Monday, November 24, 2008

Fist of the North Star

Back in high school, I picked up a dozen or so issues of Fist Of The North Star, aka Hokuto No Ken in Japan. It's fairly big in Japan I think, with several anime tv shows, OVA's and video games. They are published by Viz comics, with the writing being done by Buronson and art by Tetsuo Hara. The initial storyline involves our protagonist, Kenshiro, master of Hokuto Shin Ken, searching for his lost love Julia. In the past, she was taken by Kenshiro's friend, Shin, after a nuclear catastrophe devastated the world. Shin wanted to rule this harsh new landscape, with Julia as his bride, and met Kenshiro in battle, wounding him terribly and giving him 7 scars on his chest, in the shape of the big dipper. Left for dead, Kenshiro is fueled by rage to get back and save Julia, and seek revenge against Shin, along the way trying to bring order to a ruthless world.
The series seems to run the same each issue, Kenshiro is traveling, runs into a gang of bandits, uses his Mastery of Hokuto Shin Ken to make some heads explode, and then save the surviving villagers. It is a cartoonishly violent manga, but it's only the bad guys that get it, so you don't get that dirty feeling like after watching a SAW movie or something. I only read a dozen or so Issues,
so I don't really know how the story continues, but I am a big fan of what I have read and seen so far, the art is a little more realistic that most manga i see. If you are a film fan, the major influence would have to be MAD MAX and the Road Warrior, Kenshiro's design is even similar to that of the Road Warrior's. If you enjoy those movies, with a touch of Bruce Lee, maybe this comic is a good one to try and dig up.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


When I was a younger buck than I am now, I was big into Antarctic Press comics, specifically their Robotech line, as well as a three issue series called Silver Cross and some Warrior Nun stuff. This four issue Robotech series,published in 1997, written and illustrated by Duc Tran, has always been a favorite of mine. The issues are well worn, because I leafed through them so damn much. I don't really know much of anything about Duc Tran. I assume he isn't a Japanese Manga-ka, but in these days of a lot of gaijins trying to do a manga style, I think he gets it the closest I've seen in an American comic. All of the grays he's applied appear just like in genuine manga. I'm not even too sure how these shades are applied, I think its with some sort of paper they press onto the piece of paper they are working on, but really I am ignorant of the process. I also really dig robotech, specifically the Macross saga. (Robotech is really three different Japanese shows combined, I should say I'm a big fan of Macross.) This series is about Rick Hunter's investigation into the disappearance of one of his trainees. It also involves defectors, stealth robots and aliens. All good stuff, no? As much as i love the art, some of it can be spotty, and sometimes the dialogue is crammed up against the edge of the bubbles, almost as if he drew the bubble first, and then tried to cram the words in there. These are minor quibbles for me however, because these four issues will be in my collection for a long time to come, i still look at them all the time. His use of values is great to look at, a fun read all around.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Elongated Man: Europe '92

The Elongated Man is a character I first came into contact with while watching the Justice League Unlimited animated series. He was funny on the show, but seemed like just another stretchy guy, like Mr. Fantastic or Plastic Man. But then i soon discovered two things about that character that piqued my interest. One, he was a detective. I love detective fiction, and detective characters, be it Sherlock Holmes, Phillip Marlowe, or Nick and Nora Charles. And in fact, the Elongated Man has a partner in solving mysteries, just like Nick Charles has his wife, Nora, to help him in the Thin Man novel or Film series, one Sue Dibny (the Elongated man's real name being Ralph Dibny.) The series is in 4 issues, written by Gerard Jones, and Penciled by Mike Parobeck,(now deceased, sadly) and inked by Ty Templeton. Mike Parobeck has been one of my favorite artists for years, his work on the Batman Adventures comics is great, cartoony and well thought out. Ty Templeton is a great artist as well, and i believe has drawn and inked Batman Adventure comics, among alot of other work. Gerard Jones has written many comics and novels.
The series concerns The Elongated man and Sue investigating attacks on peace conferences in europe, perpetrated by men in silly costumes. Copperhead makes an appearance, he was a favorite of mine from the Justice League tv show. There are also squid men, and a team of men dressed as sausages. If this sounds silly it is, and thats half the fun of the series. The relationship between Ralph and Sue gets tried a little, but they're fun characters to read about, and this series was well worth it. I don't think it's collected in trade form, i ordered the issues from, but if you like your superhero books on the light side, try this out.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Jack Kirby's OMAC: The one man Army

I was first exposed to OMAC in a Paul Pope short in his issue of the no defunct(but awesome) DC series SOLO. Its basically a retelling of the first issue of OMAC, which according to the new collection's intro by Mark Evanier, was an idea Mr. Kirby originally had for a Captain America set in the future.
OMAC's origin bears some similarity to Cap's. OMAC started out as Buddy Blank, a scrawny man who was picked by the mysterious Global Peace Agency to become their new One man army, who must prevent catastrophes of violence in a future world that cant afford it. Buddy is linked with Brother Eye, a seemingly all powerful giant robotic eye shaped satellite in space that transforms Buddy into the super strong OMAC, whose first target is the Build a friend factory, who is making robotic women to become friends with important world leaders and the like. Once they meet, Kaboom! the woman explodes and takes the target with them. Buddy is horrified to discover that his friend, Lila, has been one of these robots all along, but as OMAC, the crooks are torn asunder, and OMAC realizes, that "OMAC LIVES...SO THAT MAN MAY LIVE..."

Each chapter features awesome robotics designs, monsters and weapons that are all Kirby staples, and the art is pretty outstanding throughout.Issue one and issue eight stand out i think, because inker and letterer Mike Royer contributed to them, and I think he may have had a bit more of an understanding of Mr. Kirby's pencils or something, they look a bit better than the inks provided by D.Bruce Berry. Each issue has a few incredible splash pages I would love to have framed and hung upon my wall. The book is fun to read above all else, something i cant say about alot of Mainstream superhero books out today. Maybe OMAC should become required superhero comics reading from now on...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Akira Toriyama has always been one of my favorite artists, and Viz recently put this book, Cowa! out, one of Toriyama's short manga.
Cowa is about a vampire boy, Paifu, who lives in a monster village. His best friend is Jose, a ghost. The book opens with some full color adventures, involving watermelons and mummies. Next Paifu and Jose met a scary human, named Mr. Maruyama, (who the monster boys are afraid of,'i hear he's a murderer!'). It is also revealed, that Paifu is a were-koala, he turns into a wild super-strong rabid koala whenever he sees a cross. A curious illness overtakes the town, with Paifu, Jose and their friend Arpon the only ones not afflicted. They enlist the help of Mr. Maruyama, and go to find a cure, and get assaulted by ruffians, monsters, swordsmen and witches along the way.
Cowa! is a playful book, drawn in a "children's book" style by Toriyama. There is a lot of playful humor and funny character moments, in the Toriyama style. The color additions are a nice boon to this collection, and at a 7.99 price tag its a good deal.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bourbon Island 1730

For today's review, i chose another Baltimore comic con purchase, Bourbon Island 1730, by Appollo and Lewis Trondheim. This is my first foray into French comics, and I must say it was a good experience.
I initially picked up the book, because i liked the cover. I think it is beautifully painted and drawn, the back cover is also very nice, with good color choice. When i opened the book, i saw that the art, while still appealing to me, was not nearly as sharp as the art on the front/back covers. That isn't to say it isn't good, but sometimes i feel it might walk the fine line between intentional sloppiness, and sloppiness. Lewis Trondheim's storytelling and characters are fun and engrossing, so I cant be too negative about the art.
The story revolves around one Raphael and one Mr. Despentes. Despentes is looking for a DoDo on Bourbon Island, to capture and examine. Raphael wants to join up with pirates. Raphael seems naive and a little dim-witted about pirates and life in general at first. Meanwhile, the Bourbon Island authorities have captured Buzzard, a famous pirate, and are holding him captive to get at some treasure he's hidden. A group of "Maroons" (escaped slaves) contemplate whether to break Buzzard free or not, while the plantation owners blame the Maroons for the capturing of one of their member's daughters, who ran off into the forest of her own accord.
The book paints a somewhat gloomy picture, and shows the terrible treatment of slaves by the inhabitants of Bourbon island. The Runaway girl, Virginia, tells Raphael about the slave's lives, how they are murdered, and raped and tortured. She shows him a tree, after he sees a hung escaped slave, that has the hands of escaped slaves nailed to it. She tells him there will be a white hand among them one day, hers. The lives of those people was "the price of his European coffee" she tells him. On his return voyage home Raphael is offered some coffee. He turns it down, perhaps he is a little less naive then he was at the onset.
Overall I would say this is an excellent read, with a lot more plot and interesting characters than i had patience to write about. I was expecting a story about pirates and treasure when i picked it up, and got something a lot more interesting and thought provoking. A welcome surprise.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Astro Boy, Volume 3

This volume of Astro Boy collects two stories, The Greatest Robot on Eart, and Mad Machine.
This is another book i picked up at the baltimore comic convention, I get loads of Astro Boy books for dirt cheap at conventions, I almost have all 18!

The Greatest robot on earth centers on the killing of the World's 7 greatest robots, who are

Mont Blanc, the "mountain guide robot, pride of Switzerland, with 100,000 horsepower"

North #2, the six armed Robot from Scotland,

Brando, "the top robot wrestler in all of Turkey",

Gerhardt, A robot inspector from Germany, made of a nigh indestructible metal called "Zeronium",

Hercules, the honor bound robot from Greece,

Epsilon, a powerful Australian Robot fueled by Photon energy,

and last but not least Japan's own Astro(who is the only one not killed).

The robot responsible is Pluto, a horned robot built by an evil man to become the best robot and rule the world. All of the seven robots are fairly interesting characters, but most of the fights with Pluto seem to be in Pluto's favor for the most part. Pluto is an interesting character, for even though he is certainly doing terrible things, depriving the world of these great robots, and essentially "murdering" them, he has no choice for that was why he was created. He shows signs of honor and even develops a friendship with Astro and his sister, Uran. Dr. Tenma, Astro's mysterious creator returns and gives Astro 1,000,000 horsepower to confront Pluto, but circumstances intervene and a mysterious new robot enters the fray...

This story was very entertaining, kind of a classic action manga scenario. A good way to introduce lots of cool robots, with interesting powers, and have nice action scenes. This story is also the basis of a spinoff manga, by the excellent Manga-Ka, Naoki Urasawa, called PLUTO. That centers around Gerhardt, investigating the murders of the robots by the until then unknown Pluto. I hope it gets released here.
The second story is called "Mad Machine" in which a crazy doctor makes a machine that drives all robots mad, jumping around causing a general ruckus. It is fairly short, and a little more light hearted than the Pluto story. I think the Mad Machine was used as a basis for some of the plot in the Tezuka based animated film Metropolis.
If you like Tezuka, and Astro Boy, this is an excellent Volume to pick up.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

So Many Comics

Hi, I'm Eamon, and I've started this blog to attempt to review every comic/trade paperback/graphic novel I own or have read. These are all my opinions, and I can be fickle, so try not to take everything TOO seriously.

I recently Attended the Baltimore Comic con, and bought a lot of comics there, so I thought i would start with that bunch. For my first review, i chose the Batman trade "Batman:Anarky"
I first discovered the Anarky character way back when, during the knightfall epic. He tries to stop batman and the scarecrow at once, and fails, not the greatest arc for him, but i thought he looked awesome. Lots of time went by, and then i saw this here trade at the Baltimore Con and grabbed it up. Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle are the most prevalent writer/penciller team in the book. In fact Alan Grant wrote the whole book. John Paul Leon did the pencils for a nice two parter, and Stewart Johnson did a nice short. I've always been a big fan of Norm Breyfogle since a german friend of mine gave me a German copy of The Last Arkham. I can't read German, so I would have to focus on the art, and the way Mr. Breyfogle handled the his pages and figures were really effective and stunning to me. John Paul Leon had me drooling over his work ever since i got a copy of the new adventures of cyclops and phoenix. Great stuff. So this is a great looking book, from start to finish.
As for the stories herein, I was impressed. It kept me reading, i never really got bored. Some things were a little silly, like Anarky's machine that enables him to become a genius just by wearing it 8 hours a day, merging the two hemispheres of his brain. But this is a superhero book, so that's ok. My favorite section has to be the final chapters, which brings some of my favorite characters besides Batman into confrontation with Anarky. Namely, Etrigan the Demon(and his human counterpart Jason Blood), and Darkseid ( go Kirby characters!). There is also a little cameo by Scarface. It's cool to see Anarky outwit The Demon, and even Darkseid himself.
So if you like the duo of Grant and Breyfogle, and superhero stories that aren't the norm, but have that familiar flavor, pick this one up. It's great!