Sunday, June 27, 2010

Otomen Volume 2 by Aya Kanno

Title: Otomen vol. 2
Author: Aya Kanno
Illustrator: Aya Kanno
Publisher: Viz Media
Copyright: (Originally 2007) 2009
Price: $8.99
ISBN: 978-1-4215-2187-9
Summary: Asuka continues his double life, but is feeling better that the girl he likes is “ok” with his girly side. Volume 2 is a collection of three stories. In the first story, Asuka fights with a gang of boys to protect a smaller, weaker boy. This boy decides to adopt Asuka as his mentor, believing he is the ultimate picture perfection of manliness. The boy spies on Asuaka, so what will happen when he spies on one of the lunches Ryo, Juta, and Asuka share?! In the second story, Chritsmas comes but once a year and poor Ryo has never celebrated Christmas! The friends decide that together they will celebrate, but then a blizzard arrives possibly ruining all of Asuka’s plans for a romantic Christmas. Lastly, Asuka’s mom returns from her trip bringing news that Asuka is to be married to the cutest, girliest, rich girl so he doesn’t make any mistake and have his heart broken like she did.
Thoughts: This volume feels more episodic than the previous volume, but it is still a fun read. Asuka is starting to come to terms with who he is until his mother comes home. He feels he has to please her in her perceptions, which provides parallels to teens who feel they have to please parents. The stories are completely over the top, but it is their craziness that makes me want to keep reading. In this volume, there is an interesting throwback to Snow White and the ideals of fairy tales.
Will Teens Like It? Probably. It is way too wild and quirky.
Things to be aware of: Don’t remember anything…
Bonus: Why didn’t ALA put volume 2 in their list? It was published in 2009 but they only list volume 1. Other series have multiple volumes. If you know, please comment because I’m interested.

Source: Library.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Batman: Death Mask by Yoshinori Natsume

Happy Father's Day! In honor of my Father and Grandfather, I present you a Batman Graphic Novel Review (old format >.<). In the Bonus, I explain why I this is fitting to Father's Day! Onto the review!
Title: Batman: Death Mask
Author: Yoshinori Natsume
Illustrator: Yoshinori Natsume
Publisher: DC Comics (CMX)
Copyright: 2008
Price: $9.99
ISBN: 978-1-4012-1924-6
Summary: Bruce Wayne’s dreams are taking an odd turn as he faces, in his dreams, a shadow version of himself in a dojo from twenty years before. In his business and waking life, new business partners from Japan arrive and in their midst is a lovely young woman that looks similar to a woman he knew. For Batman, a serial killer is out on the loose, looking like him and taking the faces of dead men. How is everything connected? As The Dark Knight’s past in Japan catches up with his future, he must solve the crime and protect the future.
Thoughts: The story is different and I enjoyed the development and exploration of Bruce Wayne’s experience in Japan. There is in interview included in the back of the book that further explains this book was published stateside before being published in Japan, despite the very manga-like look the book has. Die hard Batman fans will enjoy this new look at an older and more mature Bruce Wayne and the manga style will open the doors to possible new Batman fans.
Will Teens Like It? Depends on the teen. Those who like classic superheroes or Batman will enjoy this work, as will those who like action manga.
Things to be aware of: graphic violence, stylized violence,
Bonus: The interview included in this book explains a little behind the scenes, which is very interesting.

PS: I’m a third generation Batman fan starting with my grandfather (who read the original, first ever Batman story), to my father, to me. If it wasn't for my dad and grandfather, I wouldn't be such a Batman Nerd and love when writers and illustrators create new aspects of the Batman myth. :)

Source: Library.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Alison Dare by J. Torres and J. Bone (Alison Dare - Double Blog Dare Tour

(Or How Alison Dare Explored My Basement Instead of Crossing a Famous River)

Welcome! Today is the second to last day (day 9) of The Double Blog Dare Tour (week 2, more links in the link) and boy has Alison Dare had many an adventure around the world! She even took the time to visit my house where she immediately took off to explore my basement (just a word about my basement: half of it is solid rock that they had to "blast" out in the 1900s when they moved the house to its current location). Onward to Alison's Basement Adventure. Here we see her beginning to climb in the dark:

Alison Dare in the Dark.

After a moment of uncertainty Alison continues her climb:

Alison Dare hanging on!
Barely hanging on, Alison Dare continues her way up the cliff edge to find:

Alison Dare on the Edge!
She can tell there is something in the dark up there, but what? Now that her feet have found better footing, Alison makes her way up to discover:
Alison Dare and the Mysterious Cave!

A cave! What could be in the cave? Well, readers, this is where YOU come in! Tundra Books is sponsoring a contest to enter and win an Alison Dare Prize Pack, which could include signed copies of Alison Dare: Little Miss Adventures and Alison Dare: The Heart of the Maiden and much more (They have all kinds of Alison Dare GOODIES!). Visit here for details on the photo contest.

Now onward to the review!

Title: Alison Dare: Little Miss Adventures and Alison Dare: The Heart of the Maiden
J. Torres
Illustrator: J. Bone
Tundra Books
Copyright: 2010
Price: $10.95 each
ISBN: 978-0-88776-934-4 (Little Miss Adventures) and 978-0-88776-935-1 (The Heart of the Maiden
Summary and Quick Thoughts:
Alison Dare: Little Miss Adventures sets the stage to introduce Alison Dare, the 12 year old daughter of Alan Dodd, librarian and Superhero Blue Scarab, and of Alice Dare, archeologist with a taste of adventure. This first volume collects individual stories of Alison as she finds a genie and makes three wishes, tells the love story of her parents and the Blue Scarab’s true identity to her best friends, and how she tries to set her parents up for a picnic, except Baron Von Baron stops by to pick up a prized possession.

The first half of Alison Dare: The Heart of the Maiden collects a few more of Alison’s adventures. The first is her story of what she did over summer vacation, quickly followed by an “issue” explaining what really happened. Alison celebrates her birthday and thinks her father gave her a magical stone for her birthday, but was that really the gift and did it really do what Alison used it for? The second half of the book is a full story about Alison and her friends, Wendy and Dot as they discover the nuns of their Catholic school have a secret that they are trying to guard as well as find before the wrong hands do. With Alison’s help, someone discovers the secret, but is it the right group?
Will Teens Like It? This is a GREAT all ages title. There’s something for parents and something for children.
Things to be aware of: none (unless you don’t like that her parents are separated).
Further Thoughts: Alison Dare is a strong and smart 12 year old girl. She knows what she wants to do and often goes out to do it, without thinking through all of the consequences. Luckily for her, she has her friends, her parents, and the mysterious Uncle Johnny to save her at the right moment.

When this book was first introduced to me by the publisher, I automatically thought “Indiana Jones,” but as I read the stories, I actually didn’t see that as much. The stories have a bit of action, adventure, suspense, and mystery to them. Even though I know there are only these two books, I keep wondering “Is there more?” I am curious as to Uncle Johnny’s story, there is something about Dot’s Dad I want to know about, and there seem to be more hints dropped “in passing” that I’m curious to see how they play out. Also, do Alison’s parents ever get back together?

In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, J. Torres mentioned that the separated parents was an addition of his own because it provides a different dynamic. I applaud this, but at the same time, wish her parents were together and was a bit surprised when I came across this information in the story.

Now, to the characters! I’ve had The Philosopher Musician read these books and we both agree each character is a stereotypical character. Typically, I don’t  mind this, especially since it can work. Alison is the adventure type, always poking her nose somewhere she shouldn’t. Wendy is the book and nerdy type who always offers the right bit of information at the right moment. Alan Dodd is the typical male librarian stereotype (that I’ve seen in comics). His superhero side is like other popular superheroes. As you can see the list goes on, but this is not a bad thing. In fact, the characters all have slightly different quirks than the typical “stock” characters and help to add interest to the stories. For kids, this adds into what they are all ready reading and all ready know. For parents, this can add a sense of reminiscence. For librarians, this opens the doors to how and where you can recommend this title (J. Torres in the same interview mentioned earlier said Tintin was an inspiration).

My only issue with the books is that in Heart of the Maiden, it seems the stories are out of order as a story with Alison and her “gift” is in the middle of the story arc about her birthday party, which confused me after I read it. This may be my copy though, or there may be something I missed. This is a strong graphic novel title fit for all ages and could even be in school collections.
Bonus: This blog tour is a bonus! Visit the Author and Illustrators links for more information about what they do (such as J. Torres who writes all kind of comics, including one that I can say was part of my teen years: Teen Titans Go!)

Source: Publisher provided copies as part of Blog Tour!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan, Illustrated by Niko Henrichon

[Well, I honestly thought the last review was the last in this format but it seems there are a few more. I'll see if I can get through those first]

Title: Pride of Baghdad
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Illustrator: Niko Henrichon
Publisher: DC Comics
Copyright: 2006
Price: $19.99
Summary:  For the lion Zil, lionesses Noor and Safa, and cub Ali, freedom is a topic often discussed, but often discarded in favor of their comfortable life in Baghdad Zoo in Iraq. When the Americans bomb near the zoo, freedom is forced quite suddenly upon the four lions and they must quickly figure out how to survive and where to go. Together, they explore their new world and the destruction of war, dodging tanks and more bombings and questioning what is right, what is wrong, and is freedom given or earned?
Thoughts: Pride of Baghdad is based on the true story of lions in Iraq who are freed after bombings. Unfortunately, I do not know the extent of their freedom except what is on the back of the book. The lions converse about varying aspects of human society, creating a commentary about society’s good and bad sides as well as its morals. One scene in particular that stands out is the discussion about eating an already dead human. They each present a reason why or why not, and one lion’s view is changed because of this. The dialog between the lions often leaves the reader forgetting they are lions but the beautifully done art work will show that they are obviously lions. Colors are used in the illustrations to evoke peace, destruction, and fear as needed in the various scenes. Be prepared though, for a heart wrenching ending that will make sensitive readers cry.
Will Teens Like It? Probably high school teens.
Things to be aware of: sex, blood, violence
Bonus: 2007 ALA Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens.

The first time I heard about this title was either through ALA’s Great Graphic Novel List or through The Philosopher Musician. I can say that it was The Philosopher Musician who continually reminded me that I absolutely needed to read this book. I almost didn’t read this one after my preliminary skim through and seeing the ending, but it is a worthwhile tale that needs to be told.

Source: Library