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Mega Man Megamix, Vol. 1

July 25, 2012 1 comment

Mega Man Megamix, Vol. 1
By Hitoshi Ariga
Udon Entertainment, 220 pp
Rating: Not Rated

Udon Entertainment continues it’s trend of bringing out classic manga adaptions of Capcom video games with this, the first volume of Hitoshi Ariga’s Mega Man Megamix! Witness the creation of the legend and his earliest adventures, spanning moments from the first three Mega Man games and beyond!

I have to admit up front that I’m not a huge Mega Man fan. I played it when it first came out, sure, but I was never a huge fan who followed the story religiously and could pick up on subtle references to previous games and the like. That said Udon’s success with the various Street Fighter manga series had me curious about this series and Jason Thompson’s fantastic review of Ariga’s works in a recent House of 1,000 Manga finally tipped the scales for me. With that in mind I have to admit that I did find myself enjoying this even if I wasn’t blown away by it. The story itself is straight forward enough as a massively compressed version of the events of the first three games. We get to see Mega Man confronting most of the memorable robots and learn of his origins and such and it was all done in a nice, all ages friendly action adventure way. Still, there was just something about it that didn’t quite click for me. Maybe it’s because it was focused so heavily on the action that Mega Man and the rest of the cast end up feeling like flat, one note characters. Maybe it was the slightly stilted dialogue or the way certain events like Mega Man 3 and the first appearance of Proto Man are given a single page. I just know that while I enjoyed it I didn’t fall head over heels in love with the book.

Hitoshi Ariga’s adaption and plot might not have blown me away but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a damn good looking book. The art’s clean and all the characters are true to their original character designs. Their special attacks are all present and Ariga makes the action scenes fun, exciting, clear to follow and enjoyable to read. Sure, they might be super fast and Mega Man might not take a full volume to defeat whoever but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable to see played out on the page. There’s a lot of visual humor and gags and while I’m generally not a fan of over reactions and the like for comedic affect they definitely work here and don’t feel at all out of place. That’s probably due in large part to the nicely cartoony look of the artwork to begin with. It means that sudden and weird reactions or goofy expressions don’t break the visual flow or stick out like a sore thumb.

No, I didn’t fall instantly in love with the series but I definitely enjoyed it enough to want to read the next two volumes if nothing else. The action scenes are fun, the stories are simple and straight forward and the artwork is lovely and eye catching making the most of the simple, iconic and memorable designs of Mega Man and his friends and foes. Long time fans of the game series will clearly get the most of the book but it’s pretty new comer friendly and people coming in cold to the world of Mega Man shouldn’t find themselves too lost or overwhelmed. Mega Man Megamix, Vol. 1 has an undeniable charm and purity to it that helps over come it’s short comings in other areas and the result is a enjoyable, light read.

Mega Man Megamix, Vol. 1 is available now from Udon Entertainment.

Barbara

July 16, 2012 1 comment

Barbara
By Osamu Tezuka
DMP, 435 pp
Rating: Not Rated

From the mind of Osamu Tezuka comes Barbara, the dark and bizarre tale of writer Yosuke Mikura and the winding paths his life takes after a chance encounter with a homeless, drunk by the name of Barbara.

Barbara is over 400 pages of sexual deviancy, occult happenings, mystic babble and ponderings upon the source of creativity and more. The story focuses on the relationship between up and coming writer Yosuke Mikura and the young, homeless drunk he takes in, Barbara. What follows is a car wreck of a relationship full of abuse, hijinks and more. It’s difficult to really like Yosuke Mikura, which is a bit of problem for the book since he’s the main character and the narrator throughout it all. When we’re introduced to him he’s already psychologically disturbed and for a while it seems like Barbara might be his savior in that regard. Sadly it’s not really the case and he goes from being a perverted, unlikeable jack ass to an abusive, unlikeable jack ass. Even in the later parts of the story when he’s shown to be struggling, trapped in a dead end life and desperately looking for a way out I just couldn’t find it within myself to root for him or hope he’d get out of things. Barbara isn’t a whole lot better. She’s got that whole “Magical Pixie Girl” thing going on, a beautiful woman who helps lift a broken man out of his doldrums and inspires him, but her constant state of inebriation and her willingness to take the non-stop abuse just makes it difficult to do anything other than hope she gets her life together and moves on. Now a tale of abusive relationships between creative types might have had some traction. There’s been plenty of them in real life that have made for compelling tales (ie. Sid and Nancy, but then Tezuka throws in tons of stuff involving magic, the occult and the fact that Barbara isn’t just your typical drunk. No, she’s literally a muse from Greek mythology. At that point the story went from a troubled relationship and veered into weird supernatural funkiness. It just gets weirder as it goes as the story takes stranger and stranger turns as it attempts to say something about the nature of creativity and insanity. And ultimately it does. It just takes a little while getting there and at times feels like it loses itself along the way.

Visually it’s as solid as you’d expect an Osamu Tezuka work to be. He does a fantastic job at depicting emotions, managing the pacing and allowing the visual flow of the story to just grab you and pull you along with it’s deceptively simple artwork. It’s also full of other little Tezuka-isms, warping walls or backgrounds to help enhance the surrealistic or hallucinatory feel of a scene or sequence and things like that. The humor is toned a bit though it’s certainly still present, absent are the visual gags that are present in many of his all ages works.

This was one odd book. Despite the rather unlikeable characters it was still a fairly compelling read and I found the pages going by at a surprisingly fast pace. It was enjoyable but I don’t think it’s one of Tezuka’s better works. It will undoubtedly find a welcoming audience here and while it was kind of enjoyable, fun and interesting at times I don’t think it’s something I’d find myself re-reading again and again.

Barbara will available on August 29th from DMP. Digital review copy provided by the publisher.

Categories: Manga Reviews, Reviews Tags:

Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 2

July 11, 2012 Leave a comment

Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 2
Created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, Written by Gene Luen Yang, Art by Gurihiru
Dark Horse Comics, 80 pp
Rating: 10 +

The second part in the Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise series has arrived courtesy of the Gene Luen Yan and Gurihiru! The situation with the Fire Nation Colonies is quickly reaching a tipping point! Meanwhile Toph and her metal bending academy finds themselves dealing with some of the ramifications of the Harmony Plan as the schools former occupants, a class of firebenders, seek to move back in.

Gene Luen Yan does a wonderful job at continuing to show the difficulties of ending one hundred years of occupation through a variety of smaller stories interwoven within the larger one. Toph’s metal bending academy is a lovely example. While it might not initially seem connected to the main plot, the fact that she’s occupying something that belonged to a fire bending school for decades if not longer is just one manifestation of the tangled web the occupation created. In addition the fantastic glimpse we get into the life of Zuko’s would be assassin show’s the situation in a more nuanced light, giving us a glimpse into the life of some of the people against de-colonization. While Toph’s subplot seems a bit more black and white, the assassins life and her complex web of familial and romantic relationships shows just how complex the situation can be. At the same time all this seems like it’s clearly laying the foundation for things seen in the recently concluded Avatar: The Legend of Korra series. Aang and Katara’s story is still present but takes a bit of a back seat and seems like it’s there solely for comedic relief.

Gurihiru’s artwork continues to be solid and evocative of the original series while introducing new characters, designs and locations that fit in seamlessly with the world the cartoon created. Gurihiru does a great job at capturing the likenesses of the various characters and their physical mannerisms as well. The action sequences are solid but short and quick. Still, they’re fun and interesting to look at and often contain clever little tweaks and twists that expand on various ways bending can be used in combat. Zuko’s would be assassin springs immediately to mind in her use of a stone ball and chain, something that’s both interesting visually and also suggests an interesting use of her earth bending skills. Plus the stone ball covered in metal spikes just looks cool too.

With one volume left is seems unlikely that they’ll be able to wrap up everything they’ve set in motion and while the announcement of a second trilogy focusing on Zuko’s search is welcome and anticipated, I do wonder if the ending to this series will be satisfying. Despite any fears I have regarding the climax I can’t deny that so far it’s managed to be a solid and entertaining read that any fan of the original series will probably find to be an enjoyable addition to the Avatar world.

Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise, Part 2 is available now from Dark Horse Comics.

Categories: Comic Reviews, Reviews Tags:
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