Thursday, April 28, 2005

New Del Rey Books

Nodame Cantabile 1

This is a fun series following a young man who desperately wants to be a music conductor, but an event when he was young makes him too afraid to travel abroad to learn. So he finds himself learning various types of musical instruments at home in Japan, all he masters quickly because of his innate genius.

This has made him a bit smug though, and feeling so apart from everyone that he is alone a lot. Until he meets Nodame, a sort of clumsy girl who has astonishing musical ability, but whose genius only really comes out when she plays from the heart not technically sound.

The two start off a bit strained, but quickly begin teaching each other things about music and life. I thought it very interesting to see the correlation between musical partnerships and romantic ones. How both are there to offer support in moments of weakness, and to blend with each other to come together in harmony for a greater whole.

It is a strong start to the series, that leaves me anxious to see what happens next.

Genshiken 1 : The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture

While Nodame is a strong start, this entry is a bit more shaky. It mainly follows the Genshiken club, who is a group of young men with a great interest in manga, anime, video games and cos play.

The group has all the usual fan stereo types, with a too self important leader who doesn't know as much as he thinks, a want to be artist who never put forth the effort required to become more, an over weight guy who loves dressing in costumes, and a fairly normal guy who fits in but finds himself a little out of sorts because he isn't used to knowing others who share his hobby.

Plus a type of fan I haven't seen much in stories, a good looking guy who others think isn't really a fan because he doesn't look the part. He also has a girlfriend who doesn't quite understand his hobby and would like him to spend more time with her. So there is a bit of a struggle there, with her wanting to be with him, but not understanding him.

He and the relatively normal one were the ones that really intrigued me, since they don't fall into the stereo typical behavior quite so much. I even found it sort of intriguing to see a sort of bias against "good looking people" that seemed to be a bit self loathing.

I wonder if the Japanese are a bit more open to laughing at themselves than American comic fans. Since so much of this book was laughing at some of the stranger sides of fandom, like obsession with girls as objects, porn and continuity minutiae. When similar things are done to certain weird sides of American fandom, it usually leads to anger and resentment.

The art itself was very detailed, but quite hard to follow in places. With panel flows going from the traditional side to side flow, to a jarring up to down in the blink of an eye flow.

With so much reliance of fandom fallacies, I was sort of luke warm about the series for a large portion of the book. Yet near the end a new element was addeded, that is sure to spice things up in future volumes especially. A girl from America joins the club, who happens to loves the stuff as much as the guys. Which startles them and also challenges the cute guy's girlfriend perspective on her boyfriend's hobby.

So I'll look forward to seeing #2 of it as well.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Another Cool Manga Series

Tuxedo Gin Book 2

I'd dismissed this series somewhat after a first volume that was okay, but seemed to come to a resolution that I didn't think needed to go any further. Yet volume 2 shows that there are plenty more paths for it to walk before it reaches its conclusion.

The series follows 17 year old boxer Ginji Kusanagi whose life was going perfectly. He'd just made his successful debut as a professional boxer, and met the girl of his dreams in the lovely Minako. Only to be killed in a an apparent accident, and then to his horror be reborn as a penguin.

He doesn't let that get the better of him though as he and the other penguins escape the zoo. Afterwards, he manages to become Minako's pet so he can watch over her and make sure no one hurts her.

In this volume we see how his disappearance has changed things for others in his life. From his former boxing coach, to a young boxer who idealized him. Seeing how much of an effect he's had on others really lets him start seeing a bigger picture.

This series is just so charming. The choice a penguin as the lead is wonderful as they are very cute and active creatures. I was quite impressed by how the artist was able to individualize all of the various penguins visually, while still having them be penguins.

Ginji is such a likeable character with a good heart and strong determination that helps him achieve whatever he sets out to do. Yet the most enduring thing is that everything he does, from keeping close to Minako to what he does for his friends. Is all done out his concern for them, not what he himself can get out of it in return.

Thus making him an engaging hero that is easy to root for.

Cool Stuff This Week


Sabrina #66 - Tania Del Rio is doing one of the best monthly series in comics with this title. Which seems to have kept a lot of the classic elements of the past, but with a more modern and fun spin, while forging new paths for the characters as well.


Legion of Super-Heroes #5 - It is so cool to have a Legion comic that is so much fun to read again. It is my favorite book at DC again, and is the only book from the big two that I go out of my way to get each and every month.


Sgt. Frog Vol. 8 - My favorite comedic manga series continues. I can't wait to see what those free-loading alien invaders are up to this month.


Case Closed Vol 5 - I wasn't too keen on the first volume, but as it has gone on the mysteries have gotten more intriguing and the interaction between Conan and his fellow students is priceless.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Blogday Thought

Today marks the one year anniversary of my blog. In part to celebrate that, but more to just spend some time with a new friend, I went shopping and got some cool stuff.

Showing my superhero fanboy nature I got:

Crisis on Infinite Earths

The one "everyone dies!" or "everything you know is changing!" crossover event that I actually enjoyed. I'm curious to see what this novelization of the story will be like given how it can't rely on the fantastic artwork of George Perez to bring things together.

Green Lantern Hero's Quest

As a fan of the Kyle Rayner GL, I'm looking forward to this tale that may be the last Kyle focused GL project for a very long time with the return of Hal Jordan in Green Lantern Rebirth miniseries.

Yet of course the main focus for me were the manga series:

Maison Ikkoku Book 3

I wasn't that impressed with volume 1 of this series, so it took me the better part of a year before I gave volume 2 a try. I'm glad I did, as the slow setup of the first volume was gone and the characters were from being apathetic dweebs to more realized characters. I hope for even better things with Volume 3.

Tuxedo Gin Book 2

I enjoyed volume 1 of this series about a young guy who is killed, but is brought back as a penguin so he can look out for the love of his life. Yet at the end of the book I didn't feel like there was much else left to do with the series.

I've finally decided, since this is a light time in terms of new volumes coming out in series I follow regularly, to give volume 2 a look to see if there was anything more to say or not.

Then I decided to take a bit of a risk on two new manga volumes from the Del Rey line:

Nodame Cantabile 1

The son of a famous pianist, rediscovers his love for music with the help of a young girl and fellow music student.

Genshiken 1 : The Society for the Study of Modern Visual Culture

Which follows a young couple, the boy is an anime fan who wants to join a club that will allow him to share his love of comics and anime with others like him. While the girl would like her boyfriend to act more "normal," but in her pursuit to change him learns things about his interests that she wasn't aware of.

Both of these volumes look and sound promising, and I find it sort of cool that I apparently got them early. (Amazon says they aren't due until April 26) I am a bit concerned by the binding though, as I can actually see the glue quite clearly on the edges of the spine.

Which makes me worry whether the books will hold together or not.

Still quite a productive day, now to just find the time to read and write about them. A resolution I'm going to try and make myself keep, as I go into the second year of the blog.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Stressful Week

There likely won't be many updates here during the week, as I'm learning a new computer system at work. After time in a classroom, I got out to take tests that are 45 minutes in length each time, and I must make 98 or above or I must retake the entire test.

Which makes for a stressful time, as they are looking for me to be done with the 10 tests by Friday. I've done 4 so far, so I'm ahead of the curve but with the toughest ones still to come.

If I can manage to get by a comic shop this week I hope to get the following stuff to try and relax a little with:

Adam Strange #7

I've cooled a little on this series over the past couple of issues, but it is still one of DC's best put together titles.

JLA Classified #6

With the way DC has been putting these characters through hell, it is sort of appropriate that Giffen and Co. send them there this issue.

Livewires #3

The plotless, but still entertaining fun series about cool teenage androids continues. This is one of the freshest things Marvel's done in years.

Runaways #3

I'm sort of surprised that they list the Excelsior team as "fan favorites," but I am curious to see how they and the Runaways deal with each other this issue.

Young Avengers #3

I've really dug the mystery of who these kids are so far, and find them a bit of fresh air counter to the whole "Oh how life sucks!" approach to superhero books lately.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

CSI Dominos

This series from IDW is the best adaption of another media into comics that I've ever read. The art by Gabriel Rodriguez gets the likenesses close enough that you know who you are looking at, without the awkward stiffness that such efforts usually provide.

Meanwhile, whether Max Allen Collins in previous volumes or Kris Oprisko in this one, the character sound like they do on TV, leaving this feeling like a solid episode from the latest season.

In this volume, a mob hit has gone wrong and now someone is killing everyone connected to one of Vegas's biggest mobsters. It is up to Grissom and company to put together the clues to not only find the identity of the killer, but also try to find the next victim before he does.

It is a very exciting story, that had me caught up with the tension the team were feeling as they always seemed two steps behind the killer. I did sort of miss artist Ashley Wood's detailed flashback pieces, though Steve Perkins serves the story well.

I hope the next trade arrives soon.


Ichitaka has a problem, he has a huge crush on his classmate Iori but doesn't know how to tell her. Especially since she'd just been tricked into posing for some provocative swimsuit photos for a teen magazine. So he worries that he'll look just like any number of the other sleazy guys who are hitting on her because of that.

And so starts the first(I've read anyway) guy targeted romantic manga series, that feels like the story is about something other than how often it can get its female leads nude. (though it does have a couple of fan service moments)

I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for Ichitaka, as he is a good guy, but has no idea how to express his feelings. Not only because he doesn't understand women, but he doesn't understand himself.

He judges everything on how he thinks others will act, rather than how they actually do. Which gets him into trouble, but is an honest look at how many young(and some not so young) boys act when it comes to girls.

The art is very detailed, with individualized faces and body styles for all of the characters. And the story is fun and interesting, with characters I both felt compassion and annoyance at.

Meaning that there is yet one more series I'll have to follow now.

Eyeshield 21 Volume 1

Whether you are a football fan or not, there should be something for everyone in this latest coming of age/slap stick comedy series from Shonen Jump.

I was amazed by how the art portrays the sport of football visually. From the vicious blocks to the sense of movement, as the lead spins and turns his way past the defense. It is a truly inventive way to show the sport in a medium that one would think it wouldn't be a good transfer to.

Yet even if you're not a fan of the sport, the story of a young Sena who is starting his first year at high school. Is enjoyable as you watch him try to find his place in such a bigger world. With his only real connection being his childhood friend Mamori, a cute and very enthusiastic young woman.

She's apparently slightly older than he is, so sort of plays the role of big sister by advising him and coming to his aid when she thinks he needs it. She's a very nifty character that I liked as soon as I saw her given her strong sense of self, and will likely play the role of romantic lead later.

With fun lead characters, and art that is very inventive in style, I can't wait to read future volumes.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Odds and Ends Linkblogging

Ian Brill has an interesting post today about how he's breaking the weekly comic habit. I did something similar a year or so back and have found myself much happier with what I do read.

Oh I still drop by a shop about once a month or so, but it is on my time and money not theirs. Plus it is usually just a bored browse, because anything I MUST have I get from DCBS or Amazon at far better prices. Plus it adds surprises like today when I got DC's Bizarro World HC and The Legend of Grimjack TPB.

Thanks DC! For offering a summary of everything happening in your comics. So I don't have to read them, and yet can still know if something I might want to read ever happens.

DC Ditches Humanoids & 2000AD Lines I was curious about these books, but never saw enough info about what books I might be interested in offered. In these days of less time and a lot of stuff I know I'll want to read, working to find more isn't for me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Comic Newbie Tries DC's Countdown to Infinity Crisis - Robinson Duffy of the Sun Star is urged to try what would seem to be a book designed for the long term reader. When he does it has a surprising, to me anyway, result.

I suppose someone with no knowledge of comics would be surprised at the leaps and bound comics have made over time. The production values and approach are drastically different than what are commonly thought of.

I still just find it quite strange that even the most die hard superhero fan would recommend such a history(big picture) themed comic as someone's first. Yet perhaps with the direction it takes, with a slightly skewed and darker take on past events. It takes a newbie to appreciate it, because there isn't a "Where did they get that from?" counter there.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

I need a spark

As any frequent readers have probably noticed, I haven't been updating as much lately. A good part of that is a heavy workload and a new relationship, yet there is also a feeling of not having much to say.

I find myself just disinterested in the stupid moves I see DC and Marvel are doing. The two have always done what I see as fairly dumb things in the past. Yet in recent years especially, the move towards "Roman gladiator games" styled storytelling. Where each new event must be more upsetting and demented than the last to serve and ever growing blood thirsty audience. At first these moves just disgusted me, but now has just made me indifferent to the two companies to the point where they are fast becoming irrelevant to me.

Meanwhile I am LOVING the various manga series I'm reading, from the teen soap opera of HOT GIMMICK to the detective stories of KINDAICHI CASE FILES and others in other genres.

Yet I've found myself slowly falling into kind of a rut of sorts, where I find I don't have much new to say. This was especially evident after catching up with some of my favorite manga series this weekend.

Hot Gimmick volume 8 was a wonderful read again, as the teens continue to deal with emotions they either can't or decide not to deal with. The biggest problem the characters have in the series is the lack of communication, since so much could be solved if they were all honest with each other. Yet since some of the characters won't even allow themselves to be honest with their own selves, honesty with others won't happen either.

Othello volume 3 was a lot of fun as well, with a bigger look at fan devotion taken. By looking at how the split personality character Yaya/Nana deals with both a cocky rockstar who thinks she's dumb for being devoted to him enough to dress like him, and an obsessive fangirl who fears anyone getting too close to the singer she obsesses over.

Those themes along with the Nana side's move towards achieving justice going a bit overboard as she overreacts to someone getting the last muffin for lunch. Make for a fun read, but then I knew these books would be fun reads based on what I'd read in the past.

I wonder about talking about the same books over and over again, as it soon grows to the point where I feel like I'm just talking plot points rather than craft or the like.

So I'm setting myself a challenge for the next few weeks. I'm going to try and find books to read that will challenge my sensibilities a bit more than books right now that seem to only line up to my current tastes. That doesn't mean I'm going to actively seek out thing I know I'll dislike, just try some things that aren't easy choices.

Anyone have any suggestions? (old or new books, as I still haven't read a lot of stuff from the past)

Friday, April 08, 2005

This Week's Comics

G.L.A.#1 - This book just seems to be trying to be too much to too many people, leaving me unsatisfied afterwards.

These were all characters I hadn't seen before and afterwards I still felt like I didn't know enough about any of them. The big "death" had no impact, other than how it affected the male lead which is becoming a FAR too often trend in comics, because there was nothing beforehand to make me care about the character.

Meanwhile the humor rang a bit hollow, because it reflected poorly off all of the serious issues being raised elsewhere in the book.

I wonder at who the target audience was for this, as those like myself looking for a more comedic take were probably put off by all of the doom and gloom. While those looking for a more serious take likely didn't appreciate the humor.

A new pet peeve too. Can we have at least one new Marvel comic that doesn't have anything to do with Avengers Disassembled?

Seven Soldiers: Zatanna #1 - I must say that Ryan Sook's art really surprised me here. In the past when I've seen it there was a certain unrealness to it that kept the figures from looking tangential. Not the case here though, where his figures are solid, and quite attractive.

Story wise, the down to Earth parts with Zatanna attending a support group for down trodden super heroes were fun and entertaining. Especially a particularly funny, and subtle, jab at the way female characters have been treated only as subjects of rape and death lately in comics.

The pseudo magic/alternate reality stuff completely lost me almost as soon as it started. Though the page layouts were quite imaginative and interesting to look and appreciate.

I always wonder something though. I haven't read too many Zatanna stories, but the ones that I have always talk about her strong ties to her dad. Who was her mom though? I have never seen any stories dealing that, and have always wondered about it.

Power Pack #1- I like the theme of the youngest sibling feeling put upon for having to hide her powers from everyone. Since she wants to show everyone how she shines and is ready to shed her "baby" role and become an adult.

It is a very realistic theme that many kids, especially young girls, seem to go through given the expectations for them to become mature faster.

My one complaint is that the dialogue just doesn't sound like kids voices at all. The dialogue seemed to follow more adult speaking patterns than how kids today really talk.

Legion of Super-Heroes #4 - Waid just keeps adding depths to these characters and situations. After last issue, I thought I had a clear picture of Brainy as sort of the over controlling genius who thinks he knows better than everyone else what to do.

With Cosmic Boy there to counter him, bring a more emotional but slightly less confrontational role as leader. This issue kept that dynamic, but turned it on its ear as well by showing the reader that who is right and wrong isn't quite as clear as previously thought.

The art in the first story by Kirk was nice, though not up to the kinetic energy level of Kitson, which given the amount of action in this story was missed. Too often figures looked too static during the battle scenes, though his quiet personal moments which relied on a facial expression as much as dialogue were fine.

The second story's focus on Phantom Girl, with art by Dave (WATCHMEN) Gibbons had much more energy though. I liked the new take on her as a person of two worlds literally quite well. This has been the best part of Waid's run, is his ability to keep the heart of the classic character but approach it in new, unthought of before ways.

There is a sense of wonder as well as heartbreak to Tinya's origin. In how she must balance her roles both with the Legion and in her home dimension at the same time. Especially in dealing with those who feel they need her full attention at all times, even though she is upfront in how that isn't possible.

Gosh I have to wait another month to see what happens next now? There aren't too many comics I can say that the wait seems too long.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Quick Plug

Johanna has the scoop on my favorite comic awards, The Squiddies.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Sin City Movie Thoughts

I just came in from seeing the Sin City movie, and find myself sort of wondering if Frank Miller is some type of accidental comedic genius or not.

Oh when the movie tries to be funny it falls flat on it's collective butt. Yet the rest of the movie, with its really over wrought internal monologue, had me and the rest of the audience just laughing out loud AT it.

This tough guy sounding voice might work better in comic form, where it adds mood to the story that art alone can't convey. Yet aloud it just sounds so corny, that if I didn't know any better I would think it was intentional.

The movie starts off gruesome and get grizzlier as it goes on. To the point that by the end of the movie you are immune to the over the top violence and fairly needless nudity. Which seems to be there just in case you start thinking about the female characters as something other than objects to be protected or revenged.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the experience of seeing the movie. The mostly black and gray film noir look is lovely to be hold, really drawing your attention to the bright colors it highlights. Though I found it really odd that the blood looked like spilt milk.

I suspect my reasons for liking it, the unintentional comedy, to be far different than most fans though.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Weird Week

I've been following the story about a manhunt for armed and dangerous fugitives, here in Silsbee, Texas for the past week. The hunt is taking place just a few miles from where I live, so it is something I'm trying to keep up to date on.

To people in big cities it probably isn't anything new or special, but in the rural little town I live it is big news and a big scare.

Work has been stressful, with the bosses pressuring everyone to work even faster without offering any suggestions as to how but "Just do it!" Which has instead led to just higher stress levels and probably slower production in the end.

I HATE April Fool's day. A day devoted to nothing more than who can tell the biggest lie just isn't that amusing to me.

Comic wise I haven't been able to hit any shops or book chain stores this week to see what is out. Plus I've seemed to hit a glut of stuff in my to be read pile, that is okay but I have little to say on.

A friend sent me all of the FUTURE COMICS first issues, and they were okay if a bit old fashioned in their approach. There was nothing inherently bad about them, but I didn't remember anything about them 5 minutes after reading them.

Geoff Johns did surprise me in METAL HURLANT #2 (from Humanoids Publishing) by telling a sci-fi story that was cynical, mean spirited and perhaps a bit un-American. Yet was a darn interesting read. The art was by the RED STAR team of Christian Gossett and Snakebite, and reminded of why I liked those early issue with the epic detailing.

On a final note, I have gotten strangely addicted to a word game called Text Twist at

It is free to play, and quite addicting in a Scrabble with a time limit sort of way.