February 27, 2019
Dark Horse Comics started publishing Stan Sakai’s “Usagi Yojimbo” series way back in 1995. This was “Usagi’s” third official publisher following a 38-issue run at Fantagraphics and a 16-issue run at Mirage. “Usagi’s” run at Dark Horse handily eclipsed its previous ones with the series lasting for 165 issues, a graphic novel, a couple of spinoff miniseries, various one-shots and short stories, and two artbooks. This also includes the seven-issue “The Hidden” miniseries which will be published as vol. 33 this summer and will be the last new story featuring the Rabbit Ronin to come from Dark Horse.
It was announced by Sakai to the New York Times over the weekend that “Usagi” has a new home: IDW Publishing. I believe Sakai and his signature creation will be in good hands at that company and I’ll continue to buy any future “Usagi” stories published by IDW.
Yet you have to wonder why Sakai decided to leave Dark Horse after such a long association with the company. “Usagi” has been at the company so long that it was frequently featured in advertising and promotional material for Dark Horse itself. After such a long association I believed that we’d only stop seeing new “Usagi” stories from the company only after Sakai had passed away. That (thankfully) didn’t happen and now my worldview is shaken. Not so much for “Usagi’s” future, but what it means to Dark Horse.
Read the rest of this entry »
February 25, 2019
Do you know what “Murcielago” has been missing up until now? If you said, “Giant Robots,” then this is the volume for you! Is it the volume for me, though? While I’d never accuse “Murcielago” of being realistic in any fashion, the presence of mecha does threaten to break the particular kind of suspension of disbelief that it has built up over eight previous volumes. I can’t complain too much because the fight that results from the evil scientist in a giant robot and Hinako’s dumpling robo (trust me, just go with it…) is pretty damn spectacular. Honestly, the scale and spectacle of the mechanized throwdown is impressive enough to make me think that mangaka Yoshimurakana should go full sci-fi and make it the focus of her next series. I’d even go so far as to say she should take on a “Gundam” manga, if it weren’t for the fact that they’ve got standards as far as their fanservice is concerned. Yoshimurakana, as we’ve seen MANY times before, clearly does not as she demonstrates again in this volume’s bonus story.
In fact, the action is once again the main draw of this volume as the first couple of chapters deal with wrapping up the previous storyline in dynamic fashion. Kuroko finally has it out with Higaki, the leader of the Sakura Pruning Group, in an exciting swordfight that contains a “Made you look,” moment that other creators can definitely learn from. We even get some more hints towards the main plot of the series and our first look at its mastermind. Crazy as it may sound, it seems as if there has been a method to Yoshimurakana’s madness and that every story in this series to date is connected here. Yes, even the one in this volume about the giant robots. Same goes for the mystery of Hinako’s origins as well, though given the character’s generally annoying presence the mangaka has some work ahead of her to convince me that it’s not going to be completely dumb.
February 24, 2019
The Umbrella Academy vol. 3: Hotel Oblivion
No, I haven’t got around to watching the Netflix series yet. I have a million other things to catch up on watching, not the least of which is the second season of “Castlevania.” If there’s anything that I have to give the “Umbrella Academy” TV show credit for, it’s that its existence finally prompted creators Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba to put out a third volume of the series. Not that this series about a group of teen superheroes who grew up into adults with their own unresolved issues ended on a cliffhanger that needed resolving. It’s just that the first two volumes were quite good and there was every indication that Way had more story to tell. However, as he and Ba were very much in demand with their own projects, there was no indication as to when they’d ever get around to putting out a third volume. While there’s always the worry that Way’s time away from writing comics on a regular basis will affect the final product, my main hope is that this volume offers some kind of closure for the series. Either that or a much shorter wait between volumes from here on out.
Read the rest of this entry »
February 23, 2019
Batman: Last Knight on Earth
You know how it is. One day you’re Batman, Dark Knight protector of Gotham City, key member of the superhero community, with lots of friends and supporters to help you fight your war on crime. Then one day you wake up in an asylum to find out that the world has been devastated and the only company you’ve got now is the preserved severed head of your arch-nemesis. While this may sound like a typical Friday for Batman -- you know, the big challenge he has to overcome before he can properly enjoy the weekend -- “Last Knight on Earth” is being billed as the final word on the character from creators Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. I’ve gone on about how great their “New 52 Batman” series was and the fact that they’re reuniting for this “last” story is enough to get me excited.
The funny thing is that while this looks to be one of those “last” Batman stories, it might wind up being the last title to come out under DC’s Black Label imprint. It turns out the consequences of “Batman: Damned’s” Batpenis-gate from last year were so wide and far-reaching that everything at DC -- especially mature content -- has been put under the microscope. So while a number of Black Label titles have been announced, it remains to be seen when or if any of them will reach store shelves.
Read the rest of this entry »
February 22, 2019
There’s a scene towards the end of this volume where one of the main characters wakes up in a hospital following a pretty disturbing hallucination (Or was it!?) and a lot of plot points from the previous issues are reiterated at a fast clip. When asked to make sense of this, Jedidiah Jenkins responds with a “Honey… I have no idea.” I get what he’s feeling and it’s not a thing you want to leave a reader with at the end of the inaugural volume of ANY series.
“Farmhand” does have a pretty setup going for it, at first. After years of estrangement Zeke Jenkins is taking his wife and two kids back to meet his father, the aforementioned Jed. While the reasons for their falling out are yet to be specified, it’s a safe bet that they have to do with the strange biotech that came into the possession of Zeke’s father. This technology allows Jed to grow body parts like they were fruit or vegetables. He’s acquired a lot of fame and fortune as a result, and a lot of enemies as well. Oh, and then there are the complications that inevitably spring up when you’re messing around with the kind of technology that makes this kind of stuff possible.
Picking up this first volume was a no-brainer for me as it comes from Rob Guillory, the phenomenally talented artist of “Chew.” “Farmhand” shows that his artistic chops haven’t lost a step since that series, as things get even crazier and more horrific than we ever saw in that title. Where it lets the reader down is in the writing, which is kind of all over the place in terms of setting up a focused narrative to follow. The tone is also similarly confused as it’s not clear if this is meant to be a horror series with some comedy or a comedy with some horror in it. This leaves the family drama to fall uncomfortably in the middle of those two extremes. I’ll be back for vol. 2 because I want to like this series (really, the art is that good) even if it doesn’t leave me hopeful for its long-term prospects.
February 20, 2019
A fancy way of saying that, along with the live-action movie, I'll be talking about the "Holy Night and Other Stories" and "Ashen Victor" collections.
February 18, 2019
Kiyoshi dies in this volume. He gets better, though, and his experience puts him in a manic state that gives his shoulder-wars comrades the momentum they need to take the fight directly to Kate. How did he come to die in the first place? That’s… best left for readers to experience themselves. All I’ll say is that it involves some of the best penis-related comedy I’ve read in recent memory. As with most comedy in this series, it works because mangaka Akira Hiramoto takes a completely ridiculous setup and then treats it with as much serious drama as he can muster. That Kiyoshi’s situation is addressed with the same kind of seriousness you’d normally see applied to the actual death of a main character is what makes it as funny as it is.
It’s also good that this stuff springs right off the group’s complete and utter failure to restore Meiko’s personality. I wrote last time that her resurrection by carbonation was dumb in a way that defied the title’s own logic and the actual reason we get for it here is thankfully more in line with what I’ve come to expect from this series. Vol. 11 does offer something that by all rights should take its place in implausibility: Andre’s “gigantic” stature. While he’s always been the biggest character in the series, here he’s depicted as being large enough to carry the three members of the student council on his back and keep them out of headband-grasping range.
Andre’s depiction here is something that’s completely unrealistic even by “Prison School’s” normally shaky grasp on reality. Though I recognize this, it’s something that I think Hiramoto manages to make work regardless. Andre has always had the least believable character design of the series and we’ve actually seen the mangaka build up to this take on him over the past few volumes. You also get the feeling that we’re not actually seeing size represented on the page here, but the impression he makes on the characters and I can’t believe that I’m actually applying this much thought to analyzing a character’s appearance in this series! Vol. 11 is still great dumb fun and that’s it!
February 18, 2019
After you’ve written “Amazing Spider-Man” for the past decade, what do you do next? You start working your way through the rest of Marvel’s A-list characters, beginning with Tony Stark. Dan Slott’s take on the character isn’t that different than what we’ve seen in previous runs. He’s still the charismatic, fast-talking futurist whose proclivity for getting into trouble is only matched by his facility for getting out of it. Now he’s running Stark Unlimited and after securing an old robotics rival to join him in his latest venture, setting up a VR world called the eScape, Stark is ready to take on the world. Right after he stops a rampaging Fin Fang Foom from wiping out New York.
This first volume of “Iron Man” isn’t about innovation. Like much of Slott’s run on “Amazing” it’s about doing familiar superhero stories with enough twists to keep them fresh. That’s what we get here with the first four issues as they manage a nice balance of telling self-contained stories that also hint towards a larger plot. Aside from the aforementioned fight with FFF, we have Stark and James Rhodes teaming up to take on a company that has made an assault vehicle using stolen Stark tech, an eScape test-run that’s interrupted by the Machine Man, and a dating program that leads to doppleganger chaos at S.U. All of the setups for these stories are pretty straightforward, but they’re resolved with the kind of cleverness that I like to see in my superhero comics. That they all feature some superbly energetic and detailed art from Valerio Schiti is a big plus too.
The only outlier here is in the final story which focuses on Tony’s brother, Arno. Introduced in Kieron Gillen’s run, my gut feeling here says that he’s important to Slott’s long-term plans for the his run. You don’t give this guy a whole issue to set himself up as a benevolent problem solver only for his sinister side to reveal itself in an episode involving headless cattle. This all screams “potential supervillain” to me, but it’s still easy to understand Arno’s motivations here. As with the rest of the volume, I’m curious to see where Slott is going with this. Optimistic about it too.
February 16, 2019
I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect going into this volume. You see, whenever a series does a big “Death of [Insert Character Here]” arc, there’s usually a pretty good chance that we’re talking about death in a metaphorical sense. The character won’t actually die, but instead come through the storyline with a significant change to their status quo. So even though this storyline promised the death of Jane Foster, I was fairly certain she’d come out of it all right in the end.
Then the solicitations for issues after this storyline started rolling out. There was a new “Thor” series featuring the Odinson, which was to be expected, but no mention of Jane. In fact, there wasn’t any mention of her at all in any of the solicitations that I read. Toss in the fact that the follow-up special to this storyline was called “At the Gates of Valhalla” and Marvel actually had me thinking that maybe “The Death of the Mighty Thor” would send Jane off to that great Norse paradise after all.
Read the rest of this entry »
February 15, 2019
“Cave Carson’s” first volume was a surprisingly entertaining adventure that displayed an impressive balance of humor, quirk, and action. Its second volume disrupted that balance by bringing in a bit too much psychedelia and surrealism into the narrative. This third (and sadly final) volume manages to strike a welcome middle ground by having the psychedelia spice up the narrative while still keeping things focused. This is how we get Cave, his daughter Chloe, and version-of-a-friend-from-an-alternate-universe Marc going through the cosmos on some crazy adventures. Whether it’s meeting up with larger-than-life rock god friend Star Adam to witness his final days, encountering the Lazer Monks trapped in an endless cycle of betrayal and war, or having an acrimonious reunion with a lost friend while trying to save a protoplasmic prince who’s sustaining an entire planet.
It’s all as deeply weird as it sounds, and a lot of fun too. Writer Jon Rivera keeps the pace brisk and the tone upbeat for the majority of the volume. He also creates a believable father/daughter dynamic between Cave and Chloe as they’ve patched up their fractured relationship from the first two volumes, but still have to work through the years of bad feelings prior to that. Eccentric presences like Marc and Star Adam also help to keep things lively, as does the outstanding art from Michael Avon Oeming. The first two volumes really gave the artist a chance to let his freak flag fly, and throwing him into a cosmic setting only lets him get wilder and crazier. I’ll admit that sometimes things can get a bit too strange, where clarity is sacrificed for spectacle. These moments are thankfully the exception rather than the rule and the end result is a volume that provides a worthy finish to the saga of Cave Carson and his Cybernetic/Interstellar Eye.