Case Files: Sam & Twitch #1

Written by Marc Andreyko
Art by Scott Morse
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

When is a gimmick not a gimmick? In the case of writing, it’s when using it accentuates the storytelling ability instead of distracting from it. That’s the case Marc Andreyko and Scott Morse’s work on Case Files: Sam & Twitch. What might’ve been misused in lesser hands ends up being an extra kick to a good story by both creators.

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Barefoot Serpent

By Scott Morse
128 pages, black and white, and color
Published by Top Shelf Productions

The trick to a homage, really, is making sure it works without understanding the homage. No, think about it. If you’re going to pay homage to a great influence or idea, that’s super. But what happens when people who haven’t encountered the original work? I think that’s one of the things that stood out the most to me when reading The Barefoot Serpent; even if you don’t catch all (or any!) of the allusions to Akira Kurosawa’s films, you’re still going to enjoy it on its own merits.

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Yu-Gi-Oh! Vol. 1

By Kazuki Takahashi
200 pages, black and white
Published by Viz

Sometimes you think you know what a book’s about before you even read it. I’ve had the extreme misfortune to both discover a Magic: The Gathering card game tournament on cable as well as an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh! and I’m not sure which was less exciting, watching people play card after card after card. So when I first encountered the original Yu-Gi-Oh! comics that spawned the hit cartoon and collectable card game, I figured I already had this book completely figured out.

Wrong.

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Soul of a Samurai #1

By Will Dixon
48 pages, black and white
Published by Image Comics

With smaller-formatted comics taking bookstores by storm, it’s easy to see why publishers would want a piece of the action for themselves. Japanese manga in particular is a hot line of books that’s flying off the shelves, so left and right we’re seeing new products trying to emulate that same tone. The problem is, not all attempts are created equal…

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Pet Shop of Horrors Vol. 1

By Matsuri Akino
200 pages, black and white
Published by TokyoPop

The anthology is rarely a commercial success no matter what form it takes. Prose, television, movies, comics… the number that take off in their own right and really, really do well is awfully small. It’s easy for the audience to fail to find an ever-present hook to keep them around when the basic story changes from segment to segment. The solution? Find a central character or setting to structure these different stories around. Old EC Comics did it in the form of a narrator, with characters like the Crypt-Keeper or Old Witch. Junji Ito’s Tomie stories did so with the titular reoccurring antagonist. And in the case of Matsuri Akino’s comics to just get translated into English, it’s in the form of a certain mystical pet shop in Chinatown.

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Rex Mundi #0-3

Written by Arvid Nelson
Art by Eric Johnson
32 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

It’s fun to think, “What if…?” with world history. What if things went slightly differently? What if the church had never lost its power? What if America ended up being permanently divided into two countries? What if sorcery existed as a tangible force in society? What sets Rex Mundi apart from other books, then, is that it’s not content to simply gaze at an alternate history of the world. Instead, it’s just the backdrop for an even bigger story…

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Xenozoic Tales Vol. 1: After the End

By Mark Schultz
Additional inks by Steve Stiles
160 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

If you asked most newcomers to comics what Mark Schultz has done in comics, chances are they’d be able to point out his four year run as writer of Superman: The Man of Steel. Hopefully, though, soon they’ll learn about a much more interesting creative work of his; a little series called Xenozoic Tales.

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Paul Has A Summer Job

By Michel Rabagliati
144 pages, black and white
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

It’s always fascinating to watch someone come into comics at an older age than most others, because their approach is fueled by completely different things. Michel Rabagliati read French graphic albums as a child, but it wasn’t until much later in his life that he started first creating comics for Drawn & Quarterly. With each work the audience has gotten to watch Rabagliati refine his skills, and his newest graphic novel, Paul Has A Summer Job, is easily his most accomplished creation to date.

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Too Much Hopeless Savages #1

Written by Jennifer Van Meter
Art by Christine Norrie and Ross Campbell
32 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

Does anyone else remember when every other ’80s sitcom would have a special television movie involving another country and a thief hiding stolen goods in a main character’s bag? I mean, who else didn’t love The Facts of Life Down Under when the stolen opal was hidden in Natalie’s backpack, but she was lost in the Australian Outback? Or in the Family Ties Vacation where Alex was attending Oxford for the summer (and the rest of the family inexplicably comes along) but spies had hidden secret information in Mallory’s brush? Well, I think Jennifer Van Meter remembers these perhaps a bit too well… although this could actually be to our advantage.

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Criminal Macabre: A Cal McDonald Mystery #1

Written by Steve Niles
Art by Ben Templesmith
32 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

This book had to be one of the easiest sells in the universe. “Hi, we’re Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith; we did this little book called 30 Days of Night. Now we’d like to do a comic mini-series about Niles’s prose character Cal McDonald, you see he… you want it? Don’t you want to know the story, first?” I exaggerate, of course, but it’s easy to see why Dark Horse would want to scoop Criminal Macabre up for their horror line. So in some ways, the question is… will lightning strike twice?

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