Star Wars Highlight: Comics (Part 17)

There are many, many comics in the world of Star Wars. The ones I have here vary in era, art, publication date, publisher, and style, but they are all interesting releases both to the old Expanded Universe as well as the new canon. They are listed in order based on the Battle of Yavin. Just remember, this is a highlight on a small fraction of a larger whole.

Knights of the Old Republic: War (3962 BBY)

Publisher: Dark Horse (5 Issues)

Writer: John Jackson Miller

Artist(s): Andrea Mutti, Michael Atiyrh, Pierluigi Baldassini, et. al.

This is the 10th and last compiled volume in the KotOR series of graphic novels. It contains “War” parts 1-5. While Zayne Carrick has been on a number of adventures throughout the galaxy, the Mandaloriean war has continued all the while. Now the Jedi have offered to help in the war, but Zayne was drafted from his home planet into the fray. When Dallan Morvis, a Republic commander, does not see eye-to-eye with Zayne’s way of doing things and even finds Zayne to be a jinx, their mix-up in the war becomes even more problematic. Taken in by a Deveronian Mandie whose child Zayne saved, Morvis and Zayne must try to work together rather than doing things their own way, or they will never get out of the Mandoaide alive!

While the cover art on this volume is amazing, the interior art does not match up with the presentation of the characters on the cover (witch is never the case, but Zayne could have at least still had long hair in the interior). The story was a nice added bonus to the KotOR series in that the two main arcs are finished, but we get to see an aspect of the war that had been hanging overhead throughout those main story arcs in the first place. All-in-all a nice conclusive volume.

 

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Star Wars: Darth Maul (Approximately 35 BBY)

Publisher: Marvel (5 Issues)

Writer: Cullen Bunn

Artist(s): Luke Ross, Rod Reis, Jordan D. White (editor), and Heather Antos (assistant editor)

This story follows Darth Maul in his early days as Darth Sidious’s apprentice, before the events in The Phantom Menace. Darth Maul is itching to kill some Jedi, but Sidious asks him to be patient, that the time is not right just yet. Since he cannot kill any Jedi just yet, Darth Maul spends his time hunting down crime lords, even though that does not satiate his blood lust. One of the crime lords that Darth Maul pursues has a captive Jedi Padawan up for sale to the highest bidder. This catches his attention. Not only is it a crime lord that he can punish, but he can take the opportunity to go behind his masters back and practice his skills against an actual Jedi.

When this series was first announced, I was very excited, because I feel like we do not get enough information on Darth Maul and that he could have been an even better character, given the chance of development. I was somewhat disappointed in that the context was not what I was expecting. I think I was expecting something like the story of how Maul ended up with Sidious, or something along those lines. Despite the slow start, semi-interesting-but-kind-of-not plot, and development of Maul not being what I was expecting, it was still interesting to see what drives him and to get even a slight glimpse into his past as a Sith apprentice.

 

 

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Jedi Council: Acts of War (33 BBY)

Publisher: Dark Horse (4 Issues)

Writer: Randy Stradley

Artist(s): Davide Fabbri, Christian Dalla Vecchia, Dave McCaig, et. al.

This graphic novel compiles “Acts of War” parts 1-4. In this comic, Mace Windu is left with figuring out which Jedi to dispatch to hunt down the Yinchorri, a more violent race that fights against the Republic. While the Jedi are against killing other living beings, when the Yinchorri attack the Jedi Temple, Yoda shows no mercy. Among four planets, the Jedi must weed out the base of the Yinchorri and put an end to their violent acts once and for all. Little do the Jedi know that Palpatine is using the Yinchorri to deplete the Jedi and put his plans into further action, while his apprentice yearns to join the action.

I actually thought this graphic novel was very interesting. We get to see some iconic Jedi in action that we do not see many details of in other comics (including the Clone Wars). Seeing Palpatine and Maul on the sidelines of this event was likewise a nice way to spice up the conflict of the story as well. I really enjoyed the art and found that the different races among the Jedi were depicted well and in an interesting way.

 

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Star Wars Legacy: Broken (130 ABY)

Publisher: Dark Horse (5 Issues)

Writer: John Ostrander and Jan Duursema

Artist(s): Dan Parsons, Brad Anderson, Adam Hughes, Michael David Thomas

This volume contains issues 1-3 and 5-6 of “Star Wars, Legacy.” This story follows the descendant of Luke Skywalker, Cade Skywalker. When the Sith rise once more, they aim to destroy the Jedi similar to events of the past. After reviving his master from death and going out to avenge his the death of his father, Cade’s presence vanished from the world, but his master senses he is still alive. Meanwhile, the Sith lord Darth Krayt takes over as the new Emperor, and has a bounty out for the previous Emperor and his daughter. Seven years pass and Cade is a bounty hunter with two others who picked him up from space. Jedi are worth more in their bounties, but when Cade gets mixed up with a princess, his friends find out his Jedi heritage, the Sith make their appearance, and he is reunited with his old Jedi brethren. Now Cade must help bring down the Sith and live up to the legacy of the name Skywalker.

I dove into this series not having read any of the novels after about 20 ABY, so I wasn’t sure if I would like this or not without some of the previous Legacy context. On the contrary, I really loved this! Cade (is hot) is an interesting character, and so are his companions. Even the Sith are portrayed in a unique and beautifully artistic way that adds an extra dynamic of enjoyment to this comic. While is appears to repeat some of the same plot from the original Star Wars movies, this has great potential for character development and plot deviation, so I am pretty excited to see where this will go.

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Train Man-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Comedy/Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

This novel is based on the allegedly true story of a 23-year-old man who intervened when a drunk man began harassing a group of women on a train. The event itself and following dates with one of the women, known as Hermes, were chronicles and posted on mega-BBS 2channel in Japan (an internet message board).

This story follows an anonymous poster, sharing his experience about the drunk man and the girl on the train. In the discussion forum, readers begin to call the anonymous user “Train_Man.” When the woman asks Train_Main for his address, he does not know what to do and heads for the discussion boards.

With an array of supporters that regularly read the discussion, Train_Man has become his own mini celebrity on the forum, and everyone is pitching in and giving advice for what he should do in pursuing this young woman.

As Train_Man begins to share more about himself, including his lack of girlfriend history and that he is an otaku (nerd), the people of the forum step up, giving him all kinds of advise and things to do to win the girl over, named Hermes in the blog.

After a few real life meetings and dates with Hermes, Train_Man continues to follow the advise of those on 2channel, and he constantly updates his story and events with Hermes.

This novel is written in the format of the blog discussion forum and has various usernames with their postings similar to how a forum is set up. Many of the 2channel users await Train_Man to hear about his day, to hear how his experiences and story are developing, and the 2channel readers will sit and discuss Train_Man amongst themselves out of boredom from waiting. When Train_Man makes a post, a great digital celebration takes place among the forum as readers seek the details of this young man’s life, wanting and waiting for him to succeed.

Overall it was an enjoyable read and the formatting of the novel as a forum was fun, but the story was a bit bland in that we only see what is written in the forum. The only picture painted in the readers mind is whatever Train_Man and the other members of 2channel post, so we are always seeing the events indirectly and retold, so the reader never really knows quite what happened, having it told from the character as a story to other posters. Still an interesting read, I would recommend this for those who like hopeful romances as well as nerds, seeing as the book is written in a forum style.

The Outsiders-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Rating: 4/5

This is a very well-known novel and has even become a required read in many middle/junior high schools across the United States. This story has a minor aspect of American history to it, and it has a number of key ideas such as friendship bridging the gap between rich and poor, honor can be found among the lawless, and that one’s identity must be found outside the influence of friends and family.

Interestingly enough, S.E. Hinton is a woman who published her debut novel under the guise of a man. In the 1960’s, women were still seen as unequal to men, especially in the great literary canon of American writers. Obviously, her novel transcends time and has become a great classic for young readers today.

Although never explicitly stated, this novel takes place in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1965. In this coming-of-age novel, two rival groups, the Greasers and the Socs (So-sheh-s, short for Socials) are two rival groups divided by their socioeconomic status (the place/location they live in and the income their families have).

The conflict of status between the Socs and the Greasers is long running, and when Ponyboy, the main character (and yes, that is his real name), is jumped by some of the Socs after a movie, his older brother and friend come to his aid. The conflict continues when Ponyboy and fellow Greaser Johnny, come face-to-face with the Socs in a park in the middle of the night. After some snide remarks, Ponyboy spits at the Socs, egging them to try and drown him. Seeing that his friend is drowning, Johnny stabs one of the boys in order to save his friend, honor among the lawless.

Even though he was saving his friend, Johnny committed murder. Ponyboy, present for the death of the Soc, runs to his brother for help and advice. Together, Ponyboy and Johnny hop a train to a few towns away and find solace in a church for a few days. When Dally, one of the Greasers, comes to tell he boys that tensions are even higher after the murder of Bob the Soc, Johnny decides that perhaps things would be best if he just turns himself in.

When the three boys aim to head back to Tulsa, they notice that the church is on fire, and children on a field trip are trapped inside. Perhaps it is his guilt of murder, or perhaps is was the boy’s fault that the church caught fire in the first place, but some impulse drives Johnny to save the children, risking his own life for their own.

With Johnny’s sacrifice, he may not make it, and the tensions continue to boil between the two social gangs. Ponyboy not only loses more than one friend, but he gains numerous injuries from the planned brawl between the gangs. When his grades begin to fall, he finds solace in Gone With the Wind and the theme of death, and the purpose of life and doing something honorable.

Overall, the writing style is sophisticated in the writing itself, but it is also written to fit the attitudes of the characters, which makes the novel feel real. This book, being one of the required reads in many schools, demonstrates a number of social and global issues that we still have today, such as discrimination due to socioeconomic status and gang violence. These concepts are important for young people to have an understanding of so that they can form their own opinions and arguments with these issues as seen in contemporary society. Whether you are in 8th grade, college, or retired, I would say this book is worth the read, becoming one of the great pieces of the American literary canon.

Orange County Children’s Book Festival, 2017

The Orange County Children’s Book festival was an absolute blast! As a writer of young adult fantasy and a past preschool teacher and current junior high teacher, how could I not go to this event? Of course, this is an annual event and has been a thing in the past, but I never knew about it or went. I’m sure glad I went this time.

There are over 125 authors and illustrators with booths promoting and signing their work, and many of them have extra things like bookmarks, pens, notepads, artwork, and all kinds of fun things. While there were too many to choose from, I narrowed my selections to three authors/illustrators works to bring home for my collection, since I don’t want to break my wallet.

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First I would like to feature Michael A. Hernandez. He wrote Pandora: Shadow of the Box and does all of his own artwork. He has young adult and adult artwork featuring the characters from his story, T-shirts, and trading cards. His artwork is absolutely amazing, and he even did some fan art of Daenerys from Game of Thrones, Wonder Woman, and Rei from Star Wars. His novel sounds fun and full of magic, and his illustrations that go along with it are absolutely amazing (they should be, since the illustrations he has presented are what drew me in).

Next I would like to feature Gwen Katz, a historical fiction writer. Her novel, Among the Red Stars, features a female pilot squadron during World War II, and she is also a short story contributor to a graphic novel anthology of queer historical fiction, which we really should see more of in the world. I can see Katz being extremely successful in the near future, especially for young female readers.

Last, but not least, I would like to feature Alane Adams, author of the Legends of Orkney trilogy (and spin-offs to come).

The day I wish I wore make-up:

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How Adams describes the Legends of Orkney trilogy is like Percy Jackson but with Norse Gods (I mentioned Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, and the two novels were actually published around the same time). She also says she is writing another series featuring some of the same characters, but with Celtic mythology, which is interesting and unique. With the purchase of her novels, I received a bunch of character artwork postcards, which was absolutely awesome. Having character cards really adds to the dynamic of a novel series, in my opinion. I also got a pen and notepad! How cool is that? I can’t wait to read these middle grade books. They sound absolutely amazing.

It was so refreshing to see so many families and young people at the book festival. It was a very enjoyable event, and the variation between genres, authors, and illustrators was fund and exciting. The variety made a big difference, and I was excited to find an abundance of middle-grade and young adult writers there, as well as children’s book writers.

Author Event: Daniel Sweren-Becker at Huntington Beach Barnes and Noble

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September (and October) is the golden month for author events at the Barnes and Noble in Huntington Beach, CA! With a published list of upcoming events in early August, I had been waiting to meet Daniel Sweren-Becker for a few weeks. The event features him speaking about the influences and things for his new novel, The Equals, sequel to his first novel, The Ones.

Having never heard of this duology before, I swiftly did some research, and this definitely sounded like my kind of thing. Here is the synopsis (copied from Goodreads):

Cody has always been proud of being a One. She and her boyfriend James were two of the lucky babies from the 1% of the U.S. population that were randomly selected to benefit from genetic engineering. Now, she and the rest of The Ones are excelling. They are healthy, beautiful, and talented. They aren’t otherworldly, just perfect. And to some, that’s not fair. The Equality Movement, capitalizing on the growing fear and jealousy, gains political traction and actually outlaws their existence. Society shows its darker side as The Ones are marginalized. The line between right and wrong blurs in the face of injustice and Cody becomes closer to a group of radical Ones intent on fighting back. James begins to fear just how far she is willing to go for the cause.

Being someone interested in genetics and having a similar thought for a more far-future novel of my own, this was a must-have for my collection. Sweren-Becker calls the series “near-future,” with the idea that the events in his novels show something that could potentially happen in our lifetime, whether that is ten, thirty, or fifty years from now. He wrote the series after reading an article about genetic engineering (something we see more and more of in the media everyday). Basically, China and Russia are pushing for genetic engineering, but there is still great controversy on the issue, especially in the United States. All countries have their own laws when it comes to genetic engineering. The movement in the novel is an Equality Movement, somewhat based on the Tea Party movement in 2009.

When it comes to writing a novel, Sweren-Becker has some decent advice: “Outline, outline, outline!” Chapter by chapter, of course. It took him one year to finish the first draft of the first novel, and the editing process took four to five months before going out to the publisher. His life needs to be in  organization before he can sit down and write (dishes clean, house vacuumed, etc.), and I can relate on that one.

One of the big ideas about The Ones is that, while we the reader may know who is a one and who is not, in the world of the book, nobody knows who is a one and who is not. The secrecy of the genetic engineering is one of the appeals, and it is this secrecy that will bring about a new genetic movement.

It was very fun to meet Daniel Sweren-Becker and I am very excited to read this duology! It is always a great experience to listen to an author speak about their book, and to have a personalized copy from the brain that created the work.

 

The Circle-Should You Read It?

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Genre: Near-future Fiction

Rating: 3/5

I was recommended this book at a dystopian literature conference, among other books. After reading, I wouldn’t categorize the novel as young adult (which some say it is), because the protagonist is a college age girl (early or mid twenties). There are also a lot of adult inferences and the language is more complex than that of a young adult novel.

So what is The Circle about? Well, it is about The Circle! The Circle is a major Internet-based company founded and run by the “Three Wise Men,” men who believe technology and being connected through social media is of dire need and importance to society. Mae Holland, a recent college graduate, finds her way to a job at The Circle through her long-time friend Annie. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity appears to be fantastic, but the longer Mae stays with The Circle, the more she questions the company, society, and herself.

The Circle is a technology-based company, and one of their newer creations is SeeChange. These small SeeChange cameras are placed anywhere and everywhere, including around peoples necks. With this technology, everything is known at all times, and ideally, if people know they are always on camera, crime rates would essentially go down and people would think things through more thoroughly before acting upon committing a crime of any kind, or doing anything that society as a whole might look down upon.

When Mae goes kayaking without any SeeChange cameras around, she is not only reprimanded for her risky actions, but also for the fact that she took no pictures or video footage to share her experiences with the word, for The Circle believes all information should be shared. The Circle also has its 10,000+ employees competing with their social media interaction on a daily basis. Who tweeted the most? Who posted the most comments? Who gave the most likes? Each inference of social media participation increases Circle member’s rank, and when Mae’s low rank causes alarm for some of the higher-ups, she begins to rethink how often she comments, likes, and interacts with others’ social media pages.

When Mae seems to be thinking The Circle might be on the wrong path, one of the wise men has her go onto the path of “transparency,” something many global politicians are doing. Basically, those who are transparent wear SeeChange cameras 24/7 and their interactions and everything they do for the day can be seen and heard by viewers (with the exception of using the restroom, in which case the video still plays, but the audio may be turned off for up to three minutes). This controlling aspect of society seems odd at first, but Mae falls right into the swing of being transparent.

Her parents, on the other hand, want nothing to do with technology, and neither does her childhood friend (and ex-boyfriend). When her involvement in The Circle affects her parents daily lives, as well as her friend, the three of them relocate without a word of where they are going. 

With the power of The Circle, Mae is able to have all people on a global scale find her friend, but the technology drives him to the limit. When The Circle discusses the idea of everyone having to vote through their company, to make voting required by all people and to be able to see everyone’s votes, one of the three wise men seems to think The Circle is about to be complete, but in a very dangerous way that was not his initial intent.

This sounds like a good story, no? Why did I give it a three you ask? Here’s the thing. While the novel has a very interesting, near-future concept, there is a lot of exposition on some of the technology that makes the story drag on. The writing style is fine, it’s really just that there is too much time spend on extra, unnecessary information to the story itself, which takes away from the thrill of technology being the most important thing in one’s life. I feel like it would have been a much better and faster read without all the extra exposition. This book took me eight months to finally finish (among other books of course), but pushing myself to finish was very challenging, since the incentive and draw to read was so low. I would definitely not recommend this book to everyone, but for those who are interested in technology, how it affects people’s lives, and how our future might just turn out, take a crack at this book.

Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 12 (manga)

She and Her Cat by Makoto Shinkai and Tsubasa Yamaguchi

Genre: Manga/???

Rating: 4/5

Based on the short original video animation (5 minutes included with one of Shinka’s American release films [I think it was with Voices of a Distant Star?]) and the later four episode anime, this manga follows Miyu, a single young working woman, and Chobi, her cat. Seen from Chobi’s perspective, this manga shows a perspective that people generally wonder with their own pets. When Miyu leaves for work each day, Chobi finds his way outside and meets other cats and spends his time loafing around until the time Miyu comes home every night. When things seem to escalate with Miyu, Chobi is unsure how to help and, being a cat, does not understand what is going on with his human. When Miyu begins to come home late (and Drunk), Chobi is uncertain about how important he may be in her eyes. When she does not come home one day, Chobi heads out to find his human, to show that he is her cat.

Anything by Makoto Shinkai is pretty superb. This is a really interesting perspective that gets the reader thinking about how they interact with their own pets. Being a manga, there is a different visual element to it than that of an animation. The sound effects are all written out rather than heard, and this can somewhat take away from the effect that those background sounds would have when watching. The art is very detailed though, and because the images are still, the reader can actually spend a good deal of time on one page just enjoying the flow of images and details as they portray the story. As an added bonus with this particular manga that makes it nice to add to any manga collection is…it has a shiny cover! Overall, this is a cute and wonderful book to read and own.

 

Dragonar Academy (Vol. 1) by Shiki Mizuchi and Ran

Genre: Manga/Romantic Comedy/Harem

Rating: 3.5/5

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For dragon lovers, this is kind of cute, in the city of Ansullivan, at the academy, all students are unique: they are Yunios or Senios (basically the grade levels) who have their own dragons! Ash Blake is a bit of a late bloomer and has not given life to his dragon yet, not to mention his mark that gives life to dragons is larger than those of his peers. Unique to Ash is his ability to control and ride other people’s dragons, a skill that no one else has. When his dragon, Eco, is finally born, she has the form of a human, but is all dragon and utilizes Ash as the human “dog” he is meant to be. But even more odd things begin to happen, such as Eco being stalked/spied on and an undead regenerating dragon wreaking havoc. Ash and Eco must learn to work together to keep Ansullivan safe.

I picked this up at a used book store. I love dragons and thought this looked cute and somewhat promising. While it is cute, the plot is a bit too shallow for me. There is good set up for the next volume as well as a potential overall arcing plot, but the characters are a bit bland and I do not really find myself caring about any of them by the end of volume one. The art is nice, but almost chibi in its form in that everyone pretty much looks like a little kid, even the main characters. Eco is a newborn dragon, so that is okay, but Ash seems like an older teen with younger adolescent tendencies and a baby-face. I would say, if you have ever read Dragon Drive, this is somewhat reminiscent of that in a way, but not quite as developed or exciting.

 

Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (Vol. 1) by coolkyousinnjya

Genre: Fantasy/Comedy/Manga

Rating: 3.5/5

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This cute manga is about a dragon named Tohru who is found stabbed by a special sword. When Miss Kobayashi finds her, she takes Tohru in as a maid to help her out, but she has to be in human form. Many neighbors and those Tohru comes in contact with on a regular basis think she is a hardcore cos-player. When another dragon enters the mix, Tohru finds that she is a bit jealous and does not want to share her master with anyone. On top of everything, Tohru is learning how things are different in the human world from her own, and she is just trying to get by!

While this manga was cute and is generally for all ages, the reason why I gave it a lower rating than I would have liked is because of the plot. Rather than a larger overarching story, this is more like a bunch of mini stories put together. While cute, funny, and endearing, because there is no major plot going on, there is nothing to keep me going as a reader. It just does not have the same level of excitement that other Manga have. But…it was still good. The are is great and the humor is well places, making it an enjoyable read nonetheless.

 

Shruiken and Pleats (Vol 1) by Matsuri Hino

Genre: Manga/Action/Romance

Rating: 4/5

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From the creator of Vampire Knight comes a new series about a ninja who just wants to find her place after her master is killed. Her loyalty to him fills her even after his death, and she aims to go to school as per her previous master’s wish. Like a father to her, Mikage’s master was everything she cared about in life, even though ninja are trained to show no emotions. When she travels to Japan, the homeland of her ancestors, Mikage finds herself defending a young man named Mahito, who is being targeted by none other than a few ninja. Now Mikage must get down to the bottom of the reason why ninja would be targeting this man, and defend him in the process. When she begins to feel something more for him, she questions her loyalties to her previous master and to her life as a ninja.

I believe there are only two volumes in this series, but the end of the first book seems to solve the problem with the bad guy, but wants the reader to learn more about the romance in the next novel. While this volume was decent, there was nothing driving me to move on to the next one. Of course the art is great, but the story just seems to fall short, like some of Matsuri Hino’s shorter series often do.

 

One-Punch Man (Vol 1) by One and Yusuke Murata

Genre: Manga/Comedy

Rating: 4/5

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This manga is about a guy named Saitama who finds life to be rather boring in many ways. Not only id life before being a hero boring (unable to keep a job and such), but after his training, Saitama can defeat any opponent with just one punch, which is likewise getting old and boring! The monsters he is faced with are rather dim-witted, and Saitama handles things with a sarcastic humor that brings them down. When a young man who is actually a robot appears on the scene deeming himself a hero, he cannot believe his eyes when Saitama destroys an enemy that he has been struggling so hard to defeat. Genos, having witnessed Saitama’s unique ability, asks to be his disciple. Together, they take out the ridiculous scum that threatens the city.

My husband got the Loot-crate exclusive and told me to read it. I read the title and previewed the art and raised my eyebrow at him. Generally, this kind of manga is not my thing, but I found that I greatly enjoyed it. The humor went great with the text and image combination. While the art style is not something that would normally draw me in, the images are funny, and I found myself laughing aloud a few times. Not only is it funny, but it is fast paced with action panels that make the flow more fun and easygoing. Overall, for someone who is not into shounen jump manga so much, I really enjoyed this one and may pursue the next volume.