November 29, 2021
What do the students of a magical university in lockdown do to keep themselves occupied? There’s hand-to-hand combat training for one, something that Chise (or at least her left arm) has some experience in. They’ve also got plenty of studying to do, as the curriculum does not stop while everyone’s locked in. Oh, and there’s the always-popular haunted campus exploration -- at night! These are the major things that Chise and her fellow students take part in over the course of this volume, while a fair amount of pages are also given over to the ongoing hunt for the missing magical tome. In between is a whole lot of character-building as we get to know more about Philomena, her familiar Alcyone, Rian, and a few more characters than anyone was likely expecting at the start of this volume.
Getting to know more about the cast isn’t a bad thing as mangaka Kore Yamazaki has always had great skill with characterization. It’s just that getting to know more about Philomena will likely ruin just about anyone’s day. While it’s one thing to show that she’s lived/living a hard life, hers is miserable almost to the point of redundancy. As for the business about the missing tome, it winds up having a more circular direction in regards to the plot than I would’ve liked. Which is actually on point for this volume as it very much feels like Yamazaki is setting things up for future stories as opposed to telling a compelling one now.
There’s still some fun to be had as this is still “The Ancient Magus’ Bride.” The opening combat sequences are quite strong and also make sense as something that aspiring alchemists and mages would need to learn about. I thought the magical puzzle challenge was cute, even as it ended with more misery for Philomena. Then there’s the haunted campus event. It’s something I’ve seen in other Japanese high school stories, but it takes on a different tone as the haunted parts of this campus are almost certainly Haunted. This promises to make vol. 16 a more entertaining experience overall, even as Phlomena’s sure-to-be-miserable backstory is teased at the end of this one.
November 29, 2021
There are some longtime “Spider-Man” fans who are going to see the title to this volume and feel a chill go up their spine. The 90’s era “Clone Saga” was an infamous storyline that went on for much longer than it should have and turned off a whole lot of fans along the way. This means that writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Carmen Carnero (with Natacha Bustos pitching in for the first issue) have a low bar to clear, quality-wise. Which they do, because this isn’t so much a “saga” as a “five-issue storyline.”
The first two issues of this volume are one-offs featuring Miles teaming up with Starling to fight the Ice Pharaoh and a “King in Black” tie-in where he has to save a Knullified Kamala Khan. Then we get into the “Saga” proper as it turns out that there’s another Miles Morales running around New York and this one is committing crimes instead of stopping them. More than one, as it turns out, though he’s the only human-looking one. They’ve got their own plans and they just need Miles out of the way so they can bring them to fruition.
Said plans turn out to be just one unexpected swerve to this storyline. It’s also surprisingly efficient at introducing these new clones, their powers, and motivations into Miles’ world. Ahmed also manages to work in some decent teen drama, in the form of some friendship issues between Miles and Ganke, without distracting too much from the main story. The stakes are also never more than personal for everyone involved, which I think helps keep them relatable. This is also helped along by art from Carnero which is appropriately detailed and energetic, if a little dark overall. While the use of “Saga” in the title of this volume may have been a misnomer, the overall storyline stands out by being one where I actually wouldn’t mind seeing the clones featured here again. Which is kind of an achievement for a “Spider-Man” story to pull that off.
November 27, 2021
In case you’re wondering, no, Jules Verne did not write a story about an interstellar outpost responsible for helping ships navigate through wormholes at the far-flung reaches of space. His “Lighthouse” was a much more grounded tale about the workers of a lighthouse at the southern end of Argentina who have to deal with a surprise pirate attack. Co-writers Brian Haberlin and David Hine kept that part as a routine day at The Lighthouse is disrupted when a ship begging for an emergency landing turns out to be crewed by pirates from the planet of Libertaria. They’re here not for riches, but for some cargo that could make a big difference towards their real goals. Standing in their way are Vasquez and her robot partner Moses. Vasquez is a former soldier who has been dealing with a bad case of PTSD during her time in the military. The thing is that the pirates may be more familiar with the circumstances which gave her that impairment than she knows.
Squint closely and you can probably guess how Haberlin and Hine have updated Verne’s original story from its original parts. Updating aside, “The Lighthouse” is still a perfectly serviceable sci-fi adventure that gets the job done without breaking any new ground. While the writers nod towards dealing with weightier topics like PTSD and war crimes, they’re never explored in any depth. There’s also the fact that while the story unfolds in a manner that’s pleasant enough, the villains are more than a little dumb in how they like to toy with Vasquez rather than killing her outright. Haberlin’s art also suffers by having a computer-generated look to it throughout the volume, giving what should be a unique sci-fi setting a cheap appearance. The end result is the graphic novel equivalent of a direct to video/cable/streaming movie that you put on because the box art and copy makes it sound interesting, only to find that it’s not completely terrible and maybe a little more competent than you were expecting.
November 26, 2021
I mentioned last time that vol. 5 presented a compelling argument for re-reading the previous volumes in the series before I read the next one. That was because while “Warchild” was ultimately a great read, it also took me a while to get up to speed with remembering all the members of the supporting cast and the many, many subplots this series has been juggling for a while now. In case you missed the podcast this week, where I praised this title’s worldbuilding in comparison to “Die’s,” I did get around to doing that, even as it took me a lot more time than I expected. Which really wasn’t that much of an issue in the end as the refresher course allowed me to jump right back into the main story without missing a beat.
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November 24, 2021
Gillen & Hans' series is where RPG storytelling gets dark as it gets examined, and not necessarily for the better.
November 22, 2021
Denji has survived his encounter with the Bomb Devil and is still dealing with the heartbreak from it when this volume opens. So it’s a good thing that Makima is on hand to offer to take a trip with him, Aki, and Power to Enoshima. At least, that was the plan until news of the Chainsaw Devil’s existence is broadcast around the world on the news. Now every nation (and by “every” I mean America, China, and Germany) wants him for their own -- or just to keep him out of Makima’s hands. This leads to Denji getting his own personal guard, who are determined to keep him alive no matter what. It’s a major bummer for our protagonist. Until Aki reminds him that the trip to Enoshima hasn’t been cancelled, just postponed. Which means that the trip will be back on if Denji can just kill all of the people coming to get him!
For a series that thrives on finding creative things for its cast to murder (and be murdered by), the Devil Hunters we encounter are kind of a mixed bunch. America has a backwoods trio of brothers, China has a swordswoman with some “friends” (who will likely become very popular once the anime arrives) and Germany has Santa Claus. He’s not named for his “jolly old elf” looks, but for the fact that he likes kids. Seven volumes in and it should be clear to all by now that mangaka Tatsuki Fujimoto has the series’ formula well in hand here. We get some well-executed action scenes and some darkly comic and/or cynical dialogue to punctuate things. It’s all still working for me.
There are, however, a couple of standout moments in this volume. The less said about the first, the better, since the person it happens to doesn’t see it coming either. The second is much more interesting in terms of the overall plot. Let’s just say that “Mad Dog” Kishibe is really keen on biting the hand that feeds him. That’s probably not a good idea, given that we’ve seen what those hands are capable of doing. Though, any guy who is capable of reining in both Denji and Power probably has a fighting chance achieving his goals. Probably.
November 21, 2021
Sojourner “Jo” Mullien is kind of unique as far as Green Lanterns go. Not only does she have a special ring that charges on its own without the need of a lantern, but she’s also the Green Lantern of a single place. That place being The City Enduring, a system-spanning superstructure that’s home to three races living there which consist of 20 billion individuals. How does one Lantern keep the peace in a place like this? The fact that all three races live under an “emotion exception” control that keeps them from feeling emotion certainly helps. At least, it did until the City experienced its first murder in over 500 years. That in itself is a big deal. A bigger deal is Jo’s investigation into it which uncovers a seedy underside to the city full of drugs, exploitation, corruption, and even cat memes. By the end of this story, The City Enduring will be more like The City That’s A Powder Keg Ready to Explode.
“Far Sector” comes to us from science-fiction writer N.K. Jemisin and veteran DC artist Jamal Campbell. It’s an ambitious story where the writer is writing as much about America right now as they are a far-flung space city. This is also the kind of thing you’d expect to see done more with the “Green Lantern” mythos as it’s a perfect vehicle to do this kind of large-scale sci-fi storytelling within the DCU. Jemisin is also really good with the worldbuilding as there are a lot of interesting concepts at play in this series that are fleshed out quite well over the course of its twelve issues. Better still is Campbell’s phenomenal art which captures the dazzling wonder of the city and its inhabitants on every page.
Working against the story, however, is that same sense of allegory which gives this series its strength. The troubles facing The City Enduring sometimes felt a bit too on the nose in paralleling the real world and kept me from getting fully lost within the story Jemisin was telling as a result. There’s also the fact that the story is almost completely detached from the DCU, to the point where having the main character be a Green Lantern almost feels like window dressing. These are the main issues in a story that ultimately does get more interesting and involving as it goes along, building to an explosive and exciting climax. “Far Sector” may not be the smashing DCU space opera I was expecting, but it’s still a good read and a solid argument for more “Green Lantern” stories that go to different places, and for Jemisin to do more work within this universe.
November 20, 2021
It’s that time again.
You know. The time when a new Marvel concept makes it to the silver screen and Marvel the comics publisher decides to launch a new comic alongside it. This time the lucky recipient of such treatment are the “Eternals.” Best known as one of Jack Kirby’s more out-there creations for the company, they are a group of characters that have had, at best, cult appeal. Kirby may have created them, but they weren’t graced with the kind of success that his other Marvel characters enjoyed. There was also that time where Neil Gaiman (Neil! Gaiman!) took a crack at them with John Romita Jr. and the results were… alright. Now, Marvel has thrown another two of the industry’s A-list creators at the concept -- Kieron Gillen and Esad Ribic -- in the hope that they’ll deliver a take on it that isn’t cancelled prematurely.
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November 19, 2021
It’s the penultimate volume of Rick Remender and Wes Craig’s high-school-assassin-kids series, and I’m a little concerned that things may be going out with a whimper rather than a bang. That’s because the narrative for this volume takes a circuitous, fractured path before it winds up at the fireworks factory. In fact, those of you wondering about the cliffhanger ending from vol. 9 are going to have to wait a bit for answers as the first issue starts us off in 1991 with a broken-down Marcus dispensing pizza, drugs, and sanctimony disguised as wisdom in a Phoenix motel. Then things jump ahead six years and he hooks back up with some old friends to take care of some unfinished business. The point-of-view changes for our next time jump to 2001 as someone who is arguably the most lost soul of this series circles closer to the drain before an old friend extends them a hand (with a gun in it, of course) to help. After all this, we jump back to 1989 to see the laws of nature turned on their head as the rats rise up to kill the snakes.
A great deal of the appeal of “Deadly Class” for me has been the fact that it’s the one Remender-written series where seeing him grind down his cast has actually been part of the fun. That’s something which is missing from this volume as the bad things that happen to the cast here are more depressing than entertaining. Worse still is that the way the narrative jumps around over the course of the first three issues keeps it from building up a real sense of momentum before the end. The final issue does do a decent enough job of that all on its own as all Hell breaks out at King’s Dominion and Remender and Craig deliver some truly impressive action sequences to showcase the carnage. I’m still left looking forward to seeing how all this wraps up in the final volume, even if I should’ve been more excited about it given how good the series has been up until now.
Oh, and there’s no way that sparing that character in the final issue was the right move. No amount of moralizing can change that, Marcus…
November 17, 2021
Writer John Ridley’s first stab at establishing a new Caped Crusader was just alright. The execution was solid, but it didn’t feel like we were getting anything new with his take on the character. One of the problems was that we didn’t know a whole lot about Next Batman Tim “Jace” Fox besides the fact that he was Batman now. Ridley takes some significant steps toward fixing that with this volume as we learn how he went from being a spoiled rich kid, to a military academy, and then to taking out a rotten one-percenter in the wilds of Vietnam when the volume opens. He doesn’t stay there for long as he’s summoned back to Gotham to deal with past crimes and help the Fox family as they work to make the most of the Wayne fortune that is now theirs.
Ridley’s social conscience is on full display here as the main reason Jace’s life took the turn it did was because of an accident he was involved in that his father helped spin in a favorable manner. So is it justice if an African-American family is able to use their influence to make the system work for them when it otherwise would not? Or is it just the same old cycle of inequality grinding down another unfortunate family when they’re the victims of a crime committed against them by the rich? The debating about that in this miniseries worked for me, and I was also intrigued by the other subplots which ran the gamut from family drama, to Bat-related plot threads being picked up from previous events.
What didn’t work for me is the fact that Ridley has set “Second Son” in the current DCU continuity instead of the “Future State” alternate future. This effectively means that Jace will never become “The Next Batman” unless we get a clear break with continuity in the next miniseries. There’s also the fact that while the execution remains solid, there’s still no fresh new idea to make me really want to see Jace as the title character. Not helping is the art from Travel Foreman and Tony Akins, which is roundly fine with the dubious distinction of seeing the former’s idiosyncratic style blended out for this story. I’ll continue to read about Jace’s future outings because I’m still curious to see where Ridley is going with this, but I’m not really feeling like this is the future of “Batman.”