The Magdalena, a reoccurring guest star in the Witchblade series, finally got her own series in 2010. The history of the character and the role of The Magdalena has been revealed in other books, mini-series, and one shots, they do not need to be read in order to understand the current story line.
Mary Magdalen was married to Jesus and pregnant when he was crucified. She gave birth to a daughter and the bloodline of Christ survived a thousand years before being discovered by the Catholic Church. Their existence threatened the Church, but they were of a holy bloodline and had some cool powers. Instead of destroying them, the Church turned them into warrior nuns. (Yes, that sounds a bit silly, but bear with me.) The women would be trained to take on the mantle of The Magdalena when needed. Only one woman at a time can fill the position and she can only be replaced upon her death. While these women were powerful they had very short life spans as the church never really protected them but sent them out alone on the most dangerous of missions. Patience, the current Magdalena, ran away from the convent as a young woman. She had felt trapped by a destiny she never wanted. Her entire life was devoted to training and being a tool for the Church. Kristof, a Knight of Malta, is sent to find the runaway, bring her back, and train her. She trusts him, returns to the Church, and accepts the role of Magdalena. Unfortunately for those who know about and control The Magdalena, Patience is not content to be a tool, an unthinking servant, or cannon fodder. She accepts her destiny and her faith, she understands that she is needed to protect mankind; she doesn't accept that every aspect of her life needs to be controlled, that she's disposable, or that she should follow blindly where led. Past Magdalenas have been murdered for following the truths their gifts showed them instead of following the Church's orders. She breaks with the church again as she believes she should actually protect the world from evil instead of protecting the Church's place in the world.
The Magdalena, Volume 1 contains the first six issues of the new series. We see Kristof once again trying to get Patience to return to the church. They both understand that if she refuses, the church will have her killed an another female relative will take her place as The Magdalena. They have strong evidence that the Antichrist has been born and is being protected by a cult called Lucifer's Children. They need Patience to kill the boy before he comes into power. She agrees to investigate but refuses to kill the boy. She believes that they are both in similar situations, raised/brainwashed into accepting a life that they didn't want. As she gets closer to her target they are beset by demons and begin to suspect that their is a traitor in the Church who is helping the Children of Lucifer.
I have long associated Image Comics with great art, more adult story lines, and scantily clad kick-butt heroines. The Magdalena, Volume 1 gives us the first two and fully clothed heroine. Patience is secure in her faith and her abilities, but she does not trust her handlers in the Church. She constantly butts heads against their expectation to serve them and her need to actually do the right thing. Marz has created an action packed story that addresses the differences between faith, destiny, service, and sacrifice and blind obedience, control, slavery, and disposable lives. While the bad guys are starkly slimy and awful, our good guys, Patience and Kristof, are more complex and well rounded. So far I'm hooked and hope to learn more about the history of Patience's family.
The story reads quickly, has lots of action, and gives you situations and ideas to really think about. This is a good start to a new series and I look forward to reading more.
Lily Renee, Escape Artist is divided into eight chapters based on significant times in Lily's life. The book also includes a glossary and additional information on some of the different events mentioned. There is also a two page spread of Lily's personal photographs which is a very nice touch. Robbins has an awesome story to work with, but I think the story suffered under page number constraints and unnecessary simplification for the target audience.
Lily grew up in a wealthy Austrian family and the Nazis did completely change her life. The Nazi party stole from them, limited their freedoms, took her father's job, their friends and neighbors turned on the family, and Jewish refugees from across Austria were crammed into the Wilheim home by the Nazis. (Apparently this happened to all Jewish families who lived in Vienna.) This part of the story was pretty well written and age appropriate. the Kindertransport chapter was also very good but got tripped up towards the end. The chapter on Lily's experiences in England was very interesting. While many children didn't speak English, some, like Lily, had studied it in school and had assumed they would have no problems communicating. Unfortunately, speaking with the British was a lot different from speaking with a teacher who spoke slowly and used textbook English. Robbins did a good job of showing that the children not only had to deal with a new language but also different customs, currency, and culture. At one point Lily is classified as an "enemy alien" and has to report to a police station every week. Just when she finds out her parents are alive and she can join them in New York, the British government starts sending enemy aliens to internment camps. There was a jumble of events where she goes into hiding, but then turns herself into the police, spends the night in jail, is released by a friendly stranger, and makes it to the boat on time. While there was some really interesting information in here and it's a very scary time for Lily, this section of the story was just not told very well. Too many events were glossed over or never fully explained. It felt like story was being shortchanged in an attempt to maintain momentum and keep the story accessible to it's audience. There are parts where I know a younger reader is going to go to an adult and say, "I don't understand, what just happened?" But it will be evident to kids that Lily lived through difficult times and I think they will appreciate her refusal to give up.
Once Lily is reunited with her parents life is still hard but the narrative flows a bit more smoothly. It's really neat how Lily stumbled into to comic book work (the pay was too good to pass up) and eventually was in charge of her own books. Most of her characters were strong women, excelling in a man's world, and helping to defeat the Nazis. The only thing that disappoints me about this section is that it's never mentioned how hard Lily had to work and fight to keep that job. She put up with a lot of sexual harassment and cried herself to sleep at night. Now I realize that this might be challenging to explain in a universally appropriate manner to the late elementary/middle grades audience, but I'm sure something could have been added to explain that Lily didn't just work hard to move up in the ranks but also fought against a hostile work environment.
Lily Renee's story is a fascinating one and one that I think kids will enjoy. But because of some of the problems with the narrative I don't think it's worth purchasing. If it sounds like something that might interest your child, I would suggest picking this one up from the library and be prepared to explain some things. I give it three stars because I think it's a story that kids will be interested in and ultimately like, but they'll have to put some effort into it.
Under His Spell is a return to the humor and light heartedness of I Love Him to Pieces. Bethany is a hardworking student athlete and she has her head on straight. But because she's so focused she sometimes misses out on the fun of being young. She takes a chance with Allein. He's cute and nice, but also a little strange. After strange men (who aren't human) try to kidnap her because she sits next to him in chemistry class, Bethany demands some information.
"Look, I'm not one of those girls who's going to hang around and wait for you to tell me when everything's ok."
Allein explains that his father is a king and that his cousin Bynal is trying to kill him so he'll become crown prince. He never mentions that he's Fae and hundreds of years old. He simply allows Bethany to assume he's still just a foreign exchange student. Their rather awkward date ends with another attack from his murderous cousin. In the course of the fight Bethany kicks some butt, which is good because Allein isn't much of a fighter. Unforunatley she's injured and Allein takes her to Fae realm to heal. Not only do they have to deal with the king's disapproval of a mortal love, but the two must figure out how to defeat Bynal who's holding their school hostage.
Allein is sweet but bumbling so he's lucky that his girlfriend has got her act together. I also liked that Bethany promises to work on a relationship with Allein, but she's not going to put her mortal life on hold. She wants to go to college and isn't quite sure she's going to love Allein forever, so they take their time. Her parents were cute if a little overprotective and her friends were a hoot. This is definitely a fun read for tween girls.
Park's black and white illustrations were nice, but the lack of background in a lot of panels made things a little dull. I really liked that the Fae realm was in full color and she added some wonderful details there.
Verdict: A funny adventure where the heroine saves the day and has realistic expectations for a future with an almost immortal Fae prince. I think tween girls would enjoy Under His Spell and should pick it up at their local library.
Jane Yolen is a wonderful story teller and when I saw she had a graphic novel on NetGalley I pounced on it. The Last Dragon was great fantasy and paired with Guay's lovely, dream-like illustrations made for a great reading experience.
Yolen as written a good story sprinkled with humor, romance and adventure set in a fully realized world. I loved that Tansy was smart and curious, but not perfect by any means. Lancot was a handsome wastrel but didn't completely bail on the town when he was frightened. Their plan doesn't rely on swords and strength but on their own cleverness and bravery. Neither character wilts in the face of overwhelming odds even though they are afraid, and each is given a moment to show their courage and commitment. Tansy and Lancot were like normal people struggling with their guilt or fears while trying to do the right thing. The romance was sweet and did not overtake the main story line but definitely helped make a perfect ending. I enjoyed Yolen's use of standard fairy tail elements (a hero, three sisters, a quest, etc.) to tell a different type of story.
Guay's warm illustrations differ in painting style at times but never seem disjointed. The warm tones and detailed work round out Yolen's world and add to the momentum of the story. Because of the graphic novel format Yolen is limited in how much characterization and world building she writes because she has to allow the illustrations to tell the story also. Guay fleshes out the characters, adds subtlety to their humor and romance, and completes the world building process. She invested two years of work into The Last Dragon, and it shows, but I think Yolen's input helped Guay to bring the world of Dragonfield to life. I don't want it to sound like Yolen just churned out a story and Guay painted pretty pictures - it takes a real partnership to allow the narrative and the art to tell a complete story.
Yolen has written a good fantasy story with realistic characters. I appreciated the normalcy and bravery of the two characters. But I think Guay's artwork is the real star of the The Last Dragon. It takes a good and solid Jane Yolen story and turns it into a rich, visual experience. I give it 5 stars, this is one of my favorite graphic novels this year.
The Hope Virus was a little strange. The art was very nice, great colors, good layout, and an interesting Goth style dystopian future. The writing is what I had issues with. The summary is the only place we read that Herbert suffers from a strange form of insomnia. In the story you quickly realize that he's suffering from depression and uses his website as an outlet and a way to meet others who feel like him - a way not to feel so alone. Only once is his "condition" mentioned. I had completely forgotten about the insomnia until after I read the book, so I was confused the entire time as to what his condition (other than depression) was. He then goes to sleep and wakes up in the future. At no point is it explained how or why his website became so important that people would protect his body. The reader is left just as confused as poor Herbert. Somehow his site, used by him to get things off his chest and connect with people, becomes the basis for a new civilization. The caretakers of his body eventually come into power and run the world (or maybe just England). The poor kid wakes up and finds himself in the middle of a power struggle and being blamed for the dark and depressing veil that covers society. He explains several times why he created The Hope Virus site (using all most exact same wording every time) but nobody listens. Then there's running, a helpful girl who is supposed to explain things to him but DOESN'T EXPLAIN ANYTHING, rampaging mutants, and the whole time Herbert and myself are just yelling, "This is ridiculous!"
I'm left slightly bewildered by the writing. There are gaps in the story, few coherent explanations, and bit repetitive. On the other hand the artwork was nice and I liked the look of the characters and the world. I'm willing to see where The Hope Virus series might go, but as a stand alone read, The Hope Virus wasn't so hot.
I'm normally hesitant about book adaptations no matter what the format and Moon Called was no exception. I picked it up because I knew that Briggs worked closely with Lawrence and the writing for Homecoming (reviewed) was good. And as with Homecoming, I find myself with the same opinion - good writing but I'm less than thrilled with the art.
In my opinion I think Lawrence did a fantastic job adapting the original story into a comic book format. He shifted some events around but it flowed well and was very true to the original novel.
while I've come to the conclusion that Woo's style is never going to be one of my favorites, there are some technical things that bother me. Mercy doesn't look Native American at all and everyone has crazy eyes. While the overall coloring has vastly improved, there are still some strange choices made. For example, almost every time we see Adam, he looks like a zombie as Woo uses lots of grays for his skin. There are some characters who all look the same which is just irritating. But I will say that the storyboarding has improved and that makes the storytelling and flow of events smoother and more understandable.
I like the Mercy Thompson series and I like comic books, so I'll probably continue to pick these books up - but from a library. David Lawrence is very good and Patricia Briggs worked closely with the creation of the graphic novel so Moon Called is a fantastic adaptation of the novel. I just don't like the art. I feel bad saying that, but Woo's work takes me out of the story.
While the previous book in the series was fluffy and fun, Made for Each Other left me thinking, "Meh." Made for Each Other was occasionally funny, Tom and Maria were a cute couple, and the premise an interesting one, but the story seemed to move too fast for the time frame. While it was clear to me that at times Storrie was making fun of pulp comics, I don't know if the younger audience will catch that. They might see it more as being corny than a spoof. The art, in my opinion, was only occasionally attractive. Normally the panels were too dark, the scenes looked cramped, and it was very hard to understand what was going on. While kids in this age group might like the idea of the story, the art sometimes makes the story inaccessible, confusing the reader as to what is going on and hampering the narrative. While the book had it's moments, in the end it was rather bland.
(Not Quite Superhuman noted that this book would be a good option for reluctant readers and I think that's a good point. The story does move quickly and never lacks for action.)
If you really want to read this one then I'd recommend getting it from the library, it just wasn't as enjoyable as I Love Him To Pieces.
"I Love Him To Pieces" is like the cotton candy of zombie books. I was expecting something more along the lines of "The Walking Dead" or at the least "High School of the Dead", but I got a far more kinder and gentler version of the zombie genre.
Evonne Tsang has written a delightfully witty treat of a zombie story. While Janina Gorrissen is a great artist, there are places where I can't figure out what was going on in the picture, and this affected the storytelling. This, combined with a small problem with the flow of events brings the book down a notch. However, the story is so much fun, total brain candy. This would be a fun one to pick up from the library.
Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love is a compilation of a six issue spinoff of the Fabletownseries. We are immediately reintroduced to "Cindy"; she gCinderella: From Fabletown With Love is a compilation of a six issue spinoff of the Fabletownseries. We are immediately reintroduced to "Cindy"; she gives a brief outline of her story as we see her kick butt on top of Big Ben and then escapes dramatically. With the mission successfully completed and flying home in first class, Cinderella narrates how her life has changed over the centuries. From cinders to the wife of the cheating Prince Charming, she's given up on happily ever after and has settled into the action packed life of a spy. Oh, and small business owner. Cinderella owns The Glass Slipper shoe store, who employs a very grumpy Crispin (the shoe maker from The Elves and The Shoemaker story). When she checks up on the store, Crispin complains that he needs more help, she's never around enough, and he has some ideas for shoe designs. this complaint is quickly cut off by the appearance of Beast (as in Beauty and the...). As the sheriff of Fabletown, Beast assigns Cinderella various jobs to protect and ensure the secrecy of Fabletown. This time a lot of powerful magical items from the Homelands are making it into the hands of Mundies (Mundanes - normal people like you and me). If knowledge of actual magical items were to be widely known, the safety of the Fables and Fabletown would be in danger.
Cinderella makes a stops to see Frau Totenkinder (of Hansel and Gretel fame) for some magical backup and knows on where the magical item leak is coming from. Totenkinder is able to narrow the search down to Dubai but can be no more specific. She also gives Cindy a bracelet with three charms. Once the charms are attended to an asset, Cindy can call that person to her whenever and wherever she is. Cindy makes one last stop to The Farm to see activate her charms with three of her animal assets.
Then it's off to Dubai, where she checks in to the Burj Al Arab (that big sail looking hotel) and is promptly attacked by the concierge. Turns out the concierge is Aladdin. He's been sent by the Arabian Homeland to stem the flow of magical items into the Mundy world also. They team up, and while Aladdin is too smooth and Cinderella holds an instantly unwilling to cut the prince some slack, they make a great team. The story moves at a brisk pace, lots of action, and a variety of global fables to support the story.
Some basic background information is provided in Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love, but a lot also rests on the reading being familiar with and up to date with the Fabletown series. Since I'm behind on the series, there were a few spoilers, and I'll probably re-read it once I'm caught up with Fabletown.
I enjoyed Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love. It was not overly angst as the normal series can be, and it was really cool to see Cinderella as a witty and very capable spy. I enjoyed the variety of characters, and loved that it was set in Dubai - Madinat Jumeirah looked great in the book. The Aladdin/ Cinderella team up was unexpected and original, they were great together. Cinderella has a huge bias against princes, and she treats Aladdin rudely until she learns that he too was a poor boy. She becomes friendlier and there is a tiny bit of romance. The plot twists and the ending were nice. I didn't really care about the Crispin side story where he secretly sells magical shoes of his own design. Meh, didn't really do much of anything but take up pages. Other than that, good story.
On to the art. The series covers are included in the graphic novel and they are fantastic. Chrissie Zullo created wonderful covers featuring a cool and elfin Cinderella in a variety of 007-esque poses. I am not as big a fan of Shawn McManus' work. The composition of the comic panels are great, but I don't like his drawing style. People had tended to develop bizarrely large noses and creepy bags under their eyes. There were two panels, one with Beast and one with Aladdin, where they were being ernest but the guys just looked furious. It kind of jarred the story at those two points.
Verdict: Overall a good story and nice addition to the world of Fabletown, but really is best if you are current on the main Fabletown story line. The characters were modernized in a unique way, the dialogue was humorous, and the action almost constant. I just didn't like the artwork. As a fan of the Fabletown series, I enjoyed Cinderella: From Fabletown With Love enough to overlook the shortcomings in the art and my lack of knowledge of the background story. This is a good one to pick up if your a fan of Fabletown, otherwise the story seems a bit lacking if you don't know what's going on....more
I was looking for fractured fairy tales to order for a third grade writing unit when I stumbled upon Rapunzel's Revenge. Interesting concept, pretty gI was looking for fractured fairy tales to order for a third grade writing unit when I stumbled upon Rapunzel's Revenge. Interesting concept, pretty good reviews, ooh! written by Shannon Hale (I really liked The Princess Academy), I decided to order it and the, sequel Calamity Jack, for the library. I'm really glad I ordered these books, they are so fun!
Rapunzel has grown up in the villa with her mother (Gothel), never having left it or seen what's on the other side of the wall. Whenever she asks, she's told it's not important. It's a similar response to what Gothel says when Rapunzel has the strange dreams of another family. One day, on her birthday, Rapunzel found a way over the wall and discovered a vast mine in the middle of a barren land. Nothing grew on the other side, it was such a stark difference to the rich greeness of the villa. Mother Gothel has strong growing magic, how could the land outside her home be dead? Rapunzel also so lines of slaves at the well that looked weak and abused. One slave recognized Rapunzel as her daughter Annie. Her true mother thought the then 3 year-old Annie had been kidnapped and killed as punishment for her father stealing greens for his pregnant wife to eat. When Rapunzel remembers everything after she hugs her true mother, "as if a spell had been broken". She's dragged away and taken to Mother Gothel who explains that Rapunzel was chosen to be her heir. Repunzel replies that if she had known what was on the other side of the wall, she would have refused it all sooner. As punishemnt Mother Gothel sends her into the Carrion Glade (more like a swamp) where a special tree has been grown as a prison.
It's the longest time out ever. Rapunzel is left all on her own, with food that grows inside the tree's room, a window that seals her in during the winter, and only three books. She notices that the creatures in the swamp grow to enormous sizes, but the only thing that changes about her is that her hair and nails grow quickly. Once a year Mother Gothel will ask Rapunzel if she's ready to come home. The witch never believes her admittedly insincere acquiescence and Rapunzel is left in the tower for four years. While trying to figure out ways to occupy herself, Rapunzel begins to teach herself acrobatics and to use her hair in different ways (it's a lasso, a swing, a pulley). While her hair never grows long enough to get her to the ground, it gets long enough for her to lasso a neighboring tree and swing away.
Rapunzel decides to head back to the villa, stop Mother Gothel, free the slaves, and live happily ever after with her mother. Along the way she sees the damage to the land and people that Mother Gothel has caused, as well as befriending the terrible thief Jack and his pet goose.
While I'm not normally a fan of western themes, I really liked how the Hales incorporated it into their fairytale world. Jack was a Native American from a large New York style city and Rapunzel was like a super spunk Laura Ingalls/ Laura Croft. Rapunzel was a narrator with an honest and witty tone that added quite a bit of humor to the story. She didn't wait to be rescued but saved herself as well as others along the way. The world was populated with a variety of people and creatures from fairy tales and stories. It was really fun to see some all favorites re-imagined around with stage coaches, Native Americans, railroads, and more.
My only complaint would be the art. I feel bad saying that since Nathan Hale (no relation to the authors) spent over a year on the illustrations, but... there you go. I think my problem is the pencil work. Nathan Hale is an excellent painter and a lot of the detail was evident in the subtlety of his inking (it was very good), but I would have preferred more details in the drawings themselves. However, a random sampling of donut fairies (students bringing us treats from a variety of classroom Christmas parties) showed that kids liked the artwork and we already have a wait list for the books when school starts back.
Verdict: Not what I expected (I somehow missed that it was a graphic novel), and even better than I thought! Despite my dislike of western themed books, I enjoyed this little treat. Rapunzel was great and spunky and Jack recognized and appreciated her great qualities. He respected her opinions and had no problem admitting that she was the muscle and the brains of their little team. It's a fun adventure story and a great treat from the library....more
Well, obviously the first thing that caught my eye was the gorgeous cover! The colors and the illustration, just lovely. Mi-Kyung Yun's art (both coloWell, obviously the first thing that caught my eye was the gorgeous cover! The colors and the illustration, just lovely. Mi-Kyung Yun's art (both color and black and white) was just wonderful. I had a bit of trouble with the story, but I think that's because I'm not familiar with Korean names and I'd get characters mixed up. I had to read it twice, the second time with a pad and paper. Turns out it wasn't just the names, it really did jump around on me. I learned to just go with the flow. It hasn't rained in Soah's village in five years. The villagers decide that sacrificing a beautiful girl to the water god, Habaek, will bring the rain. (The villagers have heard that Habaek is a horrible monster.) They dress Soah up as a bride (and she's gorgeous), tell her that they're sorry but she'll be saving so many lives, and then stick her in a boat that's set adrift. A some point a huge wave overturns the boat. Soah believes it's the Habaek, so as she falls into the water, she asks that he send rain to her village. When she comes to, she's in Suguk, a magical land (that is occasionally upside down) where Habaek and a few other gods live. When she's taken to meet her new husband, she first sees the beautiful archer Huye and thinks that he is the water god. She is then introduced to a lovely young boy and informed that he is Habaek, her new husband. Now I don't know if somebody has cursed him, or if it's because he's weaker during the day, but Habaek is a boy during the day and his normal adult self at night. He's not sure how to tell Soah about his two forms and not quite sure if he even wants her around. He was terribly in love with his first wife, Nakbin, who was murdered. (There are a few other wives after her, but nobody will tell Soah what has become of them.) Anyway, the water god wants to keep his new wife at arm's length, so he doesn't really talk to her. One night Soah sees Habaek in his normal form and doesn't recognize him. Unprepared, her husband introduces himself as Mui. Soah assumes that Mui is her husband's cousin and he is too flustered to correct her. The bulk of the story is introducing a few characters, telling you a bit about the world of Suguk, and setting up the missing wives storyline. Oh, and Soah meets her mother-in-law, the goddess of punishment/torture/love/beauty/disease. Isn't she a lucky girl? The story seemed a bit fractured as it jumped forward in time with no warning. And some of the characters had super long names, yeah, the names were the hardest to keep track of. Well, sometimes the characters started to look the same too. But like I said, the illustrations are gorgeous and there's just something about it, I want to read more! I am totally buying the rest of this series. I figure, worst case scenario, they'll look very pretty on my book shelves. I loved the illustrations and liked the idea of the story. The story flow was a bit bizarre, but I'm glad I bought it. It's just so pretty! I'm a bit torn on how to rate this book. I think I'm going to give it 3 stars because of the illustrations, the story this time around was lacking....more