2015 is coming to a close, and I realized that it’s been a while since I’ve mentioned “Eden: It’s an Endless World!” on the blog. So let me reiterate that it’s the one series that I think everyone who visits here regularly should be reading. Full of heady sci-fi concepts and intense action, it never skimps on character development either and has wound up with a diverse cast of interesting, flawed individuals to follow. It’s the rare example of a complete package in terms of comics storytelling for me, and if you happen to find any good deals for volumes one-through-fourteen this coming Black Friday they are definitely worth adding to your physical or digital bookshelf. Plus, the more you buy now, the more likely it is that we’ll get the last four volumes sooner rather than later (especially if the publisher decides to package them in two-in-one editions as I’ve heard they’re considering to do).
In other Dark Horse manga-related news, we got a rare off-con-season licensing announcement from them last week. Kenji Tsuruta’s “Wandering Island” is the story of Mikura Amelia, a free spirited female pilot who runs an air-delivery service to Japan’s small island communities. After finding a strange package in her grandfather’s belongings, Mikura is compelled to find a legendary “wandering island” in the North Pacific to honor his memory -- and for adventure! That’s a premise I can get into, and Tsuruta’s art does promise adventure in its style. However, after a massive 150-page opening chapter, which was collected into a volume in 2011, the series has been published irregularly since 2012. “Irregularly” in this sense meaning that a second volume has yet to be published. That’s disappointing. Then again, that means “Wandering Island” will find itself in some rare company at Dark Horse alongside the “not cancelled, just takes forever to arrive” status of Katsuya Terada’s “The Monkey King.”
Alabaster: The Good, The Bad, and The Bird #3 (of 5): Looking back over the solicitations for the previous two issues, I think they should’ve started with the text we got here. After all, it tells us that our protagonist Dancy Flammarion was dragged out of Hell and into the bayou as a result of a dark ritual performed by a couple of incestuous bounty hunters. Now who wouldn’t want to read a story about that? Now I’ll probably go and pick up the subsequent collection when it comes out, as opposed to waiting to find it for half-off at a convention.
Aliens 30th Anniversary: The Original Comics Series HC: This is one of the cornerstones of Dark Horse’s history as a comics publisher. Not only did it sell really well for them as they were starting out, the level of craft that went into it truly stood out amongst other licensed titles being published at the time. Not only is Dark Horse still publishing “Aliens” comics today, they’re still responsible for some of the best licensed titles in the business. This series is also notable (infamous, really) for how its status as a sequel to “Aliens” was utterly wrecked after “Alien 3” came out and killed off Hicks and Newt, who were the protagonists in the comics series. Later on, it was re-mastered with the names being changed to Wilks and Billie, respectively, and color was added to Mark A. Nelson’s art. Continuity was preserved… until Ripley herself showed up in the subsequent volumes, rendering all of these efforts for naught.
That said, “The Original Comics Series” still reads very well thanks to its cerebral take on the source material. While countless films, comics, and video games (ESPECIALLY video games) have tried to replicate “Aliens’” intense action over the years, writer Mark Verheiden spent most of the series focusing on the characters themselves and how they dealt with the Xenomorph presence. Verheiden goes in a lot of directions you wouldn’t expect, and that’s what made it memorable -- though Nelson’s incredibly moody and detailed art also went a long way towards selling what the writer was peddling and capturing the spirit of the film as well. This collected edition is an oversize hardcover reprinting of the original series with Nelson’s art restored to its original black and white. $40 for this volume does strike me as being a bit steep… but it’s a monument to the company’s history after all.
Brody’s Ghost: Collected Edition: Brody has lost his job and his girlfriend. But he has also gained the ghost of a teenage girl who says that he’s the only one who can stop a ruthless killer (after he gets some training from a samurai ghost). If the manga-sized format of this series didn’t clue you in that this series is riffing on some tropes more familiar to publications from Japan, then the cover should make it abundantly clear. Still, writer/artist Mark Crilley hails from the same proving grounds as Adam Warren, as he was also doing the whole Global Manga thing with “Akiko” long before it became an accepted format. I can see myself picking this up, as the $25 for 600 pages format makes it easy to consider taking a chance on.
Elfquest: The Final Quest vol. 2: In which secrets from 20,000 years ago and the present day come to light. That’s all very well and interesting, but I’m still waiting for any kind of word on when we can expect a third volume of “The Complete Elfquest.” Come on Dark Horse, don’t leave the fans hanging here!
The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch (2nd Edition): A new edition for another short story by Neil Gaiman that was adapted into comics form. It’s adapted by Michael Zulli, who has experience with this from “Creatures of the Night,” as well as working with Gaiman on “The Sandman” and “The Last Temptation.” In it, we find out that inside every stern biogeologist is a cavewoman eager to get out. Guest-starring Jonathan Ross!
The Goon vol. 15: Once Upon a Hard Time: This isn’t billed as the end of “The Goon,” but it’s being called a “climactic” miniseries and no new comics have been announced in its wake. Anyways, what was once a thoroughly entertaining horror/comedy series has let drama drag it down to become a depressing slog. In this volume, we’re left to wonder if the coven of witches assaulting the town has either broken the Goon’s spirit or turned him into the very instrument of their destruction. My money’s on the latter. No points for guessing if there will be any talking chainsaws here. Even if the series could really use a couple at this point.
Hellboy in Mexico: In which several short stories are collected along with the “House of the Living Dead” graphic novella to flesh out Hellboy’s time spent south of the border early on in his career. I already own “House of the Living Dead” and am not to keen on re-buying it here in order to get the stuff that haven’t read yet. That said, the stuff I haven’t read yet includes work from Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon so I’m going to take what Mignola is offering here and like it!
I Am a Hero Omnibus vol. 1: Arguably the most important manga that Dark Horse has published in years. Not for the manga itself, but what it represents. Put simply: If you want to see more older-skewing works that don’t hail from established creators or function as a tie in to an anime, movie, or video game, then you need to BUY THIS BOOK! “Blade of the Immortal” maybe over and done with, but Dark Horse will never find a title as good as that by sifting through the back catalogues of creators they’ve already published or licensed spinoffs. I’ve already heard good things about this series, which focuses on a mentally unstable manga creator who finds himself in the middle of a zombie outbreak with the one thing most Japanese people don’t have -- a gun. We’re also getting this series in a two-in-one volume format, so that’s more value for your money right there. This is advance-solicited for April -- but it’s already one of my most anticipated titles to read next year.
What happens if you don’t pick up a copy of this series when it comes out? Then that leads us to a dark future where crap like…
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse Omnibus: ...is all we’ll be seeing from the company. Nobody wants or deserves a future like that. So go out and pre-order your copy of “I Am a Hero” today.