- Posted by Johanna on March 7, 2014 at 9:07 pm
- Category: Manga Reviews
- CREDITS: story by Yuma Ando; art by Yuki Sato
- PUBLISHER: Kodansha Comics; $10.99 US
Nothing has changed about this series — Sherdog and Takeru are still solving mysteries based on the puppy’s observations — which means if you liked the previous volumes, you should like Sherlock Bones Book 4. (Although pace yourself. Too much at once makes the repetition even more obvious. This might be one of those rare manga that read better as chapters than collected volumes, since there aren’t a lot of complicated plot twists or deep revelations.)
We open with the conclusion to a mystery from Book 3, about a school election marred by a faked naughty photo to try and knock one of the candidates out of the race. This mystery was a pleasant change, since it didn’t require Sherdog seeing the crime done to know what happened, and it nicely took into consideration modern technology.
Similar to the last book, this volume ends on a cliffhanger, as we only get the first chapter of a case about a lady mayor killing her blackmailer. In between, there’s a one-chapter story about finding a quickly hidden stolen wallet. It’s more notable for the introduction of Meowriarity, an evil-looking cat that we’re hinted will return as Sherdog’s reincarnated rival.
Two other full cases show Takeru learning to make deductions on his own. The first features a plagiarizing manga writer who steals a mystery plot from his apprentice, a classmate of Takeru’s and Miki’s who’s killed to avoid revealing the theft. I found the details intriguing, but the pacing rushed, in part to shove in a dramatic change where Sherdog temporarily gets amnesia and acts like a regular dog. The second is more of a logic puzzle, figuring out which of three men on a subway car pushed a girl in front of the train.
There is one very strange thing about this book that I must mention. Some pages have wide margins on the outside edge while words and art almost disappear into the spine. It’s as though the whole book is off by one, with the odd pages supposed to be even and vice versa. One spacer page, and this book would have been much easier, physically, to read. (The publisher provided a review copy.)
- Posted by Johanna on March 7, 2014 at 7:30 pm
- Category: Graphic Novel Reviews
- CREDITS: by Charles Schulz
- PUBLISHER: About Comics; $14.95 US
Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, had another comic strip running from 1957-1959. It’s Only a Game focused on sports and games — often golf, bridge, and bowling, pastimes of the suburban 50s.
The strip was offered in two formats. There was a single gag panel, run three times a week, in black and white. Those comics were reprinted in 2004 in a compact paperback. As Schulz found that his workload became heavier, Jim Sasseville came on to finish the art for the comic. Sasseville provided commentary for the book (shortly before he passed).
The strip was also available, back in the day, as a three-panel color Sunday comic with the same content. That version of the formatting has been reprinted as It’s Only a Game: The Complete Color Collection. Although the book is roughly magazine-sized, it reads with the spine on top. You flip pages as though changing the month on a wall calendar.
The three-panel color comics are simply groups of three separate gags, with no connection. However, while art fans will want the black-and-white version, to avoid visual distraction from Schulz’s linework, many casual readers will enjoy seeing the comics in color. Sasseville’s comments about working on the strip have also been reprinted from the previous book.
These are time capsules at this point, since no one has a construction worker bowling league any more or bridge parties with the neighbors or coworkers who play cards over the lunch hour at work. I found it charming, a vision of a simpler life with more specifically designated roles. The figures are mostly adults, but their faces are where they look like the Peanuts gang, particularly when worrying over a call or a deal. Other topics of the gags include croquet, ping-pong, pool, football, tennis, fishing, darts, chess, and desert island horseshoes. There’s even a curling joke! (The publisher provided a review copy.)
- Posted by Johanna on March 7, 2014 at 6:00 pm
- Category: Animation
Following the trail of Warner Archive’s Blu-ray releases of Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Beware the Batman, they’ve announced that Green Lantern: The Complete Animated Series will be coming on March 18.
The Warner Archive Blu-ray will have all 26 episodes of the computer-generated animated series. Josh Keaton plays Hal Jordan/Green Lantern, with Kevin Michael Richardson as Kilowog, Grey DeLisle as Aya, and Jason Spisak as Razer. Guest cast includes Robert Englund, Ron Perlman, Clancy Brown, Wayne Knight, Juliet Landau, Kurtwood Smith, Phil Morris, and many more. Even though it’s from Warner’s made-on-demand video arm, you can also order the series through Amazon, as I’ve linked here.
- Posted by Johanna on March 7, 2014 at 4:03 pm
- Category: Manga News
The retailer-focused site ICv2 has posted an interview with Carl Horn, manga editor at Dark Horse. In it, he discusses my favorite manga title of theirs, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. Unfortunately, the references aren’t encouraging.
It’s brought up in the context of titles that don’t have anime or live-action spin-offs, and as a result, it’s implied, it has “critical acclaim but sold very poorly.” Manga sells better if there’s an entertainment tie-in, which builds awareness and may even be seen as a sign of quality. Horn goes on:
If you only release a few volumes of series like that, you can make it profitable. You’ll still be in the black on a few volumes, but if you keep going, most series get gradual sales declines, and eventually the entire project gets into the red. So you start to lose money on the entire thing. There’s only so far you can go with that as a publisher. You can lose money for a little while if you really care about the book and it’s high quality, but after a while it gets to be a little ridiculous. You can do things like space out the releases so you don’t lose too much blood at one time, but that’s also a difficult way to keep readers’ attention.
I articulate these things because they illustrate one aspect of the ongoing challenges that I face. I won’t be satisfied as a manga editor until I can find ways to make books like that more successful. We’re hoping that with our new relationship with Random House that we’ll be able to reach a wider audience.
That explains why we haven’t seen a volume of Kurosagi CDS since December 2012. I second the hopes that more readers find the series.
- Posted by Johanna on March 7, 2014 at 3:35 pm
- Category: Digital and Webcomics
Visit ComiXology’s Geekstage Giveaway page to get codes for free digital comics and graphic novels this weekend. One is being announced every hour, and the eight titles today — with two, Lego: Ninjago Volume 1 and Injustice: Gods Among Us #1, announced so far — are available until tomorrow at midnight. Keep checking back to find out more.
- Posted by Johanna on March 5, 2014 at 10:27 pm
- Category: Shopping Guide
What an amazing week! It took me so long to tell you about it because I couldn’t resist reading a bunch of these outstanding titles first. Here’s what I recommend from your local comic shop.
Jimmy Gownley (Amelia Rules!) has been making and publishing comics since he was 15 years old. The Dumbest Idea Ever! (Graphix, $11.99) is his autobiographical story, in comic format, of how that came about. He was a star athlete and high-achieving student in Catholic school, but a bout of illness derailed his plans. He found comic books and realized he could tell his own stories, starting with tales of kids he knew. I think teens will particularly enjoy this story of someone like them, someone with a life where everything doesn’t go right but who followed their creative urge anyway.
Another anticipated all-ages title this week is the supersized hardcover Muppets Omnibus (Marvel, $59.99). It collects all the Roger Langridge comics previously published by Boom!: the original four-issue Muppet Show miniseries, The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson, the 12-issue (#0-11) Muppet Show Comic Book series, and the four-issue The Muppets that came out through Marvel (the Four Seasons stories). This is a wonderful way to get more stories with the characters beyond the movies and TV show. It’s a terrific job of work by Langridge with faithful portrayals of the beloved cast. I hope stores are stocking up now before the release later this month of Muppets Most Wanted.
If you’re looking for older reprints of animal characters, Hermes Press is collecting the Pogo stories from Dell’s Animal Comics as Walt Kelly’s Pogo: The Complete Dell Comics Volume 1 ($49.99). In addition to the 27 five- to ten-page stories, this book also has a profile of Kelly and his treatment of the South and race, particularly the character of Bumbazine, a young black child, seen here. The earliest stories were about Albert the Alligator, and Pogo was just supporting cast. Since the stories predate the better-known comic strip by a good deal, at the beginning, Pogo looks nothing like the character you’re thinking of. Instead, he resembles a real possum, which looks strange, although you can see the look develop as the stories progress.
If you’re interested in the history of comics, there are two collections of works by pillars of the field Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Following the genre-focused books Crime and Science Fiction, Titan Publishing has the The Simon and Kirby Library: Horror ($49.95). If you’re looking for something a little sweeter, Fantagraphics has Young Romance 2: The Early Simon and Kirby Romance Comics ($29.99). I found the previous collection a fun time capsule, and I’m eager to see more.
Also from Fantagraphics, Nijigahara Holograph ($29.99) is an amazing manga. I’m still trying to figure it out — I think I need several more reads to know what’s going on, particularly before I review it — but it’s remarkably drawn and enticingly enigmatic. There’s a group of kids who do something horrible, then the story shows us some of them grown up, and there are lots of butterflies, which are maybe souls or maybe symbols of the line between life and death. It’s a twisty tale that requires the reader to participate in figuring out its mysteries.
The sci-fi manga comedy Thermae Romae, the story of an ancient Roman architect who time travels through water to modern Japan where he learns to build ever-better bathhouses, concludes with Volume 3 (Yen Press, $40). It’s as funny as ever, although as the story wraps up, the plot elements change fast. Nice presentation, too, in an upscale hardcover.
For lighter reads, two shojo series I’m enjoying are also available. Strobe Edge (Book 9, Viz, $9.99) is a teen soap opera with the most basic of premises: how do you handle liking someone who might not like you back? Midnight Secretary (Book 4, Viz, $9.99), on the other hand, is a more adult tale of a woman in love with her boss, who’s also a vampire. Sexy!
- Posted by Johanna on March 5, 2014 at 5:07 pm
- Category: Manga Reviews
- CREDITS: by Io Sakisaka; adapted by Ysabet MacFarlane
- PUBLISHER: Viz; $9.99 US
The appeal of Strobe Edge, for me, is how Io Sakisaka takes everyday encounters and conversations and imbues them with such meaning and importance. It’s a welcome reminder of how much everything *feels* for the young and how the simplest moments can be so significant.
For example, early in this volume (following up on the previous book), Ninako is on her way to the train home. She sees Toda, and she wants to thank him for his cheerleading help. Ren, who just realized his feelings for her, prevents her from talking to the other guy, since he’s jealous. This basic sequence of watching who’s on the train and who’s on the platform and who’s aware of whose presence doesn’t sound like much when I describe it, but the silent moments of action, as Ren reaches out for Ninako, who’s facing away from him until she’s surprised by his grasp, are impressive. Sakisaka has portrayed something most people wouldn’t give a second thought with deep symbolism and suspense.
Ren is trying to tell Ninako he likes her, but although she hopes for it, she won’t believe it. He can’t quite come out and say it, and she brushes aside the implications. It’s too important to her to be wrong about it, so she won’t accept his feelings until he states them specifically. Yet that doesn’t happen, because they’re interrupted. This is a teen soap opera, after all, which becomes obvious later in the book. I admit, the particular reversal at that point struck me as artificial and stagy, but Sakisaka has to do whatever she can to keep the characters from the happy ending while the series is still running.
Plot-wise, we get to see the school sports festival. Lots of kids in t-shirts are running and cheering and rooting for each other. The other story thread involves Ando, another rival for Ninako’s feelings, having to run a relay with his ex-girlfriend. The teamwork and encouragement of the race signal a rapprochement between the two, which allows for a later coming clean of what really happened between them.
Ninako has come quite a way from the young girl she was when we first met her. Then, she felt immature compared to her friends, since she didn’t know what love was. Now, in contrast, there’s a three-page sequence that opens Book 9 where she nicely appreciates having a group of friends to talk to. More significantly, they aren’t sure they understand what she’s trying to tell them, but she’s comfortable with that. She’s gained a better understanding of herself just talking to them, and that’s what matters.
There are lots of monologues of advice, whether one character reminiscing with another or someone simply verbalizing their thoughts. The overall message is along the lines of “the heart wants what it wants”, that your feelings will be there regardless of what you think they should be. As one character puts it, “If I don’t take care of my feelings, no one’s going to do it for me.” It’s a rather indulgent take on the world, but as we’re reminded by a shocking dose of reality (one character has to quit school to go to work to feed his family), for most of these kids, this is the only time they’ll get to make such decisions without real-world factors coming into play. That’s why I like reading it: It’s a window into a simpler time, with characters I root for to be happy. (The publisher provided a review copy.)
- Posted by Johanna on March 5, 2014 at 8:17 am
- Category: Manga News
Viz is on a roll with its license announcements, but this one is the most exciting! Master Keaton by Naoki Urasawa, author of the wonderful Pluto, Monster, and 20th Century Boys, will be published in North America in December as a Viz Signature title. (It’s also coming to the United Kingdom, and Australia.) It’s a long wait, but boy will it be worth it.
The series runs 12 volumes. It’s described as a “post–Cold War suspense thriller”, the story of Taichi Hiraga-Keaton, who’s an archeology professor and insurance investigator. (A modern-day Indiana Jones?) “The son of a Japanese zoologist and an English noblewoman, educated in archaeology at Oxford and a former member of the SAS, Master Keaton uses his knowledge and combat training to uncover buried secrets, thwart would-be villains, and pursue the truth.” The series ran 1988-1994 in Japan, and each volume will include 18 pages of color art at a cover price of $19.99. There’s also an anime adaptation, which was available translated here in 2003.