Another nostalgia experiment

October 28, 2010

I fell into a nostalgia pit trap this week after seeing the write-up of the online leader ballot for DC’s Legion of Super-Heroes. That was always a fun element of the franchise back in the day, and I generally enjoyed the issues written by Paul Levitz, so it seemed like a reasonable enough excuse to give the new series a chance. After learning that the shop had sold out of the Beasts of Burden/Hellboy One-Shot , I grabbed a copy of Legion of Super-Heroes #6.

First of all, this series could really use a “Previously” page. Levitz is pretty scrupulous about inserting little tags introducing his main characters on first appearance, but there seems to be a fair amount going on that might be helpful to know. This issue is one of those “between big events” chapters that allow the cast to go off and do lots of little things that show what might be considered everyday life for a team of super-heroes in the future. Most of this involves them talking about or to a new character I don’t recognize.

He’s called “Earth Man,” and he apparently just recently switched to the Legion’s side after being a big, anti-alien xenophobe. And, again, he’s called “Earth Man.” Get it? Yeah. Oh, and he’s apparently started a sexual relationship with Shadow Lass, an alien, so he can’t be all that xenophobic, right? (Maybe he’s like one of those homophobic closet cases, scoring with aliens on the down low and making a big deal about hating them in public. I can’t believe I just typed that.) His power is to borrow the powers of other people, and most of them are aliens, which means he wouldn’t have any powers at all if he drove all the aliens off of his planet, but nobody ever accused bigots of being geniuses or writers of being coherent satirists.

Anyway, Earth Man is grumpy, square-jawed and uninteresting, U.S. Agent 2.0 (or whichever iteration we’re up to at this point), and having a lot of characters focused on him isn’t particularly entertaining or promising. It suggests that future issues will spend a lot of time interested in the evolution of Tea Party satire guy, and that’s not something I’m keen to pay for.

The back-up story has some extremely specific references to events or issues from Levitz’s first run. Cosmic Boy (who seems to be the current leader) visits the academy where they teach young heroes to possibly be Legionnaires at some point in the future. This is an opportunity for Cosmic Boy to be mopey about how hard and dangerous it is to be a Legionnaire, especially to be their leader, which isn’t a tonal element that ever worked in the past in this franchise and seems kind of 1990s to me. The worst bits of this sequence, aside from some confusing cutaways to unrelated plot points that involve women napping with their dead boyfriend’s clothing, are some really bad character designs for the trainees, both aesthetic and conceptual. By the end of the story, Cosmic Boy decides to step down as leader, which is sure to be a great confidence boost for the cadets, and the election begins.

I suppose I should comment on the art, though I’m not sure if any of these people draw the series regularly. Francis Portela draws the main story, and the pages have an interestingly light line, but there are an awful lot of weirdly heightened facial expressions. It also must have been an interesting meeting when the creative team sat down and decided to focus on costumes that combined all of the worst elements of everything the cast had worn previously. Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass appear in a total of two panels, and my eyes still hurt, but that might owe more to the really unfortunate juxtaposition of colors.

Phil Jiminez and Scott Koblish do better with the back-up piece. Nobody looks like they’re mugging in a school play, but I have to bring up the character designs again, because they’re really bad. Gravity Kid is very “leather bar… of the future!” which I don’t object to at all personally but doesn’t really translate very well in this context. Dragonwing , with her transparent kimono, padded thigh-highs, and magenta dreadlocks, is the definition of a hot mess. Duplicate Girl sort of embodies the previously discussed costume issue – her look is a very awkward attempt to update the kind of thing she wore previously and ends up looking like PTA Lady.

It all makes you wonder if it went through any editing process. Things don’t really hang together at all. Bits seem like they’re chipped off the good raw material the Legion concept offers, but a lot of stuff seems random and sloppy. I’d suspect it would be most interesting to people who might be curious as to where it would fit into the team’s awfully muddled publishing history. I’m that guy, and it’s still not that interesting

The Seinen Alphabet: “N”

October 27, 2010

“N” is for…

Neko Ramen (Tokyopop), written and illustrated by Kenji Sonishi, is a gag manga about a cat who works in a noodle shop. It originally ran in Mag Garden’s Comic Blade.

Viz released five two of eight volumes of Taiyo Matsumoto’s No. 5, which was widely reported to be one of the publisher’s worst-selling titles of all time. It originally ran in Shogakukan’s IKKI.

NOiSE (Tokyopop), written and illustrated by Tsutomi Nihei, is a prequel to that creator’s Blame! (also published by Tokyopop). Both NOiSE and Blame! ran in Kodansha’s Afternoon. Nihei is also the creator of Biomega (Viz).

Natsume Ono’s not simple (Viz) originally ran in Penguin Shobou’s Comic Seed!, then ran again in Shogakukan’s IKKI. It received some of the most vigorously mixed reviews I’ve ever seen for a title, which made for very interesting blog reading.

While Neon Genesis Evangelion (Viz), written and illustrated by Yoshiyuki Sadamato, originally ran in a shônen magazine, it’s been calling Kadakowa Shoten’s seinen magazine Young Ace home for the past couple of years.

Maybe the best-known manga-ka from this corner of the seinen alphabet is Go Nagai, who has had a very prolific career that includes a number of seinen titles.

Of all of the yet-to-be-translated titles that start with the letter “N,” I’m most eager to see someone publish Iou Kuroda’s Nasu, which originally ran in Kodansha’s Afternoon.

And while it seems rather unlikely that anyone is going to publish a 36-volume series about sumo wrestling, it’s nice to imagine a world where such a fate might be possible for Tetsuya Chiba’s Notari Matsutaro, originally published in Shogakukan’s Big Comic.

Who or what starts with “N” in your seinen alphabet? Fill in my gaps, please!

Unrelated “N”

October 27, 2010

Before we get into this week’s letter of the seinen alphabet, I wanted to note something that makes me happy. Yen Press has a new cover for Fumi Yoshinaga’s Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy. It’s an improvement over the original, in my opinion.

Upcoming 10/27/2010

October 26, 2010

It’s time for another look at the week’s ComicList!

Tokyopop has a bunch of titles coming out, and my pick of that lot would be the tenth volume of Banri Hidaka’s V.B. Rose, a romantic comedy about a budding designer of accessories working in a high-end bridal shop.

Random House’s Del Rey manga imprint may be on its last legs, but it’s releasing a healthy volume of titles all the same. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the first volume of Akimine Kamijo’s Code Breaker, so I’ll be looking for the second.

I’ve also been surprised by how much I’ve been enjoying Marvel’s Secret Avengers series, so I’ll also grab a copy of the sixth issue, which features a visit from the Master of Kung Fu.

I have no excuse for not yet sampling Beasts of Burden from Dark Horse, and perhaps the Beasts of Burden/Hellboy One-Shot isn’t the best introduction to the series, but I think I’ll grab it all the same, just because I know my comic shop will probably have a copy handy.

What looks good to you?

Birthday book: GoGo Monster

October 25, 2010

The Comics Reporter reminds us that today is the amazingly talented Taiyo Matsumoto’s birthday. If you haven’t done so already, I recommend that you mark the occasion by reading his GoGo Monster (Viz). I reviewed the book in this Flipped column:

“Beyond his marvelous illustrations and elliptical storytelling, the fascinating thing about Matsumoto’s work is his ability to make me root for undesirable outcomes. In Tekkonkinkreet, I found myself hoping that its protagonists would accept the futility of their fight for Treasure Town, that they would cut their losses. In GoGo Monster, I found myself siding with the forces of conformity. Admirable as Yuki’s sense of self is, and enviable as his immunity to social pressure may be, I still was persuaded by Matsumoto’s argument for a healthy, happy Yuki, even if it resulted in a less interesting, less special Yuki.”

It’s a great, great book, as is Tekkonkinkreet (Viz).

I’m still hoping that Viz will take another crack at Matsumoto’s No. 5. I think Blue Spring is still in print. Christopher (Comics212) Butcher posted a wonderfully thorough round-up of Matsumoto’s work and adaptations of it.

What’s your favorite Matsumoto title?

Random Saturday question: like a motherless child

October 23, 2010

Not too long ago, Sam Kusek was asking Twitterers to remind him of series with “daddy issues,” where the death or absence of the protagonist’s father helped drive the narrative. This got me thinking about how many manga protagonists have lost a mother. So, who are some of your favorite motherless manga heroes and heroines? I’ll reveal a couple of my favorites after the jump.

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Winding paths to wanting

October 22, 2010

This week’s requests were both born of… well… getting off the subject, basically.

In this week’s installment of the seinen alphabet, someone mentioned Reiko Shimizu’s Moon Child (CMX), which… isn’t seinen, but hey, I never want to stop people from talking about comics they love. This reference came in service to a passionate endorsement of Shimizu’s Himitsu – The Top Secret, which is… also not seinen, and doesn’t start with the letter “M,” but it sounds interesting, and Moto Hagio likes it a lot. Here’s Hagio’s description:

“It’s a story about an organization that examines the brains of dead people to find out everything they’ve experienced, everything that they’ve done. Because their brains are full of all kinds of secrets. [laughs]”

The series is running in Hakusensha’s Melody magazine, which I believe straddles the shôjo-josei age line and is home to Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ôoku: The Inner Chambers (Viz), so it’s obviously a nice neighborhood with good schools. I can’t quite tell if Hakusensha has collected it in its older-skewing Jets imprint or not. [Update: Michelle Smith informs me that it is in the Jets imprint.] It’s been nominated for awards at the Japan Media Arts Festival at least twice. It’s being published in French by Tonkam.

When I was trying to figure out how I feel about March Story (Viz), I was trying to get a handle on the kind of manga published by Shogakukan’s Sunday GX. I’m not really a whole lot further down that road, because I got totally distracted by the fact that the magazine was home to a series called Rubbers 7. Because, all forensic evidence to the contrary aside, I am nine years old. Here’s the Baka-Updates summary:

“Welcome to Rubbers 7, a small Japanese convenience store with a reputation for some odd owners. Rumors of mob connections and one rather eccentric boss with a passion for Ping-pong tend to keep business low. But when a young, quiet girl is framed for shoplifting and ends up working for the store. Can her touch, with the help of her unusual coworkers, including a shy boy and a drag queen, turn the fortune of the store around?”

It ran for seven volumes, and was written and illustrated by Sukune Inugami. I like the premise, and I think there’s always room for goofy seinen created by women.

You don’t know where that’s been

October 21, 2010

March Story (Viz), written by Hyung Min Kim and illustrated by Kyung-il Yang, does not lead with its best foot, in my opinion. It’s nominally in the “comeuppance theatre” category of storytelling in that it’s largely episodic and features terrible but avoidable things happening to guest stars with a protagonist swooping in to try and minimize the damage. But unlike my favorite examples of comeuppance theatre, bad things don’t happen to these people because they themselves are bad, but because they’re kind of dumb. I’m going to put the rest of this entry behind a jump, because it’s less of a review than a spoiler-filled, inexplicably obsessive discussion.

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Link of the day

October 21, 2010

My biggest disappointment in not being able to attend this year’s New York Comic-Con/Anime Festival came from the fact that I wouldn’t be able to attend the panel, “Gay for You? Yuri and Yaoi for GLBTQ Readers.” Thankfully, Deb (About.Com) Aoki has posted a transcript of the panel along with a list of recommended yaoi and yuri titles for that audience.

And just because I can’t read one of these lists without adding at least two cents worth of unsolicited input, I will suggest the addition of Only the Ring Finger Knows (DMP), written by Satoru Kannagi and illustrated by Hotaru Odagiri, especially for younger readers.

The Seinen Alphabet: M

October 20, 2010

“M” is for…

Well, it’s for lots of stuff, so I won’t even try and be comprehensive. I’ll just hit the highlights.

Technically, this could fall under “N,” as Viz insists on putting “Naoki Urasawa” in front of all of that creator’s titles, but I’ll just stick with plain-old Monster in this case. It’s about a brilliant surgeon who unknowingly saves the life of a deranged killer. Oops!

On a much lighter front, we have Rumiko Takahashi’s Maison Ikkoku (Viz). It follows the start-and-stop romance of a somewhat aimless young man and his widowed landlady. They also have crazy neighbors who are pretty funny.

On an arguably much more horrible front, we have the often fervently disliked Maria Holic (Tokyopop), written and illustrated by Minari Endou and originally serialized in Media Factory’s Monthly Comic Alive. It’s not all wrongly accused neurosurgeons and romantic comedy, kids.

On an interesting but commercially shaky front, we have Me and the Devil Blues: The Unreal Life of Robert Johnson (Del Rey), written and illustrated by Akira Hiramoto, who added some supernatural elements to the life of the legendary blues musician.

Sticking with Del Rey, we have Yuki Urushibara’s excellent Mushishi, which was the topic of a Manga Moveable Feast.

Also from Del Rey and also focused on the microscopic is Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture, written and illustrated by Masayuki Ishikawa, which is in limbo since the Kodansha shake-up.

Viz just launched March Story, written by Hyung Min Kim and illustrated by Kyung-il Yang, and originally published in Shogakukan’s Sunday GX magazine.

One could theoretically do the Tezuka Alphabet, you know? In the seinen category, one of my favorites of his works is the deeply crazy MW (Vertical).

On the creator front, we’d certainly have to start with Taiyo Matsumoto, known best here for his brilliant Tekkonkinkreet and GoGo Monster and perhaps less so for his out-of-print Blue Spring and No. 5, all from Viz.

Viz has also published Motoro Mase’s Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit.

Lots of people have loved the work of Kaoru Mori, including Emma and Shirley from DC’s lamented CMX imprint. But we can look forward to her Otoyomegatari from Yen Press.

Minetaro Mochizuki’s Dragon Head (Tokyopop) enjoyed critical if not commercial success when it was published here.

Few creators are capable of the kind of tightly-controlled crazy delivered regularly by the brilliant Junko Mizuno, most recently of Little Fluffy Gigolo Pelu (Last Gasp) fame.

Some of my favorite comics have come from Kodansha’s Morning magazines.

And way back in the day, Tokyopop published a little magazine known originally as MixxZine, which featured seinen titles like Parasyte and Ice Blade.

I wouldn’t even know where to begin with the unlicensed seinen titles that start with “M,” so please feel free to contribute your suggestions in the comments. And of course, I’m curious as to anything that starts with “M” in your seinen alphabet!


I don’t know how I forgot MPD Psycho (Dark Horse), written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Sho-u Tajima. It could be that the series is a little gross for my taste and I prefer Otsuka’s Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, which he creates with Housui Yamazaki, who created Mail, also from Dark Horse. I like Mail a lot, but I left it off this list because I thought it was originally published in a shônen magazine (Kadokawa’s Shônen Ace). Can I have a ruling?