Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
“I knew it,” Landsman says. “The minute I walked into the room and saw Lasker lying there, I said to myself, Landsman, this whole case is going to turn on a question of pie.” (Michael Chabon, from The Yiddish Policemen’s Union)
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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is Ted Naifeh, and the issues are Comics’ Greatest World: Steel Harbor #2 and Dark Horse Comics #14, which were published by Dark Horse and are cover dated August and October 1993. Enjoy!
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Every day this year, I will be examining the artwork on a single comic book story. Today’s artist is John Paul Leon, and the story is “RoboCop Part 2″ in Dark Horse Comics #2, which was published by … um, wait, it’ll come to me … and is cover dated September 1992. Enjoy!
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Only three news items and tidbits caught my eye this week, along with the omni-present NYT Best Sellers List. Sadly, not every week can be full of license announcements and Sailor Moon. Ah well!
And now, onto this weeks review of Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 29: Beyond Good and Evil.
At long last all the disparate threads come together and we kick off the final showdown for Hirokai Samura’s Blade of the Immortal! The remnants of Kagimura’s forces arrive at the Itto Ryu’s destination ahead of them. Determined to keep the rogue sword school from slipping through is clutches, Kagimura orders the death of everyone on the docks of the small port, fishermen, police, cargo ships, dock workers, no one is to make it out alive. Their plans to cut off the Itto Ryu’s means of escape hits a small snag though, as the remaining Itto Ryu and Manji and Rin arrive, setting the stage for the final three blood soaked volumes to come.
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Welcome to this weeks Manga in Minutes! As mentioned back in January, I’ll be playing around with some ideas and formats for the column over the coming year, and this week is one of those ideas! Every now and then, instead of a single weekly review, I’ll be posting multiple short reviews instead. But first, some news…
On to the first Catchup Corner, featuring Fairy Tail, Vols. 33 + 34, Knights of Sidonia, Vols. 3 + 4 and Trigun Maximum, Vol. 2!
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Welcome to another Manga in Minutes! As per usual, before jumping into the weekly review enjoy a few manga related news items from the past week that’ve caught my eye!
That’s a whole lot of licensing announcements for a single week! As always, click the links for more detailed information. And now, onto this weeks Manga in Minutes review!
The latest volume of Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal picks up the pace and follows a number of clashes between the Itto-Ryu and Habaki Kagimura’s Rokki-DanKagimura’s. Last volume saw the first true clash between the two groups, and Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 28 ramps up the violence and action as this skirmish reaches its climax. Can the new Itto-Ryu forces fend off the desperate Rokki-Dan? That’s not the only clash going on though, as the Itto-Ryu’s second in command, Abayama faces off against one of the best fighters in the series, Giichi. The series is heading towards its climax, which means all bets are off on who will survive the remaining few volumes!
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I’ll be doing a post later this month about 10 specific “NEW” books to buy in 2014 where I talk in detail about some new series coming out that I’m excited to read in 2014 (and you should be too). However, I thought I’d do a list of more generally “comics related” things I’m excited about as well since there are a good number of them this year.
There’s a lot of Marvel on this list, guys. But what I can I say? I like the cut of their jib these days aka they’re dominating like a BOSS.
One half meditative contemplation on revenge, one half blood spattered carnage, Blade of the Immortal has been a consistently solid series for over a decade. Having finished up its run in Japan earlier this year, the 27th volume of the US edition brings us one step closer to the grand finale, and as that nears the battle between the Itto Ryu and the government forces led by the disgraced Kagimura collide. The Itto Ryu’s elderly Kashin Koji faces off against Kagimura’s daughter, Ryo, and Ban, a member of the Suicide Squad-esque Rokki-Dan. Meanwhile, Rin and Manji recover after the brutal events of the last volume, and two old friends make their long awaited return. Hiroaki Samura’s epic continues to race towards its conclusion with Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 27!
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Yasuhiro Nightow’s space western epic continues with Trigun Maximum Omnibus, Vol. 1. Taking place two years after the events of Trigun, Vol. 2, the tale of Vash continues as he’s forced to shed off the peaceful life he’s made for himself when bandits threaten his adopted family. Following this return to action he finds himself once more harried by the Gun Ho Guns, the minions of his powerful sibling, Knives.
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Based on the science fiction novel originally written in James P. Hogan in 1979, The Two Faces of Tomorrow is a cautionary hard sci-fi tale of a future where humanity has just started to explore and colonize the other parts of our solar system. Part of what helps us do this is a massive computer network called Titan, which manages and allocates drones and supplies on an interplanetary scale. After a few erratic incidents and decisions on Titan’s part, it’s decided that an experiment must be undertaken to determine how the next generation of Titan like computer programs will develop and behave. To this end a massive space station is converted and populated with scientists and soldiers to push the limits of Spartacus, a massive computer network like Titan, to decide whether or not it may pose a threat to humanity.
Initially released in 1997 as a 13 part mini-series, it wasn’t until 2006 that The Two Faces of Tomorrow manga adaption from Yukinobu Hoshino would be released in a single massive volume. The series managed to slip beneath my radar and it’s only thanks to Mike Toole mentioning it in a memorial column on the late, great Toren Smith that I heard of it at all. He described it as one of the last big Studio Proteus productions before it was sold to Dark Horse and Toren Smith retired. That was all the motivation I needed to give the series a look!
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The adventures of Yasuhiro Nightow’s most famous creation, Vash the Stampede, continue in the second volume of Trigun. Things kick things off in a major way as Vash comes face to face with mysterious and deadly Legato and it just gets worse from there for the poor fellow. The Gun Ho Guns, muscle for the series main villain, are introduced and harry Vash throughout the volume. If that weren’t enough, by the time the volume is finished we’ve had our first glimpse at the big bad for the series, Knives Millions.
Much like the first volume, much of this one will be familiar territory for fans of the anime series. About half way through is where things begin to deviate and the anime and manga begin to go their own ways. What’s interesting is, that although they begin to diverge here, the manga still has many of the story elements and scenes that would go on to appear in the anime. It’s not entirely new material for anime fans, but the beginnings are there. Because of this it’s still a little difficult to look at manga and the not compare and contrast it to the anime, which was my first introduction to the Trigun franchise to begin with. Things such as the anime’s revelation regarding Wolfwood came after he and Vash had time to build up a relationship, here it’s given away during his second appearance. On one hand it lacks the emotional heft that it had in the anime, on the other hand, getting it out of the way and keeping Vash ignorant of the matter seems like it will allow Nightow to give any future interaction the two have some nice tension. The introduction of Knives is a major difference between the two and, frankly, the way it’s handled here gives it a lot of dramatic weight. His appearance and what happens next feel like major event for Vash and the world the story takes place in, which is definitely a good thing.
Visually Nightow’s work is about the same as it was in the first volume. The arrival of the Gun Ho Guns allows Nightow to throw a bunch of character designs at us at once. Some of which are more interesting then others. Monev the Gale, for example, isn’t terribly interesting or memorable and almost seems like something you’d expect to see in a 90s Image comic. The action scenes vary here, with Vash’s duel with Dominique being the stand out of the volume. It’s nicely paced and the action is fairly easy to follow. On the other hand, his clash with Monev and some of the other Gun Ho Guns feel a bit messy and seems to sacrifice clarity in an attempt to evoke motion and energy.
I’m still enjoying Trigun and any fans of the anime will probably find themselves as intrigued and curious to see where things go from here as I was. I still have some minor issues with Nightow’s artwork and his action scenes, but the combination of enjoyable characters, nostalgia and the desire to see how this differs from the anime will probably keep me reading for a little while more.
Trigun, Vol. 2 is available from Dark Horse Comics.
THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERHERO GIRL. Faith Erin Hicks (writer/artist). Cris Peter (colors). Dark Horse. Full Color. Hardcover. 112 pages. $16.99
This collected (and fully colored) edition of Faith Erin Hicks The Adventures of Superhero Girl comics from Dark Horse is simply 100% delightful.
Originally a weekly black and white comic strip available online in full and in the free Halifax newspaper called The Coast, The Adventures of Superhero Girl was a web strip Hicks worked on while doing a million other wonderful things – books like Zombies Calling, The War At Ellsmere, her latest – Friends With Boys, and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong (both from First Second, both available online in full, NCPGW due in print in May 2013). How she has the time and talent for it all, I’ll never know, but doing all of it (practically at once) has made her one of the strongest and most impressive new voices in comics, and certainly one of the creators I have found myself most excited about and most interested in watching as she develops as a writer and artist.
Emerald and Other Stories
by Hiroaki Samura
Dark Horse, 228 pp
Rating: Teen (16 + )
From Hiroaki Samura, creator of the multiple award winning Blade of the Immortal, comes a new collection of short stories, Emerald! Among the stories included in this collection are “Emerald”, a western involving bounty hunters, corrupt businessmen and some very resourceful women, the unsettling and incestuous “The Kusein Family’s Greatest Show”, the vaguely sci-fi-ish “Shizuru Cinema” about the relationship between a manga creator and his high school girlfriend/roommate, an oddly enjoyable, offbeat collection of strips featuring Samura’s commentary on Japanese society as filtered through the voices of a trio of young girls, “The Uniforms Stay On” and more!
“Emerald” is clearly the highlight and of the volume and a pretty entertaining Western with a few interesting twists despite it’s short length. Samura eschews the typical “long gunman” style lead and instead creates a very clever female lead and a scenario that’s left me wishing it had become a longer series. Meanwhile, “The Kusein Family’s Greatest Show”, which has one of the most misleading titles I’ve ever come across, is a bizarre and creepy tale about the disturbing relationship between a daughter and her widowed father. Oddly enough, the story starts off with a strong comedic tone, but as it goes on it gets progressively more perverse and the comedic elements are eventually overwhelmed by unsettling story that develops. The final page seems to indicate that it was intended as a comedy all the time, but instead it just comes off as an ill fitting climax to a disturbing story. “Shizuru Cinema”, one of the shorter stories in the collection, starts off as a comedic little slice of tale which develops into a melancholy tale about the nature of memories. Another reading of it left me feeling that Samura was also attempting to say something about the creation of manga series, editorial involvement and audience pandering, but admittedly that might be a bit of a stretch. Another highlight of the volume is the “The Uniforms Stay On” series which is scattered throughout the collection. It’s a pretty enjoyable series of shorts featuring commentary on various aspects of Japanese culture, news and more. Samura’s lighter and sillier side is evident as he riffs off things ranging from labels on food in the grocery stores, the Korean wave, music and more. While there’s not plot to speak of, it does offer interesting little glimpses into aspects of Japanese culture that don’t necessarily make headlines over here in the west. There are three other short stories included in the collection, but none of them left much of an impression. One is a very short story based upon a game of Majhong Samura was once involved in, while the other two are a romantic comedy and another disturbing little tale which ends before it can ever really get going.
Emerald is full of Samura’s wonderfully detailed artwork, which is something that’s always a pleasure to see. The sketchy, thatch heavy style is reminiscent of his earlier work in Blade of the Immortal, which is something that will be a treat to fans who miss that style. While perhaps best known for the incredible action sequences that pepper Blade of the Immortal, Emerald shows that Samura can handle less bombastic material just as well. It’s really a beautiful looking book with a wonderful attention to detail, eye catching costumes and more. While some of the stories in the volume may be lacking or disappointing, the visual most definitely are not.
While it’s not a replacement for those of us jouncing for our next hit of Blade of the Immortal, Emerald is at the very least an enjoyable pick me up. The quality of the writing and the stories aren’t quite up to snuff when compared to his other short story collection, Ohikkoshi, but it’s still a must read for his already existing fans curious to see his other works. Those unfamiliar with Samura’s work and who were hoping that this might be a good introduction would probably do better to check out Blade of the Immortal or Ohikkoshi instead.
Emerald and Other Stories is available now from Dark Horse Comics.
One of the stand out anime hits from the 90s, thanks to frequent airings on Adult Swim, Yasuhiro Nightow’s Trigun is a mash up of sci-fis, westerns, action, comedy and more!
With Dark Horse in the process of re-releasing Trigun Maximum in omnibus style collections, I thought it would be a good time take a look Trigun. The story follows Vash as he wanders a futuristic desert world, roaming from city to city seemingly aimlessly as he gets into one misadventure after another. The first volume doesn’t really have much of a central plot, it’s all set up, establishing the reputation of Vash and introducing us to the duo who form the core of his supporting cast, Millie and Meryl, a pair of insurance agents assigned to follow and help mitigate any damage Vash causes. Along the way we’re given bits of backstory, hinting at the world’s origins and the reasons for Vash’s odd status as a living, walking, disaster area. Vash’s pacifistic streak and murky past seems to cast him into a similar role to that of Kenshin from Rurouni Kenshin, and both characters do seem to have quite a bit in common.
Visually the book’s a bit of a mess at times. It’s detailed, dynamic and stylish, but the panels can feel incredibly cluttered and the action scenes are laid out strangely at times, with odd choices in the transitions, angles, specific shots and such. The gun fights are often hectic at times, and it seems like the panels are barely able to contain the action Nightow wants to jam into them. His character designs are always unique and there’s a variety of body types and faces used, something that’s often underrated or overlooked in modern manga. His character designs here are pretty solid, with Vash being the obvious stand out. Even in black and white the long coat, spiky hair and sunglasses make him for an eye catching and memorable design.
I was a little hesitant about reading Trigun after my first taste of Nightow in the form of Blood Blockade Battlefront. Sure, I enjoyed the anime, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the manga will be readable and, frankly, Blood Blockade Battlefront really didn’t do much for me. Trigun was definitely fun, though the artwork could get a bet impenetrable at times. Despite that the characters and story have all the charm, humor and action that made the anime such a hit.
Trigun, Vol. 1 is available from Dark Horse Comics.
I originally intended to pair this column with my “25 Great Superheroine Moments In Comics” post from two weeks ago in honor of Women’s History Month, but then Wonder Woman #7 happened and I felt compelled to write about that. So here we are with the unofficial “part two” in April. So it goes!
Those of you familiar with my blogging over on 1979 Semi-Finalist know I’m a big cover fanatic. I do a monthly post called “Drunk Cover Solicits In Three Sentences Or Less” where I…you guessed it…get drunk and talk about the newest Marvel and DC Cover Solicits. It’s supposed to be a chance to talk about some gorgeous art and also to make good-natured fun of some of the silliness…of course some rage occasionally seeps out (shocker). I also do a “52 Best Covers of the Year” in honor of SDCC every year. But I realized recently that I’d never focused on covers that feature women and thought what better way to celebrate than to do that here.
My criteria was looking at covers from between March of 2011 and March of 2012* and only at saddle-stapled monthly comics that feature a woman as a minimum of 50% of the cover focus. These are entirely North American as that’s primarily what I have access to. I didn’t include trades or graphic novels either. I’m not going to write much about each, just a few lines about what I love about them. Enjoy!
Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.