Archive for the ‘Manga/Comics’ Category

Here’s the list of stuff I read in June and July – this month I have been on comics hiatus due to personal reasons and generally staying busy, so I have a bit of a pile waiting for me whenever I get back to it. In the meantime:

Issues

  • Ms. Marvel #1-4 – For anyone who hasn’t read the new rendition of Ms. Marvel, you’re missing a great series. The main character Kamala is a teenager who writes Avengers fanfiction and deals with the pains of being a minority in both race and religion. This book has been – at least through the part I’ve read it – both fun and warm-hearted. I really enjoy it, and will continue to read it.
  • She-Hulk #1-4 – While the story is the familiar “down on her luck, so here’s a zany cast” kind of tale, the fact that it’s a superheroine who’s going through these dilemmas intensifies how funny it is. It’s lighthearted and quirky, but I don’t like the art. It distracts me enough that I probably won’t read further. Ms. Marvel is also lighthearted and funny, but with the addition of being a bit better written in my opinion (it’s far more complex) as well as featuring art that’s less jarring to my eyes.
  • Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #3 – I was already on the fence about this series after the first issue, but in this one it takes a dive for me. I think I may have gotten another issue or two as I’d had a digital subscription, but I cut it off. Once I catch up, if it doesn’t improve, I will drop this series. This is sad, as I love the character of Iron Fist.
  • The Hood: A Change From Within #1-2 – This independently-created comic is something I backed when it was on Kickstarter. Its story/writing are solid and the art is beautiful. The Hood tells the tale of a young man who lives in the hood and loses a loved one to the violence there. He then decides to take it upon himself to exact vengeance and justice. As of the first two issues, his story has just begun and he is learning the ropes as it were. I look forward to the continuation, as it’s an atypical spin on the archetypical superhero comic.
  • D4VE #5 (end) – The glorious finale of the D4VE series was just as funny and awesome as the rest. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes goofy, oddball sci-fi.
  • Zukahnaut #1-2 – A webcomic now available on Comixology. It’s the story of a big green alien who wants to reclaim his life after having wasted so much of it. Zukah is crazy, and now he’s on Earth. Also, he can make vegetables explode for reasons undisclosed.

Trades

  • Bedlam Vol. 2 – The writing remains enjoyable, but the loss of Riley Rossmo’s art kills me. The new artist seems to be trying to emulate – unsuccessfully – Rossmo’s established style. It’s far too black and thick and sketchy, without some of the sensitivity that Rossmo added. I will continue to read it as I like the story enough to press onward, but every time I read it I wish Rossmo were back on it.
  • Parasyte Vols. 1 & 2 – An older manga series that I’ve had part of for a very long time; I finally purchased the end of the series, but because the last time I read the older volumes was a couple years ago, I’m rereading from the top. There are 8 volumes total. It’s a great sci-fi/horror series that is also incredibly thoughtful and sensitive. It generates a lot of self-reflection.
  • Pacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero – I wasn’t sure what I was anticipating, but this is a book that’s a mishmash of several characters’ backstories. This shed some light on the many elements left out of the movie, but overall as a stand-alone graphic novel it’s unremarkable.
  • Last Day in Vietnam – a classic graphic novel, based on Eisner’s own experiences in Vietnam. Interestingly drawn from the first person with a silent protagonist, in Eisner’s distinct style. Quite a refreshing read given the adherence to a standard comic format as found in most work these days other than the “artsy comics” found primarily among indie creators. I will be reading more Eisner.
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In the last two weeks, I’ve read a bunch of comics mostly along a single vein. I did not read some of the things I’d had on the radar, mostly because I’ve been very busy. However, I did get to the following:

  • Conan #37 – 50 (end): I completed the rest of the plain-titled original. There are still several short arcs in this series, but rather than being numbered under the main moniker they have singular names. I’ll get to those eventually, but I’m ready to move on from the barbarian. As before the series is close to Howard’s original stories even though there are a lot of original characters for the comic. I might critique it and say that I wish there was more character development of someone other than Conan himself, but honestly there wasn’t much supporting development in the original stories either. Still, Nestor the Gunderman was given decent treatment and a couple of other characters were also memorable in a series which from the start has always been focused on the hero.
  • Superman Unchained #1-6 (end): I read this because I wanted more Superman stories after the glut of new stuff in my last post. This wasn’t a bad run and I did read the entire arc without growing bored, but I wasn’t wowed by it either. I’ve received recommends for other classic Superman arcs which I will try in the future, but it’s not high on my roster at present as I believe I’ve had enough of this Man of Steel and have shifted to a different theme.
  • Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #2: This was also okay, but like Superman Unchained I find that it was largely forgettable, much to my chagrin. Although I was excited to see Iron Fist back in a solo book again, this run has yet to really seize my attention. I’m not sure whether I will pick up the next issue or not.

I’d intended to finish up the last two trades of American Virgin and read the third Sin City trade, but didn’t have enough time all in one sitting, which is how I prefer to read graphic novels. Those are still on my roster along with Nightwing #30, which I’d preordered as Tom King is one of the writers and is taking over the story. It ushers in a new arc. Tom is/was a podcaster on No Apologies, which is something that I subscribe and listen to. I also happen to like Nightwing as a character but have not been excited about any of the New 52 issues that I’ve read thus far. I’m interested in seeing where Tom goes with it. However, the Forever Evil arc ushers it in and therefore prior to reading Nightwing I want to pick up Forever Evil. Additionally, of the late I have taken to watching Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles while I do yoga or strength training, paint/draw, etc. As a result I have the urge to pick up the Terminator digital comics bundle that I purchased from Dark Horse awhile back. (I will also post about SCC later after I finish season two.)

This month so far I have been reading two specific characters: Conan and Superman. I’d purchased a Conan bundle of issues 0-50 (the entire self-titled run) during the Dark Horse anniversary sale and decided to hack into it.

 

As to the Superman spree, I have a digital subscription for the Superman/Wonder Woman releases as I rather like that particular book. Sadly however it has begun doing the thing that I absolutely loathe about superhero comics: “Continued in Superman #30!” which then says, “Continued in Action Comics #31!” which then says, “Continued in Superman: Doomed #1!” which then says, “Continued in Superman/Wonder Woman #8!” and so on. My biggest gripe is that I like the creative team and the pacing in the Superman/Wonder Woman title. I may or may not care so much about the other creative teams (or the particular writer/artist/editor groupings), so when I am forced to switch from one title to another in order to figure out what happened and why in hell Superman is missing at the start of issue #8, I have to follow a trail of breadcrumbs through all these other stories where there is already some ongoing thread that I don’t follow and have no clue about. What happens is that the pacing and narrative voice switch from author to author and the mood/feel of the art changes the interpretation of the world and characters, leaving me feeling totally out of whack as I book-hop. I HATE it with unmitigated passion. I still read the required pieces, but only because I have pointedly avoided doing so for a number of years and was hoping that perhaps this time I’d have developed a tolerance for it. Nope! I share my account with my fiancée (who is also reading and enjoying Superman/Wonder Woman) and thus I wanted to allow him the option of getting the full story. I don’t know if I’m going to persist in playing hopscotch with my books however. This may force me to drop my subscription if I start missing too much story or if it jacks up the narrative flow too much. I already feel like I was shortchanged with that little romp particularly as I’d read issue #8 of SM/WW before backtracking to see what in hell happened. End rant, begin discussion of comics.

 

Issues

  • Conan #9-36 – I find that the stories that are directly based on Robert E. Howard’s originals are the best as they are by their nature the most character-accurate. I certainly don’t mind the new stories that Kurt Busiek tells, but sometimes although Conan is definitely pretty close to the original characterization, sometimes he seems a little “off” in a way that unseats the particular story just enough to reduce my enjoyment of those particular issues. This is not always the case however, and sometimes I enjoy the comic-original pieces as much as the retelling of Howard’s prose. One thing that I like is that the art team is for the most part rather consistent, but in the newer issues (of the ones I have read this month) there have been more guest artists and changes to the style that I do not like. The quality of the bulk however is still very good and does a decent job of remaining faithful to the spirit of Howard’s world, so I would certainly recommend these to any fan of the character and his adventures.
  • Superman/Wonder Woman #8 – I read this one in an attempt to simply continue the story, but because I was extremely curious as to how in hell the story developed the way it had, I followed the trail through all the other titles to sort it out and was left feeling shortchanged, unsure that it all actually made sense and generally upset that I couldn’t have just stayed with the title and creative team I’d been enjoying so much. The actual content of this issue was just as awesome as the prior issues, however. In particular I loved the changes to Superman’s personality due to Doomsday. I really hope that there won’t be too many breadcrumb trails in the future because I feel the story is better told with the same team that’s been building it to date in this title.
  • Superman #30 – Part of the breadcrumb trail leading into Superman/Wonder Woman #8. This was the least memorable for me of the random issues in the story.
  • Superman: Doomed #1 – Part of the breadcrumb trail leading into Superman/Wonder Woman #8. This wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as exciting for me as SM/WW.
  • Action Comics #30-31 – Part of the breadcrumb trail leading into Superman/Wonder Woman #8. Issue 30 is actually the prequel to the Doomsday arc. The team on this one is likeable, so I may actually go back and fill in the missing issues from this title. I still much prefer Superman/Wonder Woman.
  • Batman/Superman #1 – Because I’d read all these other Superman stories and had this one in my “to read” list, I opened this one up too. The interesting art style is what initially caught my eye, though Jae Lee moved on from this series after only a few issues. I will likely continue to read it as I usually enjoy the interactions between these two characters. It’s not the highest on the priority list however.

 

What I plan to read during the rest of the month: the rest of the Conan run and to continue my trend, Sin City trade #3. If I have time for more, Iron Fist #2 and American Virgin trades #3-4 to finish that series out. I’m also interested in reading Superman: Unchained. I’m presently most excited about Superman when it comes to comics thanks to SM/WW. It has been so enjoyable for me that it actually rekindled my ancient love of that character (who was my first superhero and fictional character crush) and also caused me to finally like Wonder Woman for the first time. I have attempted to read her in the past and just have never picked up the right book. I watched the old TV show as a kid and tried various random issues as well as the Jodi Picoult run a few years back. I love Picoult’s novel The Tenth Circle so I thought that she may be able to translate over to comics for me, but none of the things I’ve ever seen Wonder Woman in stuck to me. Superman/Wonder Woman has changed that at long last, and so after I glut myself on Superman I want to ask around for recommends on good Wonder Woman books.

On Friday I posted a list of comics I’ve read this month with a bit of info on my reaction to each. Well, I did a lot more reading in the last few days in my attempts to unwind around the various projects and work I’ve been mired in.

Issues

  • Avatar #1 – I’d finally dusted off my Dark Horse app on my tablet and decided to poke around. This was a freebie, and unlike seemingly everyone else in the world I have never watched Avatar. It wasn’t bad, but nothing caught my attention either.
  • Conan the Cimmerian #0 – Anyone who’s read other posts on this blog will understand that I have a history with Conan. I’ve read the complete collection of original stories by Robert E. Howard and own all the movies. However, I’ve never read the comics. I was legitimately surprised with how faithful they have been to the source material. This particular issue did not catch my eye as much as Conan #0, but I fully intend to read all of the Conan comics at length. This issue was good…but Conan #0 was slightly better.
  • Conan #0-8 – Rather conveniently Dark Horse ran a sale this weekend on digital comics. After reading #0 I opted to buy the entire run of Conan, and have been chipping away at it. As I said above, I’ll be reading all of the various runs in time.
  • Ghost: In the Smoke and Din #0 – This was a freebie that also caused me to purchase the rest of the run. I was curious enough to get the one bundle. If I like it enough, I will start reading the regular Ghost series.
  • Stray Bullets #1-4 – These were well-written and fun in a dark way. Starting from different points, each story ties into the others in some way via common characters. I’d like to continue reading this at length.
  • The Darkness #1 – I’ve attempted to read The Darkness and Witchblade and like them several times over the years, literally since I first saw them in the comic store back when I was in high school. I have just never liked the stories or characters although I like the artwork. I read this again to see if I might like it now as it’s been awhile since my last attempt, but no dice. Comixology was running a sale on this series so I thought I’d see if I wanted to purchase some. Glad I bought Conan and Ghost instead.
  • Ms. Marvel Infinite Comics #1 – A freebie that I read because I am interested in the current run of the main title comic for this character. I will probably pick up a few issues of Ms. Marvel sometime next month.

Trades

  • Saga #3 – In which every character falls in love in exactly 2.5 seconds. Seriously, what the hell? This series is fairly fun and I do enjoy the artwork, but I feel that it’s overrated. So many people respond to any mention of this title with, “It’s SOOOOOOO good!” Good lord, this is not a masterwork. Breathe! I will keep reading it, but I’m apprehensive that it’s going to fall apart like Y: The Last Man did as it approached the end. Note that I loved the start of that series, but it lost me somewhere.
  • American Virgin #1-2 – This is a great series. I have the other two trades on my “to read” pile. I’ve been rather enjoying it.
  • Sin City #2 – It’s awesome. I love returning to these books to observe the minimalist art and the particular style of narration.

It’s been awhile since I’ve used this blog for anything, so I felt like I should get back on it. Here’s a list of the comics I’ve read recently:

Issues:

  • Kinski #1 –  Got this as a freebie during some promo or another. Not sure why the dude is so obsessed with the dog. Didn’t pique my interest.
  • Iron Fist: The Living Weapon #1 – In which Danny Rand transformed into Batman. I love Kaare’s color use and layouts, and the story is solid. Although I do like my dark and gritty stuff I actually feel kind of jaded about this take on the character, but I respect Kaare’s skills enough to keep reading.
  • Ghost Rider #1-2 – Picked up physical copies on a recommend from my friend Jake at 8th Dimension Comics & Games. I can see that it will be a fun take, and although at first the art was a bit off-putting to me I think it really works with the style of the story. It didn’t really tickle my pickle though, so I don’t know that I will keep up with it. Maybe when it’s a trade.
  • Superman/Wonder Woman #1-7 – Picked up after listening to Darrell talk about it consistently on No Apologies Podcast. Bought issue 1, liked it, bought issue 2. Read issue 2, liked it, bought all the rest of the issues. I have to agree with him that this is one of my favorite current comics.
  • Aesop’s Ark #1-3 – A charming tale of the stories the animals on the Ark tell each other to pass the time. The art and lettering are all done by hand in pencil (which I love as my own comic is drawn and lettered by hand), by an artist who is a children’s book illustrator. Each issue is short, but very good. I will be following its releases.
  • D4VE #4 – I got the first issue as a promo freebie, and liked it enough to keep up with it. It’s a 5-part mini, and issue 5 isn’t out yet. Very entertaining and funny.
  • Tiny Titans #1 – A collection of jokes poking fun at the Teen Titans. Very funny if you like that team. I’ll be getting more in the future and probably keeping current with it.
  • RoboCop: Last Stand #1 – Didn’t really catch my fancy, but I gave it a shot.
  • Pretty Deadly #1 – Despite the hype this didn’t really catch my attention either.
  • We Kill Monsters #1 – This kind of perked me up some. I’m somewhat interested but not chomping at the bit for more. Like Ghost Rider, I may read more of this in a collected volume at some later point.

Trades:

  • Twisted Dark #1 – This is right up my alley insofar as the horror-type stuff I read is concerned. Well-written and illustrated by a variety of artists, this is a collection of stories that seem innocent enough at first, but always have – you guessed it – a dark twist at the end. I’ll be getting more of these to catch up to the current publication.

 

I also had a chance to use the Marvel AR app on Iron Fist and Ghost Rider. It’s kind of neat, but not so exciting that I’m amazingly jazzed. It also requires you to scan a page of the comic (meaning either you have a physical copy or open the digital version on a computer, I guess, and scan it with your phone/tablet). It also only has the info saved to it for the most recent comics, so if you are just now reading AR comics you have to go visit the website to see the extras.

Click on the above image to be taken to the ComiXology webpage for this comic. The first issue is FREE!

In my meanderings around ComiXology lately, I came across this series by Th3rd World Studios. As with many things, I was hooked first and foremost by the fact that it was 1) highly rated; and 2) free. Well, the first issue at any rate. I’d recommend that you go read it, too, because you won’t be disappointed.

The year is 1944. A man — like so many men — is off fighting WWII. Back home, his wife cares for his two young sons. One night, the elder son is taken away by the Boogeyman. Some of his toys — as well as his little puppy — decide to go into the Dark to find and retrieve him. It’s a cute plot so far, right? Sure. It’s like Alice in Wonderland meets Toy Story. Only…it’s NOT.

There are different striations of toys: favorite, prior favorite, forgotten, broken, common. Each of these have entirely different beliefs about their place in life as well as their relation to the Boy. Some aren’t vested enough to join the quest; others were handed down to the younger son and state that their duty lies with their new Boy. This swiftly-established rationale pervades throughout the story once the chosen toys enter the Dark. What is “worth it” to them? What do they feel about the Boy? This comic is amazingly cerebral and incredibly brutal despite the cute premise. While the Boy’s father fighting in Normandy, the toys undergo a rescue mission into enemy territory, fighting against armies of the Dark: the forgotten toys, the broken toys of all the children, each twisted because of their abandonment, finding new meaning in the Dark in the service of the Boogeyman.

When the toys enter the Dark, they assume new fleshy forms that are equivalent to their original toy bodies: the toy soldier becomes a real soldier; the teddy turns into a giant grizzly; and so on. So, too, do all the cast out toys already in the Dark have their own forms that are based on what they once were.

The starting cast includes:

Scout: The Boy’s young puppy. Scout, being a loyal dog, naturally opts to search for the Boy.

The Colonel: The fearless toy soldier who rallies the toys into the Dark. He is very much what the Boy idealized after his father left for war, and so is one of the Boy’s favorite toys.

Maxwell (Max): The teddy bear who was the Boy’s prior favorite until the arrival of Scout. Max is short-tempered and violent and hates Scout passionately.

The Princess: An Indian princess figurine who has been separated from her tribe. She is reserved and stately, but is fearless and skilled in combat.

Harmony: The ballerina figurine who has watched over the Boy from the toy shelf longer than any of the others. She does not have the heart of a fighter, instead being very motherly. She refers to the other toys as her family.

Percival (Percy): The cowardly but very intelligent piggy bank, drafted unwillingly by the Colonel. He is steadfastly against the voyage into the Dark and feels no loyalties to the Boy, who will intentionally break him sooner or later in order to extract the money he guards.

Quackers: The wooden tug duck with a loud mouth and little tact, who flies reconnaissance. He goes into the Dark because his friends are going, and in particular is close to Max.

Jester: The jack-in-the-box from England, who wears his heart on his sleeve. He has fallen in love with the Princess and worries after her. He feels as much loyalty to her as he does to the Boy.

Boogeyman: Very much like Lucifer, he is a deceiver who is always plotting and bends others’ wills to his own. He is the ruler of the Dark and has stolen the Boy, presumably to corrupt and break him. He is depicted in a truly terrifying fashion and is an effective villain.

Loyalty, trust, and courage: these are tested for each toy. The story itself is wrought with betrayal, death, trials and tribulations. It is a very serious and well thought out handling of an initially lighthearted premise. I was excited for each new issue, and even now am eager to read more. The artwork is gorgeous graphite with soft shading on sepia, and as such the entire comic has a nostalgic feel to it. This works well with the fantastic vintage attitude of the piece.

Will they save the Boy from the clutches of the Boogeyman? Only time will tell, as this series is still a work in progress. Currently there are three volumes available with a fourth being released this summer. I’d highly recommend this series as it only improves with each new book.

Click on either of the above to see these issues on Comixology.

Let me first prepend my review of these two issues by stating that I am an on again, off again comic reader. I have not ever religiously read any particular series; I read them when I think to get them, and although I do tend to consistently gravitate towards Batman and his allies/enemies, I will also read anything else that catches my eye regardless of series, publisher, origin country, and so on. These two issues of Suicide Squad are the first I’ve read from that particular series.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

The premise of this story arc is that someone killed (and skinned) the Joker while Harley was in Belle Reve Penitentiary and acting as part of the Suicide Squad, which is a team of supervillain death row inmates who are allegedly working off their sentence via performing high-risk black ops missions for the government. Harley finds out about the Joker’s death and goes on a killing spree in an issue prior to the two I’m reviewing (but of course this information is recapped in the issues in question). As issue #6: The Hunt for Harley Quinn begins, the remainder of the Squad is attempting to track her down.

A sizeable chunk (but of course not the entire issue as this is Suicide Squad, not Harley Quinn) recounts the tale of Harley’s life prior to meeting the Joker: she was a psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who was assigned to work with the Joker. She’d been a “good girl” all her life up to that point, but her way of approaching the Joker – challenging him fearlessly, and quite aware of what he might try to pull – intrigued him enough that he decided to lure her in instead of killing her. The rest of the issue focuses on some of the other members of the Squad, particularly the two squabbling male leads, Deadshot (the leader) and Savant (the challenger) as they seek out Harley.

Issue #7: The Origin of Harley Quinn continues the story, with Harley-of-the-present breaking into the police department to retrieve the remains of the Joker – his face, which was skinned off – and the rest of the Squad creating a distraction and sneaking into the building to catch her. The rest of her origin story is related, with Harleen (Harley-of-the-past) meeting with her superior, whom she finds out has been stealing her research on the Joker for a book she is writing to make herself famous, and due to the Joker’s persuasive influence she just snaps and nearly kills the woman. Directly thereafter she breaks the Joker out of the Asylum, and he takes her to the place he was “born” and tosses her into a vat. When she emerges, she’s lost all compunctions and has special half-and-half hair and decides she needs to make out with the Joker.

Back in present day, Harley traps Savant in a cell with his foot on a pressure-sensitive mine (if he moves, he blows up) and while he’s dealing with that, she also captures Deadshot and ties him to a chair. In perhaps the more interesting segment, she takes the Joker’s face and places it over Deadshot’s, talking to him as if he is the Joker. While she’s in her weird delusional monologue about how the Joker is still alive she decides to kiss him, at which point he shoots her, thus finding her recaptured. (Although I am not covering issue #8 as it isn’t really related to Harley, you find out that she is still alive despite the stomach wound and returned to the team again.)

I must say that although I bought these two issues because I wanted to read about what happened between her and the Joker, I was more entertained with the testosterone-fueled exchanges between Deadshot and Savant. The problem I had with the Harley/Joker exchanges was that although it was a good idea, the events were so briefly touched upon that it wasn’t nearly as effective as it could have been. Neither character really shined in all their crowning glory, and the changes in Harleen which made her into Harley were barely shown. I’d have liked it better if it were a stand-alone series of a few issues, but as this was written in the midst of Suicide Squad it involved too many goings-on and too many characters in too few pages. It would have worked even within the larger context of the present events, had the mini story arc been a couple of issues longer. As it stands, it is mildly amusing and fun but nothing spectacular. It almost tempts me to take the ideas presented and run with them, drawing up my own spin on the events between the two in a fan comic. Almost, but not quite.