Previews review December 2010

December 9, 2010

Hey, what’s this phone-book thing lying here on my coffee table? Why, it’s the Diamond Previews catalog! Let’s look inside!

Okay, the excitement doesn’t really begin until we reach page 275, specifically the Fantagraphics listings, specifically the debut of Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son. What’s it about?

“The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. Written and drawn by one of today’s most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino’s very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace. Volume one introduces our two protagonists and the friends and family whose lives intersect with their own.”

Any value-added aspects worth mentioning?

Wandering Son is a sophisticated work of literary manga translated with rare skill and sensitivity by veteran translator and comics scholar Matt Thorn.”

Sold! Wandering Son is up to 12 volumes in serialization in Enterbrain’s Comic Beam, which is clearly one of the most fabulous magazines in human history.

Flipping onward to page 284, we discover that NBM is publishing another of the Louvre comics, produced in partnership with the legendary museum. This one’s called The Sky over the Louvre, written by Bernard Yslaire and illustrated by Jean-Claude Carriere. This one sounds a bit less fanciful than the previous three, Glacial Period, On the Odd Hours, and The Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert. This time around, readers are taken “back to the very origins of the Louvre as a museum: the tumultuous years of the French revolution.” I don’t think we have enough comics featuring Robespierre.

Ever onward to page 288! We’ve got sensitive drama and art history, but how to round that out? Why, with gritty, contemporary detective fiction! In this case, I’m talking about the hardcover collection of the first volume of Stumptown (Oni Press), written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Matthew Southworth. It’s about a down-on-her-luck private eye in the Pacific Northwest named Dex who gets the chance to cover a gambling debt by finding the casino owner’s missing granddaughter. Dex is a fun, tough character, and the mystery is twisty and amusingly grimy.

Toward the back of the only part of the catalog I bother to read, we learn that two manga publishers will be launching new series that originated in Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume magazine. This is generally a good sign for a shôjo series.

On page 300, we encounter the first volume of Touya Tobina’s Clean-Freak: Fully Equipped (Tokyopop), which tells the undoubtedly heartrending tale of a mysophobe going on his first school trip. On page 312, we learn of the first volume of Izumi Tsubaki’s Oresama Teacher (Viz), which sees the leader of a girl gang exiled from the city to an isolated school in the countryside. Wackiness presumably ensues.

Vive la France!

July 14, 2010

It’s Bastille Day, so I thought I’d put together a quick list of some of my favorite comics by French creators and some of my favorite comics set in France. It’s tough, because so many of them are so great, but I’ll try not to go overboard. Off the top of my head, here are some of my favorite comics by French writers and artists:

  • Aya, written by Marguerite Abouet and illustrated by Clément Oubrerie (Drawn & Quarterly): Wonderfully funny and thoughtful multigenerational soap opera about coming of age in the Ivory Coast of the 1970s.
  • Little Nothings, written and illustrated by Lewis Trondheim (NBM): Really terrific slice-of-life and observational humor from a wonderful cartoonist.
  • The Rabbi’s Cat, written and illustrated by Joann Sfar (Pantheon): A rabbi in Algeria finds his cat can talk, and the cat has no shortage of distressing philosophical opinions.
  • Klezmer, written and illustrated by Joann Sfar (First Second): I really like Sfar, what can I say? I even liked Vampire Loves, and I usually hate vampire comics. When are we going to get more of this wonderful tale of Jewish musicians in Eastern Europe?
  • Get a Life, written and illustrated by Philippe Dupuy and Charles Berberian: Why haven’t there been more collections of Monsieur Jean stories published in English? This one’s a treasure.
  • Glacial Period, written and illustrated by Nicolas de Crécy (NBM): Still my favorite of the comics created in conjunction with the Louvre. (Holy crap, NBM is going to publish Salvatore this winter! My wish came true!)
  • My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill, written by Jean Regnaud and illustrated by Émille Bravo (Fanfare/Ponent Mon): Deservedly nominated for a few Eisner Awards this year,
  • Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators, written and illustrated by various creators (Fanfare/Ponent Mon): Half of this book constitutes an invasion of Japan by various wonderful French comic artists. The other half is wonderful Japanese comic artists telling stories about their hometowns. There is no losing in this book. I’d love to see the same group take on France as Viewed by 17 Creators.
  • And here are a couple of comics set in France that I really like:

  • Paris, written by Andi Watson and illustrated by Simon Gane (SLG): This tale of young women in love in the Paris of the 1920s is so gorgeous it almost hurts.
  • Gerard and Jacques, written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga (Blu): Over time, I’ve willfully forgotten the fact that this series opens with coercive sex, because I love watching the characters natter at each other in between bouts of steamy, consensual congress.
  • What did I forget? Or what should I look into? What about comics from or set in France that have yet to be translated? Between their indigenous talent and the volume of licensed manga they enjoy, the French are sick with awesome comics.

    Upcoming 7/8/2010

    July 7, 2010

    As we dive into this week’s ComicList, I’ll remind you that I’ve already named a pick of the week (the second volume of Kou Yuginami’s Twin Spica from Vertical), but there’s lots of other interesting material on its way.

    I was a big fan of Chigusa Kawai’s dreamy, intense La Esperança (DMP), so I have high hopes for Kawai’s Alice the 101st (also DMP). It’s about an elite music school that admits an out-of-nowhere prodigy at the violin. Kate (The Manga Critic) Dacey gave it a provisional thumbs-up, noting that it’s “haping up to be a very entertaining series about a young musician learning the hard truth: there’s only one way to get to Carnegie Hall.”

    If Young Avengers had come out with any regularity, I might not have abandoned Marvel entirely after the systematic trashing of the character of the Scarlet Witch. Young Avengers creators Alan Heinberg and Jimmy Cheung reunite for Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, which features the teen super-team searching for the Scarlet Witch and teases the possibility that one of the company’s first major heroines might be repaired and redeemed. It’s nine issues long and will be released bi-monthly, which is kind of frustrating, but it’s not exactly onerous in terms of cost, just patience.

    I’m always game for one of Rick Geary’s Treasury of XXth Century Murder offerings. This time around, he tells the undoubtedly gruesome tale of The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans, which promises “Nights of terror! A city awash in blood! New Orleans right after the First World War. The party returns to the Big Easy but someone looks to spoil it. Grocers are being murdered in the dead of night by someone grabbing their axe and hacking them right in their own cushy beds!” It sounds perfectly charming, doesn’t it?

    It’s a big week for Viz, so I’ll focus on two books. My Viz shônen pick of the week would have to be the 54th volume of Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece. I’m a little behind on the recent volumes, but it won’t take me very long to catch up.

    My Viz shôjo pick of the week would have to be the 21st volume of Ai Yazawa’s gorgeous NANA, sexy rock-and-roll soap opera that should appeal to anyone who might like that sort of thing, because it’s really one of the best examples. Speaking of Yazawa, her English-language debut, Paradise Kiss (Tokyopop), will be the next subject of the Manga Moveable Feast.

    Last, but not least, I’m always up for a new volume of Time and Again (Yen Press), sly supernatural comeuppance theatre from JiUn Yun.

    What looks good to you?

    Previews review April 2010

    April 5, 2010

    The first thing I’d like to note about the current edition of Diamond’s Previews catalog is that the addition of new “premier publishers” to the front makes the midsection look even sadder and slimmer. That said, there are still many promising items contained there.

    CMX offers a one-shot, The Phantom Guesthouse, written and illustrated by Nari Kusakawa, creator of the well-liked Recipe for Gertrude, Palette of Twelve Secret Colors, and Two Flowers for the Dragon. It’s a supernatural mystery that was originally published by that stalwart purveyor of quality shôjo, Hakusensha, though I can’t tell which magazine serialized it. (Page 127.)

    It’s been some time since the last collection of Tyler Page’s Nothing Better (Dementian Comics), the story of college roommates with very different backgrounds and personal philosophies. I’m glad to see more of the web-serialized comic see print. (Page 279.)

    It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that we got the fourth volume of Drawn & Quarterly’s lovely collection of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, but here comes the fifth. According to the blurb, “this volume features the final strips drawn by Tove Jansson and written by her brother Lars for the London Evening News.” It’s utterly charming stuff. (Page 280.)

    Speaking of utterly charming stuff, how can you possibly resist a book subtitled The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans? Well, okay, knowing nothing else, that’s pretty resistible. But what if I told you it was the new installment of Rick Geary’s outstanding A Treasury of XXth Century Murder? Singing a different tune, aren’t you? (Page 298.)

    Netcomics busts out what seems to be the manhwa equivalent of josei with the first volume of Youngran Lee’s There’s Something About Sunyool. It’s about a pastry chef who gets dumped just after her trip to the altar and, rebuilds her life, and then is faced with her “lawyer ex-husband and her gay would-be lover.” I hate when that happens. (Page 299.)

    In other josei news, Tokyopop spreads joy throughout the land (or at least the corner of it that I occupy) by listing the fourth volume of Mari Okazaki’s glorious office-lady drama Suppli. (Page 317.)

    Vertical really brings the joy, though, offering not only the first volume of Kanata Konami’s eagerly anticipated Chi’s Sweet Home but also the second of Kou Yaginuma’s Twin Spica. I’ve already discussed Chi’s Sweet Home at perhaps monotonous length, but you should really consider this the eye of the storm, because I’m sure I’ll natter even more as we approach its summer release. I read the first volume of Twin Spica and liked it very, very much. It’s the kind of low-key, serious, slice-of-life science fiction that will probably appeal to fans of Planetes and Saturn Apartments. (Page 324.)

    Did you enjoy Natsume Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso (Viz)? I did. If you did, you can learn more about the mysteriously handsome, bespectacled restaurant staff in Ono’s Gente and “follow these dashing men home and witness their romances, heartaches, hopes and dreams.” (Page 325.)

    That’s a good month right there.

    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.

    Birthday book: The Saga of the Bloody Benders

    February 25, 2010

    It’s sometimes a little tricky to recommend a particular birthday book when the creator’s body of work is so strong overall, and that’s the case with Rick Geary. I could go with Dark Horse’s hardcover collection of the charming The Adventures of Blanche, but I first became familiar with his work in the context of his excellent true-crime comics, so I’ll dip into that well.

    But even with that set of boundaries, which one should I choose? They’re all good, and they don’t need to be read in any particular order. I could throw the titles into a hat and pick one at random, but one volume has managed to inch ahead in my mental Geary library: The Saga of the Bloody Benders.

    Geary’s approach to true crime has always got some added value to it, as he takes the time to explore historical and cultural circumstances that either influenced or provided context for the atrocity in question. This tale of an opportunistic family of cutthroats in Kansas is no exception. And there’s just something creepy about such a nest of vipers occupying those wide open spaces (even wider and more open then than now) in the midst of so much homesteader optimism.

    A distinguishing characteristic of The Bloody Benders is that I feel like it netted more effusive critical attention than Geary’s Treasury of Victorian Murder books had up to that point. The quality of the reviews was as admiring as always, but the number of them was higher, which was gratifying to see. Here’s a representative snippet from Tom (The Comics Reporter) Spurgeon:

    “The story stays with you. Something about the way Geary delineates the proportions of the living area gives the recurring crimes a horrifying intimacy, and when the nature of what’s going on is revealed as the narrative progresses the thoroughness with which the Benders cleave to murder and atrocity astonishes.”

    The book also made the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2008 list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens.

    Upcoming 2/17/2010

    February 16, 2010

    Now that the Sexy Voice and Robo Manga Moveable Feast has pretty much wound down, things can return to what passes for normal here at The Manga Curmudgeon. (Though if you want to add your thoughts on Kuroda’s book, I’ll happily add them to the roster.) So let’s take a look at this week’s ComicList along with a quick recap on last week’s neglected offerings.

    If a week’s shipping list includes a new volume of Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, then that volume will very likely be the book of the week. It’s just that simple. Here are some thoughts on the seventh volume from Johanna Draper Carlson at Manga Worth Reading:

    “Urasawa’s use of standard action manga elements demonstrates that it’s not the raw material, it’s what you do with it. He draws so well and he’s so clearly thought through what he’s doing with these elements that cliched scenes, such as a prison escape chase, become interesting all over again.”

    This is easily one of the most enjoyable series of any provenance that you’re likely to find in a comic shop or bookstore.

    Also out from Viz is the first volume of one of their IKKI series, Bokurano: Ours, written and illustrated by Mohiro Kitoh. It’s about a group of classmates who end up piloting a giant robot. I’m not going to lie. This one runs at about the middle of the pack for me of the titles serialized at the IKKI site, but perhaps reading it in book form will leave me with a more enthusiastic impression. It just feels kind of standard to me next to all of the other series on offer.

    CMX offers new volumes of two series from a category that’s a particular strength for the imprint, endearing shôjo. I preferred Natsuna Kawase’s The Lapis Lazuli Crown to A Tale of an Unknown Country, but the latter is charming enough that I’ll certainly snag the second volume. I am seriously behind on Yuki Nakaji’s Venus in Love, so I’ll likely have to do a big catch-up order at some point before I can commit to buying the eighth volume. It’s an endearing college love triangle-quadrangle-pentagram, so I’ll definitely make the effort.

    As to last week, here are some of the retrospective highlights:

  • Little Nothings vol. 3: Uneasy Happiness, written and illustrated by Lewis Trondheim, NBM: Funny, smart observational comics available for your perusal at NBM’s blog.
  • Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit vol. 4, written and illustrated by Motoro Mase, Viz: Mase has got your death panels right here, Palin. I like this series. I don’t think it’s one for the ages or anything, but I always pick up new volumes in a timely fashion, which has to mean something.
  • Juné’s Reversible anthology, which I reviewed yesterday.

  • Elsewhere in 2009

    December 30, 2009

    This isn’t really a “Best of 2009” list, as I don’t feel like I read enough comics from places other than Japan to make that kind of list with a sufficient degree of authority, but I didn’t want to neglect books that I really enjoyed this year. I’m not going to say that all of these books are equally entertaining or good in the same ways; I’m not shooting for an equivalent level of quality. I’m just saying that these are the books that lingered in my memory and that I’ll return to again in the future. I’ll subdivide the books into “New Stuff” and “Continuing Stuff.”

    New Stuff:

    The Adventures of Blanche, written and illustrated by Rick Geary, Dark Horse. Comics by Geary are always a cause for celebration, and this collection of stories about a feisty musician traipsing through genre-based dangers was one of the year’s most pleasant surprises.

    Asterios Polyp, written and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, Pantheon. I’m always a little surprised when someone describes this book as technically brilliant but cold. I thought it had a very solid emotional core beyond the astonishing level of craft.

    Johnny Hiro, written and illustrated by Fred Chao, AdHouse Books. This book didn’t do nearly as well as it should have in pamphlet form, so let me extend my heartfelt thanks to AdHouse for collecting the existing issues plus unpublished material. It’s simultaneously a winning genre mash-up and a warm, grown-up romance, and it’s a treat.

    Masterpiece Comics, written and illustrated by R. Sikoryak, Drawn & Quarterly. What do you get when you combine great works of literature with classics of comic books and strips? In Sikoryak’s case, you get breezy, inspired work that displays great versatility, intelligence, and a sense of fun.

    Mijeong, written and illustrated by Byung-jun Byun, NBM. It’s not as good as Run! Bong-Gu, Run!, but this collection of short stories is never short of very, very good and is often brilliant.

    My Mommy Is in America and She Met Buffalo Bill, written by Jean Regnaud, illustrated by Émile Bravo, Fanfare/Ponent Mon. Gloriously sad and sharply observed, this book offers one of the freshest looks at childhood and grief you’re ever likely to find.

    Nightschool: The Weirn Books, written and illustrated by Svetlana Chamkova, Yen Press. A comic featuring vampires and teenagers that doesn’t make me roll my eyes until they water? What strange magic is this? It’s actually just Chamkova fulfilling her prodigious promise as a graphic storyteller.

    Stitches: A Memoir, written and illustrated by David Small, W.W. Norton and Company. Aside from being strikingly drawn, I think this is a beautifully shaped memoir, functioning perfectly as a story in its own right. The fact that the terrible things Small relates actually happened just adds a layer of disquiet.

    Underground, written by Jeff Parker, illustrated by Steve Lieber, colored by Ron Chan, Image Comics: There should be more snappy genre comics like this, you know? It’s a smartly executed thriller set in the perilous depths of a cave in the Appalachians.

    Continuing Stuff:

    Aya: The Secrets Come Out, written by Marguerite Abouet, illustrated by Clément Oubrerie, Drawn & Quarterly. I was briefly afraid that this was the final volume of this wistful, multigeneration soap opera about life in the Ivory Coast in the 1970s. Fortunately, there seem to be at least two more volumes still to come of Aya and her unmanageable friends and family.

    Empowered, written and illustrated by Adam Warren, Dark Horse. I’m so glad that Dark Horse released a pamphlet chapter of this ongoing series of graphic novels, as that might help to build the audience it deserves. Smutty and sweet in equal measure, it’s as sharp a parody of super-heroics as you’re ever likely to find.

    Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, written and illustrated by Tove Jansson, Drawn & Quarterly. This is a golden age of reprints of quality comic strips, and this is my absolute favorite of the bunch.

    Salt Water Taffy, written and illustrated by Matthew Loux, Oni Press. Two brothers embrace the weird on a seaside vacation. This is my go-to all-ages recommendation, by which I mean I’m as strident in suggesting adults buy it as I am in suggesting that kids will like it.

    Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe, written and illustrated by Bryan Lee O’Malley, Oni Press. As long as this book is releasing new volumes, it will be on any list of this nature that I write.

    Yôkaiden, written and illustrated by Nina Matsumoto, Del Rey. This witty fantasy-adventure got even better with the second volume. Now we have to wait for the third.

    Previews review December 2009

    December 8, 2009

    Why just look at what’s arriving when you can look three months… into the future? Yes, it’s time to peruse the December 2009 edition of Diamond’s Previews catalog.

    New shôjo from CMX is always worth a look. This month’s offering is My Darling! Miss Bancho, written and illustrated by Mayu Fujikata. It’s a reverse-harem romantic comedy about a girl whose dreams of starting a new life go south when she realizes she’s the only female student at her new technical school. It was originally published by Hakusensha in LaLa, which has also given the world Ouran High School Host Club, Penguin Revolution, Venus in Love, and Vampire Knight, among others. That would make the magazine what one might call a “reliable source.” (Page 119)

    On the ongoing front, we have the second volume of Asuka Izumi’s adorable The Lizard Prince and the 15th volume of Yasuko Aokie’s mad classic, From Eroica with Love. (Page 121)

    CLAMP fans, rejoice! Not only is Del Rey publishing CLAMP in America, a richly detailed history of the manga-making super-group, it’s being written by the inimitable Shaenon Garrity. Del Rey also promises “a detailed guide to their work; a rare behind-the-scenes look at their creative process, together and separately; CLAMP’s role in the explosion of manga in America; interviews, and more.” Sounds like an essential for CLAMP fans, Garrity fans, and manga watchers in general. So that’s basically everyone, right? (Page 224)

    I loved Raina Telgemeier’s Smile mini-comics, so I’m thrilled that they’ve turned into a new graphic novel to be published by Graphix. Publishers Weekly calls it a “charming addition to the body of young adult literature that focuses on the trials and tribulations of the slightly nerdy girl.” Graphix doesn’t seem to have added it to its web site, so I’ll point you toward the Barnes & Noble listing. (Page 236)

    NBM has been translating a series of graphic novels created in conjunction with the Louvre museum in Paris. I loved the first, Nicolas De Crécy’s Glacial Period, and thought the second, Marc-Antoine Mathieu’s The Museum Vaults: Excerpts from the Journal of an Expert, was intriguing but problematic. But honestly, I’ll buy any of these books that NBM chooses to publish. Next up is Eric Liberge’s On the Odd Hours, about “a deaf night watchman who somehow manages to communicate with the souls of these ethereal and timeless works of art.” (Page 256)

    Oni offers a softcover edition of Scott Chantler’s terrific historical adventure, Northwest Passage. I’ve already reviewed the hell out of this series, so I’ll link instead of repeating myself. (Page 257)

    While I don’t usually point out books that are being offered again without any significant format changes, I have to make an exception for Osamu Tezuka’s demented bit of gekiga brilliance, MW (Vertical). If you missed it the first time around, now’s your chance. (Page 272)

    Viz sent me a preview copy of Natsume Ono’s not simple, and I’m even more convinced that 2010 will be the year she explodes in stateside critical (and hopefully consumer) consciousness. It’s an amazing book. This edition of Previews brings the happy news that Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso will soon be in our hands (if you consider three months soon). It’s about family secrets and a restaurant in Rome staffed by hunky men of a certain age. I can’t wait. (Page 277) You can check out Ono’s splendid House of Five Leaves on Viz’s SIGIKKI site.

    Other noteworthy Signature arrivals include the fourth volume of Detroit Metal City and the eighth and final volume of Pluto. (Page 277)

    And speaking of Viz’s online initiatives, a Shonen Sunday title sees print. It’s shôjo superstar Yuu Watase’s shônen debut, Arata: The Legend. (Page 280)

    Upcoming 11/18/2009

    November 17, 2009

    Chris Mautner published an appreciative primer on the great Osamu Tezuka over at Robot 6, and it’s nicely timed. This week’s ComicList offers new volumes of one of Tezuka’s enduring classics and a series based on another of his icons.

    Vertical keeps the medical madness coming with the eighth volume of Tezuka’s Black Jack. Mautner notes that the comic is “not for the squeamish, and like Astro Boy it’s very episodic, with Jack pulling off one fantastic operation after another. Those who can handle the occasionally bit of surgically sliced organs and flesh will find this to be a worth their time however.” I tend to fall into the squeamish category, and I find Black Jack to be a continuing source of delight, so take that for whatever it’s worth.

    The very talented Naoki (Monster, 20th Century Boys) Urasawa’s re-imagining of Tezuka’s Astro Boy classic, “The Greatest Robot on Earth,” continues in the sixth volume of Pluto. It’s a nifty blend of science fiction and murder mystery, and it’s my second-favorite Urasawa series currently being published by Viz.

    Of course, it’s not all Tezuka this week. There’s also Oishinbo: The Joy of Rice, written by Tetsu Kariya and illustrated by Akira Hanasaki. I’ve really been looking forward to this volume, since I’ve never been able to consistently cook rice well, and I’m hoping it has some good advice mixed in with the toxic father-son posturing. Even if it doesn’t help me with my rice issues, I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading it.

    Speaking of things I’ve been enjoying, it’s nice to be able to get in on the ground floor of Yellow Tanabe’s Kekkeishi over at Viz’s Shonen Sunday site. The print version of the series is up to its 19th volume. The Shonen Sunday site has added some other fun series like Yakitate!! Japan (over-the-top bread-baking battles) and Case Closed (teen sleuth trapped in the body of a little kid).

    The cheap among us will rejoice at the arrival of the softcover version of Rick Geary’s Treasury of XXth Century Murder: Famous Players, the Mysterious Death of William Desmond Taylor. I read a prose version of the story a long time ago, so it will be interesting to see Geary’s telling. Of course, it’s always interesting to see Geary’s telling of anything.