Naoki Urasawa's Pluto is one of the best comics I've ever read, period. It's engaging on every level, doing the impossible by retelling the single most famous story from the single most famous manga creator of all time -- Astro Boy, by Osamu Tezuka -- as a murder mystery that has an incredible amount of tension and drama. On the rare occasion that anyone asks me for manga recommendations, Pluto is always at the top of my list.
That said, it's also the only Urasawa comic I've ever read. As much as I know that I should dive in for more, Monster and 20th Century Boys are two of the most prominent entries on the long list of comics that I'm sure are great but just haven't gotten around to.
When Viz announced last year that they were going to publish the complete Master Keaton, though, I decided not to let the opportunity pass me by again. After all, this was a book that sounded right up my alley; a world-traveling combination of Indiana Jones and MacGyver, and while it might not come as much of a surprise, I can assure you that the first volume is amazing.
Conan and Red Sonja are the chocolate and peanut butter of the sword-and-sorcery genre. Wait, no. Now that I write that down, it seems like swords and sorcery would probably be the chocolate and peanut butter of the sword-and-sorcery genre, but you get the idea: They're two characters who tend to go really well together, which makes sense given that they're both characters that have more or less defined the genre since they were created -- particularly in comics.
That's why it shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone that Conan Red Sonja #1, despite a somewhat annoyingly un-punctuated title, reads like it came together effortlessly. Written by Jim Zub and Gail Simone, with art by Dan Panosian and Dave Stewart, the first issue breezes through the mandatory fight before the inevitable team-up in a way that's actually pretty engaging, setting up an adventure that seems every bit as exciting as the two characters deserve. And also just full of belts.
Starstruck, the first trade of the new Cyclops series, which collects the whole Greg Rucka, Russell Dauterman and Carmen Carnero run with the character, sidesteps the adult revolutionary version of Cyclops, who is currently proving to be the only acceptable mutant leader in the Marvel Universe right now – to focus on the teenaged version of his past self.
You see, at the start of All-New X-Men, Beast wrecked the timestream (in classic awful Beast fashion because he’s the worst) by bringing teenaged versions of the original five X-Men into the present day, basically so he could try out a guilt-trip on their present-day versions. This has caused countless problems and a lot of angst, which recently culminated with the young version of Cyclops deciding to race off into space for some quality time with his dad… who just so happens to be a notorious intergalactic outlaw pirate with rad facial hair. Probably the right choice.
I've never really been into Dragon Ball. I mean, look, yes, there was that brief period in high school where I was getting my one and only P.E. credit by taking a table-tennis class, and a friend of mine and I would kick off our shoes in the gym and claim that we had been using them to train in ten times Earth's gravity, but that was more down to being a couple of teenage goofballs than any particular love of the source material. I've seen the show, but I never bought a club shirt with Goku on it or anything, you know?
Even so, I was pretty curious about Jaco the Galactic Patrolman, a new manga from Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama. The only thing that was really holding me back was finding out that even though it was a self-contained story in one volume, it's tied into Dragon Ball, set in the same universe and serving as something of a prequel. I wasn't sure if I'd jump on, but then former CA contributor David Brothers offered to send me five bucks to cover the cost of the first volume if I didn't like it. It turns out that was a pretty safe bet, but I'm guessing he knew going in that it had a scene where a tiny spaceman punches out a monster shark.
Star Wars and Marvel Comics have a long history. A Marvel adaptation of the original sci-fi-fantasy film appeared in April 1977, a month before A New Hope dominated multiplexes in May of the same year. The success of the film as well as the comics led to a volume of over 100 issues over a nine-year span, featuring stories about what happened to the heroes of the Rebellion between their big screen adventures.
Following Marvel parent Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, this week sees the return of the Star Wars Universe to the Marvel banner, with a new ongoing series from Jason Aaron and John Cassaday launching on Wednesday. It's a strong debut from an A-list creative team who manages to capture the feel of George Lucas's film A New Hope while still taking advantage of the entirety of the Saga.
For a comic that's only two issues in, we've talked about David F. Walker and Bilquis Evely's Shaft comic a lot. There's been a review of the first issue, an interview with Walker, and now, with the second issue hot off the presses this week, we're going back to the well to talk about it again. The reason for all this ballyhoo from your pals at ComicsAlliance is simple: It's already one of the best comics in recent memory, and well worth your attention and ours.
The first issue started that trend, but in the second, things are heating up, and while the storyline follows a pattern that you probably expected going in, it's executed in an incredibly entertaining way.
The thing about Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo is that it's been one of the best comics on the stands for over 30 years. It's both fantastic and consistent to the point where I can't think of a bad issue, but when every single installment of a comic is at that high a level of quality, you sort of get used to it. It gets to the point where the stories are as epic and thrilling as they've ever been, but they don't quite surprise you in the way that you want them to, if only because you're expecting them to be that good, and as much as I love Sakai's work, it's been a while since I've actually been surprised by it.
Until I read Usagi Yojimbo: Senso, I mean. Because really, if you want to spice up an exhaustively researched samurai adventure story about a cast of furry animals, it just makes sense to throw a Martian invasion into the mix.
This week sees Nick Spencer, Ramon Rosanas, Jordan Boyd and Travis Lanham launch a new book over at Marvel in the shape of Ant-Man. Featuring the Scott Lang version of the size-changing hero, the series is pitched as being about a C-List Avenger trying to turn around his post-Avengers career and get a new job, so he can provide for his daughter, Cassie. He has an upset ex-wife, a crappy apartment, a criminal past, and no hopes – and that's how the series begins.
With this first issue of the new series - which is on sale now - Spencer takes the jokey tone of his Superior Foes of Spider-Man series and downplays things significantly. While Foes was about villains trying to keep a criminal career going, here we have a hero trying to keep a heroic career going. Or, well, any career at all. It's a familiar concept for anybody reading Marvel at the moment, as most of their solo books are about the very same idea, played out in different ways.
The closest thing Marvel has to a pure superhero, the return of Squirrel Girl with a new ongoing series from Ryan North, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi and Clayton Cowles is very good news indeed. First seen in a classic Steve Ditko story where she canonically proved herself to be stronger than class 100 cyberwizard Doctor Doom and smarter than the +40 intellect of Tony Stark, the character has taken on cultish status over the last few years. The basic idea is: no matter how tough a character says they are, or their fanbase wants them to be, this teenage girl with Squirrel Powers is always going to be tougher.
Charming all-ages comics that teach important lessons about gender -- while not actually being about gender at all -- are a unique and powerful thing. Luke Pearson’s Hilda books from Nobrow Press/Flying Eye Books are stories about a young girl named Hilda. She could have been any gender at all within the framework of the plots, but the choice to have a female lead in these stories serves a powerful purpose that extends beyond the page.
The title of the first book in the series, Hildafolk, is a play on the Icelandic huldufólk. Huldufólk are elves in Icelandic mythology thought to live in the rocky landscape: they sometimes had tiny houses built for them by Icelanders. The main character of Hildafolk is a young girl named Hilda who lives in a rocky, mountainous area with her mom and her pet fox-with-antlers, Twig. Quite quickly, Hilda’s world is established with a population of mythical creatures. Hilda is a risk-taker and wants to explore her world; she clearly considers herself an adventurer as well as a documentarian.
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