Friday mangablogging

October 20, 2006

There are two recent reviews up from Brigid at MangaBlog. First up is Kye Young Chon’s Audition from DramaQueen. Second is David Roman’s Astronaut Elementary from Cryptic Press.

MangaCast’s Ed Chavez looks at some character-driven manga: Saijyo Shinji’s Iron Wok Jan! (DrMaster), Kaoru Mori’s Emma (CMX), and Key Young Chon’s DVD (DramaQueen).

Speaking of MangaCast, they’re sponsoring a contest. Simply imagine your imminent death, dredge up your most profound regret, and maybe win a copy of Reborn! (Viz – Shonen Jump Advanced). This is the point where I should say, “Enter now, or you’ll regret it for the rest of your life!”

The love for Drifting Classroom (Viz – Signature) keeps on coming, this time from Katherine Dacey-Tsuei at PopCultureShock.

ChunHyang sees people who see dead people in the second installment of a pre-Halloween manga spook-a-thon, mentioning many of my favorites in the process.

And now a question that comes from an e-mail conversation I was having with John Jakala. In your experience, which chain bookstore has the best manga selection? I find Barnes & Noble reliable, and the local Books-a-Million oddly always has the largest selection of Juné books, but for variety and selection, I’d have to vote for the Borders up in Pittsburgh. Of course it’s an hour away.

Edited to add: It sells a bajillion copies, but it doesn’t get reviewed that often. Bill Sherman takes a look at “the loudmouthed spud,” Naruto (Viz – Shonen Jump), at Pop Culture Gadabout.


October 20, 2006

As a fan of books like Leave It to Chance and Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things, I think there’s always room for more young adults navigating mysterious, supernatural landscapes. For that reason, I think Dave Roman’s Agnes Quill: An Anthology of Mystery (Slave Labor Graphics) is a very welcome arrival.

Agnes is an orphan living in the creepy city of Legerdemain. Instead of a bucolic Central Park at its core, Legerdemain has an enormous cemetery. Agnes can communicate with the dead, benign and malignant. To make ends meet, she’s followed in her grandfather’s footsteps, opening a detective agency focused on helping the dead complete their unfinished business and the living cope with the pervasive, sometimes hostile weirdness around them.

So in addition to the aforementioned books, Agnes is following in the increasingly rich tradition of protagonists in series like Bleach, Dokebi Bride, Kindaichi Case Files, and Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. She holds her own. Agnes is a little sullen, but she’s curious and resourceful. Legerdemain is often as strange to her as it is to the reader, and watching her uncover its secrets is rewarding.

Roman has obviously invested a lot in developing Agnes and her fictional world. In addition to the four stories that showcase Agnes solving very different mysteries, Roman has included extensive text pieces that offer a wealth of insight into his heroine and her city. (If Roman isn’t considering a possible prose novel featuring Agnes, he really should.)

The book earns its anthology tag by featuring the work of four different illustrators (Roman is joined by Jason Ho, Raina Telgemeier, and Jeff Zornow). The tones of the four stories are crafted to suit the style of the collaborator. Telgemeier’s piece has her trademark loopy sweetness. Zornow’s looks and reads like something out of Priest.

It’s an audacious approach to introducing a character, but I’m not sure it’s entirely successful. The stylistic shifts have the effect of pushing Agnes into the background. While the stories cohere in the sense that they credibly occur in the same fictional world, the protagonist becomes secondary, and I’m not sure if that’s the most effective way to manage her debut.

But the package as a whole, comics and prose, ultimately makes a very convincing argument for Agnes’s appeal. She’s a well-defined, sympathetic heroine who lives in an intriguing world. I’d just like to see a more focused approach to telling her stories that lets her shine.