Archive for the Western Comic/Comix Category


BD: La Rose Ecarlate – Missions Tome 01: Le Spectre de la Bastille 1/2 (French)

November 28th, 2016

51n9kvh14alWhen I visited Paris this past summer, I found myself staying, almost miraculously, in the middle of Geek Central, surrounded by comic and figurine and bande dessinée stores galore. It was not intentional, but it was fortuitous. ^_^ During one afternoon off, my wife and wandered the area and threw some Euro at the French economy. I chose three BD volumes, each one for a specific reason. Today we’re going to look at the first of the three, Volume 1 of La Rose Ecarlate, written by Patricia Lyfoung, illustrated by Jenny. 

I chose La Rose Ecarlate for several obvious reasons. It clearly stars a woman as a masked thief, and also includes a attractive damsel a monster and a conspiracy!  And, most appealingly, the art style and story-telling is very shoujo manga. The story is reasonably predictable – a young man and woman of noble rank, who happen to be lovers, are going out at night as the gentleman and woman theives, Le Renard and Le Rose Ecarlate, the Fox and the Scarlet Rose. 

The first volume includes a small romantic setback, as a childhood friend of Count Guilhem, Le Renard, arrives during a dance and seems much too comfortable with the young count. But, when Adele and Maud, Le Rose Ecarlate, become friends, they bond over Guilhem’s foibles and  become fast friends. 

We then look back at the origin of the Rose and Fox, and, as the volume comes to an end, move into the main narrative about a phantom who steals away young women. They end up saving Adele, and being chased by the gendarmes through a house of ill repute. They kiss, and end the book promising to solve the mystery of “Le Spectre De La Bastilles.” 

There’s no Yuri, although while I don’t put it past the series to have, at some point, an overenthusiastic thanks from a fair maiden, this volume was pretty straight.

Totally adorable in every way. Not a single word that wasn’t completely predictable, but a rollicking good yard, some very pretty full-color shoujo manga-style art and a main couple that didn’t make you roll your eyes in despair. Neither Maud nor Guilhem are damseled, although one  might well have to rescue the other, it could easily go either way. The art was very well done, and I appreciated the touches that said “this is manga style,” like shoujo bubbles in the background. ^_^

The BD format, which is a large, thin, hardbound volume, worked to the strengths of the story and art. Large saturated-color pages were still easy to read. I used the Google Translate app on my phone when I was really unsure of the dialogue, but mostly, I could just guess what was being said, if my French wasn’t up to snuff.

For my first foray in to manga-style bande dessinée, La Rose Ecarlate was a charmer.

Ratings: 

Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Overall – 8

I probably won’t be getting later volumes, but if you’re interested in reading this and later volumes on your Kindle, you  can! If you’re a French-language reader and want to let us know how the story progresses, please feel free to write in. ^_^

 

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Steven Universe ~ The Answer (English)

September 6th, 2016

AnswerSUWell, how fortuitous! Just this morning, I was reading and sharing an article on PBS.org, Rebecca Sugar, Cartoon Network’s first female creator, on writing LGBTQ stories for kids, and lo and behold! my copy of The Answer, arrived. ^_^

The Answer is a hardcover children’s storybook, based on episode 22 of the second season of the Cartoon Network breakout hit, Steven Universe. The episode deals with the origin of Garnet, in which a powerful Sapphire and a common Ruby change fate to be together.

In the episode and the book, we are introduced to the Gems of Homeworld who are bent upon taking over Earth, opposed only by the Crystal Gems led by Rose Quartz. A Sapphire with foresight knows everything that will happen, including her own fate, but the rash behavior of one of her Ruby guards changes…everything.

The cartoon episode is absolutely grin-making, with a catchy little ditty sung by the two gems as they ponder their combined fate. I wondered how they would adapt that into a book?

They did a teriffic job. The illustations by Tiffany Ford and Elle Michalka, are swell, without trying to be the same as in the cartoon. But what really makes the book work is the border in which Ruby and Sapphire carry on a meta-textual conversation.

Artwork from "The Answer" by Rebecca Sugar, author, Tiffany Ford, illustrator, and Elle Michalka, illustrator. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sugar

The story, written by and adapted for this book by Rebecca Sugar, is everything good and right with Steven Universe. Ruby and Sapphire confront being different, acknowledge what and who they are and learn to accept it with Rose Quartz’s help. This is an epic, colorful coming out story about two queer characters in brightly colored pictures with loving and accepting language, drawn and written especially for queer kids.

I hope I don’t have to tell you what to do now, do I? Get this book for yourself and a second copy for your local library. Tell the library this is a children’s book from a very popular TV cartoon. Tell friends with kids about it and lend your copy to them. Give it as gifts to child relatives and friends. Suggest this thing until people roll their eyes, because this book is a game-changer.

Ratings:

Art – 9
Story – 9
Characters 10
LGBTQ – 10

Overall – 10

I cannot imagine what my life might have been like if Steven Universe was in existence when I was young, but I like to think it wouldn’t be all that much different than it is now.  The important thing is for the next geeky, queer kid who comes down the pike will have a book like this to read. How awesome for them. ^_^

Also, I think I want a poster of the cover. (*_*)

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SYNCANDI Multimedia Comic

September 4th, 2016

issue01-jp-COVERSYNCANDI is a sci-fi multimedia web/digital comic. Subtitled “real love in a synthetic world,” it portrays a moment of existence for Sync, an augmented human who has, over time, become 90% synthetic and Ikkyu the synthetic human healer Sync has kidnapped in order to extend her own life.

Sync takes Ikkyu into an “abandoned experimental zone”, Genies Res, to await her death as freely as she can manage. They are, of course being hunted by the corporate overlords. Ikkyu meets a shaman who may be the key to healing Sync.

The art is better than average, but not great. I’d call it a talented amateur level. Characters sit upon the backgrounds, rather than within them. The story synopsis having been established on the website, is then sort of ignored for what is supposed to be a romantic interlude between these two synthetic humans…without any effort made at building the relationship.

Let me overthink this for a moment. Ikkyu is a healer. It stands to reason that she’s naturally empathetic. It’s well known that patients develop profound emotional attachment with the medical professionals who treat them. It would, therefore, seem like a little effort needs to be made for this “relationship” to not seem kind of..icky? But Sync is supposed to be the tough, but fragile, non-verbal type, ala Xena, while Ikkyu is clearly meant to be the obvious femme to Sync’s butch. With their relationship established when we reach Genies Res right at the beginning of the comic, there’s nothing to tell us how they got to this place where they are both okay sleeping with each other. In a print comic I might allow this. There’s no excuse for not taking some time to walk us up to this point in a digital offering. 2 pages, and we’d be in sympatico. 4 pages and we’d feel the characters at a much deeper level than we do.

The story is told through digital comics and multimedia. And it has some interesting features. The website includes a story trailer and a music video which, if watched alone is a mere curiosity, but watching it after issue 4 of the comic, where I left off, could very well be the next “issue” itself. The site also contains a blog which contains Ikkyu’s Journal, which gives readers insight to the story from another perspective.

The story has updates monthly.

Highly influenced by cyberpunk and Japanese culture, the story itself is available in English- and Japanese-language versions

Ratings:

Art – 6
Story – 7
Character – 7
Yuri – 8
Service – 6

Overall – 7

Syncandi is a decent enough idea and with a few small refinements in future issues, could become compelling. All it needs is a little depth and a little polish.

Thanks to Roberto of STUDIO SYNCANDI for the review copy!

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Adventure Time Cartoon (English)

August 26th, 2016

front porchI’m late to this party, I know. It was last year or so when Dreiser (the very same Dreiser who coined “AniLesboCon”) sat my ass down and did an epic description of the Marceline x Princess Bubblegum (Bubbeline) relationship across all of Adventure Time. I’d seen some random episodes of AT and liked it fine, but up to that point, my favorite character was BMO. ^_^ I loved the happy-go-lucky stories, the anime references, the goofy way things played out, but never was caught up by the story overall.

I mean, sure we all like Jake makin’ bacon pancakes, but the show was very hit or miss for me. I did like Bubblegum Princess and Marceline quite a lot. When AT did a Marceline-focused arc, I promised myself I’d sit down and really watch it, but then just never did.

Recently one of my favorite lesbian sites on the Internets, Autostraddle wrote up a passionate review of their relationship and went so far as to detail episodes one should watch, in order, to see their story. Finally, I went and did the thing.

Start here, with “Adventure Time” Lets Marceline And Princess Bubblegum Grow Up (And Old) Together  by Heather Hogan. Even if you don’t watch all the episodes, the article is A level fangirling and worth reading for itself. ^_^

In 2014, Olivia Olsen, Marceline’s voice actress, stated that she had been told by series creator Pendleton Ward that Marcy and BP had been (and she thought they ought to be) a couple, but because queer programming might offend some TV markets, it was left as subtext.

There was some kerfuffle after this. Denialists aside, at this point, it’s almost *more* enraging for fans when absurdly obvious subtext stays subtext. Which is partially why Rebecca Sugar, who had worked on AT, created Steven Universe. She saw a huge need for overt text queer representation in cartoons. So yay Adventure Time for cracking that door open. I especially wanted to give this cartoon some props for that, before taking on the new season of Steven Universe.

I’m going to say that, plausible deniability be damned, no one smells another person’s t-shirt every morning, if they are just friends. ^_^ Marcy and BP get close from time to time to saying something important, but they aren’t going to because this is a show about people for whom romance gets in the way of watching a movie or going on adventures. Nonetheless, BP’s assurance that when Marceline dies, she’d be the one to bury her and Marceline’s request that they grow up and spend their lives together pretty much indicates exactly what you’d expect.

While in Japan in the spring I came across this little tote bag and completely lost my shit. ^_^

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I had no use for it and it was way too expensive but I went back 3 times to fight with myself about buying it. ^_^

So, with Marceline and Bubblegum, we have canon, but not overt text. Very close, but not quite in the gold. Adventure Time gets a silver medal from us on presentation and general audience reaction.

Ratings:

Art – 6 Even as goofy as it is, it’s sometimes good
Story – 8 It can be hit or miss, but more hit than miss
Characters – 9 Their self-awareness and honesty can take an adult’s breath away. Thundarr was never like this.
Yuri – 4 It’s subtexty, but sometimes gets really close to that line

Overall – 8

Possibly even more importantly, Adventure Time heralded a new age of amazing American cartoon storytelling, the likes of which I had not seen in decades. We’re in a really good place for cartooning in America and I, for one, am thrilled.

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Western Comic: I Thought You Hated Me

August 7th, 2016

ithoughtyouhatedmeEvery once in a while, a comic comes along that is so beautiful you just want to run around with copies and hand them out, screaming “READ THIS! READ IT RIGHT NOW!”

I Thought You Hated Me, by Mari Naomi is one of those comics.

I Thought You Hated Me is a tale of female friendship from  elementary school through adulthood, with all the trials and tribulations possible. Naomi’s stripped down art and short-vignettes highlight key pieces of two lives, from which we can extrapolate all the other emotions and experiences that fill a life. Like an incredibly sophisticated pastry, you could peel layers from this book for days and still have more layers to look at.

I read this book in one gulp, something I almost never do anymore. Paging through it with an urgency that surprised me, I needed to know where it would wrap up. And my thought upon completing it was that it was absolutely beautiful.

I Thought You Hated Me is a triumphant story of love and life shared between two people and a much-needed look at the complexities of female friendship.

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 9
Characters – 9
LGBTQ – 3

Overall – 9

I recommend this book highly. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon for a low $9 and you can read preview pages at Retrofit Comics. It’ll make a great gift for your best friend. ^_^

Thanks very much to Mari Naomi for the review copy. It was a real treat to read this and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!

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