October 31, 2018
(What, no podcast tonight? The past week turned out to be unexpectedly busy for me, so we’re running behind a bit right now. Expect it to go up on Friday or over the weekend at the latest.)
This volume of the series should’ve been a real heartbreaker to read. For several reasons, which I’ll concede are mostly external to the series, it doesn’t wind up having quite that effect. You can tell that creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples are winding up for big things when reporters Doff and Upsher pitch the idea of publishing Marko, Alanna, and Hazel’s story with the promise of getting them new bodies and an end to their life on the run. The happy couple turns them down, but Prince Robot IV has some information of his own that proves just as appealing to the reporters. So he, Petrichor, and Squire may get their happy ending, assuming that the vengeful Ianthe who still has The Will under her thumb doesn’t track down the whole group and leave everyone dead in the process.
I think the main reason vol. 9 didn’t land with the expected impact for me is because after this many volumes I don’t think I’ll ever like “Saga” as much as everyone else on the internet does. There are lots of things I do like about it, but nothing that I truly love and it’s hard for me to pick out a volume and say “That’s my favorite!” I can say that the previous volume was the weakest in the series since it addressed a major social issue in a way that just didn’t work. Now that I think about it, “Saga’s” willingness to filter real-world politics through its sci-fi/fantasy aesthetic is probably what’s really kept me from getting completely onboard with it. I can’t lose myself in its world if it keeps bringing up plainly obvious reminders of my own at every step.
So while there are many deaths in this volume, I only felt a little sad about most of them. Including the one on the last page, which I had a feeling was coming based on the headlines I was reading about the issue when it came out. They weren’t the most interesting things about this volume, with Robot’s character arc and accompanying “visual flashes,” Marko and Alanna’s “squirting” good time, and The Will’s tragic/forced descent into villainy all proving to be quite memorable. Yet they all contribute to make this volume just a good one, much like the series overall in my opinion.
October 29, 2018
Between “Delicious in Dungeon,” “Kaguya-sama,” “Silver Spoon,” and now this, just about all of the manga I’ve been reading in scanlated form have now received proper English releases. (I’ll keep holding out hope for “Dagashi Kashi,” but if it hasn’t been picked up following the two anime series that it’s received…) “Tomo-chan” is the least of them because it’s a romantic comedy with a fairly conventional hook. You see, Tomo Aizawa is such a tomboy that her best friend Jun didn’t realize it until they started going to middle school and he finally saw her in a girl’s uniform. Then when she confessed to him at the start of high school his response was, “I love you too, bro.” While Tomo really wants to take her relationship with Jun to the next level, her lack of anything resembling femininity or even a basic understanding of romance is a major stumbling block. What’s an adorable tomboy to do?
If you think that the answers to Tomo’s problems will play out in a series of wacky coincidences, misunderstandings, and (bone-crunching) slapstick common to the genre, then you’re not wrong. Fortunately the cast is charming enough to overcome the inherent predictability of the situations they find themselves in. From Tomo’s abundant energy, to Jun’s well-meaning cluelessness, we also have their mutual friend/fiend Misaki’s no-nonsense sarcasm balanced by her steadfast friendship, and the adorable guilelessness of Carol (or “Blonde Osaka” as I like to call her). Even the bit characters like average high school loudmouth Tanabe and the two girls who make the mistake of picking on Tomo have some appeal to them, and that really goes a long way to holding your attention with each storyline. It’s also worth mentioning that “Tomo-chan” is a 4-panel comic that was serialized on a daily basis (with breaks between arcs) on Twitter, so each page is a self-contained story beat in and of itself. Though it may not be up to the comic heights of similar series like “Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun,” this series is still diverting fun for what it is.
October 28, 2018
It’s a comic about a killer shark with a harpoon stuck in its jaw, and it’s based on a British comic from the 70’s that was notorious enough to be banned from newsstands. While that information alone may be enough for a reader to determine if “Hookjaw” is for them, it’s also worth mentioning that this is written by Simon Spurrier. Veteran of “X-Men: Legacy,” “X-Force,” current writer of “Star Wars: Doctor Aphra,” and “The Dreaming,” with several memorable creator-owned projects under his belt like “The Spire” and “Angelic,” he’s very much not the type to deliver a straightforward killer shark tale.
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October 27, 2018
This latest entry into the Mignolaverse contains a framing device that’s an absolute ton of fun to see in action even as it undercuts the drama of the main story. Longtime readers will remember Koshchei’s role in “Hellboy: Darkness Calls” as Baba Yaga’s primary instrument of vengeance against the title character. Where did he wind up after that series? In Hell, of course. Where he eventually met Hellboy again and the two worked out their differences over some drinks in a bar and Koshchei related his life’s story to his onetime adversary.
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October 26, 2018
The problem with a series that has a world this rich and interesting and storytelling so incredibly dense by modern standards is that with this third volume I’m already feeling the need to go back and read the first two. Usually that feeling doesn’t set in until around vol. 5 or 6 for some series, but consider “Monstress” to be an overachiever here in that regard. Another reason for this feeling is that where vol. 2 was remarkably focused in the central quest facing Maika Halfwolf and Zinn, the Monstrum who is bonded to her, with fox-girl Kippa and duplicitous cat Ren along for moral support, “Haven” casts a narrative net as large as the island that our protagonists have found themselves confined to. That would be Pontus which boasts an Arcanic-made shield mechanism that allowed it to ride out the previous war relatively unscathed. Unfortunately people responsible for the shield currently lack the means to restart it again and have turned to the reluctant Maika and the more pragmatic Zinn as their best option here. Meanwhile, Kippa starts working with the other fox-type Arcanic refugees in the hopes of finding her aunt, Ren finds himself up against a moral wall with the “one last job” his bosses have in mind for him, the other Monstrum make their moves and a marriage is planned in the Dawn Court.
In addition to all that you have the many revelations that Maika and Zinn encounter when they’re forced to break into the Shaman-Empress’ old labs. There is A LOT to parse here and working your way through it can feel daunting. Or occasionally like a chore whenever Maika is doing the whole “I don’t need friends” routine even though we all know how that’s going to turn out. What makes all this worth absorbing, in addition to the fact that it all does cohere to face down a singular threat in the end, is the additional depth it adds to this already-fascinating world that Marjorie Liu has created. It also helps that, for all her petulance, Liu has turned Maika into an engagingly unconventional protagonist through her odd-couple relationship with Zinn as the two continue to work towards a better understanding of the other here. Then there’s the utterly astounding art from Sana Takeda who shows us on Every. Single. Page. why she won the Eisner for “Best Painter/Multimedia Artist” this year, and will likely continue to do so for as long as this series is being published. So even if “Monstress” becomes something that’s more difficult to appreciate with this volume, it also makes a strong case as to why readers should continue to invest in it as well. And to re-read the previous volumes before vol. 4 arrives next year.
October 24, 2018
So the most disappointing comics news I’ve read in the last month was that Marvel fired writer Chuck Wendig from an upcoming “Darth Vader” miniseries. It’s not disappointing because I was particularly excited to read it (I’m sure it would’ve been fine), but because of his social media presence where he routinely fought back against angry fans who had issues with his politics and decision to insert gay characters into his “Star Wars” novels. Letting him go for this reason sends a message to these fans that they can get creators they don’t like fired if they’re persistent enough. It’s also another example of corporate inconsistency after Lucasfilm stood by Wendig after his novels came out. I’d like to see Marvel reconsider their decision, but history has taught me not to hold my breath in regards to these things.
In lighter, and Bat-penis-related, news the controversy over “Batman: Damned” has had a knock-on effect with other titles slated for the “Black Label” line and the DCU itself. Apparently the other “Black Label” titles have been given a thorough going-over to address similar content with some previous promises to creators being rolled back along the way. It’s also been said that content for DCU titles, which has been slowly pushing the envelope over the years, is going to receive a scrubbing as well. All this over one man’s penis. It’s funny to consider that “Damned” writer Brian Azzarello was more concerned over the defacement over a religious object in the issue’s final page and had no idea that artist Lee Bermejo’s interpretation of one casual scene he wrote would turn out the way it did.
Last thing: Charles Soule is wrapping up his “Daredevil” run and “Return of Wolverine” is reported to be his last go-round with that character for the time being. What’s next for him? More “Star Wars” series. No word on what he’ll be writing, but with Kieron Gillen set to check out after his fifth arc my money would be on Soule getting a shot at the main title after delivering solid and surprisingly good work on “Poe Dameron” and “Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith,” respectively.
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October 22, 2018
Fuck this series.
What started out as a fun alternate-universe “Evangelion” title burned away any goodwill it had long ago. There’s no denying that it’s take on the franchise, a happy ending filled with wacky hijinks compared to the world-ending apocalypse of the TV series and movies, was refreshing at first. After a while it became clear that mangaka Osamu Takahashi had no greater ambition than to put these characters through a familiar set of tropes -- studying together, a beach trip, more studying, having the girls dress up as maids, even more studying after that -- with copious amounts of unimaginative fanservice thrown in because that’s what the fans really want to see. This was the laziest of licensed cash-ins that reduced the talents of Carl Horn and his English adaptations to the level of turd-polishing.
If I’m going to give Takahashi credit for anything in this final volume, it’s for actually stringing together a multi-chapter story that sees Rei lose her memories as a result of a nefarious plot by SEELE. She gets them back soon enough however, because friendship. I could keep going about how terrible this all is, but I think what I’m most disappointed in is myself for buying ALL 18 GODDAMN VOLUMES! I should’ve just cut my losses sooner, yet here I am. Left with eighteen volumes of an “Evangelion” manga that I’ll probably never read again, of which (at best) a third of it is only worthy of. Don’t be like me. Do the manga world a favor and stop spending your money on this and give it to a Dark Horse manga series that actually deserves it. Like “Eden: It’s an Endless World” or “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.” The fact that we got eighteen volumes of this crap while those two are on might-as-well-be-permanent hiatus is further proof that we are living in the darkest of timelines.
October 21, 2018
It’s time to once again BEHOLD THE POWER OF KICKSTARTER! You don’t see me writing that as much these days since the site’s imperial phase is now behind it, but every once in a while a creator I like will use it to get funding for a project that I just have to have. Like Ryan Browne with the latest iteration of his “What is this, I don’t even…” series “God Hates Astronauts.” The closest I can come to giving “GHA” a proper description is that it’s an amalgamation of all the prominent pop-culture characters (most of them hailing from the late 80’s/early 90’s) that made an impression on Browne and have been left to stew in his fervent (or is that fetid) imagination for a couple decades. Yet after three volumes of comics published through Image, the series has also acquired its own strange continuity as well. Which is how we get the setup for this anthology as 3-D Cowboy’s wife and son, 3-D Housewife and 3-D Millenial (did I mention that they’re all ghosts, because they are), have come to visit him in prison where he’s doing time after killing guest-narrator Charles Soule back in the third volume.
The reason for this particular visit is that 3-D Housewife wants 3-D Millenial to get to know his father better and 3-D Cowboy figures the best way to do that is by introducing his son to the family trade: Narrating! So we get stories about Gnarled Winslow having his robot arms stolen by a dinosaur gang, Craymok jumping through time to father an anti-mugging son, Pandor plotting regicide against King Tiger Eating a Cheesburger, and Star Grass just making life miserable for everyone who is unlucky enough to cross his path. All the stories are full of the insanity that makes “GHA” a national treasure as far as I’m concerned, and they feature some spectacular art too. Especially in the case of the James Harren-illustrated story, which shows that he can go even more over-the-top than we’ve seen him go on “B.P.R.D.” and “Rumble.” I know that Browne’s craziness is definitely an acquired taste and “GHA” has been going on for long enough that, if you’re aware of it, you already know if this anthology is going to be for you. Newcomers should absolutely not start with this, but this is most deserving of a spot in any seasoned “GHA” fan’s library.
(And if you’re not a seasoned fan then douse yourself accordingly with salt and pepper and pick up vol. 1 to see where all this madness started!)
October 20, 2018
The existence of the Commonwealth has been teased for a good long while and the series took its first steps towards making personal contact with it in the previous volume. While the Commonwealth’s security forces may have greeted the welcoming party led by Michonne and Eugene at gunpoint, longtime readers will know that doesn’t automatically mean that they’re evil. You have to take precautions in a world infested by zombies after all. Instead, creators Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard save the real horrors for when everyone makes it inside the Commonwealth’s boundaries. There we see the true horror of their existence as evidenced by things like bureaucracy, a class system, and how their governor’s son is a real dick. That’s right, “New World Order” finds “The Walking Dead” leaning fully into the part of its agenda that deals with the rebuilding of society and it’s exactly as entertaining as it sounds.
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October 19, 2018
When I first cracked this volume open it was late at night and I figured I’d read a chapter or two before going to bed. Around an hour later I’ve finished the entire volume and found myself too wired to sleep. Much like the cocaine that Orson, Nina, and Kretch are partaking in at the end, “Stray Bullets” is a helluva drug. The first volume of “Sunshine & Roses” was absolutely worth the wait to read it in collected form and “Change of Plans” gives every indication that this story is going to be a wild ride right to the end.
That’s because the narrative is fueled by the intoxicating mix of guts, courage, stupidity, incompetence, and dumb luck that the main characters possess in abundance. (Who are in turn being fueled by pills and vodka.) Beth and Orson have a plan to rob the biggest mobster in Baltimore of both a ton of cash and Beth’s best friend Nina who is the mobster’s mistress. The problem is that it’s a plan that’s as awful as it is crazy and while they eventually realize this, the unstable Kretch eventually reveals himself to be holding all the leverage here. So it’s up to Beth and Orson to rob a strip joint from under the nose of Spanish Scott, Dez, and some guys who’d be fine with just killing them as opposed to watching the pair drown in their own blood.
“Realistic” isn’t the right word to describe “Stray Bullets,” but when the series is firing on all cylinders there’s an uncanny believability to everything happening on the page. Creator David Lapham has such a grounded, disciplined style that he can deliver a scenario that has Orson’s wrist being snapped by Monster, only for the boy to wrap it up with duct tape and cajole the oversexed Rose to chase Monster’s car, then crash into it and then drag the thug off of its winshield and into a shopping cart that they wheel over to a gas station and demand a new car at gunpoint and have it not only be a gripping read but seem credible at the same time. Ordinary people finding themselves in insane underworld circumstances has always been a hallmark of this series and this volume perfectly continues that tradition. Right up to the end which serves as both a comedown for the high action of the previous seven issues and a ramping up of the drama as it careens off to exciting new places.