Comic Picks By The Glick

What I’ve Been reading: 5/20/09

May 21, 2009

The anime club that I attend (or rather, hang out in front of with all of my other friends who graduated from the college that hosts it) has semi-regular shopping trips to the Frank and Sons collectible show and the Little Tokyo area each quarter.  Generally it's a great trip to pick up some comics, manga, and anime swag and t-shirts.  This time was probably the first time I've gone on the trip and not come back with any manga.  Instead, I just made a list of stuff to pick up from either Amazon or at Fanime this weekend.  The list includes:

Clover Omnibus Oishinbo 3 Pluto 3 Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei 2 Mushishi 7 Nana 16 Flower of Life 4

Huh... I think I've got my list of what to review for the next time I write one of these posts.  We'll see.  Anyway, onto this week's reviews:

Fallen Angel Omnibus

The first 21 IDW-published issues of writer Peter David’s continuing story of the mysteriously superpowered woman known as Lee and her tenure in the “city that shapes the world” known as Bete Noir are collected in a format that, rare for this company, represents a good value for your money. You need not be familiar with the series original run at DC comics to enjoy what’s going on here (and the origin of that series and the transition to IDW is recapped entertainingly in a foreword from David), but I do recommend picking up the two collections that run spawned as they’re good readin’. Anyhow, this series represents David’s take on “life, the universe, and everything,” or what the hell God was thinking when he thought that stuff up. While I’m not convinced enough about David’s answers to start up a religion around the man, there’s no denying that the underlying idea about them is pretty clever (especially his thoughts on the origin of global warming). That said, most of this stuff comes in the first five issues which are very strong and the sixteen that follow are not bad, but certainly of lesser quality. You get a sense that while David has a general idea of where he wants to take the story, he’s not entirely sure of the best way to get there. I’m also really not sure about any road map that includes a crossover with 90’s “Bad Girl” comic star Shi (the story in question isn’t as bad as I’m making it sound, but still…) Most of the stories in this volume are very capably illustrated by J.K. Woodward, with the other stories possessing art that ranges from “good” to “not bad.” Overall, this isn’t the kind of collection I’d throw at someone new to comics, but those looking for something different that actually happens to be good are recommended to pick this up. (I’d also recommend this to fans of Peter David, but chances are that if you’re a fan of this, you own this, or the stories collected here already.)

X-Factor vol. 6: Secret Invasion

Speaking of Peter David, the latest volume of his X-title arrived in stores last week. I was about to write “the most consistently entertaining X-title,” but that would be a lie now as vol. 6 is best described as an “off” volume. It’s not so much due to David’s writing, which is still chock-full of witty dialogue and entertaining character bits (most of them involving Jamie Madrox, the multiple man, as usual) and makes the addition of Darwin and Longshot to the team work quite well. There is, however, the unavoidable sense of “killing time” that pervades these stories as David works through stories about Skrull religious icons and businessmen who want to make weapons out of Darwin’s “evolving mutation” to get to the stories he really wants to tell, starting with the birth of Siryn and Madrox’s baby, in the next volume. But that’s not the real problem with this volume as most of it is illustrated in an “Oh god! Oh god! It hurts my eyes to look at this stuff!” style by Larry Stroman. He did good work with David back on “X-Factor’s” original incarnation in the 90’s, but has apparently lost the ability to make people and places look “appealingly stylized” as opposed to “beaten with the ugly stick.” Disappointing by the series’ standards, but not a total loss. Thanks in advance to whoever at Marvel got Valentine De Landro back on the series as regular penciler, as he’s done good work on the series in the past, and should go a long way to making the next volume live up to the quality of the previous ones.

Oh My Goddess! vol. 32

Drifting ever so gracefully and slowly into the realm of “Why am I still reading this?”… I bet it can see “Air Gear” from where it is. But enough with the personal inside jokes – this latest volume in the “longest running manga in English” wraps up the “Gate” arc and then promptly sends Keiichi, Belldandy, and the rest of the cast to the beach. Swimsuits abound in equal proportion with failed romantic hookups between the series signature couple. Now this wouldn’t be a volume of “OMG” without some fantasy element sneaking in to disrupt the idyllic setting, and this time it happens to be a siren who takes to Keiichi after her clan’s “tear” gets lodged in his ear. As is usual for the series these days, there are some amusing bits sprinkled here and there, but mangaka Kosuke Fujishima has been doing this for so long, and done storylines much better, that the feeling he’s currently plotting this series on autopilot is inescapable. Now I don’t buy this series expecting “art” or “real emotional substance,” I buy it because compared to other otaku-oriented fluff manga out there, this was “superior fluff.” Nowadays, that “superior” looks mighty superfluous.

Me and the Devil Blues vol. 2

Clyde Barrow was a lot of things in real life, and even more in fiction; that said, I don’t think anyone could’ve anticipated “stabilizing influence on the fictitious narrative about the life of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson” would have been one of them. But ever since he showed up in the second half of the first volume, that’s exactly what he’s been to this series. The first volume of “Me and the Devil Blues” dabbled a bit too much in “weirdness for weirdness’ sake” with its surrealistic touches, the most notable being RJ’s tendency to sprout another right hand when he starts playing the blues. With Clyde around, the tone becomes closer to that of a depression-era “Lethal Weapon” and as this volume shows, that’s not really a bad thing. While the previous volume left RJ in jail and Clyde posing as a newspaperman who is taken under the wing of Mr. McDonald, a blind diabetic who also happens to be the most powerful man in town, this volume follows Clyde’s suspenseful night in McDonald’s mansion and efforts to break RJ out of jail and escape their pursuers. As opposed to indigestible weirdness, this volume shows that mangaka Akira Hiramoto has a real knack for coming up with suspenseful set-pieces, the best of which involve the former sheriff trying to goad one of his former toadies into killing RJ in his cell, and Clyde’s midnight encounter with Mr. McDonald. He also shows that he can whip up a gunfight that would make Garth Ennis or Rei Hiroe proud. The only problem with this is that for a series that was ostensibly about RJ and the blues, its best moments have generally revolved around an infamous white criminal. While the last chapter indicates we’re coming back into this territory I have to say that Hiramoto has an uphill struggle to make RJ’s exploits more interesting than Clyde’s.

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