Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pick of the Week 12/2

It's already December in a few days!  Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, books will be in stores on Thursday this week.  Here's the book you should be paying attention to...

Tezuka's Ayako GN - I know pretty much nothing about this new graphic novel being reprinted by Vertical, but it's Osamu Tezuka, so it's bound to be pretty awesome.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Achewood (Volume 3): Home For Scared People HC
Brightest Day (Volume 1) HC
Chaos War: God Squad #1
Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers #1
Creepy Archives (Volume 8) HC
Fables (Volume 14): Witches TP
Heroes For Hire #1
Lady Death #0
Marineman #1
Sky Doll: Space Ship HC
Wolverine: Best There Is #1

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bat Books

Over the weekend, I had a chance to read a couple of books from DC's Batman universe: Knight and Squire and Batwoman.

Knight and Squire #1-2
Paul Cornell & Jimmy Broxton

Spinning out from their recent appearance in Grant Morrion's Batman and Robin are their England counterparts Knight and Squire, written by fan-favorite writer Paul Cornell.  Having had previous experience writing British superheroes on Marvel's Captain Britain and MI-13, Knight and Squire is certainly a suitable first job for Cornell now that he's DC-exclusive.  Cornell hits the ground running in the first issue of the six-issue mini-series, introducing character after character in an enchanted pub where heroes and villains can hang out together without worry of injury, that is until someone finds a way around the magical system.  Included in the rowdy bunch are some odd characters, including a British counterpart to America's Joker, although England's version is a hero.  I won't lie and say that I got all of the British in-jokes, but there's a nice recap page at the back of the issue to get readers like me up to speed.  The second issue sets up an entirely new situation for Knight and Squire, taking place in Great Worden, the little town where Knight and Squire reside, where a little meeting involving magic is going down.  Overall, the first two issues are pretty solid, illustrated by Broxton in what I think of as a Vertigo style of art, the type you see in Vertigo titles like Fables all the time.  It's an offbeat series, but fans of Cornell are probably already familiar with that aspect to his writing, if not drawn to him for that very reason.

Batwoman #0
J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman & Amy Reeder

With Bruce Wayne back in the cowl, he tries to get a handle on all things Gotham that have gone down since his absence, including Batwoman, whom he is pretty sure is Kate Kane, although he's having trouble finding out beyond a shadow of a doubt.  And so Bruce, utilizing many disguises, shadows Kate and Batwoman, testing them and observing their skills.  This is a really smart introduction to Batwoman to new readers, as Bruce Wayne relates her backstory while investigating her, and readers get to see what Batwoman's made of through his eyes.  J.H. Williams co-writes this short story with Blackman, providing the gorgeous art that readers of the Detective Comics featuring Batwoman are familiar with, with scenes featuring her civilian identity illustrated by Reeder.  Very nice set-up for the new series.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Picture This HC

Lynda Barry

Lynda Barry's follow-up to her book dedicated to the creative process, What It Is, focuses more on art than creation in general.  There are still some things in here for writers to use to get their creative juices flowing, but it's mostly for those who draw or paint, offering advice on how to prevent "writer's block," and keep being creative, with some inspiring words of wisdom and fun exercises.  Introduced in this book is The Near-Sighted Monkey, a kind of mascot for the book, but of course characters like Marlys are featured heavily throughout as well.  Lynda Barry once again does a great job of being able to identify and articulate what it is that gets in her way of being creative, and offers solutions to get past it.  Along with doodling and drawing for drawing's sake, there are exercises in coloring, tracing and some more crafty stuff to keep people inspired with art lessons.

As more of a writer than an artist, I found that the focus shifting away from the creative process in general didn't speak to me as much as her previous book What It Is, but then again, it was more specialized this time around.  But with that specialization, I felt like Picture This wasn't as dense and satisfying either.  A lot of the pages were merely paintings, which is fine, as it's always nice to see Lynda Barry work her magic (with watercoloring done by Kevin Kawula), but gone were more of the elaborate, lovingly complex collages that I came to admire from What It Is, more straight-forward works taking their place (although perhaps some of her best work yet - I love the seasonal pictures that open each section).  I still felt like I took things away from Picture This, and maybe it was because What It Is came first, and as I've said, is more broad in scope, but I did find myself disappointed by Picture This, perhaps just because I enjoyed her previous work so much, and my expectations were ridiculously high going into her latest venture.  Still, the autobiographical parts in this book are wonderful, and Barry poses some interesting philosophical questions about growing up that are hard to brush off.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pick of the Week 11/24

Here is the book you should be paying attention to, in comic shops tomorrow!

Miss Don't Touch Me (Volume 2) GN - I loved the first Miss Don't Touch Me from French creators Hubert and Kerascoet, so I'm very much looking forward to the continuing adventures of Blanche in this follow-up.

Other Noteworthy Releases
The Acme Novelty Library (Volume 20) HC
Archie: The Best of Stan Goldberg (Volume 1) HC
Astonishing Thor #1 (of 5)
Batwoman #0
Boy Commandos by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby HC
Chew (Volume 3): Just Desserts TP
Firebreather (Volume 3) #1 (of 4)
Green Lantern Omnibus (Volume 1) HC
Salimba GN
Sasameke (Volume 1)
Special Exits HC
The Sword Complete Collection Deluxe HC
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man (Volume 2): Chameleons HC
Vampirella #1
War Is Borings GN
The Weird World of Eerie Publications HC

Arisa (Volume 1)

Natsumi Ando

I was a little late for Manga Monday this week, but still wanted to talk about this manga that seems to be on a lot of people's radar right now.  Arisa is a new book being published by Del Rey, from Natsumi Ando, the creator of the excellent Kitchen Princess.  I enjoyed Ando's earlier series quite a bit, so I'm happy to see Arisa getting noticed, especially since it is also shaping up to be a well-executed book.  The story follows Tsubasa, a girl with only guy friends because she has a temper and scares her female classmates away.  She's never been the popular one, the one surrounded by people - that honor has gone to her twin sister Arisa, who goes to another school.  Arisa seems to have the perfect life, as Tsubasa sees first-hand as she takes Arisa up on her offer to go to her school in a wig to take her place for a day.  She's class representative, has a hot boyfriend, and everyone seems to love her, as she's always surrounded by adoring boys and girls.  Yes, it's a little Parent Trap, especially with the two girls separated due to their parents' divorce that has Tsubasa living with her father, while Arisa is with her often-absent mom, and the whole switching-places-thing, but it really turns into something altogether different as Tsubasa comes to realize that not everything in Arisa's life is as perfect as it seems from the outside.  It starts when Arisa attempts suicide and ends up in a coma.  Tsubasa suspects that something at her school is to blame, from the looks Arisa gave her while talking about school, and a note slipped into her locker.  So Tsubasa decides to go undercover, taking over Arisa's life to unearth the truth for herself.  Of course things get a little awkward with things like the boyfriend and things she should know about, but Tsubasa seems able to convince everyone she is who she pretends to be.  And she does end up discovering a dark side to the seemingly perfect world surrounding Arisa.  A secret that's dark and frightening, that Tsubasa doesn't quite know what to make of.  Arisa is full of mystery and excitement, as well as a good amount of comedy to offset some of the darker moments.  Ando provides a well-balanced story here that's sure to hook readers with its interesting premise and restrained pace.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Batman Incorporated #1

Grant Morrison & Yanick Paquette

Grant Morrison's highly-anticipated new Batman series begins with a bang as he brings Jiro Kuwata's Lord Death Man to American comics (see the character's debut from the original Japanese comics in the Chip Kidd-edited Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan.)  In this new series, Morrison has Batman travel abroad to establish a Batman presence in different areas of the world, beginning with Japan, where he hopes to recruit and train Mr. Unknown in the way of the bat.  Catwoman is along for the ride, as he needs Selina's expertise in cat burglary to help him break into a vault.  Unfortunately for him, things don't go as planned when it comes to his new recruit, and Lord Death Man makes his ghoulish presence known.  I love the concept of the series, and Paquette draws a mean Batman book, with great action scenes, and he brings Morrison's pretty gruesome opening scene to life, setting the tone for the book.  There's an odd cliffhanger that's absolutely ridiculous, but you kind of have to admire the off-the-wall, logistically-impossible ideas that Morrison throws into this superhero title, adding a splash of color to a rather dark first issue.  With Kuwata's introduction to America last year, it was a pretty solid choice for Morrison to begin with Japan in this trek for recruits to expand Batman's reach, and a pretty impressive overall first issue with the glimpses we have of the creepy villain.  I'm going to miss Morrison on Batman and Robin, especially since he wrote Damien so well, but I can't say that the transition wasn't made a hell of a lot easier by this exciting new series.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pick of the Week 11/17

Holy crap it's a big week for comics this week!  A lot of high profile graphic novels come out from David B., Joann Sfar, Linda Medley, Chip Kidd, and Tony Millionarie, among others (not to mention Grant Morrison's new Batman title)!  It was hard to pick one out of the bunch, but with the holidays coming upon us...

The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories HC - Craig Yoe edits this collection of classic Christmas comics from the Golden Age, including stories by Walt Kelly, John Stanley and Dan Noonan.  Pre-order it from Barnes & Noble right now, and you can get it for over 30% off ($23.61 instead of $34.99).  Christmas will be here before you know it, and what better way to lead up to it?

Other Noteworthy Releases
75 Years of DC Comics HC
Batman: The Return #1
Batman Incorporated #1
Best American Comics 2010 HC
Captain America 1940s Daily Newspaper Strip TP
Castle Waiting (Volume 2) HC
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Volume 5) HC
Ex Machina Deluxe Edition (Volume 4) HC
Fables Deluxe Edition (Volume 2) HC
Little Maakies On the Prairie HC
The Little Prince HC
The Littlest Pirate King HC
Moon Lake HC
Return of the Dapper Men HC
Savage Sword of Kull (Volume 1) TP
Shazam!: The Golden Age of the World's Mightiest Mortal HC
Shockrockets HC
Sophie Crumb: Evolution of a Crazy Artist HC
Spider-Girl #1
What I Did HC

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Acme Novelty Library (Volume 20) HC

Chris Ware

An impeccable design with thoughtfully-arranged panels and art, and complex characters, are pretty much guarantees when it comes to the work of Chris Ware, and are present in the latest volume of The Acme Novelty Library.  Continuing the epic Rusty Brown story, Ware gets sidetracked and delves into the life of Jordan Lint, a secondary character who bullied Rusty Brown in school in previous volumes, telling his life from birth to death.  I rather enjoyed watching Lint grow up, from the clever illustrations of his early memories, to his troubled childhood, to his latter years, where he reflects back on things we've seen earlier.  The reflecting back on things was the most riveting part of his story for me, as you see him make connections, and regret actions he took.  Lint is pretty much an asshole, but seeing him in his pathetic and cringe-worthy moments, it's hard not to sympathize, and you really get to see this one-note character from the previous Acme Novelty Library volumes as a fully-realized person in this book.  And unlike Daniel Clowes' Wilson from earlier this year, which I did not like, this character you kind of loathe has his bright moments too, and doesn't really see himself as a villain, which is interesting, especially when he says hello to Rusty Brown years after school (in the only short cameo by Brown in the entire volume) and doesn't understand Brown's reaction, you can kind of see how he views himself this way.  On a side note: To be fair, Wilson was trying to do something entirely different, but that abrasive character was also not funny, and I think if the humor didn't work for you in that book, the whole thing falls flat.  But anyways, in The Acme Novelty Library #20, Ware knows just when to bring up a memory or hint at a similarity to something from the past, or give a subtle reaction to something said, to make a very impactful scene that loads a page down with meaning.  It's subtle and beautifully crafted, another winner.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Pick of the Week 11/10

Here is the book you should be paying attention to, in comic shops Wednesday...

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (Volume 1) HC - This new translation of Jacques Tardi material from Fantagraphics is an action-comedy featuring mysterious circumstances that occur in pre-World War I Paris.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Angel: Ilyria #1 (of 4)
Archie Firsts (Volume 1) HC
Atomic Robo: The Deadly Art of Science #1 (of 5)
The Awakening (Volume 2) HC
Darkstar and The Winter Guard TP
Darkwing Duck (Volume 1): The Duck Knight Returns TP
Eerie Archives (Volume 5) HC
Forgetless TP
God Machine HC
Grandville: Mon Amour HC
Icons: The DC Comics & Wildstorm Art of Jim Lee HC
Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard HC
The Smurfs (Volume 3): The Smurf King GN
Superman vs. Muhammad Ali HC
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1
Ultimatum HC
Victorian Undead II: Holmes vs. Dracula #1 (of 5)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Manga Monday: Kuro Zakuro

Kuro Zakuro (Volume 1)
Yoshinori Natsume

Kuro Zakuro is a new series from Viz that introduces readers to high schooler Mikito Sakurai, a boy who's always thinking of those around him, but is always on the radar of bullies.  When his best friend gets disgusted with him when he doesn't stand up for himself yet again, Mikito gets what he needs to turn his life around, just not in the way he expected.  While sleeping, Mikito swallows a demon seed and has a dream featuring a creepy sharp-toothed kid that grants him his wish to be able to stand up for himself.  When he wakes up, he finds that he's super-strong and has perfect vision, and when bullies come for him again, he fights back, amazed at how easily he defeats his adversaries.  While this should be good news, Mikito finds himself having strange cravings, and in time, sees the people around him as meat.  Then he meets a demon who recognizes him as one of his kind, and has an encounter with a demon-hunter who tries to kill him, and Mikito realizes that his wish has a price, and that his life will never be the same.  He makes an effort to keep a distance from the people around him, and keep his new violent impulses in check, especially when a new face shows up at school, boasting the same hunting tool as the previous demon-hunter he came across.  A lot of stuff happens in this first volume, but it's all laid out pretty plainly, and echoes some stories readers have seen in previous manga like Parasyte with the transformations his body is going through, and Death Note with Mikito's attempt to outwit the demon hunter at his school, and the odd demonic kid who appears to him in dreams.  But Kuro Zakuro doesn't tell a story like either of those books and while it does have its creepy moments and neat scenes, it just seems like it's borrowing ideas from better books and changing them just enough to make them different, but not enough to seem cool or make them its own.  The art is pretty decent, although the action can be a little foggy at times.  The demons look pretty cool though, very monstrous and intimidating.  I wish the characters were a little more developed, because I think more interesting characters could have produced something a little more special here, but in the end, we're left with a pretty mediocre book.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Previews HYPE: January '11

Wading through the phonebook that is Previews Catalogue so you don't have to... Here are twenty choice books that you may have overlooked or that I'm just plain excited about, shipping to comic shops in January!

Love From the Shadows HC - A new original graphic novel from Gilbert Hernandez is always cause for celebration.  More Fritz B-movie goodness.

Pepper Penwell and the Land Creature of Monster Lake GN - This looks cute - a spunky teenage detective on the case in a comedy adventure.

Cursed Pirate Girl (Volume 1) TP - This has been solicited so many times, I hate to get my hopes up, but I loved Jeremy Bastian's contribution to Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard and it's renewed my interest in reading this series from him.

Book of Lilah GN - Someone is after the Keepers, who protect the world's knowledge and its progress, and only one girl stands in their way.

The Finder Library (Volume 1) TP - This is the first of two volumes collecting the acclaimed science fiction tale by Carla Speed McNeil.

Scenes From an Impending Marriage HC - A new graphic novel memoir from Shortcomings' Adrian Tomine.

Stargazer (Volume 1) GN - For fans of books like Amulet is this book about three girls transported to a foreign world, and their attempts to reach home.

Nancy Is Happy: Complete Dailies 1942-1945 - The first volume in a new archival project from Fantagraphics, collecting Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy strip, with an introduction by Daniel Clowes.

Sam and Friends Mystery (Volume 1): Dracula Madness GN - This all-ages mystery is about a dog detective and his two kid friends whose minds he can read.

Memoir #1 (of 6) - One morning, the entire population of a small Midwestern town wakes up with no memory of who they are, except for one man.

Lovebunny & Mr. Hell (Volume 1) TP - I love the stuff I've seen from Tim Seely's series so far - it's funny stuff.  Hopefully this means there's more on the way.

The Smurfs (Volume 4): Smurfette GN - I've been really enjoying reading the Smurfs reprints from Papercutz, and this new volume sees the debut of my favorite character - Smurfette!

Batman Beyond #1 - The success of the recent mini-series has spawned a new ongoing featuring the future of the Batman universe.

Zita the Space Girl GN - Zita becomes a hero when she finds herself in another world of crazy creatures and robots in this First Second graphic novel from Ben Hatke.

Lynd Ward: Six Novels In Woodcuts Slipcase HC - Lynd Ward's observations of America through woodcuts, from the Great Depression to the beginning of World War II.  Introduction by Art Spiegelman.

The Fracture of the Universal Boy GN - Sandman artist Michael Zulli has taken almost twenty years to create this graphic novel that's sure to be a big release.

Ghost Projekt (Volume 1) HC - From Oni Press is this horror title that has some pretty amazing art on the preview page.

Magneto #1 - A new ongoing series featuring the Master of Magnetism when he was young, written by Howard Chaykin.

See/Saw: Connections Between Japanese Art Them & Now SC - I thought that this sounded interesting, exploring Japanese pop art's origins and how the traditional art of the past has influenced current artists.

The New York Five #1 (of 4) - A new mini-series from Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Pick of the Week 11/3

Sorry, no Manga Monday this week, as I was too busy with horror movies leading up to Halloween to do any posting, let alone reading.  You'll see a new manga review next week however.  It's a big week for comic releases, but here is the book you should be paying attention to in comic shops this Wednesday...

Xenozoic: The Complete Collection TP - This collects the complete run of Mark Schultz' post-apocalyptic Xenozoic Tales, that many will recognize as Cadillacs and Dinosaurs.  Beautifully illustrated and action-packed comics.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Absolute All-Star Superman HC
Art of Jim Starlin: Life In Words & Pictures HC
Bartimaeus (Book 1): The Amulet of Samarkand GN
Batman and Robin (Volume 2): Batman vs. Robin HC
Bent HC
Classic Jurassic Park (Volume 1) TP
Coffin: 10th Anniversary Edition HC
Days Missing: Kestus #1 (of 5)
Denys Wortman's New York TP
Generation Hope #1
The Good Neighbors (Volume 3): Kind HC
How To Understand Israel In 60 Days or Less HC
Little Lulu (Volume 25): Burglar Proof Clubhouse TP
Louis: Night Salad HC
Mome (Volume 20) GN
Nola's World (Volume 2): Ferrets & Ferreting Out GN
Nola's World (Volume 3): Even For a Dreamer Like Me GN
Ozma of Oz #1 (of 8)
Panda Man To the Rescue (Volume 1)
Savage Dragon: Dragon War TP
Scarygirl HC
Sense & Sensibility HC
Serenity: Shepherd's Tale HC
Squadron Supreme by Mark Gruenwald Omnibus HC
The Story of Saiunkoku (Volume 1)
Superboy #1
Taro and the Magic Pencil (Volume 1)
Thor by J. Michael Straczynski Omnibus HC
The Walking Dead (Volume 13): Too Far Gone TP