Review: Laddertop Vol 1 by Orson Scott Card and Emily Janice Card

 

Title: Laddertop Vol 1

Authors: Orson Scott Card, Emily Janice Card

Illustrator: Honoelo A Ibardolaza

Publisher:  Tor/Seven Seas

ISBN: 978-0765324603

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

An original science fiction manga by the bestselling author of Ender’s Game and his daughter

Twenty-five years ago, the alien Givers came to Earth. They gave the human race the greatest technology ever seen— four giant towers known as Ladders that rise 36,000 miles into space and culminate in space stations that power the entire planet. Then, for reasons unknown, the Givers disappeared. Due to the unique alien construction of the Laddertop space stations, only a skilled crew of children can perform the maintenance necessary to keep the stations up and running.

Back on Earth, competition is fierce to enter Laddertop Academy. It is an honor few students will achieve. Robbi and Azure, two eleven-year-old girls who are the best of friends, are candidates for the Academy. They will become entangled in a dangerous mystery that may help them solve the riddle of the Givers…if it doesn’t destroy the Earth first!

Review:

When I first received this book, I have to admit that I wasn’t in a huge rush to read it.  What I actually thought was here’s another successful writer trying to cash in on the graphic novel wagon.  When I sat down to read it, I found that I was entertained by this introduction to the Laddertop comic series, and by the end of the book, I wasn’t as put off by the art, which is bland and generic, and it did grow on me more than I thought possible.

Writing with his daughter, Emily, Card does what he does best – he creates compelling young characters who make me want to learn more about them.  Thrusting his young protagonists into situations where they more clever and adaptable than the adults around them, they must rely on their own brains and courage to survive to the next page.  Robbi and Azure are two eleven year old girls who are working hard to succeed at Laddertop Academy.  If they are selected to serve on the space stations that were given to Earth by the alien Givers to power the planet, they will have achieved a high honor. 

As is typical of a Card story, not everything is as it seems.  It seems like working on the space stations would be an honor, but the reality seems a little different. Exploited by people who have become wealthy off of the gifts from the aliens, the kids will actually be performing unglamorous maintenance, which sounds like it might be dangerous, in addition to be thankless.  Once Robbi arrives at the space station, she wonders why she keeps having disquieting dreams, and she begins to question her role at Laddertop.

I read the book in one sitting, and when I finished, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  I would have liked to have the second volume, so I could just dive right into the mystery Robbi is pondering without having to wait.  If you are familiar with Ender’s Game, Laddertop shares some similarities, and you will feel right at home.  If you didn’t like Ender’s Game, chances are you won’t like this story either.  It takes a bit of belief suspension to accept that the fate of the world rests in the hands of a couple of kids, and that theme resonates here.  If you are a fan of Orson Scott Card, you will most likely enjoy this sci-fi adventure, though you might want to wait for the rest of series to be released before sitting down to read it.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 9 by Nozomu Tamaki

 

Title: Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 9

Author: Nozomu Tamaki

Publisher:  Seven Seas

ISBN: 978-1934876879

Reading Level: 16+

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Betrayal by a rogue agent has rocked the Vampire Bund hard, especially Akira. Even worse, the agent has stolen the most damaging secret that Princess Mina tried hardest to conceal–namely, that Mina has the ability to transform into a full-grown woman capable of bearing children.

With this news leaked to the lords of the three great vampire clans, the brazen Lord Ivanovic launches an all-out assault on the Bund in order to claim Mina for himself. Princess Mina is left no choice but to counter-attack, as her once idyllic haven for vampires is turned into a war zone with massive casualties on both sides.

Review:

I have no idea why I like this fan-service laden series, but I do.  It kind of embarrasses me that I do. I mean, I would never let my mom pick one of these up; I would be too mortified.  It’s a bouncing boob fest.  And yes, I mention this every time I read a new volume, just so you understand that I am not the target market, but I like it enough to keep reading, despite my dislike of said fan service.

This volume is jam-packed with fierce battles, explosions, and even the eminent melt-down of a nuclear reactor. Sounds a little too much like current day events to be escapist reading!  Mina has her work cut out for her, when Ivanovic, furious that he’s been tricked, attacks the Bund with everything he’s got.  His men are merciless, and Mina is forced to watch helplessly as her citizens become the victims of war.  When Ivanovic sets his sights on the most vulnerable of her subjects, she can no longer stand idly by. 

Mina and Akira make a fearsome duo!  I really like Mina, and how dedicated she is to her people.  She is what a ruler should be.  She puts her own self interest aside, and focuses on what’s best for her subjects.  She wants to provide them with the highest quality of life possible, and when Ivanovic comes along takes away their freedom, safety, and piece of mind, she is infuriated.  She could teach our leaders in the White House a lesson or two.  I can certainly understand why Mina is so dead-set against shacking up with Ivanovic, too.  Besides being a murderous madman, his sense of fashion needs some serious updating, and that old coat of his looks like it use a trip to the dry cleaners.  Ugh!

This volume ends with a great cliff-hanger, and I want more.  Like right now! The story delivers just enough popcorn action to keep me flipping the pages,  and I like the characters enough to ignore when there are running around in only a few scraps of fabric.  If I was battling to the death with a diabolical and deadly vampire, I would at least want to be dressed in a cool costume! Don’t you agree?

Grade: B

Review copy purchased from Amazon

Review: Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 8 by Nozomu Tamaki

 

Title: Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 8

Author: Nozomu Tamaki

Publisher:  Seven Seas/Tor

ISBN: 978-1934876817

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The assassins are dead but an invisible enemy still lurks in the peaceful island nation known as the Vampire Bund. As the loyal lycanthrope Akira struggles to protect his queen, Mina Tepes, ruler of all vampires, fear and chaos descend upon the Bund. A plague of nanomachines has taken over and no vampire is safe. Time is running out and Akira must uncover an assassination plot and the true identity of the culprit before it is too late.

Dance in the Vampire Bund is an ongoing manga series that features stunning artwork and an enthrallingly original supernatural narrative.

Review:

Dance in the Vampire Bund is a guilty pleasure for me.  I’m kind of embarrassed that I like it, I’m about as far from the target market as possible, and it can be overly melodramatic and painfully corny at times.  Still, I anticipate each new volume and  dive right into each new release as soon as I get them.  Though I roll my eyes at the gratuitous nudity, it doesn’t turn me off enough to stop reading, and I even think Mina is extremely cool – she’d just be more awesome if she had a kickass outfit, instead of running around with her boobs hanging out. 

Akira is struggling to deal with his guilt after killing Sanin, and when his little brother shows up in the Bund, things become even more complicated for him.  Everyone he cares for seems to get hurt or end up dead, and he doesn’t want that to happen to Yuuhi.  He is infuriated with his father for putting Yuuhi in danger by bringing him to Mina’s household.  With political conspiracies everywhere, no one is safe in the vampire queen’s inner circle.  Not even a young boy like Yuuhi.

I enjoyed the tension between Akira and his father.  It’s obvious that they care for each other, but there is a wall between them that they just can’t seem to overcome. They can’t communicate, and instead end up arguing almost every time they speak to each other.  Duty weighs heavily on both of them, so there is no question that they both belong at Mina’s side.  The thought of his mother being alone is too much for Akira, though, and he is quick to berate his father for taking everything from his mother.  When Mina tries to smooth things over, even she is rebuffed by her loyal subjects.  The inability of father and son to communicate adds a realistic complication to the storyline.

The suspense cranks up in this volume as the plots against Mina continue.  It’s hard to figure out who is a friend and who is out to end the Tepes rule.  The friction between the vampires and humans adds another layer of complications for Mina to deal with.  Despite a big disconnect from the covers and the fan service, there is enough here for me to like and to want to keep reading. 

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 7 by Nozomu Tamaki Manga Review

 

Title: Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 7

Author: Nozomu Tamaki

Publisher: Seven Seas

ISBN: 978-1934876800

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

At the Vampire Bund, a peaceful island nation of vampires off the coast of Tokyo, the trouble never ceases.

Vampire queen Mina Tepes suffered an attack from nano-technology. As the Bund’s security teams deal with this latest threat, an even bigger terror strikes: a mysterious new assassin who wields a power greater than even Akira’s lycanthropic abilities. As Akira hunts the enigmatic assassin down, Akira’s own dark past is revealed, creating a schism between Akira and Mina that may never be healed.

Dance in the Vampire Bund is an ongoing manga series that features stunning artwork and an enthrallingly original supernatural narrative.

Why, why, why do I like this series?  It has some of the cheesiest dialog I have every read, and is just steeped in melodrama.  Not to mention all of those images that I find vaguely disturbing.  Mina, the vampire queen, is hundreds of years old, but she harbors a forbidden love for Akira, her werewolf protector.  He’s only seventeen, and I can’t stop thinking that she’s skating on some really thin ice with her forbidden desire for him, but because of all of the action that tempers some of that “ick” factor, I refrain from throwing the book against the nearest wall.  I understand why the jaded Mina is drawn to his earnest innocence, but I can’t block out of the back of my mind that it is just wrong.  It’s wrong when I think about how old she is, and how young Akira is, and it’s wrong that she looks like she’s ten and spent most of the earlier volumes running around in various states of undress.  Yes, I am well aware that I am not the intended target market for this book.

In this volume, the hunt is underway to discover the identity of the person responsible for infecting Mina with the nanotechnology that threatened her life in the previous installment.  It turns out that her enemy is using a failed experiment from her own labs against her.  When an assassin makes an attempt on her life, Akira and Angie have their hands full trying to keep her safe.  As the assassin’s attacks become more brutal, Akira is forced to face a nightmare from his past.  Can he protect Mina from his own demons?

My, the tensions run high as Akira fights to keep Mina alive, and Mina struggles to uncover the secrets that Akira is hiding from her.  The difference in their social standing is painfully evident, and it is obvious that few will support Mina’s dreams of being with Akira.  Her obsession with him borders on the creepy, when her private retreat is revealed, the walls and every surface covered with photos of her young werewolf.  I guess when you are a vampire queen you can get away with a little stalking of your subjects.

I enjoyed this volume more than the last, mainly because there was a bigger focus on action.  Though body proportions are occasionally awkward, I like Nozomu Tamaki’s art, especially the fighting scenes.  They are exciting and convey a sense of barely restrained energy and out of control movement.  Through all of the punching, kicking, blasting, and speed lines, the action is easy to follow and flows as smoothly as a newly paved road. 

Though some elements of the title turn me off, I can’t help but to keep reading Dance in the Vampire Bund.  It’s another fun, popcorn series that works best for me when I don’t dwell too deeply on character motivations.  The urban fantasy setting is getting more complex as the story moves forward.  A lot of the appeal for me is because it’s about vampires and werewolves, and it delves into a fascinating political structure that allows for intrigue and wrangling for power.  I’m just trying to ignore some of the more questionable aspects of the story, which are a turn off for me.

Grade: B

Review copy purchased from Amazon

[PR] SEVEN SEAS RELAUNCHES GUNSLINGER GIRL & BLOOD ALONE

SEVEN SEAS RELAUNCHES GUNSLINGER GIRL & BLOOD ALONE

(LOS ANGELES, April 8, 2010) – Seven Seas is pleased to announce the revival of two fan-favorite manga series—Gunslinger Girl and Blood Alone. Featuring all-new translations and lettering, Seven Seas will release the previously-published books in omnibus editions that contain three volumes in one, priced at $15.99 each. Seven Seas will then introduce subsequent books in the series that have never been published in North America.

"We’re thrilled to get the chance to put our stamp of quality on these two great titles," says Seven Seas Senior Editor Adam Arnold. "Since neither of these books were continued by their previous American publishers, we’re excited to be rescuing these series for existing fans. Plus, our low-cost omnibus editions of the early volumes in the series make them the ideal entry point for new fans as well."

Gunslinger Girl is a dark action-packed series about a secret counter-terrorism unit that transforms young girls into ruthless killers. The manga series, which is ongoing in Japan and currently up to volume 12, has spawned several popular anime. Seven Seas will relaunch the manga in two separate 544-page omnibus editions for $15.99 each, and will then release later volumes of Gunslinger Girl starting with volume 7. Gunslinger Girl Omnibus 1 is scheduled for a February 2011 release.

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Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 6 by Nozomu Tamaki Manga Review

 

Title: Dance in the Vampire Bund Vol 6

Author: Nozomu Tamaki

Publisher: Seven Seas

ISBN: 9781934876749

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ever since Mina Tepes first founded a peaceful island nation of vampires off the coast of Tokyo, there has been nonstop trouble from all quarters. With the struggle to win Mina’s hand in marriage by the vampire lords now over, a sense of calm has finally returned to the vampire bund.

But this period of tranquility may not be what it seems, as Mina falls into a mysterious sleep. A new, unseen enemy launches a deadly attack, and Mina’s lycanthrope companion Akira is caught off guard!

This volume of Dance in the Vampire Bund was a bit disappointing, especially after the rollicking action from the previous installment.  This time around the focus was more on interpersonal relationships, and bad me, they just weren’t as interesting as the battle to the death story line that just ended.  I guess Akira can’t spend all of his time beating up bad guys, even though I find it a lot more enjoyable than the slightly awkward character interactions that took place in this volume.

An old friend of Akira’s arrives in town, and Mina is instantly jealous of Akira’s beautiful partner.  Now that Yuki and Mina have developed a slightly uneasy friendship, Mina needed someone else to share a rivalry with.  It’s easy to see why Mina would be suspicious of Captain Angel Avenant; the werewolf’s silky locks and delicate features would engage the envy of anyone.  It doesn’t help Mina to feel at ease as Angel reminisces with Akira and tries to provoke the vampire ruler, teasing her and taunting her about a close relationship with Akira that Mina doesn’t share.  Ah, Mina’s possessive nature kicks into high gear with the addition of this new cast member.

Later in the book, Mina falls into a deep sleep that she can’t be roused from, sending everyone into a panic.  When they realize that she’s being attacked, everyone goes into overdrive to discover the perpetrator before it’s too late.  This was an interesting story thread, because Mina dreams of a life with Akira if the vampires and Bund had never existed.

The action slows to a crawl in this volume of Dance in the Vampire Bund, and the turn of events was clichéd and predictable.  I am hoping that my next visit with Mina and company will feature a little more of the action and excitement that I enjoy so much, and have come to expect from this series.

Grade: B-

PR – SEVEN SEAS TO EXPAND LUNAVERSE

SEVEN SEAS TO EXPAND LUNAVERSE

(LOS ANGELES, March 29, 2010) – Seven Seas is pleased to announce the much-anticipated continuation and expansion of its bestselling original manga series Amazing Agent Luna, which will include additional volumes of the main series as well as an all-new two volume spin-off.

Currently spanning five volumes and two omnibus editions, Amazing Agent Luna, written by Nunzio DeFilippis & Christina Weir (New X-Men, Destiny’s Hand) and illustrated by Shiei (Aoi House, Avalon: The Warlock Diaries), is the story of Luna Collins, a fifteen-year-old girl grown in a lab from the finest genetic material and trained since birth to be the government’s ultimate espionage weapon. But her training as a ninja spy has left her totally unprepared to handle the stresses and strains of everyday teenage life, as she struggles with her ongoing mission to pose as an ordinary teenager at an elite high school in order to thwart an evil plot.

“We’re very excited about expanding the Lunaverse," said Seven Seas publisher Jason DeAngelis. "Since Seven Seas launched back in 2004, Amazing Agent Luna was our first tentpole and one of the series that’s near and dear to our hearts. We can’t imagine Seven Seas without a Luna product, and fans keep clamoring for more. Between the omnibus editions and Kindle sales, the series has become a consistent backlist title for us and has made more Luna product possible."

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[PR] SEVEN SEAS BRINGS ON THE FANG SERVICE WITH "VAMPIRE CHEERLEADERS"

SEVEN SEAS BRINGS ON THE FANG SERVICE WITH “VAMPIRE CHEERLEADERS”

(LOS ANGELES, March 17, 2010) – Seven Seas is pleased to announce two all-new supernatural manga tales, Vampire Cheerleaders and Paranormal Mystery Squad, written by Adam Arnold and illustrated by Shiei, the creative team behind fan favorite series Aoi House.

Both original series are set to double-feature in Vampire Cheerleaders: Fang Service, a campy horror manga which leads off with the aforementioned bloodsucking teen comedy Vampire Cheerleaders, followed by Paranormal Mystery Squad, a ghostbusting spin-off directly from the pages of Aoi House.

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