Review: Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius Cat

By Dustin Cabeal

Having said this numerous times before I’m constantly forced to remind the audience of this site that I will read anything. I have read things that I have zero interest in and come away loving them and sometimes hating them still. The point being that for me to read a kid’s book isn’t uncommon even if this is your first time spotting one of them on the site. I’m telling you all this because I do tend to have a soft spot for them. Maybe it’s a misspent youth full of video games and TV, but I didn’t read a lot of books when I was a child, nor did my parents supply me with many. Whatever the reason, I enjoy checking them out.

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Review: Hilda and the Stone Forest

Luke Pearson’s Hilda series has become one of the books I look forward to the most. The biggest reason being that Pearson has created a magical world that doesn’t feel like a repeat or homage to other familiar fantasy worlds. Instead, it feels fresh, new, and utterly unique. Up front, I’ll tell you that I’m pretty sure I’ve missed a volume of Hilda between The Stone Forest and my last review. Hilda and her mom have moved to the city, but the city has this Attack on Titan feel to it, in that Trolls are kept at bay by a stone wall. We quickly learn that Hilda has stopped telling her mom of her adventures which continue to happen at a breakneck pace. To the point that she finds herself grounded after sneaking out.

hildaandthestoneforest_cover_print_rgb-e1468934446202Which doesn’t last long because she tries to break out using Tontu’s portal, which is at the exact moment that her mother was going to let her see the fireworks that she was sneaking out to see. Some pulling happens, and Hilda, her mom, and Fig end up in a stone looking forest. After a lot of wandering, they discover they’re inside the mountain of the trolls. Speaking of the trolls, they’re having problems of their own since a two-headed troll is being a bully to everyone and hogging all the food.

While the story is one of Pearson’s best, the ending is a jaw dropper. Mostly because it doesn’t have a clear-cut ending, but rather a continuation. Not having read all of the Hilda’s I don’t know if this has happened before, but I’m going to guess not. I will not spoil the ending, but in flipping back through I can see where Pearson masterfully wrote in hints about the outcome.

The art continues to be impressive as Pearson also grows as an artist with each volume. He maintains the look of the series, but you can see that more and more detail has been added. That and the visual storytelling is deeper. This is by far the most emotion that has made it into this series as Hilda grows up some and becomes more defiant, while her mother just wants her safe and to be included in her life. Much of this comes from the artwork alone.

While I don’t know if this next bit is a spoiler, not for the book, but for the readership in general, there’s an announcement that Hilda will be coming to Netflix next year. Yay! I cannot wait to see what they do with it and hopefully Pearson is heavily involved, so it maintains the tone and spirit of his books.

In the meantime, though, if you’re a fan of this series you should absolutely be looking forward to this volume. It instantly became my favorite of the series and is a true testament to Pearson’s development of this world and his craft. And if you haven’t checked out Hilda, then you are missing out.

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Hilda and the Stone Forest Creator: Luke Pearson Publisher: Nobrow/Flying Eye Books Price: $19.99 Format: Hardcover; Print/Digital


CBMFP 247: We're Coming Back For Love

Today we've got the gruesome threesome back in the house. That's right, Kevin, Steve and Dustin gather around the internet talk about the latest in comic and comic book movies. Mostly the latter. First it's the possible casting for the Crow reboot movie. Then a bunch of CW news happens, a musical, Kevin Smith, The Ray, Supergirl... I'm sure there's plenty of more CW stuff. We also discuss Marvel's Civil War II's delays because it's that slow of a news week. We answer one question that we've previously covered on this show so buckle up for the last time and find out who's a Betty and who's a Veronica. Books reviewed on this episode:

Previously on the CBMFP...

Review: How to Survive in the North

Why is it that stories of Arctic exploration are so endlessly compelling? Well, it’s because they manage to hit so many dramatic points all at once: survival, endurance, tragedy, hubris, cunning, and heroism. They’re good stories because you can find a little bit of everything in them, or if you’re looking for some particular theme or emotion, they can be a treasure trove. How to Survive in the North looks at two real-life stories that happened at the same place, Wrangel Island, in 1914 and 1921, and the impact that those two stories had on a man going through a mid-life crisis. Sullivan Barnaby is a professor at Dartmouth University forced into a mandatory sabbatical after a scandal compromises his position as a teacher. Left with nothing to do, he stumbles across the letters of a former professor, Vilhjalmur Stefansson. Stefansson believed that people could survive nearly indefinitely on meat and blubber, and sponsored two expeditions to Wrangel Island, one in 1914 and one in 1921. Both of these expeditions ran into trouble because of inadequate preparations and rash planning, and it fell to two different people, Robert Barnett and Ada Blackjack, to try and hold everything together. By going through these two stories, Barnaby begins to understand how survival in the face of doom might have lessons for his own life.

howtosurviveinthenorth_coverTo be honest, I was a sucker for this story from the get-go. I grew up on the stories of Ernest Shackleton, intoxicated by the idea of surviving something that would kill just about anybody else (myself included). The fact that this book tells not one but two of those kinds of stories, both appropriately grounded in the history, is an easy way to win me over. The improbable coincidence that Wrangel Island became home to two expeditions, both sponsored by the same man, with one of the same men in both, is just too good. Robert Barnett’s trip across the ice of the Bering Sea to find help sounds like an impossible feat; so does Ada’s survival, considering that she had no training as a hunter or explorer. The fact that it’s also about an academic who stumbles across a riveting story hits a little close to home for me.

But it goes a bit deeper than just recounting an admittedly gripping story by giving us Barnaby’s perspective. Barnaby’s life is empty once he’s separated from his work, and apart from a profoundly troubled relationship he’s as alone as Robert or Ada. His immediate parallel in the tale is Stefansson, whose office he shares. Stefansson was a man who seemingly became addicted to a bad idea (easy living in the far north) and kept trying to make it work, even though his expeditions lacked what they needed to survive. Overconfidence and commitment to a cause can be a dangerous combination, and Barnaby gradually learns from Stefansson that you need to recognize when a bad idea is a bad idea.

Indeed, you could read a lot of this story as a warning to people to recognize when a situation is dangerous. Both Robert and Ada have misgivings about their respective expeditions, but go along with them anyway. Fred Maurer, one of the sailors in the 1914 expedition, returns for the 1921 expedition. Why? Surely he knew exactly how dangerous it would be, probably much better than Stefansson, but he let himself get talked into it by Stefansson because he was “a nice guy.”

If on the one hand the story is critical of its protagonists for going along with something they knew could work out badly, it also is a reminder that loneliness isn’t such a bad thing. There are a multitude of reasons why so many people seemingly become addicted to Arctic exploration (people beyond the scope of this story, like Robert F. Scott or Roald Amundsen): challenge, the thrill of survival, a determination to make a name for themselves…But there’s also something about being alone with yourself that ends up being weirdly invigorating for some of the characters here. It’s not to say that running away from other people is the ticket to survival, because people who do that in this book end up dead. But knowing when to rely on yourself is its own strength, which harkens back to why these stories are interesting in the first place.

This is a worthwhile read, both because of the story and its meta-story about loneliness and endurance. This is the kind of historical fiction I want to see people writing, because it also challenges the reader to understand why they find it compelling in the first place.

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How to Survive in the North Writer: Luke Healy Artist: Luke Healy Publisher: Nobrow Comics Price: $22.95 Format: TPB [/su_box]