November 16, 2019
It’s a lovely, dense volume of the series we have here. While the cliffhanger from the previous volume is dispatched quickly enough, it immediately segues into telling us all about Father Simon’s genuinely tragic backstory. (As well as the various factions which exist in the church, which I’m sure will become relevant later…) Then we see what happens when some characters who haven’t met before finally do as Chise catches Rahab up on how Elias has been doing, while Stella makes a pact with Ashen Eye. After that, it’s back to the College -- via a secret path shown to them by their centaur mailman -- as Chise gets to know more about its students. Including one in particular. That would be Zoe, a surly green-haired boy who has a major unexplained grudge against the young mage . He also has some sweet noise-cancelling earmuffs and when they’re taken away we find out that he was wearing them for a very good reason.
There’s a lot of world-building going on in this volume, more so than we’ve seen in the series for a while. It goes down extra-smooth, though, because mangaka Kore Yamazaki does a great job of tying each instance to a member of this title’s expansive cast. It’s exceptionally well-handled in the case of hearing about Zoe’s backstory as his origins and struggles are easy to understand and relate to. Even with the snakes. There’s also lots of interesting foreshadowing here: from the stuff about the church, to the “Berserk”-looking monsters occupying the shortcut Chise takes, and the various houses behind the College, it all feels like Yamazaki is laying the groundwork to make this arc bigger and badder than the previous one. It may be a little hard to see exactly where she’s headed with it at this point, yet the details she’s providing along the way make this a great volume of the series even by its normally high standards.
November 15, 2019
It’s a new volume of “Berserk.” What’s there to say about it besides, “It’s still really good,” and “I wish Kentaro Miura world get these out faster?” A lot, actually. This is a momentous volume of the series as it makes a fundamental change to its status quo -- one that’s been in place for OVER TWO DECADES. Those of you who’ve been reading the series up to this point shouldn’t have too much trouble guessing what happens here. For everyone else, consider yourself warned because there are full spoilers for vol. 40 after the break.
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November 13, 2019
A series whose dumbness is matched only by its hilarity and ambition in finding new ways to provide fanservice!
November 11, 2019
There’s a more interesting series lurking underneath the surface of the one we get here. A thriller about an obsessed schoolgirl who stalks the new girl in her class. A quiet girl who can only experience happiness if she’s tasting ramen. Instead, we’ve got a relatively sedate slice-of-life story about Yu, a schoolgirl who is fascinated by the Koizumi of the title. She encounters Koizumi waiting in line at a ramen shop and winds up having a double pork, extra veggies, garlic, and spicy oil bowl. A mixture of ingredients so thick that you can barely make out where the noodles are. While Yu manages to finish and even enjoy the bowl, that’s of secondary concern to the look of ecstasy she sees on Koizumi’s face after she’s done. It’s captivating to Yu, and she finds herself utterly determined to make friends with this cool new girl.
Cue eight more chapters of Yu trying to do just that while her friends, snarky Misa and reserved Jun, manage it better than she can. All while lots of good-looking ramen is consumed. Credit where credit is due, mangaka Naru Narumi gets the most important aspect of this series right: The ramen we see the girls eating looks good enough to be worth eating in real life. If only there was something, anything more to the story than watching cute girls talk about and eat ramen. Even the slice-of-life stuff is utterly pedestrian by the standards of the genre. “What Did You Eat Yesterday?” may never reconcile its character-driven and foodie sides, but the characters and their dramas are interesting enough that I’m willing to put up with that. The impression I get here is that everything we see in vol. 1 of “Ms. Koizumi” is all that this series has to offer..
November 10, 2019
That was a hell of a cliffhanger the previous volume left off on. You’d think that mangaka Nagabe would pick right back up to show you how it’s going to be resolved, but you’d be wrong. He wants you to squirm for a while yet. So you’ll have to see Teacher deal with the soldier he’s encountered before we find out how Shiva has dealt with hers. Unsurprisingly, Shiva’s ordeal turns out to be the more interesting of the two as the soldier after her happens to have an impairment that turns their encounter into a tense game of cat-and-mouse. There are also a couple surprises near the end of that ordeal. One of them happens to be of an unpleasant variety and sets the stage for the volume’s second half as Teacher sets off to get a soul for Shiva.
I won’t spoil the exact reason why Shiva needs a soul, but the thing is the other Outsider has told Teacher that it’s possible for him to steal one. There are even other, unchanged human soldiers looking around the forest for the two of them. All Teacher has to do is kill one of them and take their soul. He’s got the backing of the other Outsider and his crew, so how hard is this actually going to be?
About as hard as you’d expect when someone who imagines themselves to be an upstanding individual tries to cross a line they weren’t meant to. The problem with this dilemma is its familiarity and that it feels too drawn out the way Nagabe handles it. You’re not going to be fearing for Teacher’s soul so much as hoping he’ll just get this task over with. That also makes the ultimate resolution of this little arc more than a little unsatisfying, and it’s subsequently compounded by another, less interesting, cliffhanger ending. All this wheel-spinning drags down the good stuff at the beginning of the volume and leaves me hoping that vol. 8 will have the story start moving forward again.
November 9, 2019
That guy in the center of the cover for this volume certainly looks sinister, doesn’t he? Like he’s just sitting there advertising to everyone who cares to look that he’s the new villain of this series. That’s not an incorrect assumption to make. The thing is that The Doctor has a very personal connection to our protagonist, Maika Halfwolf, and he really wants to be a part of her life. Maika would do well to heed him, since he’s the head of the warmasters that gather under the heading of the Blood Court, and something of a scientist. The kind of scientist that has made a career out of studying the Old Gods and is very interested in Zinn, the one who lives beneath Maika’s skin. He’s not completely without heart, however. In order to get what he wants, he’s willing to give our protagonist what she does: The traitorous nekomancer Ren, and the fox-girl Kippa… though the latter might be showing up kind of late after making friends with ancient dracul.
The dance between The Doctor and Maika drives the action in this volume, so it’s a good thing that writer Marjorie Liu is good at teasing out the tangled and tortured nuances of their relationships. My main gripe here is that she and artist Sana Takeda are being extremely heavy-handed as portraying him as some kind of villain. Really, whenever he shows up I can’t help but think, “Hey, bad guy comin’ thru!” before I’m able to focus on what he’s actually saying. Still, Takeda’s art is amazing to behold as usual and the stuff happening around the edges of the main plot is pretty engaging too. All these little things help further the worldbuilding of “Monstress” in a way that ties it to characters that we like. Which is a good thing since the drums of war are beating ever louder here and I’d like for all of them to make it out of coming conflict alive. It probably won’t happen, but I’d still like to see it.
November 8, 2019
When word broke a couple months ago that Brian Wood had been accused of sexual misconduct, again, I figured that his career was over. Turns out that I was right because Dark Horse, who have been publishing the majority of his work over the past five years, stated that they would not be pursuing any further projects with him after these new accusations came forth. They meant it too: The Wood-written “Aliens: Colonial Marines” miniseries, which had already had its first few issues solicited was summarily cancelled. The collected edition of his “Aliens: Rescues” miniseries is still slated to come out in February 2020, but that’s cold comfort after reading this one.
“Aliens: Resistance” is both a follow-up to Wood’s “Aliens: Defiance” maxi-series and the “Alien: Isolation” videogame. This is because it features former colonial marine Zula Hendricks from the former, and Ellen Ripley’s daughter Amanda from the latter. As people who have survived the xenomorph menace, and felt the knife of Weyland-Yutani in their backs, they’ve teamed up to put a stop to the company’s latest alien bio-weapon plan. This time it involves eleven hundred colonists at the mercy of Aliens.
Wood introduced another memorable female protagonist into the “Aliens” universe with Zula in “Defiance” and if you want to remember the writer’s better days you should go read both volumes of it. “Resistance” suffers because its short length doesn’t give its co-protagonists much to do besides be propelled by the fairly generic plot. Artist Robert Carey’s atmospheric but blocky art doesn’t do them or the action any favors either. The ending does offer up a surprisingly dramatic twist that does its best to implore the reader to come back and see how it’s resolved in “Rescues.” Do I feel the need to do so? No, I can think of better ways to show respect for the end of Wood’s career.
November 6, 2019
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra vol. 7 -- A Rogue’s End
So it turns out that this is the final volume of Doctor Chelli Aphra’s adventures. The return of her deadliest adversary/employer makes a certain amount of sense (even if it was a dick move on Marvel’s part to spoil it in the solicitations), and we’re also promised a reckoning with her old flame Magna Tolvan. Which is absolutely going to be awkward (squared) considering how the last time they saw each other, Aphra had rewritten Magna’s memory to make her believe she had killed her in order to save herself from said employer.
If that kind of makes Aphra sound like a bad person, then you’ve hit upon the dominant theme of writer Si Spurrier’s run on this series. No, making your protagonist out to be a walking trash fire only to have her confront her failings doesn’t sound like the kind of story you’d expect to read in a “Star Wars” comic. It is the kind of thin I expect to see from Spurrier and his willingness to pursue such a storyline in a licensed comic like this is why I keep following him. That said, I have no doubt that Aphra will make it out of this volume alive. Whether or not she’ll emerge from it a better person, that’s the real question here.
Oh, and in case anyone at Marvel is reading this, I would totally buy an oversized poster of the cover for this volume.
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November 5, 2019
The Stephen King vibes are still strong with this second volume as more Stand users show up around the small town of Morioh -- all of them with (initially) malicious plans in mind for our protagonists. Take small-time crook Tamami who tries to wrangle Koichi into giving him 500,000 yen after the little squirt runs over his cat. If Koichi won’t hand it over willingly, Tamami’s got his own guilt-based Stand to make it happen himself. Later on, Josuke and Koichi get word that a certain kid in their school is a Stand user. When Josuke breaks into his locker to find out for sure, the only thing that’s really out of place is a giant wooden puppet… which immediately starts to turn into him. Then the longest story in this volume turns the focus back to Koichi as he’s apparently found his first girlfriend! She’s cute, caring, knows how to cook, and is determined not to let anyone else come between her and her new boyfriend. Unfortunately for Koichi, the power of her Stand may be just enough to make that happen.
If there’s any problem with this volume, it’s that there’s a large amount of wheel-spinning with regards to the main plot. The bow that turns people into Stand users is still out there, but we only get a couple of nods towards dealing with the person who has it. At least the stories here are entertaining enough to distract from that issue. Though the majority of this volume focuses on Koichi, that turns out to not be a bad thing as we see that he’s more than the diminutive sidekick he came off as in the first volume. Not only is he resourceful enough to be a proper co-lead in a “Jojo’s” series, his Stand winds up being one of the more unique ones we’ve seen in the series to date. Even if the main story doesn’t really go anywhere here, Koichi’s star turn combined with the expected cleverness our protagonists display in dealing with the threats against them make this volume another thoroughly enjoyable read.
November 3, 2019
Lazarus vol. 6: Risen I
Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s dystopian sci-fi action/drama made its long-awaited return to the realm of serialized comics earlier this year in a new quarterly format. The idea was that this new schedule would allow the creators to deliver the series on a more consistent basis compared with how they were failing to manage a monthly schedule. We’ll get to see the results of that here, but I’m expecting things to turn out pretty well given the overall quality of the series so far.
What I’m a little nervous about is seeing how they’ll follow up on the cataclysmic events of the end of vol. 5. Forever and her allies weren’t just handily defeated by the Russian Lazarus, the Zmey, but stabbed in the back by one of their own. Now with the Family Carlyle Alliance’s backs against the wall, Forever finds herself in the position of having to pull off a bigger win than the one she managed in vol. 4. If she fails, though, no biggie. Her 14-year-old replacement is waiting in the wings and about to undergo her first trial-by-fire.
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