Tuesday, December 31, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] Avatar the Last Airbender: The Promise Part 2 by Gene Luen Yang




Title:  Avatar the Last Airbender: The Promise Part 2

Author:  Gene Luen Yang

Artist:  Gurihiru

Genre: Comedy / Action / Adventure / TV series


Year Published: 2012


Year Read: 2013


Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 8+ (Some Intense Moments)




Introduction:

After reading part one of “Avatar the Last Airbender: The Promise,” I was excited to check out the second part of this fantastic series and I was definitely not disappointed by the results of this volume!

What is this story about?

In this volume, after Fire Lord Zuko turns down the Harmony Restoration Movement for the Earth Kingdom, there seems to be an impeding war brewing between Zuko and Earth King Kuei and it is up to Aang and Katara to prevent that war from happening!  Meanwhile, Toph and Sokka try to train Toph’s bumbling students in the art of metal bending in order to defend the school against a class of fire benders!

What I loved about this story:

Gene Luen Yang’s writing: Gene Luen Yang’s writing continues to amaze me with its faithfulness to the legendary TV series!  I loved the way that Gene Luen Yang continues to develop each character, especially Aang and Katara’s relationship with each other, which actually fully reached its “CUTE AND HAPPY” and not the “WILL THEY OR WON’T THEY” status at last!  I was also sitting on the edge of my seat whenever Zuko confronts his father, since it seems that Ozai has an ulterior motive up his sleeves as he is always smiling slyly whenever Zuko visits and it makes me wonder just what kind of impact Ozai still has on Zuko and how it would affect Zuko’s ruling as the new Fire Lord.  We are definitely seeing Zuko starting to crack under the pressure with his present ruling of the Fire Kingdom and I loved the way that Gene Luen Yang portrayed that as it made the situation even more interesting to watch!  I also loved the side story about Toph starting a school for metal bending and how she tries to teach her bumbling students how to metal bend.  It was such an enjoyable experience to see Toph actually teaching students her abilities and I am interested in seeing how this will all play out in future volumes!

Gurihiru’s artwork:  Gurihiru’s artwork continues to remain faithful to the characters’ designs and I really loved the images of Sokka continuing to be the comic relief in this series! My favorite artwork of Sokka in this volume was when he and Toph jumped off of Appa to land at Toph’s new school at the beginning and you can see Sokka panicking throughout the whole ordeal!

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

Not really a big deal, but the only problem I had with this volume was that there was not that much action in the story like the first volume.  Even though this volume does have comedic situations happening to the characters, such as Toph and Sokka trying to teach three students how to metal bend, I actually did wanted to see some battle sequences in this volume.  But, I did enjoy the rising tension with Zuko caving in to pressure of being the new Fire Lord and the possible battle that is about to come between Zuko and Earth King Kuei.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Avatar the Last Airbender: The Promise Part Two” is a brilliant continuation of the first volume and I cannot wait to see more adventures from Aang and the gang as they try to undo all the harm that the Fire Nation brought to the world!





[BOOK REVIEW] Avatar the Last Airbender: The Promise Part 1 by Gene Luen Yang



Title:  Avatar the Last Airbender: The Promise Part 1

Author:  Gene Luen Yang

Artist:  Gurihiru

Genre: Comedy / Action / Adventure / TV series


Year Published: 2012


Year Read: 2013


Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 8+ (Fight Scenes)




Introduction:

Now, I am a huge fan of the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” TV series and when I heard that there was going to be a comic book series that would continue from where the TV series last ended, I was so excited that I had to pick up this series!  “Avatar the Last Airbender: The Promise Part One” continues from where the TV series ended its run and I have to admit that this was a brilliant continuation of the world-acclaimed TV series!

What is this story about?

After the events of “Avatar the Last Airbender” where Aang finally defeats Fire Lord Ozai and brings peace to the world, Aang along with the new Fire Lord, Prince Zuko, try to bring peace to the world by establishing the Harmony Restoration Movement.  Unfortunately, when Zuko goes to visit the Earth Nation, he realizes that there are still tensions from the Fire Nation’s takeover and this might put his friendship with Aang to the test. What’s even worse is that before all this, Zuko asked Aang to kill him if he starts acting like his father and Aang is unsure of doing this, since he is a peaceful person who does not like to kill anyone. 

Will Aang go through with his promise to kill Zuko if he starts acting like his father?

Read this volume to find out!

What I loved about this story:

Gene Luen Yang’s writing: I never would have thought that I see the day that there would be a comic book adaptation of “Avatar the Last Airbender” and manages to stick faithfully to the spirit of the TV series (unlike a certain movie adaptation of the TV series).  Gene Luen Yang’s writing is both intense and hilarious at the same time and it brilliantly captures the spirit of the TV series!  I loved the way that Gene Luen Yang wrote each character as they remain faithful to their TV counterparts, such as Sokka still being the comic relief of the group, Aang still retaining his peaceful and child like nature and Zuko still being the troubled son of the former Fire Lord.  I loved the way that Gene Luen Yang added more character development to Zuko’s character as now we are seeing that Zuko is worried about becoming just like his father and is also trying to handle the duties of being the new Fire Lord. It really added so much drama and tension to Zuko’s character as we find ourselves wondering whether or not Zuko will become like his father and how he would handle the duties of being the Fire Lord without resorting to the same tyrannical tendencies of his father.  I also loved the way that Gene Luen Yang made the stories flow so well with the events that happened in the TV series as it felt like I was watching another episode of “Avatar the Last Airbender” (or in this case, the fourth season that never came) and it makes me feel so delighted to see more development from each of these characters!

Gurihiru’s artwork:  Gurihiru’s artwork brilliantly captured the designs of the characters from the TV series such as Katara still having her long brown hair and large blue eyes and Aang still having his large blue and innocent eyes, while his bald head still contains the famous blue arrow tattooed on his head.  I also loved the way that Gurihiru drew the characters’ clothing and the world they live in as it brilliantly reflects the culture of Asia, making the world truly exotic!

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Avatar the Last Airbender: The Promise Part One” is a brilliant volume that superbly reenact the world-acclaim TV series and I am definitely looking forward to reading the second part of this series pretty soon!



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] My Laughable Life with Garfield by Jim Davis



Title:  My Laughable Life with Garfield

Author:  Jim Davis

Genre: Comedy / Animals / Comic Strip


Year Published: 2012


Year Read: 2013


Publisher: Ballantine Books

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 7+ (Some Rude Behavior)




Introduction:

For years, I have been reading comic books all about Garfield (well, he is the star of these comics)! But today is the first time I had ever read a “Garfield” comic book that does not center entirely on Garfield (although Garfield does appear in all of these strips) and that is “My Laughable Life with Garfield!”  This comic book is basically all about Garfield’s unlucky and dorky owner, Jon Arbuckle and how he eventually become a popular character in his own right in the “Garfield” comic strips and I have enjoyed every single comic strip in this volume!

What is this story about?

This volume basically not only contains all of the comic strips of Jon Arbuckle’s adventures with Garfield, but also detailing his background stories about living on the farm with is family, his dating disasters (until Liz showed up anyway) and his constant wardrobe malfunctions!

What I loved about this story:

Jim Davis’ writing: Jim Davis’ writing continues to be hilarious and witty throughout each comic book made of Garfield and this volume is definitely no exception to the rule!  I loved the fact that Jim Davis finally put together a volume that concentrated solely on Jon Arbuckle, since he is another popular character from the “Garfield” comics (well, Jon Arbuckle does appear in almost every “Garfield” comic strip, so that comes with a territory)!  I loved the way that Jim Davis detailed Jon Arbuckle’s life from dealing with Garfield, his former life on the family farm and eventually dating Garfield’s veterinarian, Liz.  The stories in this volume really gave Jon Arbuckle more depth to his character, especially when he originally started off as a guy who could not get a date because of his dorky personality to eventually getting a girlfriend in Liz, who was able to patiently deal with his dorky nature and I really loved that aspect of the series.  All the comics in this volume were just as hilarious as they were in any “Garfield” comic I had read and it was a treat seeing all the comics from the 1970s through the 2010s come together in one volume!  I also loved the little information tidbits on the side pages that describes about Jon Arbuckle’s life and his transition to the character he has become such as detailing his life on the farm and his several failed attempts at dating women.

Jim Davis’ artwork:  Jim Davis’ artwork is as usual hilarious to look at, especially of Jon Arbuckle and Garfield having large and rounded eyes.  It was also interesting in seeing how Garfield and Jon started out when they were introduced in the 1970s as their designs were much more different as they looked simpler and Garfield had a larger shape than he does recently.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “My Laughable Life with Garfield” is a brilliant volume for anyone who is a huge fan of Jon Arbuckle and would love to learn more about his life with Garfield and his dating life!



[BOOK REVIEW] Serenity: Better Days by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews




Title:  Serenity:  Better Days

Authors: Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews

Artist:  Will Conrad

Genre: Science Fiction / Action / Adventure / Comedy


Year Published: 2008


Year Read: 2013


Series:  Serenity #2


Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 13+ (Fight Scenes)




Introduction:

After reading the first volume “Serenity: Those Left Behind,” I was determined to read up on all the “Serenity” comics being made by Joss Whedon after the TV series “Firefly” was abruptly cancelled.  Now, I finally got a chance to read the second volume of the “Serenity” series called “Serenity: Better Days” and man, was it one hilarious and action-packed volume!

What is this story about?

When the crew of Serenity ended up finding a huge pile of cash, they all start having daydreams about what they will do with the money while at the same time, taking a nice vacation.  Unfortunately, a soldier who is out for vengeance on the “dust devils” (terrorists who work within the Independents) is doing everything in his power to ambush the crew of Serenity.

What I loved about this story:

Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews’ writing:  Once again, both Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews managed to write a completely hilarious, action-packed and emotional story rolled up into one volume!  After reading, “Serenity: Those Left Behind,” I assumed that this volume was going to continue after the events of that volume.  But, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this is a one-shot story about what the Serenity crew would do with so much money and how their lives would change if they actually had a successful heist.  I loved the way that Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews portrayed each character’s fantasy about being rich, with my favorite daydreams being Jayne’s and River’s since theirs were the funniest in the entire sequence!  I also loved the fact that Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews managed to explore how the characters all feel about being rich as their reactions were both expected and unexpected!  It was also interesting in introducing a new threat for the Serenity crew in the form of a soldier who wants revenge on the “dust devils” for killing so many innocent people.  I loved how this brought in a new viewpoint on the Battle of Serenity and how the independents (the group of survivors that Mal and Zoe are from) are being viewed as the bad guys, despite them fighting for their independence from the Alliance.  I also viewed the term “dust devils” as being a sort of derogatory term for the independents, which really adds so many layers to the after effects of the war of Serenity Valley.

Will Conrad’s artwork:  Will Conrad’s artwork as usual brilliantly grabs the close likeliness of the characters from the “Firefly” TV series; such as the artwork of Mal looking exactly like the actor, Nathan Fillion and the artwork of Jayne looking exactly like the actor, Adam Baldwin. I also loved the way that Will Conrad drew the action sequences as they look truly intense and exciting and I was so mesmerized by the various explosions and gunfights that occurs in this volume!

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

The reason why I took off half a point from the rating was that I felt that this story was a bit too short.  I actually wished that this volume a bit longer and explained more about the characters’ reactions to being rich.  I also wanted to know more about the “dust devils” situation with the soldier and how he knew about Mal and Zoe’s involvement with the Independents during the Battle of Serenity Valley. 

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Serenity: Better Days” is an extremely interesting read full of humor, emotion and action that would make “Firefly” fans proud! I would highly recommend this volume to anyone who is a huge fan of the “Firefly” TV series and enjoys a good stand-alone story!

 

 

[BOOK REVIEW] Serenity: Those Left Behind by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews


Title:  Serenity:  Those Left Behind

Authors:  Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews

Artist:  Will Conrad

Genre: Science Fiction / Action / Adventure / Comedy


Year Published: 2006


Year Read: 2013


Series:  Serenity #1


Publisher: Dark Horse Books

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 13+ (Fight Scenes)




Introduction:

Now, I will be honest here.  Even though I have seen many of Joss Whedon’s works in the past, I did not know anything about the infamous cancelled TV series “Firefly” up until recently.  What is even more surprising about this is that I had the movie “Serenity” for many years before I watched “Firefly” and I did not know that “Serenity” was a continuation of “Firefly” until I saw the movie again recently and realized that these were the same characters that I saw in “Firefly!”  So, after watching “Firefly” and “Serenity,” I decided to check out the comic books that were based off of this series and I stumbled upon “Serenity: Those Left Behind” which I realized was a missing story that bridge the gap between the TV series “Firefly” and the movie “Serenity” (which is a pretty clever way to get more stories told with this franchise)!

What is this story about?

After a treasure heist goes wrong, the crew of Serenity (Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds, Zoe and Wash Washburne, Inara Serra, River and Simon Tam, Kaylee Frye, Shepherd Book and Jayne Cobb) all try to find another way to earn money.  The opportunity comes up when a shifty man named Badger comes up and tells Mal that there is hidden treasure at the location where the Battle of Sturges had taken place and the Serenity crew decided to go to the location to find the treasure.  Meanwhile, Mal’s old nemesis Agent Dobson wants vengeance against Mal for shooting his eye out and goes after the Serenity Crew. At the same time, the two men who came from the Alliance Government try to find the Serenity Crew to take River Tam away.

What I loved about this story:

Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews’ writing: Actually, Brett Matthews wrote the script for this story and Joss Whedon created the idea for this story!  Anyway, the writing in this comic book was just fantastic!  I loved the fact that Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews were able to tell a prequel story for “Serenity” in order to bridge the gap between “Firefly” and “Serenity” for anyone who was wondering what events had taken place after the “Firefly” TV series got cancelled.  I loved the way that Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews focused on all of the characters and developed them even further than how they were developed in the TV series.  I was literally trying to figure out what direction the characters will go after “Firefly” got cancelled and I was more interested in the directions that Mal and River took in this story since I always found them to be the most interesting characters in this series!  I also enjoyed the various threats that the Serenity crew had to go up against in this story, especially when they ended up confronting the two men from the Alliance and Mal’s old nemesis, Agent Dobson.  It really helped close up any plot lines that centered on these characters and allowed us to move on to the story set up in the movie “Serenity.”

Will Conrad’s artwork:  Will Conrad’s artwork was simply amazing as all of the characters were perfect copies of the actors who played these characters in “Firefly!”  I loved the way that Will Conrad put so much detail into the characters’ designs as they look truly realistic and gorgeous and it made me feel like I was actually watching another episode of the TV series since the characters looked exactly as they were from the TV series!   I also loved the various artwork covers of each character that was done by a different artist as it brings so much creativity to this book. All of the cover designs were fantastic and each artist brought in so much life to this story, such as John Cassaday’s artwork for Mal, Joe Quesada and Danny Miki’s artwork for Zoe, Tim Bradstreet’s artwork for Shepherd Book, Brian Hitch’s artwork for Jayne, JG Jones’ artwork for Inara, Jo Chen’s artwork for Kaylee, Leinil Yu’s artwork for Simon, Josh Middleton’s artwork for River and Sean Phillips’ artwork for Wash.

What made me feel uncomfortable about this story:

The reason why I took off half a star was because I felt that this story would be too difficult for anyone who has not seen the “Firefly” TV series to really grasp.  Since this story takes place after the TV series “Firefly,” it seems like a requirement to actually look at the “Firefly” TV series to actually understand what this story and the characters are really about.  Also, I felt that this story was a bit too short in explaining about the events that happened before “Serenity” took place and I kind of wished that they explained more about how the characters’ lives are changing after “Firefly” got cancelled and how these events also affect the Alliance.  It just feels like this is the type of story that needs to be lengthy due to it tying up the loose ends between “Firefly” and “Serenity.”

Final Thoughts:

Overall, “Serenity: Those Left Behind” is a fantastic follow up story for “Firefly” and a great prequel for “Serenity” and anyone who is a huge fan of the “Firefly” series will definitely enjoy this comic book! 



* 2009 Hugo Award Nominee for Best Graphic Story




MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!!!


Sunday, December 15, 2013

[BOOK REVIEW] Jump, Frog, Jump! by Robert Kalan





Title:  Jump, Frog, Jump!

Author:  Robert Kalan

Artist:  Byron Barton

Genre: Animals / Food Chain / Suspense

Year Published: 1981

Year Read:  1991

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Source:  Purchased

Content Rating:  Ages 4+ (Some Intense Moments)


“Jump, Frog, Jump” is a lyrical children’s book written by Robert Kalan along with illustrations by Byron Barton and it is about how a small frog tries to avoid all the dangerous animals who all want it for their dinner. The food chain theme may be a bit too upsetting for smaller children to handle, but older children would most definitely enjoy this lyrical book about the food chain and a smart frog. 






Robert Kalan’s writing is highly creative and lyrical as he writes the explanation of the food chain in a lyrical prose and he effectively uses the phrase, “JUMP, FROG, JUMP!” every time a threat comes to the frog and it must jump away from the threat in order for it to stay alive. Byron Barton’s illustrations are colorful and simplistic as he makes the animals who threatened the frog looking menacing and sometimes scary, especially of the image of the turtle hiding behind the bushes looking viciously at the frog. I also love the way that Byron Barton illustrates the flowers and the bushes in green and red colors, making them look extremely beautiful. 


Parents should know that this book involves the food chain theme where the animals eat each other up each time the frog is in danger.  The idea that each animal is being eaten by another animal that is bigger than the last may upset small children who are not used to the food chain in the animal kingdom.  Parents may want to explain to their children about how the food chain works in the animal world and explain to them that even though this is a morbid way of telling the children that this is how animals survive in the wilderness, it is a natural system of the food chain in the animal kingdom. 


“Jump, Frog, Jump” is one of the greatest books about the natural order food chain for children as it is put in a lyrical format that young children would find simple to read. I would recommend this book to children ages four and up since the writing format is extremely simple for small children to read, but parents may need to explain the food chain in the animal world to them first before they read this book to their children.







[BOOK REVIEW] Wolves by Emily Gravett




Title:  Wolves

Author:  Emily Gravett

Genre: Animal / Information / Horror

Year Published: 2005
 
Year Read: 2013

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Source:  Library

Content Rating:  Ages 6+ (Some Scary Moments)




I have read many creepy children’s books over time (“The Spider and the Fly” and “Boris and Bella” being some of my most favorite dark and creepy children’s books), but after I heard about the infamous ending of Emily Gravett’s Kate Greenway Medal Award winning book children’s book “Wolves,” I just had to check this book out!

The book basically starts off with a rabbit going to the library and checking out a book that is about wolves. Throughout the book, the rabbit reads about a wolf’s natural habitat and the animals it eats.  Unfortunately, the rabbit is so engrossed in the book that he fails to notice that something might be following him...

After reading this book, I honestly believe that this is one of the most creative books that managed to combine both an intense and informative narrative in detailing the nature of wolves!  I loved the way that Emily Gravett informed the readers about how wolves live and what kind of animals they eat, while also providing enough suspense for the readers whenever the rabbit is being mysteriously followed by a certain animal while reading his book.  Emily Gravett’s artwork is also beautifully done as the wolves look truly scary with their gray and ruffled fur and sharp teeth.  I also loved the image of the rabbit as it is white colored and has a chubby body that makes it look so innocent.

The reason why I gave this book a four star rating is because I felt that the story was a bit cluttered, in terms of deciding what story it wanted to be.  It seems like it was trying to be informative about wolves, but at the same time, it is like it was trying to go for a horror story angle about the rabbit being followed by a certain animal throughout the book.  Even though I liked the fact that the story was trying to combine these two aspects together, it seem like there was not a cohesive story about the rabbit and wolves co-existing with each other.  Also, parents should know that the ending might be a bit disturbing for small children (well, it really depends on what version of this book you get, like for example, the version I got had an alternative happier ending).

Overall, “Wolves” is a truly interesting book that helps give readers information about wolves and I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading books about wolves! I would recommend this book to children ages six and up since the ending might disturb smaller children (depending on which version you get).

* 2005 Kate Greenaway Medal