Manga-Inspired Slush Pile: Aya Takeo, Talking to Strangers, Red String

All books were provided by the creators for review. I’m grouping these together due to their obvious manga influences.

Aya Takeo Volume 1

Aya Takeo cover
Aya Takeo Volume 1
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story by Lloyd Prentice
art by Sonia Leong
Sweatdrop Studios, $12.99 US

Although clearly and strongly manga-influenced in story and art, the book more closely resembles a Prestige Format comic. It’s only 64 pages, at a relatively high price (probably due to being in color), and at a larger trim size than the usual manga digest. As such, it doesn’t come off very well in comparison to the smaller, fatter, cheaper books its audience is familiar with.

It seems that Aya Takeo is a webcomic, and this collects its first year of strips. It’s also science fiction, with aliens (resembling mechanical spiders) having taken Aya’s lover captive. She’s learned to fight as a result, while he’s been battling to survive his slavery. The story is generic and slight, although the art is well-done and eye-catching. If you’re interested, read it online for free. You’ll want to continue, anyway, since the story only barely gets going in this issue.

Talking to Strangers

Talking to Strangers cover
Talking to Strangers
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stories by Fehed Said; art by various
Sweatdrop Studios, $12.99 US

This volume, from the same publisher, is more what I expected: over 200 pages, black and white, smaller and thicker and solid in the hand. Fehed Said previously wrote The Clarence Principle, released through SLG Publishing. Here, he presents six stories illustrated by five artists: Nana Li, Wing Yun Man, Chloe Citrine, Sonia Leong, and Faye Yong.

The first is immensely creepy, thought-provoking with no clear resolution, using the metaphor of a boy buried alive to raise the issue of euthanasia. The next shows us a crazy shut-in obsessed by TV yet discovering romance (this is the second-best tale in the book), followed by another drawn metaphor, about a boy chained to a stone of worries, and then an abused child. Finally comes my favorite, the longest, a charming tale about a girl discovering a flower.

The art is each case is more than sufficient to meet the needs of the stories, with each style well-suited and adding new levels of detail. For example, the first is fine-lined, which feels delicate and poetic against the life-and-death subject matter. The second is a bit more comedic, which keeps the mood light instead of depressed when dealing with the agoraphobic.

Many of the stories try too hard to be meaningful — I’d like to see Said tackle more standard plots and characters, like the “Flowers” story, instead of his more frequent emotional and death symbols — but I’m tempted to keep the book just for the flower story. The little girl is so cute! You can read more in-depth reviews with art samples at the Forbidden Planet blog or Robot 6.

Red String Book 5

Red String Volume 5
Red String Book 5
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by Gina Biggs
Self-Published, $9.95 US

I haven’t checked in on this long-running webcomic manga since the first book. Since then, Gina Biggs has returned to self-publishing (with book 4) and announced that Red String will run eight books in total — making this just past the halfway point.

I didn’t recall any of the characters, but the situations and types were immediately obvious, since there are a bunch of girls in school, worried about boys and clubs and their future. The art’s very attractive and the cast sufficiently distinct in both looks and personalities. I did recognize the core couple, who were promised to each other in childhood and yet still fell in love. This volume features some incredibly important steps in their relationship, with plenty of emotional soap opera. I fell right back into their story, eager to find out what happened next, and I quickly came to adore the young lesbians, new characters to me.

Most chapters end with a visual representation of a character’s inner conflict. You know, like a devil and angel on the shoulders? Except in this case it might be “character’s dream job” vs. “character’s parent’s business path for them”, but still as cute little versions of themselves. It’s a nice reminder of where we are in the story and what’s at stake.

Like some artists in Japan, Biggs is creating her own doujinshi. When I got this book from her at C2E2, she also gave me two explicit minicomics she’d created. One expands on chapter 29, contained in this book, the other on chapter 37, which will be in the next volume. Both are romantic scenes that, in the bound volumes, “cut away” from anything explicit. The adult, 18-and-up material is contained in the minicomics, one male/female, the other girl/girl. It’s a clever concept that serves the fans with convention-only (because of the age check) specials. If you aren’t interested in happy porn comics, you can stick with the proper books. If you love the characters and want a little something extra, there it is… and it’s well-done.

And One More Upcoming — Madam Samurai

I haven’t seen this book yet, since it’s due out next month, but the art for Madam Samurai sure looks pretty. It’s by David Hitchcock, who previously did striking period work in Whitechapel Freak. Check out the previews and trailer at the MS website.

3 Responses to “Manga-Inspired Slush Pile: Aya Takeo, Talking to Strangers, Red String”

  1. Pushback on pushback « MangaBlog Says:

    […] of Comic and Alice 19th at Every Day Is Like Wednesday. Johanna Draper Carlson looks at some manga-influenced graphic novels (including Red String doujinshi!) at Comics Worth Reading. Bad Jew has two ultra-micro-mini reviews […]

  2. Filthy Figments Launches » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] a new, subscription-based, adults-only webcomic site by women. It’s run by Gina Biggs (Red String). $5 a month gets you full access, which will include 30 new pages of content a month, updated […]

  3. Coming Up: Manga Due December 2010 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] enjoyed reading Talking to Strangers (Sweatdrop Studios, OCT10 1118, $12.99, December 22) which was self-published earlier this year […]




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