Previews review June 2011

All right, now that the polling is underway, let’s take a look at the sure bets in the current edition of Diamond’s Previews catalog. Will start with the exciting and/or noteworthy debuts:

Velveteen & Mandala, written and illustrated by Jiro (Freesia) Matsumoto, Vertical, item code JUN11 1294: A Vertical debut is always worth noting, and this one looks intriguingly odd. It portrays a pair of teen-age girls struggling against the zombie apocalypse when they aren’t fending off the totally worse thread of boredom. The single-volume series originally ran in Ohta Shuppan’s Manga Erotics F, an unpredictable but always promising source. I believe this is Matsumoto’s English-language debut.

Habibi, written and illustrated by Craig Thompson, Pantheon, item code JUN11 1212: Have I mentioned lately that I’ve never mustered the energy to finish Thompson’s Blankets? I found what I’ve read of it to be hopelessly mopey and overwritten, though undeniably easy on the eyes. But it’s always worth noting when Thompson releases a new brick, because it happens so rarely. This time, he “explores and celebrates the beauty and cruelty, the complexity and depths of the Islamic world.” Set your phasers on “Gush.”

Animal Land vol. 1, written and illustrated by Makoto (Zatch Bell) Raiku, Kodansha Comics, item code JUN11 1169: I’m succumbing to the adorability of the cover and the premise. An orphaned raccoon dog finds an abandoned human child and decides to raise it in a world occupied only by animals. Zatch Bell had some deeply hideous and unsettling character designs and a cripplingly annoying anime adaptation, so those are points of concern, but I’m game for a volume or two. The series originally ran in Kodansha’s Bessatsu Shônen.

Moving on to the “offered again” category:

  • Korea as Viewed by 17 Creators, by various, Fanfare/Ponent Mon, item code JUN11 1123: Curious about this Eisner-nominated anthology? This is probably one of your better shots at scoring a copy.
  • Gon vol. 1, written and illustrated by Masashi Tanaka, Kodansha Comics, item code JUN11 1172: In case you missed these insanely kinetic, wordless comics about a baby dinosaur the first couple of times they were released.
  • Carnet de Voyage, written and illustrated by Craig Thompson, Top Shelf, item code JUN11 1246: This collection of travel stories is the Thompson comic I’d enthusiastically recommend.

And, lastly, new volumes of ongoing series that particularly catch my eye:

  • Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei vol. 10, written and illustrated by Koji Kumeta, Kodansha Comics, item code JUN11 1176: So glad Kodansha is picking up this hilarious, unsparing satire.
  • Amelia Rules! Vol. 7, The Meaning of Life… and Other Stuff, written and illustrated by Jimmy Gownley, Simon & Schuster, item code JUN11 1239: Wonderfully observant comics about a spunky, imaginative middle-schooler and her friends.
  • Butterflies, Flowers vol. 8, written and illustrated by Yuki Yoshihara, Viz Media, item code JUN11 1275: Probably a guilty pleasure, and one I’m a bit behind on, but I always get some quality cringing chuckles out of this series.
  • Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You vol. 10, written and illustrated by Karuho Shiina, Viz Media, item code JUN11 1278: A joyous deconstruction, subversion and celebration of shôjo tropes.
  • House of Five Leaves vol. 4, written and illustrated by Natsue Ono, Viz Media, item code JUN11 1291: The best of Ono’s works to be published in English so far, which is saying something.

What’s on your wish list?

 

Random Sunday question: alternatives

There’s been some lively discussion of reactions to the Ax anthology from Top Shelf (and here’s the solicitation for the second volume), which inspired this weekend’s query. What I’m  basically wondering is what three titles in the pile of manga you’ve read do you consider alternative? I ask this with the understanding that everyone’s tastes in comics are different and that “alternative” is an entirely relative term as a result.

Since I’m using Ax as a baseline, I’ll leave it off of my list, which consists of:

What are your choices?

For your 2011 Eisner consideration

Submissions are being accepted for the 2011 Eisner Awards! I enjoyed cobbling a list of suggested manga nominations last year, so I thought I’d try again.

There could be a number of Japanese works that make it into the Best Short Story category, as both Fantagraphics and Top Shelf published highly regarded collections of short manga. If forced to pick just one story from Moto Hagio’s A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, I think it would have to be “Hanshin/Half-God.” There’s a lot of terrific work in Top Shelf’s AX anthology, but the one that keeps coming to mind would have to be Akino Kondo’s “The Rainy Day Blouse & the First Umbrella.”

Whether or not any Japanese titles show up in the Best Continuing Comic Book Series category is always kind of a crap shoot. If one shows up, there’s a good chance it’s probably by Naoki Urasawa, so I wouldn’t be surprised or at all displeased if we saw 20th Century Boys or Pluto (Viz) in this roster. I would be surprised and delighted if we saw that stalwart, The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service (Dark Horse), written by Eiji Otsuka and illustrated by Housui Yamazaki, take a slot. The same goes for Eiichiro Oda’s One Piece (Viz), which experienced a big push this year and put Oda’s multifaceted gifts on flattering display.

The Best New Series category is tricky for similar reasons. You never know how they’ll define the category, and, hey, it’s not like the rest of the comics industry is hurting for good new titles. But if they want to mix it up with some newly launched (here, at least) manga series, here are four they might consider:

  • Twin Spica (Vertical), Kou Yaginuma’s heartfelt examination of a school for astronauts
  • Bunny Drop (Yen Press), Yumi Unita’s observant take on single fatherhood
  • House of Five Leaves (Viz), Natsume Ono’s alluring tale of an unemployed samurai who falls in with the right/wrong crowd
  • Cross Game (Viz), Mitsuru Adachi’s coming-of-age baseball drama.
  • Technically speaking, neither of the following titles was originally conceived of for kids, but I have no problem putting them forward as likely candidates for the Best Publication for Kids category. Konami Kanata’s Chi’s Sweet Home (Vertical) is charming and funny, and it offers a point-by-point run-through of the responsibilities of pet ownership, which is a great thing to hand a kid. Very few people don’t like Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&! (Yen Press) for the simple reasons that it’s hysterically funny and wide open to just about anyone who cares to read it. It’s the kind of book that I think people want to read with the kids in their lives, which is certainly an enticement for voters.

    If there’s a category that’s hard to pin down, it would probably be Best Publication for Teens, partly because I don’t think teens really like being told “We know you’ll like this.” So I’ll go with two that are rated “Teen,” because I’m lazy like that. Cross Game has pretty much everything you could ask for from a coming-of-age novel: joy, sorry, confusion, comedy, great characters, and completely recognizable slices of life. Yuki Midorikawa slices up a more supernatural life with Natsume’s Book of Friends (Viz), but it has hearts and smarts in common with Adachi’s baseball comic.

    Not much has changed as far as my Best Humor Publication recommendations go, at least in relation to Koji Kumeta’s Sayonara Zetsubou-Sensei (Del Rey). The aforementioned Yotsuba&! is routinely one of the funniest comics I read, and Kiminori Wakasugi’s Detroit Metal City (Viz) has a lot of vulgar high points.

    Unless there’s some utterly arcane bit of rules of which I’m unaware, there’s no reason on Earth for AX not to snag a Best Anthology nomination. It’s everything an anthology or collection is supposed to be, isn’t it? Purposeful, varied, significant, with bonus points for being frequently entertaining and nicely produced.

    Nominees in the Best Archival Collection apparently need to focus on work that’s at least 20 years old, so I suspect that might disqualify A Drunken Dream and Other Stories, but there’s plenty of material to choose from. Osamu Tezuka’s Ayako (Vertical) is perhaps not my favorite of his works, but there’s always Black Jack from the same publisher. There’s also Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s Black Blizzard (Drawn & Quarterly), which offers a worthwhile glimpse into his earlier, long-form works.

    Best U.S. Edition of Foreign Material — Asia opens its own can of worms for me in terms of recommendation, because what I’d suggest would depend on what’s nominated elsewhere. I’m always for spreading the wealth, if possible. Assuming there’s an absence of comics from Japan in the other categories, I’d say these five are essential, though: A Drunken Dream an Other Stories (Fantgraphics), AX (Top Shelf), Bunny Drop (Yen Press), Twin Spica (Vertical), and Cross Game (Viz).

    It’s unfortunate that the Best Writer/Artist categories are divided into Humor and Drama, because the greats balance both. I would love to see Fumi Yoshinaga nominated, possibly in the humor side of the equation. Still, her year included All My Darling Daughters (Viz), new volumes of Ôoku: The Inner Chambers (Viz), and Not Love But Delicious Foods Make Me So Happy (Yen Press), which seems like a perfectly reasonable excuse to nominate her for an award she’s deserved for years. I’d feel fairly secure in placing Moto Hagio in the Drama category, since that is the essential nature of the short stories collected in A Drunken Dream and Other Stories. They aren’t entirely void of humor, but…

    Chi’s Sweet Home’s qualifications for Best Publication Design may not be immediately obvious, but the care with which its reading orientation was flipped and color was added to each page are worth noting, especially in the ways that they opened the book up to a larger audience. There seem to be a lot of gorgeous, immense package jobs this year, slip-cased volumes that you could use as an ottoman, and there’s some snazzy design for books that doesn’t really enhance the actual comic in question, but the design for Chi’s Sweet Home served the product and was subtly beautiful at the same time. [Update: I'm reliably informed that the book was in color before it was flipped and translated.] The cover designs for 7 Billion Needles were perhaps less cumulative work, but their style and texture are real winners.

    What did I miss? What books and creators would you recommend for Eisner consideration?

    Thanks!

    To celebrate Thanksgiving in the laziest way possible, I thought I would mention some ongoing comics that debuted (if only in print and in English) in 2010 so far for which I am grateful. And there’s still more than a month left.

    And here are some stand-alone works that made the year sparkle.

    The manga industry may be correcting itself, but we’re still getting great books, don’t you think? The images above are all linked to commentary of varying lengths. And added thanks to everyone who makes the comics blogosphere and twitterverse such a delightful place to visit.

    Upcoming 11/10/2010

    It’s one of those neat ComicList weeks where all kinds of interesting comics from throughout the space-time continuum are due to land.

    Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney tweeted about this book, and it has a definite allure for me as a person who read a lot of Archie comics in the back seat of the station wagon on long drives to various vacation destinations during his childhood. It’s Dark Horse’s Archie Firsts collection, which promises “first issues, first appearances, and other milestones, collected for the first time in one hardcover volume!”

    I was a huge fan of Scott Chantler’s Northwest Passage (Oni Press), so it would stand to reason that I should pick up a copy of his Two Generals (McClelland and Stewart), which promises “poignant graphic memoir that tells the story of World War II from an Everyman’s perspective.” I’m not a history buff, per se, but Chantler is phenomenally talented.

    The first volume of Lars Martinson’s Tōnoharu (Top Shelf) was very intriguing, so I’m looking forward to Martinson’s second look at a fish out of water teaching English in rural Japan.

    Erica (Okazu) Friedman is crazy about Hayate X Blade (Seven Seas), written and illustrated by Shizuru Hayashiya, and that’s reason enough to seriously consider the purchase of the first omnibus collection of the series.

    And I am crazy about Kou Yaginuma’s Twin Spica (Vertical), and I would never consider delaying in the purchase of the fourth volume. This is easily one of the great series debuts of 2010.

    What looks good to you?

    AXed transcript, part two

    Here’s the second part of a transcript of a Twitter discussion on Top Shelf’s AX anthology of alternative manga held Friday, Sept. 24 and tracked by the hashtag #AXed.

    Participants are:

  • MangaCur: Me
  • Debaoki: Deb (About.Com) Aoki
  • Snubpollard: Jog (Jog – the Blog) Mack
  • aicnanime: Scott (Ain’t it Cool News Anime) Green
  • remoteryan: Ryan (Same Hat!) Sands
  • And some pop-ins along the way. Thanks to Deb for assembling this transcript and for rounding up some AX-related links.

    I’m going to put this after the jump, because it’s really long and there are many spoilers along the way. So be warned! Also, be warned that I didn’t clean this transcript up, because it’s a Twitter conversation and I’m too lazy. I think it reads just fine as is. I did add some images, as I think it gives you a sense of the book’s scale and range.

    [Read more...]

    AXed, round two

    Our Twitter discussion of Top Shelf’s AX anthology continues tonight (Sunday, Sept. 26) at 8 p.m. I’m not sure who’ll be participating this evening, but I’m sure it will be lively. We’ll be looking at the second half of the book, which has some of my favorite stories. Here’s a transcript of the first round of conversation.

    AXed transcript, part one

    Here’s the first part of a transcript of a Twitter discussion on Top Shelf’s AX anthology of alternative manga held Friday, Sept. 24 and tracked by the hashtag #AXed.

    Participants are:

  • MangaCur: Me
  • Debaoki: Deb (About.Com) Aoki
  • Toukochan: Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment) Gaffney
  • Factualopinion: Tucker (The Factual Opinion) Stone
  • Hermanos: David (4thLetter) Brothers
  • Snubpollard: Jog (Jog – the Blog) Mack
  • And some pop-ins along the way.

    I’m going to put this after the jump, because it’s really long and there are many spoilers along the way. So be warned! Also, be warned that I didn’t clean this transcript up, because it’s a Twitter conversation and I’m too lazy. I think it reads just fine as is. I did add some images, as I think it gives you a sense of the book’s scale and range.

    [Read more...]

    Twitter book club

    Hey, just wanted to mention, hopefully without over-promising since none of us have ever done this before, that some folks will be talking about Top Shelf’s AX anthology on Twitter tonight. We’re going to go story by story, giving quick impressions of each. Perhaps there will be a bonus round. Who can say? But it should be a fun experiment, if nothing else. We’re planning on using the hashtag #AXed, if you’re curious, and things are set to begin at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. At the moment, the group includes myself (@MangaCur), Deb (About.Com, @debaoki) Aoki, Tucker (The Factual Opinion, @factualopinion) Stone, and Ryan (Same Hat!, @remoteryan) Sands.

    Updated: Well, we made it through about half of the book in a lively discussion that also included David (Comics Alliance, 4thLetter, @hermanos) Brothers, Sean (A Case Suitable for Treatment, @toukochan) Gaffney and Jog (Jog – the Blog, @snubpollard) Mack, which you can check out by searching for the #AXed hashtag on Twitter. I believe we’re planning to resume on Sunday, though I’m not sure on a time. I’ll post when I hear something, and I’ll get Deb Aoki’s transcript of part one posted either this evening or tomorrow morning.

    Upcoming 9/22/2010

    Welcome to my ultra-lazy look at this week’s ComicList. I have a head cold. Sue me. Here’s what looks particularly good to me:

    What looks good to you?