“Convergence” is upon us! The fill-in-as-event has arrived and normal service in the DCU has been interrupted for this and the following month with the weekly series continuing here and the first half of some forty-odd two-part miniseries kicking off as well. I won’t lie, there are several miniseries that I’m interested in, but I don’t think they’re going to be releasing a “All the Ones Glick Wants to Buy” collection at some point. An omnibus of the entire event is for certain at some point down the line, however. Maybe I’ll pick up the main “Convergence” miniseries if it’s not too terrible. I guess it’ll depend on how slow of a week it is on the shipping list if it comes to that (or, as these things also go, how deep of a discount Amazon is offering).
“This is the story of how my parents split up.”
Reading Hazel’s narration at the end of the first issue in this collection is a great way to put a damper on your enthusiasm for the rest of it. After all, wasn’t this series billed as a family struggling against a galaxy that wants them dead? How are we supposed to care if Marko and Alanna finally decide to call it quits? Brian K. Vaughan is well aware of this and the place the couple ends up in at the volume’s finale… is somewhere I didn’t see coming at all. It’s a great bit of misdirection: Here’s a textbook example of threatening to break the series while eventually coming around to something completely different. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples do an excellent job of making the threat credible, with their protagonist’s early passion settling down into routine as Alanna works for a living (in spandex) and Marko becomes “Mr. Mom” to Hazel. It’s clear that they still love each other, but seeing their bitterness at their current lot in life break through on occasion is eminently credible as well.
Things don’t go much better for the supporting cast either. Prince Robot IV is millions of miles away (mentally as well as physically) as his son is born, and subsequently kidnapped. Meanwhile, Gwen and Sophie try to find a way to restore The Will to health and wind up running straight into his sister, The Brand. The Prince Robot story is a subplot that runs throughout the volume and really drives home just how damaged the character is while also hinting at how he’ll redeem himself. It’s good stuff, yet his story feels like it skipped a plot beat in explaining how he wound up on Sextillion after suffering what looked like brain damage in the previous volume. The Gwen/Sophie/Brand stuff is only tucked in at the end and it’s immensely entertaining to see these characters do their things, while also featuring one of Lying Cat’s best moments. It all ends on a moment that promises a reckoning as families strive to reunite, and an agonizing wait for the next volume in the process.
The fun thing about having the Image Expo earlier this month is that several of the titles announced are having their first issues solicited here. It makes them seem less far off than originally announced, you know. There’s still a ton of other titles that we’ll have to wait for later this year to get our hands on. Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire are teaming up for a graphic novel, “A.D.: After Death,” about what happens to our world when a cure for death is discovered. “Paper Girls” is from Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, and is about something strange that happens to four paper delivery girls the day after Halloween. Vaughan also has what sounds like amusing Canadian propaganda in “We Stand On Guard” with Steve Skroce as civilians fight off invading giant robot U.S. forces. Brian Wood has two titles: The could-go-either-way-sounding “Starve” about mega-star celebrity chefs in the future with Danijel Zezelj, and the more straightforwardly appealing Viking story “Black Road” with Garry Brown.
Best of all, however, is the announcement that “Phonogram vol. 3: The Immaterial Girl” by Gillen and McKelvie will FINALLY be coming out later this summer. By the time it hits, it’ll have been three years since it was originally announced. Given the quality of their output since then, I think it’ll wind up being worth the wait.
Yokoi would be your average high school girl if it weren’t for one thing: her neighbor Seki. You see, the boy who sits next to her in class doesn’t just goof off. He elevates it into an art form. Creating an ersatz domino rally with erasers, turning his desk into a shogi board, creating a giant chess piece out of other chess pieces, and demonstrating his origami skills are just a few of the activities he engages in. What would seem like a simple and formulaic setup for a manga actually turns out to be much more in mangaka Takuma Morishige’s hands. The fifteen chapters in this first volume showcase a wide range of activities involving Seki’s desk that may push against your suspension of disbelief regarding their plausibility, but never quite break through it. Morishige gives the impression here that while there is clearly a formula at work here, it is only restricted by imagination. Of which the mangaka appears to have plenty.
He also gets great mileage out of the interaction between Yokoi and Seki. It would’ve been easy enough to have them fall into the familiar routine of him being the untouchable instigator and her being the exasperated victim of his antics. Though this is true in more than a few cases, Yokoi’s reactions to Seki’s antics show a welcome variety over the chapters in this first volume. While she can deliver a withering glare that shoots down Seki’s indignation at having his “Topple the Pole” game ruined, Yokoi finds herself a willing participant in several cases. Like when Seki literally lets the cats out of his bag and she tries to entice one over to her desk. It’s moments like these that caused my expectations to be subverted, and then ultimately surpassed. In this volume, “My Neighbor Seki” reveals itself to be as imaginative and diverting as the title character’s desktop creations.
Barring a spectacular last-minute turn-around, I think it’s safe to say that Brian Wood’s latest creator-owned series is going to finish without ever having lived up to its potential. The story of environmentalists trying to survive and hold onto their beliefs in a post-environmental crash world was certainly a promising setup. Yet Wood kicked things off by breaking down his characters before they could even be built up in the first place, and we had to settle for being told about the events of the Crash rather than being shown it as it happened. Another questionable storytelling decision was also made in the previous volume when a supernatural aspect was added to one of the book’s characters. To the writer’s credit, he doesn’t shy away from the supernatural here and plunges ahead with it in a way that’s going to make about as much sense as it could in the context of the series. As for everything else, well…
The big news this week was that the Marvel Universe will end with the upcoming “Secret Wars” event. Except it won’t really as the series will be about the Battleworld that consists of characters from lots of different alternate universes and previous Marvel events. It’s by Hickman with art from Esad Ribic and is also the culmination of the writer’s epic “Avengers”/”New Avengers” storyline he’s been spinning for the past couple years. I am completely sold on it due to these things alone and will be picking up the hardcover collection as soon as it comes out.
Make of this what you will: Last week, Kodansha Comics announced several new manga licenses. Of particular interest to me was “Die Wergelder,” a new manga from “Blade of the Immortal” creator Hiroaki Samura. This is notable because it’s his first series to not be published by Dark Horse. In addition to the mangaka’s signature series, the company has also put out the “Blade” artbook and light novel, and the short story collections “Ohikkoshi” and “Emerald.” Given the apparently tight relationship between Dark Horse and Samura, you’d have thought that “Die Wergelder,” about three female specialists fighting over money, would be coming their way as well. Apparently not. Unfortunately, short of someone from either company breaking their silence, it’s hard to say if this represents a one-off or any kind of sea change in who will be publishing Samura’s works here in the future. That is, unless Kodansha starts republishing “Blade” in an unflipped, omnibus format after it completes its run here.
Also of note: Dark Horse’s Vocaloid manga collection, “Hatsune Miku Unofficial Mix,” has done something no manga of theirs has done in quite a while. That would be topping the New York Times manga bestseller list (twice in the past four weeks). I haven’t bothered with it, but the collections success would seem to indicate we’ll be seeing more Vocaloid and/or idol-related projects like this from the company down the line.
At first I thought this would be the first volume of the series to offer nothing worth writing about. It kicks off with the launch of the brand new Tazugane-class vessel and most of the core cast is onboard to put it through its paces. Narratively, this involves the vessel coming into contact with a Gauna cluster ship and Tanikaze being accused by the Honoka Sisters of peeping on them while they’re photosynthesizing. Again. It’s a mix of the conventional and the trite that’s picked up again in the volume’s final third. I’ll at least give mangaka Tsutomu Nihei credit for making the popularity contest in that part amusing and for allowing simple detective work to clear Tanikaze’s name. That said, events like these make up the bulk of this volume and render it one of the less interesting ones so far in the series.
I’m not saying “least interesting” because there’s a part in the middle section that offers some potentially fascinating hints at what the Gauna are after. During the cluster ship’s battle with the Tazugane, one of the Honoka Sisters is captured and brought aboard. When she wakes up, the girl finds herself in a bizarre facsimile of a human environment with the reality of her situation slowly dawning upon her. While this sequence is unsettling on its own terms, Nihei offers up an additional twist upon the girl’s escape that makes you wonder about the Gauna’s true motives. If these aliens are really out to destroy humanity, why would they go to the extent they did of manipulating the girl’s perceptions and her own mind? Intelligence in the Gauna’s actions has been evident for a while now, but this is the first time we’ve seen anything implying they have an actual plan for dealing with humanity. It’s compelling material, far more so than the predictable silliness that surrounds it here.