Serial Box #3: Princess Leia #01

Welcome back to Serial Box, my (semi) regular discussions on comics I've recently read! This time...

Written by Mark Waid
Pencils by Terry Dodson
Inks by Rachel Dodson
Colorist is Jordie Bellaire
Cover art by Terry Dodson

When Princess Leia Organa was captured by the Empire as a Rebel spy, she never betrayed her convictions, even in the face of the complete destruction of her home world, Alderaan. When her rescue came, she grabbed a blaster and joined the fight, escaping back to the Rebel Alliance and helping strike the biggest blow against the Empire—the destruction of the Death Star. But in the aftermath of that victory, the question remains...what is a princess without a world? Writer Mark Waid (Daredevil, S.H.I.E.L.D.) and artist Terry Dodson (Avengers & X-Men: Axis, Uncanny X-Men) bring us a story of Leia’s quest to help her people and find her place in the galaxy.
 My current Star Wars obsession is still relatively young; I first saw the original trilogy in 2010 and sat through all six movies together in 2011. I only really got into Star Wars as a series last summer when I started reading the comics, and even more so in January when I read my first novel (A New Dawn, which, why haven’t I reviewed yet?)

I’ll admit that I like the comics, books, and various shows more than I like the movies. I feel like the six hours we get to learn so many characters just isn’t enough. That goes especially for Princess Leia, the tough, brave, smart-mouthed lady who, for the longest time, was the only lady most fans of the Star Wars series could name. (Sorry, Mon Mothma!)

Now we’ve improved: Padme Amidala, Ahsoka Tano, Asajj Ventress, and all kinds of ladies both canon and not have filled up books, movies, cartoons, and comics. It’s nice to see that, in their reboot, Disney hasn’t forgotten to include the gal who started it all.

Readers only need to be familiar with Episode IV: A New Hope to start Princess Leia. In fact, the first few panels pick up right at the awards ceremony where A New Hope leaves off. Where this takes us after that I’ll leave up to the reader to read and find out, but it includes a lot of decisions that line up perfectly with some of what her father pulled during the Clone Wars: stealing ships, dramatic rescue missions, and flat-out usurping authority (which, believe it or not, you still have to do when you’re technically the highest authority.) As for the art, the cover alone is stellar (no pun intended) and the panels are colorful and fun without being cartoony.

Princess Leia #1 is definitely worth an investment for new fans of Star Wars who are jumping on board with the new movies and rediscovering the old ones. I’m excited to see where Leia, and new character Evaan Verlaine, take us. Judging from Leia’s valor and quick wit from A New Hope, I know it’ll be worth it. 


Review: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio

Title: None of the Above
Series: N/A
Author: I.W. Gregorio
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: April 7th, 2015
Page #: 352 (233 in my digital ARC)
ISBN: 0062335316
Acquisition: ARC from Edelweiss

Goodreads, Author's Website

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book for review from Edelweiss on 1/23/15. The book was published on 4/7/15. Because of this, some of the scenes I addressed/ quotes I use may not appear in the final copy. Please keep this in mind when reading my review.

This book was a mix for me: a good topic and ideas with an execution that I wasn’t entirely happy with. An interesting main character with a lot of potential, but a lot of jumping around and a failure to live up to that potential. Genuine research into the lives of people with AIS, but some rude comments that I couldn’t overlook.

The best part of the book was how Krissy’s navigation of her newly-discovered intersex identity was sympathetic and well-researched. I don’t have AIS, so obviously you should take the word of a person with AIS over mine about how this identity is portrayed, but it sounds like Gregorio took the time to speak to people with AIS/ identify as intersex to write a better story. I can respect that, as can I her decision to write a character with AIS in the first place; it’s an identity that so few people understand and I applaud Gregorio for taking that step and making an effort to make her writing more inclusive.

My main issue was that the book felt like it was being pulled in multiple directions, like Gregorio stuffed all of the issues an intersex person could face into the book at once. The result is a jumble of plot lines that never really reach a climax nor have a satisfying conclusion. This includes: bullying/ transphobia/ intersexphobia, the right to compete in sports, health concerns/ the decision to have medical procedures, sexual identity/ queer identities, sexual activity, sexual assault, cyberbullying, etc. These are all important themes, but a lot of Krissy’s feelings and reactions to these events felt pushed under the rug or conveniently forgotten so we could move onto the next problem. What this book needed was more time, and a lot more pages, to get a chance to resolve things as they need to be or at least address them more than once and for more than one chapter.

I couldn’t get myself to connect to any of the characters, and I feel like the only characters that we got to see really fleshed out were Krissy, her father, and her (dead) mother. The rest of the characters either felt flat or like Gregorio wanted to write about them but never got around to it. For example, Krissy was a “big” (kind of like a student mentor) to a girl on the track team, so you’d think that fleshing out their relationship would make sense seeing as Gregorio tried to make a plot line out of Krissy possibly not being able to compete in sports because of her intersex identity. In actuality, we only see the girl twice.

Another issue I took with the book were some comments made about Castor Semenya, who is frequently referenced in the book because she is also intersex and a runner/ athlete like Krissy. Unfortunately, not all of these mentions are positive:

 “[Krissy’s dad] clicked through to another article and there was a close-up of a runner. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman.” (pg. 102)
This isn’t okay. Calling a person an “it” is completely unacceptable and especially when that person is a real human being. Castor isn’t a fictional character that Gregorio made up, she’s a real person who’s been dehumanized because of the identity that Gregorio is (supposedly) trying to fight the dehumanization of. Krissy’s distaste for Caster is never really touched upon, or resolved, but is apparently justified because she’s a “real” woman:

“I don't look like Caster. I look like a woman. I am a woman.” (pg. 106)

I agree that Krissy’s insecurity about her own identity as a woman needed to be addressed within the book, but Caster Semenya is a woman because she says she is and that’s that. Again, I don’t identify as intersex, so I’d like to hear what a person who identifies as such thinks about this, but these lines definitely spoiled some of the book for me.

Overall, the book felt unfinished. The digital ARC that I had been sent was only 233 pages while Goodreads says the final book will be 352. Maybe that’s just how the pages are split up from one format to another, or maybe Gregorio went back and wrote in more scenes to fill in some of the patchiness and confusion, or to flesh out more events/ characters to make them feel less rushed. I sincerely hope it’s the second, and will gladly take another look and write a new review if that’s the case.

Three Stars!


Serial Box #2: The Midas Flesh Vol. 1

Welcome to Serial Box! Here, I talk about comics that I've been checking out recently. This week:

Written by Ryan North
Illustrated by Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline
Goodreads Description 
We've all heard of the Midas Touch. You know, the Greek myth about the man who did a number on himself by wishing everything he touched to turn to gold? Well, you haven't heard everything.

Joey and her space crew have decided to return to Earth--a planet completely sectioned off, abandoned, and covered in gold--to find out exactly what happened to this once thriving planet and see if they can use that knowledge against the evil empire that's tracking them down. As luck would have it, they just landed the most powerful weapon in the universe: some ancient dead guy's body.

The totally unpredictable first collection of Ryan North's debut original print comic book series The Midas Touch, featuring art by illustration dynamos Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb, will leave the reader reeling from start to gilded finish.
The first four issues of an eight-issue series, the first volume of The Midas Flesh is awesome. It's a totally original story, so there's no worrying about catching up or who or what you'll be able to recognize. I love the premise most of all: I was already familiar with the story of King Midas, so this was a really interesting twist on his story.

I've also been getting more and more into space stories recently. The Midas Flesh follows the pretty typical space opera plot of "rebels" vs. some kind of evil empire/ society/ fleet, here called "The Federation," so you know kind of what to expect in that field. Still, the mixture of futuristic with mythological keeps things pretty interesting and fresh, which was really nice. I'll be picking up the second volume for sure, but all eight issues are already out and available to read if you can track them down online or at your local comic shop.

Also, reading this is another tally towards my Diverse Books Challenge! So happy to see a Muslin girl named Fatty, short for Fatima, in this book. She's one of the three protagonists and has frequent speaking roles and is heavily involved in the daily activities of their ship. Ms. Marvel has been getting a lot of (very well-deserved) praise recently, but it's nice to see that more comic publishers are branching out as well.

 Volume 2 will be published on June 9th, 2015.


Serial Box #1: Marceline Gone Adrift #01

Welcome to the first installation of Serial Box! 2014 was a big year in comics for me, and I've had plenty of time to build up my collection of comic series both short and on-going.I've really enjoyed my sojourn into comics so far and I look forward to this segment where I get to talk about them!

Written by Meredith Gran
Illustrated by Carey Pietsch
Marceline is on a rampage for mysterious reasons, and the kingdom of Ooo is desperately scrambling to stop her. In trying to save both Ooo and Marceline herself, Princess Bubblegum accidentally propels Marceline into the farthest reaches of space...and strips her of her powers! Guilt-ridden, Princess Bubblegum sets off on a space rescue that’ll test the power of her mind...as well as the power of friendship.

The first volume in a planned series of six, Marceline Gone Adrift has grabbed my attention with just the first issue. I stopped by a new comic store this weekend, a little one in the town over, and decided to grab it. It's written by Meredith Gran of Octopus Pie and illustrated by Carey Pietsch.

The art and color palette are amazing; mostly pinks and blues (for obvious reasons, for those who are familiar with Adventure Time.) You can see more of Pietsch's work at her website to get a feel for it; it's very lovely. She's new to the Adventure Time series (besides a variant cover for Banana Guard Academy), which already has several other comic series out, but her character designs and expressions fit right in with the style of the show.

We're only just getting started plot-wise but already enough questions have been introduced to keep the series going. I'm sure that once we hit the second issue we'll start answering these questions, but until then we have a solid beginning. I look forward to issue #2!


Review: The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

Title: The Glass Sentence
Series: The Mapmakers Trilogy (#1)
Author: S. E. Grove
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: June 12th, 2014
Page #: 493
ISBN: 0670785024

Goodreads, Author's Website

Goodreads Description
She has only seen the world through maps. She had no idea they were so dangerous.
Boston, 1891. Sophia Tims comes from a family of explorers and cartologers who, for generations, have been traveling and mapping the New World—a world changed by the Great Disruption of 1799, when all the continents were flung into different time periods. Eight years ago, her parents left her with her uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, and went on an urgent mission. They never returned. Life with her brilliant, absent-minded, adored uncle has taught Sophia to take care of herself.
Then Shadrack is kidnapped. And Sophia, who has rarely been outside of Boston, is the only one who can search for him. Together with Theo, a refugee from the West, she travels over rough terrain and uncharted ocean, encounters pirates and traders, and relies on a combination of Shadrack’s maps, common sense, and her own slantwise powers of observation. But even as Sophia and Theo try to save Shadrack’s life, they are in danger of losing their own.
The Glass Sentence plunges readers into a time and place they will not want to leave, and introduces them to a heroine and hero they will take to their hearts. It is a remarkable debut.
A fantastic book. The worldbuilding was extremely rich and engaging, and I look forward to exploring more of this world in future books. Which is why I was a little upset and took issue with some of the turns that Grove took within the story.
Grove at points makes use of "deus ex machina," a term used to describe a seemingly impossible coincidence to get characters out of a sticky situation. The book starts out just fine, but these increase in number as the book continues.
I also feel that there were some plot points that were not followed up on, and some of the character's actions and decisions were not explained sufficiently or dropped entirely. Unfortunately, I cannot be specific with my examples as many occur in the second half of the book and would require spoilers, but I will say that even the title and tagline on the cover leave me at a loss as to how they relate back to the story.
The reason that I didn't dock more than half a star for these things, as well as the fact that I'm more disappointed than angry, is that Grove is clearly a fantastic writer and a brilliant worldbuilder. I hope that Grove has set aside some of these ideas to be resolved in later books, and that she wasn't pressured to send the final copy before it was time (no pun intended.) I also couldn't help but feel that she sold herself short at times, or wrote herself into a corner even though she pushed the envelope in every other aspect of the book.
That aside, these elements do not diminish how enjoyable it was to read the Glass Sentence. I am amazed that it's only Grove's first book. Aside from the worldbuilding, I very much enjoyed Sofia as a protagonist. She's adventurous and curious, determined and kind. The characters she meets along the way are also interesting, and compliment each other well. I have no complaints about any other aspect of the book (pacing, length, setting, etc.), and hope my lengthy paragraph above doesn't make it seem like I disliked the book. What I listed were my only issues with the book.
Hopefully some of the kinks iron themselves out and the second book is better than ever, but until then the Glass Sentence deserves the high praise it has been receiving and was a wonderful way to start off my 2015 reading challenge.

Five Stars!


2013 Round-Up: How My Challenges Treated Me

I participated in three reading challenges in 2013, none of which I completed, but I read some pretty good books last year that I might not have picked up if not for them. That counts as a success in my book!

2013 Goodreads Reading Challenge: I planned for 30 and ended up reading 38. I find it hard to make time to read at school, so I pack what I can (in between doing other things *ahemvideogamesahem*) during my breaks. I'm happy that I was able to make time for 38 books this year, and hopefully in 2014 I'll be able to up that to 40. I lament the fact that I may never return to the overwhelming succcess (in my book) of 52 books in 2012, but who knows! Maybe I'll finally get my butt in gear (and off Tumblr) in 2014.

Debut Author Challenge 2013: This... did not go well for me. The idea was to read books by authors whose first published works were released in 2013 and in that specific month if you wanted to participate in mini-challenges. This is simply too hard for me: my school library has no fiction to be found and the local public libraries are too out of the way to make travelling there convient. I never spend money on books and libraries don't often get books "in time" to make the mini-challenges. When they do, they are often snapped up quickly. They can also be hard to locate: my local public libraries don't have an easy was of looking up debut authors, and sometimes books from the previous year are mixed into the new sections.
Also... not many debut books interested me. I'd find a debut book, but the plot summary sounded too boring to me to attempt. It simply wasn't the challenge for me.
Still, I did get a 3/10, and those three were pretty good, so again I'm impressed that I did as well as I did.

YA/MG Fantasy Challenge: I made it 8/10, though if we would count Fables (whether or not your could consider it young adult is a bit dubious; it deals with pretty adult themes) then I roll in at a perfect 10/10.
I liked this challenge a lot, I really enjoy fantasy, and I finally got around to starting the Harry Potter series! I would participate again, but that isn't looking like it's going to happen. I would love to host it myself, but I think I'll have save for the future when my drive to blog is on more solid footing.

Review: Crash and Burn by Michael Hassan

Title: Crash and Burn
Author: Michael Hassan
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 19, 2013
Page #: 532
ISBN: 0062112902

Goodreads, Author's Twitter

Goodreads Description
On April 21, 2008, Steven "Crash" Crashinsky saved more than a thousand people when he stopped his classmate David Burnett from taking their high school hostage armed with assault weapons and high-powered explosives. You likely already know what came after for Crash: the nationwide notoriety, the college recruitment, and, of course, the book deal. What you might not know is what came before: a story of two teens whose lives have been inextricably linked since grade school, who were destined, some say, to meet that day in the teachers' lounge of Meadows High. And what you definitely don't know are the words that Burn whispered to Crash right as the siege was ending, a secret that Crash has never revealed.
Until now.
Michael Hassan's shattering novel is a tale of first love and first hate, the story of two high school seniors and the morning that changed their lives forever. It's a portrait of the modern American teenage male, in all his brash, disillusioned, oversexed, schizophrenic, drunk, nihilistic, hopeful, ADHD-diagnosed glory. And it's a powerful meditation on how normal it is to be screwed up, and how screwed up it is to be normal.
Crash and Burn starts right from the beginning and carries you through Steven's/ Crash's life all the way up to the end, combining to become a sort of autobiography-slash- journal. Reader's are given a chapter of life as it is for Crash, showing his day-to-day activities as he moves through life as a normal teenager after his not-so-average heroic break. This contrasts with pages of his book-within-a-book that's he's writing, his tell-all. And wow, does it pay off in the end.

You don't go into Crash and Burn thinking that it's going to be funny, witty, insightful, telling, truthful, or anything other than bone-crushingly sad. Because that's what books about almost-school-shootings and hostage students is supposed to be, right? Thankfully, for our sake, Hassan has given us something very, very  different.

Crash and Burn is bone-crushingly sad, at times. And it's hilarious and sarcastic, at times. It has its mundane and boring parts too. It all works out though, with Crash being one of the most realistic, insightful, interesting characters to come out of young adult fiction for a long time.

It's book like Crash and Burn that pull me back into young adult fiction in a world that trying to hawk "new adult" or sometimes just "adult" books to me. It challenges the idea that we aren't ready for things that are thrown our way, that even though there are people out there who look at us and figure that we're ready for this or not ready for that. It takes every single one of its 532 pages and introduces us to a character who's funny, depressed, sarcastic, loving, unloving, confused, high, drunk, and one of the closest fictional characters I've ever seen to a real, living person.

It was amazing.

Five stars!

Note: I wrote this review at least six months ago and did not publish it until now. Looking back (from July 2013) I still think that Crash and Burn deserves the full five stars that I gave it. It was one of the few YA books last year that I got through and was satisfied with having spent as much time on it as I did. However, I am going to come out and say that, looking back, I did have a few problems with how some girls/ women are discussed/ portrayed in the book. I would rewrite my review to go into specifics, but like I said I read/ reviewed it quite a long time ago, and don't think that I could do a new review justice. Just a heads-up that I had to get off of my chest.