World travel Wednesday

February 21, 2007

I don’t know why Drawn & Quarterly’s Aya is showing up in West Virginia today when it doesn’t seem to be on Diamond’s shipping list for this week. All I know is that it was listed in the local shop’s “What’s due Wednesday” e-mail, and that this makes me very happy.

This book alone would make the week a memorable one, but there’s also the debut of Hope Larson’s Tulip Tree Press via Rebecca Kratz’s House of Sugar, a thoughtful and funny collection of strips.

Fantagraphics unveils its repackaged Love and Rockets books, Heartbreak Soup and Maggie the Mechanic. I’ll probably add them into my next Amazon order instead of picking them up at the shop, but I’m glad that the publisher has provided a clear, affordable, portable entry point for the material.

I no longer know what from Viz is arriving when in my neck of the woods. The fifth volume of Nana still hasn’t shown up, and I’m starting to twitch. I did get a review copy of The Drifting Classroom vol. 4 from the publisher. JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!

Quality dark chocolate is also always a good choice

December 1, 2006

There’s a special feature in this month’s Previews: a Valentine’s Day Merchandise Checklist, compiling “a host of titles that are perfect to share with a loved one.” Okay, there’s more than a whisper of Team Comix to it, and some of the choices are a little odd, but many of them do provide extra exposure for some great books up at the front of the catalog, so I won’t complain.

The one that makes me happiest is the inclusion of Rebecca Kraatz’s House of Sugar from Tulip Tree Press (p. 344). I guess when Diamond reconsiders a rejection, they go all the way. That’s a good thing, as I like this book a lot.

ALC’s books (Yuri Monogatari 3 and 4 and Works, p. 208) make the cut. I thought the third YM book was kind of a mixed bag, but I do find the work of Rica Takashima hard to resist, and she brings her characters from the charming Rica ‘tte Kanji back in the fourth, so I might have to cave. Works, a collection of romantic shorts by Eriko Tadeno, sounds appealing as well.

If you missed it the first time, Diamond humbly suggests you consider the one-volume edition of Jeff Smith’s Bone (Cartoon Books) as a Valentine’s Day gift. Heck, just keep it, because you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.

Moving on to the romantically unsanctioned, I’m taken with the premise of Keiko Yamada’s Go Go Heaven!! (CMX, p. 98). After her untimely death, an unhappy teen gets “49 days to relive her life and resolve unfinished business.” Sounds morbid, but fun!

What’s this I see on the Featured Items page? A collection of the intriguing Elk’s Run from Villard Books (p. 347)? It started out self-published, got picked up by a publisher who went bust, and never got to finish its run as a mini-series, despite general critical acclaim. Now, Villard’s offering the whole shebang, and high time, I think.

Juné lures me with the promise of more Fumi Yoshinaga in the form of The Moon and the Sandals (p. 264).

Marguerite Abouet and Clément Ouberie’s Aya (Drawn & Quarterly, p. 270) offers intriguing subject matter (the everyday life of young women in the Ivory Coast) and an excellent pedigree (the 2006 Best New Album award from Angoulême).

The Comics Journal devotes #281 to the best of 2006 (Fantagraphics, p. 275). I’m a sucker for lists.

My favorite bit of solicitation text in the catalog is found in the blurb for Cantarella Vol. 6 (Go! Comi, p. 280). Young Chiaro “finds comfort and warmth within the confines of a monastery.” Oh, I’ll just bet he does.

It’s nice to see a full-page ad for Viz’s Signature line, especially one that focuses on Osamu Tezuka’s Phoenix. Given the well-deserved attention Vertical’s production of Ode to Kirihito has received, it’s smart, too.

So what looks good to you?

From the stack: HOUSE OF SUGAR

November 28, 2006

Before I get around to going through the latest edition of Previews, I wanted to make a special note that Rebecca Kraatz’s House of Sugar (Tulip Tree Press) is among the solicitations. This is a good thing, as it’s indicative of Diamond’s willingness to reconsider a title that it had previously rejected. It’s also a good thing because House of Sugar is unusual, delightful reading.

It’s unusual for me because of what I find to be Kraatz’s plain-spoken approach to storytelling. It’s not that she skimps on detail, or that her work doesn’t have a point of view. It’s just that there’s simplicity, even bluntness to her delivery. She doesn’t coat every observation with irony, and the strips have a gentle, subtle wit as a result.

Take the concept of “treal.” It’s an acid-induced teen contraction of “true” and “real,” and Kraatz experienced a brief obsession with it in the 1980s. It’s the kind of admission that might lend itself to ironic detachment (“I’m not that dumb anymore.”) or sentiment (“But wasn’t I sweet?”), but Kraatz offers neither. It’s a snapshot of how she felt at a given moment, but there’s no slide-show narration giving it more weight than it can sustain. It’s a clear-eyed presentation without any ostentatious framing.

Kraatz has a wonderfully unique authorial voice, and it’s portably applied to the wide range of subjects that wander into her path. The four-panel strips run from autobiographical moments to observation to flights of fancy, held together by Kraatz’s distinct point of view.

Her rhythms are unconventional. There are no obvious punch lines, though House of Sugar is often very funny. The moments Kraatz captures don’t always need a familiar shape or even conventional closure to succeed as observational pieces; I think they work better without them.

Kraatz’s illustrations are of a piece with her writing voice. She composes the strips with imagination and wit. (A priest stops by the house and seems to be trailing a corona; the effect of a bad kiss is framed in crime-comic extremity.) I don’t know how her work would hold up in a longer narrative, but it’s ideal for the captured-moment quality of these strips.

This is a lovely inaugural book for Hope Larson’s Tulip Tree Press, comforting and thoughtful but spiked with weirdness and imagination. It’s observational humor without any self-indulgence or strain.

(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)

Promotional items

September 12, 2006

It’s a big week for graphic novel debuts, as has been noted by Jog, Chris Butcher, and many others.

If I were to pick a “book of the week,” I’d probably chicken out and call it a draw between American Born Chinese and Klezmer, both lovely in very different ways. Lucky residents of the San Francisco area or those who just happen to be there Sept. 20 can meet Gene Yang, creator of American Born Chinese, at an event at the Isotope. (Readers who want to meet Joann Sfar will probably have to travel to France, but really, isn’t that just a fringe benefit? The extras those people put in their manga! C’est magnifique!)

Speaking of promotional activities, Go! Comi is sponsoring a Cantarella Poetry Contest. Only one manga has ever inspired me to verse, but that shouldn’t stop you.

In other manga promotion news, Chris Butcher notes a change in the Tokyopop on-line exclusive initiative. I think one would categorize this story as “developing.”

I’ve been really negligent in giving a nod to Manga Mondays at Comics-and-More, so let me correct that. This week, Dave Ferraro throws in a list of his favorite anime (Paranoia Agent is so creepy and cool) before wondering why publishing Naruto is like printing money.

Oh, and if you were wondering about the book that provided the premise for the most recent episode of the wacky, long-running sitcom, That Darn Diamond, Tulip Tree Press has extensive preview strips available of House of Sugar by Rebecca Kratz. It looks really intriguing.