Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pick of the Week 2/24

Here's the book that you should be paying attention to tomorrow at your local comic shop...
Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman (Volume 1) HC - The latest run on Fantastic Four has been getting a lot of buzz, featuring writer Jonathan Hickman. If you haven't been reading the floppies, you may want to jump on board with this first collection.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Blackest Night #7 (of 8)
Dinosaur King (Volume 1)
Jet Scott (Volume 1) HC
Ms Marvel #50 - Final Issue
Weird World of Jack Staff #1

Monday, February 22, 2010

Manga Monday: Black Butler

Black Butler (Volume 1)
Yana Toboso

There are a lot of mixed reviews of the first volume of Black Butler out there, but I for one, found it rather impressive.  The art, on one hand, is rather lackluster.  It looks generic without any real stand-out scenes.  At one point, the butler in question, Sebastian, points out what is supposed to be a fantastic stone garden to a guest, and the art just isn't strong enough to bring the vision to life.  But for the most part, the art is executed competently, with the action scenes illustrating clearly what Toboso is trying to convey.  And what Toboso lacks in artistic skills is more than made up for with storytelling prowess.

I wasn't sure what to expect when going into this book, and for all intents and purposes, it begins as a story of a butler in charge of the house of a young master.  Sebastian is competent at his job and makes up for what the rest of the staff (including a gardener, a nosy chef, and a clumsy maid) lack, often fixing the mistakes they make.  The twelve year old Earl, Ciel, has a patch over one eye, hinting immediately of some violent incident from his past, at least a violent accident.  But it becomes clear very soon that this isn't merely a book of manners.  Things sort of creep around the edges in this book.  At first Sebastian just seems very good at what he does, multi-talented with a mind to fix puzzles to impress those around him.  When he's able to create a stone garden and fix a few other problems at the same time in two hours, I just thought that Toboso was stretching a little, exaggerating just how good Sebastian is at his job.  But then things surpass the realm of possibility beyond a question, and you realize beyond a doubt that there's something really strange going on.  Well, the eye patch is indicative of a more violent past than most people would imagine in a book that starts out so quietly.  Toboso brilliantly, with calculation, draws the story out, slowly revealing things for what they are, as Sebastian is not human at all.  And very quickly, the story turns violent when Sebastian must rescue Ciel from machine gun-toting kidnappers, dropping the illusion of a purely Victorian/Edwardian setting quickly with the introduction of guns, cellphones and cars.  This subversion of expectations may feel like a cheat to some, but I appreciate Toboso's clever ideas, and while a great first volume and a fun hook don't necessarily translate into a great series overall, I will be there when the second volume hits the shelves.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Jason Shiga

Meanwhile took creator Jason Shiga a decade to create.  It's an intricate puzzle that has you choosing where to go from panel to panel, from page to page, much like the narrative "choose your own adventure" books, except in comic book form.  At first glance, it can seem pretty intimidating, with lines swirling from all the panels on each page (and some pages consisting of pretty much only swirling lines that you have to follow), but once you get into the groove of how it works, it's really easy to continue.  It starts off rather simply enough, on what flavor of ice cream you'd like to eat, and gets a little more complicated from there.  Shiga makes good use of color and space for the type of story he's telling here, which is basically the same story, of Jimmy, a boy who stumbles upon an inventor and his laboratory, where he has a time machine, a machine that can transfer memories between people, and a doomsday device called the killitron.  You can choose which one to play with, and may end up using all of the devices in what is a very similar story that ends in numerous different ways.  While there may be 3,856 story possibilities, it's pretty much the same story, and if you should choose to persevere and wade through the story several times to find more outcomes and storylines, you may get rather tired of the pretty verbose beginning of the story.  But there are some pretty fun, satisfying storylines that you can uncover (and likewise, there are some that end too abruptly, and you may feel cheated).  This is a fun, creative exercise that kids will certainly appreciate, where they could either spend days enjoying, or half an hour, depending on their sensibilities.  It's an interesting experiment that Shiga takes on, largely successful, creating a unique form of storytelling for comics that any who reads will take some joy in.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pick of the Week 2/17

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

King Aroo (Volume 1) HC - IDW is really digging out some quality comic strip projects for their Library of American Comics line. This collection contains all dailies and Sundays from the King Aroo strip published between 1950 and 1952.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Almost Silent HC - Jason
Atomic Robo: Revenge of the Vampire Dimension #1 (of 4)
Bokurano Ours (Volume 1) - Read my review here.
Kick Ass HC
Meanwhile: Pick Any Path - 3856 Story Possibilities

Monday, February 15, 2010

Manga Monday: Bokurano Ours

Bokurano Ours (Volume 1)
Mohiro Kitoh

The science fiction title Bokurano Ours was one of Ikki magazine's flagship titles in Japan, and recently ended its serialization in 2009 after a seven year run.  It now begins its publication stateside through Viz's signature Ikki line, following in the footsteps of Children of the SeaBokurano Ours is a story about fifteen children at a Summer camp, who uncover a strange cave full of computers.  The man they find there offers them a chance to play a game piloting a giant robot, which all but one of them accept and are under contract to play to its end.  Once the game begins, they find out that it's not the computer game they were expecting, but an honest-to-god robot that they navigate to engage an opposing robot.  Each new enemy sees another one of the children in control of their robot, and each storyline follows the same pattern of relating an episode from that child's life that speaks to their personality and how they engage the enemy in battle.  While there are some interesting things going on with some of the characters, it's all a bit over-the-top.  The children also seem too broad to really care about, which is a shame for what is intended to be a pretty character-driven story.  The robots and the enemies they engage are also very familiar to fans of manga and anime, and bring better giant robot stories like Neon Genesis Evangelion to mind to this book's detriment.  With each story leading up to a big confrontation, the action could be a little more clear too.  Moves are often depicted in close-ups that are hard to figure out where they relate to the entirety of the robots, or the action is just plain confusing and rushed.  Luckily, Kitoh is a talented artist in most respects and the drama unfolds pretty seemlessly, but with so many flaws overall, Bokurano Ours is just a flashy premise with little going for it in terms of execution.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Troublemakers

Gilbert Hernandez

The latest graphic novel from master cartoonist and Love & Rockets co-founder Gilbert Hernandez is good pulpy fun.  It's a part of the Fritz "B movies" that Hernandez is "adapting" to comics.  On the inside front covers of this book, there are movie posters for other "films" in this collection, his first one, Chance In Hell, making an appearance, as well as a little corner of Speak of the Devil that Hernandez published through Dark Horse.  Truth be told, I'm really really looking forward to seeing some of the other books in this series.  Chance In Hell was a great debut for the project, and The Troublemakers was a lot of fun, full of swindeling and back-stabbing, but how can they compete with books with titles like Scarlett by Starlight, King Vampire and The Midnight People?  Not to mention the cool posters for Three Mystic Eyes and The Earthians.  Anyways, lots of sex and violence in a really fun pulpy atmosphere make The Troublemakers a great read.  My favorite moment was when Fritz, who lisps in real life but not while acting, lets loose a lisped "yeth" in answer to whether she wants to go up to a guy's room.  It's a nice tip of the hat to her character in Love & Rockets proper, and is perhaps hinting that she wasn't acting when she said that?  Either way, Hernandez fans will enjoy the hell out of this book because there's a lot to love here.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Pick of the Week 2/10

Provided the snow doesn't delay comic shipments in your area, here is the book you should be paying attention to in your local store tomorrow...

Newave!: Underground Mini Comix of the 1980's HC - Almost 900 pages of minicomix from the 1980's!  This highly anticipated anthology includes offerings from the likes of Dan Clowes, Peter Bagge, Steve Willis, Mary Fleener and Rick Geary.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Chocolate Cheeks GN
Human Target #1 (of 6)
Little Nothings (Volume 3): Uneasy Happiness GN
Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Ultimate Collection TP
Savage Dragon: Back In Blue TP

Monday, February 08, 2010

Manga Monday: Crown of Love

Crown of Love (Volume 1)
Yun Kouga

Retelling her manga series from ten years earlier, Loveless creator Yun Kouga flushes out her story Crown of Love, about the relationship between an established idol, and one rising.  Hisayoshi Tajima is a charming guy, idolized by the women in his class, but very arrogant.  He knows he's good-looking and doesn't reciprocate any interest in his classmates.  The only one good enough for him is idol Rima Fujio, whom he happens to bump into on a train.  From that moment on, this ace student drops everything in his pursuit to know everything about this beautiful girl, from attending video tapings to becoming an active member of her fan club.  Luckily for him, her former talent manager wants him to be an idol as well, and offers him stardom as a way to get close to Rima, who does not reciprocate his affection.  There are definitely some interesting things happening in this manga, particularly when it comes to Hisayoshi's relationships with those around him.  He's smug in his knowledge that he can have any girl in his class, yet he insists on having the unattatainable pop idol, and he's suddenly in the role of the classmates he snubs.  He also realizes early on that his fawning over Rima is much like his mother's pathetic cowering love for her abusive husband, although he can't help but continue his unhealthy quest nonetheless.  There's plenty of irony in the circumstances, but it makes things interesting.  Hisayoshi is a pretty loathsome character overall, but he does odd things (like befriending a little kid who's also a fan of Rima) that makes you kind of like him anyhow.  Plus, his abusive home life earns him a little sympathy, even if it's hard to root for his unwanted advances toward Rima.  Rima, likewise, has issues.  She pines over her former manager, professing her love for him, despite his marriage and children.  The story bounces between the two of them, flushing out the thoughts of each to such a degree that little mystery remains, and also bounces through time in confusing shifts.  Even worse than the disorientation left by this clunky storytelling is how the events unfold.  Equal weight is put on everything as the book progresses, so that huge moments like Hisayoshi and Rima meeting properly for the first time has no more significance than his crossing the street.  Kouga pays little attention to building tension or focusing the story, and coupled with unidentifiable protagonists (and in spite of a few interesting ideas), this manga is left a confused mess.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Week In Awesome! Oscar Buzz!

The Academy Award nominees were announced this week, debuting their ten nominations for Best Picture in place of just five.  Of the nominees, I'm rooting for The Hurt Locker, although I wouldn't mind seeing underdogs Inglourious Basterds or An Education win.  A little disappointed that A Single Man wasn't nominated for Best Picture, that Ponyo wasn't up for Best Animated Picture, and that Julianne Moore didn't get a supporting actress nod for her role in A Single Man.  Ah, well.  See the full list of nominees here.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Previews HYPE: April '10

Diligently wading through the phone book that is Previews Catalogue so you don't have to...here are twenty choice books (that's right, I just couldn't narrow it down to ten this month - lots of good stuff is coming out!) shipping to comic shops in April that I think may get overlooked or that I'm just plain excited about...

1. Wilson HC - New original graphic novel from Daniel Clowes!  Nuff said.
2. Bodyworld HC - When Dash Shaw's graphic novel was being serialized as a webcomic, it appeared on plenty of people's best of the year lists, so I'm excited to see it come out in print form from Pantheon.
3. Art In Time: Unknown Comic Adventures 1940-1980 HC - Dan Nadel edits a sequel to the excellent Art Out of Time anthology, featuring overlooked adventure comics from the 40's through the 80's.
4. Black Blizzard GN - A full-length graphic novel from important manga creator Yoshihiro Tatsumi (A Drifting Life), from the late 50's.

5. Artichoke Tales HC - A coming-of-age story from the author of The Squirrel Mother, Megan Kelso.
6. Weathercraft HC - Courtesy of Fantagraphics Books comes the first original graphic novel from master cartoonist Jim Woodring.
7. Top Shelf Swedish Comics - Along with a book that traces the history of Swedish comics (Swedish Comics History SC), Top Shelf is releasing several books from Swedish creators, including Simon Gardenfors' The 120 Days of Simon GN, Kolbeinn Karlsson's The Troll King GN, Mats Jonsson's Hey Princess GN and the Swedish comics anthology From the Shadow of Northern Lights (Volume 2) GN.  I know little about this subject, so this should be a lot of fun.
8. Excalibur Visionaries: Warren Ellis (Volume 1) TP - Marvel has already collected a few Excalibur Visionaries featuring Alan Davis' fantastic run, and now set their eyes on Warren Ellis' take on the team (when Pete Wisdom was on the team).

9. Spell Checkers (Volume 1) - This series in the teenage witch genre from Jamie S. Rich looks pretty cute, and I love that title!
10. Brightest Day #0 - In wake of DC's huge Blackest Night crossover event comes the new event Brightest Day, which crosses over into many titles like Green Lantern and JLA, as well as a new series also debuting with this event in The Flash #1, written by Geoff Johns himself.
11. Fraggle Rock #1 - Return to Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock in this new mini-series from Archaia, the first issue of which is written by Jeffrey Brown.
12. Black Widow #1 - With her big screen debut looming, Marvel is beginning an ongoing series featuring everyone's favorite Russian spy/hero, from the team of Marjorie Liu and Daniel Acuna.
13. Twin Spica (Volume 1) - The first manga series from Ken Yaginuma about a girl who dreams to one day go to space.
14. S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 - From Jonathan Hickman, whose current run on Fantastic Four is getting a lot of good word-of-mouth, this new series explores the secret history of S.H.I.E.L.D. through the ages, bringing the likes of Issac Newton and Leonardo Da Vinci into the mix.
15. The Golden Collection of Klassic Krazy Kool Kids Komics - From IDW's Yoe Books! imprint is this collection of comics from the 40's and 50's by legends of the medium such as Jack Kirby, Carl Barks and John Stanley.
16. New Avengers: Finale - Along with the final issues of all of the Avengers books shipping this month is this one-shot finale tying up loose ends with a good dose of payback.
17. Saturn Apartments (Volume 1) - From Viz's IKKI line, this manga from Hisae Iwaoka takes place in a far future where humanity lives in rings around the earth.
18. Spider-Man: Fever #1 (of 3) - Brendan McCarthy's psycholdelic stint on the web-crawler.
19. Turf #1 (of 4) - A noir crime thriller that mixes the supernatural with mobsters in the late 20's.
20. Marvel Adventures - Marvel relaunches their Marvel Adventures kids' line this month with two title: Spider-Man and Super Heroes, both written by Paul Tobin.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Pick of the Week 2/3

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

Viz Manga Releases - Viz is really churning them out this week.  There's a new shojo debut with Crown of Love (Volume 1), and there's also Ultimo (Volume 1), which is a book created by Stan Lee and written by Hiroyuki Takei, creator of Shaman King.  The new issue of Shonen Jump comes out, as well as new installments in several series including Black Bird, Happy Happy Clover, High School Debut, Hikaru No Go, Otomen, Slam Dunk, Vampire Knight and the ever-popular Naruto.  Some series also see their final volumes come out this week: Beast Master and Knights of the Zodiac, while Viz continues to throttle their readers with another wave of One Piece (volumes 29 - 33).
Other Noteworthy Releases
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #32: Twilight (Part 1)
Demo Volume 2 #1 (of 6)
Komiks: Comic Art In Russia HC
Little Lulu (Volume 22): The Big Dipper Club TP
Siege #2 (of 4)

Monday, February 01, 2010

Manga Monday: Butterflies, Flowers

Butterflies, Flowers (Volume 1)
Yuki Yoshihara

Choko Kuze is desperate for a job since her family's wealth disappeared.  Coming from a priveleged background forces her to take whatever comes her way, but she certainly never expected to work for one of her former servants.  It makes for an interesting dynamic, as Masayuki Domoto makes many ridiculous demands on his new employee (and even asks her if she is a virgin during the interview), but turns on a dime to praise her and call her Milady, particularly when off the clock (and even drives her to and from the office).  Choko recalls her childhood friendship with Domoto fondly, and admits pretty early on that she's fallen pretty deep for the handsome guy, something that hits home when she sees women throwing themselves at him.  The illustrations are really beautiful in this title, as the book's title suggests, but this is another one of those shojo manga titles that too abruptly bounces from serious and emotional to goofy and cartoony, a line that I think has to be tread carefully in a shojo book.  Choko sometimes steps into the obnoxious camp too much because of this and the rest of her personality is a little too bland to compensate.  It's nice to see Choko stand up every once in awhile and take charge, but for the most part, she's far too passive, something that some of the supporting characters in this title are attempting to change, a transformation that can't come soon enough for me.  This is mildly entertaining overall, but there are much better shojo titles out there to choose from.