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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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.

Black Widow

Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread (2014) & Black Widow: The Tightly Tangled Web (2015)

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By Nathan Edmonson. Art by Phil Noto.

I have always known Black Widow as an Avenger. I was first introduced to her through the cartoons as a strong female character that would fight alongside Captain America and the rest of the primarily male team. In 2014, I heard Black Widow would be featured in her own solo series with Edmonson as the writer and Noto as the artist. I finally got around to reading her story. I have completed the first two collected volumes, available from my local library. The story from Black Widow issues 1-12 and Punisher issue 9 was solid. Edmonson showed us who Natasha is as a character, human, and spy. Though the story was good, I think the best part of the books was the artwork.

The art and coloring took me a while to get used to, yet it was quite striking and I eventually fell in love with it. The characters look sketched. The outlines of the characters appear to be almost unfinished with the lines not connecting in almost a randomized fashion, yet it almost seems more natural that way. In addition to the outlining, each panel seems to have been water colored. I don’t know if this is done via the computer or by hand. I assume it is colored through a computer but made to look hand colored with watercolor (if someone knows please let me know in the comments, thanks). As much as I praise the drawings and coloring of these collected comics, I do have a complaint. The dark panels were nearly impossible for me to distinguish the drawings. It is like in a movie where everything goes pitch black except a small outline where the lead character is standing. However, when I moved from the corner couch to the other one more directly under the overhead light, I could see all the details in the dark panels as clear as if it were day. I would say it was my room lighting, but I read comics in the “dark” spot all the time and never have trouble. Therefore, I suggest if you read this book, make sure you are sitting in a place with plenty of overhead light. The art is worth it.

My favorite part of the series is getting to know Natasha’s soft side, primarily though her interactions with a stray cat. This cat is always there waiting for her whenever she returns from her solo or group adventures. Her main problem with adopting the devoted kitty is that she does not want to make a single location home. She claims on one of her missions that home is wherever she is at that moment. She delves deep into her projects and makes sure that the mission is complete to the satisfaction of the client, given that the client isn’t evil. Her constant travels are contrasted by her neighbor lady who is stuck in the same place with an abusive husband. Natasha asks her why she stays. Ana, the neighbor, says it is home. When Natasha returns from her mission, she beats up Ana’s husband and threatens him if he ever lays a hand on Ana again and then tells Ana she should leave anyway. I do not know the conclusion to that story. Though, shortly after, the reader sees that Natasha has formally adopted the kitty, Liho, and she is even having Isaiah, her lawyer and manager, take care of Liho while she is out of town. Apparently, even someone who tries to find a home anywhere, realized she needed a place to return. A place to come back to care for someone—in this case, a cat.

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Wonder Woman Rebirth

Writer: Greg Rucka

Artists: Matthew Clark, Sean Parsons, and Liam Sharp

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This past year I started reading The Legend of Wonder Woman by Renae de Liz and fell in love. It is a 9 issue miniseries that I will review/discuss after it is complete in a couple months or so. Then, I picked up Wonder Woman Earth One by Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette. It was also well written, but I thought it fell short of Renae de Liz’s narrative and artistic representation. I wondered if it had to do with Grant Morrison being a male. This assessment felt a bit unfair, but I am not well read in past Wonder Woman interpretations, so I only had these two to go by. However, after reading Rucka’s Wonder Woman Rebirth, I know was unfair to men in my initial assessment. Rucka did a fantastic job with Wonder Woman in the DC Rebirth issue.

Wonder Woman holds the Lasso of Truth, which means she exposes lies. I am hoping this implies that she will be a key player in discovering the mystery of the new DC Universe. This particular issue opens with “Something’s happening…in my memory…the story keeps changing,” and it certainly does. It begins with her mother begging the gods for a child and being granted one formed by the clay, but it continues with OR she was conceived by the union of the Queen of the Amazons and the Ruler of Olympus (Zeus) and the Queen gave birth to a child (or children?). A pattern of this legend or that legend of her origin plays out back and forth through the narrative. Wonder Woman is confused and irritated at the constant changing of reality. Overall, she wants peace. I assume because of her frustrations she uses the Lasso of Truth on herself. A mirror shatters and she seems to see things more clearly. The reader is not privy to her newfound knowledge, which is great. It adds to the suspense and the intrigue as to what may have happened to our hero in the past and what will happen to our hero in the future.

Continuing the back and forth narrative presented in Wonder Woman Rebirth, this bi-weekly series will alternate storylines “as she untangles the mysteries of her present…and her past.” I am looking forward to seeing how her storylines meld into a complete narrative in the coming weeks.

Paper Girls (issue #6)

Written by Brian K. Vaughan ; Art by Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson

Paper Girls trade paperback containing issues #1-5 is already out (was published on March 30, 2016), so go read it now! I will wait…

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I read Paper Girls as each issue was published from October 2015 to February 2016. Those first five issues contain the introductory arc of the series. It features girls who deliver paper for their town in the late 1980s. While on route at night, they encounter alien-like characters and a sentient machine. I will not go into detail, but by the very end of issue 5 we are left wondering, did these girls just travel through time?

Issue #6 picks up from the perspective of Erin Tieng on June 1, 2016. She is driving along and encounters three random girls on the road, one of which shares her name and scars. Older Erin takes it all fairly well and drives the girls to her house for their safety. I have absolutely no idea if I would take it in stride like Erin did. No, actually, I am certain I would freak out if I encountered a younger version of myself. Erin does show some concern, but she also expresses some reasons for not thinking it is the craziest thing she has ever seen in her life.

One of the best moments for me in this issue was when the girls were watching the big screen TV. They were not used to screens of that magnitude back in the 80s. The reader can see four turtles dressed like ninjas on the TV screen and the announcer says, “…four brothers who hate bullies and love this city….In theaters this Friday.” The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows comes out tomorrow! I absolutely loved this detail and accuracy of the real world within a fictional world that is collapsing and wreaking havoc upon humans.

I am excited about how strong this second arc has begun and I can’t wait to see what Brian K. Vaughan has in store for these young ladies in the future…and the past.

Joyride (issue #2)

 

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From issue #1

By Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly. Art by Marcus To.

After a strong start with issue #1, Joyride issue #2 feels a bit rushed in an attempt to round out all the plot lines that will be addressed and completed in the last two issues. On the other hand, I really enjoyed how the creators put these humans in a familiar environment (a mall) in an alien environment (outer space).

Now that our protagonists have escaped Earth, there are people who want them to return, most likely to be punished. This major plot point, introduced at the very beginning of the issue, will likely play a bigger role in issue #3. Special Interceptors are sent to retrieve any who escape Earth. And let’s just say one of Dewydd’s family members is going to be on the team to get them back…

In outer space, fearless Uma is causing havoc and the other two, Dewydd and Catrin are just trying to figure out their place in their new lives. The issue opens up with Uma stealing a treasure and running from cops in a huge alien mall. Honestly, the mall reminded me of Blue Heaven from Outlaw Star. It felt like a relaxing place for aliens from all across the universe to shop, eat, and drink. However, the large space mall in Joyride was a bit tidier, open, and full of cops (rather than outlaws). Right now, I am intrigued with Dewydd’s story. Catrin, the unfortunate Earthling who got wrapped up on this adventure, kept calling him 438. What does that mean? Why is he a number? I feel like this issue was partly for Dewydd and Catrin to determine, without a doubt, that this journey with Uma is worth taking.

There are many questions left to be answered and more adventures to unfold. I hope my posts have encouraged you to check it out now, or to at least pick it up when it comes out in graphic novel form. Overall, I enjoyed issue #2 and am eager to see what our protagonists encounter in issue #3!