Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Week In Awesome! Daybreakers & more

Here are five things that got me excited this past week!
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1. Polly and Her Pals - IDW will be publishing Polly and Her Pals: The Complete Sundays, 1925-1927 in a massive $75 hardcover through their excellent Library of American Comics imprint. The classic strip by Cliff Sterrett will be in stores August 2010.
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2. The Comics Journal restructures - The Comics Journal is changing their publishing up a bit to make it as vital as it's been in the past, which is difficult for a magazine with the internet around. So, after the next issue, the magazine will only be published twice a year in print form (but extra big), and will now have a much heavier on-line presence.
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3. Astro Boy in theaters - The CGI animated film of Astro Boy has hit theaters (with less than stellar box office receipts), prompting plenty of kids to come into my store, excited to see books based on the character. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm looking forward to it despite some mixed reviews.
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4. Daybreakers theatrical trailer - Daybreakers is a film that takes place in a world where the majority of the people populating it are vampires, with few humans left that are hunted and harvested for their blood. It stars Ethan Hawke, Willen Dafoe and Sam Neill, and you can watch the trailer here.
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5. Ponyo on DVD - Hayao Miyazaki's latest animation masterpiece, Ponyo, has a DVD release date of March 2nd, and will be available in a limited edition two-disc set that comes with an adorable Ponyo plush! Ham!!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Necrosha One-Shot


The Necrosha one-shot is the beginning of a new X-Men crossover that will carry through three specific X-titles: X-Force, New Mutants and X-Men: Legacy. The story is of psychic vampire Selene, formerly Black Queen of The Hellfire Club and one of my favorite villains of the Marvel Universe, and her attempted rise to godhood. In this crossover, she makes use of a techno-organic virus that raises the dead and, with the aid of her inner circle, gets revenge for past transgressions and establishes Necrosha, her army of the dead. In this one-shot, there are three chapters by different creative teams that continue in each of the three titles this crossover effects.
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Necrosha: Chapter One
Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost & Clayton Crain
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This chapter carries the main story of Necrosha (continuing in X-Force) and centers around Selene and her big plans. Selene establishes the members of her inner circle, appropriate evil mutants like Wither and Mortis, lays out her plans to ascend to godhood, and makes a strike against Utopia. This is a fun premise, even if it is a complete rip-off of Blackest Night. Seeing some of the characters they choose to bring back to life (Doug Ramsey, Emma Frost's Hellions), one can really see the potential in a story such as this. Unfortunately, I think Kyle and Yost are some of the weakest writers Marvel has on staff, which is apparent in the clumsy way they establish this crossover. There's no tension, it's unfocused, and it all comes off as a cheesy pseudo-horror movie minus the scares. Add Crain's extremely dark art that's reminiscent of Greg Horn and you pretty much have a mess. The premise alone is not going to save this story, and from the looks of it, it's not even in the same league as the execution of Blackest Night, instead crashing on arrival in one big, confused heap of a mess. One good idea in there is on the final panel of this chapter: that of using the ghost city of Genosha for Selene to establish Necrosha, but even that's just another pale imitation of using Green Lantern's Coast City.
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Binary
Zeb Wells & Ibraim Robertson
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Of all of the titles that this story is going to cross over into, it seems that this story, which will continue in New Mutants, is kind of its own thing, using the concept of bringing a loved one back from the dead to focus on. Here, Doug Ramsey takes center stage as he will come face-to-face with his old comrades, particularly another former teammate who has risen from the dead herself, but not via Selene's recent virus: Magma. This chapter is a bit lousy, bringing nothing interesting to the table, and making what should be a pretty intense moment, that of Doug Ramsey crawling out of his grave, seem ordinary and utterly boring.
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The Foretelling
Mike Carey & Laurence Campbell
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I think this is the best offering out of the bunch, boding well for at least one story thread of Necrosha, as this story will continue in X-Men: Legacy. Here we see Selene bring Destiny back to life to foretell the outcome of her schemes. Destiny then contacts her daughter to warn her on Utopia. It's a simple little chapter, but it's actually executed well, which can't be said of the other two offerings. There's some decent pacing, a chilling little story, and it all comes together nicely amid some dark (but pretty) art, making Destiny a sympathetic character in whatever role she will play in the coming events.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The John Stanley Library: Melvin Monster

John Stanley
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With Halloween fast approaching, I couldn't think of anything better to read than this classic. The first book in Drawn & Quarterly's line celebrating a cartooning legend, The John Stanley Library, features a little green monster named Melvin who lives in Monsterville with his Mummy and Baddy. To be honest, it took a few comics to grow on me, but once it did, it wasn't too hard to see why people have enjoyed these stories for decades. Melvin Monster is a charming naive little guy who wants more than anything to be a good boy, but Monsterville (and certainly his Baddy) won't have it. It's a Bizarro World of sorts, with morals flipped around so that anything he does that's not destructive or cruel or painful is considered bad behavior. And since he's grown up in such a foul environment, when he visits a city in the human world and is treated horribly, he thinks nothing of it. This really is a cute comic, with obvious echoes of Casper the Friendly Ghost and The Addams Family, and is drawn fantastically, with clear storytelling and top-notch cartooning. It is a little old-fashioned, but I think it still holds up and kids anywhere would probably love to read this sort of book. I know I certainly did. It's just a charming, endearing premise and there's plenty of opportunities with it to do some great things, which Stanley obviously realized and took advantage of. One of my favorite ongoing gags is of the monsters' pet crocodile Cleopatra who lives with them in their run-down mansion. Melvin's parents think that Cleopatra just adores Melvin, especially since she's always in a hurry to see him when she hears him, but it's really because she wants more than anything to eat him, which Melvin realizes and thwarts her attempts every time. This may not be for everyone, but if anyone's looking for a silly comic series to read for Halloween, and perhaps share with the family, this is an ideal title.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Amulet (Book 2): The Stonekeeper's Curse

Kazu Kibuishi
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The second book in Kazu Kibuishi's all ages Amulet series continues the story of siblings Emily and Navin as they journey to a fantastic world. Many may be familiar with Kibuishi's work in the Flight anthologies, but I think that the first book in this series is some of the best work the artist has come out with as of yet, complete with some spellbinding cartooning. Unfortunately, with this second book, he doesn't continue that trend. The first book established a dark realm for the characters of this world to traverse, and introduced a great supporting cast like the robots that man a house that walks like a giant man. Emily has inherited the mantle of stonekeeper, an honor formerly held by her grandfather, and unfortunately she must take up the honor - and curse - of that magical stone, using it for good instead of being overcome by its power. My biggest problem with the latest book in this series is that the originality that was sparked initially is completely void in this new book. Kibuishi may expand his world a small step with the second volume, but it's to its detriment, as many new elements are unfortunately story devices that we've seen elsewhere dozens of times. The magic of that first installment dissemble into standard fantasy elements, beginning with the amulet that, like hundreds of rings or necklaces or stones in other books have corrupted their bearers, threatens to do the same to Emily here, with no twist to the weight she must bear. Also, the world that is expanded here is completely in line with any other fantasy book that wishes to evoke an epic feel: an oppressive race of people (elves here) rule the world with an iron fist in a world populated by anamorphic animals who live in an age that is at once medieval (as is demonstrated by its villages and rogue-ish, sword-bearing characters) and technologically-advanced (there are the robots). While Kibuishi yet demonstrates an uncannily fluid, cinematic art style that smoothly depicts action and magic (as we saw with the first Amulet book), the storytelling here is second rate and falls into the tropes of the genre so deep that it looks unlikely ever to climb back out.

Yay!

Comics-and-More made the cut to be included in Online School's "100 Best Book Blogs for Kids, Tweens and Teens." This honor is shared with fourteen other comic/graphic novel blogs including some of my favorites like Jog and Comics Comics.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Stores 10/28

Here are the highlights of books that you can buy from your local comic shops tomorrow!
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Pick of the Week
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Red Snow HC - A new Gekiga hardcover collection from Drawn & Quarterly featuring short stories by legendary artist Susumu Katsumata. Red Snow won the 35th Japanese Cartoonists Association Award Grand Prize in 2006, a year before his death.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Ape Sapien One-Shot
Aria (Volume 5)
Arkham Reborn #1 (of 3)
Batman Monsters TP
Blackest Night #4 (of 8)
Dark Avengers: Ares #1 (of 3)
Dark Reign: The List - Punisher
Dark Reign: The List - Wolverine
Fairy Tail (Volume 8)
Fat Freddy's Cat Omnibus
Freakangels (Volume 3) HC
Groo: Hogs of Horder #1 (of 4)
Invincible Presents Atom Eve & Rex Splode #1 (of 3)
Key Moments From the History of Comics SC
Map of My Heart GN
Marvel Masterworks Atlas Era Menace (Volume 1) HC
Negima (Volume 24)
New Avengers (Volume 10): Power TP
Papillon (Volume 4)
Phantom Dream (Volume 4)
Pinocchio Vampire Slayer GN
POP Wonderland (Volume 2): Little Red Riding Hood HC
Sandman: The Dream Hunters HC
Spider-Man: American Son HC
Spider-Man: Newspaper Strips HC
Spider-Man: The Short Halloween HC
Superman In World's Finest Archives (Volume 2) HC
The Sword (Volume 3): Earth TP
Tsubasa (Volume 23)
Tsubasa: Those With Wings (Volume 3)
Wolverine: Old Man Logan HC
World's Finest #1 (of 4)
X Necrosha
X-Factor #50

Monday, October 26, 2009

Manga Monday: Thieves & Assassins

10 Beautiful Assassins (Volume 1)
Thomas R. Hart & Elmer Damaso
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10 Beautiful Assassins is an OEL manga from Seven Seas featuring a smooth cat burglar whose cunning always allows him to get what he wants. But Bernard Black (or The Black Rose) has one weakness that turns him into a gibbering idiot: beautiful women. On the particular case we find Bernard working on at the beginning of this volume, he attempts to steal a necklace from the daughter of billionaire John Maiden. When the necklace is stolen out from under his nose by a rival thief, he is hunted for the prize's whereabouts by the billionaire, who hires M.A.D.A.M. (Mistress of Assassination, Destruction, And Mayhem) to track down and kill Black. John Maiden's daughter, who has been largely ignored by her father up until now, helps Black escape, and assists him in outmaneuvering the ten beautiful assassins that M.A.D.A.M. has dispatched to track him down. Obviously, this book has a James Bond-spy type of feel to it, although some basic manga conventions are thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, it's not executed very well. Most of the assassins are barely touched on in this first volume, but will surely get some more screen time with subsequent releases. None of the assassins, however, are very inspired. They're mostly just types of "hot chicks," like a sexy maid, a biker chick in all leather...I was surprised there was no naughty nurse, to be honest, they were such cut-outs - more outfits for a Halloween party than actual characters. It's an adolescent fantasy come to life. Beyond the pretty basic premise and the "character designs," if you can call them that, the art is pretty hard to follow. Especially when any action is occurring, which is a majority of the book in a title like this - I could hardly follow what was happening. There's just no clear fighting. On top of that, the story jumps back in time without warning, and often, further confusing the story with unnecessary scenes. When I'm doing a lot of work to figure out simply what is going on in a comic, it's just not executed well. This is sloppy storytelling and should be avoided in favor of better material.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

25 Best Horror Movies (Updated)

I devote the entire month of October to watching horror movies, culminating in a day-long marathon event (complete with Halloween cookies and the like). I grew up on horror movies, from cheesy Full Moon films like Puppet Master to slasher franchises like Friday the 13th to random direct-to-video creature features like Pumpkinhead. There's a lot of crap out there, but there's a lot of junk in every medium in every genre. Horror just gets a bad wrap, hindered more by the fact that professional critics usually seem dismissive of horror films, overlooking good film making because of their distaste for its content. I'm always looking for a good horror film, and I usually get pretty excited when one comes out with a lot of buzz around it. I just have a special place in my heart for them, and I pride myself that I'm widely versed in them. Anyways, between this year and last, I've seen some more great horror films that deserve a spot on my favorites of all time, and with Halloween quickly approaching, here are the best that horror has to offer...
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1. The Blair Witch Project (1999) - All three films at the top of my list are films that I had to have the lights on to fall asleep after watching them. This was the first such film that I encountered like that. Before it went to mainstream theaters, I saw this at the Landmark Theater in Minneapolis with an audience that was utterly silent the entire time, completely entranced. And it blew me away and scared the crap out of me. The faux history surrounding the Blair Witch, the film that launched the whole "shaky hand-held camera" fad, and the fact that we never really "see" anything prove that the scariest things are left to our imagination.
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2. The Ring (2002) - The American remake of Ringu, starring Naomi Watts, features an old videotape that's scary as hell. Once someone views the video, they're doomed to die. The ending of the movie may have gone one step too far, but the mystery and wonder surrounding the video tape is haunting. This movie may have spawned a whole slew of Japanese horror remakes like The Grudge and Pulse, but let's not fault this film for that.
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3. The Exorcist (1973) - The classic story of a young girl possessed by a demon who may be the devil himself, and the priest who tries to exorcise it. This film is full of horrifying images and haunted me with the idea of possession for weeks.
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4. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) - A brutal, bloody look at a family of killers who torture a group of teenagers, this is based in reality and makes for quite the blood-curdling film. A bold, unflinching vision in horror whose influence can be seen far and wide.
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5. The Shining (1980) - A slow-building atmospheric story of horror that takes place in a secluded mansion, based on the novel by Stephen King. There's plenty of horrific stuff happening in this film that doesn't so much feel the need to explain as it does scare.
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6. The Descent (2006) - This claustrophobic survivalist horror tale follows a group of women who go cave-diving following a tragedy, and the horrors they encounter hidden in the depths. There are plenty of homages to other classic horror films like Carrie and Alien in the movie, but is something completely unique itself. While this film takes a while to get to anything supernatural, it's still utterly compelling the entire way through.
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7. I Walked With a Zombie (1943) - It's been described as Jane Eyre meets zombies, and that's actually pretty accurate. But the atmosphere and chilling voodoo elements make this classic a force to be reckoned with.
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8. Black Sunday (La Maschera del demonio) (1960) - This beautiful, Gothic-entrenched film features the accidental return of a witch from beyond the grave and the horror she causes to a local family. The opening scene is classic.
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9. The Phantom of the Opera (1925) - This black-and-white silent horror masterpiece retains all of its horrific elements over eighty years later, and sees a ghastly figure haunting the actors of an opera house in France. Accompanied by the right music brings the film to a whole new level.
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10. Night of the Living Dead (1968) - This thread-bare budget horror film set the tone for all zombie movies that came afterward, and launched George Romero's career of sequels and social commentary horror.
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11. The Haunting (1963) - The original version of The Haunting is chilling. You never see anything throughout this movie, but something is terrifying a group of people staying in a large haunted mansion, a cast of characters as fascinating as its creepy components.
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12. Dawn of the Dead (2004) - Better than Romero's original, Snyder's remake boasts one of the best opening scenes for a movie period, with plenty of scenes of fast-moving zombies thereafter.
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13. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) - Dreams have never been so scary as in Wes Craven's film, which brought us our first look at wise-cracking, knife-finger-wielding horror icon Freddy Krueger.
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14. Funny Games (1998) - While I did enjoy the recent American remake of this film starring Naomi Watts (by the director of the original film, Michael Haneke), I think I prefer the origin just because it was my first time experiencing that brutality full of long shots and bare emotion. The film follows a family that's terrorized by a pair of intruders.
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15. Jaws (1975) - This movie made people fear deep water, and I'm still afraid of the ocean to this day. Steven Spielberg really hit one out of the park with this one - the fin at the top of the water, the soundtrack...it all made for a classic that won't soon be forgotten.
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16. Hellraiser (1987) - Clive Barker's vision of demons and blood offerings makes for quite the horror experience, introducing Pinhead and his horde of pain-inducing monstrosities. There are a lot of crazy cool ideas in this movie, and the monster designs are out of this world.
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17. An American Werewolf In London (1981) - I'd always kind of thought that the werewolf got the shaft when it came to quality in its huge number of disappointing horror movies (The Howling, Wolf, Ginger Snaps, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Dog Soldiers). Excluding the original Wolf Man, werewolf movies just aren't done very effectively. But this one was, boasting great creature effects and great environments for the monster to cause havoc.
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18. Halloween (1978) - John Carpenter's original Halloween is a classic. I can't say much for the other movies in the franchise (Halloween 3 - big misstep), but Michael Myers is a scary-ass bastard. I also like Rob Zombie's remake, but I think I still prefer the original.
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19. Paranormal Activity (2009) - Ignoring so much hype around a movie can be difficult, but once I got past the "best horror movie ever" word-of-mouth and the initial disappointment that it didn't live up to that hype, I realized that this really was a good horror film, effectively creepy and minimalist. And since it kept me awake at night, watching my bedroom door warily...well, it deserves a slot on this list.
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20. Inferno (1978) - I'm probably in the minority here, but I prefer the second film in Dario Argento's Three Mothers trilogy over the much-hailed Suspiria. There's something about that creepy building and that haunting underwater scene... There is that unfortunate song at the end, but you have to go into Argento expecting some weird shit.
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21. 28 Weeks Later (2007) - I love the opening of this zombie movie. I liked 28 Days Later alright, but that scene, its lingering effects, and many of the ideas throughout the movie are pretty brilliant.
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22. Scream (1996) - I saw this movie in theaters three times. And watched it on video many more times after. This is just a great slasher film that does everything in a knowing way, and spawned two really good sequels.
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23. Eyes Without a Face (1960) - This haunting film is riveting, following the disappearances of young women left without their faces, as a mad doctor's attempts to restore his daughter's beauty following an accident.
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24. Freddy vs. Jason (2003) - I was really impressed how this highly-anticipated pairing of two horror icons played out. I've always been a big Jason fan, so it was fun to see the big guy up against the sharp-tongued dream master.
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25. Alien (1979) - Monsters in space don't usually work as well as they could, but Ridley Scott's science fiction horror film got it right. Fantastic monster designs with a great strong female protagonist in Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver.
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31 Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order)
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Audition (2001)
Baron Blood (1972)
Cloverfield (2008)
The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)
The Evil Dead (1979)
Friday the 13th (2009)
Gremlins (1984)
High Tension (Switchblade Romance) (2005)
The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
Hostel (2006)
Inside (2007)
John Carpenter's The Thing (1982)
Let the Right One In (2008)
Night of the Demons (1989)
The Ninth Gate (1999)
Nosferatu (eine Symphonie des Grauens) (1922)
Onibaba (1964)
The Orphanage (2007)
Pet Sematary (1989)
Poltergeist (1982)
Psycho (1960)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
The Serpent and the Rainbow (1987)
Signs (2002)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The Strangers (2008)
Tale From the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)
The Unnameable (1988)
Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994)
Wolf Creek (2005)
The Wolf Man (1941)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Stores 10/21

Here are the highlights of books hitting comic shops today!
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Pick of the Week
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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days - It's Been in bookstores for over a week now, but the fourth volume in Jeff Kinney's phenomenally-selling series trickles into comic shops today.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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20th Century Boys (Volume 5)
Angel vs. Frankenstein
Azrael #1
Book About Moomin, Mymble & Little My HC
Captain America: Road To Reborn HC
Dark Reign: The List - Hulk
Dark Wolverine (Volume 1) HC
Dread & Superficiality: Woody Allen as Comic Strip (Volume 1) HC
Echo (Volume 3): Desert Run TP
Family Circus Library (Volume 1) HC
Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds HC
Garth Ennis' Battlefields (Volume 1) HC
Lockjaw & the Pet Avengers HC
Marvel Masterworks: Inhumans (Volume 1) HC
Maximum Ride (Volume 2)
Noir (Volume 1) TP
Real (Volume 6)
Robotika: For a Few Rubles More Double-Sized #3/4
Showcase Presents: House of Secrets (Volume 2) TP
Spike Omnibus TP
The Stand: Sould Survivors #1 (of 5)
Star Trek: Mission's End TP
Sugarshock One-Shot
Superman: Adventures of Flamebird & Nightwing TP
Talking Lines HC
Thunderbolts: Burning Down the House TP
Titanium Rain Double-Sized #1/2
War Machine (Volume 1): Iron Heart TP
What a Wonderful World! (Volume 1)
What a Wonderful World! (Volume 2)
Wolverine Noir HC

Monday, October 19, 2009

Manga Monday: What a Wonderful World!

What a Wonderful World! (Volume 1)
Inio Asano
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I really enjoyed Solanin, an earlier work by riveting creator Inio Asano, released by Viz last year. What a Wonderful World!, also by Viz, showcases Asano's talents in a group of short stories that are loosely connected by characters or location or even by a dragonfly flying from one character's nose to another. All of the characters in this book are also going through tough times, whether they're looking to get out of an aimless existence, are being bullied, or are being sought by the mob. The characters are mostly pretty desperate too. The highlights of stories include "Quick Like a Bunny," where a college drop-out hopes to recapture happier times by returning to a club, only to find that it's closed, and that while she'd inspired people to slough off conformity while among them, without her, her friends have moved on, leaving her behind. In "A Town of Many Hills," a little girl confronts her bullys' ritual of picking a class king, that of riding down steep hills without stopping, while contemplating suicide, which walks alongside her personified by a crow. "Syrup" sees a group of students retaking college entrance exams reevaluate their unlikely dreams. And "The Bear From the Forest" has a girl willingly taken hostage to help out a desperate man in a bear suit. While Asano has a way of keeping readers entranced with his beautiful soft pencils, I can't say that I really enjoyed living in this world alongside his characters. What a Wonderful World! is full of introspective characters, and interesting characters at that, with intriguing thoughts and ways of looking at things, but it was ultimately a really depressing book. Sure, there are a few rays of hope in the stories here and there, but I can't say that I want to read anymore of these types of stories - I think I overdosed on ennui and suicidal characters from this single volume. I definitely preferred Solanin.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Week In Awesome! Mouse Guard & More

Here are five things that got me excited this week!
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1. Where the Wild Things Are in theaters - The adaptation of Maurice Sendak's classic picture book by Spike Jonez is getting stellar reviews, so I'm really excited to watch the movie, which debuts in theaters this Friday. At work, I'm pushing a lot of Where the Wild Things Are merchandise, including stuffed wild things, the Gregory Maguire appreciation of Maurice Sendak book, and Wild Things by Dave Eggers. And of course the picture book itself.
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2. Paranormal Activity - Not only did the low budget horror film come in at #5 over the weekend box office, with a very limited release, but the movie finally gets a wide release this weekend due to its success.
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3. Toy Story 3 theatrical trailer - The third Pixar movie based around the lovable toys comes out next year in 3-D, and the official trailer looks fantastic. Watch it here.
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4. Mouse Guard: Legend of the Guard - A four-issue anthology series taking place in David Petersen's Mouse Guard universe will come out between installments of the creator's prequel mini-series Mouse Guard: The Black Axe. The creators for the anthology were hand-picked by Petersen as being artists that would fit well with the sensibility of the series. I love the series, so more is great news.
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5. The Crazies theatrical trailer - More fast-moving zombies. Sort of. Anyways, the trailer for this new horror movie looks like a lot of fun, remaking the 1973 film by George Romero. Watch it here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas #1 (of 2)

Jeff Parker & Carlo Pagulayan
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I was really surprised by just how good this comic was. Usually these little spin-off mini-series are just throw-away issues, assigned to any average artist that Marvel decides to throw on the book since the titles usually feature popular characters that avid readers will read no matter who writes or draws it. But in this case, Agents of Atlas creator Jeff Parker takes on writing this issue himself, which probably makes all of the difference, as he's really got the Atlas characters down, and he certainly was able to take the X-Men and make them something special too. In fact, most of the issue is seen through the eyes of the X-Men, characters less familiar to him (although he has done a few X-Men mini-series, now that I think about it). But Parker is able to capture the essence of both teams and make them both look noble and fully-realized, not shorting either their due, as both teams consist of heroes and readers will be rooting for one side or the other to come out on top. I'm sure there's going to be a satisfying conclusion in the end for all, as Jeff is a talented creator who knows what he's doing. Marvel also saw fit to team Jeff Parker up with a rather talented artist as well, in the form of Carlo Pagulayan, whose work on Planet Hulk (and past favorites of mine like Marvel Knights' Elektra) shows that he's a great artist when it comes to depicting fast-paced panels in an action-packed book. I was admittedly a little surprised that a pretty major plot development that they brought up in the main Agents of Atlas title, that of the actual goddess Venus looking to get a little payback from the woman using her name, is continued in this mini. But I'm glad to see it here, because I was really looking forward to seeing what was going to happen there.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Stores 10/14

Here are the highlights of books that are coming to comic shops tomorrow!
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Pick of the Week
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The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga HC - Helen McCarthy's major biography (and the first authorized biography) on the remarkable Osamu Tezuka contains over 300 full-color pages, a 45-minute DVD documentary, as well as a forward by Katsuhiro Otomo. This is one of the (if not the) biggest books about comics this year.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Absolute Death HC
Air (Volume 2): Flying Machine TP
Akira (Volume 1) GN - New Printing
Anita Blake Vampire Hunter: Guilty Pleasures Complete Edition HC
Batman Chronicles (Volume 8) TP
Blood & Water TP
Daredevil: Return of the King TP
Deadpool #900
The Epic Chronicles of Hagar the Horrible 1973-1974 HC
The Fixer & Other Stories GN
Gantz (Volume 7)
Ghost In the Shell (Volume 1) GN - New Printing
Hollow Fields Omnibus GN
House of Mystery: Halloween Annual #1
Kull (Volume 1): Shadow Kingdom TP
Marvel Zombies 4 HC
Mephisto vs. TP
Mister X Condemned TP
Mome (Volume 16): Summer 2009
Pride & Prejudice HC
Star Trek Crew TP
Trinity (Volume 3) TP
Web of Spider-Man #1
You Are There HC

Monday, October 12, 2009

Manga Monday: Dragon Ball

Dragon Ball (Volume 1)
Akira Toriyama
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Since there was so much media circulating about the title this past week, I thought I would take a look at the controversial book in question. Apparently, an elementary and middle school library in Maryland had this book on its shelf available for kids to check out until a mother made a big stink about her nine-year-old getting his/her hands on it, since the book contains some sexually suggestive scenes and cartoon nudity. Calling it "disgusting" as councilman Holloway said was going a bit far. Perhaps they should not have put a book labeled "ages 13 and up" on the shelves of a library where no student was within its age restrictions. The blame here is completely on the school board who, in an attempt not to look completely embarrassed by what is entirely their fault, focused feigned outrage on how terribly offensive the images in this book are.
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Admittedly, I was a little surprised at how far this manga pushed the envelope. I was expecting an utter overreaction to what they would call sexually suggestive, but this volume contains peeping toms and removing girls' panties amid all of the harmless sexual jokes (and there are a lot of them). A little risque for a nine-year-old, but anyone over thirteen, as it's labeled for everyone to see on the manga, should be able to handle this or they shouldn't be teaching sex education in high schools.
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Anyways, I was happy that this gave me the excuse to read a classic manga, as this is one that's been on my list for quite some time. And it didn't disappoint. This book is a lot of fun. The story follows a boy who hasn't had any connection with other people since his grandfather died. The boy, Goku, has a monkey tail, is ridiculously strong, and naive as any hero could ever be. His world changes however, when one day he meets Bulma, a girl who is on a quest to track down all seven of the legendary dragon balls to summon forth a great dragon who will supposedly grant anyone who calls it one wish. Bulma enlists the aid of Goku on her quest (mostly because he isn't willing to part with his dragon ball), and he gladly follows along, as he's up for an adventure and loves to fight, so long as he gets enough food. Several other characters join them on their journey, which is full of magic and battles, shape-shifters and Bulma half-nude in as many scenes as possible. The world Goku lives in is a fully-realized one too, full of your standard fantasy elements, but sci-fi as well, with Bulma using pills to make a lodge or some form of transportation. The different locations of the dragon balls give the protagonists an excuse to explore the world presented here and travel to all sorts of odd places, full of hidden dangers. And amid all of this is Toriyama's stunning artwork. He's really a fantastic cartoonist, blending rubbery exaggerated characters seamlessly with detailed backgrounds, and getting every ounce of emotion and suggestion across the page with master strokes. This first volume only hints at a greater, epic story, but it's a great way to start out a series that's already cherished by the masses.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1

Rick Remender & Jefte Palo
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I really, really enjoyed the recent New Avengers arc that surrounded Doctor Strange and the Eye of Agamotto's search for a new sorcerer supreme, although the choice of Brother Voodoo left me a little disappointed. Brother Voodoo is such a D-List character to follow in Dr. Strange's shoes. I was personally hoping for Son of Satan, but I'll have to be content with a guest appearance in the second issue of this book. Anyways, going by this debut issue of the new Doctor Voodoo title, with the word "Avenger" thrown into it to half-heartedly link it to the "Avengers" brand, I can see why they picked this character. He's pretty indistinct, and thus, can be molded into whatever kind of character the creators choose. They can make another no-name character into a franchise! I still think it would have been more fun to have given the title of sorcerer supreme to Son of Satan or Selene, but here we have an everyman type of character with a good heart (yawn) as the protagonist. Unfortunately with this character as the lead, this book is pretty much going to hinge on the villains and storylines that meander through the series. This first issue alone had Dormammu and Dr. Doom guest spots, as well as a voodoo type demon that attempted (very poorly) to add a touch of voodoo horror to the title. I think a voodoo magic character could be really cool with his own series, but I'm not sure this creative team has the imagination to push the concept into any territory worth investigating. The art alone is competent, but that's all. Plus, I'm a little dubious about magical characters that have no set limits of power. Challenges seem to be overcome too easily, and thus dampen any sort of suspense that is built up during a story. I kind of felt like that throughout the entire first issue here. Doctor Voodoo never seemed in any sort of danger really. And with a character like him as the lead, I could care less if he were. I don't know - maybe there's more to him and he'll surprise me, but as the book stands, I think the creators need to step up their game immediately.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Previews HYPE: December '09

Beginning with books coming to comic shops in frosty December, I will wade through the phone book that is Previews Catalogue to sift out some goodies for the month that I think may get overlooked, or that I'm just plain excited about. And to make a leaner, better, healthier selection, I'm limiting myself to a top ten books. There may be other good stuff - I'm sure that some months will prove to be difficult as hell to narrow down - but to keep things interesting, I'm cutting the fat to a nice even ten to throw my hype behind.
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1. The Complete Milt Gross Comic Books and Life Story HC
Milt Gross, Edited by Craig Yoe
IDW Publishing
This beast of a collection is a part of IDW's new "Yoe Studio" imprint featuring collected materials that the talented Craig Yoe (Modern Arf) sees fit to put his energies toward. Clocking in at 368 pages, this book collects all of Milt Gross's comic books in full color, restored.
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2. Hulk: Winter Guard
David Gallaher, Steve Ellis, Peter David & Dale Keown
Marvel Comics
That's right, I'm excited about this. And I fully realize that Grant Morrison killed off Darkstar as a joke about the obscure superhero characters that fans attach themselves to, but I love the Russian mutant anyway and I'm glad that she's alive again. Or maybe someone just forgot that she was dead. Whatever. This comic has a new story featuring the Hulk and a gaggle of Russian superheroes from the creative team behind High Moon, as well as a reprint of Incredible Hulk #393.
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3. John Stanley Library: Thirteen Going On Eighteen HC
John Stanley
Drawn & Quarterly
The latest collection in Drawn & Quarterly's loving reprints in The John Stanley Library (following Melvin the Monster and Nancy) is the classic, highly-regarded teen comedy/character study Thirteen Going on Eighteen.
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4. The Creeper by Steve Ditko HC
Steve Ditko, Don Segall, Dennis O'Neil, Michael Fleischer & others
DC Comics
I'm loving these reprints of classic runs that DC is turning out. The Creeper has always been an intriguing figure in the DC Universe to me, and now we get to see his humble beginnings in a new hardcover collection.
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5. Newave! The Underground Mini Comix of the 1980's HC
Edited by Michael Dowers
Fantagraphics Books
This new collection of works from innovative underground artists that followed in the footsteps of some of the greats from the 70's include some big names like Dan Clowes and Gary Panter.
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6. Angel #28
Bill Willingham & Brian Denham
IDW Publishing
IDW breathes new life into their Angel (Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off) title once more with a new exciting creative team that includes Bill Willingham of Fables fame.
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7. Black Widow & the Marvel Girls #1 & 2 (of 4)
Paul Tobin, Salva Espin & Jacopo Camagni
Marvel Comics
Wow, Marvel really wants a backlog of Black Widow titles before Iron Man 2 comes out (another hardcover reprint collection also comes out this month: Web of Intrigue). But I can't complain - I'm a sucker for girl power team-up titles like this. This one features plenty of Marvel's dames, such as Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Enchantress and The Wasp. If you can't get enough of the gals, the New Avengers Annual #3 also features the New Avengers girls teaming up to pound some H.A.M.M.E.R. butt.
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8. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow One-Shot
Joss Whedon & Karl Moline
Dark Horse
You read that right: Joss Whedon is writing this comic! Still taking place during Season Eight of the regular Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, this one-shot focuses on everyone's favorite wacky Wiccan as she deals with her magic issues. Again. Featuring the art of Fray artist Karl Moline!
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9. Not Simple GN
Natsume Ono
Viz Media
It seems that Viz is adding some new titles to their consistently excellent Viz Signature Collection again, featuring a bunch of graphic novels by creator Natsume Ono, Not Simple being the first. Three more Ono manga will follow in the new year.
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10. Blackest Night: The Next Wave
Blackest Night: The Flash #1: Geoff Johns & Scott Kolins
Blackest Night: JSA #1: James Robsinson, Eddy Barrows & Ruy Jose
Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #1: Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott
DC Comics
Not only is Blackest Night bleeding into every other comic in the DC universe, but a new wave of mini-series is coming at you from some pretty top-notch creative teams, featuring A-Listers Wonder Woman, Flash & the JSA.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Week In Awesome! Fire and More

Here are five things that I geeked out over this past week.
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1. The Maze Runner - This teen novel by James Dashner (author of The 13th Reality series) came out this week, and the buzz has been building around this title for months. The book follows a group of boys who wake up in a maze with no memory. It's an action-packed survivalist mystery that could be compared to last year's teen sleeper hit The Hunger Games.
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2. Fire - Another teen book! This book by Kristin Cashore is a companion to her previous excellent fantasy novel Graceling, starring a female protagonist. It's called a companion as opposed to a sequel because it takes place prior to the events of Graceling, and while it has a few crossover characters, each book can be read completely independent of the other.
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3. "Give Up the Ghost" by Brandi Carlile - Brandi Carlile's "The Story" from a few years back was one of my favorite albums in awhile, boasting great country-folk songs set to a stunning voice. Her latest CD is sure to offer more of the same. Check out "That Year" on I-Tunes.
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4. Return To the Hundred Acre Wood - This is the official Pooh estate-approved sequel to the original A. A. Milne Winnie-the-Pooh children's stories, written this time by David Benedictus.
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5. "Satellite Heart" by Anya Marina - Sure, Britney Spears' new single "3" may have come out this week, but I'm more excited about this little number by an artist I'm pretty unfamiliar with. This song has a great haunting sound that I've fallen in love with, and is actually the first single released from "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" soundtrack, which has a pretty impressive line-up of talent like Thom Yorke, Grizzly Bear, and Deathcab For Cutie.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Refresh, Refresh GN

Danica Novgorodoff, James Ponsoldt & Benjamin Percy
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Refresh, Refresh began as a prose book of short stories by Benjamin Percy. James Ponsoldt then based a screenplay around the book. Now, two times removed, Danica Novgorodoff bases her new graphic novel on that screenplay, so it's gotten away from the source material a bit. Which may be one of the reasons why I didn't really care for it. It just didn't translate very well to comics. The one thing I can say that I really enjoyed from this book is the art. I love Novgorodoff's simple, beautiful drawings, especially that awesome cover. It reads very fluidly, very cinematically, which may be due to its origins from a screenplay. Refresh, Refresh is about a small group of guys who live in a small town where they wait to hear news from their fathers, who are fighting in the war, to know if they are alright. The book is named after the idea that they are constantly refreshing their e-mail accounts in hopes of a new message. Meanwhile the boys deal with bullies at school in a coming-of-age tale that has them trying to figure out what they want out of life. Amid all of this, the boys take to fighting each other in one of their yards (boxing, hitting each other with make-shift weapons, etc.), hunting deer, and playing rather cruel pranks on other members of the community as ways to take out their frustrations of life on something physical. It all sounds good in theory, which is why I think the original short stories must have been pretty great stuff, but in comics form, the short scenes are very, very brisk. The characters have little room to breathe and despite the whole book being about them, hardly any of the chapters really seem to be developing genuine characters as opposed to the types of characters we've seen before in any number of places. In prose form, there's the ability to get more into a character's head, which is probably what was lost in translation here, leaving rather dull scenarios behind to be depicted by Novgorodoff. It was kind of like reading a list of what the characters would be seen doing, rather than experiencing it with them. I also wasn't the biggest fan of the depressing, defeating life of the small American town here, which didn't make it a very fun read either, but I could have enjoyed the story more with some rich, interesting characters.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Underground #1 (of 5)

Jeff Parker & Steve Lieber
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I really enjoyed the debut issue of this new mini-series by Jeff Parker (Agents of Atlas) and Steve Lieber (Whiteout), even if it was mostly set-up. So far, there's a nice small cast of characters (even if the villain is a little two-dimensional), with a nice lead into the greater adventure that will take place underground in a cave system. The small town politics of profit for a struggling town vs. the delicate ecosystem of a thousands-of-years-in-the-making cave environment is really fascinating, and gives believable motives for the players involved. And while it was a little dialogue heavy this issue, I really didn't mind it, as it was very natural and informative for the story at hand. The plucky heroine Ranger Wes seems like just the character to lead this comic, which certainly has survivalist-criminal-female-lead echoes of Steve Lieber's collaboration with Greg Rucka on Whiteout and its sequel, while exploring new territory in the dark caves for this thriller, ala The Descent. Lieber's art is clear and crisp, foreshadowing what is sure to be some amazing action scenes in forthcoming issues. The little action that does occur here is executed pretty perfectly, with great thought given to lighting and coloring, and panel arrangements, which are certainly going to be key components in this comic going forward. This definitely has the marks of a great book.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

In Stores 10/7

Here are the highlights of books hitting comic shops tomorrow!
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Pick of the Week
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A Distant Neighborhood (Volume 1) - Leading a pretty big release day for manga, A Distant Neighborhood is a beautiful book from Jiro Taniguchi that follows a man who turns back into a kid when he visits his old stomping grounds. This is the first of just two volumes of the award-winning work.
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Other Noteworthy Releases
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Angel: Not Fade Away TP
Batman: The Unseen #1 (of 5)
Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter TP
Bloom Country: The Complete Library (Volume 1) HC
Criminal: Sinners #1
Dark Reign: Fantastic Four TP
Dark Reign: The List - Secret Warriors
Doctor Voodoo: Avenger of the Supernatural #1
EC Archives: Frontline Combat (Volume 1) HC
Gentlemen's Alliance (Volume 10)
The Good Neighbors (Book 1): Kin TP
The Good Neighbors (Book 2): Kith HC
Happy Happy Clover (Volume 3)
Haunt #1
Jack of Fables (Volume 6): The Big Book of War TP
Kimi ni Todoke (Volume 2)
La Corda Doro (Volume 11)
Leave It To Pet! (Volume 3)
The Legend of Zelda (Volume 7)
The Muppets: Robin Hood TP
Naruto (Volume 46)
One Piece (Volume 22)
Peter & Max: A Fables Novel HC
Planetary #27
- Final issue!
Rosario Vampire (Volume 9)
Sherlock Holmes: The Hounds of Baskervilles GN
Slam Dunk (Volume 6)
Spider-Man 1602 #1 (of 5)
Strange Tales #2 (of 3)
Top Cow Bible TP
X-Babies #1 (of 4)
X-Men Forever (Volume 1) TP
X-Men Noir TP
X-Men vs. Agents of Atlas #1 (of 2)

Monday, October 05, 2009

Manga Monday: Meanwhile...

I don't review every manga I read. In fact, I usually only review the first manga of a series and if I have something that I really want to say about later volumes, I'll voice it. Here are just some thoughts on various manga series that I'm currently following...
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20th Century Boys - This is a series that you really have to keep up on, as it's pretty complicated and there's a large cast of characters, some of whom you don't see in every volume. Thank goodness for the recap page in front of each book. This book's complexity reminds me quite a bit of Naoki Urasawa's Monster, another one you couldn't really stop reading for six months and pick up where you left off without losing the thread.
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Astral Project - I still have the fourth and final volume to go, but what began as an intriguing mystery kind of meandered and lost some of its steam as it went along.
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Happy Happy Clover - This is just a charming kids' title. After the first volume, Clover and her friends establish a mail-delivery service that gives the book some focus. But the adventures that the forest creatures go on are always just great fun to follow.
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High School Debut - I'm always a little wishy-washy with this title. Some volumes, I'm really into it, but other times, I just can't stand how dim the main character is.
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Hikaru No Go - With Hikaru now a professional go player, he's much closer to realizing his dream of defeating Akira Toya. This book never really slows down. It's always a pleasure to read, as I can hardly put down a new volume once it's in my hands.
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Honey Hunt - This is one of the manga I'm enjoying most of all currently. A great cast of screwed-up characters that maneuver through the world of celebrities, featuring an underdog that's impossible not to root for.
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Leave It To Pet! - The joke-a-chapter formula can get a little monotonous, but this juvie title is really high quality humor. This is one of the few titles I laugh out loud while reading. I'll be sad when the fourth and final volume comes and goes.
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Monkey High! - Haruna and Macharu have quite a rocky relationship, and sometimes it seems like they don't even know what they want, which is a more accurate depiction of a high school romance than any I've encountered in manga. Either way, I love spending time with the couple and their wacky friends.
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Nana - As always, Nana rocks. The intense, emotionally-charged world of love, paparazzi, drugs and rock n' roll that Ai Yazawa depicts is addicting as hell. Add on top of that, the drama, the beautiful art, the fashion and the panels of characters just reacting to the craziness...I never want it to end.
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Pluto - Amazing. Uran has fast become my favorite character in the book, but really, this series is chalk-full of great personalities. Urasawa's reimagining of Tezuka's world is pure genius and executed to perfection. Read this review of Pluto at the new comic blog Articulate Nerd for more on what makes Pluto awesome.
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Ral Grad - I feel like this series ended rather abruptly. Only four volumes long, thisbook seemed to be building to something pretty epic that just sort of happened midway through the fourth volume. A real disappointing climax, but with a smart twist at the end that really caught me off-guard.
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Rosario + Vampire - While the cast of characters keeps building with each volume, I feel like it's kind of in a rut. I think the monster-of-the-week formula is getting pretty tired four volumes in, while the rosario being yanked off of Moka at the end of every chapter kind of takes the suspense out of the title. I can only hope it gets better later on, because I feel like it has a lot of potential.
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Sand Chronicles - The manga that never fails to make me cry. Ashihara's book is full of tragic characters battling with various emotional issues. The complicated relationships between the close-knit group of childhood friends makes for some pretty riveting, and harsh, reading that often strikes a little too close to home for comfort.
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Yotsuba&! - Ah, the little lovable green-haired girl is back. How I missed her. In this sixth volume of the comedy series, things pick up with Yotsuba getting into mischief as usual, and misunderstanding things. But she tries, and she's so gosh-darn cute doing it. As always, a real treat to read.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Week In Awesome! Elm Street & More!

Here are five things from the past week that got me excited!
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1. Dollhouse premiere - Joss Whedon's Dollhouse entered its second season with a roar last Friday with "Vows," continuing its streak of great episodes. Eliza Dushku is great at Echo, and I love the other dolls Victor and Sierra. Dichen Lachman, who plays Sierra, is an absolutely phenomenal actress who is always a treat to watch, and I hope she gets more screen time this season than her brief appearance in this first episode.
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2. A Nightmare On Elm Street theatrical trailer - The remake of the classic horror film by Wes Craven has a trailer that looks pretty fun. Jackie Earle Haley steps into the shoes of Freddy for the reboot, scheduled for release next year. Watch it here.
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3. Paranormal Activity in theaters - The thread-bare budget of this horror movie, and its mockumentary style, invites comparisons to The Blair Witch Project, and like that film, this story of a haunting is getting rave reviews and is supposed to be a genuinely scary film. It's not in many theaters yet, although it is playing in Madison through this weekend. If it weren't for the showtime (it only plays once, at midnight, each night), I would be making the trip...
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4. "The Year of the Flood" by Margaret Atwood - Atwood is one of my favorite contemporary fiction writers, and this, her first book in five years, is tied in to her last post-apocalyptic novel Oryx & Crake.
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5. The Wizard of Oz on DVD - The classic musical turns 70 this year, and its been remastered and rereleased on DVD and Blu-Ray! There's also a lot of fun tie-in merchandise at Barnes & Noble, like door stops of the wicked witch's feet whose Dorothy's house fell on.

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Good Neighbors (Book 2): Kith

Holly Black & Ted Naifeh
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While I was utterly enchanted with the first book in The Good Neighbors series, the spell seems to have worn off a bit with the second graphic novel. The story follows Rue, who has discovered that she is half-fairy. And while she has declined joining her mother's magical family, she must fight her evil uncle, who schemes to remove Rue's entire town from the human world, and claim it as a refuge for fairy folk. In order to carry out his plan, he has a timeline to follow involving turning people into trees as a perimeter for his spell, a timeline that Rue seeks to disrupt. Meanwhile, her boyfriend is being seduced by merwomen, another friend is being tempted by a witch to use a love potion, and another friend, Ann, was changed into a tree and now seems to be something else. There's a lot going on, but it doesn't have the same impact of Rue's initial discovery of the fairy world that she belongs to, and her initial introductions to the magical characters. Naifeh's art, likewise, doesn't have any stand-out scenes like the first book had (and by stand-out, I mean those perfect panels that you stop and stare at because they're so beautifully rendered), even though it is certainly competently illustrated and is the type of story that he was born to draw, completely Gothic and dark. One place the book went that I enjoyed seeing was the fairy's caverns, but even that was a little underwhelming from what I'd imagined. I hope that the plot twist that presented itself at the end of this chapter will reinvigorate the story and prove that this was just one of those in-between set-up chapters. I mean, this book did have a story: a mystery and resolution, but it seemed like an extension of the first book, not like its own thing, and the story presented in this volume just wasn't enough to carry an entire book on its own. It was a little...boring. But like I said, I'm hoping it's just an off-chapter because there was so much promise in the first book of the series that I'd hate to see it just fizzle out.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Ball Peen Hammer

Adam Rapp & George O'Connor
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Ball Peen Hammer is a new graphic novel from First Second Books that marks the graphic novel debut of both creators involved. George O'Connor is a New York Times bestselling author of picture books, while Adam Rapp has written several young adult novels and plays. This book takes place in a city that's ravaged by poverty and disease. In fact, the plague that runs rampant through this city is pretty nasty, infecting a person with unsightly sores, blindness, loss of feeling in limbs, etc. Not very pretty. But the entire city is being eaten away much the same way, as people will steal food from others without a thought, feral dogs eat humans for survival, and people will pull gold teeth from a corpse in exchange for a buck. This world is brutal. It's full of violence and blood, especially when it comes to The Fellowship's creepy recruitment of people to steal children, kill them with ball peen hammers, and stuff them in bags to be carried off for who knows what. Amid all of this chaos are a small group of survivors residing within a clock tower. The two men in the basement, writer Aaron and musician Welton, fall into the hands of The Fellowship, unaware of a woman (Exely) at the top of the tower who is carrying Welton's child, searching for him following an encounter they had in The Undertunnel. Exely, meanwhile, befriends a foul-mouthed, masturbation-crazed young boy who tried to steal her food. None of the people involved in this story are left unscathed. It's pretty dark and depressing, without much in terms of hope. It's an ugly world Rapp creates for his readers and while there are some tender, human moments in there, it's mostly shocking scene after shocking scene, and it's mostly stuff we've seen in various post apocalyptic or horror films out there. Nothing really new or innovative is brought to the table. O'Connor shows a lot of promise, however. Despite the horrible world he illustrates, his drawings are nice and clear, strong and sharp, and he paces the story like he's been working on graphic novels for ages, with the ability to slow things down when a moment calls for it, or speed things up during intense action or horror scenes. I can't really say that there's much meat to what's offered here, but I'd say that George O'Connor is a great find, and will probably have a long bright career as an illustrator for whatever medium he decides to focus his efforts on.