Dark Horse Comics
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!
The site is all about finding those great moments for women in superhero comics…you know the ones…the ones that leave you with goose bumps, that leave you breathless, that leave you in love. The site is open to submissions from anyone, which is only fair as we all have different definitions of what inspires us from women in superhero comics. And what better month for a post like this than March – Women’s History Month.
Inspired by Sue’s efforts I thought I’d do a piece about some of the moments that have meant the most to me over my years of reading. I make no argument that these are the “best ever” moments…just that they’re the moments that have curled my toes. Which ones curled yours? Let me know, and better yet, submit your own over on THIS!
Word of warning – if you haven’t read the story I’m talking about, be careful of spoilers!
Click to enbiggen on any image!
So, many of you saw that I broke the internet two weeks ago with my post about the visual representations of men and women in superhero comics and the apparently still radical idea that “No, it’s not equal”. So how does one follow up THAT column? Do you try to break the internet even harder? Or do you go the completely opposite route? Well, for starters, if you missed it, read this piece I did for my new gig at Lit Reactor, which is chock full of fantastic books that don’t commit any of the “No, It’s not equal” sins.
I’ve been having a fairly random rekindling of my love for Buffy The Vampire Slayer of late. As such it seemed like the perfect time to finally take a look at Joss Whedon’s Fray. Based in the Buffy universe, but propelled forward a few hundred years into the future, Whedon’s 8-issue mini-series from Dark Horse focuses on Melaka Fray, a new slayer called forth after many years of a world without a slayer.
Fray works as a great introductory character, because she knows as little about her destiny as any new reader might, which makes a natural fit for introducing those unfamiliar with Buffy lore to Whedon’s universe. And it’s done skillfully enough that readers already well familiar with the universe won’t be bored by the history lesson. In the series, Fray, a thief and “runner” for a fish man called Guther, is called as the first Slayer in a couple hundred years, to fight a war brewing and a hellmouth about to open up to let in all sorts of dimensional hell beasties. A guide of sorts, though not her watcher (that dude lights himself on fire in front of her, whee!), named Urkonn has been summoned to help train her for the coming war and the complexities he finds in her makes for some nice plot twists that are especially satisfying I suspect for readers already familiar with Whedon’s universe. Regardless, the plot twists, which I won’t spoil here, come just at the right moments to keep you off-balance in all the good ways that a smart engaging story does. Fray doesn’t have the rich cast of allies that Buffy developed over time on the television series and that continues in the books, but what Fray does have here, some real family and some adopted family, plus Urkonn, her fishy boss, and an arch-nemesis all works well and gives just enough of a tapestry to keep everything very interesting.