February 28, 2021
Heart in a Box
Have you ever done something dumb after a bad breakup? Like, say, wish your heart away and into seven broken pieces after being prompted to by a totally-not-evil stranger? Then you can probably relate to Emma’s situation, even if you haven’t done anything that specific. The thing is, Emma soon realizes that feeling nothing is worse than feeling heartbreak. So it’s time to head out on the road and get those broken heart pieces back! This is a new edition (Larger size! Bonus material!) of a graphic novel from writer Kelly Thompson and artist Meridith MacLaren. Given that I’ve really enjoyed Thompson’s Marvel work over the past few years, I’m now curious to see where she got her start. I may have slept on this graphic novel the first time it came around, but that’s a mistake I won’t make again.
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February 27, 2021
Manifest Destiny #43
Yes, I know that the first volume of “Crossover” is in these solicitations. The thing is I already mentioned the first issue here way back when it was solicited, and after the 150,000+ copies it sold I really don’t think it needs any additional press to help its commercial prospects. “Manifest Destiny,” on the other hand, had a buzzy launch only to see said buzz and sales trail off over the course of its run. Which is is a shame since it has been a pretty fun bit of monster-filled revisionist history. The hook for this series has been that Lewis and Clark weren’t just tasked with exploring the new lands gained in the Louisiana Purchase, they were sent to take care of the many unknown otherworldly ad demonic entities that had taken up root in these new lands.
Vol. 7 ended with some major shake-ups, including one that literally exploded the status quo, that had me thinking that whatever arc was coming next would be the title’s last one. The solicitation text for issue #43 tells me that I’m write and “Manifest Destiny” will be wrapping up with this first of six (or eight if they want to end with issue #50) issues leading to the finale. Said text is light on specifics for this arc, though it does mention Lewis and Clark having to resolve their bargain with a demon. Which may or may not involve child sacrifice according to how the story has been setting things up so far.
And without further ado…
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February 26, 2021
Batman: White Knight Presents -- Harley Quinn
All things considered, Harley was left in a pretty good place at the end of “Curse of the White Knight.” Even if she was prepared to break the law for Bruce Wayne’s sake, she still wound up free of a lot of the baggage from her past. Which is good since she’s a single mother of two now. Of course, when your baggage includes a long and twisted history with both Batman and the Joker, it’s safe to say that there’s always going to be something coming back to find Harley when she least expects it. Which is going to be really inconvenient since this story also finds her helping out the GCPD and FBI track down a new, brutal serial killer that has sprung up in Gotham.
The real question here, however, is whether the “White Knight” brand can survive, and even thrive when Sean Murphy isn’t the main writer and artist. He’s co-plotting this volume with new writer Katana Collins, so it’s safe to say that this story is going to be significant to this “Batman” story he’s been telling. That alone is enough to get me onboard with this, but this story will also have art from “Black Science’s” Matteo Scalera who showed on that series that he’s very good with high-energy action storytelling.
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February 24, 2021
Star Wars: War of the Bounty Hunters -- Alpha #1
You know, it has been a while since we’ve had a “Star Wars” crossover around here -- and not a stealth one like the time Charles Soule and Kieron Gillen told the story of Mon Cala’s enslavement and liberation in the pages of “Darth Vader -- Dark Lord of the Sith” and “Star Wars.” No, this is a proper multi-title effort that’s roping in “Star Wars,” “Darth Vader,” “Doctor Aphra,” and “Bounty Hunters” with a very simple setup established in this issue. Boba Fett is on his way to finally deliver Han Solo in carbonite to Jabba the Hutt, and everyone in these series has their own reasons for wanting the frozen rogue. This is basically “Boba Fett vs. EVERYONE” and I’ve got to admit that seeing him take on everyone in these titles sounds like a good time to me. Particularly with Soule kicking things off with his “Death of/Return of Wolverine” partner Steve McNiven illustrating this issue. This will be McNiven’s first time doing interiors on a “Star Wars” comic and I’m expecting nothing less than for him to blow the doors off.
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February 22, 2021
Shigeyo “Mob” Kageyama may be the star of “Mob Psycho 100,” but there’s no denying the appeal of his boss Reigen Arataka. A conman with a surprisingly strong moral center, Reigen’s only weapon when it comes to fighting off supernatural forces (and angry clients) is his keen wit that can see through to what’s really going on. So it’s not surprising that creator ONE decided to do a spinoff series in order to give this character the spotlight he deserves. Unfortunately, “Reigen” is the kind of spinoff that doesn’t actually put a spotlight onto the character in question. What we get instead is a new character, Tome Kurata, a highschool girl obsessed with the occult, who wants to work with Reigen as he battles supernatural forces. Reigen, being a more responsible adult than he lets on, knows the dangers inherent in his occupation and keeps trying to get Tome out of his office and to leave him alone. The problem here is that even if the title character has the best of intentions, the supernatural is everywhere in this world and it’ll definitely find someone who wants to go looking for it.
There are seven chapters in this volume, and the best involve Tome, Reigen, and company dealing with an actual supernatural threat. Sometimes it may involve something scratching at a senior citizen’s wall during the night, while a couple revolve around a malevolent cursed ground, whose influence actual psychics have been chipping away at for a while now. Those stories in particular are genuinely creepy, while also showing that Reigen can muster genuine courage when the situation calls for it. Tome may come off like a pretty generic character, but her lack of psychic power provides a different perspective for interacting with the title character than Mob. So the end result is that we do get some new insight into Reigen’s personality along with decent stories as well. This spinoff may not have the “Level 131 Max Spirit Power” that its namesake does, but existing “Mob Psycho 100” fans will likely find it to be a satisfying read nonetheless.
February 21, 2021
What does a monster movie look like from the perspective of the monster? That’s the question creator Mirka Andolfo poses with “Mercy.” The answer, initially, is that it has to get done up like a proper woman because the story takes place during the late 1800’s in the small Washington town of Woodsburgh. This is where the Lady Hellaine has decided to take up residence along with her manservant Goodwill, in spite of the town’s reputation. You see, the Devil of Woodsburgh is a very real and active threat. It murders townspeople in the dead of night and leaves alien spores on their bodies in its wake. Everyone lives in fear of it, except for the hunters who have come to put an end to the threat that it represents. As to why, the Lady Hellaine has decided to set up shop here, well, she just felt that it was time to head home.
They say that everyone is the hero of their own story. That’s true of monsters as well, and “Mercy’s” triumph is that it does an excellent job of getting us into its head. While it is driven by its instincts for self-preservation and to feed on human flesh, it is also not without emotions and the ability to empathize with the memories of the body it has inhabited. Andolfo is really good about teasing out all of the conflicts a setup like this presents, and you may even find yourself hoping that this thing will succeed in its goals. At least, until it can’t hide its true nature anymore and the story gut-punches you (several times over, in fact) with tragedy.
It all hits harder because of the incredible art that Andolfo has delivered with this story. Woodsburgh feels like a perfectly comfortable town of the era, with a diversity of citizenry -- ethnically and economically -- to make it feel alive. The normalcy that’s projected here is essential once the monsters show up and we see how disturbing they look in the flesh. It’s such a nice-looking book with a clever setup that you’ll likely be distracted from seeing the plot take some expected turns into familiar territory. Maybe even forgive the creator for delivering an ending that feels like it’s trying to cram too much into too few pages. Still, the volume’s final page promises a follow-up for later this year, and I’m intrigued enough by what Andolfo does here to check it out. Even if she’ll just be writing it.
February 20, 2021
Gerard Way’s “Young Animal” imprint may not have amounted to much after its initial hype. Still, we at least got some decent series out of it. The “Cave Carson” books were fun, as was Mike Allred’s “Bug!” miniseries. Standing at the forefront was Way’s “Doom Patrol,” which got off to a strong start before being sunk by scheduling issues. “Weight of the Worlds” is the writer’s attempt, with co-writer Jeremy Lambert, to finish things off and send the imprint out on a high note. Which they do as the title team tackles the kind of strangeness you’d hope to see from them. An alien species being driven to perform acts of fitness, Space Divorce between planets, Larry Trainor the Negative Man manifesting positive energy, Flex Mentallo’s return to Destiny Beach to face off against the new owner of the Secret Spandex… The weirdness goes on.
The seven issues collected here have a self-contained feel to them that initially comes off like the creators are trying to get out all of their stray ideas for the series. A collection of fill-in stories as it were alongside an actual (good) fill-in story from Becky Cloonan and Michael Conrad. These issues, including the actual fill-in, still dazzle with their ideas and art, from incredible new find Jeremy Harvey, respectable pros Evan “Doc” Shaner, Nick Pitarra, and Omar Francia, and original “Doom Patrol” artist Nick Derington. Yet there’s one thread tying them all together as a now-human Cliff Steel finds out that humanity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. This leads him to a new life of earning upgrades by helping people that turns him into an ersatz Unicron that wants to consume the galaxy. That may sound nuts, but Way and Lambert still find a way to make it work and tie it into the stories they’ve been telling here. It’s all good enough to make you wish that they had been able to go further with their take on the “Doom Patrol,” even though what we’ve got here with these three volumes is still plenty entertaining.
February 19, 2021
Believe it or not, this is a sister title to “Superman’s Pal: Jimmy Olsen.” This is due to the fact that both maxi-series were launched out of the “Leviathan Rising” one-shot, even if they couldn’t be more different in their style, tone, and use of Superman. However, the biggest difference between them is that where “Superman’s Pal” is unmitigated frivolity that’s almost entirely removed from reality, “Lois Lane” has writer Greg Rucka and artist Mike Perkins writing a lot about our world through the lens of a superhero comic. Which is why the first issue has Lois exposing a major bribery scandal involving the White House at one of its press briefings and subsequently getting ejected from it along with her press credentials being revoked. Subsequent issues deal with Russian espionage, corporations taking the law into their own hands, and illegal immigration.
All of these are background elements to Rucka’s portrait of DC’s foremost journalist and her family life. Which he depicts quite well with her dogged persistence to get at the truth and interactions with her husband and son. In fact, her encounters with Superman and Clark Kent may be the most straightforwardly enjoyable part of this volume as the writer clearly gets what makes these two work together so well as a couple as we see their bickering and loving sides regularly over the course of this volume. Perkins does a good job depicting this as well, with his shadowy, noirish art being a good look for a story that goes poking around in the underbelly of the DCU.
Where the story loses me a bit is when Rucka starts indulging some of his DC fanboyism. You’d think he’d be above that, but this is a guy whose return to “Wonder Woman” saw him undo everything that had been done to the character since her relaunch. So we get things like Renee Montoya meeting up with Vic Sage again, the return of the Religion of Crime, and a whole bunch of exposition as to why some people remember major relaunches and others don’t. I’d much rather see Lois focus on something like busting Lexcorp wide open (which doesn’t happen here), even if the writer does his best to try and find some relatable emotions to ground this high-concept stuff. It all leads to a collection that I found to be enjoyable, if not quite as good as I was expecting from the creative team.
February 17, 2021
This is the best manga I've read from Matsumoto. Does that mean it's actually good?
February 15, 2021
Last year’s release of “Mujirushi” was the first new work we had seen from Naoki Urasawa in years. After the writer’s work on “Monster,” “20th Century Boys,” and, to a lesser extent, “Pluto” and “Master Keaton,” I was more than ready to enjoy the hell out of it. Readiness did not equal actuality in this case as while the story wasn’t bad, it had some real issues with its execution that were holding it back. To my surprise, it turned out that this wasn’t the only work from Urasawa that we were due this year and “Sneeze” showed up over a month later. This was an anthology collection of the mangaka’s short works and I was hoping that it would deliver where “Mujirushi” did not.
After reading this, I’m now of the opinion that Urasawa does much better with extended stories than shorter ones.
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