When I started playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in December of 2017, I was immediately entranced by the beautiful, open-world design of the game, the immersive storyline, and the intricate character design. For me, the game mechanics were (and remain) secondary to the more narrative elements of the text. I was thrilled to receive a review copy of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild - Creating a Champion, because it allowed me to further indulge in the rich fantasy space of the Zelda universe.
Little Guardians: Volume 2 - Bandits and Betrayers opens in media res, partway through the attempted robbery of Verdo the Whole-Saler by a group of unidentified ruffians, setting the reader up to expect troubles for Verdo (now with only half of his stock), as well as the return of the ruffians and the treat of lawlessness they bring. Good thing for Subira’s mentor and guide who expertly cons their way out of the village for Guardian training, so that Subira can earn her spirit orb. Or, this is the story that is forecast in the opening pages; we don’t get much exploration of Subira and her story in this installment. Instead, we get a bit of movement in her storyline. She is well on her way to Guardian training by the end!—and a lot of stage-setting in her home village of Yowza that helps to build stakes for her eventual, triumphant return.
After I arranged to review this book, the publisher sent me a physical copy of the second installment of Gengoroh Tagame’s My Brother’s Husband. This is the first time I’ve received a physical review copy of a text, making My Brother’s Husband: Volume 2 a bit of an outlier in my review experience. The decision to send a physical book is eminent, as it drew my attention to several features and oddities inherent to the text. My Brother’s Husband is a manga, which means that it is meant to be read from right to left (the reverse of traditional left-to-right page and book orientation in most of Western publishing). For a Canadian reader who is broadly unfamiliar with Japanese publishing, and with manga in particular, the experience of reading this text was different; my awareness of page layouts and pacing was heightened, and I was vividly reminded of the text’s form every time I turned a page. The decision, then, to send a physical copy of the text was pragmatic, as it enabled me to make a closer, more detailed account of the ways that My Brother’s Husband is, at its core, a queer text.
Minority Monsters is an extremely cute, fun, accessible guide to sex, gender, and power. It may sound like I’m being flippant, but I mean nothing of the sort. Minority Monsters takes the reader through the fabled Alphabet Soup Land alongside our curious, well-intentioned guide— Frank Aura, the explorer— as he meets, observes, and interviews a wide variety of gender and sexuality non-conformers who are cast as a wide range of mythical beasts. From Sir Fabulous the bisexual unicorn (who is not invisible, thankyouverymuch) to Vlad the Vegan Vanilla Vampire, the text covers as full a spectrum of expressions of gender and sexual identity (and their various intersections) as one could hope to see in a comic. Each of the monsters is centered in their own right: Each is able to tell their own identity story and sometimes answer Frank Aura’s misguided questions— always with grace and often with humor.
If you enjoyed the unsettling deep dive into Allister Ward’s presumed psychosis that was Knight in the Snake Pit #1, the second installment is sure to please you. Allister remains trapped between the dark world of the asylum and the fantastic quest—complete with a king, a dragon, fellow knights, and an unnamed, yet harrowing, enemy-- that invades his reality, with no further clues to aid him in deciphering between reality and fantasy (Read: psychosis.) than he is left with at the end of volume one. The plot, nevertheless, progresses; the stakes are raised right off the bat when Allister is left to take the fall for several dead bodies, and all of the various sides that seem to be wrestling for both his body and his mind approach him with an added urgency. To make matters worse, it seems that the question of trust is muddied on all sides; Allister must learn who he can trust, but also prove that he is trustworthy, all with a limited grasp of his world and an inability to ground himself fully in either space.
In his introductory note, David Petersen describes Mouse Guard: The Black Axe as a creator’s quest, a text that challenged him to produce more detailed characters and worlds alongside a standard quest narrative. Two mice, Em and Celanwe, discover that they are distantly related and the last living members of their bloodline, and they go in search of the Black Axe - a prized family artifact. Their quest takes them to distant lands and into the kingdom of dangerous enemies, and it is well balanced with character development and worldbuilding.
Hazel and Mari are each other’s one true love in a time when same-sex attraction is seen as repulsive, and even sinful. Torn apart by their families, they each find socially suitable partners (men), marry, have children and grandchildren, and build their careers. When they eventually reunite, they find their love has remained over time, and this time, they can’t let it go. Bingo Love is a tale of heartbreak, social change, and redemption.
Knight in the Snake Pit #1 is a chilling comic that tells the beginning of the story of Allister Ward, a man who wakes up in an asylum with no memories and no concept of why he’s there. Madness is the only constant in Allister’s life, and the text follows him as he moves between a confusing, maddening reality and paranoid episodes with narrative coherence and structure far beyond what he experiences otherwise.
A lonely, brooding detective takes on the case of an ex-girlfriend, only to have two things confirmed: He won’t get the girl, but is he a great detective.
The Jem and the Holograms: Dimensions comics run has made some great progress in terms of LGBTQ2* representation and race and body type diversity while still centering music and taking its aesthetics from the '80s pop-punk scene, and this installment furthers that work. Comics in the Dimensions series include two short stories each, with the ultimate intention of showing Jem, the Holograms, the Misfits, and even a pretty well-developed set of groupies in a multi-dimensional way through extended world building and character development. Each story is written and drawn by a rotating crew, meaning that each comic contains two distinct story and art styles. This installment includes Sarah Kuhn and Siobhan Keenan’s “Face Off” and Sarah Winifrid Searle’s “Star Girl.”