Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Week In Awesome! Incarceron and More!

Things that caught my attention this week...

Incarceron - The biggest release of the week in books, really.  This is a young adult fantasy that's been getting a lot of buzz.  By Catherine Fisher, it should appeal to fans of recent hits like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner.

C2E2 - Chicago's new comic book convention boasts a list of major artist appearances, including Chris Ware, which may indicate a show with something to offer, unlike the faltering Wizard World Chicago convention with its weak panel offerings and poor showing that couldn't even tempt major publishers to attend last year.  It's about time the midwest gets a good covention again.

The Heroic Age - Marvel announced a new direction for the Marvel Universe beginning in May, turning its back on the dark, trying times of recent years for the heroes.

Batman and Robin #7 - Cameron Stewart's first issue as artist on the series, written by Grant Morrison, is really, really great.  "Blackest Knight" should be a fun storyarc.

TV shows - Caprica, from the creators of Battlestar: Galactica, debuts with a fantastic first episode, while Joss Whedon's Dollhouse comes to a startling end with a bang.  Also, this coming Tuesday: the return of Lost!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pick of the Week 1/27

The book you should be paying attention to when you stop by your local comic book shop on Wednesday...

Alias Ultimate Collection (Book 2) TP - This is the second and final collection featuring the excellent Alias by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, one of the best books put out by Marvel last decade.  Also, if you loved this series, read Bendis's current book Spider-Woman, which has the same vibe.  But Alias definitely deserves a spot in your graphic novel library.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Afrodisiac HC - New from the creative team behind Street Angel.
Green Lantern #50
Remember GN - Another book by Orange creator Benjamin.
Ultimate Comics: Enemy #1 (of 4) - Event fatigue - pffft.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Manga Monday: Darling Daughters

All My Darling Daughters
Fumi Yoshinaga

All My Darling Daughters is a book consisting of five stories, all of which are connected through characters in one way or another.  It's written and illustrated by the creator of Antique Bakery and Ooku: The Inner Chambers, so of course, the art is beautiful and elegant.  With this book, Yoshinaga really focused on a group of people, digging into their motivations and examining their relationships with one another.  Unlike some of the other more well-known books by Yoshinaga, there's not an immediate hook to grab readers.  I personally went into this with blind faith in a creator that I've enjoyed previous works from, otherwise I'm not sure that I would have given it a second glance.  But I was fortunate in reading the tales she weaved, beginning with a story about the relationship between a mother and the 30-something daughter who still lives with her.  After going into remission for cancer, the mother decides to live life to its fullest and remarries a man younger than her daughter.  Her daughter suspects the young man of ill intentions, and isn't happy about the change for selfish reasons.  The mother-daughter have a great relationship, and I think they were the highlight of the stories offered here, so I was happy to see the final story reexamining these characters, specifically the mother.  It made for a nice bookend.  I also appreciated that Yoshinaga didn't resort to forcing emotions through a relapse of cancer, as that would have been an easy way to get a reaction from readers, one that many less confident creators would have used.  The second story in this book was amusing and I rather enjoyed it about as much as the initial story, about a teacher who gets sexually involved with a student.  It didn't have the subtle emotion and loving bickering between the characters that I came to like about the mother and daughter, but it was strong in its own way.  The only chapter of this book that I didn't really care for was the third one, which sees a young hard-working, selfless beautiful woman go on blind dates to have a marriage arranged.  I didn't buy her motivation in the end, nor where she ended up by the story's conclusion.  It seemed forced and unlikely, and kind of came out of nowhere.  But overall, this is a very strong book of stories created with careful thought that I'm sure must draw from Yoshinaga's life a little bit, as she was quite insightful about the relationships involved.  I still prefer other works by the creator over this one, but I like that it was so simple and doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of other manga series that are less deserving of notoriety.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Week In Awesome! Awards and More!

Congratulations are in order for the winners of prestigious children's book awards announced earlier this week.

Caldecott Medal: The Lion and the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney

Newberry Medal: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Printz Award: Going Bovine by Libba Bray

The ALA also announced ten of their choices for best graphic novels for teens, including several books from my year-end list like Gunnerkrigg Court, Pluto and Ooku: The Inner Chambers, with the overlooked Wonderland making their full list.

Also, if you've been hiding under a rock, you may have missed that it's been announced that Kitty Pryde will be returning to the Marvel Universe beginning with Uncanny X-Men #522.

Not so awesome...Marvel announced that they have cancelled the excellent series S.W.O.R.D.  Issue five will be its last.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Previews HYPE: March '10

Diligently wading through the phone book that is Previews Catalogue so you don't have are ten choice books shipping to comic shops in March that I think may get overlooked or that I'm just plain excited about...

1. The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life & Death HC - An examination of the work of a cartooning legend, featuring childhood drawings, unpublished work, unseen sketches, an introduction by Alison Bechdel, and, of course, plenty of beautiful art.

2. House of Five Leaves (Volume 1) - After reading Natsume Ono's excellent not simple, I'm really excited about this new offering through Viz's IKKI line, the most recent manga from the acclaimed artist.

3. Uncanny X-Men #522 - Awww, yeah!  My favorite superhero Kitty Pryde returns to the Marvel Universe this month under the guiding hand of Matt Fraction and Whilce Portacio.

4. It Was the War of the Trenches - A new Jacques Tardi (West Coast Blues, You Are There) offering, continuing Fantagraphics' dedicated translation of the European cartoonist's work.

5. New Archaia Series - Archaia launches new mini-series featuring familiar titles.  First is Matz and Luc Jacamon's continuation of the acclaimed series The Killer in The Killer: Modus Vivendi #1.  Then Hub's Okko series continues in Okko: The Cycle of Air #1.  Both are excellent books.

6. Li'l Abner (Volume 1) HC - Continuing reprinting great comic strips through their Library of American Comics imprint, IDW collects Li'l Abner.

7. Dark Horse All-Ages Classic Reprints - Dark Horse is reprinting a lot of great comics for kids (and everyone) this month.  They're putting 664 pages of the early Dark Horse reprints of Stanley and Irving's Little Lulu under a single cover for just $25, much like you see with manga omnibus editions (Giant Size Little Lulu).  They're also flushing out their Harvey Comics Classics collections by collecting more Casper in The Harvey Comics Treasury (Volume 1): Casper the Friendly Ghost and Friends.

8. Super F*ckers TP - All four issues of James Kochlaka's outrageous, foul, fantastic alt-superhero series is collected - finally.

9. American Vampire #1 - Co-written by Stephen King, this new series debuting from DC's Vertigo line is a period piece that traces the origins of vampirism in America

10. Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars: The Jesse Marsh Years - Following the Jesse Marsh Tarzan reprints, Dark Horse is now releasing the three-issue run of the artist (with writer Paul S. Newman) on the space adventurer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pick of the Week 1/20

The book you should be paying attention to when you stop by your local comic book shop on Wednesday...

The John Stanley Library: Thirteen Going on Eighteen HC - The latest offering from Drawn & Quarterly's efforts to bring classic John Stanley comics to readers via beautiful packages is the creator's beloved Thirteen Going On Eighteen teen humor comic.

Other Noteworthy Releases

All My Darling Daughters GN - More manga from Ooku: The Inner Chamber's Fumi Yoshinaga.
Barry Windsor-Smith Conan Archives (Volume 1) HC
Excalibur Visionaries: Alan Davis (Volume 2) TP
Joe the Barbarian #1 (of 8) - New Grant Morrison & Sean Murphy Vertigo mini-series.
not simple GN - Read my review of this excellent manga.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Manga Monday: Not Simple

not simple
Natsume Ono

The year in manga is off to a great start with this very strong offering from Natsume Ono.  Already, I can tell you that this is going to be one strong contender for one of the best books of the year.  not simple tells the story of Ian, beginning with the end of his life.  It's a brutal opening chapter, but as Ono fills in Ian's life story throughout the rest of the book, it becomes apparent very quickly that the events that lead to his death are hardly the worst things he's been through.  It's really quite tame compared with the turmoil of his history, which includes shocking revelations and turning points that you don't see coming.  It's very depressing, and if you can say one thing about it all, it's that it really is not simple.  Ian is a strange character, kind of hard to pin down.  He's very passive, seems very naive and innocent.  Malleable I think sums him up quite nicely.  He kind of goes with what life gives him, from a very young age.  A majority of this story sees him trying to achieve a goal he's set for himself so that he can see his sister again, to fulfill a promise he made to her.  But right away, things are fuzzy, as Ian himself isn't even sure if his sister is really his mother.  His sister has always looked out for his though, something that can't be said about his alcoholic "mother" who, among other terrible things, sells Ian into prostitution to feed her habit.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg of what readers will find in the unbelievable life of this soft-spoken character.  Jim, a reporter, takes an interest in Ian and the two quickly become friends as Jim begins to write a biography based on Ian's history, and is a key figure in shedding light on several moments in his life.  I like the relationship that Jim and Ian have, and many of the secondary characters are really interesting, perhaps more interesting than the main character himself, as he has little personality beyond letting life happen to him.  And knowing how he dies at the beginning of the book, I kind of felt that it was better for him that that happen after seeing the life that led up to that moment.  Awful to say, I know, but it somehow gave me peace of mind knowing that his death was swift and he didn't have to deal with any more of the hardships he'd experienced.  A strange way to look at it, but that's how I felt.  Natsume Ono has constructed an amazing story here that brought a lot of emotions out in me.  She uses simple cartoony lines to illustrate her book, one that looks more alternative than most manga out there, and almost reads more like a graphic novel than what you'd expect picking something out of the manga section in the bookstore.  But what matters in the end is the quality of the material, and not simple is definitely "A" grade stuff.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pick of the Week 1/13

This is replacing the "In Stores" feature, putting the focus on a few big releases instead of listing numerous books coming to comic stores in any given week.  I'm keeping the "Pick of the Week," putting that in the spotlight, while listing a few other notable books each week.  Unfortunately, it's kind of a lacklustre week, but if you can only get a few comics, these are the ones I recommend paying attention to...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #31 - A one off issue by Joss Whedon before a new storyarc begins for the slayer (which will be written by Brad Meltzer (Identity Crisis)) sees Buffy exhibit superhero powers and deals with consequences of recent events.  The storyarc beginning with #32 (the issue cover pictured) will reveal the identity of Twilight for those few who have been able to avoid spoiler images and angry fanboys on message boards.

Other Noteworthy Releases

Calamity Jack (Volume 1) HC
The Complete Chester Gould's Dick Tracy (Volume 9) HC
The Muppet Show #1 - New ongoing series
Torpedo (Volume 1) HC

Manga Monday: Natsume

Natsume's Book of Friends (Volume 1)
Yuki Midorikawa

The first book that I read published in 2010 is this cute manga from Viz that follows an orphaned boy named Takashi Natsume.  But Takashi isn't your typical kid.  He has the ability to see spirits, so a lot of his peers think he's strange, especially since he often talks to himself (actually the spirits) and reacts to things that nobody else can see.  Many of the adults he grew up around weren't too fond of him either because of his strange habits, so he was shuffled around a lot, making for a lonely upbringing.  In fact, one friend that he did make when he was young who didn't make him feel quite so alone turned out to be a spirit herself, disguising herself as a human to keep him company.  Well, it turns out that this gift/curse is hereditary, because his grandmother, a powerful woman named Reiko, had the same gift, although she used the gift to bully spirits, playing games with them and demanding their servitude when she beat them.  She collected the names of spirits in a book, so that whenever she called for them, they had to obey her instructions.  After she died, the book was passed down and eventually found its way into Takashi's hands, who wanted to atone for his grandmother's behavior by releasing the spirits' names from the book, thus offering them their freedom.  There are several problems with this selfless act, the first being that after freeing a spirit, it takes a lot of energy out of Takashi, so he's constantly weak or falling asleep.  There are also spirits angry with Takashi, many of whom mistake him for Reiko, and wonder why she never called them.  The big problem with having such a book, though, is that it is so powerful.  With the names contained inside, whoever owns such a book wields great power over many spirits, which is why many spirits want the book for themselves, including Takashi's self-proclaimed body guard, a spirit he inadvertently frees from a shrine named Madara.  Madara promises to help Takashi in his quest, teaching him the ropes of the spirit world along the way, but when Takashi dies, he wants the book for himself, which Takashi agrees to.  The two make a good pair and Madara is more taken with Takashi than he cares to admit, despite his joking of eating him in his sleep and whatnot.  Madara is also a fun visual.  He remains in the shape of a cat, like he was in when emprisoned in the shrine, but turns into a big, powerful feline-like beast when he moves to attack or protect Takashi.  Above all, this book is about friendship, as the title suggests. The main character learns that friends are friends, whether they are human like himself or the spirits that have been the source of his loneliness for so long. The bonds he creates with the spirits he comes across are ultimately stronger and more satisfying than what his grandmother had by bonding the spirits to her through her book. I think this is a great title for all ages to touch on the value of friendship, and it's told through fun little adventures and stories of Takashi's brushes with the supernatural in what is a fairly gentle book.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Most Anticipated Comics of 2010

Now that we've rung in the New Year and the best-of lists are beginning to taper off, it's time to take a look at the highlights of what next year has to offer in the medium of comics.


AX anthology - Top Shelf is releasing a greatest hits of offerings from Japan's alternative comics anthology of the same name.

Bakuman - The creative team behind the fantastic series Death Note release Bakuman this year, about aspiring manga artists.

Black Blizzard - An early crime story from Yoshihiro Tatsumi, creator of A Drifting Life and The Push-Man and Other Stories.

Reprint Collections

Nancy Is Happy: The Complete Dailies: 1942-1945 - It was only a matter of time before these were reprinted.  One of the major omissions from the comic strip reprint boom is Ernie Bushmiller's beloved comic.

Walt & Skeezix (Volume 4): 1927-1928 - Drawn & Quarterly finally continues reprinting Frank King's comic strip.

Archie - IDW is doing several reprint collections of Archie material through their Library of American Comics imprint, including the original strips by John Goldwater and Bob Mantana, and best-of collections of runs by artists such as Dan DeCarlo and Stan Goldberg.

Graphic Novels

Wilson - Probably one of the most anticipated releases of the year is this new graphic novel by Daniel Clowes.

The Wild Kingdom - A Kevin Huizenga graphic novel featuring his creation Glenn Ganges.

Artichoke Tales - A collection of Megan Kelso (Squirrel Mother) mini-comics.

If 'N Oof - Innovative publisher Picturebox is releasing this brand-spanking new graphic novel by Brian Chippendale.

Superhero/Genre Comics

Thor - Matt Fraction, who's had some acclaimed runs on recent superhero comics such as Invincible Iron Man and The Order is going to be taking a crack at the god, with John Romita Jr. on art.

Mouse Guard: The Black Axe - The third series in David Petersen's Eisner Award Winning series is a prequel to the first two, featuring the popular character Black Axe.

Joe the Barbarian - This new Vertigo series by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy follows a diabetic kid who may or may not be in an insulin-deprived hallucination when he's transported to a land populated by his toys.

Gunnerkrigg Court (Book 2) - I loved the first book in Tim Siddell's all-ages fantasy series, and more of the on-line comic sees print this year through Archaia.


Blacksad - Dark Horse is reprinting the first three Blacksad stories in one nice hardcover presentation, completely relettered with creator input, and containing a new album never before translated.

It Was the War of the Trenches - This continues Fantagraphic's translations of Jacques Tardi's material state-side, following West Coast Blues and You Are There, books appearing on several best-of-the-year lists in 2009.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

In Stores 1/6

Here are the highlights of books available at comic shops tomorrow!

Pick of the Week

The Troublemakers HC - Finally the wait is over!  It's been pushed back and delayed, teasing us for a over a year, but Gilbert Hernandez's latest original graphic novel will see the light of day tomorrow.  Sloth and Chance In Hell were both great original books from the creator, and I doubt this crime story will prove the exception.

Other Noteworthy Releases

The Box Man HC
BPRD: King of Fear #1 (of 5)
Bringing Up Father (Volume 1): From Sea To Shining Sea HC
Chill HC
Daffodil #1 (of 3)
Daredevil: Born Again TP
Essential Avengers (Volume 7) TP
Fairy Tail (Volume 9)
Fruits Basket Ultimate Edition (Volume 4)
Invincible Iron Man (Volume 3): Most Wanted Book 2 HC
Leave It To PET! (Volume 4) - Final volume!
The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (Volume 1) HC
The List HC
Little Adventures In Oz (Book 1)
Marvel Boy: The Uranian #1 (of 3)
The Muppet Show: Treasure of Peg Leg Wilson TP
Nana (Volume 20)
Night of the Bedbugs HC
One Piece (Volume 24)
One Piece (Volume 25)
One Piece (Volume 26)
One Piece (Volume 27)
One Piece (Volume 28)
One Piece (Volumes 4, 5 & 6): East Blue
Olympians (Volume 1): Zeus, King of the Gods HC
Punisher: Get Castle #1
Sand Chronicles (Volume 7)
Siege #1 (of 4)
Siege: Embedded #1 (of 4)
Siege Prelude TP
Soul Kiss (Volume 1) HC
The Spirit (Volume 5) TP
Suicide Squad #67 - Resurrected for one issue for Blackest Night
Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms HC
Unclothed Man In the 35th Century AD HC
Unwritten (Volume 1): Tommy Taylor Bogus Identity TP
The Walking Dead (Volume 11): Fear the Hunters TP
We Were There (Volume 8)
Weird Western Tales #71 - Resurrected for one issue for Blackest Night
X-Men: Mutant Massacre HC
X-Men vs. Avengers HC
X-Men vs. Fantastic Four HC
Youngblood (Volume 2): Voted Off the Island TP