Review: “Monsters: A Love Story” By Liz Kay

Review of Monsters, A Love Story By Liz Kay

A review by Domoni.

Stacey is a mess. Recently widowed, and therefore a single mother to two young sons, she is just trying to hold her life together. Now she has to learn to navigate the world on her own while simultaneously being thrown into a whole new universe. Stacey is a feminist poet, who has no patience for the boys club. Her work has been optioned as a movie, and she is forced to work with egotistical Hollywood men to turn her collection of poems into a modern feminist Frankenstein movie.

Tommy is a cliche: the handsome movie star who always gets his way. Spoiled and full of himself, he can have any woman he wants. Surprisingly well read, he wants to make Stacey’s work into the moving story he knows it to be. He wants the poet too, and he generally gets what he wants.

This is an adult fairy tale of messed up realities. That makes it rather a good read for people who recognize the mess people generally are. Stacey does a horrible job adjusting to life without her husband, but I don’t think any wife can do a good job adjusting. Her struggles feel very real, from the guilt and anger at the first kiss with a new man, to the fear of letting herself fall for someone who she feels will break her already broken heart. The author does a wonderful job creating a strong but vulnerable woman who does not know how to be herself anymore. Stacey sets herself up and talks herself out of things. She is snarky and angry and emotional. She can stand up for her creation in ways she cannot stand up for herself.

Of course, Tommy and Stacey sleep together and get involved in a messy non-relationship. She knows him to be a self-centered jackass that sleeps around. So she doesn’t expect their relationship to be anything other than coworkers that sleep together. She refuses to look at the realities of what is evolving. She pushes and pulls at Tommy and blames him for not choosing her. When Stacey becomes involved with another man and pushes Tommy away, she spirals further into unhappiness. Pursuing the idea of a new life, Stacey agrees to marry Philip. He is a safe choice; a doctor who, while slightly boring, could be good for her and her sons. So why isn’t Stacey happy?

I was surprised by this story and how much I liked it. The characters were very real and human and messy. Grief is a hard road to walk and the story really respected how life must move forward, but the path is painful.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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“Harley Quinn Volume 1: Hot in the City” by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Chad Hardin

Harley Quinn Volume 1- Hot in the City by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Chad Hardin

A review by Courtney.

Harley Quinn is a character that I have been drawn to for a couple years without entirely knowing why. My first cosplay was Harley and at the time all I knew about her was that she was the Joker’s girlfriend. As I started going to more conventions, I wanted to branch out to other characters but I still felt that pull to Harley and have revised that costume three times in new ways since then. I discovered a solo Harley book was being published so with slight terror and trepidation (because what if I hated this character). I bought volume one.

The story starts with Harley telling her (literal) stuffed beaver that she has inherited an apartment building in Coney Island. She thinks this will be terrific until she learns that the rent from her tenants is not enough to cover all the bills on the building, so she is going to have to get creative. Her solution is to be a therapist by day and a roller derby girl by night. On top of dealing with coming up with six grand for rent every month and working two jobs, we also learn that someone is sending assassins after Harley as well. Harley is working on being her own person and living her life without Mr. J.

I haven’t read a comic book that has made me laugh out loud like this one ever. My slight fear of not liking Harley was unfounded and I have never been more glad. This book packed plenty of action because of all the assassins after her, but it wasn’t done in a gross way and you almost forgot that she was killing people. The violence was there but very toned down. I enjoyed that one moment she would be saving a roomful of puppies from apparent doom and then laughing as she beaned a girl in the head playing roller derby. She also had to deal with life, the aspects like bill paying or animal poop, that superhero books generally ignore or gloss over, and it was done in such a fantastic way that you wanted to keep reading to see how she was going to deal with the next hiccup life threw at her. The art in the book is fantastic; Amanda Conner was able to show that Harley is a very sexy character who likes to have fun with her clothes without doing it in a way that made me feel like the character was being objectified. It was refreshing to get to know just Harley and I can’t wait to see what antics she gets up to next.

I recommend this comic to people ages 13 and up because of the violence and adult humor. I added this book to my pull list at my local comic book store after reading this volume.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “One Piece: Baroque Works Vol.13-15” by Eiichiro Oda

One Piece: Baroque Works Vol.13-15 by Eiichiro Oda

A review by Hannah.

One Piece was started in 1997 and is continuing today. There are 81 volumes to date, which is why I’m breaking the manga down into story arcs for the review. From now on there will be spoilers for what happens in the rest of the series. You have been warned…

When last we left our newly minted Straw Hat pirates, they had been tricked by Mr. 9 and Ms. Wednesday, of the criminal organization Baroque Works, into going to an island of bounty hunters. After throwing a party and getting the crew blackout drunk, only Zoro has retained his senses. He decides to test his new blade against all the bounty hunters. During the ensuing battle, an incredible secret about Ms. Wednesday comes to light. She is actually Princess Vivi of Alabasta and she needs the Straw Hat crew to help her save her kingdom from Mr. Zero, leader of Baroque Works, a.k.a. Sir Crocodile, one of the Seven Warlords of the Sea.

After an encounter with the mysterious and powerful Ms. All Sunday, partner to Mr. Zero, the crew will travel to Little Garden, a prehistoric island where two giants are dueling to the death. There they have their second run-in with some of Baroque Works’ top agents and Nami contracts a deadly virus. The next stop is Drum Island in order to find a doctor to cure Nami.

Character dynamics really come into play during these volumes. Sanji and Zoro are rivals who antagonize each other just by existing. Nami is a tyrant who rules the crew with an iron fist. Luffy and Usopp are best friends on a grand adventure. It’s really fun to see how relationships are forming on the tiny Merry Go.

Zoro is the king of drama and impulsive decisions. When trapped, his brilliant idea to keep fighting is to cut off his feet. When that doesn’t work (duh) he chooses a dramatic pose to die in. Sanji is the king of flakiness and snark. He finds a strange building made of wax, decides to break in, and drink tea, while he’s supposed to be searching for his missing crew. Later he answers a phone call from Mr. Zero and during the conversation, gets a hit put out on the one who should have answered the phone (Mr. Three).

The illustration’s eyes, ears, and hands are still slightly too large for the bodies and their torsos are too long. It doesn’t detract from the story or get in the way of the action. What I love about the artwork throughout the series is that it evolves with the characters. As the characters grow stronger, they begin to fill out more. Any change to their appearance is part of the journey.

Some of the translation is better. “Gum Gum” is still a thing and it continues to make me cringe. Luckily it is saved by Princess Vivi calling Zoro “Mr. Bushido.” in the anime she calls him “Bushido-san.” Bushido means the way of the warrior and san is a gender-neutral title. The translation is transitioning from direct translations to adaptive translations. Puns and jokes make more sense.

In the manga, Zoro’s name is spelled with an L (Zolo). In Japanese Rs and Ls are interchangeable because they are the same letter. I chose to spell his name with an R for two reasons. The first reason is that One Piece merchandise with Romaji (the English spelling of Japanese words) spell his name with an R. The second reason is that Zoro is the agreed upon spelling of his name among fans.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “New Lone Wolf & Cub Vol. 1” by Kazuo Koike and Hideki Mori

Review of "New Lone Wolf & Cub Volume 1" by Kazuo Koike and Hideki Mori

A review by Hannah.

This is the sequel to the 1970s manga masterpiece Lone Wolf & Cub. There are 28 volumes of the original work and I have not read any of them. There are currently 8 volumes of New Wolf & Cub available to read in English.

After Oogami Ittou and his rival Yagyuu Retsudou kill each other, their bodies are left in the middle of the road for fear of the political repercussions. Young Daigoro, son of Oogami, has been left to guard his father’s body and survive on his own. Luckily for the child, Tougou Shigekata, a samurai of supreme skills, is not afraid to take Daigoro under his wings. Soon the two are smack dab in the middle of a plot orchestrated by the Hattori clan. Will these two survive?

This is a pretty easy manga to get into, but it does rely heavily on the original Lone Wolf & Cub at first. The death fight was witnessed by many important people, but the bodies were left on the road and a child abandoned to the elements because of what happened in the original story.

Daigoro appears to be about 3 or 4. He doesn’t say much, but his body language speaks volumes. He trusts no one, smiles rarely, and can dodge melee attacks like a seasoned pro. He is a strange and quiet child. Clearly, he became this way during the original Lone Wolf and Cub.

Tougou is an odd duck of a samurai. He knows exactly who Daigoro is, laughs whenever he is in danger and speaks in a Satsuma dialect. There are words he uses that don’t have a direct translation to English, but that’s okay because they don’t have a direct translation to Japanese either. The fact that he is from the Satsuma region is very important for the story.

The artwork of this manga is incredibly detailed. The few color pages are done with a watercolor effect that looks simple but elegant. The rest of the book is in black, white, and a few shades of gray.

I appreciate the way Dark Horse translated this story. For any words that didn’t translate directly into English, they kept it Japanese. For Tougou they kept everyday Satsuma words in his conversation, to show the difference between the way he spoke and the way everyone else did. They also did their best to translate accents to the English (language not country) equivalent. One of my biggest pet peeves with translations is when they try to force an English definition for a word that isn’t quite right. For example, reading “Yamamoto teacher” instead of “Yamamoto sensei.”

I am going to continue reading this story. First though, I’m going to go back and read the original Lone Wolf & Cub.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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