Friday, February 29, 2008
Busy week this time around, with more than I could actually afford to bring home. I’m starting to think I need to take a moment to assess the books I’m reading issue by issue to get a better idea of what I desperately need to read the moment it arrives and what can wait to be picked up in trade format. That (along with plans to bring more new blood into my reading) will have to wait till another column, however, as there’s plenty to talk about today.
Writer & Artist: Jeff Smith
From page one of Rasl, it’s clear this is exactly the sort of thing Jeff Smith should be following up the incredible success of Bone with – a darker, more adult series, featuring characters and settings from somewhere far away from any place with cow races, talking bugs, or stupid, stupid rat creatures. While I love Bone more than a great many things, I was more than a little afraid of what his next creator-owned work would be after the palette cleanser of Shazam. Fone Bone and friends were a life’s work, after all, starting in the comics section of Smith’s college paper before going on to make him one of the most famous independent comic creators around. The cynical bit (that is, most) of me was worried the temptation to fall back on familiar territory would prove too strong, resulting in something that, while good, would ultimately be more of the same. If this first issue is any indication, I clearly need to stop doing that the thing where I second-guess highly creative people doing something they love.
Which is not to say Bone didn’t have its share of dark or more adult-ish moments. If this first issue is anything to go by, however, then Rasl appears to be a dedicated move towards something a little more mature. For instance, while both books begin with their main characters wandering the desert, the scene here couldn’t be more different – rather than trying to keep his cousins from killing each other, Rasl is alone, beaten and bleeding, looking for all the world like something the cat dragged in, dragged back out, and buried in the backyard.
The flash back to somewhat less messy times doesn’t do much to set him up as a hero, either: our boy’s an art thief with expensive tastes and a bad habit of signing his jobs. There are hints that he’s either not very good at this whole thievery thing or stuck in the middle of a run of bad luck, a problem he gets around through the use of strange machinery and something called the Drift. While it seems to make for a handy exit strategy when the cops are closing in, it’s not without problems of its own – where he ends up and what the trip takes out of him appears to be a bit harder to control than making the jump in the first place. This can be a bit problematic, particularly when the people Rasl (presumably) stole his fancy toys from catch up with him in a strange bar far from home.
My excessive use of qualifiers such as “seems”, “presumably”, and “apparently” isn’t just down to my short attention span – it’s a slower start than you may be used to from Smith, full of questions and not much in the way of answers. Luckily, as fans of Bone and its twists and turns can tell you, this is just the sort of thing he excels at when given the time to tell stories at his leisure. It’s far too early to say if the book will keep its current tone – the sci-fi, near-noirish tone could just as easily drift towards fantasy or any number of directions. However things turn out, though, I’m sure it’ll be okay. Smith has planted enough seeds here to let the story grow down whatever roads it sees fit, and even if some of those fell like familiar territory it’s almost guaranteed to be worth following for a good long while.
BUY STATUS: Dude, it’s a Jeff Smith comic. I’m pretty sure I’m genetically incapable of not buying it.
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: John Romita, Jr.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember the last time I saw a book this proud of itself. In addition to the front cover declaring it “the greatest superhero book of ALL TIME!”, the back of the thing is covered in quotes from comic pros and Damon Lindelof, him what does stuff on Lost, declaring it the most wonderful thing ever seen by man or beast. It appears that Mark Millar has never run into a situation where too much hype could hurt, nor has he quite worked out that his particular brand of bombastic, BEST THING EVAH enthusiasm for his own work combined with a cloying, desperate love of any sort of attention from anybody remotely connected to Hollywood has become more than a little grating in the last few years. Wrapped as it is in this blitzkrieg of exclamation points and adulation, it’s hard not to go in to Kick Ass without a handful of preconceived notions. And if more than a few of those notions tend towards annoyance, well, you’d forgive a guy, yeah?
Luckily, these feelings are somewhat tempered by the book itself being good. Not great, not a gift carried down from God himself by angels driving chariots made of chocolate and unicorn horns; not even as good as his Fantastic Four from a couple of weeks ago, but good. The story follows one Dave Lizewski, an average high school nobody in a world much like ours: one devoid of costumed adventurers in colorful outfits, where the only superheroes are found in movies and comics (comics like Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, which Dave thinks is totally awesome – not exactly like our world after all, then). He’s utterly unexceptional, the sort of kid you knew in high school and immediately forgot once that bit of paper touched your hand, except for one little detail: He wants to be a hero. Not when he grows up, mind you, but right now.
So, donning a costume made out of an altered wet suit, he begins to spend his nights on patrol looking for wrongs in need of righting. This being something like the real world, however, he learns two unfortunate lessons in short order: 1), Crime in New York City isn’t nearly as convenient as in, say, Gotham, and 2), when it does happen, it’s probably going to take a little more than a mask and a billy club to sort it out. The results are predictably messy, setting the stage for some event in the next couple of issues sure to set young Dave on the true path to realizing his destiny.
As first issues go, it does the job – meet the character, get the origin out of the way, establish a premise with the potential for something truly unique, and end on a cliffhanger. Whether we get that something remains to be seen, however – this issue is filled with the sort of bad habits responsible for reducing so much of Millar’s “mature” work to thrilling, ultimately shallow displays of hyper-violence that, while a fun ride the first time through, lack any staying power. Dave’s voice is far too much like that of the protagonist from Wanted for comfort, and I’m really not interested in putting up with that sort of vapid snottiness disguised as personality again. It’s a good start, and I’d like to see it go somewhere, but for now I refuse to get excited.
BUY STATUS: In for the next two issues. There’s lots of potential here, but I’m worried Millar’s lesser demons will keep him from ever reaching it.
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Ryan Dunlavey
If you were to ask me my favorite comic of the last few years, I would without hesitation say Scott Pilgrim. If you were to ask my other favorite comic, however, I...well, I’d most likely keep talking about Scott Pilgrim, going on and on about how the first time reading vol. 2 led to me getting lost on the G train for the better part of an hour and how great vol. 4 was. But if you were very, very patient and more than willing to put up with the one-track nature of my feeble brain, I might eventually get around to remembering how much I absolutely love Action Philosophers and its casual, often hilarious look at some of history’s greatest minds and the stuff what they thought.
Action Philosophers is the definition of easy access – each of its nine issues offers biographies of three (or more) famous philosophers, usually grouped by a common theme or chance to make a cheap joke. You also get a simple and straightforward tour of their most famous works and contributions to philosophy, providing just enough information to entice you into exploring further or at least sound smart at parties. No real bias ever enters into things, and each philosopher is given plenty of room to either shine or come off as crazy on their own merits. More often than not it’s a little of both, but what do you expect from people who think at a professional level?
This volume collects the last two issues of the regular series and the special “Lightning Round” finale, bringing together a whopping nineteen smart guys for your reading pleasure. The book was clearly a labor of love on the part of Lente and Dunlavey, as even the philosophers given the fewest of pages still get their lives laid out in a unique, clever way that leaves more of an impression on you than “person (x) who said thing (y)” for the next time you’re hunting through the shelves at Barnes and Noble for something to enrich yourself with. Up next for the pair is Comic Book Comics, a similar look at the history of – wait for it – comic books supposed to start up in March. If comics are very, very lucky, they can expect the same sort of treatment philosophy found here.
As good as Action Philosophers is on its own, as funny and enlightening as each of its nine issues found time to be, I think what I enjoyed most of about the series is how very unique it is. Lente and Dunlavey wanted to do a comic, and instead of an illustrated diary or remixed heroics, they decided to make that rarest of things: an educational comic that never tries too hard to be cool, never talks down to its readers, and above all never bores. It's a genuinely useful book, one that leaves me happy to have read it for more than just the sake of a good story while pointing out some areas of my life that could do with shoring up. Anybody wanting proof of the medium’s potential could do worse than to start looking right here.
BUY STATUS: There’s nothing more to buy, sadly. Expect something on Comic Book Comics when the series starts next month.
A busy week means there’s not time to talk at length about brought home, so a quick roundup of what else came home:
Teen Titans #56 (McKeever, Barrows): And lo, McKeever has found his voice. Last issue’s calm gives way to the storm in a big way with a full issue of Kid Devil being generally crap in the best possible ways, Nice moments include what happens when you wake up Robin in the middle of the night, Blue Beetle’s laugh, and the sort of consequences you should expect for doing a chest bump. Oh, and our first introduction to the rest of the Terror Titans. Next issue: More hitting!
Captain America #35 (Brubaker, Guice): Bucky’s transformation into Cap continues nicely, as do the Red Skull’s plan. No sign of the firearm this issue, making its existence feel more and more like somebody’s tacked-on idea of cool than an actual evolution of the character. Which is fine. Much like Bendis’ Daredevil at its height, this book continues to show how well superhero comics can pull off serious stories: Captain America is an intense, engaging suspense story of the highest order where the main character happens to have a metal arm and another guy can sort of talk to birds.
JSA #13: I’ve really enjoyed this book since the One Year Later jump, and while I understand the Society’s mandate to find legacy costumes and train them up into proper heroes, things are getting just too crowded for the nice character moments that punctuated earlier issues to survive. That the characters themselves are now commenting on the lack of breathing room leads me to think this is going to change soon, but with so many pieces in need of placing the story is taking its sweet time getting there. I should really be reading this in trades, shouldn’t I? Nice little fight scene at the end, though.
New issues of Angel and Criminal had to stay at the shop due to lack of funds, but I’m definitely grabbing them next week. Same for PS238, the new issue of which I didn’t find till today after checking three different stores. I can’t find Atomic Robo for the life of me, leading me to suspect you people made it up just to drive me crazy. If you live in New York City and know where I can find a copy, please give a shout. Reading suggestions are always welcome in the comments or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
So if Cage is a Skrull, when do you think it happened?
Also, is this whole Skrull thing going to be like a "Sleeper Cell" scenario where even the Skrull agents don't know they are Skrulls until a certain time when they are "awakened?"
Geez, I'd really hate to see the Jessica/Luke thing turn out like that...I mean, Iron Fist has the more screwed up origin, I'd assume he'd be one first.
It occurred to me the other day that this week I've surpassed 1000 posts on this blog. Not bad for a year and a few months.
Little did I know when I first stepped foot on DC Comics' blue-and-red carpet eight years ago what a vista of adventure and excitement awaited me in the world of mainstream comic books.
And when I look back on my life and career many years from now, I guess I'm really going to have to point to DC as the place that provided me with the clarity and direction to find my true calling in life. Thanks, guys. You are teh awesome. Feel free to drop review copies of CMX books in my mailbox for Manga Mondays anytime.
Well, to celebrate my 1,000th post -- and to help me go on vacation so I can focus on crucial Friends of Lulu biz -- all next week will be a retrospective on the highlights (and, maybe, a few lowlights) from OCCASIONAL SUPERHEROINE so far.
The way I would like to work it is to pick several of my posts on certain topics & provide links and perhaps some brief commentary. If you have any suggestions on topics, let me know.
Each day will have one retrospective post. Then regular blogging will resume March 10 (with perhaps a few posts the weekend before).
As always, thank you so much for the support and patronage. If this was a store, I would give you one of those vinyl wallets with my name on it, or perhaps even a small clock in a wooden box. Or a plate of cookies.
PS: My e-mail is still backed up, but I'm going to be working on it this coming week. So if I haven't written back, it's not that I'm ignoring you. It's because I'm a little bit of a goober. But don't worry, I've read one of those posts on "how to go through your inbox like an e-mail ninja."
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Perhaps to make up for the lack of Marvel info at WonderCon, Marvel conducted an impromptu press call yesterday to announce a bunch of news:
* The upcoming Cable series will be a "sci-fi spaghetti western" and definitely takes place in the current X-men continuity.
Cable really isn't the big mega-star he used to be, is he? I mean, I remember when he was like in the top 5 Marvel superheroes. Maybe that will change?
*Garth Ennis will be making his final Punisher arc, and Tim Bradstreet will depart with him.
Will certainly be the end of an era, but maybe it's time for new blood on the title, so to speak. Jason Aaron?
* The Hulk is definitely not coming back to The Incredible Herc book. Fate of puppy still up in air.
Good, I like that it's Herc's book. Killing the puppy is just mean tho.
* Fantastic Four with Bryan Hitch is penciled through #562, and will (gasp!) come out on schedule.
Must have had him working on this book way in advance. Which is how DC got Jim Lee's "Batman: Hush" out on time. Maybe there is a lesson in this for editors.
* Apparently the cover of Guardians Of The Galaxy #2 is so controversial it can only be spoke of in whispers.
Maybe it's a shot of Vance Astro with a really big package. Painted by Alex Ross.
* Matt Fraction's Invincible Iron Man will have "more variant covers than you can shake a stick at."
Oh boy I hope some have holograms.
* The next Dan Slott Spider-Man arc in May will have...
"..Something that all of the Spidey readers – the guys that love us right now, and the guys that hate us right now have been asking for.”Return of MJ?
*Hulk #4 is apparently some really big patooties -- with the shocking reappearance of an old character and a supposedly awesome battle.
As long as Jeph Loeb stops doing those scenes where everything looks normal and then you turn the page and the Hulk jumps out of nowhere. That works on film, not so much in comics (especially if you have to turn the page).
And the latest rumor on teh internets is that Amadeus Cho is really Red Hulk -- what do you think? I thought it was Doc Samson.
Oh, and I saw those "Invaders" preview pages with Cap and the rest -- it's like the same creative team as Project Superpowers (crossover?). Nice stuff.
And I've been hearing some faint rumblings about events in Skrull Invasion...all I have to say is, if those rumors are true, "oh my God." And that's all I'm going to say. Wow. A lot of people will be writing in their blogs.
I'm done writing in this one -- for this post at least!
(Howard the Duck is really a Skrull -- that would explain how he looked in his last miniseries)
I just read a stirring and heart-felt post by Heidi MacDonald on Dave Sim, and it occured to me that I never really touched upon his views on this forum.
I wrote a comment to Heidi's post, and I thought I would share it here. I hope it explains in full why I have never posted about Dave Sim.
To be honest, while I have heard of the controversy surrounding Sim, and I am familiar with Cerebus, I have not sat down and read either his philosophy on women or his work. I know, with the stuff I write about on my blog, it's a little shocking that I never touched on the topic before.
But I will say this:
There has been a great deal of coddling, protecting, and willful blind eyes turned away from rampant misogynists in sectors of this industry. It has disgusted me deeply.
If Gaiman is guilty for supporting Sim, there are a lot of people out there who are just as guilty.
Sim, by virtue of his apparent outspokenness, just seems to have the biggest spotlight shined on him. He's just not "cuddly" (sorry, Dave). He solidifies his views within quotable words, instead of committing a series of actions that friends can explain away and cover up.
But I would argue that it is exactly those men who actually act upon their misogynist thoughts, unconsciously, destructively, impacting other women's lives, impacting the lives of women within the comic book community -- those men who have long histories of such behavior, yet whose actions are only spoken of in whispers -- who are far more a danger to females than Sim's comments.
And until I see those persons brought into the spotlight and talked about and chastised for their actions, I just don't have the heart nor the energy to get too upset or even delve in the Sim situation. Not because what Heidi wrote about her concerns are not justified -- because they are! -- but because I, by virtue of my own experiences, have my attention directed elsewhere.
That said, I realize that Sim's Cerebus has come highly recommended, and plan to read them at some point. By necessity of being a blogger covering current comics culture, I have had to not only read but purchase with my own money books connected with people I despise. I am all "toughened up." I can handle Cerebus. My only question is, what collected volume shall I start with; would it make more sense to just start from the beginning, or is there a particularly good arc I should try first?
still seems to generate buzz.
Has anybody made a T-shirt for Cafepress with "Emo Viking" yet?
last weekend makes him the #9 hottest story on our list.
8. "Edward Norton Hulk"Norton!
Zuda's webcomic has made a strong showing in search topics.
And what about those obscure 1950s stories with the oblong-headed aliens,
how does Grant work that into the continuity?
Where is Jackpot's Marvel Legends figure?
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Uh-oh, somebody is going to get a beat-down...
Knew this was going to happen.
Edit: actually, I quite naively thought Steve Rogers was dead forever. no, not even that thing where they put his body back in ice convinced me otherwise<----true comic fan
Here is what he turns into in the next scene:
The giveaway: you never see Ed and the Hulk in the same scene. Which means that the Hulk is just Ed's anti-establishment wish-fulfilling split personality.
10. The Howling: This werewolf movie combines bloody lycanthropic goodness with a lampoon of the burgeoning "self-actualization" movement of the late 70s and early 80s. The transformation at the end looks more like a puppy than a werewolf, however.
9. Teen Wolf: This flick really ain't half-bad, and fits right in with other silly teen comedies of the era. I mean, Michael J. Fox's Wolf Man makeup is atrocious and looks like Jo-Jo The Dog Boy. But still...
8. Dog Soldiers: Stomach-churning (uh, literally) special effects and a unique twist on the werewolf design.
7. Curse of The Werewolf: This classic Hammer Studios film stars a young Oliver Reed tearing up the scenery and acting like a wild beast. And you should see how he acts after he transforms!
6. Cursed: An underrated Wes Craven film with a guest-appearance by Scott Baio as himself. What could be scarier than that?
5. Underworld: I'm not sure who Scott Speedman is, I just want him in more movies with his shirt off.
4. Werewolf Women Of The SS: Who can forget that classic grindhouse movie with Nicholas Cage as Fu Manchu? (NSFW)
3. An American Werewolf In London: This is like the TV show "Chuck" with lycanthropy, a living corpse, and a downer ending.
2. Ginger Snaps: One of the finest woman-centered horror movies, period. Also, a movie about periods
1. The Wolf Man: This 1940s movie still holds up today as one of the best werewolf movies ever made. Larry Talbot IS "Poor Bastard."
All of this, of course, is not a shameless promotion for the premiere werewolf entertainment in comics:
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Here is what I'm buying...
Anything else you care to recommend?
I consider Jason Aaron on GHOST RIDER to be very significant. GHOST RIDER #20 was the first Marvel comic I read in a long time that I could say felt truly like a Vertigo title. It took what was a quintessential Marvel character and successfully gave it a Vertigo sheen.
To be fair, this feat was pulled off with ample assistance by artist Roland Boschi, whose art style looks like the love-child of John Romita Jr. and Eduardo Risso, and the moody palette of Dan Brown.
I remember reading a Marvel MAX giveaway comic some months ago that provided previews of their upcoming publishing schedule. This included books like FOOLKILLER, PUNISHER, and DEAD OF NIGHT. It was clear to me then that there was some sort of concerted effort to give this line a more "Vertigo Classic" focus. While GHOST RIDER is not a MAX title, I would fit the effort within the same publishing plan.
Part of this Vertigoization is in the lack of tie-ins to the current continuity; no crossovers with Spider-Man, no Wolverine. GHOST RIDER #20, dealing with the ramifications of the character's discovery that he is an "angel," is very much in its own contained world. In such a world containing heavenly creatures that might very well be evil, killer nurses, and the usual sort of semi-zombie backwater folk that pounce on unwary tourists, the mention of "who's the Skrull?" would seem rather gauche.
Looking back to the first collected volume of Aaron's breakout hit SCALPED, we get a gritty crime drama which I would hate to peg as "The Sopranos On An Indian Reservation," but I think I'm going to have to. The gripping story revolves around three central characters: Prodigal son Dashiell Bad Horse, his activist mom Gina, and Tribal Leader/crime boss Lincoln Red Crow. The story is relentlessly violent and sordid, with just the right amount of poetic moments to let the narrative breathe.
A word about the oft-lamented "Vertigo Brown" color treatment that has afflicted many of their titles: it might look good on the computer screen or high-grade paper. But on the cheaper newsprinty paper used for the Vertigo trades, the color turns into muddy soup. Something to keep in mind.
As for writer Aaron's claim on a message board that he would refund anybody who bought the first SCALPED trade and didn't like it, I would have to say that the book is at least worth the $9.99 cover price. It is, as they say, Quality.
Looking at the big picture as it pertains to a possible Vertigoization of certain Marvel titles -- I am all for it. There is no reason why GHOST RIDER cannot be as good a book as PREACHER. There is no reason for titles like THE PUNISHER not to be in perpetual trade-paperback heaven, forever young in backlist. But this will mean, as in the case of actual classic Vertigo, a minimum of forced crossovers with Marvel U proper. Spider-Man's striped pajamas are an incongruent spectre in such a universe, except for the occasional Irony issue.
As for Jason Aaron's exclusive with Marvel -- how did DC let this one go? Did they even make an attempt to offer him a mainstream DCU title on GHOST RIDER's level? Or is it, as in the case of Dan Slott several years ago, DC not thinking outside the box enough to visualize what heights these unique voices might reach?
Comics Worth Reading takes a look at the sales numbers for Archie Comics
Progressive Ruin has a review of the (apparently kinda violent) animated Turok DVD
Here is a strange post finding a metaphor for Scientology in the Green Lantern Corps (does he have a field day with L-Ron from Giffen's JLA? Oh yes he does).
Firefly's Nathan Fillion will voice Steve Trevor on the Wonder Woman animated film, so geek out.
Angry Zen Master wonders if the Oscars might be a little racist...
...at any rate, the awards show seems to have been a bit anti-Brad Renfro
A commenter yesterday reminded me of the phenomena in parts of the comic book industry and fandom of qualifying a female comic creator's success -- having the need to "explain" or attach an addendum to a woman's comics career, not letting them stand on their own merit.
During the course of my comics career, I've heard others "qualify" the accomplishments of many female comics professionals in one of three ways:
1. She slept her way to the top.
2. She got in through the business through a boyfriend or husband, not because she was talented.
3. She is a lesbian.
Let's take a look at each of these qualifiers briefly.
"She is a slut" is popularly bandied about even to this day, especially concerning women with high degrees of success. In the use of this qualifier, all the female's accomplishments mean nothing because of a supposed affair or series of affairs.
Sometimes a woman's success in the comics industry will be qualified with "well, she was just the wife or girlfriend of so-and-so," as if the person in question really didn't possess any talent and any achievements she made are really no more than "favors" the company paid to the boyfriend or husband in question.
When all else fails, the qualifier "oh, she's a lesbian" might be used. I used to hear this one about older women in the field a lot. While fine when the woman in question is actually a lesbian, there are a number of non-lesbian women this qualifier has been applied to. I suppose the motivation of this qualifier is two-fold: the speaker means some sort of derogatory connotation (a result of their own homophobia), and there is also the need to explain away the female's success as the result of something "different" about them.
All three qualifiers, ultimately, are meant to distract from the woman's actual work and have them judged by factors other than their comic creating/editing skills -- whether those factors are real or, more often, imagined.
Complicating matters are people in the industry who really do hold out to women as an opportunity for advancement a sexual option, and people in the industry who simply end up in romantic situations with their co-workers and hires as the result of a more-or-less innocent day-to-day familiarity (as opposed to an exploitative agenda).
At any rate, perhaps the sex lives of women in comics is none of our business, unless they themselves wish to make it so.
The third annual Glyph Comics Awards -- honoring the best in black comics and creators -- were announced over the weekend. Multiple nominations went to Fabian Nicieza for JSA CLASSIFIED #28, Jeremy Love for Zuda's BAYOU, MF Grimm for Vertigo's SENTENCES, Dwayne McDuffie for his run on FANTASTIC FOUR, and Kyle Baker for NAT TURNER: REVOLUTION and SPECIAL FORCES.
An interesting note in terms of the nominees for best character in both the male and female categories -- while Luke Cage and Amanda Waller received nods, DC's "Legacy" characters, with the exception of David Lapham & Eric Battle's The Spectre in Tales of The Unexpected, did not.
Perhaps, as in the case of Nicieza on the Jakeem Thunder story for JSA CLASSIFIED, it is all a matter of getting talented and sensitive writers who approach diversity in the comics they write as something organic to the story.
Why isn't Nicieza writing JSA??
Comics creator Tavisha Simons' mother has gone missing in California and getting her photo and further information out to the public might help get her home.
Tavisha is the co-creator of "ShutterBox" for TokyoPop.
If you live in California -- or the West Coast, for that matter -- please read this post for a photo & more information. Thanks & please spread the word.
But WonderCon had this:
They still look so young! Or at least not so old as to make me feel absolutely ancient!
That said, I have my doubts that an X-Files movie will have what it takes to grab a mass movie audience at this point in time. Might have been better as a TV mini-series. But, I hope I'm wrong.
According to this source, Smallville's Michael Rosenbaum might be in talks with Michael Bay regarding the new Nightmare On Elm Street.
That's honking BRILLIANT!
Oh please Cinema Gods, let this be so...
I don't know if anybody is familiar with that old Abbott and Costello routine, "Who's On First," where Costello completely gives up at the end and throws his hat down.
On the other hand, Horn paints a rather fetching Hercules. As a Skrull.
I can honestly recommend Dark Horse's THE KUROSAGI CORPSE DELIVERY SERVICE to any mainstream comic book reader who knows nothing about manga. It's paced like a TV show (think "Psych" or "Pushing Daisies"), has separate "episodes" that have a beginning, middle, and end, and contain elements of comedy, mystery, and horror that have a universal appeal. And for $10.95 you get the equivalent of about 5 comic books with consistent art. Not bad.
Add to this Dark Horse's unique packaging design and 17 pages of notes illuminating the reader on aspects of Japanese culture and manga conventions contained in the material. These are handsome volumes that really stand out on the comic rack or manga shelf.
The plot of KUROSAGI revolves around a team of ne'er do wells with various skills (embalming, mediumship, puppetry) who make a living retrieving bodies in various states of decomposition and delivering them. In volume 6, the team faces off against the post office (who, falling on hard times, have also taken to corpse delivery) and gets another body psychoanalyzed. The last arc, taking place in the late 1800s/early 1900s, is a change of pace and concerns Jack the Ripper.
It is that final story in KUROSAGI, "The Kunio Matsuoka Demon Hunting Side Story," that was of particular interest to me, as I had just read it after Marvel's THE IMMORTAL IRON FIST: ORSON RANDALL AND THE GREEN MIST OF DEATH. The tone and narrative technique of both stories were quite similar...which made me think:
Oh, so there might be a touch of manga influence in some of the most popular Western mainstream comics today -- one not even about the art style, but about the storytelling itself! I'm sure it is old news to those reading who are familiar with both genres -- but as you know, I am only a beginner.