Kaoru Mori changes up the tone with this volume, pushing it more towards overt comedy this time out. The reasons for that are right on the cover. We’re introduced to them after Mr. Smith falls off of his camel into a lake and is rescued by the twins Laila and Leily who find out that he’s (posing as) a doctor and promptly invite him back to their home so he can have a look at their grandad. Once the word of Smith’s medical prowess spreads throughout the town, he’s promptly shunted off into the background so we can focus on the exploits of the two sisters. Though some might find their personalities to be more grating than endearing, I ultimately found myself in the latter camp.
Christopher Hastings, the writer/artist of this series, dedicated this volume to his friends Jeff and Holly for being such supportive friends, and because one of them gave him the idea for dinosaurs being bounced off the Earth into space. From there, these dinos traveled frozen through space, being bombarded by cosmic radiation until they arrived at another planet light years away, thawed out, and then woke up intelligent! Then they determined that their planet sucks and they needed to find Earth again and conquer it because their new planet sucks. This is how the latest iteration of time-traveling astronaut Chuck Goodrich tells Dr. McNinja about the threat facing them in the second two-thirds of this volume. If you’re not sold by that description of the plot, then nothing else I say here will convince you otherwise.
The first volume of “Wonder Woman” by writer Brian Azzarello and artists Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins was one of the best surprises of the “New 52.” Azzarello is a writer who rarely aims to give readers what they want and usually shoots for trying to give us something that we didn’t know we needed. Making “Wonder Woman” into a modern-day saga of the Greek Gods and eschewing a lot of the trappings of the superhero genre turned out to be exactly what we, and the character, needed. That continues here in “Wonder Woman vol. 2: Guts” as the title character, Hermes and Lennox prepare to descend into Hades to rescue Zola who is still pregnant with Zeus’ child.
Issue #36 of “Prophet” comes out this month. While it wasn’t one of my “ten best” of last year, it was a title that would’ve been on there had the list gone to twenty. The first volume was just too bizarre, weird and unique to not be worthy of some notice. However, come this month we’ll be ten issues since that first volume came out with no sign of the second in sight. If they’re holding out on the second to boost the title’s low, cultish sales then more power to them. The only real way to get me to pick something up in single issue form is to NOT reprint it. That said, were I a betting man, I’d expect volume two to make an appearance before Comic-Con.
Shigeru Mizuki may be one of Japan’s best-known and loved mangaka, but prior to this title’s publication in April 2011, none of his work had ever been translated into English. Though his most famous series, “Ge ge ge no Kitaro,” is an enduringly popular kid’s series that deals with the many denizens of Japanese folklore, this tragic war story is about as far from that as you can get. Mizuki fought in WWII, and lost an arm in combat, and he has crafted an informative and affecting story about the trials faced by the grunts of the Japanese army in this war. However, it’s impact is blunted by one major artistic flaw.
The upcoming “Age of Ultron” event will be serialized at a blistering pace even by Marvel’s current standards. April will be its second month and if everything goes as planned we’ll be up to issue six by the end of it. That being said, if everything does go as planned, we’ll have been treated to more issues illustrated by Bryan Hitch in these two months than we usually see from him in any given year. Hitch is illustrating the first five issues (with Brandon Peterson and Carlos Pacheco taking over for the sixth), and I certainly hope for Marvel’s sake that they’re soliciting them now because he already has them drawn. They seem to be making an effort with the “Marvel NOW!” initiative to keep things shipping on time, though, that doesn’t seem to have worked with “Uncanny Avengers” because John Cassaday needs the extra time to make his art look so awesome. Anyway, this is further proof of the long lead time this project has had if half of the event is being drawn by Hitch. Of course, I’m sure that Jonathan Ross, British talk-show host and writer of the Hitch-illustrated “America’s Got Powers,” is seeing all this and going, “Bloody hell!” after their series has gone off the rails schedule-wise as nearly all of the artist’s work has in the past.
Though it pains me to say it, the first volume of this series was somewhat of a letdown. After Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips consistently hit it out of the park with “Sleeper,” “Criminal,” and “Incognito,” I was expecting “Fatale” to do just the same. Unfortunately, the story, the setting and the characters all felt too conventional and familiar to really excite me. It was still very readable, but I was expecting this to be a shoo-in for my “Best of 2012” list. Vol. 2 doesn’t quite rectify that, though it is a step in the right direction.
According to Rich Johnston, pre-orders for the “Hyrule Historia” currently stand at 250,000. It’s all the more impressive when you consider that this is a $35 hardcover, but I’m curious as to why he’s reporting on this. Sure it has a “Skyward Sword” comic inside, but it’s not really comics news, nor the first such book of its kind to be published by the company. (On that note, they’re re-offering Yoshitaka Amano’s “Final Fantasy” three-volume artbook “The Sky” this month as well.) That it’s this successful already shouldn’t be much of a surprise here given Zelda’s enormous following stateside. On that note, it does make it a very Dark Horse kind of product since I imagine they didn’t have to do a whole heck of a lot to promote it -- the book pretty much sold itself by being an official sourcebook for all things Zelda. Given all this, I’d expect to see a lot more of these kinds of projects from the company in the future. My money would be on similar books for Mario Bros. and Pokemon (if they exist) though I could also see them pursuing their Amano connection to publishing Final Fantasy sourcebooks like this. Tell me that wouldn’t be a license to print money right there!
Anyway, talk about actual comics begins after the break.
A good part of the fun of this series comes from the fact that while reading it, you really feel that writer Geoff Johns has a plan for all this. Granted, I’m sure that there have been plenty of changes and revisions to it ever since he successfully brought Hal Jordan back as the title character in “Rebirth” yet it all still feels relatively coherent. It should be telling to DC that books like this, the Snyder/Capullo “Batman,” Snyder’s “Swamp Thing,” Jeff Lemire’s “Animal Man,” and Azzarello’s “Wonder Woman,” books with strong authorial voices with clear stories to tell, have been the most well received and best-selling of the “New 52.” You’d think they’d try to nurture and replicate that kind of success with their second-tier titles... but I guess not.