“Lady Mechanika, Vol.1: the Mystery of Mechanical Corpse” by Joe Benítez

Lady Mechanika, Vol.1: the Mystery of Mechanical Corpse(Author: Joe Benítez) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

*** 3.5, but not enough for 4 ***

I enjoyed Lady Mechanika a lot more than I did Wraithborn. Considering my immense disappointment with the latter, I was almost scared to start Lady Mechanika.

But as I received both of these, and the 2nd volume of Lady Mechanika, from NetGalley, I had to finish it. I am glad I had this incentive, because ultimately, Lady Mechanika is by far better than Wraithborn.

Lady Mechanika is the epitome of steampunk. Everything about it is highly detailed and intricate. If you look at the illustrations, you would notice that there are layers upon layers of art and attention to detail and I can’t not admit how impressive that is.

The art, in general, was much better here than in Wraithborn. If you remember my review, I was aghast at the depiction of women. They are still very sexual in Lady Mechanika, but it’s done a lot more tastefully, to a point where I can agree that this is the wet dream of a classy high school boy.

I also found the story more intriguing. I enjoyed the main story arc about the mechanical people a lot. The part that didn’t impress me as much were the sub-plots and hints at other relations between the character that just add fluff to a story that could go without. Almost all characters are related in pairs and have common past. These two are siblings, those two worked together, the two men know each other, etc. etc. As far as the story about the Frankenstein-esque doctor who creates the mechanical people goes, there’s already enough suspense that everything else is just micromanagement of pages that need to be filled.

And speaking of, my major issue with Lady Mechanika: the writing. Literally. The author really wanted to write a book, didn’t have enough material for that, but he obviously had too much for a comic book. There is just SO MUCH DIALOGUE. It doesn’t go harmoniously with graphic novels. A book rat such as myself can tell you as much: when you are reading a book, you can take as many pages of text as there are; but if you are reading a comic book, you are not prepared for the insane amount of dialogue that is just out of place and both disjoints the story, and distracts the reader.

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Looking at this, I remember what I thought when I was initially reading it: This is honestly outrageous.

“Shutter, Vol. 1: Wanderlost” by Joe Keatinge

Shutter, Vol. 1: Wanderlost(Author: Joe Keatinge) + (Year: 2014) + (Goodreads)


Review:

*** 3.5 stars ***

I previously reviewed the first issue of Shutter, and I stand by my prediction that this book has a lot of potential.

Shutter is a nostalgic journey back into the stories of our childhoods: Indiana Jones, The Mummy – adventurers, unknown lands, suave villains. With one exception. Shutter is not limited to our small planet.

The main character of the book, Kate, is a retired explorer who is trying to lead a normal life, but even if she’s not looking for trouble, trouble sure finds her.

That is not to say that Shutter is a book for kids. It’s more like all of the adventures you dreamed of having when you were a child, but seen through the mind of an adult. Including the cursing.

I found everything about Shutter very charming: the characters, the setting, the story, and even the space-time continuum. As I mentioned in my previous review, the first issue gives little away about the world Shutter is set in. From the rest of the volume it becomes clear that this is our planet, and nation states such as Brazil and the UK still exist. Also, it seems that the story is not set in the future, so it seems to be set in an alternate reality instead. One that is full of endearing absurdity. Such as Kate’s best friend, her clock.

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However, don’t be mistaken that the story of this book is one that’s easy to understand. Having finished the first volume, I can tell you that in no moment is it explained why it’s called Shutter. Or anything much beyond the prelude. The book leaves a lot to be answered in the future. Where I usually draw the line here for books that take too much time to get to the point, I found myself interested enough to go on. There are many things that I would still like to learn, and I am willing to sacrifice some patience for that.

And also for the fact that the art of Shutter is beautiful! The art style is very specific and there’s something quirky about it that I can’t exactly put my finger on, but I do thing that it’s very pleasing and adds to the story.

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“Wraithborn” by Joe Benítez

Wraithborn(Author: Joe Benítez) + (Year: 2006) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I’m giving this book 2 stars only because I saw that there was a story hidden somewhere deep down there.

The abovementioned story is a very simple YA plot: a girl who just wants to mind her own business is drawn into a world of darkness where she has to learn to fight against evil, when all she wants to do it continue her life as normal.

This arc has been used only a million times in YA novels, but if they continue drawing readers, including myself, then that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

However, everything goes downhill for Wraithborn after this. The plot doesn’t have anything that sets it apart from other similar books, the heroes are in no way charming, the villain is powerful only in words and offers no real plot twists or challenges, and last, but not least, the artwork is very unappealing.

Melanie, the main character, is very, very hard to like. She’s weak, lacks will power, and is very self-centered (although here we have to mention that many teenagers are self-centered in general). But the thing which bothered me the most about her is the fact that she’s not a person who wants to help others. She prefers staying off the radar and protecting her own ass. Then, a jump to the future, and she has been completely transformed into a savior of the defenseless. I’m not buying it.

Story-wise, Melanie would not have survived at all, had there not been deus ex machina in every single issue. Every time she is in trouble, there’s a masked warrior coming to her rescue, and in very special occasions, she has magic mojo that she can’t control just bursting out of her. Valek somehow knows that he needs to find her, and also guesses every time she would be in distress, and even though they barely talk, aside from battle grunts, by the end of the volume they have developed a special bond.

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I won’t even bother commenting the other characters because they are so shallow and only there so that it seems like there’s some characters.

What bothered me the most, though, is the art. The women are almost naked, always, they have identical faces (which makes it hard to understand what they mean when they say that Melanie is unattractive: She looks just like the rest of y’all?), and they all look like sex slaves. Now, I have nothing against sexy, but there’s sexy as in sultry and/or erotic, and sexy as in just cheap. I would not say that Valek, fighting alongside his sister, whose panties are there for all to see, is sexy. I would say that is kind of bothersome, actually.

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Classy: the man and the woman on the left, Valek and Kiara, you might have guessed, are siblings.

Bothersome is also the fact that although Melanie is the hero of this book, and apparently she is to become a big badass sometime in the future, on all of the covers she is just hanging there while almighty Valek is behind her back in a fighting position. Because even when girls are strong, they still can’t make it without a guy to protect them. Great message! Not.

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The cover of issue #5. As you can see, Melanie is a fierce warrior, she needs no man, and she… Wait. She’s just standing there looking confused and defenseless in the shadow of a strong male.

“Nowhere Me, Vol. 1: Fates Worse Than Death” by Eric Stephenson

Nowhere Men, Vol. 1: Fates Worse Than Death(Author: Eric Stephenson) + (Year: 2013) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I will go with No. This is one of those books where the characters are over-hyping themselves and each other, because otherwise it would be hard for the reader to realize that something supposedly important is happening.

“Oh, these guys are rockstars!”, “He is a legend”, “Their research changed the world!” Okay then, if the author made his characters call each other brilliant, then we must be reading about truly amazing individuals. Not.

Nowhere Men is a very confusing, messy, and unconvincing attempt at sci-fi. There is no science anywhere in the entire volume, just a bunch of characters that make things happen and you are supposed to buy into the idea that they did it thanks to science. However, considering that the author doesn’t bother to give any information about the level of actual technological development in this world, or on where humanity was before the science Beatles came into the picture, this so-called “science” could as well be magic, for all the reader knows.

There is a large jumble of seemingly important individuals, including 4 interchangeable scientist gods, who did… something, and then… something happened, and some substance was created somehow. Sometime in the past someone somehow decided to put it on a spaceship for some reason, which created some kind of a virus, which is not actually a virus. Now you know as much as I do, having read the first volume.

If you stripped the story to its bare bones, you would find a striking resemblance to the Fantastic 4, including the design of the characters on the space ship. The science rockstars remain a mystery, as does their importance, however, the reader must be aware that even though they seem like a bunch of squabbling, greedy old assholes, apparently all of them are geniuses.

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It’s really hard to find any characters to care about, or to be convinced to believe in any part of the story. The self-explanatory articles and interviews with the characters don’t help. On the contrary, they make the story even more dragged out, and they nudge the reader into the land of “Who cares?”.

The part that I did like, more or less, was the art. It was solid, well-made, and comforting. I was glad to see that they didn’t go for anything more experimental, because that would have added to the overall ridiculousness of the volume.

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Thanks, Nowhere Men, see you never. 

“Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History” by Art Spiegelman

Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History (Maus, #1)(Author: Art Spiegelman) + (Year: 1986) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I first heard about this book in my History of Political Film class last year, after we watched the actual videos of the Nazi propaganda about Jews being vermin. Since then I have wanted to read the graphic novel and see the approach of the artist toward the issue.

It would be hard to say that Maus is not an influential book. It presents the viewpoint of a survivor from the Holocaust in nothing less than original medium. While I was reading Maus, I realized that I have watched many movies about the hardships of the Jews during the Holocaust, but that I haven’t actually read any books about it. I was really impressed by the simple but terrifying narrative of this book.

What is more, the characters in Maus are very realistic. The author doesn’t try to sugarcoat their personalities in order to manipulate the emotions of the readers. Neither Art, nor his father, or any of the other characters that come and go, are perfect. In fact, they are all hard to like, in one way or another. That doesn’t diminish the tragedy that they suffered, it just makes them as human as the rest of us, and shows that no one has the privilege of being safe under the threat of tyranny.

That being said, I will return back to the two main characters, Art and Vladek. To Vladek I had more sympathy, because in the present he is a old man and a lot of his bad traits could have come with age and suffering. But Art is intolerable. He is mean, rude, and he really doesn’t seem to care about what his parents went through. He is just greedy, overly eager to take this story from his father and profit from it. During every scene where he was present, I had a strong urge to cringe by how bad of a person and of a son he is.

From a moral point of view, everything about this book if bothersome. The entire history of the Holocaust is atrocious. That much should be universally clear.

From artistic point of view, there was one thing that bothered me about Maus, and that is the depiction of Poles. As far as the literal depiction of them as pigs (which are considered unclean [non-kosher] in Jewish culture), I understand that the author used the way Nazis referred to Poles as “swine”. However, even if we dismiss that, because the author used the same metaphor in depicting Jews as mice, the author does his best to present Poles as traitors and people who only helped the Jews to gain from it. Even if some of them did so, let’s not forget that there were also Jewish law enforcers whose job was to give other Jews to the Nazis. A large number of Poles aided the hiding and protection of Jews, and were detained, sent to labour camps, or executed for it. As well as the fact that if up to 6 million Jews died in concentration camps, so did about 2 million Poles (a large number of the Polish people I know have had relatives in concentration camps, too). I don’t want to be misunderstood. I do not, in any way, want to make the horror that happened to the Jews seem any smaller. However, I do not think that the artistic choice of representation of the nationality/ethnic group that suffered the most after Jews is fair in Maus.