TV Review: The Umbrella Academy

Earlier this year, Netflix took the streaming world by storm once again with the release of its own original superhero ensemble TV-show, The Umbrella Academy. It follows the Hargreeves family, a family composed of seven adopted children, six of whom are superpowered. When the family learns that the world is going to end in eight days, they are forced to confront their childhood traumas and reunite to save the world. The show itself was released on February 15th, but it took me an appalling two months before I actually got around to watching it. When I finally did, it is safe to say that I was absolutely blown away. I binged the entire show in a single day. 10 hours worth of content, and I was riveted to the screen for every moment of it. So, what exactly makes this show so special?

There is no single answer to such a complex question, but after several re-watches, I can identify several elements which make the show so extraordinary (if you’ve seen the show- you see what I did there). When a viewer begins to watch The Umbrella Academy, the first thing which strikes them is how different this view of the superhero genre is from what we are so used to seeing. Most ensemble TV shows focus on the heroes, well, becoming heroes. The Umbrella Academy adeptly avoids this classic trope by presenting us with characters who are not learning to become heroes, but struggling with the fallout of their heroic childhoods. These so-called superheroes are deeply damaged, and their family dynamic is highly dysfunctional. The members of the Academy are not learning how to become heroes, but learning to cope with the struggles of everyday life after an abusive childhood. Of course, they have to save the world along the way, but the show leaves you with the impression that this plot is not as important as the development of the characters within it. Further, the plot itself is deeply shaped by character development of certain key characters who are coming to terms with their powers, or, their lack thereof.

Aside from subversion of the classic superhero origin story, The Umbrella Academy also sets itself apart from the pack through its depiction of relationships between characters. Each of the Hargreeves siblings has a unique connection with each other sibling, a fact which is never brushed over nor forgotten throughout the series. The tapestry of character connections is artfully written, artfully acted, and artfully produced. In essence, at every level of this show, attention was paid to depicting the interactions between its characters in a nuanced, cohesive way. Each character has highly specific thoughts and emotions towards each other character, many of which are unveiled gradually throughout the season.

There are so many other ways that The Umbrella Academy kept me hooked: the random, whimsical, yet dark nature of the show, multiple plotlines which eventually converge, leaving the viewer simultaneously dumbfounded and awestruck, LGBTQ+ representation, and an absolutely fire soundtrack. It would take an eternity for me to detail everything that I adored about this show.

I would recommend this show to any fans of the superhero genre who want to see a fresh take on the definition of heroism. However, one does not need to be a fan of superheroes to enjoy this show. If a whimsical, dark, time-travel centered mystery sounds at all interesting to you- give it a watch! I promise you will not be disappointed (A quick disclaimer- this show does discuss some mature themes and has several violent action sequences, hence its TV-14 rating, so it is definitely more suited to older audiences).

-Mirabella S.

The Umbrella Academy graphic novel by Gerard Way is available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library

Generation One by Patticus Lore

Generation One by Pittacus Lore is the first thrilling book of a new series that takes place in the same world as the best-selling Lorien Legacies series. It can be read without reading the previous series, and it starts a year after the end of it. To win the war that occurred in the Lorien Legacies series, humans allied with the alien called Garde, who used a special energy called the Loric energy in order to defeat the occupation of earth. Now, this energy has caused human teenagers across the globe to develop special powers called Legacies.

In order to control and develop these powers, and to protect ordinary people, the United Nations has set up a special academy to train them in the hopes that they can help all the people of the Earth. The book follows six teenagers from all corners of the globe and their journey to the Academy. Some of them had been there for a good amount of time, but some were late bloomers when it came to developing their powers, so they arrived later.

Taylor Cook is peacefully living her life in South Dakota on her farm with her Father, only hearing about rumors of teenagers suddenly developing powers. She does not think it could ever happen to her, but that all changes when she is able to heal her Father in a tractor accident. Sent to the academy, she meets others like her who are being trained to save the world one day. Her Legacy of healing is very rare, and it is something that makes her a target to other groups.

I have read a wide variety of science-fiction novels, and this one is definitely one of the best ones. It was a non-stop, thriller ride with the right mix of teenage lightheartedness. Generation One was able to develop and trace each character throughout the story. By doing this, the reader can see the significance of each character and how they contributed to the storyline. The end is satisfying in relation to what occurred in the book, but there is definitely room for more with the sequel, Fugitive Six.

-Anmol K.

Generation One by Patticus Lore is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Fresh out of futuristically twisted fairy tales embedded with machinery and metals and lights surges a new novel series by bestselling author Marissa Meyer. The debut novel in the series, Renegades, diverges from Meyer’s earlier works like the Lunar Chronicles and Heartless in nature – instead of exploring the illustrious what-ifs of princesses and queens, it encompasses the adventures of superheroes.

Bear with me here – this isn’t your average comic book. Meyer takes a turn from the conventional and places her two protagonists on opposite sides of the good/evil spectrum. Nova, bitter and brimming with vengeance, marks herself as a villain. Adrian, the spawn of righteousness and leader of a pack of do-gooders, is a hero to his core. It is this tension and star-crossed drama that creates an air of edge-on-your-seat, an aura of suspense.

It’s a fun concept to play around with, the syzygy of right and wrong coupled with the punch and action of prodigies and superheroes. There’s a clandestine nature of Nova’s job as a spy that makes it secretive, and a lightness of Adrian’s good that brings sunshine to the novel. Add the fact that every character you meet is eccentric and unique, and you surely have the recipe for a good novel.

Execution, however, is another story. Meyer’s writing lacks a flow and poetry that I love to read, perhaps due to the fight-and-flight air of the storyline, and some of the characters land on the verge of strange. Yet, altogether, Renegades is a fun little read – it doesn’t have too much substance and is full of cute little cliches – and so if you’re looking for a good way to fill in gaps of free time, this is your perfect book.

-Esther H.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Boku no Hero Academia (My Hero Academy) by Kohei Horikoshi

Surely you have heard of famous anime? This is a franchise like Naruto, Dragon Ball, or even Attack on Titan that people know of even if they don’t read manga or watch anime. If you never heard of it, which is doubtful, you might be wondering why it’s famous among Americans. A good look at the source material shows us why.

My Hero Academia is set in a world where everyone is an X-man: they all have a power they were born with. And with these powers, everyone can become a superhero – or a villain – if they want to. Well, everyone except Izuku “Deku” Midoriya. Despite being born without a Quirk, he plans to live up to his hero, the strongest man All Might who always saves everyone with a smile. In fact, while trying to get his autograph, Deku finds out that All Might was born without powers too, but was given a special kind of power that could be transferred to others. Deku uses that skill to win a spot at the hero training academy high school. But his trials are not over as he faces old and new classmates, class battles, and tests of whether he can be a true hero.

Why do Americans like this manga? Superheroes. Like I have said earlier, the idea of powers makes it seem like X-Men, and All Might looks like the surfer version of Superman. Additionally, while some of these powers, called Quirks, are the familiar to comic readers, such as turning invisible, there are new and unique quirks that the author created, such as the power to use both fire and ice.

The characters are also very easy to distinguish, with fun character designs, such as a girl who is literally invisible all the time or a girl who has a frog like power, and thus looks like a very cute frog. Finally, a main point to be made are the villains. Not only do they make the characters think about themselves, but they are just as awesome as the heroes. They have amazing powers, and one of the villains has a hand on his face the whole time.

Even though I don’t care for superheroes all that much, I do love how the author writes the story, and if you are interested in superheroes this one is for you.

-Megan V, 12th grade

Boku no Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi is available for checkout from the Mission VIejo Library

Avengers: Infinity War Trailer

First of all, SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t watched the Avengers: Infinity War or every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The trailer for Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War has just dropped late November and fans are already coming up with insane theories and new ideas based off of what transpired in this two minute clip. The trailer has become the most-watched trailer on YouTube within a single day of its release, with over 200 million views in just 24 hours. This film will come out on May 4, 2018 and is the culmination of the last ten years of the MCU. We will  witness everyone from all 17 Marvel movies come together to stop the mad titan Thanos from recovering the six Infinity Stones.

There are a couple of new things we see in the trailer that are new to the Avengers movies. Dr. Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy are new to the Avengers’ movies, while Dr. Strange did have a small part in Thor: Ragnarok. The trailer also gives us a glimpse of how our beloved heroes have gone through some changes since Captain America: Civil War almost two years ago. Vision has two scenes in the trailer, one where he looks human and another where he looks like himself. We also saw a rugged Cap with a beard and long hair, as well as a blonde Black Widow.

Some cool shots from the trailer included Spider-man’s spidey sense and his new suit, Thanos putting a couple Infinity Stones into his gauntlet, and a final scene of Captain America, The Winter Soldier, Black Widow, Black Panther, The Hulk, Falcon, War Machine, and Okoye running head on into battle against Thanos’ minions in what looks like the Wakandan jungles. This will really be the culmination of the past ten years of Marvel movies and will be, as the executive producer Kevin Feige reports, “the beginning of the end” for the MCU as we know it. Next year is going to be full of Marvel movies with Black Panther on Februrary 16th, New Mutants on April 13th, Avengers: Infinity War on May 4th, Deadpool 2 on June 8th, and Ant Man 2 on July 6th. Get ready Marvel fans, we’re all in for one wild ride in the cinema.

-Kyle H.

Monster

What if the world suddenly obtained impossible abilities? Would you use your power for good? Bad? All of the above?

In Michael Grant’s Monster, this choice becomes a reality. If you enjoyed his Gone series, this follow-up will definitely not disappoint you. Instead of just some kids inside a small dome getting powers, people around the world are starting to change, morphing into amazing creatures with seemingly limitless power.

From napalm breath to creating “meat puppets”, Grant’s genius really shines in these vivid, fabulous characters. Each line makes you feel closer and more relatable to each one. But for fans of this trilogy’s predecessor, Gone, you will be pleasantly surprised by the characters brought back for one more round.

– Luke D.

Monster by Michael Grant is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Super Human by Michael Carroll

superhuman_michaelcarrollSuper Human by Michael Carroll is about four kids teaming up to help save the world. Unlike other teenagers their age, three of them have super powers, making them superhumans. With strength and speed, Abby de Luyando has power over metal items. Rox Dalton has the ability of telekinesis, while James Klause can control and manipulate sound. The last member of this group, Lance McKendrick, may not have any superpowers, but his talking skills can get him out of sticky situations. In this adventure, these four, with the help of other established superhumans, work together in order to defeat the group named Hellotry. Intending to bring back the fifth King from four thousand years ago, the Hellotry want him to rule the world because he was the first superhuman in existence. In order to make taking over the world easier, the Hellotry release a plague in order to kill off all the adults, and only leave the kids behind. The four teenagers have to not only defeat the fifth King, after he is summoned to the real world, but also need to find a cure to the plague.

Starting off with action, this book wasted no time in getting the characters introduced and building an exposition. The first couple of chapters jumped around, and introduced each character in a relatable way because of the everyday situations he/she was in. Also, the transition in the kids joining forces was seamless. One thing that lacked a little bit in this story was character building; the story was a bit too focused on the plot, which hindered the characters to develop. Also, the plot was a bit predictable, but there were still a couple of unexpected twists. Overall, a great read for anyone looking for some superhuman adventure!

-Anmol K.

The Super Human series by Michael Carroll is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library