Fantastic Female Friday- Hot Ice Hilda (Outlaw Star)

The mere mention of her name gets a strong reaction from Outlaws, pirates and space forces alike. She steals and android from notorious Chinese pirate guild, the Kei Pirates, and in an altercation that ends with the death of their leader at her hands.. she loses one of them, and an eye. She gets a cybernetic arm and swears vengeance! Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Sadly, Hot Ice Hilda only lives 2 episodes in to Outlaw Star.

Hilda’s pursued by the Kei pirates across space and crash lands on Sentinel III. With her ship and arm in disrepair she plays innocent under the identity of a blonde rich girl named “Rachel Sweet” and cons Gene Starwind into helping her out with materials and repairs. She also enlists him as a bodyguard. When Kei pirates catch her scent, her true identity as the infamous outlaw is revealed. Gene attempts to complete the job he agreed to. He shoots the pirates with the magical and obsolete Caster Gun while Hilda chucks grenades, they make it to the barn where the ship is hidden, Hilda thanks Gene …and then shoots him and takes Jim hostage to finish repairs.

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Gene doesn’t die and she ends up taking him along into space (which he’s always been afraid of) they get into various shenanigans and the two have sex. Hilda has the stereotypical warrior/traveller viewpoint and just wants a warm body next to hers. She on the “masculine” side, she yells at Gene when he is scared she is demanding and doesn’t do anything in the way of being sympathetic -but she still encourages him. After a brief stop over on Blue Heaven (where guns are not allowed and she fights with her badass robot hand and a taser) she, Gene, Jim and Melfina return back out into space and they are attacked by Kei Pirates and the outlaws The MacDougal Brothers. Hilda proves that she will do anything to the Kei Pirates. Even if it means her own life… Her message to Gene?  “Outlaws never go down easy, now matter what happens to them.” And she dies taking out the last pirate there to fight.

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Hot Ice Hilda is responsible for the whole plot of the series! Hilda was the one searching for the Galactic Leyline. She didn’t know what it was, she just knew Kei pirates wanted it, so she wanted to get it first. And you really can’t argue with that logic. She’s vengeful, but mature and rational, capable, savvy and utterly ruthless. She was the one responsible for getting Gene into space and off Sentinel III where he was a big cocky fish in a small pond. She was the catalyst for so much of the plot. And she was fridged. But she provided more than emotional turmoil for Gene (although there certainly was that), her infamy brought them enemies, her disregard of an order from a Ctarl-Ctarl ship brought the wrath of Aisha Clan-Clan down on Gene and co., her death left Melfina’s existence a mystery and a treasure to be searched for. 

It’s just really awesome to have this REALLY not girly, not conventionally feminine love interest who gets some unassuming man caught up in the adventure of his life. In many adventure fantasies it is a woman getting dragged behind as the plot unfold because of the drive of a man. But in this one everyone else is just along for the ride, whether they want to be or not.

Too bad that she was too badass for a story about some guy with red hair and his 11 year old business partner. (Just kidding I love this show, but it would have been totally different if she hadn’t left Gene alone in space to have his adventure and get vengeance)

Guardians of the Galaxy #13

The Trial of Jean Grey: part 6 of 6

Jean Grey comes to the conclusion that she will not be able to stop the Phoenix ..but neither will anyone else. She didn’t ask for thisshe was just the host, no one else could stop it and yet she is the only one on trial. But this Jean Grey is not the same as her past/future self. And she develops a wholly different power set. Psionic powers. She redirects everyone’s psychic energy back at them. A fight ensues between Jean Grey and Gladiator while the X-Men, Guardians and Starjammers handle the Imperial Guard. Oracle talks Jeannie through it and ends the fight before any casualties occur. Oracle then tells Gladiator that THIS Jean Grey is different and this time won’t be the same. Cyclops issues badass threats to Gladiator that the fight is over and tells him if he goes anywhere near planet earth again “I will bring a hellstorm of asgardians, mutants, atlanteans and hulk monsters right down on top of you!” It’s bad ass.

And, as most who keep up with comic book news already knew.. Scott announces that he’s leaving for space with his father (Christopher Summers, leader of Starjammers). Greg Rucka is penning that series, I’m definitely going tobe reading. Anyway, Scott tells Jean that maybe this way they can be happy. Everyone is stunned. He doesn’t say a word to Laura. I’m furious. X-23 deserved a few words. They didn’t have a relationship but she let him in in a way that was very vulnerable for her. And it’s obnoxious  to me that she was left hanging. (Hopefully that’s not really it for them. X-23 teams up with Angela and Gamora for space adventures, anyone? Please Please).

KP and Peter flirting was the freaking cutest. “Listen, I’ve travelled the galaxy up and down and met a total of maybe 7 cool people. You seem very cool.” 

There are funny moments. This was a very good finish to the crossover. Great way for newer comic readers to get accustomed to the Guardians (and the Starjammers). Bendis was teasing us with a possible X-23 young Cyclops hook up, but created a wholly original path for THIS Jean Grey. Sara Pichelli’s art is gorgeous, I was totally digging the reactions/expressions and representation of Jean’s new powers. Her art has been compared to Immonen’s and I think Pichelli’s is better: the fight scenes were much more comprehensible.

Silver Surfer #1

I waffled on whether or not this was something I was going to read. I never cared for Silver Surfer. That is very likely because my only exposure to Silver Surfer was that terrible Fantastic Four sequel. I read the short in All-New Marvel NOW! Point One and I thoroughly enjoyed it, I saw complaints that the Point NOW! compilation was a convoluted money suck ..and honestly, there were a couple underwhelming stories… All-New Invaders, anyone? But Silver Surfer blew me away. And ultimately that glimpse is what caused me to try this series.

One major and unmistakable plus is Mike Allred on the art. It’s unmistakable in style, it’s lush and fun.

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Another plus? The characters, Eve and Dawn, twin sisters who could not be less similar. One wants to travel the world, one is happy to stay at home in the most wonderful place on earth. One dresses like a bumble bee and one like a lady bug. It’s really nice to have the “opposite” duality played with out cliched “light and dark”, “good and evil” undertones. But make no mistake Eve and Dawn are really like Night and Day.

The story begins with two children and their father looking up at the night sky when a shooting star passes overhead. The first girl wises to travel the world and go anywhere and everywhere all the time. Dawn, hard pressed for a wish of her own, impulsively (and sweetly) says, “I wish that the star could just keep going. Then everyone could get a wish. And it could stay up in the sky forever.”

But it wasn’t a star… it was the Silver Surfer (who had stopped by Earth to see if it was a suitable meal for Galactus).

Flash forward 12 years, Norrin Rad is reformed he’s no longer the herald and is no longer followed by a wave of distruction. He’s rebuilding a universe, he’s embarrassed ..and he’s afraid, he isn’t a God and unworthy of praise, he’s trying to atone but he knows ultimately there is no redemption for him. He decides to leave and let them have their lives. And he is soon propositioned by 2 floating eyeballs to be the champion who saves the IMPERICON.

What’s the Impericon? A collection of all the wonders from all the universes, a magnificent travelers outpost that had always been a secret. Zed (a fishy alien) facilitates his appointment of championship and scans him with “the motivator” to see Silver Surfer’s true intentions.

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Meanwhile, the mundane Dawn helps run the Bed and Breakfast in her hometown of Anchor Bay while Eve has wonderful adventures across the globe.

While Zed is convincing Norrin Rad that he must save the Impericon from a mysterious oncoming threat, he reveals he has some collateral to make sure Norrin complies. The most important person in the universe. Turns out, that “Motivator” also finds the one person in all of creation who means the most to him. Silver Surfer screams and tries to think of who of his family or allies they would imprison…

…But the person who is summoned… is Dawn.

“Okay. I have absolutely no idea who that is.”

Dan Slott is quite obviously a huge Doctor Who fan, with Norrin Rad as the intense and troubled by his past Ten and homebody Dawn Greenwood as audience insert Rose Tyler. Her sister is going to be so jealous of her adventures. It’s also very interesting, how could she be the most important person in the universe? Was it her wish? did a child’s wish ensure the longevity of the Silver Surfer? How sweet is that possibility?

Mike Allred’s art is stunning. It’s just phenomenal, retro looking but heavily detailed, Laura Allred adds popping color and contrast. The result is beyond spectacular, especially so with the Impericon.

Anime Review- Legend of the Legendary Heroes

This incredibly enjoyable series begins with the adventurers oh an unlikely duo, Ferris Eris and Ryner Lute. They are sent to collect Hero Artifacts by Sion, the King of Roland. The leaders of a neighboring country called Estabul are also on the hunt for artifacts. Ryner is cursed with “magic eyes” demonic powers that come forth in the form of red pentagrams through his eyes. Through their early missions they are confronted by magical knights from the neighboring territory ..and Milk Calloud, part of the taboo breaker squad who works for King Sion, but doesn’t know about the mission. Milk is the captain of her squad, she’s also got a big time crush on Ryner and thinks that ferris must be enticing him to break the rules. Milk is giddy and girlie. She is very capable, but has childish ways of getting herself out of trouble (usually yelling that she has to use the bathroom). From the beginning Ferris is fierce, great with a sword, constantly teasing Ryner and obsessed with food.

Particularly tea and dango

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Ferris is a really fun and interesting character. She’s not above violence, but she disdains killing, she’s a loyal warrior. Although she constantly picks at Ryner -calling him a pervert who corrupts virgins and their mothers with a wolfish grin although this is completely untrue- she teases him for his laziness and incompetence, but she is a true friend.

Ryner is incredibly lazy, in the beginning episodes we see him lounging his way through military school, even when tasked with the important mission retrieving artifacts he is unmotivated and unimpressed. He constantly takes naps and complains about any work to be done. He laments at the end of each episode about how everything sucks. It’s whiny and annoying. He’s “cursed” but as someone who consumes a lot of fantasy genre media, it’s heard demi-god power defined as a curse before. I’m not buying. However, as we get deeper into his history, learning that part of his memories are missing, that he was raised in an orphanage that his childhood friends were killed right in front of him (which was the first time the Alpha Stigma was truly unleashed). He killed many people and sees himself as a monster. Most Alpha Stigmas never reach their full potential because they go crazy young. This all reaches a head in episode 10, when he and Ferris meet up with two pink haired travellers who have already claimed 4 Hero Artifacts that are working for Sion’s enemy Gastark. They fight, Ferris is thrown by the smaller female wielding an ice scythe leaving Ryner to abandon his fight to catch her, she remarks, “Is my beauty so distracting to you?” and he says, “What the hell is your problem?” The male of the antagonist duo calls forth Ryner’s Alpha Stigma, the demon voice attempts to convince him that he should burn everything, that destruction would be more enjoyable than trying to fit in and play hero with humans who don’t accept him. He nearly loses himself and attacks Ferris. Ferris hurls insults at him and then tells him that there’s no way he could be a monster, she doesn’t believe he’s really trying to kill her. She overcomes his magic and he collapses in a heap in front of her. He thinks that now that she’s seen him for what he is that she’ll leave. He tells her he’s too dangerous. Ferris plainly says that there will be no telling her where to go and that besides that they had a date for tea. He starts to cry and she doesn’t coddle him, but makes it clear she won’t leave him. I’m a total sucker for scenes like that and to be honest I have no idea what to do with someone over the age of 12 who is crying, hugging and making sarcastic comments is likely. So I found Ferris’s actions endearing. But by now the audience understands that Ryner isn’t a lazy goofball, he’s clinically depressed and nothing seems worthwhile.

For the most part, nothing much changes in their relationship, although they both internally reflect back on that day. One act of acceptance does not cure Ryner of his depression. It’s a handful of episodes more before we get more backstory on Ferris who is nobility and well trained to be a warrior from a young age, her parents considered her a failure and decided she was only useful as a vessel to carry on her family’s bloodline so her father attacks her, her father is then killed by her very powerful and protective brother. The showing is brief and isn’t very graphic. It provides insight as to why she is so protective of her younger sister and why she sees Ryner as a pervert. It’s likely she sees all men as perverts. Her snarky attitude is cover for her sadness the way that Ryner’s laziness is cover for his.

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Throughout the series they encounter new enemies, either trying to beat them to the Hero Artifacts or just enemies set on vanquishing Alpha Stigma monsters. Ryner makes it his goal to save any Alpha Stigma kids before they kill and become corrupted. The story also follows Milk, and another love interest of Ryner’s, Kiefer, who belongs to Gastark’s kingdom. King Sion is a complex character himself, he abhors violence, believing that all life matters and people all have a place in this world but with those in his kingdom afraid of those bearing the Alpha Stigma he is forced to take precaution against Ryner. He’s also collecting artifacts that carry god-like powers which seems akin to political tactics like “peacekeeping through superior firepower”. He’s also harboring some big secrets. Towards the end Ryner meets others “cursed” like him and he sees that they are not all monstrous killing machines.. secret origins get revealed.. There’s a lot going on here.

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An amazing story, great animation, masterfully executed, humorous, full of action and high fantasy. It’s lush and gorgeous. It’s funny and sweet and exciting. 

Based on light novels by Takaya Kagami originally illustrated by Saori Toyota.

Manga Review- No Longer Human Vol. 1

by Usakaru Furuya based on the novel by Osamu Dazai.

The story is told from the perspective of Yozo Oba, or rather from that of the author, who while trying to find inspiration for his next manga stumbles upon Yozo’s diary online. There’s a picture of a very charismatic 17 year old Yozo ..and then a disheveled and haggard 25 year old photo of the same man. The author wonders what could have happened, so he dives in.

Be warned: This is a story for the Palahniuk crowd. Hell, for the Bukowski crowd. The art is beautiful, but it’s dark and haunting and perfectly fitting. There’s uncensored sex and booze and overwhelming sadness.

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Yozo is the victim of aggressive “tiger-parenting”/mental abuse by his father and as a result he find himself unable to relate to his high school classmates. He puts on a show for them, he plays up class clown antics to please people and he memorizes what ordinary responses are when peers are sad or upset.. but he doesn’t relate. Yozo sees himself as a marrionette -this comes through masterfully in the art, sometimes with just hints of strings being pulled, sometimes Yozo takes on a “broken doll” look, classmates also appear as ‘faceless’, hollow and/or eyeless. He keeps up this facade until he meets Horiki. In Horiki he recognizes the clowning and posturing. Yozo finally feels like he can be himself. This doesn’t make Horiki a good influence, of course. Horiki is self destructive and really only takes pleasure in drinking and getting prostitutes. Yozo’s father has been paying for his apartment and mailing him an allowance and Horiki takes advantage of having a rich friend. Through Horiki and his escort, Yozo finds a finge political collective to involve himself with.

His family ends up cutting him off and he grows to depend on the collective. For companionship as before, but also for basic needs like FOOD. Misaki will do anything for him, even more so when their group turns to terrorism and Yozo is granted a high rank. He recognizes it’s gone too far, and when he abandons, the group has it out for him. So he goes to a “hostess club” for comfort and meets Ageha. She’s sad and lonely herself and falls for him. He takes a handout from her, but then can’t bear to face her as he finds himself homeless and hopeless. “It’s so easy falling.” Yozo calls Horiki and Yozo laments “Love lasts as long as the money does. People misinterpret that saying. It doesn’t mean women ditch you when you’re broke. When a guy has no money he gets depressed, he loses it. Even his laugh is weak. He starts to feel sorry for himself. And in a funk, he starts to push women away from himself.”  (as someone who has spent most of my life being working poor.. yes… the struggle of feeling like you have no friends because you can’t afford to buy a coffee in a cafe or 2 beers in a tavern with them, or that your house isn’t warm enough to host people -it’s painful)

Yozo and Horiki go act like drunk assholes in the club where Ageha works. But she doesn’t turn her back on Yozo. But when they go to the beach to watch the waves… they get an idea… double suicide. And by this point I want to pull out my hair. And I’m ready to cry off all my mascara because the most wonderful thing that either of them can think of is that someone loved them enough to die with them. They walk off into the ocean together… 

Somehow it still manages to get worse.

There’s also this other aspect, where the author is presenting it as a rewritten diary and it made me think of the fact that as writers and readers we sometimes become voyeuristic. And it’s told that way, like we know too much. As if we are intruding on someone’s inner thoughts of self-contempt. And we should look away, accept that this isn’t our business. But it’s just so brutally honest that there’s no looking away.

I don’t like it for what it did to my emotions. But there is no denying how masterfully executed it is. Rating it makes my head hurt. Read at your own risk. It’s 3 volumes long, but I’m not sure if my heart can take it.

Book Review #30- Iron Night

Oh man. Since the first in this series was so good that i had to start a blog because of it my expectation for book 2 may have been higher than average, but it lived up in nearly every way. There is no way to replicate that feeling of something new and glorious, but ML Brennan skillfully avoids a slump while the nerdy and impoverished Fortitude Scott gets in over his head (again) in a supernatural plot that runs deeper than he could ever imagine (…again). Suzume Hollis, ‘co-main character’ and kitsune is still more kick ass than Fort. She has his back, consistently, even though she likes to give him a hard time. Parts are genuinely sweet, but don’t linger too long in the sap as they attempt to track down those responsible for the murder of Fort’s roommate. 

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They uncover a plot by elves to create less human purebloods and preserve the bloodlines through incest and magic. It’s incredibly messed up. To say the least. Fort meets a girl, and Brennan does the right thing here and makes Lilah the elf capable, caring and on their side. fort has every reason to fall for a girl with a peculiar upbringing -he himself was raised mostly in solitude under crazy freaky family rules (Fort’s still drinking his mother’s blood, consuming fluids from your mother in your 20s is hella bizarre). He can sympathize with a character who knows it’s wrong that she went to prom with her cousin, who is embroiled in her family’s crazy and criminal behavior against her will. She likens her upbringing to being raised in a cult. 

So the elves, growingly discontent with low birth rates and dwindling numbers and watered down powerless too-human children get crazy like the ancient royals and start breeding anyone that will make a viable elf child… no matter how young or closely related. If that wasn’t gross enough, the plot also involves a hyper-violent skinwalker and magical roofies.

Fort’s still trying to keep himself human, but he has to team up with his VERY vampiric sister, Prudence while his dashing brother is tending to his wife. Fort’s also terrified of Prudence. And with good reason. Torture is her cup of tea. She waffles between “antagonist” and “ally” as she herself becomes concerned that their family is weakening with this more human approach to raising Fort. The pure elves “Themselves” are willing to do ANYTHING to elevate their elite status.. and so is Prudence.

There’s more! Fort’s human father figure gets caught up in the mix and he has to make hard choices about where his allegiances lie. He still tries to make it to his shifts at a high end restaurant with an egomaniacal chef and he still buys his clothes at Ocean State Job Lot. Suzume still just about steals every page for me, although she wasn’t as focussed on as in the last book. Suzume is still all about playing pranks and showing Fort up, but she’s sweet when he needs her. She’s an awesome *friend* ..even if she might have set up book 3 with a strange new roommate for Fort. There’s a ton going on in just 305 pages. There were some interactions that made me crack up with laughter and ones that broke my heart. 

ML Brennan presents vampires as apex predators (which I think is awesome, because it shouldn’t be easy to make a vampire: there would be vampires everywhere. And if they say ‘immortality is a curse’ and that why they don’t turn anyone, I will hate that book) and in this one she makes a real monster out of the skinwalker (with it’s own powerset outside of those presented by Patricia Briggs or shown in TrueBlood) and concocts an intricate elf hierarchy system. It’s fabulously detailed. There’s also close relation between personalities and their species/customs. Lilah is meek from being sheltered by her family. These creepy things start out as the norm until she sees how deep it runs, but until Fort’s arrival calls attention, she would never have questioned. Fort is rebellious because he was at one point raised human, he is quite literally not like his family. Suzume is a frigging badass because she was raised in a matriarchal society by women who don’t take husbands and she needs to support herself in every way. It’s not just random traits. They were born and raised to be what they are. Personalities develop around experiences and there aren’t any shortcuts taken in the backstories.

This is really better than I could explain. 5 out of 5. Throw down you $8 and get pumped for book #3 out in November.

I would recommend this series for anyone who’s an urban fantasy fan, those looking to get beyond supernatural YA fare (it’s grown up, sans-smut) and.. well, anyone who daydreams about going on crazy adventures while they’re working their crap-job. Fort’s a good hero while still acknowledging that he’s in over his head, Suzume is a good friend without becoming an insta-love interest. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the characters progress.

Manga Review- Trigun Maximum Vol. 1: Hero Returns

As I have mentioned, I was covering Anime Boston last weekend and while I was there I picked up some goodies. 

Including this manga right here! I loved the Trigun anime series, which wasn’t nearly as popular in Japan as it was on Cartoon Network. We have a flashy gunslinging hero with a 60 billion double dollars bounty on his head who goes on adventures on desert planet Gunsmoke with a motorcycle riding priest. I was pretty much raised on Westerns and Space Westerns were kind of a natural progression for my overactive imagination. He’s a Humanoid Typhoon!

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The series was verbatim to the original manga. Trigun Maximum is a continuation from where the series stopped (the crater being put on the moon), it picks up 2 years late, with Vash living under and fake name and Meryl and Milly have returned to their jobs in a more mundane capacity. The art is a little messy but I might only be saying that because full color comic books have spoiled me immensely. But I do love Vash the Stampede (not as much as I loved that showy dude with a kooky name from my other favorite Space western- Gene Starwind), Vash- despite being a gunman and a NATURAL DISASTER- doesn’t want to kill anyone, so he takes many blows himself, this leaves him scarred up and somewhat bionic.In Vol. 1 he faces a gang that’s using his name for purposes of extortion and a town driven to the brink by constant threats of murder. Vash finds non-violent solutions for both of these scenarios, but the priest, Wolfwood, bears bad news. Knives is back. Knives Millions is Vash’s brother who was willing to wipe out a whole planet because he saw humans as inferior.  

In Vol. 1 we also see that the priest, Nicholas D. Wolfwood, doesn’t take the “thou shalt not kill” thing as seriously as Vash. They butt heads immediately about how much force is excessive.

“You think a guy who can’t kill a man.. can save a man?”

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Vash’s sensei who outfits him with the weapons he needs to fight knives agrees with Vash’s actions, but his sensei’s new protege, Brad, sees it as a waste of time.

There are interesting debates about morality. But through this volume he chooses the Justice League code of ethics.

Meryl and Milly, two women who work for an insurance company tasked with minimizing the damage caused by the Humanoid Typhoon briefly appear and save Vash’s butt. They’re fun characters. Meryl is smitten with Vash but doesn’t blindly follow him. She has to “minimize damage” as part of her occupation but she, along with Milly, also are Vash’s protectors. 

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I want more! I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to seek out more source material from a series with characters I enjoyed so much! worthwhile purchase, indeed. 4.5/5