Monday, August 31, 2009

Manga Monday: Swallowing the Earth

Osamu Tezuka
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I loved this graphic novel. Swallowing the Earth is an excellent manga that I think it on equal footing with many of Tezuka's better-known long mature works such as MW and Ode To Kirihito, even though this was a transition for him from his childrens work into those types of more serious stories. For the most part (although it does meander a bit from its core plot), this book follows a young man, Gohonmatsu, a guy who loves his liquor, who has been hired to observe a woman who enchants all men she encounters, Zephyrus. Zephyrus seems at first like a god, or a siren, as she has the ability to make mad go made for her, unable to think of anything else, or to have complete and utter control over them. However, Gohanmatsu somehow has the ability to resist her charms, so is the perfect candidate to discover her story and motives. But nothing is as it seems, and as Gohonmatsu gets closer to the truth, the stakes get higher and he uncovers a global plot that is more disastrous than he ever could have imagined. Swallowing the Earth is a rich story where Tezuka really has a lot to say about society, greed, government and gender inequality. Also central to the book is a plot of revenge and a story of unexpected love. Swallowing the Earth is epic in scale, beginning with smaller events and mysteries that slowly spiral past the sum of its parts into a whirlwind of disaster for the world's economy and governments. Tezuka illustrates his world with a nice balance of realistic art, with wonderful detailed background and settings, and cartooning, where the characters he depicts are oozing with emotion and reactions to the odd situations they find themselves in. The action and intrigue that propel this book are top-notch, masterfully executed. This book should really not be missed by anyone who considers themselves a fan of manga.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Week In Awesome! H2 and More!

TGIF is dead, and out of its ashes rises the new (well, new name) The Week In Awesome! Here are the top five things that got me excited over the past week!
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1. The Wolfman theatrical trailer - The highly-anticipated remake of Universal's horror classic The Wolf Man has a new extended trailer that looks fantastic! the movie, starring Benicio Del Toro, Anthony Hopkins, Emily Blunt and others, comes to the big screen on February 10th of next year. Watch the trailer here.
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2. Halloween 2 in theaters - Rob Zombie's sequel to his Halloween remake is in theaters this weekend, returning horror icon Michael Myers to the masses. Also announced this weekend is that Zombie will be directing a remake of the classic sci-fi/horror film The Blob.
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3. Everybody by Ingrid Michaelson - The new album by songstress Ingrid Michaelson was released on Tuesday, featuring a medley of catchy singer-songwriter-type pop music.
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4. New Avengers #56 - The latest issue of Marvel's flagship Avengers title sees the entire team de-powered by The Wrecking Crew, leaving the non-powered Mockingbird to take them all on. And then things get even more exciting as Osborn's Dark Avengers arrive on the scene.
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5. "Again" by Flyleaf - The new single by alternative band Flyleaf debuted this week. Lead singer Lacey Mosley sounds more Alanis Morissette than ever, in a good way, set to a pretty rockin' sound.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Spin Angels #1 (of 3)

Jean-Luc Sala & Pierre-Mony Chan
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Spin Angels is the latest book to be published by Marvel Comics state-side through their partnership with Soleil. Each issue in the mini-series, like the other Soleil/Marvel offerings, is a super-sized 48 pages in length, priced at $5.99. This book is charged with political intrigue, conspiracy theories and black-op assignments all with the backdrop of the Catholic Church in a Da Vinci Code sort of way. The protagonists of the book are a group of investigators that work for the Black Office of the Vatican: Sofia D'Agostino is the lead investigator that goes relic hunting in the field to track down artifacts to be dated and authenticized, Kyu is the mad scientist-type who develops tech gear ala James Bond, and Marches is the man maneuvering the group behind the scenes. In wake of the tragic loss of a comrade on an expedition, Marches hires a bodyguard of sorts as well: the ladies' man, blunt gung-ho assassin Angelo Costanza. He rubs most of the staff the wrong way, but as is seen throughout this first issue, comes in handy in a pinch. The characters may not be the most fully-realized, but they are a good contrast to one another. This is quite the action-packed story, complete with great set-up and interesting goings-on. The pacing and suspense level are pretty much top-notch thanks to the clear pencils of Chan, with his lush detailed environments. You can definitely see manga influence in his work too, especially when it comes to character expressions, and it suits the world he paints here, both realistic and cartoony at the same time, pretty perfectly. Spin Angels is another example of high-quality genre work turned out by European creators, and thanks to Marvel's partnership with Soleil, we have the pleasure of experiencing these great adventures as well.

Batman: The Widening Gyre #1 (of 6)

Kevin Smith & Walter Flanagan
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Kevin Smith sets his sights on the Bat-universe with his latest venture into comic books. In his mini-series Batman: The Widening Gyre, Smith tells a tale of Bruce Wayne, prior to the events of R.I.P. as he is led into a startling new adventure via his former partner Dick Grayson. The opening scene from Batman's past, featuring an attack by Nazi villains on a Jewish Temple, is excessively cheesy, and not in a good way. It's just bad, especially Robin's part in the picture. The only good part about the scene is Flanagan's art, which is really competent and well-executed in a fast, action-packed superhero comic like this one. Everything is very clear and arranged well, and the action is actually really good, which somehow isn't the case for a lot of superhero comics. This scene soon fades into the modern day, where Batman teams up with Nightwing in a battle with one of the villains from the initial scene. And then the story starts. I'm sure the Nazi characters from these two initial scenes will recur throughout the rest of the mini-series, but it took a lot of Nazis to get to the real story, which is a shame because passed the Nazi stuff, the story actually gets good. But those opening scenes are so hokey and well, dull, that I almost put this down before I got to the good stuff. But I'm glad I kept at it. My favorite Batman villain Poison Ivy has overrun Arkham Asylum with her pets. She uses a lot of her old tricks, using pheromones to try to seduce Batman, tying people up with vines, etc., but she has some new tricks up her sleeve. Leave it to Kevin Smith to have Ivy growing Super-Cannabis to drug Batman. That's just so Kevin that it amazes me. But with another twist, Batman soon realizes that the jungle that Ivy has grown isn't to take over Arkham so much as keep something out of Arkham. And that thing is The Demon, whom Ivy has been helping Jason Blood to suppress with a tonic, something that The Demon is not too pleased with. The Demon is really monstrous here, a true demon, eating people's faces off and the like. Batman seems to have met his match but for a masked figure who appears in the end to save the day with a bucket of holy water. A new guy with a devil's goat mask. A lot of twists and turns made for an interesting comic after the initial hiccups of the book. But while Flanagan's art was clear and concise during the opening scenes, it got a little murky as the book went along. I think his primary problem was that he let the art get away from him in Ivy's jungle. There was too much green - it kind of overwhelmed everything else. He then has the idea to separate the panels using vines, which was even more green and ended with pages that were just too busy to be very enjoyable. The art wasn't very clean again until The Demon came on to the scene, which was certainly the highlight of the issue. However, the panels were still arranged well beyond all that stuff that was going on. The action was still top-notch. I think both of the members of the creative team just need to pull back a little bit and not get too overzealous with their work. Sometimes less is better.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Days Missing #1 (of 5)

Phil Hester & Frazer Irving
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Days Missing is a new mini-series published by Archaia in association with Roddenberry Productions. The title was created by Trevor Roth, with help developing the story by Phil Hester and Rob Levin. Hester (Firebreather) will be writing the first and final issues of the series (David Hine will be coming on board for issue two), with Frazer Irving on art on the debut issue (Chris Burnham will be illustrating the next issue). The story follows The Steward, an immortal being who has been on Earth since before mankind, and who has helped the planet out of several extinction events, and manipulated many major events without attracting attention to his existence. This series chronicles his adventures.
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In the debut issue, The Steward appears as a doctor, assisting a group of scientists in tracking down a vaccine to Swazi Fever, a virus that's similar to Ebola, but is much more dangerous and aggressive. The backdrop of this issue is Africa, of which we see very little, as most of the story takes place between a quarantined lab and an airplane, with a very text-heavy story. The story serves to establish the premise of the book and introduce the main character, who prattles on about his role in humanity at length, reminiscing about his past and relaying the wisdom he's garnered to end the current threat. It's a little tedious to wade through all of this and Frazer Irving's art looks rather stiff when it comes to bio-hazard suits and talking heads. There are some bright spots though, specifically a scene where The Steward thinks back to the extinction event that ended the dinosaurs' reign, with some beautiful scenes featuring the creatures. Days Missing has some potential in its premise, which could certainly offer a wide variety of material to work with, but honestly, The Steward isn't an interesting enough character to carry the title. He's a broad, god-like character and is just plain dull, even in design. The situations readers find him in may end up being interesting, but I don't find myself looking forward to spending any more time with the character involved in those events.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1

Brian Michael Bendis & David LaFuente
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Clunky title aside, this is still a good example of a mainstream superhero comic, appropriate for all ages, in the tradition of the recently-wrapped Ultimate Spider-Man. LaFuente has a nice art style to follow up Immonen, and Bendis is writing the same sorts of stories he wrote before the title's relaunch. And while there isn't a drastic change to the title, it is a nice start to the new incarnation of the book. It breathes a little fresh air into the series, having some time gone by and circumstances changing, most notably public opinion of everyone's favorite neighborhood Spider-Man, and that Peter is with Gwen Stacy. Having not read any of the other Ultimate titles, I'm not sure what really went down in the Ultimatum crossover, but I guess it doesn't effect this title too much. The knowledge that there was a disaster is enough and I think anything that comes into the book to illustrate any change that has come about in wake of the event will be explained (or we should hope, given a certain character's entrance at the end of this first issue). I'm happy with this debut and with where the book's going, the new positions of the characters, the new artist, and the villain that's been established. A fine debut issue.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In Stores 8/26

Here are the highlights of books arriving in comic shops tomorrow!
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Pick of the Week
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The Muppet Show TP - I really enjoyed this mini-series depicting The Muppet Show in comic book form by Roger Langridge. Strange, funny and familiar, early issues went into multiple print runs and there was plenty of deserving buzz surrounding the title. Now all four issues are collected for everyone to enjoy who missed it the first time around.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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28 Days Later #1
Absurd Adventures of Archibald Aardvark TP
Animal Academy (Volume 2)
Authority: World's End (Book 1) TP
Batman: Widening Gyre #1 (of 6) - New Kevin Smith
Blackest Night: Titans #1 (of 3)
The Color of Heaven GN
Crayon Shinchan (Volume 9)
Domo GN
Gantz (Volume 6)
Immortal Iron Fist (Volume 5) Escape From Eighth City HC
Invincible Presents: Atom Eve Collected Edition
Killer of Demons TP
King City #1 (of 12)
Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu (Volume 1)
Marvel Masterworks: Incredible Hulk (Volume 1) TP
Secret Six: unhinged TP
Showcase Presents: Eclipso TP
Spin Angels #1 (of 3)
Trinity (Volume 2) TP
Uncanny X-Men: Sisterhood TP
World of Warcraft (Volume 2) HC

Monday, August 24, 2009

Manga Monday: Dinosaur Hour

Dinosaur Hour (Volume 1)
Hitoshi Shioya
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Dinosaur Hour is an all ages title, part of Viz's VizKids line of manga. It's a humor manga featuring dinosaurs in chapters that have nothing to do with one another. I think this is really good for kids because, besides the fact that kids love dinosaurs, there are a lot of dinosaur facts throughout the book. At the beginning of each chapter, the scene is set by letting readers know during what period it takes place, and with each dinosaurs appearance, a little fact blurb will let you know its name, how big it gets, whether it's herbivore or carnivore (and rarely omnivore), and sometimes another little something extra, like that the troodon is believed to be one of the most intelligent dinosaurs. But facts aside, the dinosaurs interact in ways more human that reptilian: bullying one another, being afraid of ghosts, pulling pranks, etc. The author is really going for the laugh factor, and often pokes fun at the misinterpreted facts of dinosaurs by scientists over the years (like a dinosaur who doesn't stand correctly in one chapter, but should use its tail to balance itself instead of dragging it, or the theory that the velociraptor was feathered). There are plenty of cute stories here, with a lot of personality attached to some of the dinosaurs, which makes for a fun read. Art-wise, things are a little too simplistic for my tastes. There's hardly any detail to the pages and sometimes the action is a little hard to understand. Background art is rarely drawn, the drawings instead focusing on sparsely-depicted dinosaurs in various states of exasperation, concentration and laughter. I think one volume is enough to get the idea, but like I said, I think kids will really dig the humor and facts of this title.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

TGIF: Quite Early

I'm going to Seattle for a long weekend, so this post is going up early. Here are the things that got me excited this week...
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1. Inglourious Basterds in theaters - A new movie courtesy of my favorite director is always reason to celebrate. It may not have received much love at film festivals, but Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds seems to be a critical success. And Brad Pitt wants himself some nazi scalps.
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2. Dexter: Season Three on DVD - I really enjoyed the hell out of season two of Showtime's Dexter, starring Michael C. Hall as a serial killer who kills serial killers. And after too long a wait, I finally have my hands on the latest episodes!
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3. "Kate Earl" by Kate Earl - The debut CD by pop singer Kate Earl was released this week with some really great dancy tunes. Have a listen to "Nobody," and download "Melody" from I-Tunes this week for free.
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4. Reality Show premieres - A gaggle of reality shows premiere on cable this week. On Bravo, is the latest season of the always excellent Top Chef, taking place in Las Vegas this year, and Flipping Out, which always seems to suck me in. Then on Lifetime, its new home, the sixth season of the addicting Project Runway debuts! Tim Gunn! Heidi Klum! Finally!
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5. "Dreams" by Brandi Carlile - A new single by Brandi Carlile debuted on-line this week, following up her impressive "The Story" album that was one of my favorites from two years ago.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Stores 8/19

Here are the highlights of books available at comic shops tomorrow!
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Pick of the Week
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Ooku: The Inner Chambers (Volume 1) - This is a new exciting manga from Fumi Yoshinaga, the creator of Antique Bakery. It's an alternate history of Japan during the Edo Period that sees a plague wipe out most of the male population, and women taking on roles formerly held by men. Read my review of this great new series here.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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20th Century Boys (Volume 4)
A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge
Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Boxes HC
Astral Project (Volume 4)
Astro Boy Movie Adaptation #1
Avengers Forever HC
Batgirl #1
Beyond Wonderland HC
Black Is For Beginners GN
Black Widow: Sting of the Widow HC
Blackest Night: Superman #1
Bomb Queen Omnibust (Volume 1) HC
Daredevil #500
Dark Avengers (Volume 1): Assemble
Dark Entries HC
Days Missing #1 (of 5)
Filthy Rich HC
Gargoyles (Volume 2): Clan Building TP
Gargoyles: Bad Guys TP
Hot Gimmick VizBig Edition (Volume 2)
Mighty Avengers: Earth's Mightiest HC
Ms. Marvel: War of Marvels Must-Have One-Shot
New Avengers (Volume 11): Search For Sorcerer Supreme HC
Punisher: Dark Reign HC
Punisher Noir #1 (of 4)
Spider-Man/Mary Jane: You Just Hit the Jackpot TP
Unknown Soldier (Volume 1): Haunted House TP
X-Factor: Time and a Half HC

Monday, August 17, 2009

Manga Monday: Ooku

Ooku: The Inner Chambers (Volume 1)
Fumi Yoshinaga
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The latest title in Viz's excellent Signature Line of manga is the 2009 winner of the Osamu Tezuka Cultural Prize and is brought to us by the creator of acclaimed series such as Antique Bakery.
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Ooku: The Inner Chamber has a pretty intriguing premise. During Japan's Edo Period, a disease sweeps the nation that kills 8 out of every 10 men, leaving the remaining men a rare commodity that must be cared for, or Japan will die out altogether. Women take up the roles that men previously held in the fields, taking up arms, and turning the role of government on its head and becoming a matriarchy. Not only are men limited to who they can marry, and many males from lower class families are "rented out" to seed women who are unable to buy male prostitutes, but the ruling shogun keeps an "inner chamber" in her palace, with hundreds of beautiful men at her disposal, locking away their beauty and seed until they shrivel up, wasted for her exclusive whim. This is a very rich premise that is seen through the eyes of Mizuno Yunoshin, a boy so beautiful that he's the envy of everyone from the inner chambers, but is kind enough to earn their love and respect. It's through him that we see the nature of the inner chamber, how a lack of female bodies forces them to interact with one another sexually, and hold a complex hierarchy of roles from laborers to masters, all vying for the chance to be the shogun's concubine. And amid the fascinating goings-on is Yoshinaga's beautiful artwork of soft pretty men, detailed architecture and wonderful intricate fashions upon the robes and dress of her characters during this time period. The pacing is also top-notch, with some pretty intense, suspenseful scenes masterfully played out through Yoshinaga's panels, much of the story's emotional arcs carried along via facial expressions and quiet looks. The structure of the book is a little odd however, as up to the last chapter, the book's focus is upon the man Mizuno Yunoshin. But as his arc comes to a close, the focus shifts to that of the shogun and how she cunningly maneuvers things in her favor, but rules a fair, tight kingdom. This is a really interesting book and I'm not quite sure how it's going to proceed, especially with the shogun's radical ideas and the shifts in perspectives exemplified thus far, but Yoshinaga is a master storyteller and I trust this intriguing story to her capable hands.

Friday, August 14, 2009

TGIF: Ponyo and More

Here are five things that excited me this week!
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1. Ponyo in theaters - Hayao Miyazaki's latest film hit US theaters today! Miyazaki is the genius director behind Japanese animated movie masterpieces such as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. I feel like he just keeps getting better with each movie (his last before Ponyo was Howl's Moving Castle, which is my favorite). This film is getting stellar reviews and I can't wait to see it this weekend!
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2. The Walking Dead television series - A television series for Robert Kirkman's wonderful post-apocalyptic zombie survival comic has been picked up by AMC, whose recent series Mad Men and Breaking Bad have been getting a lot of love from the critics. The series will be written, directed and executive produced by Frank Darabont, who was also the writer and director behind The Shawshank Redemption.
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3. District 9 in theaters - I really hadn't heard much about this movie at all until just before it was released in theaters this Friday, but this science fiction film is pretty much being dubbed the movie to watch this summer, and Peter Jackson's seal of approval makes me want to see it even more on top of the raving reviews.
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4. Legion theatrical trailer - The premise sounds a little cheesy: a battle for a chosen child between angels and demons that begins in a small town diner, but the trailer looks like it has some pretty spectacular special effects and has a real epic feel. Plus, the demons with their elongated arms and whatnot creep the hell out of me. What the trailer here.
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5. S.W.O.R.D. comic series - Marvel announced that spinning out of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men run will be a new ongoing series featuring the mysterious group S.W.O.R.D., and will star Agent Brand (whom I love), Beast and Kitty Pryde's purple dragon Lockheed. The book will be brought to us by Kieron Gillen and Steven Sanders.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Previews: October '09

Here are the highlights of books shipping to comic shops in October!
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Archaia
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The Devil's Handshake One-Shot - A 48-page comic that follows treasure hunters on an epic quest, co-written by the mind behind G.I. Joe, Larry Hama.
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The God Machine Preview Book - This looks like a pretty, haunting story. The graphic novel by Chandra Free is coming out soon - this is just a little tease.
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Robotika (Volume 2): For a Few Rubles More HC - The second story in Alex Sheikman's fun action series following three yojimbos.
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Ardden Entertainment
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Casper and the Spectrals #1 - A new series featuring the friendly ghost arrives in time for his 60th anniversary!
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Boom! Studios
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The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (Volume 1) HC - Don Rosa's classic comics are collected here - glad to see Boom! taking advantage of the new partnership in just two short months.
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Dark Horse
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Casper the Friendly Ghost 60th Anniversary HC - Well, it is October, so it's time to bring out the monster and ghoul comics. Casper is a no-brainer, and this collection has two rare stories, complete and in full color.
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The Chronicles of Kull (Volume 1) TP - The latest offering from Dark Horse's classic comic reprint line.
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Sugarshock One-Shot - It may have been a short work, but Dark Horse is making the most of this story by Joss Whedon, releasing it in a single issue with loads of extra to make it a 40-page spectacular.
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DC Comics
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DC Comics Classics Library: Shazam! - The Monster Society of Evil HC - I'm sure a lot of people have been waiting for this - the classic Captain Marvel story is finally seeing print.
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Planetary #27 - The final 40-page issue of Warren Ellis and John Cassaday's beloved comic series.
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Winter Men TP - A lot of people really dug this mini-series, and now the five issues are collected, along with the special.
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World's Finest #1 (of 4) - Red Robin teams up with the new Nightwing to rescue Firebird in what's sure to be a fun mini-series.
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Drawn & Quarterly
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The Book About Moomin, Nymble and Little My HC - Tove Jansson's kid-friendly book returns to print.
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The Box Man HC - Imiri Sakabashira's work sounds intriguing and just bursting with creativity.
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Fantagraphics Books
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Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons - Comes in a three-volume set, featuring over 1000 pages!
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Pim & Francie: "In the Golden Bear Days" HC - New Al Columbia
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Prison Pit SC - I've heard very good things about Johnny Ryan's new book.
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Harper Collins
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Illustrated Classic Books - Not one, but three classic Christmas tales are going to be fully illustrated by great artists in the field: Hans Christian Anderson's The Fir Tree GN by Lilli Carre, O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi GN by Joel Priddy, and L. Frank Baum's A Kidnapped Santa Claus GN by Alex Robinson!
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IDW Publishing
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Angel vs. Frankenstein - John Byrne returns to Angel, following a surprisingly very good stint on Angel: Blood and Trenches. This time he takes on Angelus...and a classic monster. Also from John Byrne this month, a collection of his great Star Trek: Crew mini-series.
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Bloom Country: The Complete Library (Volume 1) HC - And they just keep coming from IDW...
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Image Comics
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Haunt #1 - A new ongoing series, this spawns out from a collaboration between Robert Kirkman and Todd McFarlane.
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Marvel Comics
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Astonishing X-Men #31 - I've been underwhelmed by Warren Ellis' run on the flagship X-Title, but in October, Phil Jimenez jumps on board as artist.
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Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1 - They had to throw that whole subtitle about the Avengers in so they would move more than two copies of the book...but seriously, I liked the whole search for the new sorcerer supreme in New Avengers, so I might give this a look.
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Marvel Zombies: Evil Evolution One-Shot - Enough with the zombies! This is a "Special Halloween Edition" comic.
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Oz: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz HC - The excellent adaptation from Baum's classic children's story is brought to us by Oz expert (and creator of the stunning Adventures In Oz GN) Eric Shanower, and illustrated in a stupendous, appropriate cartoony style by Skottie Young. If you missed the floppies, get the collection - a sequel's already on the way!
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Pride & Prejudice HC - Jane Austen's classic gets the Marvel treatment...no, not with zombies - that was already done. Illustrated in graphic novel format by Hugo Petrus, adapted by Nancy Butler, with gorgeous covers by Sonny Liew.
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Web of Spider-Man #1 - A new ongoing Spidey title...because five weren't enough.
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X-Babies #1 (of 4) - Mojo's little stars are back.
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X-Force/New Mutants: Necrosha One-Shot - One of my favorite villains, Selene the Black Queen, takes center stage in a new crossover event that begins with this one-shot and will see the dead rise.
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X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas #1 (0f 2) - A desperate bid to keep the Agents alive? Who cares! It's Jeff Parker pitting two super-teams against one another!
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McSweeney's
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Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary HC - Justin Green's classic underground comic is finally back in print!
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Oni Press
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Stumptown #1 - A new creator-owned Greg Rucka book!
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Sterling Publishing
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Constance and Tiny GN - This looks like a cute kid-friendly graphic novel about a mischievous girl and her enormous cat.
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Viz Media
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GoGo Monster GN - A new manga from Taiyo Matsumoto, creator of Tekkon Kinkreet.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In Stores 8/12

Here are the highlights of books hitting comic shops tomorrow!
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Pick of the Week
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Sandman by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby HC - Another $40 hardcover collection of classic Jack Kirby material, this one stringing together works from the 1940's, including issues of World's Finest Comics and Adventure Comics, as well as Sandman #1, which reunited the creators in 1974.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Adventure Comics #1
Angel: Only Human #1 (of 4)
Big Kahn GN
Blackest Night #2 (of 8)
Blackest Night: Batman #1 (of 3)
Dominic Fortune #1 (of 4)
Eerie Archives (Volume 2) HC
Fables (Volume 12): The Dark Ages TP
G-Man: Cape Crisis #1 (of 5)
Geronimo Stilton (Volume 1): Discovery of America GN
The Killer #10 - Final Issue!
The Marquis (Volume 1): Inferno TP
Red Herring #1 (of 6)
Showcase Presents: The Flash (Volume 3) TP
Some New Kind of Slaughter HC
Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen HC
Ultimate Comics: Avengers #1
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #1
Universal War One: Revelations HC
The Walking Dead (Volume 10): What We Become TP
Wolverine First Class: Ninjas, Gods and Divas TP
X-Men First Class: Finals TP

Monday, August 10, 2009

Manga Monday: Children of the Sea

Children of the Sea (Volume 1)
Daisuke Igarashi
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Children of the Sea is a strikingly beautiful book. From the animals and settings to the characters and how they maneuver through their environments, it's all executed masterfully. I particularly like the underwater and half-submerged scenes and the behind-the-scenes goings-on at the aquarium where the main character's (Ruka's) father works. The art is mostly very soft and delicate, and gets very detailed when it comes to certain animals and backgrounds. Igarashi also does some more sketchy art at various points throughout the book, comes up with some really intricate pretty symbols that decorate the volume, and plays with watercolor to spectacular effect (except for a scene in the middle of the volume that isn't in color - without the color, the watercolor just looks muddy). Beyond the art, there are some really interesting things going on with Ruka and her family, particularly the relationship between her parents. The two boys that she befriends at the aquarium are very odd, as is the circumstances that envelope Ruka and her new friends, of fish disappearing the world over that may have something to do with a "ghost" that they all saw when they were younger that is still playing a part in their lives. This overlying mystery is trying to say something to give the book some substance, about how things in the universe are connected, that sort of thing, but overall, this is a pretty straight-forward story. There are some strange, intriguing things going on here, but the real draw of this title is the beautiful art. As part of Viz's new Ikki line, it sort of falls short of anything I would consider "alternative" in the world of manga, but ignoring that label, Children of the Sea is a pretty solid new title.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Chicago Comic-Con 2009

With heavy-hitters DC, Marvel and Image all absent from Chicago's Comic-Con floor this year (Chicago Comic-Con is the new name designated by owner Wizard Magazine), this year's convention seemed dead right out of the gate. And it's true: panels were sparse and pretty lame. No Cup O' Joe, the DC Nation panel presented by a lone guy...the highlight was probably the "New Moon" panel that Wizard desperately advertised as featuring a guest appearance by "the New Moon cast," but really only had three B-level actors from the film. That being said, Marvel did make some announcements this year at the "Marvel Mondo" panel that were pretty exciting, including the follow-up to "War of Kings," a new assault on Olympus in the pages of "Incredible Hercules," and Jeff Parker taking over writing chores on "Thunderbolts." I also saw some staff members handing out flyers advertising all panels available on-line, which is a pretty cool endeavor. But aspects of the floor that were usually pushed off to the side, like wrestler and C-level celebrity booths, were front and center to hide the fact that there were hardly any publishers present, and retailers covered a considerable amount of space. Which is actually fine with me - buying cheap trades and back issues is what I've had fun doing at this convention for the past few years as it's gotten progressively lamer. And with more retailers, there were more aggressive sales, which makes the consumer the winner. And you know what: it was really quite busy on the floor. There were more people walking the convention floor that I remember from year's past. It may be that I was there on the busiest day (Saturday), or that the panels were so lame, it forced people onto the floor, but the "Mondo Marvel" panel we went to also had a really long line that I haven't seen since I went to see Joss Whedon when he was the guest of honor years ago (and this was a Marvel panel with a panel of no big names). Despite the surprisingly strong attendance, I still believe this will be one of the last conventions from Wizard, especially with the strong line-up announcements so far at next April's debut C2E2 show.
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Here's what I walked away with:
"We Were There (Volume 1-3)" by Yuki Obata (3/$20)
"Hulk: World War Hulk TP" by Greg Pak & John Romita Jr. (1/2 off)
"Incredible Hercules: Against the World TP" by Pak, Van Lente & Pham (1/2 off)
"Incredible Hercules: Secret Invasion HC" by Pak, Van Lente & Sandoval (1/2 off)
"Incredible Hercules: Love & War HC" by Pak, Van Lente, Henry & Espin (1/2 off)
"Annihilation (Volume 2) TP" by various (1/2 off)
"Athena Voltaire/Black Coat One-Shot" by Steve Bryant & Ben Lichius ($2)
"Spiral Bound TP" by Aaron Renier (1/2 off)
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Patrick got:
"Devil Dinosaur" by Jack Kirby ($10)
Geoff Johns' "Green Lantern: Secret Origin HC" (1/2 off)
Geoff Johns' "Blackest Night #0-1"
Geoff Johns' "Green Lantern #39-44"
Geoff Johns' "Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps #1-3"
Jack Kirby's "2001: A Space Odyssey (#1-10)
Jack Kirby's "Machine Man (#1-10)
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And we finished it off at Gino's East for some sinfully good deep dish.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

TGIF: Better late than never...

With preparing to go to Wizard's Chicago Comic-Con, I got this post up a little late, but here's what excited me over the past week...
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1. Dollhouse on DVD - The first season of Joss Whedon's latest television show has come to DVD, including an unaired episode "Epitaph One" that's supposed to be pretty awesome. This is one show that just got better from week to week and I can't wait to see more of Eliza and the gang!
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2. Thirst (Volume 1) by Christopher Pike - I read this book series when I was a teenager and when it was called The Last Vampire, but I remember it being a really great vampire book with real substance that turned pretty philosophical amid all the action and romance. The story follows a female vampire who falls for a human male, a sort of twist on the current Twilight phenom (which is probably why this is being reprinted now too), but Pike was really a pioneer in the teen thriller genre and this deserves some love.
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3. Battlestar Galactica: Season 4.5 on DVD - Another of my favorite shows hit DVD with its final episodes, featuring the fate of the ship and her crew. It really went out on a high note and did not disappoint.
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4. "Boom" by Anjulie - This catchy single is smooth and a great summer song to groove to. I just sort of stumbled upon it on I-Tunes, but it's definitely worth checking out.
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5. The Lovely Bones theatrical trailer - The Peter Jackson-directed film adapted from the Alice Sebold novel (which garnered a lot of praise) is a murder mystery, and has quite the chilling trailer. Watch it here.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Mid-Year Report: Music

We're halfway through a great year in music, and here's what I found to be the best of the best. There are still some great releases in store for the rest of the year, including a few of my favorite artists, A Fine Frenzy and Mindy Smith, so we'll just have to wait and see how things shake out by the year's end, but these are the best for now. First up is singles, followed by full albums.
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Singles
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1. "Sweet About Me" by Gabriella Cilmi - This country-soaked song from soul-singer Gabriella Cilmi is one of the, if not the, best song I've heard in the past five years. A strong voice, complimented by sassy lyrics for an unforgettable overall package.
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2. "As It Must Be" by Joey Ryan - Another song destined to go down as one of the greats this year is a soft ballad by singer-songwriter Joey Ryan, whose beautiful voice is heartbreaking set to the strings and piano in this single.
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3. "God Help the Girl" by God Help the Girl - This whimsical song written by Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian is a wonderfully simple song that soars with Catherine Ireton's cheeky vocals.
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4. "Zero" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Zero" is a rocking song with a lot of energy. It's infectious as hell and dares you to move to its beat.
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5. "French Navy" by Camera Obscura - This song is incredibly catchy with great swells of sound and an overall fun retro vibe.
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6. "Oh, No" by Andrew Bird - One of the most mainstream songs by songwriter Andrew Bird is a cheerful-sounding tune full of hums and whistles for a perfectly agreeable package.
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7. "Relator" by Pete Yorn and Scarlett Johansson - This single has more bells and whistles than Pete Yorn's other songs, but Yorn never seemed to have so much fun in a song just made for the summer. Scarlett holds her own alongside the rocker with a subdued, distorted sound.
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8. "Sweet Sweet Heartkiller" by Say Hi To Your Mom - The low, crooning vocals of this fun ditty has some great lyrics and an overall song that's hard to get out of your head once you hear it.
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9. "River of Dirt" by Marissa Nadler - Very slow and soft, this little number kind of sneaks up on you with its haunting sound and Nadler's breathy vocals.
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10. "Sooner or Later" by Michelle Branch - Michelle Branch returns to solo recording with her first country album since leaving The Wreckers, using her experience to write a great first single.
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Albums
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1. "...With Its Roots Above and Its Branches Below" by Joey Ryan - This UK import CD contains the wonderful "As It Must Be" listed above, and contains some songs from older EPs released by Joey like fan-favorite "California." His voice soars in songs like "Like A Cloak" and croons powerfully through many of the bare folk songs. This CD is very simple but irrefutably beautiful. Buy it here. Key Tracks: "As It Must Be," "Like a Cloak," "No One Else Like You."
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2. "Amanda Leigh" by Mandy Moore - On her latest CD, Moore produces an album inspired by music of the 60's and 70's ("Song About Home"), as well as musicals ("Pocket Philosopher"), to produce some riveting sounds about love and heartache. She established her song-writing abilities with her previous album "Wild Hope," but her voice has never sounded better than it does on this album, where she exudes a confidence in her writing and singing that really signals something special. Key Tracks: "Everblue," "Love To Love Me Back," "Nothing Everything."
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3. "It's Not Me, It's You" by Lily Allen - In UK artist Lily Allen's latest, the sassy singer-songwriter develops some amazing hooks with bold lyrics and blunt political references. From her tribute to George W. Bush ("Fuck You") to more personal songs about love and sex, Lily Allen hits a home run that's even better than her critically-acclaimed debut that put her on the map. Key Tracks: "Not Fair," "Back To the Start," "Fuck You."
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4. "Love, Save the Empty" by Erin McCarley - McCarley's breathy vocals are perfectly suited for this pop-tinged CD with infectious beats and surprisingly dark lyrics. This is a new talent to keep your eyes on. Key Tracks: "Hello/Goodbye," "Sleepwalking," "Love, Save the Empty."
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5. "Lessons To Be Learned" by Gabriella Cilmi - As I mentioned already, "Sweet About Me" is one of the best songs I've heard in a long while, but also speckled throughout this CD are bluesy songs that really showcase Cilmi's amazing voice. Key Tracks: "Sweet About Me," "Awkward Game," "Cigarettes and Lies."
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6. "Campfire Songs" by The Tall Pines - This is just a new classic country-rock album. Strong, solid songs with great tunes and fantastic vocals (by both men and women, but primarily from the stunning Connie Lynn Petruk). Not to be missed. Key Tracks: "Up!" "Good Woman," "Love You Better."
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7. "Red Revelations" by Jace Everett - Jace Everett, whose song "Bad Things" is on people's minds, as it's the theme song for HBO's "True Blood," has a dark, moody sound on this intense country-rock album chalk-full of great broody music. Key Tracks: "Possession," "Burn For You," "One of Them."
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8. "Taller Children" by Elizabeth & the Catapult - This debut album by trio Elizabeth & the Catapult has a great sound, lead singer Elizabeth Ziman's voice soaring between the likes of Aimee Mann and Brandi Carlile for a wholly unique sound. Key Tracks: "Rainiest Day of Summer," "Race You," "Momma's Boy."
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9. "Wait For Me" by Moby - Full of haunting experimental sounds, Moby's latest may be his most ambitious yet. Electrifying and original. Key Tracks: "Pale Horses," "Shot In the Back of the Head," "Walk With Me."
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10. True Blood O.S.T. - I hesitate to put a compilation CD on this list, especially one containing pretty well-known classic songs like Ryan Adams' "Two," but this has a great overall dark southern feel to it, and is simply one the year's best releases. Key Tracks: "Bad Things" by Jace Everett, "Bleed 2 Feed" by CC Adcock and The Lafayette Marquis, "Lake Charles" by Lucinda Williams.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

In Stores 8/5

Here are the highlights of books hitting comic book store shelves tomorrow!
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Pick of the Week
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Abstract Comics Anthology HC - From Fantagraphics, this hardcover anthology is sure to produce some of the most exciting works of the year and includes abstract comics from a variety of creators including some giants in the industry like R. Crumb, Gary Panter and Lewis Trondheim, and some of my personal favorites like James Kochalka.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Absolution #1
Agents of Atlas: Dark Reign HC
Angel: After the Fall (Volume 1) TP
Black Bird (Volume 1) - Read my review.
Complete Jack Survives HC
Death of the New Gods TP
DC Library: Flash of Two Worlds HC
Doom Patrol #1
Exiles: Ultimate Collection (Book 2) TP
Final Crisis: Revelations HC
Gigantic Robot HC
Hikaru No Go (Volume 16)
Legend of the Zelda (Volume 6)
Locas (Volume 2): Maggie, Hopey and Ray HC
Luke Cage: Noir #1 (of 4)
Metal Men TP
Otomen (Volume 3)
Red Circle: The Hangman #1
Rosario Vampire (Volume 8)
Slam Dunk (Volume 5)
Ultimatum: Fantastic Four Requiem #1
Ultimatum: X-Men Requiem #1
Vampire Knight (Volume 7)

Monday, August 03, 2009

Manga Monday: Scary dark-haired beauties

I've been reading so much manga that I need to condense some of the things I've read together to get caught up on my reviews, and the following two work together quite well, as both are shojo manga, and both star girls with long dark hair who are frightening to those around them, so read on about Kimi ni Todoke and Rasetsu, both from Viz.
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Kimi ni Todoke (Volume 1)
Karuho Shiina
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Sawako Kuronuma is the star of Kimi ni Todoke (From Me To You) and has a distressing problem; She's never had friends, even though she tries very hard and lives to make people happy, simply because of her resemblance to scary figures in Japanese Horror. The long black hair, the ghoulish smile when she attempts one, lead people to nickname her Sadako, after the character from Ringu, although other characters in horror boast suck features, such as Junji Ito's Tomie. Classmates are constantly steering clear of Sadako because they fear they will be cursed, and a string of strange coincidences (people getting sick after looking into her eyes for long, getting worse grades after sitting next to her in class, etc) lead her to be terribly lonely, to the point where she's practically socially-crippled. And then the popular, cute boy who's nice to everyone takes a liking to Sadako, and so begins her long journey out of ostracism.
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This book was entertaining enough as I read it, but I found all of the characters in the book to be quite distracting, and was constantly pulled out of the story by them. The classmates around Sadako are so mean it's to the point of being pure evil, and I really can't believe that anyone would be marked to such a degree because of a resemblance. Maybe a little teasing and a nickname, but this is just completely over-the-top. And when the students come to warm to Sadako, it's really hard to swallow that they'd ever been so horrible. I mean, do teenagers really believe they're going to get a curse? I found that naivety annoying. Plus, the girl's obviously beautiful, and I find it hard to believe that guys would avoid her when that's so apparent. And then there's Sadako herself. I mean, maybe she's supposed to be...slow or developmentally-challenged or something, but man, she acts ridiculous. I just wanted to slap her out of her daze of constantly crying from happiness, not "getting it" when good things happen to her, and her stupid social interactions. It really just got on my nerves.
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Rasetsu (Volume 1)
Chika Shiomi
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I never read the book that this spins out from, but I certainly wasn't lost as a result of having never read Yurara. I guess one character carries over (Yako Hoshino), but I didn't notice and wouldn't have known at all if not for the little blurb that advertises this book as "a supernatural spin-off." The story is actually about a character not involved in Yurara at all (although she does resemble that title character), the young woman Rasetsu Hyuga, who has the ability to free spirits and ghosts from the mortal plane. Touched by an evil spirit, she has sought out this line of work to grow stronger so that when the evil spirit comes back for her, which he promised to do if she did not find her true love, she would be ready for him.
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Honestly, there's nothing too innovative about this book. There are some pretty unspectacular, by-the-numbers scenes of ghost hauntings/possessions that the characters contain using water and cast out with their powers. Yurara is pretty standoffish and frightens off the men she meets with her powers, but she also eats so much sugar to refuel herself that it makes her friends sick to the stomach, so there's a nice balance to her. I can't say that the characters were enough to win me over, given the lacklustre story, but I wouldn't steer people away from this book either.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mid-Year Report: Superhero Comics

It's over halfway through the year now, and I thought it appropriate to make a list of the books that I've been following and enjoying, starting with superhero comics. These are the ten titles that I'm enjoying the most right now.
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1. Incredible Hercules - Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente know how to write a great straight-forward superhero book. I never really expected to like a book like this, featuring a big oaf with brute strength on his side as a protagonist, with a smart nerdy sidekick and his baby coyote. Sure, there are some flaws in the storytelling, and it may be a little hard to put into words what I like about it, but I just love reading it. The stories are great: battles with Amazons, teaming up with Namora, going on an odyssey with other gods to take down a skrull god...they're just a lot of fun and I really look forward to the next collection the moment I've finished with one. If it weren't for the word-of-mouth this book has been getting, I probably never would have picked it up. I'm just happy that some others see it for what it is.
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2. Batman and Robin - Only a few issues in, and this new title is already one of my favorites on the shelves. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely have got it down to...well, an art. They execute really great ideas to spectacular results in stories that are both weird and classic at the same time. I love the dynamic between the new Batman and Robin, as they've really breathed a fresh of breath air into the tired relationship of student and mentor.
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3. Captain Britain and MI-13 - Paul Cornell's series just kept getting better as it chugged along, culminating in the fantastic "Vampire Nation" arc featuring Dracula on the Moon that would be its finale. There's an interesting feel to this book that you don't really get with other superhero comics. Must be the whole British thing it's got going on. Great cast, great villains.
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4. Echo - This book is created, written and illustrated by Terry Moore of Strangers In Paradise, taking place in a more realistic world than most superhero comics, with a girl who has some extraordinary events happen to her, where she basically becomes a superhero who doesn't really understand her powers, the source of which remains a plate on her chest. This is a fun "running from the authorities" sort of book, with a villain that has the same powers thrown in to the mix. And it certainly doesn't hurt that Terry Moore's art is just stunning. I stop and stare at the panels quite a bit, just to soak in his illustrations.
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5. Guardians of the Galaxy - I was a big fan of the Annihilation books, so this cosmic spin-off title written by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning is right up my alley, carrying some of the characters from those events on in a team book. Space opera and a fun cast with a bunch of weird aliens and happenings make this a great read.
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6. Agents of Atlas - Jeff Parker's title is very retro with a gorilla man, a robot and flying saucers, but he uses these elements very well and has plenty of surprises up his sleeves. The premise to the new ongoing series is very Fifth Season Angel, as the agents run an evil corporation while trying to do good things with it, and presenting themselves as villains to the likes of Norman Osborn and even the "good" Avengers to keep up appearances. Namora is a particular favorite of mine, but really the whole team is great.
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7. Dark Avengers - Norman Osborn's team of Avengers are mostly villains, much like the Thunderbolts (many of them were Thunderbolts, in fact), but are dressed up like classic and current Avengers, taking on their codenames and being endorsed by Osborn as the "official" team. Hawkeye is actually Bullseye, Ms. Marvel is actually Moonstone, etc. It's great to watch the team bickering and doing villainous things when nobody's looking. And it's by Bendis and Deodato, for crying out loud!
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8. Dark Reign: Elektra - I didn't really expect this to be very good when I decided to give it a try, but I was pleasantly surprised by this mini-series from Zeb Wells and Clay Mann. This is very much a straight-up action comic featuring the assassin Elektra captured and studied by Osborn's H.A.M.M.E.R. following Secret Invasion to learn why the skrulls were interested in her, as she was the only superhero experimented on by the skrulls. One issue is seriously just Elektra held captive in a room, biding her time to escape, and since then, she's been running, even though she's sustained some debilitating injuries. This book has some utterly fantastic action sequences and panel arrangements - Wells and Mann really know how to craft suspense through the comics medium. I literally gasped aloud while reading one of the issues.
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9. The Sword - The Luna Brothers' tale follows a woman who seeks revenge on the three superpowered people who killed her family, armed only with a sword, the one object powerful enough to destroy them. This comic is gory and violent and makes no apologies. The Luna Brothers really come up with some innovative uses of the elements that the villains can control, and I don't think there's another book coming out right now with storytelling this smooth. Patrick just flipped through one issue and he could follow the action without even reading the words. Great action, and spectacular fights are what this book's all about.
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10. Uncanny X-Men - Despite some deficiencies with the art (Greg Land is the illustrator), Matt Fraction has really pieced together a great title here from the X-Men's move to the West Coast and the mutant's status as a minority group. There are some really cool ideas thrown in to the book like The Sisterhood of Evil Mutants and The Hellfire Cult that keep things exciting, despite the stiff photo-referenced artwork.