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.

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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.

 

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.

Author Event: Wendelin Van Draanen Comes to Huntington Beach!

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Barnes and Noble in Huntington Beach at Bella Terra generally finds many guest authors. On September 9, 2017, we locals had the pleasure of meeting Wendelin Van Draanen, author of 34 books, her newest of which is Wild Bird.

Wendelin is very ecstatic, boisterous, and maybe a bit of crazy in there, giving her a fun, bright, and brilliant attitude. It was great listening to her talk about her books with such enthusiasm! She was also a school teacher for many years in the past, including continuation school to help students at least get their GED. She is very keen on inclusive education, and for those inclusive needs to be felt in the heart, which many of her books portray.

Wendelin Van Draanen sure knows her stuff, too! She cannot write about something that she has nor done before or something that she does not know about. When it comes to research, she jumps right in to the hands-on kind of experience. For her newest book, the character spends a lot of time cooking, and to learn about these methods of cooking, Draanen did some of her own cooking! She is an expert at camping and building the perfect fire, by the way. One of the other things that is funny about Draanen is that when she starts a book, she has a mortality fear: Will she die before she completes the book? I think it is safe to say that many of us have a similar fear.

One of Draanen’s key ideas and points she wants to pass to readers from her novels is the key idea of “Who do you want to be?” She encourages others to find who they are, which is one of her reasons for writing Wild Bird. She wants her readers to think about themselves and their own lives in relation to who they want to be, what kind of person.

All authors are different in their own writing process as well. Draanen doesn’t outline, like some authors do. All the ideas are a jumble of soup in her head and she thinks about her stories during down time or waiting time or whenever before she just sits down and writes. She finishes one or two chapters before beginning the research process and explains her writing process as road signs. Sometimes you see something that has you veer off in a different direction, and that is what her writing process is like. It is about a 2-3 year process from the start of page one to the shelves of Barnes and Noble.

The Running Dream sounds like an amazing book about a girl who runs for sport and is the best of her class, but when tragedy strikes, she is unable to continue running. This is the kind of story that we should read to be aware of what being human is all about, having dreams, and keeping faith. Her other more famous novel is Flipped, which alternates chapters between a boy and a girl who flips the first time she meets him in elementary school. When they reunite in 7th grade, things might just flip again. There is also a movie for this one.

One of the cool things Draanen did was support her fans with memorabilia. For any fans who read the Sammy Keyes series, they received awesome shoelaces with a neat horseshoe charm. For her Shredderman and The Gecko and Sticky series (targeted towards younger boys) she had bookmarks available. And for her featured novel, Wild Bird, she handed out various colors of feathers as little wilderness-like bookmarks. That was a very cool thing that I have not seen at a lot of the author events I have been to.

All-in-all Wendelin Van Draanen is an amazing person and writer, the event was enjoyable, and I have three awesome new books that I can’t wait to read (and review, of course).

Should You Read It?-Honorable Mentions Part 11

A Long Conversation by Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Young Adult Fiction

Rating: 4/5

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This is a short story that takes place between Lady Midnight and Lord of Shadows. It features Isabelle’s engagement party, among other things. We learn a number of things about Alec and Magnus’s kids, the Lewis family, the outlook of Robert Lightwood, and of course we see a bit more between Jace and Clary. With the excitement of the engagement party, Jace wants to make his own engagement, but when an alert from the L.A. Institute arrives, Clary must postpone her answer!

I have actually read this twice, once in the first edition of Lady Midnight, and I also bought the e-version, because why not? I love seeing Cassandra Jean’s artwork every time I turn on my kindle, and re-reading this short story was a nice refresher of what the original characters are like. Also, reading Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy adds a bit to this in that it does mention George Lovelace, if briefly, something that I previously did not pick up on in my initial read, altering the meaning of this short story for me as a reader. Overall, a great little addition to the Shadowhunters adventures.

 

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Genre: Adolescent Fiction

Rating: 4/5

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This Newbery Award-winning book is about a gorilla named Ivan who lives in the Big Top Mall with his elephant friend Stella, a trained dog, a stray dog named Bob, and a parrot. These animals are admired by Julia, the daughter of the janitor, who comes in to draw and spend time with the animals. When Mack, the owner, buys a new baby elephant, Julia is not happy at the treatment of the animal. Now she and Ivan devise a plan to get the animals saved, taken care of, and sent to a zoo where they can be much happier than their tiny mall cages.

Told from the perspective of the gorilla, this is an interesting take on how an animal might see the world of humans and how they interpret things around them. We learn from Ivan’s perspective about his past with Mack as well as how he approaches his new experiences. This is a great read for 4th-8th grade readers in that it helps define some new vocabulary, has smaller chunks of writing on the pages with an occasional illustration, and raises awareness about the treatment of wild animals in captivity. Overall an enjoyable read.

 

Waiting for Spring by Anashin

Genre: Young Adult Romance/Manga

Rating: 4/5

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This is a newer manga released for the first time in English July 2017. It features Mitsuki, a girl who cherished her friend Aya when they were younger, but now in high school, she is a bit of a loner. Her job is her only sanctuary, and she hopes to find that one true friend that is like Aya. Instead of just one friend, she finds four new friends amidst the basketball team, and begins to find feelings for one of them in particular. Because the basketball team’s biggest priority is the sport, they must keep their grades up and are not allowed to fall into the distractions of dating!

I first found out about this manga from a poster advertisement at Anime Expo and decided it looked interesting, so I did a bit more research before finally deciding to pre-order this book. It’s a good thing I did, because the reception of this manga is high, selling out from Right Stuf Anime the day it came in stock. While the beginning was a bit slow and the pacing is a bit odd, such as jumping from just meeting the boys to Mitsuki having known them for a month already, the rest of the manga picks up, and the cliffhanger of volume one has me itching for the next one. Kodansha is a reliable publisher of manga in  the North American division, and I would highly recommend this to any lover of Shojo (for girls) readers.

 

Girl Friends Complete Collection 1 and 2 by Milk Morigana

Genre: Yuri Manga

Rating: 3.5/5

 

 

This is a five volume (2 compiled volumes in the U.S.) yuri manga, which generally means girl and girl romance. It follows the story of Akko, a high energy fashionista, and Mari, a quiet girl who tends to shy away from others. When Akko befriends Mari and changes her appearance for the better, as well as giving Mari a new best friend, the relationship seems normal for two girl friends. When Mari realized that the thinks Akko says and does for her are more meaningful than those of anyone else, she finds that she has feelings for Akko. Conflicted between sharing her feelings and keeping it a secret (since they are both girls), Mari struggles with her first love. When Akko rejects Mari in that way, Mari tries to move on by dating a boy she knew in elementary school, but she still can’t shake her feelings for Akko. When Akko finally feels the same, it may be too late to reciprocate.

I was excited when my husband brought this home and he said “Wow, I should have saved this for you for Christmas…and it’s not even yaoi!” Yes, I generally find many yaoi (boy and boy) manga’s to actually have a well-developed story with high tension that eventually leads into the romance. The first two volumes of Girl Friends was very bland to me and lacked the same kind of story elements that yaoi tends to have. The plot was more simplistic and focused on the girls’ activities like shopping, fashion, and school, which is an average plot for many manga, so there was not much special about it. Once you get to the last three volumes though, the tension of the romance between the two girls and the events that lead up to their eventual relationship are more interesting and increase the rating of the manga overall.

 

Manga Dogs (Vol. 1) by Ema Toyama

Genre: Sequential Art/Manga

Rating: 3/5

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This manga is about a Manga class that starts up at Kanna’s school. Little do the other students know, she has already debuted! Kanna plans to use school time to work on her published manga series, but when three pretty boys show up asking her how to draw manga, she doesn’t know what to do! Keeping her secret and teaching some guys to draw manga who are in it for money rather than the art itself will prove to be a challenge.

I picked up this manga at a used book store and thought it looked interesting and different, but it is actually kind of boring and plain. The plot is very dry until the very end when someone steals Kanna’s manuscript, but the main plot aside from the last five pages does not have me wanting to read the next volume. On another note, the art is fantastic and the genre is interesting, focusing more on a career rather than high school drama or romance, so that was a nice change.

Star Wars Highlight: Comics (Part 16)

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.

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Knights of the Old Republic: Demon (3963 BBY)

Publisher: Dark Horse (4 Issues)

Writer: John Jackson Miller

Artist(s): Brian Ching, Michael Atiyeh, Michael Heisler, and Benjamin Carre

This volume contains parts 1-4 of “Demon.” Event though Zayne and Jarael have parted ways, their paths will cross once more, because the Mandalorian Demagol is on the loose! When Zayne sees the man behind Demogol’s mask, he is astounded, and the truth clicks immediately. Demagol has switched places with Rohlan, the Mandalorian he thought was his friend. Demagol is actually Jarael’s first teacher, under another name, and Jarael is more than willing to follow him, but with his Sith artifact, Jarael might fall to the Dark side. Now Zayne must capture Demagol and save Jarael from a terrible fate.

While there is still another volume to this series, this volume is conclusive in the Jarael/slaver arc. Compared to previous volumes, this volume seems to have more on the line for the characters, and whatever happens here will define their fate. Another nice addition to Jarael’s character development as well, since she is so interesting (I mean, how often do you see Arkanian Offshoots in the rest of the Star Wars universe?)

 

The Stark Hyperspace War (44 BBY)

Publisher: Dark Horse ( 4 Issues)

Writer: John Ostrander

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

This volume actually starts as taking place during the Clone Wars, but, the main story about the entitled war is a flashback to 44 BBY, which entails most of the graphic novel. The Stark Hyperspace War is a war that was triggered by a smuggler names Stark, who has taken possession of all the bacta (the healing component that the galaxy uses the most) in hopes of basically monopolizing the resource and gaining a bunch of money from it. When the Republic joins the Trade Federation, they hope that this alliance will prevent a war from breaking out, but some of the Trade Federation leaders seem unable to embrace the severity of the issue, as well as wanting money for themselves too. Obi-wan and Quinlan are dispatched with their Jedi Masters to the bacta-producing planet in hopes that they can quell the war before it starts or escalates!

I actually picked this graphic novel up because Quinlan is my favorite Jedi from the Clone Wars era, so anything involving him usually piques my interest. While the art in this was good and the writing was classic Ostrander style, the story itself felt a bit lacking. The stakes didn’t seem high enough to give it the title of a “war,” and there was a lot of political conversations and less action than I would have liked from this volume. Other than that, still a nice edition to the Jedi adventures before the Clone Wars era.

 

The Thrawn Trilogy (Graphic Novel Collection) (9 ABY)

Publisher: Dark Horse (18 Issues [6/title])

Writer: Timothy Zahn, Mike Baron

Artist(s): Olivier Vatine, Fred Blanchard, Ellie DeVille, et. al.

This graphic novel trilogy follows the same story as the three novels, but with a few things switched around a bit for the sake of visual flow. In short, Heir to the Empire introduces us to Grand Admiral Thrawn, who has seemingly taken the Emperor’s place, and some members of the New Republic have a hard time believing that there could possibly even be another Grand admiral that they did not know about. We are also introduced to Mara Jade, former Hand to the Emperor and a current second to Talon Karrde, a renowned smuggler. Thrawn has a plan to take the Emperor’s old cloning facility on Wayland, steal some fabled dreadnaughts, and create a whole new army, but cloned Jedi Master C’baoth stops him. With his wit, Thrawn aims to use the Jedi Master to his needs, but he will need some ysalmiri (creatures who naturally reject the Force) to help him keep control over the Jedi Master. Meanwhile, Leia is pregnant with Jedi twins, and Luke is being hunted by both Thrawn and Mara! The main feature of Dark Force Rising is basically a race to see who can find the fabled Katana Fleet with its 200 Dreadnaught class ships first, the Empire or the New Republic. With Thrawn having his own secret Intel within the palace on Coruscant, nothing is safe to speak of. And of course, it all wraps up in The Last Command, where Luke must face himself, and Mara must come to terms with whether she can kill Luke Skywalker as the Emperor’s last command. To see more full summaries of the actual novel (since the story is the same, just adapted, in the graphic novel) just click the highlighted links in the passage.

Some things about the graphic novel: it is very text-heavy with an annoying font. The amount of text per page is nearly overwhelming, since I red graphic novels for the art as well. The font is confusing, because the H’s look like U’s and I had to reread a few different things. The art is older too, the images not representing the characters in a very attractive light, but the space ships and battles (and basically everything except people) are finely detailed, which is nice. The flow is also confusing at many times, because the way the speech bubbles are drawn and the way the dialogue is supposed to go is not clear at all, and I reread many of those parts as well. Overall, a cool collectible to have, but possibly not worth the time it takes to read because of the text-heavy convolutedness of the graphic novel. Try the novels, though; I greatly enjoyed those!

 

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Star Wars: Union (19 ABY)

Publisher: Dark Horse (4 Issues)

Writer: Michael A. Stackpole

Artist(s): Robert Teranishi, Christopehr Chuckry, et. al.

This graphic novel takes place after Luke and Mara have already had numerous adventures, reflecting on how their relationship started as one of hate. “Union” brings Luke and Mara together on their wedding day. Like most weddings, a lot of set up is involved, and it is being broadcast across the galaxy, for a Jedi and a once-Imperial Agent are joining together for the rest of their lives. Mara shows her girly side with friends and searching for the perfect dress, and Leia aims to have the location perfectly set up for her brother. Despite their union, some Empire remnants find this to be an appalling affair and aim to kill those involved.

I enjoyed this four-part series in seeing Luke and Mara together at last, with my favorite character becoming Mara Jade Skywalker. The art is decent, but I feel like Mara wasn’t portrayed well, that she was too soft and feminine. Despite it being a wedding, Mara should still be headstrong and sharp. One of the other interesting things about this book is that a bunch of characters from previous novels (Talon, Kam, etc.) make appearances, so it is good to have read a good number of the novels from the Thrawn Trilogy onward. All in all, it was a decent read and shows that even 19 ABY, there are still conflicts between the New Republic and the remnants of the Empire.

Star Wars Highlight: Comics (Part 15)

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.

 

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Knights of the Old Republic: Destroyer (3963 BBY)

Publisher: Dark Horse (5 Issues)

Writer: John Jackson Miller

Artist(s): Brian Ching, Bong Dazo, Ron Chan, et. al.

This is the eighth volume of the KotOR series of graphic novels. It contains “Masks,” “The Reaping” parts 1 and 2, and “Destroyer” parts 1 and 2. “Masks” is short and revolves around Malak, one of the Jedi Zayne and Jarael previously met in their adventures. Now he is recruiting for the war against the Mandalorians, but Zayne won’t go and he will not allow Jarael to go either. They end up discussing her past of being a Slaver and how it affects her in the present. “The Reaping” had Zayne and Jarael searching for the Crucible, a slaver group that Jarael was once a part of, if nothing more than to bring the group down from the inside. When Zayne brings eighty slaves abourd, his hidden motives are revealed to Gryph, and Jarael reveals who she once was to the rest of the group. “Destroyer” features Zayne being purposely taken in the the Crucible group so that he can get an inside glimpse. When one of Jarael’s enemies manipulates him with the Force, Zayne questions Jarael’s character and why she still have the name meaning “Destroyer,” but Jarael tells him the name has a different meaning: “Protector.” With Zayne and Jarael looking to go their separate ways, what will become of the Crucible?

The art is a bit different in this one (different artists do different issues of the comic). The story is interesting in that we get more on the mysterious Jarael, and leads the reader into wanting to find out more and to see what will be come of Jarael…and Zayne.

 

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Star Wars: Darkness (30 BBY)

Publisher: Dark Horse (4 Issues)

Writer: John Ostrander

Artist(s): Jan Duursema, Ray Kryssung, et. al.

This graphic novel consists of issues 32-35 of Star Wars. It features Quinlan Vos and his padawan Aayla Secura after having lost their memories. Quinlan had to be retrained, and when a Guardian from his home planet seeks only him for a mission, the Jedi council is wary, since Quinlan has touched the Dark side and is still very close to darkness. Meanwhile, Aayla hates Quinlan for what he has done in the past, but all Quinlan wants is to find his lost padawan and restore her. When Anzati wreak havoc, and show Quinlan some disturbing memories, he must fight his greatest fear once more, and save his padawan from the darkness!

I was very excited to come across this at a comic book store. I always check the Star Wars selections from the original Dark Horse publications, and I had actually never seen this one before. With the same writer and artists as the Clone Wars, this was a great edition to Quinlan Vos’s character, adding even more detail to an already phenomenally interesting Jedi.

 

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Star Wars: Yoda’s Secret War (0 ABY, Flashback to before the Clone Wars)

Publisher: Marvel (6 Issues)

Writer: Jason Aaron, Kelly Thompson

Artist(s): Salvador Larroca, Emilio Laiso, et. al.

This is the fifth compiled volume of the Marvel Star Wars series of comics which contains issues 26-30 as well as Annual #2. “Yoda’s Secret War” begins in the present time of the series with C-3PO having been captured by a special squad of stormtroopers and Luke following R2, who refuses to leave his droid friend behind. In his travels, Luke reads from Obi-Wan’s journal and learns of a mission Yoda once went on to save a planet. Luke feels drawn to the same planet and sees the remains from what Yoda left many years earlier. It is a Force-heavy planet with great stone giants that are like mountains, and the people of the planet fighting each other over Force and terrain. “Annual #2” features a bystander, a female engineer, who ends of helping Leia from a tight spot, despite her not really liking Leia.

Overall, the art is splendid in this compilation, but the story is lacking. The “Annual #2” was an interesting addition to Leia’s adventures, but the arc with Yoda was boring and seemed like a tangent in comparison to the new Marvel Star Wars as a story, which was disappointing. I am hoping the next installment will continue with the main story, rather than a past event that was very lackluster.

 

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Poe Dameron Volume 2: The Gathering Storm (30-34 ABY)

Publisher: Marvel (6 Issues)

Writer: Charles Soule

Artist(s): Phil Noto, Joe Caramagna

The second installment in the Poe Dameron graphic novel series features Poe continuing his work for Leia and the Alliance, but knowing that there is a potential spy among his Black Squadron is almost too much to bear. When See-Threepio seeks Poe’s help, he finds himself bringing back a droid that may or may not have vital information on Snoke and the First Order, while being followed and tracked by ex-stormtrooper Terex. Terex has his own plans in mind when he aims to bring the entire Alliance to the First Order!

While I enjoyed the first graphic novel, this one seemed to be lacking; but it wasn’t! It was even more interesting than the first volume, with higher stakes for Poe and his Black Squadron! Phil Noto does not disappoint. As he is both the cover artist and issue artist, you can easily judge this book by the cover, because the art is phenomenal, and Marvel knows what it is doing when contracting for the new canon comics!