Review: Higurashi – When They Cry: Beyond Midnight Arc Vol 2

 

Title: Higurashi-When They Cry: Beyond Midnight Arc Vol 2

Authors: Ryukishi07 & Mimori

Publisher: Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0316123754

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

With Mion’s name clearly printed among the names of those killed in Hinamizawa twenty years ago, suspicion for the murder falls on her. But Mion isn’t the only one whose story doesn’t quite add up. How did the killer know Otobe’s was the only phone with a signal? How could Otobe’s friends have simply "disappeared"? Is it really the work of demons, or is there a murderer among them?

Review:

This is my favorite book in the Higurashi series so far.  Even though the tone is different and it isn’t nearly as creepy as previous installments, it had a lot of action, which I enjoy, and a kick-ass heroine.  Mion totally steals the stage.  She has a strong personality, she’s mysterious, and she can wield a katana like nobody’s business.  I was sad to reach the last page.

Now, parts of the story are a bit forced, but I didn’t mind that much as all of the dangling threads of the story arc are tied up by the end of the book.  Some of the resolutions are disappointing and clichéd, and even Otobe’s reasons for being stuck in Hinamizawa left me wanting.  Arakawa’s characterization was very weak as well, and I think the only reason he was even part of the ensemble was to over-react whenever something bad happened.

I loved the art, especially the illustrations of Mion and her flowing kimono.  The fight sequences conveyed a great deal of tension and drama, and Mion’s fluttering robes and her oddly shaded eyes made for some striking visuals.  While I think the cover is eye-catching, I think that the interior artwork is even better.

If you enjoy a good mystery with creepy undertones, the Higurashi series might be calling your name.  The story arcs are short and self contained, so it doesn’t feel like a huge investment of time or money to check out a few here and there.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Jack Frost Vol 4 by JinHo Ko

 

Title: Jack Frost Vol 4

Author: JinHo Ko

Publisher: Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0316126748

 

May Contain Spoilers

Synopsis:

Siegfried of the South District makes his move against the North, and his weapon of choice is…Jin? But despite the fact that this latest threat to her power bears the countenance of her associate, Helmina does not hesitate to unleash her terrible strength against Jin. With Siegfried successfully removed from the good doctor’s mind, Helmina plots her next strategy…Will even Jack Frost be able to counter the devils she is prepared to release?

Review:

I don’t think I understand what is going on in Jack Frost.  I don’t know if I really need to, because the explosions and wanton destruction are a lot of fun.  Ignorance is bliss, maybe?  There is a war brewing in Amityville, I get that, and the Mirror Image has set things in motion.   Helmina looks cool wielding her awesome powers, but I question the wisdom of doing battle in garters and lace panties.  Are thongs passé, or something?  I didn’t care for her granny panties, but not everyone can have the stunning sense of fashion that I possess.

Like previous volumes of Jack Frost, this one showcases heavy-duty fight scenes, both in flashbacks and in the present timeline.  Noh-A fades to the background, though, and the light shines on Hansen.  His tragic past is painfully revealed, including his guilt for not dying with his brother and the girl he loved.  When the past catches up with him, he has a hard time putting his feelings in the past, where they belong.  Instead, it looks like he’s going to repeat the mistakes he’s made in the past, without doing anything to try and change things. 

Jack is a squeaky toy most of the volume. I just know that he is conserving his energy so he can turn into a complete badass in the next installment, but still I worry about his welfare.  That big, nasty villain who is trying to squeeze the life out of him looks like he’s pretty strong.  Will Jack end up looking like a smushed banana?  I don’t think so, but it’s fun wondering how he’s going to get himself, and everyone else, out of trouble.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Goong Vol 4 & 5 by Park SoHee

 

Title: Goong Vol 4 & 5

Author: Park SoHee

Publisher: Yen Press

 

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

It took me a few volumes to get totally hooked on Goong, but I am so there right now!  I don’t have volume 6 for some reason, and neither does Amazon, so I am a little bummed that I had to order it from a 3rd party seller.  Hopefully they will ship it soon, because now I am dying to read more of the series!

Chae-Kyung is having a hard time adjusting to her new life as a princess.  I can’t blame her; the rest of the royal family certainly isn’t welcoming her with open arms.  Suddenly her life as a normal high school student is kicked out the window, and she’s expected to behave in a manner befitting a princess.  Her humble background isn’t making it easy, because the people who are supposed to be helping her the most look down on her and try to make her life miserable.  Yul’s mother is especially evil, as she plots Shin’s downfall and tries to find ways to make Chae-Kyung look like a fool.  She has split up the royal couple just as they were making progress with their relationship, effectively driving a wedge between them.

I feel so sorry for Chae-Kyung.  Being a princess isn’t fun and games for her.  Instead, it is unbearably lonely.  She doesn’t know how to act anymore, she been distanced from her family, and now even Shin has been sent to London to visit the royal family.  Shin won’t return her calls or her emails, which makes her even more miserable.  When she discovers that she was originally supposed to be Yul’s bride, a new awkwardness between them strains the only friendship she seems to have left.  That’s got to be tough, thinking that you don’t have anyone to rely on, and that everyone around you is only using you.  Ouch.

Plots are surfacing to embarrass Shin and cause him to lose his position in the royal succession.  Yul’s conniving mother is out to shame both Chae-Kyung and Shin, and it looks like she very well may succeed.  Ugh!  She is so mean and vindictive, and I can’t believe Shin’s father is so stupid as to fall for her games.  He can’t be that dumb, can he?  He’s supposed to be savvier that than!  This guy really disappoints me, in practically every volume!  He has absolutely no faith in his own son, and that is very distressing.  I find it hard to believe that he feels that much guilt about he’s brother’s death that he’s letting it drive his decisions, but maybe I’m wrong on that. 

There is so a lot going on in Goong, and like a good soap opera, little actions have sweeping consequences.  It’s a fun series about a girl caught up in something that is way, way over her head.  The good thing about Chae-Kyung?  She’s much too stubborn to ever give in, and if she goes down, this girl is going down fighting!  Go get ‘em, Chae-Kyung!  I bet the royal family will never be the same after you get through with them!

Grade: A-

Review copies provided by publisher

Review: Cirque Du Freak Vol 2 by Darren Shan & Takahiro Arai

 

Title: Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant Vol 2

Story:  Darren Shan

Art: Takahiro Arai

Publisher: Yen Press

ISBN:  978-0759530386

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In The Vampire’s Assistant, Darren returns to the old-fashioned freak show where, thanks to Mr. Crepsley, he became a "half-vampire." Darren once again struggles against the urge to feed upon the human blood his health requires.

Darren Shan was born in London but at an early age he moved to Limerick, Ireland, with his parents and younger brother. He grew up watching old Dracula horror movies and reading spooky comics, which were the inspirations for this series.

Review:

I am rather indifferent to this series so far, but I can see the appeal for younger readers who crave an action packed story.  There’s just enough gore to hook those looking for a slightly scary, fast paced adventure that doesn’t require much thought. Darren’s struggle to avoid drinking human blood makes the young half-vampire a more sympathetic character, and his confused feelings for Lartan make for a suspenseful read. The freak show setting offers up the opportunity to introduce a cast of creepy and dangerous characters as well.

Darren is struggling to accept his new reality. He’s a vampire, and in order to thrive and stay alive, he has to drink human blood.  He refuses, insisting instead on consuming only animal blood.  His master, Lartan, is at a loss.  How can he convince the stubborn boy to drink human blood?  Darren refuses, even knowing that he will eventually weaken and die.  In his mind, drinking human blood will truly make him a monster.

Darren is surrounded by monsters, some menacing, some not so intimidating.  With his ability to control Madam Octa, he’s put to work for the circus.  Soon he’s battling his desire to kill Lartan. This struggle with his inner darkness was fraught with suspense.  Will he give in to the murderous longing in his heart?  Lartan is responsible for Darren’s present condition – shouldn’t he pay the price for turning him into something so vile?  These thoughts torment him, but by killing Lartan, doesn’t he descend into an abyss from which he’ll never emerge?

Despite a rather generic plot, I couldn’t put this volume of Cirque Du Freak down.  It offered up just enough thrills and excitement that I wanted to see where the story went.  Darren’s insistence on having a human friend leads to disaster, and a new menacing addition to the freak show crew promises more danger in the vampire’s future.

Grade: C+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Ugly Duckling’s Love Revolution Vol 1 by Yuuki Fujinari

 

Title: Ugly Duckling’s Love Revolution Vol 1

Author: Yuuki Fujinari

Publisher:  Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0759531758

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Everything is pretty average about Hitomi; she’s an average student, has an average brother, average looks …the only thing that makes her stand out is her weight. Weighing in at 220lbs, she’s no elegant swan. But this wasn’t always the case! When she was younger, she would take part in children’s beauty contests and bring home all sorts of prizes. It was only when her sweet tooth took over that she gained all the weight. So when Hitomi moves into her older brother’s apartment, she discovers that his neighbours are the five hottest boys at her school! And when they decide to get Hitomi back to her cute and pretty roots by helping her stay away from sweets and lose weight, it’s a recipe …for disaster!

Review:

This random collection of episodic chapters left me perplexed.  I’m not sure what to think of it, and I found the presentation bland, uninteresting, and the more I think about it, insulting.  The characters are all cookie cutouts, and they are boring, boring, boring.  Not one of them has a personality worth remembering.  Hitomi, the overweight protagonist, is as sweet as they come, but she is portrayed as an uninteresting blob.  While all of the pretty boys are drawn with precise details, Hitomi is a caricature, a round, fluffy, shapeless blob.  The other overweight character, Tooru, is also drawn as an unattractive lump. 

The more I think about this book, the more annoyed I get.  Plot? There isn’t one.  Hitomi tiptoes around school, trying her hardest not to offend anybody with her mere presence.  She’s friends with all of the pretty boys, but because she is drawn with no appeal what so ever, there’s not even a glimmer of attraction between any of them.  It’s like Hitomi is their mascot, like she’s some weird animal that everyone wants to pat on the head.

Somewhere along the way, she starts exercising, by swimming and picking up trash during cleanup duty.  She berates herself for craving sweets, and wonders why she is such a bother to everyone around her.  Everyone but her brother, that is.  He has a sister complex that I think is supposed to add some comedy to the book, but falls flat for me.

I don’t know where the series is going to go, but with the first volume, I am unimpressed with the message that I am getting.  Why does Hitomi have to change in order to be attractive to these guys.  Some of them are very shallow and aren’t worth her attentions.  Why does Hitomi have to be a big, blobby lump?  Why can’t she sparkle because of what’s inside, instead of what’s on the outside?

Grade: C-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Gossip Girl: For Your Eyes Only Vol 1 by HyeKyung Baek & Cecily von Ziegesar

Title: Gossip Girl: For Your Eyes Only Vol 1

Art & Adaptation: HyeKyung Baek

Original Concept: Cecily von Ziegesar

Publisher: Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0759530263

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Welcome to New York’s Upper East Side, where the claws are about to come out! S is back in town after an encounter with B’s boyfriend, N. Now B’s looking for payback with S’s new love interest, D. Looks like B’s prepared to put it all on the line this time to take down S once and for all.

Duck and cover — this might get ugly!

Review:

Well, it was bound to happen.  I finally met a Yen Press graphic novel adaption of a popular prose series that I didn’t like.  Gossip Girl is just not my cup of tea, and I had a hard time relating to any of the odious characters that populate Cecily von Ziegesar’s popular Gossip Girl series.  Ugh!  I hope that the rich and ill-mannered aren’t as unlikable as the gang collected in this book.  Ugh!

Here’s the predictable plot in a nutshell;  Beautiful Serena sleeps with Nate, ultra rich bitch Blair’s boyfriend. Blair finds out, Serena is driven out of the popular circle in shame, and after she starts dating poor, boring Dan, Blair schemes to get Dan to cheat on Serena.  Gah!  The only thing that made the read tolerable were Blair’s missteps during her campaign to humiliate her former BFF.  Karma can be a beautiful thing.

I started hoping that Blair would just throw herself off of the balcony of her penthouse suite and put us all out of our misery.  I didn’t care what happened to this awful witch, or any of the other rotten characters running around the pages of this graphic novel. How sad is that? There wasn’t even one character I felt that I could relate to.  Not one!  Are the novels like this?   Is reading about a bunch of shallow, spoiled teenagers entertaining?  Now I want to read one of the books just to see if they are as unappealing as this volume of the manga.

Grade:  C-

Review copy provided by publisher

Graphic Novel Review: Daniel X Vol 1 by James Patterson

 

Title: Daniel X Vol 1

Author: James Patterson & Michael Ledwidge

Illustrator: SeungHui Kye

Publisher:  Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0316077644

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When his parents are murdered by an intergalactic criminal, Daniel X vows to take on his father’s role as Earth’s sole Alien Hunter. Life isn’t easy, though, when you’re a young boy on your own, tracking down the galaxy’s deadliest outlaws. Luckily, Daniel has a gift: the ability to create anything he can imagine – including his parents, his sister, and his best friends, who are there to help him along the way. But when Daniel decides to go up against the sixth-deadliest criminal on his hit list, he may find that even his awesome abilities just aren’t up to the task!

Review:

This was a fun read.  I enjoyed it far more than I was expecting, and I can hardly wait for more.  With a compelling story, a smart, street savvy protagonist, and eye-catching, appealing art, Daniel X should please both fans of the prose series and new readers, too.

Daniel’s family was brutally murdered by an alien when he was a young boy, and he has dedicated his life to tracking down and eliminating intergalactic criminals.  It’s a dangerous job, but somebody has to keep the planet safe.  Daniel’s just following in his father’s footsteps, and armed with the List, which names all of the alien outlaws hiding out on Earth, he keeps busy them hunting down.  When he picks a target a little, ok, a whole lot, out of his league, he is on the run for his life.  While fighting to keep himself alive, he discovers the truth about his family, and who he really is.

I liked Daniel a lot, though I was did feel a little sorry for him at the start of the book.  He is almost totally alone, except for the friends he’s created.  That made him even more approachable to me, because despite putting on a tough guy act, and having incredible powers, he does have times when he is lonely and afraid.  That’s certainly understandable, considering the scary things he’s hunting – and the scary things that are hunting him!  He’s also got a very level head on his shoulders, though he should probably try to rein in that impulsiveness of his.  It’s going to get him killed one of these days.

The art is crisp and expressive, and it was easy to follow along with the action.  This is a good starting point for someone interested in reading a graphic novel for the first time; the story zips along at a steady pace, it’s exciting, and the illustrations are easy on the eye.  There’s no confusion with the presentation, and the page layouts are simple, clean, and very attractive.  I love Daniel’s character design, especially his unruly mop of hair.

I am enjoying Yen Press’ graphic novel adaptations of popular prose fiction books.  They are taking something that is familiar to fans of the novels, wrapping it up in a new outfit, and producing some entertaining books along the way.  In order for graphic novels to find a wider audience, publishers need to do more to make them more appealing to new readers.  I don’t know if these books are going to do that, but I do think that it’s a good start.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Raiders Vol 4 by JinJun Park

 

Title: Raiders Vol 4

Author: JinJun Park

Publisher: Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0316119528

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Publisher website:

Irel and Lamia are back on the hunt for the chrism bottles — that is until Lamia decides that it’s time to part ways. Memories of a solitary past have given her cause to keep her distance from humans, but is she really prepared to go it alone? Meanwhile, Detective Chris’s conspiracy theories lead him to the heart of a secret society called “Crossline.” Can their leader, Ian, truly be who he claims?

Review:

Despite one major complaint about this series, I am totally hooked on it.  It’s got a ton of pulse-pounding excitement, suspense, conspiracies that may spell the end of the world, and lot and lots of mild zombie gore.  What am I not so thrilled about?  The art is a double-edged sword.  It’s detailed and intricate, but also very fine and delicate.  I actually got a headache reading this volume, because my eyes were straining so hard see the illustrations.  I wish I could see a Korean copy of the comic, to compare the contrast ratios.  It is so hard to see the drawings that it actually made me queasy!

Lamia’s past is explored in more detail, and as I love a tragic history, she earned brownie points for suffering so much through hers.  It’s hard on a relationship when you turn into a flesh-craving monster and have to eat your friends.  It’s downright heartbreaking.  To combat this, Lamia determines that she won’t get close to anyone again.  That way when she has to eat, it won’t be like she’s snacking on her best buddies. 

I like Chris better, too, but mainly because he is psycho.  This guy is a ruthless killing machine.  I bet he doesn’t have very many friends, either.  Betrayals in his past have turned him into the nutcase he is today, and vengeance will be very, very sweet for him.  How can you not admire a man who wants to exact such painful revenge upon his enemies?

Raiders continues to be a fun, fast-paced adventure, and I find myself looking forward to new volumes now.  The art may have given me a headache this time around, but story has also caught my imagination.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher