Previews review April 2010

The first thing I’d like to note about the current edition of Diamond’s Previews catalog is that the addition of new “premier publishers” to the front makes the midsection look even sadder and slimmer. That said, there are still many promising items contained there.

CMX offers a one-shot, The Phantom Guesthouse, written and illustrated by Nari Kusakawa, creator of the well-liked Recipe for Gertrude, Palette of Twelve Secret Colors, and Two Flowers for the Dragon. It’s a supernatural mystery that was originally published by that stalwart purveyor of quality shôjo, Hakusensha, though I can’t tell which magazine serialized it. (Page 127.)

It’s been some time since the last collection of Tyler Page’s Nothing Better (Dementian Comics), the story of college roommates with very different backgrounds and personal philosophies. I’m glad to see more of the web-serialized comic see print. (Page 279.)

It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago that we got the fourth volume of Drawn & Quarterly’s lovely collection of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, but here comes the fifth. According to the blurb, “this volume features the final strips drawn by Tove Jansson and written by her brother Lars for the London Evening News.” It’s utterly charming stuff. (Page 280.)

Speaking of utterly charming stuff, how can you possibly resist a book subtitled The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans? Well, okay, knowing nothing else, that’s pretty resistible. But what if I told you it was the new installment of Rick Geary’s outstanding A Treasury of XXth Century Murder? Singing a different tune, aren’t you? (Page 298.)

Netcomics busts out what seems to be the manhwa equivalent of josei with the first volume of Youngran Lee’s There’s Something About Sunyool. It’s about a pastry chef who gets dumped just after her trip to the altar and, rebuilds her life, and then is faced with her “lawyer ex-husband and her gay would-be lover.” I hate when that happens. (Page 299.)

In other josei news, Tokyopop spreads joy throughout the land (or at least the corner of it that I occupy) by listing the fourth volume of Mari Okazaki’s glorious office-lady drama Suppli. (Page 317.)

Vertical really brings the joy, though, offering not only the first volume of Kanata Konami’s eagerly anticipated Chi’s Sweet Home but also the second of Kou Yaginuma’s Twin Spica. I’ve already discussed Chi’s Sweet Home at perhaps monotonous length, but you should really consider this the eye of the storm, because I’m sure I’ll natter even more as we approach its summer release. I read the first volume of Twin Spica and liked it very, very much. It’s the kind of low-key, serious, slice-of-life science fiction that will probably appeal to fans of Planetes and Saturn Apartments. (Page 324.)

Did you enjoy Natsume Ono’s Ristorante Paradiso (Viz)? I did. If you did, you can learn more about the mysteriously handsome, bespectacled restaurant staff in Ono’s Gente and “follow these dashing men home and witness their romances, heartaches, hopes and dreams.” (Page 325.)

That’s a good month right there.

IKKI has returned

Viz’s SigIKKI site is back up and running after a hiatus with new chapters of my two favorites series, Natsume Ono’s House of Five Leaves and Shunju Aono’s I’ll Give It My All… Tomorrow.

Update: Post title changed due to a spam wave.

New initiative linkblogging

Deb Aoki talks to Eric Searleman about Viz’s original comics initiative:

Eric Searleman: ‘We’re considering everything. The format will suit the material. For example, there’s no law that says our original comics need to mirror our manga trim size. Let’s mix it up.’

“‘We want to do something fun and fresh. Why bother otherwise? We want our books to be an alternative to what’s already out there. It’ll be hard work, but we are confident we can get it done. The bottom line is this: the quality of the comic takes precedent over everything else.'”

And update your bookmarks and news feeds: Brigid Alverson has launched another sure-to-be-invaluable blog, Paperless Comics:

“My goal is to cover the world of webcomics and do it objectively. Rants (editorials) will be clearly marked as such, but mostly, I want to connect people, keep them informed about what is going on in the world of webcomics, and help good comics and readers find each other.”

Daisies chain

Eee! The awesome and delightful Pushing Daisies has an on-line comic written by series creator Bryan Fuller and drawn by CAMERON STEWART. LOVE! (Okay, it’s not all drawn by Stewart, and the interface is kind of awful, but still…)

Paper products

I was glad to see this announcement at Comics Worth Reading about an upcoming collection of Tyler Page’s Nothing Better. It started as a self-published pamphlet, then moved to a web-to-print model. After a somewhat mixed reaction to the first issue, the story grew on me, but the promise of an eventual collection and a preference for comics I can hold kept me from sampling new chapters on-line. Now, Page is looking for pre-orders for a volume collecting the first seven chapters. I’ll be ordering one, and I hope the plan works out.

CWR also reminds me of another ill-fated floppy made good, Elk’s Run, by Joshua Hale Falkov and Noel Tuazon. It started out self-published, got picked up by short-lived Speakeasy, and, after Speakeasy’s implosion, seemed like it might be consigned to unfinished comics limbo until it got picked up for collected release by Random House’s Villard imprint. This is one of those books where I really wanted to know what happened next, so I’m looking forward to the arrival of the trade paperback.

Now, when am I going to see a new issue of Lackluster World from Eric Adams?

Updated with the happy answer: “Lackluster World #4 goes to the printer next week and will debut at SPACE on April 21 &22.”

Quick manga links

At MangaBlog, Brigid chats with Yen Press guru Kurt Hassler about the imprint’s possible manga magazine and other schemes so crazy they just might work.

TangognaT is celebrating the fourth anniversary of her blog by giving away some awesome books.

The Beat points to T. Campbell’s sum-up of the webcomics panel at the New York Comic Con, with plenty of focus on Netcomics and its business model. The recently announced Netcomics/Yaoi Press partnership is one of the things that has (not safe for work) Simon Jones wondering if digital delivery’s time has finally come.

Boy, I categorized the hell out of this one, didn’t I? Fear my flagrant abuse of WordPress functionalities!

Tezuka on demand

There are so many intriguing things about this item at ComiPress that it’s hard to pick where to start.

  • I think on-line, user-compiled anthologies are a great idea. As Chloe noted at Shuchaku East, “Let’s be honest, when was the last time you picked up a copy of Bleach and thought that hey, Bleach was good , so I’ll probably like and subsequently buy the 23 other series in this label too!” Imagine if readers could build their own anthology out of Shonen Jump or Shojo Beat or Shonen Jump Advanced?
  • It’s interesting to see rival publishers collaborating on this kind of initiative, but maybe it’s just the power of Osamu Tezuka. (And by the way, I’d never seen Kodansha’s English site before. It seems to have been designed almost specifically for potential licensing entitites.)
  • It’s nice to see that, even almost 20 years after his death, Tezuka is still driving innovation in the manga industry. (It could be argued that the Netcomics site already essentially offers an on-demand, online anthology.)
  • I’d love to know more about how the serials are packaged and delivered — if there are any bells and whistles or supplementary content that come with the selected serials.
  • I hope this is just the first in a wave and that it becomes popular enough that a U.S. publisher picks up the idea. Somebody pick up the Magnificent ’49ers next! I swear I’ll try and learn Japanese if you do!
  • Required reading

    I love all of Metrokitty’s webcomics, but I’m particularly fond of her latest.

    From the stack: NOTHING BETTER 2 and 3

    This isn’t quite a retraction, per se, because I stand by what I said about Nothing Better #1. But I’m very, very happy to see that Tyler Page is focusing more on incisive observations of college life than highly charged confrontations between members of his cast of students.

    Having read the second and third issues of Nothing Better online, I’m delighted to find a sharp, thoughtful, character-driven comic that explores spiritual themes from a variety of perspectives. As much fun as the occasional histrionics of the first issue were, those moments pale in comparison to the smart, detailed character work of the subsequent installments.

    And characters move to the forefront in issues two and three, with Jane and Katt navigating around their initial misunderstandings and trying to handle the big and small issues that come with living on your own for the first time. Part-time jobs, the cost of books, what happens when you die – all are addressed in ways that are frank, subtle, and specific to the people involved. (Page even manages to do credible, engaging renderings of the act of teaching, which is right up there with journalism in terms of professions that have been mangled by comics.)

    I can’t say I’ll ever be crazy about reading comics online. I like to be able to see each page as a whole and to hold it in my hands. But I’m very glad that Page has made the books available in this way, because it lets me follow his cast as it evolves and matures.

    From the stack: NOTHING BETTER

    (The following contains spoilers for Nothing Better #1.)

    After an initial reading, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the first issue of Tyler Page’s Nothing Better (Dementian Comics). It seemed to start in a very low-key, observant place, then move rather swiftly into more melodramatic territory. By the end, differences of perspective erupt into shouting matches and slammed doors, and I admit that the comic made me laugh in places where I suspect it didn’t mean to.

    After a couple of subsequent readings, I’ve decided that I’m fond of Nothing Better in the same way I am of other young-adult melodramas like Degrassi: the Next Generation. The eruptions of just-post-adolescent melodrama have the happy effect of letting me be moved while still finding them funny. The characters would hate it if they knew I was laughing at them from my old-man chair, but they don’t need to know.

    The first issue follows Jane Fisher as she arrives for her freshman year at a Lutheran college. Page has good eyes and ears for the summer-camp quality of those first days of higher education – independent but not, structured but solitary, and sometimes a little mortifying. Jane’s terrifyingly enthusiastic resident assistant gathers the corridor for a “getting to know you” session (“Say your name, and one thing about yourself!”). “My name is Jane and… my roommate isn’t here yet,” is Jane’s pitch-perfect contribution.

    As the new arrivals go through the stations of the freshman cross, Jane feels out of step due to her missing roomie. Katt Conner eventually arrives, but Jane isn’t particularly comforted. Katt rolls her eyes at the mixers and corridor activities. She’s glad to be away from her family. (Jane misses hers.) She smokes and sneaks off to less socially sedate corners of campus, dragging Jane with her. Fed up with Jane’s mild (but somewhat constant) disapproval, Katt plays a nasty prank on Jane. To her credit, Katt regrets it almost immediately and tries to clean up after, but the fallout throws Jane even further off of her freshman stride.

    Thanks to Katt, Jane is late for course registration and winds up stuck in a religion class called “The Bible for Pagans.” Katt is in it, too, and she can’t understand Jane’s disappointment. This leads Jane to wonder, with disbelief and perhaps a little terror, if Katt is “like an atheist or something?” Glare! Shout! Slam! (Snicker.)

    The tricky thing, and the thing that saves the book for me, is that the shifts in tone don’t come out of nowhere. Things do run from one to ten, but Page successfully portrays this as a function of the highly charged experience. His cast members are experiencing their first taste of independence and coming at it with different expectations. Their clashes are heightened but strangely natural at the same time. Jane didn’t expect to be stuck with some atheist art student who drinks and smokes any more than Katt was looking forward to nine months with a homesick Lutheran tight-ass. Neutral corners, and come out fighting!

    I don’t know if I’m enjoying Nothing Better in precisely the way I’m supposed to, but I’m enjoying it nonetheless.