DC Previews Picks: July 2016

April 30, 2016

This is somewhat old news, but Shelly Bond, chief editor of Vertigo and a 23-year veteran of DC, was recently let go from the company.  That might be putting things a bit too diplomatically.  One of the things that is said to have led to her dismissal is the failure of the mass launch of Vertigo titles in the last quarter of 2015 to make any kind of impression sales-wise.  A few critical and cult favorites have emerged, but none of them sold anywhere near what they would need to show that the imprint still had it after all these years.  The writing for Vertigo would appear to be on the wall at this point.

So what’s the next step for “mature readers” titles at DC?  The answer to that question would appear to be Gerard Way.  The musician/comic book writer will be overseeing a new imprint of such titles under the name of Young Animal.  While it’s assumed he’ll have input over all the titles -- including the Gotham-set “Mother Panic” and the in-continuity revamp of “Shade” from the “Changing Man” to the“Changing Girl” -- he’ll be co-writing the new “Doom Patrol” series and “Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye” which sounds bizarre in an intriguing way.  (Mike Oeming will also be providing the art, so if anyone was expecting more issues of “Powers” in the future…)  Thanks to Way’s work on “The Umbrella Academy,” I can at least be optimistic for the titles that he’s directly involved in.  Whether or not he has the magic touch to make them all succeed… Well, let’s not be too hasty here.  Having just one be a creative and sales breakout would be enough to be an improvement over what has (recently) come before.

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Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 5: Through the Looking Glass

April 29, 2016

Things start off with a decent enough sci-fi mystery steeped in the history of the Marvel Universe.  The Guardians, with Captain Marvel along for the ride, are cruising along on their merry way when suddenly a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier appears right out of the ether!  If that weren’t surprising enough, it’s being commanded by none other than Nick Fury and crewed by the likes of Dum-Dum Dugan, Jimmy Woo, and Jessica Drew.  Though their stated reason for being out here is to make sure the Kree-Skrull War never happens again, most of the people onboard are either dead or have had their standing in the Marvel Universe dramatically altered over the past few years.  Bendis plays up the confusion in an effective manner for most of the story and most of the interaction between the two groups is fun.  Especially when Rocket Raccoon and Fury mix it up.  However, the revelation as to what’s really going on is fairly underwhelming and I was left wondering what the point of all this was at the end of the story.  Was it just to have Frank Cho draw these characters and show us how well he can draw a firefight in space?  If so, then I guess the results make it all worth it in the end.

Valerio Schiti illustrates the rest of the volume and, even if he’s not quite as detailed as Cho, shows why he’s a great fit for the book and Bendis’ style in general.  Not only does he great variety of alien species and locations look fantastic under his pen, but the conversation scenes have a fitting energy with the expressiveness with which he gives the characters.  It’s not enough to get me to care about the two chapters of “The Black Vortex” included here.  Then again, I’m not sure any artist could manage that.  At least Schiti and Bendis work together well enough to send the volume off on a high point as Peter Quill and the rest of the cast get dragged back to Spartax after it’s finally revealed to him that he was elected to be its new ruler.  They get a taste of the high life and have to deal with a threat that wants Gamora’s head on a platter.  It’s a good dose of adventure that’s in line with the more entertaining parts of Bendis’ (very uneven) run.  The writer has shown that he’s not the best fit for the characters or their adventures, but there’s enough good stuff here to get me to stick around for another volume to see if “Emperor Quill” is the angle he needs to really click with them.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Comic Picks #209: WonderCon Roundup!

April 27, 2016

Jodorowsky!  Manara!  Kirkman!  Miller!  Simonson!  Waid!  Milligan!  Arakawa!  All in this podcast (most for 50% off)!

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Princess Jellyfish vol. 1

April 25, 2016

Tsukimi Kurashita is an 18-year-old jellyfish fanatic living in Tokyo with a gaggle of other fangirls with their own obsessions.  Residing in a communal apartment and going by the nickname “Amars,” they live by their own camaraderie (and off of the goodwill of their parents) while maintaining a healthy distrust of those scary people known as “stylish individuals.”  It’s one such individual, Kurano, that comes to Tsukimi’s rescue when she tries to save a jellyfish in a pet store and crashes at her place for the night.  Though this woman is quite friendly for a “stylish individual,” she’s harboring one big surprise that’s going to completely upend our protagonist’s life.  Mind you, this is before all of the Amars girls find out that their apartment is going to be bulldozed to make way for a set of high-rise apartments!

There’s a lot about this series that is familiar.  From the “Save the building!” plot that could’ve come straight from an 80’s movie to the shoujo love triangle that starts to form here between Tsukimi and the two brothers, this is not a manga you’re going to read for its inventive storytelling.  Yet mangaka Akiko Higashimura does demonstrate some excellent comedic timing with her art, which is appropriately flashy for a series about women utilizing their beauty as a weapon.  That’s one of the two novel bits here as Kurano teaches the girls about how a woman looks is part of their arsenal for war in modern society.  In order for them to save their apartment complex (and for Tsukimi to get the guy of her dreams) they’ll have to master this complex art from the ground up.

The other novelty of the plot is something that I’m not sure is intentional on Higashimura’s part.  You see, if this was a series about a bunch of male otaku freeloading off of their parents to live in Tokyo, I doubt it’d be as charming.  Even “Genshiken” had its characters get jobs.  Except in this case the women’s lives are romanticized to a surprising extent.  I’m actually rooting for these jobless female slackers to save their apartment and continue living their indulgent lives even though I can’t imagine doing the same if their genders were reversed.  It’s a clear double-standard, but one that isn’t a dealbreaker for me yet.  As I said, I’m not sure if this is something that Higashimura has considered when she was creating this story.  At least she’s delivered one that’s enjoyable enough for me to want to see where she’s going with it.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Image Previews Picks: July 2016

April 24, 2016

The annual Image Expo was held earlier this month and (BIG SURPRISE) a lot of cool-sounding new titles were announced.  “The Black Monday Murders” is Jonathan Hickman’s new title with artist Tomm Coker and is based on the idea that all of the major financial institutions that run the world are actually secret schools of magic.  Bonus world-building material is promised in each issue which may give me an incentive to pick it up (digitally).  Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are back with “Kill or Be Killed,” about a troubled young man who is compelled to go out and kill who he perceives to be bad people.  Pitched as a thriller and deconstruction of vigilantism, it also sounds like Brubaker is working out his desire to write “The Punisher” independent of Marvel.  Another creative team I’m quite fond of, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, are doing their first Image title with “Moonshine.”  The title is both a reference to the prohibition-era setting of the story and the fact that it appears to involve werewolves in some fashion.  The “Batgirl” creative team of Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr is giving us “Motor Crush,” about a woman who competes in a motorcycle racing league by day and is a skull-cracking vigilante by night.

These are just the titles from the creative teams that I like.  Plenty more titles were announced and I’ll be checking them out as word-of-mouth dictates.  Hey, for all I know it could be one of those that turns out to be more entertaining than the ones I’ve mentioned here.  Except for the Remender/Opena joint I didn’t, that is.

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Dark Horse Previews Picks: July 2016

April 23, 2016

Between the two sales-challenged manga series that I routinely talk up, “Vinland Saga” and “Eden:  It’s an Endless World!,” it looks like the former is getting a reprieve later this year.  Kodansha U.S.A. announced at the Emerald City Comic-Con that vol. 8 of Makoto Yukimura’s excellent historical viking action series will be coming out later this year.  The appearance of future volumes on these shores was not confirmed.  So if you want to know more about the adventures of Thorfinn and Einar in the New World you’ll have to buy a copy of vol. 8 for yourself, and one more for a close friend (which would be Steve in my case).

As for “Eden…”  Hope continues to spring eternal there.  If the two-and-a-half year schedule between publishing new volumes holds, then we’ll see a new volume later this year.  Maybe we’ll get lucky and Dark Horse will publish the last four volumes in two-in-one editions.  Or maybe we’ll get nothing at all.  Anime Central is in four weeks and that’s when most of the company’s big manga news broke last year.  If they have any more announcements like “I am a Hero” or new volumes of other series that have been on hiatus, it’ll be there and I’ll have commentary after it happens.

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Thor by Jason Aaron (vol. 6): Who Holds the Hammer?

April 22, 2016

I’ve been spoiled for the mystery behind the new Thor for quite a while now.  So the drama behind the big reveal falls pretty flat.  I was expecting that, however, and the three-part story leading up to the reveal by writer Jason Aaron and artist Russell Dauterman still manages to be pretty entertaining in and of itself.  We’ve got the new Thor throwing down with the Destroyer, who has been sicced on her by Odin and his brother Cul.  The Odinson’s ongoing detective efforts to find out who this new Thor is are interesting enough, but worth it for the hilarity that ensues when his results are revealed to have come to naught.  There’s also Roz Solomon “Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s” continuing campaign to bring down Roxxon and its CEO Dario Agger, who spends most of his time here bonding with Malekith and becoming a little more rounded as a character as we learn more about his backstory.  Dauterman draws the hell out of all this, with the high point being a fantastic mostly-female battle royale against the Destroyer.  It’s only three issues, but this small run satisfies and portends good things for the title’s future.

Rounding out the collection is an Annual featuring two good stories and a pretty great one (along with an old issue of “What If?” which shows that the idea of Jane Foster as Thor is not a new one).  Aaron teams up with Tim Truman for a story about Old Thor’s birthday and how his three granddaughters try to find him the perfect gift.  Truman’s rugged style is a perfect fit for the character and the story which winds up being a welcome extension of what Aaron has been doing with the character.  “Nimona’s” Noelle Stevenson teams with artist Marguerite Sauvage to show us how the new Thor won the trust of the Warriors Three.  It results in a fun bit of high adventure that would’ve benefitted from being told in a longer format.

Best of all is writer C.M. Punk’s story of a most epic night of boozing involving Young Thor and Mephisto.  The former wrestler acquits himself decently here as a writer with an enjoyably goofy story that has Marvel’s Not-The-Devil encountering a rare situation where he doesn’t come off as the smartest man in the room.  I think Loki’s meddling and the ending don’t come off as well as they could have, but what really makes this story great is the art from “Chew’s” Rob Guillory.  Punk’s story is pitched perfectly to the artist’s skills as a cartoonist and the art is simply a joy to behold from beginning to end.  Yes, Guillory’s contribution likely set production on “Chew” back a few weeks.  Much as I love that series, I’d say the results here were worth it.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Batman vol. 8: Superheavy

April 20, 2016

“And I’d like to go on record as saying this is the dumbest idea in the history of Gotham City.  Now where’s my damn Batmobile?  Let’s go have some fun.”

With those lines I completely bought into the idea of Commissioner James Gordon taking over for Batman in a robot Bat-suit.  Yeah, I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical when I heard about this change.  It’s not that much stranger than the other times Bruce Wayne has been replaced, and writer Scott Snyder has earned enough trust in my book after several years of mostly stellar work on this title.  The end result is that Gordon is right.  If you can buy into the premise behind this volume then you will have fun (but not a damn Batmobile).

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Ajin: Demi-Human vol. 7

April 18, 2016

I should hate this series now.  After all, this volume finally breaks the one thing I really liked about the early volumes.  That would be the “Magneto-esque” morality behind Sato’s actions.  Clearly a skilled killer, his actions against the government were somewhat justified in light of the ruthless experimentation and testing being performed on other demi-humans like him by the powers that be.  Even when he crashed a plane into a building full of people, you could still make the argument for ambiguity as the Master of Magnetism has done stuff just as bad in his various campaigns against humans over the years.

However, after we learn more about Sato’s childhood and history in the military, any illusions about his motivations here are stripped away.  The man is nothing more than a thrill seeker who only started this campaign for the challenge it presented.  Now that the government appears to be caving in the face of his attack, he’s bored by it all.  With this, Sato has become a villain and not an antagonist in this series.  Any hints of the moral ambiguity in this conflict that would’ve at least elevated “Ajin” to the level of “X-Men” are firmly quashed.  This is just an action series where the good guys are pitted against the bad guys for survival and all the marbles.

Even if that’s the case, there’s no denying that it’s a story that mangaka Gamon Sakurai feels comfortable telling.  The action scenes have always been the most entertaining parts of this series and that continues to be the case here.  Even if one of them is an awful dream-sequence fake-out, we’re set up for an intense floor-by-floor fight between Kei and Sato’s groups with lots of intense gunplay and bloody hand-to-hand fighting with the demi-human’s IBMs at the end of the volume.  I can at least get behind that.  In fact, I’d probably be more excited about things here if Sakurai had started this series off as a straightforward action series with good guys and bad guys, and no shades of gray.  Now I just look back at the earlier volumes and see their “hot mess” aspects stand out all the more along with lots of wasted potential.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Gotham Academy vol. 2: Calamity

April 17, 2016

I really enjoyed what writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher did with the first volume of the series, along with the art from Karl Kerschl.  This naturally led me to anticipate vol. 2, which has turned out to be a letdown.  It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong here as the smooth, engaging storytelling from the first volume has been replaced by something more disjointed and hyperactive.  Take the opening story, which features Maps teaming up with new arrival to the school, Damian Wayne, to solve the mystery of the Inishtree Quill that has bound them together and is causing her friends to act crazy.  The mystery is hazily developed with drama coming from how members of the cast suddenly start acting wildly out of character.  I will say that Maps and Damian make a good team, and I was looking forward to seeing how the latter would interact with the rest of the series’ characters.  Unfortunately, he was only guest-starring for that issue.  If this was the plan all along, then why was his appearance set up at the end of the previous volume?  I was expecting bigger things from Damian’s role here.  At least the issue had some tremendously appealing art from Mingjue Helen Chen.

Kerschl returns for the following issue and maintains the high standard he set for himself in the previous volume.  The problem is that now he’s illustrating a haphazard collection of stories that has Olive, Maps, and co. dealing with the likes of Tristan the Man-Bat, a werewolf, the drama club, one of Batman’s B-list rogues, and a field trip to Gotham City.  Things jump around so much that it’s hard for the narrative to build up much interest or momentum, even when it has the overarching mystery of Olive’s mom to tie everything together.  We do learn more about this deceased(?) supervillain, but not enough to make for a satisfying read in the end.  There’s one more volume of this series scheduled to come out before it takes a several-month hiatus to return for “Rebirth.”  Hopefully vol. 3 will get things back on track and show me that the quality of vol. 1 wasn’t any kind of fluke.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com