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March 11, 2007

There’s some really solid work in Tokyopop’s Rising Stars of Manga People’s Choice competition. Some entries have lovely, accomplished art, and others have nicely crafted, imaginative scripts and stories. These are my five favorites, though:

Ares Maier by Daniel Lucas Cross: It’s great-looking and makes really good use of the short format. I particularly admire how well Cross pulled off the twist ending.

B is for Bishie by Margaux Hymel and Russell Herrick: Superb teamwork from Hymel and Herrick here, combining a perversely funny premise with pitch-perfect art. It got my vote.

Bloomfield Memory by Yujin Chung Moon: The premise is familiar, but Moon executes it with style, verve and sincerity, and the art is just breathtaking.

Minion by Alyssa Farris: Steam of consciousness and dream logic are difficult to evoke in a coherent narrative, but Farris seems to have just the artistic arsenal to pull it off.

The Cacti Boys by Sarah Adams and Christine Wu: Of all of the submissions that suggested a larger narrative, this is the one where I really want to know what happens next.

March 12 is the last day to vote.

Second look: Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil #2

March 11, 2007

I had previously wondered about the price point and format of Jeff Smith’s Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil (DC). After reading the second issue, I find myself caring about that stuff a lot less, because the introduction Mary Marvel has rendered me incapable of thinking anything grown-up or grouchy. She’s a delight on every level.

So is the book. The pace has picked up over the first issue, which results in Smith doing more of the things he does so well in the same number of pages. I’d almost forgotten how deftly Smith can lampoon human nature. Since this is a kid’s power fantasy, it’s only appropriate that he opens the issue with laughably dumb, thoroughly recognizable grown-up behavior.

I hadn’t forgotten how well Smith is able to render and dialogue adventure sequences. They’re a mix of scary, funny and exciting, and they’re peppered with small, character-driven touches. The book is such a great merger of words and pictures.

And it’s nice to see a creator able to fold dark undertones into a story without allowing them to flavor the entire narrative. Billy and Mary have both faced some bleak circumstances, and Smith doesn’t shy away from the perils the kids have faced or their emotional consequences. But he doesn’t make those moments so explicit or maudlin that they overwhelm the bits of triumph and giddy fun. If anything, the darker bits enhance the lighter.

And Mary is really awesome. To quote her or describe her behavior in any detail would be to spoil the fun of watching it all unfold, so I won’t. But trust me: awesome.