The Unbelievable Gwenpool

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Cover (2016)

I have been hearing about this series called Gwenpool for a while now. My fiancé said he loved it, but I just never got around to picking it up. Finally, I got my hands on the first trade paperback. I am not disappointed.

The series kicks off with Black Cat getting angry with Howard the Duck over something that was stolen from her. Then insanity ensues with Gwen Poole (Gwenpool) and Howard the Duck taking on Hydra agents. I’m not going to explain further because it’s hilarious. After the #0 issue, there is a Christmas Special, and then the story really kicks off with The Unbelievable Gwenpool with issue #1.

Gwen Poole is a girl like us. A girl who loves to read comics. Until one day she wakes up in the world of comics that she has read about. While she is mostly a normal person attempting to act like a superhero, she claims her main superpower is knowing everyone’s secret identities and therefore their weaknesses. She talks to the audience on a regular basis, keeping in line with Deadpool’s knack for breaking the fourth wall. This parody comic is crazier than Squirrel Girl, but just as clever and has a similar vibe. I do enjoy the fact that she does not seem to think there will be any consequences for her actions, even killing, because characters will just “disappear” for a few issues then return. This leads to a lack of responsibility and concern for herself or others. However, Gwen does mourn when MODOK kills her new sidekick, Cecil, and for the first time realizes she may not be the hero of her own story, but rather a henchman. In turn, this leads to further, darker, plot development.

The art by the Japanese art team, Gurihiru, is amazing. It is light, colorful, and adorable. They are able to capture the lightheartedness of the story and Gwen herself. I also love the full pink eyes of her costume, not to mention the pink on the rest of the outfit. I am a sucker for that shade of pink. However, issue #0 is illustrated by Danilo Beyruth. While he is a good artist, I have no complaints about ability, he simply did not capture that playful personality of Gwen Poole. She seemed much older and darker than Gurihiru’s version. Chris Hastings, the author, does an excellent job of subtly adding dark undertones, as is common with “pool” (read: Deadpool) characters, yet also maintaining a light and fun story of a girl trying to discover herself in this new universe.

Trade paperback #1 was great. Now I need to search for the second volume!

 

Toyetica

Cover of Toyetica

Cover of Issue 1

Hi everyone! Sorry for the summer break. This summer I’ve been diligently working on wedding planning with my fiancé. Anyway, I read this new comic that came out at my local comic shop this week (August 9, 2017) that I just had to share! I hope you enjoy.

Toyetica

In this brand new comic book, written and drawn by Bizenghast author, Marty Legrow (M. Alice Legrow), comes a story of Bittles. Bittles are tiny people who have existed among humans since the dawn of time. Humans captured Bittles and kept them as their toys or servants. Over time, the humans began to realize the error of their ways and Bittles were replaced by stuffed dolls. In an attempt to make amends, the humans and Bittles worked together to live harmoniously. From then on, every toy doll or action figure needed to be based on the image of an actual Bittle. Bittles can now attend a school to become famous models for new toys. They learn how to build plastic toys and create their own unique brand. The school is where the story kicks off.

I am instantly pulled into this comic book from page one. The art and coloring is superb and the overarching plot is intriguing. The first issue is a bit drawn out with all of the character introductions. Legrow introduces 14 characters. While it may have been nice to become familiar with them over a few issues, I do like her method of introducing the characters—by having the lead protagonist, Trixie Tangle, write a letter to the new girl, Minky Mermille, explaining all of the classmates. It keeps it simple not only for the new character, but also for the audience. The letter also becomes a way to cause some conflict between Trixie and Minky. I have a feeling they’re going to become friends as the story continues though. I am definitely interested enough to continue collecting the series.

Toyetica is published by the independent publisher, Action Lab. This publisher has been around for 5 years and is best known for their work, Princeless. If you’re looking for a new series from an independent publisher, this is a good way to go. It’s also for all ages and, from what I’ve seen so far, both parents and kids will enjoy the story.

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Rocket

Rocket Comic

Cover of Rocket, Issue 1 (2017)

After going to see Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 this week, I was inspired to check out the new solo series of Rocket Raccoon! This series, Rocket, is written by Al Ewing and drawn by Adam Gorham. Rocket appears on his own after he messes up something big on Earth, or at least that is the brief explanation we receive. While he’s at a bar his old girlfriend appears. She begs him for help and he warily accepts. Rocket gathers a team together to pull off an enormous, impossible heist. We have to wait till issue two to get the conclusion of it. I’m not complaining, as it was a well timed cliffhanger. I enjoy how the story jumps right into the action, setting up just enough to get an understanding of the planet he’s on and who Rocket is as a character.

I picked up this new series mostly because I was impressed with Rocket’s character in the Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 movie. Rocket had much more screen time and they developed his character on a much deeper level than the first movie. After the first Guardians movie, I had already fallen in love with Groot (I absolutely adore him as Baby Groot in the second film), but Rocket seemed plain and uninteresting. After getting more history behind his character, I thought, “A rocket comic might actually be fun.” I was not disappointed with this first issue and plan to continue collecting this series. Apparently the first story arc will be 5 issues long. I think it will pair nicely with the Baby Groot series that I will be collecting in late May. I will not be getting Guardians of the Galaxy comics of them as a team with Star Lord, Gamora, and Drax though. I have found after the many times I have tried to collect team comics, I just can’t get into them on a month to month basis. I find the comics that focus on a single character much more interesting and fun to read. That doesn’t mean I don’t like team-ups, I just don’t seem to like comics that focus on an entire team. For example, I picked up X-Men Gold and Champions recently.  While I like the ideas behind the stories, I seem to want more of specific characters rather than the whole team. Those might be series I’d pick up from a public library to read in the future.

Rocket is a heist comic that is hilarious and fun. It is not meant to be taken seriously, but rather as a comedy with some oddball protagonists. Oddballs tend to be my favorite.

A Land Called Tarot

I began this blog one year ago! While I may not have been as consistent as I had hoped, I am still proud that I have at least maintained it! I hope you enjoy my coming reviews and writings!

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Cover (first published February 2017)

 

A Land Called Tarot by Gael Bertrand

Can you really read a book with no words? I think you can, if the illustrations are done well enough demonstrate the overall theme and plot and characters of the story. To illustrate my point, A Land Called Tarot is a fantasy story told in a comic book format with no dialogue. There are a few fantasy language words between segments and there are roman numerals that correspond with tarot cards. If I had been more familiar with the names of the cards and their association with the roman numerals, I would have had a better understanding about where the story was headed as the numbers were presented. For example, the first roman numeral given is XVI. This is 16, which is named The Tower. The hero travels to [spoiler] a tower! While I am glad I did not bother trying to interrupt the flow of my reading to connect the roman numerals to a name that would show me where our hero was headed, it will be fun to re-read with this knowledge in stow and piece the story together a bit more clearly.

I really enjoyed the flow of the plot. I will admit there were times I was a bit confused as to what was happening, but I came up with my own explanation and moved on. A story with no words requires the reader to develop their own understanding of the plot along with the artist. One of the reasons I purchased this book was because I thought I may be able to read it in a different way each time. I was correct. While I may understand more about the author’s intent as I study the roman numerals, nothing is stopping me from creating a narrative with the pictures in my own way—like reading a picture book to a child and ignoring the text the author provides.

After completing part one, my first thought was that I was reading video game cut scenes. I enjoy watching my fiancé and my former college roommate play video games. A Land Called Tarot seemed to have a similar pacing. Each quest seemed contained, yet connected. This is a positive thing, as I feel it allows for the wordless story to be a little better understood.

I would recommend taking a look at this graphic novel and really delving into the pictures. It is definitely worth seeing how good illustrations do not require text to tell a beautiful story. I am excited to know that an author/illustrator has successfully developed a story without the use of dialogue or words in general. It really demonstrates the power of visual art.

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XVI (photo credit: Bertrand, A Land called Tarot)

Scarlet Spider

By Chris Yost

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Consider this. First, you are a clone. Second, you are a failed experiment. Kaine lives with both realities. Kaine used to be an assassin and a supervillain to Peter Parker Spider-Man. The first volume was a tad confusing until the end of the volume where I read a bit about the history between Peter Parker, Ben Reilly, and Kaine. I could have done research beforehand, but I didn’t want to spoil any of the story. I also know my fiancé has told me the story of Kaine’s past, but I couldn’t remember all the little details.

In the first volume Kaine wants to move to Mexico and chill on the beach with a drink. However, he only makes it to Houston before he reluctantly helps saves a girl who is being smuggled across the border. After saving her from near death, he takes her in to keep her from being deported. Aracely can read people’s minds and can connect with other’s emotions, even evoking a sense of fear from her opponents. She eventually takes on the superhero identity of Hummingbird during a mission she goes on with the Scarlet Spider. Despite his best efforts to remain a loner, Kaine develops friendships with a cop and doctor couple, Officer Wally Layton and Dr. Donald Meland, and a woman at the hotel, Annabelle. He befriends them all fairly naturally, considering his constant inner dialog of being a monster and wanting to be alone.

Kaine confronts this monster inside him in volume 2, when he nearly dies from an attack by a Wolf gang who are after Aracely. This scene seemed to be a defining moment in Kaine’s acceptance of himself. He is trying to be a new man in a new city trying to get away from all his evil deeds of the past. However, the monster is still inside of him and it will always be. Accepting that came at a price, but he was not without another savior. One thing that makes this series great is Yost’s way of maintaining Kaine’s constant struggle between good and evil. He never seems to become fully evil, yet at the same time, he can’t feel truly good.

I enjoyed many aspects of this series. I loved the fact it took place in Houston, Texas. Texas is a fantastic state (I am biased). I was amused that they included a rodeo issue in the series to allow for some “traditional” Texas elements. I was also pleased to see that Houston accepted their new superhero with open arms. They praised him and indicated they were happy he was there to be their personal superhero. Their acceptance was probably one of the reasons that Kaine found a home among these Houstonians. I also enjoyed seeing the Rangers featured for a few issues in volume 2. The Rangers are a team of superheroes (like the Avengers) that help out areas located in the Southwest United States.

Scarlet Spider is my “a book you can finish in a day” book/series for the 26 book 2017 reading challenge. I knew I wanted to do a comic for that category, but it would be too easy to just read a single graphic novel, so I decided to read a short series. This comic is 25 issues with a one issue special (12.1) for a total of 26 issues in four trade paperback editions. I completed them all in one day to accomplish the task. This series is one my fiancé has been trying to get me to read for over a year now. I am glad I finally got around to reading it! It was well worth it.

After Death

A.D. After Death, Book One 

What would happen if there was no more death?

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A genetic cure for death has been found in this new 3 part series by Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire. However, one man is beginning to feel the repercussions of death and question his place in a world where they are no longer mortal. This comic book reads like a mixture of a traditional comic book and a picture book. The present day story is done in the format of a paneled comic book, but the pages containing flashbacks are designed with long text accompanied by simple and gorgeous water color illustrations. This format allows the reader to clearly understand the author’s intent for that scene.

After death’s cure, it seems people operate in fifty year cycles. The lead character, Jonah, takes on a new job for the new cycle. It is almost as if humans realize they need to make a change every fifty years or they’ll get bored or go crazy. I am not positive that was Snyder’s message, but it makes sense to me, as I enjoy a variety and I am mortal. I cannot imagine, nor would I ever desire, to be immortal on Earth.

Jonah seems to be going through an “eternal mid-life crisis,” in a sense. He reflects on his first memory and memories that he believes defined him, for example he was a bit of a kleptomaniac as a kid. According to him, the whole reason the cure for death was found was because he stole the wrong thing. This “thing” he stole was not revealed in book one, which is the author’s catch for getting you intrigued for book two, I am sure. We do know that Jonah Cooke was a normal, everyday man who discovered, or revealed, the extraordinary. One thing I do like about his character, is that he does not seem to have changed in the future. He is a random, boring guy who still likes to “collect” things that may or may not belong to him.

Overall, I recommend this book, but reserve any final thoughts for future volumes. The story can go in so many directions that  I don’t feel I can give a proper review until the story is complete. However, it is intriguing and I write this ramble in hope others pick up this series too and enjoy it along with me.

Note: book two came out this week at your local comic shop! I have not read it yet.

Hiatus and SLAM!

Hello readers! (if I still have any following my hiatus…)

After participating in National Novel Writing Month last month (November), I realized how much I missed writing my own stories. I had a lot of fun drafting a novelette and a few short stories. Many of which will never see publication. I hope to edit a couple of the others.

I am also aware it has been three months since I last posted on my blog. Given the holidays are around the corner, I will not promise regularity, but I do hope to make at least one post a week from here on out. I think two a week was too much for my schedule and I got overwhelmed.

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On to the ramble: My friend at the local comic book shop, Excalibur, recommended I start reading a new independent series titled SLAM! I was skeptical, but since I know a couple people doing Roller Derby I thought I might give it a try. The cover is fun. Bright pink and green. I enjoy her black eye and bloody face. The story progresses fairly well for a first issue, in that it gives each of the main characters’ backstories in a succinct manner and quickly establishes their newfound friendship. After laboring over my own story last month, I remembered how difficult it was to introduce characters clearly and effectively in a limited time frame. A couple of the pages I enjoyed the most were the “P.D. (Pre-Derby)” and “A.D. (After-Derby)” character sketch pages of lead protagonists, Jennifer Chu and Maisie Huff.

The author of SLAM! is Pamela Ribon, who is probably better known as a story writer for the recent Disney film, Moana. If you have not yet seen this new Disney princess film, I highly suggest it. The illustrator is Veronica Fish, who has done a lot of work with the Archie series. Fish does an excellent job with her character designs and the expressions are spot-on.

Happy reading everyone!