From the stack: Innocent Bird Vol. 1

It’s delightful how easily the premise of Hirotaka Kisaragi’s Innocent Bird (Blu) translates into buddy-comedy bluster:

A devil trying to do the right thing… An angel upholding God’s law the only way he knows how… Genesis… was just… the beginning!

Inventing variations on bombastic movie trailers throughout my reading of this book probably led me to like it more than I should. It’s not especially gripping, and readers hoping for sexy blasphemy will be sorely disappointed, but Kisaragi does chart some interesting, even moving territory along the way.

Shirasagi is a very bad devil. He’s gone so far as to abandon his demonic duties to become a priest in a low-rent neighborhood, ministering to the downtrodden and teaching children mathematics and Japanese out of a shuttered nightclub. Karasu, the angel, cares more about the spirit of God’s law than the letter. When sent to convince Shirasagi to resume his duties as Beelzebub’s favorite sex toy, Karasu lacks the bureaucrat’s enthusiasm for order and regulation.

The two are essentially soldiers in a war that has become so codified as to be void of passion or meaning. Angels and devils do what they do because that’s what they’ve always done, and individual moral choice has been divorced from the equation. Shirasagi and Karasu are outsiders simply because they take a nuanced, personal view of their by-the-numbers circumstances. Even putting aside their mutual attraction, they’re dangerous because they think for themselves.

That conceit interests me, and it helps overcome a lot of the mundane mechanics of the story. Nothing particularly startling or even unexpected happens in terms of plot, and Kisaragi is much better at illustrating emotion than event. In spite of those shortcomings, Kisaragi has convinced me to want a happy outcome for her protagonists and to be curious about what happens to them next. (A sharply observed back-up story about building a family of choice goes a long way to sell me on Kisaragi’s abilities.)

Previews review

It’s time again for a trawl through the current edition of Previews. There’s lots of interesting new stuff, but there are also new versions of excellent comics that have been published previously and re-lists of some great books.

The first in DC’s Minx line of books, The Plain Janes, rolls out in this edition, and DC provides some preview pages that look nice. It’s interesting to see how much effort DC is devoting to getting these books in comics specialty shops, but I sure hope there are concurrent efforts in the kind of outlets where the target audience actually shops.

On the CMX front, there are a few attractive preview pages of Tomomi Yamashita’s Apothecarius Argentum, another period poison piece. But will it be completely insane?

The solicitation for 801’s Affair by Shiuko Kano catches my eye with phrases like “real adult relationships.” It’s also a collection of shorts, which is one of my weaknesses.

I’ve already enjoyed David Petersen’s terrific Mouse Guard (Archaia) in floppies, but I’m glad to see that the publisher hasn’t wasted any time in putting out what will surely be an attractive hardcover collection.

The manga-with-princess-in-the-title wars rage on as Del Rey debuts Yasunari Mitsunaga’s Princess Resurrection. The tiara and the chainsaw balance each other out rather nicely, don’t they?

Also from Del Rey is the first volume Hitoshi Iwaaki’s Parasyte, which has generated considerable anticipation. It’s one of their “older readers” books at the $12.95 price point.

Drawn & Quarterly re-lists the first volume of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jannson Comic Strip for anyone who may have missed it. I’m crazy about this book and will mention it at any opportunity.

The story described in the solicitation for Gipi’s Garage Band doesn’t immediately grab me, but First Second has demonstrated impeccable taste in the books they choose to publish, and I’ve been wanting to sample Gipi’s work.

I like the idea of the multi-generational story described in the blurb for Morim Kang’s 10, 20 and 30 from Netcomics. I’ll have to swing by the publisher’s site and sample a few chapters when they become available.

Oni focuses on new versions of already-published material, collecting Scott Chantler’s terrific Northwest Passage in an omnibus edition and delivering a “Definitive Edition” of Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber’s bottom-of-the-world thriller Whiteout. They also re-list a bunch of great books from their catalog, so if you’ve missed stuff like Past Lies, Capote in Kansas, or Banana Sunday, now’s your chance.

New from Oni is James Vining’s First in Space, a 2006 Xeric Grant recipient, telling the tale of “a chimpanzee Americans trained for the first sub-orbital spaceflight.” I’m intrigued, but my “sad animal story” radar is pinging.

Say what you will about the prospect of OEL from Avril Lavigne. It’s bound to be The Rose of Versailles compared to the Bratz Cine-Manga (Tokyopop).

Tokyopop’s Blu imprint delivers more Fumi Yoshinaga in the form of Lovers in the Night. How many of her titles are left to license? It’s like we’re in the middle of a Yoshinagalanche. That’s not a bad thing, obviously. I didn’t like the opening gambit of Gerard and Jacques, but the series of explosions in the second volume was one of the funniest pieces of cartooning I’ve seen all year.

Top Shelf delivers a new volume of Andy Runton’s Owly, A Time to Be Brave, which would be generosity enough for one month. But after taking a look at the preview pages for Christian Slade’s Korgi (via Blog@Newsarama), I realize that they’re determined to spoil me.


While we all have to wait until tomorrow morning to find out which movies that I haven’t seen will be nominated for Oscars, you can see which comics GLAAD feels represent the most fair, accurate and inclusive depictions of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals.

Those comics apparently don’t include 12 Days, Off*Beat, or Shout Out Loud!

Buck up, Tokyopop. Maybe someday you’ll be mainstream enough.

From the stack: Shout Out Loud! Vol. 3

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it lately, but I really, really like Satosumi Takaguchi’s Shout Out Loud! (Blu). The first volume made a pleasant enough impression, but the subsequent two have really won me over.

It’s a workplace comedy about voice-over actors in boys’-love dramas, which gives Takaguchi lots of room to play. After a successful stint doing voice work in kids’ videos, Shino has made a career change, quickly becoming a go-to bottom in the industry and attracting the romantic interest and professional jealousy of his cast mates. He’s also learned that he’s the father of a 17-year-old son resulting from a brief, early marriage.

In other words, Shino has a lot going on in his life, and he’s a worrier. He wonders whether he’s a good enough parent to moody, hockey-loving Nakaya, and about the course of his career. He’s also baffled by the new range of romantic possibilities that have cropped up. His failed marriage left him something of a loner, and now he isn’t sure if he’s ready to start over, much less with a man. (Handsome acting partner Tenryu is providing plenty of inducement to get ready, though.)

Nakaya is struggling with his own confusion, finding himself unexpectedly attracted to a young hockey coach, Fuse. Is it curiosity or just intense admiration? Nakaya isn’t sure, and Fuse is keeping him at arm’s length until Nakaya figures it out. (And of course, it all gives Shino another reason to worry.)

Takaguchi doesn’t spare any effort in developing her cast, and she doesn’t shy away from their sexual identities. Some are gay, some are bisexual, and some are straight but very, very curious. But they aren’t defined exclusively by their sexuality; they work, squabble, gossip, visit with family, hang out, and basically just live their lives as best they can. It’s not all smoldering glances and tortured, inner monologues.

In other words, it’s very lifelike — sometimes funny, sometimes sad, and always engagingly believable.

Conspicuous consumption

The past few weeks have obviously lulled me into a false sense of security, because a look at the ComicList for Wednesday… well… it’s like Manga DEF CON 5. Pawn some heirlooms, clear space on your shelves, do what you have to do.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll just go with a list of what I would like to buy, were money no object:

  • Anne Freaks Vol. 4, ADV
  • Mail Vol. 1, Dark Horse (written and drawn by Housui Yamazaki, artist on The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service)
  • Emma Vol. 2, CMX
  • After School Nightmare Vol. 2, Go! Comi (first volume recently reviewed by Brigid here)
  • Train + Train Vol. 1, Go! Comi
  • Fruits Basket Vol. 15, Tokyopop
  • Sgt. Frog Vol. 12, Tokyopop
  • Shout Out Loud Vol. 3, Blu
  • Beauty Pop Vol. 2, Viz – Shojo Beat
  • The Drifting Classroom Vol. 3, Viz – Signature
  • And that doesn’t even count series like Aishiteruze Baby, Bleach and Phoenix where I need to catch up on previous volumes. Other corners of the shipping list seem a bit more forgiving to me, but overall, it looks like employees of manga-friendly comic shops are going to be swamped this week.

    Oh, and until teen girls can be liberated from comics poverty when Minx comes riding over the hill, they’ll just have to settle for stuff like this.

    October numbers

    Direct market sales figures for the month of October are up at Comic Book Resources and The Pulse. As with bookstores, Tokyopop’s Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories leads the manga pack, coming in at number 9 in graphic novels overall.

    It’s a good month for Juné, with three manga titles and a novel making the manga top 10. They all lag behind Tokyopop’s Loveless in the BL stakes; the third volume came in second in manga and 22 in graphic novels. And while Juné’s books ranked higher, Blu’s books were nipping at their heels.

    A total of 28 manga titles made the top 100 GN list. I’m particularly glad to see Dark Horse’s Ohikkoshi (reviewed here by Jog) crack the GN rankings, placing at roughly the same spot Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (reviewed here by Christopher Butcher) did in September.

    On the much-discussed global front, the second volume of Svetlana Chmakova’s Dramacon leads the pack, hitting #25 in manga and #89 in GNs, Kingdom Hearts aside. The second volume of Sokora Refugees just missed the cut, hitting #30 on the manga list.

    For me, the oddest question posed by the list is why did the fourteenth volume of Fruits Basket (Tokyopop) return to the list when it’s been on the shelves for months? It hit 17 in manga and 75 in graphic novels in October, and came in 32nd in GNs in August. I love the series, and I’m used to seeing earlier volumes crop up on these lists from time to time, but the resurgence of this chapter seems odd. Did Tokyopop ship it again?

    Regional specialties

    The Mature Graphic Novel section has not yet reached north-central West Virginia. I swung by Books-A-Million last night to see. It did look like there were fewer Juné and Blu titles than usual, so maybe they’ve been sorted out and it’s in the works. (The manager, who’s an acquaintance, wasn’t on hand to ask.)

    One thing did strike me as I was browsing. It’s too bad Viz didn’t put out a Bleach box set in time for the holidays, like Tokyopop did with Kingdom Hearts. A conveniently bundled, nicely packaged chunk of the early volumes might entice the curious.


    I’m kind of baffled by the ComicList for the week. The list itself says the only Del Rey offering for the week is the second volume of Basilisk. Jog seems to think that the fourth volume of Love Roma is arriving. The e-mailer from the local comic shop suggests that the seventh volume of Genshiken will arrive. Should I focus on the happiness of new Genshiken, or wallow in the bitterness of delayed Love Roma gratification?

    There does seem to be general consensus that this week will see the arrival of the second volumes of Off*Beat and The Dreaming and the fourteenth of The Kindaichi Case Files from Tokyopop. Okay, so maybe it would be nice if these suspenseful stories had dropped the day before Halloween instead of the day after. But it’s close enough.

    Not to be outdone in the second volume category, Seven Seas releases the sophomore installment of Inverloch, a web-to-print fantasy story from Sarah Ellerton. I liked the first a lot.

    It seems like it’s been weeks since a new volume of a post-apocalyptic survival manga showed up. Dark Horse leaps into the breach with the fifth volume of Eden: It’s an Endless World! For more science fiction, you could always check out June from Netcomics.


    There seems to be a mad flurry of manga reviews of late, and MangaBlog’s Brigid has been staying on top of them.


    So I’m glancing at the Taiyosha Top Ten over at MangaCast, and I can’t help but notice that Nodame Cantabile has really parked itself there. Volume 16 debuted at number one, with a special taking eighth place the same week. And it’s still in the top 10.

    No particular point to that observation, aside from the fact that I like the book and its success makes me happy.

    I want a bean feast

    The latest Previews catalog has me in a Veruca Salt kind of head space.

    David Petersen’s splendid Mouse Guard (Archaia) concludes with issue #6, but the solicitation text describes it as “the first Mouse Guard series,” all but promising there will be more.

    I hadn’t noticed that Housui Yamazaki, who provides illustrations for the excellent Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, has his own book, Mail, also coming out from Dark Horse. This demands further investigation, particularly since the protagonist from Mail will apparently cross over into KCDS. (I don’t like typing “cross over” when discussing manga, but I’ll reserve judgment.)

    As I like Hiroki Endo’s Eden: It’s an Endless World!, and I’m also a fan of collections of shorts, chances seem good I’ll also like Endo’s Tanpeshu, also from Dark Horse.

    DC – Wildstorm gives me the opportunity to enjoy a comic written by Gail Simone without having to try and wade through seventy-three different crossovers with the debut of Tranquility.

    DC – Vertigo revives a book I enjoyed a lot, Sandman Mystery Theatre, with a five-issue mini-series, Sleep of Reason. Based on the pages shown in Previews, I’m not entirely sold on the art by Eric Nguyen, but I love the protagonists in this series.

    Do you like Masaki Segawa’s Basilisk? Del Rey gives you the opportunity to read the novel that inspired it, The Kouga Ninja Scrolls.

    Evil Twin Comics unleases another Giant-Sized Thing on the comics-reading public with the second collection of Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s excellent Action Philosophers!

    Dave Carter notes that the singles of the second volume of Linda Medley’s marvelous Castle Waiting (Fantagraphics) series aren’t doing that well, despite strong sales of the beautiful collection of the first. Fantagraphics gives you the opportunity to correct this sorry state of affairs with the December release of the fourth issue.

    Go! Comi rolls out its seventh title, Train + Train by Hideyuki Kurata and Tomomasa Takuma. (In the future, all manga publishers will have a book with “train” in the title.)

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about SoHee Park’s Goong (Ice Kunion), a look at what Korea would be like if the monarchy was still in place.

    Last Gasp, publisher of Barefoot Gen, offers another look at life in Hiroshima after the bomb with Fumiyo Kouno’s Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms.

    If Marvel’s current efforts at politically observant super-heroics make you roll your eyes, you might find respite in Essential Defenders Vol. 2, which includes mosst of Steve Gerber’s mind-bending Headmen arc. It strikes me as idiotic not to include the entire arc in one place, which this book just misses. It has Defenders 15-39 and Giant-Size Defenders 1-5, but not #40 and Annual #1, the conclusion of Steve Gerber’s deranged masterpiece of deformed craniums, clown cults, and women in prison.

    NBM offers two books that go onto my must-buy list. The first is the paperback edition of the eighth installment of Rick Geary’s superb Treasury of Victorian Murder series, Madeleine Smith. The second is Nicolas De Crécy’s Glacial Period. De Crécy contributed a marvelous short to Fanfare/Ponent Mon’s Japan as Viewed by 17 Creators, and I’ve been hoping to see more of his work in English.

    Oni Press rolls out Maintenance, a new ongoing series from Jim Massey and Robbi Rodriguez. I reviewed a preview copy earlier this week; the book looks like it will be a lot of fun.

    Seven Seas unveils another licensed title, Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, a gender-bending comedy by Satoru Akahori and Yukimaru Katsura. If you’ve been waiting for some shôjo-ai to come your way, now’s your chance.

    Tokyopop – Blu promises that Tarako Kotobuki’s Love Pistols is “too crazy to be believed.” Human evolution isn’t just for monkeys any more, people.