Saturday, December 31, 2022

REVIEW: The Geek Ex-Hitman (manga, vol. 1) by Ko-dai, translated by Giuseppe di Martino

The Geek Ex-Hitman is a comedy series. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


Marco was once known as "The Oracle of Florence," or "T.O." He was a hitman for the mafia who suddenly disappeared for no apparent reason. What really happened: one of his targets had a Hades Girl Eurydice anime figure that snagged his attention. He canceled all his jobs, went to Japan, and became an otaku.

The mafia didn't take well to this, but they also didn't know his true motives. They figured he was planning on turning on them at some point, so they sent Viviana to take him out. However, Viviana happens to be a secret fujoshi. When Viviana is perceived as dragging her feet over completing her mission to kill Marco, another hitman named Andre is sent. He, too, is sucked into the otaku vortex in his own way.

REVIEW: Fangs (graphic novel) by Sarah Andersen

This is basically a slice-of-life graphic novel about the developing relationship between a werewolf (Jimmy) and a vampire (Elsie). He likes her goth looks, cuddling with her cold body when it's hot out, and the fact that she has zero issues with his ability to turn into a wolf. She likes that she can talk about having killed people without making him flinch (although most of her blood comes from blood banks these days) and that he occasionally lets her bite his neck. They're both not human, so they "get" each other in ways a human partner might not, but they also each have to make some adjustments. For example, she can't wear silver unless she's sure it won't touch him, and he has to remember that she'll burst into flames in direct sunlight, so no opening the curtains in the morning without warning.

I think I first heard about this via Sarah Andersen's tweets of some of the individual comics. I noted it down as something I was interested in seeing more of and then forgot about it until my recent graphic novel binge.

The physical volume is really nice looking - red cover, black-edged pages. I love the artwork. It's very different from her style in "Sarah's Scribbles," more detailed and realistic. Elsie and Jimmy make a good-looking couple.

While it's nice to read through the volume and watch them progress from strangers who are into each other to a cute couple who've decided to live together, I feel like this series was probably best (for me) in the short bursts that Twitter gave me. Reading this all in one go left me with werewolf and vampire questions this wasn't designed to answer. Also, some jokes worked better for me than others. Jimmy displaying dog behavior like running to the door when Elsie mentioned going for a walk was just odd, for example. I did really enjoy the comic in which Jimmy talked to a Chihuahua, though.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

REVIEW: Deadpool: Samurai (manga, vol. 2) by Sanshiro Kasama, art by Hikaru Uesugi, translated by Amanda Haley

Deadpool: Samurai is a Marvel manga. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.

This review includes major spoilers.


At the end of the first volume, Deadpool and his new teammates found themselves up against a regenerated version of Thanos. That battle continues in this volume. Then it's time to travel to Mount Fuji in order to find out what Loki's cooking up there and stop him. The specifics of Loki's motive are finally revealed, and it's all just as stupid as you'd expect.

Okay, the first volume was better. Except for Deadpool, just about every Marvel superhero who showed up either behaved out-of-character or like a parody of themselves. Captain America, in particular, made me wince, although Loki was fairly disappointing too. Design-wise the most difficult to handle was Hulk, who was weirdly pretty.

REVIEW: True Beauty (manhwa, vol. 1) by Yaongyi

True Beauty is (I think) a romantic comedy manhwa. It was originally a webtoon. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


In middle school, Jugyeong Lim didn't wear any makeup and only cared about listening to whatever music she liked and watching her favorite cartoons and movies. She and a good-looking guy bonded over music, and she found herself wondering if maybe he was interested in her. Then she learned that he'd started dating one of the pretty girls who bullied her. Depressed, she decided that the problem was that she wasn't good-looking enough, so she dedicated herself to learning how to use makeup. It wasn't easy, but with lots of practice and advice from online strangers, she learned how to transform herself into a flawless beauty, just in time for high school.

Because she begins attending a school that's farther away, she doesn't run into any old classmates and is able to completely reinvent herself as one of the popular and pretty girls. Of course, it's all a lie, but Jugyeong doesn't see a problem with that...until she meets Suho Lee. He's hot, but also a complete jerk. And, horror of horrors, he has discovered her secret. Can she keep him from revealing the truth about her appearance and ruining her high school life?

REVIEW: Midnight Rain (manga) by CTK, translated by Adrienne Beck

Midnight Rain is contemporary BL. I bought my copy brand new.


Content warning for violence, suicidal ideation, and sexual assault.

Every month, for 10 years and 3 months, Ethan has been paying off a debt to local mafia. He has about three more years left, at the rate he's going, but the thought doesn't excite him because he has no idea what sort of life he can even look forward to living. He's at his lowest when Mike, a guy he'd recently met at the neighborhood laundromat, shows up at his doorstep bleeding all over the place.

This isn't the kind of story where much happens - the focus is on Ethan and Mike's developing relationship and their efforts to deal with the baggage they're carrying around, at least enough to let someone else in. Mike is rough around the edges, to put it mildly, and gets into fights as easy as breathing. It probably doesn't help that he has resting tough guy face. On the surface, Ethan is easier to deal with. He's always pleasant, friendly, and welcoming towards Mike, despite the fact that Mike growls at him constantly.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

REVIEW: I'm a Terminal Cancer Patient But I'm Fine: Thirty-Eight-Year-Old Author of Erotic Manga Has Colon Cancer (autobiographical graphic novel) by Hilnama, translated by Beni Axia Conrad

Hilnama died on December 12, 2022. I can't claim that that fact didn't affect my reading experience, so I'll just say it upfront. This volume covers the period from her diagnosis in 2019 to an update about her treatment in December 2020.

This is Hilnama's account of being diagnosed with and treated for Stage IV colon cancer. She goes to a doctor because she's experiencing very bad period cramps that don't feel quite like her usual very bad period cramps. The first doctor she sees sends her home, saying there are no abnormalities in her tests (it should be noted that this is the only medical professional in the entire book who's depicted as an animal, a frog - everyone else, except for Hilnama, her husband, and her sister-in-law, who are rabbits, generally looks like a good-looking actor straight out of a popular medical drama). She sees another doctor the next day, who's able to feel something that the CT scan missed and who sends her off for further tests.

REVIEW: Hark! A Vagrant (graphic novel) by Kate Beaton

Hark! A Vagrant is a webcomic that often combines humor with historical and literary references. I bought this collection brand new.


I used to love reading this webcomic. It still holds up pretty well in printed form (this hardcover is really nice), although my enjoyment of particular strips tends to vary based on my understanding of the history/literature/other being referenced and the level of silliness. I tend to prefer it when the humor is based more on the thing being referenced than on pure silliness.

Sadly, I don't have the level of historical and literary knowledge necessary to understand all the references. A lot of the historical comics reference Canadian history, which I know pretty much nothing about, but I'm honestly not much better with the European or US history ones either. 

Quite a few of the comics include brief notes from Beaton (as far as I can tell, not the same as her comments on the web versions). I love that this book includes an index with all the people and works being referenced. As far as print versions of webcomics go, this is a really nice volume.

REVIEW: Deadpool: Samurai (manga, vol. 1) by Sanshiro Kasama, art by Hikaru Uesugi, translated by Amanda Haley

Deadpool: Samurai is a Marvel manga. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


The Avengers are apparently having too much trouble keeping up with all the villain activity worldwide, so they decide to start an Avengers team based in Japan, called Samurai Squad. Deadpool is recruited to be part of it. The actual first member of the team, however, is Sakura Spider, a girl who was bitten by a radioactive spider and gained abilities similar to those of Spiderman. In this volume, they attempt to recruit a third member, Neiro Aratabi, an idol who has bonded with a symbiote. So, Japanese Venom to go along with Sakura Spider's Japanese Spiderman.

Loki joins the story to complicate things and add a more formidable villain than "generic obsessed human #X". Initially, I thought his primary goal was to convince Deadpool to join him, but some brief mentions later on made it sound like he was possibly after Thor, who for some reason was maybe in Japan? I don't know.

REVIEW: Sensory: Life on the Spectrum: An Autistic Comics Anthology (nonfiction graphic novel) edited by Bex Ollerton

This anthology was organized by Ollerton for Autism Acceptance Month 2021. It features comics (some very short, some several pages) from a variety of autistic creators. If I understood things correctly, the comics were originally posted online and got a positive response that inspired a Kickstarter for a physical book.

Quite a few of the comics are focused on the authors' emotions - what being autistic feels like to them, how they feel about how neurotypical folks interact with them, etc. Several of the comics talk about masking and autistic burnout, and some of them include tips for other autistic people about managing potentially difficult things like dealing with tasks, sensory overload, holding conversations, etc. There are also a couple comics that cover things like being an autistic POC and dealing with non-suicidal self-injury.

Anthologies are hard to review/rate because it's rare that I gel with everything in them. As is usually the case, I liked some comics more than others, either because of the artwork, or because I could relate to the content more, or because a particular author's overall writing style appealed to me more. 

That said, for something like autism, where experiences can vary so widely, an anthology is probably the best way to go. There's almost certainly something in here that readers can relate to and/or find useful, even if other parts fall flat for whatever reason.

One thing I wish had been done differently: the "want more information" bits at the end include QR codes but no URLs. I really would have preferred URLs. Another thing that would have been nice: some sort of transition between the different comics or other clear indication that a new comic had begun. Even when it was obvious, it was jarring to see vastly different art styles from one page to the next with no other indication that a new comic had begun. Also, sometimes the art styles weren't quite different enough, and I found myself trying to read two authors' comics as though they were one.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

REVIEW: Axe Cop, Vol. 1 (graphic novel) written by Malachai Nicolle, drawn by Ethan Nicolle

Axe Cop is a fantasy action series. I bought my copy of this volume used - it includes a sketch and autograph from Ethan Nicolle.


Axe Cop is a cop who chops bad guys' heads off with his axe. His partner is Flute Cop, who, through various transformations, becomes Dinosaur Soldier, Avocado Soldier, and Uni-Avocado Soldier. In the world of Axe Cop, very smart people sprout unicorn horns that grant wishes, good guys always beat bad guys, and somehow the good guys are easily identifiable despite their tendency to, say, chop people's heads off and eat babies.

The important thing to understand about Axe Cop is that it all originated from the mind of a 5-year-old boy. The series started off as just play-time between Ethan Nicolle (29 at the time) and his younger brother. Ethan turned it into some comic book pages, posted it online, and it took off. Conversations with Malachai helped produce material for additional Axe Cop adventures. Each story and "Ask Axe Cop" strip in this volume includes commentary from Ethan with "behind the scenes" info about the process of translating Malachai's words and ideas into comics.

REVIEW: Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos (autobiographical graphic novel) by Lucy Knisley

This autobiographical graphic novel focuses on the author's experiences with miscarriage and pregnancy. She also writes about her experiences with birth control and ties in some light (and probably Eurocentric) research on the history of childbirth, pregnancy, miscarriages, and more.

My background: I don't have children and don't ever plan to. My sister, meanwhile has had three, and almost hemorrhaged to death after the birth of one of them. I am very firmly pro-choice. I haven't read any of Knisley's other works and avoided this graphic novel for a while because the cover made it look it would present a very fluffy and idealized look at pregnancy and childbirth.

Yeah, the author's experiences were pretty much the opposite of fluffy and idealized. First there were her miscarriages, then horrible morning sickness during her successful pregnancy. Things only got worse after she gave birth and was diagnosed with eclampsia - not a surprise to readers, since she noted her multiple signs of preeclampsia during her descriptions of her pregnancy.

For the author, the little person at the end of all of those experiences was worth it, although she also made sure to not present pregnancy as a state everyone with a uterus wants/should want to experience at some point. 

One thing that comes up a little but is otherwise mostly glossed over: US medical insurance. At one point, the author is sent home from the hospital while she is clearly still too ill, simply because insurance wouldn't cover additional time spent at the hospital since the doctor already signed the release papers and was too busy to stop by and reassess the situation. Which was horrible and utterly believable to anyone who's ever dealt with the US healthcare system, but it got me to thinking about the massive medical debt that the author surely must have racked up that was somehow never mentioned as a concern. That said, at the start of this graphic novel the author wrote that her baby was now four weeks old - maybe not enough time to get slammed with the bills on top of everything else?

Overall I thought this was an excellent read that would have been harrowing and deeply stressful if it hadn't shown from the start that everything was going to turn out okay.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

REVIEW: The Final Girls (live action movie)

The Final Girls is a horror comedy movie. I bought my copy new.

This review includes a slight spoiler.


Max's mother was a struggling actress best-known for her role as one of the murdered camp counselors in the low-budget 1980s slasher movie Camp Bloodbath. Several years after her mother's death in a car accident, Max reluctantly agrees to attend an anniversary screening of the Camp Bloodbath movies. 

When she and several of her friends are trapped in the movie theater by a fire, they attempt to escape via an exit behind the movie screen and accidentally end up in the movie itself. If they want to stand any chance of making it home, they'll have to figure out how to survive until the end of the movie.

REVIEW: Heartstopper (graphic novel, vol. 4) by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper is a high school romance graphic novel series. I bought my copy of this volume brand new.


While Charlie stresses over whether, when, and how to tell Nick he loves him, Nick is reading up on eating disorders because he believes Charlie has one and he's trying to figure out how to help.

This volume spent quite a bit of time on Charlie's mental health - his anxiety and problems eating. Things get a lot worse for him before they get better, but I felt like the whole thing was dealt with in a sensitive way and put more of the focus on Charlie's efforts to get better. That said, although I've dealt with anxiety for years, I don't have any personal experience dealing with eating disorders. You can take my opinion with a grain of salt.

If you've ever tried to help someone deal with mental illness or other issues, Nick's struggles will likely feel familiar. He desperately wanted to help Charlie but didn't know how. In this volume, part of his journey involved learning that he couldn't do and be everything for Charlie, and that it wasn't healthy to expect himself to. He was supportive, and he helped Charlie understand that he needed help, but "the power of love" wasn't some fix-all that could take care of everything.

Have I mentioned that I really love Nick's mom, by the way? She's great.

Anyway, I think I liked this volume the most out of all the ones in the series so far. It sounds like the next volume is the last. I'm interested in seeing how Oseman wraps this up.


A bunch of "firsts" pages for Mr. Ajayi and Mr. Farouk (even though they're minor characters, I love that this adult couple gets to be adorable too), character profiles, Charlie and Tao's Instagram photos, a list of mental health resources, and an author's note.