Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sequential Art - December 8th, 2011

I apologize in advance for this post. Five comic issues, nine manga chapters, and six trade paperbacks.

Table of Contents

Comics
Action Comics #4
Detective Comics #4
Batwing #4
Swamp Thing #4
Animal Man #4

Manga
One Piece ch.649
Naruto ch.566
Bleach ch.476
Beelzebub ch.135
Liar Game ch.140
History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi ch.455
Kuroko no Basket ch.115
Kimi no Iru Machi ch.162
Claymore ch.121

Volumes
Darkwing Duck: The Duck Knight Returns
One Piece Volume 59
Irredeemable Volume 4
Slam Dunk Volume 19
Animal Man Book 2: Origin of the Species
Real Volume 10

Rating System
MVP = Most Valuable Pages. Best issue or chapter of my week.
STAR = Good comic being good, makes me want to keep reading it.
GLUE = Not outstanding, but not bad. Could be worth reading.
FUNK = Good series has an off week. Haven't lost faith yet.
BENCH = Subpar comic. Doubting its value. Needs to redeem itself.
CUT = Bad comic. Not worth continuing to subscribe.

 Action Comics #4

Not the best chapter. Superman punches robots for awhile, his public does an about-face and begs him to save them, and then Brainiac makes a big move. In the second half of the comic (which I preferred to the first) we get a brief origin story for John Henry "Steel" Irons and see him hammer Metallo's face in. This issue lacked the impact of the first two. I'm far from ready to quit it, but Grant Morrison isn't quite living up to my expectations at present. FUNK




 Detective Comics #4

Arright, I've decided. This is simply not the Batman comic I wanted. Bruce Wayne gets a lucky break when it turns out that Dollmaker is trying to use WayneTech tech against Batman, which doesn't work out so well for the criminals. Dollmaker escapes, Bruce Wayne makes out with Gotham Lois Lane (I don't remember her real name, okay?) and disturbed little girl is sent to Arkham for evaluation. This comic isn't awful, it's just not awesome. For now, I must limit myself to what's awesome. CUT



 Batwing #4

This Bat-family comic, however, is way awesome. Completing his origin story shown in flashbacks in #3, we see David and Isaac Zavimbe as a pair of the most badass pre-teens I've ever seen and then see how David met Matu, Batwing's answer to Alfred, after the revolution. We also see that another member of The Kingdom has fallen, but sadly it occurs offstage. Batwing has really surprised and impressed me. Every issue David sells it as the next great African superhero. I'm sticking with this baby until further notice. GLUE


 Swamp Thing #4

This chapter was a giant info-dump, but an extremely good example of one. They have a powerful eye-opening scene to draw the reader in, some setup dialogue, and then pair the heavy exposition with stunning images. Swamp Thing dinosaurs vs. undead mammoths? Yes please. Opposing "family trees" of Swamp Things and Rot avatars of the past? I'll buy it. Further elaborating the series mythology and tying into Animal Man? Scott Snyder is a pro. MVP



 Animal Man #4

Some funky new developments, but I dig it. Maxine is so powerful that she can practically wish away those hunters, which is a little anti-climactic. Still, I love the background we get on the Hunters and the Totems, and the addition of Socks the cat to the cast is weird, but also a decent opportunity for future exposition/training and kind of hilarious in and of itself. That last Hunter is still creeping on Cliff and Ellen, but we should have a proper save-the-day issue next month before we see what's next for Animal Man. Very solid issue. STAR


 One Piece ch.649

Obligatory post-fight party chapter. Jim Bay has to decline membership to the Straw Hats, to my disappointment, but to my surprise and excitement we get a major name drop at the end of the chapter. During the feast Robin speaks with King Neptune and reveals the true nature of the Poseidon poneglyph from Skypeia, a story arc from way back in 2003. Dayum. Just when I think this is a fun-but-kinda-throwaway chapter, Oda reminds us that he's the only one who really knows what's up in One Piece. Good shit. STAR


 Naruto ch.566

Eh, not a bad chapter overall. Bee transforms, but then so do the first seven tailed beasts. Whoops. Final few panels are a near-disaster for Naruto that end in the beginnings of a fight I can't wait to see next week. Not as good as some of the high-impact fake-ninja combat in recent weeks, but still a decent outing for Naruto. GLUE







 Bleach ch.476

Shinigami captains act all serious, then walk off into the sunset. Ginjou and Ichigo's battle continues, with a "glower glower maniacal laugh sword beam slash" kind of rhythm to it. Really, I just want this arc to end. FUNK










Beelzebub ch.135

Manga took a turn for the weird this time; in a twist that reminds me of Yu Yu Hakusho, Oga and his buddies have to face demons in a round of puzzle-solving contests to continue while Toujou, Kunieda, and their new allies (who I'm not certain are really on their side yet) fight against Pillar Heads. The puzzles are an amusing plot device, and depending on how the mangaka approaches them next chapter it could be really cool, or just a throwaway detail. We'll see then, won't we? GLUE

Liar Game ch.140

Last week was interesting setup, this was boring setup with a last-few-pages hook. Most of it is just various characters talking about how brilliant Yokoya is (yawn), until he backs it up. Not much to see here, although I am curious as to how the fuck Yokoya pulled this shit off. FUNK

History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi ch.455

It looks like our heroes are going to straight-up invade the town where Miu's being held, but she might be totally brainwashed by the time she's discovered. Also, there's a gratuitous naked girl bathing scene, but HSDK is such a cheesecake factory that it's hardly a surprise. GLUE

Kuroko no Basket ch.115

Promising start to the match, but Kuroko is so hit/miss with its games that I'm skeptical. Of the perhaps 10 games covered in the series, only two had the level of pacing and characterization that I wanted (first match against Midorima's team and first match against Touou). Still, this is one of the best basketball-action chapters that the series has had in AGES, and on top of that we know that the author has tricks up his sleeve from the training arc. Looking forward to next week. STAR

Kimi no Iru Machi ch.162

Cute chapter. Normal relationship stuff, Haruto's still too timid to make a move, and there's a final-page hook that indicates SERIOUS SHIT happening next chapter. Overall, totally okay chapter. Nothing special, though, and still far from Seo's best work. GLUE

Claymore ch.121

Not a great chapter for a series that usually has stellar combat and character development - we get more out of the three resurrected #1s, the last of them Awaken into monsters, and a few of the Claymore trainees and their rescuers get their asses kicked. Final-page hook has me interested, though, as a few more familliar characters enter the fray. FUNK

 Darkwing Duck: The Duck Knight Returns (paperback)

Wow. Great, great comic. I picked this up because it was cheap and I had heard a lot of good things from Linkara and various forums. Plus, hey, I fuckin' loved DuckTales and Darkwing Duck back when they were on the Disney Afternoon. I know it's intended for kids, but this thing is for more adult sensibilities, maybe high school-age. It's a dense book chock full of clever dialogue, parodies of superheroes, city life, and office work, and references to the popular Darkwing Duck cartoon of the 1990s.

In this first few issues Drake Mallard leaves his banal office job, comes out of superhero retirement, reunites with Duck-world fixture Launchpad McQuack, and takes on five (or seven?) of his most dastardly nemeses from his crime fighting days. This book is fantastic for fans of the Disney cartoon Duck-world, and even changes the game a little to be its own thing (adolescent versions of Huey, Dewey, and Louie? A new GizmoDuck!?). This was really good. I might have to look for the second book of this run. STAR


 One Piece Volume 59 (paperback)

We only get two volumes of OP each year, gimme a break. 59 covers the end of Marineford, the most epic clash of the titans in One Piece yet. Luffy reacts to Ace's death, Whitebeard standing up, and we see flashbacks of Luffy and Ace ten years earlier. One Piece present-day: hilarious, energetic, action-packed. One Piece flashbacks: death, trauma, tragedy. This low point for Luffy will eventually lead into a high so ludicrous that it makes me smile just to think of it. 59, however, is a dramatic downer of a book. Now to wait... six more months. GLUE


 Irredeemable Volume 4 (paperback)

Irredeemable shows no signs of slowing down, to the point where I'm struggling to keep up. Lots of flashbacks in this one, where we get some origin stories of The Paradign, including Kaidan and The (now deceased) Hornet. We also see Max Damage for the first time, who hasn't appeared in this comic yet but I know will be important - Irredeemable's spinoff series, Incorruptible, stars Mr. Damage. After these introductions, The Plutonian goes a little more apeshit, Modeus is creepy as hell, Qubit is a sly fucker, and I have no idea where this is going. Week to week it's a thrill ride, but I need some answers. I hope that the story slows down a little in Volume 5, honestly, because Irredeemable needs to either crash to a conclusion (which it won't, and that's a good thing) or slowww dowwwn. GLUE


 Slam Dunk Volume 19 (paperback)

I'll spare the long explanation on what this manga is about (re: basketball), just understand that it's my favorite manga of all time and, well, it's awesome. 19's chapters are the start of the second half of the Ryonan rematch. Sakuragi struggles early on before regaining his confidence with his athletic D, and Rukawa starts to take over the game. 20 should finish this game off or come close, but 19 is straight basketball action. No setup, no explanation, just ballin'. I will never give a Slam Dunk volume anything lower than a STAR


 Animal Man Book 2: Origin of the Species (paperback)

Grant Morrison continues his career-opening run on Animal man with more mysteries, more activism, and more weirdness. Aliens manipulate the reality ("continuity") of all life on Earth, referencing ever-changing comics continuities. Animal Man and B'Wana Beast battle against the evil forces of apartheid in South Africa (this comic ran in 1989, effectively dating the entire book). Animal Man and C-list Aquaman sidekick Dolphin save a pod of dolphins from Nordic hunters. If any of that sounds good, than this book is for you, and that's just a random sample. I thought this was a stronger volume than Book 1, even though Grant Morrison is still as heavy-handed as ever with his soapboxes of ethical treatment of animals, environmentalism, and vegetarianism. Interested in looking for Book 3. GLUE


 Real Volume 10 (paperback)

Real is another basketball manga by Takehiko Inoue (Slam Dunk, Vagabond), my favorite manga artist. But it's not a traditional, play-to-win shounen sports manga like Slam Dunk. Real is about wheelchair basketball, and just as much about young men struggling with physical disability as it is about basketball. It's one of the most human dramas in manga today. The three protagonists are: Kiyoharu Togawa, a former track star in middle school who was sidelined by bone cancer and took up wheelchair basketball; Hisanobu Takahashi, the former ace of his high school basketball team who is crippled after he carelessly bikes into traffic; and Nomiya, a high school dropout who was Takahashi's co-captain on the high school basketball team.

Volume 10 of Real is a major turning point, where each of its protagonists takes a major step towards a new goal. Kiyo, who relinquishes captaincy of his team, gets prepared for a new tournament and his sorta-girlfriend plans on leaving Japan to study abroad. Takahashi, who hasn't even seen a basketball in a good seven volumes of manga - he's in rehab and reconnecting with his estranged father for most of the story - watches a wheelchair basketball team practice and decides to try and get back on the court. Nomiya, who's able-bodied and just trying to change his life for the better, begins his tryouts for the Tokyo Lightnings pro basketball team.

It's almost like Real spent its first nine volumes setting up this one. Next volume should be some serious basketball action from Nomiya and Kiyo with Takahashi re-learning the game in his wheelchair. Side characters like Takahashi's two hospital buddies are making progress in their rehab and setting goals for themselves, and everyone's taking steps to conquer their goals and follow their dreams. This story is inspirational, and that isn't an exaggeration. I can't wait for volume 11. STAR

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Holy shit. That is, was, and will be my longest comics post ever, I promise. I don't want to do this again. I'm cutting Detective Comics and maybe one or two other scrips and I'll curb my recent rush of buying trades. I really, really have to, because once I'm out of the house I won't be able to afford half of what I'm spending. So... I'll get back to playing BioShock.

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