Sakiko Manaka is obsessed with Chiro-chan. Not in an unhealthy way; she just thinks that Chiro-chan is the best idol out there and that the world will someday see this and agree with her. So imagine Sakiko’s surprise (and delight) when her favorite idol walked into her classroom one day.
Only nobody else seems to know that it’s Chiro-chan. She seems to be trying to fly under the radar, likely hoping to get a good education. As a fan, it is Sakiko’s duty to keep this secret.
Oh my, goodness, did this series have potential! I love the premise of My Idol Sits the Next Desk Over! Vol. 1. For the first few chapters, I was hooked. The plot was strong enough on its own before they decided to go and throw in another complication.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really like that complication. Her name is Maaya Tozawa, and this girl should probably come with her own trigger warnings. She’s a stalker and cyberbully and is pretty willing to do whatever it takes to get closer to her idol, including indulging in abusive behavior.
It adds a sour tone to what was otherwise an endearing and charming series. I didn’t like how lightly the whole Maaya plot was addressed. Heck (spoiler warning), at one point, Sakiko invites Maaya into the friend group, knowing full well that she’s a cyberbully. Not only was this pretty naive, but it was unkind to Chiro-chan, whom she didn’t bother to warn (side note: if you know somebody is stalking your friend, TELL THEM).
Long story short, I had high hopes for My Idol Sits the Next Desk Over! Vol. 1, but they kinda fell flat thanks to a couple (read: one) unnecessary plot points.
Thanks to Kodansha Comics and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.
If you’ve spent time on Tapas, you’ve probably already spotted this witchy read. Unfamiliar is a fun series written and illustrated by Haley Newsome. It’s a series I’ve been following for a while now on Tapas, but when I saw it was getting a graphic novel, I knew I had to re-read and support it!
Planchette is a young kitchen witch setting out on her own for the first time. While she can spell up all the pizza she wants, she otherwise feels wildly unprepared for the future. More accurately, she doesn’t feel equipped to deal with her haunted house.
Thankfully, Planchette is far from the only witch or magical being in town, and this haunted house adventure is precisely what she needs to go out into the world and make some new friends. So that is what she’ll do.
Unfamiliar is by far one of my favorite series on Tapas at the moment (seriously, if you’re not reading it, you should go and check it out! It’s free!). So I was absolutely tickled when I learned about this graphic novel.
To say that this graphic novel is charming would be an understatement. Planchette and all her newly made friends have so much personality – not to mention backstory. We have a cursed girl, a bird girl, and a shy siren. Plus, a sassy familiar. What more could you ask for? Oh right! Ghosts! There are plenty of those too.
If you love enchanting (pun intended) stories with complex and cute characters, Unfamiliar is the tale for you. Because it is based on an online comic series, the plot arcs are less sequential and brief, with a few exceptions. This helps make it a lighter read. Think a magical slice-of-life story, and you’re pretty close.
Thanks to Andrews McMeel Publishing and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.
Series: Disney Manga Author: Mallory Reaves Artists: Studio Dice, Gianluca Papi Publisher: Disney Manga Released: March 15, 2022 Received: NetGalley
Beauty and the Beast – The Beast’s Tale is the second novel in a two-part set. As you might have guessed from the title, it’s a graphic novel/manga retelling of the beloved Beauty and the Beast story, with one major twist. Both stories show the main character’s thoughts and perspectives on the matter. This time we get to see what the Beast thinks of everything.
Once again, I’m not going to bother summing up Beauty and the Beast – I feel like it’s a story that most readers already know all too well. Any summation I try to do will simply pale in comparison.
I’ll admit that while I was really looking forward to both Belle’s Tale and The Beast’s Tale, I was more interested in seeing what the Beast had to say about things. After all, Belle’s perspective is pretty much the dominant focus for most retellings.
Beast’s story is naturally a bit darker than its counterpart, but not to the point where it’ll alarm children. Though admittedly, it didn’t have the level of insight I had been hoping for (though, if I’m being honest, I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting).
The issues I mentioned in Belle’s Tale still exist here, though some things make more sense now. Having read both, I do wish that this was one collected story and not two separate editions. I think that would have made more sense in the long run.
Where Belle’s half is brighter and happier, the Beast’s artwork style tends to be darker – literally. There’s less color and an overall more somber impression of the style. It’s quite appropriate, all things considered, and I think I like this artwork better.
Thanks to Disney Manga and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Series: Saga Author: Brian K. Vaughan Artist: Fiona Staples Letterer: Fonografiks Publisher: Image Comics Released: October 5, 2022 Received: Own
Ohhhh, my heart. I’m not sure I can take another volume of Saga. Not if it goes anything like Volume 9. I say that – knowing I will read every single volume of this series. Still, it’s nice to have the series back from hiatus.
Side note: If you haven’t read volume 9 yet, do NOT flip through 10, as there will be significant spoilers. Also, you’re probably better off not reading the rest of this review. I’ll try to be careful, but it’s easy to forget how much the little things add up.
Hazel and her family are still very much on the run. Sometimes, it feels like everyone wants to kill them – especially little Hazel. She’s the embodiment of something neither faction can afford to have lingering around.
Despite this danger (or perhaps because of it), her family still gets to have plenty of adventures, taking them to new worlds and meeting all sorts of people. Sometimes they make friends, but more often, they make enemies.
Ow. I thought I had gotten over the conclusion of Saga Volume 9. As it turns out, I was wrong. Saga Volume 10 hits like a ton of bricks. So it’s basically on par for the rest of this series. As per usual, Brian Vaughan isn’t here to pull punches. However, he may rip out a heart or two (of his readers – I need to be clear when talking about Vaughan).
The story starts with another time jump. This isn’t the first time this has happened, so no big surprise. It’s been three years since the final panel of the last volume. So everyone has had time to adjust to what went down. Mostly.
I adored seeing Alana and Hazel together. Their lives have not been easy, but it is nice to see that their family is still together. And they’ve found another member or two (trying to be vague here) to add to their ragtag crew. It’s heartwarming and more than a little bit bittersweet. It’s perfect for the series.
Their endearing and sometimes traumatic plot is balanced out by the adventures of The Will (and other characters introduced in this volume). These plots may boil your blood, but I expect that’s the point. Once again, we’re seeing some fresh tension, likely leading to another fatal confrontation. I don’t know that for a fact – I’m just assuming. Again, this is Vaughan we’re talking about.
Readers should prepare themselves for a couple of kicks to the heart. They’re not as bad as they could have been (or as bad as they have been in the past), but they are still very much there. Since this is Saga we’re talking about, I probably don’t need to include such a warning. But it feels like the kind thing to do.
Fiona Staples is and has always been the perfect artist for Saga. Her character designs are out of this world (pun not intended, sorry). Not to mention her level of detail when it comes to portraying emotion. It’s just…so much. It makes the stories hit all the harder. Admittedly, we probably didn’t need that. But hey, that’s life, right?
As always, there are little details that took my breath away. Background and colors, little hints tucked here and there. This is one of the reasons why I love the series so much. There’s text, and then there’s subtext.
Oh! And I can’t forget about the lettering. Fonografiks did a freaking fantastic job with the lettering. I love the creative placement and design of some of it. It makes it feel more like a story a kid would tell, which is appropriate and accurate (remember, this is still Hazel’s story).
Oh, Saga. How do you keep doing this to me? More importantly, why do I keep coming back? Oh, right – because the writing and artwork are brilliant. Oh well, I guess I’m back in a cycle of reading and crying. But seriously, Saga Volume 10 is a long-awaited volume that is worth the wait. Fans of the series should pick this up and dive right in.