The usual bit of recent comics news analysis I put here evolved into its own post as I was writing it. You’ll see it up here tomorrow. In the meantime, it’s an all Dark Horse review-fest after the break!
Berserk vol. 29
I could hear the whining of the people who only read this series for the insanely violent fantasy action as I read this, since it’s mainly a character-building volume of setup before the fecal matter hits the fan in the next volume. Personally, I’d be annoyed if it was dull character building, but it was interesting to see Farnesse interact with the family she’s brought nothing but disgrace to since she was a kid and to see Griffith’s forces do more “not evil” things. (There’s a separate post about analyzing that last bit in me, I’m sure of it.) Still, it’s not hard to read this and wonder what the point of this arc is going to be since “Getting to Elfheim” is going to be something that happens because of this arc, even if it’s not the focus of it. My guess is that this is going to give us an in-depth look at the threat the Kushan army poses not just to Guts’ party and the immediate city, but even Griffith’s ambitions as well. Heck, they could even prove to be so big a threat as to have creator Kentaro Miura dangle the possibility of Guts and Griffith teaming up again to take them on. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Overall, I had lots of fun seeing Miura develop the cast and speculating over what’s to come, but I think things will pick up immensely in the next volume.
MPD Psycho vol. 9
Of the two series written by Eiji Otsuka and published by Dark Horse, this is the lesser of them. (The other being “The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service.”) A big part of the reason for that is while “Kurosagi” is structured episodically, with an over-arching mystery in the background, “MPD Psycho” is structured as an over-arching mystery that takes a lot of episodic digressions. So while you’d expect the focus to be on how Kazuhiko Amamiya’s multiple personalities, the eyeballs with barcodes, and deceased counter-culture figure Lucy Monostone all fit together, Otsuka doesn’t really seem interested in showing you how they do in any great hurry. This leads to the feeling that he’s making this all up as he goes along. Anyhow, in this thicker-than-usual volume we do get a little more of a focus on the over-arching story as terminally uncool detective Sasayama gets involved with a plot that involves killing off people who resemble characters from previous volumes (he even manages to score with a girl along the way). We also get to see Lucy’s nephew Koike face off with Tetora Nishizono to my disappointment as a) I don’t like Tetora or think that he’s that interesting and b) Koike seemed like a pretty interesting character when he was introduced. As ever, what keeps this series from drifting off into “Why am I still reading this?” land is the creativity Otsuka invests in the violence he inflicts on the people in this world he’s created and artist Sho-u Tajima’s ability to pull it all off with style. It’s not for everyone, and even with that caveat I’d still enjoy it more if I had a feeling that Otsuka knows what he’s doing with this, or even WHY people want to recreate Lucy Monostone!
Conan vol. 7: Cimmeria
Collecting the first eight issues of Dark Horse’s relaunch of their “Conan” series as “Conan of Cimmeria.” For new readers, it’s not a bad place to start, but they’ll be better served by starting with the series best volume “Born on the Battlefield” (listen to the podcast I did back in October on that and the rest of DH’s Conan books for more details). This volume breaks from the structure of every previous volume by telling two stories at once: one being of Conan’s return to his homeland and the other being of his grandfather Conacht’s adventures out in the world and his subsequent return home. Though Conacht is a likeable enough character, I read “Conan” for stories about his grandson. Fortunately, actually surprisingly, the dual-narratives don’t wind up distracting from each other and writer Tim Truman seems to know exactly when to switch the focus back to Conan’s story, resulting in a well-paced volume. Of course that’s not all the volume has to offer as it has plenty of the skull-cracking, bone-smashing violence that’s a hallmark of “Conan” and the themes of “civilization vs. barbarism” that have permeated this series are also played up to fine effect here. Though Conan has had many experiences with the scheming and treachery that permeate the “civilized” world, he finds that those same evils are not alien to Cimmerian lands as well. Another strong volume in the series, with some great art from regular artist Tomas Giorello and Richard Corben, and (at last) good coloring from Jose Villarrubia.
The Goon vol. 7: A Place of Heartache and Grief
This isn’t nearly as emo as the title makes it sound. How could it be when it has the title character tying an evil hillbilly midget to a rock and dropping him in a swamp, beating the crap out of a colossal transvestite, and fighting magical transforming buzzard women in the sky. I’d heard that this series was moving into darker, more serious territory; but, it’s making the transition with its warped, twisted comedic sensibilities firmly intact. So even if nothing but bad times are ahead for the Goon and the rest of the cast, we can be sure that all the laughs writer/artist Eric Powell serves up will make the trip not only bearable, but worth it in the end.