May 17, 2020
While this series has always been a solid read, vol. 6 sees it taking some big strides towards being genuinely compelling. Not immediately because of how Isao’s rain-soaked, late-night confessional cliffhanger from the previous volume was resolved. It was handled well, as was Yori’s newfound affection towards Mari. As the latter believes that the former’s mind is still stuck inside her body as Isao’s personality inhabits it, she wants to be as friendly as she can with this person she views as her ideal now. Mari, on the other hand, isn’t having it. Still unsure of who she really is, Yori’s efforts only wind up frustrating her even more. Then she gets another call from herself.
The mystery behind this is resolved in short order, and in a very satisfying way as well. It doesn’t just pay off the quasi-romantic complications from earlier in the volume. No, it also offers further intriguing complications between Mari and Yori as well. Mangaka Shuzo Oshimi makes all the right moves here in staging this round of setup/payoff. He offers unexpected resolutions that make perfect sense based on how the characters have all been acting up to this point. Oh, and he keeps the door open for my own theory about what’s really going on with Mari.
In fact, Oshimi offers up even more fodder for the idea that this whole situation may be down to Mari’s mental issues. Past trauma, specifically, as we find out during a sequence where she reconnects with her younger brother and finds a photo of herself as a kid that was torn in half. It triggers a memory about someone named “Fumiko,” that causes her mother to project an “OH GOD NO!” look when she’s asked about it. Even before it throws in the missing persons issue in the last chapter, vol. 6 was clearly firing on all cylinders and marking a high point for the series so far.
May 16, 2020
Welcome to another exciting volume of “Garo: Hero Hunter!” After our protagonist was left for dead at the hands of the Monster Association, he goes to hunt them on their own turf. Not just for payback! But to rescue the one kid who believes in him with all his heart. That Garo rescues the kid shouldn’t surprise anyone. Nor should the fact that the Monster Association’s heaviest hitters are lurking around down underground. Including the demonic, plasma-spewing guard dog known as… POCHI! If Garo can survive a few rounds with this puppy, then maybe he’ll be able to get some answers from Gyoro-Gyoro about how he’s been able to survive for this long and what the Association’s real plans for him are. With any luck, they won’t involve him going toe-to-toe with their leader, the Demon King Orochi -- a dire fate that no one should wish upon their enemies!
In case you didn’t guess from the summary, Saitama doesn’t really have that big of a role in this volume either. That still registers as a disappointment, as it has for the past few volumes. It does help that Garo’s journey is actually getting more interesting now. He’s so determined to carve his own way and fight against those who would look down on anyone that he has now turned on the organization made up of those he empathized with and took him in. Garo’s story is now starting to read like a tragedy, even as he gives it his all, and especially after Gyoro-Gyoro tells him the score. Alongside all of this is the typically spectacular art from Yusuke Murata, who even manages to make a volume made up of fights in darkened underground corridors and arenas look pretty impressive. I’m sure he’ll make Saitama’s eventual return to the limelight look good too -- if that is what the last page in the final chapter is really foreshadowing.
May 15, 2020
After 14 (really 28) volumes of “Prison School,” it’s safe to say that mangaka Akira Hiramoto has a pretty well-defined style. It involves utterly ridiculous situations played completely straight, and served up with a near-constant stream of fanservice. That’s not all he’s capable of (and one day it’ll be time to talk about “Me and the Devil Blues,” but not now), except it is what he’s clearly interested in and what his fans want to see as well. How else to explain the existence of “Raw Hero,” then? It may present itself as a new manga title revolving around superheroes, but it’s really just a chance for Hiramoto to do his thing with a new cast and setting.
Read the rest of this entry »
May 13, 2020
It's been consistently entertaining up to this point, but does Aaron's run have a worthy ending?
May 11, 2020
After much preparation, it’s time for the Shuchiin Academy Culture Festival! There are haunted houses and maid cafes galore, and oh so much drama to go around. That’s mainly because Kaguya and Miyuki have finally made up their minds about how they feel regarding each other. Now they’re just looking for the right time and situation to make their confession. Much of the focus here is on Kaguya as she tries to take advantage of the superstition that if you give the object of your affection a heart-shaped object at the festival, your love will be eternal. Kaguya being Kaguya, she just can’t simply give Miyuki the heart-shaped locket she has. She’ll be resorting to things like tea-brewing, takoyaki, and balloons in order to get what she wants. Meanwhile, Ishigami manages to do just that (unwittingly), Chika tries to warn her little sister off from getting involved with Miyuki, and Miko gets much more involved than she’d like in the creation of a haunted house.
It’s all great stuff as usual, even without getting into side bits like the appearance of two of the Ramen Kings and the return of Chika the Love Detective. Yet, amongst all this comedy, there’s an unmistakable undercurrent of drama running through this volume. That’s because after building things up for the past twelve volumes, mangaka Aka Akasaka is finally ready to make good on resolving the central romantic conflict of this series. So the stakes here feel a bit more real… in between bits like Kaguya being EXTREMELY PREPARED when it comes to getting Miyuki to eat the takoyaki she wants him to. So, rather than work against the comedy, the drama winds up working as a spice to give it just a little more urgency than it would usually have.
May 10, 2020
I wasn’t planning on writing a review of this volume, or any of the other first volumes coming out of the “Dawn of X” relaunch. No, my original plan was to bring in Myron and Rob (who was supposed to be with us on that podcast but had some last-minute scheduling conflicts) so we could talk about all of the first volumes in one go. That may still happen, but it’s been pushed for reasons that I think are pretty obvious at this point. So until then, I’ll be reviewing these new volumes as they come. Starting with… “New Mutants?”
Read the rest of this entry »
May 9, 2020
Vol. 1 of Coates’ run reminded me of the most annoying parts of Ed Brubaker’s run. Vol. 2 gave us a good super-hero-in-a-super-prison story. Vol. 3 does a bang-up job of threatening to derail my interest in this series. Part of that’s due to a confusing plot which initially starts off with the return of Steve’s old adversaries, the ultranationalist group known as the Watchdogs, as they’ve been kidnapping migrant workers to sell off as slaves. Then we find out that they’ve also infiltrated the N.Y.P.D., because Mayor Wilson Fisk needed footsoldiers and Alexa Lukin supplied them. But now they’re being killed off by the actual, long-serving cops led by a new version of Scourge. Which should make them the good guys? Except that they’re doing this against the law, which is what brings in Steve and the Daughters of Liberty to stop them and make the town safe for Fisk and his crew again. Did I get all that right?
This is definitely the most grounded volume of Coates’ run so far, and it’s a good argument for having him focus on the superhero theatrics that defined the first two volumes. Confusing plot aside, it’s always a tricky proposition to involve the title character in realistic issues since having him solve these things risks trivializing them in real life. Still, this volume is further dragged down by the art of Jason Masters. He can do solid work where realism isn’t demanded, but his work here feels flat and simplistic. I’d throw in “rushed” as well, but the fact that four other artists contributed to this volume kind of speaks for itself. Masters and two other artists worked on the final issue, which promises to put the return of Aleksander Lukin/Red Skull business back on the front burner if not bring it to a climax. I wasn’t prepared to look forward to something like that. After reading through this volume, I’m more than ready for any kind of return to superhero grandstanding.
May 8, 2020
The last time we were in “Oblivion,” I mentioned that the Faceless Men were a genuinely interesting challenge facing Nathan Cole and the rest of the cast. Vol. 4 manages to dispel a lot of that interest early on. That’s when we find out that they’ve managed to learn English and are able to communicate normally among themselves. Which is how we learn that the group which kidnapped Ed’s community has done so in order to learn more about them, with an aim to find out how to get to Earth. One amongst them, Dakuul, has a more personal interest in humans: He just likes killing them. This is frowned on by his superiors, but he’s part of some elite warrior cast, and blah, blah, blah, they’re just funny-looking humans after all.
As for the actual humans, things are more promising on that front. The military has a plan to get the humans back, and it’s a good one that relies on how both worlds overlap with each other. Before that happens, there’s some drama between the Cole brothers, and a surprise appearance by a Faceless Man that needs to be worked through. When the actual rescue mission kicks off, Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici deliver some great “Aliens”-esque action and some genuine struggle as both sides find themselves pretty evenly matched. The last third of this volume is arguably a high point for the series as I didn’t expect the mission to turn out the way it did. Vol. 4 does leave us with an intriguing final complication that looks to hold my interest until vol. 5 arrives. Whenever it does.
May 6, 2020
Doctor Doom is unquestionably one of Marvel’s A-List villains. Even though his main nemeses are the Fantastic Four, it’s always a big deal whenever he shows up to tangle with another hero or team like Spider-Man or the Avengers. While the character’s stature and popularity have been enough to warrant a few solo miniseries over the years, this new series from “She Could Fly’s” Christopher Cantwell and artist Salvador Larroca represents Doom’s first ever ongoing series. Has it been worth the wait? If you’re looking for a low-key, character-driven, occasionally quirky superhero title, then… yes.
Read the rest of this entry »
May 4, 2020
Are you ready for a BLOOD FEUD?! It looks like that’s where the story’s headed not too far into vol. 4 as Mob’s brother Ritsu fully awakens to his own powers (with some questionable help from Dimple). Unfortunately for him, this has come along at a time when his emotional stability has taken a hit, thanks to Student Council President Kamuro’s morally dubious efforts to clean up the school. Rather than use his powers to turn this around, Ritsu decides to commit to this plan in a way that frightens even the president and attracts some unwanted attention. First from a group of thugs hailing from other schools, then from an organization that’s been keeping an eye out for people like him and his brother. Between these things, Mob finally catches up with Ritsu and decides to teach him a thing or two about the the responsibility he believes these powers should be treated with.
I wasn’t expecting their discussion to go in the way that it did, which was a nice surprise. The problem is that after all the buildup the Mob/Ritsu confrontation gets in this volume, mangaka ONE abruptly puts it on hold. Now the title character is teaming up with an old rival to take down the above-mentioned organization before any harm comes to his brother. It’s a decent enough direction for the story to take, only I liked where the story was going before this happened and the organization in question appears to just be generically evil at this point in the story.
Still, I’ll give ONE credit for making Ritsu’s actions come off like a natural extension of his character. His ongoing thoughts on the nature of these powers and how they should be used are also delivered well here, alongside some bone-crunchingly intense fights. I have to say that after four volumes, the mangaka’s art style continues to leave less doubt in my mind that it’s a stylistic choice as opposed to being outright amateurish. It’s not without its problems, but vol. 4 is another solid entry into this series that I hope Dark Horse will see about releasing just a little bit quicker.