Black Panther vol. 1: A Nation Under Our Feet — Book One

September 30, 2016

T’Challa is having a really good year so far.  After Chadwick Boseman made a striking debut as the Black Panther in “Captain America:  Civil War,” the character’s latest ongoing series debuted to over 300k in sales.  It’s not the biggest debut of the year, but I don’t think that anyone was expecting a new “Black Panther” series to do this well.  This means that a lot of people got to see what writer Ta-Nehisi Coates has planned for the title character as his kingdom crumbles around him.  While T’Challa has often been presented as the smartest man in the room, whether he’s hanging out with the Avengers or the Illuminati, even he is having trouble dealing with villains who can manipulate the hate of Wakandans to their own ends and control the country’s vegetation and weather.  He also has to contend with two former members of the Dora Milaje who feel that the system has failed them and their country and are now seeking to create a true democratic republic.  Toss in the fact that his sister, Queen Shuri, is still in stasis after facing off against Thanos’ Black Order and enhanced human slimeball Ezekiel Stane is helping to back the bad guys, and it would appear that T’Challa is about to learn a very hard lesson about the limits of his abilities and power as a king.

Coates certainly wastes no time in throwing the title character in at the deep end when it comes to the challenges he faces here.  It’s clear that the writer has a story he wants to tell about T’Challa, his kingdom, and his people, and he’s got a very able collaborator in artist Brian Stelfreeze.  With all of the parts in place, I feel like I should be more excited about this storyline than I am.  While I’m certainly not against superhero comics where most of the action is delivered in words rather than actions, most of the talking here is pretty straightforward and devoted to exposition regarding the characters’ motivations and ideas.  This is Coates’ debut as a comic book writer, so we can probably chalk that issue up to the man learning the ropes of the medium.  It still makes for a rather slow start to what is going to be (at minimum) a twelve-issue storyline.  Honestly, these first four issues left me hoping that things will get better rather than excited by the prospect of two more volumes of what we got here.  Even if he loses his kingdom, I’d still like to see T’Challa re-emerge as the smartest man in the room by the time this is all over.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Image Previews Picks: December 2016

September 28, 2016

I mentioned Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Luca’s “Shutter” for possibly the first time in these solicitations a few months back.  That’s because the final arc for their series was being hyped by advertising that the collection of the final issues wouldn’t be arriving for quite some time afterward.  No word on if that has boosted sales yet, but they’ve got a more comics-traditional stunt in the offing for the title’s 25th issue.  That would be a crossover with other famous Image (superhero) characters including Invincible, Witchblade, Savage Dragon, Glory, and more as everyone sits down for a brunch.  Considering how most of the characters noted in the solicitations are veterans of the over the top, all-ACTION, all-CAPS, ALL THE TIME antics of the 90’s the idea of all of them sitting down for a brunch sounds appealingly against the grain.  One more reason for people to pick this series up as it’s coming out, and for me to get on board with it at the beginning.

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Inuyashiki vol. 4

September 26, 2016

If nothing else, at least mangaka Hiroya Oku finishes off the low-rent crime/revenge story he started off in the previous volume quickly here.  Just one chapter and it’s behind us.  What follows is certainly an improvement as we get back to having the story be about the different approaches the aged Inuyashiki and the teen Hiro have taken with their new all-purpose alien-made robot bodies.  The bad news is that it’s not really all that interesting because of the simplistic black and white moral contrast between the two.

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Marvel Previews Picks: December 2016

September 25, 2016

With DC dominating its distinguished competition in terms of marketshare for August, was there any good news for the company’s comic sales last month?  Actually, yes.  Even though Marvel lost considerable marketshare here, its sales were still 40% more than they were in August of last year when “Secret Wars” was still in full swing.  While running high-profile miniseries meant to capitalize on some of the best-known stories from Marvel may have produced some hits, it would appear that there’s still no substitute for having ongoing series tie-into the main event itself.  That said, even with a huge number of titles tying into “Civil War II” were published in August, we didn’t get an issue of the main series.  Which is likely why Marvel only had three titles, “Amazing Spider-Man” (setting up “Dead No More”), “Black Panther,” and “Star Wars” in Diamond’s top 30 for the month.  So even though the company still had a great month in terms of overall sales compared to the same month last year, it still lost the PR battle in every possible way.  That’s why DC’s victory in August stung so much.

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DC Previews Picks: December 2016

September 24, 2016

To say that DC had a good August would be understating things by quite a bit.  The fact that they  utterly trounced Marvel in overall marketshare for dollars and comics sold is impressive in itself.  What’s really shocking is that the company managed this feat by shipping a third less books than its main competitor.  No, there hasn’t been a whole lot of creative diversity or risk-taking in the “Rebirth” titles, but that doesn’t matter when you can ship two issues of “Batman” in a month.  That might sound like sarcasm, but I want to make clear that it isn’t.  DC needs a solid base with their superhero titles if they’re going to fund diversity elsewhere.  I’m looking in the direction of their new Young Animal imprint and whatever’s going to become of Vertigo in the future.  Also, overall comics sales for the month of August topped 10 million -- the first time that’s happened since the bubble era of the 90’s.  A rising tide lifts all ships.  Now let’s see if they can maintain this sustained growth through the end of the year.

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Angel Catbird vol. 1

September 23, 2016

Strig Feleedus is a genetic engineer who is working on a big project for Muroid Inc.  It’s a super gene-splicer formula that could have a huge impact on the world as we know it.  The bad news is that his boss, Dr. Muroid, is actually a half-rat shapeshifter who wants to use the formula to take over the world.  Proving to be not very good at the whole hands-on aspect of his evil mastermind agenda (usually he leaves the little things to his rat army), he botches the hit-and-run that would have taken Strig out of the picture.  Instead, due to the proximity of Strig’s cat and a nearby owl, the heroic Angel Catbird is created!

If you’re wondering what Margaret Atwood, the creator of high-minded, literate works like “The Handmaid’s Tale,” is doing in writing a comic about a half-human/half-cat-owl shapeshifter who gets caught up in a battle with other shapeshifters like him for the fate of the world, the answer can be summed up like this:  Whatever she wants.  As Atwood lets us know in her introduction, she’s been a comic fan for a good long while and has had this idea kicking around for a bit as well.  While the insight into her personal history as well as the creation of “Angel Catbird” is nice, it’s the IDGAF tone that runs through her introduction that makes it the most entertaining part of the book.

Yes, despite the fact that I’m an avowed cat person, I found the actual story in “Angel Catbird” to be too simple to get involved in.  Strig’s difficulty in adapting to his new circumstances and the conflict he finds himself in feels like it comes right out the superhero guidebook.  Same goes for his relatively bland love interest, Cate Leone, and the villainous-but-boring Dr. Muroid.  Even the art from Johnnie Christmas has a blandly simplistic feel to it that belies the design work that went into it (helpfully documented in the back of the volume).  The one exception to all this is Count Catula, a half-cat/half-bat shapeshifter who has fully embraced his vampiric look.  You’d think he’d come off as too silly for a series that is relatively grounded in its approach, but his kind of weirdness enlivens every page he’s on.  Promisingly, Vol. 2 is subtitled “To Castle Catula!” so I’m not ready to give up hope on this series yet.

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Comic Picks #220: Kosuke Fujishima

September 21, 2016

He'll always be best known as the creator of "Oh My Goddess," but that doesn't mean it's the only title of his you should check out.

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Final Fantasy Type-0 Side Story: The Ice Reaper vol. 5

September 19, 2016

What, no reviews of the three volumes in the series between this and the first one?  Nope.  “The Ice Reaper” never really rose above the level of fantasy comfort food in its exploration of the backstory of Kurasame and his companions, collectively known as the Four Heroes of Rubrum.  Our protagonist gains greater power as a wielder of ice magic, teams up with his friends to achieve great victories, realizes that sometimes said victories are tainted by the hollow machinations of politics, and finds out that being a hero means giving up important things in your life.  Like True Love and all that jazz.  None of this has been outright bad, but it has left me with the distinct feeling that this series was meant to be enjoyed by a younger and less jaded fan than I.

This final volume manages the, ah, interesting trick of moving the needle of quality back and forth enough that it winds up in a neutral position.  In spotlighting Kurasame and the Four Heroes’ final mission, we are treated to a kind of betrayal as it turns out that one of the team is acting on orders from on high to kill the rest of the team as part of a deal with Orience that will provide Rubrum with information on their latest weapon.  The mechanics of said deal are not explained in enough depth to make this action sound sensible, or even less dumb, and that’s disappointing.  It does, however, provide Kurasame with a moment after the killing is done to take action and decide how to settle things for himself.  A refreshing change considering how he spent most of the series reacting to things done around him.

Then you’ve got the final chapter which acts as a kind of corrective to the heavy melodrama in the rest of the volume.  It’s a flashback that involves Kurasame acting as a kind of matchmaker to the students of Akademia during a festival.  There’s a heavy focus on slapstick and a lot of cameos from the “Type-0” game cast as kids.  It’s amusing enough and I guess it’s nice to see that mangaka Takatoshi Shiozawa realized that the readers of this series would be better served going out on an upbeat note.  He’s right, and I wish he’d displayed more smarts like this over the course of the series proper.  “The Ice Reaper” is a more coherent and competent story than the game that it’s based on, but in the end I guess you could say it left me… cold.

HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

jason@glickscomicpicks.com

Dark Horse Previews Picks: December 2016

September 18, 2016

Unless you count the build-up for The Legend of Zelda:  Art & Artifacts (featured in these solicitations) then there hasn’t been a lot of Dark Horse-centric news this past month.  So I’m giving a special above-the board mention to the debut of a new manga title in these solicitations:  Hatsune Miku:  Rin-Chan Now! Vol. 1.  I know nothing about the whole Vocaloid phenomenon beyond the fact that Hatsune Miku is the most popular of them all, and Unofficial Hatsune Mix was the most popular Dark Horse manga release of the past few years.  Which is why you’ll likely be seeing more Vocaloid-related releases from the company after “Rin-Chan Now!”  Not much is said about the manga itself in these solicitations, save for the fact that it’s by the same creators who did the “Rin-Chan Now!” music video.  Remember, media tie-ins like this are the likely future of manga from Dark Horse, so expect to see more Vocaloid and anime-related titles from them in the future.

If that bothers you, then I’d recommend you go out and buy several volumes of Eden:  It’s An Endless World, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, and/or I Am A Hero for yourself and your friends.  Dark Horse isn’t going to know that you want more of titles like these if nobody is buying them.

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Star Wars vol. 3: Rebel Jail

September 17, 2016

“Vader Down” notwithstanding, I’ve generally enjoyed Jason Aaron’s work on “Star Wars” so far.  The second volume even indicated that we could expect stronger work from him when he’s not bent on bringing in big-gun guest stars like Darth Vader and Boba Fett.  With “Rebel Jail” he has an even bigger opportunity to add something to the “Star Wars” mythos by telling us a story set in an all-new location:  the Alliance’s top-secret prison.  Unfortunately he mostly whiffs this opportunity by delivering a standard action story that rehashes familiar and tired moral arguments along the way.  If that wasn’t bad enough, this volume also shows that Kieron Gillen is the better “Star Wars” writer whether he’s writing from the perspective of the Empire or the Rebellion.

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