The latest volume of “Blade of the Immortal” is announced for March 2013 in these solicitations, and that’s always cause for rejoicing around here. That said, it has also given me cause to think about how conservative Dark Horse’s manga releases have become over the past few years. It has gotten to the point where we’re only getting reissues of CLAMP titles that sold really well for Tokyopop, “Evangelion” spin-offs, or other work from creators who have published bestselling work for the company. Granted, a lot of this stuff is generally really good, but it leaves a rapidly dwindling slate of titles to publish with no new ground being broken for the future. You can chalk this up to the tough state of the current market, but while Viz, Vertical, Kodansha and Yen are continuing to announce new and interesting titles, Dark Horse seems to endure only by focusing on what has worked for them in the past. Considering the quality of their history, I’d like to see them break out of this rut and give us something to remind us how essential the company that gave us “Blade” is to the current market. I’m not optimistic, though, but here’s their chance to prove me wrong.
Axe Cop vol. 4: President of the World: Yeah, I should probably get around to picking up the first volume soon just to see if the series is as entertainingly insane as I’ve heard.
Blade of the Immortal vol. 26: Blizzard: The death of a longtime character is promised in this volume. While the magic 8-ball of my mind tells me that “All signs point to Shira” I’m still not entirely certain about that. Magatsu was left in pretty bad shape at the end of the last volume but there’s no suspense in killing off someone wounded like that -- which also goes for Manji and Rin but moreso because they’re the protagonists. Now they could mean Meguro and Tanpopo, but that would be stretching the definitions of the words “longtime” and “key character” used in the solicitation text. Plus, the person in question is described as meeting a violent end and there’s no question that Shira deserves at least that much. With him gone, the series will also be free to focus on fates of its main characters as well. Still, we’re going to have to wait until March to find out what happens! It’s not nearly the longest I’ve had to wait for a new volume... but the suspense!
Blood-C vol. 1: I’ve seen the original “Blood: The Last Vampire” OVA and read the entertainingly nihilistic manga sequel and was disappointed to find that the subsequent TV series “Blood+” had very little to do with either. It also featured too much by-the-numbers plotting for my taste and antagonists who were a lot more interesting than the main characters. “Blood-C,” as I’ve heard, isn’t a direct follow up to either incarnation of the franchise and was notable for featuring character designs and plotting from CLAMP as well as being quite grisly for something involving the famous all-female manga collective. Will I be buying this then? It’s not clear whether this will be an adaptation of the TV series (which I think is likely) or a completely new story spun off from it. In either case, I can’t help but think that my time would be better spent with the anime that spawned it.
Eerie #2: Though Mike Allred may be the biggest name contributing to this issue of the revived horror anthology, it was Brian Clevinger’s name which caught my eye. The writer of “Atomic Robo” contributes a story which warns us of “aliens’ most insidious invasion plan yet.” Seeing as how the majority of his work has been thoroughly rooted in comedy, this sounds like it’d be good for a laugh. Yet, it’s in a horror anthology and the man has proved with recent stories that he can bring a surprising amount of drama to the comedy without diluting either. Can he do the same for horror? I’m interested in finding out.
Last Day in Vietnam: A Memory HC: From comics legend Will Eisner. This collects his experiences with a wide range of soldiers who served in the conflict which are described as “comical,” “heartrending,” and “frightening.” It’s that first one which gets my attention because it’s not usually a word you hear associated with the conflict. The price-to-page-count is a little steep for my liking, but the Eisner content of my collection has been lacking for some time now so it’s time to start taking steps to rectify that.
The Massive vol. 1: Black Pacific: Brian Wood’s new creator-owned series about what happens to the world when every worst-case environmentalist scenario comes true. After “DMZ,” “Northlanders,” “Channel Zero,” and “The Couriers” I’ll read just about anything the man writes these days. Even...
Star Wars #1: That’s right, Wood is also writing the first new “Star Wars” ongoing title since “Legacy” and “Knights of the Old Republic” finished a while back. While the majority of Dark Horse’s “Star Wars” titles have been exploring lesser-known parts of the universe or forging new paths entirely, this title is not doing that. Instead, it takes place right after the destruction of the first Death Star and looks to focus on the core cast of characters from the first movie. From a marketing standpoint, publishing a series that features Luke, Leia, Han and co. sounds like a genius move to re-energize the comics end of the franchise. As for the creative side, there’s no doubt that Wood is a great writer but it still feels jarring to see such a vocal proponent for creator-owned work to partner up with Dark Horse and Lucasfilm on this. I can only guess that the toys here were just too shiny for him to resist, but I also think that he has too much integrity to simply phone in anything he does. It should be a good read, almost in spite of itself.
Trigun: Multiple Bullets: Now we come full circle. This is an anthology of tales about the exploits of Vash the Stampede and other characters from the series. It features the work of many different writers and artists though creator Yasuhiro Nightow also contributes a tale based on the excellent “Badlands Rumble” movie. It’s not for me, but if you’re a fan of “Trigun” I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want this in your library.