Comics


Batman: Year One: Worth reading and rereading

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Reposting to include Brad's new review.

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller

Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986) completely reinvented Batman as an angry and bitter older man coming out of retirement to stem a rising tide of crime in Gotham City alongside Police Commissioner Jim Gordon. This was a dark vision of a complex and troubled soul driven to fight crime to avenge his parent’s senseless death, and it resonated with a new generation of readers and gained comics greater credibility among mainstream readers. Just one year later Miller produced a four-part story arc called Read More

Saga (Vol. 9): The most shattering volume to date

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Saga (Vol. 9) by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) & Fiona Staples (artist)

It’s been nine months since I read Vol 8 of Saga, which is something special. It’s the only comic series that I follow, and the characters are as vivid, complicated, lovable, despicable, cruel, and conflicted as any I know. This is a space opera that tackles the most difficult and relevant topics of our own society, doesn’t hesitate to shock readers, flip the script, and most frightening of all, doesn’t hold back from killing off major characters that we are deeply invested in. It’s a cruel message, that even the best people trying to just live their lives and maintain their ideals can be snuffed out by those with less scruples, and that those that have used violence in the past can rarely escape the consequences, even after having turned to a peaceful path. This volume will leave you stunned, g... Read More

Clockwork Apple: From Tezuka’s most mature period

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Clockwork Apple by Osamu Tezuka

Clockwork Apple by Osamu Tezuka is a collection of short stories from Tezuka’s most mature period of writing. The stories were published with dates ranging from 1968 to 1973. The collection itself was translated by Steven LeCroy and published in English by Digital Manga, Inc., a company that is making it possible for fans to read in English the great works of the “God of Manga.” There are eight stories in this collection:

“The Execution Ended at Three O’Clock” is about a Nazi officer who tortured and killed many people, in particular a doctor who is the focus of the story. The doctor has invented a special drug that slows down time, and the Nazi officer wants the formula. He eventuall... Read More

Under the Air: This is the place to start if you have never read any Tezuka

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Under the Air by Osamu Tezuka

Under the Air by Osamu Tezuka, a collection of fourteen manga stories, was published from 1968 to 1970 and translated in 2017 by Grady Martin and published by Digital Manga, Inc. This collection is the place to start if you have never read any Tezuka. That this is a five-star collection would not be debated by any who read it; even Tezuka thought highly of it, and he was very critical of his own work. The afterword to this collection is the first one I have read that did not include Tezuka’s humble apologies for a less-than-perfect work. The manga collection is fully mature in its themes, and for the new reader interested in Tezuka, it introduces most of the topics that preoccupied him throughout his long career.... Read More

Yaketpachi’s Maria: How on earth do I evaluate this book?

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Yaketpachi’s Maria by Osamu Tezuka

Yaketpachi’s Maria by Osamu Tezuka was written in 1970 and recently translated and published in 2017 by Digital Manga, Inc., a company that has been putting out editions recently of Tezuka’s later works. It is about a young tough boy in seventh grade (though he has been held back a year), who gives birth to a formless ectoplasm that requires a body to speak and move around. So, they provide this creature with the body of a toy doll — of the adult variety! If you think that is bizarre, even more so is that the book is aimed not towards adults, but towards adolescent boys.

Yaketpachi, it turns out, longs for a female figure in his life ever since his mother died, and so that is given ... Read More

Record of the Glass Castle: Tezuka explores the darker side of humanity

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Record of the Glass Castle by Osamu Tezuka

Record of the Glass Castle by Osamu Tezuka is a manga that was originally serialized in 1970 and was recently translated by Marti McElreath and released by Digital Manga Inc. It has a great premise that allows Tezuka to once again explore the darker side of humanity, as he often did in his later work of the 1970s. The Glass Castle is a house in which a family has been in cryosleep for twenty years — from 1972 to 1992. And as this manga graphic novel opens in 1992, we are witness to the family waking up and turning on itself.

The father is known as a shameless and cruel man who forced his family into cryosleep in order to have his fortune increase over twenty years based on earning interest on a sum of money that is going unused by almost the entire family. Only one brother, Shirou, wa... Read More

Alabaster (Volumes I and II): A dark but compelling story

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Alabaster (Volumes I and II) by Osamu Tezuka



Alabaster (Volumes I and II), written by Osamu Tezuka in 1970 and published in 2015 by Digital Manga, Inc., is a dark but compelling story that touches on the evils of which humankind are capable and the resentment and desire for revenge that results in those who are mistreated. Alabaster’s story allows Tezuka to critique bigotry, specifically focusing on racism in the United States. James Block, a young African-American gold-medal winning Olympic athlete, turned into Alabaster because of his experience with the woman he loved as a young man. After a year of dating, James Block proposes to Susan Ross, only to be laughed at, mocked, and turned down by her because he was a black man. She displays shock that he would... Read More

The Euphrates Tree: Deals with serious topics of great importance

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The Euphrates Tree by Osamu Tezuka

The Euphrates Tree is written and drawn by the great Osamu Tezuka, who is known as the “God of Comics.” Tezuka warns us in the postscript not to take this story too seriously; however, I am afraid I will have to go against his advice, because I believe this volume of manga deals with serious topics of great importance. It is about three high school students who visit Jova Island and discover the mysterious Euphrates tree. The tree bears fruit that, if eaten, will give the person or animal great powers and heightened intelligence, but the one aspect of a person that is not changed is their sense of morality.

The three children — Oya, Kama, and Shiko — go to the island for their biology class to study a primitive forest. Tezuka suggests that the island has religious associations for us since at times, he hints that it sha... Read More

The Thief Inoue Akikazu and Other Stories: Shows off Tezuka’s mature work

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The Thief Inoue Akikazu and Other Stories by Osamu Tezuka

The Thief Inoue Akikazu and Other Stories by Osamu Tezuka is one of the best collections of his short stories and shows off his mature work. Chloe Metcalf has done an excellent job in the translations, and we have Digital Manga, Inc. to thank for this volume’s availability in the United States. The stories were written from 1972 to 1979, and the collection was released in Japan in 1979. Digital Manga, Inc. released this translation in 2017. I hope there is much more to come from this company.

The five stories in this volume are not for kids. If anybody has been exposed only to Tezuka’s Astro Boy and other works for children, they will be shocked to read these tales. The first story, “The Record of Peter Kurten,” is based on a true story, a... Read More

Dust 8: Examines the wide varieties of human experience

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Dust 8 by Osamu Tezuka

In Dust 8 by Osamu Tezuka, a plane wrecks on a strange island inhabited by peculiar beings. As the plane wrecks, it runs into part of a magical mountain, and bits of rock, or “dust,” land on ten people, bringing them back to life. Eight of these ten people leave the island and are rescued when they are found at sea. The other two stay on the island, and like the other eight, are alive only because they each have one piece of rock on them, as the mysterious creatures on the island explain. The creatures believe that the humans were fated to die, so they take back the rocks from the two survivors, who immediately collapse in death. The leader of the creatures sends off two others mysterious beings, who inhabit the two bodies of the recently perished humans, to retrieve the rocks, the eight pieces of “dust” from the eight survivors who have returned... Read More

Melody of Iron and Other Short Stories: A wonderful work by the “God of Manga”

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Melody of Iron and Other Short Stories by Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka’s Melody of Iron and Other Short Stories is a wonderful work by the “God of Manga.” It is has been translated beautifully by Adam Seacord and is published by Digital Manga, Inc., a publisher that is doing an excellent job of putting out in translation many of Tezuka’s works that are completely unknown in the United States. This work is one of Tezuka’s mature collections from late in his career. The original collection is from 1974 (Tezuka died in 1989), and this first edition in English came out recently in 2017.

“Melody of Iron,” the first of three stories in the volume, is the main one in terms of length and weighty subject matter. In it, a young man from the U.S. whose family is a part of the mafia in New York, marries a young Japanese woman. Th... Read More

SAGA Volume Two: A comic book that lives up to its name

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

SAGA Volume Two, Issues 7-12 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

I’m so late to the party that the weekend is over and everyone is back to work on Monday. I like to write SF reviews to introduce new books to people who might not have read them yet, but SAGA is already so popular and well known that the only advantage to discovering this series so late is that I can read the first 5 volumes straight through without having to wait!

The story moves so propulsively you have to force yourself to slow down. The characters are so likeable that even the contract killers and military robot royalty are sympathetic. And the dialogue written by Brian K. Vaughan is so infectiously fun, snarky and charming that I kept laughing out loud. It’s a space opera, yes, and a story of star-crossed... Read More

SAGA Volume One: A brilliant series by Vaughan & Staples

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

SAGA Volume One, Issues 1-6 by Brian K. Vaughan (author) & Fiona Staples (illustrator)

Brian K. Vaughan's brilliant new series SAGA is a mixture of fantasy and science fiction, with wonderfully humorous and realistic dialogue between a newlywed couple. But the subject being addressed (and critiqued) is war. It's also incredibly sexually explicit, so I must give my warning to those who either prefer not to have in their heads images of people with television heads having sex or want to keep such images from their kids. (Personally, I find it funny to watch one of the television head characters, a powerful and vicious military official and member of the royalty, struggle with impotence when out of his official attire.)

The premise of the story is that a couple and their new-born child, Hazel, are on the... Read More

The Woods (Volumes 1-9): A wonderfully bizarre tale

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The Woods (Volumes 1-9) by James Tynion IV is a science fiction coming-of-age story that tells a wonderfully bizarre tale across thirty-six issues (four issues per volume). A school in our world gets transported to another planet or dimension, we’re not sure which. We also do not know who is behind this event or what their reasons are. This comic book series is as much an adventure story as it is coming-of-age, and even though adults — teachers and administration — get transported along with the kids, it is a group of high school students who take the lead, venturing away from the seeming safety of the school out into the unknown of The Woods.

At first, the adults try to take charge, and the initial conflict is between adults and students, but as our main group heads out into the woods, escaping from adult supervision, we get to watch over a period of a few years as these teenagers grow into youn... Read More

Castle in the Stars: The Moon King: Artwork raises the overall result

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Castle in the Stars: The Moon King by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Moon King is the second installment of Alex Alice’s graphic story involving a 19th Century space race between the two hostile nations of Prussia (led by Bismarck) and Bavaria (ruled by “Mad” King Ludwig. Book one tells of the attempt to prove the existence of “aether,” a substance that along with flight would potentially be a nearly limitless source of energy. The first book ended on a cliffhanger, with the prototype space vehicle unexpectedly taking off with more on board than expected. The Moon King (2018) picks up right afterward, with the vehicle entering space and then, thanks to sabotage, landing on the moon rather than returning to Earth. This version of our moon ... Read More

Mighty Jack: Exciting action and sensitive presentation of theme and character

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Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke

Mighty Jack (2016) is YA/MG graphic story by Ben Hatke, author of the ZITA THE SPACEGIRL trilogy (highly recommended. btw). Here Hatke has a lot of fun with the Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale, though fair to say you’ve probably not seen a version like this.

Mighty Jack is set in modern times, with Jack the young son of a hard-working single mother. His little sister Maddy doesn’t talk (she’s presented as on the autistic spectrum), at least, she didn’t until one day at the local flea market when she prods Jack to trade the family car for a box of seeds from a strange individual. As one might imagine, mom is none too thrilled when she hears about this, and after filling out a stolen car report with the pol... Read More

Heavy Liquid: These characters move through a world that leaves a mark

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Heady Liquid by Paul Pope

Heavy Liquid by Paul Pope is a futuristic neo-noir comic book put out by DC’s Vertigo imprint. The story is a little disorienting and slow to start, but it builds into a very engaging tale about a mysterious substance called Heavy Liquid. Is it a special metal, a drug, or a weapon of mass destruction? Perhaps, possibly, this black liquid is even alive. All of these possibilities are considered in the course of the comic. Overall, the book is not for everyone, but if you like Paul Pope’s art, it is an essential read, perhaps his greatest single narrative other than Batman: Year 100.

The story is about “S,” a man whose job it is to find people. He’s been hired by a wealthy art collector who wants S to find Rodan, a famous artist who has become a recluse, lost in plain sight in the middle of a sprawling... Read More

Fatale (Vol. 5): Curse the Demon: A fitting close to the Fatale series

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Fatale (Vol. 5): Curse the Demon by Ed Brubaker

In the fifth and final book of Fatale Curse the Demon — Ed Brubaker returns us to Nicolas Lash’s story throughout most of the book. The year is 2014, and Jo, our femme fatale, has decided to fight back, and with Bishop, or Sommerset, on her trail, it doesn’t take much to lure him in. The question is who is luring whom, because from Sommerset’s perspective, he’s the one reeling Jo in so that they’ll meet in a grand finale. The question, of course, is whose plan will win out — Jo’s or Sommerset’s. In noir, there really is no way to predict an ending.

When we left Nicolas at the end of the last book, he was captive of a strange man we eventually discover is Lance from the band Amsterdam. Lance has plans of a supernatural kind, ones in which a sacrifice is required, and c... Read More

Fatale (Vol. 4): Pray for Rain: You will want to pick up Book Five

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Pray for Rain by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

Pray for Rain is Book Four in the Fatale series by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. And the noir-Lovecraftian story continues in unexpected ways. First, we find out what’s going on with Nicolas. And then, we get the story of Jo and a grunge band in Seattle in the 1990s. But of course, there are other characters in play: A strange man named Wulf is seeking her out, and Bishop, the cult leader, is still tracing her scent.

When we last saw Nicolas Lash, he was in jail for the suspected murder of a woman with whom he had a one-night stand. He was on her trail because after sleeping with him, she ran off with his godfather’s manuscript of an unpublished first novel. He is now an innocent main imprisoned and confused about his inability to find this document. However, while he is in jail, t... Read More

West of Hell: You can’t look away

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Fatale (Vol 3): West of Hell by Ed Brubaker

In West of Hell, Book Three of Fatale, Brubaker adds depth to the character of his femme fatale, Josephine. He also adds more mystery because we meet two women who look like Jo, but do not go by that name. These two women show up in the four interlinked stories that make up West of Hell. The first story is set in the Great Depression, and the second story takes us back to the Middle Ages. The third is set in the Old West, and the fourth during World War Two. Because of these jumps in time, Brubaker gets a chance to try his hand at two genres that are new to him — the Western and the war story (stories three and four, respectively). The first story, however, feels more noir-like in keeping with the rest of the series, but the second, set in the Middle Ages, has a feel all its own.... Read More

The Devil’s Business: Another excellent Brubaker and Phillips collaboration

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Fatale (Vol 2): The Devil’s Business by Ed Brubaker

 The Devil’s Business, Book Two of Fatale, continues Ed Brubaker’s noir thriller within a Lovecraftian universe. Josephine, our femme fatale, has been in hiding for about five years since she has gotten rid of Hank from Book One, Death Chases Me. The year is now 1978, and Miles, an out of work B-movie actor, is looking for his friend Suzy Scream. When he finds her in the basement of a party hosted by a religious cult, she is covered in blood and standing next to the dead body of Brother Stane from the Method Church, a popular cult. Playing in the background is a film of some ritualistic human sacrifice. They grab the film and go on the run before the other members of the Method Church find them. Running in the night in Los Angeles, they climb over a wall and find them... Read More

Fatale (Vol. 1): Death Chases Me: A must-read for fans of noir or Lovecraft

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Fatale (Vol. 1): Death Chases Me by Ed Brubaker

Death Chases Me is the first of five volumes in the Fatale series by Ed Brubaker and his frequent collaborator Sean Phillips. In the prologue to this story, Nicolas Lash is attending the funeral of his Godfather, Dominic Raines. Dominic was known as a hack writer of detective novels, but still, when Nicolas, as executor of the Raines estate, returns to Dominic’s home and finds the manuscript of Dominic’s unpublished first novel, it’s quite a find and possibly one with monetary rewards. But at the funeral, Nicolas already has made a more important discovery, of which he is unaware: He has met the mysterious woman, the femme fatale of the story, who goes by the simple name of Jo. When she shows up at the estate that night as Nicolas discovers the manuscript, all hell breaks lose and Nicolas’s life ... Read More

The Secret Service: Fun story, but glorifies violence

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The Secret Service: Kingsman, by Mark Millar, is about a young man, Eggsy, being rescued from rough, poor neighborhoods by his uncle, who takes him under his wing and trains him in a new profession. The twist is that his uncle, Jack London, is not in computer work like Eggsy thinks; actually, his uncle’s job is as a spy for his country. Our young man is sent to a spy school and, given that the rest of the spies-in-training are from upper-class families, he sticks out in a number of ways, including not being able to act with a certain amount of class socially. This story is about his learning his trade and getting to put it to good use by the end of the book.

The Secret Service: Kingsman can be divided into three storylines: First, the book is about a man wanting to do well and come back to take care of his mother and get revenge on his mother’s abusive boyfriend. Eggsy’s... Read More

Lady Killer: Very funny, dark, hard to stop reading

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Lady Killer (Vols. 1 & 2) by Jamie S. Rich & Joelle Jones

Lady Killer is a very funny, though dark, story about the troubles a woman faces when she works out of the home, balancing job and family, in the early 1960s. The twist, however, is that Josie Schuller’s work is that of a contract killer in heels. The humor comes in because her family — husband, two daughters, and live-in mother-in-law — are all clueless. Well, except maybe for the mother-in-law who is beginning to suspect something is not quite right with her all-too-perfect looking daughter-in-law.

The story is funny because it has all the clichés of the suburban family from the time period: The father with his feet up on the table watching TV after work while the wife, looking her best, prepares dinner for a largely unthankful family. The boss and his wife come ... Read More

The City on the Other Side: A charming graphic novel

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The City on the Other Side by Mairghread Scott & Robin Robinson

A devastating war is being waged between the Seelie and Unseelie courts — Coscar, the Unseelie king, has kidnapped the daughter of King Ro’hish in revenge for the theft of a precious item. Coscar’s campaign has been a long and bloody one, and it seems that he’ll stop at nothing to retrieve what was taken. Meanwhile, in our world, little Isabel comes from a wealthy Latinx family and lives with her mother in San Francisco, sometime shortly after the great Quake of 1906. Her mother is going to Europe for the summer and doesn’t want any distractions, so against Isabel’s fervent wishes, she is left with her artist father, who lives outside the city and doesn’t much seem to care about her presence. While wandering in the woods outside her father’s studio, Isabel meets a mortally wounded messenger from the Seelie realm, who tas... Read More