August 31, 2020
Mob’s brother Ritsu has been kidnapped by the evil organization known as Claw. They’re a group of psychics who are combining their power in order to bring about a revolution where they’re in charge of the world. It’s a simple plan, and one that stands a good chance of working given the quality and variety of the psychic powers they’ve got at their disposal. Mob, however, is in another class entirely, and if he’s being backed up by Teru (and Dimple) then the members of Claw should be the ones running scared. Right? Well, Mob and Teru are still kids, so they don’t have the life experience or emotional control that their opponents do. Fortunately for them, Mob is running late for his work with shyster supreme Reigen. OR IS HE? Could it be that Mob’s boss (*rimshot*) is the actual secret head of Claw!?
Had “Mob Psycho 100” followed “One-Punch Man” to the land of Shonen Jump, there’s a pretty good chance that the action here may have been spread over three volumes or more. Mob, Teru, and Dimple take on multiple antagonists in some cleverly staged fights which showcase either the depth of their power or the range of their strategic thinking. (These terms apply veeeeery loosely when applied to Dimple, of course.) While cramming so many battles into one volume runs the risk of making them seem breezy and inconsequential, mangaka ONE manages to make each of them unique. Either through the powers utilized by the antagonists, the way our protagonists overcome these powers, how we learn something new about the characters involved, or a combination of the three. Thanks to this approach, the all-battle approach of this volume never became tiring, which meant that I was still ready for more even when it wrapped up.
August 30, 2020
Batman: City of Bane Complete Collection
First of all, I am expecting this to be good. Writer Tom King has been grinding Batman down for the past few volumes so that Bane’s takeover of Gotham will look convincing. While it’s always hard to see the Dark Knight on the losing end of a struggle for an extended period, it is without fail followed by a storyline where he puts the bad guys in their places and shows he was one step ahead of them the whole time. It’s… uh, just a shame that Alfred won’t be around to see it. For now, at least.
What makes this collected edition even better is its price. You see, this storyline was originally split up across two hardcover volumes priced at $25 each. This “Complete Collection” will only set you back $25 total. Even if Amazon’s $30 cover price turns out to be the right one, it’s still an insane bargain. One that makes me glad I waited for this edition.
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August 29, 2020
You know the story: Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw first hit it big at Image with “God Country” before moving onto bigger things at Marvel. Now they’re reteaming at Image for a series that borrows a bit from their breakout title, and then goes much bigger with it. While the solicitation text is frustratingly vague, the hook for this series has been explained elsewhere: Imagine what would happen if a big comic book event took place in our world. Having “Avengers: Infinity War & Endgame” take place in real life sure sounds cool, up until you start thinking about the potential property damage and the whole “half of humanity being snapped out of existence” bit. While the premise of superheroes invading the real world has been done before, this setup certainly has scale going for it. It also has a couple of creators who definitely know how to ground these larger-than-life stakes in relatable human concerns. Really, Cates and Shaw’s track record tells me to expect nothing but the best from this new series.
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August 28, 2020
I’m taking a mulligan on this month’s recommendations as Dark Horse is still getting their house in order post-shutdown. What that means is not one, but TWO previous Above-the-Board Recommendations are being unsolicited here. One of them is the “Harrow County Omnibus vol. 1” by writer Cullen Bunn, artist Tyler Crook, and more. It was originally set to come out in July, and since it’s a title that I’ve long been curious about, I’m glad to see it finally unsolicited here. The other title is “Hellboy: The Seven Wives Club,” which comes from writer/creator Mike Mignola and artist Adam Hughes. You can’t blame this resolicitation on the shutdown, as it was originally scheduled to come out last December. Assuming it doesn’t get delayed again, expect to enjoy it in time for Thanksgiving.
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August 26, 2020
Giant-Size X-Men by Jonathan Hickman [and Friends!]
For all intents and purposes, this is essentially another volume of Hickman’s “X-Men.” Call it vol. 2.5 if you want, as it will likely wind up between vols. 2&3 on my shelf. The main reason for that is because each of the five issues collected here are written by current X-mastermind Hickman. So it’s all but assured that each of these issues will be playing into the larger story he’s been orchestrating from the start. As for the issues themselves, they’re all spotlighting a different X-person with one exception (that one spotlights two). Expect deep dives into the mindsets of “Jean Grey & Emma Frost,” “Nightcrawler,” “Magneto,” “Fantomex,” and “Storm;” a retcon or three regarding their personal histories; and some incredible art. Russell Dauterman (twice), Alan Davis, Rod Reis, and Ramon Perez are onboard to handle the art for these issues, which means that they should look as good as I expect them to read.
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August 24, 2020
It only took fourteen (thirteen and half if you want to be specific), but it’s official now: Kaguya Shinomiya and Miyuki Shirogane are now officially a couple. That this has happened should not strike regular readers, or really anyone who has even heard of this series, as a spoiler. It was always going to happen. The real question was how well was mangaka Aka Akasaka going to be able to sell it? After reading this volume, I’m glad to say that the answer is, “EXTREMELY WELL!” He perfectly captures the awkwardness of his two leads as they finally have to show some flexibility and *gasp* vulnerability in their stubborn mindsets, while at the same time showing off Shirogane’s grand romantic gesture to the woman he loves. It’s glorious to witness and if you don’t feel your heart melt a little while reading this, then (to paraphrase a great romantic) you may already be dead.
As great as the moment and the buildup to it are, the very best part is that Akasaka does it all without sacrificing comedy. This may be the climax of the series, but he’s still got time for some quality goofiness. Kaguya getting schooled by Hayasaca in how to actually confess is great, as are her issues with getting a vending machine to take her money at a crucial point. Ishigami also gets some amusingly dense moments as his lack of knowledge about Shuchiin’s heart-giving-custom brings further complications to his life that he’s blissfully unaware of so far.
While Ishigami’s troubles are just winding up, it doesn’t mean that Kaguya and Shirogane will be spending the rest of the series in romantic bliss. No, as we see at the end of the volume, staying together is going to present its own unique challenges and “Ice Kaguya” is going to face them head-on. That this comes after a chibi-fied Kaguya has won over the student council and led to a trial in her head between her dumb, rational, icy, and childlike mindsets should tell you that comedy won’t be sacrificed in telling this part of their story either. In short, vol. 14 is a masterclass in showing how a series can nail the big moment it’s been building towards while also getting you excited for what it has to offer next.
August 23, 2020
After a short stint as part of a chain gang, Lou Pirlo has finally made it to Rue Le Jour in New Orleans. It’s here that he meets up again with his paramour Delia, who has reunited with her sisters. (Or are they her mothers, who can really say?) Delia has asked them to help remove the werewolf curse that Lou has been suffering from, and they’re willing to help -- for the right price. Now, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the wayward mobster finds himself in trouble while using his gambling skills to rustle up the necessary cash. What will surprise you is it’s not entirely of his making this time around. That’s because Delia didn’t tell Lou that she has a former flame, and they had a decisive falling out when he wanted more from her than she was willing to give. Said flame is still in town, and is keen on the idea of getting his woman back, even if it means breaking her werewolf boyfriend to do it.
As I said in the previous volume, creators Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso did a great job of creating an entertaining surface in their telling of Lou’s stint on the chain gang. That remains true here as the werewolf mobster finds himself all that the town has to offer. Whether it’s gambling in back alleys or back rooms, being drunkenly guided by ghosts through a cemetery, or embracing his inner beast, Lou’s actions do offer a certain darkly confident charm. The thing is that’s still all this series has to offer. Oh, Delia does get her moments to shine, particularly at the end, but it’s clear to see that this isn’t her story. Neither is it the Holt Family’s, as they get a couple scenes in this volume to let you know that they haven’t been forgotten about. Azzarello and Risso’s charting of Lou’s fall is certainly entertaining on its own terms, yet it’s also becoming clear to see that this is basically all that “Moonshine” has to offer us.
August 22, 2020
If you see the word “Lepus” in the title and are thinking that this volume is going to involve some form of monstrous rabbit, then you’d be right! The question then becomes which part of the volume will revolve around the threat of a rabbit. Will it feature into the opening chapter, which is about a giant skinless gopher and its brood? Or the group of female survivors that the Corps of Discovery comes across? Or maybe it’ll appear in the snapshot of the threats the Corps comes across as they decide to prioritize survival over reprisal? Or will it be a factor in the growing threat posed by Maldonado, the conquistador ghost who is trying his damndest to poison Lewis and Clark against each other. They both know they’ve got a devil whispering in their ear, but can they hold out forever when they think they’re the only one being whispered to?
I can promise you’ll get a satisfying answer to that last question in this volume. It’s easily the high point of what feels like the penultimate installment of this series. I have to wonder whether or not that’s by design since it feels like writer Chris Dingess and artist Matthew Roberts have to rush through a lot of stuff to get the story to that point. At first it feels good to get more than one monster story in this volume. The problem is that by the end of it, the story has already undergone one major shift in the status quo, before promptly diving into another on the final page. That last shift feels like a real “point of no return” for the story, even though it was given precious little buildup before it hit. It gives vol. 8 a clear shot to wrap everything up, which I hope it takes because I’m not feeling the possibilities or the potential for extending this series further than that.
August 21, 2020
I’ve liked what I’ve read from writer Christopher Cantwell so far. The thing is that what he’s written so far has been defined by a fairly aggressive strand of quirkiness. He loved piling it on over the two volumes of “She Could Fly,” which would’ve suffocated under it without the strong characterizations the writer afforded its cast. His current “Doctor Doom” series is also a strange duck in the way it takes the Latverian monarch, strips him of his title, hits him with visions of a better life, has him bouncing off a time-traveling Kang, and threw in H.E.R.B.I.E. in there for good measure. With his new series “Everything,” Cantwell decides to dial the quirk back quite a bit. It’s still there, of course, but it’s here in a more subdued and accessible way.
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August 19, 2020
Thanks to David Rubin, Matt Kindt's most accessible creator-owned series is also his best looking.