Previews review December 2010

December 9, 2010

Hey, what’s this phone-book thing lying here on my coffee table? Why, it’s the Diamond Previews catalog! Let’s look inside!

Okay, the excitement doesn’t really begin until we reach page 275, specifically the Fantagraphics listings, specifically the debut of Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son. What’s it about?

“The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. Written and drawn by one of today’s most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino’s very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace. Volume one introduces our two protagonists and the friends and family whose lives intersect with their own.”

Any value-added aspects worth mentioning?

Wandering Son is a sophisticated work of literary manga translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn.”

Sold! Wandering Son is up to 12 volumes in serialization in Enterbrain’s Comic Beam, which is clearly one of the most fabulous magazines in human history.

Flipping onward to page 284, we discover that NBM is publishing another of the Louvre comics, produced in partnership with the legendary museum. This one’s called The Sky over the Louvre, written by Bernard Yslaire and illustrated by Jean-Claude Carriere. This one sounds a bit less fanciful than the previous three, Glacial Period, On the Odd Hours, and The Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert. This time around, readers are taken “back to the very origins of the Louvre as a museum: the tumultuous years of the French revolution.” I don’t think we have enough comics featuring Robespierre.

Ever onward to page 288! We’ve got sensitive drama and art history, but how to round that out? Why, with gritty, contemporary detective fiction! In this case, I’m talking about the hardcover collection of the first volume of Stumptown (Oni Press), written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Matthew Southworth. It’s about a down-on-her-luck private eye in the Pacific Northwest named Dex who gets the chance to cover a gambling debt by finding the casino owner’s missing granddaughter. Dex is a fun, tough character, and the mystery is twisty and amusingly grimy.

Toward the back of the only part of the catalog I bother to read, we learn that two manga publishers will be launching new series that originated in Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume magazine. This is generally a good sign for a shôjo series.

On page 300, we encounter the first volume of Touya Tobina’s Clean-Freak: Fully Equipped (Tokyopop), which tells the undoubtedly heartrending tale of a mysophobe going on his first school trip. On page 312, we learn of the first volume of Izumi Tsubaki’s Oresama Teacher (Viz), which sees the leader of a girl gang exiled from the city to an isolated school in the countryside. Wackiness presumably ensues.


MMF: The Great Shônen Manga Gift Guide for 2010

December 4, 2010

Daniella (All About Manga) Orihuela-Gruber is picking up the baton of the Great Manga Gift Guide, and I thought I’d take the opportunity of the One Piece Manga Moveable Feast to offer a shônen-flavored version that takes One Piece’s tone and content and creator Eiichiro Oda’s career arc into account. Now, many shônen series are great, but they’re just plain long, so it’s with some reluctance that I would suggest them as a gift when, if the gift is received well, it would require the recipient to spend a ton of money completing a series. That’s very “first hit’s free,” don’t you think? But sometimes that kind of recommendation is unavoidable, and since this list is conceived at least partly with the One Piece admirer in mind, I’m not going to be too rigid about it.

I will be rigid about one thing: use what you know about the recipient to guide your choice of gifts. If you know they like comics, great. If you know you want them to like comics, tread carefully, and pair the comic gift with something you know they actually like. Holidays are always creepy when they’re tinged with evangelism, I think.

It’s widely known that Oda took great inspiration from Akira Toriyama, so it seems reasonable to recommend Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, which is available in bulky, gift-worthy VizBig editions. It offers “a wry update on the Chinese ‘Monkey King’ myth, introduces us to Son Goku, a young monkey-tailed boy whose quiet life is turned upside-down when he meets Bulma, a girl determined to collect the seven ‘Dragon Balls.’ If she gathers them all, an incredibly powerful dragon will appear and grant her one wish. But the precious orbs are scattered all over the world, and to get them she needs the help of a certain super-strong boy…” Less adventure and more jokes can be found in Toriyama’s Dr. Slump (Viz). Toriyama and Oda have collaborated on a Dragon Ball/One Piece crossover called Cross Epoch.

Oda began his career as an assistant to Nobuhiro Watsuki, who was working on Rurouni Kenshin (Viz) at the time. Viz declares, “Packed with action, romance and historical intrigue, Rurouni Kenshin is one of the most beloved and popular manga series worldwide. Set against the backdrop of the Meiji Restoration, it tells the saga of Himura Kenshin, once an assassin of ferocious power, now a humble rurouni, a wandering swordsman fighting to protect the honor of those in need.” It’s also available in VizBig format.

Another of Watsuki’s assistants at the time was Hiroyuki (Shaman King) Takei, who’s currently at work on Ultimo (Viz) with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee. I found the first volume of Ultimo unsatisfyingly creepy, but Erica (Okazu) Friedman liked it when she reviewed it for About.Com, finding that the series “provides a solid reading experience with characters you want to know more about, in a situation you want to see resolved well.”

If you liked the whole “travel by water” notion and were particularly taken with the aesthetic of Water Seven, I would strongly suggest you take a look at Kozue Amano’s Aria (Tokyopop), which follows gondoliers on Mars. It’s the absolute tonal opposite of One Piece, but manga fans cannot live on crazy hyperactivity alone, and Aria and its prequel, Aqua, are really beautiful.

If the goofy humor and occasional satirical bent of One Piece are to your liking and you’d like a slightly more mature (sometimes just coarser) take on them, I’d recommend Hideaki Sorachi’s Gin Tama (Viz). It’s about a swordsman-for-hire living in a world that’s been handed over to greedy, corrupt aliens. Like One Piece, it veers from flat-out goofy to surprisingly serious, and Sorachi does some entertaining world building.

If you like Oda’s distinct, detail-packed artwork, give Yuji Iwahara’s Cat Paradise (Yen Press) a look. It’s your basic Hellmouth story – plucky young people must fend off demon invasion while keeping up with Algebra – with the bonus of helpful, heroic felines. It’s not Iwahara’s best work, but his pages are always easy on the eye.

And now we start with shônen I’d recommend under any circumstances, first being Osamu Tezuka’s three-volume Dororo (Vertical). It’s disappointingly short, as Tezuka abandoned it much earlier than he had intended, but it’s creepy, funny, sad and wonderful. The lead character’s father sold his son to demons, part by part, and the kid has to kill all of the demons to get his body back. He hooks up with a young thief along the way.

Far and away the best new shônen I read this year and one of the best sports manga I’ve ever read is Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game (Viz), which I reviewed here. Beyond being really good in every way, it’s a big, fat package that makes it very gift-worthy.

What if you just like stories about pirates? Well, you can’t go wrong with Ted Naifeh’s Polly and the Pirates (Oni). A proper schoolgirl is shocked to discover that she’s got a pirate-queen legacy to live up to in this completely charming, hilarious comic.

Chris Schweizer’s Crogan’s Vengeance (Oni) takes a more scholarly approach to how pirates actually plied their trade, but it doesn’t downplay the adventure in the process. It’s a smart romp, which I reviewed here.


Upcoming 10/6/2010

October 5, 2010

Time for a quick look at this week’s ComicList:

Oni Press gives me a good opportunity to check out a series I always meant to try but could never find an easy point of entry. It’s Hopeless Savages Greatest Hits, and it features stories by Jen Van Meter illustrated by the likes of Chynna Clugston, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Ross Campbell and more. It’s about a pair of punk rockers raising a family in the not-so-quiet suburbs.

Hey, it’s time for a new volume of the greatest shônen series currently being published in English! That would be Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece from Viz, which is in the midst of a big, crazy prison break story, but you can always head to the front with relatively cheap, three-volume omnibus versions, which I strongly recommend you do if you like really brilliantly crafted adventure stories.

I’ve got to tell you that a really dismal adaptation of Kaori Yuki’s Godchild left me with a lingering aversion to her work, but many smart people find her work positively addictive, so perhaps I’ll use the arrival of Yuki’s Grand Guingol Orchestra (Viz) to try and reconsider my position.

If that doesn’t work, I can always console myself with the fourth volume of Yuki Midorikawa’s excellent Natsume’s Book of Friends (Viz).


Upcoming 9/1/2010

August 31, 2010

It’s an interesting week in ComicList terms. Let’s go right to the pick of the week, shall we?

That would be Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, the first result of the Fantagraphics-Shogakukan team-up that’s being curated by Matt Thorn. It’s a deeply glorious book that brims with Hagio’s psychological and emotional insights. I plan on posting a review on Thursday. You can order a signed copy from the publisher.

If that doesn’t slake your appetite for classic manga, Vertical is kind enough to offer Osamu Tezuka’s Apollo’s Song in two paperback volumes. It’s an example of deeply crazy Tezuka, with the added bonus of lots and lots of sex. If you can resist that description, you’re stronger than I am.

One of last year’s big books is now available in paperback. David Small’s Stitches (W.W. Norton) offers a beautifully rendered and stunningly bleak look at a miserable childhood. It’s a really great graphic novel.

There are also new issues of three very different and very entertaining pamphlet comics. First is the second issue of Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, following the Young Avengers as they search for the Scarlet Witch to the dismay of most of the rest of the residents of the Marvel universe, who seem happy to assume that the longtime heroine is evil and crazy. Next is the penultimate (I think) issue of Brandon Graham’s King City from Image, whose website is so terrible that I won’t even bother trying to find a link to additional information on the comic. And last is the fourth issue of Stumptown, a smart tale of a down-on-her-luck private investigator from Oni.

What looks good to you?

Updated: I forgot one big pamphlet offering, the arrival of Veronica 202 (Archie Comics) and Riverdale’s first openly gay resident, Kevin Keller. I hope I can find a copy so I can be appropriately derisive when conservative groups condemn the comic.


Upcoming 7/21/2010

July 21, 2010

Some of the books I thought were coming out last week are actually coming out this week, but they’re still worth a look, so hop in the wayback machine to double-check. I’ll note that there have been a lot of fun-looking events around the release of Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour, so go look at Kevin Melrose’s round-up at Robot 6. I can’t wait to read this book, and I’m grateful to everyone who’s resisted posting spoilers to those of us who don’t live near a shop that felt it could host a release party.

Not counting stuff that I mentioned a week early, this Wednesday’s highlight is the fifth volume of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip from Drawn & Quarterly, which “features the final strips drawn by Tove Jansson and written by her brother Lars for the London Evening News, before Lars took over both the art and the writing.”

The manga highlight of the week is the 23rd volume of Hiromu Arakawa’s excellent Fullmetal Alchemist from Viz. This one wraps up in the 25th 27th volume, and I’m really going to miss it. It’s one of the best action-fantasy series I’ve ever read.


Upcoming 7/14/2010

July 13, 2010

It’s a momentous, manga-influenced week for the ComicList! Let’s take a look.

I can’t do any better than Oni in describing the sixth and final volume of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s wonderful Scott Pilgrim Series, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour:

“It’s finally here! Six years and almost one-thousand pages have all led to this epic finale! With six of Ramona’s seven evil exes dispatched, it should be time for Scott Pilgrim to face Gideon Graves, the biggest and baddest of her former beaus. But didn’t Ramona take off at the end of Book 5? Shouldn’t that let Scott off the hook? Maybe it should, maybe it shouldn’t, but one thing is for certain — all of this has been building to Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour!”

O’Malley could be said to embody one version of the dream of creators who list manga among their influences. He’s got a hugely successful series, critically and commercially, with a major movie adaptation about to hit theatres. Another enviable outcome went to Felipe Smith, who first saw print as one of Tokyopop’s Original English Language manga creators with MBQ. He then went on to secure a spot in Kodansha’s Morning Two line-up with Peepo Choo. The three-volume series is now being released in English by Vertical, and the first volume arrives in comic shops tomorrow.

I read a review copy from the publisher, and I wish I liked the book’s narrative as much as I like the story behind the comic. It falls into the category of comics that aren’t really for me. It’s about a young American otaku who wins a dream trip to Japan. The kid has romanticized Japan beyond all proportion, picturing it as an Eden of manga- and anime-loving cosplayers who can all get along by virtue of their shared love for a particular character. Little does the kid know that he’s going to be mixed up with vicious gangsters, assassins, brutal teen starlets, and the far-less-idyllic reality of indigenous otaku.

Smith shows terrific energy as a creator, and I appreciate his satirical intent, but Peepo Choo is a little coarse for my tastes. I know that’s weird to say, given how much I love Detroit Metal City and Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu, but Peepo Choo doesn’t quite have the precision with which those books use their gross-out material. The vulgarity doesn’t say as much as it could, and the satire is a little too broad to be as effective as I’d like. Still, this book should have no trouble finding an audience of comic fans who like to see their hobby tweaked and their fandoms punked, and it’s amazing that Smith has been published in a highly regarded manga magazine by a major Japanese publisher.

Over at the Manga Bookshelf, Melinda Beasi is running a mid-season poll on the year’s best new manhwa so far. I’m hoping that I can include Youngran Lee’s There’s Something About Sunyool (Netcomics) on this list, as it looks really promising. Here’s what Melinda had to say:

“Born the illegitimate child of a big-time politician, Sunyool has been accepted officially into her father’s household as an adult and thrown straight into negotiations for arranged marriage. While the premise seems rife with cliché, the execution (so far) is anything but. What could easily be a typical rags-to-riches or fish-out-of-water story actually appears more likely to be a thoughtful, wry look at two young people from vastly different backgrounds learning to make a life together within the cold world of politics. Sunyool’s smart (occasionally cruel) sense of humor and self-awareness make her a very appealing female lead, while her pragmatic young husband is still a bit of a mystery.”

I also might have to pick up a copy of the Young Avengers Ultimate Collection (Marvel), written by Alan Heinberg and penciled by various people, mostly Jimmy Cheung, just so I can have all those stories in one convenient package. I really enjoyed the first issue of Avengers: The Children’s Crusade that came out last week, mostly for the adorable gay super-hero boyfriends being adorable with each other, and also because a Marvel character finally suggested that there might be more to the Scarlet Witch’s behavior than her just having a bad case of babies rabies and not being able to handle her powers because, well, chicks. Also, no one suggested killing the Scarlet Witch, though her fair weather friend Ms. Marvel seems like she’d be more than happy to do so. Shut up, Ms. Marvel.


Previews review May 2010

May 2, 2010

There aren’t very many debuting titles in the May 2010 edition of the Previews catalog, but there are lots of new volumes of slow-to-arrive titles that are worth noting.

First up would have to be the omnibus collection of Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi (Del Rey), offering volumes eight through ten. (It seems appropriate, since this is the title’s week in the Manga Moveable Feast spotlight.) These volumes were fairly meaty individually, and getting three in one for $24.99 seems like a really good value. (Page 292.) Edit: The tenth volume is the final one of the series, so this will conclude Mushishi in English.

Also on the “good manga for relatively cheap” front is the third volume of Kaoru Tada’s Itazura Na Kiss (Digital Manga). What mishaps will befall our dumb heroine Kotoko in pursuit of the smart boy of her dreams? (Page 295.)

I’m just going to come out and say that A Distant Neighborhood was my second favorite Jiro Taniguchi title of 2009. Topping that category was The Summit of the Gods, written by Yumemakura Baku. The second volume is due from Fanfare/Ponent Mon. (Page 304.)

A new volume of Adam Warren’s super-smart, addictive satire, Empowered (Dark Horse), is always good news. It seems like Warren gets around to dealing with the rather loose definition of mortality among the spandex set, and I’d much rather read his take than something like Blackest Night. (Page 35.)

Is it ungrateful of me to be really eager to see what Bryan Lee O’Malley does next? It’s not that I’m indifferent to the conclusion of the Scott Pilgrim saga (which arrives in the form of the sixth volume, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour from Oni Press), which I’m sure I’ll love as much as the previous five. But O’Malley’s been working on Scott for a long time. (Page 233.)

Before we jump fully into the “all-new stuff” department, I’ll bypass quickly to Dark Horse’s release of an omnibus edition of CLAMP’s Magic Knight Rayearth. You can get all three volumes of this magic-girl shôjo classic from the manga superstars. (Page 53.)

CMX publishes a lot of excellent shôjo from Hakusensha, but they branch out this month with Rika Suzuki’s Tableau Gate. It originally ran in Akita Shoten’s Princess Gold, and it’s about a guy who must help a girl capture some escaped tarot cards. I’m sort of a sucker for comics with tarot imagery, and I trust CMX’s taste in shôjo. (Page 129.)

I’m always game for a new graphic novel drawn by Faith Erin Hicks, and First Second is kind enough to provide one. It’s called Brain Camp, and it’s about oddballs dealing with mysterious forces, which is right in Hicks’s wheelhouse. The script is by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan. (Page 305.)

It’s coming! It’s coming! Top Shelf’s 400-page collection of alternative manga, AX, finally hits the solicitation phase, and it should be very exciting to see. (Page 342.)

Vertical continues to branch out of classic manga mode with the English-language debut of Felibe Smith’s Peepo Choo. For those who’ve forgotten, Smith has been creating the series for Kodansha’s Morning Two magazine. It’s about a kid from Chicago who gets mixed up with a model from Tokyo and a lot of underworld mayhem. (Page 346.)

I don’t get a particularly good vibe off of Kaneyoshi Izumi’s Seiho Boys’ High School!, due out from Viz. It’s about the student body of an isolated, all-boys’ high school. Anyone who’s read more than one boys’-love title would know how these lads could deal with their isolation, but Izumi apparently decided to take a different approach. The series originally ran in Shogakukan’s Betsucomi.


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