Go, vote: classic or reissued

January 11, 2010

It isn’t actually necessary to really love a comic to deeply admire the way it’s been presented. Case in point: my choice for Deb Aoki’s Best Classic or Reissued Manga poll:

I may have found the song lyrics unforgivably bad, but Dark Horse did a magnificent job on this book.

Wishes, hopes and dreams

January 11, 2010

After what feels like a solid month of gray skies and falling snow, it’s therapeutic to think of good things to come, like ice-free roads, the color green, and temperatures above freezing. That kind of optimism (or mitigation) was the inspiration for this week’s Flipped. But you know what? Awesome as those titles may well prove to be, I’m hoping they’re joined and perhaps even trumped by another 2010 possibility.

Last week, a certain publisher was teasing the Twitterati about an imminent announcement of a new license of a work by Osamu Tezuka featuring a “great female lead.” If you’re me, this can only mean one thing.

I could be wrong, but I’ll let that mistake live in my heart for as long as contrarian reality allows. This would make a certain publisher the fulfiller of two of my license requests, not to mention the only publisher to fulfill any at all. It’s a good thing I don’t make any unseemly promises when I make these requests.

Okay, back to the exciting books we know we’re going to get in 2010: one of them is by Fumi Yoshinaga, who has a one-shot coming out soon, courtesy of Viz. Christopher Butcher also adds Yoshinaga’s Antique Bakery (DMP) to his roster of Ten Manga That Changed Comics. It’s an excellent choice, and I thought it was a particularly intriguing one in juxtaposition to his other recent choice, Gutsoon’s Raijin Comics. Raijin fairly dripped testosterone, as Chris notes, but what some might forget is that DMP’s manga catalog was also quite the men’s locker room pretty much right up until the publication of Antique Bakery. Bambi and Her Pink Gun, Worst, IWGP and the Robot anthology were the books that defined DMP’s output prior to the launch of Juné, and Antique Bakery certainly seems like the fulcrum point for that shift.

From the stack: Time and Again vol. 1

January 11, 2010

I’m not going to argue that JiUn Yun’s Time and Again (Yen Press) will have the same cultural durability, but the book kind of reminds me of a character played by the young Barbara Stanwyck: sexy, funny, moving and often ruthless. It’s about an exorcist-for-hire who seems more inclined to give his clients what they deserve than what they request.

The malicious charm elevates the book from the already strong pack of ghost-hunter comics. Baek-On, the exorcist, is a lazy drunk. The delicate elegance of his wardrobe is undone almost entirely by the bags under his eyes from last night’s bender. And his skills with the unquiet dead are virtually moot in balance with his indifference towards the unquiet living. For Baek-On, exorcism isn’t a calling; it’s a job, and barely that. Dignity is a paycheck.

Ho-Yeon, Baek-On’s assistant and bodyguard, may view things a little differently. He’s certainly fresher than Baek-On, and he seems more compassionate than his employer, but he’s not quite forceful enough to make Baek-On do anything Baek-On doesn’t care to do. That’s all to the good, because a sober, diligent Baek-On would be no fun at all.

A sober, diligent Time and Again wouldn’t be nearly as much fun either. Rather than telling the specific story of her spiritual mercenaries, Yun seems more interested in the mechanics and possibilities of the ghost story itself. Half of the chapters in this volume require no participation from Baek-On or Ho-Yeon, wandering off to other realms of supernatural despair. While the protagonists may vanish, the tone remains the same. Yun has a real knack for blending heartbreak and horror.

The other running thread is how lanky and gorgeous the illustrations are. While Yun favors long, lean figures, there’s a satisfying variety of body type and facial expression on display. Yun doesn’t shy away from low comedy or gruesome imagery, either. It’s just the right kind of toolbox for this kind of work.

I would have been eager to read the second volume in any case, but Yun ups the ante with an off-kilter cliffhanger. What kind of parent, you may wonder, could unleash a Baek-On onto the world? Yun teases an answer to that question, and it involves a bouffant that might be the most ominous image in the book. I can’t wait to find out more about Baek-On’s mother.