With all of the hustle, bustle and hype of Comic-Con, we could all use a little break. So it’s probably good that it’s a light week for big releases.
Well, mostly. Del Rey Manga has seven noteworthy releases this Wednesday, from the first volume of Me and the Devil Blues to the second volume of Toto! to the fourth volume of Parasyte. Image uncorks a second installment of the Popgun anthology, and Winsor McCay’s groundbreaking Little Nemo in Slumberland gets two hardcovers.
To see what other titles Chris Mautner and I think are worth mentioning, just keep reading. As always, let us know your choices in the comments below.
Chris’ pick of the week: Me and the Devil Blues, Vol. 1
There are few musicians who influenced the course of American culture as much as bluesman Robert Johnson. And there aren’t that many 20th-century figures who have as sketchy and mysterious a biography as he does. (Only two pictures of the artist exist, for example, and he only recorded 24 songs before his untimely death). Akira Hiramoto’s reimagining of the life and times of Johnson isn’t too concerned with the facts as much as with Johnson’s legend — particularly the notion that he sold his soul to the Devil in order to play the guitar.
Thus we find “RJ” attaining guitar prowess by mysterious and possibly nefarious means, and wandering the Southern countryside, bumping into figures like Clyde Barrow (of Bonnie and Clyde fame) whilst trying to figure out what exactly has happened to him. It’s a bizarre but incredibly gripping take on the blues and America’s race relations, filtered through a decidedly Japanese sensibility. I certainly can guarantee it’s the most unusual read you’ll have this week.
Kevin’s pick of the week: Toto! The Wonderful Adventure, Vol. 2
I was pleasantly surprised by the first volume of Yuko Osada’s comedy-adventure Toto! The Wonderful Adventure, which references The Wizard of Oz without resorting to a retelling of the classic tale. (We’ve certainly seen enough reimaginings of Oz and Wonderland.) Osada instead tells the story of Kakashi – “scarecrow” Japanese — a likable boy who longs to follow in the footsteps of his globe-trotting father.
In the first volume, Kakashi stows aboard a dirigible and befriends a puppy just before the aircraft is hijacked by a group of pirates called the Man Chicken Family. He and the dog eventually escape, only to meet a martial arts-trained girl named … here it comes … Dorothy on her way to the city called Emerald.
In this second volume, Kakashi discovers there’s more to Toto — the name given the dog by Dorothy, naturally — than meets the eye. It turns out the unassuming canine is actually a weapon of the Nassau Imperial Army, and they want it back.
It’s a fun — and funny — fast-paced adventure.
Robots & Donuts
Chris: Everything goes better with donuts.
Justice Society of America Annual #1
Kevin: I decided long ago that this title just isn’t for me: I just don’t enjoy the relentless Greatest Generation/legacy themes. I’m probably in the minority, though. But this annual, by Geoff Johns, Alex Ross and Jerry Ordway, seems to resurrect one of my favorite recurring events from pre-Crisis DC: the Earth-1/Earth-2 crossover.
Reign in Hell #1 ( of 8 )
Kevin: I like Keith Giffen and Matt Clark. I like The Demon and Dr. Occult. I’m not crazy about superhero-universe depictions of hell — the usually have the complexity of a generic planet set from Star Trek, and ruled by a discount Satan stand-in — but the creators and central characters may tempt me to give this miniseries a try.
Kevin: I guess the Grant Morrison-Jim Lee reboot is really dead, huh?
Popgun, Vol. 2
Kevin: Editors Mark Andrew Smith and Joe Keatinge with another volume of the “graphic mixtape” — anthology, if you prefer — featuring stories by the likes of Frank Espinosa, Dean Haspiel, James Kochalka, Erik Larsen, Corey Lewis, Paul Mayberry, Ryan Ottley, Jamie S. Rich and others. Plus, there’s a cover by Paul Pope.
Black Panther #39
Kevin: Writer Jason Aaron (Scalped, Ghost Rider) steps in for a three-part tie-in with Secret Invasion.
Kevin: Hand-picked by Warren Ellis, Kieron Gillen (Phonogram) delves into the past in this 48-page one-shot, with art by Greg Scott.
Skrulls vs. Power Pack #1 (of 4)
Kevin: One of the things I enjoy about the all-ages Franklin Richards and Power Pack series is that they exist in their own little world, yet occasionally reflect events in the Marvel Universe. Only more cutely, and with less violence.
Thor By J. Michael Straczynski, Vol. 1
Kevin: Here’s my chance to catch up on the new Thor series which, aside from that little New Orleans/Iron Man detour, looks pretty entertaining.
Chris: Jason Shiga’s highly amusing blend of CSI and library science gets another go-around on the Diamond Express.
Comic Book Comics #2
Chris: I quite enjoyed the first issue of Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey’s history of the American comic-book industry, in some ways even more so than their flag-planting Action Philosophers series. This second issue looks at how the war shaped the fortunes of folks like Jack Kirby, Will Eisner and Walt Disney
The Completely Mad Don Martin hardcover
Chris: Um, didn’t this come out in most bookstores back in November? And Diamond is just getting around to it now? Oh, well. It’s an impressive, two-volume slipcased set of every comic and cartoon “Mad‘s Maddest Artist” ever did for the magazine. Floppy feet and bizarre sound effects abound. If you’ve got the money for this — and if you do, I can only assume you don’t need a car to get to work — it’s a rather nice collection.
Kujibiki Unbalance, Vol. 1
Chris: OK, bear with me on this. In the manga/anime series Genshiken, the characters continually rhapsodize over the series Kujibiki Unbalance, obsessing over its plot details and characters. Genshiken itself was popular enough to inspire an actual anime spin-off version of Kujibiki, which, in turn, proved popular enough to inspire the creation of this manga, which, if I’m correct, is not directly related to the anime. Got all that?
Little Nemo in Slumberland: Many More Splendid Sundays hardcover
Little Nemo in Slumberland, Vol. 2, limited edition hardcover
Chris: Then again, as great as Don Martin is, if you’ve got that kind of free cash fattening your wallet, this immense, oversized volume from Sunday Press — a sequel to the previous Splendid Sundays book — seems like a much more rewarding buy. Printed at the size it originally appeared in newspapers, these collections alter your whole perception of Winsor McCay’s fantasy comic strip and how it must have appeared to early 20th-century readers.
Chris: Dave Kiersh’s utterly sincere paen to Peter Pan, young love, rotten jobs and suburbia. That description alone should tell you if you’ll love or hate the book.
Parasyte, Vol. 4 ( of 8 )
Chris: Del Rey Manga has a pretty big week, with about seven notable or big-name titles being released.
Chris: I could have sworn Pacal Blanchet’s graphic novel about the rise and fall of a small Canadian factory town had come through the pike several months ago. No matter, Blanchet has a lovely sense of design and unique art style that harkens back to the pop/advertising art of the ’50s, without seeming like a slavish imitation. It’s got a distinctly Canuck feel, of course, but don’t let that dissuade you from its charms.
The Art of Herge, Inventor of Tintin, Vol. 1 (of 3)
Chris: Dear Diamond: Could you please, please, please stop putting books in the “merchandise” section, where they can barely be found for all the Death Note wall scrolls and She-Hulk statues? Had my eye been less careful I might have missed this enticing volume (the first of three) from Last Gasp, which prints a plethora of George Remi’s art work, a good deal of which has not been seen on these shores before.
Chris: Last Gasp also has this book out, freshly translated by the Same Hat blog guys. It’s an over-the-top gory comedy by Yusaku Hanakuma about a zombie uprising and the pair of blue-collar badasses who attempt to survive it, all done in a deliciously childish scrawl. I’m sold.
Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art (revised edition)
Will Eisner’s Graphic Storytelling (revised edition)
Chris: See, Diamond? This is what I’m talking about right here: If Fantagraphics or Dark Horse were releasing these seminal “how-to” books by Will Eisner, they’d be up in the comics section. But because it’s WW Norton, a god-honest “book” publisher — Gasp! Oh, no! — they’re plugged down at the very bottom of the list, next to a World of Warcraft calendar. Seriously Diamond, what the hell?
The full list of titles shipping this week can be found here.