07 December 2004

Recent Sequential Art Reading

As usual lately, there is a lot of manga (and some manwha) in my comics reading. I think it's partly due to the fact that manga is just cheaper--often half the price per volume, and with a higher page count. It also seems more readily available cheap on eBay (which is mostly where I get the stuff I can't get at the library).

  1. Blade of the Immortal: Blood of a Thousand (volume 1) by Hiroaki Samura. Samurai action! Sometimes cool swordplay and ancient world settings just aren't enough. This one, though, also has gorgeous art, interesting characters and involving plots. There's plenty of violence and swordplay, but they seem to exist mostly to serve the story, rather than the story being the thin excuse for action (as seems to be the case in a lot of martial arts comics I've read).
  2. xxxHolic volume 3 by CLAMP. I've decided that "xxxHolic" means "alcoholic," with reference to the "xxx" cartoonists used to put on a jug to show it was full of moonshine. Okay, that's probably not it at all, but I don't know what the title means (only that it's not xxx as in pornographic), and one of the principal characters does drink an awful lot (it's commented upon by the main character on several occasions). Anyway, more CLAMP enchantment. I'll be reading this series for as long as it stays good.
  3. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing volume 1 by Hajime Yodate and Yoshiyuki Tomino, art by Koichi Tokita. See this post.
  4. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing volume 2 by Hajime Yodate and Yoshiyuki Tomino, art by Koichi Tokita.
  5. Mobile Suit Gundam Wing volume 3 by Hajime Yodate and Yoshiyuki Tomino, art by Koichi Tokita.
  6. Rising Stars of Manga by various. When I first flipped through this volume, the art looked pretty uneven in quality, but I thought I'd give it a try anyway. Reading it, though, I discovered that, for the most part, the art styles fit very well with the individual stories, and I was pleasantly surprised that the stories were quite good. Most of them fell a little short of professional quality, but not by much. Over all, this was a very enjoyable anthology. I probably won't buy it, or any of the later ones, but I will look for them at the library. The only really disappointing thing is that the Rising Stars of Manga contest is only open to US residents (though Tokyopop does take regular submissions from elsewhere).
  7. Wish volume 1 by CLAMP. It's getting harder and harder to say anything new about CLAMP books. Not that they're all the same--this team of artists comes up with some pretty cool ideas. I guess it's just that a CLAMP book is so recognizable as their work. And they all seem to have some combination of cute and beautiful in the art, and funny and romantic in the stories. And they mostly are able to transcend whatever you'd expect cute + beautiful + funny + romantic to equal, resulting in stories of depth about interesting characters (the only possible exception to this that I've encountered so far is CLAMP School Detectives, which was okay, but didn't really capture me the way their other books have--then again, I've only read two of the three volumes).
  8. Vögelein: Clockwork Faerie by Jane Irwin. Hey look, it's not manga! This is a lovely folklore meets clockwork story about a little clockwork fairy whose latest protector has died. She can't quite go off on her own, since she needs someone to wind her up every day, so she sets out to find a new protector. Along the way, she meets a real fairy. The fully-painted artwork is mostly very nice (there's the odd bit of strange anatomy and the like), though I wondered if it was originally painted in colour--the greyscale repro is okay, but sometimes looks dark and murky. The story is absolutely enchanting, and I love a tale that works in words from other languages (in this case German, and maybe a bit of Romany, but I can't remember and I'm too lazy to go look). This book was originally printed as a 5-issue mini-series, so I think this is the whole story. But even if there's to be no more Vögelein, I'll still be watching to see what else Ms Irwin does.
  9. Rumic Theater: One or Double by Rumiko Takahashi. Rumiko Takahashi is kind of like CLAMP, in a way, except there's only one of her. What I mean is that a bunch of ingredients that one wouldn't normally expect to amount to much (in Ms Takahashi's case, that's usually situational humour and long-drawn-out romance) result in a really good read. This book is a collection of short stories, all very similar in feel, but all very enjoyable. I think I will read anything Ms Takahashi writes or draws.
  10. The Ice King of Oz by Eric Shanower. This is some of the earlier (1980s, I think) work by the man who brought us Age of Bronze (a brilliant graphic novel retelling of the seige of Troy and the events leading up to it). As you probably guessed, it continues L. Frank Baum's Oz stories. This is the third Oz book that Shanower did, and the only one I've read. I was never a huge fan of Oz, proabably because I just never picked them up, but I do have fond memories of the movie, and there was one of the books I really, really liked (I can't remember which, now). I've always meant to go back and read them all in order, but haven't got to it yet (anyone have a set of Oz books they don't want anymore?). But anyway. This is a very short, but beautifully drawn and written story where Dorothy et al venture to the land of the Ice King to rescue Ozma. I especially liked Shanower's new character Flicker. If you love Oz, you really should check these books out. This one, at least, stays true to Baum's Oz (or what I remember of it, anyway).
  11. Ragnarök volume 1 by Myung-Jin Lee. It's kind of odd to see very Norse fragments of myth mixed with very Asian martial arts comic elements, but I think it works. This book has a lot of the huge sprawling imaginary world epic fantasy feel to it, which often doesn't work so well with me, but it also does have something that's kept me reading--at least for now. Perhaps it's the cool characters (though there's maybe a little too much of the boy's manga "fan service" (ie. big, scantily clad, gravity-defying boobs) for my taste), or maybe it's just fascination with the combination of Norse myth and kung fu. Anyway, I'll keep reading for now.
  12. Maison Ikkoku: Learning Curves (volume 9) by Rumiko Takahashi.
  13. Ragnarök volume 2 by Myung-Jin Lee.
  14. Lone Wolf and Cub: The Bell Warden (volume 4) by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojime.
  15. Ragnarök volume 3 by Myung-Jin Lee.
  16. Hellsing volume 1 by Kohta Hirano. I think I avoided reading this because it's super-popular and I was afraid that might mean it was mindless, violent action (those sorts of books seem to do very well). I've avoided Trigun for the same reason. Well, it does have lots of violence, but I really enjoyed this book. Cool characters, neatly plotted story, stylish art. That's why it's popular, I guess. Silly me. Now I'll have to sample Trigun, too. Volume one's already on the pile.
  17. Usagi Yojimbo volume 1 by Stan Sakai. Samurai bunny! Actually, this is more-or-less a serious samurai story where the characters happen to be anthropomorphic animals (except one bad guy, oddly enough). Somehow, the furry characters work. Perhaps they inject just enough humour to keep the seriousness from getting too heavy. I don't know, but I really liked this book (it's one I've been meaning to read for eons). As I write this somewhat belatedly, I've already signed out volume 2 from the library (and read it) and have requested--I think--volume 5 (they don't have very many of the volumes, alas).
  18. Ragnarök volume 4 by Myung-Jin Lee.
  19. Maison Ikkoku: Student Affairs volume 11 by Rumiko Takahashi. I hate having to skip volumes in a series. Stupid library. Fortunately with this series, missing a volume doesn't affect the overall story too much. It's still annoying, though.
  20. Usagi Yojimbo volume 2 by Stan Sakai.
  21. Kazan volume 1 by Gaku Miyao. I really wasn't expecting much from this book. I mean, a paid a whole dollar for it (plus shipping) from Dollar Manga, and some of the reproduction of the art is quite lousy (like there're jaggedy pages, where they did a poor job of scanning/resizing the art). The art itself is fairly average, with the odd quite good page. To my surprise, though, after a slightly confusing start, the story became quite engaging and many-layered. From this volume, anyway, it looks like the action serves the story, and not the other way around, which is good. And there's an intriguing mystery. It seems I'll have to go back to Dollar Manga to see if they have any more volumes.
  22. Ragnarök volume 5 by Myung-Jin Lee.
  23. Ragnarök volume 6 by Myung-Jin Lee.

And that pretty much brings me up to date on my latest reading. Funny how I wasn't sure I'd make it to 50 volumes of graphic novels/comics this year. Where I might fall behind now is fiction. Guess I'd better go read those novels I got from the libary. They'll want them back soon.

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