Tag Archives: review

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ArtSnacks is Deliciously Awesome

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For my birthday this year, my Grammy (who is one of the most interesting people I know and I could tell stories about her for days) said she would help cover two subscriptions for me. I just had to tell her which ones I wanted.

I knew my answer straight away. 1. A subscription to The Artist’s Magazine (which I’ll talk about in a future post) and 2. A subscription to ArtSnacks.

Now, ArtSnacks is NOT paying me to write this. They didn’t ask me to write this, either. I’m just writing this to tell you about the service…

Because it’s deliciously awesome. Continue reading →

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Review Day Tuesday: House Girls and Mare Internum

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Today’s vlog is all about comparing House Girls to Mare Internum, and why I think House Girls succeeds on more levels.

You can read House Girls on the Stela app for iOS, where it updates weekly, and read Mare Internum online. Read both and decide for yourself which one you like.

Thank you for watching!

You. Are. Awesome.

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Review Day Tuesday… in Video!

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Today I want to try something new.

“What?”

I’ll tell you.

I’m reviewing THREE new comics in a new format: as a vlog!

Now you can click the video below and watch my new reviews:

The links to these comics I talk about are listed below:

Ranger Pugsly’s Camp for Adventurous Youth AND The Good, The Bad and the Pugsly by Jonathon Wallach.

Taken Literally by Joshua Chappell. (This one may not be online).

What did you think of the video? Want me to do more Review Day Tuesdays like this? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Thanks for watching!

You. Are. Awesome.

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“Between the Sheets” by Erika Sakurazawa: The Review

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Before I get to the review, I need to do some housekeeping.

First, I’ll be making an appearance at Interventioncon in Rockville, MD/ Washington DC area this weekend, August 22 through the 24. Christian Beranek and I will be there promoting Validation and meeting everybody, so if you’re in the neighborhood, we’d love to meet you!

Second, I’ve added some new work here on the site. Check out the Sketches section if you’re interested in some character designs and other works I’ve done recently.

And now, the review, or as I like to put it, “How to Suck at Being A Romantic Lover.”

between the sheets manga cover

“Between the Sheets” was a rare find, especially since I got the Tokyopop copy, and Tokyopop is no longer a company here in the United States. Special thanks goes to my local comic shop, Hobby’s Inc in Bridgeport, for carrying this and other Tokyopop titles.

I bought this book expecting a great lesbian love story. Did it live up to what I had in mind?

No.

The book can be described pretty well as “watch two awful young ladies in Japan make terrible life decisions about relationships and pull shit to try and make each other jealous.”

The two characters, Saki (who I only know because the main character’s narration never stops talking about her) and Minako, are best friends. But Minako develops romantic feelings for Saki, who unfortunately is straight and keeps hooking up with absolutely terrible men who cheat on her with other women.

It eventually gets to a point where Minako sleeps with one of Saki’s boyfriends in order to prove that he is a grade-A douche and that she’s the only one that cares about Saki by protecting her from these men.

In case you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of this story.

The characters are flat and one-dimensional. You never see them do anything else other than talk to each other about boys. They go out shoe shopping at one point, but only because one of Saki’s lovers works at the shoe store. Saki is the driving force of the story, but she is the only driving force. She’s the reason the other characters act out, which is problematic, because they’re usually acting out to get her attention and love.

The romances (if you can call them romances) are actually quite poisonous. Saki herself has a double standard – where she can have affairs but her sexual partners aren’t allowed to have them (or at least, let her find out about them, as she tries to justify later). A relationship should be built on trust, and Saki is more than willing to break those bonds of trust for her own gratification.

Sadly, Minako is still in love with Saki, thinking that if only Saki could recognize her love, she would recognize she was a fool and just run away with Minako.

Except, no. That’s not how people work.

And then Minako sleeps with Saki’s partners in an effort to 1) get as close to her as possible, and 2) make Saki realize that the men in her life are terrible and therefore run to Minako, who is safe and wonderful and the “only one who really loves her.”

That is exceptionally problematic. Jealousy and bitterness are not sound foundations for a relationship of any kind. Sleeping with your best friend’s partners is an even bigger no-no, because it breaches trust with not just the partners, but with your friends.

Minako finds out about that at the end of the story (I’ll spoil it for you) when she tells Saki she slept with her boyfriends. Saki slaps her in the face (no surprise there) and screams at her to leave and never come back.

The story ends with Minako making love to one of Saki’s ex-lovers, and you can tell by the dialogue that they are both still very hung-up about Saki.

To me, Saki is not interesting enough to be a driving force in the story. As I said, she’s one-dimensional and that dimension is a terrible human being.

The art is very sparse throughout the whole thing, which sort of makes sense because the author probably wanted the focus to be more on the main characters’ emotions. Still, couldn’t Sakurazawa fill in more panels? Because the story is already empty enough without the unfinished panels and empty pages.

I am not kidding, there are some pages that are just word balloons and one or two faces. There’s no detail in the characters’ costumes or environments, either. The art is simple to the point of being boring and flat, not to mention that the tones are sloppy. A lot of people give Yoshihiro Togashi crap for some of the later volumes of Hunter x Hunter being “rushed,” but at least he made an effort and finished the artwork that he started drawing. Sakurazawa was in such a rush to make this story that sometimes whole pages are left empty and white and the tones are all over the place, like she didn’t have the time to clean up. Were her deadlines just brutal for this project? I don’t know.

In conclusion, “Between the Sheets” is a book you can definitely skip. There are, I’m sure, other lesbian love stories out there that are better crafted and care more about the characters than what can be seen in this work. Want a good place to start? Try Ai Yazawa’s work. She has far more enjoyable characters, facial expressions, and romances.

Know any good comics or manga I should review? Suggest them in the comments!

Also, I’m looking forward to meeting you all in DC for Interventioncon!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you on Wednesday.

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Cairo: A Review

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Cairo_-_Vertigo_tpb

I first read this graphic novel back in high school. It was actually one of the first books I read that made me go, “That’s it! I wanna’ make comics!” But then I moved out of town and I’ve been searching for another copy of this book for YEARS.

Lo and behold, I found a copy at a shop here in Phoenix and I snatched it, and I have loved it over and over again ever since.

If you’ve never heard of this book, I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s a Vertigo title that came out around 2007, and the top selling titles at that period were WatchmenNaruto, and Batman: The Killing Joke.

At least Cairo was voted among the top graphic novels for teens by both the American Library Association AND the School Library Journal (according to Wikipedia).

The story is written by G. Willow Wilson – yes, the same lady who is now writing the new Ms. Marvel comic series. She also won a 2013 World Fantasy Award for her book Alif the Unseen. So you know just based on these accolades that Cairo will be good.

The story is illustrated by M.K. Perker., who in 2001 became the first Turkish artist accepted into the Society of Illustrators based in New York. Plus he’s done a million things in his native Turkey. He’s a great artist.

Ok, enough fun facts for right now – let’s dip into the story.

Cairo follows three different plot lines that eventually merge into one in the middle of the story, and it takes place in modern-day Cairo, Egypt (but it’s safe to assume it happens before the Arab Spring uprisings, as there are mentions of government censorship).

The first plot follows Ashraf, a drug trafficker who hawks off a hookah only to find out his boss, Nar, REALLY wants that hookah back. The second plot line follows Shaheed, a Lebanese-American kid who bough Ashraf’s hookah, and discovers that it is the house of a Jinn named Shams. Shams enlists Shaheed to help him find a box that Nar stole from him. The third plot line follows a reporter friend of Ashraf’s, Ali, and an American girl named Kate, who are both held hostage by Nar’s henchmen until Ashraf gets Nar the hookah.

Stir in some supernatural elements, including the fact that Sham’s box contains the word EAST in a sacred language, a river that runs under a river, and devils and jinns with memorable names like, “Evil-Under-His-Armpit.” And then you have yourself a fun, thrilling, and sometimes disturbing book about the intersection of choice and fate.

Everything that happens in the book braids itself beautifully into a great story. Without getting too much into what happens, it’s paced very well and had me engrossed in its pages.

So I can’t talk too much about the story without revealing spoilers, so I’m going to talk about the art for a bit.

It’s fantastic to look at (the cross-hatching style is done very well in this book), and it does unique things with page layouts and panels. Look at this page, for example, when Shams is guiding Shaheed in how to obtain this magic sword.

Cairo_Graphic_novel_page

That kind of experimentation is great to see.

There are a few other instances of panels being used in unorthodox ways, and some pages are guided just by the flow of the speech balloons. In fact, this graphic novel would be a great candidate for study under Will Eisner’s and Scott McCloud’s comics principles.

But if you’re reading purely for enjoyment, read this book. It’s a great adventure thriller and it delivers well.

If you’re reading to study the art of comics or even how to write them, read this book. The techniques are a great introduction to more complex ideas than what’s typically seen in comics. (Chris Ware, I’m looking at you).

I hope you found this review helpful. I’m aware that the book has been out for a while (it deserves to be revisited), but in the future I’ll be reviewing more recent comics. I hope you’ll stick around!