November 30, 2018
While the previous volume offered up some satisfyingly tense action, via a hallucinogenic fog that brought back a lot of familiar faces, it left the main story spinning its wheels. That’s less of a problem here as the men and women of the Expeditionary Corps settle in for a long winter after rebuilding their fort. It should be a nice, quiet winter now that they know how to counter the fog’s effects with their biggest worry coming from figuring out how to deal with boredom, right? Well, that and averting the threat of mutiny. A good portion of the Expeditionary Corps are having serious misgivings about what they signed up for, and that leaves them very susceptible to the fire-and-brimstone preachings of Sgt. Pryor who has his own ideas about how things should be run around here. Add in the fact that Lewis has been alienating himself from everyone with his solitary vigil near the invisible arch, and one crew member’s justified score settling and tensions are set to boil over any day now. Especially with that ghostly conquistador whispering in everyone’s ears while all this is going on.
If that sounds like a lot to take in for this volume, writer Chris Dingess makes it all go down smoothly. While the first few issues are told from multiple points of view, that just allows the reader to get a better handle on where the characters are coming from here. Also, after the events of the previous five volumes I’d have been surprised if there wasn’t a mutiny at some point. That turns out to be one of the more fun storytelling decisions in the series to date as it doesn’t play out quite the way I was expecting. Lewis has a plan, you see. The volume’s main failing is that the main storyline is only advanced incrementally here. That’s an improvement over the previous volume, and the revelation as to why Sacagawea’s baby is needed was quite welcome while the manipulations of the conquistador were quite interesting to behold as well. Still, I’d like to see more progress with the mystery behind the arches as the series has to be close to hitting the home stretch after six volumes.
November 29, 2018
Should I hold out hope that "Gideon Falls" will turn out well after the endings of "Descender" and "Royal City?"
November 26, 2018
I’ve always admired Robert Kirkman’s efforts to try and deliver another successful creator-owned series after the successes of “The Walking Dead” and “Invincible.” That his efforts in that regard, with “The Astounding Wolf-Man” and “Outcast,” have generally been just “okay” hasn’t given me cause to give up hope yet. If this first volume is any indication then you can add “Oblivion Song” to that list of “okay” titles as its tale of Nathan Cole trying to find people who have disappeared from our universe plays out more or less how you’d expect it would.
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November 25, 2018
Yeah, I’m honestly surprised that this volume even exists. I remember hearing about how mangaka Kiyohiko Azuma had to be cajoled into finishing the last story in the previous volume after putting the series on hiatus for a year. After hearing that I figured he either had a terrible work ethic or was just plain tired of working on the adventures of everyone’s favorite green-haired five-year-old. As the series was episodic to the core, I was fine with vol. 13 being the last we saw of it since it was just as good as the twelve that preceded it.
So imagine my surprise when I read that vol. 14 came out in Japan earlier this year. Now that it’s finally arrived on these shores I can say with certainty that “Yup, it’s another volume of ‘Yotsuba&!’” Which is to say that it’s another quirky, charming affirmation of all the little joys that life has to offer. It’s hard not to enjoy seeing Yotsuba make necklaces with her dad Yosuka and their friend Jumbo, watching her perform yoga (with amusing effortlessness) with Fuuka and Hiwatari, and become a princess through her own cleverness as well as Asagi’s. As with every volume, there’s enough quirkiness and reminders -- best seen here through Yotsuba’s selfish agonizing about what beads to share with her dad while making a necklace -- to keep things from becoming overwhelmingly saccharine.
There’s also something else here that we’ve never seen in “Yotsuba&!” before: an honest to god arc! That’s right, four of this volume’s chapters deal with Yosuke (he who is Yotsuba’s dad) and Yotsuba’s trip to Tokyo and the sights they encounter there. The prep work for the trip is also fun too since it gives us another chance to see Yotsuba match wits with her nemesis Yanda. I would’ve liked to have seen more variety in the actual Tokyo trip as they only visit Harajuku, a park, and a fancy hotel with an AWESOME buffet. There’s still plenty of fun to be had in what we get as Yotsuba masters the art of putting a ticket into a turnstile, has a crepe with her dad, saves the world from aliens, and is gobsmacked with amazement at the aforementioned buffet. It’s also nice to meet Koharuko, Yosuke’s sister, who’s a nice no-nonsense addition to the cast an one I’d like to see more of in the next volume. Whenever it comes out.
November 24, 2018
This volume kicks off with Gadhevi having his last supper with Rajendra, putting an end to the civil war in Sindhura. As well as an end to the filler arc nature of this storyline too, right? Not quite. As Arslan and company prepare to head back to Pars, Rajendra still has a trick or two up his sleeve to show that he was the superior partner in their relationship all this time. It goes about as well as you’d expect, though there’s more drama to be had once everyone gets back to Kishward fortress. It turns out that there’s some kind of supernatural presence plaguing the fortress and it’s going to take someone as clever as Narsus to flush it out. “Arslan” hasn’t shown any ambition of being a “swords and sorcery” series, and the level of fantasy on display here is basically as much as this series can have without breaking suspension of disbelief. Though it was nice to see the heroes on top of the garden variety threats they face here, it and everything up to this point in the volume does have me wanting to see them take on a threat that actually poses a challenge to their considerable skills.
Like a new offensive from Silver Mask and his Lusitanian backers. That’s not what we get here, though I’m inclined to give his story the benefit of the doubt in terms of laying the groundwork to that end. It entails the fanatical Bodin and his followers making a nuisance of themselves by holing up in a fortress and threatening to disrupt the lines of supply and communication between the Lusitanian Emperor currently in Ecbatana and his homeland. It falls to Guiscard, the emperor’s brother, to deal with this and he delegates it to Silver Mask and Parsian military loyalists backing him. There’s some interesting military and political scheming to be had here, especially once Andragoras gets a chance to fill in some backstory (Or does he?), but all that goes away once the fighting actually starts. Only the presence of the willfully, almost joyously insolent Kubard enlivens these scenes and he sees himself out before the end of the volume. It’s a disappointing note to end on, especially as this volume shows the series trying to find its focus again.
November 23, 2018
Three volumes in and Inio Asano’s latest is finally starting to make some worthwhile strides towards the level of quality I normally expect from his series. It’s really evident once we find out that one of Kadode and Ontan’s friends has died as a result of the latest human/alien skirmish. Seeing the way the girls cope with this, and how it cuts through Ontan’s overbearing quirkiness, helps to drive home the fact that this isn’t really a story about humans living alongside aliens. It’s a story about life during wartime.
From the opening chapter about the woman who works for an arms manufacturer, to the nicknames of warctopus and peacesquid given to those who are for and against war with the aliens, and the tours of significant sites wrecked by alien craft, the signs of war are all around everyone. The most notable one for me is the “Current Status of War: Favorable” screen seen a train which strikes the right balance between absurdity and believability. All of these things help contribute to a shift in my perception of the series as, up until now, the alien presence had come across as a benign one. Now, it’s a little more unnerving to observe the effect their presence is having on the human population.
As for the humans which populate this volume, they’re more or less committed to living their lives in spite of the fact that armed conflict may break out around them at any moment. Kadode and Ontan have to deal with graduating high school and the stresses of passing entrance exams for college, their mutual friend Ai goes on a date with a boy who asks her out, and Ontan’s brother learns a lesson about managing interactions between the real world and online. This everyday stuff is endearing in its own way, but there’s now an interesting tension between it and the simmering war tensions in the background. It’d be nice to say the declaration on the last page adds to said tension, but at this point it feels easy to shrug off outside of any other indication that it’s actually going to happen.
November 21, 2018
Tsutomu Nihei is a creator who has been moving ever closer to the mainstream over the course of his career. Looking at his multi-volume series, you get the feeling that after he was fully able to indulge his artistic impulses in “BLAME!” Nihei viewed creating a series with mass appeal as a real challenge to overcome. Which is how we got the more coherent yet still deeply weird “Biomega” after that and then “Knights of Sidonia,” his most successful grab at the big brass ring yet. “Sidonia” started off as a conventional humans vs. aliens series with mecha elements but showed that the mangaka hadn’t abandoned all of his weird, violent, and violently weird impulses.
Now the print edition of Nihei’s latest ongoing series, “Aposimz,” has arrived and I’m feeling the strangest sense of deja vu as I’m reading it. It’s an opening volume that strikes the same (mostly) conventional notes that “Sidonia” did in its first outing. So I’m ultimately left hoping that it’ll become as interesting as that series did over the course of its run.
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November 19, 2018
This is easily one of the better volumes of the series. Why? Because it focuses almost exclusively on creator Gamon Sakurai’s greatest strength: His ability to create some kick-ass action scenes. So if you were expecting great things in that regard after Sato infiltrated the JSDF base in the previous volume then you’re going to love what’s on display here. Not only do we get shootouts between Sato and members of the JSDF, but there’s lots of strategy on display from both sides in most of these encounters. From the first chapter where the officer leading the charge tells his men to shoot through him in order to get the demi-human, to Sato’s own creative use of his abilities, these conflicts never wind up being a straight shootout between sides. The action is fast-paced, gripping, and inventive in ways that the main story is usually not. This is something I hope Sakurai is aware of for when he starts his next series after “Ajin.”
It’s not all Sato’s show, though. Izumi gets some scenes to show what she’s made of when she goes off on her own to rescue Tanaka. In a sense of both character and action as she manages to rouse Sato’s former comrade out of his self-pitying funk and shows us some quality sharpshooting and one of the best car chases I’ve seen in comics recently. Lunkheaded Ko even gets to show that he’s capable of helping out when he has to break into the headquarters of Sato’s gang and maybe even recruit a new member or two to his cause. Then there’s Kei who spends the volume using his powers to do what should be a pretty straightforward thing in the hardest way possible. He knew what his job was going to be, so would it have killed him to pack a grappling hook beforehand? It’s this kind of thing that has me lowering my expectations for the next volume when the series will likely remember that Kei is its main character and try to make me care more about his fate than Sato’s.
November 18, 2018
Grant Morrison and Dan Mora’s revisionist take on the “Santa Claus” mythos was one of the best comics I read back in 2016. This follow-up volume, which collects the two extra-sized one-shots the creators have released in its wake isn’t in the same league. That’s because both are the rare Morrison-written projects where he puts his crazy mad ideas first at the expense of grounding them in a relatable human story.
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November 17, 2018
“War Thor?” More like “Edgelord Thor” as he’s presented here. This new Thor, brought into existence after a certain person picked up the Mjolnir of the Ultimate Universe, is all about anger, rage, blood raining from the skies, and vengeance to be visited upon the Queen of Cinders for the deaths she’s caused in the burgeoning War of the Realms. This is a Thor that means business and he’s not about to let anyone stand in his way when he comes to bring justice to those who have committed awful crimes during wartime. Especially not the current Thor, Jane Foster, who’s dealing with some long-delayed personal drama of her own. You see, she’s finally let the Odinson know that she’s the new Thor and he’s taking it about as well as could be expected…
I’m only partially kidding about this “Edgelord Thor” business as his characterization is over-the-top in a way that’s more distracting than endearing when it comes to Jason Aaron’s writing. However, his actions are just about barely justified by the fact that I can actually believe that this normally jolly character would be traumatized into acting the way he does as a result of what happens to him in the first issue. In fact it’s honestly kind of touching to see how Thor deals with him after the initial round of fisticuffs is over. It almost makes up for how Ultimate Mjolnir is described as conjuring unmitigated rage in its user. You might think that it’s Aaron offering a kind of commentary on the Ultimate Universe, but there’s nothing in the storyline to back it up. It’s just been reduced to a plot device here.
Rounding out the collection is the “Generations: The Unworthy Thor & The Mighty Thor” one-shot, which has Young Thor teaming up with the current Thor to help some vikings take on Apocalypse and his clan in Egypt. It’s a fun but largely inconsequential story that has Thor teaching Young Thor some lessons about worthiness and some really dynamic art from Mahmud Asrar. Backing up a bit, even if the main story is somewhat uneven and overdramatic, it’s still very nice to look at courtesy of Valerio Schiti’s art (with regular artist Russell Dauterman pitching in for a couple scenes). If this isn’t the best lead in to Jane Foster’s “final” story as Thor, it at least doesn’t completely derail the series’ momentum.