Graphic Novel Mini Reviews: Nimona, Lost at Sea & Thor: Goddess of Thunder

Title: Nimona
Author: Noelle Stevenson
Series: Standalone
Rating: 3 Stars
272 pages – Published May 12th 2015 by HarperCollins
Gifted

The start of this comic was so funny, cute, quirky, and lovely. Sadly the latter half didn’t live up to the former. There was not enough time spent on the strengths of the comic; the relationships between the characters and the humour. Nimona starts off so fresh and original, but in the end collapses under genre tropes, an overarching plot that felt done before, and a rather unsatisfying ending.

Would definitely have been better with more shark jokes.

Title: Lost at Sea
Author: Brian Lee O’Malley
Series: Standalone
Rating: 4 Stars
160 pages – Published May 3rd 2005 by Oni Press
Bought

Lost at Sea is the debut graphic novel of Brian Lee O’Malley – you might know him from his Scott Pilgrim books. Lost at Sea is more whimsical and lyrical in its writing. Text floats throughout the panels, sometimes a page only has one image, and most of the text is internal monologue. I loved the idea of this book, and it’s incredibly quotable with amazing haunting images. The four-colour scheme adds to the ethereal quality of the book. My only gripe is that the ending was too abrupt. It was almost as if he ran out of pages to make his point, and squished them in the last two instead of making a proper final climax. For a debut, Lost at Sea is pretty amazing.

Title: Thor, Vol. 1: Goddess of Thunder
Author: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
Series: Thor (2014) #1-5
Rating: 4 Stars
136 pages – Published May 26th by Marvel
Bought

I bought Goddess of Thunder because of the fantastic cover and the fact that I love another female-centered Marvel comic, Ms. Marvel. Goddess of Thunder is a good starting point for a Marvel noob like me – you don’t really need to know all that much about the Marvel universe to be able to enjoy this comic. I have only seen one Thor movie and the first Avengers one, and they gave me enough background to appreciate this comic. The big blonde Thor guy is no longer worthy of his hammer, but some mysterious lady picks it up… The artwork is fantastic, and I love how the new Thor knows how to kick frost giant butts.

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. Kuhn
First published in 1967
Non-fiction – philosophy of science

Isn’t it ironic that a book about paradigm shifts caused a paradigm shift in itself? And isn’t it even more ironic that I’m studying this book from a humanities perspective, a science Kuhn himself might not even call a science?

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is a fascinating book because it works out, detail after tiny detail, how a scientific revolution takes place. One of the most interesting ideas Kuhn posits is that we can’t compare two paradigms with each other (say, Newtonian physics and the theory of relativity), because they both encompass a different paradigm, and with that paradigm a different language and way of seeing the world.

Kuhn’s writing is terribly dry, and his book could have definitely been shorter. His examples can be repetitive; he often makes the same point two, three, four times throughout the course of the book. Structure isn’t exactly light reading, but it contains some very interesting ideas about the nature of science and the nature of the progress of science.

Comic Mini Reviews: Saga #1-18

Title: Saga, Vol. 1
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Series: Saga #1-6
Rating: 4 Stars
160 pages – Published October 23rd 2012 by Image Comics
Bought

Saga is a violent space opera science-fiction romp with explicit sex scenes and a whole lot of randomness. It has a high shock factor, and probably shouldn’t be read in class or at work. Or any public place for that matter. (Really, don’t do it. It will get you VERY weird looks.) Gimmicks aside, Saga is also incredibly well written, funny, poignant, and has some fantastic messages on violence and its pointlessness. It’s great. The (rather adult) style reminded me of Rat Queens, which is similar, only set in a fantasy world.

Title: Saga, Vol. 2
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Series: Saga #7-12
Rating: 4 Stars
144 pages – Published July 2nd 2013 by Image Comics
Bought

I very much enjoyed how the second volume of Saga fleshes out the characters some more. Alana, our leading lady, is fabulously written. I love how Saga is more concerned with love within a family, and devotion towards loved ones rather than the falling in romantic love most fiction focusses on. This volume is shorter than the first, and felt slightly unfinished. The plot arc wasn’t as well-defined as it was in the first volume. The shock-factor is still present, but I’m probably becoming immune for it.

Title: Saga, Vol. 3
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Series: Saga #13-18
Rating: 3 Stars
144 pages – Published March 25th 2014 by Image Comics
Bought

Completing the story arc that started in the first Saga volume, the third left me rather confused. This graphic novel is filled with people receiving mortal wounds, yet only a few of them die. Someone got shot in the back of the head, but apparently is alive and kicking in the next chapter. The story was okay, but I felt like there were too many characters I didn’t care for. The art in this comic is great, but I’m not sure I’m interested enough to find out more in the next volume.

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
First published in 2010
Non-fiction – chemistry

Did you love it when your teacher told funny science anecdotes? Then The Disappearing Spoon might be the book for you.

This book is exactly what it is made out to be. With a full title of The Disappearing Spoon And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements, it tells you everything you should know. Kean starts with the periodic table, talks about how it was created, and from there, tells of fun, tragic, or interesting stories about all of the elements.

Most of the science in The Disappearing Spoon is understandable with a high-school knowledge of chemistry. But even if you don’t know enough chemistry, those parts can easily be skipped. Most of the book is heavily inspired by scientific history, rather than science itself. If you want to know more about the bickering and rivalries between chemists, this book is perfect. The Disappearing Spoon is highly entertaining, and it’s clear the author has done extensive research into the lives of the scientists he talks about. My only gripe is that he has the tendency to lose direction sometimes, and flounders between all of the threads of stories he started, no longer clear on exactly what point he wanted to make.

Comic Mini Reviews: Ms. Marvel #1-5, Buzz! & The Wicked + The Divine #1-5

Title: No Normal
Author: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona
Series: Ms. Marvel #1-5
Rating: 5 Stars
120 pages – Published October 30th 2014 by Marvel
Bought

Ms. Marvel is one of the most accoladed comics of 2014, and not without reason. Defying the standard white-washed gendered comic conventions, Ms. Marvel has Marvel’s first muslim protagonist.

Shock-factor aside, Ms. Marvel is just a great comic with a great main character. I could relate with Kamala – her problems of identity, friendship, and independance are things every teen struggles with in some way or another. Kamala isn’t a stereotype, nor is she a caricature ridiculing the plights of the children of immigrant families. I found Kamala to be incredibly well done, and I really enjoyed her transformation into a super hero. Honestly, the only shocking thing about this all in my opinion, is the fact that Marvel waited so long with creating a non-Christian non-white main character.

Title: Buzz!
Author: Ananth Panagariya
Artist: Tessa Stone
Series: Standalone
Rating: 2 Stars
169 pages – Published December 17th 2013 by Oni Press
Bought

Buzz! features a world where spelling bees are the shit, and there are even underground illegal bees where people face off – sometimes to the death. Webster falls into a bad crowd at the first day at school, and finds himself entering the spelling bee competition.

The art is done in a black and white style with bright yellow splashes. Sometimes the character’s shirts are yellow and black striped, bee-style. Spelling bee, bee colours, get it? Get it? The yellow splashes looked okay, but they were too bright and distracting while reading for me.

Though Buzz! is often compared to Scott Pilgrim, I barely saw any resemblance. The spelling bee fighting scenes were cluttered and unclear, the geeky humour absent, and the characters predictable and clichéd. Buzz! doesn’t quite hit the mark.

Title: The Faust Act
Author: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Series: The Wicked + The Divine #1-5
Rating: 5 Stars
144 pages – Published November 12th 2014 by Image Comics
Bought

The art in The Wicked + The Divine is stunning. The use of colour, the aesthetic, the panelling… This comic looks pretty damn amazing. Combined with an intriguing story and interesting characters, this makes for one awesome read. I read this digitally, but can’t wait to get a paper copy of it as well. I would love to reread the story and get to know the gods closer. And I’m very curious to see where the story leads in the next volume!

Letter 44, Vol. 1: Escape Velocity by Charles Soule

Title: Escape Velocity
Author: Charles Soule
Series: Letter 44 #1-6
Rating: 3 Stars
144 pages – Published July 30th 2014 by Oni Press
Bought

Summary: On his first day of his new job, president Stephen Blades finds a letter of his predecessor. In this letter, he learns about an alien construction hidden in space, and about the space mission on its way to discover what the construction is, and why it’s there.

What I liked:

  • I’ve been binging on science-fiction reads lately, and I liked this take on the “intelligent beings in space” theme. More mystery, and less big-headed green guys
  • President Blades is put in a difficult position – will he tell the public about the proof of intelligent being in the universe, or won’t he?
  • I liked how the spaceship team was made up of a combination of military and scientific personnel, and how they interacted with each other

What I didn’t like:

  • Jezus Christ, there is way too much text in this comic. Isn’t the idea that both the pictures and the words tell the story. If you need so much text, you know you’re not doing it right
  • The political intrigue didn’t live up to my expectations. All the different factions could have been awesome, but there just wasn’t enough conflict. It was all fairly standard and predictable
  • The art. It was just a bit meh
  • By the end of the book, we’ve barely progressed in the story. Too much time is spent on unimportant subplots, and the main attraction doesn’t go beyond basic development

Verdict: A mediocre politics and space mash-up. Mainly consists of heavy-handed dialogue and useless action scenes, without any real meat to the story.

3stars

On Inauguration Day, newly elected President Stephen Blades hoped to tackle the most critical issues facing the nation: war, the economy, and a failing health care system. But in a letter penned by the outgoing President, Blades learns the truth that redefines “critical”: seven years ago, NASA discovered alien presence in the asteroid belt, and kept it a secret from the world. A stealth mission crewed by nine astronauts was sent to make contact, and they’re getting close – assuming they survive the long journey to reach their destination.

Today, President-elect Blades has become the most powerful man on the planet. This planet.

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson

Title: Lumberjanes
Author: Noelle Stevenson & Grace Ellis
Series: Lumberjanes #1-4
Rating: 4 Stars
128 pages – Expected publication April 8th 2015 by BOOM! Studios
Bought

Summary: Camping was never this dangerous. The Lumberjanes, five teenage best friends, have some pretty strange adventures at the scout camp this summer.

What I liked:

  • Don’t you just hate all those comics where the female body is all leg, boob, and butt? Enter Lumberjanes – a comic where teenagers have actual awkward teenage bodies
  • Having humor in comic books is hard, or honestly, in any kind of book. A successful joke is dependant on perfect timing, and I think the writers of Lumberjanes nailed it. I laughed out loud several times throughout the book
  • Girl powerrrrr!
  • Honestly, I was expecting this one to be rather lame by the premise, but it completely surprised me by being filled with crazy action and awesome characters
  • There is no swearing, violence, or nudity. If you have any preteens in your life you’d like to give something fun, this is a good one
  • It has one of the cutest romances ever. I love that this one isn’t about grand gestures and amazing proclamations, but about things like holding hands and being aware of each other
  • There is this entire Indiana Jones-esque sequence that’s pretty brilliant

What I didn’t like:

  • The girls are very diverse, but I had troubles keeping track of who was called what
  • Although I love the crazy adventures and the running around, I was hoping for more of a plotline – though it looks like the next volume will have more of that
  • Because in most panels all five girls are present, they can seem rather busy and crowded

Verdict: An adorable and funny comic, which has given me an appetite for more. Perfect gift for someone in need of some PG girl power

4 stars

Five best friends spending the summer at Lumberjane scout camp… defeating yetis, three-eyed wolves, and giant falcons… what’s not to love?! Friendship to the max! Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley are five best pals determined to have an awesome summer together…and they’re not gonna let any insane quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! /em>

Planet of the Apes, Vol. 1: The Long War by Daryl Gregory

Title: The Long War
Author: Daryl Gregory
Series: Planet of the Apes #1-4
Rating: 4 Stars
112 pages – Published October 18th 2011 by Boom! Studios
Bought

Summary: When an ape is assassinated by a human, the unstable truce between the two factions shatters.

What I liked:

  • Even though I have never seen any movie or read any comic in the Planet of the Apes franchise, I had no trouble getting into this book. Everything is exposed clearly and without resorting to massive chunks of text to explain back story
  • The art style is grittier and darker than I’m usually attracted to, but it works great with the subject matter
  • There are so many themes underlying the conflicts in this book. It’s interesting how a war between apes and humans forces you to think about humanity
  • I’m starting to think this is just a Boom! Studios staple, but, female characters that are integral to the plot! There is nothing I hate more than the obligatory eye-candy damsel in distress female, in a story that is 99% male. In this comic there are good males, good females, bad males, and bad females. That’s what I like to see
  • Also, a pregnant female main character who’s still kicking ass. Awesome

What I didn’t like:

  • The story is so short! I wish this was told in six-issue arcs rather than a four-issue one. It’s over so quickly
  • Some evil characters look too much like evil characters. They just ooze evilness
  • I think some of the technology is rather implausible

Verdict: This Planet of the Apes comic is a great place to start if you’re unfamiliar to the franchise. It has the added benefit of being way less sexist than most comics, though the downside is that it’s rather short.

4 stars

The classic action and drama of Apes is back in this brand new graphic novel series.

Get your hands on these damn dirty Apes! Beginning an all new series that takes place before the original 1968 Planet of the Apes movie in the continuity of the first five films. Ape society has reached a new golden age. But there are ripples of dissent in both the ape and human ranks. Tensions will rise and soon all will be caught in chaos! And amidst all this uncertainty, what is the fate of…The Lawgiver? Written by award-winning novelist Daryl Gregory.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
First published in 1987
Non-fiction – physics

A long, long time ago, before I became a humanities student at university, I loved science. I adored physics in high school. Gravity, electromagnetic fields, laws of warmth – I devoured all subjects and was well-versed in the language of equations. I joined an extra-curricular science class, and visited the hadron collider in CERN. But physics disappeared from my life when I choose to pursue my dream of entering the literary field.

A Brief History of Time reminds me of why I frigging love physics. Hawking has an incredible love for his field, which penetrates every word he writes. Our understanding of the universe has boomed in the last fifty years, and A Brief History of Time gives a short overview of all modes of thought up until the time it was written.

What is fascinating to me is how reality is stranger than science-fiction writers think up. Especially the concepts of relativity and quantum mechanics are incredibly hard to wrap your mind around, and modern science is almost complete hocus-pocus for a lay person.

I don’t think it’s possible for someone without a background in science to understand A Brief History of Time. It probably all makes sense for Hawking himself, but for an ordinary person he might as well be speaking a foreign language. I understood about one third of everything he explains here, and that’s only because I have followed classes on relativity and quantum mechanics for a year. Even in its incomprehensibleness, A Brief History of Time is utterly fascinating.