My Little Pony: Movie Prequel

My Little Pony: Movie Prequel, written by Ted Anderson and drawn by Andy Price, was published in 2017 by IDW Publishing.

2 star

Because I have been a My Little Pony fan for a long time (*cough*25 years*cough*), I am beyond excited that, beginning this Thursday, fellow fans and I will be able to see My Little Pony on the big screen. Although the 80’s ponies were my first love, I greatly enjoy following this new version, and the Friendship is Magic comics, created by IDW Publishing, have generally been quite good and very fun.

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My Little Pony: Movie Prequel is not part of the ongoing comic story – instead, it’s four mostly separate one-shots providing background for some of the main and side characters who will appear in the movie. The story is very light, but I can understand that – this book wasn’t made to tell a story…it was made to hype a story. And I’m hyped! There are quite a few characters, with very neat visual designs (in fact there are only two actual ponies! How fun!), and I can’t wait to see them on the big screen.

On a negative note, I was struck that some of the artwork, particularly in the backgrounds, seemed very rushed. One of the aspects of the My Little Pony comics I enjoy most is the Easter eggs and background goings-on, and I was disappointed that many of the backgrounds in My Little Pony: Movie Prequel were flat or entirely empty.

I was already super excited for the My Little Pony movie, but after reading this comic I’m even more pumped. Keep up the good marketing, Hasbro!

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Infamous Iron Man, Volume 1: Infamous

Infamous Iron Man, Volume 1: Infamous, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Alex Maleev, was published in 2017 by Marvel. 

1 star

This book had way too many words, and I refuse to contribute many more to it. To that end, here’s my bullet point summary of why Infamous Iron Man, Volume 1: Infamous is a 1-star read:

  • Too many words. #bendis
  • Doom’s a “hero” for a really stupid “reason”. So freaking unsatisfying.
  • The white men in this book are absolutely indistinguishable from each other. There’s an extended scene with three white men in similar clothing having a conversation, and it was completely nonsensical.
  • Doom’s not hot anymore. He was hot in Iron Man’s books. That’s the whole reason I wanted to read this one. COME ON!

Infamous Iron Man

 

The Tethered Mage (Swords and Fire #1)

The Tethered Mage, written by Melissa Caruso, will be published in October of 2017 by Orbit. 

3 star

The Tethered Mage is a debut novel which will be released in October. The main characters are Amalia, a noble lady and heir to an extremely influential government position, and Zaira, a fire warlock with the power to destroy entire cities with her magic. Amalia accidentally shackles Zaira, becoming the controller of her magic. Zaira is not only angry that she’s been basically enslaved, but is now used as a threat to enemy states – and Amalia is the one with the key to her magic.

I was very excited when I thought The Tethered Mage was going to be about female relationships and friendships. The premise is fascinating – Amalia becomes a slave-master by mistake, and must befriend her conscript for the good of her family and her nation. Zaira has spent her whole life evading capture, and with her seizure becomes little more than a weapon, and an involuntary one.

The Tethered Mage

This is deep stuff. The premise of this book is slavery, and how it affects two young women – that’s an incredible concept.

So I was disappointed when the book became bigger than the two main characters. The relationship between Zaira and Amalia does not get the time I believe it deserves, and Zaira’s inevitable softening toward Amalia feels unearned and out of character. The moral issues are addressed, but only lightly, and most characters in the world support the practice of tethering mages.

But Caruso is going for something epic here, and I can appreciate that; she’s aiming for a story bigger than two women. She’s built quite a sprawling world, and I am excited to read more (and see those two women kick more ass).

Nevertheless, I maintain that The Tethered Mage would have been better as a second book. We could have spent an entire first novel building relationships – primarily between Amalia and Zaira, but also between those two and the numerous side characters. I want a more convincing love story. I want deeper familial tension. I want more back story and a slower build up. Most of all, I want to be absolutely enthralled, at every moment, with the relationship between Zaira and Amalia. Instead, their relationship felt flat at almost all times, and progressed quite unconvincingly. One literally controls the other! There is so much potential there – I want to read about it!

Like I said, I did enjoy this book, and I’ll continue with the series. But it went a direction I would not have chosen, and skipped over what I considered the most important and interesting parts of the story.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World, written by Shannon and Dean Hale, was published in 2017 by Marvel Press. 

5 star

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World is a prose novel – there are no illustrations in it – and a prequel to the current run of comics. Though it is written for and marketed as a middle grade book, I found it a great, fun read. I’ve had little patience for middle grade literature lately, and Squirrel Meets World broke that streak in a spectacular way.

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Preteen Doreen “Squirrel Girl” Green has just moved with her super-supportive parents from the west coast to a New Jersey suburb. She hasn’t yet started her hero career – in fact, she’s kept her tail and powers a secret for her entire life. Now she’s in a new town with no friends – not even of the squirrel variety! She’s struggling enough to make friends and fit in, but of course when the town starts experiencing supernatural problems, Doreen has to break out her skills to save the day.

In Squirrel Meets World, Doreen is truly a younger version of the witty, meme-y, lovable comic version – she’s silly, she’s sassy, she’s powerful but just a bit insecure. Plus, her main human ally in this book is a stand-out character – one I’d adore meeting in Doreen’s college years. (Even just a cameo! Please, Ryan North!)

I’d recommend Squirrel Meets World for middle grade and even YA readers, but I also think adult fans of Squirrel Girl will greatly enjoy the read. The tone is spot on, Doreen herself is a perfect naive and immature version of her comic self, and the book is a quick, fun, and funny read.

Howl’s Moving Castle Vol. 1

The comic book version of Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones and Hayao Miyazaki, was published in 2004 by VIZ Media LLC. 

1 star

To put it kindly, this is an interesting book.

For the /r/fantasy bingo, I’m attempting to complete three boards: a generic, anything goes board, a board comprised of entirely female authors, and a comic book one. The comic book one is a bit tricky – some of the squares, like “desert setting” and “steampunk” are straightforward. Others, like “Any /r/Fantasy Goodreads Group Book Of The Month” or “Novel By an /r/Fantasy AMA Author OR Writer of the Day” are problematic and are requiring research and help from the community (thank you for all of the recommendations, /r/fantasy!).

Howl's Moving Castle

Lucky for me, some very popular prose stories – such as Howl’s Moving Castle – have been made into graphic novels. So while the /r/Fantasy Goodreads group read Diana Wynne Jones’s prose version of the book, I got to experience volume 1 of the manga.

And an experience it was.

Because this book is entirely composed of…screen-grabs from the movie.

Of course any screen-grab from a Miyazaki film is going to be a work of art, so that fact alone doesn’t make it a 1-star.  But the conversion from animated film to manga was done disappointingly poorly; the whole product comes across like very little thought or heart went into the task of creation. Entire pages are devoted to minute movements. I understand that the creators of this book wanted to faithfully recreate the film but…ugh. I don’t need an entire page – eight panels – to see Sophie open a door. It’s like a really tough spot the difference puzzle! Even in scenes where things are happening – action, dialogue, story elements – the frames are set up like a film reel, side by side, all cut in neat little movie-screen-sized rectangles. This book comes across as a cheap cash grab, with no other purpose than to profit off of the beauty and artwork in the movie.

I’m so glad this book exists, since it allows me to complete my bingo square – but the fact is, it really shouldn’t. If you want to read Howl’s Moving Castle, read Jones’s original masterpiece. If you want to see Miyazaki’s exquisite artwork, watch the movie. This comic is just a halfway between that doesn’t improve on either.

Another Castle: Grimoire

Another Castle: Grimoire, written by Andrew Wheeler and drawn and colored by Paulina Ganucheau, was published in 2017 by Oni Press. 

5 starAnother Castle: Grimoire does not have a good beginning. At first, the story feels way too cheesy and saccharine – a stereotypical “princess rebels” story. I thought about putting the book down after the first issue, but I was committed to using it for my /r/fantasy graphic novel bingo card (bingo is the best motivation!).

Another Castle

…And I am so glad I stuck with it. The more characters that entered the narrative the more I liked this comic. The supporting cast is spectacular, but even the background characters are interesting and diverse, and have their own unique lives and stories.

I also love that Another Castle: Grimoire an entire self-contained story that feels neither rushed nor over-explained through text. The world is built naturally through the story, and that story reaches a wonderful and complete conclusion.

I am tempted to criticize that neat, perfectly packaged ending…but I don’t want to. It’s refreshing to read a book where all loose ends are tied, every narrative thread is addressed, and everyone lives happily ever after. Another Castle: Grimoire is a simple story executed in a wonderful way.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances, written by Ruth Emmie Lang, will be published in November of 2017 by St. Martin’s Press. 

4 star

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances has a bit of an extraordinary problem – the prose and the setting compete with each other for gorgeousness. I’d spend three paragraphs admiring the writing, to suddenly find, oops, the story has slipped into fairy tale mode while I wasn’t paying attention. It was a wonderful experience.

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstances

And yet despite the beautiful words and evocative ambiance, I felt the story lacked emotional weight. To me, the end was trying to be climactic, but we had spent too short a time with some of the characters to truly feel the significance the author (and prose, and story) desired.

Nevertheless, this is a beautiful book, and I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing it.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.