Category Archives: Reviews

Three people talking about three comics I like…!

Some good writing in my feed this morning, as three different folks (in two different articles) took time out of their days to talk about some comics that I really enjoy. All three are different in tone and style and execution, but all three are very much worth your time and money.

First up, at Manga Bookshelf, Melinda Beasi and Michelle Smith have a nice conversation about Taiyo Matsumoto’s SUNNY and Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s LONE WOLF & CUBSunny recently debuted at The Toronto Comic Arts Festival, and I was quite fortunate to be involved in that debut and welcoming author Taiyo Matsumoto to North America for its premiere. The book is phenomenal, quite possibly the strongest of his long career, and its surprising strength has pushed both Beasi and Smith to immediately want to go and read his other work, while they wait for volume 2. That’s high praise indeed, and Sunny is an extraordinary comic that is worth of the praise.

Smith and Beasi follow-up their discussion of Sunny with the impending re-release of Lone Wolf & Cub, now in an omnibus edition with a larger size and page count (volume 1 is 5″x7″ and 712 pages). I have a funny relationship with Lone Wolf & Cub, in that I absolutely love it but I haven’t yet finished the series. I stopped about 3 or 4 volumes from the end, despite being utterly consumed with the story and the world, because I wasn’t prepared for the series to end, and for the inevitable conclusion. I will probably finish it one day, and this re-release from Dark Horse may give me the impetus to do so… but I’m not there yet.

Finally, over at The Comics Journal, Craig Fischer writes an extended appreciation of the “Paul” series of books by Michel Rabagliati. The piece is very good at explaining what’s great about Rabagliati’s comics, and even better at explaining why it’s important to give his work a second or third look if you felt slightly unimpressed by it the first time around. I’m still working on my grand unified theory of why it’s so hard to develop a North American audience for French cartoonists, but Rabagliati is definitely on the list of folks whose work is extraordinarily popular and well-regarded in its native land (in Rabagliati’s instance that’s Quebec, rather than France) but has had difficulty finding an audience in English. I’m so happy to see articles like Fischer’s pushing for a reappraisal of Rabagliati’s work while it is still being published, still incredibly vital, and better-still, still in print. Go and track down Rabagliati’s catalogue at your earliest opportunity.

– Chris

DRAMA is wonderful.

I just wanted to make a short, small blog post, in favour of Raina Telgemeier’s new graphic novel DRAMA. I had been given an Advance Review Copy nearly a year ago, and the book itself came out this summer, but I finally made time to sit down and read it this past weekend, and it’s wonderful, and I had to share.

DRAMA is about a middleschool girl who, like her friends, is just starting to navigate early romances and complications they cause among friendships, set against the backdrop of the school’s big Musical Production, the actors, and the back-of-house tech crew.

DRAMA is a much tighter story than Raina’s smash-hit Smile, and I think Raina continues to grow wonderfully as an artist too. The storytelling is clean throughout, and there are a couple of really great, inventive sequences (mostly in the bookstores) that go above and beyond.

The story, about liking someone who doesn’t like you back, will resonate with pretty much any reader. I spotted myself in 11-year-old Callie’s dilemmas, and I think most people who read the book with an open mind will see themselves there too. The story’s added complications of falling for a boy who only likes boys, and then having to navigate that new territory, put a welcome, modern spin on the proceedings.

This is a great book, written and illustrated by a great friend of mine, and I’m glad I finally moved it to the top of the giant to-read stack. If you’re looking for a smart read for the about-to-be-teen family member in your like, I can heartily recommend DRAMA.

– Chris

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Vol 1 & 2 – Contest and Review

On Tuesday April 26th, Walt Disney Studios released AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES VOLUME 1 and VOLUME 2, 2 DVD’s compiling the first 13 episodes of the very popular animated series based on the Marvel Comics. When the folks from Disney contacted me, asking if I’d be interested in giving away a few copies of the DVD’s on the site here, I thought “Why not?” Unfortunately TCAF preparations prevented me from getting it up on the 26th, but since the DVDs are in stores now (and to some acclaim), I figure we should still do a little bit of promo and give away some DVDs. I asked my good friend Derek Haliday to review the series and he’s done so below, so check that as well.

If you’d like to enter to win one of two sets of the DVDs, see the rules and details at the bottom of this post.

Review: Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Volume 1 & 2 DVD
Available in stores now.

Reviewed by Derek T. Halliday

Growing up as an 80’s baby meant growing up during what some might consider to be the Golden Age of televised animation.  Saturday morning used to be the day you’d sneak out of bed as early as 6am and stay glued to the TV until noon, watching in wonder as your heroes strode across the screen, having big adventures and fighting bad guys, inspiring your imagination and shaping your moral compass; GI JOE and HE-MAN were as important a part in shaping my world view as any other influence from that early developmental period in my life.  When I was a kid, I was convinced that when I grew up, I could become a hero.

AVENGERS:  EARTH’S MIGHTIEST inspires those same feelings; it’s a Saturday morning throwback to when children’s entertainment featured larger than life characters having big and bold adventures.  The Good Guys are good and the Bad Guys get what they deserve.  It’s colorful, exciting, and engaging, mostly because there’s a sophistication that hasn’t been apparent in a lot of cartoons for quite a long time.

EARTH’S MIGHTIEST introduces MARVEL’s greatest heroes individually in the first five episodes and then brings them together as a team to face the biggest of threats; a massive breakout of four Superhuman Prison facilities, which all inexplicably fail simultaneously, release 73 of the world’s most powerful, most evil, supervillains.  It’s a crisis that no individual hero can cope with, and an uneasy alliance is struck as Iron Man gathers together a motley crew: Thor, a Norse God unfairly exiled to Earth by his all powerful father Odin; The Incredible Hulk, a snarling monster and fugitive on the run from the Government; pacifist scientist Hank Pym and his spunky girlfriend Janet Van Dyne, also known as Ant Man and the Wasp.  Each hero is introduced individually in stand alone episodes that give their background and show their unique place in the larger context of the MARVEL Universe, and all come together to face a greater threat. And what a great threat it is! A powerful, insane, villain named Graviton uses his mastery of gravity to life the entire island of Manhattan from the Earth, and threaten to throw it into space… and that’s one of the great things about AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST, every story is BIG, and makes effective use of the fact that it’s an animated show by showing you something you’d otherwise never be able to see.  Colorful characters, literally larger than life, provide big action in a way that you’ve always wished you could see; there’s weight and force as they trade blows, punching each other across great distances and through buildings, tossing cars around and ripping up streets… it’s all big and exciting and visually engaging.

One of the greatest strengths of EARTH’S MIGHTIEST, though, is character.  Big action is great and fun to look at, but doesn’t mean as much if you don’t care about the guy getting punched.  Each character is unique, and they don’t always get along.  Characters clash and fight and rag on each other, and through it all there’s growth; these are people who are used to fighting alone, and, being superhuman, have never had to rely on anyone else, because there wasn’t a thing they couldn’t do for themselves.  Iron Man and Thor clash over Technology VS Magic, Thor and Hulk clash over who is strongest of all, Giant Man and Wasp clash over the effectiveness of violence, and my favorite character, Hawkeye, he just clashes with everyone!  Most of the show’s humor comes from how awkward each character’s interactions with each other are.

EARTH’S MIGHTIEST is also something of a nerd-bonanza.  In an ambitious move, the series creators seem to be determined to work in just about every MARVEL character you could possible think of in some respect, creating a massive and textured world that will have many a nerd running for his OFFICIAL HANDBOOK TO THE MARVEL UNIVERSE, looking up obscure characters glimpsed in the background. Weird fan favorites such as the Wrecking Crew and Whirlwind, and, yes, even CHEMISTRO, who is just about as far down on the D-List of MARVEL supervillains as you can get, make appearances.  On top of this, MARVEL also expands on it’s brand by bringing in characters and villains from each individual hero’s titles, including as Thor’s human love interest Jane Foster, and classic Walt Simonson creation Malekith the Black, not to mention James Rhodes, Bucky Barnes (who seems to be set up to return as The Winter Soldier), Maria Hill, and more.  On top of this are guest stars and future Avengers such as Ms Marvel, Captain Mar-Vell, the Fantastic Four, Mockingbird, and Black Widow, among others.

It’s not just the ancillary characters and guest stars that will excite nerds both young and old, but seeing classic stories adapted and woven together as the writers pull from the deepest annuls of MARVEL history, showcasing the best and most defining stories for not only the Avengers as a whole, but each individual Avengers. Notable stories include the CASKET OF ANCIENT WINTERS from Thor, THE COSMIC CUBE from Captain America, and Avengers stories THE ULTRON IMPERATIVE, THE MASTERS OF EVIL, KRANG THE CONQUEROR, and even hints at a forthcoming KREE/SKRULL WAR.

Visually spectacular, the show is well animated and storyboarded, bright and colorful, with lush, detailed backgrounds, and lots of big action. I will admit that I was not entirely on board with character designs, which are blocky and awkward looking at times, but they animate well, and evoke a sort of classic MARVEL look, showing influences that range from Jack Kirby’s square jawed Captain America to John Busema’s messy haired Hulk.  Occassionally there are some really lovely and ambitious scenes that look like animated splash pages.

In terms of voice acting features a solid cast, and even has a few welcome guest voices; Steven J. Blum (a personal favorite actor of mine, who famously portrayed Spike Speigel in COWBOY BEBOP) does a pitch perfect Red Skull, while Lance Henriksen (best known for ALIENS and TV’s MILLENIUM among other things, as well as previous voice work on IGPX and TRANFORMERS ANIMATED) does a chilling but wry Grim Reaper, and Clancy Brown (a fantastic actor famous for SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, as veteran voice actor from such show as  MEN IN BLACK, SUPERMAN, and many others) portrays a powerful and intimidating Odin.  The regular cast is overall solid and grow into their characters, though I’m not sold on Brian Bloom’s Captain America.

Overall, AVENGERS:  EARTH’S MIGHTIEST is the kind of show I’d have loved back in 1988, sitting in front of the television at six in the morning eating a bowl of cereal. It has big characters, big stories, and big action, all coming together to bring these classic heroes to life, thundering across your television screen.

CONTEST: WIN ONE OF TWO AVENGERS: EARTH’S MIGHTIEST HEROES DVD SETS

Hey there! How’d you like to win a set of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes DVDs, including Volume 1: Heroes Assemble, and Volume 2: Captain America Reborn? It’s dead easy. Here’s how you can do it:

For a chance to win, send an e-mail with your name and “AVENGERS EARTHS MIGHTIEST” in the subject line to beguilingcontests@gmail.com before Monday, May 16th at 12pm (noon) EST. Winner will be drawn and contacted on Monday the 16th. Their first name will be announced on the website here.

RULES & REGULATIONS:
1. Subject line MUST contain entrant?s name, and “AVENGERS EARTHS MIGHTIEST” (no apostrophe), and must be sent to beguilingcontests@gmail.com.
2. Entries must be received before Monday, May 16th, at 12 noon. You will be contacted for your mailing address at that time.
3. No purchase necessary, void where prohibited, etc.

– Chris

 

MMF: Sexy Voice & Robo Review (2005 edition)

Rescued from the previous iteration of this very website is the following review of Iou Kuroda’s Sexy Voice And Robo. When David Welsh contacted me about participating in the Manga Movable Feast experiment, he said something to the effect of “Hey, you liked Sexy Voice and Robo didn’t you?” Reading this review for the first time in 5 years, yes, it appears I liked it a great deal. Heh. I’m going to re-read the work tonight and re-review it, seeing if it holds up to more than 5 years of innovative manga releases. For now though, I’m going to trust me from 5 years ago, so go out and pick up a copy of this one…! – Chris

SEXY VOICE AND ROBO GN
By Iou Kuroda
Adapted by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Yuji Oniki
US$19.99, 400 pages, 8″ x 10″
Winner of the Grand Prize for manga from Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs’ Media Arts Festival in 2002.

Published by Viz LLC

Right in the final stages of planning and preparation for The Toronto Comic Arts Festival (a comics event I co-chaired earlier this spring), I received a mysterious package in the mail from Viz. I didn’t recognize the name on the attached business card, and the project, a strangely crude manga I was only vaguely familiar with the solicitation for, weighed in at a whopping 400 pages (with an angry legal warning on the front that this wasn’t the final version anyway!!!). This was inopportune timing to say the least.

The person who forwarded it my way probably didn’t know that I was planning a large comics event at the time. The Festival was great though, 8,000 people came and everyone sold lots of comics. It is, however, now September and more than 6 months since I received my preview copy, and more than 3 months since the book came out.

So, to make up for lost time (and a two-paragraph introduction…), run out and buy SEXY VOICE AND ROBO right now.

SEXY VOICE AND ROBO sounds almost like a prototypical anime-cum-manga title; a cute high school girl gets into adventures on the streets of Tokyo aided by a mysterious old man and a dumb-but-well-meaning lunk of a guy. But really all you have to do is flip open the book and you’ll be able to tell that this isn’t really very typical at all. Hell, it’s not even a twist on or elbow-to-the-ribs of typical romance manga, instead it’s an astoundingly realistic piece of contemporary fiction, so grounded in the sights, smells, and actions of Tokyo that even the more fantastic elements that enter the narrative as the book progresses seem utterly plausible (both in the writing and the art as well; it only takes a few pages for the realistically proportioned and rendered bodies with hastily-drawn doe-anime eyes to seem perfectly normal). SEXY VOICE AND ROBO successfully transports the reader to the Tokyo you don’t see in Sophia Coppola’s Lost In Translation, or any one of a hundred ‘realistic’ shoujo tales. You get, as Viz Editor Marc Weidenbaum writes in the afterword, a “modern Tokyo [connected] with it’s past… A Manhattan as wide as it is tall, with many many West Villages.”

Nico is a schoolgirl making money on the side by engaging in phone sex with the lonely, bored, and desperate men of Tokyo. As Codename: Sexy Voice, she uses her uniquely intimate position with these men to profile them, and then to apply that profiling to the people around her. As soon as she hears the sound of your voice, she’s got you all figured out. Her unique abilities draw the attention of an elderly Yakuza boss who has her undertake special ‘assignments’ for him: Finding his lost son, tracking down an employee who has absconded with money, a lost love… The jobs get more and more serious, and dangerous, with Nico reaping rewards and always walking the line between being impressed with and aware of her abilities, and potentially misjudging her situation. Through a combination of forthrightness and light blackmail, she gains the assistance of one of her former callers (Codename: Robo), a hapless nerd whose usefulness tends to begin and end with his being old enough to drive. It is the maturity and complexity of the relationships between these three characters, as well as the meta-commentary on the nature of relationships, that makes SEXY VOICE AND ROBO an engrossing read.

SEXY VOICE AND ROBO is the characterization, thoughtfulness, and James Kochalka-esque ‘play’ of art-comix put in the service of action-movie tropes, to create a unique reading experience. The dialogue and drawing are both intensely naturalistic, with only a few stylistic flourishes that give away the book’s country of origin (the afformentioned anime-eyes, for example). For anyone used to the crisp, measured lines of contemporary commercial manga, SEXY VOICE AND ROBO will undoubtedly seem sloppy, perhaps even amateurish. This is because we’re trained to think that all manga looks the same by the vast wave of manga being imported that all looks the same… But as ‘sloppy’ or amateurish as it may seem, the rhythm of the story, the movement of the characters and their relation to their surroundings is entirely realistic and quite obviously the product of a talented hand; the entire book looks to be drawn panel-by-panel from life, in the sketchbook of someone who is probably painting masterpieces for his day-job.

I’ve been recommending this book steadily at work for a month, and the one comment I hear (after “I really enjoyed that!”) is “I wanted more!”, a sentiment I echoed upon my first read-through of the graphic novel. However, upon re-reading the path that Nico undertakes becomes clearer, the later stories subtly inferring the larger direction of her future. While I would love to see more and more of manga-ka Iou Kuroda’s Tokyo, the four-page epilogue says more than enough about what would follow. Every reading leaves me more impressed, and satisfied, with the book we have received, and more eager to recommend it to folks everywhere.

That means you, by the way.

Highly Recommended

SEXY VOICE AND ROBO is available at better comic book stores everywhere, perhaps a chain bookstore or two, and most-assuredly on the internet.

Buy this book from The Beguiling, in Canada
Buy this book from The Publisher, Viz
Buy this book from Amazon.com

Other Reviews:
http://www.eclipsemagazine.com/modules/news/article.php?storyid=1472
http://www.kellysue.com/professional/archives/2005_07.html#001543
http://forums.animeondvd.com/showflat.php?Cat=2&Number=1078804&page=1&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&fpart=1

SLG 40% OFF SALE: 5 easy gifts for the holidays…

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The fine folks at SLG Publishing (known back-in-the-day as Slave Labor Graphics) are having a pretty solid sale right now40% off their whole web store at http://slgcomic.com/—to help them through some rough economic times. Things aren’t DOOMy or anything, just a sort of a “hey look over here if you’ve got some money to spend”. I was considering telling you about 5 great books from the SLG catalogue that I own, and that you should buy them, but then I thought “My readers are givers, and what with the holidays right around the corner, I’m certain that they’d much rather have a list of recommendations for what to buy for Other People.” And since I have been enjoying and selling (and enjoying selling) SLG products for the better part of 15 years, I thought “Gift Guide!” and so here we are!

But this is no ordinary gift guide.

You see, SLG publishes a wide range of stuff, much of it difficult and strange and unique, and since everyone has a couple of people on their shopping list that are impossible to buy for, the comics and products manufactured by the fine folks at SLG would work wonderfully as gifts… for the difficult, strange, and unique people on your list. (Note: books are also appropriate for folks that do not match the stated criteria.) And with no further ado we present:

5 GREAT GIFTS FROM SLG PUBLISHING FOR DIFFICULT-TO-BUY-FOR-PEOPLE

For The Guy That Makes Inappropriate Jokes At Inappropriate Times…

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FUN WITH MILK & CHEESE VOLUME 1
By Evan Dorkin.
Reg: $11.95. SALE: $7.17
[LINK]

I’ve been running Evan Dorkin’s awesome DORK comic strips here at Comics212 for the past few months and while I can’t speak for you guys, it’s been lovely waking up every morning (or so) to see a new Evan Dorkin strip on the site. So while I’ve been recommending DORK for the past few months, let me instead make a recommendation for MILK AND CHEESE, Dorkin’s most famous creations. Dairy Products Gone Bad, they are sociopathic, anthropomorphic bits of food, that Dorkin uses to both satirize society and to just draw vicious, unapologetic insanity. We’ve all met that person who says the most profoundly tasteless thing at exactly the wrong time, and an angry carton of milk and an angry wedge of cheese forcing an old woman into her coffin and beating a senior citizen with his own cane because they were forced to wait behind old people in a line one time? That is the comic for that person. Misanthropy!

For Your Friend’s Teenage Daughter Whom No One Understands And Is Possibly A Lesbian…

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PARIS
By Andi Watson and Simon Gane.
Reg: $10.95. SALE: 6.57
[LINK]

PARIS is a wonderful book, a sensual, energetic, surprising work that reflects its titular setting. A restless young aristocrat and a talented young painter both find themselves in the city of lights, and after a chance encounter with a portrait painting session, they can’t stop thinking about one another. Did I mention that they’re both young women? A couple of major plot twists and Romeo & Juliet allusions conspire to keep the two young ladies apart, but thankfully (for a change) it’s not about the love that dare not speak its name, but instead about the class divide. Ooh la la! PARIS is beautifully drawn, with cute characters and an expressive line. It’s a bit “Classic British Farce”, a bit “Backpacking Across Europe”, a bit “Hollywood”, but really it’s just a wonderful little book, to make you feel good about falling in love.

For recent “Cool” young parents, to remind them not to move to the suburbs…

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I FEEL SICK #1 & #2 and SPOOKY SQUEAK TOY
By Jhonen Vasquez, w/ Rikki Simmons
Reg: $17.85. SALE: $14.69
[LINK]

Jhonen Vasquez is the creator of cult-fav comics JOHNNY THE HOMICIDAL MANIAC and SQUEE, but he’s probably best-know around the world as the creative mastermind behind the incredibly popular Invader Zim television series for Nickelodeon. My favourite of his comics efforts is this two issue mini-series. It’s about the nature of creativity, and compromising artistic ideals for comfort and commercial success, and the struggle therein. It is surprisingly, hilariously good, and poignant, and could only have been written by someone who had a difficult birthing process with a creative property at a multinational corporation… like say Nickelodeon? Anyway, it’s edgy as all hell (even almost 10 years after its initial release), with great art and lovely colours by Rikki Simmons (the voice of Gir on Zim).

Bonus: Appearing in the comic itself is a little skull-faced squeak toy, called SPOOKY: THE THING WHAT SQUEAKS. It is pretty adorable, and it squeaks, and it’s pretty ‘cool’ as far as baby toys go. SLG’s store seems to be out of stock right now, but the toy has been ‘in print’ for years and many retailers should still have it in stock. We do at The Beguiling, for example… 🙂

For anyone you know that works in I.T., graphic design, or really any computer-related field…

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NIL graphic novel
By James Turner
Reg: $12.95. SALE: $7.77
[LINK]

Drawn entirely in vector-based illustration tool Adobe Illustrator, NIL has a stark, complex, ‘designy’ look that is wholly unique in comics. The visuals of the world in this graphic novel are fully-realized, creating an engrossing place to get lost in. And? It’s a really good story too. NIL is a satire, an extension of nihilist chic taken to an absurd and therefore amusing degree. It’s about a man who’s job it is to quell outbreaks of hope or belief in a nihilist society, and anyone who’s ever heard “Can you make the logo bigger?” or uttered the phrase “Have you checked to make sure it’s plugged in?” will sure understand and appreciate the dark, dark humour. And it’s Canadian too, so double-excellent.

For someone you know likes Superhero comics but you have no other idea what they like or read, like none, and you want to get something that they almost-assuredly haven’t read AND is really good AND reflects your personality as the gift-giver…

ggsangelcSTREET ANGEL
By Jim Rugg and Brian Maresca
Reg $14.95. NOW: $8.97!
[LINK]

So here’s the deal: The protagonist of this book is a homeless 12 year old girl who rides a skateboard and kicks ass. In the first chapter she fights like a hundred ninjas. In the second she fights Spanish Conquistadors and Ireland’s first man in space, “Cosmick”. In the third: Satan. It only gets bigger from there. Seriously, this is the work of a dude who’s taken in a LOT of pop culture over the years, and is letting it flow back out of his mind, through his pen, onto the page. It’s visually inventive, more sophisticated than you might imagine, and has all of the stuff in it that nerds like. The new edition even has shiny paper! One of my favourite comics of the past few years, and aside from being incredibly pink, any die-hard superhero fan who gets this one is going to love it.

Bonus: Free Comics for you to read…
SLG loves getting folks to read its comics, so it has all kinds of freebies that you can throw in whenever you place an order on their website. I personally recommend the beautifully-illustrated BOMBABY graphic novel by Antony Mazzotta, which is FREE, or the totally f’d up sci-fi graphic novel VAISTRON by Andrew Dabb and Boussourir. Grab one of everything from their FREEBIES SECTION, it’s all at least interesting and a bunch of it is really good!

gg_wonderlandSo that’s 5 recommendations, but really, SLG has a pretty fantastic catalogue of books and products, and narrowing it down to just these five was kinda tough. So here’s 10 more suggestions:

  1. Agnes Quill, by Dave Roman and friends – Spooky stories about a spunky girl detective.
  2. Bill and Ted’s Most Excellent Adventures Volume 1 & 2, by Evan Dorkin – We’re almost ready for 90s nostalgia, get ahead of the curve with these surprisingly awesome comic books (they’re seriously great).
  3. Farewell, Georgia, by Ben Towle – Tall tales and modern myth from down south.
  4. H’eofigendlic Lodrung: A Collection of Stories by FSc – A fantastically talented Singaporean cartoonist working in a “goth” style, with wonderful results. Collects almost everything she’s ever drawn.
  5. Milk & Cheese Vinyl Toys – based on the violent dairy products above. Only for hardcore fans, but for hardcore fans, they’re only $35.97, down from $69.95!
  6. Rare Creature, by Kelley/Ken Seda – A pretty, quiet, short graphic novel about strange and quiet kids. Very ahead of its time.
  7. Skaggy The Lost, by Igor Baranko – A very funny story about an incompetent, high-energy Viking who ‘discovers’ Incan gold. Hilarious, great euro-style art. Underappreciated gem.
  8. The War At Ellsmere, by Faith Erin Hicks – A ‘Mean Girls’-esque boarding school drama about a school with secrets to hide.
  9. Wonderland, by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew – Beautifully illustrated side-story to Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. A lovely full colour hardcover book.
  10. Zombies Calling, by Faith Erin Hicks – Zombies, fun art, a satire of the college experience.

Now this sale might not extend much past the next few hours (check your shopping cart to see the discounts), but these books are great year ’round. I recommend picking them up from the SLG store, or from your local comics retailer (when available), and you’re unlikely to be disappointed.

Best,

– Christopher
(Header photo by Chuck Rozanski/Mile High Comics. Stolen from here.)

What am I reading? Glad you asked…

“It’s a little funny that I was asked to share what I’m reading this week, I feel like I’ve read fewer comics in the past few weeks than anytime in the last few years. Y’see, I’m getting ready for a trip to Japan in just a few hours—actually I stopped in the middle of packing to write this—and I feel like all of my time lately has been spent packing, planning, and booking stuff. But, luckily for you reader, I’m not going to bore you with my opinion of the Frommers or Lonely Planet guides to Tokyo. It turns out I have been reading some stuff of interest, and I hope it inspires you to go out and track down some copies for yourself…” – Me, at Robot6

Chris Mautner at the Robot 6 blog asked me to be the guest contributor to this week’s “What Are You Reading?” column, and there I am recommending some very good books. Go check it out…!

– Chris

Liveblogging the Previews: April ’09

apr0901472:20pm: Man do I not have time for this. I should be doing TCAF stuff, but unfortunately I can’t just quit my day job at The Beguiling to do TCAF for 2 months… So I have to do the Previews Catalogue. And since it always takes me about a day to do, and last month when I did this it took me about a day to do, I may as well do this again. LIVEBLOGGING THE PREVIEWS: ONE RETAILER’S HONEST REACTION TO DIAMOND’S PREVIEWS CATALOGUE. Why Not?

First up? We totally sold out of PREVIEWS this month, because the cover looked great and had a top-notch creative team featured. I don’t know what it is, but usually the cover of previews is either an incomprehensible mess of digital paint, or just plain hideous. Morrison and Quitely’s BATMAN AND ROBIN for the win.

2:25pm: Huh, the Editor’s Note on page 7 actually mentions that the Previews is thinner, and they’re being “more choosy” with what they offer. I always thought choosey was spelt with an ‘e’, but perhaps in this “tough economic climate” we can’t afford a surfeit of e’s.

Oh, and I’ll try to mention page-numbers for those of you playing along at home.

2:27pm: God’s honest quote: “What would William Shatner Do? Apparently, create some good comics.” Thank you, “indieEdge”, for the most depressing thing I’ve seen in days. And we’re only at Page 9.

2:28pm: Is this the fourth or fifth consecutive month of Free Comic Book Day ads in the front of the catalogue? Yikes. Though it is still nice to see Comics Festival in there.

2:29pm: This is actually what I meant about a mess of digital paint on the covers of Previews. This Predator #1 cover is a nightmare. Comics fans aren’t known for being big “impressionist art” fans at the best of times, and this is just all rendering and no composition. Although the strictly realist interpretation of the Predator on the facing page is… ugly. I mean, perhaps that’s the point, but it’s not attractive at either. At least there’s some thought to the composition with the figure framed by the window/doorway. Still, not auspicious for a debut to the section.

2:33pm: The Art of Tony Millionaire has an introduction by Elvis Fucking Costello. That’s cool, but is that gonna sell the book? It’s so cool.

2:42pm: I think I mentioned these “Neil Gaiman Presents” novels last month…. I just saw that the first one was cancelled by Diamond on my last invoice. Does anyone know if it’s just going to get resolicited or if the line isn’t happening? Because this one, Spave Chanety, with are by Vaughn Bode, that will probably do alright for us.

2:46pm: I’ve been really, really hard on Dark Horse in the past. I know it’s not easy keeping tons and tons of backlist in print, but I’ve never understood their handling of the Usagi Yojimbo series by Stan Sakai. Volumes out of print for huge stretches of time, and a general confusion about how to handle the series seem to pervade it. I’m really glad to see that they’re doing new editions of all of the Usagi stuff, starting with volumes 8-10. Completely remastered and rescanned artwork, new story notes. Sounds good, you know? Sounds good.

2:50pm: So Buffy the Vampire Slayer is doing a new TALES OF THE VAMPIRES one shot featuring Becky Cloonan, Vasilis Lolos, and covers by Ba and Moon and Jo Chen. Sounds like a pretty amazing crossover, and given the creative pedigree is likely to be awesome. My only fear is that the hardcore Buffy fans won’t pick it up because it’s not “cannon” or by “Joss” or whatever, even though it’s quite likely to be a really strong genre comic. Blessing and curse of setting the bar high?

2:54pm: Man, 12 volumes of EDEN: IT’S AN ENDLESS WORLD. Nice. If you’re the kind of person who misses Masamune Shirow’s regular output, but kind of wish he stayed on the “interesting philosophical digressions on humanity + kick ass art” track, instead of, you know, a cyber-version of Hot Biker Sluts, you should check this out. Also, if you’re the kind of person who was repulsed by every part of the previous sentence, you can check this out too, it’s actually really solid and enjoyable.

2:58pm: Alright, DC COMICS! … You know, I even LIKED Final Crisis (seriously, it was a lot of fun) but? Is anyone at all gonna care about these Final Crisis spin-off books by the time they come out, months after the end of the series?

BTW, I decided the one written by Joe Casey and drawn by Chris Cross has the strongest crative team, despite having the most ridiculous (within the context of superhero fanboy names), so that’s the one I’m ordering the strongest.

3:00pm: It would be nice if there was not a 1-in-250 variant on Batman and Robin #1.

Actually, let me expand on this. This is fucking stupid. It either rewards the absolute largest retailers, the ones who are already ordering thousands of copies of these sorts of books anyway (chains mostly) while thumbing its nose at the mass of small-to-mid-sized accounts that make up the meat of the orders on many of these books. 

Or? Or it’s encouraging retailers to take untennable positions on books, in a time of economic downturn. Is it a biased, favouritist promotion, or just totally irresponsible?

We are going to qualify for this incentive, we are going to be fine. But “I got mine” is not an acceptable way of doing business in the same month that the editor of Previews says “We all have to tighten our belts.”

3:20pm: Okay, that out of the way, is anyone going to be rushing to pick up these new Batman books that don’t have the real Batman in them? Like, Gotham City Sirens I kinda get, put a bunch of popular sexy characters in the same book, get a cheesecake artist to draw them. But like, Paul Dini’s “Another Batman Ongoing Series” has a solid creative team, but are people on board with reading this? I have no feeling, except negative.

Also, Red Robin #1? Really?

I feel disconnected from this. I am ordering low.

3:24pm: Our Superman sales are really taking a hit right now. That is unfortunate… but unsurprising.

3:25pm: Really? Superman vs. The Flash cover on issue #3? I… I dunno.

The DC section is kinda depressing me here.

3:28pm: Man, new series are Not having a good go of it right now. Dead Romeo #1? Tanked. The Mighty #1-3? Not promising numbers. I guess I could’ve done more to promote both series, but with so much on the racks it’s a little tough. But the lack of sales were not for a lack of copies on the rack…

3:35pm: You know, I like Mike Oeming’s artwork; I own all of Powers. I think that Kevin Nowlan is an incredibly talented artist, just the bees knees. What I am less on board with, is getting Kevin Nowlan to do a cover for The Spirit #30, and then having Mike Oeming draw (and write) the interiors. Because, you know what? Those two artists are very different. Their work does not compliment one another. That is what we in the biz call a bait-and-switch. That is a poor choice.

3:40pm: Time for the monthly “bitching-about-DC’s-collected-editions-department”. Listen folks, I DON’T LIKE DOING THIS ANYMORE THAN YOU LIKE HEARING ABOUT IT. But what do you want me to do, exactly? Huh?

You’re releasing a prestige-format Alex Ross project years after the demand was at it’s peak! AND you’re asking me to order it now, but it’s not arriving until November 25th, 2009. I’m officially ordering Christmas Product here when, and let’s be honest with ourselves here, last Christmas would’ve been a much more realistic window for release of this book.. Hell, Christmas 2007 would’ve been the ideal time to release this book. The “heat” has sort of dissipated from this project… released as it was 3 years ago, when everyone knew there was an absolute edtion coming. Who knew it would take DC this long to put it together.

3:46pm: Who is the audience for the “El Diablo: Haunted Horseman” collection? I thinik Phil Hester and Ande Parks are great, but did this mini-series get rave reviews or huge sales and I missed it? I am willing to accept that I missed it.

3:47pm: The Final Crisis: Revelations Miniseries does not need a hardcover.

3:48pm: Ugggggh. Why are you doing simultaneous Hardcover and Softcover releases of the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League Material? We only have so much shelf space, Jesus. Just stop it. The HC and SC are coming out within a year of each other for a series of books. JUST PICK A FORMAT. PLEASE. Stop with these dual releases on projects, it’s So Fucking Pointless.

3:51pm: Seriously. Like, DC must know that these collections are broken, right? Terror Titans? Is someone really demanding a Terror Titans collection for the ages? I honestly don’t give a shit if Terror Titans is your favourite mini-series of all time, good for you! But… But we don’t need a trade paperback of a series that people are going to be fishing out of quarter bins in under a year. It’s a waste of trees, of shelf-space in my store, of resources on DC’s part.  Not everything is worth collecting, not everything is worth a larger audience.

Prepare for me to cut and paste this when we get to the Marvel section.

11927_400x6003:56pm: That really, really looks like Blue Beetle on the Cartoon Network Action Pack #38 cover.

3:59pm: I had no idea that the kangaroo that Sylvester thinks is a mouse is named “Hippety-Hopper”. At least according to the cover of Looney Tunes #175. Weird.

4:05pm: The first Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash mini-series sold well, and surprised the hell out of by actually sending new customers to my store, asking for a book by name. That’s how licensed books are supposed to work, offering fans of other media something that they can only get from a comic book. Unfortunately most times these books are just aimed at existing comic fans, doing nothing to grow the market… So yeah, we’re putting a solid order in on this new series.

4:13pm: Oh man, I just read the most brutal, brutal review of Azzarello’s Filthy Rich graphic novel. I mean, I dig his work and all, 100 Bullets is aces, but I avoided that Joker HC specifically because it seemed callous and awful and… and tossed-off even. Just random. So to read this dude at The Oregonian just tear this book to pieces. I cringed a little. I don’t think it’ll affect the first few weeks of sales, actually, negative reviews rarely do. But I know that I personally am not that interested in picking it up anymore… Yikes.

4:18pm: …but by all accounts 100 Bullets ended well. My orders on the last trade, WILT, are going to be pretty darned strong.

4:25pm: Second Northlanders TPB. Good good.

4:26pm: Does Nightwing always look constipated, or just in this statue on page 128?

4:28pm: IMAGE: I’m not really a Dawn/Linsner fan, so maybe I don’t know, but I kind of get the feeling that these one-shots? If you slapped a hardcover on them and charged $14.99 instead of $5.99 for the same story? We’d sell just as many. I understand the French-market “album” format doesn’t really work for North America, but I can’t help but feel that this is one of the few properties that could really make a go.

chew_14:31pm: Writer John Layman e-mailed me about his new series here, Chew, from Image. I have to admit that I didn’t actually read the email very closely, I’ve been incredibly busy for the past month. But I’m looking at this here, and the art is a very appealing indie/lo-fi sort of a thing, and the idea of a detective who gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats? Pretty good, pretty good. I’ll give this a shot for the store. And then probably go back and read the e-mail and figure out I shoulda ordered more. But, you know, only so many hours in a month.

Oh, and John Layman’s website is http://themightylayman.blogspot.com/.

There, good deed done for a creator-owned book. I can go back to being a jackass.

4:38pm: Fair enough, I could probably discern that T.RUNT by Derek McCulloch and Jimmie Robinson is going to be in an odd format, a square book, just by looking at the solicit image. But it would be nice if that information was in the actual solicit somewhere.

4:43pm: Douglas Fredericks & The House of They is written by Joe Kelly, whose work I generally enjoy, and illustrated by Benjamin Roman, whose work is kind of hideous, but also in an enjoyable way. OGN for 13 bucks, I’ll give it a whirl.

5:06pm: sorry for the big break, I had a rash of customers come in and sadly had to stop working on the previews… this is exactly why I’ve started working from home btw. Someone at The Beguiling needs to build me an office before I go all Les Nessman and start taping up the floors. YOU KNOW WHAT I’M SAYING PETER? I AM JUST A FEW WEEKS AWAY FROM LES NESSMAN. That reflects poorly on all of us.

5:08pm: There are WALLS here.

5:09pm: Okay, MARVEL. Hah, Halo. It’s funny, last month I made mean jokes about how Halo #4 and Detective #857 were never going to come out, and then they both came out less than 4 weeks later. Perhaps I have a gift? Perhaps my snide disbelief and criticism is what Gets Shit Done TM. Alright, let’s try this: “Yeah, a MIRACLEMAN trade paperback! That’ll be the day! Haw Haw haw!”…

If it’s announced in the next 30 days you’ll have to give me credit, you know that right?

Huh, no shit. Colourist Richard Isanove is now illustrating the Dark Tower series. I would not have seen that coming. I’m not really digging the cover; it’s well-illustrated but lacks the broody menace of the series, and of Jae Lee’s take. Still, this is just the cover.

5:14pm: Really? Spider-Man election day seems… Like a poor choice. I’d really like a book that has the (terrible) Spider-Man/Obama book in it, but the story arc it’s attached to… How accessible is that? Isn’t there material in the archives that would serve as a better introduction to the character, or would be of the same sort of kitsch-value as the Obama material in the first place? Or what about just doing a thin stand-alone collection, like 48 pages for $15 or something? This product just doesn’t make any sense to me as anything other than “the next Spider-Man collection”. 

Which is a missed opportunity, considering.

5:20pm: I have no specific interest in the golden age Marvel reprints, but I do find the 832 page omnibus of Golden Age Marvel Comics incredibly tempting. 

8_anita_blake__the_laughing_corpse___necromancer_35:23pm: Jesus does Anita Blake ever do anything other than stand around with her hands in her pockets? What an intensely boring looking comic book. Also, I guess those are supposed to be “Ladies of the night” milling about behind her on this cover. but you know what? That’s just what all women in mainstream comics look like, so it totally fails as a visual cue! Even moreso because that cover is horribly underdrawn hackwork.

5:27pm: Fun-fact: This month in the Marvel Previews “illustrated” section there are colour-bars with the names of the classic authors in all caps. It’s very Marvel. Like, we can visually pick up what Wolverine looks like, even “Wolverine Noir”, but who’s that buncha chicks in that image? Is it one of those “The ladies of X-Men go shopping” down-time issues? Oh, no, wait, it’s JANE AUSTEN. Dude with a sword? HOMER. Got it. Sadly no similar one for L. FRANK BAUM. Actually, Baum isn’t mentioned anywhere in the solicit for Shanower and Young’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz adaptation. Kinda disappointing.

5:32pm: Marvel’s got way, waaay too much sub-mediocre product out here. All of these Dark Reign tie-in mini-series and stuff. You’ve got an almost-weekly Spider-Man book now, the story of his mysterious new villain introduced in that series couldn’t be told in that series? We need a mini-series for this? Well, no, we don’t. But we’re getting one. Weaksauce.

5:40pm: Is Reed Richards uncovering a mass grave in the middle of New York? That’s a bit much, isn’t it? Am I just being a prude?

5:47pm: Wow, the new creative team on Runaways seems awesome! Kathryn Immonen, really lovely cover by David Lafuente, and the interior art by Sara Pichelli looks great too. Cool beans, I hope this team sticks around for a while.

5:50pm: The cover to Deadpool: Suicide Kings #3, is stupid.

5:52pm: I’ve been out of the store for a while so I had to check, but it says Kick Ass #5 came out in April. That means the last two issues have gotta come out monthly for this hardcover to release in July… I don’t really see it happening? Did someone give an interview somewhere where the editors and creative team promised monthly shipping on issues 6-8? I’m willing to accept that I missed it. But I find it unlikely.

5:59pm: Ugh, really? The Jeph Loeb FALLEN SON story is getting an oversized hardcover? That’s just brutal.

Edit: Okay, I’m a huge jack-ass. Somehow I completely missed the page (99 in the Marvel Previews) where Joss Whedon’s Runaways was solicited as volume 8 of the Digest series. Missed it completely. So, officially? I am a huge jack-ass. Apologies to Marvel, and thanks, for giving us product that I know we can sell. But because I don’t believe in editing these things to make myself look better, here’s me being douchey to Marvel (although in my defence my heart was in the right place):

6:01pm: Maybe I’m inappropriately holding out hope here, but this will make the third regular-sized hardcover RUNAWAYS collection since we had a digest. We Really Sell A Lot Of Digests. Please Print More Digests. This would be volume 10. And you know, Runaways sells like manga for us, and manga sells _well_. Please let us keep selling these books to more than just anal fanboys who need to own everything in bullshit prestige-format hardcovers. Please.

6:04pm: Ah, I’ve answered my own question. Regular-size tpb of the first Terry Moore Runaways arc. And $16 for 136 pages too, lovely. Marvel: You’re kind of fucking up a good thing here.

6:08pm: …and I’m done. Well, the first half here anyway. After I take a little break to do something about this headache and maybe have some dinner, I’ll come back and do the back-half of Previews. Thanks for reading so far!

– Chris

Review: Little Nothings Volume 2: The Prisoner Syndrome

little2covLittle Nothings Volume 2: The Prisoner Syndrome
By Lewis Trondheim
128 Pages, softcover, $14.95
Published by NBM Publishing

I haven’t yet gotten around to publishing my Best-Graphic-Novels-of-2008 List, but the first collection of Lewis Trondheim’s Little Nothings is most assuredly on it. Little Nothings is the series of collections of Trondheim’s diary comics–moments from his days being one of the most respected cartoonists in the world, and the international travel and sightseeing accompanying that recognition. Trondheim is kind enough to bring us all along with him through beautifully rendered drawings and paintings done right in his sketchbooks, mixing live- and life-drawing with after-the-fact recollections of his day–although a brief segment in the middle of the book shows just how unreliable a narrator he can be.  I admit that I’m a fan of journal and diary comics anyhow, but even if they’ve never been for you I think Trondheim is an interesting character with a relaxed cartooning style and these comics will appeal beyond the subject matter; Trondheim tackles personal and introspective themes, the larger comics industry, politics and the world at large, and even breaks the fourth wall to comment on the nature of the work you’re reading–a little something for everyone. I feel quite fortunate when I see new books like this released into stores, and have specifically enjoyed the recent wave of material from Trondheim that NBM (and First Second) have brought us over the past few years.  There’s a huge potential audience for this material–what family man wouldn’t want to be internationally respected in his field and travel the globe drinking with friends?–and I hope that Little Nothings finds it. Pick up your copy today.

– Christopher Butcher

 

Excerpt from Little Nothings Vol 2, by Lewis Trondheim
Excerpt from Little Nothings Vol 2, by Lewis Trondheim

A Drifting Life, By Yoshihiro Tatsumi


drifting

A Drifting Life
By Yoshihiro Tatsumi
856 Pages, Softcover, $29.99/$39.99
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

I have no doubt that much will be written about this book when it is officially released this spring. There’s a deceptive density to A Drifting Life, Tatsumi Yoshihiro’s arms’ length autobiography. It’s a story told very directly, switching between the first and third person to describe a young man’s passion and struggle, set against a larger picture of a nation looking to rebuild after World War II.  The 800+ pages of the book read quickly, but the ideas expressed are potent and the history chronicled Important (and largely unkown); the effect of completing the book is disorienting. At one point I flipped to the back looking for footnotes to try and match my own understanding of the origins of Japanese comics to the incredible amount of information Tatsumi dolls out in a few key chapters (though the entire birth of the manga industry, and Tatsumi’s own Gekiga can be found in these pages) (about the footnotes: there are none). At its heart A Drifting Life is a memoir, filled with a density of details to give it a setting and place that will be immediately familiar to Japanese readers of the last generation but that will largely evade North American ones. This is not a bad thing, if anything the unfamiliarity of the time and place of this story will add to the experience of the lead drifting through his life, tied only to the comic that I hope you’ll be holding in your hands.

– Christopher
Yoshihiro Tatsumi will be a Guest of Honour at the 2009 Toronto Comic Arts Festival, of which I am the Festival Director.

Reviewish: Naoki Urasawa’s Monster

urasawa_naoki.jpg

So for Christmas I decided to treat myself a to a complete reading of Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, an 18 volume manga series translated and published in English by Viz. I’d read the first five volumes as they were coming out, but unfortunately got sidetracked as the series progressed. Since I had a free day, deliberately clear of any obligations, I decided I’d give it a go.

So, honestly? It’s just an exceptionally well-done comic. There’s no way to look at this and not recognize the incredibly high level of craft, the sheer ability put into this series. The character development, the labrynthine plot, and just how compelling it is as a story! There wasn’t one point while reading that dragged for me, where I wasn’t propelled into the next chapter, the next book. And the art! It’s understated, probably doesn’t give the best impression on the ‘flip-test’, but it’s pretty clear that Urasawa and his legion of assistants can draw pretty much anything; any expression, any angle, any background character, and dozens of unique faces and body-types and even body language. He has a wonderful gift for caricature too, character faces that could seem cartoony (or in some cases grotesque…) work very well within the context of the story. The series is in almost every respect fantastically accomplished.

The thing that bugged me, is bugging me, is the ending. It’s why I am blogging at 5:10am instead of, you know, being asleep for when I have to get up for work in 3 hours. 🙁

I’m having a hard time reconciling the decisions of some of the characters, and am… unclear… on how some of it played out. I’ve got theories on some of it, and my theories are leading me to be more disappointed than not. I think part of the problem is that enough of the “plot” was resolved, but a lot of it was left open-ended as well, giving us instead the emotional resolution we needed. But in a page-turner thriller graphic novel series, I’m not… entirely… ready to just accept the emotional resolution and forget the rest.

I don’t really want to read it again at this point, as I am tired, but I kind of hope I get to wake up tomorrow and there’ll be lots of discussion in the comments section here. I know there was lots of discussion when this series wrapped up in Japan (and in scans), and lots of… heated… commentary arose out of it, but honestly I tried to stay away knowing that I’d read it all one day for myself.

Anyway, your thoughts would be welcome, dear readership, if you’ve read it yourselves. Maybe I’ll try and coax some of my buddies out for a beer after work tomorrow (today…) and we can try and figure it out.

Until then, feel free to let loose in the comments section!

– Chris