Comic Book Reviews: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur (2016-2017)


Lunella Lafayette is a 9-year-old genius who is bored with school and fears her Inhuman genes.  When a giant, red T-Rex enters her life, she takes her first step into becoming the youngest superhero.

Author:Amy Reeder (Author) and Natacha Bustos (Illustrator)
Title: Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1: BFF
Publication Info: Marvel (2016)
Summary/Review:  This book slowly introduces Lunella and how she gets acquainted with Devil Dinosaur.  Seriously, this is why I read compilation books because if read single issues with those “cliffhangers,” I’d tear them in rage.  Lunella is an interesting smart kid character, a bit snooty, but with a lot of internal conflict.  Devil Dinosaur travels into the present with a group of cavemen, an historical inaccuracy I’ll overlook, if only because the cavemen then become a street gang known as the Killer-Folk.  Much like other comics I’ve read recently (Ms. Marvel, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl), a famed Marvel Comics hero makes a cameo appearance to advise Lunella.  In this case it’s Hulk, who apparently can speak in full sentences in this universe.

Rating: **1/2


Author: Amy Reeder (Author),  Marco Failla (Illustrator), and Natacha Bustos (Illustrator)
TitleMoon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Vol. 2: Cosmic Cooties
Publication Info: Marvel (2017)
Summary/Review: Lunella finally succumbs to the Terrigen Cloud and her Inhuman power is not a desirable one (SPOILER: she switches minds with Devil Dinosaur and has no control of when it happens).  In other news, Mel-Varr, a.k.a. Marvin Ellis, a.k.a. Kidd Kree, a 9-year-old trying to prove his place among the Kree by capturing Moon Girl, makes life difficult for her both at school and during her crime fighting activities at night.  Ms. Marvel even has to step in and break up their squabbles.  It’s a good story arc with a lot of humor and a lot of pathos.

Rating: ***1/2

 

Comic Book Reviews: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (2015-2019)


The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a character who has been around for a while but only recently began to get her own line of comic books. These comics are simultaneously a parody of superhero comic book conventions and also terrifically entertaining superhero stories.  Squirrel Girl may not always beat the villains in the way you’d expect, but the one thing that’s true is that she’s unbeatable.

Author:   Ryan North (Author), Erica Henderson (Illustrator)
Title:  The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power
Publication Info: Marvel (2015)
Summary/Review:

Doreen Green is a young woman just starting college, studying computer science, making friends, and signing up for clubs.  She also is a superhero with all the powers of a squirrel, the ability to talk with squirrels, and a long bushy tail.  She’s also unbeatable, in that she wins every fight, one way or another.  The premise sounds absurd and predictable but in practice it’s funny as hell and awesome.  Watch as she simultaneously stops a bank robbery with a suit of squirrels while also stopping Galactus from consuming the earth using stolen armor from Iron Man. Doreen is not drawn in the conventionally beautiful way of most women in comics, but is short-haired and curvy, and full of confidence and charm.  I have a little crush on her.

Rating: ****


Author: Ryan North (Author), Erica Henderson (Artist)
TitleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It’s True
Publication Info: Marvel (2015)
Summary/Review:

Squirrel Girl returns and must face Ratatoskr, the Norse God of Squirrels, who has an evil plan for taking over the world.  But she has help in Chipmunk Hunk and Koi Boi, two very familiar-looking superheroes, and her roommate Nancy, who has no powers but is the most sensible person around.  This volume also begins with hostages trapped in the Statue of Liberty telling stories of Squirrel Girl that are hilarious send-ups of classic Marvel superhero stories.
Rating: ****


Author:  Ryan North (Author), Erica Henderson (Illustrator)
TitleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now
Publication Info: Marvel (2016)
Summary/Review:

Another terrific volume of Squirrel Girl sees our hero thrown back in time to the 1960s with several other Computer Science majors that she has no memory of meeting in class.  Of course, Doreen adapts her fashion to fit in seamlessly in the 1960s as she works to resolve the conundrum.  There’s also a crossover story with Howard the Duck in which Doreen and Howard are captured as part of a menagerie for a villain’s “most dangerous game” fantasy.  As someone who only knows Howard the Duck from the atrocious 1980s movie, I was quite impressed by this story.

Rating: ****


Author: Ryan North (Author), Erica Henderson (Illustrator)
TitleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 4: I Kissed a Squirrel and I Liked it
Publication Info: Marvel (2016)
Summary/Review:

Some more laugh out loud adventures from the ever resourceful Squirrel Girl and friends.  This includes a “You Are Squirrel Girl” adventure where you can follow flow-charts to make decisions for Squirrel Girl. Then Squirrel Girl tries online dating leading to several unsuccessful dates with superheroes and one superhero truther.  Mole Man pursues Squirrel Girl’s hand in a spot-on parody of those stories where creepy men make grand romantic gestures and are supposed to be taken seriously.  Finally, Squirrel Girl defeats a supervillain in her sleep while using the principles of computer science.

Rating: ****


Author:  Ryan North (Author), Erica Henderson (Illustrator)
TitleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 5: Like I’m the Only Squirrel in the World
Publication Info: Marvel (2017)
Summary/Review:

Doreen, Nancy, Tippy-Toe, and Doreen’s mom try to go on vacation in a remote cabin in Canada (leading to an endless series of Canada jokes), but are interrupted by Enigmo’s plot to take over the world.  Enigmo has the ability to split into infinite smaller versions of himself, making him hard to beat, but also a number of great sight gags.  Ant-Man plays a part in Squirrel Girl’s plan to save the world.  This book also includes an adventure entirely from the perspective of Nancy’s cat, Mew.  There’s also a 25th anniversary issue with parts of Squirrel Girl’s origin story.

Rating: ****1/2


Author: Ryan North (Author), Erica Henderson (Illustrator)
TitleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 6: Who Run the World? Squirrels 
Publication Info:  Marvel (2017)
Summary/Review:

Squirrel Girls gains the ability to become a Flying Squirrel, but at a cost.  This time she has to fight Melissa Morbeck, and yet another attempt to take over the world.  There’s also a fun side story starring the new crime fighting trio of Chipmunk Hunk, Koi Boi, and Brain Drain.

Rating: ****


Author: Ryan North (Author), Erica Henderson (Illustrator)
TitleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 7: I’ve Been Waiting For a Squirrel Like You
Publication Info: Marvel (2018)
Summary/Review:

This epic tale sends Doreen and Nancy to the Savage Land (an alien-built, atmosphere-controlled, dinosaur preserve in Antarctica) where they need to use their computer skills to save the Savage Land and work with Doctor Doom’s Latverians.  SPOILER: The villain is Ultron in the form of a robot T-Rex!  The book also includes tributes to the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by numerous comic writers and artists, including bizarrely Garfield’s Jim Davis.

Rating: ****1/2


Author: Ryan North
Artists: Erica Henderson
Color Artist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover Art: Erica Henderson
TitleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 8, My Best Friend’s Squirrel
Publication Info: New York, NY : Marvel Worldwide, Inc., a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, LLC, 2018
Summary/Review:

Nancy and Tippy-Toe have been transported across the galaxy to a planet of squirrels and Doreen must rescue her with the help of Loki, who has somehow taken over for Doctor Strange.  The villains they must contend with are grifters disguised as the Silver Surfer.  Drax, an anthropomorphic hairless cat, a Thor that looks like a horse, a Thor that literally is a horse, and the real Silver Surfer are also involved.  A terrific single issue story also shows Doreen and Nancy trapped in hypertime aging to senior citizens in the time the rest of the world experiences only a few days.

Rating: ****


Author: Ryan North
Artists: Derek Charm
Color Artist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover Art: Erica Henderson
TitleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 9, Squirrels Fall Like Dominoes
Publication Info: New York, NY : Marvel Worldwide, Inc., 2018
Summary/Review:

A new artist takes over and the characters seem less expressive.  This will take some getting used to.  The main story here is that Doreen wants Kraven the Hunter to adjust to his new life no longer being a villain, and invites him to spend time with other heroes in an escape room.  Of course, the escape room is run by a C-level villain who makes it really dangerous and they have to used their unique powers to escape.  Except that being with Kraven gets them all arrested and they go to trial with She-Hulk as their lawyer.  It’s a funny adventure with a thoughtful discussion of the shaky line between vigilante heroes and villains.  The last issue is a wonderful story with minimal spoken dialogue as all of New York is silenced by the ghost of a librarian!

Rating: ****


Author:Ryan North
Artists: Derek Charm, Naomi Franquiz
Color Artist: Rico Renzi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Cover Art: Erica Henderson
TitleThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 10, Life is Too Short, Squirrel
Publication Info: New York, NY : Marvel Worldwide, Inc., a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, LLC, 2019
Summary/Review:

This volume begins with the funeral of Squirrel Girl, with Doreen in attendance in disguise.  Not actually being dead, she decides to remain undercover in order to investigate who the impostor is that faked her death. After some corny confrontations with Tony Stark, it is revealed that a refugee Skrull girl is behind it all.  I’m only familiar with the Skrulls from the Captain Marvel movie, so it seems that they always turn out to be good despite being feared and mistrusted. Nevertheless it’s another good story.  The final issue is not as brilliant as its two predecessors but more of filler as Nancy and Peter Parker are in danger as the villain Ms. Quizzler terrorizes everyone with trivia questions.  I like the art better, though.

 

Rating: ****

Comic Book Reviews: Ms. Marvel (2014-2016)


I’ve heard good things about the Ms. Marvel comics and so I read the first four volumes of the collected comics.  Kamala Khan is a wonderful character who cares deeply and has a lot of humor and creativity, as well as being just plain adorable.  I also like the water color style of the comic art.

Author: G. Willow Wilson (Author), Adrian Alphona (Artist)
TitleMs. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal
Publication Info: Marvel (2014)
Summary/Review:
Rating: ***1/2

Kamala Khan is a teenager from Jersey City who writes fan fiction about her favorite superheroes (who in this universe really exist, not just in comic books), struggles with the strict upbringing of her immigrant Pakistani parents, and engaging with the wider American world as a Muslim girl.  On a night when Kamala sneaks out to go to a party, a mysterious fog envelopes the city and Kamala finds herself with the powers to morph her body and gain significant strength.  She adopts the persona of her hero Captain America – aka Carol Danvers – and begins protecting Jersey City from weird attacks and invaders.  This collection of the first five issues is not overly weighed down by origin story tropes as it depicts Kamala clumsily learning to use her powers while maintaining her ordinary life.


Author: G. Willow Wilson (Author), Jacob Wyatt (Illustrator), Adrian Alphona (Illustrator)
TitleMs. Marvel Volume 2: Generation Why
Publication Info: Marvel (2015)
Summary/Review: ****

The second collection features Ms. Marvel coming face to face with her first archival, The Collector, a hybrid of a bird and a clone of Thomas Edison (a delightfully-weird villain).  Wolverine becomes Ms. Marvel’s mentor for a time and Kamala has to balance fangirling over one of her heroes with the reality that she is in better physical shape to handle their adventure.  She’s later paired up with Lockjaw, a large bulldog with teleportation powers.  The story of the Inventor kidnapping teenagers to use them for their energy cleverly plays on the stereotyping and disposability of Generation Y in our capitalist system.


 

Author: G. Willow Wilson (Author), Takeshi Miyazawa (Illustrator), Elmo Bondoc (Illustrator)
TitleMs. Marvel Vol. 3: Crushed
Publication Info: Marvel (2015)
Summary/Review:

This collection includes another crossover story with a comical story about Loki ending up at Kamala’s school dance.  There’s also a crossover with S.H.I.E.L.D. as she teams up to save the school from alien infested cafeteria food.  The bigger story is that Kamala falls in love with a boy named Kamran, son of her parents friends, who not only shares a Muslim heritage and geeky interests with Kamala, but also has Inhuman powers.  It seems too good to be true, right?

Rating: ****


Author: G. Willow Wilson (Author), Adrian Alphona (Illustrator)
Title: Ms. Marvel Vol. 4: Last Days
Publication Info: Marvel (2015)
Summary/Review:

This is part of a larger Marvel story arc called “Last Days of the Universe” in which the big story is happening in Manhattan.  Kamala has to set up protection for Jersey City on her own while also trying to rescue her brother.  Then her biggest hero Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers arrives and they are able to spend some time working together.  It’s a bittersweet crossover as Danvers has little time to spare and Kamala has to recognize that there may be no tomorrow and reconcile with her family and friends.  My favorite part is when the people in the shelter Kamala sets up in her school decide that they will deal with the end of the universe in a purely New Jersey manner, with a dance party.

There’s also an issue of Spider-Man in which Ms. Marvel makes an appearance, which has nothing to do with the rest of this book, but it makes sense since Kamala Khan and Peter Parker have a lot in common.

Rating: ****

Favorite Passages:

“The young are seen as a political burden, a public nuisance. They are not considered worth educating or protecting.  They are called parasites, leeches, brats, spawn–

If you used the to describe any minority but children, it would quite understandably be considered hate speech.

We are simply taking this loathing to its logical conclusion.” – The Inventor

“Friendship is not a zone, you idiot! Friendship is something real and good and anybody who doesn’t understand that needs a dictionary.” – Bruno

“It’s always the same.

There’s always that one group of people who think that they have special permission to terrorize anybody who disagrees with them.

And then everyone who looks like them suffers.’


Author: G. Willow Wilson
Artists: Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, Nico Leon
Color Artist: Ian Herring
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Cliff Chiang & David Lopez
Title: Ms. Marvel Vol. 5: Super Famous
Publication Info: New York, NY : Marvel Worldwide, Inc., a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, LLC, 2016
Summary/Review:

Living the dream of saving the world with the Avengers takes it’s toll on Kamala Khan as she fails to keep up with her school work and her friendship with Bruno.  Meanwhile, the most evil supervillain comes to Jersey City bringing gentrification, and using Ms. Marvel’s image to promote redevelopment. Ms. Marvel must save her city and find a way to balance her priorities.

Rating: ****


Author: G. Willow Wilson
Artists: Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa, Mirka Andolfo
Color Artist: Ian Herring with Irma Kniivila
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Cameron Stewart
Title: Ms. Marvel Vol. 6: Civil War II
Publication Info: New York, NY : Marvel Worldwide, Inc., a subsidiary of Marvel Entertainment, LLC, 2016
Summary/Review:

In the midst of a conflict between Captain Marvel and Iron Man, Kamala Khan begins to realize that she must assert herself and stand apart from both of her mentors.  The main plot focuses on Captain Marvel tasking Ms. Marvel with training fellow young Inhumans with predictive powers to fight crime before it happens, something with obvious ethical conflicts. This collection also reveals Kamala’s family’s past going back to the Partition of India and Pakistan, and ends with Kamala visiting family in Pakistan, and meeting a local superhero.

Rating: ****

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 23: Life and Death by Robert Kirkman


AuthorRobert Kirkman
Title: The Walking Dead Vol. 24: Life and Death
Publication Info: Image Comics (2015)
Summary/Review:

This volume continues the ongoing story of survivors at various communities working to make something close to a normal life while working through the emotional devastation of the zombie apocalypse. They also have to deal with threats such as the Whisperers, an insurgency at Hilltop, and an imprisoned Negan’s mind games.  Then there’s a shocking conclusion!  It’s a good, nuanced story, and one of the better installments in the series.
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: The Walking Dead Vol. 23: Whispers Into Screams by Robert Kirkman


AuthorRobert Kirkman
Title: The Walking Dead Vol. 23: Whispers Into Screams
Publication Info: Image Comics (2015)
Summary/Review:

The last volume of The Walking Dead introduced the Whisperers, a group of people who wear skins of the dead so they can walk and live among the undead.  In this volume, a girl from the Whisperers is captured and during her captivity, Carl befriends her.  Meanwhile, Maggie is facing opposition as leader of the Hilltop community.  It’s a nice change of pace to take the focus off of Rick for once. I feel that these issues are kind of dragging their heels for now, but there’s a lot of potential that could be building for the Whisperers’ story.  They could become the next group our heroes have to fight a war against (god, I hope not), or there could be a more nuanced story of how these different types of survivors interact.
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Out on the wire by Jessica Abel


Author: Jessica Abel
Title: Out on the wire : the storytelling secrets of the new masters of radio 
Publication Info: New York : Broadway Books, 2015.
Summary/Review:

I received this as a free book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

Out on the Wire is a comic book about the production of NPR radio shows and podcasts, or perhaps the nerdiest thing I’ve ever read.  Through the graphic art medium, Abel details her interviews, observations, and storytelling processes of the creators of This American Life, The Moth, Radiolab, Planet Money, and Snap JudgmentFor lack of a better term, these programs are called “narrative journalism” and storytelling is central to all of these shows.  I’m a big fan of all of these podcasts and it is fun to see comic representations of the faces behind the voices (not to mention learning how to spell Chana Joffe-Walt). Abel’s approach is an effective way of using art to create a documentary.

Recommended booksFeynman by Jim Ottaviani, Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh, and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.
Rating: *** 1/2