Sunday, January 3, 2010

You've Been Warned Vol III Issue I

Comic reviews by a fan, for the fans!

**As always, mind the spoilers, fanboy.**

- OPENING REMARKS -

Moyasimon: Tales of Agriculture Vol. 1
by Masayuki Ishikawa
Ballantine Books


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Can't begin to even fathom what drew me to this title. Fuck, I was quite possibly doing my orders while inebriated. Or getting a blowjob. Or both. Probably both. And I ordered it while I wasn't paying attention. As luck would have it though, the comic gods were smiling oh so favorably upon me, and I happened to chance on a genuine gem of a manga.

Moyasimon follows the misadventures of a group of college students at an Agricultural college in Japan. The protagonist, Tadayasu, possess the unique ability to see and communicate with bacteria. Flanked by his sake brewing friend Kei, a hot grad student, a zany liberal professor, and two bootlegging upperclassmen, we're whisked away to the bizarre world of micro-organisms and all the disgusting shit that entails. This is one of those mangas that is overflowing with an absolutely ridiculous amount of information about bacteria, viruses, and all sorts of little critters that are a part of everyday human existence (whether you like it or not). Similar to Black Jack (in which its author, the immortal Osamu Tezuka, possessed and displayed a huge amount of medical knowledge thanks to an education in medicine) I can only assume that Masayuki Ishikawa has a professional background in some discipline of biology. If not, the man sure as fuck did his research. As someone with a background in the medical field, I can vouch for one hilarious bit in this volume in which the protagonist is surrounded by unfriendly organisms which thrive in a hospital. It's a bit of an inside joke, but for me that's too fucking funny.

As you may have gathered at this point, Moyasimon is a cerebral read. If'n you can't handle your manga without extended intense fight sequences than this title's definitely not for you. Otherwise, this is a smart, light-hearted, extremely clever little gem of a book, and however I arrived at it, I'm glad I did.

Beanworld: Remember Here When You Are There
by Larry Marder
Dark Horse Comics


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Is there anything that makes life sweeter than Beanworld? The answer to that question is: Yes there is! BRAND-NEW, NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN Beanworld! And the sky opened up to let brilliant rays of light cascade from the heavens, bathing the Earth in an illuminating blanket of warmth. Trumpets blared joyously. Angels sang in ecstasy. The blind once again saw. Cripples walked. Soldiers laid down their arms, the rich recanted, the poor are fed, and for the first time in recorded history the world as a whole was content.

Beanworld may not be THAT good, but it's damn near close. A lot of great new developments take place in this latest volume. Beanish makes headway with Dreamishness. Mr. Spook is reunited with that which he loves most. The Pod'L'Pool cuties grow and mature. Sniff ... our little beans are starting to grow up.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about than it's your fucking loss. All the absolutely worthless shitty comics out there, and on the rare fucking day there's one actually worth more than the paper it's printed on ya'll be like "It's a book about beans? Why the fuck would I want to read that? Look at this mini-series here 'cause they're totally bringing back Psylocke." And that shit's sad.

Beanworld is an all-ages gratifying read. I am one of the all too few people who can say my life is a little sweeter having read it. If you're in the market for something warm, unique, and genuinely happy, you need look no further.

365 Samurai and a Few Bowls of Rice
by J.P. Kalonji
Dark Horse Comics


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You tell me: is there something wrong with a near 400 page book that takes fifteen minutes to read? Seems a little wrong, doesn't it? For me it's like buying a $30 steak which you eat in three bites. Or a $1000 hooker who only lets you boink her for three minutes. I guess the point of all those analogies is it sucks when you think something is good and you just don't get your damn money's worth.

365 Samurai... follows the quest of a ronin fulfilling a revenge vow to kill 365 samurai. Reliant predominantly on the visual aspect of storytelling, the reader is whisked along many a showdown, rendered brilliantly by the author in stark bland-and-white contrast, in a style reminiscent of Jeff Smith (of Bone fame). I don't think anyone can deny the power of Kalonji's artwork, each page housing a single panel, the movement of the action and the characters flowing smoothly, effortlessly, like a single drop of water down the most delicate stem of the most beautiful flower. I doubt you'll find anyone who'll deny that this is a visually gorgeous book.

My qualms stem from the other aspects of the book. The dialogue, when present, is choppy and awkward, contrasting in a most unflattering manner against the beautiful imagery. Some of the plot devices, such as the "it was only a dream" ending, or the deus ex machina avalanche which annihilates an army but manages to leave our protagonist alive, are a little too convenient and contrived for my liking. Unfortunately, when you've got a sparce plot, the slightest divot in it stands out like craters on the moon.

This is an overall decent read, and an impressive enough introduction of the author for American audiences. It also suffers from the common ailment of too much style, not enough substance. In the end, given the price of approximately $17, I could have done without it. But it's not the worst thing I've ever read. If you know someone who enjoys manga with a European influence, or some gripping black and white artwork (ala old school Bone), especially if they enjoy a good ol' fashioned samurai journey, this is definitely a book you'd want to hook them up with. Anyone else, well ... don't say I didn't warn you.

- PICK OF THE WEEK -
Footnotes in Gaza
by Joe Sacco
Metropolitain Books


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Joe Sacco is nothing short of a artistic miracle, and this book is a goddamn grenade in the crotch. Another expository piece from the author of Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde, Sacco once again delves into the Gaza strip to investigate two overlooked massacres from the Egyptian/Israli war era of the 1950's. Footnotes is destined to be hailed a modern masterpiece. The risks Sacco braves in order to uncover this story, submerging himself into one of the most war torn areas on the planet, is nothing short of astounding. Juxtaposing eye witness accounts of atrocities from the past alongside the struggles faced by the modern Palestinian in the new millennium, Footnotes may be Sacco's most volatile work yet. Chilling and poignant, this book and the struggle its author paints will haunt you incessantly.

Regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation, Footnotes transcends to paint a picture of collective suffering and iron determination against annihilation. In the end it's a book I can't deliver enough praise for, and one I can't recommend highly enough.

- PAN OF THE WEEK -
Captain America: Who Will Wield the Shield?
by Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice, & Luke Ross
Marvel Comics


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The first stupid sentence on the first stupid page of the stupid book sums up why it's so stupid: "PLEASE NOTE: THE FOLLOWING STORY TAKES PLACE AFTER THE EVENTS OF CAPTAIN AMERICA: REBORN #6! SORRY, FOLKS!" If you didn't catch that, it takes after a comic book it was released before. Let me sum this shit up for you folks, maybe save you a little money here. This book, shipped out on time to no doubt keep it from being returnable by your jolly local retailer (unlike it's reluctant predecessor, the conclusion of Cap:Reborn) , reveals that the recently returned Steve Rogers is no longer going to be Captain America. This one issue invalidates not only the whole retarded publicity nightmare jumblefuck that was Captain America: Reborn, but it successfully castrates one of Marvel's most iconic characters for essentially no reason. It also has one of those infuriating open endings that proclaims, like a hornet in your eyeball, "Want to find out the TRUE fate of Steve Rogers?! Better read Siege!" So if you aren't obligated to buy it, y'know, don't.

Way to go, Marvel Comics. Insert sarcastic applause here.


You've been warned.

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