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review 2017-06-26 03:17
CatStronauts: Race to Mars (graphic novel) by Drew Brockington
CatStronauts: Race to Mars - Drew Brockington

The CatStronauts are back and...they're kind of bored. And not really doing much besides accepting awards and going to free lunches and dinners held in their honor. But then the CatStronauts are called back into action. It turns out that several other space programs around the world are planning Mars missions, and the CatStronauts are the last ones to get involved. Will they lose to the CosmoCats or one of the other two groups, or will they triumph and be the first cats to land on Mars?

In some ways, this volume felt a little more solid than CatStronauts: Mission Moon. For example, the internal logic was much better. However, it also had less of the first volume’s silly fun, and the competition between the various space programs made things a little more tense overall. Sometimes the cats had to prioritize between their “race to Mars” timeline and the scientific experiments they wanted to do once they got to Mars, because there wasn’t enough time to get everything done. Brockington included some nice visual jokes and random references in the background (I noticed Star Wars, Star Trek, and maybe Teletubbies), but overall this volume didn’t seem quite as light as the first one, even though there was less at stake.

Each space program seemed to be analogous to a real-life space program, although I wasn’t 100% certain about one of them. The CosmoCats were definitely Russian, and the COOKIE mission (quick and inexpensive) appeared to be Indian. I wasn’t sure about the MEOW mission. Maybe German? I came across another reviewer who seemed to think it was a stand-in for Luxembourg.

Much of the volume was devoted to showing the various space programs preparing to go to Mars. Anytime someone decided to remove something from their Mars mission “To Do” list in the interest of saving time, or pushed their employees too hard, I wondered if and when it would come back to bite them. The CosmoCats were presented as villains,

at least at first

(spoiler show)

. One of the top CosmoCats was especially willing to do whatever he had to in order to be the first to get to Mars, setting a grueling pace for their workers and creating terrible working conditions.

In the end, though, this turned out to be a story about learning to work together.

The supposed villains really weren’t.

(spoiler show)

I loved seeing Pom Pom and Gemelli bonding over their shared love of science, and it was kind of nice to see that even the oh-so-serious Major Meowser wasn’t infallible. I was also glad that Cat-Stro-Bot got to have a role in this story too, although its part in the story became a little chaotic and confusing near the end.

All in all, the first volume was a little more fun than this one, but this one seemed to be a bit more solid and well-thought-out.

A side note: this volume made me realize that I’d made some character design assumptions that weren’t necessarily true. For example, cats whose eyes were drawn so that they had eyelashes were female, while cats whose eyes were just dots were male, meaning that all the CatStronauts were male. Or so I thought. I don’t know if pronouns were used in the first volume and I just missed them, but the second volume definitely referred to Pom Pom using she/her pronouns.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-06-15 04:42
Princess Princess Ever After (graphic novel) by Katie O'Neill
Princess Princess Ever After - Katie O'Neill

When Princess Amira stops to save Princess Sadie from the tall tower she’s been imprisoned in, Sadie almost turns her away. So many others have tried to save her, but all have failed. However, Amira is enthusiastic, determined, and in possession of both a grappling hook and an incredibly strong cookie-loving unicorn.

That’s just the beginning of Amira and Sadie’s adventures. Along the way, they make some new friends, Amira learns more about being a hero, and Sadie finds the courage to face her sister and rule her kingdom.

I bought this because I heard it was a sweet f/f graphic novel. It was super cute, although a bit too short for my tastes. I wanted more pages devoted to Amira and Sadie getting to know each other - Sadie’s “I trust you” happened very early on and was a bit jarring. When the villain appeared and disappeared in the space of about a page, I started worrying that the pacing of this graphic novel just wasn’t going to work for me.

Thankfully, the story smoothed out after that. I really enjoyed Amira and Sadie’s encounters with the prince and the ogre, as well as the flashbacks to Amira and Sadie’s pasts. Amira and Sadie were cute together (complete with blushing, rose petals, and background roses!).

One thing I hadn’t realized until I started working on this review was that Princess Princess Ever After was originally published as a webcomic called Princess Princess, which is still available on Katie O’Neill’s website. I’ve clicked through it and there are some artwork changes between it and Princess Princess Ever After, some of which I liked and some of which I didn’t.

One thing I liked was that Sadie’s sister’s magic was changed from purple to black - it looks creepier in the print version. One thing I didn’t like was that the print version’s colors were slightly less bright than in the original web comic. Not only is this the sort of story that’s practically made for bright colors, some of the panels just weren’t as clear in the print version. Considering that this graphic novel had several black characters, a bit more attention should have been paid to whether they’d still show up okay in panels with darker backgrounds. The panels featuring Prince Taji were really dark - his skin color seemed to almost be the same shade as the wall behind him, resulting in him blending into the background too much. In the webcomic he was perfectly visible, and I could see that he actually had some shading.

The print version includes a 3-page epilogue that isn’t present in the original webcomic. I’m really glad that O’Neill added it. It doesn’t just serve as extra content for folks who’ve read the webcomic, it also makes it clear that, yes, Amira and Sadie are not only a couple, they also get a nice little happily ever after just like any other fairy tale couple.

This was a fluffy and sweet graphic novel about two different princesses becoming more capable in their own ways and falling in love in the process. I wish it were maybe twice as long and that the print version’s colors were a little brighter, but overall this was a good read.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2016-05-30 22:01
Little Robot (graphic novel) by Ben Hatke
Little Robot - Ben Hatke

I recently cataloged this for the library where I work. I thought it looked cute, so I checked it out.

The story's pretty short: a little girl (we're never told her name) skips school and goes off to play on her own. A few hours earlier, a box fell out of a truck and landed in a river. The girl finds the box, opens it, and accidentally starts up the robot inside. The girl and robot have fun playing together, but their budding friendship is threatened by their differences (the little robot is aware that it's not human and wants to meet others like itself) and by the large and menacing robot that wants to take the little robot back to its factory.

There was only one moment in this that didn't sit well with me. At one point, the little girl, worried that the robot would leave her, locked it up. She did this so that she'd have time to try to create some friends for it and thereby convince it to stick around, but it was still a rotten thing for her to do to the robot she wanted to befriend.

It wasn't a deal-breaker for me, though, because of the way it was handled. The little robot got upset with the girl for what she'd done, and things didn't go nearly as well as she'd planned. And when she was faced with the same situation later on, she didn't make the same mistake, and things went better.

All in all, this was a cute story that managed to communicate a lot despite hardly having any text. The girl had guts and a good heart, even if her social skills needed a bit of work (which made sense, considering that she seemed to spend all or most of her time alone). The various robots were nice, and I loved the little fix-it bot as long as I didn't try to think too hard about what it could do. I was left with a lot of questions, but I did enjoy this overall.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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