The news so far

July 23, 2010

Updated: Awesome as the two titles below sound, Yen Press pulled into the lead of winning Comic Con International by announcing the following license:

Yes, they will be publishing Kaoru (Emma) Mori’s Otoyomegatari, which moves Yen into the august group of publishers who have fulfilled one of my license requests. Others include Vertical and NBM.

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Updated again: But the Mori book still holds the top spot. Brigid (Robot 6) Alverson reports on a couple of upcoming books by Shigeru (GeGeGe no Kitaro) Mizuki from Drawn & Quarterly. At least one has been published in French by Cornélius. With the other, I’m not sure what the original Japanese title might have been or how it might have been translated. Sounds dramatic, though. Updated: It was confirmed for me that the second book has also been published in French.

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They may not have been on my wish list, but Comic Con International has already yielded two really interesting-sounding licenses, so we’ll take the week off from requests in favor of pointing you towards more information on these announcements.

Vertical will be publishing Usumaru Furuya’s Lychee Light Club. Brigid Alverson has the details at Robot 6. Maybe this will do really well, and someone will decide to rescue Furuya’s 51 Ways to Save Her. Think of the headline puns!

Brigid also has details and some preview pages of Masahiko Matsumoto’s Cigarette Girl, due out from Top Shelf, who seems to want to give Drawn & Quarterly a run for their gekiga money. Competition is healthy!


Upcoming 6/3/2010

June 2, 2010

It’s not a huge week for new comics, but there are plenty of potentially enjoyable arrivals on the ComicList.

It’s a very good week for fans of Kathryn Immonen. She’s got a new mini-series at Marvel called Heralds, illustrated by Tonci Zonic, which features a group of super-heroines dealing with a threat posed by a not-quite-dead-yet female herald of Galactus. I liked her work on the Hellcat mini-series, and in spite of its awful covers and insulting marketing, I liked Zonic’s work on Marvel Divas, which featured a number of the same characters. I’m also looking forward to seeing Hellcat and Valkyrie fighting side by side, as they were mainstays of The Defenders back in the day. I have no idea why any of these women would attend a birthday party for Emma Frost, or why Cyclops would think they’d want to do so, but…

Kathryn Immonen teams up with gifted illustrator Stuart Immonen for Moving Pictures (Top Shelf). The publisher describes it as “the story of the awkward and dangerous relationship between curator Ila Gardner and officer Rolf Hauptmann, as they are forced by circumstances to play out their private lives in a public power struggle. The narrative unfolds along two timelines which collide with the revelation of a terrible secret, an enigmatic decision that not many would make, and the realization that sometimes the only choice left is the refusal to choose.”

Viz does its usual first-week flood with tons of shônen and shôjo. The two most interesting-sounding debuts are Library Wars: Love and War, story and art by Kiiro Yumi, original concept by Hiro Arikawa. It’s about militarized librarians protecting books and preventing censorship. You can find approving early reviews at Manga Worth Reading and The Manga Critic.

On the shônen front, there’s Toriko, written and illustrated by Mitsutoshi Shimabukuro. It follows the titular “Gourmet Hunter,” who must “hunt down the ferocious ingredients that supply the world’s best restaurants.” I suppose this technically counts as food manga, so I feel obligated to read it. MangaBlog’s Brigid Alverson thinks it fulfills its aims admirably.

Elsewhere in Viz’s listings is the final volume of Chica Umino’s lovely Honey and Clover and a bunch of new volumes of Eiichiro Oda’s excellent One Piece.


Previews review May 2010

May 2, 2010

There aren’t very many debuting titles in the May 2010 edition of the Previews catalog, but there are lots of new volumes of slow-to-arrive titles that are worth noting.

First up would have to be the omnibus collection of Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi (Del Rey), offering volumes eight through ten. (It seems appropriate, since this is the title’s week in the Manga Moveable Feast spotlight.) These volumes were fairly meaty individually, and getting three in one for $24.99 seems like a really good value. (Page 292.) Edit: The tenth volume is the final one of the series, so this will conclude Mushishi in English.

Also on the “good manga for relatively cheap” front is the third volume of Kaoru Tada’s Itazura Na Kiss (Digital Manga). What mishaps will befall our dumb heroine Kotoko in pursuit of the smart boy of her dreams? (Page 295.)

I’m just going to come out and say that A Distant Neighborhood was my second favorite Jiro Taniguchi title of 2009. Topping that category was The Summit of the Gods, written by Yumemakura Baku. The second volume is due from Fanfare/Ponent Mon. (Page 304.)

A new volume of Adam Warren’s super-smart, addictive satire, Empowered (Dark Horse), is always good news. It seems like Warren gets around to dealing with the rather loose definition of mortality among the spandex set, and I’d much rather read his take than something like Blackest Night. (Page 35.)

Is it ungrateful of me to be really eager to see what Bryan Lee O’Malley does next? It’s not that I’m indifferent to the conclusion of the Scott Pilgrim saga (which arrives in the form of the sixth volume, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour from Oni Press), which I’m sure I’ll love as much as the previous five. But O’Malley’s been working on Scott for a long time. (Page 233.)

Before we jump fully into the “all-new stuff” department, I’ll bypass quickly to Dark Horse’s release of an omnibus edition of CLAMP’s Magic Knight Rayearth. You can get all three volumes of this magic-girl shôjo classic from the manga superstars. (Page 53.)

CMX publishes a lot of excellent shôjo from Hakusensha, but they branch out this month with Rika Suzuki’s Tableau Gate. It originally ran in Akita Shoten’s Princess Gold, and it’s about a guy who must help a girl capture some escaped tarot cards. I’m sort of a sucker for comics with tarot imagery, and I trust CMX’s taste in shôjo. (Page 129.)

I’m always game for a new graphic novel drawn by Faith Erin Hicks, and First Second is kind enough to provide one. It’s called Brain Camp, and it’s about oddballs dealing with mysterious forces, which is right in Hicks’s wheelhouse. The script is by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan. (Page 305.)

It’s coming! It’s coming! Top Shelf’s 400-page collection of alternative manga, AX, finally hits the solicitation phase, and it should be very exciting to see. (Page 342.)

Vertical continues to branch out of classic manga mode with the English-language debut of Felibe Smith’s Peepo Choo. For those who’ve forgotten, Smith has been creating the series for Kodansha’s Morning Two magazine. It’s about a kid from Chicago who gets mixed up with a model from Tokyo and a lot of underworld mayhem. (Page 346.)

I don’t get a particularly good vibe off of Kaneyoshi Izumi’s Seiho Boys’ High School!, due out from Viz. It’s about the student body of an isolated, all-boys’ high school. Anyone who’s read more than one boys’-love title would know how these lads could deal with their isolation, but Izumi apparently decided to take a different approach. The series originally ran in Shogakukan’s Betsucomi.


Swinging the AX

April 28, 2010

Speaking of people and things that start with the letter “A,” Brigid Alverson shares some joyous news at Robot 6: that Top Shelf has solicited its eagerly anticipated AX collection of alternative manga. Here’s the blurb from the Top Shelf newsletter that just arrived in my in-box:

PREORDER TOP SHELF’S JULY RELEASES IN THE CURRENT DIAMOND PREVIEWS!

The new May Diamond Previews catalog has THREE great titles available for pre-ordering: Top Shelf’s first foray into the world of alternative Manga with AX (VOL 1), the debut volume of James Kochalka’s new all-ages series DRAGON PUNCHER, and Renee French’s THE TICKING, finally coming back in print!

AX (VOL 1): A COLLECTION OF ALTERNATIVE MANGA

Edited by Sean Michael Wilson

Compiled by Mitsuhiro Asakawa

— A 400-Page Graphic Novel with French Flaps, $29.95 (US)

— Diamond: MAY10-1136

— ISBN 978-1-60309-042-1

Ax is the premier Japanese magazine for alternative comics. Published bi-monthly for over ten years now, the pages of Ax contain the most creative and cutting-edge works of independent comics from the world’s largest comics industry. Now Top Shelf presents a 400-page collection of stories from ten years of Ax history, translated into English for the first time! This groundbreaking book includes work by 33 artists, including Yoshihiro Tatsumi (A Drifting Life), Imiri Sakabashira (The Box Man), Kazuichi Hanawa (Doing Time), Akino Kondoh, Shin’ichi Abe, and many many more!

I was starting to worry that this might wind up on my “most anticipated titles” list for three years in a row.


Previews review March 2010

February 27, 2010

There’s plenty of interest in the new Previews catalog, as befits that Hallmark Holiday known as “Manga Month,” so let’s dive right in.

Dark Horse celebrates the month in style, though it passes on the Manga Month logo. Still, they’re releasing the first volume of their omnibus treatment of CLAMP’s beloved Cardcaptor Sakura, and this excites me immoderately. I thought Dark Horse did an absolutely beautiful job with their Clover omnibus, so this qualifies as the month’s “must buy.” (Page 51.)

CMX will release Miku Sakamoto’s Nadeshiko Club, a shôjo series from Hakusensha’s Hana to Yume, which is a well-known crack mine. (Personally, I find series from Hakusensha’s LaLa slightly crack-ier, but that’s just a matter of personal preference.) This one spins out of the possibly sexist premise of a girl getting dumped for being insufficiently feminine and joining her school’s home economics club to girl up. CMX has demonstrated excellent taste in shôjo, so this one goes right on the “to buy” list. Rando thought: Hakusensha’s trade dress is really boring. (Page 126.)

Hey, you like Adam Warren’s Empowered, right? He’s writing a one-shot for Marvel, Galacta: Daughter of Galactus, with interior art by Hector Sevilla Lujan and a cover by Warren. I’ll buy anything from Warren, but this does raise the question: who’s this girl’s mother? I really love Warren’s renderings of Marvel stalwarts from the cover image. (Marvel’s insert, page 31.)

Okay, so maybe Cardcaptor Sakura has some competition for book of the month, as Fanfare/Ponent Mon finally releases Korea as Viewed by 12 Creators. “Twelve insightful short graphic stories into the ‘Hermit Kingdom,’ six by European and six by indigenous creators,” the publisher notes. They’re also offering Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators again, so if you’re sick of hearing people recommend it and not being able to find a copy, now’s your chance. (Page 251.)

I’ve liked some comics written by Kathryn Immonen, and I think Stuart Immonen is a terrific artist. They collaborate to explore a potentially fascinating story in Moving Pictures (Top Shelf): “During World War II the Nazis pillaged much of Europe’s great art collections. Museum curator Ila Gardner and SS officer Rolf Hauptmann are forced by circumstances to play out an awkward and dangerous relationship in a public power struggle.” Sounds like a winner to me. (Page 292.)

Cats and comfort food sound like an extremely promising combination, so I’ll take a chance on the first volume of Kenji Sonishi’s Neko Ramen: Hey! Order Up! (Tokyopop). It’s about a “former kitten model” (an actual kitten, apparently, so be at ease) who leaves celebrity behind to become a ramen cook. The only possible down side to this is that it’s a manga based on an anime, which sometimes has mixed results. (Page 297.)

I don’t actually think Kumiko Suekane’s Afterschool Charisma is a good comic, but I find it addictively ridiculous. Viz has been serializing the tale of clones of famous historical figures on its SigIKKI site, and now it’s releasing a print version. It’s probably worth the price of purchase just for the thrill of watching the clone of Sigmund Freud torment his classmates. “Daddy. Daddy. Daddy!” (Page 303.)

You all already known how awesome librarians are, right? But did you know that there’s an action-packed shôjo manga that celebrates that awesomeness? It’s Kiiro Yumi’s Library Wars: Love and War, original concept by Hiro Arikawa, and Viz will release the first volume: “In the near future, the federal government creates a committee to rid society of books it deems unsuitable. The libraries vow to protect their collections, and with the help of local governments, form a military group to defend themselves – the Library Forces!” SOLD. This is an example of the crack-iness of Hakusensha’s LaLa anthology. See what I mean about the trade dress? (Page 305.)

If Cardcaptor Sakura isn’t quite enough CLAMP for you, Yen Press accommodates with the first two volumes of the super-group’s Kobato. It’s about a girl who tries to have a wish granted by mending the wounded hearts of people she meets and “fill a magical bottle with the suffering she has relieved.” This sounds like the kind of CLAMP manga that can be injected directly into a vein. (Page 308.)

Oh, and that Twilight graphic novel is due. (Page 309.)

And there are plenty of new volumes of noteworthy series:

  • 20th Century Boys vol. 9, written and illustrated by Naoki Urasawa, Viz, page 303
  • Black Jack vol. 11, written and illustrated by Osamu Tezuka, Vertical, page 300
  • Children of the Sea vol. 3, written and illustrated by Daisuke Igarashi, Viz, page 303
  • Detroit Metal City vol. 5, written and illustrated by Kiminori Wakasugi, page 303
  • The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 11, written by Eiji Otsuka, illustrated by Housui Yamazaki, Dark Horse, page 53
  • Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture vol. 2, written and illustrated by Masayuki Ishikawa, Del Rey, page 244
  • One Piece vols. 49-53, written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda, Viz, page 305

  • Happy text

    August 6, 2009

    I’m sensing one of those seasonal disturbances in the force where people start to get knowingly pessimistic about The State of Manga and Its Future, so I thought I’d just highlight some of the great books coming out during the remainder of 2009 in the hopes of nipping this round of gloom in the bud. Nouvelle manga, award winners, classic shôjo, an alternative anthology… things are looking pretty terrific from where I’m sitting. Expensive, but terrific.

    adistantneighborhood1A Distant Neighborhood vol. 1, Jiro Taniguchi, Fanfare/Ponent Mon, $23.00, sometime soon: “Who hasn’t thought about reliving their past, correcting perceived mistakes or changing crucial decisions? Would this better your life or the lives of those closest to you? Or would your altered actions prove even more harmful? One man gets the chance to find out… Middle-aged Hiroshi Nakahara is on his way home from a business trip when he finds himself on the wrong train heading for his childhood hometown. His footsteps take him to his mother’s grave and it’s there that he is catapulted back into his life as an 8th grader – but with all his adult memories and knowledge intact. As he struggles to make sense of his predicament his adult memories of his childhood return but are somehow subtly changed. The questions start to form … would his father still disappear without explanation? would he still marry his wife?”

    ookuÔoku: The Inner Chamber, Fumi Yoshinaga, Viz – Signature, $12.99, Aug. 18: “In Edo period Japan, a strange new disease called the Red Pox has begun to prey on the country’s men. Within eighty years of the first outbreak, the male population has fallen by seventy-five percent. Women have taken on all the roles traditionally granted to men, even that of the Shogun. The men, precious providers of life, are carefully protected. And the most beautiful of the men are sent to serve in the Shogun’s Inner Chamber…”

    moyasimon1Moyasimon vol. 1, Mayasuki Ishikawa, Del Rey, $10.99, Sept. 29: “BACTERIA TO SCHOOL: Tadayasu is a new, fresh-faced university student hiding a bizarre secret: He can see germs with the naked eye. Between the machinations of an eccentric professor determined to unlock the power of the microbial world and the doomed agricultural experiments of his fellow students, will Tadayasu ever find the cool college atmosphere he so desires?”

    itazura1logooutlineItazura na Kiss vol. 1, Kaoru Tada, Digital Manga, $16.95, Nov. 4: “High school senior Kotoko Aihara has had a crush on Naoki Irie since freshman year. Unfortunately, there a few things are discouraging her from to him: he’s a member of ‘Class A,’ the top ranking class in school, whereas she’s in ‘Class F’; he gets the top score on every exam; and he’s so smart, popular and handsome that he’s been class president every year. When Kotoki finally musters up the courage to present him with a love letter, though, Naoki outright refuses it, telling her point blank–with a look of disgust and boredom—that he doesn’t like ‘stupid girls.’ Poor Kotoko’s worst nightmare! Her heart is broken, but then a change in circumstance forces Naoki and Kotoko to be together every day…!?”

    ax1Ax (vol. 1): A Collection of Alternative Manga, $29.95, Dec. 29: “Ax is the premier Japanese magazine for alternative comics. Published bi-monthly for over ten years now, the pages of Ax contain the most creative and cutting-edge works of independent comics in the world’s largest comics industry. Now Top Shelf presents a 400-page collection of stories from ten years of Ax history, translated into English for the first time! This groundbreaking book includes work by 33 artists, including Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Akino Kondoh, Kazuichi Hanawa, Shinichi Abe, and many many more!”


    Previews review July 2009

    June 25, 2009

    There’s quite a bit of interesting material in the July 2009 edition of Diamond’s Previews catalog. Whether it actually makes it to comic shops is always a question worth considering, but the theoretical abundance is certainly alluring.

    First up is Reversible: A Dojinshi Collection by various artists, published by Digital Manga. I’ve never heard of any of the creators involved (“Kometa Yonekura, Shiori Ikezawa, Haruki Fujimoto, Goroh, and many more!”), but the prospect of a book full of fan-created yaoi is too intriguing to pass up. (Page 241)

    Masayuki Ishikaway’s eagerly awaited, Tezuka Prize winning Moyasimon arrives courtesy of Del Rey. “You might think that life at an agricultural university in Japan isn’t exactly exciting. But Todayasu, a student, sees the world differently – he has the unique ability to see, and communicate with, bacteria and micro-organisms, which appear to him as super-cute little creatures.” I was sold on this before it was even licensed. (Page 244)

    ayaIf you haven’t treated yourself to the first two volumes of Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie’s earthy, charming soap opera set in the Ivory Coast of the 1970s, then you should catch up, since the third, Aya: The Secrets Come Out, arrives via Drawn & Quarterly. “It’s a world of shifting values, where issues like arranged marriage and gay love have Aya and her friends yearning to break out of the confines of their community, while the ties of friendship and support draw them back into its familiarity.” (Page 246)

    Every month is better with some Jiro Taniguchi in it, and Fanfare/Ponent Mon provides. In this case, it’s the second volume of The Summit of the Gods, illustrated by Taniguchi and written by Yumemakura Baku. The ascent up Mt. Everest continues, and I’m guessing Taniguchi draws the holy hell out of it. (Page 252)

    Oni Press is wise enough to devote a two-page spread to Lola: A Ghost Story, written by J. Torres, because you get to see some really lovely sample pages illustrated by Elbert Or. It’s about a boy named Jesse, who “sees dead people, monsters, demons, and lots of other things that no one else can see,” and must take up his grandmother’s mantle as protector of a small town. The mere promise of “pigs possessed by the devil” is reason enough for me to jot it down on the order form. (Page 278 and 279)

    alecTop Shelf drops a massive omnibus, available in soft- and hardcover versions, of Eddie Campbells Alec comics, called The Years Have Pants (A Life-Size Omnibus). It “collects the previous Alec books, as well as a generous helping of rare and never-before-seen material, including an all-new 35-page book, The Years Have Pants. The softcover is $35, and the hardcover is $49.95, each coming in at 640 pages. (Page 296)

    wawwI saw this on Twitter yesterday, and there it is in the catalog. Viz releases two volumes of Inio (Solanin) Asano’s What a Wonderful World! “With this series of intersecting vignettes, Inio Asano explores the ways in which modern life can be ridiculous and sublime, terrible and precious, wasted and celebrated.”

    stitchesI automatically become nervous when buzz about a book reaches a certain pitch, so I’m glad I read a comp copy of David Small’s Stitches (W.W. Norton) before that buzz became too frenzied. It really, really, really is an extraordinary book. Small fearlessly renders childhood horrors with restraint and dignity, re-creating “a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka.” That isn’t hyperbole, and the advance interest in the book is entirely deserved, as will be the raves after it’s released. Seriously, it’s the kind of book that will end up on Best Books of 2009 lists in addition to a whole lot of Best Comics of 2009 lists. (Page 311)

    yotsuba6Last, but certainly not least, Yen Press brings boundless joy to the world (at least the world occupied by people with good taste) by releasing the sixth volume of Kiyohiko Azuma’s hilarious, completely endearing Yotsuba&! Yen also releases brushed-up versions of the first five volumes, previously published by ADV. “Yotsuba recycles! She gets a bike, learns about sticky notes, and drinks some super-yummy milk which she then decides she has to share with everyone!” Bless you, bless you , bless you, Yen Press. (Page 312)


    More bargains

    December 9, 2008

    Another fine independent comics publisher is offering some discounts. Top Shelf has marked some items down and is offering free shipping on orders of $40 or more until Sunday, Dec. 14.

    As far as recommendations go, it’s hard to go wrong with Renée French or Andy Runton. Andy Hartzell’s Fox Bunny Funny is a terrific book for grown-ups, as is Lars Martinson’s Tonoharu. Aaron Reiner’s Spiral-Bound is a great choice for kids.

    See how easy it is to spend $40?


    Deep discounts

    September 3, 2008

    Hey, Top Shelf is having its annual sale, offering some great books for $3.

    My strongest recommendation in the $3 category would be Andy Hartzell’s Fox Bunny Funny, a terrifically twisted allegory (which I reviewed here). While I didn’t enjoy Renée French’s Micrographica as much as I did The Ticking, $3 for a book by French? Please. You should be wearing a ski mask during that transaction. (And since you’re saving so much money, why not do yourself a favor and buy The Ticking as well?)


    Bumper crop

    June 17, 2008

    Enough with the shadowy portents for a bit. Let’s see what lurks in the current Diamond Previews catalog, shall we?

    Dark Horse offers the fourth volume of Adam Warren’s brilliant Empowered about the ups and downs of a good-hearted super-heroine with a singularly unreliable costume and a loyal band of friends. The third volume got a little dark for my tastes, but it was hardly enough to keep me from reading more. (Page 30 and 31.)

    Do I owe it to myself to see if any of the plot points so irritatingly left dangling in The Plain Janes (Minx) are addressed in the sequel, Janes in Love? Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg revisit their group of art guerillas and promise that the teens “discover that in art and love, the normal rules don’t always apply.” I thought they already knew that. (Page 113.)

    Someday I’ll get around to writing about Rutu Mordan’s Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly), which I thought was very good. (I don’t know if I would have put it on my “Best of 2007” list, whatever that might have looked like, but I’d certainly recommend it.) D&Q is following up with a collection of Mordan’s short works, Jamilti and Other Stories, and I’m looking forward to it. I love short stories, and I’m eager to see what Mordan does with that kind of flexibility. (Page 288.)

    Many people, myself included, have written nice things about Hideo Azuma’s Disappearance Diary, due from Fanfare. Anything from this publisher is worth a look, and this book offers an intriguing if slippery look at the low points in the life of the manga-ka. (Page 297.)

    I’ve been having a hard time finding a copy of Jason Shiga’s widely acclaimed Bookhunter (Sparkplug Comic Books) in my retail wanderings, so I’m glad to see it being offered again. (Page 349.)

    Weirdness alert: people are tracking the fates of Tokyopop’s various global titles, and here’s one more to add to the tally. The publisher is offering a prestige collection of one, Boys of Summer: The Complete Season. The solicitation of the Chuck Austen/Hiroki Otsuka baseball comic indicates that the unpublished third volume will appear for the first time here, along with the first two. I’m not recommending, because I’ve read too many comics by Austen as it is, but I thought it was interesting to note. (Page 353.)

    I thought Top Shelf had already solicited Ulf K.’s Heironymus B, but maybe it got delayed. I’ve heard good things about it, so I’ll just gently remind the local shop owner that I’d like a copy. (Page 362.)

    Takehiko Inoue’s much-loved basketball manga Slam Dunk gets another bite at the apple courtesy of Viz in its $7.99 Shonen Jump line. (Page 384.) The publisher is maximizing its Death Note profits with a new series of collector’s editions that offer “color art… premium packaging… new cover art on the dust jacket” and other bonuses. (Page 386.) I’m not quite certain about the plot of Ayumi Komura’s Mixed Vegetables, which seems to be about using marriage to further professional ambitions, but I can’t turn my back on shôjo cooking manga. (Page 387.)

    I swear this had a cooler name when it was first announced, but the first issue of Yen’s anthology magazine, Yen Plus, arrives in August. It features a mix of original and licensed work, and if you ever wondered what hack thriller author James Patterson would do with sequential art, this is your moment. It’s also got Svetlana Chmakova’s follow-up to Dramacon (Tokyopop), Nightschool, so that’s certainly a point in its favor. (Page 390.)