May 31, 2019
It was Fanime’s 25th Anniversary this year and the overall experience was… still really great. Aside from a nice art gallery showcasing memorabilia for years past and the “Silver Anniversary” tag plastered on banners and various memorabilia, there wasn’t a big emphasis on celebrating the occasion itself. Fanime 2019 was another awesome experience that was over way too quick for people like myself and John who came down on Thursday. There were issues, like a lacklustre anime music video competition, the expected round of technical glitches at panels (which, in fairness, were way down from last year), and that one staffer who wouldn’t let me into a panel early because he said all press members had to show up 15 minutes before for that kind of access. These were all minor problems and between the dealer’s hall, arcade, and (so many) panels I had no reason to go back and hang out in my room while the con was in full swing.
Now here’s where I attempt to explain why:
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May 29, 2019
It will cost you, but this long out-of-print anthology is worth tracking down.
May 27, 2019
If nothing else, I have to give “Gantz: G” this: It has managed to crawl its way up from the creative bankruptcy of vol. 1 to display something resembling competence in its third and final volume. We lose no time picking up from vol. 2 and the death of Fujimoto at the hands of the volume’s alien-du-jour, a white-haired-and-skinned humanoid with a creepy laugh and some shape-shifting abilities. Most of the volume’s first half has the girls fighting the alien’s “spawn” and making short work of them in the process. The second half has them fighting against the being proper and suffering loss of life and limb as they try to figure out its weakness.
Who dies in the second half? Abiko does. That’s not a spoiler because I’m pretty sure you have no idea who this character is based on their name. Ditto for most of the characters in this series save for its ostensible protagonist, Kei. “Gantz” was always focused on style and slick action, but it still remembered to provide interesting characters for us to root for along the way. Even at their most basic, these characters at least had one memorable trait to them. That’s less true here and the passable execution of the action doesn’t really make up for this deficiency.
Ultimately, “Gantz: G” comes off like it could’ve been a filler arc for its parent series. Not every arc in “Gantz” was an absolute winner, but they all moved the story forward in some way. This just feels like an exercise to see if there was an appetite for more “Gantz” from its fanbase. That this series lasted three volumes in Japan suggests that there was. That it only lasted three volumes suggests that the fanbase in question found it to be only slightly more entertaining than I did.
May 26, 2019
WildCATs #1 (of 6)
This shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been reading this blog for any length of time. Warren Ellis may be wrapping up “The Wild Storm” in a few months, but he’s not done with his new take on the Wildstorm Universe. We were already reintroduced to the new Wild Covert Action Team in the pages of the main series and their status as one which worked independent of either Skywatch or International Operations. Why are they doing this? As Ellis put it in his most recent newsletter, “To save the human race from the human race.” Which is certainly a thing that needs doing.
I’d originally heard that Ellis had been tasked with coming up with a number of spinoffs when he was approached about doing “The Wild Storm.” “Michael Cray” was one, and that was handled by Bryan Hill. I don’t know if this is going to be the final miniseries set in the new Wildstorm Universe, but I wouldn’t be surprised given that the main series didn’t set the sales charts on fire. Still, I enjoyed it and this new “WildCATs” mini sounds promising in that it looks to use the single-issue adventure approach that made the writer’s runs on “Global Frequency,” “Secret Avengers,” and “Moon Knight” work as well as they did.
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May 25, 2019
Logan is back! And his first order of business is taking out the evil organization known as Soteira whose leader, Persephone, has manipulated his death to their advantage. Writer Charles Soule pretty much plays it straight here, giving us a(n only mildly) amnesiac Wolverine who has to reconnect with his lost memories in a way that’s cleverly realized in the story. That’s probably the best part about this whole “Return” as Persephone and Soteira come off as fairly generic by the standard of such organizations in the Marvel Universe. Also, the whole Wolverine vs. the X-Men fight either needed to be cut entirely or given much more prominence for it to have the emotional effect intended by the writer. Soule does have a pretty strong grasp on the title character, but the story he’s put him in is only serviceable. Maybe if Soteira had greater ties to Wolverine himself we could’ve wound up with something at least as interesting as the “Death of Wolverine.”
Got all that? Okay. Now let’s talk about stylistic consistency.
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May 24, 2019
Readers with long memories (or ones with the ability to click this link and scroll to the bottom of the page) may recall that I was originally planning to make a podcast out of this volume. If the fact that you’re reading my review of it now suggests that something has gone wrong, well, it has. “Disassembled,” like the “Avengers” arc it takes its name from, is a general mess of a storyline whose only real purpose is to move its massive cast from Point A to Point B. Writers Matthew Rosenberg, Kelly Thompson, and Ed Brisson try their best to disguise this fact by having the team beset by a worldwide monster invasion, the return of a disturbed Multiple Man, and a senator who’s proposing the use of a vaccine to “cure” mutants who want it. All of these things are a sideshow to the real main event: The return of Nate “X-Man” Grey. Mutantkind’s shaman has returned to lead his people to their best world whether they want him to or not.
(Oh, and Legion is back as well. If you’re wondering, “Wait, how’d he do that after he wiped himself out of existence?” then thanks for taking the time to read Simon Spurrier’s really quite good run on “X-Men: Legacy.” If you’re looking for an actual answer to that question, all this volume has to offer is a handwave. Ugh…)
While Nate wants to make the world a better place, the fact that this storyline was followed up with the “Age of X-Man” series of miniseries should tell you how that goes. As a lead-in to that, “Disassembled” doesn’t really generate a whole lot of excitement for it. It’s too frantic, focused on big action than telling a cohesive and coherent story. Not helping matters is the fact that the writing for these issues feels very anonymous. There’s little sense of the individual style that Rosenberg, Thompson, and Brisson bring to their projects and it leaves you with the feeling that they were just ticking off editorially-mandated plot points with this assignment. The same can’t be said of the art, with Mahmud Asrar, R.B. Silva, Yildray Cinar, and Pere Perez all turning in solid and distinctive work. It’s just disappointing to see Marvel throw all this talent at “Uncanny’s” latest relaunch only for it to fall flat like this. I guess this is why they decided to bring back Hickman and let him put his own spin on things.
May 23, 2019
We got a lot of little indications in the previous volume that things were not so great in the Commonwealth. What made them interesting, however, was that it wasn’t clear whether or not they were indications that the largest community we’ve seen in the series yet was actually a dystopia or just a lot closer to our world than we’d like to think. Robert Kirkman really wants us to believe that it’s the latter and I’m inclined to believe him. The main problem with this volume is how he writes the one person who really disagrees with this sentiment: Dwight.
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May 22, 2019
Shigeo “Mob” Kageyama’s boss, Reigen, may be an unscrupulous exorcist with no real psychic powers to speak of, but he’s got one real redeeming feature. Which would be the fact that he does good by his sole employee and tries to instill in him a sense of morality about how he uses his powers. Not using them against other people being rule number one here. So Mob has tried to live his life as normally as possible and joined his school’s Body Improvement Club to gain strength rather than rely on his powers. His commitment to that ideal is put to the test when he’s lured into a revenge plot that sees the BIC tricked into taking on the thugs at Black Vinegar Highschool. The real problem here is that the thugs’ leader, Teru, actually has the same kind of powers as Mob, and he’s used them to become the most popular and powerful person at his school. So how’s he going to react after encountering someone who rejects his entire worldview about how these psychic powers are to be used?
If you answered, “In a way that leads to some ‘Akira’-esque carnage at a high school” then you’re most of the way there. ONE’s art is still an acquired taste, but I feel that he displays some real stylistic savvy underneath his base amateur-looking style. The real meat of this volume isn’t in the action, however. It’s in the meeting of the minds between Mob and Teru. Both are fully committed to how they view their powers are to be used so their war of words should be along the lines of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object. It isn’t because Teru’s psych proves to be a lot more fragile than his initial appearance let on -- more so after he winds up with his “disgraced samurai” look. His mental disintegration only serves to amp up the drama of the narrative until the cliffhanger finish when things take a turn for the “???” and really leave me wanting to know what’s going to happen next.
(I’d be angry about how the bonus stories included after the final story chapter initially make it look like we’re not getting a cliffhanger here. Fortunately the two Reigen-centric stories at the end are quite good and show how the character’s quick thinking is just as useful as his employee’s powers.)
May 19, 2019
Luna Brewster is troubled. Troubled in a way that’s dangerous for her and those around her. She’s visions of hurting those closest to her and hears a voice that tells her to do these things. Luna has kept all this from her parents and the well-meaning school counselor who’s dealing with her own issues as well. The high school girl’s only reprieve from her problems is are the reports about a flying woman that have captivated the nation. Tracking this flying woman’s sightings is the one meaningful thing in Luna’s life right now. So you can imagine what it does to her when she gets word that the flying woman has exploded over Chicago’s airspace. It was the end for her, and it might seem like the end for Luna as well.
It’s not, of course. Writer Christopher Cantwell and artist Martin Morazzo use the flying woman’s death as a means to further explore Luna’s damaged psyche and throw in some nutty conspiracy stuff as well. This volume is strongest when it’s focusing on Luna as its depiction of her mental impairments is harrowing in its immediacy. The authoritative voice which says, “YOU WILL KILL SOMEONE,” her imagination conjuring up some awful act for her to commit, her chant of “Rubberball” for mental stability -- all of these things help to put you in Luna’s head. It’s not a good place to be at all, but it’s so effectively realized early on that her struggle draws you in and has you hoping after every page that she’ll get better..
Reading about Luna’s struggle is the story’s biggest and best hook. The problem with “She Could Fly” is that Cantwell throws a whole lot of sub-”X-Files” conspiracy stuff at the matter of the flying woman herself. It involves a sad-sack physicist, his prostitute girlfriend, government contractors and their enforcers, the Chinese government, and the ATF… after a while it all starts to feel a bit ridiculous. This is without bringing in the walking bag of quirk that is Luna’s grandmother, newly returned from Japan after taking a seven-year vow of silence. It doesn’t quite topple the story into self-parody since the narrative remains focused on Luna and her problems throughout. It does make me hope that Cantwell dials things back a bit for the in-progress follow-up “The Lost Pilot.”
May 19, 2019
John Lynch travelling across America to warn the subjects of genetic experiments performed on them while he was director of International Operation. That was the general gist of the solicitations for the issues collected in these volumes. Anyone familiar with the Wildstorm Universe who read them, however, could easily see that this was going to be how Warren Ellis integrated “Gen 13” into “The Wild Storm.” Except… it really isn’t. The first five issues follow Lynch as he visits these survivors only to find out that they’ve changed. Mostly for the bad -- like, serial killer levels of bad for some of them here. It’s all very stylish and creepy thanks to Jon Davis-Hunt’s detailed art and even though these encounters all follow a basic formula all of them play out quite differently from each other. I thought that all this wound up being entertaining on its own terms, though anyone actually expecting to see the “Gen 13” kids, let alone see them in action, may come away disappointed.
The biggest surprise about this volume for me was that Lynch’s cross-country trip wasn’t its sole focus. I was expecting Ellis to spend an issue on each visit, but he devotes roughly half of each to the old man’s exploits. The rest of each issue is spent on keeping the title’s various plot threads ticking over in the meantime. So you get to see the formerly cold war between IO and Skywatch turn hot, the Daemonites and the Kherans pull even more strings behind the scenes, what Jack Hawksmoor is and what happens when he meets Jenny Sparks and Li-Min Shen, and whose side Angela Spica eventually joins. There’s even a fun cameo from two of Wildstorm’s most famous characters that should make it abundantly clear (if it wasn’t already) that the end goal for the series involves The Authority. Vol. 3 has a lot of interesting stuff happening alongside the setup and it gives me the feeling that vol. 4 is going to offer a very satisfying payoff for it all when it arrives in a few months.