Upcoming 12/2/2010

November 30, 2010

This week’s ComicList is dominated by the one and only Osamu Tezuka.

I’ve been reading Tezuka’s Ayako (a review copy provided by the publisher, Vertical), and it’s intriguing. Tezuka is viewing the turbulent, post-World War II period in Japanese history through the lens of a troubled family of landed gentry trying to hold onto their resources, if not their dignity. As the publisher notes, the book is “[u]nusually devoid of cartoon premises yet shot through with dark voyeuristic humor.”

Of the crazy Tezuka available in English, it’s the most realistic in terms of the events it portrays. The narrative certainly relies on extremities of human cruelty, greed, and depravity, but people don’t turn into dogs or display implausible aptitudes for disguise and sexual irresistibility or scheme to destroy all men. Admirable as Tezuka always is, even when modeling relative restraint, I’m finding I miss the extremities… the moments when I ask myself if I really just read that and going back a few pages to make sure. I suspect Ayako is a book that will require a couple of readings to really absorb what it’s trying to convey.

It ran in Shogakukan’s Big Comic from January 1972 to June 1973.

Elsewhere in comics, Brandon Graham’s terrific King City (Image) reaches its conclusion with its 12th issue. It looks really great in pamphlet form, I have to say.

What looks good to you this week?

Upcoming 9/1/2010

August 31, 2010

It’s an interesting week in ComicList terms. Let’s go right to the pick of the week, shall we?

That would be Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, the first result of the Fantagraphics-Shogakukan team-up that’s being curated by Matt Thorn. It’s a deeply glorious book that brims with Hagio’s psychological and emotional insights. I plan on posting a review on Thursday. You can order a signed copy from the publisher.

If that doesn’t slake your appetite for classic manga, Vertical is kind enough to offer Osamu Tezuka’s Apollo’s Song in two paperback volumes. It’s an example of deeply crazy Tezuka, with the added bonus of lots and lots of sex. If you can resist that description, you’re stronger than I am.

One of last year’s big books is now available in paperback. David Small’s Stitches (W.W. Norton) offers a beautifully rendered and stunningly bleak look at a miserable childhood. It’s a really great graphic novel.

There are also new issues of three very different and very entertaining pamphlet comics. First is the second issue of Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, following the Young Avengers as they search for the Scarlet Witch to the dismay of most of the rest of the residents of the Marvel universe, who seem happy to assume that the longtime heroine is evil and crazy. Next is the penultimate (I think) issue of Brandon Graham’s King City from Image, whose website is so terrible that I won’t even bother trying to find a link to additional information on the comic. And last is the fourth issue of Stumptown, a smart tale of a down-on-her-luck private investigator from Oni.

What looks good to you?

Updated: I forgot one big pamphlet offering, the arrival of Veronica 202 (Archie Comics) and Riverdale’s first openly gay resident, Kevin Keller. I hope I can find a copy so I can be appropriately derisive when conservative groups condemn the comic.

Birthday book: Underground

May 19, 2010

It’s Steve Lieber’s birthday, and if you’d like to mark the occasion while scoring a really good mini-series in the process, I recommend you pick up the collection of Underground (Image), illustrated by Lieber and written by Jeff (Agents of Atlas) Parker. Lieber and Parker tell the tale of a principled park ranger trying to protect a cave system from greedy developers and trigger-happy thugs, and it’s a nifty bit of genre entertainment that doesn’t usually get much play in comic-book form, unless someone folds in vampires or werewolves. Here’s my review of the first issue. The series held up nicely throughout, and I’d love to read a sequel.

Upcoming 5/5/2010

May 4, 2010

It’s time for our weekly look at the ComicList.

Topping the list is the eighth volume of Hinako Ashihara’s Sand Chronicles (Viz). This installment marks the conclusion of the main story, which began with our heroine, Ann, as an 11-year-old moving to the countryside and ends with her as a 20-something working woman making tough life choices and evaluating the highs and lows of the years that have passed. That long-view approach to a character’s development would be reason enough to spark interest in Sand Chronicles, but it’s Ashihara’s sensitive approach to sometimes melodramatic material that really makes this series a treasure. I’m assuming that Viz will publish the ninth and tenth volumes, which apparently feature side stories about the supporting cast. I can’t wait to read them.

Sensitivity is generally kept to a minimum in Koji Kumeta’s Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (Del Rey), when it isn’t actually called out as a target for mockery. That’s part of the charm. And really, everything is a target for mockery in this rapid-fire satire of contemporary culture, now up to its sixth volume.

The eighth issue of Brandon Graham’s King City arrives courtesy of Image and Tokyopop. We’re into the previously unpublished material at this point, and it’s very enjoyable stuff. The twelfth issue will be the last, at least according to the solicitation in the new Previews.

I can’t say enough good things about the first volume of Kou Yaginuma’s Twin Spica (Vertical), so I’ll point you to someone who says them better. That would be Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey, who offers a lovely assessment of the volume here.

Back with Viz, we have the debut of Flower in a Storm, written and illustrated by Shigeyoshi Takaka. It’s about a super-rich guy who falls in love with a super-athletic girl and tries to hound her into falling in love with him. She can hold her own, and he’s lovable in a stupid sort of way (as opposed to a princely, know-it-all way), so the dynamic isn’t as gross as it could be (and has been). I read a review copy courtesy of Viz, and it’s not bad. I’ll probably read the second volume, but it doesn’t seem like the kind of title that will reside forever in my shôjo-geek heart. This is in spite of the fact that it was originally published in Hakusensha’s LaLa and LaLa DX, which almost always generate titles I love.

And it’s time for another tidal wave of One Piece (Viz), written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda. We get volumes 44 through 48 and the omnibus collecting volumes 10 through 12. I plan on writing a full entry on the omnibus sometime in the next week, because I’m tragic that way, so I’ll just note that lots of important things happen in this omnibus. This being Oda, the milestones pass much more efficiently than they would in other shônen series so that he can fixate on what seems like a side story and turn it into an epic. I’ll also note about the series in general that it reminds me of a really good Avengers run. The cast is a great mix of heavy hitters and try hard-ers, each with their own moving, consequential back story, and they’re together because they want to be. Unlike even the best Avengers runs, the cast of One Piece actually helps people rather than just responding to attacks from people who hate them. (There’s plenty of that kind of material too.)

Upcoming 4/7/2010

April 6, 2010

Perhaps looking through this week’s ComicList will distract me from the fact that I have a perfectly miserable cold. Perhaps not, but I should at least write this up before I start self-medicating.

Fanfare/Ponent Mon releases the fourth volume of The Times of Botchan, written by Natsuo Sekikawa and illustrated by Jiro Taniguchi. Here’s what the publisher has to say about the series:

“The Meija Era (1868-1912) was probably the most defining period in Japanese history. It was a time of massive change from the more traditional; Takugawa era to a positioning of Japan in the modern world. Contemporary writer, Soseki Natsume, suffered due to all the social and cultural changes and expressed his feelings through his character Botchan, a classic in the vein of Mark Twain or Charles Dickens.”

I believe the seventh issue of Brandon Graham’s King City (Image) marks the start of material that hasn’t been previously published by Tokyopop, so if you were waiting for the new stuff, tomorrow is the day. Of course, if you’ve been waiting, you’ve missed the handsome pamphlet packaging. I won’t judge either way.

And, since it’s the first week of the month, Viz will try to crush us all with new arrivals.

New on the shôjo front is Rinko (Tail of the Moon) Ueda’s Stepping on Roses, which is being serialized in Shueisha’s Margaret magazine. It’s about a desperately poor young women who agrees to marry a snotty aristocrat so that he can snag an inheritance. Viz sent me a review copy, and, while it’s got aggressively attractive art, it’s one of those stories about a powerless girl who gets yanked around by a jerky guy. It’s not as distasteful as Black Bird, but my attention quickly drifts from punching-bag romances unless the creator does something really interesting and self-aware.

Much more to my liking, at least based on the first volume, is the second installment of Yuki Midorikawa’s Natsume’s Book of Friends, which is currently being serialized in Hakusensha’s LaLa magazine. Generally speaking, I prefer Hakusensha’s shôjo to almost anyone else’s. For bonus points, this one’s about a kid who can see supernatural creatures. It’s executed very well, which makes up for the fact that none of the stories are particularly groundbreaking. (For example, a group of kids sneak into a haunted school in this volume, which has been done a million times. That doesn’t mean no one should ever do it again, of course.)

Last, and certainly not least, is the latest wave of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, volumes 39 to 43. These have been out in bookstores for a while, so I already own them and have read them, because I’m addicted. Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney tweeted that “if you could only save 5 One Piece volumes from a fire, these would be [his] choice.” I haven’t read all of the available volumes yet, so I don’t know if I’d agree, but I can say that these volumes represent Oda in very fine form – big, crazy action, surprisingly wrenching, character-driven drama, and lots of laughs.

Upcoming 3/24/2010

March 23, 2010

Depending on your tastes, it’s a relatively lean week for comics arrivals, but there are still some appealing options.

NBM releases the third in a series of graphic novels created in collaboration with the Louvre in Paris. It’s On the Odd Hours by Eric Liberge, and the preview pages are quite striking. Johanna (Comics Worth Reading) Draper Carlson has posted a favorable early review. NBM is offering a bargain if you purchase On the Odd Hours along with Nicolas De Crécy’s gorgeous Glacial Period.

Those of us who’ve been itching to see some of Eisner Hall of Fame nominee Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s early, pulpy dramas will have our itch scratched when Drawn and Quarterly releases Black Blizzard. D&Q doesn’t seem to have a permalink for the book yet, but scroll down a bit on this page and you can see some preview pages.

I’m much more interested in Dark Horse’s omnibus editions of CLAMP’s Cardcaptor Sakura, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that the first volume of the manga super-group’s Chobits is due on Wednesday. It’s about a struggling nerd who finds a computer shaped like a beautiful girl. It was originally licensed for English publication by Tokyopop until original publisher Kodansha withdrew its titles from Tokyopop and handed the relevant CLAMP titles over to Dark Horse, perhaps as a consolation prize for the fact that Kodansha yanked Akira and Ghost in the Shell from Dark Horse to sort-of launch its own comics-in-translation imprint. Next week on All My Licenses

Speaking of properties that used to call Tokyopop home, Image releases the sixth issue of Brandon Graham’s King City. I’m not going to bother trying to link to this one, but I’ve been enjoying this series very much in pamphlet form, and the individual packages are very handsome things.

Viz has only one book to offer, and I bought it a couple of weeks ago at a bookstore. It’s the third omnibus edition of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece, collecting volumes seven, eight and nine. I’m of the opinion that all of Oda’s gifts as a creator really, truly come together in the ninth volume, but I’ll get into that in more detail at a later date, possibly Sunday, since that’s the day I seem to devote to my pitiful One Piece geek-outs. We now enter an unfortunate fallow period before the release of new volumes and the fourth omnibus. I may have to pick up the tenth, eleventh and twelfth volumes individually, though I may maintain my resolve to stick with the cheaper omnibuses.

Upcoming 3/3/2010

March 2, 2010

An interesting mix of books will be arriving at comic shops this week.

First and foremost is Vertical’s soft-cover version of Osamu Tezuka’s MW. This is one of my favorite comics by Tezuka, as you could probably guess from my really long discussion of it with Tom Spurgeon. Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey is giving away four copies of the book, and she takes the opportunity to revisit her review.

Staying with the classics, CMX releases the 15th volume of Kyoko Ariyoshi’s peerless ballet drama, Swan. In a weird coincidence, I’ve also written about this one at length.

Underground (Image), a nifty mini-series written by Jeff Parker and illustrated by Steve Lieber with colors by Ron Chan, concludes with its fifth issue. I can’t seem to find a cover image, but you can go visit the title’s site and see some sample pages. I’ve enjoyed this cave-bound tale of rangers versus no-good developers quite a bit.

Marvel gathers a whole lot of talent for its three-issue Girl Comics mini-series, which debuts Wednesday. It’s got a kind of unfortunate name, but what’s new about that? The participation of Colleen Coover will probably meet the price of admission, at least for me. You can take a look at several preview pages over at Comics Alliance.

Or you could just dump all of your comics budget on new volumes of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece from Viz, specifically the 34th, 35th, 36th, 37th, and 38th. I won’t lie; I’d almost entirely support that decision, because I’ve developed a seriously unhealthy addiction to this tale of dimwitted pirates and the out-there friends and foes they meet as they pursue big dreams.

But if you did that, you’d be denying yourself the pleasure of the ninth volume of Chica Umino’s Honey and Clover, so my support for an Oda-centric purchasing strategy must be at least partly qualified. And really, after five volumes of nutty high-seas adventure, won’t it feel nice to decompress with some quirky, art-school drama?