Shojo Beat Vol. 1, Issue 1

By Ai Yazawa, Yuu Watase, Kaori Yuki, Taeko Watanabe, Marimo Ragawa, and Mitsuba Takanashi
360 pages, black and white, some color
Published by Viz Media

It’s hard to believe it was just a few years ago that Viz first started publishing the English-language Shonen Jump monthly magazine, packing hundreds of pages of comics from Japan into an affordable unit and letting it infiltrate not only comic stores, but newsstands and bookstores as well. Now they’ve got a new magazine ready, Shojo Beat, with six serials of shojo manga (or “girl’s comics”) from Japan. Can lightning strike twice?

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Club 9 Vol. 3

By Makoto Kobayashi
192 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

It’s been a little over two years since the last collected volume of Club 9, and reading this latest set of installments reminded me once again why I love it so much. Makoto Kobayashi’s probably better appreciated for his hysterical What’s Michael? series, but if you’re skipping Club 9 because it doesn’t feature dancing cats, you’re really missing out.

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Negative Burn: Winter 2005

Edited by Joe Pruett
96 pages, black and white
Published by Image Comics

I really miss getting regular, high-quality comic anthologies. There have been a handful of good ones over the years, like Dark Horse Presents, Oni Double Feature, and Pulp. One that I used to pick up on an irregular basis was Negative Burn from Caliber Press; with it being a regular series, so much would depend on which creators were in a particular issue. Now, Image and Desperado Publishing have brought it back as a series of graphic novels, and based on this first taste, I think that good times are ahead.

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Après-Shampooing

By Robert Goodin
32 pages, black and white
Published by Robot Publishing

Years ago, Robert Goodin’s Robot Publishing released a bunch of gorgeous mini-comics that couldn’t help but catch your eye. They were full color, professionally printed, and all beautifully drawn by a wide variety of creators. Robot Publishing folded up shop a while ago, and I was sad to it go. Now Goodin’s just released his own mini-comic, Après-Shampooing, and just reading the stories reminded me how much I missed his taste in comics.

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Action Comics #827-828

Written by Gail Simone
Penciled by John Byrne
Inked by Nelson
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

I’ve never understood why so many writers find it hard to write Superman. One of the oldest characters in comics, you’d think that would make it easy to get a handle on him, with so much history already established. Yet, time and time again, writers come on board the various books and fail to get a grasp on him; that’s probably why Gail Simone’s debut on Action Comics is all the more refreshing, because she “got it” immediately.

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Sharknife Vol. 1

By Corey Sutherland Lewis the Rey
136 pages, black and white
Published by Oni Press

More and more often, publishers and fans seem to be pushing anything published in a digest-sized format as manga. On a technical level, that’s either completely true or utterly ludicrous, since it’s just the Japanese word for “comics” so you can either say that all comics are manga (since they’re the same word) or that only Japanese comics can be manga. The reality of the situation, though, is that “manga” as a word seems to be changing in English, to instead be used as a classification for a certain style and sensibility of comics. The reason why I bring all of this up is that just last week while looking through the latest releases, I saw two kids talking about Sharknife. “Check out this new manga,” one of them was saying to the other, eagerly flipping through it. Is Sharknife manga? While they do share some influences, I don’t think it’s an entirely accurate description, but that’s perhaps because it’s very difficult to pigeonhole Sharknife into anything but its own unique entity.

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Four Letter Worlds

Edited by Eric Stephenson
144 pages, black and white
Published by Image Comics

Love. Hate. Fear. Fate. Not the normal sort of words that jump to mind when people refer to “four letter words” In the realm of Four Letter Worlds, though, each of those words contain a multitude of possibilities, and editor Eric Stephenson has assembled a group of talented creators to each tackle just one of those words and all that it entails. The end result? An anthology that you definitely don’t want to miss.

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