The files containing the history of the title group’s as-brutal-as-he-is-clever leader were said to have been burned long ago if they had even existed at all. With that in mind, Butcher’s “secret origin” is chronicled in the man’s own words in this latest mini-series to be spun off from the main title. I’m willing to bet that “The Boys” will wind up being the least of Garth Ennis’ long-form stories, but the man has still managed to wring some truly affecting material from a premise that seems like it was designed primarily to cater to his disdain for superheroes. Here, he zeroes back his sophomoric side and delivers one of the better volumes of the title to date.
The fact that this comic exists in this form at all is remarkable. “King City” was originally published by Tokyopop when they were still actively pushing their Global Manga initiative. Only one volume of this series came out before the company’s fortunes started to turn and eventually lead to the demise of their publishing operations last year. Long before that, it was revealed that the contracts that creators like Brandon Graham signed as part of their publishing deal gave pretty much all of their rights to these titles to Tokyopop. On one hand, it’s shameful that the company felt the need to resort to the kind of publishing deals that screwed over a lot of the original creators for Marvel and DC, but these guys and girls should’ve read the fine print a bit closer before agreeing to them in the first place. Somewhere, Alan Moore is rolling his eyes and going, “Did you learn nothing from me?!” Though we may never learn more about how this title was “license rescued” from Tokyopop by Image’s Eric Stephenson beyond the fact that he “hammered out deals for a couple months” I’m glad we’re getting to read the whole story now.
As for whether or not this title was worth the effort, the answer is a qualified “yes.”
The first four volumes of this series gave me the impression that it was an amusing bit of fluff showing how a bachelor copes with adopting his grandfather’s six-year-old love child. It did have a very “how to” vibe with its look at what a single father’s lot is like in modern Japan, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing and the characters were likeable enough to make it all go down sweetly enough. Then vol. 5 arrives and pretty much everything you knew about this series is thrown out the window. Daikichi is still Rin’s guardian, but the series has jumped ten years forward in time, so now it’s all about how a single father manages a teenage daughter in high school. It’s an approach that has a lot of potential to explore, but so far things have become a lot less interesting.
That’s because the central idea of what it takes to be a single parent in modern Japan has mostly been abandoned in exchange for a lot of generic relationship drama between the cast. Rin has grown up into a self-assured and confident teenager with a great relationship with Daikichi, and while that’s a great thing for them, her status with childhood friend Kouki and his with Nitani-san aren’t enough to compensate. The romantic entanglements the characters find themselves in follow along predictable lines as no one is willing to commit to anything, because if they did that would mean the end of the story. I’m not ready to give up on this series yet, but this volume has left me with the distinct feeling that the shark has been jumped.
This will be quick because, bizarrely, there are NO trade paperbacks being offered this month that I’ve got an interest in picking up. It’s good news for my wallet at least. Of course, that’s also because I already own one of the titles being offered in hardcover: “X-Men: Schism.” So if you were waiting for this one to hit softcover before picking it up, know that it comes highly recommended from yours truly.
As I mentioned in the podcast, “Twin Spica” sold so poorly that in order to complete it Vertical started publishing the series as two-in-one editions from volume seven onwards. Now that it’s finally over, we’re getting an idea of just how bad sales were courtesy of a thread on their Facebook page. The short version is that if you were on the fence about buying this title then you’d better get off quick because this will “most likely” be the first of Vertical’s titles to go out of print.
We were promised big things at the end of the last major “Hellboy” story “The Wild Hunt” and Mignola and Fegredo deliver the goods here. “The Storm and The Fury” is an epic that begins with the return of England’s “Noble Dead” and culminates with... well, the next arc will be titled “Hellboy in Hell” so you do the math. In between is the title character’s struggle with the fact that this new option presented to him may not be the right way out of his fate, but the only other option left is for him to follow his gut. That’s where a lot of the twists in this story will hit you as a lot of the events here have been set up for years in advance of their payoff here. Granted, it’s not an end to the story of the Ogdru Jahad but it does put what’s at stake here in its proper context and lets us know that what’s going in “B.P.R.D.” is also very relevant to the story being told here as well.
Mignola will be returning to drawing the main story full-time after this volume, but this allows Fegredo to go out on an absolute high point. Though I’ve felt the man’s main contribution to the series has been his uncanny stylistic consistency with Mignola, he proves himself to be as capable of handling things on an epic scale -- just like, yes Bryan Hitch -- as we’re shown scenes of giant armies gathering, visions of the world in ruins, and Hellboy having the mother of all throw-downs with a giant dragon. It’s gorgeous, captivating work that makes me glad Fegredo will be doing a stand-alone graphic novel with Mignola sometime in the future. Mignola himself does lend his artistic skills to a three-page epilogue that looks great, but comes with a caveat. As much as I liked this volume, there were a few things in the main story that didn’t come across as clear as they should (How did Hellboy get that sword in the final battle?) and this sequence appears to have been created to specifically address those issues. Even so, this is a watershed moment for the series and even if it’ll be a while before we find out what happens next, we’ve got the just-as-excellent “B.P.R.D.” to tide us over until then.
One big surprise this month since we’re getting a collection of a series that I thought was going to only be 12 issues long. However, any indication to its length has been removed from the solicitations so it has either been quietly upgraded to an ongoing or this has been the plan all along. In any other month, it would easily be the most desirable item in the solicitations, but the latest volume of “The Walking Dead” is also mentioned here, so it’s veeeeeeeeery close.
Speaking of which, everyone should check out The Laughing Dead if they haven’t already. It’s a collection of random “images with funny text” that will cause you to think about the show in all new terms. And, if you’re like me, you’ll also want the “This is a Ricktatorship!” image to put on a shirt.
“The Walking Dead” closed things out in style last night with the first half featuring an epic “Night of the Living Dead” struggle by the main cast to fend off the herd that descended on Herschel’s farm. Though I couldn’t help but think that maybe a more focused attack from all of the living could’ve turned the tide, that would’ve required teamwork and a willingness to work together. I think we can all agree that those things have been in very short supply this season. So we wound up with a desperate struggle that cleared some of the deadwood from the supporting cast and split up the group in the wake of the slaughter. In the most welcome surprise of the episode, that split didn’t wind up encroaching on the third season as everyone displayed a surprising amount of common sense and regrouped where they left the supplies for Sophia. As for everything else that followed... (Spoilers for the season finale after the break, natch.)
Pretty quiet this month. Too quiet in one respect. All I can say is that if I don’t see a certain title in next month’s solicitations, I’ll be making a trip to the Kinokuya in L.A. sometime in the future.