Comic Strip Review: Gunnerkrigg Court, Volume 3: Reason

Comic Strip Review: Gunnerkrigg Court, Volume 3: Reason by Thomas Siddell

After Antimony “Annie” Carver’s mother Surma dies, her father Anthony drops her off at her parent’s alma mater, a strange boarding school called Gunnerkrigg Court.  The court is an enormous place, looking rather like an industrial city, but large portions of it seem to be abandoned…by humans, at least.  There are robots advanced beyond anything in the outside world, bizarre events are commonplace, there’s a creepy forest just across a long bridge students are forbidden to cross, and Annie notices that she’s picked up a second shadow.

Gunnerkrigg Court, Volume 3: Reason

This noted fantasy webcomic has been running since 2005, beginning here (happily, the art style drastically improves over time.)  It’s got an intricate plot with many details planned well in advance.  (For example, in an early strip Antimony tells us it will be two years before she sees her father again.)  The Court’s architecture is somewhat based on the city of Birmingham in England.

At the beginning of this volume, Annie is in training to possibly become the Court’s Medium, an ambassador between the school and the magical Gillitie Wood.  The other two candidates, Andrew Smith (with the ability to bring order out of chaos) and George Parley (whose father expected a boy, and has the gift of teleportation) argue a lot but turn out to be attracted to each other.  This interrupts two simulations.

Then it’s time for a camping trip to a park that is actually inside the boundaries of Gunnerkrigg Court.  Campers start to disappear, and Annie and her best friend Kat (Katherine Donlan, daughter of two of the teachers who were friends with Annie’s parents) must solve the mystery.

After that, Kat, who is beloved by the Court’s robots due to her technical skills and repair abilities grants the king of said robots access to the portrait of Jeanne, the ghost that haunts the ravine between the Court and the Wood.  In return, he reveals the existence of a robot that has memories of Jeanne, and the very early days of the Court.  Those memories reveal a dark secret of the past.

In the next chapter, Annie visits the Wood and learns more about Ysengrim, the wolf with tree armor that is the current Medium for their side of the river.  Coyote, the trickster spirit that is in charge of the Wood, gives Annie a gift for reasons not fully revealed.

Then the subplot of Jack, who’s been acting increasingly erratic since he was exposed to the mass hallucination projected by a girl named Zimmy, comes to the fore.  He coerces Annie into accompanying him to a power station that might have something to do with why he can’t sleep.

This is followed by a spotlight chapter for Kat, who hasn’t been able to process her emotional reaction to learning what the Court did to Jeanne.  She’s finally able to recover her equilibrium with the help of an abandoned baby bird, and Paz, a classmate who can talk to animals.

Further research with the help of Andrew and Parley reveals some of Jeanne’s story from her point of view, and convinces Parley to be honest about her feelings.

Finally, Annie’s second year at Gunnerkrigg Court comes to a painful close when she and Renard (a fox spirit living in a stuffed toy) quarrel and reveal some very painful secrets to each other.  This leads to her choosing to spend the summer in the Wood rather than with friends.

At the end are some art pages and bonus strips about “City Face”, the pigeon Kat rescued.

The mood swings wildly between chapters, some being very comedic while others go deep into dark territory.  While we get several important revelations in this volume, the jigsaw nature of the overall plot means that many items don’t pay off until future volumes–I do recommend starting from the beginning.

As is often the case with webcomics collections, the material is all available on the internet for free, but if you like it, please consider buying the print version to make the creator more financially stable.

Comic Book Review: Oddly Normal Book 1

Comic Book Review: Oddly Normal Book 1 by Otis Frampton

Life is not good for Oddly Normal (who was named after her great-aunt.)  As the product of a human/witch marriage, her green hair and pointed ears make her stand out in her small town elementary school.  She’s constantly bullied and treated as a freak.  Worse, her parents seem oblivious to just how miserable she really is.

Oddly Normal Book 1

This comes to a head on Oddly’s tenth birthday, when none of the kids her parents made her invite bother to come, only using the moment to further bully her.   And then her parents refuse to understand the situation, coming up with excuses for how this isn’t actually happening.  It’s no wonder that Oddly makes a wish that they would both disappear.  It’s slightly more of a wonder that the wish seems to work, as she’s never shown any magical aptitude before.

While trying to work out what actually happened, Oddly’s aunt takes her to Fignation, the “imaginary” world Oddly’s mother came from.  She enrolls her niece in Menagerie Middle School, and Oddly thinks that maybe here she won’t be treated like a freak.  Small hope of that–though there do seem to be some kids who aren’t completely horrible.  Of course they’re the unpopular, uncool ones.  Worse, at least one of the teachers seems to be out to get Oddly for reasons that aren’t exactly clear.

This Image comic book series is by one of the people who creates the How It Should Have Ended webtoons.   The first volume collects the first five issues, out of six published as of this writing.

A lot of kids will identify with Oddly; feeling like they’re persecuted for their minor differences; and quite a few older readers will remember the same feelings.  It’s made Oddly a somewhat surly loner who’s only sympathetic because she’s the underdog.  Given some power, she could easily turn Carrie on her peers.  (The sixth issue shows that Oddly has more in common with her mother in that respect than she might have guessed.)

The other characters are fairly stock, with no one really stepping outside their stereotypical roles yet.  The series is also suffering from considerable decompression, and the first five issues feel less than a complete story, or even a full five chapters.

I’d say that it would be a good idea for Oddly to succeed at something soon, or show some useful skills or personality traits.  As is, she’s just a victim and pinball, bouncing from one miserable event to the next.

The art isn’t bad, but the writing needs to step up.  Keep an eye on this series, and if it improves come back and read this.

Book Review: The 66 Kid: Raised on the Mother Road

Book Review: The 66 Kid: Raised on the Mother Road by Bob Boze Bell

Disclaimer:  I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.

The 66 Kid

Bob Boze Bell has been a rock musician, cartoonist, radio host, magazine publisher and other interesting jobs.  And he spent most of his youth in Kingman, Arizona, where his father had gas stations on Route 66.  This is his memoir of those years.

It’s a coffee table book, lavishly illustrated with photographs and Mr. Bell’s paintings.  Fortunately, he has many family pictures and old clippings to illustrate his anecdotes and historical tidbits.  It’s a fascinating (if possibly biased) look at life in Arizona in the 1950s and 1960s.  Mr. Bell is an accomplished writer, and his prose is excellent.

Note that this is not a comprehensive book about the highway itself; it primarily covers the Kingman area and how Route 66 affected Mr. Bell’s life.

At a suggested retail price of thirty dollars, this book is good value for money if you’re interested in Arizona or Bob Boze Bell.  Others might want to see if their library has it for borrowing, as it is a handsome volume.

Of course, it would be remiss of me to close without a reference to the famous song, so here it is:

Open Thread: I Am a Graduate!

I have completed all the coursework for an Associate’s in Business Management from Rasmussen College.  (I got a 98% in Microeconomics!)  So I should be receiving my hard copy of the diploma soon.  Also, I am available for employment in the customer service field for a company that has room for advancement.

Grad

I went home for the weekend to celebrate this and my birthday with my family.  It was good to see all of them, including my Uncle Dwight, whose schedule is not easy to coordinate with anyone else’s.  The family will probably be reusing this banner at Christmas, as my oldest niece is due to finish her bachelor degree in Diversity Studies at that point.

Are you continuing your education, by formal schooling or self-improvement?  Do you remember any books you read for school that still are favorites today?

eta:  Rasmussen has asked that I plug their business management program, so here’s a link to that: http://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/business/business-management/  Enjoy!

Open Thread: School’s Out for Now

I finished the last of my homework last night, so now all I have to do is wait to see if I did well enough to get my Associates’ degree.

Created for me by Indigo Caldwell; please do not reuse without permission.
Created for me by Indigo Caldwell; please do not reuse without permission.

Now I can spend more time reading things that aren’t class-related!  Catch up on some movie watching, maybe get a job with my shiny new degree.

How’s by you?

Manga Review: Voice Over! Seiyu Academy #1

Manga Review: Voice Over! Seiyu Academy #1 by Maki Minami

Hime Kino isn’t much like her name would imply (“Hime” means “Princess.”)  She’s clumsy and tomboyish, and none too bright.  Plus, she’s got a voice like a gravel pit, that only gets worse when she tries to sound cute.  But she’s a huge fan of the Lovely Blazers magical girl anime series of series (basically a thinly veiled Pretty Cure) and especially the first star of the show, Sakura Aoyama.  Seems that Ms. Aoyama helped Hime out of a jam when she was little, quoting the show.  So Hime’s dream is to become a seiyuu (voice actor) and star as a magical girl on Lovely Blazers.

Voice Over! Seiyu Academy

So it is that Hime has come to Holly Academy High School, which has the nation’s top voice acting program.   Because of her odd voice and lack of proper training, Hime is placed in the “Stragglers” group with a ragtag bunch of misfits.  Plus Hime becomes very irritated with Senri, a naturally talented voice student who is Sakura Aoyama’s son, not that he seems to appreciate it.  Senri is moody, and seems to blow hot and cold towards Hime…when he can remember who she is!

Of course, this not being a grim and gritty manga, Hime discovers that she does have the potential to become a talented voice actor–in male roles!  How is she ever going to get that cute magical girl role on Lovely Blazers?

As I have mentioned before, one of the neat things manga does that American comics don’t do as well is series about people pursuing a career.    Readers can learn all about what it takes to be a firefighter, or an anesthesiologist, or in this case a voice actor.  (The manga creator was inspired to do this after her previous series, S*A, got animated and she met the voice-over people.)  For this series, the author has chosen the “enthusiastic rookie who doesn’t have the skills yet” version of the plot line.

Hime is specifically a little dim, which justifies the mistakes she makes and the need to give her info dumps every so often.   And irritable, so she’ll clash with the guy who is the obviously set up love interest.  This makes her seem pretty generic shoujo manga heroine, except for her voice, which the reader will have to imagine.  The Stragglers are pretty likable, but seem to have two character traits each, and it’s unclear if they’ll get more depth.

As opposed to Senri, who as the rival/love interest, is shown to have multiple facets and a backstory we will be learning about over the course of the series.  This “boy who the girl can’t get along with, but will eventually warm up to her” subplot also feels pretty generic.  But other bits feel fresher, such as the idol duo with one member who is unreasonably jealous of his partner’s attention.

The art is decent, and if the school uniforms seem overly busy, that’s deliberate and editorially mandated.

The primary audience for this series is teen-aged girls, but anyone with an interest in voice acting or voice actors should be able to enjoy it.

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