BooksOfTheMoon

Giant Days: Not On the Test Edition Vol. 1

By John Allison

Rating: 4 stars

Despite hearing good things about this series, I wasn’t really sure what it was about. Recently though, I was looking for something to read, and this was recommended to me again, so I thought I’d give it a go. I’m quite glad that I did – it follows three flatmates in their first year at university and their various (mis)adventures.

I like the art styles here, which was done by Lissa Treiman for the first three quarters (chapters 1-6) and then Max Sarin for the last two. The styles are quite different and when I was flicking through it after first getting hold of it, I thought that the change would be jarring. But when it came to it, I was so absorbed in the story that it barely registered.

I like the three main characters, they’ve all got a lot of personality and are different enough that they complement each other well. It’s very believable that they would be friends, despite being so different. They have the same problems and concerns as other young adults just starting university: getting to know themselves; finding people to love; trying new experiences; making mistakes. It’s a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing where it goes next.

My one, minor, niggle is that although it’s set in a UK university and written by a British writer, it sometimes feels very American. I’m not sure if this is just me, but it does occasionally draw me out of the story.

Book details

ISBN: 9781608869947
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Year of publication: 2017

Witch Hat Atelier, Vol. 3

By Kamome Shirahama

Rating: 4 stars

The third volume of this enjoyable manga neatly resolves the cliffhanger from the end of the previous volume, and apart from some ominous grumbling at each other, nothing more is heard of from the Knights Moralis, who I assume will be back in a future volume. But we are introduced to a bunch of new mysteries, and Master Qifrey is revealed to have his own connection of some sort to the Brimmed Caps and isn’t above being devious himself.

Our window on the witching world, Coco, continues to be innocent and delightful, and she starts to make a connection with Tartah, the grandson of the quill and ink seller, who turns out to have his own problems.

There’s nice little world-building touches, like the idea that the ban on magic that affects bodies is so absolute that even healing magic is banned; and how much the idea of witches helping others in their society seems to be taken for granted by those around them, and they almost stop seeing the witches as people, and just as things that make their lives better.

It’s continues to be a fun and engaging series and I look forward to continuing the story in future volumes.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632368058

Battle Angel Alita: Holy Night and Other Stories

By Yukito Kishiro

Rating: 3 stars

This book collects four short stories set in the Alita-verse, two of which feature Alita herself. We open with a story featuring Ido, shortly after he was banished from Zalem and his discovery of a girl who needs his help (sound familiar?). It’s quite a melancholy story, but gives us more insight into Alita’s ‘father’.

Second up, we have Sonic Finger, set during what I think of as a golden period of Alita’s time in the Scrapyard. She’s finished with Motorball and being a hunter-warrior, but is beloved by them and trains them. When someone attacks her with what appears to be a gun, her friends all rally round. There’s a lot more action in this one, but no real depth. We don’t get any character development or even any real reason as to why Sonic Finger was doing it.

The third story is a short one with hardly any dialogue, featuring a Deckman who left the scrapyard, and its encounter with Alita. This one manages to pack a lot of punch into a short, almost wordless story. We see the Deckman learning about the world outside the Scrapyard, playing with children and seeing the beauty of a sunset. All the while being trailed by Alita in her A-1 TUNED phase.

The final story is set after the end of the main series, following Koyomi’s attempts to be a journalist photographer, and her desire to find the rumoured still living leader of the Barjack rebellion again, just so that she can have a purpose in life. Again, not a huge amount of action, but some nice character development for Koyomi.

These are an enjoyable set of stories in the Alita-verse that help round out her world, but are by no means essential.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632367105
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Year of publication: 2018

The Wicked + the Divine Deluxe Edition: Year Two

By Kieron Gillen

Rating: 4 stars

This second oversize volume of WicDiv collects the third and fourth arcs of the overall story. The first arc in the collection steps back from the overall plot to do more character-focused issues on some of the remaining members of the Pantheon. Regular artist Jamie McKelvie is missing for this arc, with a bunch of guest artists brought in. This mostly really works, but I wasn’t sure about Kate Brown’s art for the first issue of the volume. It’s rather cartoony and, for me, didn’t quite work with the material. On the other hand, Tuta Lotay’s art for issue 13 is fantastic, and puts a soft touch to a delicate subject (and that issue is pretty hard-hitting). I also really like Brandon Graham’s almost dreamlike art for issue 17, which gave us more insight into Sakhmet, who was present right from the start, but who we hadn’t really spent any time with before this.

After dropping hints of her in the previous volume, we finally get to meet Tara in the flesh, as it were. It’s a shame it’s so brief though, as her issue is very powerful, dealing, as it does, with objectification and harassment of women.

The second arc not only goes back to the plot, but turbocharges it. After seeing Ananke’s questionable actions last volume (not to mention the frankly murderous behaviour at the end of that volume), here we see her further manipulate her “children”, culminating in a dark ritual that even Woden doesn’t like the look of.

Spoiler
Also, Laura/Persephone’s alive! *Happy dance*! And while I don’t necessarily blame her for killing Ananke, this can’t end well.

I’m still really liking Gillen’s writer’s commentary. It’s a great way to review what you’ve already read, but more slowly and thoughtfully, paying attention to things that you rushed past on the first pass. And comics, even a large book like this one, are still brief enough that you can make multiple passes like that in a reasonable amount of time.

A compelling story, combining very modern storytelling with ancient tropes in an effective manner. I’m both dreading and can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Book details

ISBN: 9781534302204
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2017

Lumberjanes: To the Max Edition, Vol. 5

By Shannon Watters

Rating: 4 stars

The first story in this collection moves away from Roanoke cabin to Zodiac, as Barney settles in with their cabin-mates following their move to the Lumberjanes camp last volume (incidentally, there was a nice little introduction to the idea of people’s pronouns here, which wasn’t too thickly laid on, but a good way to show it handled well). Diane has been allowed to stay, and she takes them off on a treasure hunt for magic. After this, we’re back with Roanoke, as we move into a sports-based storyline involving roller ball. I’m not a huge sports fan, but there’s enough fun in this (especially given who the opposing team are) that it keeps my attention.

The second arc sees Parents’ Day, where the various parents come to visit. This revisits previous hints that Molly’s family life isn’t happy. Seeing her watching, smiling slightly sadly, as the others make happy reunions with their families is a little heartbreaking. This seems to be something that the authors are going to leave simmering and come back to in future.

The artists change between the arcs in the volume. While I enjoyed the Carolyn Nowak’s art on the first story, Ayme Sotuyo’s work on the second felt “more Lumberjanes” to me. Both are very good and fit the type of storytelling going on here, but the second just spoke to me more. As always, everything to do with art is subjective, and YMMV.

The themes of friendship to the max, and found families persist in this volume, as the girls grow ever-closer, and the camp becomes ever-weirder. Lovely stuff.

Book details

ISBN: 9781684153121
Publisher: BOOM! Box
Year of publication: 2019

The Wicked + The Divine Deluxe Edition: Year One

By Kieron Gillen

Rating: 4 stars

I’d heard some good things about this series and it was the hard recommendation of a friend whose taste I trust that finally sold me. Firstly, the physical object here is beautiful. It’s a hardback book with a minimalist black cover showing the logos of the twelve gods who have been reincarnated for this Recurrence.

The art is of a style that I generally enjoy and I really liked it here. The story is intriguing and has kept me engaged the whole way through: every ninety years, twelve gods return as young people, help inspire and change the world, and within two years, they’re all dead. That’s quite the hook, and Gillen and co make good on it. This time round, the gods are all pop stars, allowing the writers to talk about our culture through that lens. Our PoV character is Laura, a fan, maybe acolyte, of all of them who Lucifer (aka Luci) takes a shine to. This is followed by attempted murder, actual murder and a mystery over a death.

Gillen is happy to build up his mystery slowly, as he builds his world. And you can’t help but get drawn in. With such a large cast, to start with, it is sometimes difficult to remember who is who and what their shtick is. This gets easier as the book goes on, and it ends on a heck of a cliffhanger, that completely threw me.

I’m definitely going to be picking up more WicDiv, and how can I not get these gorgeous hardbacks? My favourite ‘extra’ in this volume is the writer’s commentary at the back. Gillen goes through pretty much the entire comic, page by page, with his own thoughts and analysis, pointing out things that I missed in my first desperate rush to read the next page. It’s a great way to read the whole thing again in a more thoughtful manner.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632157287
Publisher: Image Comics
Year of publication: 2016

Battle Angel Alita Deluxe Edition, Vol. 5

By Yukito Kishiro

Rating: 3 stars

In the final volume of Alita’s story (well, her first story, at least), Alita storms Nova’s lab, with only Kaos for backup. At one point, she utters the immortal line “My rage is ultrasonic”, which, I must confess, made me giggle a lot. Meanwhile, since his attack on Zalem failed, Den is making a suicidal charge against the Scrapyard, alone, except for Koyomi.

There’s a lot to enjoy here, especially Nova’s second entrapment of Alita in the Ouroboros program, and Den’s mental battle with Kaos, but I was very disappointed with the canonical ending. It just seemed very abrupt and, frankly, a rubbish way to end Alita’s story.

This is continued with a non-canonical coda, almost, that takes Alita to Zalem and sees her and Nova, along with Lou, confront the master computer of Zalem. This improves a bit on the canonical end, but seems very odd. Nova in particular behaves in very odd ways that don’t seem to follow from his previous actions. Why would he restore Alita like that, and give her that new, nigh-on invincible body?

There’s also a short story set in the Motorball world, not featuring Alita, with a slightly different art style. That was interesting, with quite a melancholy tone to it. The volume finishes with a couple of interviews with the author where, amongst other things, he talks about the end, and how it’s not what he wanted, but various factors converged to force him to end the story where he did.

As for myself, I think I’ll content myself with the non-canonical ending, and not seek out the sequel series.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632366023
Year of publication: 2018

Battle Angel Alita Deluxe Edition, Vol. 4

By Yukito Kishiro

Rating: 3 stars

This volume picks up 10 years after the end of the last one, with Alita having left Figure Four at some point and is back working for Zalem again, in her guise as TUNED unit A1. This volume sees her encounter with Den, the leader of an anti-Zalem army, and Kaos, someone who can read an object’s history by just touching it. She also finally finds her lost father-figure Ido, although that reunion doesn’t exactly go as she expected.

This is a strange volume and the story felt sort of incomplete. Possibly inevitable, as the pace of the overall arc ramps up towards a conclusion in the next volume. Alita seems more vulnerable here and leans heavily on some of those around her, including her new Zalemite operator, Lou (who’s quite adorable, in a deeply nerdy way).

The storyline with the AR units feels like it just peters out, without really much resolution. There are supposed to be multiple AR units, but we only see two of them. If they are as powerful as is portrayed, they should have had a much bigger impact. Likewise, there’s no real explanation for the missing Figure, with just the occasional flashback to him.

Den, leader of the Barjack rebellion against Zalem, is an interesting character, and had the potential to be quite a complex, layered individual, but it doesn’t feel like that happened.

I’ll complete the series now, but I’m losing momentum.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632366016
Year of publication: 2018

Witch Hat Atelier, Vol. 2

By Kamome Shirahama

Rating: 4 stars

The second volume of this delightful manga picks up directly from where the first left off: with the four apprentices having been teleported to an unknown destination and facing a dragon. They have combine their skills (which Coco is painfully aware that she’s lacking) to escape.

We learn more about Coco’s fellow apprentice, Agott, in this volume, and what drives her, and we learn more about the world that Coco inhabits. The book is a lot of fun, even if it doesn’t seem all that substantial. It’s an intriguing world with some great characters. I look forward to reading more of Coco’s adventures.

Book details

ISBN: 9781632368041
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Year of publication: 2019

Witch Hat Atelier, Vol. 1

By Kamome Shirahama

Rating: 4 stars

Coco has been obsessed with magic ever since she was given a picture book on it as a child. But witches are born, not made, so she’s resigned to a life without wonder, until a series of accidents brings the witch Qifrey into her circle and she sees something that changes her life forever.

I’m not really familiar with the manga canon; it was a friend introduced me to Witch Hat Atelier, and I’m rather glad that he did, because I’ve really enjoyed this charming little manga. Coco is a delightful protagonist, bubbling over with enthusiasm and her joy at everything in the magical world is infectious. I’ll definitely look forward to reading more about Coco and her world.

Apart from a few pages right at the start of the book, the art is mostly black and white, but is beautifully drawn. It’s got that distinctive manga feel to it and is great fun to read. There were one or two scenes where I found the action hard to follow, but for the most part it’s pretty clear.

Also, from now on, I’m going to refer to my bedroom (aka my home office) as my atelier for as long as I’m in lockdown!

Book details

ISBN: 9781632367709
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Year of publication: 2019

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