There was one genuinely mind-blowing solicitation in this month’s offering. Yes, it was a manga title. No, it’s not the one you’re thinking about. However, it’s not the one that deserves above-the-line recognition here.
The Sakai Project HC is a celebration of 30 years of Stan Sakai’s legendary “Usagi Yojimbo” from a host of the industry’s greatest artists. Sakai has been going through some tough times recently with his wife Sharon’s illness and the proceeds from this graphic novel will go directly towards the man himself. With that setup, this volume isn’t a probable buy for me -- it’s a must buy. The enjoyment I’ve derived from “Usagi” over the years demands at least that much. If you’re interested in contributing more, there are currently twenty-seven volumes in print and they are all worth your time.
That being said, expect more frivolity after the break.
Abe Sapien vol. 4: The Shape of Things to Come: Well this is ceratinly a timely solicitation. Here we’re told that Abe will be battling monsters crawling out of the desert sand, a zombie swarm and a militia that has walled off Phoenix. Also, a necromancer has set up shop in Seattle. I’m not seeing anything that indicates the series has found the focus it needs (or the direction that I want), but Mignola and co. have a ways to go before they run out of goodwill for me. Here’s hoping things get more compelling before it drifts into, “I’m buying it so you don’t have to,” territory.
Catalyst Comix: Joe Casey does his thing with some of Dark Horse’s company-owned characters who’ve been sitting around in disuse for over a decade now. “Sex” was an interesting read, though very dialed-back in intensity. This time, Casey looks to be letting his freak flag fly and I’m intrigued by the potential of such a situation. That, and the $20 cover price for 284 pages of comics is a barrier to entry that’s very easy to overcome.
Conan vol. 15: The Nightmare of the Shallows: It looks like vol. 14 marked the last good days in Conan and Belit’s relationship. The description of the events in this volume are full of nothing but bad tidings for the rough-and-tumble couple. Will angst triumph over one of comics and literature’s most seasoned badasses? I certainly hope not. The best stories I’ve read with the character don’t involve him wallowing in that particular emotional morass.
Dark Horse Presents #36: The final issue! After three years and multiple Eisner Awards, the third incarnation of the venerable anthology title (following 150 issues of the original and six volumes of “MySpace Dark Horse Presents”) calls it a day. Or rather, heads for a re-tooling with a lower page count and price point to debut the following month. One wonders why this particular development hasn’t gotten more press, but when you consider that one of its contributors is none other than Rich Johnston -- who broke the story simply by calling up publisher Mike Richardson to ask what was up -- this announcement likely got all the press that it needed.
Gantz vol. 32: The description of this volume is at once a gigantic spoiler and the promise of an interesting new direction for the series. Or it could just be mangaka Hiroya Oku going, “Fuck it! I’m done, now let’s put this thing to bed.” Given how uneven the title has been for almost two years now, it could really go either way at this point.
Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight Double Feature: Collects “Bee Vixens From Mars” and “Prison Ship Antares,” two salacious over-the-top tales from writer Alex De Campi. They also represent the first half of the eight-issue miniseries she did with four other artists. Part of me worries that trying to do grindhouse-style storytelling consciously is at odds with the genre, but I think I’ll pick this up anyway just to see if it’s trashy enough to work. More importantly, I still need to get around to picking up De Campi’s “Smoke/Ashes” collection. Let’s see if I manage that before con season rolls around.
Hatsune Miku: Unofficial Hatsune Mix: I don’t care about Vocaloid. Even if Carl Horn is likely the person doing the English adaptation for this manga. I’m just going to sit here and wait for Sakura Con to roll around so that we can find out if the company’s newest licenses inspire more feelings in me than this does.
MPD-Psycho vol. 11: That mind-blowing thing I mentioned at the beginning of this? Here it is. I’d written this series off a while ago as it didn’t even make it as far as “Eden” or “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service” before they went on their extended-bordering-on-indefinite hiatuses. Of course, the reason you don’t see me bitching about it as often as I do Hiroki Endo’s excellent sci-fi epic is because I’d also written it off creatively before then. Though the series and “Kurosagi” share a writer, Eiji Otsuka, “MPD” is the lesser work as its byzantine uber-plot inspires ennui more than anything else. The most recent volume was a bit of an exception due to its mostly self-contained nature, and I can’t imagine enjoying this one as much if that structure isn’t replicated here. Even so, it strikes me as a bad idea to throw us a new volume of this title -- which is also coming back after a 28-month hiatus -- as its dense conspiracy-centric narrative isn’t served at all by such long waits between volumes. I’d say we’d have been better off if Dark Horse had put the resources from this volume into getting us another volume of “Eden;” but, you probably knew I was going to say that anyway.
Robocop vs. The Terminator HC: Why does this crossover between two 80’s properties warrant a hardcover edition? That’s because it’s written by Frank Miller and illustrated by Walt Simonson. I have no idea how these two industry legends wound up on this kind of project, but the licenses were lucky to have them. However, at $25 for 128 pages, it’s a bit pricey. (Though if you’re a true Simonson fan, there’s a “gallery edition” which reprints his art at the dimensions it was drawn at plus more bonuses from his portfolio. That’ll run you $100 for 160 pages in a larger format.) I can’t say that I’m curious enough to find out if it’s worth it at that price. However, the fact that it comes from the time when Miller regularly turned out great works is encouraging for its overall quality. As for Simonson, well, he never stopped being a great artist.
The Star Wars: The adaptation of George Lucas’ original script for his sci-fi epic, from writer Jonathan Rinzler and artist Mike Mayhew comes in three editions just in time for Comic-Con. There’s the softcover, which collects issues #1-8 for $20. The hardcover collects those issues, plus #0 for $40. You’ve also got a deluxe, oversized three-volume hardcover edition which collects all of the issues, plus “extras,” for $100. The sliding scale of value here actually makes me more inclined to pick up the deluxe hardcover edition. There’s also the fact that unless Marvel puts this right back into print when they get the license, you can pretty much guarantee that the highest-end edition will become a collector’s item. Expect a podcast on this, if only to allow me to vent if this doesn’t live up to the cash I’m planning on putting down for it.
Usagi Yojimbo vol. 29: Red Scorpion TP & Ltd. Ed. HC: So we come full circle back to the man himself. All I’ll say is that I’ll continue my annual tradition of picking up the latest volume in this series directly from Sakai at Comic-Con. It’s an easy tradition to start, in case anyone else is interested.