Reviews are now coming in for Stargazer Volume Two. I'm excerpting them below and I'll continue to do that as more come in. Curious about reviews for Volume One? Well then! Please click here to read 'em!
Reviews for Stargazer Volume Two:
Ain't It Cool News
"Allan is an accomplished writer; he captures the essence of coming-of-age without ever blatantly slapping the reader across the face with it...at the end of the day STARGAZER was written for children and I can’t recommend it enough for the most overlooked demographic out there.
Small Press Reviews
Allan’s latest effort, Stargazer, explores similar themes but sees the writer/artist expanding his artistic palette to include strong elements of science fiction and fantasy–and succeeding wildly in his creation of an emotionally complex and touching imaginary realm.
"Most stories these days are written with certain boundaries. Some because of publishers and editors standing over a writer tapping them on the shoulder and shaking their heads back and forth. Some because they’re writing characters with an enormous amount of history that inhibits their creative ability. Such is not the case with Stargazer, and I for one applaud Von Allan for having not only the courage, but the vision to put this wonderful story out there!"
"This is a tale of children merely playing, on one hand, but also a tale of children finding in fantasy a thing as terrifying as anything the real world could ever manage to offer. In the metaphorical convergence of reality with childhood fantasy, the reader is shown in finite form a story where the threshold into the adult world is fully breached, with no turning back, even if the cost is the exchanging of realities for the promise of love. What an insightful message to see exampled in an all-ages, family-friendly comic book. But don't let that lofty attempt at a description bog down the potential reader. This is absolutely fun and original stuff, to be sure, and I promise you will be zealously frustrated at reaching the story's end."
"Although Marni, Sophie and Elora are transported to an alien world, Allan's realistic portrayal of young, female protagonists captures fleeting moments of the human condition: fear and joy, loss and hope."
Reviews for Stargazer Volume One:
From the Midwest Book Review
"Stargazer Volume One is a black-and-white graphic novel following three girls stranded on a faraway alien world. Young Marni has recently lost her grandmother, with whom she was very close. Her grandmother had also bequeathed a mysterious "Artifact" upon her - and it is this object that transports Marni and her friends, Sophie and Elora, far away from any home they have ever known. The three girls must pool their courage and resources to learn more about this unreal new world, and the strange things within it - a robot, a faraway tower, and an unknown monster hidden in shadows. Stargazer is a story of wonder, exploration, determination, and inward as well as outward challenge, and is highly recommended for readers of all ages."
"Although the underlying issue is about a young girl named Marni, who is dealing with the recent death of her grandmother, the story takes a twist when an artifact she inherited from her grandmother transports her and two of her friends, Sophie and Elora, to a different world. After gathering their courage, they set out to explore their new alien surroundings in hopes of finding a way home.
Although the theme of Marni's loss is what sets the pace for the story, it is quickly overshadowed by the strange world she and her friends are transported to. Allen's depiction of the three girls is very true to how three pre-teen girls generally behave: silly, brave, part-woman, part-child, and not quite sure which category they fall under yet. Even though the story is set in an alternate world with very fantastical settings and creatures, Allen has done an excellent job of showing his characters in an everyday struggle to determine how much independence they possess, and that, despite their young age and distance from authority figures, these young girls are trying out their own judgment and courage for the very first time."
"This is my first exposure to Von Allan’s work aside from what I’ve seen on his website (which I think I found while Googling Canadian cartoonists). I’m very pleased and Stargazer was better than I anticipated.
The writing: very solid. Allan’s pacing is spot on and his delivery of information is succinct and gets you from point A to B without any clutter. I was very impressed with how he was able to convey what are very detailed story points, characters and the world they inhabit without him over-explaining everything. His word choice and placement does the work for you and tells you what you need to know when you need to know it.
The art: Lately I’ve been falling in love with black-and-white comic books and Stargazer further convinced me that the black-and-white comic book medium is an arena that needs to be explored by comic book enthusiasts everywhere. Von Allan’s artwork is natural, shaded well, inked clearly and is detailed enough so you know what you’re looking at, without you getting lost in endless black lines. His proportions are bang on and regardless of the camera angle chosen, each scene unfolds smoothly and easily."
"With shades of both J.M. Barrie and C.S. Lewis, Stargazer is a coming of age adventure. Specifically, set in the waning seasons of adolescence for a trio of young girls, this science-fantasy tale both realistically and imaginatively expresses the yearnings every human being on the planet feels for an escape from the harshness of this tiresome old real world.
Having previously read and reviewed (and loved) Von Allan’s debut original graphic novel, The Road To God Knows, I thought I’d have a better idea of what to expect here. In fact. even having been able to spy some of the earlier work in progress, this finished work really left its mark on me. Von is a brilliant writer, in the sense that while many writers might be honored with the compliment of possessing an ear for dialogue, this man seriously, truly, does. As such, each and every one of his characters is wonderfully portrayed so realistically that it’s easy to find comparisons to real persons that any of us might know, might even be or have been ourselves. And this story, thankfully but an opening chapter to a larger work (hefty though this book is), exhibits a fantastic scope of vision. While fictional settings such as Never Land and Narnia, or Wonderland and Oz, have worked so successfully in capturing the minds of readers over the years is because they all appeal to multiple levels of cognition. Young readers can easily find aspects to enjoy and so take to heart, and equally, older readers as well can find aspects to take to heart and so enjoy. What Von is building here- accomplishes the same thing. Still, a part of me solemnly wishes this book had been around when I myself was the age of the protagonists of the piece, Marni, Sophie, and Elora.
Von’s art has grown as well, since his last book. His storytelling has always been on the nose, but his attention to details has somehow found a way to expand. While the mundane real life things such as houses and cars are now all the more compass and protractor sharp, the fantastical elements of the story easily show a designed grace that are completely undistracting. Everything works here, everything given obvious forethought and arranged like puzzle pieces slowly unifying, increasingly hinting at the larger picture to come. He is a king of facial expressions, too, so watch out, Kevin Maguire and Adam Hughes.
While this is only Volume One, this is a rather sizable book unto itself, loaded as well with pages and pages of bonus content, from detailed notes describing Von’s writing process, to character designs and sketch pages, even extra pin-ups and the like. Really, it all serves as a painful teaser of the many places the story of Stargazer might deign to lead. This is a fun story at that, with colorful characters, even in light of the darkness implied therein to their respective backstories. One of those books that is not so easily compared to others, Stargazer will make the ideal book for drawing in new readers to the medium, and will easily and competently do so while entertaining those of us older readers desperate for something original and knowing. Layered writing, when done well, writes down to nobody. And Von Allan has instilled his Stargazer with enough layers to appeal to anyone who gives it a chance. So please, give it a chance and be so appealed."
From Panels on Pages
"The story itself is great, mind you. Marni is suffering from the loss of her grandmother, who may also have been her best friend. After a few pages of her parents own stumbling efforts to deal with the inherent grief, Marni’s dad suggests she invite friends Elora and Sophie over for a camp out. It’s a great set up and the dialog between the girls is a perfect blend of whimsy and wisdom beyond their years...Once they’ve been transported to the mystical world in which the latter half of the issue takes place, the girls’ voices continue to ring true - mixing apprehension with a thirst for adventure. The girls may seem to come around to their new surrounding a bit too quickly, but their unease at not knowing where they are or how to get home resurfaces throughout the tale. It reminds us of how easily children can become wrapped up in the moment and forget the more pressing issues that may trouble them."
"This book is definitely something that should be on the radar of parents out there that are looking for something innocuous. The book isn’t just for kids, though. When read, it took me back to the days of my youth when everything including life itself was much more simplistic. Definitely give Von Allan’s Stargazer a look for yourself, or anyone needing a great gift for the holidays! Again, kudos to Von Allan and his smooth style of writing a simple story in a world where it seems everything is interweaving like a spiderweb and sometimes too hard to follow. Let’s face it, a story doesn’t need to span a lifetime or contain forty different characters to be good."
BW Media Spotlight
"The back cover describes the book as “part fairytale, part science fiction, and part adventure story”. It is indeed all three, and very well told. This first GN is set-up, allowing you to get to know the girls and become attached to them. Then you visit the strange world and get a robot. The teaser for the next volume seems to indicate Marni will have to fight an evil force and the cover indicates another local will join them. Von Allan creates a believable world (two, in fact) both in story and in the look.
As a bonus you get to see some behind-the-scenes of the book, from early art to the brainstorming process as to how he created the three-part graphic novel tale. I don’t know how the next two parts will come out, but I can easily recommend part one for the curious fantasy fan, young girls, or anyone who likes a decent story. It’s not a “girly book”, but it is a good book about girls coping with death and an unusual situation. I’m looking forward to volume two."
"Anyway, this book deals with a young girl who is very distraught about the recent death of her grandmother. The early moments of the book are all about this and the family dynamic that comes from it, but don’t worry, that title comes into effect before too long. Marni (the main character) eventually has a sleepover with friends, they end up camping in the backyard and eat too much pizza… then things get weird. Marni has inherited an odd artifact from her grandma, and they’re all poking around at it when something flashes and they find themselves in a strange land. Oh, and the artifact is gone. The rest of the book is essentially them trying to get acclimated to this new place, as they find an old statue, a tiny robot guy, a boat and a few other things I probably shouldn’t get into. To top it all off Von has decided to put his notes in the back, so we get to see his thought process for how this would all eventually play out. He did take out the spoilers for future volumes, but I still skipped over most of it because I don’t want anything ruined and I’m a big enough dork to go back and read those notes after the series is finished anyway. I liked it overall, as it has a ton of potential, but this is still very much the early days of this saga. Well, I’m hopeful that it ends up being a saga, but you never know with comic finances the way they are. One quibble is that the characters had a tendency to stutter to convey seemingly any emotion, as the mourners at the funeral were all about stuttering, then the kids were all about it whenever they ran into anything odd in the new world. That can be conveyed just as easily by a facial expression, says the guy who couldn’t draw a realistic person if his life depended on it. Like a said, a mere quibble, and it should in no way be meant to indicate a lack of overall quality. The art is amazing (although I’m thinking future volumes will give Von more of a chance to flex his artistic muscles), the writing was excellent overall and I can’t wait to see what happens next, so that sure sounds like a success to me."
Kids Read Comics
Stargazer from Von Allen is a great sci-fi epic for young readers that features great art and girl friendly adventure.
I also received one of the nicest reviews I ever received from a young third grade girl at a school in Florida. If you'd like to read her thoughts on Stargazer, please visit http://stargazer.vonallan.com/2010/09/wonderful-review-of-stargazer.html