Stone Star: Fight or FlightGenres: Fantasy
, Graphic Novels Pages:
128 Series: Stone Star #1 Rating:
A young thief named Dail discovers a dark secret in the depths of Stone Star and has to decide where his destiny lies--staying hidden in the shadows or standing tall in the searing spotlight of the arena. Either way, his life, and the cosmos itself, will never be the same! The nomadic space station called Stone Star brings gladiatorial entertainment to ports across the galaxy. Inside this gargantuan vessel of tournaments and temptations, foragers and fighters struggle to survive.
Stone Star: Fight or Flight is the first volume of a series, which I’d say has quite a “young adult” feel to it (despite the violence etc, there’s not a lot of gore, and the protagonists are young, there’s a mentor figure, etc, etc). The story’s not too surprising: a young scavenger has a surprising power, and ends up using it in an effort to protect a friend who gets dragged into the gladiatorial arena.
The art’s quite clear and easy to follow, unlike some of the other comics I’ve read lately — it’s all pretty straight-forward. I did find that the narrative bubbles felt… unnecessary. Like it was spoonfeeding information that you could also just get from the context.
I’ll probably read volume two because I have access to it and I’m mildly curious about Dail’s powers and why the other gladiators call Volness a traitor, but I wouldn’t be sad about not continuing, either. That said, I think I’m far from being the target audience!
The October FactionGenres: Fantasy
, Graphic Novels Pages:
152 Series: The October Faction #1 Rating:
The October Faction details the adventures of retired monster-hunter Frederick Allan and his family... which include a thrill-killer, a witch, and a warlock. Because sometimes crazy is the glue that binds a family together.
Volume 1 of Steve Niles’ The October Faction was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I wasn’t a huge fan of the art style, though it felt like it was all going for a very Addams family aesthetic and was very successful at that. The setup is fairly straightfoward: ghosts and monsters exist, the main guy used to hunt them, now he’s tried to settle down… but his family want to hunt, and monsters are still interested in them.
There was enough here to keep my interest, and I’ll probably read the next volume, but at the same time… I wasn’t entirely impressed either? It felt very introductory, so maybe reading more will help with that — though there was one development at the end that felt naively and over-swiftly done, so my interest also somewhat depends on whether that gets handled in an interesting way, or whether it’s just to be taken at face-value.
So all in all… it was enough to make me a little curious, but I’m not sold on it yet, I guess?
Heartstopper: Become HumanGenres: Graphic Novels
, Science Fiction Pages:
126 Series: Heartstopper #0 Rating:
Alice Oseman reimagines the scenario of Detroit: Become Human with Nick and Charlie, where Charlie is a grumpy detective and Nick is his android police partner.
Heartstopper: Become Human is an alternative universe comic based on the characters of Heartstopper, by Alice Oseman herself. It’s based on the video game Detroit: Become Human, but you don’t need to know the game in order to understand the story — it’s pretty self-evident, though I’d bet there are some lovely touches if you know the game as well. It’s available for free on Alice Oseman’s Tapas page.
It’s Nick and Charlie, but not as we know them. They’re adults, they’re in a much more serious situation, and at first it takes a long time for Charlie to warm up to Nick (who is an android, and thus isn’t supposed to have feelings, warm or otherwise). As ever, their connection is something special, and I really enjoy Oseman’s art style: it’s distinctive but always clear, with unmistakable character in each panel.
I read this in a flash, and had a lot of fun. Some of the same Heartstopper feels, in a tiny AU package.
Final Fantasy XIV: Eorzea AcademyGenres: Fantasy
, Graphic Novels Pages:
Join all your favorite Final Fantasy XIV characters in this rollicking, modern-day high school comedy!
Alisaie is a student attending Eorzea Academy, an exclusive institution created by the merger of former rival schools the Academy of Light and the Academy of Darkness. However, frequent quarrels between the students prove that a bitter divide remains between the Class of Light and the Class of Darkness. Worried about the ongoing conflict, headmistress Tataru decides it's time for some bold solutions to raise morale. Let the school games begin!
Eorzea Academy is a fun manga placing Final Fantasy XIV’s Scions of the Seventh Dawn in a school setting as the Class of Light, alongside the Class of Darkness, after a recent merger between two schools. Headmistress Tataru has a plan to get people to cooperate and forge a friendly rivalry between the two classes, which (of course) leads to plenty of hijinks.
If you don’t yet know the characters of Final Fantasy XIV, this probably isn’t for you. If you do… well, then you get to see them all running around in an alternative universe as students, with lots of funny moments that reference their canon appearances. Estinien never does his homework, G’raha seems to have a crush on him, Alphinaud’s a goodie-goodie, Y’shtola’s secretly nicknamed “mommy”… If you know the characters, then it’s worth a smile.
Obviously it’s pretty light stuff, and even Zenos, Yotsuyu and Asahi aren’t so bad here (fans of any of them as villains might be disappointed). I found it fun to see the references to the game, and the art is cute.
, Graphic Novels
, Mystery Pages:
When an aged terminally ill detective and a young burnout are partnered up and saddled with an unsolvable case, they begin to unravel a sprawling conspiracy that points to one thing: The most prolific serial killer in american history. As they further investigate the case they make discoveries that will force them to question everything and everyone they know.
Memoria is a gritty crime story in graphic novel form, from a team of four. It’s pretty short, with a structure that makes it clear some dark stuff is coming later on, and it won’t be a terribly happy ending — it’s just not quite clear how unhappy the ending will be. It relies on a couple of coincidences, though to be honest it wasn’t clear to me how much those were engineered by a particular character in order to bring the truth out.
The story wasn’t too surprising to me: it felt like watching a cop show, like I was watching actors run through the usual stereotyped parts. Tough talk, roughing up a witness, the department’s gonna dump a case on the fuckups in order to have them take the fall, etc, etc.
In the end I was just curious enough to finish, and I think my rating reflects the fact that it just isn’t a genre I enjoy (I’m a fan of classic crime/mystery, which is usually a lot less gritty). The art suited it, even if I didn’t love it, and I did appreciate it being a standalone and crafted to work as such.
Road of BonesGenres: Graphic Novels
, Horror Pages:
Horror, history, and Russian folklore collide in this brutal survival tale, where the worst prison in the world is merely the gateway to even darker terrors.
In 1953, the Siberian Gulag of Kolyma is hell on Earth--which is why Roman Morozov leaps at the chance to escape it. But even if they make it out, Roman and his fellow escapees still have hundreds of miles of frozen tundra between them and freedom. With the help of a mysterious being straight out of his childhood fairy tale stories, Roman just might make it--or is the being simply a manifestation of the brutal circumstances driving him insane?
Rich Douek’s Road of Bones is horrifying, and it’s one of those stories that is horrifying more because of the humans in it than anything else. The art is heavy, dark, in a way that’s appropriate but erases the individuality of people: there’s only the brutality of the Gulag and the brutality it breeds in everyone. It doesn’t always make it easy to follow exactly who is talking and to whom, though, and sometimes that’s important.
It ends up being a very gory story, and a harsh message; in the end, it almost feels like a cop-out that there’s a supernatural element here, given the real history and the real ways humans can be absolutely terrible. It just feels a little too obvious. It’s not shying from the brutality, but it risks giving it an excuse. A reason other than “humans are flawed, especially under pressure”.
I can’t say it was enjoyable, given the topic, but it was fascinating.
The PanicGenres: Graphic Novels
, Science Fiction Pages:
Ten strangers, trapped beneath the Hudson River, are forced to depend on their fellow commuters in order to survive an apocalyptic event. Those left must fight their way through more than rubble to make it to safety. But the darkness is closing in, and with it their own individual fears and paranoia. It’ll be a long road to the end of the tunnel…that is, if they don’t kill each other before they get there.
Neil Kleid’s The Panic follows ten characters who are thrown together by chance after a train crash. They’ve all been going about their normal lives, heading into New York for their own reasons, like heading to a protest. One guy’s wearing a MAGA hat, others are heading to a Black Lives Matter protest, etc. This is basically the conflict of the story: every five minutes they all stop to argue, as they are fundamentally incompatible and apparently incapable of putting that aside in a greater cause.
I found it all really difficult to follow, given the multiple interrupting speech bubbles — it felt sometimes like every page had one interruption. On the one hand, it’s a great way of representing the total Babel of people all talking at once at cross-purposes, but it hurt the story’s ability to feel coherent.
Overall, it just didn’t hang together well for me, and didn’t bring anything new to the genre of “sudden apocalyptic events throws a bunch of people together and it goes badly”.
Heartstopper vol. 5Genres: Graphic Novels
, Romance Pages:
336 Series: Heartstopper #5 Rating:
Nick and Charlie are in love. They’ve finally said those three little words, and Charlie has almost persuaded his mum to let him sleep over at Nick’s. He wants to take their relationship to the next level ... but can he find the confidence he needs?
And with Nick going off to uni next year, is everything about to change?
Volume 4 of Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper proved a bit too heavy for me, but that’s largely not the focus of volume 5 (fortunately). Not that it was a bad story, or a topic that was handled badly, or anything like that, but it just wasn’t what I needed at the time. Volume 5 starts the healing process, and features plenty of Nick and Charlie just getting to be teenagers, and do normal teenage things — including have sex.
It also features a bit of development for Charlie’s sister, which I think is referencing Solitaire? I know nothing about that novel, so seeing how Tori gets on isn’t something I’m super invested in, but on the other hand, it’s nice sometimes to see Nick and Charlie separate, especially given the next step that’s coming for them: long distance, as Nick goes to university…
As ever the art is cute, and the relationship between Nick and Charlie is adorable.
It’s worth noting that though this installment doesn’t go heavily into Charlie’s eating disorder issues, but that hasn’t been forgotten and at times it shadows how Charlie reacts to things and how he manages.
Cold IronGenres: Fantasy
, Graphic Novels Pages:
On the rural Isle of Man, aspiring singer-songwriter Kay Farragher dreams of escaping her humdrum life. But she’s about to get more than she bargained for – and some bargains are not to be trusted.
Celtic folklore and modern moxie collide as an ancient pact between worlds is broken. The sinister forces of Faerie have slipped their shackles, and the Black Dog walks abroad this night…
Andy Diggle et al’s Cold Iron is pretty fun: it’s set on the Isle of Man, and draws from fairytales and folktales. It’s perhaps not too surprising that it sees creatures from Faerie intruding upon our world, and that a trip to Faerie is eventually indicated, but it’s a fun ride nonetheless.
I liked the art, and I liked Kay, her practical approach to realising that actually, her grandmother was right after all — and her fierceness in fighting for those she cares about, and those she feels a responsibility to.
It wasn’t too surprising in terms of where the plot went, given the givens, but I had fun, and I also quite appreciated that it included a short story (in prose rather than the same comic format) at the end with a little bit more closure.
Clean Room: Waiting For the Stars to FallGenres: Graphic Novels
, Science Fiction Pages:
144 Series: Clean Room #3 Rating:
In this new installment of Gail Simone's Clean Room, go back to the beginning to learn how Astrid was first affected after her hospitalization...through the eyes of one who cannot see what she sees: her would-be assassin and brother, Peter Mueller.
Then, a young woman devastated by the violent loss of her husband finds comfort in Astrid Mueller's teachings, only to face the woman herself in the most nightmarish reaches of the Clean Room!
The third volume of Gail Simone’s Clean Room cleans everything up — more or less, though one shouldn’t get too strict about the definition of “clean up” here. The world’s definitely a mess at the end, and the book doesn’t chart the recovery, or even really the recovery of the main characters, just the very beginnings of it. Assuming that Chloe ever does recover.
There’s plenty of gore and creepiness, as you’d expect from this series, now including a creepy, creepy baby.
I would say that I didn’t quite understand Astrid’s behaviour throughout the book; part of it seemed inconsistent and left me with definite questions about what was going through her mind, which weren’t really answered. And it felt like things were resolved very quickly, as if the story had to be jammed into this final volume — it made Astrid’s solution feel a little too easy.
Still, a fun series, especially if you’re more into horror than I am!