Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Pick of the Week 3/31

This is the title you should be paying attention to at the local comic shop tomorrow!

Hernandez Brothers Collections - Tomorrow sees the release of collections from both Gilbert and Jaime featuring works from their Love & Rockets universe.  From Jaime we get the Penny Century TP in the new-reader-friendly format that Fantagraphics has been releasing recently.  And from Gilbert, High Soft Lisp GN in the thinner, taller format.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Blackest Night #8 (of 8) - The conclusion.
Creeper by Steve Ditko HC
It Was the War of the Trenches HC - More Jacques Tardi!
The John Stanley Library: Melvin Monster (Volume 2) HC
Nomad: Girl Without a World TP
Pluto (Volume 8) - Final volume!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Manga Monday: Bunny Drop

Bunny Drop (Volume 1)
Yumi Unita

Bunny Drop is a moe manga where, like Yotsuba&, a little girl is raised by a young man, in this case a thirty-year-old.  Jason Thompson wrote an interesting article on moe manga at ComiXology worth checking out if you'd like to know more about this side of manga.  But while Yotsuba& is a humor series that focuses on a young girl's funny interactions with the world around her as she grows and learns, Bunny Drop aims for something a little more dramatic.  There's plenty of humor involved in the title, but it has a much more serious edge as Daikichi, the young bachelor, takes in his grandfather's secret six-year-old daughter Rin after he dies (because no one else is willing to, given the scandal), and has to grow up quickly, making responsible decisions to raise her, such as stepping down at work so that daycare will work with a more reasonable schedule.  He has a lot to learn about children, but with Rin's help, is able to make a good deal of headway very quickly.  Rin herself is very quiet and bashful in the beginning, but Daikichi, with his silly, loving ways, helps her to slowly lower her guard and trust somebody again, and as the book progresses, bond and make connections with other people as well.  It's a really nice, heart-warming story as the two learn and grow together, Daikichi into adulthood and Rin into a functional child in society.  This book subtley addresses some pretty intense questions, and while the book is overall pretty emotional and character-focused, Daikichi is enough of a funny "loser" type of character to keep the tone from becoming too serious.  Unita found a really nice balance there from the very beginning, pairing the perfect personalities together for this type of a story.  I really enjoyed spending time with the characters she created for this world, and found myself invested in them very early on.  A wonderful first volume.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Week In Awesome! Dragons & More!

Here are some things that got me excited over the past week!

I'm Still Here - My favorite country singer Mindy McCready released her first new CD in eight years!  And it was well worth the wait.  Same beautiful, strong voice and full of great songs.  Download this:  Wrong Again, Songs About You.

An awesome trailer for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was unveiled.

The animated film How To Train Your Dragon opened in theaters in 3D to rave reviews.  I am so going to see it.

An Education comes to DVD on Tuesday.  One of the Oscar-nominated films that I never got to see in theaters last year (and one that I really wanted to see).

The programming schedule for Chicago's new C2E2 comic book convention was announced (Link via Articulate Nerd).

Fantagraphics Books announced a new imprint that will be edited by Rick Marschall called Marschall Books that will reprint many overlooked artists as well as major artists.

Innovative publisher IDW achieves premiere status through Diamond Distribution, earning extra perks as well as being featured in the front of the overwhelming mass of Previews Catalogue.  It's well-deserved for the publisher who puts out everything from media tie-ins (Transformers, Star Trek) to horror (30 Days of Night) to beautiful archival projects (Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy).

And last but not least, hottie Chris Evans has signed on to portray Captain America on the big screen in an eight-picture deal (which includes appearances in movies like The Avengers).  Let the drooling commence.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Uncanny X-Men #522

Matt Fraction & Whilce Portacio

Kitty Pryde returns to Earth in the latest issue of Uncanny X-Men written by Matt Fraction and pencilled by Whilce Portacio (with a minor back-up story drawn by Phil Jimenez).  She's been MIA since the final issue of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's run on Astonishing X-Men a few years back.  But while Kitty has been my favorite superhero since I was about eight years old (I started picking up comics period because I thought she was "pretty" on the Marvel Universe trading card I had, thus Excalibur was my first comic experience), I can't say I've really noticed her absence.  Since she's been gone from the Marvel Universe proper, Whedon has revitalized fans' enthusiasm for the character to such a degree that she's been in more series lately than when she was actually present (Wolverine: First Class, Exiles, X-Men Forever...)  That being said, I'm certainly not going to complain that she's back, because I'll never get enough of the character.

Last we saw Ms. Pryde, she was hurtling through space trapped in a giant bullet that she phased so that it would pass through Earth (its intended target) harmlessly.  So what a brilliant idea from Matt Fraction to bring her back the way he does.  With Magneto.  Metal bullet.  Master of magnetism.  Even with the distance factor, it's a giant fucking bullet speeding across the galaxy.  It took incredible effort on his part, but Magneto got her back in one piece.  Fraction also adds a little twist in that she's unable to unphase since she's been in an intangible state for so long.  I'm interested to see where he's going with that (especially since it's something we've seen the character go through more than once).  One of my big complaints about Kitty's return is the reunion.  It happens in the blink of any eye, without the breathing room such an event needs to bring any emotional resonance.  Colossus barely has a reaction shot.  Lockheed isn't even present.  She just sort of shows up and the next time we see her, she's in a stasis tube.  I think the biggest problem with this issue, and with the series overall for that matter, is that Fraction is playing with a rather unwieldy cast of characters and he just doesn't reign in the focus enough to highlight the handful characters he should to make it connect with readers more.  He's cramming in cameos with the Cuckoos and playing with what's going on with the team of professors and Cyclop's mental state and now Magneto's hurt from the strain...he just needs to narrow his focus to one thing at a time and make that thing important and compelling, make us invested in a few characters instead of just hitting dozens of them to please fans.  And to contradict myself a bit, I was happy to see the underused, underrated Dr. Cecelia Reyes in this issue in a minor cameo just because I think she's an interesting character with a lot of potential.  But I'd rather not see Reyes if it means I get a good story.  My other big issue with this comic was the art.  Now, I'm not saying that it wasn't a step up from the stiff photo-referenced stuff that series regular artist Greg Horn churns out, but I'm not a fan of Portacio's artwork here either.  It looks a little too 90's/Youngblood for my tastes.  It's competent - it gets the idea across, but that's all.  It's the bare minimum.  Nothing looks great (Magneto ripping apart a bullet and lowering Kitty to the ground should have been a show-stopper, not a "eh" scene) and it just left me cold overall.  In fact the whole package left me indifferent.  It should have excited me and left me looking forward to see what would happen next with Kitty, my favorite superhero.  But instead I'm left with the fact that Kitty's back in current continuity without the emotional impact that such a statement should arise in me, and a comic that portrays that return in the most mediocre fashion imaginable.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Pick of the Week 3/24

Here's the book you should be paying attention to at the local comic shop tomorrow...and please forgive another laundry list of titles following my pick, as it's another great week for comics.

Black Blizzard GN - Early crime comics that Yoshihiro Tatsumi (A Drifting Life) created during the gekiga movement in manga.

Other Noteworthy Releases
120 Days of Simon GN
The Art of Jaime Hernandez: Secrets of Life and Death HC
Book of Grickle HC
Complete Peanuts (Volume 13): 1975-1976 HC
Donald Duck Classics (Volume 1): Quack Up HC
Hey Princess GN
Newsboy Legion by Simon & Kirby (Volume 1) HC
Night Owls (Volume 1) TP
Phonogram (Volume 2): Singles Club TP
Uncanny X-Men #522 - Kitty Pryde returns!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Manga Monday: Dorohedoro

Dorohedoro (Volume 1)
Q Hayashida

The latest addition to Viz's Ikki line is Dorohedoro, a gritty urban fantasy that takes place on a world where sorcerers wield deadly magic and offer gifts to the devil in exchange for unique masks.  The story that Hayashida tells in this dark world follows Kaiman, a man who was left with a crocodile head by a sorcerer and now seeks to find the culprit to revert back to his normal form.  Kaiman also has a man living inside his body that he's unable to see, but gives him messages through his victims.  So when Kaiman encounters a victim, he engulfs their head with his mouth to let the man say something to them, before demanding to hear what he had to say.  If it's not what Kaiman wants to hear, he usually kills the sorcerer.  In one instance, a sorcerer is pulled out of his mouth prematurely, and her face is ripped off by his teeth, which is a pretty good example of how this book plays out.  Very ruthless and bloody.  There's plenty of action heavy with gore, but a good amount of dark humor thrown in to lighten things up a bit (although sometimes the timing of the humor seems a little off).  Many of the sorcerers in this title use transformation spells on humans in The Hole, where non-magic users live.  These grotesque transformations often leave the humans in pitiful states, many times leading to painful deaths as their bodies can't support the state the experimentation leaves them in.  Nikaido is Kaiman's trusty companion who helps him hunt magic users, and is herself the victim of such practice at one point.  They have a nice relationship, albeit a platonic one.  The art is clear and suits the dark moody atmosphere of the title overall with action sequences that play out clearly.  Overall, there are a lot of cool, crazy ideas thrown into this title, and if you have the stomach for its fast pace and plenty of dismemberment, have at it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pick of the Week 3/17

Holy crap!  It's a huge week in comics, so bear with me in the "Other Noteworthy Releases" section.  That being said, the book you should be paying attention to at the local comic shop tomorrow is...

Gunnerkrigg Court (Volume 2): Research HC - Finally the next volume of one of my top 5 books of last year hits comic shops.  This award-winning all-ages webcomic by Thomas Siddell has something for everybody: magic, mystery, an epic story, a demon-possessed toy cat and a great protagonist in fully-realized Antimony Carver.  And lots of awesomeness.

Other Noteworthy Releases
American Vampire #1
Backing Into Forward HC - A prose memoir by Jules Feiffer.
Bronx Kill HC
Dorohedoro (Volume 1)
The Killer (Volume 2) HC
Krazy & Ignatz: Tiger Tea HC
Mome (Volume 17) GN
Ristorante Paradiso GN - My review here.
Robotika (Volume 2): For a Few Rubles More HC
Siege #3 (of 4)
Superman: Nightwing and Flamebird (Volume 1) HC
Wonder Woman Chronicles (Volume 1) TP
X-Factor Forever #1

Monday, March 15, 2010

Manga Monday: Ristorante Paradiso

Natsume Ono

Ristorante Paradiso follows Viz's excellent release of Natsume Ono's not simple.  And while this book is very different from that first work (and much more light-hearted in tone), Ristorante Paradiso is still the beautifully-illustrated book that you'd expect from such a gifted creator.  This book is about a popular restaurant in Rome called Casetta dell'Orso, where the clientele must make reservations to get a seat and where the primary attraction (besides the delicious food) is the handsome waitstaff.  Women flock to the restaurant to moon over the men, all clad in eyeglasses (whether they need them or not).  But this isn't a typical kitchen manga about a girl who wants to learn how to make great food and finds she has the talent to do so.  Ristorante Paradiso views the restaurant through the eyes of Nicoletta, who was abandoned by her mother at a young age and put into the care of her grandparents, so that she could be with a man who did not want to be tied down by children.  Intending to get revenge upon her neglectful mother, Nicoletta travels to Rome to inform her mother's boyfriend, and owner of the restaurant in question, of her mother's deception.  But Nicoletta is drawn into the world of the restaurant and the men who work there, and despite herself, finds that she begins to understand her mother and even bond with her.  This is a nice heartwarming little story, much more carefree than the heavy material introduced in not simple, with some quiet, but powerful insights into the characters involved. There's a fun cast of supporting characters in the book, and some really touching moments that certainly make me glad to have picked this title up.  While the story of Nicoletta reuniting with her mother is told in this single volume, a sequel, Gente (the first volume of which traces the opening of the restaurant), is forthcoming as well.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spider-Woman canceled!

Following the fate of the excellent S.W.O.R.D., Marvel has announced the cancellation of another great book that they're putting out at the Emerald City ComicCon.  In fact, Spider-Woman was my favorite superhero comic of 2009, but issue #7 will be its last.  And with Incredible Hercules having ended as well, Marvel really needs to put out some A-grade material to fill these great losses.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Week In Awesome: Sequels and more!

Here are a few things that got me excited this week!

Big announcement from Fantagraphics, as they are venturing into manga territory quite aggressively beginning this Fall with some big name offerings, including a "best of" of legendary creator Moto Hagio's short stories called A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, as well as Wandering Son from Shimura Takako.  Read an interview with Gary Groth here for more info.
New trailers up for two of the most anticipated movies of the Summer:  Iron Man 2 and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

Boom! is going to be publishing a mini-series based on the excellent cartoon Darkwing Duck.

Also "Hands" by Little Boots is a great new dance CD.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pick of the Week 3/10

This is the comic you should really be paying attention to when you stop by your local comic shop this week...

The Complete Milt Gross Comic Book Stories HC - Craig Yoe edits this new book that collects the entirety of creator Milt Gross' comic books.  An exciting new archival project.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Greek Street (Volume 1): Blood Calls For Blood TP
Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers: Unleased #1 (of 4)
The Mystic Hands of Dr. Strange #1
Twilight (Volume 1) GN

Monday, March 08, 2010

Manga Monday: Hikaru No Go

Hikaru No Go (Volume 18)
Yumi Hotta & Takeshi Obata

It's not too often that I review a series well into its run, but this is a good one-off issue of what is a really engaging manga series, so here I am taking a look at volume 18 of Hotta and Obata's book.  With this volume, the creators take a break from the escalating tension of Hikaru in his quest to beat Akira at the boardgame go and take the go industry by storm.  The six chapters focus on six different secondary characters from the unwieldy cast that has been built throughout the series.  First, we see Hikaru's rival Akira Toya right before he plays his first life-changing game of go against Hikaru, complete with scenes with his father and other talents his age that just aren't up to snuff.  Next is Tetsuo Kaga, who returns to his high school to encourage a group of boys to enroll in the school's go club (to much amusement).  Since Hikaru has been so caught up in the professional world of go, it's nice to see what's going on back at his school and the changes that are occurring there.  Then Asumi Nase steps into the spotlight.  I always felt like she got the shaft a bit during the series, which is a shame as she's one of the few females in the entire Hikaru No Go saga.  But here she gets a piece of the limelight in a story that explores her life as an insei and how it effects her peronal life.  Yuki Mitani's story is another one that takes us back into the past and shows the little troublemaker leading up to the point where he joins Hikaru in the school's go club.  Then professional go player Atsushi Kurata is seen being taken advantage by a teacher in his youth before moving into the realm of go in an odd story that tries to demonstrate his motivation, although I'm left with more questions about him than answers at this point.  And finally the book comes around to Fujiwara-no-Sai, the ghost who accompanies Hikaru through his adventures, as he helps Hikaru to stop a con man from taking advantage of consumers.  Of course the entire volume is drawn with confidence in Obata's beautiful realistic and detailed art that fans have come to expect.  I'm always amazed how, volume after volume, the creators can keep this simple board game looking as fresh and exciting as when I first began reading about it eighteen volumes ago, but they manage to do just that.  It was a nice distraction this time around to take a step back and examine some of the overlooked characters of the series, but I really can't wait to dive back into the main story thread again with the next installment.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Week In Awesome! Ponyo and More

Here are the things that excited me the most this week!

Ponyo on DVD!  Hayao Miyazaki's latest animaton masterpiece hits DVD this week (one version with a stuffed Ponyo).  I'm still baffled on how the Academy could pass this film up for a nomination.

This beautiful movie trailer of Zack Snyder's Legend of the Guardians, based on the popular kids series Guardians of Ga'Hoole, featuring owls.

The Crazies getting crazy-good reviews makes me excited to see a horror movie again after a bunch of disappointments.

The Real Housewives of New York debuted on Bravo this week, bringing long-missed Bethany and Jill back to my TV!

Only a few more days until the Academy Awards are on!   My predictions:
Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart
Best Actress: Carey Mulligan - An Education (I want an upset here)
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique - Precious
Best Animated Film: Up
Best Foreign Film: The White Ribbon

Also, the roster for the new New Avengers team is slowly being revealed by Marvel, like the earlier announced Avengers teams.  Included are Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Wolverine, The Thing and Jessica Drew.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Previews HYPE: May '10

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

1. Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard #1 (of 4) - This is a new anthology series that allows some great talent to explore David Petersen's Mouse Guard universe, including Ted Naifeh, Alex Sheikman and Mark Smylie.

2. Archie: The Best of Dan DeCarlo (Volume 1) HC - Collecting Archie stories from the 50's through the early 70's, this contains some of DeCarlo's best stuff from his legendary run.  A really exciting project.

3. Sky Doll: Space Ship #1 (of 3) - A new Sky Doll mini-series!  I loved the first mini-series, so I'm happy to see Marvel pushing forward with more Soleil offerings.

4. Brightest Day #1-2 - Hot on the heels of the mega-crossover event Blackest Night comes Brightest Day, which is sure to explore the consequences of Blackest Night and steer the universe into an age of more light-hearted stories, as DC can hardly go darker than their last crossover.  Also spinning out of this event is a new ongoing Birds of Prey series, which sees fan favorite writer Gail Simone return to the series, which must have some people geeking out.

5. Atlas #1 - A new ongoing series featuring the Agents of Atlas by series creator Jeff Parker.  This rides the wave of a few mini-series that pit the team against popular teams like the New Avengers and the X-Men, and appearances in books like Thunderbolts, as well as a back-up in Incredible Hercules that followed the first ongoing incarnation's cancellation.  Hopefully the exposure was enough to boost this book's sales.  The first issue boasts a new direction for the team.

6. Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne #1-2 - Grant Morrison brings Bruce Wayne back to the DC Universe, but first follow Batman's adventures through time in this six-issue mini-series.

7. Avengers #1 - In wake of Siege and the conclusion of all of Marvel's Avengers titles comes a new wave of Avengers books with The Heroic Age.  First up is a new Avengers ongoing simply entitled Avengers (from Bendis and Romita Jr), and Secret Avengers from Brubaker and Deodato.  New Avengers is also going be relaunched, but that seems to be at least another month out.

8. The Thanos Impreative: Ignition #1 - From the minds behind Annihilation and Guardians of the Galaxy comes a new cosmic epic tale that begins with this one-shot and the return of Thanos to the Marvel Universe.

9. Four Color Fear: Forgotten Horror Comics of the 1950's - From Fantagraphics comes this collection of 50's horror comics by the likes of Steve Ditko, Jack Cole, Alex Toth, Frank Frazetta and Basil Wolverton.  Could be a lot of fun.  Also from Fantagraphics this month, a return of the Ignatz line of comics, including concluding chapters of Grotesque and Interiorae, as well as a new issue of Tales Designed To Thrizzle.

10. Galacta: Daughter of Galactus #1 - This one-shot by Adam Warren and Hector Sevilla Lujan looks like a really cute manga-influenced superhero comic, and I guess enough people liked the digital comic to see its release in print.


You can catch a blogger profile of me over at Manga Views where I talk about manga and why I blog.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Pick of the Week 3/3

This is the book you should be paying attention to at your local comic shop tomorrow...

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight (Volume 6): Retreat TP - One of the strongest arcs of Joss Whedon's Season Eight of Buffy is the storyarc that just wrapped up by Buffy the television series veteran writer Jane Espenson, with Georges Jeanty on art.  Also in stores this week:  Big Bad Twilight is unmasked in issue #33, so people avoiding spoilers can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Other Noteworthy Releases
First Wave #1 (of 6)
Green Hornet #1 - New Kevin Smith.
One Piece (Volumes 34 - 38)
Planetary (Volume 4) HC - Final collection.
Ultimate Comics: New Ultimates #1

Monday, March 01, 2010

Manga Monday: Biomega

Biomega (Volume 1)
Tsutomu Nihei

From Blame! creator Tsutomu Nihei comes a postapocalyptic manga featuring a world where the N5S virus turns people into zombie-like creatures called drones.  There's a small percentage of the population who have a resistance to the virus, where it mutates into something else in the host body, more like an advanced healing factor (as is demonstrated by the girl Eon Green, who is run down by a motorcycle, her leg torn off, before it reattaches itself as if nothing had happened).  Zouichi Kanoe, a synthetic human, wishes to protect Eon from the many dangers around her and together with his motorcycle full of surprises and loaded with weapons and advanced technology (and an AI that guides Kanoe), attempts to do just that through this fast-paced first volume.  Biomega feels very much like a video game to me, like watching a long cinematic sequence, complete with talking bears, lots of shooting and buckets of blood.  It's extremely violent and since many of the characters can regenerate themselves, nearly everyone seems rather invincible.  Add to that the fact that the characters seem to be able to carry out impossible feat one after the other, and you hardly feel like the characters are hardly in jeopardy, deflating any real sense of danger.  Not that it would matter much whether the characters involved die or not, as the book doesn't slow down enough to let us get to know anybody.  It's all very removed and cold.  But that being said, this book is still nevertheless entertaining.  The storytelling is fluid with some pretty gorgeous art, even if much of the dark art is depicting decapitations and hordes of zombies.  Character designs are top-notch and despite the lack of three-dimensional characters, there's a good dose of suspense and political intrigue layered throughout the story, giving the plot, at least, some dimension.  All-in-all, Biomega is a fun, straight-forward, shoot-em-up horror story with some breathtaking cinematic storytelling.  If you're looking for something with more meat on its bones, you probably want to look elsewhere.