March 2012 Previews: Month of Manga and Much More

It’s Manga Month from Previews, which means they’re bringing us “a multitude of comics, graphics novels, trade paperbacks, and more”, even though manga doesn’t generally use those terms or formats. There are two columns at the front of the catalog explaining this “event”, and both are phrased in ways that don’t speak to either those who need the help (such as retailers who may want to start or expand sections in their stores) or those who are already familiar with the “popular artform”, as Previews has it. There’s a much better piece, explaining manga terminology with sample titles, at the beginning of the non-exclusive comics catalog section, as well as an interview with editor Carl Horn at the back of the book.


Manga Month logo

Del Rey Manga (remember that name?) is reoffering two CLAMP starting points as part of the promotion, with 2004’s xxxHOLiC Volume 1 and Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle Volume 1 available for order again, in case you’d like to try these series that ended last month (with book 19) and 2010 (with book 28), respectively.

The fruit’s of Digital Manga’s first Kickstarter are now available to you — they’ve brought Osamu Tezuka’s Swallowing the Earth back into print ($24.95, due May, MAR12 1013). I don’t recommend it, since it’s very much of its time, including sexist and racist caricatures, but at least the book’s return has brought the used prices on Amazon back into more reasonable range. And it’s good to see that their efforts aren’t limited solely to Kickstarter backers.

If you’re interested in trying yaoi, Digital Manga is also listing Same Difference ($12.95, due May, MAR12 1010), which sounds intriguing because it breaks up the usual boys’ love pairing. Usually, there’s a seme and uke, an older, more powerful “attacker” and a younger, more feminine-appearing “receiver” (in very loose terms). In this story, two seme get together, which should provide for a twist that breaks up the formula to a degree.

Fantagraphics continues bringing us the worldview-changing Wandering Son by Shimura Takako with Book Three ($19.99, due May, MAR12 1062). The young teens have their transgendered status revealed in this volume, and while I’m sure I will find it heartbreaking for the characters, I’m dying to see how it all plays out, because it’s so well-portrayed and insightful. The first two books are also available for reorder.

Kodansha’s got a ton of titles listed this month, in keeping with Manga Month. The two I want to draw your attention to are two Omnibus reprint collections. Miyuki Kobayashi’s Kitchen Princess returns with a book collecting the first two volumes of the series ($14.99, due June 6, MAR12 1107). I thought that story ran a little too long and went a little too melodramatic, but I really enjoyed Genshiken by Kio Shimoku, which also gets a three-book omnibus ($19.99, due May 23, MAR12 1105).

From NBM, there’s another chance to get Takashi Murakami’s clear-eyed tearjerker Stargazing Dog ($11.99, due May 3, MAR12 1131), one of my Best Manga of 2011.

SuBLime, the new yaoi manga line, debuts in print this month with two books: Honey Darling ($12.99, due June 13, MAR12 1190), about two guys working at a vet clinic, and Three Wolves Mountain ($12.99, due June 13, MAR12 1191), a fantasy involving werewolves.

I don’t want to overlook Viz, since they keep doing what they’re doing — putting out good manga in quality editions. They just don’t seem to have any good jumping-on points this month. Yen Press at least is reoffering the first book of Yotsuba&! ($11.99, due May 3, MAR12 1279) as well as several other series.

I’m disappointed to see that Dark Horse — a company I expected to be involved in this Manga Month promotion, since they were Diamond’s Manga Publisher of the Year for 2010 — didn’t include in its relist section my favorite manga series they release, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. I worry that the series, which had the release date for the newest book delayed over a year, may be in the process of fading away in the U.S.

Graphic Novels

Given that the promotion for Manga Month includes covering material “created by American artists inspired by manga”, I was surprised not to see the slug on the newest Usagi Yojimbo collection. The adventures of Stan Sakai’s rabbit samurai are now up to Volume 26 ($16.99, due July 4, MAR12 0028). Traitors of the Earth collects issues #117-123 along with a couple of short stories from anthologies. The hardcover ($59.99, due August 15, MAR12 0029), out a month later, is limited to 350 copies and features a signed, tipped-in page.

Dark Horse is really on a roll this month, with another wonderful release: a new book of Blacksad. I’ve been anticipating A Silent Hell ($19.99, due July 11, MAR12 0053) since it was announced last month, and the making-of sketch section should be enlightening when it comes to Juanjo Guarnido’s art. It’s written by Juan Díaz Canales.

I’m glad to see the current DC management isn’t afraid of its history or the customers that want the “old stuff” and has brought back the Archives. Mainly because it means I get a new book of Wonder Woman. Volume 7 ($59.99, due October 24, MAR12 0259) collects issues #16-18 and Sensation Comics #50-57 from 1946.

The Comic Book History of Comics ($21.99, IDW Publishing, due May 23, MAR12 0368) collects the six-issue miniseries formerly known as Comic Book Comics by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey. The variety of topics covered make this a book well worth reading, especially in collected form. New introduction by respected journalist Tom Spurgeon.

The Moon Moth ($17.99, due May 23, MAR12 1076) is First Second’s presentation of a classic Jack Vance science fiction story, first published in 1961. Humayoun Ibrahim adapted and illustrated it. Given that the tale involves a culture where actions depend on a ranked status and everyone goes masked, it’s a good choice for a visual presentation. The culture also requires communication through music, intriguingly presented through balloons with colorfully illustrated borders. The introduction explaining Vance’s grand master status, reprinted from a 2009 New York Times Magazine article, emphasizes his facility with language over his ideas, providing a somewhat mixed message. I found the tale confusing and the presentation static, but it’s certainly a buffet of exotic visual figures.

More straightforward will be Mastering Comics, the followup to Jessica Abel and Matt Madden’s excellent Drawing Words & Writing Pictures. It’s a collection of lessons on how to be a cartoonist, complete with examples and exercises.

Be sure to check out Xoc: The Journey of a Great White ($19.99, due July 25, Oni Press, MAR12 1143), Matt Dembicki’s well-illustrated nature comic. It’s a great read for anyone interested in aquatic ecology.

Vic Boone ($14.99, due May, 215 Ink, MAR12 1214) is your classic tough-guy private eye, only set in a world with robots. When a rich corporate head is murdered, the gorgeous widow is blamed, and she comes to Boone for help. Boone’s stool pigeon sidekick is a human fly (literally, like in the Fly movie), while he turns himself into a gorilla to go undercover in this sci-fi/noir mashup. What’s most distinctive is the coloring, with strong use of just a few primary tones and contrasting colors — purple figures against a yellow background, or deep red against steel blue. It sounds garish, but the result is modern and streamlined. I found it a quick read, but enjoyable escapism.

Single Issues

The Guild: Fawkes

The Guild: Fawkes cover by Paul Duffield

In comics, Dark Horse continues its Guild one-shots with an issue focusing on Fawkes, the arch-enemy/lover of Felicia Day’s character Codex. Fawkes is played by Wil Wheaton, who co-writes. This comic ($3.50, due May 23, MAR12 0023) promises to span the gap between his character in seasons 4 and 5 of the popular web show. The art’s by the excellent Jamie McKelvie, which provides even more of a reason to read it.

Skeleton Key Color Special

I’m most excited, though, by the return of Andi Watson’s Skeleton Key in a Color Special ($3.50, due May 2, MAR12 0032). It collects the three stories from Dark Horse Presents. Watson’s cartooning is more amazing now than it ever was, and I’m thrilled to see it in color.

DC is launching its New 52 replacement series this month, with two books I’m eager for. (It would be nice to have a DC comic I looked forward to again.) The first is the return of Grant Morrison’s Batman, Incorporated ($2.99, due May 23, MAR12 0149). I hope it has the magic for me of the previous run. The second is the pairing of Power Girl and the Huntress in Worlds’ Finest #1 ($2.99, due May 2, MAR12 0147). I’m glad to see Power Girl finally get a practical, regal costume, and I’m curious to see if writer Paul Levitz can recapture the magic of those characters he found when he wrote them in the 1970s.

9 Responses to “March 2012 Previews: Month of Manga and Much More”

  1. Brian Saner Lamken Says:

    I’ve not yet actually read the post yet, but I had to scroll through just to make sure you caught the Skeleton Key one-shot — not that I really thought you wouldn’t.

    Watson’s cartooning is more amazing now than it ever was, and I’m thrilled to see it in color.

    Ain’t that the truth? The SK backup that appeared in an issue of Image’s Glister stunned me in how far its art had advanced — yet again — even though the slightly sketchy pen work was a step “back” (or, really, just sidewards) from the super-simple, super-slick ligne claire style towards which Andi had been working. I loved the main Glister content, too, although I have yet to get the newer installments in the UK Walker editions.

    I’m slightly disappointed that this color one-shot is only reprinting the DHP Skeleton Key stories, which I didn’t recall from Previews, but I shan’t miss the chance to vote with my wallet for more.

  2. Joey Says:

    What happened to Kodansha’s Sailor Moon vol.4? I haven’t seen anyone in all the manga posts talking about this upcoming release. Isn’t supposed to come out on tuesday? Has it been delayed or something?

  3. Johanna Says:

    Amazon still has it listed as coming out tomorrow. Kodansha sends review copies after they’re released, not before (as other companies do), so I am usually behind on their works.

  4. Joan Says:

    Thank you for mentioning Skeleton Key, because somehow I hadn’t seen it when coming up with my order list for the month. I’d have hated to have missed it!

  5. Ali T. Kokmen Says:

    “Del Rey Manga (remember that name?)”


  6. Johanna Says:

    Joan, those kinds of comments make doing this worthwhile. Thank you.

  7. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Hi Ali, hope all is well.

  8. Sebastian Says:

    Speaking of Andi Watson: I just noticed (via Paul Gravett’s site) that another book of his was just published in the UK. First of a new series, actually: “Gum Girl”

    Second book coming in August.

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