Monday, October 24, 2016

Review: PLATINUM END Volume 1


STORY: Tsugumi Ohba
ARTIST: Takeshi Obata
LETTERS: James Gaubatz
EDITOR: Alexis Kirsch
ISBN: 978-1-4215-9063-9; paperback (October 2016); Rated “M” for “Mature”
192pp, B&W, $9.99 US, $12.99 CAN, £6.99 UK

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

Platinum End is the new manga from the mangaka team of writer Tsugumi Ohba and artist Takeshi Obata.  They are best known for their bestselling and controversial manga, Death Note, and also for the insider manga, Bakuman。.

Platinum End, Vol. 1 (Chapters 1 to 3) introduces orphan Mirai Kakehashi.  He is tired of life and attempts suicide by jumping from the roof of a building.  Instead of dying, Mirai is saved by an angel named Nasse.  Through her, Mirai learns that 13 humans have been chosen as candidates to replace God.  Each has a guardian angel, and Nasse is Mirai's.

Nasse gives Mirai the “angel's arrow” which can make anyone, male or female, hit with that arrow love Mirai for 33 days.  She gives him wings that allow him the freedom to go anywhere he wants.  The problem is that these new powers and this God candidate contest both have a dark side.

The Platinum End manga, like the Death Note manga, is shockingly edgy.  It is obvious from the beginning that this new manga by the Ohba-Obata team will be dark, but by the end of this volume's three chapters (which are rather longish), events reveal a sinister mood that is beyond the obvious.

Platinum End Volume 1 is the kind of first volume that practically forces the reader to return for more.  And I love this sinister.  Dear reader, I should admit that I am a huge fan of Ohba and Obata's Bakuman。and plan to read it again.  I think that Obata certainly deserves his nickname, “the god of drawing;” he is that good.  Trust me, however; Platinum End is going to be a helluva manga, and it has a heckuva first volume.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Monday, October 10, 2016



[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

WRITERS: Tom Gammill & Henry Gammill; Brian Houlihan; Mary Trainor; Max Davison; Sergio Aragones; and others
PENCILS: Mike Kazaleh; John Delaney; James Lloyd; Tone Rodriguez; Kassandra Heller; Sergio Aragones; and others
INKS: Andrew Pepoy; Mike Kazaleh; Dan Davis; Sergio Aragones; and others
COLORS: Art Villanueva; Nathan Hamill; Kassandra Heller; and others
LETTERS: Karen Bates
COVER: Matt Groening
ISBN: 978-0-06-242326-9; paperback (July 5, 2016)
176pp, Color, $17.99 U.S., $21.99 CAN

“The Simpsons” is an American animated television sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company.  “The Simpsons” began in 1987 as a series of animated shorts that were part of the comedy variety television program, “The Tracey Ullman Show.”  The shorts were eventually developed into a half-hour animated TV series and began being broadcast on Fox in December of the 1989-90 television season.  “The Simpsons” continues to this day, and Fox has ordered new episodes into 2018.

“The Simpsons” present a satirical depiction of a working class family which consists of Homer Simpson (the father), Marge Simpson (the mother), Bart (the oldest child and only son), Lisa (the precocious and brilliant elder daughter), and Maggie (a baby girl).  “The Simpsons” also parodies American culture, pop culture, society, politics, media, etc. via the denizens of The Simpsons home town, Springfield.

In 1993, Matt Groening, Bill Morrison, and Steve and Cindy Vance founded Bongo Comics Group (or simply Bongo Comics).  Over the course of more than two decades, Bongo Comics has published numerous comic book series and single-issue publications based on “The Simpsons.”  The comic books have starred and featured all the characters that are part of this franchise, from the Simpsons clan to the various supporting characters, including Ralph Wiggum and his father, Chief Wiggum; Itchy & Scratchy; Krusty the Clown, Duffman, McBain, and Mr. Burns and Smithers, to name a few.

Since 2013, Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins, has been publishing Simpsons Comics Colossal Compendium.  This is a paperback graphic novel (or trade paperback) series which reprints select comic book stories starring characters from “The Simpsons” that were originally published by Bongo Comics.  Harper Design recently published Simpsons Comics Colossal Compendium Volume 4 (July 2016).

It has been at least a decade since I last read a Simpsons comic book (although I have read one since I finished this book).  I always enjoyed them, so I don't know why I stopped.  Bongo Comics consistently delivers high-quality comic books that capture the spirit of “The Simpsons” television series.  I was intrigued when Harper Design sent me a copy of Simpsons Comics Colossal Compendium Volume 4.

Right from the start, Simpsons Comics Colossal Compendium Volume 4 delivers a bang with the story “Donut Disturb,” which follows Bart and Lisa's battle to win the “Donut Kid of the Year” contest.  This contest is put on by “Lard Lad,” the immensely popular donut chain, and this contest has plenty of wacky contestants.  However, the true fun and the best satirical moments come after the winner claims the crown, which hangs heavy on the head.

Mike Kazaleh, one of my all-time favorite cartoonists, draws the Chuck Jones-inspired “The Man of the House.”  The story makes me think that the true comedic potential of Ralph Wiggum really has not been tapped.  Also, “Sun Burns” shows Mr. Burns in all his grubby Rupert Murdoch-like glory, but the story also showcases the plucky side of the brainy Lisa Simpson.

Writer Sherri L. Smith and artist Kassandra Heller present a wonderful Lisa Simpson tale, entitled “Lisa's Lending Library.”  Heller's pastel like illustrations give this story a fairy tale-like aura.  MAD Magazine legend and Groo the Wanderer creator, Sergio Aragones, offers the delightful two-page “Maggie's Crib,” which shows the toddler's mischievous side.  The Judge Dredd parody, “Judge Redneck,” is an unexpected and clever treat.

You don't have to be a fan of “The Simpsons” to like Simpsons Comics Colossal Compendium Volume 4, but if you like good humor comics, you need an occasional jolt of Simpsons comic books in your reading life.  The creators and editors behind Bongo Comics' Simpsons comics are as good at humorous parody and satire as any other humor comics creator – and better in most cases.  So that is what the Simpsons Comics Colossal Compendium series is here to do – fill your comedy and humor comics needs.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Review: COUSIN JOSEPH: A Graphic Novel

COUSIN JOSEPH: A Graphic Novel
W.W. NORTON & COMPANY/Liveright – @wwnorton and @LiverightPub

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

CARTOONIST:  Jules Feiffer
ISBN: 978-1-63149-065-1; hardcover (August 3, 2016)
128pp, Color, $27.95 U.S., $35.95 CAN

Born in 1929, Jules Feiffer is an American syndicated cartoonist, author, playwright, screenwriter, and comics creator.  He may be best known for his long-running comic strip, entitled Feiffer, which ran for 42 years in the venerable New York City weekly, The Village Voice.

Two years ago, Liveright, an imprint of W.W. Norton & Company, published Kill My Mother: A Graphic Novel, a brand-new, Film-Noir inspired graphic novel by Feiffer.  Kill My Mother opens in Bay City, California in the year 1933.  The story revolves around a woman named Elsie Hannigan and her estranged teenage daughter, Annie, who hates her mother.  Elsie is a widower, following the murder of her husband, Sam Hannigan, a policeman.  Elsie's life is hectic and complicated.  Her boss is her late husband's former partner, Neil Hammond, a hard-drinking, has-been private detective who takes shady jobs.  Hammond ends up murdered, the beginning of a mystery spread over a decade.

Feiffer's new comic book is entitled Cousin Joseph: A Graphic Novel, the follow-up to Kill My Mother.  Cousin Joseph is set in Bay City in 1931, two years before Kill My Mother opens, and it reveals why and how Sam Hannigan was killed.  Detective Sam Hannigan is a bare-knuckled, tough, no-nonsense cop who does not hesitate to use his fists to resolve a case or a dispute.  Sam is also a bag-man for a mysterious Hollywood power broker that he knows only as “Cousin Joseph.”  Sam delivers payoffs to other Hollywood types for Cousin Joseph, and if they don't comply with Cousin Joseph's demands, Sam also delivers brutal beatings.

Bay City is also roiling with labor unrest.  Hardy Knox, owner of the cannery, Knox Works, is facing a strike by his employees who are members of a union led by Billy Doyle.  Billy and Sam go way back, but Sam may have to call out his union-busting team, The Red Squad.  Sam knows that he is on a mission, but it may be the wrong mission – one that will make him enemies – some close to home and some quite deadly.

The first time I tried to read Kill My Mother, I stopped after a few pages.  I avoided the galley/review copy that the publisher Liveright has sent to me.  I finally forced myself to read Kill My Mother and ended up loving it.  I had no such problems with Cousin Joseph, for which I also received a galley, as I dove right into book.

Cousin Joseph is a quintessential American graphic novel and comic book, something rare.  Jules Feiffer not only tackles the complexities of the American dream, he also illustrates how Americans see it differently.  He even delves into the notion which some American have that the American dream is not for everyone who lives in America.  Only certain people can have the best of America, these people believe.  Everyone else:  the second class citizens, those with the wrong skin color, those who worship differently; is of an undesirable ethnic origin.  Those people have to know their place, and it ain't anywhere near the top.  For some, America is about dreams of a place at the top of society and joy of finally reaching that pinnacle.  For others, there is struggle and prejudice, and that is the way it should be, almost as if it were part of a natural order in a certain kind of America.

Years ago, I heard an old white lady tell someone that she loved movies like A Few Good Men (1992) because they reflected the best of us (America).  I like Cousin Joseph because it skins the American myth raw.  This comic book is about the story Americans tell themselves and the whole world, but Americans have no plan to make that myth the real thing.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Yaoi Manga Review: TEN COUNT Volume 1

SUBLIME MANGA (Shinshokan) – @SuBLimeManga

[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

MANGAKA: Rihito Takarai
TRANSLATION: Adrienne Beck
EDITOR: Jennifer LeBlanc
ISBN: 978-1-4215-8802-5; paperback (August 2016); Rated “M” for “Mature”
186pp, B&W, $16.99 U.S., $19.99 CAN, £10.99 UK

Ten Count is a yaoi manga from mangaka, Rihito Takarai.  Yaoi manga is a subset of boys' love (or BL) manga, which depicts amorous situations between male romantic leads.  Yaoi manga usually features explicit depictions of sex between those male leads.   Ten Count focuses on a corporate secretary who is a germaphobe and the counselor who tries to help him.

Ten Count, Vol. 1 (Chapters 1 to 6) introduces Tadaomi Shirotani, the corporate secretary for The Tosawa Company.  He has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and wears gloves so that he does not have to touch people or things.  He does not eat at restaurants, nor does he even take the train.  He washes his hands so much that they are raw and covered with scars.

One day, the president of The Tosawa Company is in an accident.  One of the people involved in the accident is Riku Kurose, a clinical psychotherapist at Shimada Psychiatric Center.  Kurose immediately recognizes Shirotani's OCD and offers to take him through a 10-step program to cure him of his compulsion.  As they begin the program, Shirotani realizes that his attraction to Kurose grows, causing complications even as he starts to get his compulsion under control.

[This volume includes the Ten Count bonus story, “Kurose, Shirotani, and Hay Fever.”]

There is nothing wrong with a little bump and grind as R&B nasty man, R. Kelly once sang.  But neither is there anything wrong with no bump and grind in an oh-so-slow building romance comic book.

In her afterword to Ten Count Volume 1, author Rihito Takarai says the she almost worried that readers would complain about the leisurely pace of the chapters that comprise Vol. 1.  I have no such complaints.  Considering the concept and central plot of this manga, having the characters quickly engage in sex would seem unrealistic.  There is something about the glacier pace of two people who know little about each other slowly falling in love that is super-sexy.

I found it hard to take a pause in reading Ten Count.  It is like watching the birth of romance and true love – step by step.  There is powerful dramatic tension and good reading in that.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Manga Review: GOODNIGHT PUNPUN Volume 2


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

MANGAKA: Inio Asano
LETTERS: Annaliese Christman
ISBN: 978-1-4215-8621-2; paperback (June 2016); Rated “M” for “Mature”
432pp, B&W, $24.99 U.S., $28.99 CAN, £16.99 U.K.

Creator Inio Asano (Solanin, What a Wonderful World!) has a new manga.  Entitled Goodnight Punpun, the series is a coming-of-age story that focuses on Punpun Onodera, a boy in middle school and his adolescent trials and tribulations.

VIZ Media is publishing Goodnight Punpun as a seven-volume graphic novel series.  Each volume is an over-sized manga paperback containing two individual volumes (called “parts).  Goodbye Punpun Vol. 2 contains Part 3 (Chapters 24 to 34) and 4 (Chapters 35 to 46).

In Part 3, Punpun agonizes over former elementary school crush, Aiku Tanaka.  They have had no contact for two years and now Aiku seems to be dating Mamoru Yaguichi, Punpun's teammate on the badminton team.  Yaguichi, rumored to be well-endowed, also has his own doubts, about both Aiku and badminton, so he is ready to bargain with Punpun about Aiku.

In Part 4, Punpun's uncle, Yuichi Onodera, his mother's younger brother who lives with them, is also going through a crisis.  He has seemingly had a reunion involving Midori Okuma, a 25-year-old.  She resembles a 16-year-old girl with whom Yuichi once had a trouble/edgy relationship.  Meanwhile, Punpun has a chance to be with the girl of his dreams...

The Goodnight Punpun manga is bold and adventurous.  It is a teen drama that goes where only the best teen drama comics dare to go.  Teen angst, family dysfunction, sex and sexual tension, and social politics bubble and toil under the surface of what looks to be straight-forward adolescent drama and melodrama – but is more..

Truthfully, Goodnight Punpun Volume 2 defies description.  It deals with the turmoil and struggles of early teens, of course.  However, creator Inio Asano digs hard into the dread that is the uncertain future.  The stress of the now always seems to coexist with the unknown shape of things to come.  We could always tell the characters to not worry about tomorrow – to simply live in the now.  But where is the fun in that?  We wouldn't have the wonderful Goodnight Punpun and its constantly agonizing characters if they didn't worry about next year.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Review: 7th GARDEN Volume 1


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

MANGAKA: Mitsu Izumi
TRANSLATION:  Tetsuichiro Miyaki
LETTERS: Susan Daigle Leach
EDITOR: Annette Roman
ISBN: 978-1-4215-8721-9; paperback (July 2016); Rated “T+” for “Older Teen”
236pp, B&W, $9.99 U.S., $12.99 CAN, £6.99 U.K.

7th Garden is a shonen dark fantasy manga from creator Mitsu Izumi.  The series focuses on a gardener who finds himself caught in the middle of a struggle in which angels, demons, and humans fight for control of the world.

7th Garden, Vol. 1 (Chapters 1 to 4) opens in the Age of A.N. (Annu Nuntius), year 78.  It is set in Exive, one of the seven great continents, specifically in the village of Karna.  There, Awyn Gardener protects his beautiful mistress, Mariphiel “Marie” Fiacre, and lovingly tends the beautiful gardens on her estate.

However, there is a female demon hiding in the garden.  Named Vyrde, this demon is bent on world domination.  In order to save Marie and the village, Awyn makes a deal with Vyrde and gains the ability to wield a powerful demon sword.  But there is much about Vyrde that is unknown to Awyn.

The 7th Garden manga is a comic book full of beautifully-drawn art.  In some ways, it reminds me of the art featured in the shonen fantasy series, Rosario+Vampire.  7th Garden is like a black and white paperback art book with page of page of manga illustrations that dazzle the eye.

From a story perspective, 7th Garden Volume 1 is slow to develop.  Honestly, I don't care for its internal mythology at this point because it seems like just another angels versus demons concept.  It takes about 200 pages to suggest otherwise; by then, we have to wait for the next volume.  I wonder if creator Mitsu Izumi was quite sure where she was going with this narrative early on.  She teases a lot of intriguing plot lines and subplots, but the best stuff seems to come after the last-page cliffhanger.  I think 7th Garden has possibilities, but those will become obvious in future volumes.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Review: HAIKYU Volume 1


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

MANGAKA: Haruichi Furudate
TRANSLATION: Adrienne Beck
LETTERS: Erika Terriquez
ISBN: 978-1-4215-8766-0; paperback (July 2016); Rated “T” for “Teen”
192pp, B&W, $9.99 US, $12.99 CAN, £6.99 UK

Haikyu!! is a sports manga from creator Haruichi Furudate.  The series focuses on a teen boy's quest to become a national volleyball champion.

Haikyu!!, Vol. 1 (entitled Hinata and Kageyama; Chapters 1 to 7) introduces Shoyo Hinata.  Ever since he first saw the legendary haikyu (volleyball) player known as “the Little Giant” compete at the national volleyball finals, Hinata has been aiming to be the best volleyball player ever.  However, in a sport in which tall athletes dominate, Hinata's height of 5'4” is considered too short.  Still, he does not believe that a player needs to be tall in order to play volleyball, especially when a player can jump higher than anyone else – as he can.

After losing his first and last volleyball match of his middle school career, Hinata enters Karasuno Public High School, once considered an elite volleyball high school.  He is shocked to discover that his opponent is a guy he considers his rival, Tobio Kageyama, "the King of the Court."  Now, Hinata and Kageyama must learn to play together if they want to make it onto the school's volleyball team.

The Haikyu!! manga will likely draw comparisons to Tite Kubo's legendary basketball manga, Slam Dunk, which I think is one of the world's all-time create comics.  Spiritually, Haikyu is related to Slam Dunk, but the former is a bit darker than the latter.

Haikyu Volume 1 introduces two ambitious athletes who find themselves on the outside of the sport they love.  Haruichi Furudate depicts a situation in which “guts and determination” are not enough to take an athlete to the top.  There may be thousands of competitive track and field athletes out there “giving it a 120%,” but almost none of them will beat Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt when he is at his physical peak – no matter how hard they try.  I'm just keeping it 100, folks.

Furudate's other conceit is that even the best and most gifted athlete can find himself on the outside looking in unless he functions in a team setting.  Teammates may find such an elite athlete too taxing and abandon him, which essentially neutralizes an elite athlete.

In spite of its comedic leanings, Haikyu is likely a high school sports comedy-drama.  Its creator seems determined to take his characters, the volleyball players, to task, forcing all, from the best to the least, to learn how to be a team, if any of them are going to succeed.  So far, it makes for captivating reading.


Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2016 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.