Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Movies-and-More: January 2009

Here's the run-down of January release dates for films, books, DVDs and music, as well as my box office predictions.

In Theaters Friday January 9nd
Bride Wars
Che
Gran Torino
Not Easily Broken
The Reader
The Unborn
Yonkers Joe
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Predictions: 1. Bride Wars ($34 million), 2. Marley and Me ($12 m) 3. The Unborn ($10 m), 4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($9 m), 5. The Reader ($7.5 m)
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In Theaters Friday January 16th
Defiance
Last Chance Harvey
My Bloody Valentine 3-D
Notorious
Paul Blart: Mall Cop
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Predictions: 1. Paul Blart: Mall Cop ($28 m), 2. My Bloody Valentine 3-D ($21 m), 3. Bride Wars ($19 m), 4. Notorious ($18 m), 5. Defiance ($15 m)
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In Theaters January 23rd
The Dark Knight (Re-issue)
Hotel For Dogs
Inkheart
Killshot
Of Time and the City (On Wednesday)
Outlander
Possession
Underworld: Rise of the Lycans
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Predictions: 1. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans ($30 m), 2. Paul Blart: Mall Cop ($17 m), 3. Inkheart ($15 m), 4. My Bloody Valentine 3-D ($10 m), 5. Possession ($8.5 m)
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In Theaters January 30th
The Class
New In Town
The Taken
The Uninvited
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Predictions: 1. The Uninvited ($27 m), 2. New In Town ($18 m), 3. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans ($17 m), 4. The Taken ($12 m), 5. Paul Blart: Mall Cop ($9.5 m)

Your Other Entertainment Needs:

January 6th
On DVD: Babylon A.D., Bangkok Dangerous, Battlestar Galactica: Season Four, Disaster Movie, Pineapple Express, Righteous Kill, The Tudors: Season Two

On CD: Glasvegas, Erin McCarley

In Bookstores:
Janet Evanovich's Plum Spooky
His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Becoming Enlightened
Richard North Patterson's Eclipse
Daniel Suarez's Daemon

January 13th
On DVD: Appaloosa, Ben 10 Alien Force: Season One: Volume Two, Brideshead Revisited, Dallas: Season Ten, Mirrors, My Best Friend's Girl, Swing Vote, Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys

On CD: Billy Ray Cyrus, The Derek Trucks Band, Heather Headley

In Bookstores:
Ann Brashares's 3 Willows: The Sisterhood Grows
Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Volume 3): The Last Straw
Kimberla Lawson Roby's The Best of Everything
Evan Thomas's A Long Time Coming
Stuart Woods's Mounting Fear

January 20th
On DVD: City of Ember, El Norte (Criterion Collection), The Express, Magnificent Obsession (Criterion Collection), Max Payne, Moonlight: The Complete Series, Powerpuff Girls: The Complete Series, Saw V
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On CD: Antony and the Johnsons, Mariah Carey, Lisa Hannigan, Bon Iver, Jane Monheit, Thom Yorke

In Bookstores:
Jimmy Carter's We Can Have Peace In the Holy Land
Bernard Cornwell's Agincourt
Gwen Ifill's The Breakthrough
Lauren Willig's The Tempatation of the Night Jasmine

January 27th
On DVD: Blossom: Seasons 1 & 2, Cheers: The Final Season, Fireproof, Lakeview Terrace, Mary Poppins, Open Season 2, The Rocker, Vicky Christina Barcelona, You're a Good Sport Charlie Brown

On CD: The Bird and the Bee, Andrew Bird, Ciara, Franz Ferdinand, Pat Green, Hoobastank, James Ingram, Leona Lewis, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopez, Dean Martin, Paul McCartney, Renee Olstead, Duncan Sheik, Bruce Springsteen
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In Bookstores:
Suzanne Brockmann's Dark of Night
John Grisham's The Associate
Jack Higgins's A Darker Place
Alison Weir's Mistress of the Monarchy: The Life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster

In Stores 1/2

That's right, folks - books won't be hitting comic shops on Wednesday. Or Thursday. You'd better have plans for New Year's because you won't get your new reading material until Friday this week. These are the highlights of the delayed books...hopefully something in here's worth waiting for...
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Pick of the Week
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Incognito #1 - This is a new five issue mini-series from Marvel's creator-owned ICON line, a noir story (like Criminal) from Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, and featuring superheroes.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Aliens Omnibus (Volume 6) TP
Batman #684
Cable (Volume 1): Messiah War TP
Final Crisis: Secret Files #1
Runaways: Dead End Kids TP
Star Wars: Clone Wars (Volume 2): Crash Course TP
Teen Titans Spotlight: Raven TP
Vinyl Underground (Volume 2): Pretty Dead Things TP
War Machine #1
Why I Killed Peter GN
Wintermen Winter Special #1

Monday, December 29, 2008

Capacity

Theo Ellsworth
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I love Theo Ellsworth's Capacity graphic novel. The art is often intricate and ornate and its one of the most imaginative, magical books I've ever experienced. It's full of strange creatures, bizarre happenings and complex contraptions for a beautiful final product. I really like how Capacity is a lot about the creative process, how it works, where it comes from, and the author's personal experiences with the demons associated with creating. It was very encouraging and thoughtful and left me feeling quite inspired. Whether trudging through an underwater town or skulking along dangerous meandering streets, readers get to follow the author on a quest for understanding himself, a place to feel inspired, and a way to put aside distractions long enough to put one idea to paper. I'll admit that once the actual "Capacity" comics began, I was a little fidgety, hoping to get back to the interesting happenings at the opening of this graphic novel and how the author came to create his "Capacity" comics, but the actual comics soon warmed up to me and kind of took on the tone of the overall book, so I enjoyed the hell out of them as well. This is one of those books where you really don't want to rush through it, but stop to stare at the crazy beautiful art on the pages, kind of savor it before moving on. I really can't recommend this whimsical journey through one man's mind enough. A true treasure.

Manga Monday: Daemonium

Daemonium (Volume 1)
Kosen
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Daemonium is an original English language manga from Tokyopop. The story, written and illustrated by Kosen, follows Seisu, a high school boy scarred both mentally and physically following a car accident he was in with his parents where he was the sole survivor. Embittered and shunned over the years, Seisu has only his sister to keep him going, and is happy to go along with her to a small paradise away from it all in the countryside, where they can have some peace, and where Seisu feels surprisingly at home amid people who think nothing of his scars. The only thing is one beautiful boy seems determined to help him somehow, hinting that things around them aren't as they seem. Soon enough, Seisu is caught up in a dark fantasy where angels and demons exist and he's caught in crossfires that will force him to venture into Hell itself for his friends. So, there's a lot of potential in a premise like this. At this point, it can go either way, doing something new and inventive or just kind of going through the motions and offering little of interest as the story unfolds. But the set-up for this sort of story played out pretty well, building slowly with a nice mystery and a few surprises. Some of the new characters introduced later in the volume are a little less encouraging (pretty stereotypical stuff), leading me to believe that it may not be as innovative of a story as I at first believed. But only time will tell. Kosen knows how to tell a story, and while the art may look a little generic, the attention to detail is pretty nice.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Kramers Ergot 7

Edited by Sammy Harkham
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Contributions to anthologies are always hit or miss for me, and the latest Kramers Ergot is no exception in that regard. There are a few comics in this mammoth 16" x 21" hardcover that I definitely did not like. But with this anthology, even the bad comics at least looked beautiful in the oversized format, and luckily, the entries I didn't care for were few and far between. All in all, this is one of the best anthologies I've ever read, and it introduced me to several artists I hadn't been exposed to previously, and had pristine examples of great stories from bigger name artists such as Chris Ware. I did have a few problems with the book overall though, the biggest being that I had no idea who some of the artists I was looking at were, and the table of contents was so ridiculously elaborate that it made the endeavor to uncover an artist's name quite the chore. Luckily, the artists were listed on the spine in order of appearance, so I could refer to the contributor that way, but I think for the new reader, this would be a turn-off, and it kind of was for me too. That being said, this is a $125 art book and most people picking up something like this aren't blindly purchasing it, but there must be a few artists within that consumers aren't familiar with that they found tedious trying to identify. Anyways, an introduction to each artist or a more organized table of contents would have made things much easier for me. But that complaint aside, I loved reading this book. With such huge dimensions, it was a little strange reading it, a little awkward at first, but once I got used to it, it was a lot of fun turning those huge pages with often mind-blowing images. Some of the highlights:
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Shary Boyle's "Grow Old" was a great way to open Kramers Ergot. Her lush watercolors look fantastic on these pages, and it was a great example for what the artists thereafter had to work with. I loved how she arranged the art of her story and she had just beautiful drawings.
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"Cradle of Frankenstein" was another favorite of mine. Ted May's paranoid story was a lot of fun to follow and really off-the-wall.
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The next contribution was from Tom Gauld about Noah's sons. I really enjoyed Gauld's design for the arc (and construction thereof) and the dialogue between the two brothers leading up to the rainstorm.
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Geoff McFetridge's simply drawn "A Ladder of Lines" with white panels against a bright yellow background were great. Creative, interesting and fun, and not the sort of thing I usually read.
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Daniel Clowes's "Sawdust" was a one-page story about a man at mid-life who's down on his luck, and is easily one of the best contributions in the entire book.
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I liked C.F.'s colorful pages quite a bit. The designs of the characters and the weird shit going down made for one of the most uniquely cool stories of the bunch.
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Ah, Chris Ware. Of course, the story he provided was lovely. Lots of panels in a great little story showcasing the life of a woman reminiscing about the childhood home she finds herself living in once again.
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John Brodowski's one-page black-and-white silent comic was wonderful. I'd never heard of him before (and had to search that damn table of contents for a full name), but his page was haunting and just beautiful.
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"The Toppers" by Jaime Hernandez was another highlight, the artist choosing to do a story with lots of panels in one page about time travel and jealousy.
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One of the best contributions overall was "The Game" by Anders Nilsen, another artist who I've read nothing of. A weird story with wonderful pastel colors.
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Johnny Ryan's parody "My Sexy History" was one of the funniest comics I've read in years. I laughed out loud several times, something I don't do too often.
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Seth's "Thoreau MacDonald" was another highlight of the book. A quiet, dense story.
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Blanquet's little horror story was really disturbing and kind of ugly, but I couldn't help but enjoy the oddity.
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My favorite comic in the entire anthology was Adrian Tomine's "My Porno Doppelganger," about a girl whose life is kind of messed up because she has an uncanny resemblance to pornstar Amber Sweet.
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I also really enjoyed contributions by David Heatley, Matt Furie, Josh Simmons, Frank Santoro, Sammy Harkham, Kevin Huizenga, Helge Reumann, John Pham, Joe Daly and Gabrielle Bell. Some of the stories that I didn't like, such as Kim Deitch's, I can't really explain why I didn't like them except to say that I didn't get them or I got no enjoyment out of them. But like I said earlier, even in those cases, they at least looked nice on those big pages. So, overall, one of the most ambitious publishing projects of the year...a smashing success.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Previews: March '09 Comics

Here are the highlights from Previews Catalogue of book shipping to comic shops in March!

Dark Horse

Tarzan: The Jesse Marsh Years (Volumes 1 & 2) - This influential work from the 40's is being given the star treatment from Dark Horse Archives in these beautiful new hardcovers.

DC Comics

Batman: Battle For the Cowl #1 - Batman's various protegees struggle to keep Gotham under control in his absence in this new book.

Green Lantern Chronicles (Volume 1) TP - Some great material's collected here in the first volume of a new "Chronicle" series.

Oracle #1 - Despite the end of Birds of Prey, Oracle's still around delivering justice in her own way. This new series ties in to Battle For the Cowl.

Showcase Presents: The Doom Patrol (Volume 1) TP - This is supposed to be a really great series, and here's a nice affordable black-and-white edition.

Fantagraphics Books

The Complete Peanuts (Volume 11): 1971-1972 - Charlie Brown's younger sister Sally graces the cover of the latest volume from one of the best archival projects of our time.

Tales Designed To Thrizzle #5 - More crazy fun from Michael Kupperman!

Hyperion Books

Jellaby (Volume 2): Jellaby In the City GN - Kean Soo's purple dinosuar returns in a new adventure for all ages!

Image Comics

Savage Dragon #148 - Boasting a great jumping-on point for new readers, Dragon gets the honor of being the free comic at Free Comic Book Day this year from Image.

Marvel Comics

Dark Reign: Elektra #1 (of 5) - I've always liked Elektra, and since she was what kicked off the whole Secret Invasion, it'll be interesting to see where her and her bruised ego are left when the dust settles.

New Avengers: The Reunion #1 (of 4) - This was just previewed in Dark Reign: New Nation, and it looks like a decent mini-series, focusing on Hawkeye and Mockingbird's relationship following their deaths and subsequent resurrections.

War of Kings #1 (of 6) - Who will rule at the end of this intergalactic battle? Vulcan? Blackbolt? As long as this mini's cool, I'm indifferent when it comes to the outcome.

X-Men: Misfits (Volume 1) - One of two new Marvel faux-manga, featuring a Totoro-like Beast. Sigh.

Oni Press

Courtney Crumrin (Volume 4): Courtney Crumrin's Monstrous Vacation TP - The one-shots The Fire Thief's Tale and The Prince of Nowhere are being collected as the fourth volume of Ted Naifeh's Courtney Crumrin to fit in with the other collections.

Villard Books

Life With Mr. Dangerous HC - Paul Hornschemeier of Mother, Come Home returns with a new graphic novel this month!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In Stores 12/24

Here are the highlights of books shipping to comic shops on Christmas Eve!
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Pick of the Week
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Kramer's Ergot 7 - The new oversized 16" X 21" anthology from Buenaventura is finally hitting stores, showcasing some of the most exciting artists working in the industry today including Gabrielle Bell, Mat Brinkman, Ivan Brunetti, Dan Clowes, Kim Deitch, Matt Groening, David Heatley, Jaime Hernandez, Kevin Huizenga, Anders Nilsen, Richard Sala, Frank Santoro, Seth, Josh Simmons, Adrian Tomine, Chris Ware and many, many more! Edited by Sammy Harkham! Check it out!
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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The All New Atom (Volume 4): Small Wonder TP
American Flagg Definitive Collection (Volume 1) TP
Angel: Smile Time #1
Batman #683
Captain America Theater of War: America First!
Crayon Shinchan (Volume 6)
Mister X: Condemned #1 (of 4)
Naruto (Volume 33)
Secret Invasion: Requiem #1
Ultimates 3: Who Killed the Scarlet Witch Premiere HC
Ultimatum #2 (of 5)
Vigilante #1
What If? Classics (Volume 5) TP
X-Men: Angel Revelations TP
Young Liars (Volume 1): Daydream Believer TP

X-Men: Kingbreaker #1 (of 4)

Christopher Yost & Dustin Weaver
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Patrick picked this up for me at the comic book store, and had I been there, I probably would have given it a once-over and put it back on the shelf with an "egh." I wasn't too fond of Ed Brubaker's stint on Uncanny X-Men where much of what's going down in this new four issue mini-series was set up in "The Rise and Fall of the Shi'ar Empire" arc. Had I known that most of this series would follow up on that story, I wouldn't have bothered giving this a chance, but I was surprised that I actually really enjoyed it. Vulcan, the third Summers brother, is now in charge of the Shi'ar Empire, and is expanding the domain ruthlessly. Lilandra, meanwhile, is an outlaw, aided by the X-Men as they attempt to dethrone Vulcan and save their captured friends, including Havok, Polaris, Ch'od and Raza (the former two of the space pirates The Starjammers). I'm not sure where this story is going and what other players may be involved with this War of Kings crossover coming up, but this was quite an entertaining first chapter with some decent art by Dustin Weaver. I'm not sure I really need to get sucked into yet another Marvel crossover, but if I am...at least I'd better have fun reading it, right?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dark Reign: New Nation

Various
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Dark Reign: New Nation is a one-shot featuring five different stories from different creative teams, giving a little sampling of what's to come in five upcoming books debuting with Dark Reign's...well, reign.
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The first story is from Secret Warriors, written by Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman, with art by Stefano Caselli. This little prologue to the series has Nick Fury recalling an inspirational speech Captain America gave him in the past, and turning it on his secret warriors, which includes the superpowered people he recruited during Secret Invasion, as well as Maria Hill. I really enjoyed Maria Hill's character during Civil War and Secret Invasion - Bendis just writes her badass, so I'll probably check out the series proper for her inclusion alone.
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A new Agents of Atlas series is debuting this next year with Jeff Parker back on writing chores, and Carlo Pagulayan illustrating what's easily the best art among the chapters included in this comic. I never checked out Parker's fan-favorite mini-series, but after this little adventure, I think I'm going to give it a looksy. This story was a lot of fun with cool characters.
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Adam Felber and Paulo Siqueira's War Machine was utterly underwhelming. A simple, dull story with a forgettable villain, featuring a cold dynamic between War Machine and some girl in a satellite. Easily the weakest offering in this anthology.
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Skrull Kill Krew had a cute little story about skrulls diguised as cows in the sticks, and shooting the hell out of them. The new book will be written by Adam Felber and drawn by Paulo Siqueira. It was a little weird, but had decent art and was pretty fun.
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Hawkeye and Mockingbird try to form a new bond in New Avengers: The Reunion, following events from Secret Invasion which saw Bobbi Morse exit a skrull ship amid other kidnapped heroes, alive and well after years of being presumed dead. She's acting a little strange and distant, and I think there's potential for some nice dynamics there. This story's by Jim McCann and David Lopez.
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Overall, this was a nice sampling of new books to come. There are a few books that I will definitely not be checking out based on the chapters provided here, but a few I wouldn't have picked up before reading through this. Which was kind of the point of a book like this.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Lagoon

Lilli Carre
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Lilli Carre (Tales of Woodsman Pete) makes her full length graphic novel debut in the utterly beautiful graphic novel The Lagoon, put out by Fantagraphics Books. The dark, moody book follows a family that lives near a lagoon, where sometimes at night, the people who live nearby hear a beautiful sound that draws them to the body of water, and sometimes to their deaths. At the heart of this melody is a swamp creature whose intentions are unclear, but who affects those who hear its song in varying ways, whether it interacts with them individually or puts on a performance for a crowd. What really makes this book special is Carre's uncanny ability to convey atmosphere. This title just oozes dread as she paints shadowy panels of windy nights, wind chimes clanking amid falling leaves, or the depths of the lagoon, bubbles lazily floating to the surface above waving seaweed. There's a real sense of magic and wonder in her work that makes The Lagoon feel like much more than a simple story. I remember first noticing Carre when she illustrated the cover for the 2006 Best American Comics anthology. I loved the comic illustration - it was simple and just very pretty. And so I was able to recognize Lilli's handiwork instantly when I saw the cover to The Lagoon (it might be the noses) and gave the beautiful little book a shot. In the end, it's a wholly unique experience that marks a great talent with the ability to transport readers directly into her work. It may be a little bizarre or unsettling, or may leave readers scratching their heads wondering what the point of it all is, but one thing's certain: it's enchanting and captivating, and a quiet wonderful book such as this should not be overlooked.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Best Superhero Comics of 2008

I've noticed that when it comes time for my "best of" list for comic books at the end of the year, that superheroes hardly ranked. In 2006, only two comics made my top twenty (Athena Voltaire was #17, Astonishing X-Men was #6). And again last year saw only two entries (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer was #15, Astonishing X-Men hit #5). But you know what? I love superhero comics! I figure part of the reason is that it's kind of hard to rank Manhunter against the latest Love and Rockets or Acme Novelty Library collections, no matter how good Marc Andreyko and Michael Gaydos do on the former. It's just kind of an innate prejudice in me, I guess. That and literary comics tend to have a little more meat to them, often attempting to reach for something beyond what superhero books usually go for. But this year, I realized that many of the comics I got really excited about were superheroes. That may have been the case in years past as well, but I thought that I wanted to sing the praises of the men in tights this year with a "best of" list unto themselves, some of which will also appear on my end of the year list that incorporates the entirety of comics. How far will any of these titles rank on that list this time around? You'll just have to wait and see. 2005 did see The Luna Brothers at the top of my list for Ultra: Seven Days, so you never know. I apologize in advance for the lack of Final Crisis - I just couldn't get into it. I know a lot of people love it, but it wasn't for me. Anyways, here are my favorite superhero books from 2008...
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20. (TIE) New Avengers/Mighty Avengers - These books were kind of interchangeable this year, filling in the backstory of several characters involved in Marvel's big (but ultimately dull) crossover event, Secret Invasion, and relating some interesting stories.
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19. Secret Invasion: Inhumans - This was the best of the team spin-off series that took place during Secret Invasion. It's very much an action story following Medusa and her family as they attempt to retrieve their kidnapped king Blackbolt from the skrulls.
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18. Manhunter - Cancelled for a third time, I think this book is officially dead this time around. But I'm sure Kate Spencer will pop up around the DC universe yet. Michael Gaydos did some great artwork for the series in its final stretch, but it obviously wasn't enough to save the struggling series.
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17. The Sisterhood - From Archaia Studios Press, this book from Christopher Golden, Tom Sniegoski and Wellington Alves follows a group of ninja nuns who take demons into themselves (like human cages) until they reach full capacity.
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16. Young Avengers Presents - This mini-series saw six different creative teams each tackle a different character from the Young Avengers, to some pretty consistently great results.
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15. Ultimate Spider-Man - Lots of Silver Sable and Kitty Pryde is what I like to see in Spider-Man and Bendis provided just that in a year that saw art switch hands to the very capable Stuart Immonen.
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14. Nova - This is just a fun cosmic superhero book featuring a character who takes himself too seriously and has the entire legacy of the Nova Corps on his shoulders.
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13. Patsy Walker: Hellcat - A five issue mini-series featuring the sassy, funny Patsy Walker taking on the role of Alaska's guardian in the 50-state initiative. It's kind of weird, but fun as hell.
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12. Secret Invasion: Dark Reign - This one-shot features Norman Osborn's first meeting with a dark version of Tony Stark's Illuminati. Told through the eyes of Emma Frost, readers witness a strained alliance born between them and Doctor Doom, The Hood, Loki, and Namor.
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11. Thunderbolts - Warren Ellis and Mike Deodato's Thunderbolts is a lot of fun. The team of villains kept under Norman Osborn's thumb are constantly bickering and backstabbing, and it's great seeing these guys go all-out taking down superheroes. Very entertaining.
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10. All-Star Superman - Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's ultimate Superman book came to a conclusion this year in a spectacular show.
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9. Captain Britain and MI-13 - London's superheroes assemble to face the skrull invasion under the guidance of Pete Wisdom. During the battle, Wisdom sort of releases a huge group of magical villains that they now have to recapture. Originally pitched as a relaunch of Excalibur, this book is full of great characters and is pretty unpredictable.
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8. The Sword - The Luna Brothers have another winner with their third book, which sees a young girl obtain super abilities when she holds an ancient sword. Three supervillains are after the sword and murder her family to get it, so she's now on a quest to avenge them and rid the world of their dark powers once and for all. This book is blood-soaked and cinematic, and quite suspenseful.
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7. Astonishing X-Men - I'm not a fan of Warren Ellis's run on the title, so this ranking is strictly for Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's final few excellent issues on the series, including Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men #1.
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6. Wolverine: First Class - I wasn't expecting much out of this series, but it's damn good. Wolverine and Kitty Pryde go on adventures shortly after she arrives at Xavier's school, and of course get into plenty of mischief together. These are completely fun straight-forward superhero stories that call to mind a more innocent, whimsical time in superheroes.
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5. Ms. Marvel - Brian Reed's Ms. Marvel is fantastic when it's not sidetracked by the goings-on of crossover events. Carol Danvers has become a very complicated, but wholly interesting character, often introspective and fully-realized. Whether she's fighting alongside a team of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives like Sleepwalker and Machine Man, or taking a good, hard look at her strained relationship with her family, each issue is engrossing from beginning to end.
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4. Batman - Grant Morrison's R.I.P. is the best Batman story I've read in recent memory, a culmination of what he's set up from the beginning of his run, all leading to a grand finale against The Black Glove and the Joker.
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3. Echo - Terry Moore's latest series finds a young woman covered by some sort of experimental nuclear fallout that turns her into a weapon that she has little control over. Now she's on the run from the government and another crazed man infected similarly by the substance. Very dramatic and intense, and illustrated beautifully.
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2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight - Joss Whedon's season eight of his beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer saw Ms. Summers battle future slayer Fray this year, as well as team up with Dracula against vampires from Japan with magical powers. Consistent and engaging with sharp dialogue and plenty of emotional baggage, just how I like it.
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1. The Order - California's 50-state initiative team consists of pop idols, star athletes and actors with careers on a downward spiral, and it's awesome as all hell! Aside from Pepper Potts, the cast of characters is completely new, but they all have their issues and make for a great dynamic on this team constantly in the spotlight. I love the format of the book (each issue beginning and ending with a confession from a character) and the art is crisp and sharp. Often enough, it's the character's drama that's really fun to watch unfold, but the action isn't anything to sneeze at either! A homerun by Matt Fraction and Barry Kitson.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Manga Monday: The Outcast

The Outcast (Volume 1)
Vaun Wilmott & Edward Gan
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The Outcast is an original English-language manga from Seven Seas Entertainment. The supernatural drama follows Riley, a girl who recently moved to a big city from Missouri following the death of her parents. She's now staying with her grandmother and goes to a school with metal detectors where knife wounds are common, and she is encouraged more than once to keep her head down and not to stand out. Eventually Riley meets a friend in the brazen Kit, who introduces her to the guy that Riley (and every other girl in school) has an eye on, the handsome Carter. This leads to a date with said boy, where some strange things happen, and suddenly Riley is caught up in things that add up to much more than she'd expect if she'd only trust her intuition and put the pieces together. Meanwhile, her grandfather is researching the ancient Brotherhood of the Balance, who believed themselves to be physical incarnations of fallen angels who seek the destruction of a mysterious being: The Outcast. Riley gets in the thick of things on that front as well, and some odd things that happen to her hint of her being special somehow, and she's sure to play a pivotal role in the trials ahead. The set-up for this book is pretty intriguing with some decent characters and some nice dynamics between them. The supernatural stuff is mostly slow-building background stuff, keeping the focus on fish-out-of-water Riley as she struggles to make friends and adjust to her new surroundings. The art is simple, but it gets the job done, which kind of suits this book. It's very ordinary overall. There's nothing really special about it. It's interesting enough to carry a story, the generic conversations the characters have are enough to get from "point A" to "point B," but without the supernatural elements, this would hardly be enough to hold one's attention. Given the final image of this first volume, I'd imagine that the brotherhood of fallen angels are going to play a more active role very shortly, but hopefully sooner rather than later.

In Stores 12/17

Here are the highlights of books hitting comic shops this Wednesday!
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Pick of the Week
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Naoki Urasawa's Monster (Volume 18) - That's right! The final volume of Naoki Urasawa's suspenseful manga finally arrives in stores, bringing the complicated story of Dr. Tenma, Johan and the Red Rose Mansion to a thoroughly blood-soaked conclusion.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Asterix Omnibus (Volume 2) HC
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #20
Cavalcade of Boys (Volume 4) TP
Compleat Next Men (Volume 2) TP
Dark Reign: New Nation
Dead She Said HC
End League (Volume 1): Ballad of Big Nothing TP
Impaler #1
Mighty Avengers (Volume 3): Secret Invasion (Book 1) Premiere HC
MPD Psycho (Volume 7)
Punisher War Journal (Volume 4): Jigsaw Premiere HC
Secret Wars Omnibus HC
Silverfish TP
Spider-Man Noir #1 (of 4)
X-Men: Kingbreaker #1 (of 4)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere

Ted Naifeh
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Broody, sarcastic Courtney Crumrin travels with her uncle Aloysius to Germany in the latest Courtney Crumrin installment by Ted Naifeh. It picks up where The Fire Thief's Tale ended, with relations between the two of them rather strained. Which makes for a depressed Courtney, making her vulnerable to the creatures of the night that creep around Castle Krumrhein, whispering promises in her ear of eternal life and everlasting love. It's nice to see vampires depicted in a different light in this book with all of the vampire buzz in popular culture presently, but truth be told, this made for a disappointing book. A mopey Courtney just isn't as fun as the feisty girl readers are used to reading, and while I like that she went through this dark trial in her life, it wasn't very fun to read. And the story itself was a little boring: there wasn't much to it, and while it's nice to see the Gothic elements of old-school vampires mesmerizing young women and drinking from their blood in their rooms at night, that aspect is a little stale, especially given how cool the vampires are depicted visually, and the creepy legends surrounding the former queen. As usual, Naifeh's art is great - dark and fitting for the story, claw hands and all. And some of the later images of the monsters are really neat. But overall - a letdown.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz #1 (of 8)

Eric Shanower, Skottie Young & Jean-Francois Beaulieu
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I was very excited when this book was initially announced. Eric Shanower created one of the best comic books in Adventures In Oz, a book that continued where L. Frank Baum's Oz books left off. But he's never adapted the first book in Baum's series, as he's done here, writing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from the source material, with Skottie Young illustrating and Jean-Francois Beaulieu coloring. As is expected, Shanower sticks pretty close to the original children's book (I read it a few months back), complete with Dorothy's silver shoes and several other things that were changed when the film version that everybody knows, took some liberties. Skottie Young is a perfect fit as the artist on this title. The cartoony characters prance through the cheery landscapes of Oz, full of whimsy and magic, reminding the reader why The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (and its sequels) are such fun, inventive books, and have stood the test of time. I love the designs for the characters and the introduction of Dorothy's first traveling companion was spot-on. I'm looking forward to reading more and hope this will turn more people on to Baum's treasured creation.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ythaq: The Forsaken World #1 (of 3)

Christopher Arleston & Adrien Floch
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Another Soleil title published in the US by Marvel Comics debuted this week in comic shops, the three issue mini-series Ythaq: The Forsaken Planet by French creators Alreston and Floch. The first issue of the book follows a dedicated but lax soldier, astronavigation lieutenant Granite Welgoat. Sentenced to work the bar on a spaceship for oversleeping once again, Granite finds herself amongst a young maintenance man (Narvarth) and a gold digging snooty woman (Callista) when the spaceship crashes upon an uncharted planet. Together, the three brave the natives they encounter and befriend local chronicler Tao, who helps guide them to a local city where another piece of their spacecraft has crashed. Making things more difficult for them on their quest to locate other survivors of the crew is a group of evil creatures searching for "the aliens" at whatever cost, and some of the locals are able to harness one of the four elements to make for formidable foes. This book is full of high adventure in a blend of science fiction and fantasy. The art is very nice and there's a lot of story in this massive issue, which moves along at a brisk pace and covers a lot of ground, moving to entirely new situations from one page to the next at times. Some might say that it moves a little too quickly, but I like it - it has the feeling of older superhero comics prior to the 5-issue slow-building arcs we see everywhere presently. It's very lighthearted and fun. The characters aren't dark and troubled and are hardly introspective, but for a good old-fashioned fantasy, this is a great debut issue with a lot of heart, and I'm excited to further explore this forsaken planet in forthcoming issues.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tamara Drewe

Posy Simmonds
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My first thoughts upon flipping through Posy Simmond's (Gemma Bovary) new graphic novel Tamara Drewe was that it was extremely verbose. I was expecting the work to be a lot of descriptions of what was being depicted in the panels. That's not the case however. I found the prose to accentuate what was happening in the comic, kind of serving as word balloons do in some comics, getting inside of character's heads and really flushing them out. And to quite a spectacular result. Tamara Drewe is a comic originally serialized in Britain's The Guardian newspaper, and is an update/retool of Thomas Hardy's novel Far From the Madding Crowd. It follows a group of characters living in a rural community outside of London. Not much really happens there, so the teenage occupants are always bored and the littlest things can cause an uproar. It also makes for the perfect setting for a writer's retreat, which is what Beth and her famous writer husband Nicholas have established. A variety of writers arrive to be waited on and picked up after in perfect solitude where they can concentrate on writing amid a country setting. Things really get stirred up, however, when Tamara Drew arrives next door. The beautiful columnist knows just how to dazzle people and sets into motion some circumstances that end in misunderstandings and, through some meddling of the locals, death and scandal. There's a lot of turmoil going on in the lives of the people of this quiet town and it plays out pretty damn brilliantly, with life-like characters, engrossing situations and conversations, and very pretty watercolored art. This is a very strong work, so it's no wonder that it recently won the Grand Prix de la Critique Bande Dessinee (like via Journalista). This is easily a frontrunner for best book of 2008, and was an absolute delight to read. Highly recommended.

Monday, December 08, 2008

In Stores 12/10

Here are the highlights of books shipping to comic shops this Wednesday.
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Pick of the Week
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Nocturnal Conspiracies: Nineteen Dreams GN - A new graphic novel from European artist David B., the man behind the excellent autobiographical graphic novel Epileptic. I believe this book is based on his own dreams.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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30 Days of Night: 30 Days Til Death
.....#1
Archie's Greatest Hits (Volume 1) TP
Avengers: First To Last Premiere
.....HC
Batman: Joker's Asylum TP
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
.....Dailies (Volume 1): 1929-1931 HC
Camelot 3000 Deluxe Edition HC
Courtney Crumrin and the Prince of Nowhere
Daredevil: Man Without Fear Premiere HC
Final Crisis #5 (of 7)
Guardians of the Galaxy (Volume 1): Legacy Premiere HC
Herbie Archives (Volume 2) HC
Jack of Fables (Volume 4): Americana TP
Mammoth Book of Best New Manga (Volume 3)
Nova: Annihilation HC
Phonogram 2: The Singles Club #1 (of 7)
Princess Ai: Prism of Midnight Dawn (Volume 1)
Punisher: War Zone #1 (of 6)
Red Sonja (Volume 5): World On Fire TP/HC
Secret Invasion: Deadly Reign
Sulk (Volume 2): Deadly Awesome GN
Wolverine: Dangerous Games Premiere HC
Wonderful Wizard of Oz #1 (of 8)
Ythaq: Forbidden Planet #1 (of 3)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

X-Infernus #1 (of 4)

C.B. Cebulski & Giuseppi Camuncoli
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Get passed that pretty embarrassing cover featuring the swiveling female exposing both T AND A, and this four issue X-Men mini-series has some potential. X-Infernus is intended as a sequel to the Inferno crossover from the 90's, although this event is much smaller in scale, contained, as far as I know, to this one book. X-Infernus features Illyana Rasputin in Limbo, where she's this soulless horned monster leading hordes of demons on a quest to track down her lost soul sword and blood stone amulet, which were forged from her soul and, she reasons, rightfully belong to her following Belasco's death. The scenes with Illyana in Limbo are pretty impressive. I'm not much of a fan of Camuncoli's art overall, but the panels in this Hellish dimension are kind of freaky, especially Illyana herself, who's really a complete monster at this point, doing things you'd never imagine Colossus's quiet little "Snowflake" do, barbarous and cold. The scenes in Limbo go back and forth with the Uncanny X-Men team, where Colossus is upset at the lack of progress in reaching his sister, and Nightcrawler is assisting Pixie in getting a handle on her teleportation skills (which turn out to be pretty impressive). The exchange between Colossus and Peter is a little over the top, which is a shame since the book opens with it, and there really should be an emotional connection coming from the scene, what with Peter's sister being the focus of the story and all. But it's silly and executed pretty poorly. However, after that initial scene, the focus really does come around to Pixie, as she has a soul dagger that makes her go a little crazy ala Inferno, and those moments more than make up for any earlier shortcomings in the issue. Overall, a decent start to the mini-series. I like the focus on Pixie and Illyana. I think if it keeps going in that direction, this could be a fun, creepy little story.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Secret Invasion #8 (of 8)

Brian Michael Bendis & Francis Yu
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CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!
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Another mega Marvel crossover event has come and gone...leading right into the next one, Dark Reign (in fact, the last few pages of this final Secret Invasion issue set up that event). Overall, the lead-up to Secret Invasion was far superior to the mini-series itself. The mystery, the bubbling conspiracy and the implications of what Elektra's skrull body meant...that was executed well. Once the full-scale invasion of the skrull empire was underway...it got a little dull, a little unwieldy trying to tie in several books to the main series, and ultimately, utterly underwhelming. The first issue of Secret Invasion set up the skrull invasion on several fronts, and the final issue touched on those set-ups, but briefly. If a reader didn't pick up Secret Invasion: Fantastic Four #1-4, for instance, they would hardly care less that The Baxter Building went into The Negative Zone and then...came out of it (shocking development). But then again, what happened between the first and final issues of the main Secret Invasion mini-series? I hardly remember. They were fighting in the Savage Land at one point, then fighting in New York. But nothing too important really took place. It all felt very padded. The secondary Avengers titles, New Avengers and Mighty Avengers flushed out how people were replaced, and how things occurred exactly, making for a more interesting read overall.
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So, where does Secret Invasion leave the Marvel Universe? Marvel's been teasing fans with images of skrulls and humans coexisting for months, but of course none of that came to fruition. The "Dark Reign" isn't the skrulls ruling over the earth. The skrulls lost, of course, but not without repercussions. The Wasp died. All of the heroes that were replaced were returned, including the long-dead Mockingbird. Jessica Drew is going to have to earn people's trust again following the skrull queen's impersonation of her. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage's baby was kidnapped by skrull Jarvis. And then the final chapter of the tale that leads into dark reign, something that's been set up in Thunderbolts and other titles for awhile now: Norman Osbourn is seen as quite the hero in all of this. Starktech was hacked, SHIELD and SWORD were infiltrated, but not the Thunderbolts. Norman and his group of misfits were the only superhero team to come out on top, and Norman played it up for the cameras, garnering quite a bit of admiration. So much so that he's replacing Tony Stark as the most powerful man in the US, overseeing the 50 State Initiative and in charge of homeland security. And so Norman's dark reign begins. The final page of Secret Invasion #8 is of Norman meeting with a dark version of Tony's Illuminati. The new power behind everything in the form of six individuals: Norman Osbourn, Namor, Doctor Doom, Emma Frost, The Hood and Loki. I think the potential for this coming mini-series is far more exciting than the drivel we've been dealt over the past year from a weak alien invasion (let's face it: it could have been a lot better). And while the lasting impact of Secret Invasion perhaps isn't what we expected, we are going to feel them for years to come, hopefully with some storylines that will have made the invasion worthwhile.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

In Stores 12/4

Here are the highlights for book shipping to comic shops this week. Remember, new books arrive on Thursday this week because of Thanksgiving, instead of Wednesday as usual.


Pick of the Week
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Marvels: Eye of the Camera #1 (of 6) - I never read the original Marvels mini-series by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, but this is the sequel, with Busiek back on writing chores. This time around sees Jay Anacleto illustrating with his beautiful realistic style. I'm a big fan of his fantasy series Aria, so I'm excited to see how his craft looks in the Marvel U.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Astonishing X-Men (Volume 2) HC
Blank Slate (Volume 2)
Bleach (Volume 25)
Creepy Archives (Volume 2)
Daredevil: Yellow Premiere HC
Daredevil by Frank Miller and Klaus Jansen (Volume 2) TP
Ender's Shadow Battle School #1 (of 5)
Godland (Volume 4): Amplified Now TP
Haunted Tank #1 (of 5)
Hellboy: The Wild Hunt #1 (of 8)
Honey & Clover (Volume 4)
Hulk Family: Green Genes #1
Infinity Crusade (Volume 1) TP
Invincible Iron Man (Volume 1) Premiere HC
Jingle Belle: Santa Claus vs. Frankenstein One-Shot
Legend of Zelda (Volume 2)
Magicman Archives (Volume 1)
Mice Templar (Volume 1): The Prophecy HC
Monkey High (Volume 4)
Moon Knight, Silent Knight #1
Mushishi (Volume 6)
New Exiles (Volume 2): Soul Awakening TP
Project Superpowers (Volume 1) HC
Secret Invasion #8 (of 8)
Showcase Presents Supergirl (Volume 2) TP
The Spirit (Volume 1) TP
Star Trek: Assignment Earth TP
Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade #1
Teen Titans: On the Clock TP
X-Infernus #1 (of 4)
X-Men Noir #1 (of 4)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Manga Monday: Papillon

Papillon (volume 1)
Miwa Ueda
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Papillon is a new shojo manga by the creator of Peach Girl, which I've never read, but given this initial volume of Ueda's new series, I may want to check out. The story follows Ageha, a quiet awkward high school girl raised in the country by her grandmother, who moves to Tokyo to go to the same high school as her popular, confident twin sister Hana, who grew up with their parents. When Ageha decides to make her feelings known to her crush (and childhood friend) Ryusei, Hana makes a pass for him, beginning a rivalry between the two girls. Thankfully, Ageha has Ichijiku on her side. Ichijiku is a guidance counselor who's taken an interest in Ageha, building her confidence and helping to bring our her beauty. As the book moves along, Ageha earns support from her classmates, and even, oddly enough, her twin sister, who's both proud and jealous of the development in Ageha. This book is illustrated quite nicely by Miwa Ueda, with a good amount of tension and enough awkwardness and backstabbing to make you wince. But really, who wants a shojo book without the drama? There's plenty of that and more in this title.