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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

5 MORE Recent Comic Reads

As I mentioned yesterday in my 5 Recent Comic Reads video, today I have thoughts on 5 MORE recent reads for you! Most of these were read at the tail end of 2017 and the very beginning of this year, so my thoughts are overdue and possibly a little muddled. So enjoy that!

THE WITCH BOY by Molly Ostertag

In thirteen-year-old Aster's family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn't shifted . . . and he's still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be.

When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help -- as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie, to convince Aster to try practicing his skills. And it will require even more courage to save his family . . . and be truly himself.

I've touched on this book a bit in the past, but I feel like I didn't really get too much into the hows and whys of why I liked it, and why I didn't.
For the most part I did, I really did -- but. It remained throughout a case of "I like it, but..." It was charming -- but it felt a little underdeveloped. It has an interesting world and family dynamic -- but it went underutilized. I'm intrigued by the magic set-up -- but everything felt very predictable, in the way that you start questioning why don't the characters see what's going on? WHY DOES NO ONE GET IT?  It had a real potential strength in the exploration of gender and sense of self --  issues of gender and identity and being true to yourself, and I think that message will really translate in a great way to its intended audience. But again, it often seemed to skim the surface.
Maybe I'm asking too much, or putting my own adult expectations on it as a story and as a piece of craft; it is aimed at a young audience, after all, and maybe for a middle grade reader, it would be enough. But I can't ignore a feeling of untapped potential when I come across it, and this had so much going on that Editor-Misty just wanted to push. It's a compliment, really, if in a roundabout way. I promise.
But though I may have wanted to push it farther, I did still enjoy it. It was sweet and beautifully drawn, and it may hit the sweet spot for a lot of young readers; everything just felt a little shallow and not fully fleshed out, and there's no real "twist" -- even though I think one was slightly intended -- as it couldn't be more obvious what's going on. And it has a nice message (which it presents without the least bit of subtlety).
I think its strengths are in the relationships, which I wish had been explored even more. As a longer book or part of an ongoing series, slowed down to really build those relationships and interactions, this could have been really lovely.
As it was, it was sweet and quick, and not something I regret giving the time to -- but underwhelming, all the same. Before all of those buts, it did have all of those things working for it: it was charming, it did have an interesting world, and family and friend dynamics.
If there's more to come from the series, I will be looking into it, because I'm curious to see where it goes and how it grows.

GIANT DAYS by John Allison

Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of handwringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery-mold, nu-chauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive. Going off to university is always a time of change and growth, but for Esther, Susan, and Daisy, things are about to get a little weird.

After so many recommendations, glowing reviews, and algorithms pushing this in my face in the form of "You liked ________, you may also like GIANT DAYS," I have to say, I felt a little underwhelmed.

The art is nice -- vibrant and lively and just bubbly enough to draw you in and make you a little more inclined towards HAPPY without being saccharine or overly cartoony. And most of the character work is fairly engaging in the first volume -- enough to make me curious to know more about them and see what antics they're going to get up to in future volumes, which I'd imagine is the goal of a series beginning.

But I felt like some of the things -- and characters -- I was supposed to like, I didn't, and the whole thing felt a touch bland. I do intend to keep going with it -- eventually -- and I imagine it'll even grow on me, judging from others' reactions, but though it was funny, it didn't really offer me enough to make me love it, or for it to feel substantial and memorable.

RAT QUEENS VOL 4 by Kurtis J. Wiebe
aka Rat Queens 2, vol 1: High Fantasies
The Queens are back! Palisade is still a rat-infested hell hole, and Violet, Hannah, Dee, Betty, and the brand-new Queen, Braga are the only hope of saving it! It’s been a long time since they’ve done a good slaughter, so join them as they get back to the basics of killing monsters and drinking away the profits! This is a fresh, hilarious new take on the RAT QUEENS with new artist OWEN GIENI! Collects RAT QUEENS, VOL. 2 #1-5
UPDATE: So... I'm including this review because I already had it written, so why not? But I reread this a couple of days ago, and tried to keep it separate in my head from what came before, and just approach it as a completely new work, and it did change my thoughts on it. So expect a Review Redux coming soon!

PREVIOUSLY: I'm so torn on this. On the one hand, I really loved this series in the beginning, and was really sad to see how it went off the rails, so I was open to the idea of a series reboot that would get it back to what it needed to be. On the other, I was hesitant to let myself like it and get invested again, when it devolved so quickly and so thoroughly the first time around. So I was hesitant going in, and I'm still hesitant now that I've read it. There is a massive disconnect between the end of volume 3 and the beginning of volume 4, to that point that I actually went back and reread the end of volume 3 to see if I was missing something -- and even then, I still couldn't figure out what I was missing. I had to get seriously Scooby Doo and supersleuth my way to the conclusion that there's an entire issue with its own arc that takes place between vols 3 & 4, but isn't included in either, and that without it, things just plain don't make sense. And possibly even with it, they still don't quite make sense. On Goodreads, you can ask questions about a book, and the author or readers may answer them. Wiebe has been asked multiple times about the disconnect between vol 3 and 4, and each time, he just basically says it's intentional and will make sense in time, but it's kind of a copout. You can't just dangle the carrot and expect readers to chase after it forever, in the hopes that one day there will be a payoff. To continue with that metaphor, sometimes you need to get a little bite. You need a taste, you need some assurance that it is actually going to happen.

I just can't set aside the idea that if you're trying to reboot something and gain readers' trust again, maybe starting off with hard-to-follow chaos that leaves most readers seriously questioning  "Did I miss something? Is this it?" isn't the best way to get readers to reinvest their time and faith in the story you're trying to tell.

That said, it did start to feel like it was working toward something cohesive, and I still did mostly enjoy it and am (tentatively) hopeful that it will win me over again -- and keep me won over for some time to come, though I'm not holding my breath. The art leaves a little something to be desired for me; I really with they could get someone on the series that could capture the beautiful emotional work and subtleties that Roc Upchurch had working for him, because everything sense then has been fairly disappointing, but who knows -- maybe it'll get there. It's probably just an adjustment, and a general resistance to change...  But I am very glad to have the Queens back to being the Queens, and going on adventures, and having generally rollicking good times, so for now, I'm keep my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

THE CHILLING ADVENTURES OF SABRINA vol 1 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, the young sorceress Sabrina Spellman finds herself at a crossroads, having to choose between an unearthly destiny and her mortal boyfriend, Harvey. But a foe from her family's past has arrived in Greendale, Madame Satan, and she has her own deadly agenda. Archie Comics' latest horror sensation starts here! For TEEN+ readers. Compiles the first six issues of the ongoing comic book series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.

Oh, lort. I'm not even sure where to begin with this one.

Yes, this is about Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I thought I was in for a fun nostalgia read with this one, but I realized pretty quickly on that this is more 'Nostalgia Turned Upside Down,' which I guess is a thing that people feel the need to do to everything at some point. Everything has to be made gritty. Every story has to show its darkest timeline.

And that may have worked, and actually brought a new interest and readership to the story, but it often just seemed cheesy and unnecessarily dark (which added to the cheese). I think it was going for a level of campy darkness, which I get, and maybe if I continue on, or reread it with fresh, expectation-less eyes, I'll find it more successful on that score. But most of the time, I just found myself a little befuddled, and a fair bit underwhelmed.

This extended to the art, which I just was not a fan of. Not to my tastes at all, though I acknowledge this is subjective and there may well be people who will love it. For me, it just seemed chaotic and messy,  adding to the messiness of the story overall. Also, Harvey is Zac Efron, I'm pretty sure...

STREET ANGEL: After School Kung Fu Special by Jim

Jesse "Street Angel" Sanchez takes the Ninja Kid to school! Her fists are the facts and his face is the report card! Don't miss this very special After School Kung Fu, er, uh...Special?
Meanwhile, Saturday night's the big dance and Jesse doesn't want to go! Is love in the air? No.

Lastly, I have a middle grade comic that is technically book 2, which I somehow managed to start with, even though I was sent all 3...

Street Angel is a super quick, fun read about a very plucky and funny young girl who's ready to take on the world, and I think as such, it'll find very enthusiastic readers among its target audience. It feels really well suited to that audience in tone, story, and art, and though it could be longer or have more heft to it, it's mostly pretty successful and enjoyable.
And that's all there really is to say about it!

Those are my thoughts on 5 MORE recent comics and graphic novels I've read. If you want to see my thoughts on Saga 8, The Prince and the Dressmaker, Moonstruck, One Day a Dot, and the first 11 (!!) volumes of Fables, make sure to check out yesterday's comics post!

And if you have comics recommendations for me, please let me know in the comments!

Disclosure: The Witch Boy and Street Angel were sent to me for review consideration by Scholastic and Image Comics, respectively. The rest were acquired by me. All thoughts and opinions -- whether copies were provided or not -- are honest and my own.


  1. These sound interesting. I don't read many comics unless my kids are reading them. Then, I want to be hip and read what they're reading. ;)

    But I love the artwork in graphic novels. The Witch Boy especially looks like it has nice art.

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