Upcoming 2/4/2009

Let’s take a quick look at this week’s ComicList, shall we?

The undisputed pick of the week is obviously the fifth volume of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series, Scott Pilgrim Versus the Universe. It just is. In this penultimate volume, “Scott’s band is in total turmoil, his own exes have all boarded the train to crazy town, and Ramona’s evil exes have started appearing in pairs!”

During last week’s trip to the comic shop, I found myself without much in the way of purchases, so I wandered around looking for something out of the ordinary (for me, at least). Having heard so many good things about Jeff Parker’s writing on super-hero comics, I decided it was safe to pick up the collection of his Agents of Atlas (Marvel) mini-series, and it was a lot of fun. (I’ll post a longer review in a couple of days.) This week, Marvel launches an ongoing series with the characters, also called Agents of Atlas, and while I’ll pass on the monthly version, I’d imagine that, next year at this time, I’ll probably pick up the first trade. These things work in cycles.

My manga pick of the week is the 14th volume of Hikaru No Go (Viz), written by Yumi Yotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata. This series was included in the recent Great Graphic Novels for Teens list for any number of good reasons – engaging story, well-developed characters, and terrific art.

Viz also releases two promising-sounding titles in its Shojo Beat imprint. Having read complimentary copies provided by the publisher, I’m forced to conclude that one of them should be meaner and the other should be smuttier.

Aya Kanno’s Otomen is about a sturdy young man with a secret. Under his sports-champion façade, his heart that beats only for the feminine things in life. He cooks, he sews, he devours shôjo manga, but he feels the need to hide these hobbies and be more traditionally masculine. When he falls for a pretty classmate, his girlish inclinations stage an all-out assault. Complicating matters is a third party who may have designs on the girl and who knows his rival’s secret passions. It’s a smart premise, but the characters are bland, and the story begs for some of the nasty edge that a creator like Takako Shigematsu might bring to it.

How delightfully bizarre is the idea of a high-school massage club? Much more delightfully bizarre than the reality of Isumi Tsubaki’s The Magic Touch, unfortunately. Maybe I just have stereotypical western ideas, but shouldn’t there be a few dirty jokes in a comic about a roomful of high-school students giving each other rubdowns? Or at least a few jokes about the utter absence of dirty jokes? Alas, there are none. Worse still, the narrative is all over the place, like the publication schedule for the series rapidly outstripped Tsubaki’s plans for it. And while the art is competent for the most part, if one of your plot points hangs on identical twins, shouldn’t they resemble each other? Imagine if this series had been done by Ai Morinaga.

6 Responses to Upcoming 2/4/2009

  1. […] Precocious Curmudgeon, David Welsh goes through this week’s new releases and finds a few things to read. God Len runs through this week’s new manga and anime as well […]

  2. Connie says:

    Wait, WHAT?! Massage club manga? How did I miss that? That’ll teach me for skipping over plot summaries for innocuous-sounding titles.

    And now the mental image of an Ai Morinaga massage club manga won’t leave me. It’s a frightening thought.

  3. Katherine Dacey says:

    I’d totally read Ai Morinaga’s The Magic Touch!

    As for Otomen, David, I couldn’t agree more–it’s a boffo premise blandly executed. The characters were so bland that it wasn’t very engrossing. I also found it difficult to distinguish between what was happening in the story and what was happening in the hero’s favorite shojo manga–perhaps that was deliberate? (Or am I giving the mangaka the benefit of the doubt?)

  4. davidpwelsh says:

    Y’know, I suspect that overlap may have been deliberate, though for me, that just muddled up the timeline and made the parallel less interesting and plausible than it might have been. The book might also have benefited from a more realistic outline of manga production, among other things.

  5. Eva says:

    I really liked Agents of Atlas, too! I lobbied hard for it for last year’s GGNFT list, to no avail. Sigh. And I’m sorry to hear about Otomen. I had high hopes for that one. Double sigh. Was it so blah that you won’t pick up volume 2, or will you give it a second look?

  6. davidpwelsh says:

    I’m so fond of the premise that I’ll probably give Otomen another volume to win me over, though I’m not really expecting a significant about-face. You never know, though.

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