A Rogue Librarian's Reading List











{March 10, 2013}   Comics and manga of the week (83)

mangaman_cover_sm21st Century Boys, volume 2 by Naoki Urasawa

  • Urasawa’s epic sci-fi thriller (that started with 20th Century Boys) has finally come to an end: Kenji must face the moments in his childhood that led to the tragic events in the present while his companions race to stop the proton bomb that is the Friend’s final legacy. This is a very satisfying ending to an exciting series and ties up the loose ends nicely. There is also something strangely poignant about Kenji making amends for his mistakes in the virtual world even though ultimately it cannot change his life. Thankl goodness I still have Billy Bat and Happy and that Master Keaton is coming out soon (in French). I don’t know what I’d do without an Urasawa series to get excited about.

7 Shakespeares, volume 4 (French) by Harold Sakuishi

  • Sakuishi jumps backward in time to explore Shakespeare’s youth in Stratford-upon-Avon, his family’s problems, the dangers of his secret Catholicism and one of his early loves. The story is enthralling and tragic, perfectly captured in Sakuichi’s art. It is impossible to put down.

Artifice by Alex Woolfson and Winona Nelson

  • This is the print version of a brilliant sci-fi yaoi webcomic that I have been supporting for some times. It is the perfect blend of scientific musings (about A.I.s, their emotions and personhood), hot romance and thrilling adventure. I’ve read it several times already and I never get tired of it. Nelson’s art, meanwhile, is gorgeous. I want to see everything she draws. The notes at the end of the book also suggest that Woolfson would be willing to make a sequel, circumstances permitting. Please?

Batgirl, volume 1: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone

  • I was a bit hesitant to read the New 52 Batgirl. I trust Gail Simone but I felt a little betrayed that DC got rid of one of my favorite heroes, Oracle, in order to bring back the classic Batgirl (and she’s not even a librarian anymore!). I still miss Oracle but I really appreciate how Babs leaving her wheelchair was handled, it isn’t without difficulties and with more than a little PTSD. There is also a lot of classic Simone fun: a quirky new roommate, a flirty fight with Nightwing, an app that tracks Batman and much more. I look forward to more of the series.

Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy

  • A hypoglycemic boy whose father died at war struggles to get to the kitchen for some sugar and his trip turns into an epic quest alongside his rat companion Jack. While reading this comic, I was reminded of I Kill Giants, another comic that translates real life suffering and grief into a (possibly hallucinated) fantasy adventure. Morrison does a beautiful job of mixing reality and fantasy and weaves in some fascinating metaphor. Meanwhile the art and layouts are absolutely gorgeous and there’s a geeky pleasure in finding classic characters in the backgrounds. 🙂

Mangaman by Barry Lyga nad Colleen Doran

  • A romance between a manga character and an American comics’ character. I want to say I love this comic. The concept is really clever: it plays on the conventions of manga and comics in a fun way. But. But I feel more like it’s playing with the stereotypes of manga than actually engaging with manga just as the art style used for Ryoko looks more like those terrible “how to draw manga” books than actual professional manga. It also, at some point, becomes so much about the concept that I lost interest in the characters and their story. They seemed to exist merely as a vehicle to explore these two different narrative styles. So while the book made me think, it never truly engaged me emotionally.

The Olympians, volume 2: Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess by George O’Connor

  • Athena is unique among the Olympians: a woman both wise and strong born fully formed from her father’s head. O’Connor captures some of her most fascinating myths: her birth, of course, her creation of Medusa and Arachne, the death of Pallas and her fight against the giants. I could have read a comic twice as long on the subject. O’Connor’s reimagining of the Greek myths are handled with such skill and insight; I’m truly impressed. Some of the discussion questions are truly bizarre however. “In the story of Arachne,Athena deals with her anger at Arachne by turning her into a spider. Is this a good way to deal with conflict?” …I would guess, no.

The Olympians, volume 4: Hades: Lord of the Dead by George O’Connor

  • Hades is an oft misunderstood figure, too often associated with the devil. O’Connor’s Hades is adorably awkward and well-meaning (except, you know, for the whole kidnapping thing). This comic recounts the tale of the abduction of Persephone and though Hades gets the title, it really is about her. O’Connor really emphasizes her role in this myth and gives her a great deal of agency. It is no longer simply a tale about to powerful siblings fighting over a girl, but also about a girl who wants a bit more freedom and power. Wonderful.

Q and A, volume 2 by Mitsuru Adachi

  • This isn’t one of Adachi’s stronger manga, perhaps because there is no baseball and the underwear gags are over done, even for an Adachi series. Still, the death of an older brother and the burgeoning love between childhood friends is handled beautifully as usual. If there is anything Adachi knows, it is baseball and bitter sweet romance. The brother’s ghost meanwhile has become little more than a gag and Adachi is breaking the fourth wall more than ever. But I could never dislike this volume: there’s a kick-ass judo girl!

Uglies, volume 2: Cutters by Scott Westerfeld and Devin Grayson

  • Cutters takes place parallel to the events in Westerfeld’s distopian novel Pretties (the second book in the Uglies series), focusing on Shay’s point of view. I’m still not crazy about Western manga but Cummings does a pretty good job and I understand Westerfeld’s logic for the choice: manga has a whole lexicon of symbols to represent beauty, which makes illustrating such a tale easier. Shay’s exploration of New Pretty Town (where the newly modified teens live in a perpetual party) and her struggle to remain bubbly (i.e. clear headed) is framed by a fairy tail of huntresses and burning woods. The narrative is engaging and interesting but I was less impressed with the frame, it doesn’t quite fit, the comparison with the main plot is a bit of a stretch. But then, maybe that’s the point? It represents Shay’s understanding of the situation which is admittedly skewed by jealousy and paranoia.
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