Lists are still my drug

June 30, 2007

I’m sure he would have posted the link even if he didn’t know full well I was a hopeless list junkie, but John Jakala pointed to an interesting initiative over at P.O.W.E.R., and I felt biologically compelled to chime in.

I know the West Virginia arts-and-entertainment paper has covered comics intermittently, but with a fairly heavy Marvel-DC slant, so maybe I’ll drop them a line.


June 28, 2007

Okay, I’ve finally gotten around to composing the list of manga series I’ve dumped after a fairly significant investment of volumes (inspired by John Jakala). Looking at them, the common thread seems to be novelty wearing off. And this doesn’t count the series where I tried a single volume and decided to give it a pass, because I’m terrified that any mention of them would lead to people swearing that things improved later and that I’m really cheating myself by not reading a little farther. Because I’m totally susceptible and would find my B&N member card and car keys and say, “D’or, okay!”

Absolute Boyfriend, by Yuu Watase (Viz – Shojo Beat): There’s just something depressing about the premise here. If the heroine had come out and said, “Listen, he’s hot, he’s devoted, and he’ll never cheat on me, you lowly human, and I don’t feel like working very hard on a relationship,” that might have been one thing. But the suggestion that there’s actually some kind of competition-fostering inner life to the robot guy is just something I don’t see.

Case Closed, by Gosho Aoyama (Viz): This is a perfectly pleasant mystery series with a cute premise and absolutely nothing in the way of forward momentum. What finally broke me was the knowledge that the series is still apparently going strong in Japan with some 60 volumes in print. I couldn’t see myself making that kind of commitment to something that was just reasonably entertaining.

Cromartie High School, by Eiji Nonaka (ADV): I’ll chalk this one up to too much of a good, weird thing. I just couldn’t quite keep up with the releases, as there was always something with an ongoing narrative that I wanted to read more. It’s funny and weird, and I’m fairly sure I might check in with the series again at some point when I need a disorienting laugh. But it doesn’t feel like something I need to “subscribe to,” per se. Am I spoiled? (On the bright side, it’s like the only opportunity I’ve ever had to link to ADV’s web site without it being in the context of not being able to find information on a series.)

Iron Wok Jan! by Shinji Saiyo (DrMaster): I’m really making a lot of you weep for my taste, aren’t I? I’m not doing it on purpose, I swear. And again, I like what I’ve read of the series. It just didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and I guess I need narrative momentum more than I thought. Like Cromartie, though, it’s always possible that I’ll pick up a couple of volumes on a rainy day when I need outrageous, over-the-top culinary action.

I’m trying to decide whether or not to count Shuri Shiozu’s Eerie Queerie (Tokyopop). It’s only four volumes long, and I made it through two of them. The first was really promising, the second was creepy in all the wrong ways, and I have no idea about the third and fourth and plan to keep it that way.

And just for bonus points and to give more people the opportunity to tell me how foolish I am for even considering such a reckless course of behavior, here are some series that are on the bubble:

Eden! It’s an Endless World, by Hiroki Endo (Dark Horse): Seriously, if I wanted to read about gangsters, prostitutes and illegal narcotics, there are approximately one billion choices out there in the world that didn’t bait-and-switch me with a thoughtful sci-fi introductory run. This is not what I was led to expect from the series, and I find myself irritated to a possibly unreasonable degree.

(Update: Myk speaks… from the FUTURE! Or in this case, Germany, where more Eden is available, and he confirms Huff’s assurance that the hookers-and-blow mini-arc comes to an end and things get back to abnormal. That’s good news, but I still think that wedging this story into a landscape where the vast majority of the population has been turned into crumbled Swarovsky figurines was a really, really bad, self-indulgent idea.)

Kindaichi Case Files, by Kanari Yozaburo and Sato Fumiya (Tokyopop): You know what could get me more invested in this series? A forward time-jump that gets Kindaichi out of high school and into a different setting with a different dynamic. He can still be a slacker, but I think moving him to a different stage of his life would revitalize things. I feel like there needs to be a sense of time passing that isn’t limited to references to previous cases.

(Still no Tokyopop links available, as 2.0 is still in limbo.)


June 27, 2007

Okay, when I come home from the comics shop, I usually read… y’know… comics, but I find myself distracted by all kinds of manga craziness in the new Previews catalog.

CMX launches a new line for mature readers featuring two horror titles. The first is Kanako (School Zone) Inuki’s Presents. The second is Iqura Sugimoto’s Variante, which sounds kind of like Parasyte. They’ll both be in a larger format (5.5” x 8”) at a slightly higher price ($12.99). I’d also like to note that the cover for the second volume of Masashi Tanaka’s Gon is the cutest thing ever.

Horror fans will be pleased to see Viz give the Signature treatment to two works by Junji Ito – Uzumaki and Gyo, which they’d published previously. I haven’t read Gyo, but Uzumaki is amazingly creepy, for the most part.

Tokyopop gets on the omnibus with “Ultimate Editions” of Battle Royale, Warcraft: The Sunwell Trilogy, and Fruits Basket, collecting multiple volumes at a time in a hardcover packaging. Royale ($24.99) and Warcraft ($29.99) collect three volumes per, though Fruits Basket ($14.99) seems to stick to two.

In other Tokyopop news, they seem to have cut back a bit on their Previews pages, skipping the cover images for many of their longer-running series and going with more conventional listings, concentrating the illustrations on new series and products. (They still provide cover art for a good half of those end-of-the-section listings, though.) One of the books getting the full treatment is Kozue Amano’s Aqua, which I would be looking forward to even if the solicitation didn’t include the possibly snarky promise of a “refreshed translation.”

(The publisher’s revised web site isn’t quite up and running yet, as has been noted elsewhere, but I’ll add links when it goes live, provided the redesign doesn’t drive me mad… MAD! It could happen.)

Yen Press arrives with the release of Keiko Tobe’s With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child. It’s hard to settle on a pick of the month, but this one’s definitely in the running. (Yen hasn’t gotten any farther with its web site, but here’s an ICv2 article on the book.)

I’m pretty sure that these had been solicited previously, but Fanfare/Ponent Mon re-lists Kan Takahama’s Awabi and Jiro Taniguchi’s The Ice Wanderer. Nouvelle bliss!

(What is it with the shortage of usable permalinks? I feel like I’m wearing oven mitts as I format this!)

No, it’s the heat

June 27, 2007

I’m getting my car serviced tomorrow, and I always like to wash it before these little check-ups so the mechanics think I’m a concerned vehicle owner. I’m sure I’m not fooling them.

Anyway, the only time it’s rained here in the last two weeks were in the three minutes I was actually in the car wash bay. Seriously. I pulled in. A downpour started. I pulled out. It stopped. If I’d just parked there for a while and listened to my audio book, I wonder if I could have averted the drought.

It’s so hot.

I’m so wholesome

June 26, 2007

Online Dating

Mingle2Online Dating

Found via Mr. Hyacinth, whose first name I shall not use because the widget doesn’t seem to distinguish proper names. I’m sorely tempted to write something laden with misspelled profanities to see if I can beat the system.

Nah, I’m too mainstream for that.

Upcoming, 6/27

June 26, 2007

Another Wednesday approaches, bringing some fun stuff with it.

The fact that I probably prefer it in collection doesn’t keep me from really enjoying individual issues of Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting (Vol. II #7 this week from Fantagraphics). I just wish they were longer. In this case, that’s a compliment. One of the very small handful of titles I still collect in floppy form.

I’ve really been enjoying the individual issues of Jim Massey and Robbi Rodriguez’s Maintenance (Oni), a workplace comedy about janitors in a mad scientist think tank. Not every joke scores, but more than enough do to make the first collection worth a look.

One of my favorite features in the first issue of Otaku USA was Jason Thompson’s interview with novelist Tou Ubukata. A manga version of one of Ubukata’s works, Le Chevalier D’Eon, illustrated by Kiriko Yumeji, begins its English-language life courtesy of Del Rey. Gender bending, demon fighting action in pre-Revolution France, and a heroine whose outfit makes you think a tiny bit more kindly about all of those swimsuits and high heels from Marvel and DC.

Vertical delivers the concluding volume of Keiko Takemiya’s science-fiction classic To Terra… I’m really curious as to how the story will wrap up, as it seems like things could end very badly for… well… everyone involved. Is it terrible that I’m kind of hoping for an unhappy ending? It’s not that I wish the characters, human or Mu, ill. It just seems like such an enticing alternative. (And if you know how it turns out, and you probably do, please don’t spoil it for me.)

Turn your head and cough

June 25, 2007

In this week’s Flipped, I check in on some series I’ve reviewed and recommended previously. It’s terrible to say, but with the constant waves of interesting new titles launching all the time, I kind of wish some ongoing ones would start sucking.

From the stack: Re-Gifters

June 23, 2007

A lot of Re-Gifters (Minx) feels like dominoes being set up to fall in an elegant and dramatic fashion. You can see what’s coming without too much difficulty, but the character work is persuasive enough and the art so appealing that it doesn’t really detract. Incredibly charming art helps too.

Mike Carey’s script follows Dik Seong Jen, nicknamed Dixie, as she manages the competing distractions of an upcoming hapkido tournament (she has a black belt in the martial art) and her first serious crush. The object of her affections is WASP-y classmate and fellow hapkido student Adam, who can best be described as Chad Michael Murray as rendered by artists Sonny Liew and Marc Hempel.

Dixie doesn’t do anything by halves, and she decides that the best way to get Adam’s attention is with an extravagant gift that she thinks will speak to their shared interest. It isn’t as meaningful to Andy as it is to Dixie, and she blows her savings and her entry fee to the tournament in the process. She’s got to fix the jam she’s created, getting into the competition and resolving her unrequited feelings in the process.

That she’ll do so is never really in doubt, though Carey throws some additional complications in the mix. Some of them feel like they’re too much. Dixie’s gift to Adam changes hands in an amusingly screwball fashion, but her efforts to get into the tournament take on a deus ex machine quality. And competing isn’t just a matter of personal pride; it could make a big difference for her middle-class family. They’re an appealing group, but the subplot feels superfluous.

What sells Re-Gifters ultimately are the characters and their world. Dixie is an appealing protagonist – impulsive but likable and formidable in her own way. Carey also creates a rich, largely believable world for her, reflecting the challenging mix of race and class of urban Los Angeles and peopling it with engaging characters. It doesn’t even matter so much that the least involving is Adam, who never really rises above the level of an objective.

I’m also crazy about Liew and Hempel’s visuals. The pages are faultlessly lively and expressive, and they stage all of the action with precision and imagination. They keep things moving at a happy clip, glossing over the narrative stumbles that arise.

Shop talk

June 22, 2007

I was talking to one of the clerks at the comic shop the other day, and he mentioned that his ultimate career goal is to open and run a comic shop himself. I’m not especially parental, but I have to admit that the temptation to shake him was strong. But my parents were masterfully restrained when I would lay out various career options to them, no matter how absurd they were or how ill-suited I was for them in temperament or ability, so I kept it in check. (I’m the youngest of seven, so maybe they were just tired by that point.)

And as training grounds go, the local comic shop could be much worse. It’s clean, uncluttered, and there’s nothing on prominent display that might make people who aren’t white, straight, male and 25 to 40 years old want to turn around and vow never return. The owner is a conscientious guy, and he hires accordingly. Everyone’s friendly and helpful.

That said, the owner is a realist as well. He initially made a conscientious effort to stock stuff that you wouldn’t find at the average comic shop, including manga. But realities of competition with the chain bookstores that have opened in the area seem to have taken their toll, and the selection has progressively narrowed in ways that will probably be familiar to people who track retailer lore on the web. The manga shelves have given way to a full wall of individual 52 issues and Civil War trades, and if you’re dying for the new issue of Mome or New Tales of Old Palomar, you’d better request it.

Happily, the shop encourages that. They may not stock everything, but they’ll certainly order it for you, and the shelf of reserves suggests a clientele dedicated to independent comics (and not just independent comics in the sense of superheroes created by someone other than Marvel or DC), shôjo and yaoi, and lots of other niche stuff. It seems like a perfectly reasonable, economically sustainable compromise: stock the stuff that sells to your base, but make sure people who don’t care about super-hero comics know that the store is a resource for them as well. And while I might wish that I had an Alternate Reality or Laughing Ogre or Beguiling nearby, I don’t begrudge the owner his decision to stay in business according to the demands of the local market.

A land war in Asia

June 21, 2007

Remember that scene between Cary Elwes and Wallace Shawn in The Princess Bride? Imagine that stretched out to about 200 pages, and you’ll have some sense of what awaits you in the concluding volume of Death Note (Viz).

I loved the series, but darn it, that was the head-talkingest tankoubon I’ve ever seen IN MY LIFE.

(And if you don’t remember that scene from The Princess Bride, and it’s because you’ve never seen it, you really should. Or you should read the book. Or both. It’s one of those rare instances where they’re equally good.)