Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday is New Comics Day

Every Wednesday we run down the 5 most interesting comics or graphic novels coming out for the week.

5. ASTRO BOY VOL 1 & 2
By Osamu Tezuka
Dark Horse
$14.95 | 424 pgs

If you've always wanted to try Osamu Tezuka's classic Astro Boy manga (on which the classic anime from the 1960s was based) then Dark Horse has a treat for you since they're repackaging the series in a new, slightly more affordable edition. This first book actually collects the first two volumes of this 23 volume series for the price of one. Often called the "Mickey Mouse of Anime", Astro Boy is actually a lot more like Pinocchio as it's about a robot boy created by a government scientist in the likeness of his recently deceased son. Created with great powers, Astro Boy fights crime and evil robots while trying to understand what it is to be a real boy.

Written by Cecil Castellucci; Art and Cover by Jim Rugg
$9.99 | 176 pgs

DC's Minx line, aimed at the growing teenage female sector of the comic reading audience, seems to be doing well since we've seemed to have reached the sequel stage of the line. Plain Janes was the first book released under this imprint last year and the same characters and creative team are back for Janes in Love (in fact a third book is already in the works too). The story is about a group of girls (all named Jane) that band together as a sort of grassroots guerrilla organization called People Loving Art in Neighborhoods – or P.L.A.I.N. – that commit "art attacks" around town. If that sounds a little reminiscent of terrorism to you it's actually intentional as the book takes place in a world that is still a little shell-shocked from a real terrorist attack and could use a little art to relearn how beautiful the world can be.

This series has been praised for its appeal to its target audience and it's message of spreading creativity. One criticism of the first volume was that some plot threads were left unresolved at the end but that is what this volume is for and the creators promise to pick up on those storylines.

By Guy Delisle
Drawn & Quarterly
$19.95 | 208 pgs

Guy Delisle is a French Canadian cartoonist who has made a name for himself by doing graphic memoirs that take place in countries that most people don't get to visit too often. Previously in Shenzen and Pyongang he wrote about his experience in those countries while working for an animation studio. Now, he uses the opportunity of being married to a member of Doctors Without Borders to write about his stay in another country oppressed by a military regime - Burma.

Delisle tends to focus on the little things he sees in order to paint a thorough picture of life in these countries. Here, during his stay he encounters newspaper censorship, power outages, heroin use and other expatriates like himself getting by in a place that can be hard to get by in.

Written by Grant Morrison; Art by Frank Quitely and Jamie Grant;
DC Comics
$2.99 | 32 pgs

Usually, I try to stick to recommending stand alone graphic novels or first issues so as to provide a good jumping on point for readers. I don't think I've ever put a final issue of a series in one of these lists but I just have such a man-crush on this book that you're lucky I haven't listed all 12 issues here as they came out. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's run on this series has been an instant classic considered by many to be one of the best (if not THE best) Superman stories of all time.

Having faced twelve challenges (and met many variations of himself along the way), Superman squares off against Lex Luthor in this final chapter and it's a testament to how well this book has been done that I'm not even totally sure he's going to survive in the end.

Writen by Brian Wood; art by Ryan Kelly
Oni Press
$29.99 | 384 pgs

Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly's excellent 12 issue series, Local, is now collected in hardcover and it might be interesting to see how this reads as a one volume story rather than it's original monthly short story format. Intended to be a series of stand alone stories that would take place in a different city from issue, showcasing that city's culture and landscape, the book at some point became a larger story about the life of it's central character, Megan McKeenan. Each chapter jumps about a year or so in Megan's life and finds her living in a different city but also in a different emotional place in her life.

The book stands out for a couple of reasons. Wood and Kelly do a tremendous amount of research on their locations (cities such as Richmond, Portland and Brooklyn) and it shows in Kelly's detailed but expressionistic renderings of the locales. But it also rides on the strength of the Megan character who is a bit polarizing in her appeal. You're probably either going to love her or hate her but either way that's the sign of a really strong character.


- This one's for a good cause. The Hero Initiative reprints some classic Gene Colan work. Proceeds go directly towards helping Colan who has recently fallen ill.

- Vertigo does a rare superhero book with some rare interior art by Preacher cover artist Glenn Fabry.

- This story never seemed to get much talk when it came in the Superman:Confidential series (probably because of some long delays) but it's Darwyn Cooke and Tim Sale so how bad could it be?


Dustin Harbin said...

The Gene Colan tribute book didn't ship today, although we ordered it. I saw this on several other peoples' ship lists, but it must have been delayed for some reason.

Andy Mansell said...

If anyone has read Phoenix-- then Astro boy is a must. Tezuka presents rather challenging adult issues about existence and freedom and dresses it down for kids to enjoy as well as adults. Reminds me alot of AI as well. Note: the first few volumes are good-- it will get REALLY good around vol 8,9 and 10.

Every one of Delisle travel books are MUST-reads. By page 2 you are in the exotic ports of call with him. Exhilarating and often times plain out scary!!

Finally-- if you haven't read All-Star Superman yet, I actually envy you because you get to experience it for the first time. I would LOVE, LOVE! to have a future Comics Discussion on the entire series since we only covered issues 1-6 way back when. It is that fun, it is that well crafted, it is oddly moving, it is everything I hope a superhero comic can be and so rarely is.

Nice job as usual Mr Barrett

Rich Barrett said...

Andy, thanks for always fleshing out my choices with your own valuable input. We make a good team.

Andy Mansell said...

Partners-- no way! you have the hard part-- it is easy to make comments after the fact-- you do all the research!!

and as I've said before you do a great service and hopefully it gives folks some focused choices in these lean times.