Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Review: The Magicians (Season 1)

What's it about?

Quentin has reached a plateau with his life, though one could argue that he's never really been headed anywhere in the first place. He just doesn't seem to fit in the normal world and he's never understood why. All he has is his favorite childhood book Fillory and Further and his magic tricks. However there is one entrance exam he tries and passes and it turns out he has now been admitted into a magical college where magic is real and maybe he does actually fit in after all. 


Growing up in the age of Hogwarts and Harry Potter, I originally passed up this series as another imitator bent on catching some of the hype. However after a recommendation from a good friend, I gave it a shot and was quite pleased. 

The series is from the Syfy channel, so admittedly low budget as recent TV shows go. The first episode in particular is a rocky start to the series with no seemingly likable characters save for the small story in the background. However what they may not have in effects they make up for in plot and character chemistry and the characters quickly start to grow on you, showing likable characteristics and suddenly you're invested.  I will admit that the Fillory books caught me from the get go and from there I learned to love the characters and the quirky plot. 

Bearing a striking resemblance to the Narnia series by CS Lewis (which was apparently intentional) Fillory is a world made of magic that Quentin and his friends have dreamed of for almost all their lives. It made them all very easy for me to connect to on a personal level. Also, while I wasn't too wild about the college setting for training the Magicians, I had to admire that the school tried to take a non-sided approach to teaching magic, no matter how much that caused them to crash and burn. Like any college, the school just lets you know how to use your powers, it doesn't tell you to use them in a specific way. Well, until the world starts to collapse, then some professors are forced to take a position and stand.

A word to the wise, the show has quite a few triggers throughout the episodes and isn't for the squeamish. From animal mutilations, to lobotomy, to mind control and violence when certain characters are attacked or killed. With the lack of budget compared to other high profile shows, these moments are still given quite a bit of care so they don't come off as cheesy or pointless.  Each time they were used they seemed to help the narrative or at least be needed and not pointless gore padding. 

The show also does a good job of kicking some very well know tropes out the window. The nerdy sidekick girl is not the virgin to be won, the main characters don't all make it into the school and even the seemingly brainless and conceded upperclassmen end up making you fall in love with them. I didn't expect to like these characters as much as I did. And, without revealing too much, I am quite happy about where the end of the first season put Quentin. It's not often that male heroes are allowed to still remind children of wonder with some of their innocence in tact. 

While this school doesn't have the pomp and circumstance of Hogwarts, it still has its own distinct flavor and it's a place I think I'd actually be more comfortable in. A frat/dorm system set up based on abilities rather then the houses format of Hogwarts seems a little more inviting. And there is some competition between the groups, but not to a huge degree. 

Final thoughts:

Overall I fell in love with this series, but I don't think I would have had I just sat down to watch it without getting the recommendation first. So if you like the world of urban fantasy and you have always wanted to cast magic, try this. You may end up falling in love with it just like a good book. 

Now I need to go find season 2 and I need to check out the series of books it's based on. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Convention This Weekend: MSPComiCon in Minnesota!

This weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, you'll be able to find us at MSP ComiCon 2018 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds!

Come stop by our table in the dealer's room and check out our books and costumes.  Also don't forget to explore the whole place with lots of artists, comic book creators and even more nerdy fun! There's even a couple panels this year!  We'll have our books, as always, plus preorders for my newest book Little Creepers (which is so close to being done!), prints, buttons and more. It's going to be a lot of fun and we hope to see you there!

If for some reason you can't make it, remember you can always check out our Etsy store year round for items, and to get some things we generally don't sell at cons - like hats and plushies.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Review: Odd Thomas (Book)

What's it about?

Odd is exactly that, odd. What else would you call someone who can regularly see the dead and other not so human creatures? In his small western town he's mostly accepted as himself and allowed to exist, work at a local diner, even fall in love.  Still something is brewing along the seams, in ways that only he can see. So he must choose if his oddness is something he can use to his advantage and stop whatever is coming.


Full disclosure: Dean Koontz is an interesting author, and not generally my cup of tea, as he tends to wade into areas of horror that are less then interesting to me.  Though I will admit a certain love for a couple of his books and the ideas he weaves within. This book (and series) falls squarely within the Urban Fantasy genre, rather then horror, and thanks to it having a great movie tie in and even a manga series, I'll admit, I was curious.  For those who care, yes I've seen the movie and I really loved it. 

The author's writing style in the book caught me off guard. It's not so much writing as a long rambling conversation. This means we get to see into Odd's thoughts in a very personal way, but it also lends to a lot of tangents and a lot of pages where the story seems to take forever to actually go somewhere.  It makes the novel easy to read, but also very easy to put down because you just want the main character to get on with it!

I do love how the dead can't speak.  Not to Odd, not to anyone, but rather exist in silence around him. It adds an interesting touch and makes them easy to ignore, or hilarious to watch.  In the movie this trick was used masterfully, though in the book it was a bit easier to tell who was dead and who wasn't.  Still, additions of certain silent characters made for some great reading. 

Specifically Elvis.  Yep, Elvis is a main character in this book and seems to be one of Odd's best friends, in spite of the fact that he's dead. The idea of Elvis being a main character is a great touch and reminds me a lot of Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books, where he's also a regular. I think, if I had to choose, I'd say this book did a better job of using him. Having a regular dead character show up gave a sense of normalcy to Odd's strange world and very quickly communicated the limits of what the dead could do. 

The story line itself has some great twists and turns, and even plays with some ideas of fate, thanks to Odd trying to discover and stop whatever is building up around him. Though at times the story is predictable (the ending very much so) it's still a solid start to a series. My only regret is that the main actor in the movie died and no sequels seem to be forth coming, so if I want to read more, I'll have to deal with the long winded narrative.

Final Thoughts?

Overall I liked the story and the series is quite good.  I just really wish I could enjoy it without the endless tangents in the narrative.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Anime St Louis This Weekend!

I've been falling really far behind on telling people with my blog when we'll be at conventions, I should get back on that...

So we'll be at Anime St Louis this weekend as cosplay guests!  We have several panels, and of course will have a table in the dealer's room sell our books plus some new prints!  Come stop by and say hi!

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Important Queer Couples: Billy and Teddy - Marvel's Young Avengers

This entry was born out of our latest obsession: Young Avengers.  More specifically Billy (Wiccan) and Teddy (Hulkling).  My partner and I have been in a process of hunting down nearly every comic we can with them in it and it's been quite a ride and usually out of order.  Oops.  Originally I was going to do a review for each of these comics, but there's so many and comics are hard to track... so I'm going to combine them instead and hopefully make it easy to follow.

What Do I Need To Know?

Lets be honest, the world of comics is confusing and for those who are thinking of wading into the worlds of Batman, Ironman, Captain America, Superman or any other comic creation, there's a lot.  This makes it really hard to follow just one character without knowing about others.  So here's a quick break down, without spoilers, you'll need to know to look into Billy and Teddy.

Billy - Originally a Marvel fanboy he may or may not be the reincarnation of one of Scarlet Witch's children. He has the power to do basically anything by repeating his intention over and over until it happens. He also happens to be Jewish and Queer and those are central parts of his identity.  He also originally went by the name of Asgardian.

Teddy - While initally named after and resembling the Incredible Hulk, Teddy is actually a shapeshifter with connections to both the Skrull and Kree. He is fiercely loyal to his boyfriend, Billy, and serves as a sort of grounding force when Billy drops too far into his own brain and not so safe ideas.

Why Should I Be Paying Attention to Them?

In the world of queer fiction, there are a lot of tropes that we're all used to seeing.  I'm happy to say that this couple subverts most of those. While Billy and Teddy have their own issues, they are always portrayed as a loving couple who will endlessly risk life and limb for each other and don't get caught up in the oh so boring and standard 'who is he sleeping with this week?' plot lines.  What angst does come up never seems to be from their relationship, but rather from their powers and the world they live in. Because of this, they become each other's firm ground to stand on and it's refreshing to read.  Yes, sometimes the comics use the 'love conquers all' fix at the end of plot lines, but trust me when I say that their relationship in this case makes all the difference.  It's so rare that the love between two queer individuals is the life saving force everyone ends up needing and it's a welcome change that I can't get enough of.

So Where Can I Find Them?

Hopefully soon in the Marvel Extended Universe - like seriously, there are some things that NEED to happen in Infinity War and Avengers 4 that could lead to this. Signed, sincerely, a fangirl who needs this.

In all seriousness, we're still looking for all the comics.  Below are the ones we've located and read so far. Plus in order.  They are best when read in order, but we understand not wanting to wait.  I know I'm missing some here and these aren't full reviews, they're just summaries of the plots so you know what's going on if you can't find them or need an idea of where to start.

Young Avengers Collected - Allan Heinberg, Jim Cheung, Andrea DiVito
This is the beginning.  With the actual Avengers out of commission, these new teenage heroes show up and cause a ruckas even if they're trying to help.  So Captain America decides to put a stop to it and tell... their parents?

A solid introduction to the team and why these characters have the potential to be their own driving force.

Avengers: The Children's Crusade - Allan Heinberg, Jim Cheung
Wiccan is convinced that Scarlet Witch is his mother and she's not the monster that everyone else is making her out to be after the House of M storyline where she nearly destroyed everything. So he sets out to find her and, in true Billy fashion, finds more then he bargained for.

Because, as you'll learn, that is Billy. He gets into trouble, but he also kicks some major ass and is a lot smarter then the 'adults' give him credit for.

Civil War: Young Avengers & Runaways - Zeb Wells, Stefano Caselli
All the grownups are fighting and even the Young Avengers have been pulled onto Captain America's side and told to hold their ground until needed. But when the Runaways are pulled into the fight, they can't stay and watch, so the two teams end up coming together to save each other from the major conflict.

The nice thing is you don't need to know about the Runaways to read this, the comic does a solid job introducing them very quickly and how well the two teams mesh.

Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers - Christopher Yost, Takeshi Miyazawa
The two teams come together again this time because the Skrulls are invading and since both teams have a Skrull in their ranks, they're both very involved.

This one is obviously part of a larger storyline and you can tell in the execution. That's really only my one complaint. The anime style of illustration is also a fun aspect.

Young Avengers - Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson
Few things are worse then a space born suburban mother bent on chasing you away from home.  Billy had the best intentions with summoning Mother, but now the team as a whole has to deal with her, along with Kid Loki and America Chavez.

THIS is the arc that hooked us.  I can't really communicate how creepy and effective the villain of Mother is. You kinda just have to read it and you'll get it. Also, Kid Loki steals the entire comic.

I know there are more, we're still looking.  We have two comics on order from our local comic shop and pages are still being scoured for more mentions. Then there's fanfiction to search for, and deviantart pages to favorite and all sorts of things. In a world where queer characters are far too often fetish-ized for the consumption and pleasure of straight fans, it's super refreshing to see a queer couple (and lets be honest, nearly an entire queer team) take center stage and not devolve into the drama and cat calling that the popular media would have you believe we all live. Billy and Teddy are a breath of fresh air and I really hope they have many more stories and adventures to come.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Review: Cardcaptor Sakura Book 1 (Giant Collected Edition Manga)

What's it about:

Part of the magical girl genre, Sakura is a normal young student who accidentally releases the Clow Cards one day while down in her father's office. Now it's her job to collect them again and take control of their magic. Dressed in the cutest of outfits, thanks to her best friend Tomoyo, with Kero - their protector - she's ready to go after the cards and collect them all.


Ever since my days of drowning in anime - still haven't come up, lets be honest never will - I've had a love for CLAMP's work. As the years have gone on, they've changed their style and I've disliked more then I've liked but I'm still nostalgic for the original CLAMP days when they did what they did best: parody popular anime genres.

Cardcaptor Sakura is one of those parodys, aimed squarely at the 'collect 'em all' genre of Pokemon, Yugioh and the like.  However in that parody they've also created a story about a whole host of characters I love and not to mention a gorgeous set of Tarot cards that I will happily admit to owning. Picking up this volume gave me the chance to get back into that story and read the manga I never got around to reading before. Not to mention enjoy all of their amazing art.

CLAMP has a habit of creating characters that stick with you and this series is no exception. The cute trend of Sakura getting a new outfit with each card she chases - thanks to her friend Tomoyo - is a hilarious edition and serves to highlight the art style I love so much.  Beyond that Sakura and her friends are fleshed out quite well during the battles and cards they have to collect. As usual, as the story goes on, you find out that Sakura isn't exactly normal and has a particular family history that lends to why the cards chose her, but there's only a few threads of that in this volume.  I'll have to get the next ones to learn more and they're already in my cart!

I do love the fun pokes the series takes at well known cliches in their own genres. The underlying queer relationships in magical girl anime are there, along with surprising family connections and rivals that really would get more done if they stopped their pissing contests. The Clow Cards aren't just items to be collected, they are almost characters in their own right, giving the show a unique twist.

A special add on to this large collected volume are the color inserts at the end of all the stunning coverart.  It's like getting your own mini artbook with the manga and I appreciate that.  I only wish I'd had access to this volume earlier and I probably would have read the manga sooner. It also reminds me that I need to finish the anime, so that I can check out the new Clear Card series that's currently running.

Final thoughts:

As a trip down nostalgia lane, this collected edition is perfect.  However, with the large amount of magical girl shows and manga out there now, I don't particularly see this one standing out. More popular shows like Sailor Moon and Madoka will easily overshadow this series and probably push it back out of people's notice.  The charm of CLAMP lies in knowing and following them as artists and knowing that they used to do a really good job at parodying various genres. It gives their series a new spin that others might miss without that knowledge. Still, if you are a fan of CLAMP's work, from any decade, it's a fun read and they're masters at inserting plot threads and callouts to their other series, so it's a can't miss.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: Trans Liberty Riot Brigade by L.M. Pierce

What's it about?

Andi's world is very different from our own, right?  Her life consists of hiding from the police, living with a freedom fighting group and trying to keep her head straight between drug fixes. Young and foolish, she is still incredibly loyal to those around her and when a new mission comes up, she'll easily go along and do what needs to be done. Andi's life in the walled up United Free States is a lot of following and doing what she's told and still messing it up. But she's going to have to learn to make decisions on her own, because there aren't always going to be people helping her out of situations.  Eventually she's going to have to help all of them.


My partner and I picked up this book from the author at a convention in Portland. I would have to say the first thing that caught me was the character's world, and the very specific queer dystopia that made up her life. In her world, which seems so wildly different from ours, there are very real and uncomfortable parallels.  Sure, there's a wall, much like the one that Trump wants to build, but it's so much more then that and the book uses these qualities to suck you in right away.

Andi's voice and slang in the book is striking and takes a bit of time to get used to.  It's so wildly different from what I'm used to reading that it took me some time to get into.  However, the author has obviously paid attention to this because it's very consistent and it's a great tool to suck you into Andi's world whether you want to be or not. Her struggles and trials are that much more sincere and real when you read her expressions and can still understand them even when you aren't given a glossary to explain all the terms.  Nope, not needed, the author has paid enough attention to basically create a whole slang language and it feels real. I really appreciate that.

My only hesitation with the book is that Andi spends most of it as a passive observer. Sure, she's running with the others, on missions and trying to escape. However in that, most of her actions are not taken until someone tells her what to do.  It can be infuriating because the book is told in first person and her 'wants' are quite absent save for general survival and drugs and not being snipped. After a while I wanted to grab Andi and shake her, but I couldn't exactly blame her for acting the way she did, so it ended up not being a bad thing, just a bit frustrating. Someone else's mileage may differ, but that quality stuck out to me.

Final Thoughts:

Overall I ended up loving this book, though it is a gradual love that it built as you read each chapter and the characters burrow more into your head. Getting into the world and the vocabulary takes a bit, but the journey is worth it and I am looking forward to the second volume and how Andi's journey will progress.

Where you can get it:

Ninestar Press