Category Archives: Humor

William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher

William Shakespeare's The Empire Striketh Back (William Shakespeare's Star Wars, #2)Premise: The Rebellion seems to be gaining strength ever since Luke Skywalker destroyed the Death Star, but the base on Hoth is discovered by the Empire, so they must find refuge elsewhere. The rebels scatter and the Empire continues their pursuit of crushing the opposition. Luke seeks one of the last living Jedi in order to take up the mantle himself. It is in a remote swamp that Luke begins his Jedi training with the Jedi master Yoda.

Han, Leia, and crew go to Han’s scoundrel friend Lando for protection, but the Empire’s reach is long and they are found in the Cloud City and captured. Han is given over to the bounty hunter Boba Fett and the rest are held as bait for Luke to rescue. Will Luke come to the rescue or will new revelations destroy any hope the Rebellion had for victory?

Themes: In The Empire Striketh Back, we begin to see the feelings between Leia and Han blossom through their tumultuous interactions. The romance builds as their feelings are laid bare for the reader but held close to themselves until they can no longer contain their feelings. But it isn’t until Han’s life is forfeit that Leia expresses her true feelings to him.

People can change, including the biggest scoundrels, but sometimes they fall into their old ways. When Han Solo falls in with the Rebellion, he does his best to put his past life as a rogue and a smuggler behind him. It manages to catch up to him when he trusts Lando Calrissian to protect him and his friends. Lando’s betrayal only enforces Han’s lifestyle choices, but perhaps at that point it is too late.

Temptation and confronting fears play a large role in The Empire Striketh Back. Luke faces his fears first in the swamps of Dagobah when tested by Yoda in becoming a Jedi. Luke learns the dangers of giving in to the dark side, but he learns the true temptation of the dark side when confronted by Darth Vader with the truth of his father.

Pros: Doescher continues showing his fine grasp of Shakespearean language in The Empire Striketh Back while making some interesting character choices through their dialogue. The choices that stand out are with making Boba Fett speak in prose instead of iambic pentameter to show his lower class and with Yoda speaking in haiku to show his different speaking style. Doescher infuses more emotion into Empire than he did with Star Wars, done so with a lot of monologue asides that aren’t really in the movie but I felt actually added to the story. This is especially true for Leia and Han but includes other characters like Lando of which we don’t get as much character development. The author also makes sure to include important lines, like Han’s famous response to Leia professing her love for him: “I know.”

Cons: I did catch a handful of times where the meter dropped or added an extra beat, which isn’t necessarily unheard of in Shakespeare’s work. Probably the most famous instance of this is “to be or not to be, that is the question” with its extra beat. My Shakespeare isn’t nearly as refined as it probably should be, but I know that he used this to express extra emphasis and emotion. Whether or not Doescher did this for the same reason, I’m unsure. I do know that it made my reading of Empire more difficult. While I appreciate the need to give each character their own representation, I didn’t think giving the Wampa a voice was entirely necessary. I also liked the space battle sequence in Verily, A New Hope better than how the battle was executed on Hoth. It felt more epic while keeping within the restraints of a play. Also, making the AT-ATs into characters just seemed silly.

Recommendations: One of the things I like most about The Empire Striketh Back is that Doescher manages to continue with the humor necessary to make something like this work while capturing the more tragic ending of the movie with Han being frozen in carbonite. Doescher makes more artistic choices in The Empire Striketh Back than he did with Star Wars, and they mostly pay off except for a couple I didn’t care for (see Wampa and AT-ATs). Still, The Empire Striketh Back continues the Star Wars trilogy in strong fashion, and in some ways mirrors the movies by being superior to Verily, A New Hope in that it is infused with more emotion, more peril, and more humanity. If you liked William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, don’t stop there or else you’ll miss out. While you can appreciate the book wearing a scholarly Shakespeare hat, keep in mind that these are supposed to be fun.

Ian Doescher’s website
William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back on Goodreads
Buy William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back on Amazon
Download William Shakespeare’s The Empire Striketh Back for your Kindle
I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.

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Posted by on June 16, 2014 in Humor, Science Fiction


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William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope by Ian Doescher

William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily, a New HopePremise: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there was a civil war happening between rebel fighters desperately trying to overthrow the reign of the evil galactic empire. Plans for the magnificent and terrible Death Star have been stolen with the hopes of getting them into the hands of the rebel leaders to destroy this menacing weapon.

Wielding the power of the Force, Darth Vader shows his immense power to destroy while Obi-Wan Kenobi is summoned to find the next Jedi knight. That knight might just be in the form of the boy Luke Skywalker.

The fighting comes to a head as opposing forces strike against each other in a battle for control. And all of this is done…in iambic pentameter.

Themes: Politics reign supreme in Star Wars as each player pushes and pulls others to engage the outcome they each desire. Whether it is subtle like the workings of R2D2 or overt like the powerful Darth Vader, each has their wishes and their part in this story.

Luke has a huge desire for adventure as he wishes to travel, see the galaxy, and to escape the drudgery of his uncle’s moisture farm. Meeting Old Ben Kenobi and two droids changes his life and gives him exactly what he wishes for, but at a great cost.

Pros: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars definitely reads like a Shakespearean play, down to the monologue asides and narrative descriptions of space battles. Everything is written expertly in iambic pentameter, lending to the feel of being written by Shakespeare himself. Star Wars reads humorously, especially the dialogue between C3PO and R2D2. Star Wars buffs should enjoy Doescher’s interpretation, especially since he does such a good job of telling the entire story in such short order without missing a beat. The cheeky illustrations also helped get me into the feel of the story.

Cons: Some readers might find the rhythm hard to capture, to which I might suggest reading aloud. Others might simply feel the iambic pentameter tiresome and get bored too quickly, especially if they’re not exactly fans of Shakespeare. The one thing I found difficult was reading R2D2’s beeps and boops in rhythm. The space battles aren’t exactly easy to do without on screen special effects, so forcing readers to use their imagination could be a stretch for some. My guess is most reading a book like this won’t have that problem.

Recommendations: William Shakespeare’s Star Wars can be appreciated at different levels, whether you’re a beginner or expert of all things Star Wars or Shakespeare. Doescher does such a good job telling the story it actually helped me catch a couple things I missed in my years of watching Star Wars. Reading this book also makes me want to pick up my complete volume of Shakespeare’s plays and read a few with a new appreciation for the art. Go get a copy whether you want something light to read or want to better appreciate the worlds of Star Wars or Shakespeare or both…verily.

Ian Doescher’s website
William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope on Goodreads
Buy William Shakespeare’s Star Wars on Amazon
Download William Shakespeare’s Star Wars for your Kindle
I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.

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Posted by on February 22, 2014 in Humor, Science Fiction


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Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci & Sara Varon (Illustrator)

Odd DuckPremise: Theodora might have some quirks, but she leads a quiet, perfectly normal life, in her own eyes. She stays home when all the other ducks are flying south for the winter. She practices balancing her teacup on her head when she swims and she practices flapping her wings for a time when she might need to fly. When Chad moves in next door, Theodora instantly realizes that he is odd. He is unorganized, builds strange creations in the front yard, dyes his feathers different colors, and talks nonstop.

But Theodora soon discovers they have some things in common. They like and dislike some of the same books. They like to watch the stars and eat some of the same foods. Through their time together they become good friends. But when they overhear someone mentioning that “odd duck” within earshot, neither of them is sure which one they are talking about. It might just be too much for either of them to either point a finger at the other or to accept that they themselves might just be an odd duck.

Themes: Odd Duck tackles the many aspects of friendship, including being alone, meeting new friends, enjoying spending time together, arguing over the smallest things, and reconciliation. Theodora was happy by herself, but when she meets Chad they hit it off and love doing things together, especially when they learn they have some shared interests. When they fight over the silliest of misunderstandings it will take some self-examination and humility to reconcile the relationship.

Not only does Odd Duck show aspects of friendship, it also highlights being yourself regardless of what others think and standing by your friends when others look down on them for their differences. When one of them is called odd, Chad and Theodora don’t know who it is that they are talking about, but it ends up hurting their friendship when they care what others think of them. It is only when they accept each other for who they are and realize that they might also be a bit odd that they are able to put aside those differences and go back to being friends.

Pros: Odd Duck does a great job quickly forming characters that stand out through some humorous things like Theodora practicing flapping her wings and Chad dying his feathers different colors. The contrast between these two ducks is obvious, but the way in which Castellucci and Varon manage to display through them a tight bond between friends, and the ways in which a friendship can quickly dissolve because of pride and shortsightedness and be reconciled out of true remorse is pretty amazing. The art is simple and colorful, but it makes the humor more pronounced without sacrificing emotion in the characters. It is in the understated moments where Odd Duck manages to evoke some real emotion.

Cons: Just as the title states, this book is a little odd. Though children will probably enjoy it in spite of being odd, they might not exactly understand all the little oddities it contains, such as putting mango salsa in duck food, practicing flapping, and dying feathers. There is potential for people to use this book to push unadulterated acceptance and approval of alternative lifestyles or for others on the opposite side to denounce it for a perceived political agenda. I think Odd Duck manages to sidestep those issues and deliver a clean, helpful message for children and adults to be nice, to accept others for who they are, and to be true to your friends.

Recommendations: Considered a children’s book, Odd Duck manages to have a lesson for everyone of all ages on how to treat others, when to stick by your friends, and what to think of yourself when others consider you to be odd. With some great but simple art, you’ll find yourself going back through to find the little details that Varon has sprinkled throughout the frames. Castellucci has written an easy to read, yet profound, story that doesn’t talk down to the reader or go down the road of being preachy or cheesy when it comes to giving a message of acceptance of others’ differences. Many people could do themselves well to read this charming little gem of a story, however odd it may be.

Cecil Castellucci’s website
Sara Varon’s website
Odd Duck on Goodreads
Buy Odd Duck on Amazon
I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.

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Posted by on May 13, 2013 in Childrens, Graphic Novel, Humor


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Who’s On First? by Abbott & Costello, John Martz (Illustrator)

Who's on First?Premise: Take comedy legends Abbott & Costello’s classic sketch explaining who is playing the different positions on a baseball team, illustrate it like a whimsical children’s book, and that’s what you get with Who’s On First?. Costello thinks Abbott is using pronouns when talking about baseball players, while Abbott thinks Costello understands that those are the actual names of the players.

Themes: Who’s On First? centers around the misunderstanding between two people confusing the proper names of baseball players with pronouns that have identical spellings and pronunciations. Hilarity ensues.

Pros: The illustrations of John Martz make Abbott and Costello’s interchange easier to understand without taking away from the humor between the two comedians. In fact, the art helps make it more accessible to a younger audience. I especially love the illustrations with arrows as the characters explain where the ball is traveling between the players. The comedic timing from the original sketch is kept very much in tact through the fun illustrations.

Cons: Even though Who’s On First? is marketed as a children’s picture book, children might get confused with this humorously confusing interaction, especially if they have little or no baseball knowledge. The text is basically lifted directly from the Abbott and Costello sketch with no new content other than the illustrations, which really isn’t much of a con unless you are looking for more.

Recommendations: Baseball and comedy fans will love Who’s On First? as they reminisce about Abbott and Costello’s famous comedy bit and enjoy this refreshing new take. The comic adaptation is done in a way that is helpful to young readers and adds a bit of cartoon humor into the mix. I will personally love reading this book over and over, and it is something I will love reading to my son as he grows a little older, perhaps even waiting until he can read it himself and knows a little more about the game of baseball to appreciate it fully. It will be fun to read it along with him out loud so he can get the full comedic effect. But Who’s On First? is not just for young readers, as most baseball fans will especially love this cartoon tribute to the comedy legends.

Abbott & Costello’s website
John Martz’s website
Who’s on First? on Goodreads
Buy Who’s on First? on Amazon
I received a copy from the publisher to write this honest review.

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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Childrens, Classics, Humor


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