Review: “Paper Girls #1” by Brian K . Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

Paper Girls #1 by Brian K . Vaughan and Cliff Chiang A review by Courtney.

Paper Girls is a brand new title that I was excited to read because Brian K. Vaughan writes one of my current favorite titles, Saga. Within the first few pages of Paper Girls, I realized that I was going to have to apply the first rule of improv, which means that I just mentally say “yes” and go wherever the the writer takes me. At the moment this is less necessary in Paper Girls than it is in Saga, but as this is only the first issue, I don’t want to make any long term predictions.

From the title of this comic I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, and midway through the book it seems to be as the title suggests; that this story is indeed about a group of girls who deliver newspapers in their seemingly normal neighborhood. The girls have grouped together to deliver papers for safety purposes, and they appear to be sort of girls who are regularly challenging gender norms, which I liked a lot. The story progresses and you learn that things are maybe not quite as normal as they seem.

I liked the language that the girls used in Paper Girls, although they do cuss a few times, so I would not recommend it to a younger audience. The art in Paper Girls has a noir feel to it; the darker colors set a muted tone which drew me in as a reader. I appreciated that the artist understood that he was drawing girls aged 12-13 years old, who were trying to keep warm while delivering newspapers. This was a strong first start for Paper Girls; I’m excited to find out where the story goes next.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review of “Bitch Planet, Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine” by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro

"Bitch Planet Extraordinary Machine" by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro A review by Amanda.

Imagine a future where all women are expected to be subservient wives and mothers. They have specific guidelines to comply with, such as giving in to their husband’s every demand, having to be demure and respectful to all men, raising well-behaved children, and being aesthetically pleasing. It sounds like a throwback to the 1950s, right? Except breaking these guidelines will result in the women being labeled as “non-compliant” and sent to an off-world prison, Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, colloquially referred to as Bitch Planet. In the first issue, we meet Kamau Kogo, who has just arrived at the prison and has already caught the attention of the higher-ups. For the first time, a select few prisoners are offered a chance – a slim chance – at freedom. All they have to do is compete against male prisoners in a death sport, and win. Kam is tasked with putting a team together, which is easier said than done…

This comic series is an oddly appealing mix of Orange is the New Black, Hunger Games, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. It reads as a scarily realistic future, what might happen if the Tea Party conservatives end up running every aspect of the government. Each story provides more questions than answers and keeps the reader guessing. The characters are wonderfully diverse in race, body type, and background. Each issue reveals more history of the main players, both on Earth and on Bitch Planet. Every character, major and seemingly minor, has secrets, hidden agendas, and missed connections that may or may not tie into the bigger picture. The plot unravels tantalizingly slow, making the reader dive into the issue after issue, regardless of time or pending responsibilities. There is a lot of female nudity, some sex, and some graphic violence. Volume one consists of the first five issues, as well as a thought-provoking discussion guide. I am quite excited to continue this series!

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Red Sonja: Queen of Plagues” by Gail Simone and Walter Geovani

"Red Sonja, Queen of Plagues" by Gail Simone by Walter GeovanniA review by Courtney.

Red Sonja is a title that I was reluctant to read for a while because of the level of violence I was expecting. I finally decided to read it based on the author alone. Gail Simone is one of my favorite comic book authors and at this point I will follow her anywhere she chooses to write; that was how I found myself with this volume in my hands.

Red Sonja is known as the “She Devil with a Sword” and you quickly learn why as the book progresses. I was expecting a certain amount of violence and that was definitely there, however there were also layered back stories which helped explain Red Sonja is the way she is. The story line with Dark Annisia is particularly intriguing as their relationship is complicated and multifaceted. Dark Annisia is a friend, enemy, and more to Red Sonja; she is also possibly one of the only people capable of actually besting the She Devil with the Sword.  It is incredibly rare to see such a dynamic relationship between two female characters in a comic book with both characters being so strong. Red Sonja battles for her life and kingdom, sometimes with Dark Annisia by her side and sometimes against her, throughout volume one.
The art in this book is amazing, however it is racy and it can be bloody and violent. If severed heads make you squeamish, this may not be the book for you. There are also times when some of the characters do not wear a lot of clothes, but I honestly thought that the story itself made up for that. For me, Red Sonja  became another fantastic fiery red-headed heroine for me to look up to. I can’t wait to pick up volume two.

 

My rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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Review: “Rat Queens Volume One: Sass and Sorcery” by Kurtis J. Weibe

Rat Queens Volume One: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. WeibeA review by Courtney.

Rat Queens is a fantasy story about four best friends from varying backgrounds who happen to also be a band of mercenaries. This feels like the adventure you would have if you were playing a game of Dungeons and Dragons with three of your lady besties and you got sucked into the game. Rat Queens is not your average comic book. Volume One of the series is terrific because it contains the first five issues, which allows you get to know and love the characters without having to wait for the next issue. It starts with a quest for our unlikely heroes that doesn’t go perfectly, but they make it work because they are the Rat Queens.

Volume One has a lot of action, humor, and intrigue and yet you still have time to fall in love with the characters. The Rat Queens are Dee, a human cleric; Hannah, an elven mage; Violet, a dwarven warrior; and Betty, a smidgen thief. The diversity of the characters is one of the reasons that I loved this series. The Rat Queens are all very different and yet they come together and are supportive of one another. It is incredibly refreshing to see a group of female characters that really seem to love each other. The pacing of the story was good and moved quickly. The comic does have a lot of action and is a bit graphic. It also has a couple of drug references and sexual content so I would not recommend this to young readers. I do recommend it to anyone older; if you’ve never picked up a comic book before, this is a terrific place to start and if you do regularly read comics, I would add it to your pull list!

My rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “Irredeemable” by Matt Waid and Peter Krause

Irredeemable by Mark Waid and Peter KrauseA review by Steve.

What if the world’s greatest super hero suddenly went to the dark side? How would everyone react if he destroyed cities, killed millions, and laid waste to everything around him for apparently no reason? These are the questions explored in Irredeemable, a graphic novel written by Mark Waid, and illustrated by Peter Krause. The Plutonian, the protector of the planet and beacon of hope, goes on an inexplicable rampage, killing his team mates and innocent civilians. As he hunts for those who might oppose him, the former comrades scour the globe, trying to find any information about his past that might help to detain or defeat him if necessary.

I really enjoyed the first volume in this saga, as it is not your typical super hero “save the world and everything is happy” story. It is dark and at some points quite depressing. It shows a realistic view of what could happen if there were extraordinary beings on the planet, and the struggles they might go through on a daily basis. It kept me locked in, wanting to know if The Plutonian was going to catch anyone, or if his team would manage to escape before being disintegrated. As I read more about his back story as a superhero and where he is now, my curiosity continued to grow. I wanted to know what the trigger was that turned The Plutonian into a villain. Was it something sudden and powerful, or just a series of small random events that twisted him to the role of super villain?  I am excited to read volume two and find out more about his story.

Mark Waid has written several graphic novel series including Kingdom Come and Empire.  Peter Krause’s work can be seen in several DC comic series, including Suicide Squad, and several Superman comics. They are both very talented and I look forward to exploring more of their work in the future. It is engaging and gritty, but does not overload the reader with too much information, as some graphic novels have a tendency to do.

My rating: 4.5/5 stars

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