Ponyo chat in this post.

*In a second.


Prison Pit Book One (upcoming Johnny Ryan; all you've dreamed of)


The Nobody (Jeff Lemire does an Invisible Man thing at Vertigo)

At Bookforum.


Dominic Fortune #1 (of 4) (new Howard Chaykin, old fashioned men's adventure)

At The Factual Opinion.

*Must-Read Dept: I saw Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo last weekend, and I thought it was pretty great. Two days of steady mulling later, I've dropped the "pretty"; this is a great movie, probably my second favorite Miyazaki behind My Neighbor Totoro. Interestingly though, despite the work's positive reception among mainline critics, 'fan'-based reactions, particularly among anime devotees, seem to be split, with some criticizing the work's ambling, loose sense of plot as evidence of a storyteller in decline (anecdotally, this reaction seems to come mainly from viewers who prefer the epic fantasy wing of the Miyazaki library, i.e. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke).

Naturally, I've been looking all over for additional reactions, and this Anime News Network podcast led me to a whopper: a long, absorbing conversation between famed director Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, The Sky Crawlers) and Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki, in which the characteristically immodest Oshii absolutely chomps into Ponyo (while still showing respect for its expressive power), decrying its lack of structure to the point where he cannot even consider it a "real" movie. Suzuki counters that this was fully Miyazaki's intent, to remove narrative strictures and animate a series of (to borrow Oshii's own term) "delusions."

Hell, I'll go a step further: Ponyo may be aimed at kids, but it's a children's movie that traffics in bona fide surrealism, which Miyazaki employs as both a means of better communicating his themes -- parental love/failure, respect for life, the determined force of nature -- to his young target audience on a dreamy, illogical terrain, while aiming to prod adults into a state of childlike lucidity by frustrating expectations of rationality and toying with some old-timey archetypes; for heaven's sake, there's a scene where the kids enter a scary dark tunnel and emerge into a scenario of new moral choice! This effort is even displayed in the movie itself, as all the story's adults gradually come to accept the mayhem Ponyo makes of plain living.

Serious frivolity indeed, coming from a director who understands not just animation but cinema; it's odd that Oshii -- a highly literate, Godard & Tarkovsky-loving guy himself -- is so off-handedly dismissive of a work that defies dotting the screenwriting Is and Ts, since he obviously knows there's perfectly meaningful, worthwhile cinematic traditions that don't rely at all on airtight plotting, although I admit they have little influence on feature animation.

But that's what makes Ponyo so valuable. I like Pixar's stuff a lot, for instance, but this is a more adventurous picture than they'd ever release on their own. I'm fascinated that the state of Ponyo is attributed in this conversation to Miyazaki's rejection of Ghibli co-founder Isao Takahata's moderating influence; I've always thought of Takahata as the more idiosyncratic, risk-taking filmmaker of the pair (Grave of the Fireflies, Only Yesterday, Pom Poko), but here we suddenly have Miyazaki heading the curious, divisive picture. And it's still a $180 million international blockbuster! He got hordes of young children to sit happily agog through The Little Mermaid by way of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie! THIS MAN IS A GENIUS!!

Anyway, there's a lot more in that Oshii/Suzuki talk, including thoughts on the Sky Crawlers, aging animators, the decline of draftsmanship in anime and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Go read; I'll have more on Ponyo in next week's column.

*Mighty light this time, but at least we've got Bob Levin & Naoki Urasawa, who should totally launch an Ultimate Comics series. Is Daredevil still alive?


The Comics Journal #299: Oh, there's other stuff in here - a few reviews, some columns, Sean T. Collins' interview with Josh Cotter (sample here), a full-length reprint of animator Myron Waldman's 1947 "proto-graphic novel" Eve: A Pictorial Love Story, not to denegrate those efforts, no no. But this time, man, it's all about Journal hall of famer Bob Levin's big ol' cover essay on the big-ticket, never-seen superstar comics anthology The Someday Funnies. I can't wait. It's $11.99, as usual.


A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge: Your high-profile work of comics nonfiction of the month, a $24.95 Pantheon hardcover collecting, revising and expanding artist Josh Neufeld's 2007-08 webcomic, an account of several people getting by before and after Hurricane Katrina. Expect media coverage; praise has already gotten thick. It's 208 color-coded pages. Interview with Tom Spurgeon here.

20th Century Boys Vol. 4 (of 24): If you happen to be in the San Francisco area, the first installment of director Yukihiko Tsutsumi's live-action movie trilogy adapting this Naoki Urasawa manga is currently playing at the New People cultural entertainment center in Japantown. The second and third chapters will follow later this month (the lattermost opening near-simultaneously in Japan), but I think part one only goes up to vol. 5 of the manga, if you're worried about spoilers. Anyway, more from this series is always welcome; it's $12.99.

Ōoku: The Inner Chambers Vol. 1: Admirers of artist Fumi Yoshinaga -- best known for the shōjo comedy-drama Antique Bakery -- have been waiting with bated breath for this one, an alternate history extravaganza seeing a disease wipe out most of the men in feudal Japan, leaving women in most positions of power, the greatest of which allow for a harem of men. Still ongoing in Japan at four volumes of a projected ten, Yoshinaga looks to be making this her magnum opus. Interested parties get 216 pages for $12.99.

Wet Moon Vol. 5 (of 10): Where All Stars Fail to Burn: And proving you don't need manga to have a thick softcover-of-a-series out this week, Ross Campbell brings the latest 168 pages in his punk-styled drama. From Oni; $14.95. Preview here.

Filthy Rich: Oh hey, this week is also the debut of the new Vertigo Crime line of trim hardcover originals, mixing veteran comics writers and prose specialists in longform projects. Brian Azzarello fills the vet role here, working with Spanish artist Victor Santos; it's a 200-page, $19.99 b&w tale of a lowdown ex-football star and current car salesman-cum-part time bodyguard led into trouble by his boss' thrill seeking daughter. Looks like some very straight-up noir from the premise. Preview and info here.

Dark Entries: And as for prose, here's Ian Rankin writing a mystery-flavored John Constantine story about an allegedly haunted house in a reality television show, presumably to emphasize the Vertigo in the line title. Drawn in b&w by Werther Dell'edera; 216 pages for $19.99. Preview here. Hellblazer series writer Peter Milligan also has some material out this week, concluding the love potion storyline with issue #258.

Days Missing #1 (of 5): A new Phil Hester-written pamphlet miniseries for Roddenberry Productions, published by Archaia Studios, concerning a weird being that literally steals crucial days out of the course of human history, and the events he's collecting. Of special note due to art by the always-interesting Frazer Irving, and a special first issue price of 99 cents. Have a look.

Project Superpowers: Meet the Bad Guys #1: I'll cop to mostly staying away from Dynamite's extensive, Alex Ross-fronted Project Superpowers line, tossing public domain Golden Age characters around in booming new adventures, but be aware that Joe Casey sometimes scripts these things from Ross' plots, as we have right here in an all-villains showcase, which might play especially well to the man's strengths. Peek. Casey also writes issue #4 of Final Crisis Aftermath: Dance this week.

Punisher: Noir #1 (of 4): Or shit, maybe Urasawa can draw Spider-Ham: Noir; it can't be far off from Billy Bat. Back in reality, though, why not enjoy another one of these gritty yarns, with even less necessity for an alternate universe than ever! However, artist Paul Azaceta & colorist Nick Filardi have done some nice work before, and look to continue. Written by Frank Tieri; $3.99.

Viking #3: More oversized color sacking for $2.99.

Wednesday Comics #7 (of 12): More over-oversized color sequence for $3.99.