Monday, January 26, 2009

Reviewing the Mail, Week of 1/24: Comics & Manga

This is the second part of my usual Monday morning post; see the first part for the usual potted explanation. This post lists and comments on the comics, manga, graphic novels, illustrated narratives -- or any other terms that mean "words and pictures telling stories together" -- that I saw last week, and that I may review in the fullness of time.

Jeffrey Brown, whose work is growing on me the more I see it -- maybe growing like kudzu, but definitely growing -- has launched a new series called "Sulk" from Top Shelf. In front of me are the first two issues: Sulk Volume 1: Bighead & Friends, which came out in October, and Sulk Volume 2: Deadly Awesome, from December. The first one is some kind of superhero story, with a protagonist called Bighead. And the second one is a long fight scene, between two fighters in a fictional version of one of those "ultimate" martial-arts leagues.

And then I get into the books Yen Press -- the manga-publishing arm of Hachette in the US -- will release in February. These next seven books are all from Yen in February, all in the usual paperback format -- though some read "forwards" and some "backwards," depending on the creators.

Zombie-Loan, Vol. 5 is from the Peach-Pit collective, continuing the story of a small group of resurrectees working as loan enforcers/bounty hunters to pay off their own debts. (My reviews of earlier volumes: two, three, four.)

Black God, Vol. 5 was written by Dall-Young Lim and drawn by Sung-Woo Park, and is yet another one of those stories in which a regular guy is connected magically to a super-powered something-or-other. A cute girl, in this case -- which is also not that uncommon. (My reviews of earlier volumes: two, three, four. Those links may cause deja vu in some clickers.)

And then there's Higurashi, When They Cry: Abducted by Demons Arc, Vol. 2, with a story by Ryukishi07 and art by Karin Suzuragi. This one started out like a harem manga, but there are building horror undertones, particularly as more is revealed about this creepy little town. (And the "abducted by demons" in the subtitle may also be a clue.) I covered the stories that became the first volume of this as they appeared in Yen+ magazine in this review. (And I imagine Higurashi, When They Cry has already spawned a thousand "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" jokes, so take those as read.)

Speaking of Yen+, another series has spun out from there into its own collection: Maximum Ride, Vol. 1, credited to James Patterson and NaRae Lee. Patterson is the author of the "Maximum Ride" series of novels, published by another division of Yen'a parent company, and this series is set in the same world -- though it's not clear (to me, since I haven't read the books) whether this manga adapts any of the novels or if it's a separate story. I also only just learned, from the back cover, that "Maximum Ride" is the full name of the young woman called "Max" in this story. Um, really? Her name is Maximum Ride? Sounds like the jokey name for a biker's "old lady" to me.

And then there's Moon Boy, Vol. 6, by Lee YoungYou. I really don't know what is going on in this story, but there are "foxes" and "rabbits" -- all human, as far as I can tell -- who are fighting. I think.

I also have here Goong: The Royal Palace, Vol. 4, by Park SoHee, a slightly alternate world story in which a young woman has married the heir to the (no longer extant in our world) King of Korea, and then had to learn to live with the spoiled teenage brat. I reviewed the second volume for ComicMix.

As far as I know, Comic, Vol. 5 is the latest volume of a soap opera series by Ha SiHyun, for girls, from Korea, about a wanna be comics creator (or manwha-ga, to be all Korean about it). The back cover of this volume seems to bear that out, talking about the feelings -- mostly wounded -- of a number of people. But, if all that's the case, why does it have Sexy Nazi Boy on the cover? A confused world wants to know.

And that was it for Yen; we'll now turn to other publishing companies once again.

In the Flesh is a collection of ten short comics stories by Israeli cartoonist Koren Shadmi. Some of the stories have previously been published in France, (and, thus, presumably, in French) but Shadmi now lives in New York, so I believe these were all written in English. From a quick look at the pages, these seem to be dark, sometimes surreal stories of love and lust. Villard will publish In the Flesh on February 3rd.

Top Shelf recently published the third collection of James Kochalka's daily "American Elf" diary comics -- available, as always, on the web -- under the obvious title American Elf, Book Three: The Collected Sketchbook Diaries of James Kochalka: January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2007. And I'm gonna read it.

And last for this week is Dean Koontz's Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Prodigal Son, the comics adaptation of the novel of the same name. The novel was credited to Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson -- though, in my experience, if a writer's name is in the title, it generally means he had very little to do with the actual writing of a book -- and the graphic novel was adapted by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Brett Booth. Once you get to the title page, a "Volume One" floats into view, and a quick flip to the end reveals a "Continues in Prodigal Son Volume Two" burst. And what's it about? Well, the good guys are some cops, and the bad guy is a nasty scientist (I assume) who has created an artificial race of humans. (The lesson of a Frankenstein story is always the same: science is bad.) This part of the story will be published by Ballantine on February 3rd.

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