Magic Casting in Black Mage

I’m looking for magic school-type content to fill the void of Harry Potter. I’m trying to distance myself from the fandom for now. I follow comic writer Daniel Barnes on Twitter and he was posting about a graphic novel he wrote called The Black Mage. Barnes describes The Black Mage as a Harry Potter meets The Boondocks. The Black Mage is the diverse magical school world I wanted to read about.

Tom Token is invited to attend St. Ivory Academy, a Wizarding school floating above the land. Tom is the first Black student in the school as St. Ivory wants to be more inclusive. As Tom attends school, he is met with racism right away from various students and teachers. As Tom explores the school, he finds evidence that he may not have been the first Black mage as he once believed. If that’s the case, what happened to the other Black mages who attended the school?

The Black Mage touches on racism in a way that many fantasy stories don’t. It begins with Tom hearing about various unrealistic stereotypes applied to Black mages. The racism increases steadily leading to a violent vendetta. I find it hard to believe that a Wizarding society wouldn’t have racism and The Black Mage writes about what this could look like. In addition to writing about racism in this wizarding society, St. Ivory has ties back to the Civil War and how various Civil War heroes were mages. I liked seeing Harriet Tubman casting spells.

I liked the art in The Black Mage. It seemed to draw inspiration from manga in the way the characters were drawn. It also reminded me of fighting games because when Tom would release a spell, there would be a “Boom” or a “Miss” above the panel.

The Black Mage was an adventurous and fun magic story. It’s nice to see other magical Wizard-type stories with more diversity than Harry Potter ever had. I rated The Black Mage four stars on Goodreads.

Then She Was Gone – Thriller

CW: Abuse / Specifically Abuse of a Young Girl

**I won’t discuss this in my recap of the book, but if you choose to read this book, the content warning is needed**

Last month, I was reading mainly mysteries and thrillers. I found a used copy of Then She Was Gone at my local bookstore. I have heard raving reviews for Lisa Jewell’s books, so I figured I’d give this a shot. This was such a fast-paced, dark thriller to read.

Laurel Mack has been without her daughter, Ellie since her disappearance almost a decade ago. The grief of losing her daughter and not knowing what has happened to her has kept Laurel from moving on. As Laurel is going about her routine, she meets a man in a cafe with whom she begins a relationship with. She meets his daughter, Poppy, who is identical to Ellie. This leads Laurel into a harrowing investigation of Ellie and what happened to her all those years ago.

I loved Laurel as a character. She starts to see the cracks in her relationship early on. Instead of being consumed by this new romance, she continues to investigate Ellie’s disappearance and if someone Ellie knew could have played a role into her vanishing. Laurel is intelligent, kind, imperfect, and was a character I enjoyed reading about. The way she handled her grief seemed realistic especially with putting her other daughter, Hanna on a pedestal to replace Ellie. Laurel has her flaws, but she’s also a genuinely good person.

This isn’t the type of thriller where there’s a plot twist towards the end of the book. It’s revealed early on what happened to Ellie through flashbacks. The reason Then She Was Gone was so engaging was the slow-burn of seeing the full story and how Laurel was going to uncover what happened to Ellie. I tend to prefer thrillers where there is a plot twist at the end, however, the way Jewell wrote the book felt more like a countdown to when Laurel would figure out the truth.

Then She Was Gone was a well-written thriller about a mother who is desperate for answers and how Ellie’s disappearance has put a dark cloud over the Mack family. This was one of the darkest thrillers I have ever read. With the content warning, I can fully understand why some readers would avoid this book. However, Then She Was Gone is well worth the read.

May the 4th Be With You – 2021 Plan

It’s almost May which means May the 4th is rapidly approaching. Every May, I devote my entire month to all things Star Wars. Last year, I re-watched all the movies and read a few Star Wars books throughout the month. This year, I wanted to share my May the 4th plan and hold myself accountable throughout the month. I genuinely look forward to May to dive into all things Star Wars.

Books and Comics

The first book I plan on reading is Alphabet Squadron by Alexander Freed. I received this book for free at Del Rey’s booth at C2E2 I was planning on reading this book last year, but the book was a lot longer than I had anticipated. I’m going to start reading Alphabet Squadron this week leading into May to give myself a greater chance of finishing the book in May.

To prepare for May the 4th, I bought books from my local bookstore, Cream and Amber. I purchased Queen’s Shadow by E.K. Johnston. This is the first book in a Padme book series. This has been on my TBR for a while, so I’m excited to finally read it. Padme is one of the most fearless characters in the Star Wars franchise. I hope this book lives up to my expectations.

As far as comics, I bought The Rise of Kylo Ren, Lando Double or Nothing, Star Wars Adventures Vol #1 Heroes of the Galaxy, and Star Wars: Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Captain Phasma. My goal is to read all of these along with Alphabet Squadron and Queen’s Shadow.

Movies & TV

Instead of re-watching the films, I’m going to watch The Clone Wars. I’m halfway through season #1 and I started to lose interest. Everyone I talk to who has watched The Clone Wars cannot stop raving about it and I don’t want to be missing out. I don’t think I will finish all the seasons in a month, but I hope to at least get through most of the show and get the motivation to finish the whole show.

Gaming

Last year, I put so many hours into Star Wars Battlefront II and it was a blast. I decided to try out Star Wars The Old Republic. I’m not sure if my laptop will be able to run the game, so as a backup, I found LEGO Star Wars The Complete Saga on Steam as well. Another option I have is to finish playing Jedi Fallen Order which I still have not completed the main campaign.

I am going to have a jam packed Star Wars themed month and I’m thrilled! I would love any Star Wars themed reading suggestions or podcasts, feel free to add those in the comments below.

Fangirl Revisited – 6 Years Later

When I was in college, I went through a major reading slump. With all of the studying and textbook reading I had to do, the last thing I wanted to do was read for fun. I pulled myself out of my reading slump thanks to friends and rediscovering what I liked to read. One of the books I credit for pulling me out of this was Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Fangirl had been on my list to re-read for a while and it seemed like every time I wanted to start the book, something would get in my way. Since this is a re-read post, I won’t be covering the plot of Fangirl, however, you can read my original review here: https://bizarrebrunette.com/2015/04/03/fangirl-review/

Fangirl will always be a five-star book for me however, I had a couple of critiques I had this time around with this book. I do think Fangirl is a bit too long. The first half of the book tells the reader about Cath’s routine at college. She’s locating where her classes are, she’s writing a fiction story in the library and she’s too afraid to go to the dining hall. I found this part of the book to be boring to read. There easily could have been sections taken out without the book’s plot suffering. Fangirl is 433 pages and it felt long to read. The second half of Fangirl does pick up, but the first half took me a long time to finish.

Originally when I read Fangirl, I loved Cath as a character. I felt like I identified with her being introverted and her love of fandom. This time, I started to notice how judgemental Cath is. She makes negative comments on how much Wren likes to party. Now, Wren was a bit out of control in some ways, but it felt like to Cath that if Wren was living her life differently than her, it’s wrong. Additionally, Cath seems to have this pretentious attitude because of her scholarship and intelligence. This can be seen in her relationship with Levi who struggles academically and finds it challenging to read a physical book. I do think Cath grows up a bit towards the end of the book, but I was surprised at how some of her statements made me resent her a little bit.

Finally, I noticed Rainbow Rowell makes some weird comments about race in her books. There are examples from both Cath and Wren regarding how they comment on race. Wren comments later in the book how she doesn’t realize a certain race lived on one part of campus. I’m not sure if Rowell wants to hammer into readers how Cath and Wren growing up in Omaha have interacted with people from different races, but the statements come off more cringey than anything else. There has been some controversy surrounding Rainbow Rowell and how she writes characters from a different race specifically in her book Eleanor and Park. It’s interesting reading Fangirl and noticing some of these comments even though this controversy is with a different book that she wrote.

Fangirl will always have a special place in my heart. I read this book while I was going through a identity/insecurity crisis and reading about Cath helped me accept myself for who I am. I can understand why other readers would rate this lower than I did because of some of the points I made above. I’d love to hear any additional thoughts regarding Fangirl, let me know in the comments section below.

Intergalatic Cooking in Space Battle Lunchtime

With starting a pull list, I have been reading more single issues than trades. It’s funny because when I first began reading comics, I heavily relied on trades to continue in a series. The latest trade paperback I read was Space Battle Lunch Time published by Oni Press. Imagine if Top Chef took place in space and that’s the synopsis of Space Battle Lunchtime. This had such a fun premise and left off on a big cliffhanger.

Space Battle Lunchtime is an intergalactic hit! It’s a reality cooking competition featuring chefs from a variety of different galaxies. Peony a human from Earth is in the right place at the right time when she is zapped from her bakery to appear on the show. Peony is replacing another contestant who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Peony has never used galactic cooking ingredients which makes her at a serious disadvantage compared to her previous opponents. Will Peony fall under the pressure? or can she cook up to the competition.

This graphic novel was such a lighthearted read. I liked reading about their challenges and how Peony has to quickly adapt. While Peony is the main character, I would say I liked both Neptunia and Aris. Neptunia is a fellow contestant and has to work with Peony on a cooking challenge. There’s a budding friendship between the two and I liked seeing it unfold. Aris is a cameraman on the show and he’s always in Peony’s corner wishing her good luck. Both characters added to Peony’s journey throughout the show.

The art in this graphic novel complemented the story perfectly. I liked how the beginning of each issue had a recap page which felt in line with other reality TV shows or cooking shows. I also liked the logo of Space Battle Lunchtime with the pink spatula and the star.

Additionally, Space Battle Lunchtime is an age-appropriate novel. This would be great for kids to read. There were so many good messages in this story including highlighting teamwork, emphasizes the negatives of cheating, and how hard work can pay off. It can be intimidating to find graphic novels for kids, however, Space Battle Lunchtime would be perfect.

I have nothing bad to say about Space Battle Lunchtime. It was a fun departure from other graphic novels I tend to read. This is the first graphic novel I read from Natalie Riess and it won’t be the last. Space Battle Lunchtime can be purchased directly from Oni Press’s website or through a local comic book store.

Unicorns, Critical Role & 90’s Punk – Highlighting Indie Comics

I consider indie comics to be anything other than Marvel or DC. With Image and Dark Horse becoming more prominent comic publishers, are they still considered indie? Despite the lack of conventions I have attended, I have been reading more comics than ever before! It helps to have weekly trips to my local comic book store. I wanted to highlight a couple of indie comics I read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

By The Horns Issue #1 Naso, Muhr, and Tabacaru

By the Horns is published by Scout Comics whom I had never heard of before purchasing this issue. By the Horns follows Elodie, a monster hunter who is fueled by revenge after her husband, Shintaro was murdered by a unicorn. Elodie is so consumed by rage that she’s asked to leave her town after they feel she’s abandoned them. Accompanied by her animal sidekick, Saijen, she adventures through various cities in search of unicorns.

By The Horns was a fully fleshed-out first issue. I liked Elodie as the main character. I felt the way she was designed with her white, rogue jacket and blue face paint gave her a look that was memorable to me. Elodie feels like a character I would play as in a dnd campaign. Saijen is Elodie’s fox companion. Elodie and Saijen have this close bond and I’m interested to see more of their battles together.

By the Horns issue #2 will be released in May while issue #1 is available for purchase. I rated By the Horns issue #1 five stars.

Home Sick Pilots Issue #1 Watters, Wijngaard, Bidikar, and Muller

Home Sick Pilots is published by Image whom I’m a huge fan of. Home Sick Pilots follows the band of the same name. To be competitive with a rival band, Ami suggests to both Buzz and Rip to perform at a haunted house. Both Buzz and Rip are terrified because of the rumors they have heard. Ami ventures in on her own and finds that this is more than a haunted house.

I love anything spooky and Home Sick Pilots gives off this feeling. I liked the art in this issue a lot. The blues/purples of the haunted house along with the ethereal look of Ami as she enters the house. There’s a panel showing both the Home Sick Pilots and rival band Nuclear Bastards as they are both exploring the house at the same time. There was so much to look at that I found myself staring at the page way after reading the panels.

Home Sick Pilots has been releasing weekly issues and should all be available at your local comic book store. I rated Home Sick Pilots issue #1 four stars.

Critical Role Vox Machina Origins Series III #1 Mercer, Houser, Samson, Msassyk, and Maher.

I started Critical Role last month and I’m hooked! This issue follows the group from Critical Role’s first campaign: Grog, Keyleth, Vex, Vax, Trinket, Scanlan, Pike, Percy as they find their next paid mission. They wander through the town, drinking ale, and deciding their next move.

I felt each character was written the way they were roleplayed. I read their voices in my head as I read their lines. Grog has his witty one-liners while Keyleth serves as the humanitarian of the group. It helps with Matthew Mercer, the DM for Critical Role had a hand in writing the script. Since starting Critical Role, I cannot get enough, so I’m happy with the addition of a comic series coinciding with their game.

Critical Role Vox Machina Series III Issue #1 can be found at your local comic book store. I rated this issue five stars.

Reading comics is so much more than superheroes. I find the easiest way to get into reading comics is to take your interests and find a comic equivalent. Let me know what indie comics you’re reading in the comments below.

Meet Cute Club – A Gay Romance at a Book Club

I’m trying to broaden my horizon regarding the books I read. Almost all of my romances have been m/f not because that’s what I necessarily enjoy reading, but it’s the most common type of romance. After browsing through Goodreads, I stumbled upon Meet Cute Club, a gay romance with a Southern small-town setting. While I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day, I do like to save my romance TBR for February. Meet Cute Club was a short, gay romance with an added discussion of masculinity.

Jordan Collins adores romance books! He runs the Meet Cute Club where everyone sits and has baked goods and discusses romance books. As he’s shopping for books, he meets Rex Bailey who’s snarky and doesn’t understand Jordan’s passion for reading romance novels. Rex surprisingly shows up at Meet Cute Club and begins to help Jordan grow the club. Romance and a steamy hookup ensue leaving Jordan and Rex in a daze about whether they belong together.

As far as the actual romance, Jordan and Rex are perfect together! I was rooting for them as I think they balance each other out. Jordan is passionate about his love for romance and breaks down Rex’s hard exterior. Rex grew up from a tumultuous family background with his philandering father which causes him to be a bit stubborn about the idea of love. I thought these two had great chemistry together.

Meet Cute Club centers upon Jordan and Rex’s relationship along with a dialogue regarding masculinity. In some ways, Jordan defies masculine stereotypes and has been bullied. Jordan felt pressure at a young age to sign up for sports even though all Jordan wanted was to read romance. Although Rex appears as the “stereotypical masculine man”, but even he abandoned some of this to show Jordan that he loved him. I thought at the core of this story was this discussion of masculinity and how men don’t have as much freedom to explore various hobbies or interests that women do.

I thought the writing of this book was a bit jarring. The author tends to change the POV in the same paragraph. I ended up having to re-read sections of the book because I was confused as to what POV was being referenced. I wish there was more separation between Jordan and Rex with a page break than switching between them in the same paragraph. Besides the writing, Meet Cute Club is a short book. At only 229 pages, I wish it would have been longer. The “fight” that caused Jordan and Rex to break up felt abrupt as it seemed like they were doing well until they weren’t. I wish there was more build-up there. I like my romance books to have more build-up, so when the central couple fights, it feels gut-wrenching. Since this book was shorter, I didn’t have any time to feel upset that they broke up before they got back together.

Meet Cute Club was a jovial read as I was genuinely rooting for Jordan and Rex to get together. However, the way this book was written and the length of the book hindered my reading experience. I’m hesitant to continue in the series as I’m still unsure if I’m a fan of the author’s writing style. I rated Meet Cute Club as 3.5 stars rounded up to 4 on Goodreads.

The Vision Complete Collection

Every Friday has been devoted to watching the latest episode of WandaVision. Me and my fiance have been hooked as each episode reveals a piece of the story leading to Wanda and Vision’s life in their sitcom. Since I’m loving the show, I wanted to find more comics that detail Vision and Wanda’s love story. After reading Bookidote’s review of The Vision Collection, I ended up purchasing my copy. The Vision Collection was written by Tom King supposedly inspired aspects of the show on Disney+. The Vision Collection is an engaging albeit dark take on Vision’s life.

Vision is lonely. He was with Scarlet Witch and they had a falling out. As a result, Vision created his wife Virginia, and two kids Vin and Viv. Vision’s family certainly looks like him with pink skin, bright green hair, and the yellow stone on their forehead. The Vision family even adopted a robot dog! On the outside, they had a house in the DC suburbs, Vision was still an Avenger, and all was well, or was it?

The story was captivating! Tom King does such an amazing job painting Vision as someone with more depth. It’s easy to pass him off as being a robot, however, King can craft Vision as someone to sympathize with even though he’s not human. Vision has trouble relating to human emotions, yet he crafts this family because he wants the human experience. He wants to be above what he was created for by Ultron and while working with the Avengers satisfies this need, Vision wants more. I appreciated the darkness in the story. Certain events happen to the Vision family that Vision has to cover up. This graphic novel felt like reading a version of WandaVision except Vision is the star. I kept reading Vision’s dialogue with Paul Bettany’s voice in my head which fits the character.

The art is phenomenal. I like the greens and pinks of Vision’s colors mixed with the panels. The covers of each issue gave off this eery foreboding of something amiss in the suburbs of DC. One cover features a floating mailbox saying “The Visions” in cursive. There’s something about the cover that gives me chills. Their house is in the background and it’s slightly blurred. I think it says a lot about the art of a graphic novel if I’m sitting and staring at the cover analyzing why this cover is drawn the way it is.

Before the introduction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I didn’t think much of Vision. He didn’t stand out to me. After watching WandaVision, and reading The Vision Collection, I understand how complex Vision is. This is one of the best graphic novels I have ever read. I never considered Vision to be an interesting character, however, this novel made me think otherwise. I will say this novel doesn’t feature Scarlet Witch as much as I would have liked since the focus is on Vision. I rated The Vision Collection by Tom King five stars on Goodreads.

It – Which Loser Am I?

Towards the end of last month, I FINALLY finished reading It by Stephen King. I started reading It back in October to get in the mood for Halloween. I ended up putting It aside to read a couple of other books on my TBR. When 2021 arrived, I set a personal mission to finish It. I felt if I couldn’t finish It by the end of last month, I would give up. I was debating whether or not I wanted to write a review of the book. Instead, I decided to take Buzzfeed’s quiz to see which of the “Losers” I am. I thought this would be more fun than trying to write a review for a book that’s almost 1,200 pages.

Image from Pixabay images.

Buzzfeed’s Which Member of the Losers’ Club from It.

Choose a Dog Breed

I picked a Corgi because they are derpy. However, if I were to ever adopt a dog, I would want to rescue a mutt.

Pick an Iconic Song from the ’80s

I Wanna Dance With Somebody was the song I picked. I’m partial to this song because I used it to teach an ’80s themed workout class at the YMCA for my internship in college.

What’s Something You’re Not Afraid Of.

Blood. I have never felt faint at the sight of blood. It simply doesn’t faze me.

How Do You Love to Spend Your Holidays?

I was debating between reading or playing video games as both of those options are what I like to do with my extended free time. I chose reading because I have been doing a lot more reading than gaming lately.

Pick a Classic ’80s film

All of the movie choices provided weren’t movies I’m drawn to. I decided to pick The Shining.

Pick a School Subject

Science! I found whenever I had electives in high school, I ended up picking science courses.

Choose a Clothing Item

Sweaters. I live in Minnesota. As I’m typing this blog post, the wind chill is negative 20 outside.

Which of Its Forms Would You Rather Face?

Alvin Marsh was the option I chose. I chose Alvin because he was a character I hated. I would be more likely to win in a battle over someone I hate versus one of my greatest fears.

What Would You Take to The Ritual of Chud?

I picked Something Reminding Me of Family. It is such a dark, desolate creature. For me to feel empowered to defeat It, I would have to bring something full of love. I chose something from my family because my family is important to me.

Choose an Item from The Films

Mike’s Stun Gun. Having a weapon on me would give me a solid footing in being able to defeat It.

Where in Derry Would You Like to Visit?

I picked the Derry Town Library. Libraries are beautiful places. They are quiet and I would be able to settle with a book and not be disturbed.

After taking the Buzzfeed quiz, I got Stanley Uris! Noooooooooooo Stanley doesn’t even survive till the end. The reason I got Stanley was that I like quiet places and I’m constantly rolling my eyes at my friends. If I had to pick a favorite “Loser” I think it would be Mike Hanlon. Mike is someone who likes the quieter things in life. He works at the Derry library, he chronicles Derry’s history and he’s the one who got the Losers together when It returned. He also stands up to Henry Bowers on multiple occasions. He rose above adversity where I feel some of the other Losers weren’t able to do so.

I’m glad I read It. I ended up rating It three stars on Goodreads. I like how in-depth the book went into Derry and how the Losers bonded with each other. There were certain scenes I’m glad the movies left out because either they made no sense or they were unnecessarily sexual or violent. The book at times was confusing to follow and I’m still unsure as to what the Ritual of Chud is. For February, I’m going to be reading romance books which will be a nice change in genre for me.

King In Black & Jinny Hex – Comic Single Issues

Every week, I visit Hot Comics to collect my pulls. Before I pay for my comics, I tend to wander the comic shelves and pick up random issues to see if I would like the series. I picked up quite a bit throughout these weekly comic trips. While I still have a lot to read, I did get through a couple of issues and I’m loving what I picked up. Instead of doing a full review of every single issue, I’m going to describe the issue in one word. Additionally, I will share what I rated every single issue. I have been using Goodreads to track the single-issue comics I have been reading.

Black Cat #1 MacKay, Villa, and Reber

One Word: Sassy

This comic perfectly portrays Black Cat as she joins the King In Black Marvel crossover series. I loved this issue and I have added this to my pull list for however long King In Black lasts. I rated this issue five stars.

Gwenom vs. Carnage #1 McGuire, Flaviano, and Renzi

One Word: Unexpected

Gwen Stacy is swinging home from Empire State University when she’s attacked by Knull’s symbiote creatures. She ends up battling Carnage who is not who you would think it would be. I rated this issue four stars.

Jinny Hex Special Visaggio, Melnikov, Guerrero

One Word: Dauntless *I tried to use a new word here!*

Jinny Hex is related to Jonah Hex. She is a mechanic at a local autobody shop when her father stops by. Her father steals a supernatural item from her mother and Jinny won’t let that stand. Jinny and her friend, Lady Bird go on an adventure to stop her ruthless father. This is a one-shot which is so unfortunate because I loved this issue. I rated this issue five stars.

Let me know what comics you’re reading in the comments below. I want to grow my pull list!