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January 2018

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

A while back, Niantec (the company behind mobile games Ingress and Pokémon Go) announced that they were creating a separate division of their company called Portkey Games. This was so that they could focus on a mobile AR Harry Potter game! I’ve been waiting for news, and they’ve since released the first trailer, which you can watch below.

Looks pretty cool, huh? The graphics honestly reminded me of old Runescape and PS2 graphics – I played through the PS2 port of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets no less than 10 times in my youth. I can’t help wondering if they’re going to port it to PC at some point so it can have more MMORPG elements. I’m especially excited for the character customization. It looks like they are developing a PVP feature, which fans of PoGo have been asking for since the game launched. Hopefully after they work out the bugs in Hogwarts Mystery, they can implement the feature for PoGo as well.

There’s not a whole lot of information about the game yet, but you can preregister for the game here! You’ll get updates via email too. I’ve preregistered and will continue to post updates as I get them ;D

Are you guys excited or more skeptical? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

– Kathleen

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Huntress: Year One

I feel like I may have read this one before, because it seemed vaguely familiar to me while reading it. I didn’t find a past post about it, so perhaps I read it before we started the blog!

Helena is the last of the once-powerful Bertinelli family. Her father, mother, and brother were gunned down in front of her at the age of eight. She knew someone from within the mob had to have ordered the hit, and vowed to find out who. She trained in Sicily, preparing herself for her 21st birthday: the day she claims her inheritance, and the day she will start exacting her revenge. The mob is controlled by old men, who will soon be overtaken by their children. Helena’s job is to take out them all. Blood calls for blood, but she struggles with the conflict between her mission and her Catholic faith. Can she take her revenge without losing her own soul?

This one was beautifully drawn, but could have been written better. The drawing is clean and solid, with a moody color palette. There is not one line out of place. I spent more time looking over Richards’ illustrations than actually reading. However, the pacing was choppy and uneven. I also found myself disappointed with the portrayal of Helena’s character. She’s ruthless, yes, but there was very little conflict within her about her faith. That faith tempers the Huntress, and it’s one of her defining traits and why she does what she does. There’s very little of that here, so there was almost none of that internal conflict. It felt more like she was indulging in unchecked violence, without any second thoughts, just because she could.

Catwoman makes an appearance and acts as a good foil to the Huntress, making for an interesting dynamic I really wish was better explored. They are both independent women who refuse to be defined or measured up to men, or play by anyone else’s rules but their own. Catwoman is famously amoral, and Huntress at her best is morally sound, even if her methods often bely that fact. Even though Huntress isn’t written at her best here, their dialogue and dynamic is a real treat. I kinda wish there was a spin-off with just these two in it.

In conclusion, the story doesn’t quite live up to expectations, but if you’re looking for top-quality art, look no further.

– Kathleen

Madison, Ivory, Cliff Richards, Art Thibert, and Norm Rapmund. Huntress: Year One. 2009.

Manfried The Man

Quirk Books proved to be an apt publisher for this quirky graphic novel about cats and humans having their roles reversed.

Steve Catson is a slacker who has a dead-end job but loves his man, Manfried. When his chubby ginger disappears out a carelessly left open window, Steve is distraught. He needs to own up to his failings and find his man,  and in so doing he is able to help the local Man Shelter and find a new career path.

The artwork is clean, simple and attractive; typically with a six panel layout per page. The cats who portray the pet-owners walk on their hind legs and live just as you would expect humans would. It’s the little men, that will make you pause and laugh, as it’s quite odd to see naked men acting like cats. While the artist draws that cats in various colors as you’d expect to see, it’s the men (never women) drawn with different body types, ages, and nationalities that make the panels distinctive. And instead of a meow, the men always say “hey” to one another or to their cats to get their attention.

The book proved to be a more nuanced than I originally thought it might be. The front cover let’s you know this is a graphic novel, not a collection of strips , as many might expect. While stand alone strips with this role reversal would certainly be funny, this longer narrative lets you move past the juxtaposition of the roles, and you really start to connect with the characters. The story makes you root for Steve to grow up and get Manfried back. I definitely would welcome more stories about these two. Thanks to NetGalley for this clever book!

-Nancy

Image result for Manfried the Man book
This strip is from the creator’s Tumblr site, not the book

Star Wars ComLINKS: Favorite TLJ Scene

This month’s Star Wars writing prompt from the site Anakin and His Angel is, “After you’ve seen The Last Jedi with your favorite people once, twice, maybe even five times and enjoyed celebrating the most wonderful time of the year, we all want to know what your one favorite scene from the film was. Was it a scene that shocked you? That you hoped for? How did it resonate with you? What made it different from the rest of the film?”

I was so incredibly anxious to have Luke and Leia reunite in The Last Jedi, knowing that with Carrie Fisher’s death, this would be the only movie for it to happen. While I had really adored The Force Awakens, only having a brief wordless sighting of Luke meant that this movie better deliver.

The Skywalker twins have been my favorites since I was a child.  I viewed them as heroes,  plus I loved the public personas of Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. Neither became a mega-star like Harrison Ford, but to me they were so much more than that, they were REAL.

Image result for luke and leia the last jedi reunion

*Spoiler Alert*

Luke’s reluctance to leave his self-imposed exile on Ahch-To concerned me, and I didn’t understand his reasoning to stay put. I felt he was letting his family and the Rebels down, betraying the Jedi’s and taking the coward’s way out (but my feelings on that will come soon on a future post). I needed him to reunite with his sister and bring some order into the chaos of the struggling rebellion.

So when he showed up in the cave on the planet Crait where the Rebels were making a last stand, I was heartened. While Luke and Leia’s conversation was much much too brief, the scene was the one that touched me the most, in a movie that overall angered me (again, a conversation for another post). Luke handed Han’s dice to Leia, which I thought was a sweet way to connect the original three heroes. Within minutes they parted and Luke went out to battle his nephew Kylo. When we find out that all of Luke’s interactions were just an astral projection, I felt cheated. I was beyond angry! It took me a second watching of the movie, and some time to cool off, to realize that Leia would have known that Luke was just a projection. So while even if their physical bodies didn’t meet, their minds and souls did. Perhaps the next movie would have given us a better and more complete resolution had Carrie Fisher not died, but we will have to live with this reunion.

As such, my favorite scene was quite bittersweet. The Skywalker twins did not get the ending I felt they deserved, but I will try to believe that their reunion was filled with enough love and acceptence for the two siblings to feel complete.

-Nancy

Bottled

Jane and Ben are hoping to get a place to live together. Jane’s still living with her parents, who don’t have the best relationship. They looked at a house they think would suit – their future housemates are their age, the roof leaks, their room would be tiny – but anything is better than at home. The owners want a down payment that is more than they can afford, but Jane is getting desperate. Their friend Natalie is coming back from Japan – she’s a model and she spent a few years abroad. When Natalie reveals a secret to Jane during a drunken night, is it an opportunity to reconnect with her old friend, or is it a chance for Jane to get everything she thinks she wants?

I’m on the fence about this one. I can definitely see where it was going. It’s an obvious allegory for the disconnected and impersonal relationships we can have now in the age of social media and conversations in text. I just wish it wouldn’t have done it in such a cliche fashion: younger adults as the main characters, two of them in a rocky relationship, the other successful and eliciting lots of jealousy. You definitely know where the story is going a quarter of the way through the book.

The art was… serviceable. It wasn’t to my taste, but again, I can see why the style reflected the story and the themes. It’s flat, only three colors are used, and lots of negative space around them portrays the emptiness in the characters. The tone is impersonal, creepy. Even though you know how it ends, it still packs an emotional punch at the last page.

Fellow readers, did you like or dislike this one? I am, unfortunately, very firmly in the middle!

– Kathleen

Gooch, Chris. Bottled. 2017.

The Wicked + The Divine: Volumes Four + Five

The Wicked + The Divine has been a challenge for me to read for the series seems to have a fantastic idea, but an incomplete follow through. I was intrigued enough after Volume One to read Volumes Two + Three, but then I took a big break. A recent review by the site Catchy Title Goes Here put it back on my radar and I picked up the next two volumes to see what happened next.

Volume Four: Rising Action

Volume three utilized a gimmick of using other artists besides Jamie McKelvie to give their interpretations on the Gods, and I was very unhappy with it, as McKelvie’s art has been the one constant pulling me back into the often confusing story. Luckily the beautifully colored and vivid imagery is back in this volume.

An opening character list with a brief synopsis was very much appreciated, as not only is there a big cast but it has been months since I last read volume three. The Pantheon has always consisted of twelve Gods so Laura’s ascension to Persephone, the thirteenth God, has altered the status quo. Ananke, the God’s keeper, is thrown off kilter and struggles with what to do next. Woden assists her evil manipulations, and ties for the worst God along with self-indulgent Sakhmet. I’m confused as to what Ananke wants to do with Woden’s machine, and Persephone’s action at the end will be sure to throw everything into chaos.

Image result for the wicked and the divine gods

Volume Five: Imperial Phase Part 1

This volume opens with mock magazine articles about a few of the Gods with The Morrigan,  Baal, Woden, deceased Lucifer, and Amaterasu getting shout-outs. Then the creators have a bit of fun with featuring IRL artists and writers in this fake magazine.

There is FINALLY way more character development with all the remaining Gods moving in and out of each others lives, and Baal stepping up to be a father figure to Minerva. Alliances are formed and then broken, as they prepare for “The Great Darkness” while their former mentor Ananke’s motives are still extremely suspect. Some of the Gods are trying to understand the bigger picture around them, while others give themselves to anarchy and extreme hedonism. The ending remains anyone’s guess. I’m still terribly confused as to what is going on, but I will be picking up Volume Six that just came out last week next time I make a graphic novel run.

As a coincidence, as I was driving home last night, I was listening to Muse when the song Undisclosed Desires played and I heard the lyrics “You trick your lovers, that you’re wicked and divine, you may be a sinner, but your innocence is mine”.  Has this favored song of mine, unconsciously influenced my decision to keep on with this series???

-Nancy

The Dark Tower Series

Many of you already know that my obsession with the Dark Tower series began when I read and reviewed the graphic novel adaptation, The Gunslinger Born, back in the summer. I’ve been steadily plugging away at the books ever since. Well, I just finished the 7th novel and I have a lot of feelings! 8D

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

So begins the tale of Roland Deschain of Gilead, last of the line of Eld (that would be King Arthur to the rest of us). He has been chasing the Dark Tower his whole life. He’s sacrificed much for the road… family, friends, even the love of his life. No matter. What does matter is the road to the Tower. He means to climb to the top and see what lies within.

Oh yeah, and the Crimson King and his lackey, the man in black, are screwing with the Beams that hold up the Tower. If the last of the Beams are destroyed and the Tower falls, it means the end of the universe. For there are other worlds than these.

Though Roland is a gunslinger – sort of like a knight of the Round Table, but with guns instead of swords – he cannot stop the Crimson King alone. He draws three people from our world to aid him on his quest. One is Eddie Dean, a heroin addict from the late ’80s. Next is Odetta Holmes, a schizophrenic black woman missing her legs from the knee down in a freak accident during the ’60s. The last, a child named Jake Chambers, whom Roland has met before, and they didn’t part so amicably…

This band of misfits, lost in time, come together to form a ka-tet. One from many, with Roland as their leader. Under Roland’s tutelage, they become gunslingers themselves, seeking out the Dark Tower, following the ever-turning wheel of ka, of destiny…

Will they climb to the top of the Dark Tower? Will they even find it? Will those they encounter on their quest help them, or do they mean to kill them before they reach it?

I was held completely in thrall from the first sentence of the first novel to the last word of the seventh. Say whatever you want about Stephen King, the man knows how to write. The story has so many layers and intricacies to it that you take the time to savor every detail. Now that I’m done, I want to go back and see what I missed… maybe after a short break =P

The characters go through tremendous growth through the course of the series, but none more than Roland. At the start, he’s a hardened warrior, single-mindedly pursuing his quest at full speed, blinkers on and blind to all else. As the series goes on, we see him soften, open himself up to love and friendship. It’s not without consequences, and what happens to him is cyclical. Ka, destiny, time, is a wheel, and that’s the message at the heart of this series.

What’s most fascinating about the series is that it’s not one genre. Throw a little bit of Western, fantasy, science fiction, horror, along with a good dash of tongue-in-cheek pop culture and a sprinkling of supernatural and romance in the blender, and you end up with this series. I’m a librarian, and I could recommend it to just about anyone:

  • Love fantasy? The characters are on an epic quest, and there are multiple books to boot. The tone is atmospheric, like you would find in many fantasy novels, and there are elements of magic.
  • You read science fiction? Technology is rampant (though rapidly deteriorating) in this world. For instance, there are robots, both of the benign and killer variety, along with discussions of the theory of time travel and the multiverse.
  • Western reader? Roland himself is very much like a hero cowboy, and much of the setting is reminiscent of the Old West. There are no shortage of shootouts or action scenes either!
  • Horror connoisseur? First of all, I must ask you why you haven’t read this series yet, written by the King of Horror, and containing references to many (if not all) his previous works. Then I’ll tell you that there are monsters of multiple varieties, and passages that truly make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
  • For those of you who hate horror, however, I’m right there with you! There wasn’t nearly enough in this series to turn me off to it. You can also predict many of these scenes coming so you can skim if you need to.

See how easy that was? I’d also tell anyone that this is easily one of the best book series I’ve ever read. The literary quality is unparalleled: it’s just written masterfully. The story, action, and characters will keep you entranced from start to finish. I laughed, I cried, I cheered at Roland and his ka-tet’s triumphs and I despaired with them in their losses. It was truly a wild ride and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I really don’t know what to do with my life now, though… I’m totally at a loss for what to read next!

– Kathleen

King, Stephen. The Dark Tower series.

Birds of Prey (II, Vol. 2): The Death of Oracle

Too many people know who Oracle is. There’s only one solution Barbara can see: Oracle has to die. Tricky part is, no one’s in on the plan. Not even Dinah or any of the other Birds. When Calculator moves to destroy Oracle once and for all, Barbara sees her chance. She carefully pulls her strings, manipulating the Birds and Calculator’s goons right where she wants them. But when the mission turns south fast, can Oracle save her team one more time? Can the superhero community survive without an Oracle?

This is the most high-stakes mission the Birds have yet. The tension radiates from every page as you race through, desperate to see what happens! The action scenes are consequently particularly good in this volume, mirroring the tension in the story. There is more to the book after the end of this story, including Huntress reigniting an old flame and Lady Blackhawk reuniting with some of her old friends from her WWII days! I’m always up for a story centering on Zinda ;D

This is unfortunately the last volume before the New 52 – the series was cancelled after this volume =( It’s a shame the end of the story wasn’t really wrapped up, though at the very end there is a joke recalling earlier volumes, which was fun. I’m really sad I’m getting to the end – this is my favorite series and I don’t ever want to run out!!! Stay tuned for the New 52 run!

– Kathleen

Simone, Gail, Ardian Syaf, Pere Pérez, and Stanley Lau. Birds of Prey (II, Vol. 2): The Death of Oracle. 2011.

A Tribute Anthology to Deadworld

The graphic novel series Deadworld and their titular character King Zombie has been around since 1986, and made zombies cool before The Walking Dead and World War Z. I’ve looked at some of the issues and amazing artwork of Deadworld before, but never truly read the series, so when this anthology became available on NetGalley, I was anxious to read it. While I was surprised that it wasn’t a graphic novel, instead it was a novella of eight short stories, I was pleased as short stories are a favorite genre of mine.

Before the eight stories there is an introduction by editor Lori Perkins, then a lovely tribute to comic publisher Gary Reed by Kevin VanHook and another tribute to the series by Thomas F. Monteleone with a shout out to the enigmatic King Zombie.

The Guitar Girl by Jason Henderson established an Old West feel in this story in the Deadworld universe. Dana, who tries to spread music and hope in a post-apocalyptic world, reunites a family.

Small Town Gay Bar by Andrew Robertson felt like an 80’s slasher movie, and required a suspension of disbelief as to how the zombies infiltrated this small Southern bar. Ending with a cliffhanger, I hope the appealing heroes make it to safety.

The Girl by Jennifer Williams had a dystopian feel with a mystical bent. Our plucky heroine didn’t get the glorious ending you were hoping for.

Home on the Range by Ken Haigh showcased the zombies as more a nuisance than a threat and had an innocuous ending.

Rearguard by Sarah Stegall had the best world building with a Creole family that truly seemed real. Ailing Harriet sends her grandchildren to safety with a box of family mementos while she stays behind. Her position as rearguard hearkens back to her days in the army as a young woman, and she takes out a zombie horde to keep her beloved family safe.

Gonna Get Close To You by Jamie K. Schmidt was on odd mashup of mob assassins, revenge and unrequited love. We get a reference to the Zombie King in this story and the idea that not all zombies are mindless minions.

Another Man’s Skin by George Ivanoff shows what family members will do for each other to ensure their survival. There is no room for sentimentality when you are battling the undead. Felt like a Twilight Zone episode with a twist I saw coming.

Pit Stop by Jeremy Wagner drops us in the middle of a post-apocalyptic world with Rhonda and two children trying to make it to safety. It definitely had a Walking Dead vibe and felt like it was part of a longer story instead of having a conclusion as the other stories did. Thus it was apropos that their was a mention that this story was an excerpt from Rabid Hearts. I was intrigued enough by this tale to want to know more about this story’s characters, so I’d like to know where to track down the longer story.

I enjoyed all the stories, as each writer added something strong to this Deadworld anthology. My interest has been piqued and I plan on tracking down some comic issues of the series next time I stop in my local comic book store. As my previous  T5W post shows, I am a big fan of the zombie genre, and this short story collection supplied by NetGalley for an honest review, was a welcome addition to my reading list!

-Nancy

Perkins, Lori, A Tribute Anthology to Deadworld and Comic Publisher Gary Reed. 2017.

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