Monday, May 04, 2009

Reviewing the Mail: Week of 5/2

This is the usual Monday-morning listing (with brief commentary) of the books that arrived in the mail last week. As usual, I want to say at least a little something about everything I see -- every book has something to celebrate, or of interest to someone -- and I know that I won't manage to give all of these books a full, real review. So this means they'll all be mentioned at least once. (But do remember that I haven't actually read any of these books -- I call this "reviewing the mail" because that's how Chuck Klosterman characterized music criticism in one of his books, and I liked the phrase.)

This is the week the big box from Yen Press came in, so most of this list will be mad up of the books they're publishing in May. In fact, if I don't say otherwise, assume that every book below is a manga trade paperback from Yen in May; it will save my typing all of that about a dozen times.

But I'll start off with something else -- a big shiny book that I didn't expect at all. It's The Collected Doug Wright: Canada's Master Cartoonist: 1949 to 1962, and it's the first of two volumes celebrating the life and work of someone I'd never heard of before. (Apparently, that's not uncommon; Wright was little-known in the US to begin with, and his work hasn't been prominent even in Canada since his 1983 death.) Collected Doug Wright is an oversized hardcover, in a very similar format to the Fantagraphics Popeye books, with an almost luminous foil-red cover, complete with bellyband (for the title) and a die-cut to reveal a discrete embossed figure on the endpaper. I haven't started to read it yet, but the package is gorgeous and classy; impeccably well-designed by Seth. Wright was best-known for a pantomime strip called Nipper, about a little kid and his family, and Collected Doug Wright contains lots and lots of Nipper strips, along with samples of his earlier work, an introduction by Lynn (For Better or For Worse) Johnston, and a long biographical essay by Brad Mackay (director of the Doug Wright Awards for Canadian Cartooning). The Collected Doug Wright will be published on May 26th by Drawn & Quarterly -- and I have to say that I haven't yet seen a D&Q book that wasn't excellently designed and entirely worth reading. If there was such a thing as a subscription to a publishing company, I'd have one with them.

(By the way, that's not my photo of the book -- I grabbed it online after I realized it wouldn't fit in my scanner and noticed that all of the online "bookshots" were pre-publication mock-ups.)

Mark Chadbourn's "Age of Misrule" trilogy -- originally published in the UK but never released over on this side of the pond -- finally arrives from Pyr in May with World's End, the first book. (The rest of the trilogy will follow quickly over the rest of the year.) It's one of those ancient-gods return stories, with the entire Celtic pantheon (and all of the associated folkloric creatures) suddenly appearing in modern England and causing utter chaos. The stunning cover is by John Picacio.

The books from Yen this month -- once I cast a close eye over them instead of seeing them as a mere undifferentiated pile -- fall into three general categories: later volumes in series, new series launching out of Yen's magazine Yen+, and the more miscellaneous new series. I'll start with the first clum, since I can link to my old reviews and thus say less:

Higurashi When They Cry: Cotton Drifting Arc, Vol. 1 is the first book in the second series (after the two-book "Abducted by Demons Arc," which I reviewed for ComicMix as it appeared in the first three issues of Yen+) of a series that's somewhere between creepy-little-town horror and goofy harem farce, by Ryujishi07 and Yutori Houjou.

Zombie-Loan, Vol. 6 comes from the Peach-Pit collective, and tells the story of a few resurrectees -- they're not "zombies" in any conventional Western sense, though that's what they're called -- who work for a loan/bounty hunting company targeting their own kind to pay off the huge debts of their resurrection. And the plot only gets more complicated -- mostly with off-the-shelf manga furniture, admittedly -- from there; I reviewed volumes two and three and four for ComicMix before finally deciding I wasn't saying anything new.

Black God, Vol. 6 is a baroque superbeings-among-us series, in which superpowered "motosumitama" bond with humans by swapping body parts and then run around having the usual high-speed, ultra-violent battles (depicted stylishly, if very graphically, by artist Sung-Woo Park). It's written by Dall-Young Lim, and I reviewed, again, volumes two and three and four.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Vol. 3 is -- if I've got this right -- the manga version of a character that started in light novels and has been most famous in anime, and is credited to Gaku Tsugano (art), Nagaru Tanigawa (story), and Noizi Ito (characters). I reviewed the first volume of this one as well, though I have to admit that I'm sure I didn't get the point.

And then there's Atsuchi Ohkubo's B. Ichi, Vol. 3, latest in the series where "dokeshi" have limited superpowers limited in very odd ways -- our hero, for example, gets the power of animals when he bites their bones, but only so long as he performs at least one good deed every day. I reviewed the first book about six months ago, and found it energetic but more than a little confusing.

Last of the stuff I can link to past reviews is Goong, Vol. 5, a series set in a mildly alternate world in which Korea still has a royal family and our very young heroine has married into it, with much attendant drama. (More in the daytime-TV sense of the word than in the classical-theater sense.) It's by Park SoHee, I reviewed the second volume, and I expect thousands of teenage girls worldwide like to sigh over it.

First of the books launching out of Yen+ this month is Sumomomo, Momomo, which I liked enough when I read the first few chapters in the magazine that I'll even forgive it that hard-to-spell title. It's by Shinobu Ohtaka, and it's a parody of all those "destined hero" manga, particularly those with lots of martial arts -- the hero is from one of those venerable fighting families, but is forsaking the family business to be a lawyer. (And we see that he's dedicated and serious at that, if more than a bit full of himself.) But then the girl he was engaged to when they were both infants appears, and she is the super-warrior type -- though also being a cute and scrawny little girl in a sailor outfit, since that's required. What I read of it was quite funny, so I'm looking forward to a whole book of it.

I also covered the first chapters of Jack Frost in the above-linked Yen+ review, though I wasn't as uniformly positive about it. Jack Frost is a solo project by JinHo Ko, whom I've previously seen as the artist on Croquis Pop, and it's nearly the most violent manga I've ever seen. (I except only Fist of the North Star, and leave myself a little wiggle room in case I've forgotten something else.) The main character is a teenage girl who can't die because her blood has special powers -- which means that she spent much of the stories I read as a severed head.

And the third series launching from Yen+ this month is Nabari No Ou, which is pretty much a straight version of Sumomomo, Momomo -- young man blah blah blah secret ultimate ninja power and so on. It's by Yuhki Kamatani, and it's more entertaining that I'm probably making it sound.

And then the miscellaneous stuff from Yen starts off with Cirque Du Freak, Vol. 1, which starts an adaptation of the popular young adult dark fantasy novel series by Darren Shan. Shan writes the manga version as well -- though the main character is also named "Darren Shan," so it's entirely possible that it's a house name to begin with -- and the art is by Takahiro Arai, in right-to-left manga style.

Next is Welcome to Wakaba-soh, Vol. 1 by Chaco Abeno, which starts another highschool sex comedy. The hero changed schools to get close to his one true love, only to find (according to the back cover) that she's on a leave of absence. He's also "stuck in a dorm full of girls" -- it's unclear whether it's just a co-ed dorm or a full-on Love Hina stuation.

Then there's Ichiroh! Vol. 1, by Mikage. This one's a four-panel manga with slightly older (and female) characters -- they're all cramming to get into good colleges, but the book seems to mostly be about their distractions. (Because page after page of drawings of young women reading books and taking notes would be very, very boring, I suppose.)

Also on the female side is 13th Boy, about a Korean girl (Hee-So) who has just been dumped by her boyfriend (Won-Jun). He's her twelfth boyfriend, even though she seems to still be in highschool -- and she's not ready to move on to #13, because #12 was (clearly) the love of her life. It looks wacky, and it's by SangEun Lee.

And last from Yen is The History of the West Wing, which has nothing at all to do with the West Wing that just came into your mind. (No, not that one, either.) This one is a full-color graphic novel, translated from the Chinese, by Sun Jiayu and Guo Guo from a classic play by WangShifu, and it's about a roaming scholar who must convince his love's mother to let him marry her.

And last for this week is Ian C. Esslemont's Night of Knives, the first Malazan novel by that empire's other creator. The first, of course, is Steven Erikson, who has already written eight massive novels set in the world he and Esslemont created in 1982 for RPG adventures. Night is set in the center of the empire, unlike Erikson's novels; they've divided this world geographically -- and, according to Erikson's introduction, did so a long time ago. I started this, in the British edition, a couple of years ago, but had to put it down for other reasons. So about the only thing I can say about it is that Esslemont certainly writes shorter than Erikson does; this is less than three-hundred pages long, and would barely be one of the half-dozen "Books" in one of Erikson's novels. (And I'm not complaining; I generally prefer short books.) Night of Knives will be published in the US and Canada this month by Tor in trade paperback.

1 comment:

Martin Wisse said...

The Melancholy of... etc I've only seen as an anime but was pretty good as that if you can get in the slightly weird mindset. Sort of a Philip K. Dick reality fsck only with teenage school kids half of whom turn out to be not quite what they seem.

I quite liked Night of Knives as a great fan of Erikson's novels. It's a bit of a switch seeing a familiar world in the hands of another writer, but once you get used to it it's quite good.

Post a Comment