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Three comic book reviews: Pull List #17 ('MLP' and 'TMNT')

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It’s another IDW sweep, with two Micro-Series issues (Pinkie Pie and Old Hob are featured this time around), and another Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles issue. Ben Bates returns; he’s the artist behind the aforementioned Pinkie Pie story, despite the fact that I pointed him out as a positive in earlier issue of TMNT. His art, however, makes a cameo in the TMNT issue; but more on that when we get to it. First, let’s see what Pinkie Pie’s up to, shall we?

My Little Pony: Micro-Series #5 featuring Pinkie Pie My Little Pony: Micro-Series #5 featuring Pinkie Pie

Normally I finish with whatever art comments I make (and I usually don’t make a lot of those), but since I’ve already talked about the artist, I might as well start there this time around. Bates is right at home in funny animal comics; besides TMNT, he’s also done Sonic the Hedgehog. Here, he’s a bit tied down by the fact that Pinkie Pie has to look like Pinkie Pie, after all; his backgrounds are also a bit simplistic, and could use more detail.

The story revolves around Pinkie Pie winning a contest by drinking 315 bottle of Colta Cola (no wonder she’s always wiggling around like she’s in desperate need of a bathroom on the show) to win a ticket with backstage passes to the great clown Ponyacci’s show. It turns out, however, Ponyacci is on the verge of retirement; Pinkie Pie is completely upset by this turn of events.

There are a couple of solid jokes in this issue; Pinkie talking to her Ponyacci doll is so in character, I can hear Andrea Libman’s voice while reading it. Twilight Sparkle plays straight mare for Pinkie; ironically, when Pinkie only wins two tickets, she doesn’t angst about it like Twilight does in a similar situation. Finally, it’s nice to see clowns and clown dolls played so straight (well, you know what I mean); we live in a world where vampires are protagonists for children’s cartoons, but there are not one, but two horror franchises based around killers who take the guise of dolls with playful catchphrases. Pinkie Pie knows what I’m talking about.

Review: 'Monster Musume', vol. 1, by OKAYADO

Your rating: None Average: 4.6 (5 votes)

Monster Musame vol. 1 Oops. This manga would be a lot funnier if not for the serious news in August of a man in Idaho being arrested for having sex with a cat. Many of Flayrah’s readers wondered how that was possible, considering the size differences of a human’s and a cat’s sex apparatus.

One of the ongoing questions in Monster Musume is how Kurusu, the terrified human teenaged protagonist, is going to have sex with a snake? Well, Miia’s human above the waist. And with boobs that, like the Maryland judge said describing Jane Russell’s (in banning the movie The Outlaw), "breasts hung like a thunderstorm over a summer landscape." And Miia really, really, REALLY wants to f--- with him, despite his genteel inhibitions.

So does Papi, the harpy. Well, when she’s old enough. She’s about the equivalent of a nine- or ten-year-old human girl. And, being a bird-girl, noticeably feather-brained, too. (Kurusu isn’t into cradle-robbing, either.)

And Centorea, the centauress. No “centaurette” as in Disney’s Fantasia; this is a dignified but horny adolescent female centaur. The centaurs are supposed to be too haughty to comingle with humans, but Centorea proves the old adage that you can justify anything if you try hard enough.

Los Angeles, CA, Seven Seas Entertainment, October 2013, trade paperback $12.99 (unpaged [192 pages]). Translated by Ryan Peterson.

Review: 'Otters in Space: The Search for Cat Havana', by Mary E. Lowd

Your rating: None Average: 4 (4 votes)

Otters In Space: The Search for Cat Havana Otters in Space: The Search for Cat Havana by Mary E. Lowd is a short novel that received a 2010 Ursa Major Award nomination. It's a work of light science-fiction that I think might appeal to young adult readers. It's available from FurPlanet and Amazon, and in electronic format - see the author's website for details and links. I read the FurPlanet 2012 edition, 176 pages, ISBN 978-1-61450-043-8.

See also: Fred Patten's earlier summary and review. (Contains spoilers.)

Mary Lowd's name really first stood out to me in the 2012 Ursa Recommended Anthropomorphics List, which included six of her short stories. It's not unusual to see authors with multiple recommendations on the list, although when they all appear at the same time, it feels like overkill. Anyway, of those six, I definitely enjoyed St. Kalwain and the Lady Uta, appearing in ROAR volume 4, so I was curious what she would do in a longer format.

Review: 'Striking the Root', by Kris Schnee

Your rating: None Average: 4.8 (5 votes)

Striking The Root You cannot always judge whether a novel will be good or bad by its first line, but I’ve found that a story with a good first line rarely turns out to be bad. The first line of Striking the Root is, “Rowan hung upside-down from a branch and drew emerald knots in the air, hoping to please the Lord.” Yep, that’s a grabber. And Striking the Root just keeps getting better.

In an apparent dungeons-&-dragonish magical world, young Rowan Janiceson is an “awakened” gray squirrel in a joint civilization of humans and squirrelfolk. The world was originally inhabited by just humans; but several centuries ago, the human wizard Lord Veles, Great Lord of the Forest, planted the seed that grew into the massive Great Oak and awakened the first squirrels in size and intelligence. Since then, Veles has mostly withdrawn to let the squirrelfolk run their own civilization under their own Council in what has become the squirrel nation of Great Oak. Many squirrels have left Great Oak to settle among the human city-states.

Rowan is one of the squirrelfolk who worship Veles as the god of the squirrelfolk, and he is unhappy that more and more squirrels are drifting away from the True Faith, calling Veles by the disrespectful name of “Greenie” and considering him as just a human wizard, not a god. When the Council of Great Oak intends to send a representative into human lands on a trade mission, Veles arranges for Rowan to become that messenger. Rowan is both scared to venture from the squirrel nation into the human world, and proud to be the ambassador of the squirrel’s True Faith.

CreateSpace, Dec. 2012, trade paperback $7.49 ([2 +] 199 pages), Kindle $2.99. Map by Virmir.

Animation: 'Alpha and Omega 2: A Howl-iday Adventure'

Your rating: None Average: 4.1 (7 votes)

Alpha and Omega 2: A Howl-iday Adventure Oh, goody! Alpha and Omega 2: A Howl-iday Adventure. For all of you who couldn’t wait for a sequel. Available direct-to-DVD and Blu-ray as a Walmart kiddy exclusive.

Well, no; it’s also available as a digital download on iTunes and Google Play [tip: Blindwolf8], and as a video-on-demand. Sort of the equivalent of vanity-pressed novels.

Is there a tag for “bad CGI”?

How much do you think they spent on these trailers? $1.00? 50¢? 25¢?

I am not sure which is worse; the title pun, the music, or the animation.

See more (if you dare): The Making of Alpha and Omega 2 [Higgs Raccoon]

Review: 'Otters in Space II: Jupiter, Deadly', by Mary E. Lowd

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

Otters in Space 2: Jupiter, DeadlyThis is credited as the Second Edition; but it went on sale at Anthrocon 2013, July 4-7, while the Kindle and Smashwords first editions have an August 24 and 25, 2013 publication date. That’s later.

Does anyone besides me care about this bureaucratic trivia? This is a good read, in a handy trade paperback edition for those who don’t want to read it on their computer. Get it in one format or the other.

But this is a direct sequel to Lowd’s Ursa-Major-nominated Otters in Space: The Search for Cat Havana. If there is any flaw with Otters in Space II, it is that you need to have read the first book to really understand it. Or at least read the review of it, in Flayrah on February 6, 2012.

Dallas, TX, FurPlanet Productions, July 2013, trade paperback $9.95 (227 pages), Kindle $6.99.

Review: 'Lab Rat', by B. A. Maddux

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

To jump ahead to the bottom line; Lab Rat is mysterious and full of action, and you will like it if you turn off your brain.

The narrator, Zack, is a lab rat, grown artificially in a vat. The first few pages of this novel are stream-of-consciousness; his first disjointed thoughts. Two beings look into his tank; Father and Golem.

Father was complaining recently about the limitations of Golem’s tactile sensors, which makes no sense at all to me. But I could tell that he was talking about the flat-voiced speaker.

Golem is mostly black and silver in color.

He checks on me regularly for Father, but doesn’t talk to me like Father does. (page 14)

Zack knows that he is a rat:

My fur is white and does not have any glowing symbols, just a pattern of jagged stripes of a very dark blue. [See E. T. Willoughby's cover.]

I’m not sure, but I do not think Golem has a hairless tail like I do either. Golem is definitely not a rat like me. (page 15)

Legion Publishing, Dec. 2012, hardcover $18.99 (311 pgs.), trade paperback $9.99, Kindle $2.99.

Not the Pet Shop Boys... two extreme death metal bands with animal vocalists

Your rating: None Average: 3.2 (5 votes)

This isn't new, but I haven't seen it posted for furries; so for your amusement and listening pleasure [*cough*], meet Hatebeak and Caninus.

Hatebeak is a death metal band, formed by Blake Harrison, Mark Sloan, and Waldo, a 21-year-old Congo African Grey Parrot. Hatebeak is the only band to have an "avian" vocalist... Their sound has been described as "a jackhammer being ground in a compactor." Aquarius Records magazine called Hatebeak "furious and blasting death metal". Hatebeak made their second record with Caninus, a band whose lead singer is two dogs. (Wikipedia)

Review: 'Treecat Wars', by David Weber and Jane Lindskold

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Treecat WarsTreecat Wars is the third novel in the Star Kingdom series of annual Young Adult s-f novels by David Weber and Jane Lindskold, following A Beautiful Friendship (reviewed here on October 10, 2011) and Fire Season (review October 26, 2012). These are the prequels to Weber’s immensely popular Honor Harrington series of military science-fiction, set about 350 years earlier, when the planet Sphinx is just being settled by humans. In A Beautiful Friendship, Honor’s ancestor Stephanie Harrington, then an 11-year-old precocious tomboy, discovers Sphinx’s six-legged empathetic treecats, and bonds with the one she names Lionheart, but whose own name is Climbs Quickly. In Fire Season, Stephanie and Climbs Quickly are hard-pressed to keep the secret of the treecats’ intelligence during Sphinx’s dry season, when raging forest fires threaten to wipe out whole treecat clans.

As before, Treecat Wars is primarily Sphinx’s human settlers’ story, centered around now 15½-year-old Stephanie Harrington and her family and teenage friends. But there are enough scenes with Climbs Quickly and the treecats to satisfy Flayrah’s readers.

Riverdale, NY, Baen Books, October 2013, hardcover $18.99 (376 pages), Kindle $7.99.

Review: 'Gusko Budori no Denki' ['The Life of Guskou Budori']

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

Gusko Budori no Denki Guskō Budori no Denki (The Life of Guskou Budori) is a 105-minute anime film released in 2012. The story had been previously adapted into anime in 1994, however the 2012 version did it with anthropomorphic cats - largely identical to the cats in the 1985 anime film Night on the Galactic Railroad. Not coincidentally, both films were directed by Gisaburo Sugii, and both were based on stories written by Japanese author Kenji Miyazawa, published in the 1930s.

The 2012 Life of Guskou Budori is visually rich, but has an incredibly dull narrative. Full spoilers ahead! Budori, his parents and his younger sister have an idyllic life in a forest by the mountains, but two years of sudden cold weather leads to the death of his parents and everyone leaving the local village. Oh, and his sister is taken away by a mysterious entity. To paraphrase:

Supernatural cat: I'm here to save you from famine. You're good kids, but that won't help you. Hey girl, if you stay here, you'll starve. Come with me.
(Budori's sister goes to him, seemingly in a trance.)
Supernatural cat: Well, bye! (vanishes)
Budori: ...Hey! You thief!

Review: 'Kavishar; Reflections in A Wolf's Eyes', by L. Kyle

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Kavishar; Reflections in A Wolf's Eyes Laura Kyle is a self-professed animal lover. In the About the Author, she says,

Laura loves all animals, and has previously enjoyed the companionship of dogs, cats, ferrets, gerbils, rats, hamsters and a horse, though allergies now sadly prevent her from sharing her house with any furry friends. (page [+2])

A wildlife organization, Friends of the Wolf in Vancouver, British Columbia, has assisted in verifying that Kyle’s descriptions of wolf behavior are accurate. Kyle admits that the zoo in Kavishar is based on the old-fashioned “animals in small cages” model that is being phased out throughout the world, and urges readers to support modern “animal friendly” zoos and animal-rescue organizations, especially those that work with wolves.

Kavishar is a true-life animal adventure novel like Jack London’s White Fang and The Call of the Wild, except for the fantasy element that the animals are intelligent and can speak with one another. Think of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp with a story about a young wolf trying to get the town’s dogs to accept him as a fellow dog. Some Furry fans may be disappointed because the animals are not more anthropomorphized, but Kavishar is an excellent blend of true-life animal fiction and “if animals could talk” fantasy.

Bright Prospects, LLC, August 2013, trade paperback $11.99 (466 [+ 2] pages), Kindle $0.99.

Furry Movie Award Watch: September 2013

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Well, enough of the doom and gloom, it’s a brand-new, shiny awards season. This month, let’s look at how the race is shaping up at the Oscars. Maybe we’ll even spare a thought for the Annies.

Review: 'What Happens Next', edited by Fred Patten

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

What Happens Next: An Anthology of Sequels What Happens Next: An Anthology of Sequels is a collection of short stories by 11 authors, assembled and edited together by Fred Patten. The theme? Each work is an expansion upon story universes that the authors have previously established.

If you're not familiar with the writers or their worlds, don't worry; each story is pretty self-contained. You're not going to feel like you're being left out; Fred provides an introduction to each, explaining the settings and contexts to new readers. Altogether it's about 430 pages long, and was published in July 2013 by FurPlanet, ISBN 9781614501169. The cover art is by Sara Miles, and each story is accompanied by at least one illustration, from a variety of artists.

This review was heavily re-written after listening to episode 4 of the Fangs and Fonts podcast.

Review: 'Wereworld: Nest of Serpents' [and] 'Wereworld: Storm of Sharks', by Curtis Jobling

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

These are Books 4 and 5 in Jobling’s Wereworld saga. Book 1, Rise of the Wolf, was reviewed here in May 2012, and Books 2 and 3, Rage of Lions and Shadow of the Hawk, were reviewed in January 2013. The final volume, War of the Werelords, will be published on October 8.

The Wereworld Young Adult series is set on the island-continent of Lyssia on a fantasy world, in which each of the kingdoms is ruled by a therian Werelord who can transform into an animal, including birds and fish. School Library Journal has called the series “Game of Thrones for the tween set”. In Wereworld: Rise of the Wolf, teen farmboy Drew Ferran learns that he is adopted and is really the werewolf son of the murdered Wolf King Wergar of Westland, Lyssia’s most powerful nation, which has been usurped by Lion King Leopold who has replaced the old wolf aristocracy with his own lion nobility.

In Rage of Lions and Shadow of the Hawk, the animal nations of Lyssia fall into civil war over whether to acknowledge Drew’s claim to the Westland throne, or whether they should acknowledge any ruling nation rather than declaring their independence; while the supporters of the Lions try to reconquer the whole island-continent. Drew gains allies, but he is betrayed several times, and loses his left hand.

How complex the series has become is shown by Nest of Serpents beginning with a Cast of Characters that takes four pages. Wolflords, Lionlords, Catlords, Staglords, Hawklords, Ratlords, Crowlords, Jackallords, Bearlords, Foxlords, Horselords – you name the animal, and there is probably a werelord for it. (I don’t think there are any Skunklords or Raccoonlords – but those are North American animals, and these are American editions of British books.) And lots of human commoners.

“Wereworld: Nest of Serpents”, Jan. 2013, hardcover $16.99 ([xiv] + 494 + [4] pgs.), Kindle $9.78.
“Wereworld: Storm of Sharks”, May 2013, hardcover $16.99 ([xvi] + 454 + [10] pgs.), Kindle $9.78.
Both by Curtis Jobling, published by The Penguin Group/Viking, with a map by the author.

"Pseudo-furry" videos raise questions about pop culture and Furry fandom

Your rating: None Average: 4.8 (4 votes)

What's with music videos and fursuit parties?

Have you noticed a trend of mainstream music videos that some call "pseudo-furry"? It might be a stretch to connect every video that has animal mascot costumes, but their frequency seems like no coincidence. They've been around for years but I seem to notice more and more. Newsbytes posted by GreenReaper and Sonious sparked my notice, and Flayrah's music tag has many more examples. What does this say about marketing? What does "pseudo-furry" imply?

What does the Fox Say?

Anthropomorphic art has been around for much longer than a dedicated fandom for it. Furry fandom didn't spring from an original concept in the 1980's- it's specific inspirations include golden age post-WWII animation, Disney movies and much more. Popular culture and it's gateways are an undeniably important influence. But identifying a trend for pop culture to re-absorb the Furry subculture that it helped spin off could make a good discussion about interplay. Is this happening because Furry is being accepted as a legitimate subculture, beyond a bastard child of the movies, shows, games and comics that furries enjoy?

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