Review: Sensory: Life on the Spectrum

Editor: Schnumn and Bex Ollerton
Authors/Artists: Emma O’Friel, Arian Sebastian Farzad, Laila Ahamad, Suzanne Wdowik, Chloe F. McKay, Allie, Alice Williams, Matt Crane, Buddy O. Baker, Dean McColl, Noel Fox, Bex Ollerton, Jo Svensson, Rhia May-Byrd, Angelina Eddins, Charlie Watts, Almond, Dominique Morris, Micaela Wainstein, Mell Stansel, Jinx Peregine, Alicia Wdderburn-Graham, Ash Ortiz, Reloaxa, Kayla Gilliam, RJ Fairweather, Jo Blakely, Kyle Lewis, Lindsay Miller, Nova Khan, T Catt, CJ Barrett, Toria McCallum, Alexandra McCarthy, Molly McCracken, Mchiums, Katie Cunningham, C.A. Crisostomo, Taylor Reynolds, CY Popps, Shay Commander
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Released: October 18, 2022
Received: NetGalley

One of the things I love the most about graphic novels is that they can make such complex subjects feel so approachable. This is especially true when sharing perspectives with the world and helping people understand what others experience.

Enter Sensory: Life on the Spectrum. This graphic novel is a collection of short stories and comics. The intent is to cover a wide range of autistic experiences; thus, the team behind it can all speak from experience.

From what I understand, Sensory was originally a series of webcomics. Each week brought a release of a new comic focused on autistic experiences, allowing artists and creatives a chance to share their perspectives with the world. I love that it’s not an entire graphic novel, and I hope this will help reach even more readers!

This graphic novel is an essential read. Let me state that because it bears repeating: Sensory is an essential read. Neurodivergence isn’t a taboo word. It isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s merely a way of describing how your brain may work differently from others.

I adored the variety of stories included in this collection. Readers can see everything from diagnoses to daily life snippets and everything in between. What struck me the most (other than the tales explaining coping mechanisms and other vital details) were the comics explaining the differences between professionally and self-diagnosed patients. Once again, I feel like this is an important thing to learn and a critical conversation to have. So please, take the time to read Sensory; it’s worth it!

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Manga Monday: The Transcendent One-Sided Love of Yoshida the Catch Vol. 1

Series: The Transcendent One-Sided Love of Yoshida the Catch #1
Author/Artist: Shizuki Fujisawa
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: February 15, 2022
Received: NetGalley

Lately, it seems like a particular trope in manga keeps making its way onto my desk. In this trope, we get to read about manga artists creating their work (in manga). Yet there’s something inherently appealing about this, so I’m not complaining! Next up for me is The Transcendent One-Sided Love of Yoshida the Catch Vol. 1.

Yoshida is one of those perfect guys that people dream about. They either want to be him or be with him. Either way, the idea of him makes people happy. He has a regular business job, is good-looking (more than, really), and he’s kind.

He’s also not available, at least not emotionally. You see, Yoshida has his eyes set on Sena Shimakaze. Even though she’s utterly oblivious to his feelings, so instead he’s relegated himself to helping her in every venture, including the creation of her manga.

Okay, this was fun. The Transcendent One-Sided Love of Yoshida the Catch Vol. 1 makes new twists on typical romantic plots, making them fun again! If you love quirky romance stories, then you’ll probably like this one.

I was surprised to learn that the main perspective of The Transcendent One-Sided Love of Yoshida the Catch Vol. 1 is not Yoshida or Sena. Instead, it’s a new third character, and I mean new. He just signed on to learn under Sena’s wing, only…she’s a lot more chaotic than he expected.

On the bright side, our leading protagonist is quick to jump on the ship, vocalizing everything that readers would love to say. There’s a certain ironic sense of humor in that fact, which I can’t help but appreciate.

Full disclosure: Volume two was recently released (in relation to when I sat down to write this review), and I nabbed it. I’m adding this to the list of series I’m staying subscribed to. It’s worth it!

Thanks to Kodansha Comics and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Review: Disney Manga: Beauty and the Beast – Belle’s Tale

Series: Disney Manga
Author: Mallory Reaves
Artists: Gabriella Sinopoli Sinopoli, Studio Dice
Publisher: Disney Manga
Released: March 15, 2022
Received: NetGalley

Wait, what? There’s a manga version of Beauty and the Beast that focuses on Belle’s side of the story?! Why didn’t anybody tell me about this? But seriously, Beauty and the Beast – Belle’s Tale is a refreshing take on the tale, written by Mallory Reaves and illustrated by Gabriella Sinopoli Sinopoli and Studio Dice. Side note: It’s also the first in a set. That’s right! Beast also has a part to play in this.

If you ever wanted to get into Belle’s head during the events of Beauty and the Beast, then you’re in luck! This graphic novel covers all the same events that the classic Disney movie shows us, but it also gives us a chance to see what Belle is thinking.

I won’t waste time summing up the plot of this story – I think most people probably know it by heart at this point. And those that don’t have probably made a point of avoiding it and thus won’t be much interested in this take.

I have to say that I enjoyed Beauty and the Beast – Belle’s Tale. It was light and fun, the perfect break after a heavy read. Admittedly none of the insights were all that groundbreaking, but I wasn’t exactly expecting any plot-shattering revelations, you know?

To address the artwork, we first have to discuss Beauty and the Beast – Beast’s Tale. As a duology, both are intentionally illustrated and colored in different styles. Belle’s has more of a classic shoujo anime style. It’s bright and almost feels fluffy.

My biggest complaint about this graphic novel is that it was difficult to read. Some pages felt like they were written in American comic format (left to right), while others were in manga format (right to left). Maybe this was my review copy and not the published versions.

Thanks to Disney Manga and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Review: Everything Is OK by Debbie Tung

Author/Artist: Debbie Tung
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Released: September 27, 2022
Received: NetGalley

Can we just stop and take a moment to appreciate the cover of Everything Is OK? Being a graphic novel, it’s no surprise that Everything Is OK appreciates visual elements – but that cover is striking. It’s the perfect balance of tones and pulls the reader in. At least, it pulled this reader in.

The other thing that really caught my attention about Everything Is OK is the promise. This graphic novel describes Debbie Tung’s struggle with anxiety and depression. I imagine that is something many people can relate to – especially now. I have struggled my whole life with anxiety, so this book hit me hard.

This graphic memoir portrays all of Debbie Tung’s experiences and insights, giving readers a chance to see through a lens, unlike their own experience. It has the good and bad moments, and everything in between.

I love how honest and real this graphic novel feels. Everything Is OK is easy to connect to, and I’m not just saying that because I, too, have dealt with anxiety. I think anyone could find a way to relate to Debbie Tung’s writing and words; she does such a good job here.

Thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Manga Monday: The Lines That Define Me Volume 1

Series: The Lines That Define Me #1
Author/Artist: Hiromasa Togami & Atsunori Horiuchi
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: January 18, 2022
Received: NetGalley

Are you looking for an introspective novel that will make you think? Then look no further! The Lines That Define Me Volume 1 is here!

Most people know what it feels like to feel adrift in life – like we don’t know what we want to do or who we want to be. For some, this period doesn’t linger for very long. For others, it can make you feel as if you’re drowning.

Sosuke Aoyama falls under the latter category. That is until he met Kozan Shinoda, a renowned suibokuga artist. Something about his art, and the process of making art, connect with Sosuke. Suddenly, it feels like he’s found his purpose in life.

The Lines That Define Me Volume 1 is one story that gets under your skin, whether you want it to or not. Sosuke is going through something that I feel would resonate with many readers. Who here hasn’t felt lost or unsure?

I love the concept of art being used as a life raft. Here it saves Sosuke, giving purpose to his life (and this story!). It’s perfect, and I look forward to seeing how the rest of this story goes.

Thanks to Kodansha Comics and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Review: The Night Eaters Vol. 1: She Eats the Night

Series: The Night Eaters #1
Author: Marjorie M. Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Released: October 11, 2022
Received: Own

The Night Eaters Vol. 1: She Eats the Night comes straight from the creative team behind Monstress. (If you’ve never read Monstress, allow me to be the first to tell you that you are missing out). Marjorie M. Liu is the author, while Sana Takeda is the artist. They are an absolutely brilliant duo, and I would read anything they put out (seriously – I preordered The Night Eaters Vol. 1 before reading the description).

You must check out this series if you’re in the mood for a horror/fantasy series with stunning artwork. The Night Eaters Vol. 1: She Eats the Night is the first of three graphic novels, meaning there will be plenty of time to be spooked and enchanted.

Milly and Billy are Chinese American twins whose lives have ups and downs. They’re struggling to keep their restaurant alive, thanks to the pandemic. That’s why their parents, Ipo and Keon, are here to help out, though their definitions of ‘helping’ may be different.

Keon is content to be there for his children, offering advice and support as needed. Meanwhile, Ipo… thinks it would be best if the twins learned more about themselves and got a bit more responsible in the process. For that reason, she’s determined to make them clean out the abandoned house next door.

Writing

Wow. The Night Eaters Vol. 1: She Eats the Night is everything I could have hoped for and so much more. This is one of those haunting tales that sucks readers in right from the start. Granted, any story involving an abandoned (and probably haunted) house tends to have that effect.

The writing in this graphic novel is stunning. That’s no real surprise, as the same could be said for Monstress. Yet the themes in The Night Eaters hits so much closer to home, as it portrays an unconventional family in a real-world setting.

If you love subtle horror elements that weave into a deeply personal narrative, then you will love The Night Eaters. I already have so many questions, and I cannot wait to see how the rest of it pans out. Clearly, Marjorie M. Liu nailed it. Again.

The story has two dominant perspectives – the parents and the children. Billy and Milly are vastly different and constantly frustrated with their parents (something I feel like many readers can sympathize with). Likewise, Ipo and Keon are vastly different, one silent and the other calm.

Their stories take a while to unfold, but you’ll be at the edge of your seat, looking for each hint and drop of detail. At least, that’s how I was while reading. It’s a thrilling experience that isn’t afraid to get a little bit dark before the end.

Artwork

The artwork in The Night Eaters Vol. 1: She Eats the Night is stunning. Nearly any other descriptor feels weak in comparison. The artwork on each page has so much texture and detail that it feels like you could fall into it.

Which, admittedly, is borderline horrifying considering some of the subject matter inside. After all, who wants to fall into a horror series? There is something about texture and horror stories that make them go so well together, and this series is no exception.

The colors and sense of movement lend to the tale. The red hues set the tone, while the character movement provides a sense of chaos. This chaos is very much appropriate, given the themes and internal turmoil of at least two of the characters.

I’m constantly blown away by Sana Takeda’s artwork, and The Night Eaters Vol. 1: She Eats the Night is no exception. I can’t wait to see how everything looks in the next volume.

Conclusion

If you haven’t picked up The Night Eaters Vol. 1: She Eats the Night, please reconsider. This is a worthwhile read, especially if you love horror, subtle writing, stunning artwork, or complex family dynamics. All of that (and more) can be found within this series. I, for one, will be counting down the days until the next release.

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Review: Twelve Percent Dread

Author/Artist: Emily McGovern
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Released: July 26, 2022
Received: Own

I’ve been a fan of Emily McGovern for quite some time now. I first found her work through My Life As A Background Slytherin, but I really fell in love with Bloodlust & Bonnets (seriously, if you haven’t read this, go do it now!). So, naturally, I was pretty invested in getting my hands on Twelve Percent Dread, her latest graphic novel.

And let me tell you, Twelve Percent Dread is a BEAST. It’s 416 pages, but thanks to the printing format, it feels like more. Anyway, this graphic novel is perfect for anyone who has gotten fed up with phones and technology. Have you ever wanted to scream at somebody for being on their phone too much? Well, get ready for more of that!

Three friends – all with very different lives, and all equally addicted to their phones (and all other forms of technology). Katie is bouncing from job to job, trying to find her place in the world. She’s dealing with the constant fear of missing out on life – of wasting it all. So naturally, she’s pretty hooked on social media and productivity apps.

Nasim (aka Nas) has other things on their mind. Like whether or not they’re going to get deported. Or when they’re finally going to sit down and begin the big art project, they keep talking about. Meanwhile, Emma is working for a soulless corporation, trying to plan a wedding, and dealing with all the ensuing drama.

Writing

Okay, so there are several reasons why I wanted to pick up Twelve Percent Dread. First, I love Emily McGovern’s writing. Her characters are always witty, sarcastic, and funny. In short, they have my favorite sense of humor. Second, Twelve Percent Dread was promised to be a “fast-paced, laugh-a-page graphic novel” – I don’t need to explain why that was tempting! And finally, I liked the core concept of the story.

Overall, I found Twelve Percent Dread to be an interesting read – though perhaps not quite the “laugh-a-page” I was promised. In truth, there were plenty of dried pages, particularly during the setup phase of the plot. It takes a while to get into the swing of things. It takes a touch longer to appreciate the characters and their style of wit.

On the bright side, everything goes quickly once things begin kicking off. At that point, it feels like something is happening in every panel, and a lot of that is either intriguing, dramatic, or humorous.

Twelve Percent Dread isn’t afraid to dance around the ridiculous edge regarding the potential of technology. That’s the whole premise – discussing how technology has taken over our lives. The satire is real, and it isn’t always subtle. But it sure can get funny.

My one complaint about the second half of this graphic novel is that it just seems to…end. One moment we’re dealing with the climatic moments of the plot, and the next moment everything is over. There’s minimal wrap-up, and that leaves several questions unanswered. I suspect that this was intentional, but I wouldn’t have minded a little more clarity here and there.

Artwork

As always, I adore Emily McGovern’s art style, so I expected to like Twelve Percent Dread. And I did! I like some of the choices she made and the risks she took when it came to page layout and design.

It made for a different reading experience, though I think it paid off. Each page tended to be full of smaller and tighter panels, giving a broader view of events. At times this made it a little challenging to read the text, as everything is just a tad small. So if you have eyesight problems, include planned breaks while reading, or else you’ll risk some eyestrain.

The character designs were by far my favorite part of Twelve Percent Dread. Even with a more simplistic art style, it is delightfully easy to tell each character apart, even in a distant profile shot. (For those curious, Nasim is my favorite).

Conclusion

Overall I would have to say that I enjoyed Twelve Percent Dread. It wasn’t quite the smash-hit I was hoping for, but I’m still going to happily display it on my bookshelf, so that should tell you something. It’s a worthwhile read, especially if you’re hoping for a conversation starter.

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Manga Monday: Sue & Tai-chan Vol. 1

Series: Sue & Tai-chan #1
Author/Artist: Kanata Konami
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Released: September 15, 2020Received: NetGalley

Are you ready for some cuteness overload? Sue & Tai-chan Vol. 1 is a story perfect for cat-lovers worldwide. So let’s dive in!

What happens when you throw an aging house cat and a new kitten into the same home? Well, one of two things. Either the older cat will freak out, or they’ll take the kitten under their (metaphorical) wing.

In this story, the aging cat is named Sue, and her new kitten ward is Tai-chan. Get ready for a series of endearing cat events, told in a way that only comic art could portray.

Pardon me while I squeal from the cuteness. Sue & Tai-chan Vol. 1 is such a cute read! I know, I’m effectively a crazy-cat lady, so my opinion will already be biased. But it was still SO much fun to read!

I loved watching Sue steadily grow more and more fond of Tai-chan. It reminded me of my three cats. I recently (read: much earlier this year) got two kittens. My older cat was not thrilled, to start with. However, their persistent love and optimism eventually win her over in the end, much like this tale.

I’m trying to say that Sue & Tai-chan Vol. 1 perfectly captures the complex and shifting relationships between two cats. Many might overlook these fluctuations in a feline duo, but not Kanata Konami. It’s perfect.

Thanks to Kodansha Comics and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Review: She-Hulk Vol. 1: Jen Again

Series: She-Hulk (2022) 1-5
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Pencilers: Roge Antonio, Luca Maresca
Colorist: Rico Renzi
Cover Artists: Adam Hughes, Jen Bartel
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Released: October 4, 2022
Received: Own

Let’s all cheer for the latest volume of She-Hulk! But seriously, it’s been a hot minute since Jen Walters got her own series, so I was thrilled to hear the news. The fact that they got one of my favorite cover artists (Jen Bartel) involved is just icing on the cake.

After a wild few months with the Avengers (again), Jen is back to a more normal version of herself. She’s still a hulk, of course. Now she has to figure out how to get back on her feet after having (once again) lost everything.

Well, not everything. She’s still got friends and an amazing lawyer, no matter what anyone else says. Speaking of, it’s time she started dedicating more time to that side of her life. Naturally, superhero chaos will get in the way here and there.

Writing

I’ve read Rainbow Rowell’s work before, thanks to her work on the latest run of Runaways (no pun intended, sorry about that). So I was pretty stoked when I learned she was going to take charge of She-Hulk’s solo series.

Her latest solo series that is. Her second most recent run, written by Mariko Tamaki, is still one of my absolute favorite runs, and nobody will ever convince me otherwise. So this series had some big shoes to fill. Again, no pun intended. Seriously, I don’t know what’s up with me today.

Moving on. This series is set after the events of Jason Aaron’s Avengers. Or certain events, at any rate. So this follows a lot of changes in gamma radiation status for Jen. You don’t technically need to have read all of that to understand what’s going on here. Basically, you just need to know that, once again, Jen is starting from the ground up.

Going back to roots is always fun, especially with a favorite character. Personally, I enjoy it when this happens. Especially when they don’t pretend that the past doesn’t exist. Jen’s history is very much present, especially once we get into the second big arc of the volume.

On that note, this is where readers will want to be a bit more up-to-date in their Marvel lore. It’s a deep pull (relatively speaking), and while the context is provided, the emotional impact carries it SO much further.

My only concern with such a plot point is that since it relies on specific past events, new fans (thanks to the new Marvel series) may find themselves overwhelmed or put off. But otherwise, I’m looking forward to seeing where the heck this is going to go.

Artwork

I already mentioned that I adore the cover art for Jen Again, right? Actually, for the entire She-Hulk 2022 run. It’s amazing, and Jen Bartel is an absolute genius regarding colors. Really, she’s the perfect artist for She-Hulk, and I can’t believe this hadn’t occurred to me until this point. And yes, I will either find some prints of these covers or simply frame a few of the comics as is. I love it that much.

To give credit where credit is due, other artists involved in the covers include Adam Hughes, Roge Antonio and Luca Maresca were the pencil artists for Jen Again, and I’ve got to say – they did a pretty solid job here. The artwork is funny and so very She-Hulk, with a lot of referential humor thrown into the mix (especially in later issues). That’s the thing that will always get me smiling, and I know I can’t be the only reader here.

Rico Renzi, the colorist for Jen Again, also did a great job. I have always adored the bright colors that run through She-Hulk’s series; thankfully, this is no exception. They’re bold but not garish and not afraid to have a bit of fun.

Finally, there’s the lettering, which VC’s Joe Caramagna provided. I’ve always appreciated his work, especially his attention to detail. The lettering is the final touch that brings everything together, so this is a critical piece to get right.

Conclusion

I haven’t looked up how others are feeling about the latest run of She-Hulk, but I have to say: I’m having fun. Going back to She-Hulk basics has been fun, and I certainly appreciate all the laughs I’ve gotten so far. Here’s hoping for more!

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Manga Monday: Dekoboko Bittersweet Days

Series: Dekoboko Bittersweet Days #2
Author/Artist: Atsuko Yusen
Publisher: LOVExLOVE
Released: March 22, 2022
Received: NetGalley

Dekoboko Bittersweet Days is the second novel in the Dekoboko Sugar Days series, and it is such a happy and fun series. If you’re looking for a quick escape into a world of romance and humor, this is the series for you.

What happens when two friends who have known each other their whole lives realize that what they have is more than friendship? That is what Rui and Yuujirou are working to find out. First friends, now boyfriends, the two have a love that slowly blossomed over time.

Now that their love is out in the open, they can relish the sweet moments that come with companionship and true love. In this story, it is true that opposites attract – and stay together.

Dekoboko Bittersweet Days was such a cute follow-up! I enjoyed this story. Even though the story is mainly from Yuujirou’s perspective, I feel like we get to know both characters equally, which is fantastic since their combined story carries the most weight.

I love that this series has taken the time to delve into healthy communication within a couple, emotional maturity, and many other elements that I feel most stories gloss over (especially teenage romances). It’s a breath of fresh air.

Never before have I seen a series title so on the nose. Dekoboko Bittersweet Days is very sweet (with some steam mixed in, to be clear!), and it will work its way into your heart.

Thanks to LOVExLOVE and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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