When we left off, Minare was preparing to accompany Mizuho and Katsumi on the latter’s research trip for his next novel. Minare is mainly going along for moral/tech support, though she’s rooting for her roommate to make some progress in getting recognized by the novelist. The plan is for the three of them to head out to the remote town of Wassamu, which is known for its pumpkins… and that’s it. They get some assistance from a local girl, Hokakushi, whose knowledge of Katsumi’s novels, the town’s history, and ghost stories is matched only by her impressive rack (I might be exaggerating, though). It’s all enough to leave you feeling that this is going to be another round of “Wave’s” usual brand of character-driven wackiness.
Then things take a turn…
Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the volume is still filled with the kind of character-driven wackiness that this series has made its stock-in-trade. It’s just that the setting and means by which they’re delivered are significantly different than they have been in previous volumes. Which makes for an appealing change of pace, especially as the mystery behind Minare and co.’s new circumstances deepens and the stakes actually wind up being raised a little.
The only real catch here is that this change in setting may be viewed by some to be a little outlandish. If you were the person who rolled their eyes at how the haunting of Minare’s neighbor turned out to be down to her irresponsibility in properly storing meat, then you’re going to have a real problem with how things turn out here. Of course, if you’ve been enjoying yourself so far like I have, then you’re likely going to get a kick out of the twist here. Particularly in regards to how it ties into the meat-spooked neighbor’s circumstances…
The last time I wrote about Nick Spencer’s “Amazing Spider-Man” run, I said that the writer had plowed it into territory that I didn’t find fun or entertaining to read about. Finding out the identity of Kindred, the demonic being who has been tormenting Spidey from the shadows of Spencer’s run, was the only reason I picked up this volume. A good reveal had the possibility of turning my interest around, especially if it showed that the writer had been planning things well since the character’s introduction. I wanted to believe this was possible, especially since Spencer’s run had been so much fun while he was indulging his and the character’s comedic side.
Did I get that with this volume? No. No I did not.
[Full spoilers for this volume after the break.]
Vol. 1 had Doom framed for sabotaging a black hole experiment on the Moon, deposed from his country, being arrested and then escaping before he was able to regain his armor and go after those responsible for his situation. So if you’re thinking that vol. 2 sounds like this is where the series gets to the “good stuff” then you’d be right. After a low-key issue where Doom and Kang hash out their issues in the Southwest, the good Doctor reassembles his inner circle, purges the traitors, gives the pretender to his throne what’s coming to him, and prepares to offer a perfect solution to the black hole that’s currently growing on the Moon. It’s a plan so perfect that Doom has even reserved an hour of television on all the major stations the following night to talk about his inevitable success and his plans for the future. Which include his desire to change and become a better person. He’s seen the visions from this parallel world and knows that he has to change in order to make that world a reality. There’s only one person standing in his way: THAT ACCURSED REED RICHARDS!
...While I thought that writer Christopher Cantwell had a good handle on Doom in the first volume, it’s this second one where he shows us that he really knows the Doctor inside and out. His ruthlessness, his cunning, his arrogance, his insecurity, it’s all on display here. It’s also done in a way that makes Doom come off as more human than he has before. Everything that he does here doesn’t feel like it’s being done to advance a specific story, but rather as an extension of the character himself. Which is why his temper tantrum after his talk with Reed feels more pitiable than eye-rolling. Or why his actions at the end of the volume come off as genuinely monstrous because they’re all the result of his wounded ego. Artist Salvador Larroca sells all of this drama very well, even it’s calmer and weirder low key bits too. This leaves us with a series that I’d say isn’t just a must-read for Doom’s fans, but also for those who feel that they’ve never quite understood him after all these years.
The main story of “ElfQuest” wrapped up in the final volume of “The Final Quest.” As you would expect from a storyline with that title. However, you can’t keep a good franchise down for long and so here we are with the first post-”Final Quest” storyline. Joking aside, “Stargazer’s Hunt” actually has a pretty good setup to explore as the title character realizes that he has some unfinished business regarding his brother “In All but Blood.” While Skywise is living happily in the Starhome with his teleporting daughter Jink and lifemate Timmain, something still gnaws at him. What did Timmain show to Cutter that one night, and caused him to lose his mind as a result?
The drama from “Stargazer’s Hunt” doesn’t come from any deliberation on Timmain’s part regarding this issue. No, the drama comes from her lack of hesitation and decision to lay it all out at once. This turns Stargazer into an emotional wreck as it’s all too much for him to deal with. Which is where Jink comes in as her magic isn’t just limited to teleportation. No, she can mess around with memories as well…
This is actually part of the problem for this series as Jink’s decision has the unintended consequence of splitting the narrative between her and her father. While it’s nice to see how everyone’s doing after “The Final Quest,” and everyone’s looking good thanks to Sonny Strait’s art, the story in the four issues contained doesn’t really do justice to the story’s premise. It leaves me both unsatisfied, and a little annoyed honestly. That’s because “Stargazer’s Hunt” isn’t a complete story and ends with “To Be Continued…” All this makes the story one for the most devoted of “ElfQuest” fans who really can’t bear to let the World of Two Moons go just yet.
Superman & The Authority #1 (of 4)
During their brief heyday at the turn of the millennium, “The Authority” were a team that made you question the relevance of Superman. After all, if this team was able to handle global, interdimensional, and intergalactic threats with a maximum of violence, the murdering of bad guys, and proportionate levels of debauchery, the Man of Steel tended to come off as a relic next to them. Flash forward some 20 years and now Superman is running his own version of the team with professional scumbag (and leader of “Authority” knockoff “The Elite”) Manchester Black in charge. The plan is that Superman will be able to keep an eye on Black while working to reform him as he and his team, which includes former “Authority” mainstays Apollo and the Midnighter, handle threats that the Man of Steel would find daunting on his own.
The solicitation text also describes Superman’s approach as requiring methods that don’t scream “Justice League” and “business that can be taken care of on the sly.” So what we’re getting here is effectively Superman’s “Black Ops” team. If there was ever a superhero who didn’t need a “Black Ops” team, it’s Superman. This would normally be cause for concern… if this miniseries wasn’t being written by Grant Morrison. He’s a writer who knows the character, and his morality, like the back of his hand. So even if this looks like a morally dubious setup, my gut feeling is that’s all part of the Man of Steel’s master plan to reform Black. I’m onboard for this, which will look great regardless of how the story turns out as Mikel Janin is handling the art here.
How do you follow up a volume that ended with the protagonist’s mother trying to strangle him? If you’re mangaka Shuzo Oshimi, then you have things get a little worse before they get better. This involves Seiichi kicking a teacher’s desk during cleaning duty, getting reprimanded for it, and then moping on a bench after school about it, where he meets Fukiishi. In case you’ve forgotten, she’s the classmate of Seiichi who gave him that love letter that was subsequently ripped up by his mom. She talks to him for a while and… you may be surprised by what happens next. Suffice to say that it’s a rare moment of warmth in this series that feels earned, especially when contrasted against the horror movie schtick that Oshimi pulls as Seiichi finds his way home. Even if Fukiishi’s interest in our protagonist does stretch credibility somewhat, since ordinariness is all that he looks to have going for him on the outside, it’s still nice to see him develop a relatively normal social connection in this series.
Which he’s going to need because Seiko is still totally cray-cray. Not to the point of choking out her son again, fortunately. This time she’s all about acting nice and interested in Seiichi while projecting a vibe that she’s liable to snap at any moment. If you’re wondering if that moment is going to happen when she finally finds out about about her son and Fukiishi, then you’re going to get your answer here in some scenes where Oshimi really cranks up the drama with his art. That’s a good thing as the intensity of emotion demanded by this encounter requires something more than your usual round of talking heads. The ending of this volume also portends a major change in the status quo for this title, although it might wind up being a case of jumping from the frying pan into the fire. All of this is to say that if you’re still into the kind of discomfort that “Blood on the Tracks” has been selling up to this point, then vol. 4 still has you covered.
Mob Psycho 100 vol. 7
*lets out a long exhale* You can’t imagine my relief when I saw this volume in these solicitations. While vols. 5 & 6 were promptly re-scheduled after the pandemic interrupted Diamond’s schedule last year, and the “Reigen” volume arrived in November, there’s been no word on new volumes of “Mob Psycho” since. I was afraid this meant that the series had been placed on hiatus as so many manga from Dark Horse have in the past once they reach a volume number that is a multiple of three (see also: “Reiko the Zombie Shop,” “Satsuma Gishiden,” “Emanon,” “Drifters,” and “Blood Blockade Battlefront” -- though the last two picked up from vols. 3 & 6, respectively, after they received popular anime adaptations).
My guess is that the interruption was partly down to the pandemic and partly down to Dark Horse having to negotiate for more volumes of the series to release. Shocking as it may be, the company only licenses a set amount of volumes of a series for release initially, and then they’ll negotiate for more if the series is successful. While it’s great to see that “Mob Psycho” has been successful enough so far to warrant Dark Horse coming back for more, my hope is that the lengthy wait between volumes hasn’t caused it to be forgotten by its readership. In other words, if you want to read the rest of this series BUY THIS VOLUME WHEN IT COMES OUT!
With that said, let’s take a look at the disturbing trend sweeping through Dark Horse’s solicitations this month…
I heard this was supposed to be out sooner, but this is just one more thing you can chalk up to the pandemic. The good news is that it’s actually coming out and we can get a proper look at what the ongoing adventures of Saffron Chu will be like. They seem quite promising too. If you’ll recall, the “post-credits scene” of the first volume had Saffron wheeling her decrepit grandfather Ong out of his retirement home with the promise of using him to track down some Nazi gold. Mind you, that’s “Nazi gold” and not “gold that is owned by Nazis.” So there’s a very real chance that Saffron and co. could wind up going after some gold that was once owned by bad people that now happens to be owned by good people. Or they could be breaking into a submarine at the bottom of the Mediterranean. Who can say for sure? All I know is that it’s a good setup which is following an opening arc which showed that there is still room for quality storytelling in the “Chew”-niverse.
Hellions vol. 2
There’s another round of collections from the X-books in these solicitations. Much as I like what Jonathan Hickman and Gerry Duggan have been doing on “X-Men” and “Marauders,” I have to admit that Zeb Wells has been doing great, demented work on “Hellions.” Its first arc could have come across as creepy and grimdark, but the writer and artist Stephen Segovia found ways to insert a surprising amount of (dark) comedy and character. This was also the case, even more so, when Carmen Carnero joined for the two “X of Swords” issues which were just tie-ins to the main event. But what tie-ins they were as Sinister led his team down the garden path for his own ends and the surprising fate that awaited everyone who wasn’t him. The only question here should be whether or not Wells and co. will be able to keep the good times rolling into vol. 2.
...which I can say is an “Affirmative” after reading through issues #7-8 on Marvel Unlimited. It’s a two-parter which sees the team face off against a classic X-villain as they try to rescue Nanny’s ship from him. Backstabbing, acid-drenched insults, a wanton disregard for the necessities of a happy ending -- these two issues indicate that this volume is likely to be as enjoyable as the first one was.