Author Archives: Joe Bones

Advance Review: Girl Haven

Girl Haven

There’s a good chance you see a title called Girl Haven and assume you’re about to read a story about girl power. In a way, you’d be right, though Girl Haven doesn’t explore this concept in the way many readers would expect. To quote author Lilah Sturges, “Girl Haven is a story about gender. [It’s] mainly about one type of gender experience, [but] it’s central message is true for everyone: Your story is your own.” From the touching preface through an uplifting story, this graphic novel from Oni Press, is as timely as it is entertaining. Girl Haven is set to release on February 10th.

Girl Haven is a very cute story with light-hearted humor. The friendship and emotional bond between the characters is obvious and makes the reader love and root for them as the plot moves forward. The story follows four friends who are transported to the magical land of Koretris, a place for girls only, where no boys are allowed. This presents a problem for the graphic novel’s protagonist, Ash, because he’s a boy. Luckily, his friends are all female-identifying and along for the ride through this mystic realm. During their adventure, they see wondrous things, help Ash make a personal discovery, and come together to save Koretris.

The story starts off a little slow, but then picks up into a thrilling adventure story. Admittedly, if you’ve read a lot of fantasy, the plot and dialogue are very predictable. However, that doesn’t stop Girl Haven from being a really fun read. This graphic novel is a stellar example of representation in comic books. Within only a few panels of meeting Ash’s friends, we learn that they are all queer but none of them is ever defined by their sexuality. They all have distinct personalities that make them stand out from their counterparts, giving each character their own unique voice. This is the first YA graphic novel I’ve ever read that acknowledges that a person’s perception of their gender is fluid and can change as they learn more about themselves. This is an important message for all readers, and especially young adults.

“Girl Power” is on full display in one aspect of this graphic novel in the form of its all-female creative team. The three ladies work together seamlessly to create the wonderful world and characters of Girl Haven. Meaghan Carter’s artwork reminds me of Henry and June from Nickelodeon’s animated variety show KaBlam! It is the perfect style to capture Girl Haven’s magic and warmth. Even though her style is simple, Carter does a great job rendering the scale of the characters and their surroundings. Often, everyone in a comic book is drawn at more or less the same height. That’s not the case in this graphic novel. The accurate scale to which Carter draws helps make Koretris look real and helps transport the readers there, right alongside Ash and his friends.

Love is stronger than fear. That’s the central theme of Girl Haven and it’s a message from which we can all learn. I didn’t get this written in time to make the pre-order cut-off, but this is a graphic novel you’re going to want to check out when it releases on February 17th. It’s a book with something for almost everyone and is especially appropriate (and important) for young readers. This fantasy adventure story is well written if a bit derivative. The graphic novel is drawn in a fun and coherent style, and the characters are representative of people not featured often enough in comic books. Grab yourself a copy and get ready to journey through Koretris.

Story: Lilah Sturges Art: Meaghan Carter Letterer: Joamette Gil
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Advance Review: Wild Nature Vol. 1

Wild Nature Vol. 1

I’m not a big fan of sports. It’s just not something I find interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I love watching people compete. Competition reality shows, especially those centered around cooking, are some of my favorite shows to watch. One reason for this is the people on reality shows have personalities. That’s not to say that athletes don’t, but unless you’re the kind of person who watches every pre-game and post-game, or has SportsCenter playing in the background at all times, sports aren’t generally geared toward showcasing who the players are off the field. Whereas watch a single episode of a reality competition show, and you instantly get a feel for who the contestants are in their daily lives.

Wild Nature is an original graphic novel that perfectly lines up with my interest in competition reality shows. Written and drawn by David Taylor, this indie action comic centers around a brutal game show. Two teams, each wearing customized animal masks, have ninety minutes to either kill each other out or have the most surviving members when time runs out. The story centers around Swan, one of the members of Team Animal. They’re one of the best teams in the entire league and Swan is their captain and star player.

However, Swan is more than just a killing machine. He may be good at taking out opponents, but he’s no sociopath. I found Swan’s emotional journey even more compelling than the action scenes as I read through the first chapter of Wild Nature, “A Goddamned Slaughterhouse.” It’s great to see a main character who is not only a black man but also well developed. Over the course of about eighty pages, Taylor gives Swan a lot of depth and substance.

I found the story’s pacing to be a little on the slow side. The plot is also a little predictable, though that doesn’t keep it from being entertaining. I do wish Taylor had put the rules of the game earlier in the book. By the time the exact objective and rules of the game are revealed, it doesn’t really matter to the narrative anymore. Despite these minor flaws, Wild Nature is still a fun read. My favorite part of this first volume was the announcers. They narrate what’s happening in the game as it plays out across the pages. This provides an interesting contrast to Swan’s inner monologue. The voice in Swan’s head is a nice touch. It’s interesting to see a character influenced by an impulse that amounts to the opposite of a conscious. The red letters and black background used for this internal voice really make the words pop on the page.

In fact, all the lettering is well done. Taylor plays with different fonts and text sizes throughout this first volume. While always managing to keep the look consistent. When it comes to drawing the characters, Taylor’s art style reminds me of King of the Hill, but in the best way possible. This illustration style is perfect for rendering emotion on the characters’ faces. Such expression of feelings keeps Wild Nature from devolving into a generic action story. Although there are only a couple of action scenes, Taylor keeps things visually interesting by changing perspective between panels. It gives the book a dynamic feel and helps even out the story’s pacing.

Fans of Gamer, Death Race, or even the Hunger Games will want to get their hands on a copy of Wild Nature. This graphic novel, the first part of a planned trilogy, is due out in March. It can be purchased from Buy Small Press. The series’ Kickstarter campaign has met its goal, but if you’d like to learn more about the series or want to check out Taylor’s other upcoming projects, visit: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dftaylor/wild-nature-blood-soaked-neon-drenched-thriller

Story: David Taylor Art: David Taylor
Story: 8.5 Art: 10 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

Graphic Policy was provided with a FREE copy for review

Review: Afterlift

Afterlift

Afterlift, a series that started out as a ComiXology Original, is making its way from digital to print. Thanks to a partnership with Dark Horse Comics, the collected edition of this original series will be available online and in bookstores on February 2nd, and then available in comic book shops on February 3rd. Written by Chip Zdarsky, Afterlift is a coming of age tale with elements of mythology. Zdarsky puts his own modern twist on the underworld mythos of the ancient Greeks.

Janice Chen, having recently quit her job in the finance industry, is content to spend her nights driving for a ride-share service. As the comic opens, things are preceding normally. Janice’s first-generation Mandarin parents want her to get a better job since she’s barely scraping by. However, the basic minimum wage pay doesn’t bother Janice as much the thought of a fare puking in the back of her car. Halfway through an otherwise normal night, Janice picks up a fare named Dumu. Before she knows it, she’s been drafted into service as a psychopomp.

For those unfamiliar with that word, a psychopomp is a being who escorts deceased souls to the afterlife. Think the Grim Reaper, or in the case of the Greek mythology Zdarsky uses for inspiration, Hermes and Charon. There’s also a bit of Christianity thrown into the mix as well. Just as she’s beginning to understand the predicament she finds herself in, Janice is set upon by demon bounty hunters. The demons are hell-bent (pun intended) on claiming the soul Janice is transporting for themselves.

Everything I’ve just described takes place in the first twenty-five pages of the graphic novel. From there, Afterlift becomes a thrill ride of car chases, fight scenes, and joyrides through the realms beyond the mortal plain. In addition, Zdarsky also reflects on faith and what it means to be a believer throughout the emotionally charged narrative. I also love that he chose an Asian woman as his main character. Many writers would be tempted to use a white Christian person. Janice was raised Buddhist and doesn’t believe in a final afterlife the way a Christian would. I found it fascinating to see a character with an understanding of Buddhism navigate (both metaphorically and literally) through and contemplate the implications of the existence of Hell.

Artist Jason Loo does a good job illustrating Afterlift, though his characters don’t look all that realistic. He does a great job drawing the car chase scenes and action sequences, but the scenes featuring characters talking to one another were lackluster by comparison. I did love the character design of the demons. Each is unique enough to tell apart from the others without them all looking like they come from different interpretations of hell.

Colorist Paris Alleyne does a great job of conveying time and setting through her color choices. I didn’t need a character to announce it was nighttime to instantly recognize the time of day in each scene. I also appreciate that Alleyne pays attention to the light source in each panel. For example, the portion of a panel underneath a streetlight is bright, while the other side of the panel is kept darker. Color touches such as these add realism to Loo’s illustrations, making me feel like I’m watching a complete story, rather than reading dialogue and then looking at the pictures.

I enjoyed the concepts and modern adaptations of mythology in Afterlift more than I enjoyed the actual plot. That being said, the story itself is really exciting, though I found it to be a little predictable. The artwork is solid if a bit underwhelming. It’s always easy to tell what’s going on in each panel, though some panels are more visually exciting than others. All in all, this graphic novel was a fun read, but it didn’t really wow me. Even though I wasn’t necessarily blown away, this is a series worth checking out. After all, it did win Eisner, Shuster, and Harvey awards last year.

Story: Chip Zdarsky Art: Jason Loo
Color: Paris Alleyne Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

comiXology provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Early Review: Afterlift

Afterlift

Afterlift, a series that started out as a ComiXology Original, is making its way from digital to print. Thanks to a partnership with Dark Horse Comics, the collected edition of this original series will be available online and in bookstores on February 2nd, and then available in comic book shops on February 3rd. Written by Chip Zdarsky, Afterlift is a coming of age tale with elements of mythology. Zdarsky puts his own modern twist on the underworld mythos of the ancient Greeks.

Janice Chen, having recently quit her job in the finance industry, is content to spend her nights driving for a ride-share service. As the comic opens, things are preceding normally. Janice’s first-generation Mandarin parents want her to get a better job since she’s barely scraping by. However, the basic minimum wage pay doesn’t bother Janice as much the thought of a fare puking in the back of her car. Halfway through an otherwise normal night, Janice picks up a fare named Dumu. Before she knows it, she’s been drafted into service as a psychopomp.

For those unfamiliar with that word, a psychopomp is a being who escorts deceased souls to the afterlife. Think the Grim Reaper, or in the case of the Greek mythology Zdarsky uses for inspiration, Hermes and Charon. There’s also a bit of Christianity thrown into the mix as well. Just as she’s beginning to understand the predicament she finds herself in, Janice is set upon by demon bounty hunters. The demons are hell-bent (pun intended) on claiming the soul Janice is transporting for themselves.

Everything I’ve just described takes place in the first twenty-five pages of the graphic novel. From there, Afterlift becomes a thrill ride of car chases, fight scenes, and joyrides through the realms beyond the mortal plain. In addition, Zdarsky also reflects on faith and what it means to be a believer throughout the emotionally charged narrative. I also love that he chose an Asian woman as his main character. Many writers would be tempted to use a white Christian person. Janice was raised Buddhist and doesn’t believe in a final afterlife the way a Christian would. I found it fascinating to see a character with an understanding of Buddhism navigate (both metaphorically and literally) through and contemplate the implications of the existence of Hell.

Artist Jason Loo does a good job illustrating Afterlift, though his characters don’t look all that realistic. He does a great job drawing the car chase scenes and action sequences, but the scenes featuring characters talking to one another were lackluster by comparison. I did love the character design of the demons. Each is unique enough to tell apart from the others without them all looking like they come from different interpretations of hell.

Colorist Paris Alleyne does a great job of conveying time and setting through her color choices. I didn’t need a character to announce it was nighttime to instantly recognize the time of day in each scene. I also appreciate that Alleyne pays attention to the light source in each panel. For example, the portion of a panel underneath a streetlight is bright, while the other side of the panel is kept darker. Color touches such as these add realism to Loo’s illustrations, making me feel like I’m watching a complete story, rather than reading dialogue and then looking at the pictures.

I enjoyed the concepts and modern adaptations of mythology in Afterlift more than I enjoyed the actual plot. That being said, the story itself is really exciting, though I found it to be a little predictable. The artwork is solid if a bit underwhelming. It’s always easy to tell what’s going on in each panel, though some panels are more visually exciting than others. All in all, this graphic novel was a fun read, but it didn’t really wow me. Even though I wasn’t necessarily blown away, this is a series worth checking out. After all, it did win Eisner, Shuster, and Harvey awards last year. Afterlift will be available on February 2nd at bookstores and February 3rd at comic book shops.

Story: Chip Zdarsky Art: Jason Loo
Color: Paris Alleyne Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Story: 7.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 7.5 Recommendation: Read

comiXology provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Skeletons From My Stack: Goddess Mode

Goddess Mode

Welcome to another edition of Skeletons from my Stack. A review series wherein I finally get around to reading graphic novels that have been sitting on the “to-be-read” stack on my nightstand for far too long. Thanks to a three day holiday weekend, I finally had a chance to read Goddess Mode. This limited series, written by Zoë Quinn and drawn by Robbi Rodriguez, was on my radar well before the first issue hit stands. Unfortunately, with all the other comics I was reading, I couldn’t afford to buy it in single issues. At the time, and outside of my review projects, I read titles by DC Comics exclusively, and as excited as I was for this unique series, I had no choice but to wait for the trade paperback. Meanwhile, the pandemic occurred and shutdown comic book production and shipments. Once things started to open back up, there was still a lull between my comic book store reopening and Diamond resuming shipments. Making the most out of a bad situation, I was finally able to purchase a copy of the Goddess Mode trade paperback from my local comic book shop.

Goddess Mode takes place half in the real world and half in the completely digital world of Azoth. In the technological realm of Azoth, science meets magic as Oracles battle against Daemons. Oracles, people whose minds have been dragged into Azoth, possess abilities unique to themselves. In order to escape from Azoth, an Oracle must defeat a Daemon, the dark pieces of corrupt code that feed on human suffering. The trade paperback starts with two pages that present the background details I just described in a clever play on a FAQ web page. Unfortunately, this section may have been misplaced. The beginning of this comic not only has really slow pacing but has little to do with the info provided on the first two pages. Further, many of the pieces of information that are mentioned in the opening FAQ are then restated in the first dozen dialogue-heavy pages.

“IF THEY WANT TO BE RELENTLESS, WE CAN BE DAUNTLESS”

The pace picks up soon after, though the book continues to be dialogue heavy. Quinn uses her wordy script to explore her characters. The amount of character development she manages, while still moving the plot forward and sprinkling in elements of mystery, is quite impressive. The Oracles were my favorite part of this mini-series. Unfortunately, by the end of the book, the Oracles don’t get the treatment they deserved. I found the climax to be very confusing. I re-read the last two issues twice, and I still can’t adequately explain the story’s true central conflict, the answer to the overarching mystery, or the Oracles’ true role in Azoth.

I love the contrast of colors between digital Azoth and the analog real world. The neon bright colors Rico Renzi uses for Azoth pop off the page. I also loved Robbi Rodriguez’s character designs. Every Oracle is unique and has their own distinct attitude that’s obvious just from the way they’re drawn. I got the best kind of cyberpunk Sailor Moon vibe (minus the matching school girl outfits) from the Oracles as I read through the book. Simon Bowland is due commemoration for his lettering skills. He not only has to fit a lot of dialogue into most panels, but has to do it across multiple fonts and formats. I do wish the action scenes were drawn a little clearer, specifically the Oracles using their special powers. Most of the fights wind up being talking heads and blurred bodies. When the Oracles use their powers, it’s not always obvious which one’s abilities are manifesting. Other times they use their powers in the background of a panel and the details become so small that it’s hard to tell what’s going on.

“WHEN LIFE IS DOING ITS DAMNDEST TO KILL YOU, EVERY DAY YOU SURVIVE IS A VICTORY.”

Goddess Mode’s story is entertaining but it struggles tonally. Quinn never really finds a balance between elements of mystery and action/adventure. The character development is great but the story itself winds up being confusing. The characters look great when they’re standing still but the visual quality and clarity declines when they’re drawn in motion. Luckily, the colors and lettering keep panels looking interesting even when it becomes hard to tell what’s going on. All in all, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this Skeleton from my Stack, but I don’t think I’d ever choose to read Goddess Mode a second time.

Story: Zoë Quinn Art: Robbi Rodriguez
Colors: Rico Renzi Letterer: Simon Bowland
Story: 3.5 Art: 5.0 Overall: 4.3


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Review: The Forevers Vol. 1

The Forevers Vol. 1

To quote David Bowie: “Fame, it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s just his line to bind your time, it drives you to crime.” Although that quote probably has the song now stuck in your head, it also nicely sums up the plot to The Forevers. The first volume of this series from Black Mask Studios has been collected into a trade paperback, available now wherever comic books are sold. The quest for fame and the drive to stay famous are the two main themes of this series by writer Curt Pires. In The Forevers, a group of friends take part in a magic ritual that imbues them with mystic power. Power they then use to achieve their dreams of fame and lead glamorous lives. Ten years later, when one of them dies, the rest realize that her share of the power has been split between the rest of the group. Now one of them is killing off the others in an attempt to claim all the power for themself. It’s up to the others to figure out who the killer is before he succeeds in picking them all off.

In my opinion, crime thrillers and fantasy elements don’t mix that well. Often, I feel like either the mystery itself would be no match for the magic at play; or that the mystery could take place anywhere, thus making the fantasy world irrelevant. Neither of these is the case for The Forevers. Writer Curt Pires strikes an encapsulating balance between the elements of mystery and fantasy. The world Pires has created is an accurate mirror of our world and the magic is believable. He grounds the story with emotions and desires to which all readers can relate. Then he uses those emotions and desires as the blocks on which he builds the mystery and suspense throughout the story.

Pires employs an interesting storytelling technique throughout the book. Panels on one half of the page are dedicated to one character’s perspective while the panels on the other half are from a different character’s point of view. This storytelling device allows Pires to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time, which keeps the story flowing at a fast pace. It also establishes connections and contrast between the various characters, making their development even more interesting.

The Forevers has some of the most realistic artwork I’ve seen in a long time. Eric Scott Pfeiffer’s illustrations look like he used real people as models. I wouldn’t be surprised if the main characters in this series are based on his real-life friends. Thanks to his art, reading the first volume of this series is almost like watching a television show. That’s how clear and real the characters look on the page. Pfeiffer’s color choices further add to the reality contained within his artwork. Using shades of color alone, he distinguishes background from foreground without having to use dark, bold outlines around the objects and characters he draws. This makes the focus of each panel abundantly clear and instantly draws the reader’s eye to the subject of that panel. Also, keep your eyes peeled for cameos by Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Plant. Their likenesses expertly captured by Pfeiffer’s pen.

To quote Bowie one last time, “Fame, what you get is no tomorrow.” The Forevers is a very well-crafted mystery with just the right mix of fantasy elements. The story remains exciting throughout while examining the implications behind the quest for fame and the ramifications of achieving that status. The artwork is phenomenal. There need to be more books on the shelf that are drawn like this one. I enjoy “house style” as much as the next fan, but there’s something truly engaging about the realistic nature of the art in this series. If you missed this five-issue series when it was released, now’s your chance to check out this fantastic story.

Story: Curt Pires Art: Eric Scott Pfeiffer Letterer: Colin Bell
Story: 9.0 Art: 10 Overall: 9.5 Recommendation: Buy

Black Mask Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Skeletons From My Stack: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The League of Extraordinary Gentleman

I’ve always been a huge fan of Swamp Thing. After reading the first few volumes of Saga of Swamp Thing, I became a huge fan of Alan Moore. I’ve since read a large chunk of Moore’s bibliography, but there’s one title I’ve shied away from. That title is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Allow me to explain why. I don’t tend to watch movies that are adapted from specific books I’ve read and enjoyed. Conversely, if I see the movie version of something first, I rarely care to read the book it was based on. That’s what happened with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I saw the film in theaters, not knowing it was based on a comic book. I’ve since seen it again more times than I can count. I’d re-watch it every time it was on cable (which was, and probably still is, often).

So how did the graphic novel wind up on my to-read stack? I won a gift card to a local book store last year. They had a small graphic novel section, mostly Marvel and Superman trade paperbacks. Then I noticed the first volume of The League of Extraordinary and decided I’d at least buy it to add to my graphic novel collection. It’s sat on my stack for eight months. Now I’m dusting it off for this newest installment of Skeletons From My Stack.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a historical fiction comic series with steampunk elements. Writer Alan Moore fills the story with characters from classic literature. The series opens with Campion Bond, working on behalf of the mysterious Mr. M, tasking Wilhelmina Murray with recruiting a group of eccentrics and outlaws. The group, the eponymous League of Extraordinary Gentleman, is given a mission to retrieve a substance known as Cavorite before it can fall into the hands of England’s enemies. The story itself hasn’t aged well. That’s saying something considering it was originally published in 1999. There were many times where it seemed like Moore chose the most offensive bits of history even though they weren’t essential to the actual plot. It makes for a gritty story that skews closer to offensive than historically accurate.

I was surprised by the appearance of several literary figures not used in the film, including Auguste Dupin, Dick Donovan, and Mycroft Holmes. There’s also a plethora of minor references to many other works of literature, by authors such as H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Anthony Trollope, H. Rider Haggard, Russell Thorndike, Johnathan Swift, and James Fenimore Cooper. I’m an avid reader, who has perused many of the classics, so I had a great time searching for the literary Easter eggs scattered throughout the issues. The series was also much gorier than I expected, but this just made the action scenes that much more exciting. This collected edition of the first arc also includes a short story written by Moore and featuring Quartermain.

Kevin O’Neill draws the book in a rather abstract style. For a period piece, I thought the colors were a little bright. The colors fit the art style, but didn’t necessarily fit the setting and themes of the story. The Illustrations are impressively detailed, though sometimes almost to too great an extent. This makes it hard to tell what’s going on at certain times while at others the details make for gorgeously rendered scenes. The various city-scapes are especially impressive. I also liked that the line work and hatching gives the images a sense of depth and texture.

Honestly, I think The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is one of the rare examples of the film being better than the book. I did enjoy the nods to science-fiction within the book’s plot. It fits the narrative better than the standard bombing plot used in the film. I also preferred the comic’s version of Alan Quartermain over Sean Connery’s portrayal in the film adaptation. Yet of the two, the movie was all-around more enjoyable than the first volume of the comic. Having finally read The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and finding I prefer the film, it turns out this comic probably should have stayed a skeleton on my to-be-read stack.

Story: Alan Moore Art: Kevin O’Neil
Color: Benedict Dimagmaliw Letterer: Mr. William Oakley

Story: 2.5 out of 5 Art: 3 out of 5 Overall: 2.5 out of 5


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Advance Review: The Hazards of Love Vol. 1 Bright World

The Hazards of Love Vol. 1 Bright World

It’s the start of a new year. The time when people set resolutions in order to better their lives and themselves. The quest to become a better person is the central theme of The Hazards of Love. This original graphic novel, published by Oni-Lion Forge, is due out on March 31st. In what’s becoming a rarity in the modern comic book industry, this book is the product of a single creator. Stan Stanley does it all in this graphic novel. She’s the writer, artist, colorist, and letterer. The graphic novel, subtitled Book 1: Bright World, collects the eleven issue first arc of the marvelous and creative series.

In The Hazards of Love, Amparo makes a deal with a talking cat, hoping to be made into a better person. Instead, the cat steals Amparo’s body and sends them to a strange realm known as Bright World. One of my favorite things about this graphic novel is that Amparo is a queer non-binary character. Amparo is very dynamic and defined by more than just their gender. Their tough attitude, infectious charm, and bold tenacity makes them relatable and fun to read.

One thing I find endearing but far fetched was that all the characters are immediately accepting and cognizant of Amparo’s neutral pronouns. One random girl misgenders Amparo in a single panel. Every other character, from the school bully to the magical denizens of Bright World, uses the correct pronouns. It’s a great inclusion as far as representation goes and I for one hope to one day live in a world where such understanding is as common in our world as it is in The Hazards of Love.

All of the dialogue in this graphic novel is light-hearted and humorous. Stanley crafts an interesting and multi-faceted love story. I’m not usually the biggest fan of romance, but if I’m going to read the genre, this is the type of love story I want to read. On the other hand, I do read quite a bit of YA fantasy. So I can say with confidence that Stanley’s story hits all the high points that I want out of that particular genre. All of the characters are unique with their own distinct personalities. Just when I started to get bored with a particular situation or locale, Stanley changed things up and introduced a new setting, scenario, or character.

Stanley mixes illustrative styles throughout the graphic novel. Her characters are drawn in a way that reminded me of The Magic School Bus. Her title pages and narrative text is all drawn and colored so that it is reminiscent of Dios de los Muertos decorations. Whether they’re more realistic looking or the bright pastels inherent from Mexican culture, Stanley’s color choices work together to connect all of the imagery together. She also uses visual onomatopoeia to creatively illustrate sound effects. These are drawn and colored in such a way that they practically pop from the page.

There are occasional discrepancies between how the characters are illustrated. Amparo is drawn much more animatedly than Iolanthe, even when they’re together in the same panel. Iolanthe stays realistic and natural-looking while Amparo looks very much like a cartoon, complete with bugged-out eyes and elastic features. This animated illustration style works better when Amparo is paired with the anthropomorphic animal characters in Bright World than it does when paired with Iolanthe or other human characters. Having said that, Bright World is drawn and colored so intricately and beautifully that these slight deviations can be easily forgiven.

As we move into 2021, all of us are hoping for a better year. The Hazards of Love is both something to look forward to and a reminder of the risks one must occasionally take in order to become a better person. The story is full of excitement, humor, and touching moments. The artwork, especially the colors, is spectacularly done. There are a few minor flaws, but they aren’t enough to detract from the greatness of this graphic novel. Upon finishing the book I was immediately excited to find out what happens next. Be sure to look for The Hazards of Love when it hits shops on March 31st.

Story: Stan Stanley Art: Stan Stanley
Color: Stan Stanley Letterer: Stan Stanley
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy

Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Review: Quincredible Vol. 1

Quincredible Volume 1

Full disclosure: My email account may also be a time machine. Allow me to explain. When I saw the email from Lionforge with the opportunity to review this graphic novel, I thought it sounded like a very interesting read. Before I started reading this it, I did a little Google research. I discovered that Quincredible Volume 1 was already released in 2019. According to the publisher, the book I had the opportunity to review is due out on February 24th of next year. So, I’m not sure if my email has allowed me to travel to the past or if this is a second printing of this series’ first story arc or the first time this arc has been released as a trade paperback. In any case, if you don’t have access to a time machine of your own, missed this title the first time around, or are like me and have never heard of it before, now’s your chance to enter the world of Quincredible. (Note: The first volume gets a reprinting in a new trim-sized format for 2021 – Ed)

The first arc of this series, written by Rodney Barnes, is entitled, “Quest to be the Best.” After a meteor shower rained down on his Louisiana Parish, Quin woke up to find he’d gained the superpower of invulnerability. Unfortunately, he’s still just a lightweight teenager, and this power doesn’t seem to do him much good. Quin compensates for his lack of strength by outsmarting the criminals he faces by outmaneuvering them or catching them in traps. Although there were some things I liked about the first volume of this series, I wasn’t blown away by the storytelling.

There were of course a few high points. For one, Quin’s positive relationship with his father is front and center. Considering how many heroes either don’t have parents or don’t see eye to eye with them, this was a nice touch. I also found it very interesting, not to mention another nice change of pace, that it’s the smartest girl in school Quinn hopes will notice him one day and not the hottest, as is so often the case. The designs of the superhero’s costumes are cool, but many of them seemed almost too futuristic. Aside from this being a story featuring people with superpowers, everything else felt really grounded. Even with superpowers, Quinn leads an ordinary life. The book explores themes and events that occur in the real world every day. The one exception being that there just happen to be superheroes in the world of Quincredible as well. So the high tech looking costumes felt out of place, especially for a bunch of basically independent New Orleans superheroes.

In fact, I’m just going to come out and say it, this title would be better if it weren’t about superheroes at all. Take out the superpower aspects, and give me a black teenager who wants to make a difference in his community, so he uses his intelligence and elaborate traps to help the police fight crime. That’s what I would have liked to see out of Quincredible. Instead, his invulnerability often feels like an afterthought and most of the best moments in this first volume are all about Quin and his beliefs or relationships. None of which are made better when his superpower is factored into the equation. The invulnerability just seems unnecessary and I feel like it gets in the way of the storytelling. By the third time Quin took a laser blast and was unschathed, the gimmick got really old.

The synergy between illustrator Selina Espiritu and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick is obvious on every page. I loved the use of shadow as it really helped convey depth and perspective. If left to stand on their own, both the colors and line work would come off looking flat. Luckily, Espiritu and Fitzpatrick’s talents complement each other and elevate the artwork in Quincredible. Espiritu also does a great job of conveying motion throughout the book, keeping the still images from looking overtly static.

I assume this series is geared for a young adult audience, but with that being said, I found the dialogue to be too simple and juvenile. I read quite a bit of YA genre fiction, and it doesn’t have to be watered down to be relatable and entertaining to readers of all ages. Diversity and representation are always good, especially in comic books, but I found Quincredible’s story to be kind of boring. The characters are relatable and fun to root for, but the plot and dialogue were underwhelming. There are a few creative touches in regard to the writing, but overall, the story doesn’t really stand out. The artwork isn’t mind-blowing, but it is of good quality and technically well done. The artwork does keep the story visually interesting and helps sell an otherwise bland narrative.

The volume Lionforge provided me to review is solicited for release on 2-23-2021.

Story: Rodney Barnes Art: Selina Espiritu
Color: Kelly Fitzpatrick Letterer: Tom Napolitano
Story: 4.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 6.5 Recommendation: Read

Oni Press provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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Advance Review: Nottingham #1

Nottingham #1

The story of Robin Hood has been told many times and in many ways. In my experience, there are three stand out versions and everyone has their favorite. There’s the animated Disney version with the anthropomorphic animals. There’s Prince of Thieves with Costner, Freeman, Slater, and Rickman. Or there’s Mel Brooks’ seminal Men in Tights. Regardless of which version you think is best (*fake cough* Costner), get ready to add a new favorite into the mix. This March, Mad Cave Studios plans to tell Robin Hood’s story in a new and unique way with Nottingham #1.

In Nottingham, series writer David Hazan gives readers a dark, grittier version of the characters with which we’re all familiar. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the first issue. Normally, I save my recommendation until the end of the review, but I just can’t wait. This is a title you’ll want to add to your pull list before it releases on March 3rd. One of Hazan’s many unique spins on the classic Robin Hood tale is that the story is told from the perspective of the Everard Blackthorrne, the Sheriff of Nottingham.

The entire first issue had the feel of a detective story and the Sheriff has all the qualities one would expect. He’s astute, stoic, and has a bit of an attitude. He also has a history of dealing with extremists, having fought in the crusades. All of Blackthorne’s skill and clout will be tested as he tries to track down a band of killers called the Merry Men, and their leader the mysterious Hood. The search for Hood and the Merry Men starts off rather slow but by the end of the issue, I was hooked by equal doses of action and intrigue.

Artist Shane Connery Volk’s illustrations truly transport the reader to twelfth-century England. He takes the time to draw every uneven brick in the walls of castles and buildings. There’s a scene set in the pouring rain where the raindrop hatch marks add a level of complexity to what’s drawn on the page. However, the characters’ faces are rather diminutive, especially compared to how richly drawn the comic’s setting is. Many of the faces look carelessly drawn, almost as if they were an afterthought. Colorist Luca Romano rectifies this to some extent by adding shading and shadow to the faces, but most of the time they still look like they were drawn by a child and not a professional comic book artist. These simplistic faces really threw off my reading, pulling my attention away from the scenes themselves.

This March, David Hazan begins a new chapter in the Robin Hood mythos with Nottingham #1. One filled with murder plots, zealous intrigue, and an element of mystery. Although the pacing of this first issue was a little slow, it picks up toward the end and it finishes with an exciting conclusion. The ending left me wanting to know more about this version of Robin Hood’s world. Volk’s artwork hits a lot of high points but the low points, namely the level of detail put into the characters’ faces, make it hard to stay completely engaged in the story. The world Volk draws feels real though, even when the character’s faces look off. Despite my criticisms, this is a series you’ll want to have on your radar, if not in your personal collection. Check out Nottingham #1 when it releases on March 3rd, 2021.

Story: David Hazan Art: Shane Connery Volk
Color: Luca Romano Letterer: Joamette Gil
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Mad Cave Studios provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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