Monday, November 28, 2011

Pick of the Week 11/30

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

Salvatore (Volume 2): An Eventful Crossing GN - French cartoonist Nicholas de Crecy's (Glacial Period) series of animorphic characters is a fun, crazy tale about an auto repair mechanic dog, who, in volume two, traverses the land in search of his sweetheart.

Other Noteworthy Releases
The Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks TP
The Complete Invincible Library (Volume 3) HC
The Definitive Flash Gordon & Jungle Jim (Volume 1) HC
Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Volume 6): Cabin Fever HC
RASL (Volume 3) TP
Rust (Volume 1) HC
Spider-Man Marvel Team-Up by Claremont & Byrne TP
Thor by Kieron Gillen Ultimate Collection TP
T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents (Volume 2) #1 (of 6)
Wonder Woman Chronicles (Volume 2) TP
X-9: Secret Agent Corrigan (Volume 3) HC

Hunters of the Dark Omnibus Edition

I just wanted to let my followers know that Hunters of the Dark is now available in an omnibus edition through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. This edition includes the first three books of the series plus the prequel, and a few goodies like a never-before-seen bonus chapter and an author interview. It's going to be on sale for $2.99 for a limited time only, which is cheaper than the cost of the second two books and the prequel individually. It's also available in four different colored covers, so you can pick which one you like best (check out the illustrated covers below).

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Comics-and-More Podcast: Savage Dragon

On the latest episode of the Comics-and-More Podcast, Patrick Markfort and I take a look at Erik Larsen's Savage Dragon #175 and the anthology based on Erik Larsen's characters in Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies.

Savage Dragon #175
Erik Larsen

Twisted Savage Dragon Funnies TP
Edited by Michel Fiffe
Based on characters created by Erik Larsen

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

For further reading:
Savage Dragon #1-174
Erik Larsen

Freak Force #1-18
Erik Larsen & Keith Giffen

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pick of the Week 11/23

Here are the books you should be paying attention to, in comic shops on Wednesday...

Fantagraphics Collections - Damn, this is a great week for comics!  The collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles material or Lynda Barry's Everything could have easily been the pick of the week, but even those massive projects were overshadowed by Fantagraphics' releases this week!  Two big archival projects that people have been anticipating for a long time have finally arrived, making their debut this week: Walt Kelly's Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips (Volume 1): Through the Wild Blue Wonder HC and Walt Disney's Donald Duck (Volume 1): Lost In the Andes HC from Carl Barks.

Other Noteworthy Releases
Everything (Volume 1): 1978-1981 HC
Fantastic Four #600
Green Lantern Omnibus (Volume 2) HC
The Innocent GN
The Mighty Thor by Matt Fraction (Volume 1) HC
Milk & Cheese: Dairy Products Gone Bad HC
Rovers GN
Royal Historian of Oz TP
Showcase Presents: Ghosts (Volume 1) TP
The Smurfs (Volume 9): Gargamel and the Smurfs GN
Super Dinosaur (Volume 1) TP
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ultimate Collection (Volume 1) HC
Tesoro TP

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Free "Hunters of the Dark" E-book

Since the latest book in my Hunters of the Dark series has been released, I wanted to offer the first e-book in the series to my followers for FREE!  Who doesn't like free stuff, right?  It's about a group of monster hunters, and has been compared to Cassandra Clare's City of Bones, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and X-Men (it was definitely influenced by comics books).  If it sounds good, check out Her Dark Destiny (Hunters of the Dark #1) for free at Smashwords.  Just use coupon code NL95K when checking out and sideload it to whatever e-reader device you use.  The coupon will work through the end of November.  And hopefully, you will check out the sequels and prequel.

Hunters of the Dark series:
Her Dark Destiny (Hunters of the Dark #1)
Night Cries (Hunters of the Dark #2)
Face the Dark (Hunters of the Dark #3)
The Tomb (Hunters of the Dark prequel)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Manga Friday: Kekkaishi

Kekkaishi 3-in-1 Omnibus Edition (Volume 1)
Yellow Tanabe

I really love these omnibus editions.  Just having so much material together in one volume somehow makes it much more appealing to me (576 pages in this thick collection).  Anyways, Kekkaishi is about a teenage demon hunter who has inherited the mark to become his family's next Kekkaishi, or demon hunter.  His family is actually in a feud with a neighboring family who also have a mark passed down through their bloodline, over which family are the "true practitioners."  I don't really see what the big deal is either way, since the current Kekkaishi can both do pretty much the same things, and doesn't having more than one make it easier?  Oh, well.  The families are feuding over who has the right to this title, but in the meantime, our protagonist, Yoshimori Sumimura is learning the craft despite having little interest in carrying on the family work.  The rival family's daughter however, Tokine Yukimura, is really invested in demon hunting and is very good at it.  Basically Kekkaishi use spells to trap demons in a magical barrier, then say some magic words to destroy it while it's trapped.  It takes quite a bit out of them to use this magic, especially when it comes to bigger demons.  And demons come in all shapes and sizes, and have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.  It's a little complicated, with all sorts of little things to know about the world that Tanabe has constructed here: some demons appeared as demons from the get-go, but some were originally ghosts, although not all ghosts are bad, etc.  And there's some sort of grounds beneath the local school that draws the demons to it, where they can grow stronger.  Readers definitely have to invest in understanding the world and sorting through the rules, and none of it is particularly interesting, even how they hunt the ghosts, which should be the coolest part.  The real star here is the relationship between Yoshimori and Tokine.  They have a sort of star-crossed things going on here ala Romeo and Juliet, what with their families hating one another so passionately.  Tanabe does a great job of drawing this relationship out, and using subtle interactions to explore it.  It's very well done.  Tanabe also illustrates this very nicely, with clear action sequences and nice character designs (although the monster designs are a little underwhelming so far).  Overall, this is a decent book.  Nothing has really blown me away at this point, and the main demon-hunting-action stuff is the weakest part about it, which is a problem, although other aspects of the title have compensated for that deficiency.  Hopefully it all pays off and becomes something more intriguing as the series goes along.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Manga Thursday: A Zoo In Winter

A Zoo In Winter
Jiro Taniguchi

I had a blast reading Jiro Taniguchi's The Quest For the Missing Girl recently, so was excited to pick up his new book A Zoo In Winter, in which he recounts scenes from his youth surrounding his beginnings in manga.  I love Taniguchi's art style.  It's very realistic and lush, very detailed with beautiful scenery.  While this book had less breathtaking surroundings than The Quest For The Missing Girl, his cityscapes are just as dazzling as the mountains he portrayed in that book, and the cartooning he brings to the expressions of his characters is just a perfect marriage of art.  Of course, reading this autobiographical account of breaking into manga brings to mind Yoshihiro Tatsumi's recent A Drifting Life and it's hard not to compare this unfairly to that master work.  This is a much shorter glimpse into Taniguchi's life, whereas Tatsumi's work is a sprawling masterpiece.  But A Zoo In Winter is a really riveting, well-crafted piece of work in its own right.  I like how the manga that he works on in this title parallels his own feelings for the girl in his life, and I enjoyed the oddness of the situation with his boss' daughter.  I think the manga industry is really fascinating too, so this glimpse into that world is a real treat.  It's something I love about Bakuman, and while this doesn't go into as much detail, it's much more grounded and I appreciate that.  It was also nice to see some awkward humanizing moments in Taniguchi's life: getting drunk and dancing with a drag queen, getting aroused while drawing a nude, getting taken advantage of by a pretty face...  It makes you feel closer to the author for his admissions and I grew to really like him.  Overall, this is a pretty solid, if quiet, story.  Moments from it kind of stay with you, which is the mark of good storytelling.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Manga Wednesday: Stargazing Dog

Stargazing Dog
Takashi Murakami

Stargazing Dog is a story about a man and his relationship with his dog.  After he loses his job and his wife leaves him, "Daddy" (as his dog calls him) drives south on a road trip where we get to see the two bond.  We know from the opening scene that things aren't going to end well for the two, as their bodies are found in his car near a camp site, long dead, but we get to see the events that lead to that lonely tragic scene.  Much of the story is told through the eyes of the dog, with a naive, loyal voice, as we see "Daddy" spiral closer and closer to his death.  I found seeing this story from the dog's point of view kind of irritating, to be honest.  It's something else when a manga like Chi's Sweet Home is all about a cute animal doing cute things and getting some laughs out of it, but Stargazing Dog is a pretty bleak, serious story, and the dog's naive voice just kind of clashes with the overall tone.  It's distracting even.  I think it would have been stronger watching the dog do the things he did silently and interpret his actions ourselves.  Instead of making him more sympathetic, I'm afraid that Murakami just makes this dog seem like he could have easily been interchangeable with a naive kid.  He kind of humanizes the dog, which seems to contradict his overall portrait of dogs in this book.  It was just an odd fit for this specific story.  I did like some aspects of the relationships between man and dog, especially in the short that follows the main story, about the man who tries to identify the body of the homeless man and prepare a burial for him.  This man recalls his own experiences with his dog growing up, particularly how loyal it was to him despite his own aloofness toward the dog, and his regret for not being a better owner to him.  Murakami's art is pretty solid with very nice backgrounds and designs for the dogs, and boxier forms for the humans of the story that give it a little character.  Unfortunately, I just didn't really connect with this story.  I felt like it pushed a little too aggressively for an emotional reaction when it was hardly earned.  It seemed a little too orchestrated for that response and just left a bad taste in my mouth instead.  I can see some people really enjoying a book like this, but it was not for me.

Pick of the Week 11/16

I hope you're enjoying Manga Week here at Comics-and-More!  Here's a little break to take a look at the books hitting comic shops today.  This is the book you should be paying attention to...

Mudman #1 - Kind of a slow week, but this could be a lot of fun.  A new superhero series from Paul Grist (Jack Staff)!

Other Noteworthy Releases
Archie: The Best of Samm Schwartz (Volume 1) HC
Bob Powell Terror HC
Candlegrave GN
Captain Swing GN
Classic Next Men (Volume 2) TP
Green Lantern: War of the Green Lanterns HC
The Marvel Art of John Romita Jr. HC
Next Men (Volume 2) HC
X 3-In-1 Edition (Volume 1)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Manga Tuesday: Princess Knight

Princess Knight (Volume 1)
Osamu Tezuka

Originally beginning its serialization over fifty years ago (in 1953) in Shojo Club, Princess Knight was reworked and serialized three more times in different magazines, spawning a TV series, a film, and shaping the future of shoujo manga for generations to come.  The version that Vertical collects here, in the first of two collections, is translated from the Tezuka Osamu Manga Zenshu edition from 1977, but the story was very similar from one serialization to another.

Princess Knight follows Princess Sapphire, who pretends to be a prince to inherit the throne one day.  A little trouble-making cherub named Tink gave her a boy heart to go along with her girl heart before she was born, so she has aspects of both genders (she's very courageous and good with a sword, and also gentle and empathetic).  Despite the significant risks involved, Sapphire does dress as a girl sometimes, and it's as a girl that she falls for a prince from a neighboring kingdom, who also falls for her.  But after an assassination attempt against Sapphire, the prince is mistakenly imprisoned and from then on, he swears Prince Sapphire as an enemy.  There's plenty of more stuff that occurs in this first volume, including a witch who wants her girl heart, a pirate who wants to win her over, and a transformation into a swan, but it's really the quest to retake the throne, and win over her handsome prince that drive this title.  Tink makes for a cute little side character for Sapphire, but Sapphire is completely likeable in her own right.  I'm a huge Tezuka fan, so I wasn't surprised that I really enjoyed this book, but even my high expectations were exceeded by this title.  Great cartooning, fantastic plot twists, tons of suspense and action, and a romance that has you rooting for the main character to beat the odds.  This is Tezuka at his best, and it hardly surprises me that this title has been such an influencial work.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Manga Monday: The Drops of God

The Drops of God (Volume 1)
Tadashi Agi & Shu Okimoto

The Drops of God is an award-winning manga that actually influences the wine industry, and is highly-regarded in many countries, including France.  The story follows Shizuku, the son of a world famous wine critic, who has turned his back on wine his whole life since his father, Kanzaki, kind of forced techniques to enjoy wine down Shizuku's throat his entire life.  When his father dies, the terms of the will state that Shizuku must compete to inherit the fortune that is Kanzaki's wine collection, against a top wine critic whom his father recently adopted.  And so the competition begins to identify the twelve wines that Kanzaki has deemed "the drops of god." 

Shizuku's motives are not profit-based, but are more about trying to understand his father, which makes his journey into the world of wine one where readers wish to see him succeed (especially against such an arrogant competitor).  As I'm not a wine drinker myself, I wasn't sure that I would really get much out of this book, but Shizuku really is just beginning to learn about wine in this volume, so people unfamiliar with the subject can follow along easily. 

Shizuku's father gave him the tools to identify and appreciate wine when he was growing up, unbeknowst to him, and he's now using them to learn from an eager young sommeliere who joins him in his quest.  The world of wine is really fascinating - I had no idea that wine was so complex.  And the way the creators take the readers away with taste, transporting the characters to memories and breathtaking landscapes, is a smart choice that gets the point across quite nicely.  But as interesting as all of the subtleties of wine is, the art on this title is just drop-dead gorgeous and steals the show.  From that beautifully-designed cover to the detailed backgrounds to panel-upon-panel of beautifully-rendered talking heads, this books looks fantastic.  Especially noteworthy are scenes when characters are interacting with wine: holding a glass up to the light, decanting it, tasting it...  You really get a sense that the creators love the subject, and it's hard not to feel the excitement that the characters do throughout their journey.  This really is an amazing work.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Comics-and-More Podcast: Sailor Moon!

It's Manga Week at Comics-and-More, and to kick it off, this week's Comics-and-More Podcast is dedicated to Naoko Takeuchi's Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon and Codename: Sailor V!  Expect to see manga reviews all week here at Comics-and-More!


Part One:

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon (Volume 1)
Naoko Takeuchi

Part Two:

Codename: Sailor V (Volume 1)
Naoko Takeuchi

And for your further viewing pleasure, don't miss the Comics-and-More Podcast that sees us discussing the first volume of Shimura Takako's Wandering Son!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Comics-and-More Podcast: X-Men

On this episode of the Comics-and-More Podcast, Patrick Markfort and I discuss the two big titles from the newly relaunched X-Men line.


Part One:

Uncanny X-Men #1
Keiron Gillen & Carlos Pacheco

Part Two:

Wolverine and the X-Men #1
Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo

For further reading:
X-Men Schism #1-5
Jason Aaron, Carlos Pacheco & Cam Smith

X-Men Regeneration #1
Kieron Gillen & Billy Tan

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Pick of the Week 11/9

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

Princess Knight (Volume 1) - Finally somebody has translated this - thank you, Vertical!  Osamu Tezuka's manga that was extremely influential in shaping shoujo manga.  And on that note, next week Comics-and-More will be dedicated to manga for Manga Week!  See reviews of manga every week day (including Princess Knight), as well as a podcast devoted to Sailor Moon!

Other Noteworthy Releases
Dominion GN
Essential Sgt Fury (Volume 1) TP
Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (Volume 2): The Mad Scientist and a Dusting of Mummies HC
Fantastic Four by John Byrne Omnibus (Volume 1) HC
Lily Renee, Escape Artist GN
Northanger Abbey #1 (of 5)
The Occultist #1 (of 3)
PC Cast's House of Night #1 (of 5)
Point One #1
Return To Perdition HC
Saga of the Swamp Thing (Book 6) HC
Simon and Kirby Library: Crime HC
Spy vs Spy by Prohias Omnibus HC

Monday, November 07, 2011

Manga Monday: No Longer Human

No Longer Human (Volume 1)
Usamaru Furuya
Based on the novel by Osamu Dazai

Osamu Dazai's No Longer Human is the second bestselling novel in all of Japan, and Usamaru Furuya adapted that beloved story into a manga for Dazai's 100th birthday.  And is very successful.  This book sees a manga artist looking for inspiration for a new story, and stumbling across the on-line journals of Yozo Oba.  Oba is a student loved by his fellow classmates, smart but modest, and entertaining and funny, as well as handsome and rich.  But his life is a charade.  He's very calculating in how he acts around people and puts on a show so that people will like him.  He doesn't connect with other people, doesn't understand them, and so his life has become a farce.  Oba soon meets Masao Horiki, a bad boy who's used to indulging his whims: drinking, smoking and going to prostitutes for sex.  And it seems that Oba isn't new to this world.  When he sleeps with prostitutes is the only time that he feels like he can really be himself.  He gives them money and indulges himself completely, without the pretense and showmanship that the rest of his life has become.  Throughout the first volume of this series, we see Oba travel a slippery slope, disconnected from those around him, while satisfying his desires, watching the people around him, and going as low as he can go.  I really liked following Oba through this journey.  No Longer Human is a thoughtful, sexy read, and it's illustrated absolutely beautifully.  I can't imagine that Dazai wouldn't be extremely proud of Furuya's adaptation of his work.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Previews HYPE: December '11

I'm a little behind on my blogging, but I'm finally getting around to my picks from Previews Catalogue for December.  Here are the books that I think may get overlooked, or that I'm just plain excited about...

Memorial #1 - This new title from Chris Roberson (iZombie) and Rich Ellis sees a young woman inherit a magic shop, and propels her into the world of the supernatural.

Batman Incorporated: Leviathan Strikes #1 - This 80-page one-shot kind of wraps up Grant Morrison's Batman Incorporated series, but with Batman Inc still a part of DC's New 52, this may not be the last we'll see of it.

Defenders #1 - A relaunch of a title that has had several incarnations, this time with former members like Dr. Strange, and new faces like Red She-Hulk.

Kramer's Ergot (Volume 8) - Smaller in scale (I'm talking content and physical size here), the new Kramer's Ergot anthology is sure to please, whatever the format.

John Romita's The Amazing Spider-Man: Artist's Edition HC - The latest in IDW's Artist's Editions is a head-turner.

Polly and the Pirates (Volume 2): Mystery of the Dragonfish - I'm very happy to see Ted Naifeh's Polly and the Pirates back, and in a new full-length graphic novel no less! The down-side: It's not drawn by Naifeh, but by Robbi Rodriguez. Not that Rodriguez' art looks bad or anything, but it's not Naifeh.

The Strain #1 (of 11) - I read the book by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro, and this is a pretty gruesome, but fast-paced horror story that could translate to comics really well.

The Ray #1 - The latest superhero to debut in the DC Universe is this glowing ray of light.

Nancy Is Happy: Dailies 1943-1945 SC - A new ongoing reprint project featuring three years of Ernie Bushmiller's strips in each volume.

The Complete Flash Gordon Library (Volume 1): On the Planet Mongo HC - Including the dailies and Sundays, this collection begins a reprint project that showcases Alex Raymond's epic science fiction series.

Avengers: X-Sanction #1 (of 4) - The new big crossover from Marvel features the return of the recently-deceased Cable.  But few stay dead at Marvel, especially a time traveller.

Young Romance: The Best of Simon & Kirby's 1940s-1950s Romance Comics - The title kind of sums it all up, this collection coming from Fantagraphics.

Fluffy, Fluffy Cinnamoroll (Volume 1) - It's just fun to say.  This all-ages series featuring a dog with a tail like a cinnamon roll is sure to please the little ones.

Essential Rawhide Kid (Volume 1) TP - Marvel moves into western territory with their black and white reprint series.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Pick of the Week 11/2

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

Ganges #4 - It's kind of a slow week, but it's always cause for celebration when a new issue of Kevin Huizenga's comic comes out!

Other Noteworthy Releases
Absolute Sandman (Volume 5) HC
Batman: Noel HC
Black Widow: Itsy-Bitsy Spider HC
Hellboy: House of the Living Dead HC
Joe the Barbarian HC
No Longer Human (Volume 1)
Peanuts #0
Savage Dragon #175
Six Guns #1 (of 5)
Uncanny X-Men #1
Villians For Hire #1 (of 5)