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Moon and Blood, Vol. 1

May 31, 2011 1 comment

Moon and Blood, Vol. 1Moon and Blood, Vol. 1
By Nao Yazawa
DMP, 72 pp.
Rating: Teen (13 +)

Sayaka’s life is that of your typical Japanese teenager, that is until she wakes up one morning to discover that Kai Kuryruu, the son of a family friend, will be living with them from now on! Fascinated by his good looks and his mysterious attitude Sayaka attempts to get closer and discover what secrets this young man may have. Courtesy of Nao Yazawa, creator of Wedding Peach, comes Moon and Blood, the latest shojo series from DMP.

This felt like a fairly standard paint by numbers shojo series, a mysterious, attractive and seemingly perfect young man and the young girl who becomes obsessed with him and attempts to crack his secretive exterior. It’s not exactly new material. The twist comes via said boys supernatural roots but at this point it doesn’t really do much to but give it a bit of supernatural romance flavoring. Add to this the fact that the characters aren’t terribly memorable and actually feel like they were lifted from a shojo 101 template of some kind, the perfect aloof male with no interest in our heroine, a heroine who admires and is set to crack the cold exterior of said aloof male, another male who’s part comic relief and has the entirely wrong idea about his relationship with the heroine, and you’ve got a recipe for a decidedly average introductory volume.

Nao Yazawa’s artwork is solid and serviceable. Everything’s clear and easy to follow, including the one action scene that turns up. That said it didn’t strike me as a terribly unique or eye catching art style. It’s not bad, just not eye poppingly good either. Given it’s contemporary setting most of the costume designs are your standard fare. The one exception is the mysterious vampire girl who’s sporting a gothic lolita look.

I wasn’t terribly impressed with Moon and Blood. Right now it strikes me as fairly run of the mill supernatural romance material and that’s really not my thing. I’m sure it’ll find a home out there as it is an incredibly popular genre at the moment, but that home is somewhere other than my book shelf.

Moon and Blood, Vol.1 is available now from Digital Manga Publishing. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.

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Xombi, Vol. 2 #1 +2

May 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Written by John Rozum, Art by Frazier Irving
DC Comics
Rating: Unrated

After nearly a decade the adventures of the immortal David Kim return! Penned by the original series author, John Rozum, with art from Frazier Irving, Xombi kicks off it’s return with an arc involving the wrath of god and an escaped prisoner.

The first two issues reintroduce us to the world of David Kim and his supporting cast. While it does build upon the previous series and uses characters first introduced there, they’re handled in such a way that shouldn’t leave new readers feeling out in the cold. The thrust of the first arc is interesting and feels a bit confusing, though that’s not due to poor writing or story telling, it’s due to the nature of the plot. David Kim and his comrades find themselves reacting to a jail break, scrambling to catch up with the people responsible for it and the only prisoner that escaped. Unfortunately for everyone involved that prisoner is harboring a rather deadly secret of his own. The confusion any readers feel here is mirrored by that of the characters. Everyone is left playing catch up as unforeseen twists develop. While dialogue between characters feels a little stiff at times, mostly during some of these expository sequences, the chatter during combat, introductions and banter are all wonderfully done with a nice, off beat sense of humor.

I’m not a huge fan of Frazier Irving’s artwork. I was first introduced to him during the recent Return of Bruce Wayne mini-series and found his issue a bit muddy and unclear. His work in Batman and Robin was a little better but was full of weird anatomical anomalies and still didn’t wow me. His work in Xombi is head and shoulders above what I’ve seen from him before. There are none of the suddenly growing stomaches or unclear colors that plagued the earlier work. Instead the artwork is beautiful and does a fantastic job at conveying facial expressions and the horror of some of the monsters encountered by David Kim and company. Even the more non-human beasts, such as the one that pops up at the end of the second issue, look fantastic under his hand.

Xombi is off to a strong start. It’s not your typical superhero title and is definitely something a little closer to the weirdness that one would traditionally associate with Vertigo. It occupies a corner of the DC Universe that was once inhabited by Swamp Thing, Doom Patrol, Anima and the like and it’s a corner of the DC Universe that I love. If you’re looking for a supernatural mystery series with elements of horror with a dash of off kilter humor and weirdness then this is the series for you. It’s easily my favorite DC comic currently in print.

Xombi, Vol.2 #1 + 2 are available now from DC Comics.

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Fafner: Dead Aggressor, Vol. 2

May 12, 2011 1 comment

Original Concept by XEBEC, Adapted by Mikami Akitsu
DMP, 216 pp.
Rating: Teen (13 +)

The second volume of the manga adaption of the light novel adaption of the anime series Fafner sees our young hero, Kazuki, abandon the island and his comrades in an attempt to discover what’s happened to the rest of the world. In the slowly recovering wasteland he finds answers to his questions and makes some startling discoveries regarding the mysterious Festum.

I was rather harsh on the first volume of this manga, and while I’d love to come to you saying how I was blown away by the second half of the series I’d be lying. It continues to be an odd, confusing and fairly derivative mecha series. Revelations regarding Festum, humanity, group consciousness and individuality seem to make my comparison to Neon Genesis Evangelion even more on the nose. The characters come across as fairly one note, and even the attempts to flesh out some of the history between Kazuki and Soshi fail to elicit sympathy or interest. If that wasn’t enough, Kazuki’s emotional revelation that comes with it ends up feeling forced and hackneyed.

Alas, much like the story, the art fails to improve with this volume. It’s an incredibly bland looking book. The mecha are large, ungainly things with narrow waists and huge shoulders that looks like they’d fall apart under a strong breeze. The action scenes are quick but uninteresting and at times incredibly difficult to follow. Many of the characters are generic looking and at times it’s hard to tell them apart.

So in the end Fafner: Dead Aggressor has failed to impress. It has an awkward, fragmented feeling to it. It’s rife with moments that feel like they’re intended to be large and key moments that just fall flat and fail to resonate. It really wasn’t a very impressive introduction to the franchise, but it did it’s job in making me want to watch the anime, if only to find out whether the full series is better.

Fafner: Dead Aggressor, Vol. 2 is available now from Digital Manga Publishing. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.

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7 Billion Needles, Vol. 2 + 3

May 3, 2011 1 comment

by Nobuaki Tadano
Vertical
Rating: NA

7 Billion Needles, the sci-fi series from Nobuaki Tadano continues with more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at! The battle between Hikaru, now fused with the alien entity known as Horizon, and the alien entity Maelstrom reaches its climax. Following the battle Hikaru returns to the island of her youth as events from her past come back to haunt her in a rather unexpected manner. From there the tale takes some truly insane and unexpected twists in the penultimate volume.

After the solid set up from the first volume, Hikaru’s life just gets progressively weirder and the story becomes far more complex in these volumes. Hikaru’s relationship with her two new friends ends up taking a back seat while the emotional issues that led to her being stand offish and uncomfortable around others are revealed. This was a little disappointing as watching her interact and reconnect with her peers was highly enjoyable and led to some comedically awkward moments as well. Certain twists occur towards the end of the second volume which could lead to some more comedic gems in the third, but instead the third volume spins off into much weirder and more confusing sci-fi territory as evolution runs amok. With this move the series really seems to veer away from the quiet, character driven moments that made the first volume so enjoyable. Nobuaki Tadano does attempt to maintain some of the emotional momentum of the first two volumes, but with all the sci-fi insanity going on in the third volume it just didn’t click for me. It almost feels like he lost interest in Hikaru and her supporting cast and decided to pursue some “big ideas” instead. There were also a few moments where some dialogue seems surprisingly awkward and I was left wondering what Tadano was attempting to say with them.

While the story shifts gears quite dramatically, thankfully the artwork doesn’t. It’s still as nicely detailed and wonderful to look at as it was in the first volume. With the quieter moments becoming scarce in the later portions of these books, the action sequences begin to take center stage and they don’t disappoint. Nobuaki Tadano’s artwork also does a great job at conveying the characters emotional state through their facial expressions, even during fast paced conflict. The freakish creatures that pop up within both of the volumes are fairly interesting and a few are quite weird and horrific to behold as well. If that wasn’t enough there continues to be nicely detailed backgrounds throughout, giving the entire thing a strong sense of place and adding a little something to the weight of it’s fictional reality. Not to mention some nice depictions of massive property damage too.

While 7 Billion Needles takes some truly unexpected turns over the span of these two volumes, I’m not entirely sure they’re for the best. There are interesting and unexpected developments, that’s for sure, I really felt like they cam at the cost of emotional core of the story and Hikaru’s growth. Still, it’s undeniably interesting and certainly carries a strong sense of anything could happen and it did leave me wishing I had the fourth and final volume already just so I could find out how it all ends.

7 Billion Needles, Vol. 2 + 3 are available now from Vertical, Inc.

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