Comic Picks By The Glick
2014 Eisners:  Best U.S. Edition of International Material — Asia

2014 Eisners: Best U.S. Edition of International Material — Asia

April 20, 2014

Since I’ve spent the day at Wondercon, here’s some quick thoughts on one of the categories from the Eisner award nominations that were announced this week.  “Best U.S. Edition of International Material -- Asia” usually winds up meaning “Best Manga” as is the case this year.  After all, this specific category was essentially created after the manga boom pushed nearly all other foreign comics out of the category in some years.  This year’s group of nominations had me go, “WHAT THE SH--”

…Well, let’s just say I was a little disappointed to see that there wasn’t any overlap between what I thought the best manga of the year were and what the people at the Eisners had in mind.  In any event, their selections have impressed upon me the fact that I’ve got more stuff to buy in the future.

With that out of the way, the five nominees are:

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Wolfsmund vol. 4

Wolfsmund vol. 4

April 19, 2014

There’s a lot of suffering to endure in this series.  On one hand, there’s the suffering endured by the inhabitants of the Swiss cantons who are hemmed in by the Wolfsmund gate at Sankt-Gotthardt Pass as they struggle against Bailiff Wolfram’s apparent omniscience in regards to their plans.  On the other, there’s the suffering the reader has had to endure as they watch Wolfram succeed through the dictates of the plot rather than any particular skill of his own in a series that appeared to be structured around the premise of “Who will make it past Wolfsmund in this episode?”  Well, the good news is that the last volume put paid to that premise and saw the revolt against Wolfram and his men begin in earnest.  Things went well for a while, but this latest volume sees the rebellion’s momentum begin to stall.

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Young Avengers vol. 3:  Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space

Young Avengers vol. 3: Mic-Drop at the Edge of Time and Space

April 18, 2014

After a brief stopover in Nazi Germany, we now return to the kind of antics you usually see in Kieron Gillen’s comics.  That is to say clever takes on superhero tropes, immensely witty writing and lots of talk about music.  This third volume of “Young Avengers” is also its last and gives us what is likely the best subtitle to any volume of comics I’ll read all year.  Does the rest of the comic measure up to “best of the year” status?  No, but we still get a satisfying wrap-up to this saga of comic-book teenagerism.

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Comic Picks #157:  Garth Ennis Presents — Battle Classics

Comic Picks #157: Garth Ennis Presents — Battle Classics

April 17, 2014

(Could be said to follow on from here.)  If you've ever wondered where the writer gets his passion for war stories, then you'll find your answer here.

Uber vol. 1

Uber vol. 1

April 16, 2014

Regular visitors to this site will know that I love pretty much everything that Kieron Gillen has written.  The man has shown a fairly amazing facility to find new and clever takes on old characters and familiar scenarios in titles like “Uncanny X-Men” and “Journey Into Mystery.”  Though his output has been solely focused on Marvel’s superheroes over the past few years, he’s working on leveraging his success in that genre towards his creator-owned work starting with this title.  It’s an alternate-history war story about how Germany developed superpowered soldiers towards the end of WWII and gave them the means to launch a counteroffensive.  Early on I was afraid that this was going to be the first title I’ve read from Gillen that I really didn’t like; however, it manages to pull out of that initial downward spiral and ultimately delivers a story that defied my expectations.

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Knights of Sidonia vol. 8

Knights of Sidonia vol. 8

April 15, 2014

This volume focuses on the adventures of a boy, a hermaphrodite and a tentacle.  That’s not to say that this series has turned into a hentai manga, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that since Tsumugi is now represented by a phallic-looking tentacle.  It’s an amusing development in what turns out to be one of the series’ quirkiest volumes so far.  After introducing its moe-by-the-way-of-H.R. Giger human/Gauna hybrid Tsumugi in the previous volume, mangaka Tsutomu Nihei finds a way to anthropomorphize this multi-story killing machine by allowing her to interact with clueless ace pilot Tanikaze and his ever-hopeful pilot-in-arms Izana.  This leads to weird scenes like Tanikaze requesting a new residence on Sidonia that’s full of ducts -- to allow Tsumugi’s tentacle to visit, showing the hybrid the sights of the ship via her tentacle along with Izana, and the two pilots letting the tentacle sleep next to them in a futon.  It’s utterly bizarre to see it from my non-tentacled-life perspective, but thoroughly amusing to see how Tanikaze and Izana treat this strange thing as if it were no different from them.  Which is a remarkably deft message of tolerance now that I think about it.

Meanwhile, the main conflict between the humans and the Gauna continues on much as it ever has in this title.  We get surprisingly little fallout from the Captain’s actions in the last volume, Kunato/Ochiai’s sinister(?) plans continue apace, and the Sidonia finds itself in the position of having to bail out the idiot colonists who departed from the ship a couple volumes back.  It’s business as usual until Izana winds up in the scouting group assembled to inspect the Gauna threat towards the end of the volume and… well, things don’t go well for her.  This does lead to a team-up between Tanikaze in the latest Garde mecha and Tsumugi to go bail her out, so it goes to show that all of the interacting the three did during this volume wasn’t all for nothing.  Whether or not what looks to be a more action-centric vol. 9 is going to be more entertaining than seeing a tentacle crawling through the ducts to say “Hi!” to her two friends is up in the air at this point.  You still won’t be able to see anything featured in this volume anywhere else in comics and that, along with its endearing weirdness, is plenty to keep me reading this title.

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Uncanny Avengers vol. 1:  The Red Shadow

Uncanny Avengers vol. 1: The Red Shadow

April 14, 2014

A little over a year and a half ago I wrote an article about Marvel’s plans to collect the first four issues of this series in a $25 premiere hardcover.  Their plan, at the time, appeared to be finding a way to squeeze every last sale they could out of their biggest ongoing series launch of the year and that included getting tradewaiters like me to see buying the single issues as a better value than waiting for the collected editions.  Though the first issue of “Uncanny Avengers” launched at over 300,000 copies due to the hype, the creative team of Rick Remender and John Cassaday, and the 22 variant covers that issue had, it still wasn’t enough to topple issue #100 of “The Walking Dead” as the biggest seller of 2012.

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Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol. 4

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol. 4

April 13, 2014

What should’ve been a blockbuster event -- Miles Morales confronts Ultimate Venom -- falls regrettably flat here.  Bendis skillfully updated one of Spider-Man’s best villains by strengthening the relationship between Peter Parker and Eddie Brock and tying it to research done by their parents.  Such care and planning is virtually absent here.  This version of Ultimate Venom is more of a gooey tentacle monster who comes upon some information about Spider-Man’s identity and beats a path straight to the Morales’ family apartment.  He’s after the character for some vague, unspecified reasons and the reveal of his identity is giant anticlimax.  I can understand the writer’s desire to have Miles throw down with one of Spidey’s iconic foes, but it was really too soon for this particular villain to be wheeled out.  Better for the series to have gone on for a while longer and built up a character whose reveal as Venom would’ve been genuinely shocking.  The only person who remotely fits that bill right now is Ganke -- and making him Venom would’ve been a TERRIBLE idea (save for the thought of seeing him geek out about being inside of and able to control a giant tentacle monster).

It’s a shame that the main story doesn’t connect in the way it should here as the rest of the volume is quite solid.  Bendis’ banter between the characters is spot-on as always and he continues to make Miles more likeable with each major story.  I continue to love J. Jonah Jameson’s change-of-heart towards the title character as his reasons for doing so are completely understandable yet utterly within his established characterization.  You wish everyone had the kind of integrity Jameson displays here.  Then you’ve got the shocking moment at the story’s climax that changes the nature of the series and reinforces Miles’ fears about telling his dad that he’s a superhero in a traumatic way.  Like the use of Venom here, however, it still feels a bit too early in the character’s lifetime to pull a “Spider-Man No More” moment -- he’s only been around for two years.  Still, a dramatic story like that plays better to Bendis’ strengths than the monster-of-the-week schlock we got here.  I can only hope my optimism turns out to be well-founded when the next volume arrives (in softcover).

Jason Glick

Amazing Spider-Man:  Family Business

Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business

April 12, 2014

This title, the second in Marvel’s new line of original graphic novels, has a low bar to clear in terms of quality after Warren Ellis and Mike McKone whiffed it in “Avengers:  Endless Wartime.”  So it’s nice to report that writers Mark Waid and James Robinson have given us an enjoyable, self-contained Spider-story that distinguishes itself in ways other than being about Peter Parker at a time when “Superior Spider-Man” is winding down.  The problem is that part of its appeal to me, specifically, is in the way the story and the way it’s presented come off as a throwback to something Marvel and DC used to do a lot more regularly a decade or so back.  Then you’ve got the price of the whole endeavor coupled with the shocking revelations that go nowhere and I find myself wondering if this would really appeal to anyone without my sense of nostalgia.

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Saga vol. 3

Saga vol. 3

April 11, 2014

It sounds weird to say this, but the fact that the first volume of “Saga” struck me as only being “good” was probably the best thing about it in hindsight.  With the unanimous praise it received and impressive sales it racked up, I was expecting the world from its initial collected edition and didn’t quite get it.  Brian K. Vaughan’s writing was clever and Fiona Staples’ art was lovely to look at, but it didn’t have the (to use a fancy word) frisson that strikes when you know you’re reading something great.  Something like “Y:  The Last Man” to use a totally and completely random example here.  Still, the fact that it didn’t hit me like that meant that there was room for it to improve.  Which it did in its second volume and again here as everything really starts to click amidst the laughter, joy, and heartbreak that envelops this interplanetary tale of a family on the run.

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