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Puerto Rico Strong

Puerto Rico Strong is a comics anthology that explores what it means to be Puerto Rican and the diversity that exists within that concept, from today’s most exciting Puerto Rican comics creators.” The proceeds from this book sale will go to UNIDOS Disaster Relief & Recovery Program to Support after the back to back hurricanes that devastated the island in 2017.

As with any anthology, this collection was uneven. Pair that with a graphic novel format, and there are some illustration styles that will not appeal to everyone, but the art as a whole is well done. Written with the best of intentions, these one-shot stories that are only a few pages, vary in tone and authenticity. Also included were one page splash pages, which I thought were a lead-in to a story, but indeed were only that page- which proved off putting. 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.

I appreciated learning more about Puerto Rico and the history that has shaped this US territory. Several stories spotlighted their Taíno heritage, who were the first inhabitants before Columbus and Spanish conquistadors destroyed their culture.  Paired with their early history, was modern day history and how misguided US involvement has caused financial, ecological and cultural disasters. In addition, a few of the stories dealt with the eugenics that women endured as pharmaceutical companies preyed on those they felt that they could manipulate.

Favorites:

Thanks for Nothing by Tom Beland-  I was surprised that there wasn’t more anger directed specifically at Trump, only Beland’s righteous barbs referred directly to Trumps’ epic mismanagement of disaster relief.

La Casita of American Heroes by Anthony Otero & Charles Ugas- Lovely story of a woman soldier coming home with her child to the island to check on her parent’s safety. She teaches her daughter about all the soldiers on both sides of her family who have fought for America, but often are not considered American.

The Dragon of Bayamon by Jeff Gomez, Fabian Nicieza & Adriana Melo- An 11 year heads to Puerto Rico to stay with his abusive father for the summer and has to deal with not speaking Spanish fluently and his father’s moods. I liked this story, but it desperately needed fleshing out.

Reality Check by Tony Bedard & John R Holmes- This story rubbed me the wrong way on the first page but the father’s explanation of the conquistador’s role on the island in relation to the Taíno was shocking, but he juxtaposed it to other nation’s helping now after the hurricanes. Still not on board with his reasoning, but it truly was thought provoking.

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 love how authors and illustrators who were Puerto Rican added their #ownvoices to the dialogue. While often too sentimental, the right intent is there, and purchases of this book will benefit those in need.

-Nancy

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Gothic Tales of Haunted Love

Gothic tales + haunted love + diverse characters = yes, please!

This strong anthology has 200+ pages of short illustrated stories that are horror-themed, as they are a tribute to 1970’s Gothic pulp novels. Each story has a different author and illustrator, with lends to many different styles within this collection. The stories are extremely diverse, with characters of different nationalities, cultures and sexual orientations plus they take place in several different time periods. This variety will give every reader some stories that they will absolutely connect with as there are stories with revenge motifs, historical heartbreak or the supernatural.

As with any anthology there are some stories that are stronger than others. Pair that with a graphic novel format, and there are some illustration styles that will not appeal to everyone, but the art as a whole is well done with evocative coloring. The book includes eighteen new stories, and one reprint of an original Korean Gothic comic. A prologue, art gallery and author bios round out the collection.

My favorites included:

Crush– Janet Hetherington, Ronn Sutton, Becka Kinzie & Zakk Saam: An African American governess falls in love with a widowed Sea Captain, father of the seven children she cares for. When he disregards her as a love interest, she obtains revenge.

The Return– David A Robertson & Scott B. Henderson: A Native American woman comes back from the dead to be reunited with her fiancee, but she finds a better man who sees beyond her beauty to what was in her heart.

Green, Gold, and Black– Cherelle Higgins & Rina Rozsas: Set in Jamaica on the eve of a slave uprising, an enslaved woman is giving birth. She is chained by her white mistress, for her husband had raped the woman and the child is his, and she is consumed by jealousy. This is the most heartbreaking of all the stories, although I found a nugget of hope in the end, depending on how you interpret the mother’s visions.

Mistress Fox– Megan Kearney & Derek Spencer: A bride shares an unsettling dream with her guests the morning after her wedding – the night before, her new husband had killed a maid that he was having an affair with. You know she is framing her cad of a husband, but there is one more sly twist at the end.

I received an online copy from NetGalley for an unbiased review back in April, but I had downloaded it close to it’s expiration date, and had to do a quick review based off only one day at looking at it online. That just wouldn’t do, so I ordered a print copy for my library, so I could re-read it and have library patrons enjoy it too. And isn’t that the point- to purchase a book you’d like to read over and over again- and then share it with others?!

-Nancy

Fresh Romance (Vol. 1)

Romance isn’t really my thing. I’ve read a few romance novels, but I find the actual romances uninspiring, forced, or too problematic – definitely not romantic! So I picked this one up already pretty ambivalent about it.

I’m happy to report I was pleasantly surprised by this anthology! There are four stories inside, all romances, but of differing flavors ;D

  • School Spirit by Kate Leth, Arielle Jovellanos, Amanda Scurti, and Taylor Esposito. High school friends Miles, Corinne, Justine, and Malie are planning for prom and graduation. Malie and Justine want to go together, but their relationship is a secret and they’re not sure if they’re ready to make it public. Corinne has a magical gift and technically isn’t allowed to date mortals like Miles. Will prom night be the one night they’re allowed to be themselves, and together? Or will they find themselves ripped apart by those who don’t understand? A sweet and salty tone combined with inclusive characters and brightly colored artwork made for a delicious read.
  • Ruined by Sarah Vaughn, Sarah Winifred Searle, and Ryan Ferrier. A historical romance that begins on Catherine Benson’s wedding day. She marries Mr. Andrew Davener, a lucky marriage to be sure, after Catherine was involved in a scandal the previous summer. They are both nervous around each other, each keeping secrets of the past from the other. How are they to rebuild their reputations and make their marriage work? This one ended on the worst cliffhanger!!! I’ll be seeking out the second volume for sure to find out what happens! The art is clean, simple, and yet bearing that certain expressiveness and dignity called to mind with classic English literature. Beautifully rendered.
  • The Ruby Equation by Sarah Kuhn, Sally Jane Thompson, Savanna Ganucheau, Steve wants, and Sonia Harris. Ruby is stuck working in a coffee shop on Earth making people fall in love. Gross! She knows she’s destined for more, and she can’t wait to finish this mission so she can herd laser seahorses in another realm. She can skip making multiple matches if she makes one big, great match – one involving an individual who’s given up on love entirely. I found the art too overly detailed and cluttered in this one to really get into it.
  • Beauties by Marguerite Bennett, Trungles, Rachel Deering, and Kris Anka. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast in which the Beast is captured by Beauty’s father, a merchant prince. The prince and his first two daughters each love the Beast, but as a possession. Beauty loves him as an equal, and frees him from her family’s prison. How are they to hide when they are being hunted? The artwork looked like old woodcuts or prints like you might find in an old volume of fairy tales.

Overall, I enjoyed this anthology. There was something in it for all kinds of romance readers – even the reluctant ones like me 😉

– Kathleen

Various. Fresh Romance (Vol. 1). 2016.

Star Wars: From A Certain Point Of View

I love Star Wars! I love short stories! Together this anthology was a win-win for me.

Forty authors celebrated forty years of Star Wars by contributing a story of a minor or supporting character from the ending of Rogue One to the finale of A New Hope. I listened to these stories on audio, but also had a copy of the book to refer to when I wanted to double check a detail or if I didn’t like the way a story was voiced. There are a few spoilers, but I did my best not to give it all away! 😉

Raymus by Gary Witta   4/5

Captain Raymus Antilles holds onto hope to the very end that his ship carrying Princess Leia away from the Battle of Scarif will escape from the Imperial Fleet.

The Bucket by Chrsitie Golden   4/5

Stormtrooper TK-4601 begins to have feelings of dissent with the Empire after he meets Leia. Not an immediate deserter, but the seeds are sown…

The Sith of Datawork by Ken Liu   5/5

A fun tongue-in cheek story that will be appreciated by the many of us who feel that paperwork is endless at their jobs and in their homes. Arvira, Imperial Logistic Datawork Officer, knows her forms and helps Bolvan, the gunnery captain who let a certain escape pod go unchecked to Tatooine, cover up his mistake with layers of reports.

Stories in the Sand by Griffin McElroy 4/5

Am amusing tale of little Jot, a Jawa who doesn’t erase R2-D2’s memory like he typically does with other droids for resale. By watching other droid’s chips he sees there is more to the universe than the gritty Sandcrawler he works on.

Reirin by Sabaa Tahir  3/5

We meet Reirin, a female Tusken Raider, who is willing to leave the safety of her clan for the mysterious charms of a green crystal she finds.

The Red One by Rae Carson  4/5

A surprisingly poignant story about R5-D4, the red droid that Uncle Own picked first from the Jawas. His malfunction was truly a sacrifice made for the Rebellion.  It was fun to start getting outsider’s views of Luke as we first meet him in A New Hope.

Rites by John Jackson Miller 3.5/5

Three young Tuskens want to make names for themselves in their warrior society. They meet Obi-Wan, whom they consider a wizard, and Luke whom they call Sandy Hair.

Master and Apprentice by Claudia Grey 5/5

Obi-Wan receives a visitor and because of their conversation realizes he needs “to think of death as only the beginning of wisdom”. While I was surprised at this entry, as he formally was not part of A New Hope, the visitor’s wisdom would have always remained with Ben.

Beru Whitesun Lars by Meg Cabot 5/5

LOVED this story! Author Meg Cabot gave Aunt Beru a beautiful backstory and a voice in how she loved raising Luke. I was tearing up as I listened to this story, for Beru was more than an aunt, she was a MOTHER to him and should have been recognized more for being the loving woman who shaped Luke into the man he became.

The Luckless Rodian by Renee Ahdieh  4/5

Greedo…and his last hours before his fateful encounter with Han Solo.

Image result for from a certain point of view aunt beru

Not for Nothing by Mur Lafferty 4/5

A supposed excerpt from one of the Bith band member’s memoirs about why they were playing at the cantina, after a forced extended stay at Jabba the Hutt’s “palace” . The music must go on…

We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here by Chuck Wendig 3.5/5

A character study of Wuher, one of the bartenders at the cantina. My biggest take-away from this story is learning that Ackmena, the barmaid from the Star Wars Holiday Special,  is now canon!

The Kloo Horn Cantina Caper by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction 1/5

When are we going to leave Tatooine??!! Why was the worst story also the longest story? I did not care one whit about the crime planned to take place at Chalmun’s Cantina.

Added Muscle by Paul Dini  5/5

Luckily the next story balances the previous story by being short and fresh. We learn Boba Fett’s recollections of what happened between Han and Jabba in Docking Bay 94.

You Owe Me a Ride by Zoraida Cordova  4/5

Twins Brea and Senni Tonnika live on the edge of society, unwillingly trapped at Jabba’s palace. The sisters begin to scheme how they can leave the sandy planet forever.

The Secrets of Long Snoot by Delilah S. Dawson  2/5

Are we STILL stuck on  Tatooine??!!  Not every bounty hunter is successful and suave, and Long Snoot skulks along the fringes hoping to pick up easy information he can then pass along to the Imperial Troopers hoping for enough credits to reunite with his family.

Born in the Storm by Daniel Jose Older  4.5/5

Stormtrooper TD-7556 relates his recent mission on Tatooine in an incident report form. Turns out he was one of the soldiers who sent Obi Wan, Luke and the droids on their way- “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”.   This stormtrooper is no mindless drone, he is funny and sarcastic and the story was a fun read.

Laina by Wil Wheaton  5/5

OMG the feels! A widowed Rebel soldier wishes to send his beloved daughter Laina to safety and makes a video for the toddler. He recounts to her information about her mother and the reason why he is fighting against the Empire. Already a poignant tale of a family being separated, it takes an even more heartrending turn at the end. ( I have re-imaged the last bit in my mind to make a happier ending)

Fully Operational by Beth Revis  3.5/5

General Tagge uncomfortably witnesses Lord Vader’s reaction and choke hold of Admiral Motti. Previously believing the Empire’s greatest weapon was the Death Star, he now realizes it is Vader himself.

An Incident Report by Mallory Ortberg   3.5/5

Admiral Motti gets his rebuttal and blusters about his importance to cover up his shame of being humiliated in front of other staff. He refuses to see Vader’s power and relies entirely on the Death Star’s technology.

Change of Heart by Elizabeth Wein  3.5/5

The indomitable Leia unknowingly influences another Imperial soldier to rethink his alliance after he witnesses her strength when Alderaan is destroyed. Having two stories like this was over kill. I have huge Leia love, but to have two soldiers completely change their ways just by observing her was too much.

Eclipse by Madeleine Roux  4.5/5

A heartbreaking look at the last hours of Breha and Bail Organa. Despite them realizing their planet’s impending doom, they cling together in love and with hope in their hearts that their daughter is safe.  On a side note- I had a hard time imagining Leia growing up there. Things at the palace were so ornate and orchestrated, instead I thought of Padme.

Verge of Greatness by Pablo Hidalgo  4/5

Evil Empire leaders are taught not to trust anyone else and to only look out for themselves- but if Tarkin and Krennic had been able to work effectively as a team, perhaps then they could have been more powerful than Vader.  I appreciated the shoutout to Galen and Jyn Erso at the end.

Far Too Remote by Jeffrey Brown 4/5

Surprising and funny one panel cartoon from the author/artist who writes children’s books Vader’s Little Princess and Vader and Son.  See book for dialogue! 😉

Image result for from a certain point of view aunt beru

The Trigger by Kieron Gillen  3/5

Aphra is a dubious archaeologist who skirts the law on Dantooine. Captured by stormtroopers she talks her way out of trouble. She was an unfamiliar character to me, but her fleshed out backstory hinted that she plays more of a role in Star Wars canon, so I wasn’t surprised to realize she can be found in many Star Wars graphic novels. .

Of MSE-6 and Men by Glen Weldon 1/5

Why again are the worst stories the longest stories? Told from the perspective of a mouse droid found on the Death Star.

Bump by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker  3/5

One of the stormtroopers from the Tatooine unit that let the droids by, due to Obi Wan’s mind tricks, is called up to report once that data has been reviewed. He knows he’s in for it, but remains true to the Empire until the end.

End of Watch by Adam Christopher   4/5

Commander Pamel Poul is at the end of her shift on the Death Star and just wants to be off duty. But there seems to be a small problem in one of the detention blocks, and an odd message from an alleged soldier there doesn’t seem to follow protocol…

The Baptist by Nnedi Okorafor   5/5

When a creature is taken from their home planet and taken to the Death Star, I wondered where in the world the story was going. Then I realized it was the garbage disposal monster and I was intrigued. I found this story strangely appealing!

Time of Death by Cavan Scott   3/5

This story had me torn. While in one way I liked having more time with Obi Wan, his after life is a delicate subject matter to tackle. There was one little remembrance that I enjoyed- a missing piece of his lost years at Tatooine when he interacts with a young Luke and his Uncle Owen.

There Is Another by Gary D. Schmidt 3.5/5

This pushed canon a bit too far. While I have always wondered why Leia never trained to use the Force, this story has a certain green somebody quite opposed to training Luke, claiming that Leia would be more suitable. Maybe so, to a degree (see picture below), but he missed Palpatine being a Sith Lord, so maybe just maybe he could be wrong about Luke. (And he was.)

Image result for star wars meme 19 years old anakin leia luke

Palpatine by Ian Doescher 4.5/5

An interesting soliloquy from Palpatine’s perspective that I first listened to and then read to get the full power of his thoughts as it was written in poem form.

Sparks by Paul S. Kemp  4.5/5

Told from the perspective of Dex, a Rebel fighter pilot, during the battle of Yavin 4. This was an action packed story that had an expected sad ending for Gold Two.

Duty Roster by Jason Fry   4/5

Not every Rebel pilot gets to fly when there are not enough ships and Col, aka Fake Wedge (to his chagrin), is not chosen. He is furious at not being picked when newbie Luke Skywalker is selected, but as most of the pilots die, he survives for future missions.

Desert Son by Pierce Brown  4/5

Oh, Biggs Darklighter, we barely knew you…and you seemed so appealing! If only you and Luke had been able to reunite but your heroics helped ensure Luke’s victory.

Grounded by Greg Rucka  4.5/5

Chief Nera Kase, an integral part of the Rebels for her mechanical knowledge, watches as the pilots and ships she cares for head into battle. Not every body can be the flashy hero, but her behind the scenes work is an heroic as any pilot or leader’s contribution. I always root for the solid characters, who often don’t get their due because they are quiet and unassuming.

Contingency Plan by Alexander Freed  4/5

All good leaders should have contingency plans, for even the best laid plans can go sideways in a moment.  Mon Mothma is no exception, and the Rebel victory gives her renewed vigor for the cause.

The Angle by Charles Soule  4.5/5

With the new Solo movie coming out, I couldn’t help but think of our favorite caped scoundrel as being a mix of Donald Glover and Billie Dee Williams. The audio version had this guy voiced perfectly, as he wonders why in the world his fellow rogue Han would risk his life.

By Whatever Sun by E.K. Johnston and Ashley Eckstein  3.5/5

Captain Miara Larte and her crew witnesses the medal ceremony for Luke, Han and Chewbacca. While perhaps it can be argued it was a premature celebration, she feels that the joyful occasion is needed in a time of sorrow. This character was another one I was unfamiliar with, as she is from the Ahsoka book that I have not read yet.

Whills by Tom Angleberger  5/5

Awesome ending! I adored the two Whills scholars debating how to chronicle the Star Wars saga. They debate both where to start the story (Episode IV!) and the wording that we have grown to love.

This book is a must read for all Star Wars fans! It strengthened and filled in gaps in the narrative and this new canon was a treat from beginning to end.

-Nancy

Image result for from a certain point of view

 

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.

Favorites:

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

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