*I meant to post, but now it all has to wait for later. Fucking cars and roads.


I'll add some review content to this post a little later...

*World-Class Links Dept: Nothing starts the day off right like cultural crossover at its finest. (found at Brack’s)

*Oh, here’s something: The Collected Sam & Max: Surfin’ the Highway is coming back into print later this year, with added material that postdates the book’s 1995 first edition. Yep, it’s been 12 years since that initial compilation of Steve Purcell’s anarchic funny animal comic was released, and now you won’t have to sell Grandma’s precious stones to own it.

The trick - it’ll only be available via direct order from Telltale Games, the people behind the recently-completed Sam & Max: Season 1 suite of adventure games (featuring writing by Jeff Lester of The Savage Critics!). Telltale’s site is also home of the Eisner-nominated Sam & Max webcomic (which seems to have ended its current storyline), and they’ve also got an official Purcell sketchbook for sale.

Actually, while you’re at Telltale’s site, you might as well check out parts one and two of The History of Sam & Max. Very brisk, but there’s some nice early artwork to peruse, plus a photo of Art Adams exploding a beer.


More from the society of animals.

Fox Bunny Funny

This one’s from Top Shelf. It’s 104 pages for $10.00, out today.

The other day, Tom Spurgeon posted an interview with Top Shelf’s Brett Warnock, on the occasion of the publisher’s 10th anniversary. Spurgeon made mention of “a specific kind of wistful funny animal comic” as a specific genus of book the company seems to have found particular success with. Warnock replied that wistful funny animal comics are actually in the minority of the Top Shelf line. Still, I instantly knew just the type of book Spurgeon was referring to among Top Shelf titles.

You might make the mistake of presuming that Fox Bunny Funny, from writer/artist Andy Hartzell (a 1995 Xeric Grant recipient and co-founder of the Global Hobo minicomics distributor), is that sort of book. But there’s just not a lot that’s ‘wistful’ about its wordless pages - there’s plenty of paranoia, constant outbreaks of violence, and the hidden threat of social upheaval, but little that straddles the line between adult concerns and children’s entertainment, unless you count the simple use of ‘cute’ anthropomorphic animal characters as players in a broad allegorical melodrama. I see the foxes and the bunnies as pure icons, meant to inhabit a story that could suggest all sorts of social conflict, but is best described as a broad presentation about the Other.

In the world of Fox Bunny Funny, foxes eat bunnies. Both walk upright on two legs, both seem capable of human-like emotion, and both have constructed buildings and begun businesses and all that. And yet, foxes still eat bunnies. Fox society is awash in bunny-eating media. The popular culture reinforces the conflict between foxes and bunnies - you eat them, or they’ll eat you. The bunnies have even fashioned a religion around a savior that’ll descend from above to free them from the jaws of the foxes, but He has not come.

The book’s young protagonist, who has no name (nobody does), is a fox. But his shameful secret is that he wants to be a bunny. He even keeps a secret bunny costume stashed away for private hopping sessions. Yet he’s always paranoid he’ll be found out, and he desperately wants to fit in the rest of his foxy peers, who think nothing of devouring for fun. Hartzell’s book chronicles scenes from his life, from riding his bike through dangerous obstacles just to impress the other foxes, to his forced enlistment in a boy scouts-type outdoors society that conducts murderous drives through bunny territory (here, violence and peril is always linked to a boy proving his worth as a man), to his final struggle against his personal issues, and the discovery that maybe even his conflicted liberal’s worldview has been a bit too constrained.

It’s a brisk thing, and Hartzell makes good use of his pages, many of which are plastered with uniform six-panel grids. This allows for tight control over pacing, and a definite rhythm to the many sequences of flight and pursuit. Early bits (like the bike ride) are reflected in later sequences (the boy scout murder spree) through similar action beats, emphasizing the lead character’s recurring desire to push himself too far in order to prove himself to be a real adult.

And Hartzell is also fine with alterations to his scheme - when the scouting trip enters bunny territory and switches into killing mode, the gutters switch from white to black, only for black to later dominate the whole page when the lead character has a vision of religious vengeance, and then for white to return in a moment of false peace. The book’s final movement upsets the grid system entirely, as a fine means of shattering the preconceptions of the lead character, and exploding the possibilities of the world as we’ve been introduced to it.

But it’s the authenticity of that world’s particulars that really draws you in. Hartzell skillfully inserts tiny, telling details into his characters’ environment that deepen it - the use of ‘hopping’ as a cultural/spiritual ritual for bunnies, the elaborate steel-jawed gripping contraptions the foxes fire as guns to bite into soft bunny flesh, the militaristic salutes that dot the murder sprees. As such, there's enough of a specific quality to Hartzell's world that it doesn't break apart or float away, as is often possible in parables so broad as to demand the reader insert their own experiences merely to solidify it.

The genuine drive of the artist's belief in the destructive capability of a prejudiced society is enough to keep it powered so as to suggest a satisfactory alternative in its concluding pages, and one that's smartly filled with little broken taboos that play off what's gone before, so as to focus on the lead character's anxiety about leaving the place that's ruined him. As a result, it's the sort of book where a concluding splash-page incision in the flesh believably causes an observing crowd to writhe with ecstasy, but its deep cut remains obviously painful.


Tuesday posts need to get up.

*So -


short reviews (The Brave and the Bold #4, Guy Ritchie's Gamekeeper #3)

MOME 8: Summer 2007

My Boy (this is great)

*And -


Macedonia: A new graphic novel from Villard (the same Random House publisher that currently handles the Flight books), which sees Harvey Pekar return to biographical comics once more, this time co-written with his subject, Heather Roberson, a woman who traveled to the country of the title to study life at the brink of war. Art by Ed Piskor. Review later this week.

Fox Bunny Funny: New from Top Shelf, a wordless 104-page book from Andy Hartzell, about the allegorically conflicted world of foxes and bunnies. Review tomorrow.

Apollo’s Song: In which Vertical again brings us a one-off project by Osamu Tezuka, this time a 544-page saga from 1970, concerning a troubled, violent young man who envisions the Goddess of Love during electroshock therapy, and winds up zipping through time, always finding and losing love. According to this Tezuka website, the book was intended for young readers, probably to instill Tezuka's idea of healthy messages about sex and relationships via the increasing frankness of contemporary manga. How any of this will appear to adult Western readers in 2007 is up for grabs (granted, most of the popular manga read in English these days was officially aimed at 14-year olds upon serialization), but there's little doubt that the storytelling mastery of Tezuka will shine through.

To Terra… Vol. 3 (of 3): Also from Vertical, the concluding chapter of Keiko Takemiya's space-faring saga. I just managed to locate an actual copy of Vol. 2 in a bookstore, so I was pretty happy about being caught up, but now my smile is ruined.

Forever Nuts Vol. 1: The Early Years of Mutt & Jeff: A MoCCA debut, and instantly ready for stores. Forever Nuts is NBM's new banner for collections of miscellaneous early newspaper strips, with an emphasis on screwy comedy. First up is the 100-year old Mutt & Jeff, 192 pages of it for $24.95. I like the idea of 'best-of' samplings of strips that almost certainly wouldn't manage a more complete bookshelf treatment, so I hope this does well.

The Art of Bone: New from Dark Horse’s deluxe The Art of… series, a 200-page hardcover collection of odds and ends concerning Jeff Smith’s popular work. If it’s anything like prior books in the series, there’ll be bits of rare completed material and promotional art mixed in with production materials, along with some light commentary by the artist himself. The preview seems to bear this out.

The Artist Within: Dark Horse also has what’s without doubt the oddball project of the week - an oversized 216-page hardcover book of photographs of noted cartoonists, often in the workspaces, by Greg Preston. The preview suggests a simple biography-photo rhythm. It’s $39.95.

1-800-MICE #2: Also debuted at MoCCA, and now ready for stores, it’s the new issue of Matthew Thurber’s ongoing series from PictureBox. Many strange sights and ancient VHS tapes await you inside.

Garth Ennis’ Streets of Glory Preview: The typical 16-page Avatar preview thingy, with story pages, sketches and a writer's essay, this time dealing with Garth Ennis' and Mike Wolfer's upcoming western (as in horses and gunfights) comic.

Hellboy: Darkness Calls #3 (of 6): Don't.

Criminal #7: Forget.

The Immortal Iron Fist #6: Other.

Silent War #6 (of 6): Series.

Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’ Stardust: Hey, wait a minute, Vertigo! Shouldn’t it be Neil Gaiman’s and Charles Vess’ Stardust, possessives on both names? Have I been doing it wrong all this time? Clearly it’s grammar issues like this that prevent too many creators’ names from going before the titles of books. Anyway, here’s a new $39.99 oversized hardcover edition of this material, since a movie’s coming out and all.



Here’s the best book I found at MoCCA.

My Boy (Mon Fiston)


Belgian publisher Bries had a table at MoCCA this year, as did several European publishers. Many beautiful books were on display, but this one caught my eye in particular. An especially large number of copies were out for sale, and I was told that Bart Beaty had recommended it. Plus, it was an English-language edition! Flipping through it gave me great enthusiasm, and I wound up showing it to everyone who asked me about neat things to find. Later, after having purchased the book, I learned that it was shortlisted for prizes at this year’s Angoulême festival, though it didn’t win anything. But it’s still excellent.

Apparently the first solo book of writer/artist Olivier Schrauwen, an animator and anthology contributor, My Boy is a visual tour de force that effortlessly evokes the spirit of (mostly) early 20th century American newspaper comics, especially those of the great Winsor McCay, while sliding in some cutting critique of the era’s cruelty, and emphasizing the emotional vulnerability that can lurk within moments of high slapstick and newsprint surrealism. It is a short book, its five chapters filling only 64 pages, but that’s just as much space as it needs to be disquieting, and touchingly sad.

The pre-title first chapter encapsulates the book’s tone. It’s executed in a wordless, frantically capering style reminiscent of 19th century sequential cartoons from humor magazines, but the subject matter is dark as night. An incompetent doctor kills a pregnant woman while she’s in labor, swatting her belly with a broom as her anguished husband stamps his feet and waves his arms. The pallbearers at the burial are no better, tipping the coffin and sending the corpse tumbling out among the headstones. But miraculously, that final bump sends the deceased mother’s still living child popping out of the womb, and the father cradles it in wonder.

You might be thinking, “That’s completely terrible.” And it is. I agree with Derik Badman that the book as a whole is not particularly funny, but I strongly doubt it’s meant to be funny. Rather, it effectively subverts several extremely era-specific mechanisms of comedy by placing such cruel propulsion behind them that the final effect is more unsettling than funny, and more conductive to Schrauwen’s anxious themes. Yes, there’s the occasional laugh at the primal triggers the artist employs -- wide mouths, terrific pratfalls, hair standing up on end, etc. -- but everything is tainted with lingering fear and too-vivid violence.

The remaining four chapters play this out, as the wealthy, ultra-masculine father and the absurdly tiny, infant son go about their shared daily life, depicted via Schrauwen’s loving fusion of funny page stylings (here’s the only page I could find besides Derik’s and Bries' order page that has any art samples).

My personal favorite is the third chapter, Bruges Horror, an amazing five-page homage to McCay’s Little Sammy Sneeze, in which the little tyke gets a nasty cold that causes much havoc in the big city. But the delightful calamity of McCay’s classic is pushed here to grotesque extremes: a horse’s belly is gashed open with shattered glass, sending its intestines pouring out, and sharp needles careen into the eyes of onlookers. In the center of it, father and son visit a gallery of “Flemish Primitives,” depicting a man’s flesh being peeled off his body in a torture chamber.

Wonderful! Such craftsmanship, such…” exclaims the father, before realizing that his child is terrified. It’s a revealing moment, the immense technical skill of McCay metaphorically appreciated, though Schrauwen’s presentation hones in on the accordant cruelties of such noisy mayhem. In the hands of a lesser visualist, this could have been impossibly banal. But Schrauwen’s evocation of the style is so passionate that both the beauty and the horror is accentuated perfectly.

Further mayhem awaits. Another chapter sees the duo visit a zoo, in which many beasts are caged up. There’s condors, crocodiles, apes. And also ink-black pigmies, armed with spears and skirts, an obvious dig at both McCay’s Jungle Imp character(s) and the era’s generally caricatured portrayals of ethnic minorities. But while McCay’s Tales of the Jungle Imps saw his characters abuse exotic critters, the pygmies here free the zoo’s animals for united revenge on their masters. Surreal madness ensues, zookeepers deployed like an army, only to be cut down by volleys of tiny spears, and smaller pygmies and animals standing atop one another to create dizzy, giant creatures. But all through it, Schrauwen never lets us forget that people are dying, and the core of the story sees the father terrified that his child will be lost in the chaos.

That is the core of this book, a simple concern from father to son. A silly, exaggeratedly masculine father and a ludicrously puny son, but a parent and child regardless. Fear of the child’s loss. Fear of the child growing up wrong. Fear of death. These dark thoughts are so great that they must be encoded in the artifice of another era. It all comes together in the final chapter, a typically pitch-perfect Dream of the Rarebit Fiend takeoff, in which the father watches in horror as his son grows up, grows into a person apart from him, inevitably escaping the delight of youth to wither and die as his own person. That’s the great scare of this father, indicative of the great concern of this book. For all its period mashing, I found it greatly affecting.

Maybe you will too. I encourage you to order it somehow, perhaps from Bries itself. It's great to encounter work like this at a festival, but one needs not wait for a once-per-year event to experience such a book.


Fast post-MoCCA impressions at the stroke of midnight.

*I just got back.

- It was a lot of fun, a really nice day. I spent too much money and my feet kind of hurt, but I feel good nonetheless.

- The best thing about these shows is meeting so many people I only ever communicate with through the internet. It's really great to actually walk up to everyone and say hello. I mean, I even gazed upon the true form of Neilalien. You can't put a price on that.

- Big debut book of the day? It seemed to be AdHouse's long-awaited Pulphope: The Art of Paul Pope, the artist's signing of which prompted a line that curved backward, around a bend, through oncoming foot traffic, for several tables' length. It's a very nice-looking book, and I particularly enjoyed Pope's essay on his years spent working with Kodansha for their manga anthologies Afternoon and Morning. All fans will want it.

- I love stray comics, and one of the joys of these shows is getting to flip through back-issues of series you're unlikely to encounter at all in many comics shops. Best find - the 1997 debut issue of Mjau Mjau (technically titled Forresten presenterer nr. 2: Mjau Mjau av Jason, the series having apparently launched as part of a different ongoing concern), Norwegian comics master Jason's one-man anthology, which serialized many of the early works released in the US by Fantagraphics as graphic novels. But this is really early work, never translated to English, and features (gah!) human characters instead of the artist's familiar animal figures. As a big-time Jason fan, this was a real treat.

- Most interesting-looking book I picked up: My Boy (Mon Fiston), by Olivier Schrauwen, from Belgian publisher Bries. A visually astonishing homage to early 20th century American newspaper comics, spiked with distressing images and lingering anxiety. Bart Beaty really liked it, Derik Badman not so much.

- And, as you can obviously infer, I really appreciated the presence of several European publishers and artists, putting a lot of beautiful work at the fingertips of people who's otherwise only know it through the importing process.

- Many of the publishers exhibiting also whipped up free catalogs to plug upcoming wares. The absolute biggest discovery for me was that PictureBox has licensed more alternative manga. They've already got the Yuichi Yokoyama collection New Engineering set for this November, and now 2008 will bring us Monster Men Bureiko Lullaby, a mid-'80s work by Takashi Nemoto, one of the artists listed in my old 2005 manga wish list. You might recall a selection from his Future Sperm Brazil appearing in the 1996 anthology Comics Underground Japan. This is great news. PictureBox also had The Ganzfeld 5: Japanada! out for the show - this edition is a straight-up comics and illustration anthology, and 88 of its 196 pages are devoted to Japanese artists (the rest, in case you didn't guess, goes to Canada).

- Also, NBM is releasing The Art of Bryan Talbot, a 96-page $19.95 softcover, in December. Did everyone know this but me?

- Ok, more later.


The Late Shift

MOME 8: Summer 2007

I liked this edition. Let me isolate six points of interest, six stories. And some stuff surrounding them. I liked all of these, in some way.

1. God bless the return of Al Columbia. I was really hoping his return to active comics publication would result in unexpected deviance cropping up more often in the pages of MOME (on a related note, it’s conceded at the top of this edition that David Heatley’s Overpeck is officially on “hiatus”), and just like magic, this issue we’re treated to nine big pages of a flawlessly-drafted Felix the Cat performing graphic sex acts on some goofy-looking guy, complete with big, bouncy, old-timey cartoon sperm burbling from the cat’s maw at the end. Every page is lovingly tweaked and smudged and scratched until it resembles a frame from a vintage animated short. It’s a convincing record of lost pornography, noteworthy for the sheer craft it invests in such grotesque frivolity. Perfect!

2. Meanwhile, the big debut this issue is Joe Kimball, whose comics have never before been professionally published. His twelve-page Hide & Watch Me (apparently Part 1 of a serial) does suffer a bit in comparison with Columbia’s piece, in that the two seem similarly inspired by Depression-era song-and-dance animation as filtered through the gaze of Armageddon, though Columbia is more focused, cutting, and gleefully vulgar. Kimball’s style, in contrast, is baroque with twirling lines and diving points of view, symbols piled atop icons in a fury of humankind’s destructive consumption. A worm in a hat sings an ominous song, homes burn, a chubby-cheeked sun brandishes a pistol, etc.

The story’s enigmatic captions and strange dialogues are entirely segregated from the art, presented in outline format on the title page, perhaps to keep the iconography as immediate as possible. Unfortunately, the excess of visual detail detracts from panel-to-panel clarity, enough so that one gets the feeling the story’s obscurity may not be fully intended. A lot of raw drawing skill and frenzied imagination on display, though.

3. Speaking of skill and frenzy, Eleanor Davis’ contribution is again marvelously subtle and creepy, her fable of adult concern both as thumping as it needs to be to succeed on that primal folktale level, while remaining illustrative of the insecurities inherent to sharing intimacy with a romantic partner. Just look at that guy’s eyes in the last panel. Davis is also the feature interview, and there’s some interesting stuff about her time in the sequential art program at the Savannah College of Art & Design. Best tidbit: she started out as the only female in many of her classes, only to see the program’s female population explode to near-equality in just a few years, a phenomenon she attributes exclusively to the boom in manga. Ah, to see the future…

4. Émile Bravo has another story this edition, one of those simple formal games in which the same four pages of art are repeated twice, each time with new dialogue, ultimately forming two completely different stories. The alchemy of words and pictures, folks. Story #1 here sees sweet lil' Jenny helping to bridge the gap between sensitive Billy and his politically-aware father. Story #2 is an impossibly trashy porno comedy/melodrama, complete with Tijuana Bible-ready lines like "Fuckin' a! I b'lieve the two of us're gonna have us a ball."

I do get the sinking feeling that Bravo may be attempting some sort of American critique -- an illustrated slide from tortured political awareness to plain idiocy, as glimpsed through the same social interactions (and the same art) -- and there certainly seems to be a sneer plastered all over the piece, with even the first 'chapter' resonant with tongue-clucking ironic detachment. But that second go-around is so joyful in its dirtiness (and some credit has to go to translator Kim Thompson), that it effectively moots the impact of anything beyond pure comedy. So, your own laughter will drown out the story's laughter toward you.

5. Far easier going down is Lewis Trondheim's At Loose Ends, which woozily drifts to a close, circling around theories of keeping art fresh and stories of artists growing old. An appropriate tone for as gentle a sketchbook report on things as this. Conversations between friends, leafy landscapes - the intermingling of serentiy and anxiety in sitting and thinking about where it's all headed. The rotating 'established guest' slot goes to Jim Woodring for the next two issues, as a once Japan-exclusive Frank saga unfolds for the West. You can bet on some people buying two issues of MOME just for Frank; I know I'm interested.

6. But in the present, I'm utterly fascinated with Tom Kaczynski. He's maybe the hardest to digest of the 'new' cartoonists to be found in MOME, in that his stories are narration-heavy, his thatches of ideas are dense, his plots are stolid and essay-like, and his visuals gleam with icy geometry and stoic character expressions. But his 10,000 Years is nonetheless bracing in its anxious, eccentric, cerebral feel.

A man visits a psychic, feeling like he's not of this world. He's mesmerized into an arch-capitalist future much like the arch-capitalist present. He watches and enters his television at the same time, and stars in the show as the visionary leader of Zombie Martian Communists intent on saving the red planet from the spectre of consumerism. "Consumers of the solar system, save your receipts!" He wakes up, dreams again, lives in various realities at once, gazes upon the "protoplasmic capitalism" of evolution at the dawn of humankind, and witnesses a secret tainting of the gene pool. Dinosaurs fight, businesses profit. Metaphors are stretched to nail-biting lengths. "The entire space-time continuum became suspect. The zodiac was an alien bestiary. Civilization was an ancient burial ground with unfamiliar funerary rites."

It's immediate in a way that feels like imaginings are being transcribed into comics form at impossible speed, yet so richly considered that its spontaneity seems superhuman. It's beautiful in its careful mix of white and black and its jumps from visual metaphor to stark drama. It's bananas, and I love bananas. It's just the sort of thing I'd hoped MOME would promote when it started out, and now it's in my hands. Very fine.


Ugh, today hit me hard.

*This MOME review isn't behaving well, so I'll get it up tomorrow evening (having already screwed up my morning-evening pace for the week).

In the meantime, there's other stuff.

*Self-Promotion Dept: Hey! Full list of stuff in Comics Comics #3 announced! Feature interview with Guy Davis, conducted by Sammy Harkham! An essay by Kim Deitch! David Heatley and Lauren Weinstein talk about stuff! Art by Renée French, Marc Bell, and Matthew Thurber! Dan Nadel on the Masters of American Comics show! Timothy Hodler on Steve Gerber! Reviews of various David Sandlin comics, various Matt Fraction comics, Frank Miller's Ronin, Douglas Wolk's Reading Comics, and other things! I talk about Mutt and Jeff, for some reason! What a world!

The action debuts at MoCCA this weekend, and should hit stores in early July. It'll be up for internet orders on the above-linked site eventually.

*I also bought comics today.


The Brave and the Bold #4: Better than the last Supergirl issue. Mind you, over 1/3 of it is actually spent on a continuation of last issue's Batman/Blue Beetle teaming, and not to particularly inspiring effect - just a lot of wheel-spinning with some corny jokes tossed in. I guess you can make that argument about the Supergirl/Lobo bits too, although the balance on that portion of the comic is tipped toward prolonged bits of shtick, with a gob of plot background plopped on top, and I think that makes it all more palatable.

And while my excitement clearly isn't peaking at life-threatening levels if I'm using terms like 'palatable,' this is still a fairly peppy little celebration of old-fashioned superhero nonsense, obviously more enthusiastic about crafting low-key character interaction skits than building much of a grand storyline, despite its apparently large scope and extensive cast - the sweep of Destiny is merely an excuse for Lobo to ruin the hedges with his bike and prompt old-timey sitcom exasperation from his traveling companion. There is something charming about such resolutely square fun, although I'd hate for 'Supergirl wears a funny costume' to turn into the series' equivalent of Jeffy mispronouncing a word in The Family Circus.

Guy Ritchie's Gamekeeper #3: Meanwhile, toward the other end of palatable, we have this Andy Diggle/Mukesh Singh series from Virgin. The first two issues provided decent (if somewhat overextended) premise-setting, and while I can't say much for the innovation of said premise, the execution was very sound. This issue, unfortunately, feels quite a lot like a middle chapter of some Bill Jemas-era Marvel miniseries being forced into a trade-optimal six issues come hell or high water. Which isn't to say this series is actually going to be six issues, just that the storytelling seems particularly thin from being stretched to cover far too many pages.

Specifically: Brock, our wildlife-attuned superkiller hero arrives in decadent Amsterdam and wanders around a lot in a haze because he's bedazzled by the bright lights of the city and the little star-shaped tassels on the prostitutes' nipples. He almost gets hit by a car, then attempts to purchase a fast-food hamburger, resulting in rib-tickling hi-jinx. He also makes friends with wild dogs, because he's as much Mark Trail as Frank Castle. Then there's a b&w flashback to something or another that reveals so little I had to check the prior issue to make sure they weren't just repeating things. Then we're off to find an evil man who maybe knows something about something, or maybe someone who knows something about something or someone else. Regardless, the villain is found in a wicked dog fighting headquarters, but the day is saved when Brock frees the dogs and they maul the bad people to death. Brock does not say anything like "Looks like this little outfit has gone to the dogs," although I did draw an appropriate word balloon in with my good pen. Before he dies, the villain names another villain, and I guess Brock will look for him next issue.

So, pretty much the problem is that there's absolutely nothing in here that warrants the attention of a full issue, whether it be plot movement or character moments or cartooning splendor or whatever. I do continue to appreciate Singh's vivid coloring choices, as if all of human existence is a long and oddly-paced chase scene from Susperia. But I'd like less lethargy in an action book this direct.


Post titles, who needs 'em?

*What did I do before?


Tank Girl: The Gifting #1 (of 4)

Golgo 13 Vol. 9 (of 13): Headhunter

Sammy the Mouse #1

*Lots of reprints, an interesting mix -


Sammy the Mouse #1: New Ignatz project from Zak Sally. Review here. Also out from Fantagraphics/Coconino in the big ‘n pretty 32-page format - Richard Sala’s Delphine #2, and Gilbert Hernandez’s New Tales of Old Palomar #2.

MOME Vol. 8 (Summer 2007): The latest installment of Fantagraphics’ house anthology, this time introducing one Joe Kimball, in his professional publishing debut, as well as concluding Lewis Trondheim’s At Loose Ends. Review tomorrow, I expect.

Death Note Vol. 12 (of both 12 and 13 - oh, take THAT): So, just to make it clear once again, for my sake as much as yours, there is a Vol. 13 of this series, but it is an Official Handbook-type deal, and I have no idea if it’s coming out in English. More importantly, that means this is the slam-bang grand finale of the Death Note saga, one that I keenly recall pissing off quite a few readers following the Japanese serialization. Learn the final fate of everyone! Bask in the glow of finality! Still only $7.99! Excelsior!

Yotsuba&! Vol. 4: Ah, the much-anticipated return of Kiyohiko Azuma’s sweetly funny all-ages manga, following the daily exploits of a curious five-year old girl. Gentle, never sentimental, and boasting fine comedic instincts, Yotsuba&! is one of those series that easily flits across boundaries to those who didn’t think they’d like Japanese comics. It’s been over a year and a half since Vol. 3, but we’ll only have to wait three and a half months for Vol. 5, if the schedule holds. After that, well - the series only up to Vol. 6 in Japan, and its only serialized monthly, so maybe another break won’t be much of a bother. From ADV Manga.

Cromartie High School Vol. 11: Also from ADV Manga, but the action never stopped on this one, no sir.

The Girl From H.O.P.P.E.R.S.: The Second Volume of “Locas” Stories from Love & Rockets & Human Diastrophism: The Second Volume of “Palomar” Stories from Love & Rockets: As the titles succinctly indicate, these are the individual second volumes of affordable ($14.95 for 270+ pages) reprints from, respectively, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. The Jaime one has The Death of Speedy and many other tales, and the Gilbert one wraps up the ‘core’ Palomar stories, although note that December’s Vol. 3 will collect Poison River and Love and Rockets X.

Schulz’s Youth: Available in hardcover and softcover editions, from About Comics. A fat 296-page collection of one of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz’s lesser-known works, the religious-themed teen gag feature Young Pillars, which ran from 1956-65. Obviously, fans don’t need to hear anything more from me to check this out.

Grendel Archives: God, there’s a lot of reprints this week. This’ll be one of the more sought-after items for fans of a certain stripe, though, as it collects the absolute earliest appearances of writer/artist Matt Wagner’s enduring character, “rough draft” material that’s remained tucked away in the bins for a very long time. Reprinting pertinent 1982 material from Comico’s Primer #2, and the original three-issue Grendel series from 1983, all in hardcover for $14.95. It does look rough, but I suspect many will be pleased just to have it out there.

Aliens Omnibus Vol. 1: Oh, Dark Horse has smushed the first three colorized, textually revised trade paperbacks from their long-running movie license series together to form a 384-page full-color softcover for only $24.95. It arrives hot on the heels of the recent Aliens vs. Predator Omnibus Vol. 1, and yes fans, worry not - Predator Omnibus Vol. 1 is coming soon. I’m mainly pointing this out because I completely forgot that Sam Kieth had illustrated one of the storylines in here (that would be Aliens: Female War, formerly Aliens: Earth War - the other included tales would be Aliens: Outbreak and Aliens: Nightmare Asylum). Oooh, when are they gonna hit the ones Jim Woodring wrote?

Batman: Ego and Other Tales: KEEP THOSE REPRINTS COMING. This one’s a 200-page, $24.99 hardcover collection of Darwyn Cooke stuff, including his Batman: Ego and Catwoman: Selina’s Big Score graphic novels, plus material from Batman: Gotham Knights (#23, 33) and Solo (#1, 5). Note that this week’s issue of The Spirit (#7), however, does not feature Cooke. Instead, there’s shorts by Kyle Baker, Jimmy Palmiotti & Jordi Bernet, and Walt Simonson & Chris Sprouse/Karl Story.

Phonogram Vol. 1: Rue Brittania: I must confess this Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie series from Image, concerning the magical qualities of music and its relation to the person, didn't attract me all that much upon its serialization. But its consideration of a particular time in popular music (and its imprint on the listener) may well resonate with those of a more Britpop constitution. Here's the trade, for easy access.

The Brave and the Bold #4: Featuring Supergirl and Lobo, in a story that will no doubt have the pundits' eyes.

Army@Love #4: More Veitch.

Garth Ennis’ Chronicles of Wormwood #4 (of 6): The big Tour of Hell issue of Ennis' and Jacen Burrows' relaxed swing through the spirit. From Avatar. In other Ennis news, the slow-starting but somewhat better than expected (in a cheesy action movie sort of way) John Woo's 7 Brothers gets a trade collection, from Virgin. As sometimes happens, a load of Virgin items get dropped at the same time; there's also Devi and Snakewoman trades hitting the shelves. Wait, should I have a proper Virgin entry here?

Guy Ritchie’s Gamekeeper #3: Damn it! Now I've run out of things to say! Well, this is also from Virgin.

Tales from the Crypt #1: Ha ha, where once it was feared as an awful influence on America's youth, now the venerable title relaunches from the kid-targeted Papercutz imprint of NBM. It's 48 color pages of stuff, featuring a story written by Rob Vollmar of Bluesman. For the more classically-oriented among you, this week also has EC Archives: Tales from the Crypt Vol. 2.

Dave Sim Collected Letters Vol. 2: Such beautiful simplicity to this series. For only $22, you too can own a fine collected volume of all of the famed Cerebus creator’s postal issuances from June and July of 2004. God, only June and July?! Sim was famous for his decompressed work, though...


When I was in college, I got all my shit off of space aliens. Those fuckers knew how to burn.

*Reader! Have you ever sat up and thought to yourself:

Boy, all I ever do is sulk around smoking pot and eating these hotdog/McDonald’s-flavored tortilla chips, occasionally mustering the wherewithal to click on my favorite comics blogs. If only a Kramers Ergot veteran could show me the way out of this hedge maze called the status quo, preferably in animated form.”

I have updated this site a second time in one day just for you, pothead reader. I give ya:

Souther Salazar’s government-approved anti-pot PSAs!

You've no doubt seen the print versions of these things in all your favorite Marvel/DC comics over the last financial quarter or two. Actually, that's probably the most successful bit of cultural subterfuge at work here - getting Souther Salazar into every superhero book on the racks.

No need to thank me, friend. Knowing that I have stopped drugs dead in its (drugs') tracks is reward enough.

Strange morning, off to work.

*Thanks to the intercession of those who can't wait for my scrawny technical skills to develop in any useful direction, there is now a LiveJournal feed for this site. Feed your LiveJournal every day - like pets, they're just three missed meals away from reverting to the wild.

*Beautiful Things I Cannot Afford Dept: I’m not a devoted follower of watches or anything, but the new 2007 show-off timepiece from Cartier, Ballon bleu de Cartier, is notable for an especially interesting bit of promotional accompaniment: a comic book detailing the watch’s creation, featuring art by no less than Jirô Taniguchi (The Walking Man, The Times of Botchan), François Schuiten (Les Cités Obscures), Charles Burns (Black Hole), Lorenzo Mattotti (well-regarded Italian artist - see Chimera, from Fantagraphics’ Ignatz line), Glen Baxter (many an absurd cartoon), Jean-Claude Floc’h (respected ligne claire practitioner), and Moebius (oh, come on).

I have no idea how to find this comic, or even when it’s supposed to be out, but the idea of all these renowned talents joining forces to make a comic about a watch does sort of tickle my fancy in an Outbreaks of Violets sort of way (Outbreaks of Violets was a series of ‘trading’ cards featuring text by Alan Moore and art by a bevy of European greats, which I believe was only ever distributed at a 1995 MTV Europe event). Someone tell me if this stuff gets posted online anywhere.

*Probably more later.


Ha! A real post on what I can still recall being a Saturday a short while ago!

*Pro-Click Zone Dept: Apparently, Abhay Khosla has written and drawn a 218-page comic titled Left Field, which is now available free for download in CBZ format. It’s about baseball and men and life. Abhay says:

Alot of it's not very good; I like some of it anyway; maybe you'll find some small part of it to like, too, but I can't make any promises.”

I say you download it and access the file with your computer! It’s only part of an upcoming print-format project called Twist Street. Check back at the download link above for more details.

*Also coming soon:

Sammy the Mouse #1

(EDIT 6/18/07 10:23 PM: It's not cool to forget one of the book's publishers)

This ought to be out on Wednesday from Diamond, although maybe some shops already have it. It’s a new ongoing series from writer/artist Zak Sally, notable of the now-defunct three-issue series Recidivist, although he’s also a publisher (La Mano) and musician (Low, former bassist). This one’s from Fantagraphics/Coconino Press, in their Ignatz format, $7.95 for 32 large, deluxe pages. The Ignatz books always travel in waves of three, and this one streets with the second issues of Richard Sala’s Delphine and Gilbert Hernandez’s New Tales of Old Palomar.

‘Ongoing’ is actually the term Fantagraphics uses to describe the series, concerning the adventures of the titular mouse and his circle of acquaintances, although the story appears to be essentially finite, like most of the Ignatz books. Sally himself has mentioned in the past that the work’s meant to ultimately run about 400 pages, although things may have changed since 2005.

It’s also been termed “a children’s book for adults” by the author (in the same interview), a label that might fit better later on, since this initial chapter serves mainly as a partial acclimation to the book’s characters, and an abbreviated tour of the book’s tilted, child’s playroom world. The story sees Sammy, his pal Puppy Boy (a troubled, epileptic inventor), and his unpleasant, omnipresent acquaintance H.G. Feekes (a liquor-soaked, peg-legged dandy, cast firmly in the Tony Millionaire mold) stumble around, imbibe much drink, encounter terrors, and occasionally hear or deliver the voice of God. It struck me as little more than a taste of what’s to come, its broad concept vaguely discernible through Sally’s loose knitting of details.

Still, there’s two things I found particularly noteworthy about this comic. First, there’s Sally’s evident skill with conversation. Through Sammy and Puppy Boy, he absolutely nails the reluctant/grasping patois of sensitive creative types projecting camaraderie and frustration; there's a great feeling of history behind these characters, and it goes a distance toward filling out the mysterious scenery of the story, all omnious rolling hills and bars shaped like human infants (with appropriate bones inside).

Second, there's what Fantagraphics calls (in the little Ignatz catalog you can find in every release) "a sophisticated two-color process," which translates to delicate, powdery waves of blue and gray crossing one another throughout the book; this setup is put to fine effect in emphasizing character details, or filling up vast, cloudy skies, and it adds a dimension of needed fragility to Sally's thick-lined inks and somewhat blocky characters. One hopes the eventual deepening of the story will supply an effect that rises to such visual suggestion. This sample will do for now.


The fate of our nation depends on this post.

*New Doritos X-13D tortilla snack chips taste like a hotdog with mustard, in snack chip form. Some may tell you that they actually taste like a cheeseburger - they are all wrong.

Thank you, that is all.


Eternal Granite Features

Golgo 13 Vol. 9 (of 13): Headhunter

There's an interesting (if characteristically brief) essay in the back of this latest volume, from Makoto Tezuka, active filmmaker and son of a certain famed manga artist. The occupation is pertinent, since he analyzes creator Takao Saito’s approach to comics in terms of film.

That may initially sound a bit dull, I admit, since comics are often evaluated in filmic terms, but Tezuka actually has some relevant comments to make on Saito and company’s dogged adoption of straightforward film grammar -- apparently to the point of simulating the use of appropriate lenses for various ‘shots,’ despite obviously not having to worry about things like keeping focus -- as a means of keeping the reading experience as easy as possible. I don’t think I buy Tezuka’s assertions that Golgo 13 as directly translated to film would prove “experimental” due to the excessively taciturn nature of the title character (after all, the comic itself spends half its time working around such narrative limitations), but I definitely dig his notion that Saito’s almost spooky devotion to total narrative stoicism and wholesale evasion of conceptual evolution qualifies as something of an artistic statement - certainly it serves the stony Duke Togo well to star in a comic that gets it done in such an unassuming (yet effective!) manner over the decades.

And thank heavens that someone else is willing to draw parallels between Golgo 13 and Osamu Tezuka’s Black Jack! Even if it had to be Tezuka's literal son. And the director of a Black Jack movie.

Curious that this material would show up in the back of this volume, since the lead story, Accidental (Story #61, August 1972), is from early enough a point in G13 history that the presentation isn’t quite as steely as it’d eventually get. Sure, the plot is a simple and effective play on the Golgo 13 concept: Duke’s client-provided hardware misfires during a hit, causing Our Hero to leave no stone unturned on a perfectionist assassin nerd rampage to find out who fucked up his stuff. Who cares about politics when you've got a reputation to maintain? Certainly not this character, he and his eye of God.

But little things are amiss in the Saito style: we’re privy to Duke’s thoughts a bit more than usual, the page compositions are unusually constricted (which may be a reproduction issue, actually), and Duke even expresses -- gah! -- mild agitation at the sight of a sympathetic character meeting their doom. The details are a bit rougher and dirtier than we're used to seeing, with more of a lurid, men's magazine, Kazuo Koike-type vibe (actually, Koike himself was a writer on Golgo 13 in its early days - maybe the tonal similarity isn't coincidental), the sex guiltier and the killing less studied. But the story’s still well-formed in the Saito Pro way, with a web of period Sinai Peninsula intrigue fluttering to bits before the steely testosterone majesty of two hard men left to evaluate one another’s hardness. It’s in plastic wrap, folks!

The second story, Headhunter (Story #204, October 1983), is farther along enough on the timeline that it can relax in the established groove of the series - the art is simultaneously more elaborate and occasionally dashed-off, and the story’s all hopped up on international trickery and faintly nonsensical melodramatic struggle. While Golgo 13 never quite 'develops' much as a concept, it zigs and zags within its confines enough that it doesn't seem repetitious, which is probably how Saito has managed to provide for his statement's longevity.

It’s also one of those stories where Duke pops in only twice, when matters need resolving, so much of our time actually being spent with a determined old warhorse, founder of a renowned corporate ‘headhunting’ firm, who must use all his skills to uncover the secrets of America’s shadowy private intelligence industry, big-time spy companies buying out whole nations, a moist ‘n fatty metaphor for ‘80s corporate expansion. Frenzied skullduggery, breathless factoids, occasionally jarring humor (I’ll give Saito and company cultural crossover credit for whipping up a credibly daffy pulp version of Big Business in the US, but I made The Uh-Oh Face after the second comically nervous black character in a row appeared), and off-kilter moments of grace follow, telling lines rattled off casually, as glimpsed through that fixed, Almighty vision.

"Well, it'll be warm where we're going."

Oh, no doubt. We know who runs the cosmos around here.




*Ok, here's a new comic.

Tank Girl: The Gifting #1 (of 4)

Anyone looking for a neat object lesson in how different artists can fundamentally change a comic book's impact need only compare this all-new, Ashley Wood-powered iteration of the Tank Girl saga to some of the vintage pages of Jamie Hewlett. Don't worry much about writer Alan Martin (or "Martian," as the legal indicia dubs him - ah, so that's where the ideas come from), back on board for this IDW miniseries, since he's sticking very close to the sort of Tank Girl tales he's always written: deliberately inconsequential blips of violent character humor and vulgar gags, bits and pieces of cultural flotsam stirred in with a dollop of satire. All that seems to be missing is the top-speed, stream-of-consciousness nonsense plotting that sent the early stories rumbling forth without concern for any blockade that might present itself.

Ah, but even that might be an aspect of the visuals. I'm not saying there haven't been Ashley Wood comics in which events occur with little apparent regard for arrow-like A to B storytelling -- I do own all these issues of Popbot, after all -- but every detour or ramble in the man's comics tend to come off as deeply considered. Even Wood's sketchiest drawings seem uniquely fussed over, as if every jutting scratch is the product of design most intelligent, its place in the page's world duly pondered prior to positioning. 'Spontaneity' is not easily conjured by Wood, yet it's the very thing Hewlett brought to the table that sparked so nicely against Martin's writing. There's no doubt Hewlett put a lot of work into his art too, but everything from the goony character expressions to the little notes on the bottoms of pages to the general sense of speed and childish play contributed to a uniquely tossed-off vibe that invigorated each episode and built the strip's persona.

It is now, frankly, a different strip, despite it being obviously Tank Girl. She still has a tank, still fires weapons and things, still yells a lot, still fucks the mutant kangaroo fellow, etc. But through Wood's visuals, we are placed in an oddly detached viewpoint, very nearly chilly in its approach to silly gags like Tank Girl slipping on a Sherlock Holmes cap and the fictional character himself bursting in to take back his things - there's a visual weight to it that pushes the whole thing past immediacy. A big splash page of Tank Girl and Booga (the aforementioned kangaroo fellow) firing guns at a children's television mascot is quite gorgeous in its tones and layered sound effects and use of white space, but it draws such attention to itself as a work of design that it jars with Martin's sprightly, thumping sense of humor.

Not that it's really a bad experience, though. Hell, the last panel of that television music story had me laughing out loud. If anything, Tank Girl via Wood seems a bit more confrontational in its gory slapstick - you'll really feel the title heroine wearing a man's skin as a hat and cloak while singing on television, and there'll be a little more kick at work when a strip ends with, say a handbag full of shit being poured on someone's head (dig the textures!). Some of Wood's faces become so deep with shadowed crannies and wrinkles they start to resemble that old MAD strip in which Bernard Krigstein translated the visual humor syntax of Bringing Up Father into 'realistic' art, except I don't think Wood and Martin are quite shooting at formal commentary - their final result is a simple comedy of discomfort among the words and panels.

It is a novel result, I must say. Established Tank Girl fans will likely find it memorable. Ashley Wood die-hards will probably adore it. And I think that about covers the likely readership, so I'll call it a fascinating novelty, and ponder if it might transform any more over the remaining three issues. Martin also has a six-part Tank Girl project with Mick McMahon coming up (I believe it's titled Tank Girl: Carioca), which looks to be maybe a bit more traditional, so perhaps the strip is stretching out in several ways, following its long slumber.


Every morning brings the same question:

*What have I done with myself?


The Black Diamond Detective Agency

Black Summer #0

And about a million fucking words on some Highlander anime. Gad.

*Kind of gentle on the pocket, provided there aren't a lot of Jack Kirby comics you've been itching to own -


Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus Vol. 1 (of 4): Just in time for… whatever Countdown is counting down to, I suppose, unless there’s some other New Gods thing coming up, we’ve got this series of color hardcovers kicking off to compile the King’s biggest work at DC, arranged in chronological order of each issue’s release. It’s 396 pages at $49.95, featuring issues of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olson and the debuts of The New Gods, The Forever People, and Mister Miracle. I'll usually flip through these things to see how the reproduction quality is, so I hope there's no shrinkwrap. Not to be outdone, Marvel has Fantastic Four Omnibus Vol. 2 out this week for $99.99, an 832-page brick of Kirby’s work with Stan Lee, from Fantastic Four #31-60 with Annuals #2-4.

Tank Girl: The Gifting #1 (of 4): Revival of the week, from IDW, teaming original writer Alan Martin with artist Ashley Wood, and seeing the famed punk character transition into something of a curdled urban party girl for the 21st century (as opposed to, you know, a curdled punk party girl). Wood’s such a bizarre pick for replacing indelible original artist Jamie Hewlett that there’s an off chance the whole thing might come out fresh, and the series also marks a return to the short story format of the classic strips, with six tales in this issue alone. Preview here.

The Black Diamond #1 (of 6): Beginning a long-delayed pamphlet-format miniseries from AiT/Planet Lar, written by Larry Young himself, with art by Jon Proctor. Action on an elevated cross-country highway in the near-future. Big preview, if you scroll down.

Golgo 13 Vol. 9 (of 13): Featuring - Duke vs. corporate America in 1983, and Duke vs. failure in 1972, with Makoto Tezuka (Osamu’s son) on the character’s media image. As usually happens, this week also sees two other books from VIZ, The Drifting Classroom Vol. 6 (of 11) and Naoki Urasawa’s Monster Vol. 8 (of 18).

Thunderhead Underground Falls: A new graphic novel from Alternative Comics and writer/artist Joel Orff (of Waterwise), about a young man about to be shipped of to military duty in the Middle East. Some nice art.

Re-Gifters: The second Minx release, this one from Mike Carey, Sonny Liew & Marc Hempel of My Faith in Frankie. A teen romance thing about martial arts and surfing, from the looks of it.

Elephantmen: The Pilot: In which the usual ongoing Elephantmen series unexpectedly expands into a 44-page anthology for an issue, while remaining at $2.99. Featuring stories by Kurt Busiek & Stuart Immonen, as well as several others, plus pin-ups by more than one Image founder.

BPRD: Garden of Souls #4 (of 5): Miniseries.

Blade #10: Dying series.

Punisher War Journal #8: Another series.

World War Hulk #1 (of 5): Oh, here's where much of the attention will be focused this week. It's Marvel's big summer Event thingy for 2007, albeit a bit scaled-back compared to Civil War. Hulk smashes things across many a tie-in and supplementary miniseries, although writer Grek Pak and artists John Romita Jr. (pencils) & Klaus Janson (inks) are probably a sturdy enough team for the core book, all things considered.



Posting in the morn.

*I'm not sure how much I can really write about The Fun Never Stops!: An Anthology of Comic Art 1991-2006, which is the new Drew Friedman collection from Fantagraphics, but trust me in that it's a very nice pile of stuff. Friedman has struck me as kind of omnipresent in the last decade or so, as if I could run into his work around any corner of entertainment. He's got one of the most easily recognizable styles of any illustrator I can think of, so much that I suspect a much larger segment of the reading population can identify his work than can identify his name. But they'll know who he is in spirit - his famously fleshy, grinning caricatures embody so much revelatory force that after you've seen enough of them they don't even seem all that odd anymore. Rather, it's like you've been granted the gift of deeper sight, for a very short time (like, however long Friedman's drawing).

So, this is a nice collection of material. Mostly illustrations from that wide variety of places, but there's some scattered comics work, including collaborations with writers from Mark Newgarden to Bruce Handy to Howard Stern & Fred Norris (the classic Fred & Ricky Join NAMBLA). It also reprints (in "slightly different form") Ben Schwartz's lengthy, detailed profile of Friedman from the most recent issue of Comics Art, a very welcome addition as it's certainly the most thorough bit of writing on the artist that I've seen. Very nice price at $16.95, too. Little left to say. Flip through it.


No Nerdier Force in All Creation

Highlander: The Search for Vengeance

Yes folks, it has happened. There is now a Highlander anime, and it's on R1 dvd.

And don’t get it confused with the 1994-96 television production Highlander: The Animated Series, although both projects share a futuristic setting and a unique MacLeod protagonist - this one’s a fairly lavish (apparently costing north of $5 million), 85-minute standalone affair, featuring the involvement of the much-respected Madhouse Studios and ‘name’ director Yoshiaki Kawajiri. You'll recall Kawajiri as director of the famed 'gateway' anime Ninja Scroll, among many other blood-spattered epics, although (as these things usually go) he started out as a famed key animator on a wide variety of projects, and has branched out on occasion, particularly when in a non-directorial capacity. Not a bad choice at all for a fantasy franchise with origins in the flashy action movie tradition of the '80s.

Yet, the project also already proved somewhat controversial, in that the 85 minutes I just mentioned is shorter by a good seven or eight scenes than what Kawajiri provided in his final cut, a result of the producers addressing pacing concerns with scissors (or mouse) in hand, apparently to Kawajiri’s dismay. Bits of chat in the bonus features in which Kawajiri makes reference to the film being 90 minutes long thus adopt an odd tone. A director’s cut edition may be released later this year, no doubt as part of a high-priced Special Edition.

Judging from interviews with producer Galen Walker and co-producer Kevin Eastman (or simply paying close attention to those bonus materials), it seems that this was a somewhat tricky, touchy production. The script is credited to veteran Highlander scribe David Abramowitz, though it’s clear that Kawajiri simply discarded the bits he didn’t like and substituted his own ideas. On the other hand, one must presume Kawajiri’s hands were tied to a certain extent creatively, this being franchise work and all (obviously didn’t get final cut). After watching the dvd, the conflict becomes manifest even in the work’s very title, Highlander: The Search for Vengeance, since Kawajiri openly admits that the whole ‘revenge’ theme doesn’t interest him very much.

Not that any of this is particularly unique to the world of cinematic arts. Heaven knows this isn’t the first Highlander outing to find itself recut into several forms, and I have the sneaking suspicion that this might not be the first time a director tossed out a big chunk of a screenwriter’s material in the midst of production. But everything is undoubtedly aggravated by the overtly bisected international nature of the production, language barriers and time differences and all that, plus the fact that Kawajiri is something of an auteur among anime directors (yes, he is indeed among the credited key animators), although he’s also experienced in Western-targeted franchise work, having participated in The Animatrix (which also prompted some give-and-take international compromise, although the stories I heard involved Koji Morimoto).

Anyway, we have the film that we have, until we have something else. So how is it?


Quite silly, in fact. Silly in an unmistakably Kawajiri fashion, yet also fully Highlander in its silliness (to the extent I’m even all that familiar with Highlander, having only seen the first and third movies and a smattering of episodes of the first television show), as if each individual opposing force managed to bring out the maximum silliness in the other. So, a small victory of silly.

Technically, the film looks decent enough, bearing character designs by Hisashi Abe (also animation director) that sport all the thick sideburns and broad frames you've come to expect from a Kawajiri film, and some decent integration of the character animation with lots of 3D work. The acting (the film was intended for English) is quite dreadful on the whole, although I smirked at the obligatory corny Scottish accents. Lots of one-liners in the script, mostly awful, but some pleasingly awful.

The plot concerns one Colin MacLeod, your typical immortal Highlander protagonist with a sword under his long coat and, er, the familial name of MacLeod, wandering through an awful, flooded, globally-warmed future America (cue Highlander environmental themes!). He doesn’t seem to care about anyone but himself, interacting with others only to the extent that he collects bounties on the heads of also-immortal villains - all immortals can be killed, you see, by cutting their heads off, which results in the killer absorbing the decedent’s energy and wisdom, all of which will eventually conclude in there being only one, as the tagline goes (and it’s uttered three times in this thing). That 'one' will rule the world or something, although Highlander continuity is somewhat infamous for its contradictions and retcons, so try not to take it too seriously. In one version, I believe they were all from another planet.

And, accordingly, Highlander: The Search for Vengeance is at its most entertaining when it’s at its silliest. Like, an early fight scene in which Colin battles a grotesque monster villain at the Meadowlands, sword vs. chainsaw, eventually lopping off the dastard's head while he’s on an escalator, resulting in an electrical immortal power discharge (the Quickening) that causes the escalator to activate and the headless body to ascend, light and power spurting out of the neck like a gigantic roman candle, all accompanied by beefy electric guitar riffs which lead into the opening credits, as we’re whisked away to dystopian future NYC and led into the evil chambers of the story’s arch-villain, whom we discover is actually playing the theme song on a guitar. Because sometimes, evil just has to rock.

No Queen, by the way.

Anyway, said villain is Marcus Octavius, a former Roman empire-builder who’s made it his mission as an immortal to one day recreate and perfect the glories of Rome. In the future, this mainly involves strutting around a skyscraper palace in what appears to be latex overalls (oooh, like Streets of Fire!), supervising a society where the privileged wear identical white jumpsuits and obey properly, while the downtrodden live beneath the streets, bedeviled by a killer virus. He also has a scantly-clad female assistant, who serves no purpose whatsoever beyond eye candy, even though she's given her own origin story (maybe the rest of her bits wound up on the cutting room floor?). There's also giant video screens and robotic stormtroopers, just to add to the atmosphere of unfettered originality.

Oh, and way back in the day, Marcus totally crucified Colin’s beloved wife following a botched seduction/assassination scheme, prior to the Roman army smashing Colin's tribe, and Colin has spent the last two millennia out for revenge. Can our hero save the day and restore hope to this blighted world, assisted only by a tough-as-nails, Frank Miller-style killer-hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold (apparently cosplaying as Armitage III), a scrappy, streetwise black kid with a slingshot, a sassy ghost mentor (whom, at one point, actually makes a NOT! joke, as in "This sort of joke should totally be made in 2007... NOT!") and a ragtag band of noble rebels? Answer: yes.

But, as Kawajiri implies on the bonus features, Colin's journey is more important than his ultimate revenge - he may be immortal, but he's dead inside, yous see, and must rediscover the beauty of living or something. I guess. The film's very, very dodgy on this point, since Colin doesn't really seem to experience or accomplish anything by the end that he hasn't already gone through at the beginning. Actually, his enlightenment at the climax of the film basically arrives through getting to relive his very first against-the-odds struggle against Marcus, except this time his lover doesn't screw everything up, so actually the lesson appears that Colin's main fault was falling for the wiles of dumb stupid girls, even as we're told that Colin must put revenge aside and learn to love again, or whatever.

Ah, forget it. All this talk of love is pretty much an excuse for a screamingly funny sex scene in which sweaty thrusting is intercut with 'poetic' images of CGI church candles springing alight, which I think is supposed to symbolize the awakening of hope, but actually seems like people are fucking in the middle of high mass. Just like Kawajiri's interest in Colin's journey manifests primarily in a hilarious, Looney Tunes-like fifteen-or-so minute sequence in which Colin confronts Marcus at something like six or seven points in history, only to get his ass kicked horribly or his plans otherwise foiled every single time. My personal favorite was a sword/gun fight on the wing of a WWII aircraft, which ends up exploding, sending the immortals crashing hundreds of feet down into a church (and hey - rules say they can't fight on holy ground!).

In a way, this weird, maybe half-intentional comedy does successfully undercut the Search for Vengeance to the point where there's a curious conflicted energy behind the picture. And I suspect additional bits of clarity were probably removed with those seven or eight scenes prior to release. But in the end, Kawajiri's still Kawajiri, and Kawajiri generally succeeds best in the glossy fight scenes and pretty scenery that made his films so popular among unacclimated viewers, since they require virtually no exertion to enjoy. Depth, whether thematic or in terms of character, is generally not Kawajiri's forte as a director, even when he has total creative control, and non-action scenes usually leave the viewer wondering when he'll get back to people riding horses with blood gushing out of their heads.

I wasn't bored, though. Maybe that's a credit to the pacing edits of the American producers, or maybe it's more due to Kawajiri's ability to infuse the proceedings with his particular blend of unabashedly gleeful mayhem that seems eternally based in the late '80s or early '90s. Immortal, eh? I don't know how eager I'd be to recommend this thing, as cheesy and dopey as it gets, but I can say with some feeling that it accomplished what I expected a Highlander anime from Yoshiaki Kawajiri to do, for better and worse.


I did fill in that post below...

*But today I seriously have no time to post...



*Finest place to waste away the time today: AniPages' lengthy, info-packed page on Karisuma Animators, the 'auteurs' of Japanese animation. And I do mean animation - unlike many pages you'd see on the topic, this one passes up the adulation of the creator or the director or the designer to focus strictly on nuts 'n bolts making shit move. Oh, there's 'name' directors covered, but the likes of Hayao Miyazaki and Hideaki Anno are evaluated only on the basis of their individual visual chops. Indeed, the page as a whole sometimes seems like a scattered counter-history of anime, one viewed through the lens of only the stuff of animation itself - and let's face it, an awful lot of anime discussion strongly downplays that whole 'animation' thing (as, frankly, a lot of anime itself does). Good reading, though you'll want more when you're done.

*Missed Out Dept: This has apparently been up since Marvel’s August solicitations were released, but I just found out at Suicide Girls that Howard Chaykin is the artist for The Punisher MAX #50. I thought that was going to be Goran Parlov, though I'm not complaining. Oddly, Chaykin seems to indicate in the linked interview that he’s only doing one issue, despite #50 kicking off a new storyline, so maybe Parlov’s on for the rest.

Black Summer #0 (of 7)

Ah, comic book culture. Only the crossroads of pamphlet serialization and the collector mentality could bring us things like this numbering scheme - I sympathize with Matt Brady's confusion. I personally just always presume that the 'of X' is following a numbering continuum rather than a production continuum, which means that when #7 is reached, there'll actually be eight items, not counting variant covers, even though it says '7' right there in front of you. Not all that intuitive, yet it takes comments like Matt's to remind me of how unintuitive it is, because I am long ago drowned in comic book culture.

Anyway, the most interesting thing about the comic itself is artist Juan Jose Ryp (colored by Mark Sweeney), who seems to be dialing down the extraneous lines and details that have earned him some attention. Whether a wholly aesthetic choice or a necessity of keeping things coming out quickly (Avatar is acting so intent on getting the book out monthly once issue #1 ships in August, they actually put it in the fucking press release), it does a nice job of teasing out his strength with faces and costuming - primary superhero character Horus has a smooth, faultless baby face peeking out of his kitschy-yet-menacing silver and chrome Sgt. Pepper's outfit, which sums up his character quite nicely.

That's not the best image, though - of the eight pages of extras Avatar throws into this 99 cent debut (the story itself is eight pages, for a total of sixteen), there's also a wraparound cover for issue #2 depicting a woman wearing a candied red tiger helmet, like an action figure come to life, zooming though a veritable ocean of explosions on a motocycle while firing a single small gun, nevertheless somehow blasting an entire horde of police officers to bits. Just the sort of straight-out-of-study-hall, taste-be-damned energy needed for an overamped superhero project like this one.

Warren Ellis' script makes less of an instant impression, although it gets the basic points across in its eight pages. In case you missed it: Horus, beloved superhero and upstanding fighter for right that he is, has gotten so sick of his nation's shitty war in Iraq that he kills the President in the name of justice, setting off all sorts of trouble for the lost members of his former superhero team, all presumed guilty by association, and at least one of them very much disabled from action. I do agree with Graeme that the book seems inert in its politics thus far. Then again, I usually feel the political aspects of Ellis' work register as little more than dressing for tough-talking thrills, so it's not much of a disappointment for me.

If anything, Ellis is shooting for superhero politics, as in the contours of vigilante morality, with the volume set as high as it'll go and the blood set to pour. What'll maybe prove interesting is the tone - while inclined toward sensational 'shocks' and probably ready to dive into outright nonsense (see: kickin' rad tiger helmet), the execution occurs in a largely on-the-level, interested manner, with those glossy, colorful accoutrements and promises of frentic action more primed toward emphasizing the surreal nature of godly science heroes than making a simple mockery of things. More of a happy soak in superhero excess while throwing around some ideas about genre.

Or hell, maybe it'll just be a loud action thing with all the predicted character beats hit. It's only been eight pages. At least we know we've got the artist we need to appreciate the honest joys of men in costumes at the goriest and trashiest.


The Fates Almost Didn't Allow, But Then the Internet Came Back Up

The Black Diamond Detective Agency

Out in stores today, from First Second, 142 color pages for $16.95.

Sitting here now around the tail end of the publisher’s third wave of releases (the fourth wave has been announced, by the way), totaling an even 18 books with all heads counted, The Black Diamond Detective Agency is a unique in two major areas: (1) it’s largely a straightforward, ‘realistically’-rendered action/mystery comic; and (2) it’s a comics adaptation of a pre-existing movie screenplay, written by C. Gaby Mitchell and handled by producer Bill Horberg. The movie has not yet been made, but Eddie Campbell’s comic is all ready to go.

The book is also unique among the artist’s works. Campbell is no stranger to adaptation, mind you. After all, his prior book for First Second, The Fate of the Artist, concluded with an adaptation of an O. Henry short story, which the artist seamlessly folded into his mix of themes and intuitive visual cues. Prior to that, we’ve had the works eventually collected as A Disease of Language, transformations of Alan Moore’s spoken-word performances into swirls of word and picture. However, Campbell has never quite matched his style with the quick-moving thrills of a streamlined slice of action movie entertainment before - obviously there were action sequences in various bits of the Bacchus saga, or the likes of Batman: The Order of Beasts, but they’d always been contained in a Campbell-created capsule of austere intrigue and mythic conversational play, one where he could set the parameters right from the start. Here, the parameters had to be reconfigured.

Thus, we have the saga of John Hardin, a haunted man of obvious mystery, and the murderous train bombing that obliterates the peace of his life and summons the detectives of the title, one of those private investigation services that could grow to the size of an army back around the close of the 19th century, which is where the book is set. The Black Diamond detectives think Hardin exploded that train, and maybe facilitated the disappearance of a very important mystery safe traveling therein. The detectives are at a bit of a loss themselves - they’re always clashing with federal authorities, like the Secret Service, and don’t even have access to the basic knowledge of what the stolen goods they’re chasing actually are. But then, the truth was as flexible a thing back then as it was now.

As will come to no surprise to those who’ve read First Second’s Free Comic Book Day giveaway, Hardin eludes the detectives’ grasps, and goes on the run. Have I mentioned his beloved wife has also left him, at just the same time as the bombing? Neither of them were quite what they seemed to be, and throughout Our Anti-Hero’s journey, several additional transformations take place. Hardin adopts two additional names. At different times, he poses as two other members of the book’s cast. At one point -- and this would no doubt be the trailer’s ‘hook’ if this were to become a major motion picture -- he actually joins the very detective agency that’s chasing him, utilizing their smarts and resources to accomplish his own ends, which after all does involve solving the mystery.

All of this is possible through the uncertainty of memory, identity and technology, a theme that Campbell ably carries through this comics incarnation of the material. The book is divided into two chapters, plus a prologue and epilogue. The chapters are titled “Frames” and “Secrets.” That first one is particularly pregnant with possibility - Hardin is apparently ‘framed’ for a crime he didn’t commit, he constantly stares at the world through the frames of glasses (a classic comics symbol for secret identity), and he moves freely thanks to the low quality of the drawings that frame his image for the newspapers. Eventually, Hardin and the detectives run in with a lovely, alcohol-soaked sketch artist and photographer, the only person around who seems capable of harnessing something evoking the truth in the frames of her own creations (an interesting character indeed for Campbell, who himself has worked as a courtroom artist, sketching the likenesses of the accused, for occasional use on the news).

Also: a comic book features many frames (panels), and Campbell smartly plays with the properties of the form whenever possible, whether he’s opening the first chapter by framing Hardin behind a window frame (the rest of his home a cutaway to emphasize the fragile state of his security), or providing a variant of the prologue’s opening splash at the end of the first chapter, to signify a certain realization. Extreme anger, violence and fear is signified by the solid color red, which recurs throughout the book by spilling from characters’ mouths in lieu of dialogue or simply dominating the page, as in that early explosion sequence (which you can view via First Second’s online preview, in case you missed it). It’s really a very attractive book in general, with many pages caked in all the dust and dirt one would expect from the man who coated From Hell in soot and grime, and in fine, subtle color. The character designs are often excellent, with Hardin’s shifting visage in particular seeming cool, dangerous and pathetic all at once with its shaggy facial hair, rumpled hat, and gleaming green glasses.

But there are also qualms, many of which seem to stem from the transition between mediums. This is an extremely compressed work, albeit quite swiftly moving, careening from event to event by interspersing stretches of wordless observation and action with thickets of verbiage. Text narration occasionally dominates pages, and dialogue sometimes stuffs characters into the bottom corner of panels. The result is an oddly jittery pace, a start-and-stop structure that may well jar readers that prefer a smoother overall word and picture balance, although I do think the book as a whole is more balanced than individual sequences might suggest.

One suspects that this may be Campbell’s means of coping with the structure of the original screenplay, just as one contemplates whether many of the supporting characters would have popped as more resonant in a film, where actors might more easily make the personages on display more recognizable through their performances - as it is on the comics page, not all of the smaller characters quite emerge as fleshed, which is a problem when the story as a whole seems plainly meant to operate for a stretch as an ensemble, everyone-works-together sort of story.

Even Campbell’s visual style proves a bit troublesome during those big action sequences, although there’s some pleasure to be had. The trick is, while Campbell’s delicately rendered scenery is perfectly good for mood-enhancing conversation, it doesn’t have quite the exactness necessary to afford a reader the sense of spatial direction that an intense chasing/shooting sequence requires. As a result, some of Campbell’s action bits can be rather difficult to follow on first blush, so long as they’re ensconced in typical comics ‘realism,’ although once you’ve got your bearings there’s some great bits of flourish on display, with frames rocking and tipping with gunfire, and tiny panels breaking off from the main action to signify the paths of bullets and running men across a large, white space that stands in for the environment as a whole.

By the end of this book, it seems everyone is lost in a blank place. I won’t spoil any plot movements - there’s an awful conspiracy at work, of course, along with some fairly improbable coincidences. But the story winds up in what seems to be a series of calculated anticlimaxes. Villains are finally seen, and fade just as quickly. Romantic sparks fly, and promptly die. All of the Good Guys seemingly get what they think they want, only to realize that maybe they didn’t want it at all. The path of the obsessed, go-the-distance hero seems quietly sad, even foolish. The book’s onrushing theme of uncertainty concludes with something that’ll no doubt bring From Hell to mind for many readers - the birth of the 20th century. But it’s not so much madness that breaks out, but a new evolution in humankind’s capacity to fool one another, and to undermine the fantasies of black & white morality and firm ‘sides’ in a conflict. Even though they think it’s a new thing, the impression is given that people have been that way for a while.

Ah, but it’s nothing that can’t quite be coped with. Who knows how the screenplay wrapped up, but the book concludes with a final moment of surrender to the celebratory nature of the unknown. A glass raised, in wholly Campbellian fashion.


An extra early post...

*...for an extra fat week.


The Shaolin Cowboy Vol. 54, #7 (yes, that's it)

*Yes! An attention-getting week! Everybody please rush to the stands for -


The Comics Journal #283: Featuring a nice cover interview with Lewis Trondheim - enjoy a fat excerpt. Also, David Sandlin interviewed by Dan Nadel - savor a weighty slice. Plus: secret adventure and mystery.

*But you know, there’s a damn load of interesting stuff catching my attention -


House: Very creepy little wordless comic from Josh Simmons and Fantagraphics, ready to crawl right under your skin. My review is here. I liked it a lot.

The Black Diamond Detective Agency: Very nearly polishing off First Second’s third wave of releases (I think we’re still waiting on Vol. 2 of Grady Klein’s The Lost Colony), it’s Eddie Campbell’s comics adaptation of a screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell, concerning detectives and terror and conspiracy and identity and the seeming twilight of all reliable things at the close of the 19th century. A dusty, dirt-crusted, guns-occasionally-blazing western comic, tightly compressed and dotted with bold visual flourishes, oddly satisfying even as it threatens to pop right apart with story. Full review tomorrow, if the fates allow.

I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks: Far and away the one book among Fantagraphics’ many archival offerings that I’ve been most anticipating, a big bad 120-page $19.95 softcover collection of what I consider to be the very essence of Golden Age superhero/fantasy adventure comics. The works of Fletcher Hanks are blunt, cruel, absurd, and utterly devoid of any pretense toward narrative sophistication - they exist only to embody kaleidoscopic violence heaped upon the wicked in hallucinations of power and retribution, fearsome in their exactness. I mean, just look at this. Fifteen big adventures await, plus an all-new comics-format Afterward by editor Paul Karasik that vows to reveal the final, enigmatic fate of the artist. Don’t miss this, world.

Shiny Beasts: But if maybe you’re in the mood for reprints of the ‘80s illustrated fantasy magazine variety, you probably won’t go wrong with this new King Hell collection of writer/artist Rick Veitch’s various and sundry short comics from the pages of Epic Illustrated, complete with special guest appearances by Alan Moore and Stephen R. Bissette. Much preview art here. This is book two of what a I believe is an intended three-volume retrospective of Veitch’s work from the period, following the compilation of his Abraxas and the Earthman serial, and to be followed by a new edition of his 1983 graphic novel Heartburst (that's Marvel Graphic Novel #10, True Believer) in a little while.

Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age: I’ve seen this large (224-page, 10.8” x 8.4”) softcover anthology in bookstores for a couple weeks now - it’s got the publishing might of Viking behind it, and goes for a very reasonable $18.99. Edited by Ariel Schrag, it’s a collection of tales from middle school, featuring a very nice line-up of contributors, including Gabrielle Bell, Dash Shaw, Lauren Weinstein, Aaron Renier, Ariel Bordeaux, Cole Johnson, Schrag herself, and many more (full list here), plus pertinent reprints from Dan Clowes (Like a Weed, Joe) and Joe Matt (a selection from Fair Weather). Obviously worth a flip.

The Three Paradoxes: That Fantagraphics is a pretty prolific publisher of things that interest me. For example, here’s the long-awaited new graphic novel from Paul Hornschemeier, a formally ambitious autobiographical hardcover piece, $14.95 for 80 color pages. Tom Spurgeon has a nice review.

Exit Wounds: Not to be upstaged, Drawn and Quarterly also has something this week, a graphic novel from acclaimed Israeli cartoonist Rutu Modan. It’s a very attractive-looking tale of mystery and introspection in Tel Aviv, and I think I’ll link to Tom Spurgeon again.

MPD-Psycho Vol. 1: And on the absolute opposite end of the comics landscape, we’ve got the virgin installment of writer Eiji Otsuka’s and artist Sho-U Tajima’s infamously gory, sensationalistic detective/horror series about a man with multiple personalities facing off with extreme atrocity. The material has apparently already inspired one initial licensing English-publisher to come down with a case of the jitters. Dark Horse does the honors here, and if the earth doesn’t split and money is made, there’ll be plenty of stuff to release - the series is still ongoing in Japan, having racked up 11 volumes of material since its 1997 debut.

Ghost in the Shell 1.5: Human-Error Processor #8 (of 8): Dark Horse does still put out some manga in pamphlet format, though. But this final issue sees another of the old trees rumble to the ground.

Superior Showcase #2: Another issue of AdHouse’s intermittent pamphlet-format follow-up to its Project: Superior anthology of superhero comics from creators you maybe wouldn’t expect so much of that stuff from. This issue features Farel Dalrymple (one day, Omega the Unknown, one day…), Maris Wicks and Joey Weiser.

The Punisher MAX #48: Many a shooting.

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #5 (of 7): Many a slinging.

Sock Monkey: The “Inches” Incident #4 (of 4): Possibly a socking.

Black Summer #0 (of 7): Ah, one of Avatar’s signature tricks. You see -- and anyone who gets writer Warren Ellis’ Bad Signal email dispatches already knows about this -- this issue #0 is actually the first issue of the new Ellis/Juan Jose Ryp project. If you only pick up issue #1, you won’t get the beginning of the story, because #1 is not the start. I recall Avatar did this a few times early on, back in the late mid-going-on-late ‘90s, where I think there was a brief vogue for collectable ‘zero’ issues (or had the trend already passed by then?). I presume some sales goosing resulted. Today, it looks like the issue #0 thing is simply an opportunity to price the debut of Ellis’ and Ryp’s superhero-kills-the-president epic at 99 cents (albeit with only 16 pages in it), although I hope interested parties won’t mistake it for one of the preview thingies Avatar tends to put out at the same price point in the same format.



Exotic thrills from your local news agent.

*I sure love the weekends that wind up being busier than my full-time job. A particular highlight this time around was driving 130 miles through sheets of rain, high winds and patchy fog, with moments of total blindness whenever a tractor-trailer passes you, thanks to splashing water that's like a hose against your car. But I survived, much like I did in the dream I had last night about a botched heist at the Vatican.

*I didn't think it was due out this early, but the other day I ran into a big stack of the debut issue of the new magazine Otaku USA at my local chain bookstore. It's kind of a general nerd-about-Japan kind of deal, with stuff on anime, manga, model kits, video games, toys, etc. I was mainly interested in the people behind it, including Editor in Chief Patrick Macias, Manga Editor Jason Thompson, and contributing writer Shaenon Garrity, all of whom you might recall of the pages of VIZ's beloved manga magazine Pulp. In addition, there's a print column version of Ed Chavez's MangaCast, which will be devoted to interesting Japan-only material (I use the future tense because, like some other material in the magazine, the first outing is spent on introductions and plans), and a rather large amount of the anime coverage is provided by the crew from Anime World Order (and that would be Clarissa Graffeo, Gerald Rathkolb and Daryl Surat). And I'm just naming folks I recognize right off the top of my head.

In some ways, it seems like a familiar magazine. It's got the same slick, bright art direction that tends to mark most contemporary anime/manga/whatever magazines, and it struck me as bearing more than a slight similarity in design aesthetic to Newtype USA, which I guess is still #1 among this type of thing. I haven't read Newtype in an awfully long time, but this new magazine mercifully declines to emulate the all-hype, all the time content direction that I associate with it. No, I don't consider it much of a leap forward that Otaku USA's review section contains (*gasp*) actual criticism, but I do like that even the heavily-illustrated 'feature' stories on various hot shows and properties retain a certain critical outlook, and a willingness to trust the writers' impressions of much-hyped material, rather than simply imparting basic information and breathless summary.

But the real character of this magazine doesn't quite emerge until you get toward the back of the first issue, and Macias and others begin turning in reports from Japan's nerd heart, from first-person impressions of video game console launches to secret invitations to assemble a five foot high Gundam model in the company of a colorful masked man (that would be Masked BAKUC, who also contributes a short bit of writing).

The tone gets quite bubbly and fannish, though not to a distracting degree - anecdotes featuring the authors gushing over veteran molding supervisors for robot model kits are balanced to a degree by somewhat more cerebral pieces, like Tomohiro Machiyama's piece on history and 'meaning' behind the fandom supporting Gundam model kits (or: Gunpla). Is it an elaborate means of constructing a fictional military nostalgia for a nation with no 'good' wars to reminisce about? The notion is delivered, along with the irony that the brooding themes of the original Mobile Suit Gundam television program were essentially ignored by its fandom in order to to focus on an obsession with technical background detail and gleaming hardware, an arguably superficial fixation that eventually transformed an unsuccessful anime show into one of the mightiest franchises.

It's this mix of appreciation for fannish spirit and an overt awareness of the limitations of such that I like most about Otaku USA, and I hope it's something I see more of in the future. I haven't read any magazines of this type on a regular basis for a while now, so I can't make any declarations about its relative quality. I can say it's a good magazine, good enough to keep me reading bimonthly for a while.