Thursday, February 26, 2009

Time-wasting Monster Mash interlude: Joker makes my eyes hurt from rolling too much

Links, because I deem them ever-necessary: I liked this interview with Larry Young about The Black Diamond over at The Groovy Age of Horror.  Interesting reading.

And Tim Callahan has a nice look at the entire series of The Drifting Classroom.  I still need to finish reading this, but I've almost got my hands on all the volumes.  Then I'll be ready to dive into the insanity.

Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Lee Bermejo

I should have known better than to bother with this, but curiousity got the best of me after reading Dick Hyacinth's takedown the other day.  I don't know if I really have much to add, but I feel like the experience shouldn't be a total waste.  That said, the main feeling I'm left with when reading this is, "What is the point?"  Sure, it's a violent, grimy, nihilistic wallow through the seamy underside of the Batman milieu, but I'm not seeing any sweeping themes that needed to be explored here, or any fresh takes on characters that make any of this worthwhile.  It's more just an excuse to shove as much nastiness as possible in the reader's face, snickering all the while because it's based in the world of brightly-colored spandex.

And those origins in the not-very-well-policed environs of DC Comics give the book the weird disconnect that others have noticed: violence and gore are perfectly okay, but oh no no no on any sexuality or naughty words beyond what would be acceptable in a PG-13 movie.  We can see, on panel, things like a man who has had all the skin removed from his body or a gaping bullet hole in another man's head, but strippers have to coyly hide their nipples, and the Joker's extended middle finger must be cut off by an adjoining panel.  To be fair, that's the way of American media; with our bizarre culture that has deemed extreme violence acceptable for all ages and allows (and even celebrates) sexiness up to a point, but freaks out if that fine line gets crossed.

Still, a decent plot or interesting characters might redeem the inherent ridiculousness of this enterprise, but nobody here is worth spending any time with, and even the colorful villains seem like a boring bunch of thugs that don't do anything interesting.  The Joker should be a dynamic force of nature, and while he manages a mildly funny line or two, he's really not a very interesting person to hang around with, and neither are the likes of Two-Face, the Penguin, the Riddler, or Killer Croc.  They could be generic lowlifes in any crime story, except most stories would attempt to do something with them.  

The plot involves Joker getting out of Arkham Asylum (he doesn't stage an exciting escape or anything; he's just released, for undisclosed reasons) and trying to regain his lost rule of Gotham City's underworld.  This involves killings and confrontations with other characters, none of which manage to engage the interest.  A conflict of some sort with Two-Face is referenced, and a mysterious, Pulp Fiction-esque briefcase makes an appearance, but none of this leads to anything.  Eventually everything peters out, and Batman shows up to capture the Joker again.  And that's all there is to it.  Whoop-de-doo.

What I find so surprising here is that Brian Azzarello can't manage to make this an engaging read.  He's capable of brilliance, but you wouldn't know it from reading this book.  Little of his witty dialogue shows up, characters don't seem to distinguish themselves from each other, and tight plotting is all but nonexistent.  I can only surmise that he's straitjacketed by the restrictions of corporate properties, but even that is a poor defense for this level of writing.  On the other hand Lee Bermejo turns in some nice, moody artwork; if only it wasn't so unrelentingly, monotonously dark and grim.  But even that aspect is distracting, since he veers between two art styles, one that fills pages with heavy, strongly delineated blacks that make all the characters seem to have wrinkles all over their faces, and a more smooth, painterly style that gives surfaces brushed mixtures of colors.  These two styles vie for precedence from page to page and even on the same page at times, drawing the attention away from what they are supposed to be depicting and toward the question of why the art is changing so frequently.

Overall, it's just a mess, an example of the arrested adolescense of modern superhero comics.  It's a "mature" book for people who can't bring themselves to consume anything that doesn't have a spandex flavor, who think that adult sensibilities involve sniggering at the hint of sex and blood being splattered on faces.  These creators shouldn't be wasting their (and everyone else's) time with this sort of nonsense, and the medium itself is worse for its existence.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Monster Mash: Please don't let this turn into a superhero comic

Monster, volume 10
By Naoki Urasawa

After the excitement of the previous volume, it's back to what passes for business as usual in this series, with characters delving into Johan's past and uncovering dark, inexplicable secrets.  They come at it kind of obliquely here though, with the action moving to Prague and centering on two new characters who probably aren't even aware of Johan.  The first is Grimmer, a reporter who is trying to lay bare all of the atrocities that were committed at 511 Kinderheim, the orphanage where Johan brainwashed all the children and caused them to go on a murderous riot (we first learned about it way back in volume 3).  He's a great character, and Urasawa smoothly introduces him such that we feel like we already know him after just a few pages.  He's a sort of goofy, good-natured, disarmingly friendly sort, completely open about his intentions and background:

We might learn some of his secrets, such as how the death of his son prompted his quest for justice, but for now, he's the type that's happy to help anyone he meets (including Dr. Tenma, whose presence in this volume is little more than a cameo), maintaining a dopey exterior even when he's doing something like pretending to be stuck in a train's passageway to block some officers' path:  

He makes a good guide for this portion of the series, as he investigates that creepy orphanage.  And this leads to some tense scenes, as Grimmer confronts a former director of 511 Kinderheim, only to discover that he seems to be continuing his research on a group of strange-seeming young boys:

But not everything is as it appears on the surface, as we find when some nasty types show up with violent intentions.  In a surprising twist, the culprit seems to be Johan's sister Nina, but that can't be right; she's not the murderous type (unless Urasawa has a reveal in the works that she is secretly in league with Johan, or is being controlled by him, but that seems unlikely and farfetched.  One thing that works so well about the series is that it seems plausible, in an action movie sort of way, and that would stretch credibility a bit too far, given what we see here).  My guess is that it's actually Johan in a wig.

Grimmer gets some great scenes though, including a nasty bit in which he ends up on the receiving end of some fingernail-clipper-based torture:

But Urasawa changes it up near the end of the volume as he switches focus to Detective Suk, a young police officer that is investigating his role-model partner's death.  As an idealistic rookie, he's up for some eye-opening experiences, as he uncovers corruption in the force that is tied to the secret police left over from the Soviet regime.  But how does Johan factor into all this, along with Nina, who also seems to be trying to work her way toward the secrets of Johan's background.  And Tenma is there lurking in the background, ready to jump in and take over the plot at some point.

It's fascinating to watch Urasawa weave these plots together, while still making time for character moments and some excellently-paced scenes of confrontations and subterfuge.  As the volume ends, Suk and Grimmer are bound together inextricably; will they survive, or will they fall to Johan's continuing rampage of terror throughout Europe?  I can't wait to read the next volume and find out.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Monster Mash continues: Damn that Hippocratic Oath

Monster, volume 9
By Naoki Urasawa

I worry that I might run out of interesting things to say as I blow through these volumes in quick succession, but that feeling doesn't last long whenever I read them; Naoki Urasawa is such an amazing storyteller, he always provides plenty of fodder for discussion.  This volume, for instance, consists almost completely of a big confrontation between Dr. Tenma and Johan, the fiend of the title, but there is so much going on around them that the story doesn't feel like it's padded to fill an entire volume.  Johan has some scheme going on with rich financier Schuwald; Johan's sister Nina seems to have discovered a key piece of their childhood; Dr. Reichwein and Deiter are trying to stop Tenma from doing something he'll regret; Inspector Lunge is pursuing Tenma while refusing to admit that Johan exists outside of Tenma's head; and Johan's creepy hired muscle gets involved, of course.  What is an already tense moment becomes even more so as all these characters and plots converge on the same point, making for some breathless storytelling.  As always, the reader is left astonished at the skill on display, if they even have time to stop and think as they are turning pages as fast as possible to find out what comes next.

It's incredible to watch, but Urasawa manages to continue to develop characters and insert striking moments in the midst of the action.  We get a chance to see the odd picture book that freaked Johan out in the last volume, and it's quite strange, but doesn't exactly explain his mindset (if such a thing can even be explicated).  Called The Nameless Monster, it's about, obviously, a monster, who roams the land consuming people and stealing their identities:

Urasawa presents the story in its entirety as a section of the book, setting it off by giving the pages a sepia tone.  It's a weird little tale, but while it's kind of creepy, it's only a slight clue, if even that.  Really, Johan is unexplainable, but Urasawa walks a fine line, making us think we can understand what might be going on in his head, but never revealing enough to ruin the mystique.  That's assuming he doesn't lay everything out in future volumes, but he's a good enough storyteller that he probably won't make that misstep, at least not without a good reason.

In the meantime, Tenma hides out in the library where Schuwald is donating his book collection, in hopes of shooting Johan with a sniper rifle at the official donation ceremony.  He's obviously conflicted about the act, since, as a doctor, he's supposed to preserve life, not take it, but he still feels responsible for having loosed Johan upon the world.  This leads to the expected tension when the moment for the assassination finally arrives, but Urasawa plays it well, and doesn't let it drag on too long, especially after the henchman shows up:

Instead, the situation gains an unexpected twist when a fire (planned, of course, by Johan, who became tired of trying to manipulate the economy through Schuwald and decided to just play with people's lives for the pure entertainment value) breaks out, causing all the spectators to run wild trying to escape.  And in the midst of it all, Johan watches passively, quietly delighted at the chaos he's caused:

He also gets a supremely chilling moment with Schuwald:

Scenes like this are amazing; Johan isn't an unknowable horror, but something that seems just barely outside the realm of understanding, and that makes him all the scarier.

There's plenty more going on in this volume, including a nice scene in which Lunge visit's Johan's former living quarters, and he appears to be stumped; his fingers, which are usually twitching non-stop as a cue for his mental note-taking, remain silent, since there is simply no data to be gathered:

As a midpoint in the story, it's an excellent bit of action, with some elements that set up the continuing mystery that will evolve over further installments.  I am continually amazed at how gripping the series is, with each chapter making me near-frantic to read the next one, and this volume is no exception.  I'll be rushing through the next one as soon as possible.

Monday, February 23, 2009

This week, we got nothing much going on

Elsewhere:  I've got a review of Groom Lake #1 up as part of Comics Bulletin's Sunday Slugfest, and I contributed a review of the pilot of Dollhouse to The Factual Opinion's Television of the Weak column.

Linky: If you haven't seen it already, Plok/Pillock has organized a cool series of blog posts called "Panel Madness", which focus on examining a single panel from an artistic point of view.  Great stuff all around, with contributions by the likes of Derik Badman, Sean Witzke, and my good pal Tucker Stone.  You can find links to the whole series in this final entry by Dan Best.

This is not a movie review:  I just wanted to mention that I did not especially like Repo! The Genetic Opera, but there was at least one good moment, and that was seeing Paris Hilton's face fall off.  If you can find it on Youtube or something, that will save you having to suffer through the rest of the movie.  Although I also liked some of the gore, including young Alexa Vega (of Spy Kids fame) delivering her big climactic song number while covered in blood, or Anthony Stewart Head doing a sort of puppetry duet by shoving his arm inside a corpse and working its mouth from the inside.  But really, not a good movie.

New comics this week (Wednesday, 2/25/09):

Fantastic Four #564

I'm sure some people are still interested in the Millar/Hitch run on this title, but it doesn't seem to get much attention in the areas of the comicsweb that I follow.  From what I've read, it's been decent, but not great.  Kind of mediocre, which seems odd for Millar; he usually runs either hot or cold.  Maybe he and Hitch do big action really well, but not necessarily big ideas.  Eh, I guess we'll see how it goes.  I think the story had something to do with interdimensional super-evil villains that are so bad they taught Doctor Doom to be evil.  That doesn't really make sense, but whatever.

Garth Ennis Battlefields Dear Billy #2

I gotta read this.  After finding out about the stupid price point of the collections of these miniseries, I might have to just get the individual issues now.  But I'll get them eventually, yes I will.  Here, read Nina Stone's take on the first issue; that should be all you need to let you know it's worth reading.

Jack of Fables #31

This series continues.  I'll buy it eventually, but I wish I didn't have to wait.

Mouse Guard Winter 1152 #5

Hey, and this series also continues!  It's always nice to see an issue show up.  Oh, cute little mice, why do you have to suffer so?  Can't all the creatures of the animal kingdom just get along?

Popbot #8

You know, I've never read any of this Ashley Wood series, so I have no idea what it's about.  Is it even a series, or just an art showcase?  I'll really have to read some of it sometime, since I really dig Wood's art.  He's pretty awesome.

Runaways #7

I guess if you're following the current iteration of this series, this is noteworthy due to art by Takeshi Miyazawa.  I think the storyline has to do with Chase's evil radio shock jock boss, but whatever; I haven't been very into the Terry Moore-written stuff on the series.  Still, it's always nice to see Miyazawa on the series, so the art should make it worth a look.  And there's apparently a new creative team coming onboard in a few issues, so maybe it'll be time to see if the series is worth reading again.

Umbrella Academy Dallas #4

Ugh, I'm pissed that I haven't been able to read this.  Let's get a collection out quickly, so I can jump right on it.  I'm loving the artwork that I've seen, even if it's mostly Gabriel Ba's awesome covers.  He somehow manages to make me not miss James Jean.  

Unknown Soldier #5

Vertigo.  Africa.  Atrocity.  I should read this.

Wasteland #24

I like this comic.  It seems to be coming out kind of slowly at present, but that's okay; I'll get a big chunk all at once when this arc is collected.  Yup, should be good reading.

Atomic Robo Vol 2 TPB

Hey, volume two of this coolness, out already.  I read the first couple issues, and I have the rest sitting on my computer, so I should try to get to them and see how great they are.  This is definitely not something that should slip under the radar.  Uh, if you're not aware, this second miniseries doesn't jump around in the character's history like the first one did (well, the backup stories sort of do, but not the main narrative), instead focusing on Robo's WWII battles against Nazi technology.  Good times, don't miss it.

Beanworld Wahoolazuma Vol 1 HC

I've never been into the Beanworld business, but this would be the place to start, a big collection of the first nine issues of the classic series that lots of people love.  For a good review, I would go with Caleb Mozzocco.

Complete Terry And The Pirates Vol 6 1945-1946 HC

Classic Caniff comics continue.  I've got volume 1 sitting at home; I really need to read it someday.

Dave McKean Postcard From Paris HC
Dave McKean Squink SC

I think these are more artbooks than comics, but if you like Dave McKean, I bet they're really nice.

Garth Ennis Dan Dare Omnibus Vol 1 HC

That's an odd title, since "omnibus" usually indicates a big, sprawling collection, or maybe a definitive version of a classic work.  This is neither; it's simply a collection of the recent miniseries that Garth Ennis and Gary Erskine did for Virgin Comics.  Apparently Dynamite picked up the rights, so here's the fancy hardcover version.  Eh, I'll still recommend it if you like Ennis; it's kind of like one of his war comics, except in space, and more reverent to classic characters, with some commentary on British politics.  Not bad at all.

High Rollers TP

I read the first issue of this Boom! Studios series, which I think was about gambling and street gangs or something, and I wasn't all that impressed, but maybe it got better.  Does anybody want to chime in and give an opinion?

In The Flesh TP

Koren Shadmi's new short story collection has been getting some mixed reviews, but I still wouldn't mind checking it out, if only because I really like his artwork.

Secret Invasion Black Panther TPB

I don't care for whatever silliness is engulfing Marvel comics at regular intervals these days, but this miniseries seemed to use the events to tell a good story, or so I hear.  If that's your thing, go for it.

Secret Invasion Runaways Young Avengers TPB

And here's another possible notable Marvel tie-in thing, although I think I read it and don't remember it being a good story or anything.  No, the main appeal was the art by Takeshi Miyazawa, so if you like his stuff, give it a flip-through, but don't buy it or anything.  Or do, I'm not your boss.

Sparrow Vol 11 Jim Mahfood HC

This is another series that I've never read, but I believe it's sort of an ongoing artbook, with each issue focusing on a different comics artist.  And hey, if you're going to go with one, why not the awesome Jim Mahfood?  He's pretty cool.

Starman Omnibus Vol 2 HC

Maybe if I get this from the library, I can do "Starman vs. Barman" for reals this time.

Waltz With Bashir Lebanon War Story TP

I wasn't all that interested in this animated documentary, based on reviews I had read, but then I saw that the artists involved were Tomer and Asuf Hanuka, who are awesome.  So now I think I want to see it.  But this graphic novel adaptation?  I'm not so sure; apparently it just consists of stills from the film in comics form.  It could still be worth a look, I guess; here's Sandy Bilius' review.

Crayon Shinchan Vol 7 TP CMX Edition

More naughty, pervy kid comics.  I should read these (I say that every time a new volume comes out).

Eden Its An Endless World Vol 11 TP

Hey, this series is still coming out.  I only have ten volumes to read to catch up.  I liked volume one, for whatever that's worth.


And another series on which I am way behind.  I was doing all right at keeping up for a while there, but I've only read through volume four.  Maybe I'll catch up at some point.  If you're interested in what I think, I reviewed volume one, but that's all.

I guess that's everything?  Not much there, is there?  That's okay, I've got lots of other material to read.  Stay tuned, the Monster Mash continues, and I've still got lots to blather on about.  

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Monster Mash begins! I suggest avoiding psychosis-inducing children's books

All right, it's time to see whether I can turn myself into a character from this manga through intensive exposure.  I've got eleven volumes to go, and only so much reserves of obsession.  Let's see how much I can deplete.

But first, a quick link: Neil Cohn is running a nifty, science-y comics-based survey at The Visual Linguist, so go participate.  You'll see what it's all about when you get there.

Monster, volume 8
By Naoki Urasawa

Even given the long gap between my reading of the previous volume and this subsequent one, I was able to jump right in and barely feel like I had to work to catch up.  Naoki Urasawa somehow continues to build the tension leading up to the showdown between Tenma and Johan that looks like it will take place around the series' halfway point (by volume number, at least).  But while we get scene after scene of characters having tense conversations, it never feels padded or extended beyond what is necessary.  In fact, the opposite is true, since the myriad of characters and plot threads all work to enrich the narrative, working together to weave a complex, fascinating tapestry.

In this volume alone, we see Tenma's plans to assassinate Johan and Nina(or is it Anna?)'s search for both of them, while allies of Tenma try to find him and stop him from destroying himself through violence, and Inspector Lunge continues to track the case mercilessly.  And we get some more face time with Johan, who manages to seem even more creepy when we see him in person than he was as an off-panel menace.  In an especially freaky bit, we see that his previous scenes in which he mingled with children weren't just there for horrific effect; he seems to be recruiting followers, trying to brainwash the kids into his Nazi-esque way of thinking through a suicidal game (I found it to be reminiscent of the Wheelchair Assassins' initiation in Infinite Jest, but I'm probably the only one).  And the image of a wounded child calls to mind the image of Johan as a child from the first volume:

That actually kicks off an interesting chapter involving Tenma's "ward" Deiter, acting as a sort of contrast between Tenma's and Johan's ways of life.  But then we get back to Johan and his weird ways.  It looked like he was angling to gain financial and political power by getting close to the influential Herr Schuwald, but we learn here that as complex and layered a plan as that was, it was just a sort of game for him, as is his baiting of Tenma; he seems prepared to receive the assassin's bullet, but maybe his survival from a previous gunshot wound to the head makes him think he's invincible.  He's inscrutable, seeming to never react to anything with an emotion other than bemusement, so it's especially unnerving to see him freak out when he happens across a children's book that seems to have something to do with his murderous impulses:

Urasawa stages that outburst especially well, seeming to pull back from a closeup, but never actually showing the full face.  The segmented view of his features make the scene especially creepy, not allowing us to actually relate to the character.

As always, it's an excellent installment of the series, building up to a confrontation in a way that compels the reader to keep turning the pages, while never sacrificing character.  It's fascinating to watch Urasawa work, but it's easy to ignore the fact that he is doing so, since he makes it so easy to get caught up in the story that you don't realize how well he's telling it.  Now I'm ready to blaze through the next volume and find out what is going on with the weird Czech book that turned Johan into a Monster.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shojo Beat: Gimmick-ry and victory (and victimry?)

No links?  What kind of Warren Peace post is this?

Oh, what the hell; here's some Valentine's Day-themed Kate Beaton cartoons.  I think "The Curies" is my favorite.  I think I want that as a poster.

Shojo Beat
March 2009

Hey, it's the "green" issue!  That means crap about environmentalism and recycling and junk.  I've heard it all before, I expect.  I did like the page about earth-themed manga and anime: Mushishi, the Miyazaki movies Nausicaa and Princess Mononoke, and an anime which I haven't heard of called Earth Maiden Arjuna.  Maybe I'll have to check that one out.

There's also an extensive Sand Chronicles section, similar to the Vampire Knight guide that the magazine did a few months ago.  Some of the features are just fluff, at least for a long-time reader like me, but a detailed synopsis of the story thus far would be good for new readers, and while I think the character relationship chart (which I still think I should claim credit for inspiring, with my 100 Bullets charts) isn't as necessary in a series that focuses mostly on three or four characters, it's a good introduction to the main and supporting casts.  But the most interesting bits are interviews with a Japanese series editor, and Hinako Ashihara herself.  Good reading.  Less essential is a guide to the symbolism of various elements of the series, but I do have to remember that the target audience of the magazine is teenagers, so I shouldn't complain when it doesn't cater specifically to my "mature" tastes.

Okay, on to the manga itself:

Hot Gimmick
By Miki Aihara

This month's preview chapter is another promo for an upcoming VIZBIG release of a popular series.  I'm a bit conflicted when talking about it, since it was one of the first manga series I read, and one that really got me interested in the medium.  It's been a while since I read it, but this first chapter reminds me why it was so compelling.  Miki Aihara is completely heartless when playing with her readers' emotions; her likeable heroine could enjoy gratifying up and crushing downs, with no warning as to which way things would go each chapter.  This creates such a gripping need to just see what will happen next, that you can't rest until you've read the next volume, and the next one, and so on.  Although, I lost that urge somewhere along the line, because I never finished reading the series (and maybe that would sour me on the series, because it's a notoriously unsatisfying ending), even though I own all the volumes; one of these days, I'll have to power through it for a marathon blogging session.

But anyway, in this first chapter, we meet Hatsumi, a put-upon high school girl whose family lives in company housing, which creates a terrible scrutiny on their activities.  If the boss's wife disapproves of them, her dad might get demoted or assigned to an awful traveling position.  And the drama really kicks in when Hatsumi's younger sister Akane thinks she might be pregnant, prompting a trip to a drugstore to buy a pregnancy test and the discovery of said test by the boss's bully of a son, who forces Hatsumi to be his "slave" in order to buy his silence.  So ridiculous (the moment when Akane confesses that "Sometimes I do it without protection, you know?" and can't remember how many guys she has slept with recently made me laugh out loud), but with just the right level of enhanced soap operatics to keep readers interested.  This isn't enriching material, but it's sure fun reading.  If you haven't read the series before, I recommend it, at least through volume seven or so, but keep the incredibly poor reception of that ending (which necessitated shrink wrap and a "Mature" rating for the final volume) in mind.

Sand Chronicles
By Hinako Ashihara

I'm impressed by how this series just keeps getting better and more mature.  Well, actually, it's kind of mature in hindsight, with this chapter focusing on the way teenage relationships seem so incredibly dramatic to their participants, but the passage of time can transform even the most painful heartbreak into a pleasant memory.  Both Ann and Daigo are hurting over their breakup, but they slowly begin to come out of their shells and learn to move on; it's not the end of the world.  And since the series is about how people change as time passes, we see that others can also grow.  Daigo might end up forming a new relationship with Ayumu, a classmate who has matured quite a bit since the last time we saw her.  And Ann can't seem to move on, sure that she will never love again, which prompts a lecture from Fuji:

There's also a nice moment between Ann and her father's (female) friend Kaede, and a brief scene that shows that Shika might be able to grow up and get over her angry, rebellious stage, much like Ayumu.  I'm sure the series will soon plunge into new and exciting directions, but this is a nice point to stop and reflect on the past, recognizing that while some things might have been painful, you've still got to keep moving on.  That's what I'll be doing, for as long as this series runs.

Honey and Clover
By Chica Umino

I'm not sure what to make of this series these days.  Is it past its prime?  Has Chica Umino run out of story ideas for the characters?  Or is this another example of a waiting period that comes before major developments?  Because there just doesn't seem to be much happening here in terms of character development, and that's too bad.  Morita is back among the cast, but even though he exhibits slightly more maturity than before, he's still just up to the usual goofy antics like being afraid of cockroaches.  Mayama and Yamada don't seem to be going anywhere, either relationship- or career-wise.  It's possible that some major developments are on their way for Takemoto, since he's having trouble finding a job or figuring out what to do with his life.  Hagu seems to have everything figured out: she wants to move to the countryside and live on a farm, occasionally showing her artwork at local galleries.  Unfortunately, there's not much dramatic potential there.  There is an interesting scene in which Morita complains to Professor Hanamoto that she isn't realizing her full potential; she could be a world-famous artist.  But Hanamoto doesn't want to push her to do that, when it would mean an unhappy life due to high expectations.  Or maybe she does want that, and she wants someone like Morita to push her to new artistic heights, rather than the comfort of her uncle?

Maybe this presages some interesting developments, but Umino seems to be treading water here, spending too much time on minor characters (somehow, Mayama's former coworkers have risen in prominence to almost the level of the main cast) and not allowing the major ones to progress.  Maybe she's trying to show their uncertainty, as they're in that precarious life position of accepting adult responsibility (see also: Solanin.  I just can't stop talking about that book), but I'm not finding it compelling.

Not that it's not enjoyable for what it is.  There's at least one scene that I found laugh-out-loud funny, in which the gang ends up helping out one of Ayu's neighbors, a baker who is running a Father's Day promotion in which he makes a bun that looks like kids' dad, if they bring in a photo.  Hagu and Morita end up getting in a battle to make the most realistic depiction, and the results had me cracking up:

On the other hand, I think I've had quite enough of the flamboyantly flaming former bosses of Mayama's (first seen here), who made a slightly amusing gag in one appearance, but keep popping up to mince about the page stereotypically, wearing women's clothing and saying things like "We started out as a single egg in mama's womb, and one we remain...".  Ugh.  Maybe it's a cultural thing that doesn't translate well, but I tire of gay humor like that rather quickly.

Still, this is a series that I really like, so I've obviously got a lot invested in its continuing goodness.  I don't want to see this devolve into a monthly set of pages with whiny characters and contrived comic relief.  Let's see some movement, something that makes me remember why these people feel so real and compelling!  Don't let me down, Umino!

Vampire Knight
By Matsuri Hino

I don't even know what to say about this series anymore.  Matsuri Hino's raison d'etre seems to be to continually hint at the illusion of development, without actually endangering the precious status quo.  Here, that means the hints that maybe Yuki's precious Kaname might actually be the vampire that slaughtered her family.  Could it be possible?  Of course not!  There's no way Hino would upset the Yuki/Zero/Kaname love triange that drives the angst of the series, so while the hint is out there, we're definitely not going to see a payoff (at least not one that confirms Kaname's villainy) anytime soon.  But we should still expect plenty of dramatic confrontations that don't actually lead anywhere.  I expect that all this will soon be sidelined by an encroaching plot involving a villainous nobleman who has possessed his son's body and is coming to attack Kaname, or something.  That will provide enough action-ish drama for a few chapters to distract from the ongoing mope-fest, but it will be back in full swing before long.

Honey Hunt
By Miki Aihara

Sometimes words or phrases that sound good in Japanese don't really work when translated into English, and Honey Hunt seems to be on the forefront of unfortunate localization.  Not only is Yuki's main love interest's band named Assha (which is the Japanese pronunciation of the band's actual name, H.A.), but now it's revealed that the noodle-soup-shilling sitcom she's working on is called "Slurp!"  That's pretty funny.

As for the actual contents of the chapter, it's more of the typical drama in which Yura thinks she isn't good enough.  This time out, she becomes convinced that she must have only been hired because of her famous parents, and while it's obvious that her manager is pushing this issue to the fore to get her to move past it, it's annoying to watch her angst about whether she's good enough to stand on her own.  The nice thing about the series is that this isn't too unrealistic, and we've seen that Yura does have talent beyond her name.  Sometimes the low points are necessary in order to make the eventual success that much more enjoyable.

Also interesting: the fact that Yura is falling into the sway of Q-ta, who has already shown that what interests him most about her is her father.  She has resisted his charms for that reason, but he seems to be trying to make up for it and develop a real relationship with her.  Will he turn out ot be a nice guy after all, or is he going to reveal a mercenary underside and crush her?  Knowing Aihara, I'm afraid it's the latter, but I've come to like Yura enough that I hope it's the former.  That's a demonstration of Aihara's skill at storytelling right there, isn't it?

Crimson Hero
By Mitsuba Takanashi

And so ends an excellent bit of sports action, in a manner that calls many real-life competitions to mind: abruptly.  Fiction can tend to draw out the drama in a competition to unrealistic ends, but Takanashi goes the surprising, and realistic, route here by having the game that has dominated recent chapters end suddenly, and using the moment to put the spotlight on a character that doesn't receive a lot of panel time.  As with much of this series, it's excellently done, demonstrating an emphasis on character in the midst of all the athletic drama.  

And so ends the most exciting bit of the series to date, but there's plenty of other threads to keep the interest high until the next game.  Is Tomoyo going to be able to recover from her knee injury, or is she out for good?  If she's done, how will the team be able to find a replacement in time?  Will Tomoyo's plight rekindle Haibuki's affection for her?  How will this Kaz fellow who seems to have his eye on Nobara muck up the works?  Can I get any more girly than I am already?  The fact that I'm genuinely interested in all these questions shows what a good storyteller Takanashi is, and I'm excited for the next issue to show up so I can see what happens next.

And that's all she wrote for the month.  As always, next month can't get here soon enough.  I'll be plenty busy until then though; watch for lots of Monster reviews, coming soon!

Monday, February 16, 2009

This week is brief, in words and comics content

LINK:  This seems to be "short films adapted from comics week".  Here's what seems to be a student film or something (it's pretty amateurish, if not bad or anything) that adapts the "Polaroid Boyfriend" issue of Local.  Not too bad.

Also, cool news from The Savage Critics, in that a bunch of new faces have been added to the lineup, including friends of the blog Tucker Stone and Dick Hyacinth, and also Sean T. Collins, David Uzumeri, and Chris Eckert.  Man, that site was can't-miss before, and now it's even better.  Rock on, internet!

New comics this week (Wednesday, 2/18/09):

Amber Atoms #1

A new Image series from creator Kelly Yates, this is about a girl who becomes a space hero, or something like that.  Looks nice.

Godland #26

Joe Casey and Tom Scioli keep the cosmic craziness rolling.  I need to read that last collection sometime.

The Great Unknown #1

Image is busy this week; here's a miniseries by Duncan Rouleau (most recently having done a Metal Men miniseries for DC that I still need to read) about a guy who has ideas stolen from his head and other weird stuff.  Looks pretty neat.  Here's an interview with Rouleau by Joe Kelly that also contains some preview pages.

Johnny Monster #1

And another one from Image, about a monster hunter.  It's by writer Joshua Williamson and artist J.C. Grande.  Could be fun.  Here's a preview.

Mysterius: The Unfathomable #2

Issue #2 of the magician series from Jeff Parker and Tom Fowler.  I'm really looking forward to reading the collected version of this.

X-Men #506

Here's this week's Matt-Fraction-in-servitude comic, with art by Terry Dodson.  I read the issue, and I've already forgotten what happens, although there seems to be a decent plot involving Beast and Angel putting together a science team that has to fight monsters.  Everything else is kind of take-it-or-leave-it though.

Zombies That Ate The World #1

Hey, it's another of those Humanoids books that Devil's Due is putting out.  This one originally came out in 2004 in Metal Hurlant, and it might have seen some sort of release stateside as part of that DC deal that wasn't very successful.  But here's a new version!  It's written by Jerry Frissen (Lucha Libre), with art by Guy Davis (BPRD), and it seems to be a humorous take on the whole zombie thing.  Two issues, I think.  I gotta check it out.

Baloney A Tale In 3 Symphonic Acts TP

From Drawn & Quarterly, it's the new book by Pascal Blanchet.  I never read his White Rapids, but it got a lot of acclaim, so I really should check it out sometime.  And probably this one too.  It's apparently an orchestral sort of story about a Russian butcher in a small village getting involved in an uprising against the local Duke.  I bet it doesn't have a happy ending.

Flash Gordon 75TH Anniversary HC

I saw this title and thought it might be a collection of the old Alex Raymond strip or something, but apparently it's just a special that's a follow-up to a recent miniseries.  Still, there are some interesting creators here, including Joe Casey, J.M. DeMatteis, Denny O'Neill, Len Wein, and Mike Cavallaro(!).  Probably not worth the price, but maybe worth a look?

Garth Ennis Battlefields Night Witches Vol 1 TPB

The collection of Ennis' recent miniseries about female Russian bombers in WWII.  I've been very interested in reading this and Ennis' other war stories from Dynamite, but I was waiting to buy a collected version instead of the singles.  I probably shouldn't have done so, because it looks like this trade, at $12.99, is more expensive than the three issues were at $3.50 apiece.  Lame.  Looks like I'll be hunting down back issues and getting the pamphlets for the other ones.  But that means I won't have to wait so long to read these things, so that's a bonus.

Johnny Boo Vol 2 Twinkle Power HC

James Kochalka does his kiddie stuff, and it's cute and fun and everything.  I don't normally read these, but I'm sure they are quite enjoyable.  Maybe I'll get them for my daughter at some point; it's never to early to start indoctrinating her into comics fandom.  If you want examples of the cuteness contained within, Caleb Mozzocco is your best source.

Pantomime SCAD Sequential Art Anthology TP

Here's a collection of comics by the stars of the future!  Top Shelf is releasing this third collection of stories from students at Savannah College of Art and Design, and it's probably pretty good.  Who knows, in a few years, this might be one to look back at and remember seeing some superstar in embryonic form.

Secret Identity The Fetish Art Of Supermans Co-Creator Joe Shuster HC

Leave it to Craig Yoe to put out this kind of semi-pervy book about comics luminaries of the past.  He's always coming up with that sort of thing.  I think the description of this book is all in the title, but you can always check out the Amazon page if you want more information.

Naoki Urasawas 20th Century Boys Vol 1 TP
Pluto Urasawa x Tezuka Vol 1 TP

Aw yeah, the Naoki Urasawa flood is hitting stores.  These might already be out in bookstores, but hopefully they'll be in comics stores now if you want to get them there (although who knows for how long, what with Diamond's latest fuckery).  I highly recommend both of them, since Urasawa rocks.  Here's my review of Pluto, and I should be getting to 20th Century Boys soon, although I imagine I'll be busy catching up on Monster, so watch for that.  Ah, a treasure of great manga awaits!

Shojo Beat Vol 5 #3 March 2009

I got this issue in the mail on time, so no waiting for my take this month.  I expect I'll have my review up this week, so stay tuned!

And that's everything for this meager week.  We'll see what I get around to writing and when.  I'm sure you're all on the edge of your seats waiting.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe: of High Expectations

One link: Robot 6 posts the trailer to a short film that adapts the first issue of Street Angel.  Fun, or so it seems.  I'm fine with the comic staying as a comic, and a lot of Jim Rugg's artistic flourishes probably won't survive the transition, but I bet that would be a fun project to make.  Maybe the entire thing will get Youtubed at some point, and we can see how well they did.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe (volume 5)
By Bryan Lee O'Malley

Something seems a little bit off about this, the penultimate volume in Bryan Lee O'Malley's immensely popular and entertaining series.  But maybe that's by design.  There's the usual mix of slacker humor, relationship moments, goofy fights against evil exes, and videogame references, all rendered in O'Malley's uniquely exaggerated style (and if you don't know what I'm talking about, I strongly urge you to read the first volume and get hooked like the rest of us), but some of the joy seems to be missing, and the volume as a whole is kind of a downer.  That might be a bit of dramatic structure, setting things up for the climactic final volume, but it also seems like maybe the characters are growing up a bit and are unhappy with the lack of focus in their lives.

The volume kicks off with Scott's 24th birthday, and he declares that he will be "the best 24-year-old...ever!"  But what does that mean?  He has moved to a new stage in his relationship with Ramona now that they are living together, he is working at his new job, and his band is recording an album, but he still doesn't seem to be making any personal progress.  At some point in your life, you've got to stop sitting at home playing games on a cell phone all day, and Scott might be starting to realize that.  The band certainly is, since with a lack of actual performing, the fun seems to have gone out of the endeavor.  And Ramona is troubled, thinking that maybe she isn't meant to be with Scott after all.  The latest evil exes, a pair of Japanese twins, only reinforce that feeling, describing her relationship with Scott as a sort of vacation from her "real life".  If he's going to convince her that that's not the case, he needs to really get things together, even more so than in the last volume, and show her that he's better than the evil guys in her past.

The series has been a lot of fun, but O'Malley seems to realize that early-twenties ennui only goes so far.  You can't stay in that zone of semi-maturity forever, as easy as it might seem, so he's pushing them and us to move forward and grow up.  

Not that you can't still have a good time along the way; there's still plenty of good stuff here, it's just lost some of its luster.  In what seemed like an interesting stylistic choice at first, Scott fights several of the twins' killer robots, but mostly in the background while other characters are talking about unrelated topics:  

But that's a smart move; it would get kind of boring to see fights over and over with little variation, so O'Malley not only changes things up humorously, but demonstrates how tedious the same old thing can get.

Not that this is a tedious volume in any way; instead, it's fascinating to see O'Malley continue to develop his characters and make them feel like real people even though they populate such a wacky, fantastical, somewhat metafictional world.  And the storytelling is as tight as ever, using thick lines that disguise an excellent attention to detail; a favorite moment sees Kim Pine give that telltale grimace that comes after taking a swig of alcohol:  

Really, the best bits aren't the wild action (although what we see of those is pretty great), but the character moments, like Ramona yelling at Scott from the bathroom while wrapped in a towel and dripping wet, or Wallace Wells mock-flirting with Scott while wearing a flowery bathrobe, or Scott freaking out when he finds out that Ramona doesn't really like his band.  That kind of human detail is what makes this series worth following, and all the silly jokes in the world don't add up to much without it.

Ultimately, this volume might differ a bit from the high expectations that preceded it, but O'Malley is showing that he won't just continue trudging along the same path for the rest of his career.  He's dedicated to progressing his characters and his world, to the point that he's going to be bringing it to a close with the next installment.  He's definitely building to an exciting climax, from a dramatic and an emotional standpoint.  One hopes that he'll be able to do so satisfactorily, but there's really no reason to doubt.  Like all the other fans out there, I can't wait to see.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Today's post of randomness

No big content to crow about here, just a collection of links and thoughts and whatnot:

Looks like Fantagraphics is running a weekly Blecky Yuckarella strip by Johnny Ryan. Fun!

I mentioned one or two things that were announced at NYCC that interested me, and it looks like there were several others of note, mostly gathered in this post at Robot 6. For one, Dark Horse's Noir anthology of crime comics looks really cool; it seems like crime comics are on the rise, and since that' a genre that I'm coming to enjoy quite a bit, that makes me happy. Announced creators on the series include Brian Azzarello, Ed Brubaker, Rick Geary, Jeff Lemire, Sean Phillips, Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba, and several others. Coming this September. Awesome.

Also cool from Dark Horse: a miniseries by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson called Beasts of Burden that functions as a sequel to their short stories in the Dark Horse Book Of... series. I think I've only read one of those, but I thought it was great and wanted to read more (did Dark Horse ever release a collection of just those stories? I thought they were going to), so this sounds pretty sweet. Here's an interview with Dorkin at CBR which contains some really nice-looking artwork. Man, I love Jill Thompson. Coming in August.

I'm not sure what to think about a new Alias miniseries from original creators Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos. That series is one that I love (although I should probably try to revisit it and see how well it holds up), but since it ended, Bendis seems to have done his best to destroy everything that made the Jessica Jones character interesting. Even the later issues of The Pulse, which also featured Gaydos on art, were agressively boring; I remember one that featured Jessica talking with Sue Storm about motherhood that nearly made me fall asleep. That, more than anything involving the Avengers or Houses of Ms or Secret Invasions, is where I started to sour on Bendis. I suppose he might have something interesting up his sleeve, but I kind of doubt this new thing will be much more than the usual "hang around with Luke Cage and discuss parenthood" story that Bendis seems to want to do with the character these days. Who knows, I'll see.

Oh, I should also mention that Viz is releasing Taiyo Matsumoto's GoGo Monster. And also Inio Asano's What a Wonderful World! Hells yeah.

And on a completely different note, I watched the movie adaptation of Wanted last night, and holy crap was it dumb. It made me long for the subtlety and nuance of Mark Millar's writing on the original series. And other than a few nifty visual ideas, it was pretty boring, filing all the rough edges off Millar's script to turn a misanthropic story about a world where supervillains won into a lame thing about assassins, because they are more likeable, I guess. James McAvoy was annoying (although I thought he did a pretty good American accent), and the plot was soooo stupid, basing itself on unbelievable convolutions of logic (so they turned him into a super-killer in order to get him to kill his father, and never expected that he might come back and use all his awesome powers on them?). Just...ugh. It did almost redeem itself at points through some cool visuals (I liked a shot in which we saw a train car fall down into a deep gorge and wedge itself between the walls, with the "camera" then swooping down until we could see the car from below; sure, it was all done in computers, but it was a nice bit of virtual camerawork) and ridiculous action ideas like guys shooting each other's bullets out of the air. And a lengthy bit in which McAvoy stormed through a factory shooting guys was pretty cool, even up through a bit in which he shot a guy in the eye, then stuck his gun in the eye-hole and kept shooting out the back of his head. That's the kind of over-the-top action I can get behind. But too much idiocy surrounded it, dragging the movie from "so bad it's good" to "just plain bad". Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Also: googling "Wesley Gibson" brings up no results? I could understand if his name was something made up, like Namchar Harkback, but isn't Wesley Gibson common enough of a name that something would pop up? That's the most unbelievable thing in the movie, which is saying something.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Monster Mash prelude: Pluto rocks my world, along with Osamu Tezuka's

Read more of my ramblings:  I reviewed Comic Book Comics #3 and Incognito #2 over at Comics Bulletin within the last few days.

Also interesting: this online comic that's all about how to do interesting stuff with online comics.  It's fairly entertaining too; kind of like a manga-esque Scott McCloud.

And: was it common knowledge that Faith Erin Hicks (of Zombies Calling and The War at Ellsmere fame) has a webcomic?  She does, it's called Ice, and it can be read here.

Now: manga:

Pluto, volume 1
By Naoki Urasawa

It seems like it might be difficult to follow in Osamu Tezuka's footsteps, until one remembers that he basically built the storytelling foundations of almost all manga that was to follow.  But while his artistic techniques made for some good ideas to copy, actually trying to redo his stories is another matter.  There have been some attempts at adapting his stories to other media, to varied results.  But when it comes to other cartoonists doing different versions of his stories, that's a different matter entirely; who would want to try to follow that act?  

Well, if there's anybody who could give it a go, it's Naoki Urasawa, a creator who seems rightfully confident in his skills.  With Pluto, he jumps on the task with enthusiasm, taking the world that Tezuka defined in his landmark Astro Boy series and filling in the street-level details that lurk in the background.  Startng with the framework of "The Greatest Robot on Earth", which is widely considered to be the best Astro Boy story (and which can be read in the third volume of Dark Horse's translation of the series), Urasawa focuses on minor characters, fleshing them out and making them feel like much more than bit players.  It's engrossing work, showing the same focus on character as Urasawa's Monster.

And that's what makes this such an incredible demonstration of great comics; Urasawa starts with a European detective named Gesicht investigating the death of Mont Blanc, a famous and beloved Swiss robot, along with the murder of a human who was involved in robot affairs, with both crime scenes bearing similar characteristics.  And while the case is interesting and puzzling, surely leading to some exciting revelations in upcoming volumes, the best stuff involves the relationships between robots and humans, and the examination of artificial intelligence.  One scene sees Gesicht reporting the death of a robot patrolman to its wife, and while she looks like something out of The Jetsons, Urasawa manages to make her reaction to the news especially poignant, given her lack of movable facial features:

Other notable bits include a meeting with an imprisoned killer robot that is reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter, and a first-chapter revelation about Gesicht that is masterfully done.  Gesicht is a great character for giving readers a viewpoint into this world, with its tenuous robot-human relations and widespread technology that brings mixed emotions to its residents.  With a killer targeting the seven most advanced robots in the world, events are occurring that bring all these tensions to the fore, and it should be fascinating to watch it play out.

A three-chapter interlude of sorts in the midst of the book displays another of Urasawa's strengths, in which he takes a break from the main narrative to flesh out some tangential characters.  Given just a small amount of space, he defines characters quickly and then plays key moments out before the readers, expertly modulating the tone and pacing for maximum emotional effect.  In this case, a reclusive blind composer named Paul Duncan gets a new robot butler named North no. 2, and they quickly end up at odds, as North, a former war-bot, wants to leave behind his violent past and learn about music, but Duncan, who doesn't trust machines, won't open up to him, treating him as little more than an appliance.  It's perfectly done, putting us inside the heads of both characters and revealing their thoughts and emotions only through their expressions and actions.  It's quite a feat, especially considering that North has a completely inexpressive visage.

And the cartooning is as excellent as Urasawa always is.  I'm especially impressed by his take on Tezuka's character designs.  His Mont Blanc looks like a robot that was designed by Tezuka, but exists in a gritty Urasawa world:

And the design for Paul Duncan seems to be a realistic version of Tezuka's Duke Red character:

Also amusing: a mention of a certain "unlicensed surgeon" who operated on Duncan as a child.  Was this in the original story, or is it a nod by Urasawa to more of Tezuka's ouvre?

It's a great opening volume in what promises to be an excellent series, full of Urasawa's trademark character development and perfectly-paced action.  It should be fascinating to see him continue to flesh out Tezuka's settings and add moments that fill in wonderfully-defined details.  I can't wait to see what happens next.

Monday, February 9, 2009

This week, there is one book which I plan to buy

I'm late linking to this, but I did review Agents of Atlas #1 last week on Comics Bulletin. Also, I contributed to The Factual Opinion's Television of the Weak post, with a review of Fringe, so there's something else to read if you can't get enough of me. Enjoy.

And since I like to link to stuff I found interesting, there are a few announcements from the New York Comic-Con that I though were cool, or at least worth a mention, including several projects from Vertigo and the Vertigo Crime imprint, including a bunch of interesting-sounding graphic novels, like Filthy Rich, by Brian Azzarello and Victor Santos; The Bronx Kill, by Peter Milligan and James Romberger; Cowboys, by Gary Phillips and Brian Hurtt; and Cuba: One Story, by Inverna Lockpez and Dean Haspiel. Then there's some cool new series, like Greek Street by Peter Milligan and David Gianfelice and DayTripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba, and a prose Fables novel called Peter and Max, written by Bill Willingham. That's a lot of stuff to look out for. Also of interest, if not necessarily something to look forward to, is the announcement that Jonathan Hickman will be the new writer on Fantastic Four, along with artist Dale Eaglesham. I guess that's...something, but I would definitely prefer to see him work on creator-owned stuff rather than joining the work-for-hire brigade.

Okay, the post:

New comics this week (Wednesday, 2/11/09):

Batman #686

For those who care, this is the first part of Neil Gaiman's "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" storyline, with art by Andy Kubert. I'm somewhat conflicted, since I do like Gaiman, and it could possibly be an interesting story which, judging by the title, will be some sort of riff on Alan Moore's "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" On the other hand, I'm bored with Batman and superhero comics in general, I haven't really liked any of Gaiman's comics work in the past five years or so (I haven't really enjoyed anything of his since Endless Nights), and I dislike Andy Kubert's artwork. So, I'm sure I'll see what people have to say, and then maybe read it when it gets collected or something. What a ringing endorsement!

Castle Waiting #14

This is a series that I really do want to try sometime. I need to just bite the bullet and try to get the hardcover of the first volume at the library or something.

DMZ #39

Brian Wood continues the tales of urban warfare. I'll get a chance to get closer to caught up this week (see below)...

Fables #81

More post-war tales of fabledom. New collection, please.

Gravel #9

Ellis and Wolfer with the combat magician tales. Is this any good at all?

Hellboy The Wild Hunt #3

Mignola and Fegredo. I bet this will be a good read. I'll look forward to the eventual collection.

Hexed #2

More of Boom!'s flourescent wizardry. I'm not sure if this is any good either.

Incognito #2

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips continue their supervillain (turned superhero?) story, with some backstory, and lots of promised depravity. I should have a review up tomorrow at Comics Bulletin, but I have to read it first.

Patsy Walker: Hellcat, Agent of Initiative #5

Kathryn Immonen and David LaFuente complete their funky story of Alaskan magic and whatnot. It's been fun, from what I've read, so check this out if you haven't before. By the way, apparently LaFuente is going to be the artist on a new version of Ultimate Spider-Man. What's Stuart Immonen going to do? Hopefully some graphic novels with his wife or something; As decent as Ultimate Spidey is, I'd love to see his work on something I'm actually excited to read.

Scalped #25

I keep meaning to read the first volume or two of this series, because it is reputed to be very good. As with so much that I mention, someday it may happen.

Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen #4

I haven't been too enamored of this adaptation of Stephen Colbert's character (see my review of the previous issue here), but it does have some charms, so don't let me dissuade you too much if you really want to check it out. At the least, it features some nice art by Robbi Rodriguez.

30 Days Of Night TP Juarez

I've never been into the various 30 Days of Night comics (although I saw the movie not too long ago, and I thought it was pretty good), but this one is written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Ben Templesmith, so it might be worth checking out. Does anybody know if it is any good? Do I have to be up on series continuity to understand it? Because I'm sure keeping up with the mythos of arctic vampires (who also apparently hang out in Mexico?) must be difficult.

All Star Superman Vol 2 HC

Ooh, here's the chance to read the excellent finale to a great series, one of the last superhero books that I can fully get behind. Grant Morrison, Frank Quitely, beauty. Read it, if you haven't already.

Ashley Woods 96 Nudes HC

Ashley Wood did two individual books of 48 nudes apiece, so here's the collection. I don't think there's much more to it than what the title says. But that's cool, because Wood can sure draw some cute girls. Go fine art!

Batman False Faces TP

I don't know if this is a paperback version of what was originally a hardcover, or if it's just a new printing, but this is the book that collects some early stories by Brian K. Vaughan, if you're interested. I haven't read it, but I wouldn't mind, just out of curiosity.

Batman RIP Deluxe Edition HC

And speaking of Batman (and Grant Morrison), here's the big book collecting his "epic" story about Batman going crazy, reverting to a backup personality, sleeping in the streets, and fighting a bunch of people who plotted to kill him in different ways. It was very controversial, in that people either didn't understand it or thought it was anticlimactic. I managed to read it, and I thought it was okay, but not great, and I might have been disappointed by the ending if I hadn't read all about it beforehand. But mostly, Tony Daniel's art is ugly stuff that really drags the book down. I can't say it would definitely have been better without him, but he certainly didn't help things. Anyway, I guess you can read it if you really want to, but I can't say that I recommend it.

DMZ Vol 6 Blood In The Game TPB

And this is the book I will definitely be purchasing. I really like this series, but waiting for the collected versions to come out is no fun. I'll still do it though. I think this storyline has to do with an election? I'll see when I get to it (which might not be for a while); don't let me down, Brian Wood!

First Time HC

NBM's Eurotica imprint has this collection of porn comics by various creators, including Cyril Pedrosa and Dave McKean. Looks good if you're into that sort of thing. You can see a couple of preview pages here (NSFW).

Marvel Europe TPB

This collects a few of the recent Marvel comics by European creators, including the Wolverine: Saudade one-shot that I reviewed for Comics Bulletin. I dunno if it's worth the price ($15 for basically three stories), but you could take a look if you're interested in some non-traditional takes on Marvel's characters.

Mixtape Vol 3 Food One/Jim Mahfood Art HC Regular Edition

Wow, lots more Jim Mahfood. He's pretty cool; I should try to get these sometime.


Man, this guy just doesn't go away, does he? I guess this is a graphic novel reimagining Mr. T as a superhero bodyguard, or something. The site shows a cover of a story that pits him against Dracula. Sounds silly. If you really want to know more about this, you can download a PDF preview here.

Roberts TPB

I was interested in this series when I saw some information about it at last year's Wizard World, but I never actually read it. But here's the collection! It's about the Boston Strangler and the Zodiac Killer ending up in the same retirement home. Did anybody else read it? Is it good? Maybe I'll give it a try, given the chance.

Supreme Power Vol 1 Contact HC

Is this series still relevant? Or rather, does anybody care about it anymore? Several years ago, it seemed like a big deal, one of those serious, "superheroes in the real world" sort of things. I liked it well enough, although my tastes have changed and I'm not especially interested in that theme anymore. But it seemed to lose its way after around 12 or so issues, getting really slow and not developing, then switching from a "mature readers" title to an "all ages" one, then crossing over with Marvel's Ultimate Universe in a poorly-received miniseries, then getting relaunched in a Howard Chaykin-written miniseries that I think still hasn't finished. But if you want to see what got people interested, here's a fancy collection that you can read! Just know that it never really delivers on its promises and whimpers to a non-ending that leaves nobody satisfied. Ah, comics!

Unloveable HC

Everybody seems to be excited about this new book from Fantagraphics by Esther Pearl Watson that sort of adapts a found teenage girl's diary. Myself, I can't stand Watson's artwork, and think it looks ugly and uninteresting. But I could be wrong, so feel free to either ignore me or scream obscenities at your computer screen.

Welcome To Hoxford Vol 1 TPB

This collects the first four issues of Ben Templesmith's latest series, at a price that, like most IDW books, is too expensive ($20). Still, Templesmith is awesome, and this sounds really cool, about a prison/mental institution that might be supernatural or something (I think; I might have that all wrong). I really want to read it at some point, which may or may not ever come.

Black Lagoon Vol 4 TP

This is the only manga book of note that I saw this week. I didn't like the first volume of this action series very much, but lots of people seem to enjoy it, so I might give it another try. I do have volumes 2 and 3 sitting at home, so that might happen sooner rather than later. And here's the next one, eager to follow its predecessors.

And that makes the week. One book that I plan to buy, maybe some others of interest. And always lots to read. Stay tuned to see what I think about whatever that might be.