Monday, November 23, 2015

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 11/21

And here we are once again -- I've got some books that came in the mail, and you're hoping some of them will be awesome things you'll love. Let's see if we can make a connection, shall we?

Although, I hope you like manga, because that's all I've got this time -- the folks at Yen Press seem to love me deeply, and keep sending me great big boxes full of comics from the other side of the world. It is glorious, but sometimes it starts to feel like sushi for every meal.

In any case, all these books are from Yen, they're all originally from Japan, and they'll all be available here in US editions very shortly. As usual, I'm organizing them by increasing complexity.

So we begin with The Secret Sakura Shares, a standalone from Akira Hagio, in which a teen girl is left both homeless and family-less when her grandfather disappears and a classmate appears to repossess everything she owns. But! The boy will not throw her out into the street, if she becomes his "pedigreed kitty." I suspect this is not supposed to be as monumentally creepy as I'm taking it, but this boy literally turns a female classmate into a pet. I suppose love follows, because I never understand that kind of romance.

Of the Red, the Light, and the Ayakashi, Vol. 1 has a title that I hope sounds less pretentious in Japanese. It's drawn by nanao and has a story credited to HaccaWorks, which makes it seem like human beings have never touched this book -- which is not inappropriate for a book about mythical creatures like ayakashi. This one is about a boy raised in a remote shrine, and the one day he finally gets to go down the mountain and meet other people, the master of the shrine tells him he has to make one of the first two people he meets his "Meal." It's hard being a shrine kid, amirite?

More interesting credits for Aldnoah.Zero Season One, Vol. 1 -- this one has an original story by Olympus Knights and art by Pinakes. I think this might be based on an anime, though the book itself doesn't say so -- it's a SF story (which means giant fighting robots!) about a Cold War between Earth and Mars, which may be about the heat up again.

And then there's Yowamushi Pedal, Vol. 1 from Wataru Watanabe, one of the long line of stories in which the nebbishy quiet kid is suddenly shown to be incredibly good at something unlikely -- Quiddich, Yu-Gi-Oh, plain ol' Go, fighting demons, and so on. In this case, the thing is bike racing!

Black Bullet, Vol.2 is by Morinohon (art) and Shiden Kanzaki (original story), and continues the post-apocalyptic story set among the few survivors of humanity huddled in Tokyo and trying to survive the continued assaults of the mutants created by the Gastrea virus.

Chaika: The Coffin Princess, Vol. 3 is credited to Ichirou Sakaki (original story) and Shinta Sakayama (art), and continues the story of a girl dressed vaguely like a maid, swinging a sledgehammer, and carrying a coffin. I don't know how all that makes sense, but I'm sure it does to someone.

Kaoru Mori's popular series continues a program of reprinting into larger hardcover volumes with Emma, Vol. 3. It continues the story of a maid in Victorian England and the lord she loves.

He's My Only Vampire, Vol. 5, swoons Aya Shouto. Yes, and you should keep better care of him, or you'll lose him and have no vampires! This is one of those romance/supernatural series in which the normal girl is completely under the control and power of the compelling, mesmerizing ancient guy, and it is Not Creepy At All. Really.

We're getting deeper and deeper into series here, with cover copy that explains very little. Take Kaori Yuki's Demon from Afar, Vol. 5, which sees Sorath reach the Ziggurat to find that Etsurou is really Garan! If you have no idea what that means, it's a sign you should start with volume one.

Ume Aoki's 4-panel comedy series about a group of girls living in a dorm and going to art school is back in Sunshine Sketch, Vol. 8. (I read the first two volumes, way back when, but haven't kept up.) This time out, two of the four core girls are graduating, so the cast is changing over.

I have two pieces of the ever-proliferating Puella Magi empire, about magical girls and the monsters they fight. First up is Puella Magi Suzune Magica, Vol. 2, which is written by Magicka Quartet, as usual, and has art by Gan. And the other one is Puella Magi Madoka Magica: The Movie Rebellion, Vol. 1, which is also written by the MQ but has art from Hanokage. I have no idea how these two relate to each other or the rest of the story, but they both have teen girls fighting evil in sparkly outfits, and then angsting about their woes. How can you go wrong?

Shiwo Komeyama brings us Bloody Cross, Vol. 9, which you might be surprised to find out is not primarily about fashionable women in uncomfortable shoes. (You can see my review of the third volume, and follow the links backwards from the to the first two, for a better sense of what this series is about.)

And then there's The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi-chan, Vol. 10, which is the goofball humor sidebar to the regular, still somewhat humorous Haruhi Suzumiya stories. This is from Nagaru Tanigawa (story) and Puyo (art), and makes even more with the ha-ha.

I couldn't begin to tell you what's going on in PandoraHearts, Vol. 23, from Jun Mochizuki. The back cover copy talks about Duldum and Duldee, whoever they are -- this may be one of the many manga series that are twisted versions of Alice in Wonderland.

And last for this week is Isuna Hasekura's Spice and Wolf, Vol. 16: The Coin of the Sun II. This is a curveball: it's from Japan, and has pictures, but it's not manga! It's actually a light novel, and the last volume of the mercantile medieval fantasy series. So presumably the boy merchant and his wolf-goddess sidekick make one last super-wonderful trade here, and can then retire in splendor for the rest of their unrecorded lives.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I WIll Not Add You On LinkedIn If...

Because I've been getting a number of interesting requests lately, I'm beginning to believe that people don't really understand how LinkedIn works, and how it's different from less-professional social networks. So let me explain, in the form of a little mnemonic.

I will not add you on LinkedIn are shirtless in your profile picture.

I will not add you on LinkedIn if...we have never met or had any contact before.

I will not add you on LinkedIn have three connections and nothing listed on your profile.

I will not add you on LinkedIn send me the request in a language I do not speak.

I will not add you on LinkedIn if...your profession and mine do not overlap in any way.

I will not add you on LinkedIn if...we are not professional contacts in some way.

I will not add you on LinkedIn if...there is no plausible way we would ever do business together.

I will not add you on LinkedIn looks like you just want to harvest my contacts.

Other people may have somewhat different rules, but the whole point of LinkedIn is that it's made up of professional connections -- i.e., people you actually know and have a business connection to. If that doesn't apply in your case, then I'm afraid the answer is No.

Incoming Books: November: Part 1

I've had two stacks of books bookending me for more than a week and a half now, the products of two mail-orders (one from my usual comics shop, Midtown, and one from one of the greatest distractions known to man, the remainder bookseller Edward Hamilton). I was going to do something about them last weekend, but I didn't -- and then I've had a particularly unpleasant virus for the last 5-6 days, which didn't help, either.

But I'm getting better, and it's a Saturday, and I like making lists of books, so here's the mostly-comics stack:

Stranger Than Life: Cartoons and Comics 1970-2013, the first-ever (as far as I can see) collection of comics by MK Brown, who's probably most famous for her work in the National Lampoon in the 1970s. Brown has a quirky sense of humor and a distinctive spiky style to go with it; she's one of those wonderful cartoonists who really is like no one else out there.

The Shadow: Midnight in Moscow by Howard Chaykin -- a little earlier this year I read through the 1980s Shadow series, which started with a Chaykin miniseries (though quickly headed off into weirder areas, in a uniquely nutty ongoing series written by Andrew Helfer and drawn by First Bill Sienkiewicz and then Kyle Baker). So I was intrigued to see that Chaykin came back to the character with this miniseries set in 1949. Chaykin's art is always stylish, and his writing is usually solid when he can avoid diving too far into his standard plot tropes.

Monsieur Jean: The Singles Theory is a recent album in the series by the popular French duo of Dupuy and Berberian; I read an earlier book in the series, Get a Life, a few years ago and liked. So what the heck?

Bill Griffith: Lost and Found: Comics 1969-2003 -- a big fat collection of Bill Griffith's early and non-Zippy the Pinhead work, from undergrounds and weekly alternative newspapers and odder places. I haven't always kept up with Zippy, since it tends to be the same thing no matter how often you dip into it, but Griffith is talented and interesting, and I keep thinking I should know more about the underground era.

Is Diss a System?: A Milt Gross Comic Reader collects most of five books by Milt Gross from the 1920s, from illustrated newspaper columns to straight-out comics, all in a fractured Yiddish dialect. Gross's pantomime graphic novel He Done Her Wrong is still very funny seventy years later, so I was willing to see if his written-with-words stuff has held up as well. (Though this may be a bit more dialect-y than I expected.)

The Love Bunglers collects a major, devastating story by Jaime Hernandez from two of the book-sized issues of the current run of Love & Rockets. Realistically, there was no reason to have this as a separate book, since I had the issues, but....

If You Steal is the new collection of stories by Jason, the master of deadpan, of genre materials, and of the bleakest of possible endings.

Pogo: The Complete Syndicated Comic Strips, Vol. 3: Evidence To The Contrary is, just like it says, the third collection of Walt Kelly's great strip. See my review of the first book for more details, if you need to.

Speaking of classic comics, even older (and not quite as important, but maybe more "historical") is Happy Hooligan, a collection of Sundays by Frederick Burr Opper from the first decade of the last century.

Cork High And Bottle Deep is a collection of cartoons by Virgin (VIP) Partch all about booze, hangovers, bars, and similar furniture of mid-century cartooning.

The Tijuana Bibles, Vol. 9 has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, but it does collect some raunchily fascinating bits of old pop culture, proving that the Internet might do things quicker, but it didn't do anything new.

And last is You'll Never Know Book Three: Soldier's Heart by C. Tyler, finale of a memoir trilogy about the cartoonist in the modern day and her father in WWII. I read the first volume back in 2010, and still have the second one in electronic form; I'm hoping seeing this one in print will remind me to read #2.