BooksOfTheMoon

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1: Squirrel Power

By Ryan North

Rating: 4 stars

This was a fabulous introduction to the most excellent Squirrel Girl, aka Doreen Green, a girl with the proportionate speed and strength of a squirrel! Well, when you think about it it, I suppose it’s no more stupid than any other superhero origins!

What I mostly loved about this comic was the lack of angst. She’s a superhero (complete with a Deadpool collectible supervillain card deck) who eats nuts and kicks butts, along with her adorable (and not super powered at all) squirrel sidekick, Tippy-Toe. And when kicking butts fails, she thinks her way out of the resulting fracas. And it turns out that there are a surprising number of ways of using a squirrel army to help defeat your enemies (said enemies including Kraven the Hunter, Whiplash and Galactus). I love the little Twitter-style catch-up at the start of each issue and the fact that this collected trade paperback keeps the letters pages from the issues.

The art is cartoony and fun, and SG herself is drawn as a normal sized woman, wearing a sensible outfit. I enjoy the fact that each page has a little (easily missed) caption at the bottom of the page, with a narrator (possibly SG herself?) commenting on what’s going on on the page in a really fun way.

This volume collects the first four issues, containing the first arc of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl as well as the story that SG first appeared in, from 1992 where she tries to impress Iron Man into joining forces with her.

Squirrel Power was an awful lot of fun, and I certainly look forward to reading more of Doreen’s adventures in future collections (I just hope that she manages to steer clear of the stupid crossovers and Events that eventually put me off G. Willow Wilson’s Ms Marvel).

Book details

ISBN: 9780785197027
Publisher: Marvel
Year of publication: 2015

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 5: Super Famous

By G. Willow Wilson

Rating: 3 stars

Right. Wait, what?! The last time we saw Ms Marvel, aka Kamala Khan, she was standing with her best friend, on the roof of her school, waiting for the end of the world. Here, we’re dumped right into the middle of the action, the world hasn’t ended and Ms Marvel is now an Avenger?! There’s no explanation of this, we just get a throwaway comment that it’s eight months later and just carry on regardless. This is frustrating, especially given where we left of last time.

Still, it seems that Kamala hasn’t been paying much attention since that time too, as she’s stunned to find out that Bruno is now seeing someone else, but before they can talk about that, there’s a redevelopment in Jersey City that goes a bit Stepford to deal with; her super-religious brother has fallen in love and needs her to be a chaperone; Avenging is trickier than she realised (not to mention the downsides of fame); and then there’s a whole stack of Kamala clones that need taken care of… It’s all a bit overwhelming, for the reader as well as for Kamala, as she tries to discover just what her priorities are.

As fond as I am of Kamala and her world, this book didn’t do it for me as much as the earlier ones. It was still fun, but it all felt a bit hectic, and the whole non-end-of-the-world thing was underwhelming. I understand it was part of some larger Marvel metaplot, but if you’re going to do that, it still has to work for people who don’t religiously read all the titles. Just a few panels of exposition would have been fine. And now, I see that the next volume is called Civil War II, presumably tying in with another Marvel crossover, and I’m really not sure I can be bothered with that. It’s Kamala I want to see, and her family and her friends and Jersey City. I’m happy to leave Spider-Man, SHIELD, the Avengers and all the others out of it. If the focus is going to move away from the characters of this title, to be more involved in crossovers, then I really can’t be bothered any more.

Book details

ISBN: 9780785196112
Publisher: Marvel
Year of publication: 2016

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 4: Last Days

By G. Willow Wilson

Rating: 4 stars

Volume 4 of Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan edition) sees Kamala meet one of her all time heroes (and namesake) and have to save her brother from her evil ex while at the same time dealing with the end of the world.

This may possibly be my favourite Ms Marvel book to date. I loved the goofy mix of action and emotion, which has always been there, but Wilson has smoothed the edges to perfection in this one. I suspect that I missed a lot of the background with the big planet over Manhattan as I think it was part of some sort of crossover but you don’t really feel like you’re missing out on anything important.

The scenes between Kamala and Carol Danvers are very sweet and the ones with her and her family are awfully moving. However, it’s the last scene of the main story, with Kamala and Bruno that left a lump in my throat.

It was a bit jarring that at the end of that, we get a crossover issue with Spider-Man. It’s a complete change of tone, but fun in its own way, even if I get the impression that there’s a whole bunch of Spider-Man emo stuff going on (‘cos Spider-Man always does, doesn’t he?) that I didn’t really care an awful lot about. I was there for the embiggening and punching (and Kamala doing her fangirl squeeing thing, which is quite adorable).

Book details

ISBN: 9780785197362
Publisher: Marvel
Year of publication: 2015

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3: Crushed

By G. Willow Wilson

Rating: 4 stars

Volume 3 of G. Willow Wilson’s Ms Marvel sees the young Kamala Khan have to deal with a force more terrifying than supervillains: feelings. The opening story doesn’t really do an awful lot for me, as it brings Loki, trickster of the gods down to visit for Valentine’s Day. Apparently Loki is now working for the good guys but a hilarious misunderstanding leads to a punch-up with everyone’s favourite puncher. It was okay, but I didn’t think it was the strongest of Kamala’s stories.

Fortunately, the one that follows it makes up for it. In this one, Kamala falls for Kamran, the son of some of her parents’ friends. And falls hard. Unfortunately, things don’t go well, and Kamala has to learn how to cope the hard way. There’s also a surprisingly touching scene between Kamala’s older brother Aamir and her best friend Bruno which touched a few chords with me. This story leaves a lot lying open, some of which, I assume, will be covered in future volumes.

The final story is a crossover with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with Jemma Simmons and Phil Coulson making an appearance. It’s fairly lightweight, and the likenesses of the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to the TV show aren’t great but it’s a fun way to end the collection, with a message about family thrown in for good measure.

Book details

ISBN: 9780785192275
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Year of publication: 2015

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why

By G. Willow Wilson

Rating: 4 stars

Generation Why continues the story of Kamala Khan from where No Normal left off. The Inventor is still loose and Kamala needs to find and stop him before more young people go missing. On the way, she meets Wolverine (and somewhat fails to not squee all over him) who she impresses enough that he contacts the Inhumans, the part-alien group of which it turns out that she is a member.

The main thread of the story here is one of being disassociated from society, of barriers between the generations, and ways to overcome them and continue to work for the good of society. These are great themes and it’s good to see a relatable character coming out and telling young people that they’re not worthless or parasitical upon society. That’s something that needs to be said, when the opposite is often heard from mainstream media.

Kamala is a fun character and her world is interesting and growing as she grows and develops as a character. She’s realising that superhero-ing alongside just being a teenager (not to mention an immigrant teenager) is difficult. I look forward to more of it.

Book details

ISBN: 9780785190226
Publisher: Marvel
Year of publication: 2015

The Green Lantern/Green Arrow Collection, Vol. 2

By Dennis O'Neil

Rating: 3 stars

This is the second, and final, volume of the Green Arrow/Green Lantern stories by Dennis O’Neil et al. The stories in this volume get very political, tackling heavy issues of the day: drugs and pollution being chief amongst them, without the intergalactic and Great American Journey shenanigans of its predecessor.

The political stories look clumsy to 21st century eyes, where we’re used to subtlety and nuance, whereas these very much hammer you over the head. But then could we be where we are now in terms of weaving contemporary issues into storytelling without this early attempt? The drugs story in particular is crude but compelling.

Together these two volumes provide an interesting, and, indeed, entertaining, glimpse back into a time when comics were changing, becoming more complex and telling deeper stories. Read it for the punching, the slice of comics history is free.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401202309
Publisher: DC Comics
Year of publication: 1971

The Green Lantern/Green Arrow Collection, Vol. 1

By Dennis O'Neil

Rating: 3 stars

This book feels very much of its time, in the language, the thought bubbles and some of the themes covered. While it might be easy to mock its pairing of heroes who, on the surface, have nothing in common except that they have ‘green’ in their name, the introduction goes out of its way to explain this pairing, and having read the book, it does more or less work. Green Lantern is the ultimate policeman, always following orders and having a very black and white interpretation of justice. Green Arrow, in this series at least, is a bit of an anarchist, wanting to stand up for people, without the nuances of the law. This series sets them against each other at times, but ultimately they come together for the Greater Good, whether that be dealing with slum landlords, corrupt mine owners or invasion of Native American lands.

Some of it is clumsily handled to modern eyes, particularly the Native American story, although in saying that, Native American history and culture is something that I know very little about; on this side of the Pond we don’t see much of it outside of Hollywood’s perspective. I was pleased to see that Black Canary was able to hold her own, for the most part, but the descriptions of her beauty and grace did have me shaking my head at times.

I know very little about either of these characters, not being a big comics geek, but it was a fun story, and I guess it could be considered a forerunner of what was to come, when superheroes became tarnished and complex. Green Lantern takes part of that journey here, but we also see a slightly simpler time when goodies were goodies, baddies were baddies and the former punching the latter usually solved most problems.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401202248
Publisher: DC Comics
Year of publication: 1971

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal

By G. Willow Wilson

Rating: 4 stars

Kamala Khan is just an ordinary Muslim-American teenager coping with life until she unexpectedly gets superpowers. She takes up the mantle of Ms Marvel and adds another complication to her life, now having to juggle superheroics to just being a sixteen year old girl, trying to balance the expectations and cultural baggage of her parents with that of the world around her.

This is a fun story and even if, like me, you know little of the Marvel universe beyond the MCU you’ll still be able to get a lot out of it. There’s as much focus on Kamala’s daily life and how she balances life as an American with life as a Muslim, as well as the angst that all teenagers, no matter what their background, feel. This makes Kamala a relatable protagonist which helps cover the problem with many origin stories: that there isn’t much in the way of plot. It’s not too bad though, there’s enough to not make me feel cheated and lots of groundwork for plot to come in future volumes.

For me the question is not ‘am I going to read any more Ms Marvel’, but ‘do I continue with the paperbacks, or switch to the larger hardbacks’?

Book details

ISBN: 9780785190219
Publisher: Marvel
Year of publication: 2014

Oomph: A Little Super Goes a Long Way

By Bart R. Leib

Rating: 4 stars

I only added this book to my wishlist because it had a story by a friend in it, but I’m glad that someone did buy it for me as it’s a lot of fun. The premise of this anthology is that each of the stories contains heroes who have small powers. They’re not invincible or can fly, but maybe have really tough skin, or can float just a couple centimetres above the ground.

I think my favourite story was Knuckles by Ken MacGregor about a decent, working class guy who just went out there to help people because it was the Right Thing. I also enjoyed Dawn Vogel’s Fortissimo Possibile and, of course, my pal’s story The Writing is on the Wall, but then I always feel a bit of a thrill about anything set in Glasgow :-).

One thing worth remarking upon is the number of female authors and protagonists in the collection. It shouldn’t be worth remarking upon, but it’s unusual to have a greater-than-half number of female authors.

There were few misses here, I thought. Although I enjoyed The Breeze, it was very much a teen prom drama, the fact that the protagonist had a permanent breeze around her barely came into it. And it’s not that I didn’t enjoy Short Circuit, but it felt very much like one chapter or segment in a larger piece of work (that I’d certainly like to read!).

So a fun collection worth reading by anyone who has a passing interest in the superhero genre.

Book details

ISBN: 9780615901190
Publisher: Crossed Genres Publications
Year of publication: 2013

DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore

By Alan Moore

Rating: 4 stars

Alan Moore has been one of the giants of comic books for thirty-odd years, and this book showcases some of his best work for DC Comics. Several of the stories are tender, some are funny, others are just odd, but there are a few which are disturbing. While The Killing Joke is justifiably a great story, it is very disturbing. There’s the casual violence towards Barbara Gordon, what happens to Commissioner Gordon, and, for me, especially the last few panels. Excellent storytelling, but disturbing.

I also found Father’s Day, a story of The Vigilante (a character I’ve never heard of) disturbing. It feels almost nihilistic in some ways, asking what the point of life is, in the same way as The Killing Joke. But Moore seems to answer himself in other stories. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow and In Blackest Night both seem to be deeply humanist stories about survival, life and finding things to fight for.

There are also some very funny stories here. I really enjoyed the black humour in the Green Arrow story Night Olympics, while Brief Lives is a tale of how mighty empires mean nothing on some scales (reminding me of the story of the two mighty battle fleets swallowed by a dog in Douglas Adams’ wonderful Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And Mogo Doesn’t Socialise is laugh-out-loud funny in its revelation.

Moore is a writer I have a lot of respect for. I find him difficult at times, but this collection showcases his flexibility and his versatility. Even if you’re not hugely familiar with the DC canon, it’s still damn fine storytelling, even if it is disturbing at times.

Book details

ISBN: 9781401209278
Publisher: DC Comics
Year of publication: 2003

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