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May 2016

Assassin’s Creed (Vol. 4): Hawk

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Corbeyran, Eric, and Djillali Defali. Assassin’s Creed (Vol 4): Hawk. 2013.

The next installment of the Assassin’s Creed series takes us to Cairo, Egypt, in 1340. An assassin named El Cakr is hired to recover the stolen Scepter of Aset. We are living these memories through Johnathan Hawk, an assassin who is very sensitive to the Animus. He could face serious consequences if left in there too long. The modern-day Templars are after the Scepter – and a piece of Johnathan (no, literally. They want his eye).

That was a pretty short review but this was a pretty short volume XD I probably should have waited until they published the next three volumes in one book (in English), but I couldn’t wait =P It’s not clear yet exactly how Johnathan fits into the story but the mystery is enough to keep me going. Plus, Egyptian assassin!

– Kathleen

Wytches

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Snyder, Scott & Jock. Wytches. 2015.

The Rooks Family moves to Litchfield, NH, a remote town in which they hope to escape the trauma that their daughter Sailor has experienced recently. They live in a secluded home, in which the father Charlie can work on his best selling children’s books, while the mother who is in a wheelchair works as a nurse at a nearby hospital. We find out early that Sailor had been terrorized by a bully at their previous town, and while out in the woods, the girl threatening Sailor was grabbed and dragged into a tree by monstrous hands. As the story sounds unbelievable, some people assume Sailor killed her.

Mysterious people appear and strange situations begin to occur to the family. Sailor ends up in the woods by her new house after a stressful situation at school, and is dragged into the Wytches lair, along with her uncle. When her parents report her missing, a search party looks for her, but the Sheriff doesn’t seem especially concerned. A strange vigilante that had previously hurt the father, helps Charlie obtains clues and weaponry that will help him rescue his daughter from the underground den. While his rescue attempt is successful, all hell breaks loose at home and in the town now that the secret is out. The Wytches come to the surface and secret allegiances are revealed. An epic fight ensues and sacrifices are made, and the story is set up to continue as this will be a series.

The artwork is unique, but I don’t especially mean that in a good way. The layout and illustrations were fine, but the paint splatters that were overlaid on all of the pictures became quite distracting. While this overprint technique was supposed to convey a mind-bending surrealness to the story, it failed. Paint blotches do not equal scariness.

While an intriguing premise this book fell flat for me. The characters were annoying, and there were several contrived scenes.  How people become pledged to the coven seemed indiscriminate, and while I hope the Wytches are vanquished, I won’t be sticking around for the final showdown.

-Nancy

 

DC Rebirth?

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Today, DC is releasing the first issues in another reboot (?) of the universe, this one titled Rebirth. Instead of a total overhaul like they did with the New 52, Rebirth will still incorporate elements of the New 52. In addition, they plan on re-incorporating some elements from before Flashpoint. So Rebirth seems kind of a blend of the old and the new.

This came as a surprise to me, first off because it seemed like New 52 just happened. I was a little alarmed to read that it occurred back in 2011 – five years ago! Where did the time go? X,D Both fans and critics have been split on New 52 ever since it’s inception. It was a good move from an editorial and business standpoint, as DC’s sales during the first couple months shot through the roof. It also gave people who previously had never read comics before a chance to start at an actual starting point: Issue #1. In some ways, New 52 worked out. Overall, the blank slate encouraged experimentation with the characters and stories. The Batman series was popular from the start. Batgirl of Burnside led to other stories drawn and written in the same lighthearted style. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s Wonder Woman is often cited as one of the most successful stories in the reboot.

However, as the series went on, DC gained a lot of criticism for editorial and creative issues forcing top artists and writers to resign, and for their portrayal of women and Barbara Gordon regaining her mobility. One of the most well-known controversies of the New 52 was DC’s refusal to marry Kat Kane and Maggie Sawyer in Batwoman. Creators J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman immediately quit the book, fans were outraged, and DC had to pull one of their most popular books as a result. Sales have been fluctuating ever since the reboot, but with the economy that was probably expected. Part of it could also be due to a lot of titles being cut early, such as Static Shock and Blue Beetle. Some titles started out strong but dwindled, like Superman, Justice League, and Wonder Woman after Meredith and David Finch took over for Azzarello and Chiang.

Because the events of the New 52 are still relevant in Rebirth, I guess it’s not technically a reboot. Everyone is getting new artists and writers, however, and some titles are being continued while others are being cut. It just kind of seems to me like they’re hyping it up to increase sales again. I might check it out, but I haven’t really been keeping up with anything except Bombshells. As long as they leave that alone, I’ll be a happy girl.

– Kathleen

Birds of Prey (Vol. 4): Sensei & Student

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Simone, Gail, Ed Benes, Michael Golden, Cliff Richards, Alex Lei, Ruy Jose, Mike Manley, and Scott Hanna. Birds of Prey (Vol. 4): Sensei and Student. 2005.

This one is way overdue and I’m sorry! I have so many comics and graphic novels on my to-read list and I have a hard time just picking one sometimes XD

Black Canary is in Hong Kong on a personal mission – her sensei is dying of cancer. She runs into Lady Shiva, in town for the same reason. They are targeted by a gang, who was paid to keep them busy while someone poisoned their sensei and his entire household. Canary and Shiva, determined to avenge him, must learn to set aside their differences to get to the bottom of it. Meanwhile, back in Gotham, Oracle is dealing with her own issues. She keeps giving her field agents the wrong information without meaning to. She discovers a virus has gotten into her computer system, and there are federal agents waiting to arrest her right outside her own door.

It’s been a while since I’ve read the last issue, but I fell in love with the series all over again. Simone’s writing is upbeat and fast-paced. There was a great flashback scene of Dinah’s mom, the first Black Canary, and an awesome scene with Wonder Woman, too! That made me happy X3 There are other characters that appear briefly as well. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I love this series and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next issue!

– Kathleen

Origin

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Jemas, Quesada, Jenkins, Kubert, & Isanove. Origin. 2001.

Back in 2001 when the first of the six comics came out, I thought Wolverine’s origin story would finally be revealed. I eagerly awaited each issue, anxious for the truth. As with any good origin story, some questions were answered, but many more were added.

We are first introduced to Rose, a twelve year old orphan who is being brought up the Howlett estate to be a companion for the younger sickly James Howlett in the early 1900’s.  We meet James’s father John and his grandfather, who are very unlike in temperament, with the older gentleman having made a fortune in copper ore in the Canadian mines. His mother, Elizabeth,  is but a ghost in the mansion, shutting herself away after the death of her older son. Rose witnesses long slash marks across her back, and is sworn to secrecy about these scars.

Rose and James strike up a tenuous friendship with Dog Logan, the son of Thomas Logan, the drunken groundskeeper who lives on the outskirts of the estate. Thomas looks strikingly like what we know the adult Wolverine looks like, and his brutality towards his son, starts to turn Dog into a cruel boy. Eventually the friendship dissolves when the class differences become too wide and Dog tries to assault Rose and kills James’s dog.

This prompts the Logan family to be kicked off the estate, with Thomas vowing revenge against the Howlett’s. Thomas sneaks up to take Elizabeth, confirming the hints of a relationship between the two.  John comes in to save her, but Thomas kills him; with James, Rose and Dog witnessing the murder. James flies into a rage, with his claws emerging for the first time, and kills Thomas. His mother becomes unhinged screaming that this has happened before, and cradles Thomas in grief instead of her dead husband John. Rose and James escape, with Elizabeth then shooting herself, leaving Dog the only one left alive at the scene.

The grandfather rejects his surviving grandson sending him and Rose away and covering up the crime. The two eventually leave Alberta and travel to British Columbia and join a logging camp where they hope for some anonymity. Rose becomes a clerk in the office, while James grows physically as he gains strength as a logger, eventually earning the nickname Wolverine for his dogged persistence at the job. They masquerade as cousins and James takes on the name Logan, and the years go by.

Rose keeps a diary of what has happened, as Logan refuses to remember or talk about the tragedy. She and the kind foreman Smitty eventually fall in love, and plan to marry and leave the camp. Rose worries about Logan, as he disappears into the woods for long periods, and worries about how he would cope without her stabilizing influence. As expected he does not take the news well, as he himself loves Rose. What happens next sets up the stage for the mysterious and continued tragic backstory of the Wolverine we know today.

This artwork in this story conveyed the darkness and foreboding of the family estate and later the rugged landscape of the logging camp and nearby wilderness. The panels were bordered by black, continuing the ominous color scheme. I did find the characters inconsistently drawn though, for the combination of pencil drawing and digital painting could take away from the precision that faces sometimes need. I particularly thought Elizabeth and Rose could veer between a realistic rendering, and a grotesque caricature of their normally beautiful faces.

Questions remain: Was Thomas Logan the father of James and his older brother? Are James and Dog brothers then? What exactly happened to the older brother?  Why did both brothers have this power? What more did the grandfather know? Who was Dog’s mother? Is Dog Sabretooth?  What happens to James/Logan/Wolverine in the intervening years after leaving the logging camp? Perhaps some of these questions are answered in Origin II (which I have not read yet) but I doubt it. Wolverine remains special for he is an enigma and his background remains murky. Kudos to the team who wrote this story for it just whetted our appetite for more.

-Nancy

origin

 

Ready Player One

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Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One. 2011.

As an avid reader, I’m always excited when a new book vaults to the top of my favorites list, and this book did so! While not a graphic novel (but, God, it would make a great one!), with all the 80’s pop culture references & geek culture throughout…this book was made for me.

The year is 2044 and the world is in shambles, with society choosing to live their lives online, in a massive multiplayer world called OASIS. The creator of this virtual game, James Halliday, has recently died and has left an “easter egg” hunt for players to compete for his estate worth billions. The gamers have to decipher his many layered riddles, having to study pop culture and Dungeons and Dragons mythology to understand the clues. Years have gone by with no one solving the puzzle, so enter Wade Watts, a young man with no real life who spends all his time trying to find the clues to Halliday’s first riddle. Amazingly he figures it out, which puts him on the scoreboard and brings the world’s attention to the hunt for the egg. Wade’s online friendships are tested, and his real family is threatened as professional gamers go to any lengths to beat Wade to the next level. Quests are mounted, battles are fought, betrayals occur; but also, a real romance is brewing between Wade and Art3mis, a competitor of his. You must read to find out how his online and real world’s collide and how things turn out. While at times the story almost veered into ridiculousness, it stayed the course, and was just so flippin’ awesome!

Wil Wheaton (Star Trek TNG) narrates the audio version of the book, and him reading it was a stroke of genius, for it was so meta-he even mentioned himself…swoon, I just had a nerdgasm. This EPIC book should be on everyone’s to-read lists, and I eagerly look forward to the movie based off the book that is being directed by Steven Spielberg and slated for release in 2018.

-Nancy

 

 

Assassin’s Creed: The Ankh of Isis Trilogy

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Corbeyran, Eric, and Djillali Defali. Assassin’s Creed: The Ankh of Isis Trilogy. 2013.

Assassin’s Creed is one of my favorite video game series. (But like. Only before Black Flag.) I have really fond memories of my first year away at school playing this series for the first time. I’ve met many of my online friends because of these games. I’m pretty sure I’ve read this graphic novel before, at the height of my obsession, but decided to pick it up again for this blog.

Much like the games, the modern day and historical stories are told together. Desmond Miles has been kidnapped and forced into the Animus by Abstergo. Lucy helps him escape and takes him to the Assassins, who ask him to go into the Animus again, to relive more memories and help them recover Pieces of Eden. While we see snippets of the stories of the ancestors we know and love, the graphic follows another ancestor. His name is Aquilus, and he was alive and operating in the Roman Empire during the third century. He recovers an artifact, the Ankh of the Egyptian goddess Isis, though it nearly costs him his life. He is saved by his cousin Accicepter, but little does Aquilus know that the tiny artifact will soon cost him much more. When it is stolen, can he recover it in time? Can Desmond and the modern day Assassins recover the long-lost Ankh before Abstergo can get their hands on it?

The art is richly detailed, just like that of the games. I was always drawn to the sweeping landscapes and atmosphere of the games. The graphic felt much the same, though the color palette and lighting are a little darker. The story, once you get past what you’ve played, is fast-paced and action-packed. I’ve already gotten the next few volumes and can’t wait to check them out~

– Kathleen

The Outside Circle

Powerful. Heartbreaking. Educational.

Pete, a young man of the Cree Nation of Canada, lives with his mother and younger brother, Joey, in the city of Edmonton in Alberta. Pete is involved in the drug trade and angrily rejects his girlfriend when she tells him of her pregnancy. But he is protective of his brother, and later his mother, when he discovers his mother beat up again by her drug addicted boyfriend. The fight between these two men escalates, with Pete shooting the strung out man, and being sentenced to jail for the murder. Social Services sweeps in and takes custody of Joey, with the mother resignedly signing away her rights. Joey struggles in foster care, eventually running away to go back to his old neighborhood, and getting recruited to be part of Pete’s old drug gang.

While incarcerated, Pete continues with gang affiliations and violence, until he receives a beat down that sends him to the prison infirmary. A kindly parole officer has him switch prisons and gives him an opportunity to be part of a program geared towards rehabilitating First Nations men in prison. He and several other men meet at the Healing Centre and are sponsored through the program by Violet, an older First Nations woman who has conquered her own demons. The group starts each meeting with a Purification Smudge, and weeks go by as step by painful step she leads these men through the Warrior Program. The men learn how the colonial system of Canada deliberately broke the bonds of family ties among the Aboriginal tribes, sending children to schools that were designed to reeducate and Christianize them. The government took away thousands of children from their families, breaking the circles of community and fragmenting generations of people with no connection to their tribe anymore. Pete’s eyes are opened to how he can change his ways, and be a good influence to Joey, breaking the cycle of hopelessness that many feel. His story of redemption and making amends is a compelling testament to finding healing and being proud of your heritage.

The author, Patti LaBoucane-Benson, is of Métis heritage and is Director of Research, Training, and Communication at Native Counselling Services of Alberta. The story she shares, which mirrors many of the same issues that Native Americans have faced in the US, is one that more people should be aware of. The artist, Kelly Mellings, captures the characters (especially the facial expressions) and story arc perfectly. Page by page, I was sucked into the story that had a good narrative flow, with background knowledge added into the pictures for clarification. The illustrations beautifully show the symbolism, ceremonies and traditions of Aboriginal culture. No matter what your cultural identity is, family connectedness and knowing we are all part of our community should be an aspect of our lives.

-Nancy

 

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LaBoucane-Benson, Patti & Kelly Mellings. The Outside Circle. 2015.

 

Supergirl – Season 1

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Sorry this took so long! My last Wednesday post coincided with hell week and on top of that I got sick. I’m all graduated and back home with my dogs so now I can finally share >:D

When Krypton was dying, Kara Zor-El was placed in a spaceship in an attempt by her parents to help her escape. They instructed her to watch over her baby cousin, Kal-El, told her of the fantastic powers she would have under the Earth’s yellow sun, and kissed her goodbye for the last time. A shockwave from the exploding planet knocked Kara’s pod off course, and she landed in the Phantom Zone, in hypersleep for 24 years. When her ship finally reaches Earth, she is still a grieving, confused, and terrified 13-year old girl, but her baby cousin has already grown up and become Superman, Earth’s protector. Clark leaves her in the care of the Danvers family, where she grows up alongside their daughter, Alex.

At the start of the series, Kara is now 24 years old, and an executive assistant to Cat Grant of CatCo Worldwide Media. She is hoping to become a journalist one day, like her cousin, to make a difference in the world. Unlike her cousin, she has no intention of revealing her powers. The world already has a Superman, there’s no need for another. At the same time, she is tired of hiding who she is and what she can do. So it is with a secret relief that Kara saves a plane from crashing in National City, rescuing hundreds of people. Her sister Alex is furious, telling her that this is a situation she can’t undo. And indeed, as the press gets hold of it, they start asking questions that Kara isn’t sure she’s ready to answer. Most unsettling are the not-untrue comparisons of this “Supergirl” to Superman. Is Kara ready to take up that mantle? Does she even want to?

Enlisting the help of her friends Winn Schott and James Olson (yes, that James Olson who worked with her cousin), she starts to fight crime in National City. Soon, Alex reveals that she works for the D.E.O., the Department of Extra-Normal Operations, a secret government agency that monitors threats of aliens and invasions. She asks Kara to come work with her and her boss, Hank Henshaw, to better protect the Earth, like their father did before them. Kara agrees, and together the trio foil many threats to National City by escapees of the Phantom Zone’s Fort Rozz, including those of her Aunt Astra and Uncle Non. Both Supergirl and Kara have many pitfalls along the way, but hope manages to prevail each time. Will hope be enough to stop Astra and Non’s final ace: Project Myriad?

I! LOVED!!! THIS SERIES!!! I was so excited when it was announced for a number of reasons. Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg are writers and developers for the show, and since they work on Arrow and Flash, you KNEW it was gonna be good. I was mostly excited just because of the simple fact that we were finally getting a female superhero. Arrow and Flash are great, and they even have great female characters, but it’s important for female superheroes to shine. The cast of this show is mostly female, and the different strengths and weaknesses of each character made everyone feel human, even though they might not have been. Calista Flockheart is phenomenal as Cat Grant. She and Kara seem like opposites at first, but as the series goes on, you learn that they have more in common than you think, and that they admire each other for many of the same reasons. Kara and Alex’s relationship felt so organic and reminded me so much of me and my own sisters I was moved to tears on multiple occasions. Even Astra, though not likeable, was redeemable in the end.

What I liked most about this series was that it’s light-hearted and fun, much like Flash (could it be that’s why they did a Flash crossover first? =P). Kara is young, bright, and trying to find her place in the world, what being a hero means to her, and learning to not walk in Clark’s shadow but beside him, in her own light. She is optimistic, hopeful, forgiving, but her anger is earth-shattering and her sadness truly touching and tear-jerking. Melissa Benoist did a fantastic job.

I made a point to watch this every Monday, on TV, because as a new show it needed my view more than Arrow or Flash (plus, I’m not caught up, ooops). The ratings still dropped halfway through the season and while it was implied a couple months ago there will be a second season, we’re still waiting on an official announcement. There has been talk of it moving to another network, or perhaps even a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu. No matter where it moves to, we’re probably looking at heavy budget cut. The licensing fees for this show are really expensive. I’m committed to the series no matter what, though, because I love it and I think the messages it sends are extremely important. So watch this season when it comes out on DVD but be committed to the second season too – Supergirl needs us!

– Kathleen

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