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review 2017-04-19 01:30
My Hero Academia vs Invincible
My Hero Academia, Vol. 1 - Kohei Horikoshi,Caleb D. Cook

Recently, I had the chance to read two very similar yet different stories. On the surface, the concept is almost the same: A teenager getting super-powers and his exploits/ efforts from then on. But there was a world of difference between them for one of them was created in the US and the other was created in Japan.

 

Invincible, is a story about Mark Grayson, son of the most powerful superhero of his world: Omni Man (a Superman knockoff). The story starts from Mark acquiring his power one day in his teenage years and deciding to follow on his dad’s footsteps. He soon finds out that his father is an alien belonging to an evil empire who are hell bent on galactic domination and that his father was put on the earth to prepare it for the eventual takeover. His father proposes Mark should join the effort and he refuses it (as is customary of a hero). His father beats him to near death (not so customary of a hero) and leaves the earth. Now Mark has to prepare himself for fighting against the eventual takeover and also have to save it from itself until then.

 

If by this point you have a nagging suspicion that this story is a mixture of Superman, star wars and several other sci-fi stories thrown in, that is because it actually is. But one cannot actually fault the author for that. What I can fault him for would be the lack of zeal he shows for character development as compared to the sci-fi elements/ shock moments/ brutal fights that are so prevalent in the story. In a way, this is to be expected from a western superhero story. Apart from the hero himself and his father, the rest of the characters have a set role and they do not deviate from it or grow from it. The heroine and hero’s mother character have pretty much the same function. Devoid of their dependency to their husbands, they are nothing exciting or even memorable. Even marginally interesting characters like “I’ll even make a deal with the devil to get what I want” Cecil or Mark’s sociopath half-brother Oliver lack the necessary development and come off as abrupt most of the time.

 

Another minor gripe is that even though this is from an Independent publishing house (Image comics) as opposed to a big corporate such as DC or Marvel, and despite the fact that the author mocks the corporate comics storytelling, I found that the story had the same problems you might find in any DC/Marvel comics stories in the past two decades or more. Note: The key difference between Corporate owned comics and Independent Comics publishing is that the artists own the rights for the stories in an independent publishing company as opposed to DC/Marvel who only pay the author for the story which they own.

 

On the other hand, My Hero Academia is a story about Midoriya Izuku, a superhero fanboy who idolizes the greatest superhero of his time, All Might. Midoriya wants to be a superhero himself but unfortunately for him, in a world filled with people with super powers (aka quirks), he cannot as he has no quirks. One day, All Might saves him from a villain and impressed by his bravery, he decides to help Midoriya become a great hero by passing over his power “One for All” to him. All Might reveals to Midoriya that he has been looking for a successor to pass over his power as he was mortally wounded in a battle a few years ago which has severely limited the usage of his power. But this is a double edged sword as Midoriya is not yet ready to wield the “One for All” power yet and has to train his body to withstand the toll it takes. As he is, one punch at full power is all that is necessary to shatter his entire arm. All Might helps him get into the hero training school, UA Academy, where he’ll get the chance to not only train himself to replace All Might but also make friendship that might save his life down the line.

 

The primary difference between these two stories is the approach they take because of the cultural differences. Where Invincible concentrates on family, sci fi and doing what is right, My Hero Academia strongly concentrates on mentor-ship, finding your own way amongst trouble and friendship. My Hero Academia also benefits from the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously a lot of times and goofs on almost every character thus keeping it light-hearted despite the story and the delicacy of the hero’s power. Coming to which, the delicacy of his super power is another strong point. Even though he has super strength, the hero is not invincible, making him rely more on his brain/ team work/ planning than on his strength to overcome the problems he faces. Most times, this makes for some interesting reading as compared to Invincible, which ends up relying on gore, brutality and shock value in fights. As a result, almost all the support characters are well developed or at the very least interesting even if some are just manga stereotypes.

 

Invincible also has the fault of relying on the trope of characters being almost beaten to death only to recover later which cheapens the seriousness that a brutal fight can have in a story. Although My Hero Academia has a similar trope (they have to if the hero ends up shattering all his bones in his arm after throwing one powerful punch), they try to use it with caution and after a certain point in the story, try not to rely on it. There are numerous minor details like this that makes My Hero Academia a pleasure to read and Invincible a chore. Last but not least, My Hero Academia is delightfully devoid of any agendas that western comics have been filled with in the recent years. Invincible has its share of force fed agendas that makes it tiring at times to infuriating at the rest.

 

You might still enjoy Invincible if you are new/unfamiliar with Super hero stories but if you have read your way through countless stories (like I have), My Hero Academia will please you more.

 

PS: There is also an anime version of My hero Academia that you can check out if you prefer anime to manga. While we are at the subject of Manga, you should also check out Hunter X Hunter, which is the best action manga I’ve read in a long while. It has an anime version too.

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review 2017-02-17 02:29
Crazy Like a Foxe
Crazy Like A Foxe (Skyler Foxe Mysteries Book 6) - Haley Walsh

Maybe I wasn't quite in the right mood for this one after all, or maybe Skyler was being too OTT and TSTL for my tolerance levels. Skyler's always been reckless but this is the first time I remember fearing for the future since, as a teacher, he's responsible for molding young minds. He really should not be responsible for teenagers. :P

 

Summer's coming to a close and Skyler's summer job at the local museum is coming to its end as well. Everything's hunky dory until valuable items start going missing. A mysterious death soon follows, and Skyler's on the case (and frankly, I thought it took him too long to cotton on to what was going on, at least in one respect). There's also Keith's old boyfriend back in town, and the ex is up to no good. On top of all that, Skyler's still trying to wrap his head around his parents getting back together, and his various trust issues with his father.

 

Actually those same trust issues could explain a lot about Skyler's behavior in general - why he's such a control freak and needs to know everything NOW instead of when people are ready to tell him, and why he always assumes the worst case scenarios. That doesn't explain the various members of the SFC going along with his harebrained antics, especially when it involves

breaking into a storage facility and busting their way into a storage locker. If I were Sydney, I'd let them all sit in the tank for a night instead of finding ways to get them off the hook all the time. That's not even mentioning hacking into Keith's phone, which is a far worse offense on a personal level.

(spoiler show)

But then they wouldn't be the SFC we know and love if they didn't 100% support Skyler. At least Phillip has some sense.

 

We don't spend as much time with the kids in this book as in previous ones, and there's a lot of focus on the football team when we do, due to Keith signing up a girl to play on the team, and not as a kicker. We also get to learn a bit more about Keith's background, which leads to some in depth discussions about where Skyler and Keith envision their relationship going.

 

Joel Leslie usually does a decent job on the various accents, but in this book we meet a female football player name Eleigh (sp?). The first time she spoke, based on the accent Leslie was using, I figured she'd be Australian. Nope. Turns out she's Samoan, and I don't think she grew up in Australia. That's just the complete wrong accent to use. I've lived around Samoans my whole life and never once heard any of them use any accent even close to Australian. Just...WTF was that? It was terrible and it grated more and more each time she spoke. Everyone else, he does well and Joel and Rodolfo have always been my standout favorite characters that he voices. They all continue to shine here. 

 

This was still funny and fun, and hopefully some of the growth we see in Skyler in this book will stick.

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review 2016-08-17 03:51
Status Update
Status Update - Annabeth Albert

This was very sweet and cute, and not just because of the dogs, though they certainly don't hurt. :D

 

Noah is a closeted professor at a conservative, parochial university and grew up in a conservative family with an abusive, domineering father. As such, he's super repressed, to the point that he's never even had sex, or even a kiss. He's convinced himself he doesn't need it and all he really needs from life is to make tenure. Adrien is a gamer geek and programer. Even his tattoos are geeky. He's outgoing and loud and has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth. He's great at long-distance relationships. A little too great. He uses them as a crutch for his own insecurities about relationships.

 

I really liked that these guys could learn things from each other, and not just be all lusty. I mean, there was lust, and the mandatory sex scenes, but this was really more about them getting to know each other - and themselves - because they each offered something the other was missing. 

 

I don't think I buy the whole road trip snow storm on Thanksgiving thing. Someone who lives out that way, does it actually snow that time of year? It's still autumn. Would've made more sense for there to be some sort of mechanical failure with the RV that then needed repairs to strand them, but whatever. I can be flexible sometimes if the story is worth it, and I think it is in this case. 

 

I also really appreciated the balance given to Noah's coming out. Too many authors think that conservative = hates all the gays. And yes, this is a larger problem with that demographic than it is among liberals, but there's also a spectrum. Not everyone meets the stereotype checklist, so I liked that Noah was met with both understanding and acceptance by some and misguided "help" by others.

 

I don't know if we'll have another book with these two later, but I hope so. I'd love to catch up with them at some point.

 

Narration: Sean Crisden isn't my favorite narrator. I find his regular reading voice to be on the droll side, but he voices these two well, and doesn't do that high-pitched thing for the women voices like some guys do, and he hit the emotional queues pretty well. 

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review 2016-04-30 05:37
Desert Foxe
Desert Foxe - Haley Walsh
Yes! Time for more fun and hijinks with Skylar, Keith and the SFC. This time, they're heading for the White Party in Palm Springs for a weekend of sexy good times with their boyfriends. Murder and Mayhem - and a couple of delinquent teens - have other ideas.

This was fun, and funny. I laughed several times, and I still enjoy hanging around with these guys. Walsh mixed things up a bit. Nearly the entire story takes place within a 24-hour time span, and most of that over the course of the night, so it's more condensed than other stories in this series. It was a great way to keep the momentum going (sort of, more on that in a sec) and helped with the suspense of disbelief as there was less time for all these guys to stop and ask if they should be doing what they're doing. (Some of them - No! Some of them - Yes!)

We also get multiple POVs for the first time, getting to see events taking place when Skylar isn't there. I did like getting to see glimpses of the other characters without it being filtered later with the "tell and catch up" aspect we get in previous books. There were a lot of sweet and touching moments between the various characters that just wouldn't have worked hearing about them second-hand, and we got to see how these characters actually relate to each other on their own.

The only thing I didn't like about this was that the storylines aren't told chronologically. Maybe that was an attempt to amp up tension and suspense, and maybe that would've worked better if I'd read it instead of listened to it. It didn't quite work for me, whatever the case, and I thought it would've flowed better and tighter if the storylines were closer together. It would've meant more scene jumps, but it would've kept the momentum going too, instead of stopping a scene mid-action, and then jumping to somewhere else to play catch up with the other guys. That's just my opinion though. Others might not have the same issues and prefer it the way it's told.

There are a couple of niggles: the generic "Asian" guy. Asia's a pretty large continent. Is he Russian? Chinese? Cambodian? Indian? Israeli? Like, if you have a Canadian character, you wouldn't call him the North American. I would really like to see authors at least narrow down "Asian" to a specific country, if nothing else.

I know some people will have issues with the terms "Native American" and "Indian" being used interchangeably. I personally don't see how one is really better or worse than the other. But my opinion doesn't matter and I'm not getting into that here. Just follow this link to see what actual Natives feel on the topic, because they're really the only ones who have the right to be picky about this:
http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2015/05/21/blackhorse-do-you-prefer-native-american-or-american-indian-6-prominent-voices-respond

Narration: Joel Leslie is back and he... sounds like he's getting over a cold? I actually stopped the first chapter to see if it was the same narrator. After I finished the book, I even went back and downloaded an earlier book, wondering if it'd just been too long and I'd forgotten what he sounded like, that maybe after the smooth silkiness of Chris Patton, Leslie just sounded gruffer by comparison. Part of it was that, but his voice is a wee bit on the scratchy side here. I hope he wasn't sick and it was just an issue of recording equipment instead. :( To be clear, he still knocks it out of the park and does a great job, overall, especially with all the SFC. Except he mispronounced "dour" as "doer" at one point. I did have issue with his "big guy" voice, or Keith's voice. I love it for Keith's voice. I didn't love it when it was used for the other "big guys" as there wasn't enough of a difference and it made it a little hard to follow along sometimes when there was more than one "big guy" in the scene.
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