What are some of your favorite comics romances?
While I was reading some comments this morning, I noticed that some truly odious advertisements had shown up on my blog, apparently uninvited. I’ve since learned that I can pay for the privilege of guaranteeing not to have this junk appear and have done so. This is mostly because I don’t want to run any advertising at all on my blog, even randomly and intermittently, but I absolutely do not want to direct any traffic to those loathsome, for-profit content thieves (and guess what was in the ad roster I saw today?), so I guess a little protection money isn’t the worst solution.
So if you ever see advertisements appear anywhere on my blog, could you please drop me a line at davidpwelsh at yahoo dot com? I’ll grudgingly upgrade, but I’ll be damned if I’ll upgrade with no good result.
Update: In response to a question, yes, according to the terms of service, “To support the service (and keep free features free), [WordPress] also sometimes run[s] advertisements.”
As I said, it’s important enough to me to eschew advertising to pay for the upgrade. Now, I have no problem with running advertising on a blog, but I just have no interest in doing so, largely because I don’t want to expend the effort necessary to keep advertisers I find objectionable off of my web presence. I dropped a line to WP support to let them know about the suspect advertisers on Google AdWords. The reply I received from one of their “Happiness Engineers” suggested I contact Google support to inform them as well, which I’ll probably do if I can ever figure out how.
I can’t find David Doub’s original article on this subject, but here’s Brigid Alverson’s link to the piece.
Just in case I haven’t mentioned it lately, I’m gay.
Even more apparent is the fact that I’ll use any excuse to post panels from Fumi Yoshinaga’s Antique Bakery (DMP). I am clearly without shame.
It must be some kind of testament to the volume of good comics currently in release that I’ve allowed myself to neglect one of the finest. I was trying to make a dent in my “to read” pile and randomly grabbed the third volume of Takehiko Inoue’s Real (Viz). Seriously, what kind of embarrassment of riches are we experiencing that this book can slip my mind, even briefly?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the series, it’s about wheelchair basketball. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. It’s about wheelchair basketball in the same way that Fumi Yoshinaga’s Antique Bakery (DMP) is about pastry entrepreneurs. Real is about people, their choices and struggles, and the means they use to get through the day. Some of these people happen to play wheelchair basketball. That’s more like it.
The first two volumes were excellent, but the third goes to an even higher level. It focuses on Takahashi Hisanobu, a high-school athlete and entitled jackass left paralyzed from the waist down after an accident that’s entirely his fault. Needless to say, his expectations are entirely overturned. He’s powerless and frustrated, and he lashes out at everyone around him. But he also begins to take baby steps towards adapting to his new circumstances.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this in other contexts, but I’m not one to be persuaded by the redemptive power of trauma, where a horrible thing happens to a terrible person, leading that terrible person to become a good person. It always strikes me as at least a bit lazy. Inoue doesn’t reinvent this particular narrative wheel, but he executes it so scrupulously that it’s impossible not to be engrossed. And Inoue is gutsy enough to allow the reader to still think Hisanobu is a jackass, no matter the difficulties the character is enduring.
This kind of material lends itself to melodrama, but it doesn’t feel like Inoue indulges in it. Each moment feels authentic and even understated, even if someone is screaming. It’s riveting to watch Hisanobu’s arrogance mutate into bitterness and to see his mother’s nerves become increasingly frayed. A comic with good intentions can be a mine field of tonal hazards, but Inoue doesn’t step on a one. His execution is almost startlingly poised – not stuffy, or dignified, but utterly economical and expressive.
And honestly, you are unlikely to see a better example of a creator showing instead of telling. Part of me wishes I could see the pages with no dialogue or narration, because I strongly suspect that every essential of the story would still be communicated. The physicality of the characters, their facial expressions and the composition of the pages deliver each beat.
No interest in basketball is required to enjoy Real. You only need to appreciate compelling human drama and splendid comics artistry.
(This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.)
Motoro Mase’s Ikigami: The Ultimate Limit (Viz) has one of the more chilling opening sequences I’ve read recently. A group of first-graders are attending their school’s opening ceremonies. They receive their vaccinations from a team of smiling nurses. Then the principal lets the other shoe drop: some of them won’t live to be adults.
The principal knows this because a very small percentage of the vaccinations include a nanotech device that will kill them sometime in their late teens or early twenties. The government has concocted this scheme “to instill a fear of death into the citizens of our peaceful society… so as to encourage them to value life.” It’s absurd, but it’s creepy at the same time.
A lot of creators would soften the absurdity by fabulizing the setting – storm-trooper cops, hover cars, a memorial hologram where Mount Fuji used to be. Mase keeps things flat and entirely recognizable, aside from a government that tries to teach perspective by randomly murdering .1% of the people it serves. He even devotes an unexpected but welcome number of pages to the bureaucracy that runs the nano-death system. The pedestrian details of the system of blinds between agencies and the management of the soon-to-be deceased actually add to the eeriness.
The story is framed around one of those bureaucrats, Fujimoto. He delivers “death cards” to the unfortunates 24 hours before their microscopic time bomb is set to go off. Fujimoto seems to take his work seriously more for the benefit of the condemned than out of belief in the system. He even demonstrates a small amount of skepticism as to its logic and value, though it isn’t really his story, at least not yet.
Mase’s primary interest lies with the condemned, exploring how different personalities will react to the knowledge that, through no fault of their own, they have one day to live. First is a brutally bullied nebbish who seeks revenge on the classmates who abused and humiliated him. Second is a young musician who abandoned his friend and partner for a career opportunity. The drama is more ostentatious here than the bits about how the system works, and it’s strangely less compelling.
I have no idea if Ikigami will evolve into a series about a moral struggle against the death-card system or if it will continue to extrapolate on the experiences of the recipients. If it’s the former, it could be something really special. If it’s the latter, I’ll probably keep reading for the inter-office memos.
Using my vast knowledge of odds-making, I devote this week’s Flipped to a look at the nominees for this year’s Eisner Award for Best U.S. Edition of International Material — Japan.