people’s claims that real friendships could be made without meeting one another. But it’s true! That I truly have met Michael, Kalie and Jeff is icing on the cake. Thanks to Jen and my family who were all amazingly chill about meeting people they didn’t know for lunch, so I could meet my FRIENDS!

-Nancy

(Header picture borrowed from WebDev Studios)

The Ghost, the Owl

One night, a girl appears in the forest, dancing on the lake. The animals have never seen her before. She’s a ghost, but undoubtedly human – probably best to leave her alone. Wise Owl thinks she looks confused and scared, so he goes to talk to her. The girl can’t remember a thing about what happened to her, and she is grateful for Owl’s help, but confused too. She does remember that people don’t go out of their way to help others. Owl doesn’t think that’s true. Eventually they find a house, with a young woman inside, defending it against a man who wants to take it from her. What is the Ghost’s connection to this place? Can they help the woman who currently lives there?

This was a unique read. Let’s start with the layout. There are no panels like in a traditional graphic novel. Instead, the whole page is one big illustration, in what appears to be watercolor and colored pencil, with speech bubbles peppered throughout. Sinuous brushstrokes move softly through the pages and gently guide the reader from one speech bubble to the next. I read it twice (it’s very short) just to study the art and how it connected the text in such a subtle, non-invasive, yet wholly pervasive way. I am in thrall of the masterful craftsmanship that went into this graphic novel.

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The Ghost, the Owl (pg. 5).

The story was pretty open-ended. Enough is explained so the reader is placed appropriately in the story, but just enough is left out so the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about various elements, including the ending. I could recommend it to a variety of age groups. I enjoyed it immensely as an adult, but I would easily give it to a middle-schooler because of the short length and the discussions of selflessness and man vs. nature that could start with this book. High schoolers could talk about more of the same, but would better appreciate the folklore inspiration for the story and the open-ended writing. Beautifully rendered and highly recommended.

– Kathleen

Franco and Sara Richard. The Ghost, the Owl. 2018.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

Now that I’ve played through about half the story, and some new features have been released, I’m back to write a full review! I said in my First Impressions post that there was some things I was happy with in the first 2ish hours of the game, and some things I wasn’t. Unfortunately, that proved to hold true the more I played =(

The setting (pre-books) is definitely interesting. The player meets younger versions of familiar characters we know and love, though there are plenty of new characters too, which is a fun new way to engage with the series. You get to make friends with both old and new faces. You can interact with your friends and level up your friendship cards by having a meal with them, challenging them to a game of Gobstones, and starting with Year 3, buying them a mug of Butterbeer. It’s always a quiz to test your Potter knowledge, and the questions and answers are always the same. It gets quite repetitive.

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Sharing a Butterbeer with your friend Tulip Karuso, a new character.

The classes are repetitive as well. Certain lessons are required to be completed to advance the story, but to unlock THOSE, you need to attend the same class until you get enough stars to unlock it. For example, to unlock Transfiguration’s Mouse to Snuffbox, you need to attend Transfiguration class and complete a lesson you’ve already learned to earn stars. Earning 7 stars will unlock the new lesson. You do level up your attributes this way (Courage, Knowledge, or Empathy, depending on the class), but again, it gets very repetitive very fast. And the lessons follow the same format: clicking on active blue objects, using energy, answering questions or tracing a path on the screen whenever you earn a star, waiting for your energy to refill, rinse and repeat.

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A Potions lesson. You click the active blue objects to “interact” with them, thus losing energy. For each interaction you complete, you fill up the star meter at the top. You finish the class when you get 5/5 stars.

Are you sensing a pattern here? =P

The story… I didn’t quite care for it. I found myself looking forward to the side quests more than actually advancing the main story. The side quests are things like helping your friends brew potions, meeting Hagrid and puppy! Fang, and even assisting with romantic endeavors. These made the game feel more like an authentic Hogwarts experience. The main story shoehorns you into chasing Cursed Vaults to find your missing sibling, whether or not you want to. Call me crazy, but I don’t want to! I just want to learn to be a witch!! I thought having the story set before Harry showed up was to have a nice, quiet, 7 years at Hogwarts!!! I was so wrong 😭

I’ve played it pretty irregularly for a few weeks now because I’ve grown bored with it. The new features they’ve added, such as pets and star dashes for exclusive avatar items, isn’t enough to save it for me. It’s certainly an RPG, but a very closed one. The main story is too rigid to allow the story to unfold your way, unlike other RPGs I’ve played. The side quests are what made it fun for me; they allowed for more fun and a Hogwarts experience more like what I had hoped for. I’ll just have to hold out and save up for a second phone for Harry Potter: Wizards Unite for a Potter mobile game I’ll enjoy more.

– Kathleen

Marvel Rising- A Miniseries Deserving Of An Ongoing Title!

Today we have a treat- Michael from My Comic Relief kindly wrote us a marvelous guest post to cover Nancy’s absence while she and her family vacation in Washington DC.  After you read this post about the new Marvel Rising, make sure you check out his site and be ready to be impressed with his posts about comics, Star Wars, music and his poignant New American Resistance series. Enjoy!

Guest Writer: Michael Miller of My Comic Relief

When I was a kid, I enjoyed comic books for all sorts of reasons. The feelings that come most readily to mind when I let my memory drift back to those days are the joy I found in reading exciting adventures staring bright, fun, often funny, colorful characters and the reassurance of their simple homilies – no matter how dark it gets, the heroes always win in the end. When I returned to reading comic books as an adult, I was happy to find many comics still offering those same feelings…and I was impressed to find ones effectively coupling it with strong social justice messages. There are no two characters who perform these dual tasks better than Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) and Doreen Green (Squirrel Girl). And upon finding them, I became a fan for life. So I opened the pages of their first official team-up, Devin Greyson’s new miniseries Marvel Rising, with trepidation. Why was I worried? Well, could anything live up to my expectations?!? Would my hopes ruin the story for me? Thankfully what I found has me wishing it was an ongoing monthly series! Continue reading “Marvel Rising- A Miniseries Deserving Of An Ongoing Title!”

The Flash (Rebirth, Vol. 1): Lightning Strikes Twice

Barry Allen became the Flash when he was struck by lightning and gained access to the Speedforce. For a long time, he was the only one. But now, all over Central City, a whole bunch of citizens have been struck by lightning and have gained the same powers Barry has. Some, like Barry’s friend August Heart, love their newfound abilities; others are scared and want to go back to a normal life. Dr. Meena Dhawan, a scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs, has been inviting those who’ve been affected to train with her, to learn to control their abilities. The Speedforce granted her the ability to sense the Speedforce in others. Together, Barry, August, and Meena are helping the new speedsters and protecting them from a new threat. A speedster called Godspeed is targeting these new recruits and stealing their speed. Barry feels responsible, but he’s not alone anymore and thus doesn’t have to shoulder the burden on his own. When the identity of Godspeed is revealed, he thinks it may just be better to go it alone…

This one had a lot packed in it. The first issue had to do a lot with the Batman/The Flash: The Button (2017), which I hadn’t read, so I felt a little lost. I’ve heard it’s good, so I’ll have to pick it up =P After that, it dropped off, and the story picks up by itself. There was a lot going on in the story here, but everything ties together nicely. By the end I wanted to go back and see what I’d missed! The art is serviceable. The figures are very angular, every edge and corner sharp. It works great in the action scenes with all the lightning, but just looks plain odd in slower scenes. This is one of the better Rebirth titles I’ve picked up, and will be reading more!

– Kathleen

Williamson, Joshua, Carmine di Giandomenico, and Ivan Plascencia. The Flash (Rebirth, Vol. 1): Lightning Strikes Twice. 2017.

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