Monday, January 10, 2011

Grinding the AX: Schoolgirls really aren't that interesting

Links:  If you haven't been checking out Derek Kirk Kim's Tune: Praxis and Allies, be sure to do so before it's too late.  He recently posted a message of despondence, feeling like nobody was paying attention to the comic he was giving away for free.  Luckily, many responded, assuring him that he does have an audience, but it doesn't hurt to remind people of the quality work he's got going.  If you don't want to read it on a screen, the first volume, which is almost finished, will be released in print by First Second this spring.  But do give it a look, if you like good comics.

In the "unfortunately will never see print" category, Becky Cloonan started off the year by mentioning the sad news that her graphic novel series East Coast Rising (I reviewed the first volume here, if you're interested and don't mind less-polished writing) will in all likelihood never be finished, but she does at least rectify the cliffhanger ending of the first volume by posting its resolution, starting here and continuing for the next several days.  Awesome.  Just a taste of what we're missing out on thanks to Tokyopop.

And speaking of opportunities missed, I've been out of the comics loop long enough that I completely missed that Faith Erin Hicks has started a webcomic (or rather the online version of a comic that runs in a weekly Halifax newspaper) called The Adventures of Superhero Girl.  I love Hicks' art, and this is a super fun, cute example of her work.  Plus, it's free!  Webcomics!

And one more: Doug TenNapel's new webcomic, Ratfist, started today.  Some sort of superhero thing, but since it's TenNapel, I'll read it.

Now for more manga dabblings:

"A Well-Dressed Corpse"
By Yuichi Kiriyama

This is another story about how terrible the world is, but it's pretty effective in its depiction of a harsh, ugly modern existence, spending only six pages jumping between loosely-connected, urban dwellers but managing to include rape, murder, abortion, and a general sense of society's lost soul, people who only interact long enough to do terrible things to each other, or to ignore each other completely.  Lots of heavy blacks, downcast expressions, and shadowed visages; this world is a pretty terrible place.  Good times!

"Arizona Sizzler"
By Saito Yunasuke

Shifting gears once again, here's a much lighter story, although it's still kind of ugly, at least in its crude art style.  It's also pretty pointless, seeming existing only to shock with a close up depiction of a banana-shaped penis and some spherical testicles, looming over a girl wandering through a desert.  It's kind of funny, a bit of deadpan weirdness as this naked man (who is either gigantic or just shown in extreme close-up, only visible from below and behind) keeps showing up and horrifying her, but there's nothing going on aside from that.  Kind of a waste of pages for a joke that could have been told in one panel.

"The Rainy Day Blouse" and "The First Umbrella"
By Akino Kondo

These two short pieces are also fairly uninteresting, although they at least seem to be attempting to capture some poetic imagery, following a schoolgirl wondering over how it never rains when she carries a certain umbrella.  Maybe it's prettier in the original Japanese, but it's not exactly evocative in this form, and the fairly plain art doesn't add much either.  Compared to most everything else in the volume, this is pretty eminently skippable.

"Stand By Me"
By Tomohiro Koizumi

Another school tale, although this one is about boys, and does feature at least a little bit of conflict.  One kid has a crush on a girl, and is spying on her in the bath, but his friend is the one who gets caught, leading to a falling out between them.  It's all about the intense emotions of youth, but it's nothing too special, especially considering the awkwardly-proportioned art, which gives everyone tiny heads and huge hands.  I don't know how much teen drama I'll be able to take after this book.

"My Old Man" and "Me"
By Shin'ichi Abe

The focus in these two short stories is all about normal people and their dreams, which, according to the author bio in the back of the book, is sort of a theme of Abe's work.  Kind of boring, but interesting in their simple depiction of regular people living in their houses, realistically shown going about their lives.  That's worth something, but it's not really interesting to make one stop and take note in a varied anthology like this; it would fit better in a longer book by the author, or a similarly-themed anthology.  Here, it's kind of just a short pause before another bit of weirdness comes along.

"Up & Over"
By Seiko Erisawa

Hmm, this section of the book seems to be all about "normal life"; this is another story about regular schoolchildren, a boy and a girl, with the boy telling the story of a broken piece of a marble that falls out of his pocket.  It's slight, but cute, due to effective facial expressions and some nice timing.  Inessential, but still memorable, at least for me.

"The Song of Mr. H"
By Shigeyuki Fukumitsu

Another story about people making their way in the modern world?  Sure, but this one has flair and life; I dig it.  There's a middle-aged salaryman whose life sucks, and after the positive feelings he gets from punching out a guy harassing a woman, he decides to become a boxer.  It's kind of amusing, in a deadpan way, but other than the cartoonishly deformed art, it's played completely straight, and it doesn't end up being the expected story of redemption, but still somehow manages to seem like a feel-good story, at least giving the character a feeling of peace.  It's kind of goofy, but it totally works; I would love to read more of Fukumitsu's manga.


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Looks like there will be one more post to go for this book.  Hopefully I'll get to it before too long...