Pinoko says…


Um… sure you are, Pinoko, but remember what we talked about? How you were going to mention Kate Dacey’s Black Jack Contest over at The Manga Critic? It ends at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5, and it’s open to United States residents 18 years of age or older.


Well, then you could enter to win the first six volumes of Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack from Vertical. It’s about a gifted but unlicensed doctor treating all kinds of maladies for ridiculous fees, and you’re in it, too!


Lots of people do. According to this week’s ComicList, the sixth volume arrives in comic shops today.

Other promising arrivals include the eighth volume of Girl Genius: Agatha Heterodyne And The Chapel Of Bones (Airship Entertainment) by Phil and Kaja Foglio and Cheyenne Wright and the 16th volume of Nodame Cantabile (Del Rey) by Tomoko Ninomiya.

On the less promising front, at least by my taste, is the first volume of Kanoko Sakurakoji’s Black Bird (Viz), which seems to be anticipated with some eagerness. I agree entirely with Kate Dacey’s review. Those covers with the blood-flecked girl being manhandled by some dude are entirely accurate.

Or as I like to call it, "Poverty Month"

It’s Manga Month again in Diamond’s Previews catalog, and there’s quite a mix of stuff for varied tastes. Oddly enough, there’s isn’t a Manga Month spread at the front pointing to items of particular interest or even any indication of the occasion on the cover, but why dwell?

Dark Horse has been making some interesting choices lately, stretching further and further out of its seinen mold. This month, they’re offering four books from Akiko Ikeda’s Dayan Collection series of children’s books featuring “the mischievous cat… and his woodland friends.” The illustrations look gorgeous. Dark Horse has a bunch of preview pages up at its site. (Pages 30 and 31.)

Del Rey really gets on the Manga Month bus. I’m most interested in the first volume of Faust, “a fiction magazine showcasing innovative short works by young authors. Deb Aoki interviewed Faust editor Katsushi Ota over at not too long ago which really whetted my interest. (Page 256.)

In addition to new volumes of lots of series I love, there’s also the debut of the Odd Thomas graphic novel, In Odd We Trust, by Dean Koontz and Queenie (The Dreaming) Chan. I haven’t read Koontz’s Odd Thomas novels, but it’s about a guy who talks to the dead, and it’s drawn by Chan, so I’m almost sure to like it. (Page 256.)

Drawn & Quarterly’s third collection of the works of Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Good-Bye (Page 283), will undoubtedly get lots of well-deserved attention, but I’m more drawn to the possibilities of Seichi Hayashi’s Red Colored Elegy. It follows “the quietly melancholic lives of a young couple struggling to make ends meet” during “a politically turbulent and culturally vibrant decade that promised but failed to delivery new possibilities.” (Page 284.)

I’m only going by what Go! Comi’s solicitation tells me, but I like the concept behind Shino Taira and Yuki Ichiju’s Bogle, promising a contemporary teen-girl Robin Hood. (Page 293.)

Netcomics offers another title with a josei vibe, Wann’s Talking About. “Three lonely women in search of “happily ever after” in one modern city filled to the brim with difficult men.” (Page 316.)

That sound you just heard was probably Kate Dacey’s head exploding. Viz is offering a second edition of Rumiko Takahashi’s One-Pound Gospel, forbidden romance between a budding boxer and a beautiful nun. (Page 375.)

General head explosion will probably result from the announcement of two fat collections of Kazuo (The Drifting Classroom) Umezu’s Cat Eyed Boy. Horror fans will undoubtedly want to take note, as Umezu is an insanely gifted practitioner in this genre. Here’s some early, illustrated enthusiasm from Same Hat! Same Hat! The softcover books offer about 500 pages a piece for $24.99, but you can hack about a third off of that price if you pre-order at Amazon. (Page 377.)

In addition to a fair number of former Ice Kunion titles, Yen Press deliver’s the first volume of a manga that instantly hooks me with its title: Shoulder-a-Coffin, Kuro! by Satoko Kiyuduki. I don’t even care what it’s about. (Page 379.)

In the realm of comics not from Japan, there’s still plenty of interest. Phil and Kaja Foglio and Cheyenne Wright offer the seventh volume of Girl Genius: Agatha and the Voice of the Castle. I really enjoy this funny adventure series, which is also available online. (Page 203.)

Based on the strength of La Perdida, I’ll read just about anything by Jessica Abel, even if it’s about underemployed hipster vampires. Abel collaborates with Gabe Soria and Warren Pleece on Life Sucks from First Second. (Page 289.)

I really need to read Matthew Loux’s Sidescrollers (Oni Press), which has gotten tons of praise. Loux has a new book coming from Oni called Salt Water Taffy. The new quarterly series follows a bizarre family vacation to a small fishing port in Maine, and it looks like it will be a lot of fun. (Page 317.)

New comics from Hope Larson always make me happy. Her latest is Chiggers from Simon and Schuster, which promises friendship crises at summer camp. Larson is one of the most imaginative visual storytellers around, so it should offer an intriguing on familiar-sounding material. (Page 337.)

Quick comic comments: Road reading

There’s always plenty to do in Las Vegas, not least of which is compensating for the feeling of complicity in propping up a fundamentally unsustainable and wasteful human settlement. But a trip to Alternate Reality Comics always helps me forget the guilt, at least briefly, because it’s an awesome shop. It has a really great selection, and the staff is always helpful. And since it’s located between the airport and our hotel of choice, I was totally justified in stopping there before we checked in.

I haven’t read all of my haul yet, and I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed with what I’ve read so far.

First were two second volumes of Fumi Yoshinaga series: Ichigenme… The First Class Is Civil Law (801) and The Moon and the Sandals (Juné). It’s Yoshinaga, so neither is anywhere close to bad, but it seems like she concentrated all of the heavy lifting in terms of character and nuance in the first volumes so she could concentrate on the hot couple action in the second rounds. And hey, at least she did that initial heavy lifting at all, which gives the action some welcome depth.

Then there was Girl Genius: Agatha Heterodyne and the Golden Trilobite (Airship). Don’t get me wrong: I really enjoy this series and would strongly recommend it. It’s just that this volume focused more on the narrative spine of the series than its heart. In other words, Agatha got pushed to the sidelines, which served to escalate the tension in the story but left me disappointed. I like the supporting cast, many of whom were pressed into service to rescue Agatha, and it was nice to believe that a bunch of people would run around risking their lives for the lead. A lot of times, creators will try and pass their lead off as beloved without doing any of the set-up needed to make it credible. Phil and Kaja Foglio have earned this kind of development, though.

Of course, it just reminds you that Agatha is terrific and plucky and smart and that you aren’t seeing very much of her in action. Which was a downer.

Upcoming 8/15

Just got back from some work travel, about which the less said the better. I checked in periodically to see if there was any blog spam in the filter, and it all apparently concealed itself for this morning. I tried to look through and see if there were any actual comments in there, but my eyes started to glaze over, so if I dumped anything inadvertently, I apologize.

Now, on to today’s haul.

The pick of the week for me is the sixth volume of the Foglios’ delightful web-to-print fantasy-adventure, Girl Genius: Angela Heterodyne and the Golden Trilobite, now available in softcover. The last volume ended on quite the cliffhanger, so I’m eager to see what happens next. (If you’re interested in the series and want a good starting point, Airship has an omnibus edition of the first three volumes.)

Oni Press delivers the fourth issue of the very funny series Maintenance, written by Jim Massey and drawn by Robbi Rodriguez. It’s one of the few series I collect in floppy form, and it just got optioned by Warner Brothers. (I realize that lots of series get optioned, and that it’s no sign of quality whatever, but I think this property might make for fun viewing.)

Tokyopop has three titles that interest me. The first is the 17th volume of Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket. The series seems to be in a bit of a holding pattern, and the last couple of volumes have only bruised my heart as opposed to ripping it clean out of my chest. I’m fairly confident that it will get back on form soon enough, but the plot really could use a bit of forward motion.

I’ve seen various responses to Fumi Yoshinaga’s Truly Kindly, coming from the Blu imprint, though none of them have been what I’d call negative. I believe it’s been described as “weird,” and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The title alone is enough to get me interested in Atelier Marie and Elie Zarlburg Alchemist by Yoshihiko Ochi, though I wouldn’t relish typing it very often.

Suddenly next fall

When I do these trawls through Diamond’s Previews catalog, I generally try and limit my focus to new series and graphic novels. Sometimes, that’s just impossible.

After over a year and a half in limbo, ADV will release a new volume of Kiyohiko Azuma’s delightful Yotsuba&! I could stop right there and be perfectly happy. (Page 217.) I won’t, obviously.

A new collection of Phil and Kaja Foglio’s funny fantasy adventure, Girl Genius (Airship), is always good news. The sixth trade paperback is listed on page 221, and I’ve reviewed previous volumes here, here and here.

David Petersen’s beautiful Mouse Guard (Archaia) was one of the surprise hits of last year, which leads me to suppose that the sequel, Winter 1152, will also be a hit, but not a surprising one. (Page 230.)

Aurora enters the Previews fray with two listings: Makoto Tateno’s Hate to Love You, described as “Romeo and Romeo,” and Chihiro Tamaki’s Walkin’ Butterfly, a shôjo series about an aspiring model. (Page 238.)

I had expected more of a wait for the second volume of Adam Warren’s sweetly subversive, cheerfully shameless piece of cheesecake, Empowered. Apparently not, which is certainly good news. I reviewed the first volume here. (Page 45.)

Dark Horse dabbles in shôjo with Kazuhiro Okamoto’s Translucent, about a girl who’s starting to turn invisible. My teen-angst metaphor sensors are pinging, but in a good way. (Page 47.)

If Tokyopop’s Dragon Head and Viz’s The Drifting Classroom aren’t adequately feeding your need for student survivalist drama, Del Rey launches Tadashi Kawashima’s Alive. There goes that metaphor sensor again! (Page 272.)

I must have been experiencing a shortage of serotonin last weekend, because I ordered a big box of Fumi Yoshinaga manga from Amazon. I read it all in a sitting, and I think my aura transformed from a dingy gray to a cloud of flowers that were sparkling in a slightly ironic fashion. I really recommend it, and manga publishers like Blu, 801 and Juné seem determined to keep these mood-elevating supplements in ample supply. Juné launches Don’t Say Anymore Darling (page 289) and releases the third volume of Flower of Life (page 290). I don’t know why DMP is publishing it in the Juné imprint [Edited to note that they actually aren’t, and I’m just blurring things in my feeble brain], because there doesn’t seem to be any ai among the shônen, but I don’t really care, because I love the series to a positively embarrassing extent.

Fantagraphics releases the second volume of Gilbert Hernandez’s marvelous Palomar stories in Human Diastrophism. (Page 302.) I reviewed the first volume here.

Go! Comi adds more shônen to its line up with the first volume of Yu Yagami’s Hikkatsu. (Page 308.) In it, the protagonist can use martial arts to repair appliances. Since the ice maker in my refrigerator has been on the fritz for weeks, this concept appeals to me.

While the concept of Oni’s The Apocalipstix doesn’t really speak to me – post-apocalyptic rocker girls! – I’m crazy about Cameron Stewart’s art, and he’s teamed up with writer Ray Fawkes for this original graphic novel. (Page 335.)

Back on Yoshinaga patrol, Tokyopop’s Blu imprint offers Truly Kindly, a collection of shorts from the mangaka. Let’s see… I love Yoshinaga, and I love manga shorts. We’ll mark that down as a “yes.” (Page 365.)

Updates, reviews, and long-awaited Scandinavian cartoons

Lyle has shared the cover of that issue of SF Weekly that featured the article on Yaoi-Con. It’s been suggested that they modified the artwork without the creator’s consent. Brigid has also found some letters to the editor in response to the article.

At The Beat, Heidi MacDonald links to an article from the Associate Press on controversial graphic novels in libraries, sparked by the dust-up in Marshall, MO. It’s a well-sourced and interesting read.

At Journalista, Dirk Deppy has heard reports from a reliable source that Yumi Hoashi left her post as head of Viz’s magazine division for a new gig, a theory posited by Simon Jones (whose blog might not be safe for work). Jones also provided me with my heartiest guffaw of yesterday, which was much appreciated:

“Won’t somebody think of the children!… who… read… the Comics Journal…”


Brigid has also reviewed Inverloch from Seven Seas for Digital Strips. I liked the first volume a lot and keep meaning to track down the second. Johanna Draper Carlson reviews one of my favorite books, Girl Genius from Airship Entertainment. And Jamie S. Rich, author of 12 Reasons Why I Love Her from Oni, also loves June Kim’s 12 Days from Tokyopop.


As for today’s comics, the clear front-runner (for me, at least) is Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Book One from Drawn and Quarterly. (Go here, scroll down, and click for a preview.) I’ve been looking forward to this since Free Comic Book Day, and my anticipation has only intensified thanks to the Moomin references in at least two of the manga versions of Train Man.

Speaking of that subway Romeo, Del Rey offers its one-volume shôjo take on the story. (Count Jog among the unmoved.)

If forced to pick only one item from Viz’s rather substantial list of product, hunger would win out and I’d opt for the second volume of Yakitate Japan.

The ComicList has thoughtfully compiled a manga-centric list of the week’s releases, and the MangaCasters have gone through it with a fine-toothed comb.

Catalog shopping

Okay, order forms are due tomorrow, but the new Previews just showed up in the shop this week. Let’s see what’s there!

If you’ve been even vaguely intrigued with Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius, Airship is giving you a great opportunity to see what it’s all about. They’re publishing a black and white, manga-sized Omnibus Edition priced at $14.95 for 312 pages of story.

Who knew First Second’s Mark Siegel had spare time? He’s illustrated two graphic novels for Aladdin Books: A new soft-cover version of Seadogs: An Epic Ocean Operetta, written by Lisa Wheeler, and To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel, written by Sienna Cherson Siegel.

I loved Gabrielle Bell’s When I’m Old and Other Stories, so chances are good I’ll feel the same about her new collection, Lucky (Drawn and Quarterly).

I mentioned it yesterday, but it bears repeating. Fanfare/Ponent Mon has a new collection of stories from Kan (Kinderbook) Takahama, called Awabi. Takahama’s stuff is gorgeous, and chances are slim that you’ll run across much of it in a bookstore, so if you’re interested, you might consider pre-ordering.

The solicitation text for Escape from Special (Fantagraphics) isn’t particularly helpful until it gets around to describing creator Miss Lask-Gross as “a love child of Linda Barry and David B. mid-wifed by Judy Blume.” Now that catches my attention. (Fantagraphics also seems to be having a summer sale with 20% off orders of $40 or more.)

This also seems to be one of those months where new volumes of tons of ongoing manga series I love come out. CMX has Emma vol. 2. Dark Horse has The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol. 2 (which I’m sure I’ll love if the first volume ever shows up). Del Rey has ES vol. 3. Seven Seas has Inverloch vol. 2. Tokyopop has Fruits Basket vol. 15, Sgt. Frog vol. 12 (of 12, apparently), and Shout Out Loud vol. 3. Vertical has the fourth soft-cover volume of Buddha. Viz has The Drifting Classroom vol. 3 and Monster vol. 6.

Okay, what did I miss?

From the stack: GIRL GENIUS Vol. 4

Is it too late to make another recommendation for the American Library Association’s list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens? Because Phil and Kaja Foglio’s Girl Genius (Airship Entertainment) really belongs on that list.

To be honest, I think it belongs on a list of Great Graphic Novels for Just About Anyone, but its combination of high and low comedy, adventure and invention make it especially perfect for that category.

A new Girl Genius trade paperback came out on Wednesday, Agatha Heterodyne and the Circus of Dreams, and it has all the virtues of the three installments that preceded it. It’s funny, action-packed and features an ever-expanding cast of memorable characters.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Girl Genius, it stars Agatha Clay. She’s a “spark,” a person with an almost magical gift for invention and engineering. Over the course of a series of mishaps, she’s learned that she’s a member of the Heterodyne clan, a family of sparks whose adventures have become legend. They concealed Angela’s identity and abilities to protect her, but now the secret is out, and a variety of competing forces are trying to track her down for their own purposes.

But Agatha’s on the loose with a talking cat and a great big gun, and she isn’t very interested in being used. She finally has full reign of her inventive abilities, but circumstances demand that she keep a low profile until she can get a handle on the situation. Her family’s predisposition for leaping into danger runs as strongly through her as its mad engineering genius, though, so a low profile often goes out the window.

Things happen fast in Girl Genius. No sooner has Agatha escaped the city-sized dirigible of Baron Wulfenbach than she runs across a traveling circus filled with appealing oddballs. She and her companion, Krosp, an irascible feline destined to be the King of Cats, fit right in, but the circus has its own secrets to keep and is reluctant to compromise its safety. As is customary in this charming book, circumstances conspire to keep Agatha on the road with the group.

In the process, Agatha finds friends, an outlet for her abilities, and a mentor in the form of Zeetha, a warrior woman who’s been separated from her homeland. As Zeetha takes a tough-love approach to bringing Agatha’s adventuring skills up to scratch, the last Heterodyne learns some of her family history. (The circus specializes in retellings of various Heterodyne adventures.) It’s a fun and inventive way for Agatha to embrace her legacy.

I’m constantly impressed by the steady stream of appealing new characters the Foglios introduce to the narrative. The cast is absolutely sprawling, but each character is distinct and appealing in his or her way, even the antagonists. Even better, each cast member makes his or her own unique contribution to the world that the Foglios are building.

It’s an eye-popping world, too. Phil Foglio’s illustrations are always appealing, whether the scene in question is comic, reflective, or gruesome. It’s a flexible style that suits the material perfectly. In the fun creator bios, Laurie E. Smith is described as conducting “experiments with blasphemous color theory,” which is exactly correct. Her palette helps give Folgio’s drawings bright, rich life.

The Foglios describe Girl Genius as “A Gaslamp Fantasy with Adventure, Romance & Mad Sciences,” which is also exactly correct. This book is great fun, a modern myth in the making that seems to get better with each new chapter.

(The fourth volume also includes a charming back-up story, “Fan Fiction,” written by Shaenon Garrity in which a young woman inserts herself into the Heterodyne adventures as she retells them to her younger siblings. Garrity does a very nice job capturing the appeal of taking ownership of legends, making a gentle case for the Mary Sue even as she pokes fun. Garrity’s story can be viewed here, and you can also sample Girl Genius from the beginning.)