Graphic Novels: This One Summer, Say I Love You, and Seeing Red

I’ve been slack in my comic reading lately, which is weird for me. So, between the library and a couple of comic store trips, I’ve been trying to remedy that. Here are my thoughts on a few of the books I’ve been reading lately: This One Summer, Say I Love You, and Seeing Red.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, art by Jillian Tamaki

Rose and her family are traveling to the lake this summer, like they do every year, and she’s excited to see her friend Windy, another girl a couple years younger than her. But this year things are different: her mother is depressed after failing to have another baby, her parents won’t stop fighting, and a local scandal involving a teenage girl wends it’s way through Rose’s life. All through that, she’s starting the horrible transition out of childhood.

Emotions run strong in This One Summer; Rose is bitter that her mother is so upset about not having another baby, as if she’s not enough, and this causes her to blame her mother, and all women, for the messes they get themselves and others into. As an objective adult I can see how bratty and selfish Rose is being, but I also understand that while it may be skewed this is the only way she can see to make sense of the problems around her. Her friendship with Windy get’s rocky, too, as Rose seems to force her way through growing up — taking out the scary movies to impress the boys at the general store — while Windy feels uncomfortable around the teenage boys and wants to keep making goofy jokes, even as it starts to annoy Rose. With constant tension between Rose and everyone else, and the intrigue of the local story, it’s a fast read even for a graphic novel, but Jillian’s illustrations made me pause again and again with the detail in things like the water or the trash at the teenagers’ firepit, or how she gets across whole scenes with their varying emotions often without the help of dialogue. A subtle, resonant character story that’s really everything I want out of comic. (This was a library book, but I may buy a copy for myself.)

Say I Love You Volumes 1 and 2 by Kanae Hazuki

Mei is a friendless loner, but then the handsome popular boy Yamato starts paying attention to her and things change. She gains friends, even rivals, and she starts to come out of her shell as she realizes that sometimes she can trust people and ask for help.

I’d heard great things about the anime, and also the story sounds so similar to Kimi ni Todoke, that I felt I had to check it out. The relationship certainly progresses much more quickly, as they kiss by the first chapter (it takes SO LONG for that to even start to happen in KnT). Mei’s quiet but still kind of standoffish attitude of course makes everyone hate her for being with the popular boy, and it doesn’t take long for a rival, in the form of the only girl Yamato slept with, to show up. I like the characters, and Mei’s ability to get people to understand how to interact with people (based on her experiences of everyone interacting badly with her) makes for a story that reaches beyond her own problems. But, I couldn’t get as invested as I would have hoped, partly because the story moves a little too fast. Also, Yamato, while generally sweet, is a little more forceful with Mei than I’m really comfortable with. I don’t think I’ll be compelled enough to keep up with this series.

Adventure Time: Seeing Red by Kate Leth, art by Zachary Sterling

Marceline forgot her bass at her dad’s house, so she goes back to the Nightosphere with Jake to endure a family reunion and get it back.

So, I love Adventure Time. And I love Marceline. Plus I already own the other books in this series featuring various lady characters, so I had to get this volume. Focusing on one of the bigger problems in Marcy’s life — her dad — she gets back home to find that her bass is gone, and that her dad actually stole it and sold it, sending her and Jake on a trail to get it back. Being in black in white, it’s missing all the bright candy-coated colors from the show, but the scenes are still detailed and full of varied character designs, including awesome frequent costume changes by Marceline. I like Sterling’s panel layouts, too, which are big enough to allow for the aforementioned detail and slow down the story enough to keep it from being too frenetic. The story gets a little cheeseball at the end (though that’s fine with me), with a touching scene between Marceline and her father showing that he may not understand his daughter’s motivations, but he still wants to try to make her happy. I also love the bonus story, in 4-koma style, of Lumpy Space Princess going on a quest for the hottest purse. Nice tough.

 

These are some of the comics I’ve been reading lately. Have you read any of these? What did you think? What other comics are you into right now?

New Fandom Post Review: Pokemon The Movie Manga

PokemonI’m a little late bringing this up, but my review for the Pokémon The Movie: White: Victini and Zekrom went up on the Fandom Post last week. This was adapted straight from one of the movies, which I think gives a clue as to its overall quality, but it was still an OK read. Check out my review to see exactly what I thought!

Manga: Black Butler Volumes 10 & 11

These two volumes continue and then finish up the murder mystery story that started in volume 9. I had a lot of high hopes for this storyline, but in the end I found myself a little disappointed. Arthur, a character introduced last volume meant to represent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, goes over all the clues to figure out the reason for the murders, only to have all the clues looked at again when a mysterious vicar, playing the part of a hyper-observant Sherlock Holmes, shows up to analyze everything again. This is stretched over the entire tenth volume, resulting in a drag in the story.

At the very end of volume 10 Arthur figures out what we all knew pretty much the entire time — that Sebastian is not really dead. (sorry if I spoiled anything, but did you really think that the supernatural title character would go out because someone whapped him on the head?) The real culprit turns out to be the Queen’s butler, who was exacting his own punishment for Ciel’s final actions at the end of the circus story arc. While this creates an interesting dynamic for later on — will this butler prove an enemy — it feels like a bit of a cheat to this storyline. Also disappointing is that, in the end, Arthur’s character serves as nothing more than a narrator, and as someone to whom Sebastian and Ciel can reveal the real underlying plot for the benefit of the reader.

The most interesting twist comes at the end of volume 11, when it’s revealed that one of the three deaths was not in the plan. The revelation of another killer ties this story arc more firmly with the preceding one, and the decision to keep him as part of the overall plot reminds us that Ciel is not actually a good person, and may even have more darkness in him than his devilish butler.

While I didn’t turn out to love this story arc as much as I hoped, it’s still far from being the most boring part of this manga. It’s a pity that this storyline started to slog, but as usual it picked up again when the supernatural aspect became a more natural part of the plot. These volumes have their far-too-goofy moments, such as how they reveal to the other servants that Sebastian isn’t actually dead (the biggest plot hole I’ve seen yet in this manga) and the expected but still disappointing way that the older butler Tanaka returns to his super-deformed, derpy state after spending so many chapters being clearheaded and formidable. The manga takes a disturbing (and welcomed!) turn at the end of volume 11, and I look forward to seeing what Toboso decides to do with it.

ISBN: 9780316189880 • Released July 24, 2012

ISBN: 9780316225335 • Released October 30, 2012

Review copies provided by Yen Press.

 

Manga: Yotsuba&! Volume 11, Witch & Wizard Volume 2

My manga reading hasn’t been picking up too much speed, but this week I was able to take a look at two more volumes fro Yen Press: one thing that I love, and one that I’m just indifferent to.

First was Yotsuba&!volume 11. When the new volume of Yotsuba&! shows up on my doorstep, I am filled with delight. There is no exciting action or important worldly or emotional problems being dealt with in this series, but I know when I see the cover with the little green-haired girl on it I’m going to read a story of pure fun. Without surprise, Yotsuba is up to the same childish goofiness in this volume. She watches a man make udon, tries pizza for the first time, and worries when a friend (her teddy bear Juralumin) has to undergo surgery after being chewed on by a dog. By far, my favorite episode is when Yotsuba’s nemesis, her father’s friend Yanda, comes to visit and proceeds to taunt Yotsuba as he brings out progressively cooler bubble toys that he says she’s too little to play with.  I don’t know how he’s managed it, but Azuma has taken a single concept — a hyperactive, dopey child having fun discovering simple things — and still manages to keep it strong and interesting through 11 volumes.

ISBN: 978031622597 • MSRP $11.99 • Released September 25, 2012

James Patterson and Svetlana Chmakova’s Witch & Wizard  invokes less delight. I took a look at volume 1 of this adaptation of a YA dystopian novel in my first installment of Comic Conversion on Manga Bookshelf, where I noted the quick, constant action that pulls you pretty easily through the story. But the story is so shallow, with the speed of the story also working against the comic. Important things happen one after the other, with little to no time to dwell on them. Betrayals take a couple of pages, allies are introduced then swept away, and months of capture fly by. What could have been an involved love story between Wisty and another teenager begins and ends so fast I actually forgot about it (as Wisty apparently did) until it was brought up again near the end of the book. The variety of magic is interesting, but it also feels like the creators just make something up whenever they need the characters to escape. And I still don’t understand the villain, “The One Who is the One”, with his motivations and desires changing with the wind. Again, one of the saving graces of this comic is Chmakova’s art, imbuing Whit, Wisty, and all the other characters with more depth and emotion than I think Patterson is capable of.

ISBN: 9780316119917 • MSRP $12.99 • Released June 26, 2012

Review copies were provided by Yen Press.

New Manga Review: Black Butler 9

I haven’t been able to update this lately; I’ve been horrendously busy finishing everything for this semester of school (craft essay is the devil) and starting a new part-time job. I haven’t even been able to write reviews much, but I finally got a new one up the other day.

Black Butler volume 9 was another good installment to the series; the goofiness was limited, and the plot was exciting. I hope that Toboso can keep it up in the next volume. The review is up at Suite 101.

I hope to get another review done this week. At the very least, I’ll make an actual, real blog post about something.

Review Recap: Nura, Mameshiba (And a Request)

This week I actually managed to get two reviews written and posted (I’m getting back into the swing of this, I think). The first was for the second volume of Nura: Rise of the Yokai Clan. While still not my favorite shonen manga of all time, I think it’s starting to grow on me. I’ll be reviewing the second one, to see if it still sticks. You can read my review on The Fandom Post.

The second review was for a comic I read a while ago, but I put off writing about for some reason: Mameshiba: On the Loose! This is a VIZ Kids comic based off the little bean dog merchandise. It’s cute, but definitely, definitely for children. This review is on Suite 101.

Also, if you go to the Suite 101 Graphic Novels/Comics page, you’ll notice that I’ve been named Topic Editor. Fun! Except I’m really the only one writing in there. This is an extra downer since the topic includes subheadings like Classic Comics, which I know next to nothing about. If there are any of you writers out there who would want to write for the Graphic Novels/Comics section (or you know someone interested) you can apply through Suite 101 (I have no say in whether you’re hired). If you have any questions you can leave a comment or message me.

New Review! Ayn Rand’s Anthem Graphic Novel

 

Anthem by Ayn Rand
Anthem Graphic Novel

 

It’s been a slow week for me. I managed to squeak out one review for Suite 101, the graphic novel adaptation of Anthem by Ayn Rand. I must be on Penguins list of graphic novel reviewers, since this getting sent my way was a surprise. A pleasant surprise, mind you, since I really enjoyed the book! I’ve never read anything by Ayn Rand before, so this was a nice introduction to her philosophy. Be sure to check out my review for all my thoughts.

I wrote a review of Very! Very! Sweet volume 7 for Mania.com; I sent it in this morning, so it should be on that website some time next week. I just have to review Very! Very! Sweet volume 8, and I’ll have (finally) finished my backlog of Mania books – so I can order more! Heh heh.