Book Reviews: Hockey, Adventures, and Strawberry graphics

“What do you think of when I say The Rock?”
“Perfect man,” she sighed.

Hockey Karma
This is the end of a trilogy, and while I don’t remember all the characters from the previous, I definitely recall the star hockey player who’s now feeling old both in body and spirit. He’s married with kids, but all he cares about is hockey and that everyone’s out to get him. Now instead of alcohol he’s taking pills, a jerk to everyone; he’s fooling himself and thinks everyone else is falling for it, which completely makes him unsympathetic, even though he’s still a good guy deep down.
The most fun part was watching the Stereotypical Freaks playing again, with Tom’s then crush/now girlfriend Jaelithe filling in for poor Jacoby on the drums. She’s also changed, from the gorgeous but rather airheaded teen to a single mom who’s got her life figured out as a reporter. The most interesting scene is the contentious interview between the female head coach and her as she and Tom try to make a long-distance relationship work.
If you’ve read the previous entry, you’ll know everything you need to know about the artwork, which was so different from the first.
For all of the time spent making Jeremiah such a jerk, his eventual redemption makes it all worth it, though barely.

Strawberry Shortcake Volume 1: Return of the Purple Pieman
It almost doesn’t need saying, but this is the most bright and colorful graphic novel I’ve ever seen!
Of course I’m coming into this completely blind, but for those of you familiar with the story, Strawberry is a dessert-maker with a lot of friends, who all have names like Sweet and Sour, though she wasn’t sour all the much. The best named is Lemon Meringue, who’s a blonde. . . of course. Strawberry isn’t very genre-savvy, as she allows Lemon to color her perfect red hair while her friends plan her party; what could possibly go wrong?
“What are you making?” “An epic fail.” And seriously, if your friend is busy taking selfies you are definitely allowed to steal her popcorn. Yeah, making hand gestures doesn’t work on the phone, blondie. And someone actually says “Squeeeee!”
The plot involves dessert-making contests, but that’s hardly the point. It’s the interactions between friends that make for some hilarious laughs. My favorite scene takes place in a subway, where Strawberry’s look of befuddlement is just perfect. The most important thing is the artwork is excellent, with each character distinctive.

A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong Volume 1: In the Bag
A mismatched pair of adventurers go into inner space.
After a flashback, we see Archer going to Armstrong’s room and finding monsters, which he beats up, ties up, then lets them watch TV so they won’t bother him. He figures out Armstrong has dropped into his magic bag, which is spewing all the monsters and such; it’s much bigger on the inside.
This has the feel of a 50s pulp. Each volume starts with a flashback, but eventually they get to the gist of the plot, where we find the old Greek god Bacchus has forgotten how to be all chill and has instead gone all Wrath of Khan.  Armstrong is immortal, having been born in Ur and surviving 6000 years. Archer wanted to kill the Devil as he’d been bred to do since birth, but when he found out that’s Armstrong they somehow became buds instead. With this dynamic, it’s interesting that Archer goes first in the title. . . and it’s amazing how HUGE Armstrong is. There’s also Archer’s sister with a redundant name, several bad guys, demons, and a talking fish dressed very dapper. Archer is incredibly innocent for a trained killer; though overused, Opie is the perfect nickname for him, especially as he swears he no longer has a crush on his almost-sister. His favorite curses are “Son of a lady dog!” and “Ah, noodle buckets!” He thinks he can use that innocence on his sister, but she’s wise to him. “What are you doing? Are you trying to puppy-dog me?”
What really makes this work is the humor. “What in the holy name of Tom Selleck is going on out there?” “Your whimpering pleases me.” In one flashback there’s dinosaurs with boxing gloves. But the best moment is the way Sister Mary-Marie saves them from brainwashed college students by shouting, “Hey, bros! All your frat brothers had sex with all your sisters and girlfriends!” Sounds even better coming from someone dressed as a nun.
That was fun, more fun than I expected.

Disney Manga Kilala Princess Volume 1
Two friends are competing to be school princess. They don’t particularly come off as smart, but at least they’re not airheads, just dreamers. When Kilala, who’s obsessed with all things Disney Princess and winks a lot, finds an unconscious boy in her yard, she of course kisses him, thinking she’s in Sleeping Beauty. And of course it works. He and his partner are seeking the owner of the tiara, but when they say they’re looking for someone she thinks they’re bounty hunters.
Her friend is kidnapped after winning the contest, where her not-quite-prince tells her, “Some people in our country aren’t fond of princesses.” “No way!” As she tries to save her friend she falls into Snow White’s world, and right away has to help with the cleaning. Turns out she’s a ninja now too, flying up over castle walls, albeit with a lot of help from some improbable physics. She even has some kind of weird tiny pet, that someone calls a mouse, but it ain’t no Mickey.
The whole thing is done in black and white with some shades, especially for Ariel and Belle’s hair. The best shot, albeit weird at first, features the microskirted knee-high-socks blonde teen standing next to Snow White in all her regalia.
Cute in general, though some parts don’t make sense. The artist talks about how she watched the DVDs over and over to get the drawings of the princesses right, and it shows. Despite the feeling there was something lacking because of the B&W, the artwork was excellent.



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