Friday, March 30, 2007

Inverloch (Volume 1)

Sarah Ellerton

The first printed volume of the hit webcomic Inverloch is really a great all-ages read. It follows a young da'kor (a race of feared wolfish creatures) named Acheron, who by chance meets a young female elf one day and falls for her, promising to help her find the mate she lost when she was young. Acheron sets out on an adventure in a large fantastic world completely unknown to him, and learns the hardship of discrimination, intimidation and choosing your friends and enemies. This promises to be quite an epic adventure ala Lord of the Rings, with some great art from Ellerton that looks like it could rival some of the best Disney character designs out there. There's nothing particularly unique to this story that hasn't been seen in other similar fantasy stories, but I haven't seen anything quite like this in comic form, and it really is suited for the medium under the creator's guiding hand. The story unfolds in a great cinematic fashion that makes for very fluid sequences, with endearing characters that readers are sure to want to revisit in subsequent volumes. B+

Monday, March 26, 2007

Manga Monday 28: To Terra!

To Terra (Volume 1)
Keiko Takemiya

To Terra is a fantastic space soap opera epic. It was originally serialized between 1977 and 1980 in Japan, and its creator is considered an important figure in shaping modern shoujo manga. And as To Terra is an important historical manga, we of course have Vertical to thank for publishing the three volume Takemiya adventure. The story follows a few different young men who grow up in a time when people are pretty much manufactured to be perfect citizens and as such, not to question their place. Some humans are developing psychic powers as they are raised by foster parents on a nearby planet, and are seen as a threat to the Utopian paradise planned for Terra, or Earth. These psychic "Mu" are treated as outcasts and executed, although a small number has been gathering where they can not be reached, and they wish to get to Terra, or home, like everyone else. Keiko's art looks influenced by Osama Tezuka, and the story reminded me quite a bit of Colleen Doran's A Distant Soil, which contains several similar components. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Doran cites this story as influencial in her work. In the end, I was once again pleasantly surprised when I read this manga, as I wasn't expecting much from a flip-through. Easily one of the best manga I've read so far this year. A

Emma (Volume 3)
Kaoru Mori

Another pleasant surprise. Just when I was debating giving up on the title that underwhelmed me with the last installment, Mori hits a homerun with the latest volume. Within, we see Emma starting over a new life in wake of the tragedy that took place in Volume Two. Great new characters and surroundings bring the story to life around Emma in a time of loneliness, on beautiful pages, as we watch a master leisurely set up her dominos. A+

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New Releases 3/13 - 3/16

DVD Releases (Tues, 3/13)
Casino Royale
Eloise In Hollywood
The Holiday
I Love Lucy: Seasons 7-9
Shortbus
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Season 4 (Original Series)

Previous Week:
IMDb Top DVD Rental: Stranger Than Fiction
Billboard Top DVD Sales: Flushed Away
My Barnes & Noble #1: The Secret

Music Releases (Tues, 3/6)
Amy Winehouse - Back To Black
Aqualung - Memory Man
The Corrs - Dreams: The Ultimate Corrs Collection
The Fratellis - Costello Music
Hayley Westenra - Celtic Treasure
James Morrison - Undiscovered
Natalie MacMaster - Collection
Neil Young - Live at Massey Hall
William Tell - You Can Hold Me Down

Previous Week:
Billboard Top 200 #1: Daughtry - Daughtry
My Barnes & Noble #1: Norah Jones - Not Too Late

Comic Releases (Wed, 3/7)
American Elf (Volume 2): Collected Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka
BPRD: Garden of Souls #1 (of 5)
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer #1
Complete Invincible Library (Volume 1) HC
Emma (Volume 3)
Franklin Richards: March Madness
New Excalibur (Volume 2): Last Days of Camelot
Wolverine: Origins (Volume 2): Savior Premiere Hardcover

Theatrical Releases (Fri, 3/9)
Dead Silence
I Think I Love My Wife
Premonition

Previous Week #1: 300

Monday, March 12, 2007

Manga Monday 27

Just a couple of short reviews this week with a few manga I'm a few volumes into now...next week: To Terra!
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The Drifting Classroom (Volume 4)
Kazuo Umezu
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I was getting a little bored with this title, to be honest, but this volume kind of reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the over-the-top sci-fi adventure. In this volume, the monster attacks! Plus....lots of screaming, maiming, etc. that ends on a cliffhanger that truly has me on the edge of my seat for the next installment. A
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Death Note (Volume 10)
Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata
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Death Note is a hard manga to review because it's such a plot-heavy book, but it's always a good read. It's more exciting at this point than it's been for awhile because it seems like things are getting a little out-of-control and any tiny little thing could topple Light from his throne. New characters join the cast, Kira's pursuers are closing in, and we're bound to have another climax soon because the tension is as thick as it's going to get. A

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Grave Robber's Daughter

Richard Sala

Richard Sala is one of my favorite cartoonists and with this new title from Fantagraphics (which is also Evil Eye #14), we see Sala doing more of what he does best: setting up a creepy atmosphere amid great art and strange characters. There was something very unsettling about this book in particular. I think it had a lot to do with the clowns, which are generally creepy, but are used really effectively as scary antagonists here, grabbing at people and slinging little girls over their shoulders in bags. The noir atmosphere is thick here in an abandoned town where people hide and cower in fear of the clowns coming to take them away, with the exception of a handful of teenagers loitering around the local amusement park. And then there's our protagonist, Judy Grood, whose initial appearance in the book (with the publishing information) is of her saying "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" in her car, as it's broken down. And that's kind of who she is in a nutshell. Sala's great at getting his characters across to the reader in a short time, as is seen with Peculia in other Evil Eye comics. Judy Drood actually first appeared in Mad Night, a graphic novel that I haven't read before, but fully intend to with my first introduction to the short-tempered girl detective. This is a read that's sure to please any fan of Richard Sala's, and could serve as a nice introduction to new readers, although I personally think Peculia is a superior title and a better place to start. A-

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New Releases 3/6 - 3/9

DVD Releases (Tues, 3/6)
Borat
Fast Food Nation
Hawaii Five-O: Season One
Let's Go To Prison
Moonlighting: Season Five
Northern Exposure: Season Six
Peter Pan
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch: Season One
Stargate: Atlantis: Season Two
South Park: Season Nine

Previous Week:
IMDb Top DVD Rental: Babel
Billboard Top DVD Sales: The Departed
My Barnes & Noble #1: The Secret

Music Releases (Tues, 3/6)
300 Original Score
Air - Pocket Symphony
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Duncan Sheik - Greatest Hits: Brighter
Gary Allan - Greatest Hits
Kelly Sweet - We Are One
Korn - MTV Unplugged
Mary Chapin-Carpenter - The Calling
Relient K - Five Score & Seven Years Ago
Ry Cooper - My Name Is Buddy
Sevendust - Alpha

Previous Week:
Billboard Top 200 #1: Norah Jones - Not Too Late
My Barnes & Noble #1: Norah Jones - Not Too Late

Comic Releases (Wed, 3/7)
Authority: Under New Management TP
Backstage Prince (Volume 1)
Bomb Queen III #1
Daredevil by Frank Miller & Klaus Janson Omnibus (Volume 1) HC
Darkness Ultimate Collection TP
Death Note (Volume 10)
EC Archives: Two-Fisted Tales (Volume 1) HC
Ex Machina (Volume 5): Smoke Smoke
Exterminators (Volume 2): Insurgency
Mighty Avengers #1
Ms. Marvel (Volume 2): Civil War Premiere HC
Naruto (Volume 13)
Nightwing: Brothers In Blood TP
Showcase Presents: House of Mystery (Volume 2)
Spider-Man: Saga of the Sandman TP
Supergirl: Candor TP
Thor: Eternals Saga (Volume 2)

Theatrical Releases (Fri, 3/9)
300

Previous Week #1: Wild Hogs

Monday, March 05, 2007

Manga Monday 26: Until the Full Moon

Until the Full Moon (Volumes 1 & 2)
Sanami Matoh
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I was really excited to read this manga because it has an awesome premise. I just happened to stumble upon it when I was researching werewolf comics for a Halloween post last year, and there it was at a used bookstore a few months ago just begging to be picked up. The story follows two young men: one is your normal super sexy self-assured vampire, David. The other, the main character of the two-volume manga, is a half-vampire, half-werewolf named Marlo. Unfortunately for Marlo, he's recently undergone some strange changes... During the full moon, instead of changing into a werewolf, he changes into a beautiful girl! His parents are reasonably upset (about the wrong things) and go see a respected doctor, David's father, Doctor Vincent, where the doctor's playboy son falls for the woman... Now, that premise is fantastic in my opinion. Great manga material. Unfortunately, Sanami Matoh doesn't play up the most interesting aspects of the situation: the fact that Marlo is in fact two different people. Instead, Matoh almost immediately puts an end to the tension and all is revealed to David, and the parents immediately propose a marriage between the two. The next 1-3/4 volumes is merely the two of them fighting to stay together in spite of some tame obstacles thrown in their way. I don't know what Matoh was thinking with this manga, but really, the pencils don't do much for me anyway, so I couldn't have absolutely fallen in love with the manga either way. It just made it that much more disappointing. D+
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Hikaru No Go (Volumes 7 & 8)
Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata
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Hikaru takes some huge steps toward achieving his goal of being a worthy adversary to Akira as he advances through the ranks of insei to qualify to play in the Lyons Tournament. Eight volumes into the series, this manga about a board game is as entertaining as it's ever been. Hikaru's ghost, Fujiwara-no-Sai was really downplayed in these last two installments of the series, which is a shame because it's really exciting whenever he faces a new opponent, but this series is leading toward something great even with the supernatural aspects on the backburner. A
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Monster (Volume 7)
Naoki Urasawa

I am constantly being blindsided by Monster lately. It really is a fantastic thriller. As Doctor Tenma gets closer and closer to Johan, clues to an ongoing investigation of seemingly unconnected murders shift into a horrible sort of sense. The way people go on about how much better Urasawa's later works Pluto and Twentieth Century Boys are, just make me reel. I can hardly comprehend that this isn't the Master of Suspense's greatest work to date. I'm glad Viz decided to publish this book before his others, even though I can't wait for a taste of those other books down the road! A

Friday, March 02, 2007

Runaways

With this week's issue #24, an era ends as series creators Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona say goodbye and head on to other projects. The good news, of course, is that Joss Whedon is taking over writing chores, but still, it'll be strange reading the series under someone else's hand.

If you look back to the initial issues of Runaways, you may not have been very impressed with what you saw. But beginning with volume two of the book, Adrian Alphona really honed his craft and produced some beautiful art. The few fill-in issues that appeared during this second chapter of the Runaways' lives didn't really grab me, so it'll be interesting to see if the new artist, Michael Ryan, can capture what made this title special under Alphona's reign. Either way, I'm expecting something exceptional with Whedon writing, whether it's different or not. Here's a little catch-up in what's gone down in the title up through the final issue of Vaughan and Alphona's run:
A group of children learn that their parents are supervillains, who identify themselves as the Pride and serve the Gibborim, who plan to destroy all life on Earth albeit the supervillains' children. These children witness a human sacrifice and run away. The initial team consisted of Alex, Nico, Karolina, Chase, Molly and Gert, each of whom gained some sort of advantage via their parents' exploits: Gert has a telepathically-linked dinosaur she named Old Lace. Molly is a mutant with super strength. Karolina is an alien with several abilities. Alex is a super genius strategist. Nico inherited the Staff of One which allows her to cast any spell once. And Chase got some super power gloves from his techi parents. The Runaways did their best to battle their parents and various supervillains while hiding in a hotel that had been buried during an earthquake, but there was a traitor among the teens who was still on the supervillains' side in spite of their sinister plans. Meanwhile a bunch of drama ensued, but basically Karolina and Nico had feelings for each other, and Gert and Chase became an item after months of arguing. They also acquired the Leap Frog, an invention of The Pride that made getting around a lot easier, who had a certain affection for Chase, who had since lost his power gloves. At the end of the first volume of the series, the Runaways confronted their parents, but were betrayed by Alex, who was subsequently killed, along with all of the evil parents, and the Runaways somehow managed to put an end to the terror that the Gibborim planned to wreak. After a short hiatus, Runaways returned to see the children in a new hideaway beneath a tar pit exhibit, a former lair of their parents. A new member was added to the team, Ulton's robot son Victor, who was supposedly destined to be a supervillain himself, according to a possible future variation of Gert. Quickly following Victor's arrival, Karolina found herself in a situation where she had to leave with a skrull to stop a war between two intergalactic races. With this change in line-up, the team fought supervillains around LA, and a new Pride was suddenly born from mystical means. Alex's father was resurrected and tricked a group of outcasts into helping him capture Molly and take down the Runaways. His plot was thwarted however, and saw Karolina's return with her betrothed, the shape-shifting androgynous skrull Xavin, and the death of Gert, whose telepathic raport with Old Lace shifted to Chase. Chase recently tried to ressurect Gert by attempting to sacrifice himself to the Gibborim, but he wasn't a worthy sacrifice and he ended up putting his friends' lives in danger before sending the Gibborim away from the limbo they clung to forever (supposedly). There was a certain amount of unease toward Chase after this event, a feeling that the Runaways barely had time to process before they returned to their hideaway to find Iron Man and SHIELD waiting for them in their exhausted state. And this is where Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan will pick up the story next month with Nico, Karolina, Chase, Victor, Molly and Xavin (and Old Lace, of course). We'll just have to wait and see what sorts of twists and turns the new creative team takes us on...