Good Comics at the Comic Shop January 22

It’s a real manga week, with two favorites and a new series to try.

From Kodansha Comics, I’ve already talked about Arisa Volume 12 ($10.99) and Missions Of Love Volume 6 ($10.99). The high point from their releases is the outstanding Vinland Saga Volume 2 ($19.99), a compelling saga of Vikings invading England and some of the personal motivations of the fighters.

I’m also looking forward to sampling Sherlock Bones Volume 3 ($10.99). It looks adorable, a goofy mystery series about Sherlock Holmes becoming a dog, with his Watson a Japanese boy who’s the only one who can hear him talk.

Viz doesn’t have the same number of releases, but one of them is by my favorite manga creator, Fumi Yoshinaga. I’ll be talking about Ôoku: The Inner Chambers Volume 9 ($12.99) shortly, but in the meantime, know that it’s a stunning, beautifully illustrated alternative history of a Japan where most men have died of a plague. I’m amazed that we’ve even gotten this series translated, let alone all nine volumes.

In terms of alternate/indy works, Northwest Press releases the anthology QU33R ($29.99). It’s a collection of new comics dealing with LGBT/queer sexuality from 33 creators. It’s positioned as a companion to No Straight Lines: Four Decades Of Queer Comics, which looked to the past and the history of the concept, but reading the other book is unnecessary. In fact, the comparison sets up a feeling of importance and significance that might cause the reader to approach these stories with too much weight.

The first story, by Eric Orner, is a substantial piece, demonstrating the often life-and-death choices a young gay man had in the past, but opening with it is a bit heavy in mood as well as contradictory to the book’s positioning about the “future of queer cartooning”, since it’s a memoir set in the 1970s and 80s. Dylan Edwards’ memory piece, about a schoolmate in the 1980s finding his own reading of the Transformers as a way to express gender subversion is more light-hearted but also more hopeful.

There’s some great cartooning here. The expected autobiographical tales, of course, about coming out or coming to self-realization are present, but there are also a few stories of more diverse subject. Jennifer Camper provides a short noir with a lesbian twist. Kris Dresen’s mood piece “Chop Suey” is a beautifully illustrated and colored conversation about the need for patience in a mature relationship. Steve MacIsaac illustrates a fantasy about getting adult revenge on a high school bigot that takes an unexpected turn. Howard Cruse’s Blondie parody is cute in its mimicry of the comic strip style but unfortunately doesn’t have much substantial content.

In the first category, Justin Hall’s lengthy “Seductive Summer”, is notable as much for what it doesn’t say as what it does about a gay crush on a straight guy and a world of drugs, drag, and mental illness. This is a substantial work, well-suited for the shelves of anyone interested in the topic. Even beyond the subject matter, the collection of cartooning styles displayed here is eye-opening.

Alyssa Milano’s Hacktivist debuts from Boom! Studios ($3.99). I got a chance to check out the first issue (of 4), but I couldn’t get though the buzzwords and hip lingo passing for story. It’s written by Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly with competent art by Marcus To, jumping from a rebel group in Tunisia to two spoiled white-guy social-network billionaire hackers in San Francisco. It’s very difficult to make lots of computer use visually interesting, and unfortunately, this doesn’t succeed. I did find the idea of a magic social network that connects people to realize their dreams without any side effects attractive, if completely implausible.

Archie, which is cutting way back on its comics in favor of more reprints, launches a new Double Digest with an old title, Archie’s Funhouse (replacing Archie & Friends Double Digest at the same price, $3.99). It’ll be just like their other digests, only with a #1 on the cover to get more interest from the habitual deal-seeking buyers and the deluded.

DC’s new #1 this week is the relaunch of Unwritten with Volume 2 Apocalypse ($3.99). Although I rarely talk about it, I’ve been enjoying this series by Mike Carey and Peter Gross and its thoughts on metafiction and the nature of artistic creation. Check out the new jumping-on point to see if it keeps its magic.

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