Comics and Manga

Bite-Sized Comics Review: RELISH by Lucy Knisley

Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment
relish lucy knisley cover.jpg

Relish by Lucy Knisley

This is the sort of bits and pieces, slice of life memoir that stirs up all kinds of fond memories of food in my family's kitchen growing up. Being Cuban, that meant lots of plantains, pork, beans, and rice, and delicious desserts like arroz con leche, flan, and torrejas, among other things. In Relish, Lucy shares stories of her childhood and beyond which relate to food. In some cases, she shares stories that revolve around family meals, and in others, discovering great foods in places like Mexico (and what was going on in her life at that time). Sprinkled in between chapters, she shares excellent recipes that'll have your mouth watering. Seriously, depending on how you organize your bookshelves, you might be equally tempted to sort this in with your comics or your cookbooks. If you have a "the best [insert dish here] I've ever tasted in my life was at...." story, then this book is for you. If you have a "when I was a kid, I used to love eating [insert fun and possibly gross food memory here]..." story, then this book is for you. Basically, if you like food, this book is for you. 


Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment
dead weight murder at camp bloom cover.jpg

Dead Weight: Murder At Camp Bloom by Molly Muldoon, Terry Blas, and Matthew Seely

To be released April 2018. 

If you enjoy a good murder mystery, this book is definitely for you. Served with body positivity, diverse characters, and beautiful art and coloring. A group of teenagers at a weight-loss camp witness a murder at the hands of a counselor, but can't identify exactly which one. Now they can't trust any of the adults, but they still intend to find the killer and bring them to justice. Great characterization and design really make this story shine. Great for fans of Lumberjanes or any other away camp setting in their comics.

cover by Genevieve FT

cover by Genevieve FT

Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, Joy San, et al. 

Released Valentine's Day 2018. 

Hazel and Mari met as young teens, become instant best friends, and fall in love at exactly the wrong time. Their families don't accept their love, and they go their separate ways, start "traditional" families of their own, and begin to grow old. Decades later, they meet again at the same place they met the first time around - church bingo. Is it fate? This beautiful romance spanning a lifetime explores love at different stages of life, the needs and desires of older women which are frequently under-represented, and how attitudes and conventions have changed over time. 

Bite-Sized Comics Reviews: DRAMA and ROLLER GIRL

Comics and Manga, BooksKristina PinoComment

Drama by Raina Telgemeier (2012)

Drama follows middle schooler Callie and her friends in stage crew and drama putting on a production of Moon Over Mississippi. The overarching plot is how Callie's into set design and she wants the show to look Broadway-worthy, but more than anything this story is about friendships, working hard, and the trials and tribulations of middle school life. Telgemeier really shines here in her realistic portrayal of kids and young teens, and her depictions of a diverse range of characters. Great read with something to say about working hard, evaluating self worth, empathy, acceptance, and doing what makes you happy.


Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (2015)

In Roller Girl, we see just how much it matters to surround yourself with an amazing and diverse support group (read: girl gang), especially if you're a young girl whose identity has basically revolved around one friendship. Astrid watches a roller derby bout for the first time and decides then and there she wants to go to her local team's roller derby camp. Her best friend decides to go to dance camp instead, and she's left to navigate all these new experiences alone. Astrid makes new friends, learns new skills, and most importantly, learns a lot about herself. This all-ages read is all about girl power, teamwork, resolving conflicts, and celebrating differences, and it's absolutely brilliant. Also, I definitely want to go watch some roller derby for real, now.


Books, Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace & Babbage by Sydney Padua

This book, which comprises approximately 40% comics, 40% footnotes, and 20% straight up notes, copied letters/documents, and illustrated references, begins with a short biography of the lives and works of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage, followed by an alternate history series of comics as if they had successfully build the first computer and continued to live long, healthy lives full of adventures and successfully solved mysteries. While the alternate history (named the Pocket Universe) is all in good fun and sort of made-up, many of the events and characters are absolutely grounded in real history, all of which is explained in footnotes and appendices. I've learned more about the era Lovelace and Babbage lived in and other pioneering writers, inventors, mathematicians, and scientists, especially ladies who are so often erased from this history, reading this "(mostly) true story of the first computer" than I ever did in history lessons. Give it a try. Read it slowly. Read all the footnotes. Super clever - appropriate for anyone into history, or computers, or math, or general nerdery.

X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon

Don't be fooled by this book's classification of "novel." Though the authors take some liberties when it comes to the general antics and conversations depicted within, all the events, and most of the people, definitely happened or existed. Its subject is Malcolm X, specifically his adolescence, that turbulent period of his life leading up to his arrest and his years in prison before emerging as a human rights activist. If you've read Malcolm's autobiography then you're already aware of the events of the novel, but it's presented in an entirely different way. X: A Novel gives his story so much life, and incredible intimacy. You spend the entire book in his head - really, it's a powerful read. At the end, Shabazz goes a little bit into some historical background, things or people she left out for brevity, and outlines exactly the few, inconsequential things that are entirely made up. This book is so gripping and so important. Appropriate for high school and above.

Mid-Year Check-in: My Reading Stats

Books, Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

I talked about diversifying my reading and reading challenges and all of that, but now it's time to see how it's going with the walking. It's officially July, so I've tallied up the books I've read so far and checked out the vital stats. I've included: prose books, trade volumes (comics), graphic novels (also comics), and audiobooks in my count. I haven't been reading a lot-a lot, but that's what happens when work gets hectic and then you move (twice). Without further ado:

Total number of books: 22
Lady authors/creators: 16/22 (73%)
Authors/creators of color: 12/22 (55%)
Translated works: 10/22 (45%)
Works in Spanish: 0/5 (0% of my goal of 5)

I was getting a little worried, if I could be honest here, because I felt like my #fridayreads videos lately were looking pretty heavy on the white author dudes. But as it turns out, I've been well on track. Now, here are a few superlatives for you:

Most surprising: Four Nights With the Duke by Eloisa James. I didn't really know what to expect when I took a chance on romance, but I loved it.

Best find: Hellboy. Thanks to the local library, I just grabbed a bunch of random books and, surprise, surprise, I found something super rad.

Most Unputdownable: Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger. I delayed and delayed listening to this book, because there's only one left after this one, but alas - I couldn't stop listening once I hit play. (my review)

The Quiet Read: When Marnie Was There by Joan Robinson

Voices That Stuck With Me Most: White Teeth by Zadie Smith (I read this in print, btw)

Right! These are my mid-year stats. I'm pretty happy with them, and I'm looking forward to keeping track of the rest of this year's reads. Let me know how you're doing if you're also tracking your reading goals.

Comics Review: ODDLY NORMAL vol. 1 by Otis Frampton

Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

"Meet Oddly Normal, a ten-year-old girl with pointed ears and green hair—a half-witch who will be the first to tell you that having a mother from a magical land called Fignation and a father from Earth doesn't make it easy to make friends at school! On her tenth birthday, she blows out her cake's candles and makes a disastrous wish. Now, Oddly must travel to Fignation to uncover the mystery of her parents' disappearance. Join Oddly as she navigates a strange new school, monstrous bullies, and Evil itself on an unforgettable fantasy adventure through the vibrant world of Fignation in ODDLY NORMAL."

Our heroine Oddly is half-witch, half-Earthian. The Earth she lives in isn't really magic-infused or anything at all, though: Oddly doesn't attend a Hogwarts-like school, and her mother is totally incognito. But her green hair and pointy ears scores her a lot of unwanted attention. Frampton doesn't hold back at all with the bullying theme in this series, and he created a main character who feels out of place everywhere: even at home. This Earth, in direct similarity to Dorothy Gale's world in The Wizard of Oz, is characterized by dull and drab color schemes (browns and greys and blues) and some gloomy weather. Everything about it is dreary.

On her birthday, she's frustrated, and says a few things she didn't mean, and suddenly her parents are gone. In the course of this book, she's transported to Fignation, which is the magical world her mother came from, and dives into a whole new set of experiences, including attending a new school, now with odd children who bully her for the opposite reason as before - she's simply not odd enough.

Once Oddly is in Fignation, things change for the reader, too. We start seeing some truly stunning background artwork filling the panels, with dreamy color schemes and funny little cameos - just as we experienced the change to vibrant color when Dorothy landed in Oz. I spotted nods to various classic horror stories, and even a twisted sort of homage to Totoro. If you know your fairy tales, you may spot a few references here and there, too, including a sign marking/labeling Yellow Brick Road and a delightful little tribute to Peter Pan. Fignation is all about what's in your imagination, and the stories we know about here on Earth.

The pacing is rather quick, and some of the characters are over the top, but I think it only adds to the experience. After all, our main character is a 10-year old whose life changes in the course of an afternoon. That isn't to say the story is rushed: we still get to meet key characters, including a few misfits who befriend Oddly at her new school in Fignation. There's a hopeful tone by the end of this book - an indication that despite being thrust into this new, unknown world that has always been kept from her, Oddly's probably going to be alright. And she'll get to explore her heritage, which is an angle I enjoy.

This book collects the first five issues of Oddly Normal, and is a full-color, 128-page paperback. It's going to be released March 11th for MSRP US$9.99. I read this digitally and in advance thanks to Diamond/Image on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. If you do pick up this book and end up loving it, you can read Oddly's continuing adventures issue-by-issue, starting with #6 slated for release April 15th.

New Gallery: ArtFX+ Arkham City Batman Statue by Kotobukiya

Comics and Manga, ToysKristina PinoComment

I've uploaded a new toy photo gallery featuring Arkham City's Batman, as produced by Kotobukiya. My review of this figure went up on Tomopop a couple of days ago, so for more detailed thoughts about this wonderful release, do check there.

I love this statue, and later this year, when I can get him in a better lighting setup and ahead of a different backdrop, I may just post another batch of photographs.


Books, Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

I don't think the three books I'm looking at this time around could be any different from each other, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Star Wars: Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

It was a long time coming, but I've finally started reading the Thrawn trilogy! This book takes place five years after the events of the last Star Wars film (at the time of writing, that's Episode VI) when Leia is pregnant with her and Solo's twins, and Luke is trying to figure out how to become a better and stronger Jedi so he can lead and teach others. We meet a few new characters, including the kick-butt Mara Jade and the super strategist Grand Admiral Thrawn, from whom this book trilogy gets its name. I guess I should also clarify this book is classified as non-canon now.

Thrawn is hell-bent on destroying the New Republic with the goal of restoring the Empire to glory. It's well-paced and fun to read, and the author really has a great sense of the characters. If you enjoyed the movies, you should have no problems diving into these and actually seeing the scenes play out in your head.

Being the first of a trilogy of books, it should be obvious that Thrawn is no chump. The danger he poses to the main characters feels real and bears a lot of weight because you know their problems aren't over with the first book. Very exciting, because we know that they're going to pull some fab narrow escapes and fancy maneuvers to get out of each scrape. And that's one of the things I love most about Star Wars.

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

This graphic novel was gifted to me by my fellow Rioter and Panelteer Brenna, who got me as her gift exchange recipient person. I pretty much started and finished it on the very day it was delivered to my door.

Rose and Windy are pals who see each other every summer at this beach-side cottage getaway along with their families. They're 15 in this story, which makes them a little too old for some things they always enjoyed doing, but too young for some of the teen-age/new adult/parental drama that's going on. The book has this quiet sort of atmosphere to it - it's hard to explain, I just felt "quiet" reading it. It isn't colorful and the panels are hand-drawn and everything has this awesome mix of manga-like toning and brush strokes like an ink painting.

There is and there isn't an over-arching plot: there's stuff going on, but the focus is more inward, more on the two main characters and how they're dealing with all the stuff going on around them than the events themselves. And of course, how they help each other deal. The book touches upon some of the bigger issues that plague teens at their age, like sex and gender, as well as the different kinds of relationships they may have with their parents.

Great book about growing up, and gorgeous presentation by First Second and everyone who participated in its design.

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

I picked this up at my village library because, more than anything else, I was surprised to see it there. Being in Japan, and out in the countryside, a lot of the books in the English language section are either cook books, picture books, children's fiction, some middle grade and young adult, and a good chunk of classics. I didn't expect to see fiction about a stylish London girl who is up to her eyeballs in debt because she can't resist shopping despite being a financial journalist and really knowing better. It seemed fun and random enough that I grabbed it.

I've seen the movie adaptation once, a long time ago, and I was surprised to find that the book was much kinder to the protagonist. At least, my vague memory of the film is I spent a lot of time cringing and feeling really embarrassed for her, but I liked this book version much better. Rebecca is quite silly and easily distracted most of the time, but I enjoyed her internal monologues and day-dreaming. Fine little fluff, easy to read, had some laughs.

Don't jump into this expecting anything deep or some complicated plot - it's a fun read and things just kind of happen. The entire thing is written in the present tense, which I'm not really used to. I mentioned before I picked this book up because it surprised me to see it at my local library, but there's more: I also grabbed it because I like to drop wild card books that I normally wouldn't into my reading pile now and again. Variety is the spice of life, right? Anyway, am glad I picked this one.

Comic Book Review: TEEN TITANS: EARTH ONE, vol. 1

Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

A new original graphic novel in DC's popular "Earth One" series, TEEN TITANS: EARTH ONE follows in the tradition of SUPERMAN: EARTH ONE and BATMAN: EARTH ONE, both of which were #1 New York Times bestsellers.

The Teen Titans never felt like normal kids... but they had no idea how right they were. Their seemingly idyllic Oregon upbringing hides a secret -- one that will bring killers, shamans, and extraterrestrials down on their heads, and force them into an alliance that could shake the planet to its foundations!

Superstars Jeff Lemire (ANIMAL MAN, GREEN ARROW) and Terry Dodson (WONDER WOMAN) reinvent DC's youngest heroes, with an all-new mythos in an all-new world!

The great team working on this: Jeff Lemire (writer) Terry and Rachel Dodson (art), and others: Cam Smith (on ink with Rachel), Brian Anderson (on colors with Terry), and Jared Fletcher on letters.

I should start this review off by saying that besides what I've gleaned from episodes of the Teen Titans cartoon from way back, I actually don't know much about these guys. I know they're kids with powers, and they face problems that range from "typical teen issues" to mega-villains. And some of them are sidekicks, though in this graphic novel there's a noted lack of those in particular. I picked this book up because it looked like a good way to get a fresh start.

On that front, I think this book is great. You get a full introduction to most of the main characters, where they come from, how their lives were before they gained their abilities, and a tiny glimpse of where they're going from there - all wrapped up in a neat package. The comic is easy on the eyes, and easy to follow in general. As far as I can tell, it doesn't rely on any prior knowledge (being an Earth One title, the creators can basically do what they want), but readers who have more background are likely to find a lot of references to the larger world these characters belong in (in other iterations, anyway). In that sense, it's probably safe to say this is a book that's friendly towards new fans and also fun for older ones, if the older ones can deal with a full GN of origin stories.

The characters are believable and it's clear the team here is in touch with what works in young adult storytelling and what doesn't. The art lends itself to this as well, changing in style and fluidity throughout the volume. The coloring, everything, the entire ensemble works towards this organic, constantly morphing sort of style that I think speaks to the lives of teens, and it's all held together with great dialogue.

The book is well-paced, and ends in not so much a cliffhanger, but a very intriguing scene that really made me want to read on. It's a good balance of feeding us information without getting all mucked up in too much exposition, where moving the story forward was a higher priority than explaining every little thing in minute detail, and I liked that. As a new reader, I mean.

Also, I like the different take on Raven, who I remember being a darker character, more demon-like. In this iteration, she's this gorgeous Navajo girl and I don't want to get any more spoiler-y than that. I guess if you've been a fan of other iterations of Teen Titans you'll probably have a different opinion of her, since I understand a lot of the drama of her character would change in this way. But I like what I saw, at any rate. Maybe I'm just tired of overly dark characters? Also, I guess there are a lot of clichés lumped in with her new heritage - but that's neither here nor there.

Anywho, this book is out today, November 25th, and you should at least consider giving it a shot. There's a lot of great potential for the future, since, again, the creators can do what they like with the story. By the end of the book, it's hard to tell what's going to happen next, and I think that's a good thing, considering the main characters are a bunch of scared teens.

Disclaimer/transparency: This review is based on my experience reading an ARC via Netgalley.

Final note: if you think there's an essential Teen Titans comic I should read, let me know in the comments or via social media! I'm always looking for new things to check out, and a personal recommendation would be awesome. <3


Comics and MangaKristina PinoComment

I just recently finished reading Hello Kitty: Just Imagine... and even named it my top comics pick in PANELS' October round-up, and I've just noticed today is the release date of the next book in the series, Hello Kitty: Work of Art. Heck yeah! Check out the cover and blurbage below:

Picture this:

Hello Kitty and her friends are making music, producing plays, snapping photos, solving mysteries and...playing with dragons? Art is all around, and Hello Kitty and her friends know exactly where to find it!

And don’t miss three lovely pieces by Maite Oz!

Stories and art by: Jacob Chabot, Giovanni Castro, Ian McGinty, Jorge Monlongo, and Maite Oz.