Monday, 3 August 2015

Spider-Woman Vol 1: Spider-Verse by Dennis Hopeless

Spider-Woman Vol 1: Spider-Verse written by Dennis Hopeless and illustrated by Greg Land contains issues #1-4 of the latest (Marvel Now) Spider-Woman comics and an origin story issue from 1971 to bulk it out. I previously posted a short review of Issue #1.

Jessica Drew has been an agent of both S.H.I.E.L.D. and S.W.O.R.D., an Avenger and so much more. But nothing could prepare her for the multidimensional insanity that is Spider-Verse! A war is brewing, and every spider-character in the multiverse is a target! But being a target is something Jessica Drew just won't abide. She's a woman with a mission - and with Silk, the newest spider on the block at her side, she'll need to put all her training to the test if she wants to make it out of Spider-Verse alive! Now, undercover in the most dangerous place in the multiverse, Spider-Woman is in the tightest spot she's ever been in. What if even succeeding with her mission means her death? And can Silk handle a solo mission?

I feel a bit bad for Spider-Woman on this run because it's very much squeezed between two events (if you consider that Vol 2 leads into Last Days). This volume deals with some of Spider-Woman's adventures during the Spider-Verse event, which also involve Silk (pictured on the cover), Spider-Gwen (who is great) and Spider-Girl (Anya, briefly). The Spider-Verse event (which I thought was explained sufficiently within the comic — a nice change) centres around a bunch of bad guys who want to eat all the spider-people. It kind of reminded me of the Family of Blood from Doctor Who. The story in this volume starts of focusing on Spider-Woman and other protecting Silk, who seems to strongly attract bad guys. The mission takes them across universes and past doppelgängers until the day is more or less saved (something which obviously involves story lines in other books) and the event winds up.

The fourth issue winds up the most recent chapter of Jessica Drew's life and sets her up to get a new costume (spoiler) in the following issue, which will be in Volume 2. It was a one-shot story involving Carol Danvers and Steve Rogers (Captains Marvel and America) a small bad to fight, and of course many quips.

The last issue, from 1971, which was bundled into this volume, tells yet another origin story of Spider-Woman. Honestly, it's not that terrible, although it is that ridiculous. It starts with Spider-Woman as a Hydra agent and,via an encounter with Nick Fury (disappointingly white), ends with her questioning everything she'd been lead to believe. It was a bit melodramatic, but on the scale of weird old comics I've read, really not as offensive as it could've been. But overall, meh.

It's interesting to see that Spider-Woman's costume hasn't changed since the 70s (except for maybe her hair) and that makes her recent update all the more exciting. Her costume isn't the worst ever since it at least covers her, but it does tend to be drawn with unrealistically clingy fabric. And so, while I enjoyed the story in this volume, there were a few slightly icky art moments. Nothing too egregious, but boobs that were too big — which bothered me most on Spider-Gwen, for whatever reason — and a few weird poses. This is the series that had the particularly anatomically incorrect cover for issue #1, so perhaps I shouldn't be too surprised. It's disappointing, but on the other hand, I was pleased to see that cover wasn't included in the cover gallery at the back or anywhere else in the volume.

I am looking forward to the next volume of Spider-Woman (out next year :-/ ) and I enjoyed this volume. I'm not sure whether I would recommend it to readers who aren't already fans of Spider-Woman or Silk (or at a stretch Spider-Gwen). I don't think it stands alone that well and I suspect the next volume will actually be a better jumping on point (although I say that without having read any of it). On the other hand, this made me even more eager to read Spider-Gwen (I'm waiting for the trade) and has also made me interested in Silk, about whom I didn't know much before.

4 / 5 stars

First published: June 2015, Marvel Comics
Series: Spider-Woman ongoing series. Volume 1, contains issues #1-4 (and an issue from 1971)
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Real life book shop!

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Wicked + The Divine Vol 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie

The Wicked + The Divine Vol 1: The Faust Act, written by Kieron Gillen and illustrated by Jamie McKelvie, is a comic about a variety of gods incarnating as teenagers for a limited time. This first volume in an ongoing series collects issues #1–5.

Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead. The team behind critical tongue-attractors like Young Avengers and PHONOGRAM reunite to create a world where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you’re immortal, doesn’t mean you’re going to live forever.

This comic series is less... obvious... or predictable than the blurb makes it seem. It's set in a world where every ninety years the gods reincarnate into teenagers, are pop stars (or the period equivalent) and then die within two years. The last time this happened was the 1920s. It's happening again now.

The story is told from the point of view of Laura, a normal teenager who is a fan of the god music stars and wants to see them all live in concert. Then, when she passes out at a concert, she becomes more mixed up with them than she anticipated. In particular, she finds an affinity for Luci (-fer), who quickly also finds herself in trouble. In her quest to help, Laura gets mixed up with even more of the gods (I particularly liked the Morrigan, for whom I have a bit of a soft spot) and a journalist who has a Masters on the recurrence and a lot of god-directed anger.

I enjoyed The Wicked + The Divine a lot. It was a consistently entertaining read that had a diverse cast and was fairly irreverent towards the gods. It is especially fairly liberal towards who gets to be which god, with a few gender (and ethnicity) switches in the mix. For example Lucifer is female, Inanna is male and Woden looks like he (?) just stepped out of Tron for some reason. The gods all have some aspects of their traditional powers/identities but less literally than many interpretations will have it. I also enjoyed that it was set in London rather than New York or LA, because non-US settings are always refreshing.

This first volume contains a section of story which, although it's self-contained for one character, is obviously part of a bigger story. I can't wait to read more. The second volume has just recently come out, but it was sold out at our local store, sadface.

I highly recommend The Wicked + The Divine to fans of mythology. Kind of any mythology. A rather wide swath of cultures make an appearance. It's an engaging and interesting story that makes good use of the comic format.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Image Comics
Series: The Wicked + The Divine Volume 1 of ongoing series (vol 2 just came out). Collects issues #1–5
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Comic book shop in Melbourne

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard

The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard is a novel in a new universe that stands alone well. I have, however, been informed that there is a sequel coming, as yet unnamed.

In the late Twentieth Century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins. The Great Magicians’ War left a trail of devastation in its wake. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.

Once the most powerful and formidable, House Silverspires now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.

Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel; an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction; and a resentful young man wielding spells of unknown origin. They may be Silverspires’ salvation—or the architects of its last, irreversible fall. And if Silverspires falls, so may the city itself.

The characters are what really stood out for me in this book. They all have complex motivations that do not necessarily have much to do with each other's. The rich setting comes in a close second. For a start, it's refreshing to have  a fantasy book with an urban setting — albeit a ruined urban setting — set in Paris rather than in the US. And then there's the detailed way Bodard has destroyed Paris, and the world, before the opening of the story. The city is in ruins, but they are ruins that people have built lives around. But aside from mentioning that it's also a world in which not everything is as it seems, I don't think I can really do the worldbuilding justice. You'll just have to read the book yourself to see.

On to the characters! There's Philippe, a Vietnamese (or Annamite, as the alternate history of the book has it) ex-Immortal who ended up in Paris thanks to the sweeping force of colonialism. Although on the surface he may seem to have something in common with the Fallen, in that he's on Earth after being kicked out of the Jade Emperor's court, he hates the Fallen for what they've done to the world and their House system for what they've done to him personally. Despite this, the story opens with him getting caught up with House Silverspires, setting the main plot of the book into motion.

Then there's Isobelle, a new Fallen with an unshakable link to Philippe, his efforts to get away from all the Fallen notwithstanding, who is taken into House Silverspires. She unquestionably changes the most throughout the book, partly because new Fallen start off naive and clueless (so there's nowhere to go but up) and partly thanks to the events of the book. She ends up getting close to Madeline, Silverspires' House Alchemist who has secrets and a traumatic past.

As far as these things go, I'd say Philippe and Madeline were my favourite characters. I also found Morningstar, who is not really physically present in the story, to be a very powerful echo of a character, resonating throughout the story. The repercussions of his actions are far reaching and Bodard did a commendable job of making him come to life as not much more than a memory. Selene, the currently leader of House Silverspires, constantly lives in his shadow and measures herself against him while trying to keep the house together. I sympathised with Selene, although she wasn't exactly my favourite person.

The House of Shattered Wings is a gorgeously written fantasy novel set in a world of post-apocalyptic/war decay. I don't usually like angel books, but this one definitely worked for me. I suspect the combination of Christian mythology with Annam mythology probably helped in that area. I have to admit I wasn't sure if it was going to be a stand alone or part of a series while I was reading. The end was quite self-contained but there are a few more minor loose ends that I'm looking forward to seeing explored in a sequel. But there are definitely to cliffhangers and the main plot is resolved.
I highly recommend The House of Shattered Wings to all fantasy fans. Anyone looking for a different kind of urban fantasy should definitely give it a try.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: August 2015, Penguin (US, cover above) and Gollancz (UK)
Series: Apparently there will be a sequel, but this volume stands alone well.
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Lumberjanes Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holly by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis

Lumberjanes Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holly written by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis and illustrated by Brooke Allen is the first volume of collected issues in a new ongoing comic series.

At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together... And they're not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here. 

I had heard a lot of good things about Lumberjanes before I finally got around to buying it. I dawdled on buying this because I didn't think I'd like the art. Turns out, it works really well for this story, especially with the way it's coloured in and laid out and stuff. It was a visually appealing read.

Part of what did finally convince me to buy it was the promise of a kickarse lady-centred story. And that it had. Lumberjanes is about five lumberjane scouts (and sort of their camp leader), at the lumberjane camp in the wilderness somewhere. They have some surreal and fantastical adventures which make use of their unexpected skills... as well as some of the skills they learn during the camp. If anything, the hype I was exposed to had me expecting a bit more from the comics — more depth, more character development. But in the end it's a short fun yarn, and anything more wouldn't have really fit in the pages available.

Lumberjanes is fun and a bit weird and I will definitely be reading the next one. I recommend Lumberjanes to readers who enjoy stories about women, especially with almost entirely female casts (one issue had an encounter with some boy scouts, but the rest were all ladies all the time). Whoo!

4 / 5 stars

First published: May 2015, Boom! Box
Series: Lumberjanes ongoing series
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Online non-Amzon bookshop

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Tsana's July Status

Slightly belated because I had been travelling and it slipped my mind while I was busy recovering from said travels.

The main news since my last status update post is that our submissions window for Defying Doomsday closed, and now Holly and I are busy reading slush. I had a lot of comic reviews queued up from my Marvel Unlimited month, but now that they've run out I suspect things will get a little bit quieter on the blog, review-wise. I have been slowly catching up on review books in between slush, though, so there's that.

What Have I Read?

Books! *gasp* (more or less... OK there's still a lot of comics in there)
I have to say, there are more comics in that list than it feels like I've read, since most of them were queued in advance, but hey, that's how the... review... crumbles...

Currently Reading

Probably more different books than I really should be. Last night I started House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard which I'm really enjoying. I'm also a little way into Drachengott: Fire, the third in KJ Taylor's new series and keen to get back to the world, I just thought I needed a change of pace.

I'm also a reasonable way into Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, which is a more unusual case. I already read an early draft of this book because I helped the authors with some of the science. I'm now reading the ARC, partly to see how it turned out (very different with the proper layout instead of just art notes! ;-p ) and partly so that I know how things happened in the final version in preparation for checking the science in book 2. It's a good kind of book to pick up and put down.

New Booksies

First off, an order of comics I placed came through:
  • Lumberjanes Vol 1 — review coming soooon
  • She-Hulk Vols 1 & 2 — because the last two issues were missing on Marvel Unlimited and I wanted to see how it ended! Also my husband ran out of time to read in on MU and got to do so at his leisure. Also it was a good run.
  • Ms Marvel Vol 3 — already reviewed because it's awesome.
Then some ARCs:
  • Drachengott: Fire by KJ Taylor — sequel to Wind and Earth.
  • House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard — currently reading
  • Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley — which, alas, has no cover yet and is the sequel to Mirror Empire
And finally, I was clearing out Firefox tabs and decided to buy the two books I'd left open to decide about later. They were:

Friday, 17 July 2015

Trees Vol 1: In Shadow by Warren Ellis

Trees Vol 1: In Shadow written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Jason Howard collects the first eight issues of the ongoing comic book series Trees. I read Issue #1 back in May and was intrigued and then picked up the first volume when I came across it in my local genre bookshop. If you read my short review of issue #1, let me just say, the first issue barely begins to scratch the surface of the awesomeness contained within this series.

Ten years after they landed. All over the world. And they did nothing, standing on the surface of the Earth like trees, exerting their silent pressure on the world, as if there were no-one here and nothing under foot. Ten years since we learned that there is intelligent life in the universe, but that they did not recognize us as intelligent or alive.

Trees looks at a near-future world where life goes on in the shadows of the Trees: in China, where a young painter arrives in the “special cultural zone” of a city under a Tree; in Italy, where a young woman under the menacing protection of a fascist gang meets an old man who wants to teach her terrible skills; and in Svalbard, where a research team is discovering, by accident, that the Trees may not be dormant after all, and the awful threat they truly represent.

First things first, there are no chapter breaks in this volume, so it was impossible to tell where issue #1 ended and issue #2 began, which was slightly confusing at first but not a hardship to reread the first issue again. And the issue covers are included at the end so you're not missing out. This lack of structure makes Trees feel much more like a continuous story than a lot of other comics I've read. Even Marvel's multi-issue arcs tend to have little recaps at the start of the issues, something that was completely lacking in Trees. A good choice, I think, lending a sense of coherence.

As I had already seen in issue #1, Trees follows several groups of characters in different parts of the world — a world in which towering alien structures have landed and then done not much else. A lot of the story doesn't directly involve the Trees, but some of it does and, of course, what kind of a story would it be if nothing continued to not happen? (Answer: a boring one.) But Trees doesn't stick to tired tropes when dealing with weird things happening with the alien structures. It subverts tropes and brings the Volume to a close with an unexpected bang. I have no idea what to expect in Volume 2, aside from maybe some of the things a couple of characters were planning.

Genre tropes aren't all that Trees subverts. What I found wasn't at all hinted at in Issue #1 was the scope of the gender issues dealt with in this comic. Most obviously there's the story in the Chinese artists' enclave under a tree, where the new boy a) learns that trans people exist, b) explores his own sexuality and c) deals with everything better than anyone particularly expected him to. I'd say it's worth reading just for those bits (actually, I'd say Trees is worth reading for any one of the individual storylines). There's also a strong feminist story in Italy, where a gangster's girlfriend learns some life skills from an older guy and takes matters (and the town) into her own hands. There was one thing the older guy said to her that particularly struck me. I was going to quote it but looking at it again it doesn't quite work out of context. But it's along the lines of the older guy feeling bad for contributing to a world where women like her (no money, minimal education, etc) are marginalised. He's helping her to redress the balance and has zero interest in her sexually, which I appreciated.

The other storylines involved scientists studying the Trees, which I don't think I can say too much about, a politician in Manhattan who will obviously be relevant in Volume 2, and the president of an African country. The latter story was left on a bit of a cliffhanger and I'm particularly interested in seeing what happens next. Hopefully it will be developed further and, hopefully we will eventually get some answers as to what the Trees want, where they came from and why they're here. I look forward to finding out.

Trees Vol 1: In Shadow was an excellent read and I highly recommend it to all SF and comic fans. In particular, I think readers who enjoyed Saga but are (also) interested in a more down-to-Earth SF read would do well to have a look at Trees. I am very much looking forward to the next volume, which I'm sure will be just as though-provoking.

5 / 5 stars

First published: February 2015, Image Comics
Series: Trees, ongoing series. Volume 1, collecting Issues #1–8
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Purchased from a physical book shop

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Crash by Sean Williams

Crash by Sean Williams is the sequel to Jump, which I read a year and a half ago. The long gap between reading was a bit annoying because the events of book one had become a bit of a hazy memory. While I remembered the key characters, some of the details had become rather vague. However, I didn't find this an impediment to getting back into the story. There wasn't a huge amount of recapping, but there was enough to know what was going on. I'm pretty sure this review will contain spoilers for the first book.

If you betrayed a friend, how far would you go to earn their forgiveness?

If someone had saved your life, would you risk your life to save them?

If you could bring someone back from the dead, who would you choose?

Clair and Jesse have barely been reunited when the world is plunged into crisis - the d-mat network is broken. People are trapped, injured and dying, and it's partly Clair's fault.

Peacekeepers enlist Clair to track down Q, the rogue AI - artificial intelligence - who saved her life and is the key to fixing the system. Targeted by dupes and abandoned by her friends, Clair finds powerful allies in the most unlikely places. But who can she trust? Q won't respond to her calls for help, and if Clair finds her, will she be trapping her friend in a life of servitude or sending her to death by erasure?

Caught between pro- and anti-d-mat philosophies, in a world on the brink of all-out war, Clair must decide where she stands - and who she stands with - at the end.

This middle instalment of the trilogy follows Clair and her unusual band of friends as they mostly run away from things and try to survive. D-mat is broken and the world is in chaos from their sudden inability to travel anywhere further than walking distance (more or less). Clair, having contributed to the developing apocalypse, wants to do something about it. In particular, she wants to find Q who has disappeared and, with increasing urgency, deal with the new problems that arise like all the people trying to kill her.

This was actually a surprisingly violent book. It fit and made sense in the context, but a lot of people died, many of them off-page, but a lot of them also in proximity to Clair. Admittedly, many of these people weren't "proper" people, being dupes — clones controlled by someone else, loosely speaking — but there were still a lot of blood and guts. A warning for those who may not be in the mood for such things.

For Clair and friends the story was a string of disasters, moving from the frying pan into the fire and then the next frying pan several times. It was an entertaining read that had me keen to return to it every time I put the book down. I might have guessed one of the twists before it was revealed, but unlike with some other books I've read, it didn't annoy me that Clair didn't make the same connection until much later. There was a lot of evidence pointing both ways and I wasn't completely sure until it was confirmed.

If you enjoyed Jump (or Twinmaker in the US) I definitely recommend reading Crash (or Crashland in the US). If you haven't read any of this series, this is not the book to start with. It's very much a continuation of the story started in Jump. In general, I would definitely recommend this series to fans of YA and SF, especially to anyone that likes philosophical questions brought into their stories.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Allen & Unwin
Series: Twinmaker book 2 of 3
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased on iBooks
Challenges: Australian Science Fiction Reading Challenge

Monday, 13 July 2015

Drachengott: Earth by KJ Taylor

Drachengott: Earth by KJ Taylor is the second book in the Drachengott series. It follows on from the first book in the series, Wind, which I have already reviewed. This sequel follows on from the events in the first book but does so by focussing on a different protagonist. The book almost stands alone, but I think the overarching plot would be completely lost without reading the earlier book, as would some of the complexity of the world Taylor has created.

Elynor von Augenstein is a Junger - a faithful worshipper of the mysterious Drachengott, with a faithful dragon servant of her own. But Elynor has secrets, and soon they will take everything from her.

A fugitive with no place to turn, Elynor sees only death in her future - but then a mysterious and beautiful woman comes into her life. A woman who is more than she seems to be, with secrets of her own - a woman who calls herself a friend to the famous Rutger Dragonsbane, and an enemy to the Drachengott himself ...

In Wind, the previous book, the instigating character leads and actively teaches Rutger for most of the story. In Earth, the instigating character more or less pushes Elynor in the right direction and leaves her to do the rest on her own. Elynor starts off as a Jünger, a magic user and follower of the Drachengott, but when she's condemned for not sticking to the whole Jünger celibacy thing, she starts to make her own way. She's also a shapeshifter, and, quite frankly, doesn't need anyone else to teach her how to do magic. Well, apart from one spell which she covets, but explaining that would be a spoiler. My point is, Elynor is a very independent and capable character from the start.

Unfortunately, that means she doesn't get to grow and evolve quite as much as a character/person throughout the story. The focus is not so much on her learning who she is (although there is an element of her working out what she believes in) but her having a goal and working towards it. In some ways that makes her feel a little underdeveloped, but I do think it makes sense given her role in the overarching story. I did feel this most keenly when [spoiler redacted] and she just goes along with it. There was a reasonable explanation, but I would have liked to have seen it explored more. (Apologies for cryptic end to paragraph there.)

Like the prequel, Earth is a quick read, telling one quarter of a larger, more epic story. I enjoyed it, with my favourite bits the random appearances of a certain character readers will recognise if they've read Wind. That more than anything, I think, served to remind me that what I was reading was a piece of a bigger picture and not quite an entire story by itself. (When it's complete I would kind of like to see this series printed in a single volume. It would feel... neat.)

I recommend Earth to readers who enjoyed Wind and want to read more of the world. If you liked Wind but didn't, for example, like the characters, then I would still recommend giving Earth a shot. On the other hand, if you want a long complex read with many layers to the characterisation etc, this is not the series for you. Go read KJ Taylor's griffin books instead. Dracchengott is very much characterised by brief and fun reads.

4 / 5 stars

First published: June 2015, Harper Collins
Series: Drachengott, book 2 of 4
Format read: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Challenges: Australian Women Writers Challenge

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Ms Marvel Vol 3: Crushed by G Willow Wilson

Ms Marvel Vol 3: Crushed written by G Willow Wilson and illustrated by Elmo Bondoc and Takeshi Miyazawa is, obviously, the third Ms Marvel volume of the Kamala Khan Ms Marvel. Containing issues #12–15 of Ms Marvel and SHIELD #2 this is a bit of an unusual trade because the story that starts in #16 is tied to the Secret Wars event (it's a Last Days storyline, which means we will see the world ending from Kamala's point of view) and, I assume, could not be split up. So instead of giving us a trade with only 4 issues in it, the powers that be at Marvel threw in the SHIELD issue, which is very Ms Marvel-centric.

Love is in the air in Jersey City as Valentine’s Day arrives! Kamala Khan may not be allowed to go to the school dance, but Ms. Marvel is! Well sort of — by crashing it in an attempt to capture Asgard’s most annoying trickster! Yup, it’s a special Valentine’s Day story featuring Marvel’s favorite charlatan, Loki! And when a mysterious stranger arrives in Jersey City, Ms. Marvel must deal with…a crush! Because this new kid is really, really cute. What are these feelings, Kamala Khan? Prepare for drama! Intrigue! Romance! Suspense! Punching things! All this and more! The fan-favorite, critically acclaimed, amazing new series continues as Kamala Khan proves why she’s the best (and most adorable) new super hero there is! Plus, see what happens when SHIELD agent Jemma Simmons goes undercover at Kamala’s school!

This volume starts with a one-shot Valentine's Day issue, in which Teen Loki wreaks some havoc at the school dance. It was amusing but with all the set up — for the Loki side of things in Asgard, as well as for the Ms Marvel and friends side — it was over too quickly. We did get to see more of Nakia, which I liked because I don't think she's in nearly enough of her. Since Bruno is the only one who knows about Kamala's secret identity, there's a lot more of him around and not enough of Kamala with her female friend. So more Nakia for the win. She didn't make much of an appearance in the remaining issues, however.

The second storyline was a three issue arc mainly about the first boy Kamala has a crush on and basically everything that can go wrong when you're a superhero with a crush. And I do mean everything that can possibly go wrong in that scenario. But it was another amusing storyline that made me laugh several times, especially when things were going well. I was a little disappointed that everything had to fall apart, but it would not have been a sustainable storyline, so I suppose that makes sense. There was also a very interesting parallel drawn between supervillains and terrorists, which I'll leave for you to read in full.

And finally there was the SHIELD issue. I was concerned at first that it would be yet another comic story for which I didn't have the full background to understand but it actually turned out to be quite accessible. So long as you have a passing acquaintance with the SHIELD TV show (or I suppose the earlier comics, though this is the second issue of a new run that, I think, is more closely tied to the TV show than the earlier run, I could be wrong on that last point) this comic is completely comprehensible. Simmons goes undercover at Kamala's school, the shady business she and Coulson are there to stop explodes (figuratively) and Kamala saves the day and fangirls over SHIELD. It was another fun read.

I am continuing to enjoy this Ms Marvel series. I am looking forward to the next volume, although not without some trepidation given that everything is going to be turned on it's head. (I've seen some of the art though and it looks awesome. Ms Marvel meeting Captain Marvel? YES PLEASE!) If you've been enjoying Ms Marvel so far, definitely pick up this latest volume. If you haven't read any of it yet, I recommend starting with Issue #1 / Volume 1 (No Normal) since that will also give you the origin story.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: June 2015, Marvel
Series: Ms Marvel, Vol 3 of ongoing series containing issues #12–15 of Ms Marvel and SHIELD issue #2
Format read: Trade paperback
Source: Non-Amazon online book shop

Thursday, 9 July 2015

She-Hulk by Charles Soule

She-Hulk Vol 1: Law and Disorder and Vol 2: Disorderly Conduct written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Javier Poulido make up the most recently published run of She-Hulk. Unfortunately, reading on Marvel Unlimited, the last two issues were not yet available. The good news for me was that the last available issue, #10, tied up a story arc, so at least I wasn't left hanging too much... but I still went and ordered the trades of both volumes straight away.

Jennifer Walters is the She-Hulk! A stalwart member of the Avengers and FF, she's also a killer attorney with a pile of degrees and professional respect. But juggling cases and kicking bad guy butt is a little more complicated than she anticipated. With a new practice, a new paralegal and a mounting number of super villains she's racking up as personal enemies, She Hulk might have bitten off more than she can chew! When Kristoff Vernard, the son of Victor Von Doom, seeks extradition, it's an international jailbreak, She-Hulk-style! Then, She-Hulk and Hellcat must uncover the secrets of the Blue File — a conspiracy that touches the entire Marvel Universe! And when someone important to She-Hulk is killed, and won't let it stand — but who can she trust?

She-Hulk takes on her most terrifying role yet: defendant! She-Hulk, Hellcat and Giant-Man team up to save one of Jen’s officemates — but what secret agenda does Hank Pym have? Meanwhile, She-Hulk takes on Captain America as her newest client! Someone from Cap’s past has returned to haunt them all, and She-Hulk might be his only hope — because the opposing attorney is Matt Murdock! She-Hulk and Daredevil battle it out in court and on the streets in this trial of the century — but is Captain America actually guilty after all? And at long last, it’s all come down to this: the Blue File revealed! As Hellcat investigates the mysterious, mind-altering file, She-Hulk takes on Titania — and Angie Huang just might meet her fate! Secrets are revealed and the Blue File is opened wide as Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s acclaimed run comes to a close!

I think this was definitely my favourite She-Hulk run. I enjoyed some of the side characters and stories in the Dan Slott runs, but this run was overall more enjoyable. For a start the art was much less objectifying — although I enjoyed one of the artists in the Slott runs, the others were less good and there was much more gratuitous sideboob and bikini line action happening, not to mention the "standard" cleavage and butt shots. Here She-Hulk and Hellcat aren't objectified and are just portrayed as doing their job. Even when She-Hulk grows muscles and fights someone, leading to torn and shredded clothes, we might see part of her underwear but it never felt icky.

The stories were also more interesting and there was no random going to space (my least favourite Slott story lines). The main reason I wanted to read this run of She-Hulk (after burning out on the earlier one) is because I'd heard it leads into the new A-Force series; all-female Avengers, lead by She-Hulk. Having now read it, I'm not sure if it does, but I suspect that will be clearer when I read A-Force. In any case, the story that played out in the last two issues was odd and did have one key thing in common with what (little) I know of Secret Wars, but I'm not sure if that's relevant. I did like how a lot of hints were dropped in earlier She-Hulk issues that didn't come to a head until the very end. It was one of the things that kept me reading (the other things being basically everything else about the series).

The other cases were very fun and I found myself laughing several times. First there's Kristoff Vernard, the son of Victor Von Doom, who wants to defect and seek asylum in the US. He's kind of a spoilt jerk, but comes off as an enjoyable character to read about, possibly because of the doombots everywhere. There was also an incident with miniaturisation technology and a disagreement about intellectual property (illustrated on the cover of Vol 2), which got Hank Pym involved. Penultimately, there was a court case against Captain America, with She-Hulk defending him.

I really liked the side characters in this run too. There's Hellcat, who I've already mentioned, hired by She-Hulk to do the odd bit of investigative work. There's She-Hulk's paralegal, a new character with a suspicious monkey... suspiciously awesome monkey, that is. I also really enjoyed the scenes where She-Hulk and Daredevil/Matt Murdock interacted. It makes sense that the two superhero lawyers would have a lot in common and want to get together every so often, but it wasn't something we saw in earlier She-Hulk. Also, the part where they butt-heads as opposing councils is pretty great.

In summary, this version of She-Hulk is pretty great. If you like the idea of She-Hulk as a character but haven't read any of her stories, this is a good place to start. If you enjoyed earlier She-Hulk, why not read more? If you like your female superheroes not to be sexually objectified in the art, I would also suggest giving this series a shot.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: 2014, Marvel
Series: Yes. She-Hulk (2014 run) issues #1–12, collected in Vol 1 & 2 (#11-12 not yet on Marvel Unlimited at my time of reading)
Format read: Digital and trade paperback
Source: Marvel Unlimited, non-Amazon online book shop for the trades