Warship Jolly Roger

 

“Ahoy Mateys!!” – says no one in this book.

Warship Jolly cvr

Title: Warship Jolly Roger
Writer: Sylvain Runberg
Artist: Miquel (Miki) Montlló
Publisher: Magnetic Press
Keywords: Spaceships, revenge, Ship-hijacking, corrupt governments, creepy kids with unique powers, cinematic art
Type: Adobe Digital Edition via Netgalley

The year is 3852 and there has been a breach in the most maximum security prison. The prison holds the most notorious and baddest of the bad prisoners, including Jon Tiberius Munro. He escapes with three other prisoners, strangers to him, but due to circumstance they band together until they find a better opportunity to leave one another. The President (who kind of looks like Star Wars’ Tarkin) of the space confederacy is not pleased for he and Munro have a past.  Munro doesn’t give a crap about whatever resistance is happening, or the government’s corruption. All he cares about is taking down the man who ripped his family away from him and will stop at nothing until he’s dead.

Throughout the first volume you see Munro and his “crew” travel to find a ship and escape detection, which of course doesn’t happen. In between the present story, you get to see Munro’s past while he was in the military. Although a renowned commander, he was used as a scapegoat during an approved massacre of a territory that was part of a resistance cell. Munro wants his justice, but the President isn’t going to take it lying down. He sets up a dangerous trap to lure Munro out of the shadows, a trap that he knows Munro can’t resist. The trap works, a little too well, and now Munro wants blood.

The book is an animated movie waiting to happen. The landscapes, the explosions, the lighting…you expect the actions in the panels to start moving any second. If you like the visual style of Treasure Planet (okay I know that’s a very old reference for you whippersnappers, but it was the first thing that came to my mind when reading this), you’ll definitely enjoy looking at this book. Personally, I enjoy good ol’ fashioned hand drawn comics with the aid of the digital arts (can’t be helped nowadays), but every once in a while it’s nice to look at a book like this. I’ve been a huge fan of what Magnetic Press puts out and this book definitely fits their art-book graphic novel line perfectly.

The characters are pretty standard: we have the  protagonist who got Con-Air’d by the government, the tough woman mechanic who went to prison for fighting in the rebellion, the funny smuggler (who looks like a creepy trucker guy), and the creepy child who can control a mechanical Hedwig. And the child’s name is a number. Thirteen to be precise.

Munro’s escape and the flashbacks give you a good chance to see the worldbuilding in this story. Fans of space opera and sprawling space wars will dig the brief history you learn of this universe (if it is a different one from ours). The majority species seems to be human. Thirteen does meet a new species whose ancestors were human, but in order to adapt to their toxic planet evolved to something different entirely. They have evolved abilities such as telepathy, but I can’t help but notice the tribal look about them, dreadlock-like hair, tribal paint and all. And the fact they’re called ‘Parasites’ by the confederacy… Other than that, the cast is generally white (or at the very least look white), with the exception of the President’s secretary/assistant and maybe a soldier or two. Where are the different species? Are there different species? And if it is just humans, where are the other ethnicities? Perhaps this will be addressed in the next volume. After all, it’s hard to pack every aspect of your story in the first installment.

So this book is the start of an epic space opera, but still, I have to wonder….why the name “Jolly Roger”?  I’m not sure if this book is based on our future, but in this story the name still has a significant meaning and connection to freedom, living on the fringes, and flippin’ the bird to the authorities. Take a look at what Munro says when naming the ship:

That’s why I wanted to rename this ship. A name that symbolizes this new life ahead of us…and the freedom it will defend…as the most feared confederate renegade…the Jolly Roger!!!”

Verdict
★★★★

I’m always a sucker for revenge stories and a misfit crew who learn teamwork and screw over the status quo. Put it in space and I’m definitely going to read it. The action and art pop out of the pages and makes you wonder why this isn’t animated already. Then again, I feel the comic format fits this story pretty well. I hope to see more character development, hopefully more alien races, and just plain old diversity in the next volume.

Foot in the Door – How I Got Into Publishing

I got a new job! Not only that, but it’s in the field I’ve been aiming for since….a long time! I always wanted to work somehow in licensing in publishing, but since it’s such a niche in an already difficult industry to get into, I wanted to use this post to just record how I got here, because honestly I still can’t believe it.

Looking back on it, there were two things I did that I think helped me out quite a bit. The first was LinkedIn stalking. I didn’t realize the true potential of the social site until my career counselor pointed it out to me (oh yeah, career counseling definitely helped me out). I looked at the companies I wanted to work for, then looked at the people whose job titles I wanted, or at least looked like I wanted. Then I started messaging them, or as I like to think of, an “e-cold call”if I didn’t have a connection with them on LinkedIn. Fortunately all the foreign licensing contacts I did happen to reach out to were nice enough to message back and I was able to have a few informational interviews with them. These meetings definitely gave me a better grasp of their positions and pretty much proved that I was on the right track. This is a job I wanted to pursue.

The second thing that helped me out, was this blog. As a striving new feminist I wanted to somehow combine my new found belief of gender equality and rights of the marginalized with my passion of nerdy book and comic reading. So I started reading speculative fiction written by women and/or people of color and highlighting just those books in the blog. I reached out to sites like Black Girl Nerds when they were requesting more writers. My write-up even got posted. I used my blog as a way to show potential publishing companies that ‘hey, I have no connections or background in publishing whatsoever, but look what I’m up to in my spare time! This is how much I love books! I read industry news and everything! Pleasehiremekthanksbye!’

Eventually my random meanderings at the Publisher’s Weekly job section led me to my current company. I LinkedIn stalk my future boss, sent out a message, she saw my background and…well…here I am. In LA.

Of course other things helped land me the job too I suspect: my (at the time) current work experience was something they were really looking for (and it’s been a godsend since I started working!). The comic and book knowledge was probably just a minor plus if anything. Then again, knowing my tasks now, it was really really helpful to know the comic book industry itself rather than just reading the latest Saga or The Ultimates.

I don’t think I would have pursued this if it weren’t for the fact that I have such a supporting and loving network of friends and family. My BANG (Bay Area Nerd Girls, look them up on Meetup it’s an amazing group!) ladies were with me all the way, and my aunt would verbally smack me upside the head every time I had doubts in pursuing this career change (which was every time I called her). I don’t think my dad knew what the hell I was up to, but I guess he was reassured since he saw my pro-activeness.

Things have finally (finally!) calmed down enough to post this. I want to continue blogging about comics and books, but I’m still not sure of the amount of output yet.

I’m hoping someone who’s trying to get into entertainment, or publishing or something, who out of sheer luck (and boredom) stumbles upon this post, can maybe find a little bit of hope. Seriously, if someone like me did it, then hell yeah anyone could to.

hang in there_corgi

 

United States of Japan -Peter Tieryas

USofJ cover

Title: United States of Japan
Author: Peter Tieryas
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
Type: ARC ebook (Netgalley)
Keywords: alternate history, mecha, WWII,  videogames, anime
Possible trigger warnings: torture

This weekend marked the Day of Rememberance for the Japanese and Japanese descent that were forced to internment camps during WWII. It was a crazy coincidence I finished this book around this time.  This book is a what-if: what if Japan won the war? What if there was no American fleet at Pearl Harbor and the U.S. were attacked from both Germans and Japanese, receiving a blow that they couldn’t recover from? What if it was the U.S. that was bombed? These questions are the backdrop of Tieryas’ United States of Japan. I’ve been seeing the cover for this book floating around the webs for a while now: it’s a huge mecha in the middle of a Japan-ruled America! Of course I was in! I was expecting huge mecha battles that would give Pacific Rim a run for its money. I was expecting a simple ‘what-if’ plot and America fighting back with mechs and a happy ending. What I got was something different. To be honest I still can’t describe how I feel about this book. It’s definitely not what I expected. But I liked it just the same.

It’s 1988 and it’s a different America. The Emperor of Japan rules its conquered land from afar via the Imperial Army. Secret police groups known as the Kempeitai and Tokko ensure that everyone, both Japanese and non-Japanese descent think and show that the Emperor is a god and rules above all. Civilian youth and officers in training play immersive games to either distract themselves from the world or train. Captain Beniko “Ben” Ishimura is in charge of overseeing and reporting disloyal communications in the Office of the Censure. He is also the oldest captain in the United States of Japan (USJ) due to his lazy, kickback nature. After the suicide of the famous General Mutsuruga’s daughter and Ben’s close friend Claire, Ben gets caught up in a hunt for the General with Agent Akiko Tsukino, an officer of Tokko. It is discovered that the General created a game called The United States of America and may have possibly defected to the rebel group the George Washingtons (the GWs). The investigation is not so straight forward and what started as a hunt becomes a question of the consequences of building an empire.

“There’s honor in resistance.”

“Was there any honor in that woman you executed – that was yesterday, wasn’t it?” Ben asked.

“There is never honor for traitors.”

“You think you could have resisted?”

“Of course. I would rather die than betray the Empire.”

“You aren’t much good to the Empire dead.”

“You aren’t much good to the Empire alive,” Akiko said.

“I’m the most loyal servant the Empire has.”

“Not anymore.”

“I don’t need my loyalty questioned by you.”

“You think just because you turned in your parents, you’re beyond question? Do you know how many children turned their parents in last year alone?”

“I’m glad you value my sacrifice.”

The two main protagonists really make the book work. Both are officers of the Japanese empire, but have very different views on it. Ben is seen as lazy and unmotivated whereas Akiko is the epitome definition of what a loyal soldier should be. As the story unfolds they get immersed in the society they help rule over and what they discover changes their view of what their empire really is, particularly Akiko’s view. I really enjoyed seeing their individual growth unfold and the mutual…respect? Mutual agreement to stop bickering so much at each other? Anyway they get along much better near the end of the book, but their bickering is amusing regardless.

Anyone familiar with Japanese pop culture, especially in mecha and anime can see where the inspiration comes from. Although there is a mecha on the cover, the mechs are not a huge part of the story. The battles that do happen are pretty damn epic though. Ben mentions that games are used as a way to placate society and make them compliant, to distract and vent off steam, an idea I find very intriguing. Both Ben and Akiko discover however, there are other ways people vent off steam much to their horror. My gosh, this book can be brutal. The imagery of the “war hero” Koushou’s museum is creepy and disturbing as all hell and the descriptions of torture in this book are horrifying. There were definitely times I had to stop reading and take a breath. Tieryas mentioned he did a lot of research on the Japanese’s part in the war. If his research brought up any of these methods of brutality that are shown in The United States of Japan then I would be truly horrified because what I read isn’t just fiction, the action is based on violence human beings did to other human beings.

Even now I’m not sure how the book ends. I’m not sure if what Ben and Akiko did changed society, or even made a dent. It’s not hopeful, but it’s not despairing either. If anything, don’t expect a summer read of America rising up and mecha beating the crap out of each other. Don’t expect an equation of Japan + America = awesome alternate pop culture references. The United States of Japan is a surreal, weird, and brutal what-if aftermath of a brutal war. Prepare to be horrifying awed.

Gem Rating: 💎💎💎💎

Aside: I’m not sure I understood the GWs angle of religion during their rebellion. Perhaps because the Emperor was deemed a god to the Japanese the Americans, or who was left of it, used Christianity as their rebellious warcry of that belief. I would think that the GWs had more reason to rebel the Japanese than just religious differences.

 

 

 

 

Deadpool

deadpool

I spent Valentine’s Day watching Deadpool, which in my eyes was a perfect movie choice. You have to admit, there’s a bit of a fit: all the red, the passion…of..killing and gore…anyway, as Wade Wilson himself tells the audience, the movie is a love story (and horror too). To be honest, I was a little afraid when Deadpool was becoming a movie with a R rating. Knowing Deadpool’s humor and violence, there were so many ways this movie could have went and not in a good way. I’m glad to say that there was no cringing (much) and there was just the right amount of balance of snarky humor, violence and fourth wall breaking that Deadpool is known and loved for.

“Guy came in here looking for you. Real Grim Reaper-type. I don’t know. Might further the plot.”

The story is pretty standard: mercenary Wade Wilson agrees to undergo a crazy experiment in order to cure himself of multiple cancers only to have the “cure” disfigure his skin and give him regenerating powers. Wade, getting pissed he no longer has his Ryan Reynold’s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ looks, hunts down Ajax, the man who did this to him.  Violence and humor ensue in typical Deadpool/Ryan Reynolds style.

If you want to talk about good comic book adaptations, Deadpool is one of the best, if not the best comic book movie adaptation to date in terms of getting the tone down. For those unfamiliar with the comics, Deadpool is notorious for breaking the fourth wall, talking to the reader directly and making meta jokes of the studio he was created in. The movie did a great job in putting those in.

“It’s a big house. It’s weird I only ever see two of you. Almost like the studio couldn’t afford another X-Man.”

After watching the opening credits of “The Overpaid Tool” Director and “The Real Heroes” Writer team (which they really, truly were), the viewer should already get the hint of what kind of movie to expect. The action is gruesome and epic to watch with typical, excessive gymnastic-like twirl jumping and cutting off limbs, but all Deadpool fans would know the true action comes from Deadpool’s mouth (hehehe). I don’t think there were doubts who would play The Merc with the Mouth if he ever went to the big screen (the mind still boggles that this actually came to pass) and Ryan Reynolds brought it. The romance between Vanessa and Wade is cute and crazy. When I heard that Morena Baccarin was cast as the love interest I didn’t really like the idea (I will always see her as the graceful and beautiful Inara), but she was surprisingly great as Vanessa. I even enjoyed the chemistry between herself and  Ryan Reynolds. Speaking of Vanessa, I loved how the movie treated her, and the other women in the movie in general. Vanessa worked in a strip club yet there were no jokes or comments about it. To give Wade some credit, he treated her job as it was: a job. And I’m assuming he never made her change her job once they started dating, not because he would butt in if anything were to happen, but most likely because Vanessa would take care of it herself. Then kick Wade’s ass for thinking she couldn’t handle it. Their relationship really surprised me. Deadpool notwithstanding, Negasonic was treated as an equal: Colossus emphasized she was his partner and didn’t look down on her based on her age or gender. At least, that’s what I sensed. Angel Dust was the generic villain muscle-lady, but the fact she was owning Colossus for a while was kind of epic.

If it weren’t for Deadpool/Ryan Reynolds I would say the 2 X-Men are the stars of the movie. I’ve always had this weird crush on Colossus, but this movie definitely upped the notch a bit with his cute professor/babysitter/dad demeanor towards everyone. Negasonic Teenage Warhead is amazing and Deadpool’s teasing just makes her presence even better. I would love to see some mini-series of Colossus and Negasonic’s adventures.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Deadpool was a success in the box office and might have possibly started the age of rated R comic book movies. There’s already news that Hugh Jackman’s final run as Wolverine will be R rated. With the success of this movie, maybe they can afford to fill the big mansion with more X-Men appearances.

 

 

 

Central Station By Lavie Tidhar

Central Station cvr

Title: Central Station
Author: Lavie Tidhar
Publisher: Tachyon Publications
Type: ARC ebook (NetGalley)
Keywords: sci-fi opera, Tel Aviv, diversity, cyborgs, data vampires

Have you ever read a book where you felt that the central character in the book wasn’t the human, but the location? Central Station is that kind of book. Central Station is a (the?) spaceport in Tel Aviv and like all ports, is the central hub for the masses to gather or journey to the stars. You will see everyone here: Chinese and Filipino refugees, people from Mars or beyond the Belt, cyborgs…everyone and everything can be found here. Connecting them all is the Conversation, the digital network that connects all “noded” life and cascades them with everyone’s data streams. In the end, Central Station is just a building. The story introduces several characters that are intertwined by history, family, and love. Through their connection, they become the witnesses of the next step in evolution that may transcend the physical and digital realities.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book is the familiarity and accessibility of this world that Tidhar created. The book is filled with futuristic technologies (though we can already see the beginnings of these now) yet the image I got wasn’t pristine and sleek. The technology is used and grungy (think original Stars Wars versus the prequels). Speaking of familiarity, the characters are diverse and multi-racial across the board, even alien. Mama Jones, one of the many characters you meet is half Nigerian and Filipino (do you know how amazing it is to see Filipinos written in a sci-fi book?!). The Others are digital entities that hang around the Conversation. The characters also come from a diverse economic background, from the bottom rungs of homeless veteran cyborgs to the working class of Mama Jones and Boris Chang, where his family’s history in the city defines his somewhat upper-class standing than anything else.

Another theme that stuck me is the commentary on technology: how it affects us and the possibilities of our relationship with it in the future. Achimwene a Nigerian-Filipino and brother to Mama Jones is one of the only humans left that isn’t “noded”, physical nodes inserted in the body during childhood in order to connect online, or the Conversation as it’s called in the book. People look at Achimwene with pity and consider him crippled. Even Achimwene is caught wondering what it would be like to always be connected and hear everyone’s thoughts around you, to always know what is going on. How many of us feel that way already today? When was the last time we felt left out of a conversation when we didn’t see the latest trend or meme on Facebook or Twitter? FOMO anyone? Other fascinating characters abound: Carmel is a digital strigoi or vampire that sucks her victim’s data streams in order to live. Vlad an elderly man is suffering under a futuristic Alzheimer’s disease where he is bombarded with data overload of memories of his father and past relatives. And of course, the mysterious two children Kranki and Ismail who may be the next step of the merger between the digital and physical spaces.

Okay, I know up until now I’ve been talking about ‘technology this’ and ‘technology’ that on this book, but to be fair Tidhar does a great job in focusing on the community too. People are still heading over to Mama Jones’ bar to grab a drink of arak.  Generations of families and refugees have stayed in Central Station, it’s a place where people still have face to face contact. The human connection is still slightly there; if anything, people use the Conversation to gauge a person’s actual feelings and possibly any other background information needed for that current interaction.

Central Station is a sci-fi opera story that stays on Earth. This book may not have the shooting lasers and adrenaline space chases that pepper “successful” sci-fi today, but if you want something close to home, a collective story of people, technology, and the connections that bind us, digitally or not, read this book.

Gem Rating: 💎 💎 💎 💎 💎

 

 

Eyeshield 21: The Super Bowl I Would Love to See

The Super Bowl was a family thing more than anything else; just another excuse for my huge Filipino family to meet up, eat, and hang out. The 49ers team was a childhood legend for me. While my mother was still alive she was still lamenting over Joe Montana. Nowadays I watch the Super Bowl out of nostalgia of those days.

With the Super Bowl coming up (and literally so close to home), it made me think of a manga near and dear to my heart that just takes football to a crazy level: Eyeshield 21

 

eyeshield 21 cvr
Mangaka: Riichiro Inagaki, Artist: Yusuke Murata

For those who have never read the manga or watched the anime here’s the down low: shy, tiny Sena Kobayakawa ends up joining his school’s American Football team thanks to the crazy machine-gun wielding Yoichi Hiruma. Fortunately based on his experience with bullies, Sena runs fast. Very fast. Enough that Hiruma believes Sena is the key for his team, the Devil Bats to get to the top.

As far as sports manga go, the series hits all the right points: underdog team striving to make it to the top, misfits with crazy idiosyncrasies (pictures of Hiruma with a machine gun is not just a cover image: he literally starts shooting the field to get his players to actually, you know, play football), the supportive girls who cheer the guys on…yeah, the manga has it all. I’m pretty sure there were amazing American stereotypes too… And yet the fact that Inagaki-san chooses American football for his story makes Eyeshield 21 refreshing to read (American football is pretty non-existent in Japan so I’m pretty sure it was refreshing for the Japanese audience too!) Also the manga is ridiculously hilarious in its execution. Maybe it’s because I actually have knowledge of football, but seeing the absurd plays and storylines makes the manga just that much more enjoyable and funny to read.

Besides the humor, the art is a huge part of why I love the manga. Yusuke Murata’s art is awesome, and he actually draws different body types (for males but hey I’ll take it!) One Punch Man fans should be very familiar with this art.

Eyeshield 21 memories

So if you’re tired of seeing all the hype of the Super Bowl, or just want a break, I definitely recommend having a few laughs and root for the Devil Bats. For those who are going to watch the Super Bowl, who are you rooting for? If I had to choose, had to I’d probably be going for the Panthers. No particular reason.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gene Luen Yang @ The Escapist

On Saturday, Gene Luen Yang visited The Escapist, a local comic book store in the Bay Area. This was a treat not only because of seeing a successful comic creator visiting his hometown, but also because of his new appointment as Ambassador of Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress and Every Child a Reader. How cool is that?!

 

Escapist_Gene Yang
Gene Yang speaking to children who came from Sacramento to meet him

Mr. Yang is a veteran of the graphic novel industry and his experience shown throughout the talk. He spoke about how he got into the business and how one would go about it if they were so inclined to be a comic writer/artist. His honesty about getting into the business of comics was both sobering and funny. From his story of having his friend’s mom xerox copies of their comics to sell to their fifth-grade friends to current cost estimates of different methods of self-publishing, Mr. Yang told it all.

Just when I had the courage to raise my hand to ask a question, luckily the owner of The Escapist asked about his newly appointed role as Ambassador of Young People’s Literature (which was all well and good because that was what I was going to ask.) As an Ambassador, he can work on a platform that he can promote for young readers. For those who know his work, his platform Reading Without Walls should come as no surprise. His platform has 3 goals: for children to read outside their comfort zone, to read about different kinds of people with different life experiences and to read different book formats (graphic novel to prose for example).

Escapist_Gene Yang signing

As a Filipino, seeing an Asian-American successfully enter the graphic novel industry and to be in such an influential position as an ambassador for reading is inspiring. The audience in the very crowded comic store reflected his impact in the community: grandparents, children (who came all the way from Sacramento, no less!), teenagers, white, people of color, the cute 1-year-old girl next to me…it’s a nice visual to see the power of literature (all types of literature) impact all age groups from all backgrounds. I can’t wait to see what Gene Yuen Lang does from here.