“Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal” by G. Willow Wilson

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal(Author: G. Willow Wilson) + (Year: 2014) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Awesome!

I had started developing a small phobia of superhero comic books after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to read them (namely, and to my partner-in-crime’s huge disappointment, Hawkeye). The thing is, I love the Marvel movies, I also like a lot of the DC movies. But the comic books just don’t live up to it a lot of the time.

Ms. Marvel definitely did, though. This comic book was so cool and unconventional, that I couldn’t help but really like it. It’s just so original and a lot more heartfelt than some of the other superheroes’ origin stories. Part of this might come from the fact that I have been over-saturated by movies about Batman and Superman’s sap stories, but Ms. Marvel is something else altogether.

As a character, she is a big dork, so I can definitely sympathize. However, she also comes from a very conservative family and background and this volume does a good job at trying to explain this culture in an easy-to-swallow kind of way. It also tries to show the soul of the regular Muslim family, instead of the inhumane side of Islam that we see through terrorism. Considering the fact that I, myself, despite being a Christian, have spent a lot of time among Muslims, I know that I have a different view of them and that many people do have a hard time understanding the difference between Islam and radicalism. Ms. Marvel is not subtle about trying to explain that to its readers, but nevertheless, the authors have burdened themselves with a rather unorthodox and admirable task.

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I also thought that the story was generally very cute and light-hearted, unlike many of the superhero comic books that I’ve read. In that sense, it kind of reminded me of Batgirl, back when I loved it. The atmosphere was fun and exciting, instead of depressing and dark, so to me, it was a big plus.

The art was pretty but in a way which was as equally unconventional, as the book itself. The characters were drawn in a cartoonish but pretty way, and with some very nice colors.

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I’m definitely adding Ms. Marvel to my list. The only drawback is that the list never seems to get shorter. Eh…

“Saga, Vol. 7” by Brian K. Vaughan

Saga, Vol. 7(Author: Brian K. Vaughan) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I definitely liked this volume more than the previous one. Aside from the story being a lot more thought-through and less transitional than the one in the previous volume, it was also a lot more serious and mature.

In fact, I think this is one of the most serious volumes of Saga in general. Despite Prince Robot’s ding dong close ups and everything…

Two things made this volume more grown up for me:

  1. The refugee crisis. It was reflected 1:1 as what we see in our day-to-day reality. The native population of Phang was how the author wanted us to see the real refugees as well. There was the element of religion, the element of outside intrusion, and also that of the innocence/fanaticism of the locals.
  2. This quote:

“You know that old cliche about the millions of deaths being a statistic… while the loss of just one life is a tragedy?

If that’s true, what is it when you lose something that never even had a chance to be born?

I’ve had lots of relationships in my lifetime, platonic or otherwise, but the ones I think about most are those that never quite made it to term.

I guess I’m just haunted by all that potential energy.

One moment the universe presents you with this amazing opportunity for new possibilities…

…and then…

I also saw in this volume that the stories of the characters are finally moving forward, all of them, from Hazel’s family, to The Will. I’m looking forward to the new volumes.

“The Devil’s Prayer” by Luke Gracias

The Devil's Prayer(Author: Luke Gracias) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

The Devil’s Prayer were two very interesting books!

The reason I say this is that there can be a line drawn very distinctively between the first and the second part of the book, and each could have been perfectly great on its own.

The Devil’s Prayer is the story of a woman, Denise, who, after winning the lottery is abducted, raped and left to die. Instead of dying, she makes a deal with the Devil. Later on, she finds out about the existence of an old book, one part of which is called The Devil’s Prayer, and she sets out to find it.

I greatly enjoyed the first part of the book – the story of Denise before she started looking for the book. It was a page turner and it was very exciting and creative. The end of this first story was a big surprise, even though I had guessed the general lines of where it was headed.

The second part, the one about The Devil’s Prayer, was something else. It was interesting in a completely different way. This storyline was more in the vicinity of Dan Brown back when I enjoyed his works, and it had a great plot behind it. It also sort of reminded me of one of my favourites, The Historian, so that was another bonus for me. However, this part of the book also felt underdeveloped. It took entirely too little time in terms of the book, and it could have been so much bigger and more explosive. The author had a great “conspiracy theory” about a document signed between Arnaud Amalric and Jebe Noyan in the 13th century. I would have LOVED to read a more detailed and suspenseful novel about this. Not to mention that part of this story was set in Bulgaria, so I couldn’t help but being proud of our history. Sadly, it seems that the author wasn’t sure what to do with this treasure of a plot line, so he rushed it and he left big parts of it just hanging there.

The ending of the book was also not ideal. The entire narrative seemed like the introduction to a much larger story, which never happened. The ending was supposed to be, in my mind, a bigger event, and instead it was left completely unresolved. If there’s a second book coming, I would definitely read it, because the ending didn’t satisfy my curiosity.

Nevertheless, a very interesting book indeed.

  • Also, for those who have read the book, this is the vampire burial from Perperikon:

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He had a metal knife stuck in his heart, and his left leg was cut off under the knee, severed in three and put next to the body. As The Devil’s Prayer points out, this grave is from the 13th century and this “anti-vampire” ritual was Christian.

“Snotgirl, Vol. 1: Green Hair Don’t Care” by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Snotgirl, Vol. 1: Green Hair Don't Care(Author: Bryan Lee O’Malley) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

To say that I didn’t love this volume would be a lie. I don’t even think I’ve experienced such anticipation and excitement to get my hands on a comic book volume. And Snotgirl managed to deliver.

It’s safe to say now that I am a huge Bryan Lee O’Malley fangirl. His humor and satire are so on point, both here and in Scott Pilgrim. He manages to catch the gist of an entire generation and twist it up in such a way that you find it both funny and endearing, and, at the same time, you know what he is criticizing.

In Snotgirl, Lottie Person is very relevant to our daily experiences. She represents a huge percentage of the girls nowadays: those who are actually Lottie’s, those who want to be Lottie’s, and those who stalk Lottie’s on social media and both see through them and still find them entertaining. I’m pretty sure I fall into the last group, considering that I follow a bunch of beauty and travel bloggers on Instagram, just to find myself sometimes annoyed by how fake everything looks, and at the same time, to “Awww” at pictures of their cute purse-sized doggies and to take fashion advice. So when I say that I feel that this comic book is relevant, I’m convinced it is.

Lottie as a human being is a hot mess of bullshit. She reflects perfectly the fact that outward beauty can sometimes greatly overshadow the need to actually be kind, nice, or at least… “real”. I personally know people who appear as the nicest, most positive and fun people to be around. But once the phone is locked and no one is recording for Snapchat, they don’t really have much to say and the smiles have been used up for dog filters.

At the same time, Lottie is completely smitten with herself, with her problems, her needs, her obsessions, and she is greatly out of touch with the world. Contrary to what might come to mind from the title (at least it did for me), she is not a superhero. However, she is superweird. There’s still a lot that I want to learn about her and about her issues, so hopefully another volume is to come.

The secondary characters in Snotgirl are also very fun, my favourite being Coolgirl. Still, I think that Cutegirl was also hilarious, and although I didn’t like her as a person, I loved reading her mean humor.

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The best thing about this comic book, however, is the art. Both the illustrator, Leslie Hung, and the colorist, Mickey Quinn, did a fantastic job and it was a true pleasure to just stare at the pictures and drool. In fact… I’m pretty sure that the moment I find a proper quality picture of Lottie, I’m changing my phone background.

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Looking forward to Vol. 2!

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Good question, sister.

“Kingdom of Ashes” by Elena May

Kingdom of Ashes (Nightfall, #1)(Author: Elena May) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I have been very, very cautious with vampire books in the last couple of years. In fact, I don’t remember the last vampire novel that I read, aside from re-reading The Historian and Dracula two years ago.

However, I read the synopsis of Kingdom of Ashes, and the many positive reviews, and I decided to give it a shot. And I’m glad I did!

This book reminded me why I love YA so much. It was very engaging and it kept me flipping the pages to a point where I skipped lunch with my colleagues in order to read on a bench.

The thing, which, for me, was very original and exciting, was the fact that every step of the way and every part of the narrative was cleverly thought-through. The author took all famous (and silly) vampire cliches and tropes and she turned them into an outspoken joke between the characters. Elena May managed to make everything that could have destroyed the book its exact opposite. For example at one point Myra tried to pull a Scheherazade on the prince and I was sitting there, worried whether this is going to be a real thing, because it was so obvious. And then the prince himself recognized and ridiculed it.

In terms of plot, there was one thing that was a bit of a cliched narrative and that was the fact that (while the book is obviously not doing the Scheherazade) it did go along the lines of Beauty and the Beast. Watching the movie right after finishing the book just made me realize it more clearly. However, I’m not sure that at a time such as ours where we are so over-saturated with pop culture, it’s possible to create anything that doesn’t borrow from absolutely anywhere.

Character-wise, I liked the fact that there was a game of black/white and shades of gray. Myra was on the same boat as me when I was trying to make up my mind about whether the vampires are all evil or all good, or those are concepts that don’t even apply to the situation. For example, many of the points the prince made on humankind were just as challenging as what can be said about vampires in terms of the book. In a world where vampires and humans co-exist and vampires have overtaken the world and wiped out a big part of the population, I think it’s still fair to say that that’s nothing humans haven’t done to other species or even to themselves. The only reason why people generally sympathize with people, and not, say, vampires or werewolves, is simply because we are people. But humans can be just as evil in a completely different way. For example, just yesterday a colony of griffon vultures in Bulgaria was completely destroyed by hunters who poisoned all of the birds. If that’s not monstrous, I don’t know what is.

Having said all of this, while I did sympathize with Myra at certain times, I didn’t necessarily think she was a nice person. Contrary to what I read in the reviews of people who thought she was selfish and self-absorbed, I think that was one of her most likable traits in terms of writing. She was a very realistic person, unlike the perfect/all-I-do-is-effing-magic heroines of other YA books. I wouldn’t like Myra as a friend, but I can read about her and think “Well… that’s true.” And her selfishness is something that can be attributed to most humans. The fact that she is so focused on her book and improving as a writer is to be expected from any person with any artistic capabilities. Then again, she was sometimes obnoxious and she did make stupid decisions, so I’m on the verge with her. But I am also known among my friends as someone who is specifically very demanding of female characters…

As is probably to be expected, I really liked Vlad, because I would say that I both appreciated his attitude, and got where he was coming from. He followed his set of rules and had a reason to act the way he did: I’m a vampire, my nature requires me to drink blood, so I drink blood. I like art, humans make art, I like humans. The end.

I am really excited for the next book in the series, I really hope it comes sooner, rather than later.

* I’m so happy vampires were just vampires, and not vampyrs, vampyres, etc. and magic was just magic instead of magik or magick.