Anime Expo was... well, it was an anime con all right. I can't say that I regretted going for Friday and Saturday, but this wasn't as good as last year's. Maybe I'd have better things to say about it if it hadn't felt like GOD HIMSELF was conspiring against our efforts to enjoy the Masquerade, but there you go. Anyways...
This week I’ve actually been reading a book without pictures (“Starfish” by Peter Watts) and am preparing to re-read all of “100 Bullets” before the final volume comes out next week. As for stuff from the comic shop… “The Goon” vol. 8 didn’t arrive and “The Boys” vol. 4 sold out. “Emma” vol. 9 did arrive, but as much as I like the series, it’s not enough to make a trip down there just for that (a new volume of “Blade of the Immortal” on the other hand, would). So I’m looking back to last week, when I did get a decent amount of books.
Captain Britain and MI13 vol. 2: Hell Comes to Birmingham
This is another in a long line of critically-adored, poor-selling Marvel titles that will be getting the axe with the forthcoming issue #15. While it’s not in the league of similar titles like “Nextwave,” it’s still a fun, well-executed superhero book that will appeal more to superhero fans than the public at large. This volume has the Captain and the rest of MI13 heading out to Birmingham after they get a lead on some of the supernatural creatures that MI13 head Pete Wisdom set free in the first volume. Naturally things turn out to be more complicated than the team initially thought as they find themselves up against a Duke of Hell granting the inhabitants of the town their hearts desires and a traitor in their midst. Blade also joins the team and makes a good first impression on everyone by promptly staking their one vampire member. (Which Wisdom should’ve seen coming, to be honest…) Granted, this kind of story has been done before, but writer Paul Cornell puts it together well. More importantly, he has a great handle on getting you to care about the entire cast by making sure each of their stories are interesting, and giving them plenty of witty (and very British) dialogue over the course of the story. Which is good, because when you’re dealing with such familiar story elements, it’s the quality of the character details that make it worth reading.
Empowered vol. 5
Adam Warren’s sexy superhero satire manages to impress and grate at the same time in this new volume. While I know that sexual frankness has been a part of the series since its inception (it originally started out as a series of commissioned female superhero bondage drawings), having the Caged Demonlord narrate an interminably long segment about Empowered and her boyfriend Thugboy’s sexual cosplay (and her friend Ninjette’s arousal during the narration) winds up being more boring than anything else. What’s more is that Warren’s diction, which I’ll readily admit is an acquired taste, gets more and more annoying in regards to said Demonlord with each volume. That said, pretty much everything else in the book is great as the trend from short, loosely connected stories that dominated the first three volumes to telling an overarching story in one volume with number four continues here. While seeing Emp deal with the fallout from saving the entire superhero community in the previous volume is handled very well, with the problem coming in a way that would make Spider-Man sigh knowingly, the best parts come from finding out more about Mindf---. Introduced in the last volume as Sistah Spooky’s telepathic ex-girlfriend, she proves to be a welcome confidante to the title character, and a means of humanizing the aforementioned Spooky. That’s not to say that she’s not an interesting character in her own right, which makes the end of the volume that much more tragic. (And if there’s one thing Warren does well with this series, it’s the endings – he’s hit it out of the park with the last stories in all five volumes so far.) Though this title is about superheroes, its appeal isn’t just limited to their fans, but to anyone who has an awareness and even an appreciation of the conventions of the genre.
Black Jack vol. 5
I don’t have a whole lot to say about the latest volume of the adventures of Osamu Tezuka’s master surgeon as the quality has been pretty consistent across all the volumes released so far. As usual, you’ve got stories that double as morality plays (a wolf-faced girl is healed, but ordered to stay indoors), stories decrying Japanese hospitals (Black Jack helps one of his nearly blind mentors perform a risky surgery), and stories about Pinoko being stupid. The one thing that stands out about this volume is its use of Kiriko, the Dr. Kevorkian of Black Jack’s world. While his creation must’ve been a no-brainer for Tezuka, you can almost hear him going, “Well what else can I do with this character?” in this volume. Here, we have Black Jack intervening in Kiriko’s efforts to euthanize his father and in a later story, himself. After you’ve done those stories, it’s kind of hard to do anything else interesting with the character other than having him try to thwart Black Jack’s attempts at saving lives. So it’ll be interesting to see what, if anything, Tezuka does with him in subsequent volumes. Which I’ll be picking up because as formulaic as the series can get, Tezuka knows how to work the formula for maximum entertainment.
Gantz vol. 5
I don’t know if this is a combination of having read much of this series scanlated before its official release and Dark Horse’s bi-monthly release of the volumes but god DAMN did this volume feel slow. One of the things I liked about having a lot of volumes scanlated before I started reading it was that in reading through them all at once the pacing is less of an issue and you’re able to appreciate the action and characterization skills of mangaka Hiroya Oku much better this way. (Though, as I re-read this, I’m reminded that you need to be an angsty high-school or college-age male in order to get the most out of this series.) Reading it now… I reached the end of this volume and went, “Is that it?” Not that there was anything bad about it (frankly, I liked Kei’s outburst to Kishimoto because pretty much all of it was justified), but I just wish we’d get more of this faster. I doubt that sounds like a ringing endorsement to anyone who hasn’t read the series, and while I stand by what I said about this on the podcast, I think anyone with an interest in this series would be best served by waiting until it got to volume eight, and picked up those volumes through the Right Stuf when they offer a Dark Horse manga sale.