October 11, 2021
Shino Oshima is about to start high school and will have to introduce herself in front of her other classmates. This is something that most students wouldn’t give a second thought to, but is a terrifying proposition to our protagonist. That’s because Shino has struggled with a case of stuttering up until now. It’s something that has made even the most minor of social interactions extremely difficult for her, and has also left her without friends. That is, until she meets Kayo, whose short temper likely hasn’t done her any favors either. It takes a little while for the two of them to connect, but when they do it leads to them forming a musical group. Surely this means that they’ll be best friends forever and their friendship won’t be tested once a boy comes into the picture?
Not only is the the focus on a protagonist who stutters unique to manga, and comics in general, but “Shino” is also drawn from the life of mangaka Shuzo Oshimi who also experiences this impairment. Oshimi, if you’ll recall, is the author of “The Flowers of Evil,” “Happiness,” “Inside Mari” and “Blood on the Tracks,” all of which draw their strengths from their sharply drawn characters and how they deal with the traumatic experiences that have defined them. Picking up “Shino” was a no-brainer for me with this mangaka’s track record.
Unfortunately, I think this may be the weakest manga I’ve read from Oshimi. While Shino’s initial classroom experiences capture the excruciating social anxiety its main character feels, most everything after that feels simplistic, even formulaic. From the difficulties that her friendship with Kayo faces, to the clueless but ultimately well-meaning boy they encounter, to bit players such as the well-meaning but insensitive teacher, everything here feels straight out of the inspirational story playbook. It’s to the point that when Shino has her big breakthrough moment close to the end, it doesn’t resonate as much as it should, even with the intensity Oshimi is clearly trying to instill in his art. It pains me to say all this about a series with such clearly noble intentions, but the nuance just isn’t there to make them come off as more than that.
October 10, 2021
Kyle Higgins has written many comics for Marvel and DC, but he’s probably best known for his multi-year run on BOOM!’s “Power Rangers” comics. After the success he had there, it was only natural that he’d transition to creator-owned work, and “Radiant Black” is the result of that. I’ve got only a surface level of familiarity with that licensed sentai series, which is likely the main reason why “Radiant Black” has always looked like a version of “Power Rangers” with the serial numbers filed off. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, so long as you’re willing to actually take some risks and do things that the source material never would. This is a roundabout way of me saying that, based on this first volume, “Power Rangers” with the serial numbers filed off is actually pretty cool.
Read the rest of this entry »
October 9, 2021
The previous volume ended with the resurrection of Kate Pryde and her determination to make Sebastian Shaw pay for killing her in the first place. She may have had to put that on the back burner for a bit -- what with the interdimensional competition for the fate of Krakoa and Earth that went on between volumes -- but vol. 3 starts off with her, Emma Frost, and one other aggrieved party getting the payback they so richly deserve. Then it’s off to the North Atlantic for a token tie-in to the “King in Black” event, a trip back to Madripoor to settle things with the Hellfire Brats, and then dinner on a galleon as the series sees one of its own off onto bigger and better things.
“Marauders” has always been one of the most enjoyable titles of this current era of “X-Men” and writer Gerry Duggan keeps things ticking over quite well here. Initially, anyway. That opening issue where scores are settled is easily the best one in the volume as it represents the culmination of two volumes worth of setup. It’s also damn satisfying to see Shaw get what’s coming to him after that. What follows could best be described as “business as usual” for this series. The “King in Black” issue is basically filler that tries to distinguish itself by putting positive spin on human/mutant relations at the end. As for the Madripoor-based issues, they offer up some villains who represent an interesting problem with Krakoa’s “Kill no Man” law while staying within the bounds of the series’ established formula.
The final issue does do a good job of paying tribute to the character it’s centered around, which allows vol. 3 to go out on a high note. This third volume also maintains the same standard of quality, art-wise, as Matteo Lolli and Stefano Caselli again illustrated all of the issues. All of this means that there’s still a lot to like about this third volume. It’s just that I didn’t expect “Marauders” to settle into a comfortable formula so quickly. Maybe it’s for the best that vol. 4 represents either the end of the series or the last one written by Duggan.
October 8, 2021
I didn’t think much of Pak’s first volume about the Dark Lord’s post-”Empire Strikes Back” adventure. Do you know who else didn’t think much of it? Emperor Palpatine, that’s who. Disgusted at his apprentice’s failings, the Emperor uses his mastery of the Force to show him once again who is boss. Then he leaves a broken Vader at the scene of his greatest defeat on Mustafar with a chance at redemption. That redemption will have to come as Vader not only has to survive the environment of Mustafar, and repair himself, but the threat of the Emperor’s assassin Ochi of Bestoon, and the mad riddles of the Sith creature known as the Eye of Webbish Bog.
There’s always hope that a creative team can make things right after a disappointing first volume, and that’s what Pak and artist Raffele Ienco have managed to do here. “Into the Fire” manages to find a way for us to see Vader struggle without diminishing him, as much of the volume hinges upon the character’s creativity as it does his indomitable will. He knows that he’s not going to win most of these encounters in a fair fight, and it’s refreshing to see him employ more strategy than usual in these encounters. It’s also interesting to see Pak introduce new and weird concepts to the “Star Wars” universe like the Eye of Webbish Bog and to take the familiar concept of a master assassin like Ochi and put him on a journey that’s more darkly comic than you’d expect.
What Pak still hasn’t managed to get over is his regular use of scenes from the movies to reinforce the story he’s telling. This practice isn’t as omnipresent as it was in the previous volume, and while that’s an improvement, I’d still like to see him cut things down even further. Ienco’s art is still capable enough, and while his characters can still stand to loosen up a bit, he’s getting better with conveying spectacle via the splash pages that close out certain issues. This volume doesn’t take the series to the heights of the previous “Darth Vader” series, but it leaves me feeling better about its chances. Which is good enough for now.
October 6, 2021
...was the name given to the 90’s era initiative that saw Marvel hand over some of its most prominent heroes -- the Fantastic Four, Captain America, Iron Man, and the rest of the Avengers -- over to Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, and their studios to remake in their image (or Image, if you will). The fact that this happened, and that Liefeld’s contract was cancelled halfway through with everything being handed over to Lee, is the most memorable thing about it. Everyone remembers this event because of the business dealings and talent involved, and not because of the stories that came from it. By that standard, Jason Aaron has a relatively low bar to clear as he repurposes the “Heroes Reborn” name for an event series that’s spinning out of his “Avengers” run.
Read the rest of this entry »
October 4, 2021
While I liked the past four volumes that told the story of Baron Muster and his influence on Erica, they still felt like a diversion from why I’m reading this series. Which would be to find out Alita’s backstory from when she was known as Yoko on Mars. Mangaka Yukito Kishiro does take some steps in that direction with this volume as Yoko and Erica try to track down Keun the Kaufmann. Keun was mentioned by Dass as someone who could help them in the last note he gave the girls before he died. Once they arrive at his place of employment, the girls quickly find themselves caught up in a battle between factions over some information that may still be hidden in a spaceship that crashed to Mars nearly fifty years ago.
As for what that information is… you’ll still be wondering when this volume gets to its end. What you’ll find along the way is an engagingly violent adventure that picks up steam as it goes along. Part of that is due to Erica’s enjoyably ruthless nature as she has clearly taken the lessons learned from Muster to heart. This means that she’s now willing to screw over anyone who gets in her way while expressing zero remorse about it. She may not be likeable, but it’s never dull with her around. Nor is it with Yunie, the seemingly absent-minded girl who takes a shine to Erica and Yoko, while also displaying some impressive fighting skills whenever she gets stressed. Keun also has some mad skills, and his even come with a direct link to the series’ past.
The last third of the volume is essentially all-out action and we get a volume-ending double-splash page that promises even more next time. It’s quality work, even if most of the violence is being perpetrated against generic mooks. While the new additions to the cast here are nice, the new antagonists we see here are still pretty generic by “Alita’s” standards. There’s room for things to get better in that department, so long as you’ve still got patience for this series. I can’t say that this volume has turned “Mars Chronicle” into the prequel series I was expecting but it’s getting better in that department and still a solid read, regardless.
October 3, 2021
The last series John Arcudi wrote at Image was “Rumble.” It was a story about a monster-fighting barbarian whose soul was imprisoned and then thrust into a scarecrow body to continue the fight against them in the present day. The series ran for 32 issues over two series, and I was honestly surprised it came back after that first one as the series was more well-liked than best-selling. I was one of those people who liked it too, and I’ve been a fan of Arcudi since his work on the “Aliens” franchise and especially “B.P.R.D.” over at Dark Horse. So when word came out that the writer was teaming up with Italian artist Valerio Giangiordano for another uncommercial-sounding series, I knew I had to check it out.
Read the rest of this entry »
October 2, 2021
The great thing about the Greek Gods is that their personalities are well-defined yet malleable enough that you can put them into any kind of story in any genre. Which is how we’re getting the romantic comedy version of the story of Hades and Persephone in “Punderworld” by Linda Sejic (wife of Stjepan, incase you were unaware). He’s the serious and gloomy workaholic. She’s the bubbly up-and-comer struggling to get out from underneath her mother’s thumb. A chance meeting showed that they had potential together, but their responsibilities (and one overbearing parent) keep them apart. That is until Olympus’ biggest bro, Zeus, hears about this from Hades himself and figures it’s his godly duty to give the lord of the underworld some assistance. What can go wrong when taking advice from a deity whose game plan involves turning into a bee to give someone “the stinger?”
I might be overselling Zeus’ role in this story, as the focus is squarely on the adorkable couple of Hades and Persephone. Sejic has great facility with body language and has the characters’ many emotions play out memorably in their interactions. Their respective hang-ups also come off believably as well, making their hesitancy come off as natural extensions of their personality rather than a way to draw out the romantic tension. Sejic is also good with making the many mythic landscapes of this story come off as appropriately magical, inviting, or dangerous as the story demands.
Though I liked this first volume of “Punderworld,” there was one aspect of the storytelling which didn’t work for me: its pacing. I don’t know if this is a hangover from how it was serialized on Webtoon, but the story in this first volume felt like it was going in slow motion. While this allows for more adorkable interactions between Hades and Persephone, the pacing does its best to sap the fun out of that and allow the dull stuff -- just about any interaction between Persephone and her mom, Demeter -- to really drag. I hope that things pick up with the second volume, because this version of the timeless couple’s story is charming enough to deserve better.
October 1, 2021
Well, that was quick.
Not only is this Hickman’s third proper volume of “X-Men,” but it’s also his last. The writer had a big three-act plan for the franchise and he decided to walk away after the majority of the creators on the other X-titles decided to stay in the first act. There doesn’t appear to be any actual animosity or bitterness on the lead writer’s part as his departure as Head of X appears to have been quite amicable. Hickman read the room, saw that he was no longer needed, and decided to make a graceful exit after wrapping up his outstanding plot threads in the upcoming “Inferno.” Before that happens, we have these five issues which involve more payoff than setup for his run.
Read the rest of this entry »
September 29, 2021
Remender grinds another of his protagonists down, but in some interesting and beautifully-rendered ways.