December 30, 2018
Fortune and Glory: A True Hollywood Story
Yes, this is the third edition of this particular comic after it was originally published by Oni, and reprinted by Marvel in a colorized hardcover edition. It’s still one of the best things Bendis has ever done and deserving of a spot in everyone’s library even against all of the other stuff from the writer in these solicitations (of which there is a lot). “Fortune and Glory” is the writer’s story of his time in the Hollywood machine after one of his early projects, “Goldfish,” is optioned and he experiences the fun of turning it into a screenplay and meeting with all of the execs who want to turn it into a film. Or not. While there’s plenty of stuff about how a lot of these execs are full of hot air or are desperately trying to cover up their own vapidness, what sets this story apart is how we get to see the good side of the experience as well. It’s not a cautionary story so much as an adventure with its successes and failures. It’s also something I wound up re-reading just now after picking it up to refresh my memory about it, so consider that too.
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December 29, 2018
Elfen Lied Omnibus vol. 1
When it was announced that Dark Horse would be releasing this manga, my initial thought was “Why the hell is this being released now?” The anime that was made from this manga was kind of a cult success back when it was released in the mid-aughts, mainly because of how it mixed slice-of-life cuteness with “Akira” levels of violence and drama. It didn’t make the same impact as that aforementioned title, let alone other defining works like “Evangelion” or “Cowboy Bebop.” Which begs the question of why is the manga getting a new lease on life here in this day and age?
I got my answer in these solicitations. It states that the Duffer Brothers, the creators of “Stranger Things,” cited “Elfen Lied” as part of the inspiration for their wildly popular series. Knowing this, you might be forgiven for thinking that Dark Horse’s licensing and release this manga was part of the condition for getting the rights to publish “Stranger Things” comics. That said, “Elfen Lied” has a special place in my memory for its more gonzo elements and the fact that the people who fansubbed it also included a content advisory warning along with the first episode. I’ll be picking up the manga to see how the manga compares to my memory of the anime.
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December 28, 2018
Yeah, writing up all of the Previews Picks in one column didn’t turn out to be shorter or more fun. So we’re back to the old way for the foreseeable future. Well, with one minor change…
S.H.I.E.L.D. by Hickman and Weaver -- The Human Machine
Unlike certain other comics series, it’s easy to understand why the conclusion to Jonathan Hickman and Dustin Weaver’s epic tale of how the great minds of history contributed to the Marvel Universe took so long. Hickman was busy crafting his tale of multiversal death and destruction in the pages of “Avengers” and “New Avengers” while also launching “The Manhattan Projects” and “East of West.” Weaver even contributed to a few issues of “Avengers” as well as the “Infinity” event and while he’s not a book-a-month kind of artist I imagine that Hickman was too busy with these other projects to give him anything to draw for the final two issues of “S.H.I.E.L.D.” Now I can finally find out how it all ends with the arrival of this paperback edition. Sure, I could go buy the hardcover collection right now, but I’ve already waited close to five years for this concluding volume. A few more months aren’t going to matter.
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December 26, 2018
The stories that inspired the movie aren't bad, even if their defensiveness does them no favors.
(And if anyone's wondering what I thought about the movie, I'll just say that it was fine.)
December 24, 2018
I’ve got some bad news for fans of this series. While Yen Press has done a great job of putting out these volumes on a regular schedule, they’ve finally caught up to the Japanese release. What’s more is that because “Delicious in Dungeon” is serialized in a magazine that only comes out ten times a year, new volumes are likely to only be an annual occasion from here on out. (Vol. 7 has yet to materialize in Japan.) At least the unpleasantness of this fact is lessened by this latest great volume which serves up delightful helpings from its dramatic and comedic sides with practiced ease.
Most of the drama comes from the first three chapters which deal with the fallout from our group’s encounter with former comrade Shuro’s entourage and the other group of adventurers that they’ve had two dubious encounters with prior to meeting them in person. Since Laios is such a straightforward and honest person, he eventually tells them that Falin was resurrected using Marcille’s knowledge of Black… I mean, Ancient Magic. Before things get out of hand, the parties are interrupted by a harpy attack which happens to be led by a chimera-fied Falin. This mini-arc has a great mix of action, humor, and drama as most everyone finds a unique way to deal with the crisis at hand. That everything wraps up in a satisfying fashion -- with what I consider a GOAT image as Laios tamps down on his emotions to attack the chimera -- is really impressive when you think about the various tones and personalities mangaka Ryoko Kui has to balance here.
Things get back to a semblance of normal with the chapters that follow as our group winds up having to deal with shapeshifters, nightmares (which taste great after being sauteed in butter), and pick up a new party member with her own issues along the way. You could argue that the series is falling back on its formula here, but each chapter is enriched by the great character details offered up by the mangaka regarding her cast. Particularly in the shapeshifter chapters as good-natured doofus Laios winds up having to play detective in order to figure out who’s really real. All of this is worthy of the series high standard and worthy of being savored until the arrival of vol. 7.
December 23, 2018
There’s no Terex in this volume.
Seeing the First Order’s craftiest, liveliest (when he’s not being mind-controlled by their implants) operative one more time was the one thing I wanted to see from this final volume of “Poe Dameron.” Instead I got the one volume of the series which has the closest ties to the movies which spawned it. The events of this volume actually take place after “The Last Jedi” as the first half has Poe hanging out with Rey and Finn on the Millenium Falcon and filling in the gaps from “The Force Awakens.” Did you want to know how Poe survived the Tie Fighter crash on Jakku? You’ll get your answer here, but don’t go expecting any surprises. Writer Charles Soule clearly didn’t have a whole lot of room to craft an epic side adventure for the title character. So what we get answers the question of what Poe was up to and nothing more.
Soule does have more room to show us what the members of Black Squadron were up to during these films. This would be a more attractive proposition if I could recall more about them than how two of them are married and one of them is an alien journalist with extendable limbs who can spit poison. Their story takes up most of the volume’s second half as they try to find a place for the Resistance to evacuate to. It goes badly for the most part, leading to a climactic battle against the First Order and an ending where Poe actually says, “The Resistance has just begun.” If only all this was as inspiring as the character seems to think it is. Better yet, if the story was as impressive as Angel Unzueta’s art in this volume which is fantastic from start to finish. He’ll be transitioning over to the main “Star Wars” title after this and that series will be all the better for his presence.
This volume is rounded out by the inclusion of the second “Poe Dameron Annual” and if you can get past artist Andrea Broccardo’s quasi-mongoloid take on General Lei then you’ll be in for a good time. Though its story of the Resistance trying to get their hands on a pre-Empire data archive initially seems like nothing special, the way it uses its two special guest stars and how they interact with the events at hand is. This was much better than I was expecting an “Annual” story to be, so kudos to writer Jody Houser for that. If only Terex had shown up in it, I would’ve had no problem saying that it was better than all the issues preceding it.
December 21, 2018
There’s still one more volume of “X-Men: Gold” to go, but I feel confident in calling “X-Men: Blue” the more successful of the two flagship X-titles. Yes, “Poison-X” was utterly dire and derailed this title’s momentum, but “Blue” was still the more forward-facing of the flagship titles and it even managed to turn out a decent story with vol. 4 after said derailment. Now “Blue” faces a new challenge with its final volume: trying to find a way to give some closure to the story of the time-stranded original X-Men while the actual end of their story is being handled over in the “Exterminated” miniseries. Before that can be done, there’s the matter of whatever happened to Jimmy Hudson which has to be dealt with.
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December 19, 2018
Here we are, Jessica Jones’ first solo adventure in the post-Bendis Marvel Era. We’ve got the very talented Kelly Thompson writing this story along with Mattia De Iuis providing some very nice art for the majority of the volume, with Marcio Takara pitching in at the end. It begins with Jessica chained to a chair in a Ms. Marvel costume (the old bikini-style one) arguing with the unknown individual who put her in this situation. The story then flashes back to happier times, Jessica hanging out in the park with Luke Cage and their daughter Danielle, before the superpowered private investigator finds a dead body in her office. Said body belongs to one Dia Slone, who came to Jessica a while back asking for the P.I.’s help in investigating her scumbag boyfriend. Now Jessica has to find out if this boyfriend is the reason Dia wound up dead in her office. Well, that’s what Jessica would do if she wasn’t shot in the head at the end of the first issue.
Fortunately we’re spared the adventures of “Jessica Jones: Brain-Dead Investigator” and we get a solid detective story as she tries to track down who did this to her and, presumably, Dia. Thompson’s take on the character is missing her trademark self-destructiveness, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Jessica is as smart, driven, and smart-alecky as she ever was and remains a captivating lead. It’s also a lot of fun to see her mix it up with the likes of Doctor Strange and Misty Knight, though the award for best team-up in this issue has to go with the badass-and-she-knows-it Elsa Bloodstone.
While the overall story is solid, it’s dragged down a bit by the nature of the superpowers at the core of it. They’re vaguely-defined reality-warping wishing powers and their lack of specificity has them coming off as more plot-device-y than anything else. Things take on a lighter note for the final issue, which has Jessica and Luke celebrating Dani’s birthday and the superhero-related shenanigans which always follow these things. Much of it is good fun, even though Jennifer Walter’s bit part here does nothing to convince me that making her into “The Hulk” was a good idea from a storytelling perspective. Even when compared against the last-page-reveal about Dani which just has me going, “Too soon…”
December 17, 2018
One perspective on the events of Silver Spoon vol. 5 is that it’s a portrait of a boy slowly being crushed by the weight of his obligations. With the annual Ezo Ag school festival approaching, Hachiken finds himself increasingly overcommitted to making it a success. In addition to his obligations to the equestrian club, which include building a track for draft horse racing, he’s got to do stuff for his classes, dorm, and student council as well. Oh, and he also needs to find a way to bond with Chestnut so that the horse will actually want to perform with him. If this all sounds incredibly dramatic, you’d do well to recall that “Silver Spoon’s” default setting has always been “extremely goofy.” Even as Hachiken’s obligations threaten to overwhelm him, it’s done in a way that manages to wring some surprisingly warm-hearted humor out of his situation. This approach arguably sacrifices drama at the expense of humor, giving the proceedings an overtly frivolous feel. Yet it all feels like part of the plan when mangaka Hiromu Arakawa has Hachiken’s insecurities about being a good student puncture the good times at key points.
Meanwhile, over at Shuchiin Academy summer vacation is just about to wrap up and Kaguya and Shirogane haven’t been able to meet once during that time. Will they be able to get together during the local fireworks festival? As Kaguya-sama: Love is War vol. 5 shows, it winds up being the most dramatic and romantic event in the series to date. When complications threaten to prevent Kaguya from attending, Shirogane springs into action to show her (and the reader) what a smooth operator he can be. It’s a mini-arc that will have you rooting for the two of them to finally confess their feelings for each other -- but not just yet. That’s because this arc is surrounded on both sides by the kind of quality silliness this series has always had an abundance of. From Chika’s unwittingly master-level ramen-eating, Hayasaca’s inability to take a relaxing bath, to the entire student council’s anxiety over finding out whether or not two students have achieved “nirvana” together there’s so much energy and creativity on display that it actually makes the leads’ holding pattern surprisingly bearable.
December 16, 2018
The big day is finally here! Now I get to find out exactly why Batman and Catwoman don’t get married! Yes, I realize that saying this straight out is arguably a spoiler. Except that it’s been months since the events of “Batman #50” and the fact that the two of them aren’t a happy couple is now common knowledge at this point. So the real questions here are why didn’t they get married and is the end result look to be more satisfying than if they did? I’ll get to those eventually (well, one of them at least), but first there’s the matter of Booster Gold’s efforts to find the perfect wedding gift for Batman.
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