Honorable mentions

January 17, 2008

Okay, back on the subject of the Young Adult Library Services Association’s 2008 choices of Great Graphic Novels for Teens: It’s been too long since I was a part of the teen demographic for me to pretend to know what they might like, but I think it’s a really good list of recommended reading for adults, so it makes me happy.

Instead of picking through the list of selections, I thought I would look back at the nominations and see what didn’t make the cut. I was kind of startled to find some of my very favorite books in that category (because I’m egotistical), so I thought I’d put together a runners-up list of books that I think are well worth a read:

  • Abouet, Marguerite, Clement Oubrerie. Aya. Drawn and Quarterly. My review here.
  • Chantler, Scott. The Annotated Northwest Passage. Oni Press. My reviews of the paperback installments of the series here, here and here.
  • Morinaga, Ai. My Heavenly Hockey Club. Del Rey. My review of the first volume here.
  • Sfar, Joann. The Professor’s Daughter. Roaring Brook Press / First Second. My short review of the book here.
  • Tanaka, Masashi. Gon. DC Comics, CMX. My review here, and a much more persuasive critique here.
  • Vining, James. First in Space. Oni Press. My review here. (Honestly, I can see how there was only room for one “innocent animal shot into space” story on the list, and I’m sure Laika is brilliant, but it looks like the kind of book that would depress me for weeks.)
  • And a couple of books that I haven’t read yet, but really should:

  • Lat. Town Boy. Roaring Brook Press / First Second.
  • Shiga, Jason. Bookhunter. Sparkplug Comics.
  • I think I’m taking the Lat books for granted, knowing that I can almost always swing by a Barnes & Noble and pick one up. As for Bookhunter, I’m hoping an upcoming trip to a city with a good comics shop will allow me to correct that particular lapse. I’m sure I’ll be able to snag a copy of Sidescrollers, too, which did make the 2008 cut.

    The year in fun (2007)

    January 1, 2008

    From a fun comics standpoint, 2007 was absolutely awesome. You know how I know? I had a hard time keeping the list below to 26 items. Okay, it’s an arbitrary number, and I could have just listed everything, but I thought I would make a stab at some pretense of discernment.

    I’m not saying these are the best comics of 2007, though I’d put several in that category. I’m never entirely comfortable with that label, because I haven’t read everything and worry that my tastes are too narrow to make a reasonable stab at such a project anyways. But I have no trouble telling which comics I had a lot of fun reading, so here they are.

    (Doesn’t the jump create a breathtaking level of suspense? Well, doesn’t it?)

    (Updated because I can’t keep my years straight.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Top Secret

    December 13, 2007

    Okay, I clearly just suck at this Previews look-through thing. (Either that or I’m very cleverly trying to stretch a single post over several days in a shameless attempt to pad content. I really think it’s just that I suck, though.)

    Anyway, I inexcusably forgot to mention the listing of Ai Morinaga’s Your and My Secret, arriving via Tokyopop (page 331). And bless Tokyopop for picking it up, because I loved the single volume that ADV published three and a half years ago.

    If you’ve been enjoying Morinaga’s My Heavenly Hockey Club (Del Rey), you should definitely give it a look. If you’ve found that book a little flighty and silly (never a problem for me, but I hear such things happen), you should give it a look anyways, because it’s very smart and subversive in its look at gender roles. I can’t wait to finally see what happens next.

    (I couldn’t find the book’s page on Tokyopop’s web site, but I’m delighted to note the following passage in Katherine Dacey-Tsuei’s excellent Anime Fest wrap-up at Manga Recon:

    “Tokyopop will be overhauling its website, making it easier to navigate and locate information about its own products.”

    Seriously, Tokyopop’s site used to be the most navigable in terms of finding product information, and now it’s… considerably less so. Here’s hoping that the pendulum swings back with extreme prejudice.)

    Upcoming 12/12/2007

    December 11, 2007

    The theme of this week’s comic shop arrivals seems to be “new volumes of appealing series,” and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Dark Horse delivers the fifth volume of Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki’s The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. I didn’t think the fourth volume was quite up to standard, to be honest. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as solid a combination of gruesome mystery and strangely heartwarming comedy. I did appreciate the guest appearance by Reiji Akiba from Yamazaki’s other series, Mail, and I hope he returns.

    I find Kaoru Mori’s Emma (CMX) extremely soothing. It’s so gentle and precise, and it’s really easy on the eyes. The sixth volume arrives tomorrow. (By the way, does the knowledge that this series was originally published in a seinen magazine influence your reading experience in any way? Or that Yotsuba&! Or Azumanga Daioh had similar origins? I was flipping through the latest Comics Journal at the shop last week, and most of the review of Translucent seemed largely devoted to that conundrum.)

    Until the arrival of Ai Morinaga’s My Heavenly Hockey Club (Del Rey), Kiyoko Arai’s Beauty Pop (Viz) was the clear leader in the ridiculous shôjo category. It’s still awfully good, even if it’s moved into second place. The sixth volume arrives Wednesday. I also really enjoyed the preview chapter of Kiyo Fujiwara’s mafia princess comedy Wild Ones that ran in a recent issue of Shojo Beat, so I’ll have to move that up in my “to read” pile.

    Among the other new series making their debut, Seven Seas offers a new take on Speed Racer, written by Dwayne Alexander Smith and drawn by Elmer Damaso, whose work seems to bear some resemblance to that of Mike Allred. That’s kind of a cool way to go with the material.

    Upcoming 11/29/2007

    November 27, 2007

    This week’s ComicList constitutes almost an embarrassment of riches. Maybe it’s because of the extra day before shipment. There’s even a three-way tie for Pick of the Week, with some serious runners-up.

    Any week that offers a new title from Fanfare/Ponent Mon is going to be special. This boutique nouvelle-manga publisher has a sterling track record for quality, and I can’t imagine that new work from Jiro Taniguchi will do anything to undermine it. With The Ice Wanderer, Taniguchi seems to be channeling Call of the Wild, offering six man-versus-nature short stories. The subject matter isn’t automatically my cup of tea, but it’s Taniguchi, so it will be gorgeous.

    A new paperback volume of Rick Geary’s A Treasury of Victorian Murder series (NBM) is also cause for celebration. The Bloody Benders might well be subtitled “Deadly Inn on the Prairie” from the solicitation text.

    It’s a great week for Del Rey in general, but I have to make special mention of the last volume of Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken. Nothing much has really happened in nine volumes, but the characters are so great that I really don’t care. The charming interpersonal dynamics and the insanely detailed art are more than ample compensation.

    As to the rest of Del Rey’s large-ish slate of releases, I’ve gone from really liking Fuyumi Soryo’s ES to absolutely loving it. The seventh volume arrives on Thursday, and the tension ratchets up considerably as Soryo forces just about everyone in her cast into dark and dangerous corners. On the lighter side, there’s the third volume of Ai Morinaga’s very funny anti-sports manga, My Heavenly Hockey Club. I devoted half of last week’s Flipped to Ryotaro Iwanaga’s very promising Pumpkin Scissors, so go take a look if you haven’t already.

    I don’t think I’ll ever be inclined to read comics online if there’s a print alternative. Take Morim Kang’s 10, 20, and 30 (Netcomics). I sampled some chapters via the Internet and liked them a lot, then read the first paperback and liked it quite a bit more. Either way you consume it, it’s got charming cartooning and wonderfully rounded characters offering multi-generational slices of life. The second volume arrives this week.

    I’m still kind of on the fence about MPD Psycho (Dark Horse), written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Sho-U Tajima. I read the second volume over the weekend, and while I found it less aggressively lurid than the first, I thought it was a little harder to follow. I’m inclined to give Otsuka a lot of leeway based on his work on The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, so I’ll stay on board for a bit longer.

    I was quite taken with the first volume of Kyoko Shitou’s The Key to the Kingdom (CMX), a race-for-the-crown fantasy adventure. I’m eager to see what happens in the second installment.

    Upcoming 8/29

    August 28, 2007

    What evil lurks in the heart of the current ComicList? Well, none to speak of. I’m just trying to keep things fresh.

    Aurora releases the first volume of Chihiro Tamaki’s Walkin’ Butterfly. In it, a girl confronts her body image issues by trying to become a model. (I thought models caused body image issues. Help me out here.)

    There’s a lot of Del Rey product shipping this week. Depending on my mood, I’d peg either the sixth volume of Fuyumi Soryo’s ES or the second of Ai Morinaga’s My Heavenly Hockey Club as the highlight. I’ve already read this installment of MHHC, and it’s as delightful as the first. There are fewer deranged encounters with wildlife, but there’s a chapter where the elite titular team meats a plucky group of paupers out in the sticks that’s just a riot, even by this book’s standards.

    On the down side, I found the first volume of Shiki Tsukai just too packed with inscrutable rules to be very engaging, kind of like Shakugan no Shana (Viz). As Katherine Dacey-Tsuei puts it:

    “Even with the generous assortment of charts, appendices, and sidebars clarifying the nuances of its underlying “power to control the seasons” premise, however, I found this book fiendishly hard to follow, thanks to the characters’ jargon-heavy dialogue.”

    A new release from Fanfare/Ponent Mon is always worth a look. This time around, it’s Tokyo is My Garden, by Frédéric Boilet and Benoît Peeters, with back-up from demi-god of manga Jiro Taniguchi. It’s about a cognac salesman living large in the title city. Having just read Ed Chavez’s enticing Otaku USA column on booze manga, this is a timely arrival.

    As others have noticed, Viz begins its Naruto onslaught this week. Stock in dry goods and bottled water and pre-order those poor books that might get buried in the ninjalanche.

    Two that shouldn’t be overlooked, also from Viz, are Kiyoko Arai’s pricelessly silly Beauty Pop (now in its fifth volume) and the second volume of Hideaki Sorachi’s quirky, action-packed Gin Tama (discussed here already). I wouldn’t go so far as to say all of the same people would like both, but they share an off-kilter sense of humor that serves each really well.

    Another round

    August 20, 2007

    The American Library Association’s Young Adult Library Services Association has added some nominations to its roster for the next round of Great Graphic Novels for Teens. The inclusion of Yellow Tanabe’s Kekkaishi (Viz) should make someone very happy.

    Personally, I’m glad to see Yuji Iwahara’s King of Thorn (Tokyopop) and Yuki Urushibara’s Mushishi (Del Rey) make the short list. It’s an interesting mix of mainstream and indie, manga, manhwa, global and lots of flavors of “other.” (I’ll become tense if the next round doesn’t include Fumi Yoshinaga’s Flower of Life from DMP. Just so you know.)

    If I were given to making predictions, I’d say that I suspect that Ai Morinaga’s My Heavenly Hockey Club (Del Rey), Tadashi Kawashima and Adachitoka’s Alive (Del Rey), Hideaki Sorachi’s Gin Tama (Viz), Satoru Akahori and Yukimaru Katsura’s Kashimashi (Seven Seas), and Kazuhiro Okomoto’s Translucent (Dark Horse) will show up before the nominations are over.


    June 19, 2007

    Who’s the weird, green-haired tyke all the manga readers like? Yotsuba&! Yes, the fourth volume of Kyohiko Azuma’s much-loved, long-dormant series arrives Wednesday in better comic shops everywhere courtesy of ADV. I’ll let you absorb that for a moment, then distract you with the knowledge that Tokyopop has picked up Ai Morinaga’s delightful Your and My Secret, along with 37 other titles. ADV squeezed out a single volume of the series years ago, then left us all hanging.

    Fantagraphics releases Human Diastrophism, the second collection of Gilbert Hernandez’s richly entertaining Palomar stories. Information can be found by scrolling down this page, and while they’re a step up from ADV by having information on recent and upcoming releases at all, I’d really love it if they’d give a blogger a break and start building some pages that would let me link directly.

    Speaking of gender ambiguity, Go! Comi delivers the fourth volume of Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare. (And Go! Comi has updated its web sight to profile two upcoming releases, Ryo Takagi’s The Devil Within and Takeru Kirishima’s Kanna.)

    It had to happen sooner or later, and if I’m going to be entirely honest, I’ll admit that I’m happy it’s sooner. Can you imagine what Death Note (Viz – Shonen Jump Advanced) would have turned into if it had been one of those 20-plus-volume monstrosities? The very suspenseful series ends with the 12th volume this week, which seems just about right in terms of length.

    Friday links

    June 15, 2007

    I’m disappointed that the producers of the Nancy Drew movie went with a Brady Bunch-ish “from the land of retro” approach to the material, but I always enjoy reading A.O. Scott’s reviews for The New York Times:

    “But as it is, ‘Nancy Drew’ stands as an example of how to take a foolproof, time-tested formula — a young detective using smarts and determination to solve a case — and mess it up with superficial cleverness and pandering hackwork.”

    If you’re looking for a revisionist approach to Ms. Drew and her peers in adolescent sleuthing, I’d recommend Mabel Maney’s Nancy Clue/Cherry Aimless books. They’re slash-tastic!


    I don’t know if I’d call Ai Morinaga’s Your and My Secret a guilty pleasure, but I’m always glad to see some love for this unfortunately abandoned ADV series, especially if it comes from someone as smart as Katherine Dacey-Tsuei.


    Quote of the week, possibly the month:

    “If DC had published a comic featuring a seductively posed zombie Lois Lane, its hardcore partisans would just want to know which Earth it was taking place on.”

    Dick Hyacinth


    May 30, 2007

    After a couple of weeks of relative famine, the ComicList offers a big old feast this week.

    You want classic manga? Jocelyn Bouquillard and Christophe Marquet go seriously old school with Hokusai, First Manga Master (Harry N. Abrams):

    “More than a hundred years before Japanese comics swept the globe, the master engraver Hokusai was producing beautiful, surreal, and often downright wacky sketches and drawings, filled with many of the characters and themes found in modern manga. These out-of-context caricatures, which include studies of facial expressions, postures, and situations ranging from the mundane to the otherworldly, demonstrate both the artist’s style and his taste.”

    Dark Horse releases the second volume of Tanpenshu, collected shorts from Hiroki Endo. I’m kind of running out of patience with Endo’s Eden, but the first collection of these shorts was very satisfying reading.

    Readers who are already feeling separation anxiety over the imminent conclusion of Death Note might consider Fuyimi Soryo’s ES (Del Rey) as a replacement. It’s not as outrageously suspenseful, but it’s a compelling and intelligent thriller with a surprising amount of heart. Debuting from Del Rey is Ai Morinaga’s hilarious My Heavenly Hockey Club. If you hate sports, don’t worry. Morinaga goes to great comic lengths to avoid any actual displays of athleticism with really delightful results.

    Houghton Mifflin releases a paperback version of Allison Bechdel’s wonderful Fun Home, for those of you who held off on the hardcover.

    I haven’t read any of them, but kudos to NBM for making sure lots of their Nancy Drew graphic novels are available to retailers before the movie debuts.

    Viz delivers a whole bunch of stuff. Highlights for me include the fourth volume of Kiyoko Arai’s very funny makeover comedy, Beauty Pop, and the sixth volume of Ai Yazawa’s lovely look at young singles, Nana.