Tag Archives: American

Broxo (Graphic Novel)

Author/Illustrator: Zack Giallongo

My rating: 3 of 5

Warrior princess Zora has left her home without her family’s knowledge, traveling to the distant land of the Perytons, hoping to win an alliance for their peoples. But she arrives to find a land deserted and desolate . . . or, well, deserted except for the monsters and zombies that keep trying to eat her. Then this boy shows up, all full of attitude, saves her life then just walks away with his huge monster/pet. Obviously, Zora’s going to follow him in an attempt to get some answers. But the boy, Broxo, who boldly calls himself king of the land, either has no answers or is unwilling to offer any. Clearly, something strange is going on here, and despite being warned to leave, Zora’s not about to go without getting to the root of what’s happened here.

For first impressions, Broxo wasn’t a bad graphic novel, but it didn’t really grip me or win my affections either. It’s got a fairly contemporary graphic novel style, as opposed to a classic comic book or a manga style. The visuals work, for the most part, although I must confess that it took me a moment to realize that Zora was actually a girl. In general, the style is just kind of more “boyish” if you will, rougher lines, strong movement, that sort of thing. If this were a manga, it would be distinctly shounen. The colorization supports that same feeling, although this is definitely intentional, with dark, neutral colors being dominant in this desolate place. The characters, again, weren’t bad but didn’t particularly win me over either. Partially, this is because the reader is dumped into the story at a point where everything is happening to the characters, but you’ve got no backstory, no reason to relate to the characters, nothing. So I didn’t really feel for their situation like I should have, at least not until much later in the story. Zora and Broxo’s relations with each other were weird, too–at one point awkwardly distant, at another fighting or working alongside each other as if they’d known each other for years. I guess part of that may be intentional, since they do seem to be at that awkward age where emotions and social skills are just all over the place anyhow, but it still made their relationship kind of hard to understand. And the whole mystery thing was weird, although some of the adventure parts of the story were interesting in a shounen sort of way. So yeah, Broxo definitely isn’t my favorite graphic novel ever, but it wasn’t especially bad either. . . .

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Mighty Jack (Graphic Novel)

Author/Illustrator: Ben Hatke

Colorists: Alex Campbell & Hilary Sycamore

Mighty Jack, vol. 1

My rating: 5 of 5

Jack’s summer promises to be anything but enjoyable–his mom’s working extra this year to support her kids, so Jack’s left to take care of his sister Maddy who never talks and needs extra-special care. He can’t even spend the time he’d like making friends . . . and that girl who lives down the street and practices swordplay in the yard sure does look like she’d be an interesting friend. A family trip to the flea market  changes everything, however, as an unusual man sells Jack a pack of weird seeds, promising they’ll change his life. They certainly do that! For one thing, Maddy gets remarkably excited about these seeds, pouring herself into planting and taking care of them. For another, well, the seeds sure do seem to be magic–as in, some of them get up and move, some have faces, others explode or give you special abilities if you eat them. Crazy cool stuff, but pretty dangerous, too. Enter the sword-swinging girl from down the street. Lilly is entranced by the incredible things Jack and Maddy have growing in their back yard, and she knows how to deal with the more dangerous stuff. Maybe this summer won’t be so bad after all.

Wow. I have loved Ben Hatke’s work ever since I first read Zita the Spacegirl, and Mighty Jack was certainly not a disappointment. It sort-of plays off the whole Jack and the Beanstalk story, only it’s re-imagined to such an extent that it doesn’t really feel like a retelling at all; it’s brilliantly original. As with the Zita stories, the characters, art, and story are all fresh and rich, colorful and inviting. It all just draws the reader in in such an enjoyable way. I loved all three of the main characters, the way they fit together, the way they grow throughout the story, the way their flaws influence the progression of the story, all of it. Extra perks to the author for strong female characters, for a cool homeschooler, and for including a character with autism, all of whom are a rich part of the story. I loved Jack and Maddy’s mom and Lilly’s brother as well–yay for developed and interesting supporting characters. Bonus points for the cameo of characters from the Zita stories–the guy who sells Jack the seeds and basically jump starts his whole story is a crossover character, and his placement in this story was fun. Regarding the art in particular (besides the obvious fact that it’s awesome), I loved Hatke’s skill in giving subtle expression to the characters, especially in the way he showed so clearly how Jack is just at the age where girls are becoming interesting and how he totally has a crush on Lilly, but how their relationship grows to be so much more than that. It’s powerful, how much he can express with so little. Also, I totally love the color palette used in this graphic novel. Mighty Jack is a graphic novel that I would highly recommend for anyone, regardless of age, although it’s technically children’s fiction–great story that I’m looking forward to continuing in future volumes.

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A Christmas Prince (2017 Movie)

Netflix & Motion Picture Corporation of America

My rating: 3 of 5

In the search for her first big scoop, fledgling reporter Amber Moore (and does anyone else find it hilarious that her last name is still Moore here?!) travels to the small European kingdom of Aldovia to cover the coronation of Prince Richard. Or his abdication.  The prince does have a reputation as a bit of a playboy, and nobody’s really sure if he’ll step up and fill his late father’s shoes or not. Through an unexpected mix-up, Amber finds herself mistaken for Princess Emily’s new tutor, giving her unprecedented access to the royal family up close and personal. And what she finds is not at all what the rest of the press had led her to expect.

First off, I can’t believe I actually watched this; it’s exactly the sort of Hallmark-y film that I usually avoid like the plague. . . . But Rose McIver is kind of irresistible, and moreover, she actually manages to make the movie palatable.  It is very much your expected cheesy Christmas romantic drama, with loads of improbability, predictability, and sentimentality. Even the music and the camera filters used scream “classic Christmas film”–as in old, maudlin film. Yet surprisingly, I found myself liking the characters. McIver does a great job (the one thing that’s not surprising) portraying her character, drawing out the uncertainty, clumsiness, awkward curiosity, and compassion of Amber quite effectively. Ben Lamb’s portrayal of Prince Richard is more expected but still well done, and I quite enjoyed Honor Kneafsey’s work as young Princess Emily and her growing friendship with Amber. Other than that, there’s not much I can say–I enjoyed A Christmas Prince, which is more than I can say for most films of this sort, but I also found it to be pretty typical of the sentimental Christmas movie genre on the whole, for what that’s worth.

Written by Nathan Atkins/Directed by Alex Zamm/Produced by Amy Krell/Music by Zack Ryan/Starring Rose McIver, Ben Lamb,  Honor Kneafsey, Tom Knight, Sarah Douglas, Daniel Fathers, Alice Krige, & Tahirah Sharif

 

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Explorer: The Mystery Boxes

Editor: Kazu Kibuishi

My rating: 3.5 of 5

The great thing–the scary thing–about boxes is that they can contain just about anything. Or nothing. You’ll never know until you open them. It could be something that will change your perspective for the better. Or it could be something that will wreak havoc with your life. Maybe it’s an opportunity for a second chance. But then, maybe it’s best left closed–after all, once you’ve imagined all the things it could be, perhaps whatever it really is might be a disappointment. You never know. . . .

As with Kibuishi’s other Explorer books, The Mystery Boxes is a collection of graphic short stories by various authors/artists focusing on a theme–in this instance, boxes. You’ve got quite the gamut of stories here from creepy (“Under the Floorboards” in which a wax doll tries to take over a little girl’s life), to corny (“Whatzit” in which a weird alien kid is pranked and returns the favor), to moving (notably “The Keeper’s Treasure” and Kibuishi’s own story, “The Escape Option”). Honestly, my opinions about these stories range widely, with some of them being lots of fun and others just being kind of “huh?” for me. Some of them, I just don’t quite get what the author was getting at, I guess. But then, there are stories like “The Keeper’s Treasure,” “Spring Cleaning” (goofy but amusing), and “The Escape Option” that I think still make Explorer: The Mystery Boxes well worth the time to read it.

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Beyond the Vale (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: BeyondTheStorm

FanFiction ID: 7418736

Status: Complete (28 Chapters)

My rating: 5 of 5

Merlin told Arthur it was a bad idea–not that Arthur listened. Did he ever? No, but of course they have to get a small group of knights together to go after the patrol that went missing, and of course Arthur has to go along. Never mind that they know nothing about what they’re getting into or that Gaius can’t even find any solid information on the area or that the few rumors that have turned up are anything but reassuring. In the “no one ever returns from there” kind of way. Naturally, Merlin can’t let his dollop-headed prince go on this suicidal mission without him, so he joins Arthur, Gwaine, Elyan, and Lancelot on their journey. Good thing, too; for once, Arthur may discover just how much he needs his manservant around.

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy BeyondTheStorm’s writing (such as Healing Spells), and Beyond the Vale may just be my favorite of this author’s stories to date. There are just so many aspects of it that are really enjoyable. The writing style is quite pleasant to read, for one, and it captures Merlin’s sass nicely. The choice of characters to involve in this story was interesting, but I found I liked the dynamics of this particular group. Seeing more of Lancelot and Elyan, in particular, was fun, and I always love when Gwaine is involved in a Merlin fic. Everyone felt in character, and it was really neat to see the character development over the course of the story. There were some well-written and interesting original characters as well who added a lot to the story. Actually, that’s another thing I like about this particular author’s work: there are almost always great OCs who have a lot of character development and who are integral to the plot (which is also usually quite complex and developed, yay!). I found the author’s choice to make this story a reveal of a lot of what Merlin has done for Arthur and for Camelot without revealing that he has magic to be very interesting. But you know what? It works. And it’s cool to see Arthur and the knights (even Lancelot, who knows about Merlin’s magic) truly appreciate the kind of person Merlin is and the sacrifices he’s made–without the complications of betrayal and such that bringing his magic into the picture entails. I enjoyed seeing the relationship developments that occurred as a result. And yes, the plot! Fascinating story drenched in history, with plenty of mystery and tension to go around. The story is very well developed and executed. Highly recommended.

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The Most Deadly Alliance (Harry Potter/Merlin Crossover Fanfic)

Author: Emachinescat

FanFiction ID: 6282390

Status: Complete (32 Chapters)

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Fed up with the difficulties he’s had disposing of one brat–the young wizard Harry Potter–Voldemort crosses time itself to form a dark alliance with Nimue, High Priestess of the Old Religion, combining forces to also help her with her own personal annoyance, the warlock Merlin. Harry and his friends Ron and Hermione find themselves stepping out of Hogwarts and into the past, meeting the man who is a legend in their time . . . only Merlin isn’t quite what they were expecting. He’s young and clumsy and a servant, while they were expecting someone old and imposing. Oh, and the king he’s supposed to advise and help isn’t even king yet and he has no idea that Merlin even has magic! Still, Harry and his friends come to see the greatness of the man of legend buried beneath the youthful exterior, and they and Merlin soon become fast friends. Which is good, because they’re going to have to work together if they are to survive the dark machinations of Nimue and Voldemort.

Emachinescat is a wonderful author, and I love everything I’ve read of hers. Having said that, I think The Most Deadly Alliance is one of my favorites. The premise and all the interlocking pieces of time travel and legend are just fascinating. But even more than that, the little choices of the timing within each story, the characters to involve, the details that are drawn in–it’s all expertly executed. I loved how well thought out the character interactions were. The people involved behaved in character, even when it made them clash or seem abrasive. And the people who should have hit it off with each other did so. There were even instances where character interactions caused changing points of view. (Arthur’s interactions with Hermione and his changing views because of that, notably, although Harry’s relationship with Morgana is also a great case in point. Actually, the development between Harry and Morgana may have been one of my favorite parts of the story, which kind of surprised me.) All of that was just crafted in a very credible and in-character way that I truly enjoyed greatly. Additionally, the larger-scale story was interesting–the tension and mystery, the complications of time travel, the flaws in Voldemort and Nimue’s alliance, all of it worked well and was fun to read. The writing style itself was also quite excellent, being fluid and natural and easy to read. On a technical side, there were a couple of chapters where chunks of text were transposed into the wrong place (like, into the middle of another paragraph or even into the middle of a sentence), making the reader have to sort through what is supposed to go where. But it’s all there if you’re willing to figure it out, and it’s only in a few places–probably a tech issue in the editing or uploading process. If not for that, I would have given The Most Deadly Alliance a whole 5 of 5 rating, but as-is, it’s still a new favorite of mine that I would highly recommend.

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Healing Spells (Merlin Fanfic)

Author: BeyondTheStorm

FanFiction ID: 6022745

Status: Complete (27 Chapters)

My rating: 4 of 5

Warning: Rated T for blood, violence, & non-suicidal self-harm. (I would probably rate T+/16+, just to be safe.)

With Gaius away to help a village dealing with a mysterious outbreak of illness, Merlin has a chance to do things that his mentor would usually fuss at him for doing. And after that fiasco of a showdown with a rogue sorcerer in which both he and Prince Arthur got injured (and where Arthur found out all about Merlin’s being a warlock), it seems like it might just be time to finally figure out how to make healing magic work. Turns out, it’s not easy, nor is it something for which Merlin has a natural knack. So, being Merlin, he decides to practice on himself, stretching his abilities thinner and thinner until Arthur, Gwen, and Morgana are all worried about him–because of course it would be far too easy to actually tell them what’s going on, right?! But when Arthur is again endangered, it becomes clear that Merlin’s practicing has had more far-reaching consequences than even he originally thought.

While the idea of a Merlin fic focused primarily on healing magic didn’t initially appeal to me, I have loved some of BeyondTheStorm’s other fanfics and thus decided to give Healing Spells a try. I’m so glad I did, because I really loved the story. For one thing, the writing is just really readable and fun; it has a nice flow and a good balance of description and dialogue and such. But there are so many other interesting choices that the author made that just really increased my personal enjoyment of the story beyond just the quality of the writing. You come into the story with Arthur already knows about and accepts Merlin’s magic–there is a reveal scene, but it doesn’t come until about halfway through, where it’s presented as a flashback. So you’ve got this great dynamic of Arthur realizing everything Merlin’s done for him and who he really is, so there’s a whole new level of trust and closeness between the two that’s really great. You see a softer, more caring, yet still gruff and awkward (because this is Arthur, you know?) side to the prince which is really neat. And surprisingly (yet credibly) there’s a really interesting dynamic of Merlin having a harder time trusting Arthur and still keeping secrets even though he knows Arthur’s already accepted him. I also enjoyed that this was set in season 2, so that 1) a lot of the bad stuff that make it really hard for Merlin to trust Arthur with his secret haven’t happened, and 2) you get some great Morgana friendship (not a major focus of this fic, but it’s there and it’s nice. I miss this Morgana.). Of course, the downside of that is that you don’t get the awesomeness that is the Inner Circle of the Knights, but it works in this story. There are some great Merlin/Gwen friendship scenes; I can’t get enough of that friendship, truly! And a few fabulous fatherly Gaius moments. Plus, there’s a lot of interconnected plot, some big stuff that develops outside of Merlin’s experimentation that ends up influencing the consequences of his choices. So yeah, big plot and some pretty deep ideas are developed as well. All together, Healing Spells was a very interesting and enjoyable story, and I’m looking forward to reading more by this author.

Note: You can find Healing Spells at https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6022745/1/Healing-Spells.

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