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Book Review: Cowboys and Aliens by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg (Graphic Novel)

Book Review: Cowboys and Aliens by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg (Grahic Novel)Summary:
In the American Wild West, invading aliens show up, intent to colonize the planet and enslave or destroy the humans.  The warring white settlers and Native Americans must put aside their own battle for control of the land and defend it from offworlders.

Review:
This was given as a gift to me, because when the movie Cowboys and Aliens came out in 2011, I was super into the idea of two of my favorite things being combined–a western and scifi.  A friend gifted this to me, and it languished on my TBR Pile for years.  I finally picked it up, and while I enjoyed the read and the art, I did not enjoy it as much as the movie, finding it to be too heavy-handed and obvious in its message, as well as a bit too stereotypical in how it handled its Native American characters.

The art is bright and colorful with easy-to-follow panels.  The book opens with a clearly laid out parallel between the colonizing alien species and the white settlers in America.  It’s clever to make a group actively colonizing another group suddenly the victim of colonizers themselves.  However, the direct juxtaposition jumping back and forth between the two visually is too heavy-handed.  Readers know about colonization on our own planet.  Just tell the story of the aliens and let us see the white settler characters slowly realize that they’re doing the same thing to others.  Instead, the readers are shown several times both the parallels between the two and one of the white settlers suddenly dramatically realizing the similarities in the situations.

The Native American characters aren’t horribly handed, however they are treated a bit too much magically for my taste.  Thankfully, how they help fight the aliens mostly comes from ingenuity, not magic.

Both of those things said, the aliens in the story are diverse and interestingly drawn.  Seeing Native Americans and white settlers battle the aliens with a combination of their own gear and stolen alien items was really fun to read.  Just not as much fun or as well-developed of a plot as it was in the movie.

Overall, this is a quick graphic novel that would be a fun read for either hardcore fans of the movie or those interested in the basic idea but who prefer graphic novels to movies.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

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Counts For:
Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge

Book Review: Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham et al. (Series, #1) (Graphic Novel)

Book Review: Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham et al. (Series, #1) (Graphic Novel)Summary:
All the characters from the fairy tales we know actually lived in that folklore world but were forced out into exile in modern-day New York thanks to an enemy known only as The Adversary.  Snow White, right-hand to the ruler of Fabletown, seeks to keep everyone in line. But that gets more difficult when her own sister, Rose Red, is murdered.  A reformed Big Bad Wolf, now their sheriff, promises to help her track down his killer.

Review:
Being a long-time fan of The 10th Kingdom, a story about the characters of folklore existing in a parallel universe to our own that some modern-day Americans accidentally visit, I was intrigued by this idea of a similar story in reverse.  Instead of being engaging and a fun escape, though, my experience with it is best summed-up as meh.  It’s a cool idea that is saddled to a ho-hum plot and flat characters, thereby rendering it a mediocre read.

The basic idea is some unseen Adversary has driven the fairy tale folk out of their land and into exile in our own.  In our land, they’ve all agreed to give everyone a clean slate to start over.  So far so good.  From here though things go from interesting and semi-unique to basically a noir plot we’ve all read before wrapped up in 2-dimensional fairy tale characters.  Big Bad Wolf is the hard-boiled detective.  Snow White is his lady assistant.  A noir version of a fairy tale could have been good, but instead the flattest elements of both genres are mashed together, rather than the best of each.  What you end up with is a wolf without his fangs or a hard-boiled detective without his cigarettes and womanizing ways.  The grit is just removed leaving an overly-sanitized world.

I do enjoy a mystery plot but I also expect them to keep me guessing.  I knew the solution long before the end, and I’m guessing most other readers would too.

The art is mostly good, although the depiction of the talking pig gave me goosebumps in a bad way.  He doesn’t really fit in to the feel of the rest of the art.  However, the art is colorful and easy to follow, and made reading the story go quickly.

Overall, if a reader loves fairy tales and graphic novels and likes the idea of seeing fairy tale characters in modern-day New York, they will probably enjoy this book.  Readers looking for an in-depth exploration of a fairy tale character or to see them more well-rounded in a non-fairy tale setting will be disappointed.  Similarly, readers looking for a tough mystery to solve will want to look elsewhere.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: I remember I bought it at a comic book store, but I don’t remember which one.

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Counts For:
Once Upon a Time IX

Book Review: Captain America: Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection (Series, #1-9 and 11-14) (Graphic Novel)

January 15, 2013 Leave a comment

Captain America Winter SoldierSummary:
Captain America has been increasingly violent and melancholy lately, and SHIELD is worried about him.  When his arch-nemesis, the Red Skull, turns up as a corpse, things go from troubled to worse for Captain America.  Ghosts of his past increasingly haunt him as the desire for the Cosmic Cube wreaks havoc once again.

Review:
I admit that I am new to the traditional comic book characters.  I found my way into graphic novels via manga followed by more literary graphic novels followed by The Walking Dead, none of which are really comic book characters, per se.  But I, just like most of the world, watched the new movies featuring Iron Man and Thor and loved them.  So I decided to try to start reading the comic books, a daunting task for a newbie.  I did my best to find a good introductory book, but I admit I probably should have actually watched Captain America before deciding to start with him.

Captain America is my least favorite of the Avengers.  He, to me, is so incredibly lame. Whiny and lame. And traditional.  I really should have started this comic book adventure with Iron Man.

Anyway, point being, take my review with the grain of salt that 1) I am new to traditional comic book characters 2) I don’t like Captain America.

The story itself is bright and action-packed.  Once I understood who the Red Skull and Bucky were, I started to get the feel for the tension in the story.  The pages are well-drawn and easy to follow with lots to suck the reader in.  Fans of Captain America will probably appreciate the chance to get to know more of his backstory, particularly concerning Bucky, his side-kick, and what happened to him.  The Cosmic Cube was amusing as ever to watch corrupt people, and I definitely was surprised by the plot twist at the end.  In spite of my distaste for the character, I was a bit tempted to read more.

Overall, then, this is an action-packed entry in the Captain America canon that simultaneously provides character development and backstory.  Recommended to fans of Captain America.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Book Review: The Walking Dead Volume 15 by Robert Kirkman (Series, #8) (Graphic Novel)

Blueish snowy walking dead cover with zombies.Summary:
Everyone’s world was rocked when the zombies got through the community’s fence.  Will they respond by banding together or falling apart?

Review:
Ok, before I review, the numberings need a bit of explanation.  Comic books are issued very similarly to academic journals. So there are skinny issues that come out every few weeks (generally). A few of these bound together make a volume. A bunch of these bound together make a book (what we call in academia a “bound journal.”)  I *was* reading the books of The Walking Dead but then I caught up to the author.  I decided I didn’t want to buy issues, because they’re flimsy and you read through them very quickly, so I’m now reading the volumes.  I hope that makes some semblance of sense.  This will probably be the case throughout the rest of the series, because you have to wait a long time for the books, and I just am too impatient for that.  My reviews will then be much shorter, because a book contains a few volumes, and I am now reviewing one volume at a time.  Moving right along to the review!

This volume is basically cleaning up the mess from the action of the previous one and prepping for the action of the next one.  Classic in-between chapter.  What this volume really reminded me of is the infamous “Live together or die alone” speech by Jack in Lost.  In fact, this volume sees Rick basically trying to turn into Jack and failing miserably.  Long-time readers know I’ve never liked the guy, so personally I got a lot of schadenfreude out of seeing him be so pathetic in this volume.

That said, the survivors are definitely going for a new strategy, which will lend itself well to future fresh storylines, which any long-running series needs.

Fans of the sex will be quite happy with the developments in that area. Drama! Intrigue! Changes of partners!

Overall, it’s an enjoyable entry, if not mind-blowing, that perfectly sets things up for the next volume. Fans won’t be disappointed!

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Newbury Comics

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Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Six (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Seven (review)

Book Review: Y: The Last Man: Paper Dolls by Brian K. Vaughan (Series, #7) (Graphic Novel)

Summary:
Our trifecta of heroes have successfully crossed the Pacific Ocean and are now on the seacoast of Australia.  Yorick naturally insists on looking for his long-lost girlfriend in the drug-infested city of Sydney.  Meanwhile, Dr. Mann gets wooed by the one-eyed sailor rescued from the pirate ship in the previous book.  We also learn more of Ampersand the monkey’s backstory.

Review:
It probably comes as no surprise that I am still loving this series, although I am super-grateful to have one containing so many issues to be holding up so well!  Although I’m not a big fan of the Dr. Mann being duped story, the other two more than make up for it.

Seeing Sydney torn apart by heroin provides a different scenario in this post-apocalyptic world.  We’ve seen the women fall to violence, over-monitoring, and chaos, but we haven’t seen the self-medication reaction yet.  The scenes with the women on heroin are sad and poignant.  The perfect backdrop to Yorick’s story.

Naturally as an animal lover and animal rights person I love Ampersand’s backstory.  Originally abused and destined for a research lab, his shipping got mixed up and wound up with Yorick to be trained to be a helper animal instead.  How this ties in with Dr. Mann is disturbing and the perfect set-up for the next issue.  After seeing all he’s been through, I really hope they find Ampersand the next issue!

Overall, the art and story are consistently good and in spite of being the seventh in a long series the storyline has not gotten out of hand or become dull.  This is an excellent entry that will leave fans craving more!

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Previous Books in Series
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (review)
Y: The Last Man: Cycles (review)
Y: The Last Man: One Small Step (review)
Y: The Last Man: Safeword (review)
Y: The Last Man: Ring of Truth (review)
Y: The Last Man: Girl on Girl (review)

Book Review: The Walking Dead, Book Seven by Robert Kirkman (Series, #7) (Graphic Novel)

March 7, 2012 1 comment

Man in yellow surrounded by zombies.Summary:
The people at the settlement quickly discover that the new group headed by Rick has a lot more knowledge, experience, and ability with the zombies than they themselves do.  But they also snap easily.  Is their twitchiness warranted or not?

Review:
I was pleasantly surprised by the direction this entry in the series went.  I was fully expecting the Rick group to be totally violent and messed up and expelled from the settlement.  Instead we see that they can sometimes over-react, but still have their humanity intact and actually have a smart level of caution.  This allows for the story within the settlement to continue on, further taking us in a fresh direction.

I am unhappy with the direction the Glenn/Maggie relationship has taken.  I don’t think their original relationship was just about having hot hot sex in the prison like both characters insinuate, and I also don’t like that Maggie is now a big ball of tears while Glenn constantly traipses off.  These were a good couple!  No reason to ruin them, agh!  Plus, how often to do we get a healthy Asian Male/White Female relationship in books?  Approximately never?  Can we please just leave Maggie/Glenn alone?  *sighs*  However, I am happy that Maggie eventually stands up to Rick in protecting Sophia, so I will withhold judgment until the next installment.

What everyone is hoping for, of course, is an excellent zombie scene, and this entry delivers.  We have people crossing on a rope over a zombie hoard, the hoard invading the camp, and an epic fight off the zombies scene.  These all have the excellent artwork we’ve come to expect.

The ending of the book had a great message and left me hungry for more. (haha)  In fact I just may have to subscribe to the comics. *twitch*

Overall, this is a great entry in the series that takes the story on an unexpected twist plus has pages and pages of zombies for fans to drool over.

5 out of 5 stars

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Previous Books in Series:
The Walking Dead, Book One (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Two (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Three (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Four (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Five (review)
The Walking Dead, Book Six (review)

Book Review: Y: The Last Man: Girl on Girl by Brian K. Vaughan (Series, #6) (Graphic Novel)

March 6, 2012 1 comment

Two women holding each other.Summary:
We catch up with Yorick, 355, and Dr. Mann on board a freighter headed for Australia by way of Japan.  They seem to have abandoned their hunt for Ampersand the monkey for now.  The captain of the ship is gorgeous and has the hots for Yorick, but trouble arrives in the form of an Australian submarine.  Is it the freighter or the submarine that is the pirates?

Review:
So the title is sort of a double entendre.  We do get an excellent lesbian sex scene (inter-racial no less!), but we also have the war between the submarine of women and the ship of women.  Haha, well played, Vaughan!

The great thing about this entry in the series is that by itself it has a lot of very cool elements, but it also moves the plot forward.  We find out some about what’s been happening on the other side of the globe since the men died, characters hook up, and we get some really good action.  It gets us places (specifically moving across the ocean), but it doesn’t feel like a filler book the way #4 did.

Plus, the Pacific Islander ship captain is really hot and badass.

Overall, this is an excellent entry in the series that is entertaining and moves the plot forward.  Fans will not be disappointed.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Previous Books in Series
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (review)
Y: The Last Man: Cycles (review)
Y: The Last Man: One Small Step (review)
Y: The Last Man: Safeword (review)
Y: The Last Man: Ring of Truth (review)