Elite, all boy’s school Shoryu Senior High has just officially gone coed and among the handful of females attending for the first time ever is Rinna Aizen, who longs to join the boy’s cheering squad so that she can live up to her old man’s cheering legacy at the school.

Dragon Girl is an extremely light hearted read that’s condensed into two oversized volumes which follow feisty go-getter Rinna as she takes on maniacal student council presidents, cross-dressing rival cheerleaders,  boys who are desperate to photograph her panties and her own kinda weird obsession with her father. It’s pure wackiness mixed with a tiny pinch of romance and a lot of enthusiastic students shouting “I’m going to give it my ALL!”

The story is a little chaotic at first, especially because almost every member of the ensemble cast is introduced in the first handful of pages. But the non-stop action and rotating cast is a plus in the long run and it won‘t take you long to figure out who‘s who (the character bios sprinkled throughout the book are helpful).

The heroine, Rinna, is sweetly single-minded and has a curly ponytail that sort of trails off of her head like a cloud. The other characters in the series are manga staples: the withdrawn genius with glasses, the guy who’s so gorgeous that everyone thinks he’s a girl, the arrogant mean guy who‘s kinda hot, the vague conglomerate of friends distinguishable only by their hairstyles, etc. The stand out character is the cheer squad’s overly intense captain, who looks like Jack Sparrow if someone took a straightening iron to him.

I’m a big fan of the random filler episodes in most anime where the characters do something mundane and wackiness ensues, and Dragon Girl feels a lot like that. The characters are so much fun and the plot moves so quickly that the oversized book doesn’t feel encumbering in the least. It’s a fun read that’s nicely packaged, has fantastic art and is very nearly appropriate for everyone (the word “fag” is used too casually for me to say this is an all ages book). Overall, I give it my stamp of approval.

The holidays are upon us.  Here at Laughing Ogre we try and make your life a little easier with our 2011 Gift Guide.  Since our entire selection of  showcase books are on sale for 20% and those make the perfect gift for someone just getting started with comics.  Over the next few days we’ll be posting suggestions for those “hard to buy for” individuals.  All of these suggestions are 15% off and is not cumulative with your discount.  To start out we’ll go over some of suggestions for the:

Marvel Universe

Iron Man Extremis Statue

 Thor by Walt Simonson Omnibus

Considered by many to be the greatest run on Thor ever, Walt Simonson’s classic tales of the God of Thunder are collected here-completely remastered from the original artwork and newly colored by Steve Oliff

Spider-Man Vault

The Spider-Man Vault is a vivid collection of images and ephemera focused on a dynamic exploration Spider-Man’s character, providing a complete biography through his development in comic books, mass media, and popular culture. This museum-in-a-book includes 20 rare removable collectibles taken from the Marvel vaults!

X-Men Dark Phoenix Saga HC

When the Dark Phoenix rises, suns grow cold and universes die! Gathered by Charles Xavier, the X-Men have dedicated their wondrous abilities to protect mankind – even those who hate and fear them. Now, these incredible individuals embark on an adventure that will span the expanse of the cosmos. One of their own, Jean Grey, has unwittingly attained power beyond conception – and been corrupted, absolutely. The X-Men must decide: Is the life of the woman they cherish worth the existence of an entire universe?

Captain America by Ed Brubaker Omnibus HC Vol. 1

Collecting Eisner Award-nominated Best Writer Ed Brubaker’s first twenty-five landmark issues of Captain America in one titanic tome, plus the Captain America 65th Anniversary Special and Winter Soldier: Winter Kills one-shots!

Wolverine by Jason Aaron Omnibus HC Vol. 1

He’s the best there is at what he does – and Wolverine’s not so bad, either. Now, writer Jason Aaron’s (PUNISHERMAX, Scalped) entire character-defining run leading to “Wolverine Goes to Hell” is collected in one massive, bone-shattering volume. Joined by some of comics’ top artists, Aaron pits Wolverine against a platoon of Adamantium-enhanced mercenaries, super-powered kung-fu gangsters, time-traveling reanimated killers and – in a brutal, no-holds-barred battle that may destroy them both – Mystique.

Hulk World War Hulk HC

An epic story of anger unbound! Exiled by a group of Marvel “heroes” to the savage alien planet of Sakaar, the Hulk raged, bled and conquered – rising from slave to gladiator to king. Now, the Hulk returns to Earth to wreak his terrible vengeance on Iron Man, Reed Richards, Doctor Strange and Black Bolt – and anyone else who gets in the way. Stronger than ever, accompanied by his monstrous Warbound gladiator allies and possessed by the fiercest and purest rage imaginable, the Hulk may just tear this stupid planet in half!

Dark Avengers HC

There they are, a new team of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, the sunlight gleaming off their smiling faces and an adoring crowd on hand to cheer them as they take the stage! Spider-Man, Wolverine, Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye – you know them, you love them! They’re your Avengers, and they are here to protect you! Except…things are not as they appear. With the real Avengers underground, who are these heroes that look like them, and why have they been assembled? The Dark Reign has begun, and the Dark Avengers are at the epicenter of Norman Osborn’s insane plans for the Marvel Universe!

Hi There, Fellow Readers!

Well, I’m still wading through all the new DC titles. I’ve dropped a few already, but am continuing to read many of them as well. One thing that has stuck out in my head is that the writers are at least TRYING to make things a bit more “real.” I mean, in the past, Superman was immediately hailed as a Superhero! Now, he’s kept at arm’s length as an “alien.” In today’s paranoid world, that sounds a bit more accurate, unfortunately.

Regardless of how well these writers are trying to keep it real, none of them are even coming close to a past effort from the master of Hard Sci Fi, Mr. Larry Niven when he penned his essay entitled, “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex.” As the authors says himself: “The purpose of this article is to point out some medical drawbacks to being a kryptonian among human beings, and to suggest possible solutions. The kryptonian humanoid must not be allowed to go the way of the pterodactyl and the passenger pigeon.”

Now, Niven’s essay is not for all ages, so if you’re a kiddie out there, please check with your parents first before reading this thing. It’s not “dirty” by any means, but Niven clearly and in-detail goes through the different problems that Supes would have procreating with LL (or any Earth woman for that matter).  To give you a “scrubbed” example of what you can expect to find, just think of what might happen if Superman lost all voluntary muscular control while…let’s say…giving a nice young lady a hug. Get it? If you don’t, then PLEASE don’t hit the following link to read the articlein its entirety: http://www.rawbw.com/~svw/superman.html

Personally, I think the whole piece is brilliant and takes comic realism to a whole new level.  Oh, and the essay was published in two different short story collections of Niven’s that I am aware of: “N-Space” and “All the Myriad Ways.” Both are great reads on their own.

Enjoy!

Keeping it real,

Mike

…well, then write a blog entry, I suppose.

Quite frankly, I’m tired of reading new first issues. I long for the days of reading a good old issue twelve. Ahhhhh. But rather than make this a long entry about everything that is either boring me or annoying me, I’m just gonna give ya a few highlights of my favorite things I’m hating on and a few of the things I’m crushing on as well. And before anyone writes back, reminding me that superheroes are fictional and don’t have to follow the rules of the real world, I have the following to say to you: “Duh.” Now, here’s the list of things I’m hating:

1. Green Arrow’s bow. Through some advanced science, it springs forth from what looks like an old fashioned telephone receiver. Problem: how the #$@% does it string itself through all the pulleys in an instant?
2. Action Comics. Opens with Supes strapped to an electric chair. Throughout the first part of the book, Luthor and fellow meanies go on about how they can’t draw blood and that needles break, yada yada yada. Except, he’s bleeding in almost every friggin frame of the book! Want some blood, Lex? Try a cue tip.
3. Omac #2. Brother Eye. Super intelligent, sentient, machine-ish villain. And yet on the last page, he uses the word “insure” instead of “ensure.” I’d like to think that the writers were being witty using an “i” instead of an “e” for “insure,” but in my heart, I know that’s not the case.

And here are some things I’m digging:

1. Animal Man, still. Story is getting interesting while staying dark and macabre. And the art is cool. Check this out if you haven’t yet. I’m liking the integration of his daughter who seems to have more powerful…um…powers than Animal Man does himself. And the Red, being at the center of his connection with animals? Good story!
2. I, Vampire has some great, moody artwork, even if the back and forth of the narrative between present and past can be clunky at times. This feels like a real story that is being told and I’m liking it so far.
3. Finally, Aquaman. I have never liked Aquaman as a hero. He talks to fish, he swims, maybe he loses a hand and grows a beard and gets hair like Fabio. But he’s never been really all that interesting. Until now. DC has given him super strength (making him a bit more Namor-like) and a sense of humor about himself. The writers know that he hasn’t been that popular and it comes across through the characters’ dialogue as good natured self-ribbing. And the artwork is gorgeous, too! I can’t believe it, but I’m gonna buy this book for a bit and see where it goes.

So, there ya go. I think next week I will do something different than reviewing comics. I’m about half way through the Norwegian movie, “Troll.” Look for a review of that next week. ☺

Peace.

One of the biggest hurdles faced by the comic book industry is how to attract new readers. With storylines where continuity can span nearly a century, it’s hard to convince people to get on board. “I won’t understand what’s happening,“ people say. “I like to start at the beginning.” Recently, DC made the decision to relaunch all of their titles and begin at the birth of the DC Universe in an attempt to attract new readers and old readers who’ve fallen off the wagon over the years.

But I’m going to testify that it’s not necessary to wait for a giant reboot to start reading comics. If you’ve ever turned on a TV show halfway through and been able to catch on to what’s happening (even if you‘ve never seen the show before), then you know what I mean. I know it can seem intimidating to try something you’ve never tried before, but here are some tips to get you going:

(Note: This guide is also applicable if you already read comics and want to get your kids/family members/significant other on board. Or, if you read comics but you want to expand what you’re into.)

1.) Go with what you already know you like. The first thing I ask someone who comes into the store asking me for suggestions is “What kind of movies/books do you like?” Like books and movies, there are genres of comics, from superhero, to horror, to romance, western, science fiction, fantasy, memoirs, humor and what have you. Thinking about what you already know you’re into can help narrow your search for the perfect book.

Also, a lot of comics and graphic novels are based on works in other mediums. So if you like Jane Austin, you might enjoy the graphic novel based on her famous work ‘Emma’. If you love video games, look for comic series based on your favorite games like Deus Ex, Mass Effect, Batman: Arkham City and Infamous (a game inspired by superhero comic books). If you liked Scott Pilgrim The Movie, you’ll probably love Scott Pilgrim The Series. Or if you just can’t get enough of Star Wars, there are literal shelves filled with graphic novels based on the movies, ranging from stuff that’s kid oriented to grown up stuff.

2.) Look for authors who’s work you’re familiar with. A lot of authors have dabbled in comic writing. Any why not? It’s got to be awesome to see your words brought to life through illustration. For example, Jodi Picoult has written for Wonder Woman and Kevin Smith is currently writing for Green Hornet and The Bionic Man. And Steven King’s son Joe Hill writes amazing horror comics like Locke and Key and The Cape.

3.) Follow your gut feeling. If something is appealing to you in anyway, check it out! Even if it’s something superficial like a character design or a bit if dialogue that attracting you, you might have just stumbled onto something good. This is the very unscientific way I discover new books. If something is calling to me from the shelf, I check it out and 9 times out of 10, I’m not disappointed.

4.) Don’t be afraid to jump in in the middle. This goes along with tip number 3. If a book looks interesting to you, even if it’s currently on issue 600, just check it out. You’ll probably be able to surmise what’s going on, and for every character who’s back-story you don’t know, there’s Wikipedia. Or you can just ask someone. Again, I do this all the time. If I tried to go back and start at number one every time I was interested in a book, I probably wouldn’t be reading anything right now. Not only is it impossible to read every X-men ever written, it’s improbable that I would enjoy all the stories anyway. So I just start reading where I feel like starting, and I go back and read older, collected works when a storyline intrigues me enough.

5.) Read trades. Trade paperbacks are collections of issues printed and bound together that tell a complete story. Trades are a great way to get into reading comic books with a long continuity. You’ll get a full story, and you can jump around and read the trades that highlight some of the best work done for the character you’re interested in. It’ll also help you feel out which writers are your favorites.

6.) Check out some web comics or go to the library. If you’re afraid to spend money on something you’re not sure you’re going to like, there are other opinions. Most libraries have a selection of trades and graphic novels. Checking a few out will help you get a feel for what you like. A web comic will offer you the same chance to get a feel for the medium, plus web comics tend to be tailored for really specific niche audiences, so you have a better chance to find exactly what tickles your fancy.

7.) Ask someone to help you. If you have a friend that reads comics, I’m sure she’d be happy to show you her favorite series and stories. If you don’t know anyone who reads, you can always ask for help at the comic book store. Just try and be somewhat prepared for the inevitable “What are you into?” question. This tip applies if you’re just looking for something new to read as well. Speaking as a comic store employee, I can say I’m happy to point out books that I’m enthusiastic about. Also, I’d never recommend anything that I didn’t genuinely enjoy.

That’s it, kids. It’s pretty simple. Thanks for reading and hopefully this helped.