David Hair’s Scarlet Tides, the second novel in his Moontide Quartet series, has been compared to great fantasy epics such as A Song of Ice and Fire and The Wheel of Time, and it easily earns it place amongst them. Spanning two continents, multiple countries, and countless cultures, Scarlet Tides follows the holy (and not so holy) wars, political machinations, alliances and betrayals, and magical maneuverings of powerful rulers in a game of thrones that would almost put the denizens of Westeros to shame; however, true influence is held by those who can wield magic, and they don’t always hold the same values as the ruling nobles. The person who comes out on top will depend entirely on who can control the most mages . . . and the mysterious Leviathan Bridge that only connects the two continents during periods of low seas known as Moontide.
Ian Lendler and Zack Giallongo’s all-ages graphic novel with a lengthy name, The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth, is an utterly captivating, child-friendly introduction to one of Shakespeare’s better-known tragedies. It takes a few liberties with the plot and doesn’t attempt to replicate the Bard’s exact words, but the heart of the story gets through to both readers and the highly critical animal audience!
Seventeen-year-old Liz Wynter wants to be unique, just like any teenager, but the technology in her head makes it clear that everything Liz does, thinks, dreams, or is has come before and will come again. Liz can’t even claim her DNA, since, in her futuristic galaxy, numerous women sharing her genetic code have lived, died, and are yet to be born. Her only escape is into the virtual world apps on her brain computer, but when her friend, Shane, introduces Liz to an app that will steal from other people’s mind computers, they accidentally access a program linked to a group who wants to overturn the Galactic Government and she becomes marked. Now, she’s struggling to find a way to stay one step ahead of the government agent who wants her dead, because how are you unpredictable when everything you and anyone else with your DNA has thought, done, or said is analyzed and on record?
In December 2012 creator Lonnie Mann took a 3 ½ day trip to Iceland, but instead of just sharing photos and souvenirs with his friends back home, he decided to create a comic documenting his adventures. While it’s not going to entertain someone who needs action and high tension in their plot, this modern take on the travelogue both charms and educates readers about Iceland.
Despite the title clearly aping that of Affleck’s thriller about a missing child, Gone Doggy Gone is not simply a parody of the aforementioned work. Instead, it examines LA dog culture through a loving, yet critical, lens while simultaneously weaving a tale of flawed individuals unknowingly searching for healing. It’s not always a perfect journey, and people who have never wholeheartedly loved a pet may find the characters pitiable rather than relatable, but it’s a satisfyingly heartwarming ride where the doggy star manages to steal her scenes, yet still function beautifully as a plot device. LA couple Elliott and Abby Harmon appear to have everything they could want: matching cars; a cute house perfect for hosting parties; and high powered jobs. Their only real quirk is their obsessive care of their Yorkie Laila who is pampered like a human infant and boasts more stylish clothing than a celebrity baby. Jill, the Harmon’s dog walker/baby sitter, seems just as nutty for the tiny canine, happily referring to Laila as her BFF and using the tiny dog as a substitute for her lack of fulfilling human relationships. When the beloved canine disappears while in Jill’s care, the Harmons fly into a frenzy to get their “baby” back, regardless of the toll it may take on their ties to each other and everyone around them.
Fifteen-year-old Rosie Sinclair has run out of opportunities in her drab, poor hometown of Doli, AZ. Fortunately, her skill as an amateur filmmaker grabs her enrollment in the elite Forge School, the premier arts school in the country, but there’s a catch. Everything at the school is broadcast on a reality series called The Forge Show, and Rosie must make the top fifty most popular first-year students to stay. At the same time she chafes against the sleeping pills mandated by the school’s strange twelve hours of sleep policy and during the night hours begins to uncover signs that Forge School may not be the creative mecca everyone believes.
In Issue #0 of Sevara, the upcoming science fiction release from Broken Icon Comics, the world as we know it has become a wasteland lorded over by the fearsome Mitan. He demands respect from the surviving humans and holds control solely because the previous human protector/god, Sevara, is in his control. When she escapes torture and death, Sevara pledges to return the world to a place without greed, hatred, and conflict; however, she is currently only a human woman with a few extra abilities. Sevara will have to heal and rebuild her strength to help protect Earth’s survivors and overthrow Mitan’s tyrannical stranglehold on the planet.
Ashley has been the target of bullying in her small community ever since a bid for popularity in middle school went disastrously wrong. Her mother worries more about her daughter not fitting in, her best friend seems to think that Ashley should just try harder to see the good in her tormentors, and her artwork is the only chance of escape from the microcosm strangling her. Ashley finds limited relief in her Older Self on the other side of the mirror who tries to give advice to prevent repeats of her mistakes; however, when you’re the only one who sees the person you’re talking to in the mirror, what’s to prevent everyone else from thinking you’ve finally gone mad?
Billy the Pyro#3 picks up with Billy learning a little more about G.A.P.R.I. and its mysterious mission. Finally, the young man begins to show more emotions than rage or rudeness, and I can sense where the story may go with later issues. Combined with a mysterious, but understandable, antagonist, I see less angry teenager angst and more superhero-esque action in the coming issues!
At this time First Second Books is probably best known for their superhero origin story, The Shadow Hero, but they also offer a wide variety of all-ages comics to appeal to parents with children, children themselves, and those comic book readers who are young at heart. Ariel Cohn and Aron Nels Steinke’s The Zoo Box nicely fits these readers, although I think the story is more fun for adults to share with children than read alone.