Ms. Marvel: Civil War II

by G. Willow Wilson, et al
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Other is the series: No Normal, Generation Why , Super Famous
Content: Violence, mostly. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore, but it’s good for teens and up.

I’m not sure if I’m completely up on Ms. Marvel (it’s hard to keep track!)… but I picked this one up, and fell into it. Kamala is having issues at school and as a superhero – she doesn’t have time for her friends much anymore, and Bruno is no longer happy with being her “sidekick”. And then Captain Marvel asks Kamala to be the head of this predictive crime unit, where they take a psychic’s premonitions and then arrest people before they commit a crime. It’s going fine, until one of Kamala’s friends gets arrested for thinking about doing something drastic. Maybe predictive crime prevention comes perilously close to profiling?

Kamala tries to get out of it, but ends up alienating everyone, so she heads off to Pakistan to her family’s home, trying to find herself there. But not everything is quite as simple as it seems.

It helps that each issue is really its own arc, and that you don’t really need to know what went on before, which is good because I’m not sure I remember from issue to issue. That said, this one touched on some really interesting ideas, including profiling, and the costs/benefits of trying to stop crime before it happens. The side trip to Pakistan at the end was interesting, too, as was the Kamala’s parents’ backstory that was threaded throughout the issue. I keep picking these up because I love the story arcs that Wilson comes up with, and this one didn’t disappoint.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World

squirrelgirlby Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
First sentence: “Doreen Green liked her name.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher
Release date: February 7, 2017
Content: There’s a bit of violence, but it’s mostly cartoonish. There are some complicated words and it’s a bit long for younger readers, but the chapters are short and action-packed and I think reluctant readers will take to it. It will be in the Middle Grade section (grades 3-5) of the bookstore, but I’d give it to 6-7th graders as well.

Doreen Green was born with the abilities (and tail) of a squirrel. For her her whole life (all 14 years of it) she’s been home schooled and told to keep her abilities secret. But she and her parents have recently moved to the suburbs in New Jersey, and there are Things that need to be Done, and can only be done by a superhero. And it looks like that Dorreen, with the help of her new BFFAEAE (best fried forever and ever and ever) Ana Sofia and the local squirrel contingent, is the hero her town needs.

I have to admit that it took me a bit to get into the feel of this book. I generally like the Hales’ sense of humor, but for some reason this one felt a bit too over the top for me. But, I settled into it (also: not really the target audience), and they had me laughing by the end. (I especially liked the text conversations with Rocket Raccoon.) I liked that Doreen’s parents were basically good people, and understood the need to get out of their daughter’s way. And even though the book started out slow, it finished exciting.

A lot of fun!

Ms. Marvel: Super Famous

msmarvelby G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, Nico Leon
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: Volume 1, Volume 2
Content: There’s some violence, and there are a few more mature themes, but K is interested in this one and I’d let her read them. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Kamala has a problem. She’s been invited to be a part of the Avengers (not the problem), but between that, school, and home commitments, it’s getting harder and harder to stay on top of things. And so, she doesn’t notice at first when her face appears on the billboard touting a new development in her neighborhood. It’s nothing she signed off on, but it turns out that the development not only plans on destroying her neighborhood, but also is brainwashing all of its tenants. And, with Bruno’s help, hopefully she’ll be able to stop the developers.

That’s the better of the two stories in this latest Ms. Marvel, though the second story (about some clones that Bruno and Kamala make in order to help her get to all of her commitments) isn’t as strong, it does have one of my favorite moments, when Kamala realizes that she can’t do It All. The art — even though I still don’t like the switch between artists and prefer Miyazawa’s rendition best — is fantastic, and I love that the people are really realistically portrayed and diverse!

This series is SO good.

Ms. Marvel, vol. 2

msmarvelby G. Willow Wilson, Elmo Bondoc, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: Ms. Marvel, vol. 1
Content: There’s violence, again, but not as much as other superhero comics. It’s in the Graphic Novel section, but A (whose 12) loves this. (I bet K would too, except for the romance-y parts.)

I know I should be reading these as they come out (but that would require either webcomic-ing it,or schlepping down to the comic book store), but it’s just easier to wait for these huge eight-book compilations to come out to catch up on the storyline.

I’m still loving this. It’s got some strong, good YA themes, of trying to figure out how to fit in the world and with relationships (both friendships and with boys). I loved the fangirl aspect, especially when Kamala meets Carol Danvers. That was a lot of fun. I liked how she met and fell for a Pakistani boy, who then turns out to be a lackey for a bad guy. Nice. And I liked the themes of acceptance vs. control. And the art — especially in the middle sections, which was drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa — was fantastic.

It’s all great and a ton of fun. Wilson has definitely come up with a modern superhero I can get behind. (Now, when are we going to get her movie?)

Zeroes

by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti
First sentence: “More coffee?”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy pilfered from the ARC piles at my place of employment.
Content: There’s some talk of drug use (none of it by teens), a smattering of mild swearing, and one (unnecessary, misplaced, and kind of glaring) f-bomb.

Who are the Zeroes?

They are six teenagers, all born in the year 2000, who have discovered, over the years that they have extra-ordinary powers. Bellwether can charm a crowd of people into believing whatever he wants them to. Crash is bothered by electronics, and she can make entire systems, well, crash. Flicker is blind, and yet she can see through every one else’s eyes. Anon isn’t invisible, but he is easily forgettable; his parents once forgot that he was deathly ill and left him (to die) in the hospital. Scam has this voice inside him that can talk anyone into anything he wants, which is what gets all the Zeroes into trouble.

With Mob, who can control a crowd’s mood, and her father, who is in deep with the Russian mob.

The question is: will the Zeroes be able to help them? Or are they just going to make things… worse?

It’s kind of hard to juggle multiple points of view in a book, and in this one they tackle six of them. Some of them — Anon, Flicker, Scam, and Mob come out with the best story arcs in the book — are really well developed. Others — Bellwether and Crash — aren’t so much. But, for the most part, the flipping between people helped push the story forward, and I found that I didn’t mind seeing the action from different perspectives.

And the story was pretty seamless, considering there were three authors writing. I was worried that it would be choppy, but whatever they did — editing, lots and lots of rewriting — worked.

It’s definitely a ton of fun.

Avengers: Rage of Ultron

by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, Pepe Larraz, Mark Morales
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It’s geared toward adults, but I could see a teen who was interested in the Avengers being okay with reading this. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

I am running a Graphic Novel book group for teens (really, for whomever comes) this summer, and I wanted a Marvel Avengers one to start the group off (because of the movie). I did a lot of asking and digging to figure out if there was a stand-alone that those who aren’t into the universe (read: me) and who have only seen the movies (again: me) could understand. In the end, I settled on this one.

And on many levels I was right: it was a stand-alone (mostly; the ending was a bit ambiguous) and it gave me enough information to understand the story on its own terms, even if I didn’t know how it fit into the larger Marvel universe.

But: these are not your movie Avengers. And that was the biggest hurdle for me.

It’s a similar story to Age of Ultron: a robot was created by Hank Pym, and then when homicidal, deciding that humanity was worthless and needed to be exterminated. One of my favorite panels in this GN was the opening one: a “voice over” (what does one call it when it’s in book form?) of Ultron declaring humanity worthless while Captain America rushes around saving people from Ultron’s destruction. It’s intense and nicely done.

The Avengers beat Ultron, of course, and send him out into space. Then the story fast-forwards to sometime in the future, where Ultron has taken over the moon of Titan, enslaving the people there, and Starfox (Hubby had to explain about the Titans; good thing I have him around) comes back to a new group of Avengers, who are arguing about whether or not Artificial Intelligence counts as “life”. Some, like The Vision, argue that it is; that turning them “off” is tantamount to killing them. But AI like Ultron prove Pym’s point: they can’t be trusted. (I actually really liked the whole discussion of artificial intelligence and found it fascinating.) Ultron follows Starfox back and starts a big fight, one that eventually consumes all of the Avengers.

What I found most interesting were the underlying themes running through the GN: should AI be considered alive and be granted the same rights? To what point should the creator be responsible if the AI goes, well, crazy? I found it interesting that Pym called Ultron his “son” and felt, ultimately, responsible for Ultron’s actions, though I think he took it a bit too far.

The art was fantastic, with strong lines and bold colors. And there were some panels — the one I’ve mentioned at the beginning as well as one near the end of the book — that were simply amazing.

I don’t know if this is going to catapult me into reading other Avengers (or Marvel, aside from Ms. Marvel) GNs, but I really did enjoy reading this one.

Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal

by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some talk of teen drinking and some violence, but I’d hand it to anyone who loves superheroes and is willing to sit through the Avengers movie. It’s in the adult graphic novel section, but I wonder if it’d get more traction in the teen?

I’m sold. Seriously. I’ve heard the buzz (thanks to Leila and others) and I caved, and THEY WERE RIGHT. It’s worth it: you should read it.

(Do I need to say more?)

Kamala Kahn is a 16-year-old daughter of Pakistani immigrants, and she’s basically chafing against her life. She doesn’t like being Muslim. She doesn’t like having overprotective parents. She doesn’t like not being “pretty” and “blonde”. And so when Captain Marvel appears to Kamala (after a party she snuck out to) and gives Kamala an opportunity to reboot her life, Kamala wishes to be like Captain Marvel. Her wish is granted: she has super-powers. (And is tall and blonde.) Eventually, she figures out that the tall and blonde and “non-politically correct” costume isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. She accepts that she — Ms. Marvel, as she dubs herself — is Pakistani and goes with it, embracing (albeit reluctantly) her new superpowers.

Why did I love it? First: it’s a Pakistani girl superhero! She’s Muslim, and while she chafes against her parents’ rules, she’s faithful, which I appreciated. Which also means she’s a character of color: not all superheroes need to be white. (Or drawn with super-skimpy costumes, so yay for that as well.) But it’s more than that: Kamala is smart and funny, and the writing and art reflect that. I loved Kamala’s ordinary-ness, and her devotion to her friends (and parents), and her struggle to figure out what all this means and to accept who she is.

It’s completely worth the buzz. Fantastic.