Robots vs. Princesses Volume 1 – Todd Matthy

Illustrations – Nicolas Chapuis

Robots versus anything is always going to be something that interests me and with the “Transformers meet Disney Princesses” marketing attached to this graphic novel I couldn’t help myself. I had to check this one out.

Princess Zara is the only princess who hasn’t chosen her animal for the upcoming recital. The princess’ songs tame wild beasts and apparently the recital is a good place to find yourself a prince.

I’m not certain if Princess Zara is actively seeking a prince but she does want a baby dragon (don’t we all?!) so she sneaks off to the Forbidden Woods to find one.

Meanwhile Wheeler, a robot, decides it’s time to bail on the chaos of Chromia and the abuse he has suffered there.

Zara and Wheeler’s introduction is understandably awkward,

especially when you realise Zara’s song has somehow transformed this downtrodden robot into a mechanical dragon. But not everyone is happy about their new friendship. Well, it’s only sort of a friendship in the beginning. Zara is using Wheeler to wow the crowd at the recital but she does appear to like him as well and they do become friends during the story.

I’m not sure the wild animals of Harmonia would be overly thrilled by being mind controlled by random princess songs and forced to do housework, make clothing or dance on cue.

Sure, they are smiling but are they happy or is this Stockholm syndrome?! Only their therapists know for sure. Anyway, moving on …

Battle scenes and background information ensue, along with some sweet conversations about friendship. We learn a little about the Centurions and the Decimators. Then, before you know it, it’s time for the big battle that’s been centuries in the making.

The battle rages on until what I thought was going to be an Obi-Wan Kenobi moment

turned into, um, the possibility of something else. 😜

Okay, time to get your mind out of the gutter! They don’t mean the euphemism.

The princesses and robots make for an unusual but fun combination. It was nice to see the princesses involved in the battle scenes and while this story is self contained there are definitely strong hints that a sequel could be in the works. I enjoyed the story but it’s not one that I plan to reread.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Dynamite Entertainment and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When plucky Princess Zara stumbles upon the Decimator defector Wheeler, she sets in motion events that will pit the spritely cleverness of fairy tale princesses against the raw power of giant robots! The dream match you never thought you’d see begins here.

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Mystery of the Missing Adults – Scott Bryan Wilson

Illustrations – Bob Solanovicz

It’s Nancy Drew’s first day at Bayport High School, having moved from River Heights, and who should she bump into in the school library but Frank and Joe, A.K.A, The Hardy Boys.

With these three young sleuths in the one place you know a mystery is on its way.

Your first clue that something isn’t quite right with the adults in this town are the classic cartoon hypnotised spiral eyes Coach Strohm is sporting.

Nancy, Frank and Joe decide there’s a mystery to solve when they figure out all of the adults are MIA. What I found even more interesting was the Mystery of the Teenagers Voluntarily Attending School Without Adult Supervision. Surprisingly they all returned to school the following day even though the town’s entire adult population are still missing. This is briefly addressed

but I still don’t buy it. Even the skeleton in the science classroom had enough sense to leave the building before the students arrived for school on Day 2. Oh, wait. I guess a skeleton that wanders off is pretty mysterious too.

By the third day our resident detective kids have finally decided to ditch school to investigate. Joe feels bad about his truancy even though there are still no adults there to notice his absence.

Throughout the story Nancy spouts random facts about random things that no one else seems to care about, such as the type of driver’s licence and addendum required to allow someone with a learner’s permit to legally drive a bus. Nancy also goes undercover in Vansant; they’re Bayport’s rival school. This leads to one of those good ol’ ‘put on your disguise in the phone box’ sequences, not that anyone in Vansant knows who she is.

Nancy is a bit of a contradiction in this story; she seems to be smart yet she doesn’t know how to use the stove. Meanwhile Frank and Joe spent their spare time fighting one another.

While I already knew Nancy, I wasn’t acquainted with anyone from Bayport High so I was initially very appreciative of the early introduction to the usual suspects via a sneak peek at their yearbook photos. It turns out I didn’t need to use these as cheat sheets but still thought it was a good way to quickly introduce a number of characters.

After the mystery is solved there are some bonus activities for kids: a crossword, join the dots, spot the differences, find a word, memory test and colouring page.

I’d be interested in learning what kids who read this graphic novel think of it, specifically whether they want to read more about Nancy Drew or The Hardy Boys. Although I haven’t read a lot of Nancy Drew books (okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve read one, but I have watched the latest movie too), her personality in this graphic novel didn’t line up with what I expected, particularly when she had a dummy spit.

Their portrayal in this graphic novel doesn’t make me want to learn anything more about Frank and Joe Hardy but because Nancy’s personality didn’t ring true to me perhaps I’d find Frank and Joe more likeable if I read some of their books.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Dynamite Entertainment and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this graphic novel. I had high hopes but unfortunately it wasn’t for me.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Eating candy nonstop and watching TV all day sounds great … until you actually do it, as the kids of Bayport High find out when all the adults vanish, and the world’s greatest (high school) detectives – the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew – have to team up to solve the mystery!

Whether it’s going under cover, sneaking out at night, chasing weird buses, or following a strange smell, they know it’ll take all their wits and smarts to get their parents and teachers back … that is, if Joe and Frank don’t kill each other first.

Oh, and there’s also the matter of the skeleton that can walk. And a major feud with a rival high school. And a koala-in-a-diaper costume. And lawlessness in the hallways. And an unrequited crush …

James Bond: Black Box – Benjamin Percy

Illustrations – Rapha Lobosco

Colours – Chris O’Halloran

“Bond. James Bond.” I got roped into watching a whole bunch of these movies as a kid. I loved watching the gadgets in action, was oblivious to the innuendos soaring over my head and was terrified by some of the baddies. Yes, Jaws, I’m talking about you!

Rewatching a few of the early movies as an adult made me aware of some of the more problematic aspects of his character but aside from those particular niggles I still enjoy movies with big action sequences, gadgets and oodles of baddies. I haven’t watched a Bond movie in a few years but thought it would be fun to test drive a Bond graphic novel, and it was.

Black Box gets straight into the action

and introduces our potential leading lady (who incidentally isn’t immediately charmed by 007)

before the theme song earwig has had a chance to burrow its way into your brain.

007’s latest mission, Operation Black Box, requires him to travel to Tokyo to track down a “cache of digital secrets”. Evil hackers are ready to release your deepest, darkest digital secrets to the world! Let’s go get ‘em!

Yes, James does have a Licence to Kill. In fact, it’s expected. The big bad in this story is Saga Genji, who is responsible for the cyber theft, but my favourite character was his difficult to kill henchman, No Name, who makes up for his dodgy moniker with his creepy collection of death masks.

Armed with mission appropriate fancy gadgets and some even fancier new wheels

Bond is ready to face off with some baddies, but not before asking Boothroyd, the gadget guy (Q, I presume), to do some cyberstalking for him. Potential leading lady (she does have a name. It’s Selah Sax) isn’t getting away from 007 as quickly as she had hoped. Or perhaps it is Selah that is stalking James …

The usual Bond stuff happens. There’s gambling, alcohol, sex scenes, fight scenes where people get The Living Daylights beaten out of them, an explosion and a high speed pursuit, catchphrases, double entendres and a good ol’ villain monologue. Bond utilises his cool gadgets but also manages to improvise when the need arises. Who knew a selfie stick would make such a good weapon?!

I’m glad I read this graphic novel. After all, You Only Live Twice. 😜 It was a fun, quick read with plenty of action.

Content warnings include mention of suicide.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Dynamite Entertainment and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In the snowbound French Alps, James Bond finds himself in the crosshairs of an assassin who targets other assassins. This is the first puzzle piece in a larger adrenaline-fueled mystery that will send Bond across the globe to infiltrate the underworld, risk everything in high-stakes casino gambling, evade deadly pursuers, and root out a digital breach threatening global security.

Sweet Valley High #1: Academic All-Star? – Katy Rex

Illustrations – Devaki Neogi

After spending much time, effort and money going through an ‘if I could turn back time’ phase several years ago collecting The Baby-Sitters Club books, I turned my attention to another set of childhood memories, those involving Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield. After more time, effort, money and an entire box full of Sweet Valley High books later I realised how impossibly large the task I’d set for myself really was.

It turns out Sweet Valley High series not only contained over 150 books, but it also had multiple Super Editions, Super Thrillers, Super Stars, Magna Editions and TV Editions. Then there were the plethora of spinoffs, which themselves oftentimes had their own special editions:

  • Sweet Valley Kids with Super Snoopers, Hair Raiser Super Special and Super Specials
  • Sweet Valley Twins with Super Editions, Super Chillers, Magna Editions, The Unicorn Club and Team Sweet Valley
  • Sweet Valley Junior High
  • Sweet Valley High Senior Year
  • Sweet Valley University with Super Thrillers
  • Elizabeth
  • Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later
  • The Sweet Life.

Eek! When I encountered these apparently never ending lists I reluctantly admitted defeat. I had to consider my sanity, budget and let’s not forget the need for magical, never ending bookcases. Then there was the fact that I hadn’t read a single SVH book since the 90’s so who knew if I’d even enjoy them as an adult!

So here we are, several years later and I still haven’t picked up my second hand copy of Double Love yet. Stumbling upon this graphic novel feels like cheating in a way but what a fun way to figure out if a SVH readathon will be in my near future or not.

I remember feeling so grown up reading the early books in the series on the beach as a pre-teen and having in depth conversations with friends about whether we were Jessica’s or Elizabeth’s. I always aspired to be like Elizabeth because she was the smart yet still gorgeous twin, the one who liked reading (what a surprise!) and I also aspired to find my own Todd. What was I thinking?! I don’t remember him being so vapid, whingey and clingy.

Ugh! Run, Elizabeth, run! Run as fast as you can!

Meanwhile, Jessica is being typical Jessica. She missed too many English classes so she has to take a class at Sweet Valley University, where the boys are older and much more mature than high school boys. Naturally the one she’s interested in is a T.A. Never one to shy away from manipulating a situation for her own benefit, Jessica decides she needs to dress more like Elizabeth so she can appear smarter and get her man!

As usual, Jessica is in love with the idea of being in love but there’s more to this crush than meets the eye. I seem to recall boy trouble and twin swaps being fairly consistent plot points in the original series and they’re front and centre here as well.

Jessica and her friends mention the Boosters several times, which is weird as this is Sweet Valley High. As far as I knew the Boosters were the Sweet Valley Middle School cheerleading squad from Sweet Valley Twins, not the high school one, whose name (if they had one) escapes me.

I wasn’t entirely sure about the introduction of modern technology in Sweet Valley but I didn’t mind after I got used to it. I even liked Jessica’s Instagram name: DEVILINABLUEJESS.

It may be due to the nature of the format or perhaps time has dampened my recollections but all of the characters’ personalities seem amplified in this graphic novel and it makes for a fun, dramatic read. When I was about halfway through the story I wasn’t sure I’d want to continue but with the introduction of a new boy (of course he’s cute! Isn’t that one of the prerequisites for living in Sweet Valley?) and some deviously unanswered questions dangling in the air I think I’ve accidentally gotten hooked. I’ll be there for the next installment and I expect to have as much nostalgic fun as I did during this one.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Dynamite Entertainment and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Jessica falls in love with her Shakespeare teacher, she begins to act like her studious twin sister Elizabeth to impress him. Now it’s up to Elizabeth to make sure that all’s well that end well – but with Jessica playing her role, will anyone be able to tell which twin is which?

Rainbow Brite Volume 1 – Jeremy Whitley

Illustrations – Brittney Williams

While I know for sure that I watched Rainbow Brite while I was growing up in the 80’s, the memory that stayed with me all of these years has been the merchandise, not the cartoon. I have fond memories of playing with this as a kid and can even remember the way the shiny part of her dress felt. I suspect this cartoon was also responsible for me rocking some pretty impressive rainbow shoelaces at the time.

Yet when I found the theme song and searched it for sparks of recognition I came away with barely a flicker.

I was still interested in taking a trip down memory lane, even though my memory appears foggy at best where Rainbow Brite and her friends from the colour wheel are concerned.

Wisp and Willow have had a fun day role playing as warrior and wizard. That night Wisp hears something outside.

Or maybe that’s three somethings. Minions of the King of Shadows, to be more specific. These guys are leeching all of the colour from Wisp and Willow’s world, starting with blue, which Wisp’s mother’s car was pre-minion. Twinkle the sprite appears and isn’t quite as cute or cuddly looking as I remember.

They also seemed a tad too focused on educating Wisp about etiquette and grammar while she was being chased by the massive minions and their glowing eyes. Anyway, Twinkle magics Wisp off to Rainbow Land, which doesn’t appear to be living up to its name right now.

During their time in Rainbow Land Twinkle and Wisp encounter a shadow hound, Murky Dismal, an evil scientist who cannot be all bad in my books because he has a jet pack fuelled by colour,

and Lurky, Murky’s monster/bodyguard. We also meet Red Flare, a colour guard who is definitely cuter than I expected them to be. They got lost in the 80’s (dude! rad!), appropriate given Rainbow Brite was created that decade. We’re even introduced to Starlite, a talking horse that doesn’t have any problems whatsoever with their self esteem, and some other sprites and colour guards.

I found the language disparate at times. Shortly after Wisp was calling the shadow hound a “doggy” Twinkle was spouting words like “disinclination” and giving lessons on prisms and wavelengths, making me wonder what age the target audience was supposed to be.

Incorporating issues 1 through 5, Volume 1 begins Rainbow Brite’s origin story and naturally ends with a cliffhanger. I was reintroduced to a lot of characters I haven’t thought about in decades and enjoyed the action. While I could leave the story at this point, even with so much up in the air, I expect I will read Volume 2 when it becomes available at the library.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Dynamite Entertainment and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Wisp and Willow are best friends who live in a small town. They are inseparable, until one night Wisp discovers something is stealing the colour from the world! To escape their grasp, Wisp must use her wits and the help of a new friend … from somewhere else! Then the adventure begins!

Follow along with writer Jeremy Whitley (My Little Pony, Unstoppable Wasp) and artist Brittney Williams (Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!, Goldie Vance) as we find out how this seemingly normal girl becomes Rainbow Brite and how it changes Wisp, Willow, and their world!

Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie – Anthony Del Col

Illustrations – Werther Dell’edera

I’m not quite sure how this happened but I made it through my entire childhood without reading a single Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book. I began to rectify this glaring hole in my bookish experience two years ago when my library bought the first few Nancy Drew books. I read and enjoyed the first two before getting distracted by another book. Here we are two years later and I’ve been distracted by so many other books that I haven’t read the third book or beyond. I’m yet to read a Hardy Boys book.

I was excited to have the opportunity to read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys: The Big Lie but when I tried to get into it the first time I was concerned that my lack of inside information about this trio would mean I would be lost before I started. I needn’t have worried. Finally giving up on getting to know Nancy better and the Hardy Boys at all first I dove into this graphic novel today and it was surprisingly awesome!

When I originally met book Nancy she came across to me as fitting a tad too well in the ’practically perfect in every way’ box but I loved her character in this noir graphic novel. This story shows Nancy, Frank and Joe with an edge that I’m guessing they never had in the novels.

In this story we find ourselves in postcard perfect Bayport. The Hardy Boys are suspects in their father’s murder and together with childhood friend and fellow mystery solver Nancy Drew, they need to find a way to clear their names and identify the real murderer. Along the way there are fist fights, suspicion thrown around some shady and not so shady characters, police brutality, flashbacks, meetings in the middle of the night and a good ol’ fashioned secret passageway left over from the Prohibition era.

I’m not sure how people who grew up loving Nancy, Frank and Joe will fare with what appears to be a hardening of their characters and a less innocent bunch of mystery solvers. I enjoyed the grittiness of the investigation and it probably says something about the feel of the graphic novel that in my head the male narrator/voice over had the same voice as Mickey Rourke’s Marv in Sin City.

I loved the front cover image, combining the trio and providing a hint of what’s to come. The illustrations matched the style of the story; dark, murky at times, with plenty of shadows to add to the ambience.

While one part of the mystery is solved in this graphic novel there’s an overarching mystery that remains to be solved another day, and it will definitely be a follow up I’ll be looking out for.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Dynamite Entertainment and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Volume collects issues 1-6.

A Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mystery unlike any other you’ve ever read! When the teenage brothers Frank and Joe Hardy are accused of the murder of their father – a detective in the small resort town of Bayport – they must team up with Nancy Drew to prove their innocence (and find the real guilty party in the process) in a twisting noir tale, complete with double-crosses, deceit, and dames. 

Writer Anthony Del Col (Assassin’s Creed, Kill Shakespeare) and artist Werther Dell’Edera (Batman: Detective Comics, House of Mystery) bring the iconic teen detectives into the modern age, and redefine noir for a new generation of readers!