Paper Girls, Vol. 1

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Rating: ★★★★★

Based on the reviews of my fellow Goodreads friends and family I understand wholeheartedly why they dislike this graphic novel series. I am biased because Brian K. Vaughan can do no wrong in my book. My introduction into the creative mind of Vaughan was in his series Y: The Last Man and I have not been disappointed since especially with Saga and now Paper Girls . Paper Girls = If Stranger Things had a baby with Back to the Future , Terminator mixed with traditional end of the world dilemma.

The story takes place in the early hours of the morning on Halloween night in 1988. We follow Erin as she gets ready to do her route as the paper girl in the Cleveland suburb of Stony Stream. She bumps into three other girls (MacKenzie, KJ, and Tiffany) and realized that they were the trend setters who paved the way for her to work as a paper girl and tags along to feel like she is part of this gang. Unfortunately the girls believe that a group of teenagers have stoled one of their walkie talkies and chases after them. This chase takes them to abandon house where they stumble what looks like a time machine in the basement. After that encounter all hell breaks loose.

These teenagers are actually from the future trying to escape from these adults and now the sky has turned pink, with monsters falling from the sky, and weird people dressed like something that came out of Star Wars who want to capture the girls. Another dilemma that arises is the girls retreat to MacKenzie’s house and discovered that a bunch of people have magically disappeared like as if they are living in the Rapture and MacKenzie’s step mother wants to kill everyone to save themselves. A fight breaks up and Erin gets shot in the end. Now they are trying to save her life and place their faith on these teenagers.

Fortunately Erin is quickly recovering thanks to these boys and she is able to learn a little bit as to the shit storm that has erupted. The boys sacrifice themselves to protect her and her friends and the only way out of this mess is by finding another time machine. The villains of this series do not truly make an appearance for this first volume but definitely will play a role in the upcoming issue. The girls get transported into the future and they stumble upon an adult version of Erin and that is where the comics ends.

Time traveling can definitely be a confusing plot to incorporate into these series and one of the brilliant ways that they try to solve is that no matter the invasion these people create they are able to erase it from peoples memories in a way that it does not affect their world and everyone acts like as if it never happen so no matter the damage that is caused in the end its like pressing the redo button except if you die during these crusades you do not comeback from the grave. I do not know if its because I am used to Brian K. Vaughan’s storytelling but I figured that the first volume was more about world building and feeling like you are part of the gang not knowing if they will live to see another day.

There is a lot of mysterious stuff that happens that will leave you with a thousand questions and I hope they will get answered as the series progresses. Overall the illustration and coloring is utterly beautiful and enabled me to get absorbed into the story. Even though I did not grow up in the 80s, I love 80s culture especially music and film so Brian K. Vaughan brilliantly dedicated his attention to detail and made it feel like I was actually living in the 80s. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope everyone is able to pick up a copy and discover this gem of a graphic novel.

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Archie, Vol. 2

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Rating: ★★★★

In this new volume of Archie the main focus is on the supporting characters and less about Archie. Archie is trying to get on good terms with Veronica’s father and yet Reggie is being a slime who is trying to ruin Archie for a taste of power. Archie starts connecting the dots and realizes that he needs to patch things up with Jughead in order to get Reggie out of the picture. In a matter of seconds all the drama of the first volume just poof magically vanished with a hamburger. What I found myself disliking about this volume is that the drama is dictating the characters action and not much about the characters.

Betty is still in love with Archie and clearly he still holds a flame for her but what makes him go crazy over Veronica is the fact that she doesn’t conform to anyone and that blows up in Betty’s face in epic proportions. They participate in a talent show contest to compete against each other but in the end apologizes for the mistakes they made and the act of apologizing gets misconstrued for Veronica and Trevor (irrelevant love interest for Betty). Betty has a lot to learn in order to win Archie again and throughout this volume the readers makes the connection that she is willing to sacrifice her own desires to help Archie.

I am shocked that Veronica is annoying the f@%k out of me. I absolutely adore her in the comics, Archie cartoons, and even in Riverdale and yet she becomes the epitome of being a rotten spoiled brat. I honestly do not see how Archie could be attracted to her especially in the early stages of their relationship and she attempts a few times to make herself likable in front of his parents but it backfires. I enjoy that she rebels against her father and for being naive she actually stirs most of the drama that happens in this volume.

Veronica’s father makes a campaign to be the Mayor of Riverdale because he believes that he has a winning shot and it will lay the foundation for his political career and Veronica realizes that he has used her as a pawn. Fortunately in the end he loses the election and being livid by the whole experience he decides that the Lodge family is leaving and we see Veronica being forced into a plane and fly off to the sunset. The last bit of this graphic novel felt straight out of a classic romance film where the protagonist realizes that he loves the girl and rushes to the airport to make sure she does not get on that plane and then they live happily ever after. You know that plot? Well it almost happens exactly like that but unfortunately Archie arrived too late. Will Veronica ever come back? Or will Archie hitch a plane and ditch Riverdale?

Theres a million and one drama that I have not discussed in this volume and quite frankly its meaningless to the overall arch of the narrative. I still enjoy this series for the fact that it is Archie and it is definitely an updated version of these iconic characters. I enjoy that Jughead is acknowledged in this series as asexual and embraces it nonchalant. I am starting to see the web that Mark Waid is creating in order to get these characters to the point that it reminds people why they love Archie comics and I am curious what will happen in the future volumes.

Overall I hope Archie Andrews takes charge of his life and revert back to how he was the narrator of this graphic novel series. I cannot get enough of Archie and I am curious if Kevin is going to make an appearance and have Mark Waid make this more LGBTQA-friendly. I may be a bit too old for high school drama but it don’t stop me from devouring the drama of Riverdale High.

Archie, Vol. 1: The New Riverdale

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Rating: ★★★★★

To say that this brand-new updated version of Archie is phenomenal is an understatement. IT IS F@#KING AMAZING!! (Matthew calm the hell down). Mark Waid as the writer for this serious was brilliant at maintaining the core values of what makes Archie comic while bringing it into the 21st century. Archie as always is the main character and if you are familiar with the classic television show Saved by the Bell then prepare for ultimate nostalgia. Throughout the graphic novel, Archie is constantly breaking the 4th wall with the readers like Zack Morris does and it fits perfectly because we are learning about Archie’s world through his point of view.

Immediately we are thrown into high school drama at Riverdale High when news is widely circulated that Betty Cooper and Archie Andrews have broken up. Later on you discover what is exactly the lipstick incident that triggered them parting ways but in the end they try to remain calm and pleasant about the experience. Everyone is utterly shocked because Betty and Archie have glued to each other since they were kids and in high school that type of romance is viewed as practically soul mates. Archie is clearly not over Betty and is a bit confused about all this drama and Betty is still in love with Archie but there is something that is holding her back from resolving this crisis.

Jughead and the entire gang try to find ways at helping solve this dilemma and I gotta admit Jughead is the wise one out of the entire group. While Archie is trying to find ways at moving on with his life it doesn’t take much when the new girl, Veronica Lodge comes into the picture and its love at first sight. Archie is head over heels with Veronica and especially the early stages of their encounter she take major advantage of that which causes a riff in Jughead and Betty. Veronica does not deserve Archie in the sense that he is the perfect boyfriend to introduce your parents to unless he so happened to have destroy the wood foundation of the brand new Lodge Mansion.

Archie feels the guilt of destroying the Mansion and is partly why he acts like a dog on a leash around Veronica. When the gang plans of ending Veronica’s relationship with Archie fails badly the question of friendship and loyalty comes into play? Will they be able to patch things up and move on or is it the end for Archie and the gang?

The illustrations overall is mind-blowing and it helps that Fiona Staples put her signature thumbprint on this epic new series. If you do not know who she is or rather don’t recognize her then you will definitely recognize her illustrations as she has done the artwork for another beautiful graphic novel series Saga . Mark Waid gave a new burst of life into these iconic characters that I am obsessed now to continue the series. I did not have to go to the library today to pick up anything and yet I desperately went because they have the 2nd volume available on the shelf and I look forward for these characters to keep stirring the pot that is high school drama and see how they will grow in the upcoming issues.

I believe this new take on the whole Betty vs Veronica fiasco is interesting and I look forward to see whether Archie is able to decide which one he prefers to be with. I have a feeling it will be Betty in the long run but it is cute to see how Archie is warming up to Veronica. Overall I will admit that Veronica gets on my nerves as this spoiled brat and at times it drives me up the walls to wonder what does Archie see in her that makes me want to spend time with her? I could not fall in love with someone like Veronica based on the sole actions of her character for this first volume.

Betty is not the victim either and you can definitely see where she royally screwed up with Archie. She allowed other girls to voice their opinion on how she should look and behave around him when in fact nothing was wrong to begin. I understand that she is less of a barbie girl but trying to conform for someone is only go lead to room of disappointment for both parties in this relationship. It seems very childish the whole lipstick incident and then I forget this is High School! Of course everything may seem like it is a big deal when it fact it is not at the end of the day. Overall this was a brilliant first volume to kick off the series and I cannot wait to devour all the upcoming volumes!

Thor: God of Thunder, Vol. 2: Godbomb

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Rating: ★★★★

I was shocked on how anti-climatic this whole Gorr trying to eliminate all the Gods plot line became thanks to this graphic novel. It is the sole reason why it is not a perfect score on my book. The story kicks off where the first volume ended which is Avenger Thor meets Future Thor. Future Thor is excited to meet his former self because he believes they have an actual chance of winning and destroying Gorr once and for all. Where is Viking Thor you may ask? Don’t worry Gorr found a way to bring him to the future and become a slave. Gorr has his own planet and has captured countless Gods and Goddesses to become slaves helping achieve his dream.

Gorr with the help of another God has created the perfect bomb that when it detonates it will wipe out every single God and Goddess from past, present, and future securing a world where people rely on their own kind instead of the fates. What was really cool about this volume is we get major background story about Gorr and how he became this monster which was utterly heartbreaking to discover everyone he loved was killed. I do not blame him for his rage and anger to stir on the behalf of his species ignorance but by becoming the God Butcher essentially he became a God. The weapon that he possessed to slaughter these immortals have corrupted him in someway and ultimately will be his demise.

My biggest issue is how Thor saved the day and how this story ends with a perfect bow on top. I think it is a bit unbelievable to witness that at the last second he was able to destroy the bomb by absorbing it. I personally think it would have been a far more interesting storyline had he tried to save the universe and instead be the sole surviving God. The amount of guilt he would have felt and the pain to realized everyone he loves is dead. It could have opened up a story arc about him going through time and trying to erase everything that Gorr had accomplished. The writers could have written a different story and allow Thor to show his vulnerable side.

The illustrations were fantastic and it was beautiful to see the different Thors kicking Gorr ass and seeing the amount of destruction they were creating. I think the theme of whether Gods should exist brings an interesting philosophical question that I think will reverberate through this series. Even though this is a graphic novel about superheroes, this theme of Gods felt like the writers were talking about religion as a whole and there is no perfect answer for that. I am still excited about this series and I look forward to continuing it and getting closer to finally reading Girl Thor.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 2: Generation Why

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Rating: ★★★★

Ms. Marvel is always on the brink of giving a perfect score and becoming one of my favorite new series to discover and yet somehow along the way it disappoints me in certain aspects. The first volume was a great kick off and I was expecting this graphic novel to be a perfect score but some of the dialogue that G. Willow Wilson wrote was geared specifically towards teenagers or rather millennials and that ruined the flow and pulled me out of the narrative of this world. It does not help that the title of this volume is called Generation Why .

Ms. Marvel is on the mission of trying to discover where these missing teenagers have disappeared and something tells me that The Inventor has something to do with it. Her family is exactly nonexistent for this volume which I thought was a key central theme for Ms. Marvel universe but apparently not. Kamala is forced to meet with Sheikh Abdullah and while everyone expects him to be harsh on Kamala he’s the complete opposite. She reveals that she helps people but does not know how to properly manage it and his advice is that she needs a master to help her in the super hero department. Sure enough when Kamala is forced to explore the sewers in connections to the Inventor, she bumps into Wolverine.

Except Wolverine is a caricature version of himself. He cannot heal, old, and in pain (Did they want to capitalized off of the Logan film?) but nevertheless Wolverine guides Kamala to safety as they have to attack a bunch of monsters in the New Jersey sewers. Wolverine is on a mission to find a missing student from Jean Grey’s mutant school and this ties with Kamala’s mission. Through the information that Ms. Marvel shares with Wolverine, he makes the connection that she is an Inhuman and sends the message to Medusa to look after her. To make is easier on everyone Medusa tells Lockjaw (beautiful bull-dog like mutant) to watch over Ms. Marvel and becomes Kamala’s new pet dog.

As Kamala learns more about her abilities the difficult it is to control it when she finally battles the Inventor and her best friend Nakia is part of the machine. The inventor invented technology that uses teenagers body as a form of electricity to power up these robots and most of those teenagers did it willing because they believe they are serving a higher purpose. Even when Ms. Marvel knocks some sense into them and tells them this inventor is insane they finally help her but still believe brainwash is a strong word for how he was manipulating them.

In all honesty it is a total brainwash to make you believe that your generation is useless and that donating your body to these machines will help save the planet is a load of crap and your mama needs to smack some sense into you. That whole subplot made me roll my eyes when Kamala is trying to defend her generation and to others who believe that Millennials are wasteful generation. I do not know if it is because I am a bit too old now and had I read this graphic novel as a teenager I might feel the same but it felt a bit too preachy and out of character. Plus I have heard that same discussion in previous years especially during important elections how Millennials are destroying America and automatically I am completely turned off by it all.

The illustrations are great as usual except I found it outputting the way they drew and color in Wolverine. For being such an iconic character in the Marvel universe I am shocked how turned off I was with his introduction to this series. I can be completely wrong but I may have to interpret Ms. Marvel world as an alternate universe to the rest of the Marvel universe. Overall I look forward to what is coming next for Ms. Marvel. I have no clue what is going to happen now and hopefully Kamala will fall in love with Bruno and her family finds out that she is Ms. Marvel once and for all!

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea

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Rating: ★★★★★

It does not surprise me with all the latest news that is going on about North Korea that I stumble upon this beautiful and tragic novel. Words cannot begin to express the amount of agony I felt learning about Masaji Ishikawa life in North Korea and his journey towards freedom. I have known for years that North Korea’s regime has a blatant disregard towards human life and what makes this novel powerful is that we get a first person account of what it truly means to be living in North Korea under Kim Il-Sung reign.

Masaji Ishikawa was born in Japan, his mother is Japanese and his father is South Korean. Living in Japan during the 1950s was severe for his family because of the bad blood relations between the Japanese and Koreans. His father was essentially a thug who could not find any work and abused his wife any chance he got in order to cope with the harsh struggles of life. Thanks to the propaganda that circulates about North Korea, Masaji father decides they are moving for a better life. Immediately upon arrival Masaji realizes that the Japanese government has lied about the promises of North Korea and they just signed their life to the Devil.

Over a period of three decades we get to witness the horrors that Masaji’s experiences under this dictatorship. The amount of suffering that is accurately described in this novel makes the reader wonder how is this possible? How can governments around the world allow this amount of human suffering to take place in this country and not bother to do something about it? Isolation and loneliness is a theme that the author suffers through his lifetime. Being Japanese in the North Korean government is consider the lowest of the low and institutional racism becomes apparent when every opportunity he tries to elevate himself in Korean society Masaji gets knocked down every time because simply he is Japanese.

We see how the events that transpires in Masaji’s life chips away his soul and that is what breaks my heart the most. Even when you think things could not possibly get worst trust me on this one it does. I cannot begin to imagine what I would do if I was in his shoes and the level of degradation that Masaji’s deals with on a daily basis in order to survive showcases no one in this world deserves to suffer. Water, food, roof over your heard, and clothes are the essential components of living that we take for granted. Another thing that is actually shocking is the power of thought. We all have opinions about any topic and we have the luxury to think what we want. In North Korea, the idea that you have a thought is treason itself against the government and speaking out is one step closer to signing your own death certificate.

The idea that you have no control over the chaos that is your life resonated a lot with me in this story and I hope no one ever has to experience what Masaji and myself had to go through. During my final years in High School, I was currently living in a mobile home with a roof that was slowly collapsing, a family that did not have the funds to fix it, no running hot water, and a bipolar uncle off his meds and refusing to work. My uncle asked to move in and mentioned that he was going to live with us for a few months to get back on his feet and in the end he lived with us for almost 4 years. I witnessed a few of his manic episodes and living in my own home was like walking on egg shells.

I tried to find ways of escaping from this nightmare of my life and no matter what I did to get myself out of the situation I always found myself back to square one. Having no friends, no way to prosper and find an escape it made me bitter about life for years. Fortunately I am not in that situation anymore and have a proper support system that can help me but imagine if I had to suffer like that for 30 years? What would be the reason of living if I had to resort to this awful nightmare? Honestly I do not believe I would be able and for Masaji to live in harsher conditions than myself only showcases the valiant human spirit and the art of not giving up on hope.

I found it interesting how the idea of escaping North Korea never fully crossed his mind until the death of Kim Il-Sung and the famine that erupted in North Korea. No matter what he tried to do in order to put food on the table was never enough and the poisonous foods that they were forced to eat portrays them as starving animals. There is no happy ending in this novel and even when he was finally able to escape in 1996 the aftermath of his actions leaves a bitter taste for Masaji and the audience. I hope he is able to find some peace in the end of his life. The scene of how his mother passes away left me in tears and angry that no one could do anything for Masaji and his family.

Being a son of a Cuban immigrants allows me to understand and grasp the terror of this regime. There are moments throughout the novel that resonates deeply to the fascist regime of Cuba. When Kim Il-Sung passes away and this famine breaks out is literally history repeating itself. Around the same time when the U.S.S.R. collapsed in 1992, Cuba was one of the countries that was receiving major aid. Cubans began to starve for years because there was no money to buy food, if you were lucky to have money then you were shit out of luck in the grocery stores because there was barely any food available to eat. The difference with this type of famine is for North Korea, thousands if not millions of individuals died from this famine wiping a huge chunk of the population.

I hope with this book it can teach people the true account of what is happening in North Korea and the reality that basic human rights are being violated on a constant basis. I highly recommend everyone to pick up this relatively powerful short novel and discover this epic story. His writing flow felt like I was reading poetry and it blew me away for being such a short book you learn a lot of about Masaji and North Korea. I hope someday Masaji can be reunited with his family and my heart goes out to all North Koreans who are suffering and I hope someday this fascist regime will end and the Koreans could finally be reunited in peace and harmony.

Thor: God of Thunder, Vol. 1: The God Butcher

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Rating: ★★★★★

After reading the first volume of Girl Thor, I am actually glad that I am reading this one finally because I am pretty much connecting the dots and learning that this first volume sets up the plot for how Thor will lose his belief that he is worthy. We get to discover Thor in three aspects of his life: past, present, and future. I’m curious to know whether Jason Aaron already had intentions for a woman Thor because the future Thor as an old man opens up major discussions now as to whether Thor actually defeats her or rather she gets killed and he assumes his duty as the God of Thunder.

The essential plot for this first volume deals with Thor being summoned to this barren planet after a little girl prays to him. When he comes to the rescue and saves this planet he discovers that they do not worship any Gods. He is utterly shock by that news that Gods do not exist in this part of the universe and does some detective work to discover that the planet had at one point several Gods over a 1,000 years ago but they were all butchered. As he follows the trails of evidence he comes to realize that this God Killer is someone he has dealt with in the past and sadly that means he is still alive.

Cue to the past. We are sucked into the Vikings era and we get to see Thor being the stereotypical macho man of a God without his hammer replaced instead with an axe. He lives among the mortals and lives up to the tales that are written about him in Norse Mythology. Once again on a mission he discovers a beheaded Indian god with fears in his eyes. He explores the territory and finally encounters the villain that will ultimately be his demise. The creature’s name is Gorr and he wants to kill every single God and Goddess.

What I enjoyed the most about Gorr is his logic actually makes sense and it brings up the discussion whether he is truly the villain or could it possibly be Thor who wreaks havoc and the brink of destruction. Gorr dreams of a world where mankind of any race does not have to rely on Gods and Goddess because at the end of the day these immortals accomplish nothing when they are needed the most. Thor is the exception where he seeks justice for the innocent but even though he always saves the day it leaves a vacuum for villains to rise up and cause more destruction leaving the entire galaxy in constant chaos for him to repair. If Gods cease to exist then the ideas of wars, miracles, and other aspects of religion would be erased and we will be better off in Gorr’s point of view. He doesn’t attack the humans at first because his beef is strictly with the divine and yet doesn’t shed a tear for what he deems human frailty.

Cue Present Thor. Now that he has discovered that Gorr is still alive his next mission is to discover what Gorr is up to and how to find him which is harder than it seems. Gorr keeps following the trail of missing Gods and is shocked that Gorr has murdered them by the thousands and he is actually scared that there is a possibility that Gorr may succeed in wiping off all the Gods in every universe. Cue future Thor.We witness Thor as an old man, long white beard, a metal arm and utterly defeated. He has his hammer by his side and yet he wants to die. He is the last known God in existence and no matter how many times he fights Gorr and his hounds, in the end Gorr keeps him alive and refuses to show mercy unto Thor with a respectful death.

I believe deep down the Future Thor is a parallel universe where Gorr actually succeeded in his wish of changing the course of Immortality and the creation of the Universe. Present Thor in the end gets sucked into a time machine blood pool and ends up in the future and now both of Thors have an actual winning shot of defeating Gorr once and for all. The illustrations in this graphic novel was fascinating to see and what a total difference when it mirrors to the woman Thor. Jason Aaron knows how to keep my attention especially with him writing for Star Wars, I am definitely hooked on this Thor series and his character is growing on me. He is not my favorite Avenger and hopefully the upcoming volumes will keep my intrigue. I need to know the backstory of Gorr and how he became this fantastic villain!