Monday, June 30, 2008

Manga Monday: Rin!

Rin! (Volume 1)
Satoru Kannagi & Yukine Honami
Two established yaoi creators combine forces to create a new yaoi series in Rin! Satoru Kannagi, writer of Only the Ring Finger Knows, and Yukine Honami, artist of Desire (among others), bring readers a tale of two childhood friends in a strange tale of love. Katsura suffers from crippling anxiety attacks. The only thing that seems to help him get over them is a hug from his brother’s long-time friend Sou, who seems to take it in stride and indulge him. But as they’re in high school, the rumors run rampant and it’s getting to be a source of stress for everyone. With a big archery tournament approaching however, Katsura can hardly let go of this extra reassurance now. When fellow archer Kouichi offers to take over for Sou, and comes on to Katsura, the relationships of all those involved changes. This is kind of a weird premise, but if you can buy that initial idea (which is asking a lot), the book plays out really well in a story full of tension and emotions on high. The characters are all a little two-dimensional, but it’s hard not to wish the best for vulnerable, na├»ve Katsura as he battles to gain control of his body in more ways than one. Sweet and satisfying, this is a great first volume of a three-volume yaoi manga series, and a successful pairing of two yaoi creators.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wizard World Chicago 2008

Another Wizard World come and gone...and as predicted, I only needed to stay for one day. Plenty of empty space on the show floor, publishers and retailers from the past noticeably absent, with no stars gracing the spotlight like in years past. There was a thin herd of people on opening day with the staff not bothering to wait to let people in at ten A.M. when the show officially began. Pretty sad. I kind of treat this as a place to shop for discounts and hunt for back issues now, not even bothering with the poor choice of panels. This show needs to be saved somehow - bought out and brought back to its former glory. Wizard seemed to try a few things this time around...somehow coercing Warren Ellis to its paltry show...offering an alternative comics panel with Jessica Abel and Matt Madden...but too little, too late. Publishers were obviously keeping announcements in check for the San Diego Comic-Con next month, but we did get a few tastes of things to come. The biggest news was Erik Larsen stepping down as Publisher of Image Comics. Other than that there's Secret Warriors, spun out of Secret Invasion from Marvel, and the confirmation of the long-delayed Marvel series featuring Spider-Woman - Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D. A favorite Image title of mine, a dark, scary little vampire comic that was cancelled after three issues, Impaler, is being resurrected with a trade collection and then an ongoing series. And a few teaser images were released...nothing too big. Of course, everything was overshadowed by the death of Michael Turner on Friday night. Anyways, Patrick hunted for John Byrne comics and came up with the complete Lab Rats and the first half-dozen or so issues of Doom Patrol, Namor and Blood of the Demon and a few missing issues of Superman & Batman: Generations 3. He also got the first six issues of The Spectre by John Ostrander. I got the following:

Alright, we're going to San Diego for Comic-Con this year, so see you all there!

Madame Xanadu #1

Matt Wagner & Amy Reeder Hadley
A new ongoing series launched from Vertigo this past week, focusing on a mystic of the DC universe, Madame Xanadu. She’s part of the present DC universe, but this new series will explore her origins back in the day of Merlin and the fall of Camelot. The first issue follows her when she was known as the nymph Nimue, and is asked by local druids to use her influence to stop the darkness that is creeping over the kingdom. After a few encounters with a mysterious individual and a talk with her difficult, self-absorbed sister Morgana, Nimue sees the beginning of the end of Camelot.
I was pretty psyched going into this book because I’m a fan of the whole girl witch genre, and the previews I’d seen of this looked promising. Unfortunately, it’s pretty bland. I wasn’t expecting the series to be set in the past when I picked it up, and I think that may have contributed to my poor reception. But had I known, it’s still full of stereotypical fantasy figure after another. The art is competent but unremarkable for the most part, though there are a few scenes that stand out, particularly with Merlin. I’m not sure what this series is going to turn into, but as is, it’s a very poor debut.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Previews: September '08 Comics

Here we go again! Highlights of the latest Previews Catalogue for comics shipping to comic shops in September...
Avatar Press
Black Summer TP - Warren Ellis's brutal series is collected in both softcover and hardcover formats.
No Hero #1 - With Black Summer wrapping up, Ellis and Black Summer artist Ryp release the first issue of a new series collaboration.
Bongo Comics
Bart Simpson's Treehouse of Horror #14 - The latest horror anthology issue features some remarkable talent: Gilbert Hernandez (Love & Rockets), Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) and Glenn Fabry (Preacher).
Dark Horse
Speak of the Devil - Gilbert Hernandez's excellent six issue mini-series is collected in a hardcover.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight (Volume 3): Wolves At the Gate TP - Drew Goddard's (Cloverfield) Buffy arc, controversial and also quite good.
DC Comics
Joker HC - A dark original graphic novel written by Brian Azzarello, no doubt meant to satiate people's appetite in wake of The Dark Knight film.
Jack Kirby's The Demon Omnibus HC - And the Jack Kirby goodness just keeps coming! This is advance-solicited, actually available in November.
Watchmen HC - Also available in November, in anticipation of the film, DC will make a hardcover edition of Watchmen available along with their Absolute Edition and trade paperback collection. Also coming out by Titan Books is Watching the Watchmen, Dave Gibbons's account of the creation of this masterpiece, with plenty of goodies, designed by Chip Kidd and Mike Essl.
Astral Project (Volume 1) - A new CMX title by the author of Old Boy, about astral projection.
Drawn & Quarterly
Aya of Top City HC - A follow-up to last year's critically acclaimed Aya graphic novel.
The Burma Chronicles HC - The latest book from Guy Delisle, creator of Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea.
Fantagraphics Books
Beasts! (Book Two) - A new Beasts! anthology from editor Jacob Covey, with a lineup of over ninety artists that didn't appear in the first book!
Krazy & Ignatz 1944-1944: He Nods in Quiescent Siesta - Collecting the final strips of George Herriman's classic comic strip, this book is also loaded with extras.
The Good Neighbors (Book 1): Kin HC - A new fantasy series from Ted Naifeh (Courtney Crumrin) and the writer of The Spiderwick Chronicles, Holly Black!
***Pick of the Month!***
Houghton Mufflin Company
The Best American Comics 2008 SC - Lynda Barry edits a new installment of the excellent anthology featuring some of the best comics out there. While she didn't get her wish to include Paul Pope (thanks to DC being lame), we should be favored with a great selection of other stuff.
IDW Publishing
Locke & Key - Collecting the recent horror mini-series by best-selling novelist Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez.
Angel: After the Fall: First Night - Collecting the recent three unspectacular issues (#6-#8) that followed different characters from the Angel TV series on the night following the series finale.
Ed's Terrestrials, The Town of Zack, and Vigfus the Viking - The first offerings in IDW's new line of children's books!!
Image Comics
Dragon Prince #1 - Ron Marz begins a new series with Lee Moder in a book that looks a little Crossgen-ish. But I, for one, think that's a good thing.
Savage Dragon #140 - With Erik Larsen stepping down from his position as Publisher of Image Comics, we'll hopefully see more of the green finhead. In the latest solicited issue, Dragon's "Image Tour" comes to a conclusion in a sort of Avengers-style issue as Dragon teams up with Witchblade, Invincible, Shadowhawk and Spawn!
Marvel Comics
Ultimate X-Men/Fantastic Four Annual 1 and Ultimate Fantastic Four/X-Men Annual 1 - These two books seem to give different perspective of the same battle, from either the FF or the X-Men. Kind of neat.
Big Hero 6 #1 (of 5) - Chris Claremont and David Nakayama assemble a team of superheroes based out of Japan. Knowing Claremont's track record, it won't be very good, never know, right? This is actually an established team attached to Sunfire, but with some new members. Oh, and one of the kids on the cover is wearing a Devil Dinosaur t-shirt.
Daredevil #111 - Lady Bullseye makes her debut...and I doubt she could have been wearing a more revealing outfit.
Deadpool #1 & #2 - Another ongoing Deadpool series, this time by Daniel Way and Paco Medina. The initial issues tie in to Secret Invasion.
Sub-Mariner: The Depths #1 (of 4) - Four issue Marvel Knights mini-series written by Peter Milligan, painted by Esad Ribic, featuring the oft-neglected Prince of Atlantis.
X-Men: Magneto - Testament #1 (of 5) - With the Magneto Prequel movie in the works, Marvel is coming up with a story of their own to flush out the villain's past. Written by Greg Pak, it may actually be cool.
Annihilation Classic HC - A new hardcover collection featuring stories of characters from the sweeping Annihilation crossover events, including Adam Warlock, Nova, Rocket Raccoon and Quasar, boasting talent from the likes of Jack Kirby, Mike Mignoal, John Buscema and Gil Kane.
X-Men: Magik - Storm & Illyana Premiere HC - I read this Magik mini-series a year or so back, and while it was alright, it certainly had no need of a hardcover presentation. But if you've ever wondered over the origin of the magical character, here it is, as told by Chris Claremeont, John Buscema and friends. Also available this month is an X-Men: Return of Magik 40-page booklet collecting previously-published material from X-Men Unlimited, New X-Men and X-Men: Divided We Stand.
Marvel Boy Premiere HC - A nice new presentation of the much-revered Grant Morrison/J.G. Jones story.
Omega: The Unknown Premiere HC - A collection of the fan-favorite 10-issue series.
Counter X (Volume 2) TP - The first Counter X collection featured Warren Ellis's retooled X-Force team. This second volume is of Warren Ellis's vision for Generation X.
Eternals by Jack Kirby (Book 2) TP - Collecting the final issues of Jack Kirby's series, including the annual.
Oni Press
Local HC - A hardcover collection of Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly's praised slice-of-life mini-series.
Travel HC - A new wordless graphic novel from the innovative creator of New Engineering!
Sofawolf Press
Digger (Volume 1) GN - The adorable award-winning webcomic by Ursula Vernon is collected in a softcover!
Vertical Inc.
Tezuka's Black Jack (Volume 1) HC - More Tezuka! Keep it coming!!
Viz Media
Solanin - A new addition to Viz's excellent signature line, this 432-page manga is by award-winning creator Inio Asano.
Grant Morrison: The Early Years SC - Ravenous fans of the writer will be pleased to see this book by Timothy Callahan, as he examines Morrison's Animal Man, Doom Patrol, Zenith, Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Gothic. Featuring an exclusive interview with the creator.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Off To Wizard World

Patrick and I are setting off for our annual trip to Wizard World Chicago, a convention that's gotten progressively worse over the years...we only go for one day, and then we'll be visiting some good comic stores like Quimby's and Chicago Comics. Anyways, here are a few pictures from years past...

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nova (Volume 1): Annihilation - Conquest

Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning & Sean Chen
The first volume of the new ongoing Nova series from Marvel Comics follows Richard Rider as he picks up the pieces following the events of the galactic crossover event Annihilation. With no Nova Corps, but with their collective power (and worldmind) at his disposal, Richard answers distress calls across the galaxy with little time to pause, at least until the worldmind insists upon it, and Nova stops by Earth for a respite to visit his family. What he returns to is a world changed by the events of Civil War and possibly a world he no longer belongs to. But really, he has plenty else to keep him occupied as the phalanx have reared their heads and they want Nova and the power he wields.
This book collects the first seven issues of the new Nova series, issues every bit as riveting as the surprisingly action-packed Annihilation mega crossover, which comes as no shock since the writers of Annihilation: Nova (Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning) are on-board for this incarnation of the hero. Sean Chen masterfully illustrates the pages of thrill upon thrill, in a book that is constantly creative and surprising amid kick-ass fight sequences. I'm not sure exactly where this falls in with the whole Annihilation - Conquest event (the sequel to Annihilation), but works just fine as a stand-alone series, although having read Annihilation proves useful, as there are characters that make appearances from that story in this book, including Nova's former lover Gamora (the most dangerous woman in the galaxy) and Drax the Destroyer. A hell of a lot of fun.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In Stores 6/25

Here's a rundown of the books shipping to comic stores on Wednesday with the most potential...
Pick of the Week
Gantz (Volume 1) - The highly-anticipated manga from Dark Horse debuts this week from Hiroya Oku. The book follows a group of people who have died and are resurrected by an entity calling itself Gantz who forces the recently undead to serve it in hunting down alien creatures. Supposedly very violent and, uh, sexy.
Other Noteworthy Releases
All-Star Batman and Robin the
.....Boy Wonder (Volume 1) HC
Captain America: Chosen
.....Premiere HC
Demo TP
Final Crisis #2 (of 7)
Good Bye HC - The latest Yoshihiro Tatsumi collection!
Green Lantern: Tales of the Sinestro Corps HC
Jack of Fables (Volume 3): The Bad Prince TP
Loaded Bible (Volume 1)
Madame Xanadu #1
Mighty Avengers #15 - Secret Invasion Tie-In
Ms. Marvel #28 - Secret Invasion Tie-In
New Avengers #42 - Yes, another Secret Invasion Tie-In
Runaways #30 - Joss Whedon's final issue on the series!
Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers #1 (of 3)
The Walking Dead (Volume 8): Made To Suffer TP
What If...Fantastic Four Tribute to Mike Weiringo

Monday, June 23, 2008

Manga Monday: Little Butterfly

Little Butterfly (Volume 1)
Hinako Takanaga
Little Butterfly is a three-volume yaoi series that follows the developing relationship between two seniors in high school: friendly out-going Kojima and quiet brooding Nakahara. Nakahara isn't liked by most of his fellow classmates, misunderstood and seemingly unapproachable, but Kojima would like to give the boy a chance, inviting him into his group while going on a field trip and trying to include him, until he disappears in another attempt to run away from his abusive household. Reluctantly, Nakahara tolerates Kojima's presence and befriends the do-gooder, who eventually gets him to break out of his shell a bit and smile. Soon enough, Nakahara confesses that he's fallen in love with Kojima, who is in turn dismayed by the development.
I didn't expect much from this book when I first began to read it. The art looked a little generic and it seemed like your typical yaoi material, nothing special. But the relationship between the boys in this book is really captivating to watch unfold, organic and somehow familiar, despite its over-the-top drama. The supporting cast all kind of blurs together, but that's alright with the focus on the budding love between the two protagonists as they learn about each other and their backgrounds, their feelings and desires. There's nothing really explicit in the first volume of Little Butterfly, but I've heard that it gets increasingly sexual, which is nice because I really want to see these crazy kids work out. It's easy enough to overlook this book, but a closer inspection is worth the effort, especially for those searching for a good yaoi story with a lot of heart.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fluffy HC

Simone Lia
Fluffy is a new graphic novel from Dark Horse, collecting all four volumes of a book that creator Simone Lia previously published herself. The story follows a little bunny named Fluffy, who is being raised by a human daddy, the neurotic Michael Pulcino. Fluffy refuses to acknowledge that he's a bunny and acts like a little kid, going on about tractors and ice cream. Michael has his own problems in this book, escaping to Sicily to get away from his stalker girlfriend (who also happens to be Fluffy's preschool teacher), dealing with his dramatic family, and generally fumbling to find some sort of meaning in his life.
While Fluffy is absolutely adorable, it's also surprisingly incredibly insightful. This book touches on a lot of issues that I've never seen really explored in the medium before, and it does them really well, sometimes through humor, sometimes through diagrams. And each of the characters involved in the story, even secondary ones, are treated like real people with real depth. I don't want to make it sound like it's more than it is, but I was surprised to find this such a layered work beyond the immediate "cuteness" factor, which was also well done and constantly brought a smile to my face. The book is really beautifully packaged as well, which combined with the wonderful story contained within made it well worth the $19.95 pricetag. In fact, I'd say that it was easily one of my best purchases of the year.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Daddy's Girl

Debbie Drechsler
My first impression of Debbie Drechsler's art when I picked up the graphic novel Daddy's Girl, was that it reminded me quite a bit of Lynda Barry. The fact that Daddy's Girl is made up of little vignettes presented in an autobiographical fashion didn't hurt either. Daddy's Girl follows a young girl who is abused sexually by her father as she grows up, an abuse that shapes her self-image and the encounters she has with other men later in life. This graphic novel was originally published in 1995, and I honestly think that it would have been more shocking if I'd read it at that time. Reading through it over a decade later, it seems full of stereotypical scenes of sexual abuse, even in how it affects her reactions to men as she matures, although it is hard to ignore the visual aspect of the book when it comes to a man forcing oral sex on his teenage daughter. But beyond the visuals, I would have liked to see more interesting things done with the material. In light of so many accounts of sexual abuse available in other mediums (particularly television dramas and biographical novels), this seems pretty standard, as horrible as this account is, which I understand is at least partially auto-biographical. I feel kind of callous to have that reaction, but like I said, if I'd come across an account like this in 1995, I probably would have been utterly shocked at the details Drechsler depicts in Daddy's Girl. But as is, I find the more interesting vignettes the ones that turn the focus away from the abuse, like in a story where Lily's family visits a low-income family with food, or when Lily meets a shy, smart friend in school. Subject matter of this kind make it difficult to review a story negatively, but I do feel like the impact of Daddy's Girl is lost with time, and if Drechsler were to write these stories today, she would need to reach a little beyond the same things that others who've suffered abuse from within their families are describing. But I am glad to see that this is back in print, as it was surely a staggering, impactful book upon its initial release, and as such, will probably remain an important piece of art in the comics medium.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In Stores 6/18

Here are the comics with most potential shipping to comic shops this Wednesday!

Pick of the Week

Astonishing X-Men (Volume 4): Unstoppable TP - The final issues of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men run are collected at last, including issues 19-24 and Giant-Sized Astonishing X-Men #1.

Other Noteworthy Releases

Angel: After the Fall #9 - That was quick.
Atomic Robo (Volume 1) TP
Cat Eyed Boy (Volume 1)
Cat Eyed Boy (Volume 2)
Chiggers TP - New Hope Larson
Drawing Words & Writing Pictures SC
Eternals by Neil Gaiman TP - Now in softcover
Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition (Volume 3)
Naoki Urasawa's Monster (Volume 15)
Pocket Full of Rain SC
Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite TP
Y-the Last Man (Volume 10): Whys and Wherefores TP - Final collection

Monday, June 16, 2008

Manga Monday: High School Debut

High School Debut (Volumes 1 - 3)
Kazune Kawahara
This is an enjoyable shojo series that I picked up on a whim. High School Debut follows Haruna Nagashima, a girl who is just beginning high school. Her goal is to get a boyfriend like all girls seem to when they move on from middle school. She intends to put her all into it, just like she went all out for softball in middle school and was a great success. The only problem with her new goal is that she's awful at it. She reads the latest fashion magazines, buys the trendiest clothes and goes to the places where people meet, but no one approaches her, despite the hook-ups going on all around her. When she overhears a young man say that he knows what men look for in girls, she doesn't think much about her actions, or the consequences, and begs the guy to be her coach and help her find a boyfriend. The guy, Yoh Komiyama, happens to be the most popular guy in school and he really doesn't like girls - he finds them annoying. But after some prodding from his friends and sister, he gives it a shot and begins to coach Haruna on how to dress, talk and flirt, going so far as to text her instructions and words of encouragement on her dates. There's a really nice dynamic between all of the characters of the series, especially between Haruna and Yoh's clueless friend Fumi, and between Haruna and Yoh's beautiful younger sister Asami, who does some pretty amazing things to keep the series interesting. There's a lot of heartbreak and misery in this series, but there's also joy and humor. I found myself really proud of Haruna on several occasions and completely sucked into the circumstances she found herself in. Unfortunately, the series begins to lose its steam with the third volume when Haruna inevitably realizes that she has developed feelings for Yoh, despite his warnings against such behavior. While it remains interesting through the last volume to be released in America so far, the excitement of those two early volumes evaporates pretty quickly, perhaps a signal that the book has peaked early on. But I have faith that the creator, with the dazzling storytelling prowess she demonstrated with the two initial volumes of High School Debut, will find a way to revitalize the book even with the tension tapering off so severely.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Eternals #1

Charles Knauf, Daniel Knauf & Daniel Acuna

A new Eternals ongoing series launched from Marvel this past week, picking up where Neil Gaiman's Eternals mini-series left off last year. A group of "good" eternals, led by Ikaris, seek to awaken other eternals to who they are, while Druig seeks to find these "lost" eternals first to program them in his own way. The bad news is that without the help of all of the eternals, Druig included, the world may be lost to the Horde, signaled by The Dreaming Celestial to devour the earth. The eternals need to be unified some way in order to have a future.

This book focuses on the same characters at the forefront of Neil Gaiman's take on the race: Ikaris, Sersi, Thena, Druig and Makkari. Unfortunately, I wasn't a big fan of Neil Gaiman's take on the characters the first time around, and as this is just continuing that take, I'm not very thrilled with the beginning of this series. The eternals, in general, are a great concept, but this series is shaping into something pretty generic and, well, uninteresting. The art by Daniel Acuna is pretty decent, reminding me a bit of Phil Noto, but it's nothing that can save the series, if the first bland issue is any indication.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy

Volume 3: 1935-1936
Chester Gould

In case anyone's keeping track, Comics-and-More turned three-years-old this week! Hooray! Hopefully I'll be going for years to come. Anyways, on to the review...

The third volume of IDW's The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy sees plenty of good stuff, including the introduction of Toby, a cute blonde cashier at Mary Steele's new restaurant who soon joins Dick Tracy's posse of supporting characters. Unfortunately there is that whole incident with Chief Yellowpony and his, um, squaws...pretty cringe-worthy stuff...but once we're past that hump...oh, and the black driver to a, and that...well, let's just say that all racial stereotypes aside, there's a lot of fun to be had in this latest collection of classic adventure strips. I'm especially glad that this is the last volume to dawn the profile of one of the supporting characters. They were already scraping the bottom of the barrel with the chief on the cover of this one. I noticed that Pat Patton, Dick's trusted sidekick, was set to be the cover of the fourth book, but it seems that it was changed at the last minute for a better cover with more interesting-looking villains from a panel from the strip - a good choice, especially with some of the exciting villains to come (The Blank, I noticed, already appears in volume four). I've been finding it hard to work comic strips into my reading schedule, but something that seems to work for me is reading about a month's worth of strips at bedtime. I tend to get through the material at a decent speed that way and it doesn't get too tedious. There's just so much material in these reprint projects that it's hard for me to take time away from other stuff to read them, but I'm certainly glad to be getting the chance to pour over these classics. Between Dick Tracy, Terry and the Pirates, Peanuts, Krazy Kat and the upcoming Little Orphan Annie, it's still going to be difficult to find time for everything I want to read, but with such A-grade material, I can hardly complain at its availability. I only wish there were more time in the day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Jessica Farm (Volume 1)

Josh Simmons
This is the first volume of Josh Simmons’s ambitious project where he will draw one page of this book a month over the next 42 years until he has a 600-page single graphic novel in the year 2050. Until then, he will graciously publish one Jessica Farm volume every eight years, this being the first, its initial page having been drawn in January of 2000. Josh Simmons recently earned acclaim for his silent horror graphic novel House, published last year. And while Jessica Farm has moments of horror, it’s mostly a fantasy story about, well, Jessica Farm. It’s Christmas Day and Jessica makes the rounds to all of the fantastic creatures who live in the walls, the shower, and the attic of her house (among other places), putting off the beating she’s sure to get when she opens the presents that await her underneath the Christmas Tree downstairs. Very alike Alice In Wonderland, Jessica meets ups with all manner of little people, monsters and animals, although some encounters are bloody, sexual or dangerous. But it all seems to be a fantasy world she’s made up to escape the harsh reality of life with her abusive father, touching on plenty of subjects sure to be running through the mind of an adolescent girl, and some more twisted thoughts that may stem from her household. Josh Simmons has a lot of room to play with here in this exercise of the imagination, and what he ends up with is a captivating playground of wonderful characters. I was surprised to find that, among the beautiful art, I didn’t see much progression of Simmons’s style from the beginning of the book to the end, especially given the eight years it took him to draw the thing, but perhaps in 2050 when the entire work is complete, the changes will be more apparent. Until then though, we can look forward to the regular installments that will be published over the creator’s lifetime.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

In Stores 6/11

Plenty of good stuff is hitting comic store shelves this Wednesday. Here are the books most likely worth the price of admission...
Pick of the Week
The Complete Little Orphan Annie (Volume 1) HC - A new highly-anticipated complete collection of classic comic strips joins Dick Tracy and Terry and the Pirates under IDW's The Library of American Comics imprint this week. The excellent Little Orphan Annie strips from 1924 to 1927 are collected here with a never-before-published strip written by Harold Gray a few weeks after the strip began. This is a must-have.
Other Noteworthy Releases
Absolute Sandman (Volume 3) HC
Angel: After the Fall #8
Burnout GN - New Minx title
Eternals #1
Eternals by Jack Kirby (Book 1) TP
Fluffy HC - A bunny with a human daddy - how could this not be
.....utterly adorable?
Invincible #50
Joker: The Greatest Stories Ever Told TP
Marvel Zombies 2 HC
One-Pound Gospel (Volume 1)
The Programme (Volume 1)
Reading Comics and What They Mean SC - Douglas Wolk's book in softcover
Skaar: Son of Hulk #1

Monday, June 09, 2008

Manga Monday: Monkey High!

Monkey High! (Volume 1)
Shouko Akira
Monkey High! is a shojo manga that follows one of the more memorable characters I've encountered in manga recently: Haruna Aizawa, the beautiful daughter of a politician recently engaged in a scandal. Following her father's downfall, Haruna transfers to a new school, where she observes that things are pretty much the same as at the prestigious K Academy where she attended previously: the students act like monkeys, bickering, establishing hierarchies...she finds it all tedious and obnoxious. Unfortunately for her, the popular boy Atsu has taken a shine to her, and likewise, all of the girls have decided to dislike her. But the short energetic boy Macharu (whom she thinks looks like a baby monkey) seems to be the only one who can melt through the standoffish front she's put up to keep others at a distance.
I really enjoyed this book. It's a great romantic story with very human characters. Like I said before, I love Haruna. She's a little bitter and quietly disgusted by those around her, but ultimately, she does care about how people perceive her as much as she'd like to pretend she didn't. She doesn't really know where she belongs in the scheme of things, but she's content to blend into the background, if only the people around her would allow it. Akira's pacing and the tension she creates is pretty much perfect. there isn't a dull moment throughout the story - it just kind of draws you in and doesn't let go. The supporting cast is pretty great, funny at times and tender at others. This is easily one of the best shojo manga I've read all year.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Salt Water Taffy (Volume 1)

The Legend of Old Salty
Matthew Loux
Salt Water Taffy is the new all-ages series by Matthew Loux, creator of the hilarious Sidescrollers. While Salt Water Taffy isn't funny like his debut graphic novel, it is a great reading experience in a different way. The book begins with Jack and Benny driving in to Chowder Bay, Maine, where they will be spending the summer with their parents, to the dismay of Jack. Once there though, the two kids find a lot of exciting things awaiting them: mysterious shadows, a theft at the local salt water taffy shop, and most thrilling of all, a tale of a giant lobster named Old Salty, related to them by local fisherman Angus O'Neil, who claims to have grappled with the giant sea creature.
As with Sidescrollers, it took me a few pages to get used to Matthew Loux's art style, especially of the children running sidescroller-style. But once I was familiar with the cartoony drawings, I was in Loux's spell once more. Especially through the opening, there is some really beautiful scenery drawn that effectively captures the feel of the book right out of the gate. And that established tone carries through the rest of the adventure, that of a summer vacation nestled in a cozy small town alongside the coast. There's a lot of fun to be had in this first volume of Salt Water Taffy, a fine beginning for a new all-ages adventure series.

Friday, June 06, 2008

La Perdida

Jessica Abel

I was really impressed by Jessica Abel's recent writing gig on Life Sucks for First Second Books, so I decided to give the creator's much-lauded original graphic novel a go. La Perdida follows a young woman, Carla, who travels to Mexico to "find herself." She's half Mexican and is looking to make a connection with that side of herself. She goes into Mexico, citing her love for Frida and taking a look at the touristy side of things, but soon gets in deep with some of the locals, including a new boyfriend in Oscar, who dreams of being a deejay. The longer she stays, the more she gets pulled in by the ideas offered to her, and the further she finds herself from her former friends. Before long, she's in a world she barely recognizes and becomes entrenched in things that she never expected. La Perdida is really a wonderful story of self-discovery that sees a very human main character making mistakes, learning and ultimately, fumbling her way through a foreign society that perhaps she was never meant to be a part of. This novel is rich in politics and characterization with some really fantastic dialogue, the sort that first got me excited for Abel in Life Sucks. Abel's art is really nice, sometimes flushed out more than other times, but appropriate for what she'd depicting, and often quite beautiful, such as the scene featured on the cover of the book. La Perdida feels very memoir-ish, and as such, really sucked me in alongside Carla and made her feel like a real person for me. It's really good stuff, the last third making for some really exciting scenes. Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Manhunter #31

Marc Andreyko & Michael Gaydos
After being absent from comic shelves for several months, Manhunter returns this week with a new artist in the talented Michael Gaydos of Alias fame, his dark look an appropriate and welcome compliment to the dark, violent book featuring vigilante Kate Spencer, lawyer by day, Manhunter by night. This issue was very new-reader-friendly, the first two pages recapping Manhunter's rise to prominence and the conflicts Kate faces with family and identity. Following this, the book doesn't miss a beat, throwing Kate head-first into action as she battles The Atomic Skull at a Hollywood movie premiere. As the issue progresses, readers get a little taste of the different aspects of the book, an introduction for new readers, but also a nice refresh for the fans. A new mystery is also established, as women are disappearing near the border, drawing little interest from law enforcement. But Kate is immediately on the case, researching the large amount of missing persons and homicides, and flying out to the scene. The most exciting part of the issue was the hint of the Joker's upcoming appearance in the book, as her former-mad-scientist-sidekick Dylan receives a little gift from the villain. And then there's another little guest spot at the end of the issue. Overall, the title resumes right where it left off, not missing a beat. The events are interesting as they ever were, with an art style that's not too much of a jarring transition, but is a great change nonetheless. Let's just hope that readers who have been interested in checking out the series have gotten caught up on the trades and warrant DC's continuing to publish the title without another scheduled cancellation needing to be saved by ravenous fans. Given the quality of this book compared to most DC titles, I welcome Manhunter's return and hope she's here to stay for a long while.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Little Vampire (Volume 1)

Joann Sfar
The first collection of Joann Sfar's beloved all-ages comic, as published by First Second Books, contains three Little Vampire stories, the first two of which have been published in America previously by Simon & Schuster. The stories follow a young vampire who strikes up a friendship with a human boy Michael, and the misadventures of the two and their other ghoulish friends, including Phantomato, the red ghost dog. In the first story, Little Vampire Goes To School, Little Vampire meets Michael for the first time as he attends night class in the same classroom that Michael attends during the day. The two of them write notes to each other in a notebook until Little Vampire's correspondence is discovered, and the Captain of the Dead wishes to speak to the boy about guarding their secret. Michael has so much fun with the ghouls and monsters that he continues to come back each night that he can. Next comes Little Vampire Does Kung-Fu, which focuses on Michael as he goes on a quest to learn Kung-Fu to fight back a bully at school. Unfortunately, his monster friends have eaten the bully, leaving Little Vampire and Michael to find the means to restore him. The last story, untranslated in America before its appearance in this volume, is Little Vampire and the Canine Defenders Club, in which three dogs escape a testing facility and seek refuge in the mansion where Little Vampire lives.

As always, Joann Sfar proves that he's an amazing talent. I'm in awe of the shear volume of material he continues to produce (I think I heard that he's produced over 100 graphic novels since the early nineties), all of which I've read being of high quality. I'm grateful that First Second is such an advocate for his work, and I'm very glad that they've added this book to their impressive library, as I've been wanting to read Little Vampire for awhile now, and it turns out that it's probably the best thing I've read from Joann Sfar yet. It's creative and wacky and plenty of fun, and I'm hoping to hear an announcement of another volume very soon.

Monday, June 02, 2008

In Stores 6/4

Sorry, no Manga Monday this week... But here are the books shipping to comics shops this Wednesday with most potential...
Pick of the Week
Manhunter #31 - After a too-long absence from the comic shelves, Kate Spencer's back in her fan-favorite solo series! Writer Marc Andreyko returns with the fantastic Michael Gaydos (Alias) taking over pencils.
Other Noteworthy Releases
Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
.....Season Eight #15
Essential Captain Marvel
.....(Volume 1) TP
Fables (Volume 10): The Good
.....Prince TP
Honey & Clover (Volume 2) TP
Invincible (Volume 9): Out of This World
Lobster Johnson (Volume 1): Iron Prometheus TP
Monster Zoo GN
MPD Psycho (Volume 5) TP
New Avengers (Volume 7): Trust TP
Secret Invasion #3 (of 8)
Tellos Colossal (Volume 1) TP
Trinity #1
Ultimate Origins #1 (of 5)
X-Factor Visionaries: Peter David (Volume 4) TP

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Movies-and-More: June 2008

Here we go again: June release dates for films, music, DVDs and books, as well as my box office predictions and newly-released film trailers…

In Theaters June 6th
Kung Fu Panda (Click title for theatrical trailer)
Mother of Tears
You Don’t Mess With the Zohan

Predictions: 1. Kung Fu Panda ($40 m), 2. Sex and the City ($29 m), 3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Krystal Skull ($21 m), 4. You Don't Mess With the Zohan ($14 m), 5. The Strangers ($12 m)

In Theaters June 13th
Encounters At the End of the World (on Wednesday)
The Happening
The Incredible Hulk

Predictions: 1. The Incredible Hulk ($52 m), 2. The Happening ($37 m), 3. Kung Fu Panda ($17 m), 4. Sex and the City ($13 m), 5. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Krystal Skull ($8 m)

Predictions: 1. Get Smart ($42 m), 2. The Love Guru ($28 m), 3. The Incredible Hulk ($27 m), 4. The Happening ($15 m), 5. Kung Fu Panda ($7 m)

In Theaters June 27th

Predictions: 1. Wall-E ($65 m), 2. Wanted ($40 m), 3. Get Smart ($23 m), 4. The Love Guru ($15 m), 5. The Incredible Hulk ($14 m)

New Trailer Debuts:

Your other entertainment needs:

June 3rd:
On DVD: The Dead Zone: Final Season, The Eye, Meet the Spartans, Semi-Pro, Vince Vaughan’s Wild West Comedy Show: 30 Days & 30 Nights - From Hollywood To the Heartland, Weeds: Season Three

On CD: Ashanti, Disturbed, Jewel, Journey, Aimee Mann, Now! 28, Radiohead, Gavin Rossdale, Weezer

In Bookstores:
Lewis Black’s Me of Little Faith
Lee Child’s Nothing To Lose
Clive Cussler’s Plague Ship
W.E.B. Griffin’s Death and Honor
Robert B. Parker’s Resolution
David Sedaris’s When You Are Engulfed In Flames

June 10th:
On DVD: Be Kind Rewind, The Bucket List, Chaos Theory, Funny Games, John Adams, Jumper, The Other Boleyn Girl, The Signal, Witless Protection

On CD: Adele, Jakob Dylan, The Fratellis, Emmylou Harris, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Lil Wayne, Sergio Mendes, Montgomery Gentry, Alanis Morissette, My Morning Jacket, Martha Wainwright

In Bookstores:
Jackie Collins’s Married Lovers
James Patterson’s Sail
Douglas J. Preston’s The Monster of Florence
Debra Winger’s Undiscovered
June 17th:
On DVD: 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, Fool’s Gold, The Jungle Book 2, Popeye the Sailor Man (Volume 2): 1938-1940, The Sword In the Stone, Under the Same Moon, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins
On CD: Coldplay, Chante Moore, The Offspring, Kate Perry, Judas Priest

In Bookstores:
Janet Evanovich’s Fearless Fourteen
Jane Green’s The Beach House

June 24th:
On DVD: 10,000 B.C., Belle Toujours, Charlie Bartlett, Definitely, Maybe, The Furies (Criterion Collection), Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs, In Bruges, Persepolis, The Spiderwick Chronicles

On CD: Cute Is What We Aim For, G. Love & the Special Sauce, Amos Lee, Edwin McCain, Motley Crue, My Chemical Romance, Ne-Yo, Nelly

In Bookstores:
Sylvia Browne’s End of Days
Paulo Coehlo’s Brida
Catherine Coulter’s Tailspin
Joyce Carol Oates’s My Sister, My Love
James Rollins’s Last Oracle

And how did I do with my predictions for the box office last month?

Films opening May 2nd
My predictions:
1. Iron Man ($98 million)
2. Made of Honor ($15 million)
3. Baby Mama ($9 million)
4. Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay ($7 million)
5. Forgetting Sarah Marshall ($6.5 million)
Actual Box Office:
1. Iron Man ($98 million)
2. Made of Honor ($15 million)
3. Baby Mama ($10 million)
4. Forgetting Sarah Marshall ($6.1 million)
5. Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay ($6 million)
That’s right, dead-on for the top two movies on my first box office prediction.
Films opening May 9th
My predictions:
1. Speed Racer ($55 million)
2. Iron Man ($52 million)
3. What Happens In Vegas ($17 million)
4. Made of Honor ($9 million)
5. Baby Mama ($6 million)
Actual Box Office:
1. Iron Man ($51 million)
2. What Happens In Vegas ($20 million)
3. Speed Racer ($18.5 million)
4. Made of Honor ($8 million)
5. Baby Mama ($6 million)

And I thought my giving Speed Racer a weak $55 million was spelling doom for the big budget film…

Films opening May 16th
My predictions:
1. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ($80 million)
2. Speed Racer ($38 million)
3. Iron Man ($32 million)
4. What Happens In Vegas ($10 million)
5. Made of Honor ($5.5 million)

Actual Box Office:
1. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ($55 million)
2. Iron Man ($32 million)
3. What Happens In Vegas ($14 million)
4. Speed Racer ($8 million)
5. Baby Mama ($4.7 million)

Again, I overestimated the new big film (and Speed Racer again), but I was right on my Iron Man assessment.

Films opening May 23rd
My predictions:
1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($140 million)
2. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ($45 million)
3. Iron Man ($22.5 million)
4. Speed Racer ($19 million)
5. What Happens In Vegas ($7 million)

Actual Box Office:
1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($101 million)
2. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ($23 milliom)
3. Iron Man ($20 million)
4. What Happens In Vegas ($9 million)
5. Speed Racer ($4 million)

Alright, I overestimated Indy a bit. But to be fair, it did bring in $151 million over the 5-day weekend…
Films opening May 30th
My predictions:
1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($89 million)
2. Sex and the City ($31 million)
3. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ($25 million)
4. Iron Man ($15 million)
5. The Strangers ($9.5 million)
Actual Box office:
1. Sex and the City ($55.5 million)
2. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($46 million)
3. The Strangers ($21 million)
4. Iron Man ($14 million)
5. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ($13 million)
Okay, okay - I was totally off this week. I suck.